Thursday Reads: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Woman playing lute, August Macke

Woman playing lute, August Macke

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday, Republicans won control of the House, so we can look forward to multiple insane “investigations” of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, and whatever else the “Freedom Caucus” can dream up to own the libs. The good news is that they will alienate normal voters who would rather have their representatives work on legislation and, you know, govern. 

Right now I’m waiting for Nancy Pelosi to announce her plans for the future. She will speak any minute now. AP News: Nancy Pelosi to announce ‘future plans’ after GOP wins House.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to address her plans with colleagues on Thursday in the wake of Democrats narrowly losing control of the House to Republicans in the midterm elections.

Pelosi’s decision to either seek another term as the Democratic leader or to step aside has been widely anticipated. It would come after the party was able to halt an expected Republican wave in the House and the Senate but also in the aftermath of a brutal attack on her husband, Paul, late last month by an intruder in their San Francisco home.

She is expected to open the House at noon and then deliver remarks, her office said.

“The Speaker plans to address her future plans tomorrow to her colleagues. Stay tuned,” Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted late Wednesday.

The speaker took home two versions of her speech overnight for review.

The speaker “has been overwhelmed by calls from colleagues, friends and supporters,” Hammill said, and noted that she had spent Wednesday evening monitoring election returns in the final states where ballots were still being counted.

According to CNN, President Biden has asked he to stay on.

Pelosi is speaking now. She reminisces about the first time she saw the U.S. Capitol as a child attending her father Thomas D’Alesandro’s swearing in as a Representative from Maryland. She looks back on the Presidents of the U.S. she has served with. She says she has decided not to seek reelection as Democratic leader. Quotes the Ecclesiastes, “for everything there is a season…” before she announces her decision [standing ovation] Now she is thanking all the people she has worked with. Quotes the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…” She ends the speech to another of several standing ovations. This is a truly historic moment. Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House. 

From the BBC: Nancy Pelosi stands down as leader of US House Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi, who has led Democrats in the US House of Representatives for almost two decades, has announced she is standing down from the role.

The 82-year-old is the most powerful Democrat in Congress and the first woman to serve as speaker of the House.

She will continue to represent her California district in the lower chamber of Congress.

young_spanish_woman_with_a_guitar_Auguste Renoir

Young Spanish Woman with a Guitar, by Auguste Renoir

It comes as Republicans are projected to take back control of the House following the midterm elections.

“I never would have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House speaker,” Mrs Pelosi said in a statement in the chamber on Thursday.

“I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. The hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus,” she said.

Mrs Pelosi will serve as speaker until January when a new Congress takes over, and will remain in the congressional seat she first took up in 1987 until January 2025.

New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is widely expected to take up the top Democratic leadership post in the House, which would make him the first black minority leader in US history.

More on Pelosi:

The first woman to lead a major party in either chamber of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi will also go down in history as one of the most effective – an invaluable asset for Democrats and a formidable opponent for Republicans.

Her legislative acumen, her ability to keep a restless party united when it matters, and her instinct for political theatre have made her a force on Capitol Hill, as well as a lightning rod for criticism from her detractors.

She wasn’t the most telegenic Democratic leader. Her speeches and press conference were hardly inspirational. But her ability to keep her fractious and often slim majority in the chamber together on key votes had few rivals.

Her political instincts were invariably sound, and her sense of legislative timing – when to push and when to wait and what it would take to win a vote – was impeccable. And she did it in an era where the House leadership had incentives, such as earmarked spending authorisations, to keep recalcitrant back-benchers in line.

NBC News on Pelosi: Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House, says she’ll step down as Democratic leader.

Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House, who helped shape many of the most consequential laws of the early 21st century, said Thursday that she will step down after two decades as the Democratic Party’s leader in the chamber.

“With great confidence in our caucus I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Pelosi said in a speech on the House floor.

Pelosi was speaker from 2007 to 2011 and returned to the top job in 2019. She announced her decision just a day after NBC News and other news outlets projected that Republicans had flipped control of the House in last week’s midterm election, sending Pelosi and the Democrats back to the minority….

Pelosi won’t be leaving Congress after winning her 19th term last week. She is expected to remain, at least temporarily, given the GOP’s razor-thin majority.

Pelosi, 82, is one of the most powerful lawmakers of her generation or any other, and her departure will rob Democrats of strategic acumen and unmatched fundraising skills.

The Girl with the Sitar, by Dominique Amendola

The Girl with the Sitar, by Dominique Amendola

“She’s been at the center of the country’s biggest crises, initiatives and showdowns for a quarter-century,” Pelosi biographer Susan Page said. “People can certainly disagree with her policies and her tactics. She hasn’t done much to temper the partisan tone in Washington. But what you can’t disagree with is this: She has gotten things done, even when almost everybody else thought they were impossible.”

Pelosi’s decision is expected to kick off a wave of generational change in Democratic leadership. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, also announced Thursday that he will not seek another term in leadership. And Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, 82, will not seek any of the top three spots in leadership, but has indicated that he plans to stay on in an “advisory” role.

Pelosi nodded at the coming changing of the guard in her speech. “For me, the hour’s come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect and I’m so grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.”

Most Republicans–including Kevin McCarthy–didn’t even have the decency to attend Pelosi’s speech, according to NBC. Steve Scalise did attend.

We will soon go from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise take over and a new era of Republican “investigations” begins. House republicans have no interest in policy or passing legislation to help the American people. All they want is revenge for imagined slights. 

NBC News: House Republicans plan investigations and possible impeachments with new majority.

WASHINGTON — House Republicans’ majority will be smaller than expected, but they’re eager to use their new oversight powers and pass a spate of bills to draw contrasts with Democrats and give the Biden administration heartburn.

In this moment of divided government and fierce partisanship, it’s perhaps appropriate that the GOP conference is expected to be led by Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, veteran lawmakers known more for their skills in political combat than for their policy acumen.

Although House Republicans will still face a Democratic White House and Senate aimed at blocking their legislative aims, McCarthy — who is working feverishly to cement his ascension to speaker despite growing discontent in his ranks — has already made it clear the party plans to launch investigations into the Biden administration and at least one of the president’s family members.

But McCarthy and other leaders will have their hands full as they try to keep their wafer-thin majority united and corral conservative bomb throwers who are clamoring to shut down the government and impeach President Joe Biden and his top allies….

Investigations will dominate the new Congress, from the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and allegations of politicization at the Justice Department to America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. But none will attract as much attention as the GOP’s planned investigation into the business dealings of the president’s son Hunter two years before a potential Biden re-election bid.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the incoming Oversight Committee chairman, has said an investigation into Hunter Biden and other Biden family members and associates will be a priority as Republicans try to determine whether the family’s business activities “compromise U.S. national security and President Biden’s ability to lead with impartiality.”

In addition, Republicans plan to “investigate” Antony Fauci, Merrick Garland and the DOJ, Christopher Wray and the FBI, immigration policies, the withdrawal from Afghanistan (which was a Trump policy), and China. I hope the Democrats have plans to raise the debt limit before the Republicans take over or they may try to force the U.S. to default on our debts and bring down the entire world economy.

katsushika_oi-three_women_playing_musical_instruments-1850-obelisk-art-history

Katsushika Oi, Three Women Playing Instruments, 1850

Democrats have plans to fight back:

CNN: Inside the White House’s months of prep-work for a GOP investigative onslaught.

More than four months before voters handed Republicans control of the House of Representatives, top White House and Department of Homeland Security officials huddled in the Roosevelt Room to prepare for that very scenario.  

The department and its secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, had emerged as top targets of Republican ire over the Biden administration’s border security policies – ire that is certain to fuel aggressive congressional investigations with Republicans projected to narrowly reclaim the House majority and the subpoena power that comes with it.  

Sitting around the large conference table in the Roosevelt Room, White House lawyers probed senior DHS officials about their preparations for the wide-ranging Republican oversight they had begun to anticipate, including Republicans’ stated plans to impeach Mayorkas, two sources familiar with the meeting said.  

Convened by Richard Sauber, a veteran white-collar attorney hired in May to oversee the administration’s response to congressional oversight, the meeting was one of several the White House has held since the summer with lawyers from across the administration – including the Defense Department, State Department and Justice Department.

The point, people familiar with the effort said, has been to ensure agencies are ready for the coming investigative onslaught  and to coordinate an administration-wide approach. 

While President Joe Biden and Democrats campaigned to preserve their congressional majorities, a small team of attorneys, communications strategists and legislative specialists have spent the past few months holed up in Washington preparing for the alternative, two administration officials said.  

Read more at the CNN link.

More from Politico: Investigating the investigators: Dem strategists to launch counterpunch to House GOP.

A group of top Democratic strategists are launching a multi-million-dollar hub to counter an expected investigative onslaught by the likely incoming House GOP majority — digging into President Joe Biden, his administration and his son, on top of potential Cabinet impeachments.

Woman with violin, by Aneta Zembura, Polish

Woman with violin, by Aneta Zembura, Polish

The newly relaunched Congressional Integrity Project initiative, details of which were shared first with POLITICO, will include rapid response teams, investigative researchers, pollsters and eventually a paid media campaign to put congressional Republicans “squarely on the defense,” founder Kyle Herrig said in an interview.

It’s designed to serve as the party’s “leading war room” to push back on House Republican investigations, Herrig said in an interview. He added that the project would “investigate the investigators, expose their political motivations and the monied special interests supporting their work, and hold them accountable for ignoring the urgent priorities of all Americans in order to smear Joe Biden and do the political bidding of Trump and MAGA Republicans.”

A team of researchers has already begun scouring public records, press clippings and other documents in a bid to immediately undercut House GOP leaders, from Minority Leader — now speakership hopeful — Kevin McCarthy to the likely committee chairs expected to manage probes of Biden and his network.

The New York Times: Nonprofits With Ties to Democrats Plan Counteroffensive Against Congressional Investigations.

With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, a loose network of groups allied with Democrats is planning a multimillion-dollar counteroffensive against an expected onslaught of oversight investigations into President Biden, his family and his administration.

The White House, which is building its own defense team, has quietly signaled support for some of the efforts by nonprofit groups with ties to some of the biggest donors in Democratic politics, according to people familiar with the groups.

The efforts appear intended to take pressure off the administration by pushing back in a more adversarial manner than Mr. Biden’s team on sensitive subjects, including the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the administration’s Covid response and — perhaps most notably — the foreign business dealings of Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

“The White House cannot be the sole nucleus for publicly responding to the onslaught of congressional investigations,” reads a memo from a nonprofit group called Facts First USA that has been circulating among major Democratic donors, members of Congress and others.

It lays out a $5 million-a-year “SWAT team to counter Republican congressional investigations,” including on issues that “may be too personal or delicate for the White House to be responding or to even be seen as directing a response” — an apparent reference to Hunter Biden….

It lays out a $5 million-a-year “SWAT team to counter Republican congressional investigations,” including on issues that “may be too personal or delicate for the White House to be responding or to even be seen as directing a response” — an apparent reference to Hunter Biden.

More at the NYT.

Some good news from California at The Los Angeles Times: Karen Bass elected mayor, becoming first woman to lead L.A.

Rep. Karen Bass has defeated businessman Rick Caruso in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, according to an Associated Press projection Wednesday, making her the first woman and second Black Angeleno elected to lead the city in its 241-year history.

The Lute, Henri Matisse

The Lute, Henri Matisse

The 69-year-old congresswoman achieved victory despite Caruso spending more than $100 million of his own fortune on his mayoral bid, shattering local spending records and pumping previously unprecedented sums into field outreach and TV advertising.

“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message: it is time for change and it is time for urgency,” Bass said in a Wednesday evening statement. She learned of the news while in her Los Angeles congressional office, according to the campaign.

Her message to the city, she said, was a pledge to “solve homelessness,” “prevent and respond urgently to crime” and make Los Angeles affordable for working families.

Caruso, 63, outspent Bass more than 11 to 1 but was ultimately unable to prevail as a former Republican in a sapphire-blue California city.

Preliminary results seesawed on election night, but by early the next morning Caruso had eked out a thin lead, buoyed by support from voters who marked ballots in person. Vote-by-mail ballots processed after election day strongly favored Bass, and her margin in the race steadily grew. As of Wednesday, she was leading by just over six points.

More stories to check out, links only:

David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: GOP Authoritarianism Isn’t Going Away After the Midterms.

The Washington Post: Trump’s early 2024 launch fails to rally GOP around him.

This piece at Just Security was written by a number of legal experts, including Andrew Weissman, Joyce Vance, and Ryan Goodman: Mar-a-Lago Model Prosecution Memo.

Elie Mystal at Balls and Strikes: How John Roberts Delivered the House to His Fellow Republicans.

The New York Times: SpaceX Employees Say They Were Fired for Speaking Up About Elon Musk.

NPR: Fired by tweet: Elon Musk’s latest actions are jeopardizing Twitter, experts say.

Elon Musk lays out options for remaining Twitter employees: click ‘yes’ or you’re done

Elon Musk lays out options for remaining Twitter employees: click ‘yes’ or you’re done

Fire: VICTORY: After FIRE lawsuit, court halts enforcement of key provisions of the Stop WOKE Act limiting how Florida professors can teach about race, sex.

That’s it for me. What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Libyan rebels, who have taken over the capital city, Tripoli. From the NYT:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule.

In the city’s central Green Square, the site of many manufactured rallies in support of Colonel Qaddafi, jubilant Libyans tore down green flags and posters of Colonel Qaddafi and stomped on them. The leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting the Libyan leader had surrendered and that they controlled many parts of the city, but not Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership compound.

The National Transitional Council, the rebel governing body, issued a mass text message saying, “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

Officials loyal to Colonel Qaddafi insisted that the fight was not over, and there were clashes between rebels and government troops early on Monday morning. But NATO and American officials said that the Qaddafi government’s control of Tripoli, which had been its final stronghold, was now in doubt.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next. I hope it will mean the U.S. pulling out of there, but that’s probably a vain hope. After all, Libya has oil and gold.

Business Insider: AFTER QADDAFI: Oil Prices Will Tank, Stock Prices Will Soar

Watch what happens to oil prices if and when the Qaddafis lose and leave.

In short order, Libyan oil production will ramp up. As it does, oil prices in world markets will fall and oil futures markets will reflect the expected increase in production of oil from Libya. The key prices to watch are those trading in Europe, like Brent. US oil prices (WTI) are no longer the leading indicator of world prices intersecting with world supply/demand. Excess inventory at Cushing, OK is complicating the pricing structure.

We expect oil prices to fall when highly desirable, sweet Libyan crude production is fully resumed and enters the pipeline. Maybe, they are going to fall by a lot. This will come as a much-needed boost to the US economy and to others in the world.

Remember: the oil price acts like a sales tax on consumption. To clarify this relationship we convert crude oil prices to gasoline prices and then estimate what a change in gas price will mean for the American consumer. Roughly, a penny drop in the gas price per gallon gives Americans 1.4 billion more dollars a year to spend on other than gasoline. That is a huge stimulant to the economy. The ratio is different in Europe because the gas taxes are so much higher there. Nevertheless, it is still significant.

In other news, President Obama is still on vacation, and unemployment is still soaring. From the SF Chronicle: Obama keeps full vacation day after Libya briefing

In between briefings on Libya, President Barack Obama packed golf, beach time, a stop at a seafood restaurant and a visit to a wealthy friend’s seaside compound into his Martha’s Vineyard vacation Sunday….

Then Obama and his family headed to dinner at the house where White House adviser Valerie Jarrett is staying.

Earlier, Obama spent about an hour at the home of Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts after playing golf with some buddies. The golf foursome included Obama’s Chicago pal Eric Whitaker, UBS America executive Robert Wolf and a White House aide. Obama spent the morning at the beach with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia.

From the LA Times: Congresswomen hear economic, unemployment woes at Inglewood event

…hundreds of people from Los Angeles-area communities…gathered Saturday to share their stories of hardship and to urge local members of Congress to push corporations to help fix the economy and devise ways to put people back to work. Three Democratic U.S. representatives attended the event: Maxine Waters and Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Laura Richardson of Long Beach….
The recession has slammed Los Angeles County, where 1 in 4 workers are jobless or underemployed, according to Good Jobs LA. This summer, L.A. businesses announced 5,700 layoffs, the jobs advocacy group said.

At the same time, corporations are hoarding almost $2 trillion in cash but failing to invest in jobs, the advocacy group said. The group also cited skyrocketing bonuses for many chief executives and big tax breaks for some of the nation’s largest companies.

Warren Buffet recently asked President Obama to raise taxes on the rich for the good of all. Another multi-billionaire, David Koch, disagrees with Buffet that rich Americans should sacrifice anything for their country.

America’s current tax system forces people making $50,000 a year to pay a higher rate than hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour. Warren Buffett penned an op-ed last week declaring that America’s super-rich have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Lamenting the numerous tax loopholes and special breaks afforded to billionaire investors, Buffett noted that in his entire career, even when capital gains rates were as high as 39.9 percent, he never saw anyone “shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.”

Charles Koch, head of the massive petrochemical, manufacturing, and commodity speculating Koch Industries corporation, has responded to Warren’s call for shared sacrifice: “No Thanks.” In a statement to right-wing media, Koch states:

Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.

Yeah, like supporting wingnuts like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan is good for our country. I’d like to see Koch’s fortune confiscated. Maybe we need to bring back the guillotine?

Romney's home in La Jolla, CA

Speaking of rich A$$holes, Mitt Romney has decided that his $12 million mansion in La Jolla must be enlarged–he wants the already huge house to be four times as big.

LA JOLLA — GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, scheduled to attend a series of fundraisers this weekend in San Diego, is also working on plans to nearly quadruple the size of his $12 million oceanfront manse in La Jolla.

Romney has filed an application with the city to bulldoze his 3,009-square-foot, single-story home at 311 Dunemere Dr. and replace it with a two-story, 11,062-square-foot structure. No date has been set to consider the proposed coastal development and site development permits, which must be approved by the city.

The former governor of Massachusetts purchased the home three years ago. According to a description from the listing agent, the Spanish-style residence at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac is sophisticated and understated in its décor, “offering complete privacy and unsurpassed elegance.”

Tentative plans call for new retaining walls and a relocated driveway, but would retain the existing lap pool and spa.

Just how many homes does this man own anyway? Slate Magazine says “just” two. He had a huge house in Massachusetts, not too far from where I live, but he sold it in 2009 for $3.5 million.

I guess after he used (screwed) our state to set up his run for President, he decided to clear out and move his con man act to California. He also sold a “$5.25 million, 9,500-square-foot ski villa in Deer Valley, Utah,” according to Slate. Time calls that “the new frugality.” He’s hanging onto a home in New Hampshire apparently. Where’s that guillotine?

In science news, from Clive Cookson at the Financial Times: Life on earth came from space

The existence of amino acids in space has already been proved by the analysis of meteorites that have struck earth, and comet samples collected in space during Nasa’s Stardust mission. It has been harder to prove that traces of nucleobases found in meteorites were not the result of contamination after they arrived – but the new study seems to do so, while showing that nucleobases reach earth from space in greater diversity and quantity than scientists had thought.

The Nasa team analysed samples of 12 carbon-rich meteorites, including nine found in Antarctica (a rich collecting ground), and detected guanine and adenine, two of the four nucleobases that make up DNA. They also found three related molecules known as nucleobase analogues, a discovery which provides confirmation that the organic compounds in meteorites come from space.

“You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogues if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they’re not used in biology,” says Michael Callahan, lead author of the study, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “However, if asteroids are cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, because of the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid.”

Further confirmation came from an analysis of Antarctic ice, taken from near where the meteorites were collected, which showed no trace of the compounds.

Wait…. you mean life didn’t originate in the Garden of Eden?

In related news, a court has ruled that a teacher who made fun of creationism and Christianity cannot be sued for expressing her opinions.

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a California teacher could not be sued for criticizing Christianity and Creationism during a college-level European history course.

“This was a really important ruling for academic freedom,” University of California constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who took on the case pro bono, told The Orange County Register. “There has never been a precedent set for something like this before. Teachers should be able to criticize religion just like they can criticize government, business and similar groups without the fear of being sued.”

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a lower court’s decision, which held that teacher James Corbett violated a student’s First Amendment rights by making comments during class that were hostile to religion in general, and to Christianity in particular….

Corbett said during his class that serfs opposed social, political and economic [sic] that were in their best interest because of religion, compared Creationism to “magic,” and made twenty other comments that then-sophomore Chad Farnan alleged were disparaging to Christians.

Oh, did I mention this was a college course? Good grief!!

That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?