Daily Kos Staff

North Carolina Republicans aren’t only anti-freedom but they’re openly racist as well

Ah, North Carolina, lean-red battleground state that we win only when we don’t need it. Or put another way, if we’ve gotten North Carolina in a presidential contest, we already got everything else we need to win.

It doesn’t have to be that way. By demographics, North Carolina is a lean-blue to blue state. And as of now, it’s the only realistic pickup opportunity for Joe Biden in 2024. He only lost it by a single point in 2020. The next closest state was Florida—a three-point loss, but trending against us. The third closest loss? Texas, at about 5.5%. It drops off steeply after that—Ohio and Iowa were both eight-point losses, then South Carolina at nearly 12 points.

On the other hand, we have to defend close victories in Georgia (0.23%), Arizona (0.3%), Wisconsin (0.6%), Pennsylvania (1.16%), Nevada (2.39%), and Michigan (2.78%). (Following that there’s a big dropoff to Minnesota’s 7% victory). Republicans have a lot of places to claw back electoral votes, we realistically have North Carolina. Florida isn’t going to be determinative for the Democrats anytime soon. It would be a nice “cherry on top” to have, but if we win it, we’ve won everything else we need to win.

North Carolina is a different story. It’s very feasible we lose Georgia (16 electoral votes) or Arizona (11 electoral votes), and we make it up with North Carolina’s 16 electoral votes. It’s not a “nice to have” state, it’s a “we have to fight hard for it” state. Luckily for us, local Republicans are doing everything possible to give Democrats a fighting chance

Nothing has given Tar Heel Democrats a bigger shot in the arm than ramming through an unpopular abortion ban, aided and abetted by the betrayal of a turncoat Democrat in a solidly Democratic district, and three Republicans who promised during their campaigns to uphold abortion rights.

Our Civiqs abortion track shows that 56% of North Carolina voters want abortion to be legal in all or most cases, with 41% wanting strong restrictions. In fact, just 10% of the state’s voters want abortion to be illegal in all cases, yet that’s what the Republican candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, is campaigning on.

Or at least, that’s what he was campaigning on. Suddenly, as of early May, he’s gotten a bit gun-shy:

"I'm not interested in talking about abortion anymore. What I'm interested in talking about now is how we're going to make life better for folks after they're born — saving lives in the womb and then enhancing those lives once those lives come into the world. I'm tired of talking about abortion. I don't want to talk about it anymore," Robinson said.
The 54-year-old Greensboro native has previously likened abortion to "murder," and in February, told a radio talk show he would support a total ban on abortion with no exceptions "for any reason."

Too late to try and be coy. He doesn’t get to stop talking about the thing that voters clearly want to talk about, and vote on. As we’ve seen all over the country, including in red states like Kansas and Kentucky, pro-choice voters are far more motivated to turn out and vote on the issue. Note that the we won the abortion referendum in Kansas by 18 points, despite the Civiqs polling showing Kansas voters are split 49-47 on the issue, in favor of abortion rights. In Kentucky, an anti-abortion referendum lost by 4.7%, yet the polling gives the anti-choice side a 52-44 advantage.

But taking away rights is not all Republicans are doing to motivate base Democratic voters to the polls. They’re now going after the state’s premier spiritual leader:

Calling the Dr. Rev. William Barber a “poverty pimp” us beyond grotesque. And its choice for the fringe MAGA conservatives clearly in charge of the state party to reference the USSR, when it is Republicans doing what they can to carry water for Vladimir Putin and today’s Russia.

Regardless, it bears wondering exactly what they think they’re communicating here? Do they think there’s a subset of North Carolina undecided or swing voters who will see this kind of attack on a reverend, and then freak out over Sen. Bernie Sanders? It’s the opposite—it underscores how out-of-touch state Republicans are, trapped in their own bubble, speaking gibberish to each other as swingy suburban voters flinch at their hate and bigotry.

Barber and Sanders are touring North Carolina calling for raising the minimum wage, the horror. Yet North Carolina Republicans seem incapable of debating issues without falling back on racism.

“There are only a few terms they could have picked that would have been more demeaning,” [Democratic House Minority Leader Robert Reives] told The N&O in an interview.
“It’s incredibly diminishing of his work. It’s amazing they could reduce all his work to one of the most diminishing terms that could be used for Black men in this country’s history,” he said. “I would say this is even worse than Jeff McNeely’s comments.”
He was referring to a comment made May 17 by state Rep. Jeff McNeely, a Republican from Stony Point. While speaking on the House floor, McNeely, who is white, asked Democratic state Rep. Abe Jones , who is Black, if he would have succeeded at Harvard University had he not been “an athlete or a minority.” Last week, McNeely resigned from his House leadership position due to his comments.
Reives told The News & Observer Thursday to “emphasize how angry I am,” he described the usage of the word “pimp” as “pointed and racist.”

Barber, classy as always, didn’t return the insults, choosing instead to refocus people’s attention on his cause:

Watch: Anti-drag GOP governor bolts from reporters who unearthed photos of him in drag

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee is at war with drag performers in his state. Lee says he plans to sign a recently passed bill restricting "adult cabaret performances" and banning gender-affirming care for the state's minors.

But when confronted with his own past on Monday, after a 1977 photo emerged on Reddit of Lee wearing a miniskirt cheerleader outfit, complete with a wig and a string of pearls, the governor’s office claimed to The Daily Beast, it's "different."

Lee was caught off-guard when a Tennessee Holler reporter confronted him about the photo, asking if he "remembered dressing in drag in 1977." Lee said it was "ridiculous, […] conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject," Lee snarled.

Before scrambling into his SUV, the governor added:

I think the concern is what's right there in that building. Children that are potentially exposed to sexualized entertainment, to obscenity. And we need to make sure they're not. I think that's something that should happen in Tennessee and it will because of this bill.

HB 0009 does not specifically ban drag shows; it bars "adult cabaret performances" on public property or in a location where they could be viewed by a minor. The bill cites topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, and male or female impersonators.

The bill passed in the Tennessee House 74-19, and will return to the Senate for a procedural vote, and then to Lee's desk for his signature.

The Tennessee ACLU writes that the anti-transgender bills are not only in violation of the First Amendment to express oneself, but they're "written so broadly and vaguely that they would allow government officials to censor performers based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate on any given day," and describing the bills as a "malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life. These bans are being fueled by the same paranoia banning books and censoring teachers."

Lee's term has been notoriously anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans.

In 2021, the governor signed HB 3, an anti-transgender bill banning trans girls and women in the state from playing on teams that align with their gender identity.

The bill states: "a student's gender for purposes of participation in a public middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event be determined by the student's sex at the time of the student's birth, as indicated on the student's original birth certificate.”

Lee’' apparent drag photo isn't the first offensive photo to become public.

In 2019, NBC News reported on Lee's time at Auburn University in the Kappa Alpha fraternity, where he and other members dressed in Confederate uniforms for an "Old South" shindig.

Lee was seen in the 1980 yearbook photo wearing a Confederate soldier costume and is seen standing beside a woman in an antebellum dress. One photo (not with Lee) is captioned, "The South shall rise again, right Bill! When the band plays 'Dixie,' a tear comes to our eyes. I'd do anything, Lee, but she comes first."

Lee was forced to apologize when the photo became public.

Ukraine's 'supertank' is still on the prowl. But the country needs more of them

As with most days this week, it’s nearly impossible to understand what’s happening in Bakhmut. So take everything that follows about the situation in that area with a full cup of salt.

Bakhmut area. Open image in another tab for a larger look.

According to pro-Russian sources, Wagner Group mercenaries have moved up from the Optyne area into streets along the south end of Bakhmut proper. Videos have been posted that appear to confirm the presence of Wagner forces in this area.

On the east side of Bakhmut, there doesn’t seem to have been any real change in position with Russian forces still noted along the road to the east and moving toward “the winery.” For all the fighting that took place in this area, it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant to the outcome in Bakhmut.

Russian forces are also reported to have moved into portions in parts of both Pidhorodne and Paraskoiivka, though neither area has been overrun. Repelling the Russian movement in this area is critical to Ukraine’s hold on Bakhmut. Should Paraskoiivka be occupied, it would give Russia control of the highway junction north of the city, which is now the only major supply route for troops and equipment moving into or out of Bakhmut. What Ukraine does now, it heavily affected by how well it’s able to hang onto that location.

Meanwhile up the road at Kreminna, Ukraine is reporting Russian attacks repelled near Nevske and Makiivka. The fact that both attacks were repelled is certainly a good thing, but that they happened at all generates a lot of questions.

Kreminna area. Open image in another tab for a larger view.

For better than a month now, Ukraine has controlled the crossroads east of Ploshchanka and the highway down to Chervonopopivka. At times, Ukraine has challenged Russian positions at Holykove, as well as attacking south into Zhytlivka.

This northern axis of the battle for Kreminna represents an important tactical position, not just because it gives Ukraine another angle from which to assault Russian positions in the occupied city, but because it prevents Russian forces from moving materiel and troops along the highway between Kreminna and Svatove.

Does the report of attacks on Nevske and Makiivka mean that Ukraine has lost its positions on the P66 highway? It would seem that way. However, Russia has long held a position in the wooded area northwest of Kreminna, using that location in the past to strike to the south at Ukrainian positions in Dibrova. It’s possible that, rather than moving up the highway, Russian forces moved out of that little “red nose” northwest of Kreminna to make their assaults near Nevske and Makiivka.

However, the most reasonable assumption would seem to be that Russia’s “big push” out of Kreminna has succeeded in regaining control over the highway area, even if it hasn’t apparently displaced Ukrainian forces in the woods south of Kreminna. An earlier attempt by Russian forces to move directly west was apparently dampened (literally) by the same mud that has made this such a difficult approach for Ukrainian troops over the last month.

Pro-Russian bloggers are spending this Saturday engaging in the count of a lot of unhatched chickens. Right now, the plot goes like this: Russia displaces Ukraine from Bakhmut, forcing Ukraine to move to defensive positions to the west. That leaves a line of Ukrainian positions on the current front line — including Spirne and Bilohorivka — hanging in the wind. Ukraine then drops back to at least Siversk, if not another ten kilometers to the west. This means that the forces on the south side of Kreminna can no longer be supported and … bing, bang, boom, Russia is back in Lyman.

They’re already celebrating as if this has happened, but at the moment … none of it has happened. The sheer number of Russian forces on the front lines, and the relatively better equipment and training of those forces as reported over the last few weeks, is certainly not encouraging. But there seems to be no reason to assume that Ukraine is about to surrender larger areas, even if Russia does finally manage to reach Bakhmut a year into their invasion.

CNN has more on the amazing life, and tragic loss, of volunteer Pete Reed.

Reed started his humanitarian career working after Superstorm Sandy hit his home state of New Jersey, according to the biography pages on the Global Response Medicine and Global Outreach Doctors websites. Reed led medical teams during the Battle for Mosul in Iraq, treating over 10,000 trauma patients, according to the websites.

Reed died helping to evacuate civilians from Bakhmut. He was just 33.

A couple of assistance packages back, the U.S. included a line item for “8 patrol boats” for Ukraine. It’s one of those easy things to scan past, and the use of the term “boat” rather than “ship” could give the impression of something with an outboard and just enough room to paint “harbor patrol” across the bow. But this feature from KING 5 television in Bremerton, WA shows these boats under construction, and they’re a long way from what you might think. It’s worth getting past the ad to see what these things are like. To begin with, they are 85’ long, sleek, and fast.

These boats seem ideal for not just racing along the Black Sea coast, but cutting among the islands on the Dnipro River to deliver special forces, escort barges, or take out attempted crossings by Russian forces.

We’ve had a few notes in the past about Ukraine’s homegrown T-84 tank. Ukraine made this tank based on the Soviet T-80, but it’s more than just an updated version of the old tank like the many versions of the T-64 or T-72. It’s the result of plans that were in the works at the end of the Cold War, and which included a new welded turret to replace the old cast turrets still used on the T-80. It has a new, more powerful diesel engine and a new transmission that’s designed to make it faster and more agile forward, in reverse, and when spinning in place. It also has much more modern electronics giving it a better view range. On paper at least, it’s a much-improved tank.

Ukraine began cranking them out in 1994, and has actually exported the tanks to militaries in several nations. At one point, the tank was even marketed as the “T-84 Supertank” to highlight its improvements over the T-80.

T-84U Oplot. Ukrainian-made main battle tank review. Why tanks still matter?youtu.be

But even though it sold the tank to others (including selling four examples to the United States), Ukraine’s fiscal issues made it hard to build a significant number of T-84 tanks for its own use. There may have been as few as six of the tanks in Ukrainian service when Russia invaded. Ukraine was also working on a version of the T-84 that used NATO standard ammo, and at least one of these tanks—called the T-84-120—was demonstrated near the factory in Kharkiv. Several may have been built. However, many parts of the tank were manufactured at facilities in Crimea, so after 2014 it became impossible to produce more.

If Ukraine had a full compliment of T-84-120 tanks, it’s entirely possible that Western tanks would not have even been on their shopping list. It’s worth watching the video to see how good this tank looks when compared to a T-80.

Right now, Oryx has not confirmed the loss of a single T-84, and there have definitely been videos of the tank in service. How many T-84s are out there, and how effective is it really when facing off with its Soviet-era relatives? We don’t know.

It’s possible I’m including this mostly because of the soundtrack. However, the ineffectiveness of the supposedly elite Russian forces at Vuhledar is somewhat reassuring when compared to all those claims of a big Russian offensive on the way.

Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the national sales tax plan. Too late

House Republicans are once again—or is it still?—in disarray, as one after another of the promises Kevin McCarthy made in his quest to eke out the votes needed for speaker comes due. McCarthy’s pledge that the “Fair Tax” would at least go to committee is Republicans’ latest self-inflicted wound. Poor babies. Governing is so difficult for them.

The Fair Tax, a national sales tax replacing the federal income, payroll, and estate taxes and abolishing the IRS, is such a terrible idea that even many Republicans oppose it, and Republican leaders, McCarthy included, realize that promoting it in any way hands Democrats a potent weapon. But McCarthy is such a weak leader that the only way he could drag himself over the finish line to speaker was to make this kind of promise, and now he has to live with the results.

The results? Republicans associating themselves with a bill that would lower taxes for rich people and raise them for middle-class people by eliminating the federal income tax only to put a 30% additional tax on literally every purchase. A 2011 Tax Policy Center analysis of an earlier version of this plan concluded that it would “reduce the tax burden for the top 1 percent (who make an average of $1.6 million per year) by a stunning 40 percent.”

House Republicans, other than the ones pushing the bill, the ones who leveraged their speaker votes into a pledge from McCarthy—who does not himself support it—that it would go through the committee process understand that this is politically toxic.

“There’s never going to be a vote for it,” Republican Rep. David Schweikert told Politico. “I have no opinion yet,” said Rep. Carol Miller. Nice try, guys, but even if there isn’t a vote in the end, your party still owns it, not just because of the far-right lawmakers who support the bill but because they got enough power in the party to get legislation like this onto the agenda.

How toxic is this bill? You may remember Republican anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist as the guy who said: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” But Norquist and his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, are blasting the Fair Tax.

”A small minority of House Republicans may force a vote on the creation of a national sales tax,” Norquist wrote at The Atlantic last week. “This will needlessly give Democrats a political cudgel in exchange for a flawed bill with no hope of passing.”

One of Norquist’s objections to the bill is the provision that lead its chief sponsor, Rep. Buddy Carter, to call it “the only progressive tax reform bill currently pending before Congress.” Namely, “Each household will receive a monthly prebate based on federal poverty levels and household size that will allow families to purchase necessary goods, such as food, shelter, and medicine, essentially tax-free. This is similar to our current individual exemption and refundable tax credit system.” To Norquist, “In all but name, in fact, the Fair Tax’s ‘prebate’ system would establish a universal basic income, one of the left’s favorite policies.” And yet somehow the left does not like this bill.

The Republican who say the Fair Tax won’t get out of committee are almost certainly right. But the Republican Party cannot fully distance itself from a bill that has hung around getting support from significant numbers of Republican lawmakers for decades. Most of all, though, this once again shows how pathetic McCarthy is. To get the résumé line he’d dreamed of, he was willing not only to sacrifice his own effectiveness and power in that role but to once again publicly link Republicans with a disastrous policy.

The extremist Republicans of the House are one problem for their party. The fact that the party’s so-called leaders have allowed the extremists to take control is a bigger problem. And they get no sympathy whatsoever.

The Supreme Court's accelerating slide into illegitimacy

This weekend marked what would have been the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision granting the right to an abortion. The reversal of that decision in last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has had a massive ripple effect in the months since it was first leaked, then handed down, reverberations that serve to amplify the court’s existing legitimacy crisis.

The results of the 2022 midterm, for example, and the very obvious failure of a red wave to emerge. There’s also the plummeting trust in the institution and approval of it, a growing sense that it is both too ideological and tipped too far to the right.

There is this: Idaho, following in the footsteps of Alabama and Oklahoma to take Justice Clarence Thomas up on his threat to marriage equality made explicit in his concurrence on Dobbs. A GOP legislator in Idaho has reupped an effort to end the issuance of marriage licenses by the state, and replace them with certificates that can only be issued to a same-sex couple. That’s likely not the only tactic we’ll see from red states to create lawsuit bait that they can take to the Supreme Court to end marriage equality. It will likely become a hobby on the part of red state legislators.

Meantime, the Dobbs decision itself has created more internal controversy on the court. More precisely the leak of that decision penned by Justice Samuel Alito a month before it was formally handed down, has brought even more scrutiny and distrust to how it handles its business. Chief Justice John Roberts made a very big deal out of having an investigation of that leak, an investigation that found that nobody did it. Or at least they couldn’t determine who did it. Because reasons. Like maybe they didn’t actually look that hard at everybody working at the court.

Careful readers of the investigation reporter, like Jamison Foser, found some careful wording in the report that made it pretty clear the justices themselves weren’t subject to investigation, but that the marshal of the court didn’t want to actually say that in print. The report noted that “82 employees [who] had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion” were questioned, and later on in the report notes that “in addition to the Justices, 82 employees had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion.”

The marshal of the court, Gail A. Curley, eventually released a statement saying: “I spoke with each of the Justices, several on multiple occasions,” and that based on leads followed “I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the Justices to sign sworn affidavits.” Uh huh.

Here’s what the employees of the court had to sit through, as explained in the report: interviews with the investigators in which they were informed they “had a duty to answer questions about their conduct as employees; that disciplinary action including dismissal could be undertaken if they refused to answer or failed to answer fully and truthfully; that the answers provided and any resulting information or evidence could be used in the course of civil or administrative proceedings; and that such information or evidence could not be used against them in any criminal proceedings unless they knowingly and willfully provided false statements.”

Additionally, they had to hand over phone, email, and print records of their work involving the case as well as their court-issued laptops. Some handed over personal phone and text records as well, including billing statements. And they all signed sworn affidavits.

Equal justice for all my ass.

That’s a sentiment that is spreading as the court invites more scrutiny. This report from NBC News explores the harsh treatment peaceful protesters at the court are subject to, versus what those protesting at the Capitol across the street. A night in jail and a criminal conviction for speaking out in court on the one hand, a few hours in police custody and a $50 fine for interrupting a Senate session on the other.

Mark Goldstone, a lawyer who represents D.C. protesters says those who get nabbed at the Supreme Court are treated “more harshly.” Get arrested on the Capitol grounds and the cops “process you and release you,” Goldstone said, but at the Supreme Court, “you are going to spend the night in jail” and likely be prosecuted.

That’s a court out of control, a court that believes it is untouchable. That can’t continue—democracy can’t afford kings and queens in robes.

Bidding farewell to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

On Tuesday, the biggest show in Washington, D.C., is the Kevin McCarthy roast. It may not have a cavalcade of D-list comedy stars wearing rental tuxes, but it absolutely contains a lot of jokes—most of them preceded by the words “Representative” and followed by an “(R).” But even as we’re all enjoying this showcase of weakness, disorganization, and self-inflicted political wounds, today is absolutely a sad day for what we’re losing.

Today is the end of an era when the House was skillfully operated by someone who was indefatigable in working through issues, consummately skilled in finding the votes necessary to secure support for a bill, and absolutely historic in the role she has played in Congress. Today is the real end of the era of Nancy Pelosi.

She may still be around, but her hand at the wheel—patient, persuasive, and powerful—will definitely be missed.

As The New York Times reports, the first woman to ever lead either chamber of the U.S. Congress will long be remembered, not just for breaking through a giant glass ceiling, but for her ability to organize the House and deliver votes:

Her presence will be felt for years in the climate, health care, public works and social legislation she ushered through to signatures by two Democratic presidents, as well as the big moments of her tenure capped off by the electrifying invitation to Volodymyr Zelensky to address Congress just days before she lost the gavel.

What’s easy to miss, as we watch McCarthy stumble through what may be the opening moments of a “leadership position” for which he has surrendered every ounce of leadership, as well as common decency, is that Pelosi has led a Democratic House that is far more diverse than anything Republicans have dealt with in decades. McCarthy is already failing to hold together a slim majority where everyone is in stark agreement on every major point. Pelosi handled much greater challenges regularly, and did it so easily that it was rarely noticed.

Republicans have a tent that goes all the way from hard-line conservatives to ridiculously hard-line conservatives. Pelosi has been faced with a House where the members of her own party span the whole gamut of the left, the middle, and even a bit of the right. She’s driven through climate change legislation even when members of her party were from states where fossil fuels play a huge role. She’s lifted up health care even when it meant going against both insurance and pharmaceutical industries that funded critical campaigns.

Most of all, she has demonstrated an unmatched organizational skill that persuaded individual members to soften, delay, or even surrender their individual demands in order to build legislation that met the challenge of the day. Nancy Pelosi is the champion of not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. That’s often left people in her own party angry or disappointed. It’s also left America much better off for her efforts.

“The fact of the matter is no other speaker in the modern era, Republican or Democrat, has wielded the gavel with such authority or such consistent results,” said former Republican speaker John Boehner. “Let me just say you are one tough cookie.”

It is a rare thing to see a politician who can wed their moral compass and willingness to seek compromise; someone capable of setting aside personal goals in service to the party and nation; a person so willing to suffer public outrage to obtain benefits for the same people screaming for her defeat. With Pelosi, all of this was so obvious, that it was often simply ignored. She wasn’t just ready to risk everything to get what America needed, she did it reflexively.

Nancy Pelosi was never a great speaker, but she may be the greatest Speaker the nation has ever seen. And it is going to be some time before we see her like again.

If you have some time to spare, give this a watch.

Pelosi's Power (full documentary) | FRONTLINEyoutu.be

Big environmental wins in 2022 preview more success for the global climate movement

It’s no secret 2022 was another rough year for the climate movement. Any year we move closer to—yet stay distant from—reaching global net-zero goals is going to be a more difficult year than if polluters, lawmakers, and those in power did the right thing. Occasionally, those exact folks (typically minus the fossil fuel industry; greenwashing doesn’t count!) put the planet and its inhabitants first in spectacular fashion.

One such cause for celebration is the many climate provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that incentivize the further development of renewables, as well as “the $369 billion the bill will allow to be invested in climate solutions, funding projects that tackle drought mitigation and resilience, offering consumers tax credits for new and used electric vehicles, providing funding to rural and marginalized communities to drive additional renewable power development, and providing tax credits for more energy efficient buildings,” that I’ve previously written about.

Also a major win for the U.S. was the establishment of the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, which also came from $3 million allocated for it through the IRA.

Environmental justice should be the primary focus in our just transition to renewables and net-zero future and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to hold polluters accountable by working alongside frontline communities and environmental justice leaders throughout its 10 offices and more than 200 staff members. The agency will also “incorporate environmental justice into [its] programs, policies, and processes, as allowed by law.” That means working with some of the communities that EPA chief Michael Regan met during his environmental justice tour of the Gulf South, including in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”

A particularly stunning victory for the community of St. James Parish came when the state refused to move forward with an application review of the long-fought Formosa Plastics facility that had been the reason the environmental justice group Rise St. James first organized. No longer will the community be threatened with the prospect of more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions generated annually by South Louisiana Methanol. Rise St. James will continue its work and I so look forward to the next set of victories they rack up against companies operating without concern for the people they will overburden.

Globally, the world saw the United Nations’ marquee climate conference COP27 establish the first loss and damage fund to assist poorer nations who emit few greenhouse gases yet face some of the most intense climate-worsened disasters. The biodiversity conference COP15 also teed up member countries for a better tomorrow through the adoption of an agreement that ensures the protection of 30% of the planet’s oceans and lands and aims to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. I’m trying not to be as skeptical as I could be that the dozens of countries agreeing to these provisions aren’t going to neglect their duties. It’s a life or death matter, and there is no time to waste when it comes to getting serious about combatting climate change.

Highlights from the latest batch of January 6th Select Committee transcripts

The January 6 committee continues to release its witness transcripts in the wake of publishing its final report on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As the records keep rolling out, details have emerged that offer a keener view of events surrounding former President Donald Trump’s attempt to usurp the White House and overturn the 2020 election results.

The latest batch features interviews with 16 witnesses. Significantly, this release includes yet more transcripts from sessions with Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. (The Hutchinson transcripts published Tuesday are from May 17 and June 20. Transcripts from sessions held on September 14 and September 15 were released last week.)

Hutchinson told the committee—among other key details—that Trump: 1) privately acknowledged he lost the election while publicly promoting conspiracy theories stating otherwise; 2) urged the Secret Service to allow more people through rally checkpoints on Jan. 6 despite receiving info that many were armed and 3) had an alleged temper tantrum that became physical after he allegedly attacked his driver once being informed that he would not be allowed to join his supporters at the Capitol following his speech at the Ellipse.

Burning up

The very first reports that Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows actively burned paperwork in a fireplace in his office surfaced this May. The reports specifically noted at the time that Meadows burned records after meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican congressman who amplified Trump’s “voter fraud” propaganda and introduced Trump to sympathetic figures at the Justice Department like Jeffrey Clark.

Hutchinson’s transcripts from this spring have now fleshed out those reports a bit more.

According to her testimony:

  • Meadows burned records in his fireplace after meeting with Rep. Scott Perry on at least two occasions
  • Meadows burnt records in his fireplace “roughly a dozen times” despite routine White House protocol demanding staff put paper waste that may be sensitive into “burn bags,” (A special system is set up just for classified materials, but all records that are to be destroyed this way go into a bag, not a fireplace)
  • Hutchinson testified that she personally saw Meadows burn records between mid-December 2020 and mid-January 2021 though she could not confirm the contents or if they were specifically related to Jan. 6 in any way
  • Meadows instructed White House staffers to keep certain meetings “close hold,” or private in late November or early December and ordered a tight grip over whatever information about Trump’s daily schedule may come out in public White House logs. Hutchinson said she could not recall whether Meadows urged a “close hold” for staff on any meetings or items specifically tied to Jan. 6.

Hutchinson’s testimony from May and June also features her change in legal representation from attorney Stefan Passantino, who was paid by Trump’s Save America PAC, to Jody Hunt, the former assistant attorney general under Jeff Sessions who represented Hutchinson pro-bono.

In May when she appeared before the panel with Passantino, Passantino was quick to cut in and remind Hutchinson of potential attorney-client privileges that he said may have been asserted by other White House staff like Meadows or White House attorneys Pat Cipollone or Eric Herschmann. Passantino was careful to note too that he wasn’t trying to “shape” what Hutchinson was saying but was concerned about how her remarks could be construed.

Passantino became particularly touchy when Hutchinson started to divulge what she heard Mark Meadows say about Trump’s reaction to the chorus of “Hang Mike Pence” chants emanating from his supporters on Jan. 6.

Trump was not outraged by calls to hang the vice president, Hutchinson recounted. Trump thought that “perhaps the chants were justified,” she recalled Meadows saying. Speaking to the panel, Passantino zeroed in on the word “perhaps” and stressed that Trump might not have been speaking definitively or was in agreement with the mob’s sentiments.

In June, once Hutchinson had retained Hunt, they met with the panel to pore over transcripts from her earlier interviews to ensure they were accurate and clear.

Part of what Hutchinson sought to clarify was her testimony about Meadows and his foreknowledge of threats of violence on Jan. 6. In May, she said only Tony Ornato had pulled Meadows aside to discuss potential threats. In June, once under Hunt’s representation and with time to gather her thoughts, Hutchinson was ready to elaborate. Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien called Meadows a few hours after Ornato and Meadows spoke on Jan. 4. O’Brien told Hutchinson specifically “about potential violence, words of violence, that he was hearing that was potentially going to happen on the Hill on January 6th.”

When Hutchinson asked O’Brien just 48 hours before the insurrection whether he had this conversation with Ornato, she recalled O’Brien saying, “I’ll talk to Tony.” She was unclear if the national security adviser ever had that chat with Meadows.

‘Blanket pardons’ and talk of a ‘delay’ to the transition

John McEntee, the former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, told investigators that the former president considered doling out “blanket pardons” for people charged with crimes tied to the riot at the Capitol.

McEntee said Trump brought up the idea before leaving office but White House counsel Pat Cipollone promptly shut that talk down.

“One day when we walked into the Oval, I remember it was being discussed and I remember the president saying, ‘Well, what if I pardoned the people that weren’t violent, that just walked into the building?”

McEntee said Cipollone gave Trump “some pushback,” as he urged against it and questioned Trump’s logic. Cipollone was concerned with how such a decision might be interpreted and besides, McEntee recalled the attorney asking, “why does anyone need a pardon?”

Trump didn’t want law enforcement to go after his mob for “any little thing.”

McEntee said that Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida disclosed to him that he went to Meadows looking for help with a potential pardon. McEntee said Gaetz was worked up about a probe into his alleged role in the sex trafficking of minors. Hutchinson corroborated that Gaetz sought the pardon in her own testimony. She highlighted that it wasn’t Gaetz alone, however.

Hutchinson said Meadows was “personally concerned that there would be a connotation of violence associated with everybody that had gone to the Capitol that day” and, she added, “he had thought it was an idea worth entertaining and raising to White House Counsel’s Office to pardon those who had been inside the Capitol.

There was a time when “several White House staffers and administration officials wanted to pardon themselves prior to leaving,” Hutchinson said.

Meadows was among them, she testified.

In addition to Gaetz, Hutchinson said that Reps. Scott Perry, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, and Andy Biggs also sought blanket pardons. All of the lawmakers except for Brooks have denied this. Brooks said he wanted the pardon because he was worried that the Justice Department under Joe Biden would be punitive with Trump supporters and overzealous in its prosecution of crimes connected to Jan. 6.

In that same vein, Hutchinson testified that language about pardoning rioters was included in a draft speech for Trump to be delivered on Jan. 7.

Another version of that speech had the pardon language removed, Hutchinson said. White House counsel said including it wasn’t a “good idea,” she testified. Even today, as he runs for the White House in 2024, Trump has suggested that he would pardon Jan. 6 rioters if elected again.

Regarding the transition of power, McEntee told the select committee that he couldn’t recall a time personally when Trump had specifically discussed disrupting the transition.

But McEntee said he did recall a meeting with Meadows and others where it was discussed that the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, should waylay the transition because “they need to wait until we know, you know, more of what’s going on.

“Like she needs to delay this a little while,” McEntee recalled saying. He was unable to recall the date of the meeting.

Murphy signed off on the transition process two weeks after the race was called for Joe Biden and emphasized in a public letter that she was not pressured or asked to delay the process.

The cult of Q-Anon, the presence of extremism

Though there was hardly any question that extremist right-wing ideology had a home in the Trump White House, Hutchinson’s latest transcript put an even finer point on the amplification of QAnon conspiracy among the highest rungs of the U.S. government.

Hutchinson told investigators in June that Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the bombast from Georgia, brought QAnon up “several times” in Trump’s presence. She also discussed it with Mark Meadows privately, Hutchinson testified.

“I remember Mark having a few conversations, too, about, more specific to QAnon stuff and more about the idea that they had with the election and, you know, not as much pertaining to the planning of the January 6th rally,” Hutchinson said.

Before Jan. 6, the former White House aide told investigators that Greene showed Trump pictures of “her people” at Trump rallies. One of those constituents pictured wore a QAnon tee shirt.

“Those are all my people,” Hutchinson recalled Greene telling Trump proudly.

Hutchinson recalled how Greene told Trump her supporters would come to Washington on Jan. 6. The two “begun talking a little more about QAnon” but Hutchinson didn’t catch the rest of the conversation.

Once in the presence of Mark Meadows and Hutchinson, Max Miller, a Trump campaign aide, made a comment about the anti-government, white supremacy-entrenched Boogaloo Boys. Miller, Hutchinson recalled, said it would only be dangerous on Jan. 6 if the “boogaloo boys” showed up.

Meadows didn't know who they were, Hutchinson said:

And Mr. Meadows says: 'I haven't heard of them. Are they the dangerous ones, or is it a different group that are the dangerous ones?' And then Max [Miller] was, like: '| think they are all dangerous. And Mark was like: Antifa is dangerous too.'

Hutchinson disclosed during a public hearing this summer that she heard conversations in the White House where talk of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers came up.

That happened closer to the Jan. 6 rally itself, she said, when Rudy Giuliani was around.

Giuliani, memorably, urged the crowd of Trump’s supporters, many of whom were armed, to resolve any perceived election slights in “trial by combat.” Max Miller, a Trump campaign aide, told the select committee that he tried to convince Trump to keep Giuliani off stage on Jan. 6.

Giuliani was “already involved in active litigation,” Miller testified, the transcript released on Tuesday shows.

“I didn’t want to embarrass the president by putting him up on that stage and exposing him to other litigation if he decided to piggyback off a talking point that Rudy may have said,” Miller testified.

Peter Navarro was another voice amplifying QAnon conspiracy theory, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.

The onetime trade adviser goes on trial for contempt of Congress next year after refusing to cooperate with the select committee’s subpoena for his records and deposition. Hutchinson said Navarro showed up to the White House frequently with presentations he said would prove election fraud but that he was not privy to meetings between Meadows, Scott Perry, or Bernie Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who aligned with Giuliani and Trump on the bunk elector bid:

Peter would frequently bring items to our office that I felt Mark didn't need to expand further on, so I normally would take the items from Peter and just [say] 'Thank you.'
The items throughout December/early January in particular, he would come and he would give his little speeches about why it was important and why we should be paying attention to it and why he needs to meet with the chief and President about it.
And at one point I had sarcastically said, 'Oh, is this from your QAnon friends, Peter?' Because Peter would talk to me frequently about his QAnon friends.
He said, 'Have you looked into it yet, Cass? I think they point out a lot of good ideas. You really need to read this. Make sure the chief sees it.'
And I sort of just left it at that.

In a transcript released Tuesday from General William Walker, the former commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, the question of a fair federal response to extremism was raised.

Walker, who has served as the House sergeant at arms since 2021, told the committee that he believed the response to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 would have been quite different if most of the rioters were Black.

“I think it would have been a vastly different response if those were African Americans trying to breach the Capitol. As a career law enforcement officer, part-time soldier, last five years full but, but a law enforcement officer my entire career, the law enforcement response would have been different,” he said.

The death toll among rioters and those in the crowd would have been higher too in that scenario, Walker said.

And as for the glaring intelligence failures surrounding Jan. 6, Walker expressed utter disbelief.

”You don't need intelligence. I mean everybody knew that people were directed to come there by the president,” Walker testified. “November was a run-up. December was practice, and January 6th was executed.”

In a transcript of the committee’s interview with Ali Alexander, leader of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, Alexander worked to shift blame leveled against him for violence on Jan. 6 to other right wing activists like Charlie Kirk. It was Kirk, under the umbrella of Kirk’s organization, Turning Point USA, that helped bus Trump’s supporters into Washington, D.C. from all over the U.S., increasing the likelihood of chaos or violence.

Another detail in Alexander’s testimony, which is so often drenched in his own diatribes, is that he was in regular contact with Caroline Wren, a chief fundraiser for Trump. Alexander was cagey about his relationships or interactions with other Trump White House officials.

The last person to have Trump’s ear could call themselves an adviser, Alexander explained.

“My main point of contact with what I’m calling Trump world was Caroline Wren regarding what I consider the scope of the committee and that’s January 6,” Alexander testified.

The transcripts released on Tuesday include:

This story is developing.

Could 'toxic masculinity' be caused by a contagious brain-eating parasite?

When you look around America these days, it’s hard to feel like there hasn’t been some kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers event. So many people seem not just anxious, but genuinely militant in their desire to bend back the arc of history. So many seem to be willing to work against their own best interests only because it brings other people pain.

People have looked for explanations, from prolonged exposure to Fox News to frustration over the slow decline of rural America, to a whole swath of isms: racism, sexism, etc. Watching people frothing at a Donald Trump rally, or beating police on the steps of the Capitol, or carrying an assault rifle to the grocery store, or screaming at their local school board, it all seems so … irrational. And, has long been noted, no amount of facts or reasoning seems to work in getting someone back once they have boarded the Q-train or decided that vaccines are the work of interstellar lizard people.

But what if the problem behind these seemingly irrational actions isn’t just caused by listening to AM radio and feeling resentful about that girl who turn you down in high school? What if it’s a disease caused by a genuine brain-eating parasite?

In November,Communications Biology included a paper from researchers looking at the behavior of grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park. They identified a series of “risk-taking” behaviors in these wolves, including leaving their pack, fighting to achieve dominance in the pack, and approaching people or cars. These behaviors all came with the risk of increased death, either at the teeth of other wolves or from the vehicles and guns of humans in and around the park.

What they found was simply amazing.

While male wolves who were infected with a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii were no more likely to approach humans than uninfected wolves, they were 3.5 times more likely to leave their pack than uninfected wolves, and an absolutely astounding 46 times more likely to become pack leaders than uninfected wolves. In general, these wolves were more dominant, more aggressive, and less predictable.

At the conclusion of the study the researchers noted that T. gondii infections are possible in almost all mammals, and: “Infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to increased risk-taking in rodents, chimpanzees, hyenas, and now gray wolves.”

That leads directly to the question … what about people?

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, toxoplasmosis is common in the United States and is “considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness.” However, the relative number of those considered to show serious effects of T. gondii is quite low, generally less than 200 in any given year. According to the CDC, that’s because even though large numbers are infected with the parasite, “very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.”

But does it? Just because it doesn’t get reported as generating symptoms, that doesn’t mean the parasite isn’t having some effect. In fact, back in 2007, the National Institutes of Health published a paper compiling several studies looking into how toxoplasmosis affects human behavior.

Until recently, latent infections in humans were assumed to be asymptomatic. Results of animal studies and recent studies of personality profiles, behavior, and psychomotor performance, however, have led to a reconsideration of this assumption.

As in other mammals, the effects of infection by T. gondii are very different between males and females. But here’s what happens to men infected by this tiny, single-celled organism:

… the personality of infected men showed lower superego strength and higher vigilance. Thus, the men were more likely to disregard rules and were more expedient, suspicious, jealous, and dogmatic.

Suspicious. Jealous. Quicker to make an immediate judgment. Less willing to listen to others. Guys who were ready to break the rules if it helped them personally. Sound familiar? Other factors, such as self-control and even “clothes tidiness” were found to be decreased by infection. Here’s another one: Infected men scored significantly lower than uninfected men when it came to establishing relationships with women.

It is very hard not to draw a line between these results and guys like Nick Fuentes screaming about “replacement theory” and fretting over declining sperm counts while claiming that relationships between men and women “are gay.”

If you think this behavior only manifests at the polls, or in the desire to throw on a white hood, think again. One study showed that “Toxoplasma-infected subjects have a 2.65 times higher risk of traffic accidents than Toxoplasma-free subjects.” It would be extremely interesting to have results of these tests on people involved in mass shootings. While they’re at it, they could test corporate CEOs.

What did T. gondii infection do to women? Almost the opposite.

The personality of infected women, by contrast, showed higher warmth and higher superego strength, suggesting that they were more warm hearted, outgoing, conscientious, persistent, and moralistic.

The “gender gap” in recent elections has been fairly extreme, but in trying to test against the current voting season, it’s difficult to disentangle gender-related results from concern over immediate issues, such as access to abortion. However, here are a few few polls from Civiqs on more general topics. When asked about Black Lives Matter, 53% of men were opposed compared to 36% of women. When asked about how the United States should deal with immigrants living in the country without documentation, 47% of men wanted those immigrants deported, while only 33% of women agreed. When asked about whether the government should do more to protect the environment, 46% of men said no. Only 32% of women agreed.

Sadly, both men and women infected by T. gondii showed decreased levels of curiosity and “low levels of novelty seeking.” So the disease could make everyone effected just … duller than they might otherwise have been. And while it’s easy to read the effects listed for women and conclude they’re mostly positive, that doesn’t mean they have a welcome or beneficial effect on their lives.

Unlike many diseases, toxoplasmosis isn’t spread person to person. Instead, it comes from consuming food infected by the parasite—generally undercooked meat—or from contact with animal waste. In this case, animal waste translates almost entirely into “cat poop.” The threat of miscarriage represented by toxoplasmosis is why women are advised to not clean the litter box while pregnant. Cats get this disease by eating infected rodents and birds. If your cat is an outdoor cat, infection is almost certain (infection of the cat, not necessarily the people). A cat that stays indoors is much less likely to be infected. People can also be infected by other means, such working in a garden and failing to wash infected dirt from their hands before eating.

Toxoplasmosis can be treated, but except for those regarded as at high risk from the more visible effects of the disease—chiefly pregnant women, newborns, and those with damaged immune systems—prescribed treatment is rare.

Is “toxic masculinity” really “toxo masculinity?” Without more testing and treatment, it’s difficult to tell. Certainly all these traits seem to exist in uninfected men. It’s just the infection simply makes things worse.

'They will ruin my life': January 6th panel publishes additional testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson

On Thursday, the Jan. 6 committee published two transcripts from its extensive interviews with Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump White House aide who offered some of the most damning and explosive testimony to emerge from the 18-month probe of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

When she appeared publicly before the committee this summer, Hutchinson recounted how former President Donald Trump waved off warnings from his security detail about armed people in the crowd and urged that they be allowed to pass through metal detectors unmolested. She revealed learning about how Trump had lunged at the neck of his own Secret Service agent when his request to be ferried to the Capitol after the speech at the Ellipse was denied. She recalled the secrecy of her boss, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who allegedly burned paperwork after a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, an outspoken advocate of Trump’s Big Lie.

Hutchinson’s testimony was an embarrassment of riches for the committee, filling in blank spots left open by less-than-cooperative Trump White House officials. But the transcripts released Thursday also illuminate the huge pressure she came under by testifying.

Hutchinson told the committee that she recalled telling her mother plainly: “I’m f*cked.”

Cassidy Hutchinson Sept 14 by Daily Kos

She was “f*cked,” she said, because she was effectively trapped.

She didn’t have the ability to shell out huge sums of cash to attorneys who could represent her when she went before the committee so was stuck with Stefan Passantino, a Trump White House lawyer whose fees were being paid by the former president’s Save America political action committee.

“I am completely indebted to these people,” she told her mother, the transcript shows. “And they will ruin my life Mom, if I do anything they don’t want me to do.”

Cassidy Hutchinson Sept 15 by Daily Kos

She went to her estranged father, a Trump supporter, and asked him for help.

“I drove up to New Jersey, and I went to his house one night and begged him. It’s probably the one thing I regret in all of this, I wish I didn’t stoop to that level because it was a no— but I begged him to help me. I said I would pay him back, like, ‘name your interest rate,’” she said. “Like I just need help. And I remember saying to him, ‘you have no idea what they’re going to do to me if I have to get an attorney with Trump world,’ because he’s a very big Trump supporter, as is his own right, and I don’t—it’s not being critical, it’s just a fact. And he just didn’t get it. And I didn’t expect him to. But I just left there feeling defeated.”

Passantino, she told the committee, urged her to skimp on details when answering the investigator’s questions. He advised her to mislead the committee, she said, though she stressed that he did not instruct her to lie explicitly.

“I want to make this clear to you,” Hutchinson said. “Stefan never told me to lie. He specifically told me, ‘I don’t want you to perjure yourself but ‘I don’t recall’ isn’t perjury.”

She remembered him adding: “They don’t know what you can and can’t recall.”

He also suggested that she avoid meeting with the committee altogether when she had an appointment in June. She should consider drawing a contempt of Congress charge instead of testifying, he allegedly advised. It would be an unpleasant risk but a smaller one.

Hutchinson said Passantino told her, “running to the right is better for you.”

Passantino represented Hutchinson during three of her depositions before she hired a different attorney. The transcripts published on Thursday are dated Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, both dates when Passantino was not representing her. For these meetings, Hutchinson was represented by attorney Jody Hunt.

The committee has not yet published its final report in full or the complete record of its witness transcripts. Her earlier interviews under Passantino’s representation are expected to be included in that group.

When news first broke Wednesday about Passantino’s alleged advice to Hutchinson, he denied any wrongdoing in statements to reporters. Hutchinson, he said, was truthful and cooperative and he never instructed her to mislead the committee. His biography, meanwhile, has been pulled off the webpage of the law firm where he serves as partner.

During her initial interviews with the committee prior to September, Hutchinson said Trump aides would reach out to her. Jason Miller and Justin Clark extended potential job offers to her after she met with the select committee for the first time. The next time she was scheduled to testify, she said Ben Williamson, an aide to her former boss Mark Meadows called her on the eve of her appearance.

‘Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you’re loyal,” Williamson said in a voicemail, Hutchinson recalled. “He knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss.”

The “boss” was watching, Passantino would later hint to her.

Former WH aide Cassidy Hutchinson details Trump's security having to restrain him on Jan. 6youtu.be

Reelecting Raphael Warnock in 2022 is key to defeating Donald Trump and the GOP in 2024

A last-ditch Republican appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court to block voting this Saturday failed Wednesday, so voters in more than a dozen counties can cast their vote in the runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and MAGA Herschel Walker this weekend and beat the rush. They’ve already started in DeKalb County.

The urgency of returning Warnock to the Senate becomes more clear by the day as House Republicans are promising to surpass already low expectations for acting like responsible adults in charge of one of the most important governing bodies in the world. That makes having an effective Senate—one that has a clear Democratic majority—even more essential.

David Nir has already talked about some of the reasons why Warnock needs to be in the Senate, including the fact that he’s a phenomenal senator and that Black representation in that body is essential—that is Black representation chosen by Black voters. According to exit polls, 90% of Black Georgians cast their vote for Warnock in the general election. But beyond that, there’s the 51 vote majority for Democrats. With a 51-vote majority comes something really important: the ability to issue subpoenas without Republican obstruction.

The power-sharing agreement Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell struck didn’t specifically address subpoena power, but most committees have to have a majority vote or approval of the top Republican on the committee to issue them. But committee rules can be changed with a majority.

With the work of the Jan. 6 select committee winding down and Trump announcing that he’s running again, it’s going to be important that the Senate has full investigative powers. Since the House is going to be running bogus investigations of Joe Biden, his family, and his administration nonstop, the Senate is going to need to counterbalance that with substantive investigations.

That’s what Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii recently toldThe Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. “If we’re investigating legitimate issues while they’re fixated on Hunter Biden’s laptop, we’ll be doing our job,” Schatz said. “And we’ll be winning the battle of public opinion.”

That would likely include examinations of Trump’s ongoing efforts to use the presidency for personal profit, including with foreign companies and governments. “Now that we know that it already happened, it’s ongoing and he fully intends to monetize another presidency, that has to be a central theme,” Schatz said. It would serve the public, he said, for the Senate to establish a record of “all the foreign money” Trump took as president.

The Senate might have to take on follow-up tasks from the House Jan. 6 committee as that information stream is still active. It could take on the work of the House Ways and Means Committee, which just got access to Trump’s tax returns via the Supreme Court’s refusal to block it. It should also launch a full-on investigation of the Supreme Court leaks in which Justice Samuel Alito is strongly implicated.

All of that will be controversial with some Democratic senators, who’d rather pretend that Republicans haven’t declared war against them. “A balance has to be struck,” Schatz told Sargent. “We have to be tough. We have to be loud. We have to be pugilistic. But we don’t have to be ridiculous and unfounded and corrupt. That’s what they are.” Nonetheless, he said, “we have an obligation to fully use our subpoena power and our investigative authority.”

But that fight is moot without the 51st vote and the clear majority they would get with a Warnock win.

As Vladimir Putin weakens, so does the integrity of the Russian Federation

Who knew? A “woke” army, one in which people understand the differences that make all of us unique, and build unit cohesion by respecting those differences, is a good thing. Over the weekend, three Muslim Russians opened fire at a mobilization site, killing at least 30 soldiers of Sen. Ted Cruz’s favorite anti-woke Russian army. They responded after being bullied about their religion.

The following is a translated interview of a Russian service member who witnessed the attack:

It all started when some of our soldiers - a Dagestani, an Azerbaijani and an Adyghe - said that 'this is not our war' and tried to write a report saying that they did not want to serve anymore. Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Lapin, when he learned this through the company commander, gathered everyone and started to say that 'this is a holy war.' Everything happened in the morning at the parade ground, where the formation takes place, the anthem is sung. A conflict broke out, people started pushing each other, including a few from my company. The Tajiks told Lapin that a holy war meant [only] a war between Muslims and infidels. Lapin said that "Allah must be a coward if he does not allow you to fight for the country to which you took an oath". I personally think that's what hurt the most, the phrase that 'Allah is a coward.' The phrase shocked a lot of people - those who were standing there on the parade ground. Because we also have Muslims among our officers, both Bashkirs and Tatars. After the formation, the Russians and Muslims continued the conflict, after which everyone dispersed and, it seems, calmed down. And an hour and a half later, around lunchtime, they sent us all to the firing ranges, and three of the Tajiks, who were on contract service, brought their automatic rifles, they had live ammunition, and shot our commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lapin, he died on the spot. And they started shooting indiscriminately. At the range, there were both contract servicemen and mobilized. I saw only the dead, of whom there were 29 people. The 30th is Lieutenant Colonel Lapin. This does not include two of the Tajiks; counting them too, there were 32 killed. I do not know exactly how many are wounded, some of them have already been taken by helicopter to Belgorod, and some of them are in Valuyki now with me.

This ethnic Russian soldier got off easy after threatening ethnic Kazakhs. Warning, guy gets pummeled in the video:

Ethnic, racial, and religious fissures are increasingly out in the open, as Russians in the hinterlands realize they are being sucked dry by the Moscow elites, doing most of the dying, and sacrificing most of their men. Many are doing the previously unimaginable and speaking out against the injustices. Here is the governor of the Islamic region of Dagestan:

We’ve already seen Russia’s neighbors more aggressively stand up to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, telling him off to his face. Given the sorry state of Russia’s crumbling army, there is little reason to fear reprisal. No VDV airborne troops are landing in another foreign country anytime soon. The remnants of those units are currently stuck in Kherson, and there aren’t many guys left.

But that might not be Putin’s worst nightmare. Russia’s official name is the “Russian Federation,” and that conglomeration of regions presents massive potential for unrest.


(A bigger version of the map below can be found here.)

There are 83 federal subjects in the Russian Federation—oblasts, republics, okrugs, federal cities, and the “Jewish autonomous oblast” created by Stalin to entice Russian Jews to settle the empty region. (Only 0.2% of the oblast remains Jewish.)

Oblast are like provinces or American states, same as in Ukraine. Okrugs are similar, but populated by indigenous people. There are two federal cities—Moscow and St. Petersburg, because of course the elite will make sure to set themselves apart from everything around them.

And then there are the Republics—these are areas populated by non-ethnic Russians, with the supposed right to their own official language, constitution, and legislature. It is here that Russia’s control has depended on Rosgvardia thugs (Putin’s national guard) to maintain order and control. Those guys have been decimated in Ukraine.

I have only rudimentary knowledge of these regions and their individual allegiances (or lack thereof) to Moscow, but Dagestan is particularly restive right now, Chechnya has a proven history of rebellion, and we just saw Tajik Russians wipe out 30 mobilized ethnic Russians in that one attack (Muslim mobilized were warned ahead of time to steer clear of the kill zone).

The weaker Moscow becomes, the greater the chance that many of these “republics” and other regions demand greater autonomy or independence from Moscow, and there are plenty of regional powers who might happily support such activities, either out of regional power plays (Turkey, Iran, and China) or ethnic/religious allegiance (Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and other Central Asia republics). Western powers might find it hard to steer clear, particularly given the presence of nuclear weapons in many of these regions. It could get ugly and bloody. Sometimes the only thing keeping internal conflict at bay is repression and autocracy, like we saw in Iraq and Libya.

A shattered Russian Federation is such a fearful scenario, it’s likely a factor in Western Europe’s repeated desire to offer Putin an “off-ramp.” The Putin we know might be far better than an ethno-religious conflict spanning the entire length of today’s Russia. Heck, if Russian scholar Kamil Galeev is right, a Federation breakup might not even need the ethnic or religious spark

HIs long-running thesis is simple: Moscow and St. Petersburg have sucked the rest of the country dry. We see it in the yachts and Italian villas, and the missing 1.5 million winter coats that were supposed to keep their own soldiers warm this winter. As such, even ethnically Russian regions have a valid grudge against a Russian ruling elite who have intentionally kept them economically destitute. There’s a reason Russian soldiers are carting off washing machines.

With the mobilized already dying just two weeks after getting drafted, Putin may face his own winter of discontent, as the historically passive Russian people finally reach their breaking point. And wouldn’t it be ironic if the man who invaded Ukraine out of fury at the dissolution of the Soviet Union, then created the conditions for the final collapse of the Russia state?

We supposedly have the first video of the Russian side of a GMLRS strike.

I do wonder if they’re really using $100,000+ rockets against dirt trenches. These could be Soviet-era MLRS, as Ukraine has plenty. Also, what kind of dumbass would rather record the incoming rockets than duck?

Can you imagine being Russian, seeing your army get mauled, and then thinking it has anything to do with American domestic politics?

Ukrainian advances are utterly irrelevant to people’s voting decisions November 8, but it’s a fascinating insight into the Russian mind—everything is a conspiracy involving nefarious American and NATO actors. God forbid they confront the truth, that they’re getting their asses handed to them by a Ukrainian nation they assumed inferior.

GreyZone is the Telegram channel run by Wagner mercenaries, one of those rumored to be under investigation by authorities in Moscow for sometimes spilling the truth. While other targeted Telegram channels have mostly fallen in line this past week, GreyZone appears less interested in doing so. In addition to casting shade against Russian proxies in Luhansk and Donetsk, they are now praising their Ukrainian opponents:

Wagner almost always fights alone, it’s more reliable. The situation near Bakhmut is stably difficult, the Ukrainian troops are putting up decent resistance and the legend of the fleeing Ukrainian is just a legend. Ukrainians are guys with the same steel balls as us … and that’s not bad. We Slavs should be proud of it.

Given that Wagner has been beating their head against Ukraine’s Bakhmut defenses for over two months now, it goes without saying that Ukrainian troops aren’t doing any fleeing.

This is so painfully cringe:

HIMARS doesn’t stand a chance against their, uh, choreography.

Someone gave the video better music.

If you’re wondering what’s happening down in Kherson, join the club. Strict operational silence has put a lid on any information.

Ukraine isn’t waiting to rebuild.

Relating to the picture at the top of this update:

That’s how old I was living in the middle of a civil war in El Salvador. I’ve carried it my entire life.

Click here to donate to help those escaping Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Donald Trump's Nevada rally was an orgy of hate, ignorance, and right-wing propaganda

Donald Trump and Republican candidates held a Nevada rally on Saturday. Thanks to the speakers, there was no attempt to misdirect or moderate the speeches. What was on display was the heart of Republicanism's new fascism. Racism; paranoia; hoax promotion; a focus not on winning elections, but on winning the power to administer and subjugate them. Highlights of the event come via Acyn.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville delivered unabashed racism:

A bit of climate denial was thrown in as well, part of the party's now-widespread anger at science and intellectualism in all its forms:

From Jim Marchant, the party's Big Lie-endorsing and sedition-backing secretary of state candidate in Nevada, we got a definition of what taking our country back means, to Republicans. It means controlling the mechanisms of our elections.

But what are the secretaries of state supposed to do, once the offices are in Republican control? Apparently their role will consist not only of monitoring elections, but facilitating criminal acts from the party?

Criminal acts such as preparing and delivering forged documents purporting to be legitimate presidential electors based on groups of individual Republicans simply declaring themselves to be so:

Glorifying the reign of Dear Leader, mainly by fictionalizing it, was on the agenda:

After the crowd had been pummeled by delusionists for long enough, it was time for the traitor whose lies led to deaths in the Capitol to bellow his own versions. Donald Trump, a traitor, wants you to remember the good times of unabated pandemic death.

A proper fascist leader might have dug up the corpse of pandemic casualty Herman Cain and rigged it to applaud when Trump spoke that line, but we can't have everything. Trump left office a seditionist, a crooked traitor who betrayed the country in a dozen slovenly ways, but that was only after incompetently handling a national crisis to the tune of half a million deaths. But this was a crowd of Republicans willing to support such a traitor; while many of them likely had family members who died in large part because this buffoon refused to support even masking, much less other protections, those family members are long forgotten. What is important is that the shit-skulled traitor be properly cheered.

We moved on to, of course, demands that those who were not seditionist traitors be locked up.

While glorifying Trump's own acts to overthrow the government.

A bit of fever dream was added in, as the traitor's mind wandered to his more current problems:

But Trump took time out of his own fascist delusions to promote a foreign dictatorship. The Republican Party has fetished murderous Russian kleptocrat Vladimir Putin, even as Putin faces the world exposed as a fraud, a thug whose reign has so decimated his country that his own military has collapsed from the corruption. Ukraine is currently routing Russian armies, threatening to take back Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia for nearly a decade.

Trump, who consistently sought to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty at every turn during his time in office for reasons we can still only speculate on, took a moment to promote new Russian demands that Ukrainians halt their destruction of the army that sought to occupy them.

Republicanism is hardening into a fascist movement steadily, and with no significant pushback. In just one event we see assertion of white supremacy, a barrage of false propaganda meant to glorify the movement and deny its failures, the now-omnipresent contempt for book-learning in all its forms, the glorification of violence to assert party dominance, assertions that the nation can be saved only if the party itself administers its elections, and the seeds of likely future violence. The party became a fascist party when it backed the January 6 coup attempt, both on the day itself and for these two long years afterwards as it both obstructed all attempts to investigate Trump's actions during the coup and glorified, to their base, the alleged patriotism of the seditionists themselves.

We are now at the point where the movement believes even state national security secrets do not belong to the state, but belong to Donald Trump personally, by the rules of finders keepers. It is fascist, fascist, fascist. Look at the crowd, in those images. They are proud to be white supremacists, to rally around hoaxes, and to back the attempted overthrow of their own government. They are having so much fun, as they cheer for it all and hold up their pre-made signs.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has left Vladimir Putin historically isolated

Global powers project power. It’s what they do. But it’s instructive to note how different the United States is compared to Russia and China.

Two more missiles have hit Kharkiv in the last hour. The proximity to Russia makes Ukraine’s second-largest city an easy target to assault from a distance — for people who have absolutely no concern about civilian casualties.

One down, and an unknown number to go.

The World Bank is reportedly stopping “all its programs in Russia and Belarus with immediate effect.

American foreign policy is based on treaties and coalition building, of which NATO is a prime example. When the United States invaded Iraq, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland all contributed to the invasion force, and another 36 nations participated in the subsequent occupation. It was a shit invasion predicated on lies, yet the United States cobbled together a massive international coalition to provide diplomatic cover. (And mostly, diplomatic cover is what was most important, as many of those other troop deployments were tiny and symbolic.)

China has no treaty allies other than North Korea, and what diplomatic support it gets is mostly focused on the Taiwan issue, which it buys with copious amounts of economic aid. Russia has the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with former Soviet central Asian countries (Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), and close friendships with a handful of nations in our hemisphere built upon shared hatred of the United States (Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia-ish). But for Russia and China, those are relationships built on dominance, not on mutual respect and a spirit of partnership.

Prior to the invasion, Russia demanded to negotiate directly with the United States. Why? Because it couldn’t fathom that Europe could have its own ideas and interests in play. In Russia’s eyes, European nations are just vassals of the United States, with Washington moving the chess pieces based on its whims.

The referenced Bordachev is some foreign policy expert in Moscow, but it’s thinking that permeates the very core of the Russian government. It can’t understand why Europe can think for itself, because of projection. Belarus is now de facto Russian territory, and Russia is quick to send troops to CSTO nations at any hint that a puppet government is threatened. It's literally the reasonRussia is attacking Ukraine, claiming that only it can speak for its neighbor.

Sure, China and Russia signed an agreement, an “unprecedented” strategic alliance with “no limits,” but we found out just a few days ago that actually, there are limits. China isn’t backing Russia’s war. At best, it just won’t impose economic sanctions. Unlike the United State’s multi-nation alliance on Iraq, Russia went in solo, and only yesterday dragged Belarus in with a need for more cannon fodder. (If you think Russian troops suck, just wait to you see whatever it is Belarus is about to vomit inside Ukraine.)

The whole world order is being rearranged, with historically neutral Finland and Sweden now looking to join NATO. Other proud neutral nations like Singapore and Switzerland have also joined the sanctions regime. And today, in a U.N. General Assembly vote condemning Russia, we saw just how deep Russia’s isolation has become.

It lost Cuba.

The final vote was 141 to condemn, 34 abstentions, and only four backing Russia (which cast the fifth “no” vote)—Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria. Eritrea, for the record, is as hellish a violator of human rights as all the other rogue countries on that very short list. Among the abstentions were China, India, Iran, and the entire non-Russia CSTO contingent. In the Americas, it lost client states Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua to abstentions, and Venezuela didn’t even bother to show up and vote. It probably didn’t want to embarrass Russia with an abstention, but couldn’t vote “no” when it fears a United States invasion.


Not a lot of friends. Greenland should be purple as well, as it’s part of Denmark.

Trump PAC transferred $1 million to a Mark Meadows nonprofit as House coup probe got underway

NBC News is reporting that, only weeks after the formation of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, Donald Trump's "Save America" PAC donated a whopping $1 million to a conservative training "institute" headed in part by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows—a man who was intimately involved with multiple parts of Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election. What makes the donation especially conspicuous is that it's orders of magnitude above the Trump PAC's usual gifts.

The Trump PAC distributed a total of $1.35 million in the last half of 2021, reports NBC News. And that single $1 million donation to Meadows' group accounted for the lion's share of it.

It should be immediately clarified that this is not Donald Trump's own money. Trump's fascist-premised "Save America" fundraisers have been sucking the money out of Trump supporters' pockets just as every other Trump grift has, providing a means for Trump to give financial rewards to party allies without having to write any of the checks himself.

And Donald Trump is not known for writing checks himself. It is said that the reason Trump's fingers are so short is that whenever anyone comes to him asking him to write a check, the man bites his own fingers off so that nobody can make him pick up the pen. After the unpleasant visitor goes away, a team of surgeons reattaches each finger—always with a bit of loss, shrinking each digit by a few millimeters or so—and the cycle repeats. Or something. It is only a rumor I heard.

Trump's sudden shove of $1 million to Meadows is notable for its large size, even as the rest of his PAC spends its days trickling out money only a few thousand dollars at a time, but also because it has been clear from the beginning that Mark Meadows knows more about the Trump White House's attempts at self-coup than perhaps any other person, Trump included. Meadows participated in the call to Georgia election officials in which Trump asked them to "find" enough Trump votes to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the state. Meadows was involved in discussions about taking pseudo-military action to erase or "redo" the election. Meadows was involved in Trump's efforts to gather a crowd of his most rabid public supporters and set them loose to "march" to the U.S. Capitol at the precise day and hour that a joint session of Congress would oversee the final constitutional acknowledgement of his loss.

Mark Meadows is, in other words, up to his ex-House-Republican eyebrows in a multipronged plan to overthrow the United States government, and Trump throwing a million bucks his way just after it became clear that House Republicans had not been able to halt the investigation of Jan. 6 and that Congress would be making an effort to haul Meadows' aiding and abetting ass into a hearing room, a donation absurdly out of scope of what the Trump PAC was doing before and since, can certainly be taken as a distribution of hush money.

And that might be an untoward accusation to make if Donald Trump had not already been caught red-handed handing out similar "hush money" in the past. And it's difficult to find examples of Trump spending money anywhere, at any time, that hasn't been directly linked to what the recipient has personally done for or said about Trump. We can be sure that Trump's PAC did not throw $1 million at Mark Meadows because Donald Trump—sincerely and urgently—believes in the "Conservative Partnership Institute" goal of training new conservative staffers for future generations. Donald Trump doesn't give a flying damn about anything that does not provide immediate and tangible benefit to Donald Trump.

So sure, maybe it's hush money. Maybe it's witness tampering with a big ol' check attached. One way to determine what the money is for is to watch how Meadows' group spends it. If it turns out the "institute" is suddenly spending $1 million or so on unexplained legal fees, as Meadows' own battles with the Jan. 6 committee heat up, well then golly gee won't that be something.

But it ain't gonna be spent on anything that Donald Trump did not personally want it spent on.

ICE expelled group of children under Stephen Miller policy just minutes after judge blocked it

A federal judge's ruling earlier this month blocking the Stephen Miller-led public health policy that the Trump administration has used to quickly kick out children should have immediately stopped the expulsion of a group of 33 kids who sat on a flight bound for Central America that same day. Should have. Instead, officials continued on with the flight.

BuzzFeed News reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims that agents didn't know about the ruling, which came shortly before the flight took off for Guatemala. It's hard to believe that ICE wasn't aware of an impactful decision stopping a policy that's already expelled children at least 13,000 times, or that a ruling was coming. I guess they don't carry phones or walkie talkies. It's also hard to believe ICE when it has a history of lying to both the courts and us.

ICE claims that agents became aware of Judge Emmet Sullivan's ruling only after they'd landed in Guatemala, but instead of keeping these children in custody and turning right back around for the U.S., they left them, BuzzFeed News continues. "It is unconscionable that they are leaving the kids there and that they did not immediately bring them back," Migration Policy Institute analyst Sarah Pierce said in the report.

ICE's clear rush to expel these 33 children could now result in officials being forced to return them to the U.S. (which is what should happen).

"Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School, said ICE's repeated issues in court under the Trump administration could play a factor in this case if Sullivan assesses whether they violated his order," the report continued. "Federal court judges have complained that they were lied to by officials in cases involving immigration policy during the Trump administration."

This Centers for Disease Control and Protection policy using the novel coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to deny children seeking asylum their rights and quickly expel them from the U.S. has been outright evil. Experts at the agency reportedly pressed back on it at first, saying there was no valid public health reason for such an order. That's correct.

But under pressure from noted white supremacist Miller, soon-to-be-former vice president Mike Pence went to go bully agency director Robert Redfield, who caved. Pro-life, my ass. Sullivan's ruling this month subsequently blocked the policy, with advocates calling it "an important step in restoring the rights of unaccompanied children at the border."

That's what is supposed to happen—when ICE bothers to follow court rulings and the law. "This agency is run by terrible human beings," immigration attorney Charles Kuck tweeted. "FWIW, these officials knew Judge Sullivan was issuing this order. The plane left anyway."

Florida can't meet residents' COVID-19 testing needs -- but pro sports in Florida have no problem

As COVID-19 continues to tragically break new records of spread throughout the country, our testing capacity is beyond strained. Places like California, early in its response to the growing pandemic, are finding themselves hard-pressed to test enough people fast enough. Meanwhile, insufficient and slow testing and not enough stimulus support from the federal government for the overwhelming majority of Americans has led to new outbreaks.

Daily Kos community member SemDem wrote about his ongoing experience trying to get tested in Florida. Sadly, that experience is not unique, it is the rule. Living in the Bay Area, I’ve heard of people running fevers who have been advised by their physicians to get tested, but must wait at least one week before they can even get an appointment to be tested—let alone find out the results of that test. This makes managing the safety and well-being of any business, or school for that matter, an impossibility. Does this mean that every time a student, a teacher, or someone in contact with any of those people runs a fever, or has a bad cough, that schools or workplaces must quarantine for a couple of weeks to find out? Who pays for this? Who else is tested during that time?

Those questions and others—specifically surrounding the vague reopening of schools—can be read about here. But while none of this is even theoretically possible to work without testing, there seems to be very little will on the part of conservative states and the federal government to work to flatten the curve enough in order to allow for our testing capabilities to catch up.

However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, boasting like an imbecile, has convinced numerous sports owners and players to try and bring the bread and circuses athletics provides, even though the health ramifications are dubious. He even made professional wrestling entertainment an “essential service.”

Right now, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Soccer are all trying to do the pre-season training needed to begin what will pass for short seasons. Disney World has a “bubble” it created for MLS and the NBA. There has already been COVID-19 spread inside of said “bubble.” But more importantly, while hundreds of Floridians wait in lines and wonder if and when they can get tested for COVID-19, sports leagues are reportedly testing players and receiving results for those tests multiple times per week.

To be sure, there are a lot of jobs connected to sports reopening, but most of those jobs aren’t coming back this year regardless of whether or not you are able to watch your favorite sport on television at some point in 2020. Stadiums and arenas will not have fans, concession stands will not be open. Meanwhile, the approximately 19,000 tests that will be needed—per week—to approximate a healthy environment for these athletes might be better spent trying to get the problem under control in the state these players are inhabiting right now.

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Brace yourself for the latest COVID-19 predictions: You're not going to like them

Just two weeks ago, when Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted that the United States could see 100,000 cases of COVID-19 in a day, it seemed like a nightmare scenario. At the time America had just topped 40,000 cases for the first time. Make that 50,000. Then 60,000. Tuesday was the second day the nation logged over 70,000 cases in a day. It was also the first time the United States recorded over 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 since June 9.

On Wednesday evening, county commissioners in Provo, Utah convened a meeting for the purposes of discussing a proposed mandate to wear a face mask when schools convene in the fall. That meeting ended up being almost immediately adjourned because more than 100 non-mask-wearing people crammed into the small meeting room, refusing to keep their distance from each other or commissioners. Even more people turned up for an anti-mask rally before the meeting. Comments from those who came to give the commissioners a face full of unfiltered breath included statements that wearing a mask would “break the mind” of children, claims that allowing kids to play in the dirt would boost their immune systems to fight off the disease, and at least one claim that “COVID is a hoax. It’s a lie. It’s a political stunt."

And that, as much as any other event in the nation, is why hundreds of thousands of Americans are very likely to die in the next six months.

There have been other nations—Italy, France, and Spain are good examples—that faced the COVID-19 pandemic with a good number of blunders, a fair share of denial, and the usual levels of political infighting. But no other nation has so thoroughly discarded both science and reason in a process of self-destruction that seems purposeful in its malevolence.  As one of those people at the Utah commission meeting declared, this is “a weaponized virus.” It is. Americans have weaponized it to kill other Americans.

So where are we heading now? We’re going right where it seemed we might go back at the beginning of March.

0.5% CFR1.0% CFR2.0% CFR4.0% CFR
10% POPULATION163,000327,000654,0001,308,000
25% POPULATION408,000817,0001,635,0003,270,000
50% POPULATION817,0001,635,0003,270,0006,540,000
75% POPULATION1,226,0002,453,0004,905,0009,810,000

We are, at this moment, likely closing in on the 10% mark based on the best estimates of how confirmed cases relate to total cases. Confirmed cases now stand at 1.1% of the total population—an amazing stat all on its own. Deaths haven’t quite made it onto this chart yet because they’re lagging behind the spike of cases. But they will. What we’re deciding now is which box on this table we’re going to occupy, and in way too many ways, we are aiming at the bottom right.

However, that kind of number remains terribly pessimistic and unlikely. That meeting room in Utah may have been filled with conspiracy theorists convinced that rolling in the dirt would save them from COVID-19, but the nation is not. Utah is not. After all, the whole reason they were having that meeting in the first place was that the state’s Republican governor has issued a mandate.

Gov. Gregg Abbott has reversed himself in Texas. Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona hasn’t actually issued a mask order, but has at least gotten out of the way for cities and counties that want to do so. On Thursday afternoon, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had refused to ever issue a stay-at-home order for his state, recognized the threat of the spiking cases there and issued a statewide mask mandate. There remains some hope, because not every governor is Ron DeSantis (Florida) or Brian Kemp (Georgia). Even the most ardent Republican politicians are going to have a hard time throwing their citizens into mass graves to please a man who will be out of office in January.

On the other hand, there are now almost 2 million confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in the United States. That number is probably something closer to 20 million, all in. That’s a number that can’t be handled by case management. Can’t be successfully isolated. While it’s likely that the U.S. won’t hit that nearly 10 million figure of the worst case above, there are no good boxes on this chart.

We are still where we were at the start of March. Except that instead of dealing with 239 confirmed cases and a few thousand cases circulating through the public, there are tens of millions. And just as in March, the number of people who would become infected before herd immunity would bring the epidemic below the point where it could sustain itself is likely around 70%. Possibly higher. That would mean going through what we’ve been through so far, six more times. Except faster.

That number can be pushed down though social distancing, pushed down more through widespread use of masks, pushed down more by stay-at-home orders and serious lockdowns. All those things are coming. They’re just coming too late. They’re already too late to keep the total number of dead from reaching something between 300,000 and 400,000. The always optimistic IHME model is now projecting 224,000 by November 1. That’s just … where we are.

Which is an awful place to be. However, Daily Beast is currently projecting that before the end of the year, half of all Americans could have been infected by COVID-19 and 800,000 could die. Those are the kinds of numbers that wouldn’t just overrun the healthcare system, they would overrun a lot of systems. If 800,000 die from COVID-19, they won’t die alone.

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Donald Trump is not serious about being reelected

Donald Trump wants to win reelection.

Fundamentally, Trump is in deep electoral trouble. His map is … quite impossible at this point with states like Alaska, Montana, and Texas competitive, and new states like South Carolina creeping into unexpected contention. His campaign is bleeding money on nonsensical expenses like advertising in places like Ohio, which will not decide the election, and insanely high legal expenses as he tries to sue his critics (and reality, at times) into silence. His attempts at generating a white backlash against the movement for Black Lives is going nowhere. His campaign is incompetent, and yet the same people who delivered Trump’s Tulsa humiliation (speaking in front of 6,000 when he had promised 1 million) are still in charge of the joint.

The Trump campaign truly is a disaster. But, we are warned, don’t be complacent! He can still turn things around!

There are reasons not to be complacent: We have a second historic opportunity (after 2018) to utterly annihilate the GOP and reshape American politics for a generation. No one took it easy in 2018 despite polling predicting big Democratic gains. No one is relaxing this year.

But it’s not being “complacent” to simply realize that absent some impossible-to-imagine event, Trump isn’t turning anything around. And the reason is because he’s not trying to turn things around. He is in the mess that he is now because of the very things he can’t stop doing. And it starts with the words that come out of his mouth.

All campaigns have a message. It’s literally the bedrock of any electoral effort: “You should vote for me because _______.” But what is Trump’s?

He had that whole “Hunter Biden in the Ukraine” thing that went nowhere except for the history books as a rare presidential impeachment. There was an aborted attempt to create a thing called “Obamagate.”

Then he was really into protecting Confederate statues, but that has seemingly been set aside as Salvadoran MS-13 gangs make a cameo after their abject failure to deliver Republican victories in 2018. And don’t forget that we were supposed to vote for him because presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden was “sleepy” and “hiding in his basement.” Except, of course, that it was Trump himself who was literally hiding in his basement.

What else? There’s attacking Joe Biden for wearing a mask because that was somehow a thing, as well as repeated unsupported attempts to tie Biden to the Chinese Communist Party. Why he, in the pocket of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, would want to bring attention to the issue of foreign involvement in the election is beyond any rational attempt to explain. There’s a lot of whining about poor him and presidential harassment mixed in with whatever loony Q-inspired theories emerge from the Twitterverse or Fox and Friends. There’s calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “symbol of hate” while blaming Dr. Anthony Fauci for his continued indifference to actually doing something about a national mass death event that has killed 140,000 and counting.

And this week’s masterstroke of political communication?

Obviously Trump and the GOP were never going to win core Democratic constituencies: youth, voters of color, single women, and urban whites. But the Republican Party finds itself in dire straits because of defections among college-educated suburban white women.

And tell me, what, of that list above, is going to win a single college-educated suburban white woman? Quite the opposite, in fact—every single one of those items merely reinforces the very reasons those women fled from Trump and his party in the first place: his idiocy, his inability to handle a national crisis (much less several of them), his refusal to listen to science and the experts, the racism, the sexism, and his boorish bullying behavior.

And as that tweet from Ivanka shows, their unserious and shallow base impulses. Quite clearly, the tweet was designed to “own the libs” who have been organizing a boycott of Goya products after the company’s CEO publicly lavished praise on Trump. I’m sure their cheering section of deplorable dead-enders cheered along with it. But that’s not winning them any elections! And at this late stage of the campaign, everything they say or do should be laser-focused on winning votes.

But they can’t do it! They can’t run a disciplined, focused, and appeal-building campaign because the person at the top, Donald Trump, has zero interest in broadening his appeal, much less being disciplined and focused.

In 2016, Trump lucked into the “but her emails” bullshit narrative the GOP had spent years building. It was simple enough and stupid enough for him to repeat ad nauseam. But he doesn’t have the benefit of any pre-laid right-wing narratives this year, and he’s made it impossible for the Republican machine to singularly focus on or even create any of their typical manufactured outrages. Huntergate? Obamagate? Yeah, nice try, a--holes.

So that’s where we are.

Donald Trump wants COVID-19 to go away, but he won’t do anything to make that happen. He certainly can’t sic his lawyers on the virus to either threaten it into oblivion or pay it off for its silence.

In that same way, Trump wants to be president for four more years, but he won’t do what he needs to do to make that happen.

He’s failed upwards too many times in his unjustly charmed life. But too many people now know how dangerously incompetent he is. His luck has finally run out.

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Kentucky’s gravy train is now in danger — thanks to Mitch McConnell’s heartless greed

As of 48 hours ago, few people knew that Kentucky was the nation’s leading recipient of federal largess, and certainly had no clue just how much the state received compared to the rest of the country. Then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, started whining about “Blue state bailouts,” and the shit has hit the fan.

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Viral photo shows massive failure of Florida's piecemeal coronavirus response as state hurdles toward 'huge public health crisis'

On March 16 six San Francisco Bay Area counties announced a “shelter in place” order—Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo. They were the first in the nation to take that drastic step, and can you believe that that was less than two weeks ago.

Now look at the growth of cases in New York City and the Bay Area:


Using a log scale, one that increases exponentially rather than linearly, and adjusting the times so that the chart begins at a time when both regions had the same number of cases, and you can clearly see how a single week of shelter-in-place made such a massive difference:


In the time that NYC went from around 800 cases to over 3,000, the Bay Area’s case numbers increased only around 300-400. And even now, things are relatively calm here. Keep in mind, the divergence in responses at the time was controversial.

Ten days later, not really much to discuss, is there?

Here’s the thing, at least New York shut down. And New Yorkers are the longest-lived people in the country—they are healthiest, from walking everywhere, to a lack of elevators and escalators in old apartment buildings, to low rates of obesity, to a world-class healthcare system.

The city is slammed with cases right now, and the worst is yet to come, but there are ongoing efforts to “flatten the curve”—the slow and extend the transmission of the diseases, so that hospitals aren’t slammed with patients all at once. What happens as the disease spreads to less healthy areas of the country (which is almost everywhere else)?

Here’s a map of states that still aren’t doing shit:


The green states have shut down. Those orange and red states? They aren’t taking this pandemic seriously. And if you want to be terrified, go to that site and click through state by state. What they have done is run a model that predicts how many people will die in each state with various measures enacted.

For example, California, thanks to its early shut down, is projected to “only” lose 21,000. New York, by waiting a week later, is projected to see 64,000 dead.

Horrifying, yes. But it gets so much worse for states that still haven’t shut down:


California, by far the largest state, is over 12% of the population of the United States. Any state that loses more people to COVID-19 than California—despite the state being an early foothold for the disease—has so mismanaged its response that its leadership deserves to be tar and feathered. That the states above still haven’t taken this disease seriously enough to issue shelter-in-place orders is downright criminal. Hundreds of thousands of people might die as a result.

Now, those numbers aren’t set in stone. The ActCovidNow.org models provide the dates upon which these states will hit their point of no return. For example, Tennessee still has three weeks before its hospitals are overloaded. Texas about two and a half weeks. Florida a little over two weeks. We can still avoid the worst of this disease if the leadership in those states acts.

The problem, of course, is that those states are all run by Republicans, and Trump-loving Republicans. And if Trump is talking about opening up the country by Easter, which is Sunday, April 12, then they won’t want to do anything to undermine Trump’s “leadership” of the crisis. (Mississippi’s useless Republican governor even invalidated local stay-in-place orders from mayors!) The rot starts at the very top, with a president who only cares about the immediate message and PR, as opposed to listening to the experts on the long-term (very painful) solution. So it leads to ridiculous moments like this one:

Of course, a lot of people didn’t agree with him, and the experts certainly did not. You know who did, and led him to say what he did? Donald Trump. And Trump rules their worlds. That’s why we have shit like this RIGHT NOW:

What the hell is Florida still doing having open beaches? Well, Trumpian governor Ron DeSantis refuses to do anything to undermine Trump’s message that “everything is getting better.” And you know what? Florida isn’t as young and healthy as New York. So when you see 320,000 potential deaths in Florida if they don’t move to restrict people, it’s all too believable. Every day matters. Every second delayed matters, with real lives at stake.

Here, let’s look at this chart to terrify the hell out of everyone. This was made by community member sufeitzy yesterday:

Daily Kos community member sufeitzy 

What that chart shows so well is that the growth of the pandemic is logarithmic—it’s exponential, with current rates of infection doubling every 2-3 days. That means that if we did nothing, just let the disease run its course, we’d have over 2 million dead in just three weeks.

Let me say that again: left unchecked, the disease would kill 2 million Americans IN THREE WEEKS.

That’s why every single day that any state delays in shutting things down means people will die.

Now, of course, we won’t see that many deaths. Half the country is in lockdown. The curve is already being flattened in California and other large states. Even New York will see the worst of it ebb in a couple of weeks. That will eventually flatten that exponential growth in deaths.

But states that don’t take action will get hit.

One final chart, using yesterday’s numbers (because the real-time numbers become obsolete the second I hit “publish”):


I’ve sorted the chart by new cases. The New York area is currently getting slammed. New Jersey is fast becoming a New York. Washington has its caseload under control, finally. Look how far down California is, despite having twice the population of New York and being an early nexus of the pandemic, along with Washington State.

We know that Mardi Gras fueled the pandemic in Louisiana, and things are getting rough there. Detroit and Chicago are rising too quickly, fueled by equipment shortages that shouldn’t exist. But, you know, Trump:

But what’s terrifying in that chart is that two large, Republican-led states, Florida and Texas, are rising way too quickly up that chart. Go ahead and refer back to those worst-case scenario numbers further above—and we see how they’re moving too quickly toward that “hundreds of thousands of dead” scenario if they don’t take action. Indiana is up there! Tennessee! (Next-door Kentucky, with a Democratic governor who was quick to shut the state down, is seeing a fraction of the cases.)

So the moral of the story? Stay in place orders work, and if we don’t see them implemented at the national level, we’re going to see some horrific death rates in just a few short weeks. Every day matters. Every day counts.

Outside of war, politics is so rarely life-and-death as it is today.

Update: Florida is going to be rough.

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Donald Trump dealt yet another blow to Jeff Sessions by endorsing his runoff rival — and more from Tuesday's primaries

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

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Election Digest: Montana's governor may run against GOP senator in a boon to Democrats

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

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Republicans hate the RNC's new mandatory, shady fundraising tool. Here's who profits off it

Thursday kicked off the House Republicans’ annual retreat, and featured a compulsory presentation on the GOP’s answer to ActBlue, the grassroots, small-donor platform that Democrats have been using for well over a decade. It did not go well at all, according to POLITICO. House Republicans openly argued with Trump/RNC political operatives over the Jared Kushner-pushed initiative.

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Trump's 'unapologetic' campaign refuses to end ads featuring 'invasion' rhetoric ⁠— even as the president visits El Paso

Not only is Donald Trump heading to El Paso even though a number of El Paso leaders and community members have said they’d rather he not visit while their city is in mourning after the white supremacist terror attack he helped inspire, but his campaign is also refusing to put a stop to the ads that feature the same hateful language also seen in the white supremacist terrorist’s scrawlings.

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Just what we needed: The Atlantic publishes yet another profile on racist Trump supporters sobbing about being called racists

It would be informative if the media was obsessed with profiling, oh, say, children and families affected by our destructive immigration policies, but instead, we’re stuck with a continuous loop of hot garbage takes about racist Trump supporters such as The Atlantic’s “We’re All Tired of Being Called Racists,” in which rallygoers from his Thursday night Ohio hatefest cried about being called racists. Surprise! They said some pretty racist shit in the process.

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Trump crowd ignores a hurting veteran — and shows exactly what his supporters really think

I refused to go anywhere near Trump’s re-election kickoff last week, although it’s very close to where I live. My friends who did go saw some very disturbing, albeit unsurprising, behavior from Trump supporters. Media reps were threatened by a few unhinged supporters after Trump led the chant for “CNN Sucks” and “Fake News,” which I found ironic since posing as fake CNN reporters has become a thing now with these tools (1:30 mark in the video).

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The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board: Yes, they are concentration camps

Don't know if many caught this from the largest paper in Utah but it is worth reading…

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Off-duty cop kills unarmed mentally disabled man and opens fire on his parents in Costco, claims self-defense

This is a story from multiple news sources including News Maven and LA Times.

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Joe Biden once thought Clarence Thomas would be 'reasonable' on abortion

Democratic activists have been understandably bewildered and angry at POTUS frontrunner VP Joe Biden’s repeated claims that Trump is an aberration and that he can work with Republicans, all evidence to the contrary. He seems to have completely forgotten Mitch McConnell’s obstruction of Obama for 8 years, including repeated threats to crash the debt ceiling and culminating in refusal to even grant a hearing on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Scalia.

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Here's how vulnerable Susan Collins really is

The 2020 elections will feature the Democrats attempting to wrestle control of the US Senate back from the Republicans. In order to do so, there are a few states that seem like essential races for Democrats to win to have a shot, those being Colorado, Maine, and Arizona. Win those three, and then you can pick one more from a set of North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Iowa (maybe Montana?) to get the majority. Of the first three, Colorado seems to be by far the easiest, where Republicans are in a lot of trouble. Arizona, being an open seat in a swing state where Democrats just claimed a Senate seat in 2018, will likely go as the Presidency goes (i.e., if Dem nominee for President carries AZ, the Dem nominee for Senate likely wins the seat). But Maine is a bit of a wildcard, because of the presence of long time Senator Susan Collins. Collins, now in the twilight of her 4th term in office, has long been one of America’s most teflon Senators, sporting high approval ratings and never having been seriously challenged for her seat in years. That’s going to change in 2020, as Democrats are going to go all out to win the race. Which leads us to the point of today’s piece, just how vulnerable is Susan Collins? Let’s dive in:

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