House Republicans consider new bill allowing Trump to commit whatever crimes he wants

The House Republicans' sedition caucus has been engaged in a sternly worded letter-war with Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of late. It started with Republican committee chairs Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Bryan Steil demanding Bragg turn over all documents pertaining to his probe of Donald Trump's possible campaign finance or corporate fraud violations associated with Trump's 2016 hush money payments to an adult film actress—a blatant attempt to dig through the evidence Bragg has found so that it can be leaked to Trump's lawyers or so witnesses can be publicly identified, demonized, and threatened.

Bragg's team responded with a letter essentially suggesting Jordan and company go fornicate themselves, which led to the Republican trio reiterating and doubling down on their demands in a new letter dated March 25.

Most of it's just a repeat of the previous Republican bellowing, but Andrew Feinberg spotted an intriguing new claim by the Republican trio. Now Jim Jordan and Trump's other House saboteurs are claiming they need all of Bragg's information about the Trump investigation not just so the House can prove that Bragg is a big stupid poppyhead, but because House Republicans are looking to write a new law banning former presidents from being indicted for anything, ever.

[B]ecause the federal government has a compelling interest in protecting the physical safety of former or current Presidents, any decision to prosecute a former or current President raises difficult questions concerning how to vindicate that interest in the context of a state or local criminal justice system. For these reasons and others, we believe that we now must consider whether Congress should take legislative action to protect former and/or current Presidents from politically motivated prosecutions by state and local officials, and if so, how those protections should be structured. Critically, due to your own actions, you are now in possession of information critical to this inquiry.

That's right, the party of Lock Her Up now wants to write new laws saying that Actually, people who become president can commit as many crimes as they like and nobody's allowed to do anything about it.

Shoot someone on 5th Avenue? If a former president does it it's legal.

Sex trafficking? Rape? Bank fraud? Building an explosive device in your spare bedroom? All legal now, if you're a president or have ever been one. You can run down fifty people in your custom limousine and state prosecutors won't be able to lift a finger. That's what the Republican Party stands for.

Rep. Jim Jordan may have become the most visible House Republican due solely to the aggressiveness with which he covered up his past coverup of college athlete sexual abuse, but he's on to bigger and better things now. House Republicans have apparently decided that Donald Trump has committed so many likely crimes that rather than sabotage just one or two cases, it's more efficient to just pass a new law saying nobody can indict him for anything, in any state, for any crime.

The rest of the letter is mostly unsubstantial. Bragg's team correctly noted in their own letter that Congress has no authority to dip into active criminal investigations by state prosecutors and grand juries, not even if Congress wants to do some super-important witness tampering or leaking or what have you; Jordan and crew are now responding with a new supposed reason they need all of Bragg's records, which is that (and you can almost hear the gears grinding away in House Republican heads as they come up with this stuff) they need to examine Bragg's records so that they can take "legislative action" to protect presidents from being arrested not just now, but forever.

Jim Jordan is a pathetic, pathetic man. At some point Donald Trump is going to shuffle off his mortal coil; what will Jim Jordan do with his life then, when his every waking moment isn't devoted to protecting Dear Orange Leader from everything from impeachment to fraud to bad hair days?

If you're wondering? No. No, this supposed legislation will never pass, and it almost certainly will never even be seriously proposed. Jim Jordan and his collaborators are Making Shit Up. Nobody's going to vote for a new law immunizing former presidents from committing crimes, because none of these human sporks could stomach a world in which Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden could go around breaking Republican kneecaps with golf clubs while flashing a presidential immunity card at anyone who tried to get in their way.

Jim Jordan is just lying to Bragg, flat out. As usual. House Republicans may have oozed into Dear Leader-worshipping fascism, but that doesn't mean that they've suddenly gained any brain cells—or even a thin thread of integrity. Jordan wants to know if there's any witnesses he needs to tamper with or any justice that needs to be obstructed, and all of the rest of the House Republican argument is slapped together as means to that end. It's sad, it's pathetic, and it's business as usual for the crooked seditionists Republicans now revere as their most important figures.

The climate crisis is behind more and more deadly tornadoes like those on Friday night

In 2019, a study from Towson University made some pretty explicit predictions about how climate change was affecting the distribution of tornadoes across the United States. Things were changing both in how tornadoes are distributed across the nation, and how they are distributed across the calendar.

Tornado activity is increasing throughout the Southeast and in the southern portion of the Midwest and is decreasing throughout the southern and northwestern portions of the Great Plains and in the northern Midwest. Days with few tornadoes are becoming less common whereas days with many tornadoes are becoming more common. The seasonality of these big tornado days also appears to be changing, as their increase in frequency is greatest in the fall and winter.

That classic Wizard of Oz tornado — striking on a summer day in the plains — is actually becoming less common. What’s becoming more common are clusters of tornadoes hitting further south and further east, and striking in seasons that used to be relatively free of such storms.

But there's more than just a shift to new areas that are making these tornadoes more deadly. These southern tornadoes are more likely to occur at night, more likely to be shrouded in rain, and are simply more difficult for people to spot before it’s too late.

In 2022, CNN put it this way, the traditional "tornado alley" stretched across Kansas and Nebraska down to central Texas, but in more recent years, more tornadoes "are appearing in the Southeast, in eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia."

As those tornadoes move east, they’re not just becoming more deadly in part because they're entering areas of high population. Mississippi and Arkansas may have populations only slightly higher than Kansas, but Alabama and Georgia are much larger. Even states like Texas, part of both the old and new zones where tornadoes are most likely to appear, are seeing the storms move from the less populated north central areas of the state, to heavily populated areas in the east and south.

There's also a different kind of geography at work that makes these storms more difficult.

Unlike the Plains, where a tornado can be seen coming from miles away, the Southeast has more rugged terrain and more trees, making it more difficult to spot a tornado. Many tornadoes occurring in the area are "rain-wrapped," so they are less visible to the naked eye, CNN meteorologists said.

It's nice to think that everyone has their weather radio on all the time, or that every small town is covered by tornado sirens audible to everyone. But that’s not the case. Most people take caution concerning tornadoes only when severe weather is already in the area, or when predictions of coming storms have been well publicized. Tornadoes arriving at night, on the leading edge of series of squalls, are much more likely to find people waiting in bed — especially if these are rain-wrapped storms whose presence isn’t confirmed until the tornado is on the ground, carving a path through the landscape.

Many people in the area also have mistaken ideas built up over decades of folk wisdom and luck. Ideas like “tornadoes don’t hit cities,” often backed up with claims that it’s because the asphalt and buildings create a "heat bubble" that deflects tornadoes. Such ideas linger, even after the tornadoes like the one that ripped through Tulsa in 2017.

Even more common is the belief that hills and other terrain features provide protection. The presence of all those tornadoes on the plains for so long left many with an impression that plains were the only place where tornadoes represent a real threat. Forests, hills, and rivers are all cited as supposed "barriers" for tornadoes. They are not.

Compounding all this is that homes in the southeast are much less likely to have basements than they are in some areas of the country. Also, because they have not been part of the traditional "Tornado Alley," storm shelters are very uncommon.

The death toll for the storms on Friday night currently stands at 24. Most of those were in Mississippi where the town of Rolling Fork (population 1,776) was reportedly “erased” by the storm.

Tornado Destroys a 'Great Deal' of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Former Mayor Saysyoutu.be

That 2019 study was just one of many warnings that with rising global temperatures will come more severe storms in the U.S. This is a pattern that is expected to get worse.

We're getting nighttime, rain-wrapped tornadoes that are harder to see, arriving at unexpected times of the year, in more highly populated areas, endangering people for whom such storms were previously far more rare and more constrained to summer months. That’s not an issue that’s going to be solved by improving weather radios.

'Mitch is alive': Lots of GOP assurances about McConnell but little actual information

The nearly two-week absence of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since he fell at a fundraiser has been so shrouded in mystery that something as basic as a sudden round of phone calls with his top deputies prompted headlines in several outlets.

Longtime McConnell confidante Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who received one of the calls, assured reporters that McConnell "sounded very sharp" and was "champing at the bit" to get back.

One might have imagined an imminent return for the 81-year-old based on Cornyn's characterization, except, Cornyn added, McConnell "didn't give me any timetable.”

Senate Republican number two, John Thune of South Dakota, who has been helming the caucus in McConnell's absence, said the GOP leader "sounded good" and was "anxious" to get back.

“He sounded like Mitch,” Thune said, in an apparent show of confidence. What a relief. “Talked about what’s happening on the floor, all the great messages he’d gotten from colleagues while he’s [been recovering].”

Great. Except, Thune added, “I can’t speak to when he’s coming back."

McConnell reportedly spent five days in a hospital after tripping and suffering a concussion and a fractured rib. From there, McConnell checked into an inpatient rehabilitation center for physical therapy before returning home.

But the more Republicans talked up McConnell's nothing-to-see-here vigor, the less confident it sounded.

"It sounds like he's antsy to get back into the swing of things," said Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, striking a similar upbeat tone. But again, regarding McConnell's return, "there's been no date given to us," Rounds added.

"We had assumed it would probably be next week, but it sounds like he took a pretty good fall," said Rounds.

Oh, that sounds kind of serious.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina offered, “Mitch is alive and well and doing fine.”

Confirmed: McConnell's still among the living.

Seems like we're headed in the wrong direction here.

Senate Democrats are dealing with absences of their own, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California recovering from shingles and Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who suffered a stroke last year, being treated for depression.

But neither senator is as integral to the machinations of the Democratic caucus as McConnell is to Senate Republicans, particularly in a moment when a Trump indictment could drop at any given moment.

In addition, Fetterman's team has been very forthcoming with updates about the senator's treatments, briefings, and progress. As the Associated Press reported Wednesday:

Fetterman is receiving daily in-person briefings by chief of staff Adam Jentleson, [spokesperson Joe] Calvello said. The senator is reading the news and getting briefings, he said, while issuing statements through his office and sponsoring legislation. Aides are opening new regional offices in Pennsylvania.

After Fetterman checked in to Walter Reed, his office said he had experienced depression “off and on throughout his life,” but it had only become severe in recent weeks. The Capitol physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, recommended Fetterman’s hospitalization after conducting an evaluation, his office said then.

“He’ll be back soon, at least over a week, but soon,” Calvello said of Fetterman Thursday.

It’s not exactly precise, but it’s a good bit more than “Mitch is alive.”

'It wasn't my fault': Trump may have alienated the religious right wing. It's an opening for rivals in Iowa

After Donald Trump jammed the midterm red wave and doomed a Senate GOP takeover with his abysmal candidate picks, he predictably went on the war path to find a scapegoat. Eventually, he settled on one.

"It wasn't my fault that the Republicans didn't live up to expectations in the MidTerms," Trump posted on Truth Social in early January, a couple of months after the Republican face plant.

"It was the 'abortion issue,'" Trump offered, "poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters."

Just a couple of short weeks after the GOP's midterm drubbing, Trump had announced his third bid for the White House. By January, he was actively nursing grievances that many evangelical leaders hadn't endorsed him on the spot.

Mid-month, Trump joined Christian fundamentalist David Brody to take his complaints directly to Brody's fundie listeners on Real America's Voice.

"Nobody has ever done more for Right to Life than Donald Trump. I put three Supreme Court justices, who all voted, and they got something that they’ve been fighting for 64 years, for many, many years," Trump said of the high court's quick work in overturning Roe v. Wade.

"There's great disloyalty in the world of politics and that’s a sign of disloyalty," Trump explained.

In other words, he had scratched evangelicals' backs, and they damn well better start scratching his.

But they didn't exactly fall in line and guess what: Many Christian right-wingers aren't super thrilled about being blamed for the GOP's midterm losses. Although, truth be told, their forced birther fervor certainly contributed to Democrats' ability in 2022 to defy the political gravity of historical norms.

Now not only is Trump angry, he's also afraid of the abortion issue. Although Trump is engaging in the basics of retail politics in Iowa ahead of its first-in-the-nation GOP caucus early next year, he has also been assiduously avoiding the topic—or even uttering the word "abortion."

Although a declining share of the U.S. population identifies as white evangelical and their vote share isn’t as dominant as it was in the 2000s, white evangelicals still hold considerable sway in the Republican Party. That is particularly true in Iowa. In 2016, roughly two-thirds of Iowa Republican caucus-goers self-identified as born-again/evangelical Christians.

That vote share gives white evangelical leaders like Bob Vander Plaats, president of the right-wing group The Family Leader, enormous power in Iowa's Republican caucus, even if the Iowa GOP's heavily older, white, and evangelical voters bear little resemblance to the national electorate overall.

Earlier this month, Vander Plaats told TheNew York Times that evangelicals had taken note of Trump lashing out at Christian zealotry on abortion.

"It showed a character thing with Trump that he cast the blame on the pro-life movement," Vander Plaats said. "If you're trying to win the Iowa caucuses, I would not put that base under the bus."

But here we are. And even though Trump has recently been gaining in national polling against his chief rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump's position in Iowa has eroded considerably over the past couple of years.

Earlier this month, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll found that 47% of Iowa Republicans now say they would definitely vote for Trump, a 22-point drop from two years ago when 69% of GOP voters were firmly committed to him.

J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll, told the Register that Trump is no sure thing at this point, despite his obvious advantages as a force in the Republican Party.

"Someone who has already held the office and who won the state twice would be presumed to be the front-runner, and I don't know that we can say that at this point," remarked Selzer. "There's nothing locked in about Iowa for Donald Trump."

So what would it mean if Trump didn't win the Iowa caucus, which is a distinct, perhaps even likely, possibility?

Maybe it means little. In 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas edged out Trump for first place by about 3 points, 27.6% - 24.3%. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also gained some viability by coming in a close third at 23.1%. But ultimately, both Cruz and Rubio—along with every other Republican—flopped and Trump ran away with the nomination.

However, winning/losing in Iowa is very much an expectations game, and the expectations for Trump now, as the standard-bearer of the party, are quite different. Finishing second could easily be a sign of weakness, particularly if someone else places a close third. And the perception of weakness is Trump's political kryptonite.

So expect to see many of Trump's key rivals touting both their Christian and anti-abortion cred in Iowa over the coming months. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is likely to sign a six-week abortion ban soon. Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a 20-week abortion ban in 2016 that included exceptions for the life of the mother and unviable fetuses. And true believer Mike Pence, forget about it—Iowa will likely be his only shot for a solid early finish if he decides to run. Although, I'll be damned if every single focus group that explores a Pence candidacy doesn't find the same thing—he's got no constituency and even less appeal.

Atlantic reporter McKay Coppins recently sat in on several GOP focus groups and jotted down some quotes about Pence:

  • "He's only gonna get the vote from his family, and I'm not even sure if they like him."
  • "He has alienated every Republican…It’s over. It’s retirement time."
  • "He just needs to go away."

In a word: brutal, as Coppins noted.

In any case, DeSantis, who technically hasn't announced for 2024, has been taking it on the nose lately as he tries to transition into the demands of a national candidacy. But despite his dip in national polling, Iowa quite simply ain't America.

Iowa evangelicals will more than likely decide who wins the state and by how much, and that could conceivably reshuffle the fortunes of several 2024 GOP hopefuls. It might be less about who actually wins the caucus than whether Trump suffers a significant blow and some other discounted underdog, such as Haley, finds life with a better-than-expected showing. Or what about Haley's South Carolina counterpart, Sen. Tim Scott, if he gets in. If either of them gained momentum coming out of Iowa, they only have to get through New Hampshire to reach friendly home-state turf in the third contest of the GOP primary.

This is just a reminder that it's only March, and Iowa evangelicals aren't particularly moved by national polls.

As GOP strategist David Kochel told the Hacks on Tap podcast this week about Iowa evangelicals: "Whoever they end up going to—and they move late and they move as a group—I think that will be who wins the Iowa caucuses in 2024."

Donald Trump has reason to be afraid of indictment in Georgia case; his lies were bigger than anyone knew

Donald Trump's infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger included a whole series of false claims, threats, and obvious efforts to drag him into a conspiracy. A second call to Raffensperger's office, heard by members of a Fulton County grand jury, added still more lies. Among the claims that Trump made was one in which he insisted "dead people voted." Trump told Raffensperger that his team had done the research and produced the evidence to support this claim.

"They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number," said Trump, "and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters."

As The Washington Post reports, Trump really did have a study in hand from researchers he had hired to look at the results in Georgia and deliver an analysis. However, what that report found was not what Trump claimed. The number his researchers had uncovered suggested that the maximum number of votes that might have been cast using the identity of dead Georgians was “23 such votes across the Peach State.” That’s roughly 5,000 short of the 5,000 Trump claimed.

This is only one of the bald-faced lies Trump told in that conversation, and it's just one of several equally egregious falsehoods Trump and his team have tried to pass off in state after state. It’s also one of the reasons Trump’s legal team is now sweating the obvious: that grand jury in Georgia is likely to deliver an indictment.

As a number of grand jury cases connected with Donald Trump push toward possible time in court, more and more evidence is leaking to the public that shows just how much effort Trump put into finding some evidence of voter fraud, and just how much lying he was willing to do when that evidence failed to appear.

Last September, it became clear that an internal report prepared at Donald Trump's order had failed to support claims of any issue with voting machines even as Trump’s attorneys were in court claiming that Dominion and Smartmatic were secretly using the same software, that Dominion had been founded to serve former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chávez, that the machines were funded by George Soros, and that Dominion’s leadership had connections to antifa activists.

However, all of these claims had already been debunked by that internal report prepared expressly for Trump. As The New York Times reported then, it's not as if the people making statements in court were unaware of the findings. They just hid them.

The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Trump.

In recent weeks, its become increasingly clear that Trump is terrified. He's been using his social media accounts to attack investigations into his lies about the election, investigations into his connection to Jan. 6, investigations into tax fraud, and investigations into crimes associated with his payoff to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The increasing frequency and vehemence of these posts shows just how certainly Trump seems to believe papers are coming to his door. And soon.

The report viewed by the Post shows that Trump knew his actions in almost every state where his "elite legal team" was clogging the courts were based on outright lies. In Nevada, Trump's lawyers went to court claiming that 1,506 ballots were "cast in the names of dead people." Trump's own investigators actually indicated a number of around 20. And this number is likely too high.

Even the small number of potentially ineligible ballots that the Trump report claims were cast by dead people may be an overestimation. It is not uncommon for a small number of voters to cast ballots early or by mail and then die before Election Day. Those ballots are typically counted, and considered legally cast, because of the difficulty of tracking and retrieving the votes in such a short time frame.

The fact that Trump didn't just lie to state officials, but did so intentionally and in absolute contradiction to the evidence that had been given to him, is another reason why the case in Fulton County, Georgia, is expected to end with charges. In every state, the researchers that Trump hired found no evidence of widespread fraud, and no reason not to support the numbers that the state reported.

Trump knew he was lying from the outset. So did his legal team. But they lied anyway—to the public, to Congress, to state officials, and in court.

On Friday, Trump pumped out a 90-second rant warning his supporters that Democrats are aiming to "steal" the 2024. In addition to repeating all the elements of the Big Lie, Trump warns that "the DOJ should stop" and that "Republicans in Congress are watching closely."

If watching this is hard to tolerate, just imagine he’s wearing an orange jumpsuit. Trump is certainly thinking about it.

Republicans agree 'hush money' payments are crimes—unless Donald Trump’s name is attached

If you haven't heard, Donald Trump is allegedly something of a criminal. His money and resources would then allegedly make him the head of a criminal enterprise. The rest of his Republican Party has collectively stuck its head up his behind and allowed him to pass through impeachment after impeachment without any real consequences.

But now, as multiple legal cases begin to tighten around him, Trump is finally facing the very real possibility that he will be indicted for his part in the hush money payments he and his minions made to adult film star Stormy Daniels back in 2016. For his part, Trump has pleaded the Fifth Amendment about 440 times. However, the Donald hasn't remained quiet as he has begun working on his presidential campaign and using it as a public defense. His defense: claims of witch hunting on the part of the entire U.S. justice system.

His plan seems to be that he can lead some kind of revolt against the government or create a threat of mass violence so distressing that he will be able to bully his way out of paying for his crimes. The second part of this is to create a lot of smoke during the discovery in his many upcoming trials, hoping to have a chance of leaking information that he can throw like cheese puffs to his more conspiracy-minded MAGA followers.

On Friday, The Economist and YouGov released some polls they conducted over the past week of 1,500 citizens. The poling covers dozens of questions, but a fun one is concerning hush money: "Do you think it is or is not a crime for a candidate for elected office to pay someone to remain silent about an issue that may affect the outcome of an election?"

Almost three-quarters of the respondents agreed that it is a crime if a politician running for or in office pays someone money to stay silent about something that they fear will hurt the outcome of an election. In fact, 78% of self identified Democrats believed it to be a crime and 73% of self-identified Republicans agreed.

The Economist and YouGov pollers then asked, “Do you think it is or is not a crime for a candidate to fail to report spending campaign money on payments to keep someone silent about an issue that may affect the outcome of an election?”

Once again, most people were in agreement—in fact a little more so, as 83% of Democrats polled thought it was a crime and 76% of Republicans believed it to be a crime. Good news! Here’s another question: “How serious an issue is it that an adult film star was paid $130,000 in October 2016 to remain silent about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Donald Trump that took place in 2006?”

In this case, the answers available to those polled were four, ranging from "A very serious issue," "Somewhat serious," "Not very serious," to "Not serious at all." Guess what? With Trump directly implicated in what three-quarters of the very same Republicans polled said was a crime, this time only 45% total (15% saying it was very serious) could bring themselves to be consistent about what they had just said.

A good deal of this seems to be media diet. According to those Republicans polled, when asked about what they had heard concerning the hush money case against Trump, about 40% said they had heard nothing at all. In seems that in this case it isn’t only the elected officials with their heads stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

Judd Legum is the founder and author of Popular Information, an independent newsletter dedicated to accountability journalism. Judd joins Markos and Kerry to talk about the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox News and the recent revelations of behind-the-scenes deceit practiced by everyone from on-air host Tucker Carlson to the owner of it all, Rupert Murdoch.

Civil War legend's descendent launches bid against Rep. Nancy Mace to flip gerrymandered South Carolina seat

Businessman Michael B. Moore, who is the great-great grandson of the legendary Civil War figure and Reconstruction-era Rep. Robert Smalls, has announced that he's seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Nancy Mace. The current version of South Carolina’s 1st District along the state’s coast backed Donald Trump 53-45, which would make it a tough lift for any Democrat.

The constituency may be different next year, though, as a federal court in January struck down the current 1st District after ruling that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Black voters when they redrew it. However, it's likely Republicans will find a way to keep it sufficiently red even if they address the court's concerns about racial gerrymandering.

Moore, who filed a fundraising committee last month, previously served as the founding president and CEO of the International African American Museum, a Charleston-based institution that’s set to open this year. The Democrat is a first-time candidate, but he comes from a distinguished family: Moore's ancestor, Smalls, famously escaped slavery in 1862 when he and his compatriots stole a well-armed cotton steamer with 17 enslaved people and steered it past rebel ships to Union lines.

Smalls went on to provide vital military intelligence to the United States and helped convince Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to enlist Black soldiers. Smalls, who served in combat throughout the duration of the Civil War, went on to become a Republican state legislator after the conflict as well as a congressman during three stints that spanned from 1875 to 1887. Another Moore ancestor, great-grandfather Samuel Jones Bampfield, also served in the state House during Reconstruction.

This multi-millionaire with a cushy desk job wants you to work until you’re 70

C’mon, Sen. Angus King, read the damned room. The independent senator from Maine, the state with the oldest population in the country, has decided that his 2024 re-elect requires that he talk with Republicans about tinkering with Social Security. And if it’s Republicans talking about it, you know it’s nothing good for the program or the people counting on it.

King, who caucuses with the Democrats, is leading the group along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). One option they are talking about is to gradually increase the retirement age to 70. Yes, 70. That’s a fine thing for 79-year-old King and 65-year-old Cassidy to decide. After all, they’ll have no problem doing their jobs in their eighth decades and ninth decades, if they stick around. They’re senators!

It’s nice work if you can get it, being a senator. You can do it until you croak, provided the people keep electing you. You only have to show up on the job in Washington, D.C., for eight, maybe nine months out of the year, because of all the time you get for various holidays and, of course, most of August. You have people to figure out your travel. You have people to write your speeches. You have people to write your bills, if that’s something you feel like doing for your job. You have people to drive you around, and you have a person who manages all those people.

King also has no financial worries. In 2018, the last year from which statistics are readily available, he was a multi-millionaire, with a net worth of nearly $9.5 million. He was the 16th richest senator. Cassidy is practically impoverished in comparison, with just $1.1 million.

The other bright ideas these guys are kicking around are a sort of privatization scheme—a sovereign wealth fund that would be started with $1.5 trillion in borrowed funds. They would be a trigger in it so that if it failed to yield an 8% return, then both the income cap and the payroll tax would be increased at a rate to keep the program solvent for 75 years.

“You could really take a fund and, with certain assumptions, take all your revenue from there,” Cassidy told Semafor, in an interview. “Certain assumptions” is doing a lot of work there. Also note that this comes with a tax increase if it doesn’t work, in what would likely be an economic downturn—that is most likely the reason the fund wasn’t making expected returns. Also, that’s horribly regressive, with the lowest earners being hit much harder than the wealthy.

Besides making us work until we’re 70, their other brilliant idea is easily just as bad and regressive. It would completely upend the existing benefit formula used to determine monthly payments to be based on years worked instead of the current formula that uses the average earnings over 35 years worked. The existing formula is flexible, to allow for people leaving and entering the workforce to return to school, because of an illness or injury, or to take care of young children or sick or elderly family members—or whatever life reasons that interrupt work.

The current formula adjusts your earnings to take into account historical changes in wages, and then takes the highest-earning 35 years to calculate the average indexed monthly earnings (up to the maximum taxable earning cap, now at $160,200). The system is geared toward making sure the lowest-earning workers get the maximum possible benefit.

Just counting years worked “rewards people with more years of work and penalizes people with fewer years of work,” Kathleen Romig, with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told Semafor. People with uninterrupted work histories could benefit, she said, but “on net, it’s definitely a cut.”

There’s a much simpler way to shore up Social Security’s long-term health: Lift the earnings cap subject to payroll taxes. Even a Republican—and Joe Manchin!—have said that’s an option. The problem is they want to condition doing that on a bunch of things like raising the retirement age and making other cuts.

The other independent from New England has better ideas and the ear of President Biden. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) met with Biden in late January to talk about his proposal to bolster Social Security’s finances by making the nation’s rich pay more in payroll taxes. He want’s to apply the payroll tax to income over $250,000 a year which would give the program another 75 years of solvency. He also pitched Biden on his plan to increase existing benefits for everyone on Social Security with an additional $200/month.

Sanders is arguing the Democrats have to counter all this bullshit from Republicans and King and Manchin about needing to Social Security. “It is not enough to point out the reactionary, anti-worker vision of the Republican Party. We have to present a positive, pro-worker alternative,” Sanders said. “The truth is that Social Security does have a solvency problem, and we have got to address that.”

The most effective way to take it off the deficit peacocks’ chopping block is to take away the narrative that it’s doomed. The most effective way to do that is to start making the wealthy pay a fair share.

Two new polls give Democrat the edge in an unexpectedly close race for governor of Oklahoma

We have two different polls from GOP firms that show Oklahoma Democrat Joy Hofmeister, leading Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, though they disagree by how much. Ascend Action, a group that doesn’t appear to have ever released horserace numbers anywhere, puts Hofmeister up 49-42. The local GOP pollster Amber Integrated, meanwhile, has the Democrat edging out Stitt 46-45, with another 3% going to the independent campaign of former GOP state Sen. Ervin Yen; last month, Amber showed Stitt ahead 47-44.

These numbers came about a week after a media poll from SoonerPoll showed Hofmeister up 47-43. Stitt, for his part, tried to pre-empt these surveys with his own late September internal showing him well ahead 48-33, though he’s loudly griped that outside groups are massively outspending him.

One of those organizations, Imagine This Oklahoma, is also out with a new ad pushing back on Stitt’s attempts to link Hofmeister to national Democrats. “Kevin Stitt attacked our teachers,” says one member of the commercial’s cast, before others jump in, “He attacked healthcare professionals. He attacked Native American tribes.” The spot continues, “Now Kevin Stitt and his cronies are attacking Joy Hofmeister. This is not about D.C. politics. This is about Oklahoma—our roads, our schools, our families.”

'People got the president they voted for': A fitting critique of Joe Biden's post-Roe response

It’s been more than two weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and made Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization the law of the land. The fallout has been swift. States with trigger laws in place banned abortions immediately, and GOP legislators like those of the Texas Freedom Caucus wasted little time in attacking activist efforts to support safe havens for those seeking life-saving healthcare. “They’re now threatening law firm partners with criminal prosecution and disbarment for accommodating their employees in the wake of Dobbs,” Yale law professor Asha Rangappa tweeted on Saturday. She was responding to the Texas caucus’ plan to introduce legislation targeting law firms like Sidley Austin that vowed to pay travel costs for workers seeking abortion services out of Texas.

Republican talking heads and politicians alike continued along those same despicable lines. They bragged about policy plans and enacted legislation that progressives sincerely hoped would’ve been countered by fierce action from the president by now. But no such luck in large part.

A bill Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed to implement an abortion ban at 15 weeks was blocked by Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, but DeSantis's office said in a statement that it would appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. “While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, we know that the pro-life HB 5 will ultimately withstand all legal challenges,” DeSantis’s office said.

Progressive Democrats have critiqued President Joe Biden’s response in the face of such Republican sentiment as delayed and lackluster, but strategists and White House officials have defended the president.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said in a statement The Washington Post obtained on Saturday that the president has been “showing his deep outrage as an American and executing his bold plan” since this decision was handed down. “Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” Bedingfield said. “It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign.”

Biden has been hesitant to follow the advice of progressive lawmakers and declare a public health emergency. “Some in the White House and Department of Health and Human Services supported the idea, believing it would bring more attention to the issue, according to a person familiar with the discussions,” The Washington Post reported. Others worried the idea would backfire and told the Post "such a declaration would not necessarily unlock many new authorities or funds for the White House to deploy."

Scott Mulhauser, a Democratic strategist who previously advised Biden’s commerce secretary, told the Post this moment and those like it are “too often laid on the White House, as if they had a magic wand to fix it all, rather just insufficient votes in Congress and a regressive Supreme Court majority.”

Jennifer Palmieri, a White House communications director during former President Barack Obama's presidency, told the Post criticism of Biden's response isn't fair. "Republicans gamed the system, and they got two Supreme Court justices they shouldn’t have, and those people had a 40-year plan to overturn Roe and they did it," Palmieri said. "And to continue to blame Biden for the fact that more Americans didn’t vote for Democrats is an epic example of missing the forest."

David Axelrod, a political consultant and former senior adviser to Obama, told the Post Biden was elected in part because he is “a decent, temperate person” who “can raise his voice, but it doesn’t come naturally to him and it doesn’t land well.”

“People got the president they voted for,” Axelrod added, “and I think those are good qualities that he has, but they may not be the qualities that some people, particularly activist Democrats, are looking for right now.”

New poll finds double-digit uptick in Democratic enthusiasm following Supreme Court leak on Roe

A new NBC News poll conducted in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft found support for abortion rights reaching its highest point since 2003, with 60% of Americans saying abortion should either always be legal (37%) or legal most of the time (23%). Meanwhile, 37% said abortion should be illegal in most cases or without exception.

Similarly, 63% of respondents support maintaining the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, while just 30% wanted to see it overturned.

The poll also found Democratic enthusiasm ticking up. The mismatch between enthusiasm among voters on the right and left has become a focus of concern for Democrats. In the poll, the number of Democrats expressing a high level of interest in the midterms (a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) jumped 11 points since March to 61%.

Republicans' level of interest got a modest 2-point bump to 69% in the same period of time.

“How [abortion] plays out in November is to be determined. But for now, it is injecting some much-needed enthusiasm into parts of the Democratic coalition,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates.

News from the survey wasn't all good. President Joe Biden's approval rating registered at just 39% and, for the fourth straight time in the poll, people saying the country is on the wrong track topped 70%.

"The other times were in 2008 (during the Great Recession) and 2013 (during a government shutdown)," writes NBC.

GOP pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted this survey with Horwitt, called the number a "flashing red light."

Still, the generic ballot was dead even, with 46% of Americans saying Democrats should control Congress while another 46% said Republicans should. Republicans held a slight 2-point edge on the question in March, a change within the poll's margin of error.

But given the "wrong track" numbers, Horwitt said, “It is remarkable that preference for control of Congress is even overall, and that the gap in interest in the election has narrowed."

Overall, the NBC survey isn’t exactly cause for celebration, but it does suggest a continued shift in the political landscape we have been seeing in other polls.

Jan. 6 committee interviews ex-aide who claims 'Trump was framed' for insurrection

Jason Funes, a Jan. 6 rally organizer and former aide to President Trump who insists that Trump was framed for the insurrection at the Capitol, has been interviewed by the Jan. 6 Committee.

NBC News was first to report the development Thursday. Funes does not appear to have been formally subpoenaed. In December, when his mother received a letter from the committee notifying her that it had subpoenaed Verizon for her son’s phone records, Funes told CNN he was outraged. He would have been a “willing witness” and wished investigators contacted him directly, he said.

Funes did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos on Thursday.

Arriving on the 2020 Trump campaign after a stint as a special assistant to Trump’s ethics-rules abusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Funes joined the ranks of ‘Stop the Steal’ and Women for America First organizers that were readying themselves for the pro-Trump events at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

In November, Funes did an interview with Gail Golec. Golec describes herself as an “all-American Entrepreneur, Christian Conservative, Citizen Journalist, and a Constitutionalist” on her campaign website for the Maricopa County Board Supervisors in Arizona. In their interview, Funes claimed that the rioting at the U.S. Capitol was effectively orchestrated by right-wing activist and ‘Stop the Steal’ movement leader Ali Alexander and InfoWars host Alex Jones.

Alexander and Jones “attracted attention to the U.S. Capitol building, yelling that they had a permitted event and to come to the event but Jones trapped everyone to come to the Capitol building steps and create more chaos to steal the election from Trump as opposed to stopping it,” Funes said in November. “

Posts on his Twitter account, where Funes labels himself as “Latino MAGA Man” are littered with allegations that Jan. 6 was a “staged coup” intended to frame Trump. Funes has outwardly aligned himself on Twitter against other Trump world or supporting figures like Roger Stone, Nick Fuentes, and Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio, to name a few.

In the last week, Funes tagged Republican lawmakers like Reps. Jim Jordan, Jim Banks, and Senator Josh Hawley with messages like, “Not all #J6 prisoners are created equal. Fake Trump supporters created violence, Trump was framed.”

All of the lawmakers voted to overturn the 2020 election results and both Jordan and Banks serve on a Republican-controlled Jan. 6 shadow committee.

Investigators are likely far more interested in having Funes field questions about his role helping to organize pro-Trump rallies rather than his easily-debunked conspiracy theory that Trump was “framed” for the insurrection.

Funes has historically pushed blame for the violence that day on Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist activists despite having no proof of their involvement beyond backing of the claim from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Law enforcement agencies like the FBI have confirmed there was no participation by either BLM or antifa activists in the Capitol attack though that has not stopped the former president or his lackeys from promoting the theory anyway.

In a Twitter post on Thursday after news broke that he met with investigators, Funes wrote: “The first victim of every war is the TRUTH!!” [Emphasis original] and in light of the burgeoning aggression from Russia against Ukraine, he called “foreign wars” a distraction, put the blame on President Joe Biden, and called the Jan. 6 probe crooked.

Funes has also claimed that Jacob Chansley, the so-called “Q-Anon Shaman” who stormed the Capitol, has been unfairly prosecuted.

“Jacob Chansley was the Lee Harvey Oswald of January 6,” Funes said last November.

'It’s a huge scam': Trump is using political donations to prop up Trump Tower

While my writing ordinarily focuses on McDonaldland characters locked in a stunning array of ill-considered Kama Sutra positions, my second-favorite topic is likely Donald Trump and his infinite scams.

The dude oozes dishonesty—and God knows what else. Which, of course, means he never stops grifting. It’s his default setting.

The latest? He’s using his donors’ money to “fill” one of the empty office spaces in his eponymous Manhattan tower. Because his cult followers’ naiveté is bottomless and his appetite for fraud is inexhaustible, Trump is hoovering up another $375,000 in political cash to feather his filthy nest. And that money is supposedly going to rent office space in the building, even though his political action committees are all located in Florida.


“It’s a huge scam,” said one former aide with direct knowledge of Trump’s political spending. “I can’t believe his base lets him get away with it.”
The ex-aide’s assertion was confirmed by a Trump Tower employee who screens traffic to offices above the floors that are open to visitors. When asked for permission to visit Trump’s political office recently, the employee told HuffPost that Save America and its related entities did not have offices there.

A huge scam? Trump? Next you’ll tell me the guy masturbating on our front lawn on Christmas Eve 1971 wasn’t really Santa Claus.

According to HuffPost, Trump’s Make America Great Again PAC spent $37,541.67 in each of 10 months during 2021 to rent space at Trump Tower. It was the same amount his campaign spent on rent from 2017 through 2020—a period during which his campaign was actually based in northern Virginia.

In all those months, there was at most one person who periodically visited the 7,000-square-foot office in Trump Tower, the former aide said. But Trump insisted on having the campaign continue renting there ― as it had during the 2016 election ― because the building was having trouble finding tenants, he said. “They knew they couldn’t lose that money because the building is hurting so bad.”

Hmm, Donald Trump grifting his witless followers. Where have I heard that before?

Years ago, Trump attempted to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Every day I curse the gods who prevented that from happening. Why couldn’t he have focused his energies on destroying the National Football League instead of the entire country?

Oh, I know why. Because purchasing the Bills might have required him to release his tax returns. Apparently, the POTUS gig isn’t nearly important enough to require such trifles.

GOP’s internal battle over Jan. 6 poises Republicans to tear each other limb from limb in primaries

As Democrats warily eyed a tight Virginia gubernatorial race last fall, one key hope was that Donald Trump’s faithful would stay home the way they had in Georgia’s Senate runoffs in early 2021, delivering two precious seats and the chamber’s majority to Democrats.

But in Virginia, that turned out to be a false hope as Trumpers swarmed the polls, becoming a key part of a coalition that helped lift Republican Glenn Youngkin to victory.

Whether that same enthusiasm will carry Republicans to victory in November remains to be seen. But one big difference between Youngkin’s candidacy and the upcoming bids of other Republicans is the fact that Youngkin never faced a bitter primary. He was effectively chosen to run and then installed by the party apparatus, therefore avoiding what could have been a bitterly divisive primary in which Republicans shredded each other and turned off core parts of their base.

The fact that Youngkin neither had to claim a lane nor malign someone to his right or left gave him a lot of room to maneuver in the general election, thereby sidestepping the impossible choice of seeming sane enough to win over suburban voters or radical enough to inspire Trump’s cultists. On top of that, Youngkin also benefitted from having no history in public service and no corresponding voting record to defend. In other words, he was a blank slate, and that undoubtedly helped his ability to build a permission structure for both suburbanites and Trumpers alike to vote for him.

But on the Trump side of that equation, Youngkin needed only to avoid saying something that was completely disqualifying. Far from being demoralized, Trump voters turned out to be highly motivated. As GOP strategist and never-Trumper Sarah Longwell noted in one of her Focus Group podcasts last fall, Trump voters in Virginia were on a “revenge tour.” They couldn’t wait to get to the polls and vote in such large numbers that the election couldn’t possibly be “stolen” from them (falsely believing that 2020 had been).

One factor that might curb that enthusiasm next fall is for Republicans to field a series of primaries this spring and summer in which pro-Trump candidates and establishment Republicans grind down each other and their supporters until they’re barely a nub of their former selves.

The very public Republican row this week over the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, whether it was “legitimate” or rather a violent insurrection,” and who exactly speaks for the Republican Party and its base previewed the fact that an epic intra-party battle is brewing that could depress a sliver of GOP voters is indeed in the offing.

As the New York Timesreported:

Republican voters’ appetite for Trump-inspired talk of election audits and voting irregularities will be measured in contests throughout the spring and summer — in primaries for Senate in Alaska and North Carolina, for governor in Georgia and Arizona, as well as in dozens of congressional and state legislative races.

The races that could compound that internal disruption within the GOP are those taking place in states that will also be hosting high-profile Senate races, such as in Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson is running for reelection.

In Wisconsin, Timothy Ramthun, a state assemblyman who has been one of the state’s most aggressive promoters of election conspiracies, is expected to announce his campaign for governor on Saturday. On Wednesday night, he briefly published a website in which he pledged to conduct “an independent full forensic physical cyber audit” of the 2022 election — win or lose.

Trump’s base surely loves that promise, but swing voters who Democrats badly need to survive the worst this fall? Not so much.

Republican primaries for governor in Arizona and Georgia also promise to bleed over into important Senate races in those two states. The bid of former Republican Senator David Perdue to unseat sitting GOP Gov. Brian Kemp is already forcing bitter divisions in the state.

All of these rivalries that play out in critical swing state races are welcome developments that, in the best of all possible worlds, will confound GOP efforts at both the state and federal levels.

The conflict that broke out this week between the Trump and McConnell wings of the Republican Party—and the attendant hostilities—are a sign that the Republican Party is ripe for managing to alienate critical factions of voters that it must win over to retake the House and Senate in November, not to mention locking up governorships in key swing states in both the Rustbelt and Sunbelt.

The media is due for a heavy dose of accountability

Donald Trump went into the 2020 election with some of the worst approval ratings on record for a sitting president. He made virtually no effort to appeal to those who didn’t vote for him. How was he able to remain standing, and how did he even potentially have a chance at a second term even if he lost the popular vote? One big reason is that he and his acolytes had convinced their base that the media can’t be trusted.

As we know by now, whenever the media aired even mildly critical coverage of Trump or those who were supposedly helping him make America great again, the response on the right was some variation of “(noun) (verb) fake news!” Indeed, it’s almost an article of faith among the Republican base that the media can’t be trusted.

If your news diet consists of the likes of Fox News, Newsmax, right-wing social media, and Christian conservative outlets, you probably think that when the mainstream media isn’t making things up, it’s crossing lines that should never be crossed in order. But there’s one problem—with few exceptions, it’s right-wing media that engages in that very behavior. And while some of those elements are finally answering for the worst of their sins, others are long overdue for a dose of accountability.

Contrary to what Trump and his diehards would have us think, whenever mainstream media outlets make a mistake, those mistakes are usually corrected fairly quickly once caught. A case in point was a 2017 editorial in The New York Times that held 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin partly responsible for a grisly 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The Old Grey Lady’s editorial board claimed that just days before the shooting, Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that placed stylized crosshairs on the districts of 19 Democratic House members. The implication was clear—that map was a big reason why one of those lawmakers, then-Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, nearly died that day.

That claim was slammed on all sides of the aisle, prompting the Times to partly retract the editorial within five hours of it going online. All of the inaccurate information was retracted within two days. Despite this, Palin sued the Times for defamation. As near as can be determined, Palin is suing because she didn’t just want the Times to retract, but to grovel. The suit was due to go to trial in late January, but was pushed back to early February after the rabidly anti-vaccine Palin caught COVID-19.

Palin faces tough sledding under current precedent for libel and defamation suits. As a public figure, she would have to prove that when the editorial board greenlighted the initial version of the editorial, it did so acting with actual malice. That is, Palin would have to convince a jury that the editorial board either knew the story was false or published it with reckless disregard for whether it was true or false. Remember, the statements at issue were retracted in almost no time at all in modern media terms. Her only chance of winning is to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court in hopes of making it easier for public figures to win libel suits.

As it currently stands, Palin’s suit betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how media outlets with actual standards work. Indeed,the Times’ quick retraction stands in marked contrast to the behavior of celebrity gossip blog Gawker. In March 2016, Gawker was effectively forced out of business when it was ordered to cough up $140 million in damages to pro wrestler Hulk Hogan for posting a clip of a sex tape of Hogan. While its sister sites (such as sports culture blog Deadspin, tech blog Gizmodo, and feminist blog Jezebel) were sold to Univision at a bankruptcy auction, Gawker itself was shut down that August. Ultimately, Gawker settled with Hogan for $31 million that November.

A number of observers slammed the verdict for its potential chilling effect on freedom of the press, especially after billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel revealed that he had bankrolled the suit. Thiel openly admitted that he wanted to punish Gawker after its now-defunct tech gossip sister, Valleywag, outed him as gay in 2007. Indeed, in a post-mortem about Gawker on its last day of business, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik observed that Thiel’s involvement in Hogan’s suit against Gawker portended “ugly implications for press freedom in light of adversaries with nearly infinite resources.”

At its peak in 2015, Gawker had over 23 million visits per month, making it one of the most visited sites in the world. With that level of popularity, it’s only fair to wonder—why was no one willing to ride to Gawker’s rescue? Granted, potential buyers might have been skittish about having to deal with the massive legal headache of a lawsuit bankrolled by a billionaire. But surely someone with the wherewithal to withstand Thiel’s resources would have rescued Gawker solely on the principle of defending freedom of the press, right?

By then, however, Gawker had lost a lot of goodwill as a result of two instances where its disregard for standards dating back to the days of typewriters and leaflets was exposed for all to see. In 2015, Gawker ran an article that claimed Conde Nast Chief Financial Officer David Geithner, the brother of President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, was being extorted by a gay porn star and male escort. As the story goes, when Geithner reneged on a deal to meet up with the porn star on a trip to Chicago, the escort went to Gawker and offered to tell all. He supplied copies of text exchanges between himself and Geithner and a selfie that Geithner supposedly sent him.

When the story went live, the criticism came in hard, fast, and from all directions. Most of the detractors argued that it served no public interest to even imply that Geithner was gay. For example, the University of Minnesota’s Jane Kirtley, a media law expert, told The Daily Beast that absent evidence that Geithner gave “preferential treatment to people in the hiring process” or was guilty of sexual harassment, she was “really hard-pressed” to see a legitimate reason for running the story.

But this story had a more fundamental problem than lack of public interest. It was sourced almost entirely from a guy who was extorting Geithner. Specifically, the bulk of the story came from texts provided to Gawker staff writer Jordan Sargent. Despite this, according to Mother Jones, Gawker took only one working day to research, vet, and fact-check the story before it went live.

A number of media experts found the rapid turnaround time for this story extremely problematic. Ken Paulson, former editor-in-chief of USA Today and current president of the First Amendment Center, told Mother Jones that stories that could even potentially wreck someone’s reputation “are typically vetted over a longer period.” Over that time, Paulson added, details could come up that “could give you pause about publishing.” First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams was interviewed in the same article, saying that when there is evidence of blackmail or extortion, it ought to be “a blinking yellow light, or even a blinking red light” to thoroughly vet it before you even consider publishing it.

Gawker’s defense, at the time, seemed to be that the story was true and nothing else mattered. In response to withering criticism—including from Gawker’s own readers—Natasha Vargas-Cooper of Jezebel harrumphed in a since-deleted tweet that in her mind, “if it’s true, you publish.”

The fact that Gawker seemed to justify this story simply because it was true appeared especially tone-deaf a mere four years after the News of the World was forced out of existence due to rampant phone-hacking. Indeed, Gawker’s ethos appeared little different from that of WikiLeaks. By then, we’d known since at least 2010 that Julian Assange’s idea of transparency included releasing unredacted Social Security numbers—and dismissing any potential harm as “collateral damage.”

A mere 18 hours after the story went live, Gawker Media’s six-member managing partnership voted to remove it over the furious objections of Gawker’s editorial staff. But when Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton delivered the official explanation for removing the post, he proved that he still didn’t get it.

Denton said that the story about Geithner was “true and well reported,” which would have been enough to justify running it “in the early days of the Internet.” However, he said, “Gawker is no longer the insolent blog that began in 2003,” and this meant that potential stories “have to be true and interesting” in order to pass editorial muster. Denton went further in a memo to Gawker’s editorial team, saying that he was “ashamed” to have his name attached to the story, even if “we were within our legal right to publish.”

There are times when what was considered good reporting years ago is patently unacceptable now. For instance, the relentless coverage of Britney Spears in the early 2000s would never be tolerated today given greater awareness about mental health and sexism. But this didn’t even come close to being one of those times. By suggesting that an article that essentially amounted to aiding and abetting extortion would be even remotely acceptable in 2003, Denton made his statement announcing the article’s deletion amount to a non-apology apology. It also casts a pall on the good that Gawker actually did—like turning the hot lights on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s substance abuse, or revealing that Bill O’Reilly used his influence to start an investigation of his ex-wife’s boyfriend.

Soon after the furor over the Geithner article died down, it became even clearer just how serious Gawker’s cultural problem was. In July 2015, Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson tweeted a mea culpa about his days at Gawker. He admitted that he’d written, on orders from his boss, “baseless posts accusing an actor of raping an ex-boyfriend.” That actor was James Franco.

From 2008 to around 2014, Gawker churned out a series of articles that attempted to out Franco. The first of these articles, penned by Lawson, was a follow-up to a blind item in the New York Post in which an unidentified actor reportedly broke into his former boyfriend’s apartment and violently raped him. In his article, Lawson mused that the three likely suspects were Will Smith, Christian Bale—and Franco.

Soon afterward, Lawson wrote another article suggesting that based on Gawker commenters’ sentiment, “the people” felt Franco was a gay rapist. He then followed that up with a third article suggesting that the “gay rapist” Franco had actually been mentioned by the person who tipped off the Post about the supposed violent attack. If there is any difference between that article and Trump’s penchant for spewing baseless garbage that’s supposedly based on what “many people are saying,” I don’t see it.

Later, other Gawker writers penned articles suggesting that Franco was gay, based on the thinnest reeds of evidence. According to The Daily Beast, this was part of Gawker’s “creepy obsession with outing closeted men.” Granted, Franco is no angel. In 2021, he not only settled a lawsuit alleging that he harassed several students at the acting school he ran from 2014 to 2017, but admitted sleeping with some of his students.

Seen in this light, it’s no wonder that it took more than six years and at least one false start for Gawker to be revived. It returned in the summer of 2021 as a sister publication to women’s magazine Bustle, who bought Gawker’s remains in 2019. One would have thought that given Gawker’s popularity, it would have been revived sooner. However, NPR’s Folkenflik noted that when Univision bought Gawker’s sister sites, it concluded that Gawker itself was “too toxic to touch.”

Given how long it took for Gawker to be revived, any potential white knights must have reached the same conclusion. Who would want to take on an organization that not only believed there was a time where extortion was at all acceptable, but had no qualms about running libel?

Indeed, even as I write this, the articles libeling Franco are still available on Gawker’s website. That contrasts sharply with how the Times handled the initial version of its editorial attack on Palin. Contrary to what she and her fellow deplorables would have us believe, mainstream media outlets have standards—and those that lack standards get culled.

The same, however, can’t be said for some mainstays of right-wing media. For instance, when former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore made a bid for the U.S. Senate seat that came open when Jeff Sessions was tapped as Trump’s attorney general, Breitbart led a relentless smear campaign against the women who claimed Moore sexually assaulted them or pursued improper relationships with them. And it did so even though its editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, believed at least one of the accusers was credible.

Marlow made this shocking assertion in an interview with CNN’s Oliver Darcy in December 2017, a month after Moore’s narrow loss to Democrat Doug Jones. He revealed that he believed that Moore’s initial accuser, Leigh Corfman, had “a lot of credibility.” Corfman, you may recall, claimed Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14.

By admitting that he believed Moore’s accusers were credible even as Breitbart was smearing them, Marlow effectively put big, fat asterisks by every story Breitbart ran about the election. Victim shaming is bad enough, but doing so when you have reason to believe a victim is telling the truth is absolutely heinous. It’s even more so considering that Marlow admitted Breitbart went all-in for Moore to protect Trump.

Project Veritas also joined in on this disgraceful campaign. Its ringleader, James O’Keefe, even went as far as having one of his minions, Jaime Phillips, try to plant a bogus story in The Washington Post claiming that Moore had impregnated her. But that story came apart when the Post did some actual journalism and discovered Phillips’ story had more red flags than a lifetime of Alabama football games. Most damningly, Phillips had created a GoFundMe page boasting about her goal to join “the conservative media movement” in exposing “the liberal MSM.”

To pile obscenity on top of insult, O’Keefe revealed in December 2017 that he believed Moore’s accusers were credible. And yet, he felt compelled to smear them because—wait for it—he felt their credibility was “not my subject matter,” and his real goal was exposing “bias in the media.” So the man whose stock in trade is targeting journalists for supposed bias admitted that doing so was so important that he felt compelled to shame victims that he believed were credible. Let that sink in.

To give you an idea how outrageous Breitbart and Project Veritas’ behavior was here, imagine if every news outlet that passed on the prospect of exposing Harvey Weinstein’s depravities had reason to believe Weinstein’s accusers were credible—and yet ran stories effectively calling them liars. It makes Palin’s squawking about the Times’ failure to basically grovel before her look hypocritical as all hell.

Fortunately, at least two other members of the deplorable fever swamp are facing long-overdue accountability. Take InfoWars, for instance. Even after Alex Jones was kicked off mainstream social media and blackballed from smartphone app stores, it looked like he was going to continue his years-long promotion of conspiracy theories and hate speech—albeit with a much reduced audience.

But what may have been the beginning of the end for Jones came in 2018, not long after Facebook and YouTube gave him the boot. Several families of Sandy Hook victims, along with an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, sued Jones for defamation. Specifically, they wanted Jones held to account for his numerous claims that the Sandy Hook victims and survivors were “crisis actors.” These claims have resulted in the survivors being relentlessly harassed and trolled. The family of Noah Pozner, for instance, has had to move numerous times due to the harassment, and now live under high security in an undisclosed location. They have never been able to visit their son’s grave.

A series of legal reversals for Jones and InfoWars culminated in the fall of 2021. That September, a Texas judge issued three default judgments against Jones and InfoWars in two defamation suits filed by Sandy Hook families. The judge had lost patience with Jones’ refusal to turn over documents, and found it egregious enough to conclude that Jones had already lost. In November, a Connecticut judge issued a default judgment in a suit filed against Jones in another lawsuit. While damages will be determined at trial later this year, they are likely to add up to hundreds of millions of dollars—in all likelihood, enough to put InfoWars out of business.

Another fixture of the deplorable fever swamp, Gateway Pundit, may also face extinction after being sued for orchestrating a vicious trolling campaign that falsely accused Georgia election workers of stealing their state for Joe Biden. The two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, claim that Gateway Pundit started a flood of disinformation that reached all the way to Trump, who attacked Freeman by name in his now-infamous attempt to shake down Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Dozens of bogus stories about Freeman and Moss resulted in death threats, doxing, and kidnapping attempts, among other things. Rather than apologize, Gateway Pundit actually tried to raise money off the lawsuit, netting over $81,000. If there is any justice, though, that fundraising effort will be a futile exercise. Gateway Pundit and its impresarios, the Hoft brothers, ought to get a very hard lesson on why private citizens only need to prove negligence in order to win libel suits.

The Times moves in almost no time at all by current media standards to retract claims about Palin—and yet, Breitbart, Project Veritas, and Gateway Pundit refuse to even attempt to apologize for far worse. What’s wrong with this picture?

The answer to that question is simpler than you may think. For all the caterwauling we hear from the right about the media not having any standards, we have seen instance after instance where the media has shown it actually does. Moreover, whenever elements of the mainstream press show they don’t have standards, they are weeded out. The demise of Gawker is a stark example of what happens when you catapult your way into the mainstream, only to show you have little regard for basic standards of decency.

If we are to remove the tinder from our politics, we must subject the media to the same level of accountability that Gawker faced, and what InfoWars is more than likely to face. As Gawker learned in 2016, that standard ought to apply regardless of political shade. But if Palin and other right-wingers are willing to take off their blinders, they would see that their own side of the media divide is long overdue for a cleaning.

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New York Times called out for once again elevating sedition

he New York Times got a lot of attention this weekend, none of it good, for their latest zoological profile of pro-Trump, anti-democracy voters. The Times did not go the sleepy small-town diner route this time, but instead profiled Jan. 6 insurrectionists who marched to demand the toppling of our government but, like, did it less violently than some of the others. People who didn't enter the U.S. Capitol building, but only took a few flashbangs from the officers trying to defend the building. People who didn't bring guns, but who now regret not doing so. To overthrow the government. Because Donald Trump wanted them too.

There's a whole lot to be said about this, but the Times itself continues its tradition of elevating extremist, anti-democratic, pro-sedition voices while almost completely ignoring the origins of their beliefs, the dangers they pose, or whether or not attempting to end democracy on a madman's turgid whim might be bad. Whether democracy lives or dies in this country is emphatically not something the Times wants to take sides on inside of individual stories. The opinion side of the paper might pipe up with it (alongside, of course, conservative columns arguing the opposite) but identifying the larger frameworks in which fascism is not just growing, in America, but is able to pose a genuine threat to government—that's right out.

What's especially galling is that the Times freely uses the word insurrection to describe the events of Jan. 6. The Times is able to identify the goal of the extremists who marched that day just fine. So what does that make the people who marched to do it?

Oh, you know. Jus' folk. Can't draw any conclusions here.

What's maddening about the Times story is how far the paper goes, in fact, to not draw any conclusions about the gaggle of conspiracy cranks, far-right extremists, and willing seditionists that it holds up for reader perusal. It is like going to a zoo in which all the animals are wrapped in burlap sacks; do you want to know what this creature looks like? Then figure it out yourself, dear visitors, this is how each animal was delivered to us and we're not going to the work of unwrapping them. Trying to determine how each of these specimens fits in the grand ecosystem of "people who want to end American democracy rather than abide a single election loss" is left entirely as an exercise to the reader. It's a fascism-agnostic sudoku puzzle.

We open the piece with the tale of Paul Treasonguy—we don't need to give him the publicity of using his real name, the Times is already giving him all the advertising he could ask for—who is not at all sorry about his participation in a march to topple the government at Trump's behest. "It definitely activated me more," says Paul, and "it gave me street cred." Paul is now promoting himself as an anti-vaccine "lawyer for patriots," using his support for sedition as launching pad, a way to devote himself to far-right causes professionally rather than just as hobby.

Why is the Times helping him? Very good question, but our Texas-based insurrection marcher is quite pleased that they did.

But what does this American mean by "activated"—a word conspicuously out of place, one associated more commonly with cults, extremist groups, and militias? Being identified as a pro-insurrection marcher, getting fired from your job and being dumped by a fiancee gives street cred on what particular street?

We are told that, in interviews, the insurrection has "mutated into an emblem of resistance" that is a "troubling omen should the country face another close presidential election." We are told that "many" of the insurrectionists have slipped smoothly into anti-vaccine resistance, now citing "Mr. Biden's vaccine mandates as justification for their efforts" to nullify the election.

Mostly we learn that none of these people appear to be regretting a single damn thing about the insurrection. Mostly.

"Most everybody thinks we ought to have went with guns, and I kind of agree with that myself," says Oren Treasonguy, a landscaper. And "I think we ought to have went armed, and took it back." He admitted to bringing a baton and a Taser with him when he travelled to the insurrection but "did not get them out," which is evidently why he is in in the profile of "nonviolent" seditionists. But he doesn't sound nonviolent. He sounds like he thinks the crowd's nonviolence was the main problem of the day.

And he's not shy about saying that the goal of the insurrection was to "take" the election results "back." He, like the rest of the crowd, intended their actions to be an insurrection.

The next mini-profile is of a Jeff Treasonguy. Jeff is now running for public office—another case in which the violence of the day is being used to boost the conservative "cred" of those who participated. Jeff, along with his adult son, "took two flash bangs" during the crowd's drive that "pushed Congress out of session." "I'm hurt but we accomplished the job."

Jeff believes "Covid-19 was a bioweapon meant to convert the United States to socialism," among other things. Jeff is par for the course, among this group. He talks a lot about Jesus, is quite proud of destabilizing the country, and would "absolutely" do it again.

Okay, but Jeff here is undeniably a member of a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government based on batshit theories scraped off the insides of a fever dream. Why are we hearing from him at all? What purpose does it give to parade a series of unrepentant and paranoia-obsessed backers of a violent insurrection before the nation but yet beat so thoroughly around the bush on what it means?

Now we go to Greg Treasonguy, a Michigan city councilman who is meant to demonstrate the "sense of community" among those that attended Trump's "march" to erase a United States election rather than abide the embarrassment of losing. We learn that Greg "found solidarity, he said, in similar men's groups growing in Hungary and Poland" and hold right the hell up, this man voluntarily pipes up with admiration for the democracy-toppling, authoritarian far-right groups of Hungary and Poland because "men got to step up" in service to masculinity?

How, exactly, does one form a positive view of the pro-authoritarian far-right movements of Hungary and Poland? What newsletter is Greg here getting that endorses the pro-authoritarian, xenophobic, eliminationist far-far-right looking to scrub out democracy in their own countries? Is it Tucker Carlson? Is it a militia group? Greg here is tapped into the zeitgeist of American fascism to enough of an extent that he knows he should be emulating Hungary's malevolent thugs, but we don't get any explanation of that? He just drops that bomb into the conversation and the Times thinks well, that's as good a closer as any?


The word insurrection is used repeatedly in the Times piece. Words not used: Insurrectionist. Sedition. Authoritarian. Anti-democratic. Conspirator. The premise of the piece is an examination of the nonviolent—or at least, less violent—Americans who responded to Trump's call to overthrow the government, and while we are told that the group tends towards conspiracy theories, remains enamored with Trump's particular conspiracy theories, and has taken up the anti-vaccination cause like they were born for the moment, but the central trait that ties them all together is a belief that democracy should be nullified if democracy is unwilling to ensconce them, personally, as social victors.

The Times, however, is quite willing to portray them in their own terms—as supposed patriots, and portray the central goal of their fight, the nullification of elections that do not end with conservative victors, as a social choice.

The problem with all of this is that, yet again, we have a major media outlet using the conventions of neutrality to obscure the severity of the moment rather than clarify it. The facts now all conclusively point to the same determination: This was an insurrection, it was intended as an insurrection, those that boosted it did so as part of a very real plan to capture government, there was a propaganda campaign to encourage and justify it, the propaganda campaign continues, and the Republican Party is behind all of it. The people who were summoned by Trump that day do not regret their actions—except for when asked by a federal judge, immediately before that judge is to decide whether or not to throw them in prison for a spell—and, if anything, are restructuring their lives around their new authoritarian devotions.

What is this new movement that the Times has found, then? It is a movement based incontrovertibly around false propaganda intended to discredit United States elections by claiming that they have been corrupted by an imaginary other. It is a movement that seeks partisan control over elections, including the ability to overturn results that go against them. It focuses on a need for national renewal, or "saving" the country from their enemies. The enemies list includes immigrants, nonwhite citizens, the sexually "deviant," universities, schoolteachers, journalists, scientists, and a supposed secret cabal of elites responsible for all of it. It insists that a loss of "masculinity" is responsible for the world's ailments; it features demands that its political enemies be jailed as central rhetorical planks, not just in the chants of a know-nothing rabble but in vows from top party leaders.

And it celebrates the use of violence as a path towards that national "renewal," with top party voices insisting that those who participated in an attempted insurrection be freed—and honored.

These are the traits of a fascist movement, down to the individual details, the performative religious bent, and the focus on a central, buffoonishily hyper-"masculine" leader and the supposed savior who will make the rest of it come to pass.

So why are readers led through a series of mini-hagiographies that glance through each trait example-by-example, but left to their own devices to ponder out what actual "news" can be gleaned from it?

What do you call people who were willing to attack police officers in an attempt to nullify an American presidential election rather than abide by results they did not like? Insurrectionists; seditionists; coup participants.

What do you call people who assembled that day to demand the nullification of an American election, but who only provided bodies to fill out the crowd, leaving it to others to do the actual fighting while they took advantage of whatever crimes were committed to get closer to their goal? Insurrectionists. Seditionists. Coup participants.

What do you call people who assembled that day to demand the nullification of an American election, timed to coincide with the constitutional acknowledgement of that election, even if they did not enter the Capitol at all? Insurrectionists. Seditionists. Coup participants.

But what if they were tricked into it, and only wanted to topple the legitimate United States government because they were told the government was invalid and needed to be toppled?

Then they are insurrectionists. Seditionists. Willing allies of a hoax-premised coup.

Anyone who gathered that day to demand the erasure of an American election, violent or not, allied themselves against their country to side with a hoax-spewing, toxic buffoon. That goes for those in Congress who allied with the effort and helped promote the hoax used to incite the crowds; that goes for the lawyers who tossed countless false statements towards judges with full knowledge that they were promoting nonsense. Anyone who brought a "baton" or a "Taser" to Washington, D.C., in case violence was needed to erase an election is a seditionist. Anyone who waved a Trump flag and screamed their agreement when he told the crowd that his defeat was invalid and should be overturned chose the ravings of a belligerent clown over loyalty to their own nation. Anyone who called elections workers to threaten hangings based on hoaxes that they need no evidence to believe.

None of these people need to be understood. It should be enough for them that most will not be imprisoned. The press should be exposing them as dangerous, not providing publicity for their new anti-democracy ventures. It is indeed news that many or the majority of those that participated in an act of sedition remain eager to do it again—but that makes them enemies of their nation, not subjects for wispy examinations of sedition as new social fad.

If journalism intends to ally itself with democracy, it is both reasonable and necessary to portray those who would topple the country in service of growing fascist beliefs as unreasonable. As not just odd characters, but willfully dangerous. It is not necessary to feign neutrality on a fascist coup or those currently running for small-time office or staking new legal careers on ambitions of being more successful the next time around.

It is a fascist movement. It consists of people who have demanded and are still demanding that democracy either bend to it or be erased. They believe paranoid and delusional things—paranoid and delusional things that should not be spread in national newspapers as merely alternative belief systems, but should be highlighted as dangerous hoaxes promoted by propagandists and embraced by fools.

It is fine and reasonable to condemn those that want to end democracy and have already proven willing to take action to do it. Journalistic neutrality does not mean that those that attack the country and those that protect it should be given equal respect. Do not respect them!

The Times continues to drift through political events with practiced unawareness, unwilling to commit itself to standing for anything in particular. Reading through its pages is like wandering into the foyer of a particularly unambitious natural history museum, with individual bones of current historical changes bolted together haphazardly into skeletons that may or may not look anything like the creatures they are supposed to represent. We are allowed to gawk, but there are no curators who can tell us anything or who can differentiate between a ancient femur and a rusty 6 iron—and we get sniffed at if we even ask.

It is unremarkable for a newspaper to ally itself with democracy and to assert, in its pages, that those that would erase it are doing harm. This is not a high bar. The Times knows full well how close the coup came to succeeding, and how the individuals it profiles are retooling things to allow a near-future version to more efficiently trundle over the obstacles that stalled it the last time around. For the love of God and country, stop hiding the danger of the moment behind gauzy profiles of democracy's self-declared enemies.

Dam begins to break on ridiculous Big Lie — even in GOP circles

Biden came out swinging against Trump on January 6th, which enraged the former president, but something notable happened. Few Republicans stood up for Trump. Many Republicans tried the delicate balance of condemning the insurrection attempt on January 6th but not the guy responsible for it by propagating the Big Lie. It seems some have finally had enough.

GOP Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) was fed up with Trump’s ego when he appeared on This Week. He said what every non-cultish person already knew: "the [2020] election was fair, as fair as we have seen."

This was followed by Mitt Romney, who will always stand up for what’s right--after someone else does it first:

Then Senator Kevin Cramer, Senator John Thune, and Senator Shelley Capito backed him. Even Trumpy Senator Ron Johnson said Trump lost---although he said it in private and was caught on tape.

I'm not giving much props to Mitch McConnell, who immediately condemned the Big Lie last year, but is happy to capitalize on the conspiracy to support state-level voting restrictions that he believes will help Republicans. Anything to hold on to power, I suppose.

Then I watched a Fox person pile on:

Everyone with the slightest degree of common sense knows Trump can’t handle losing. He said the Emmy’s were rigged; he said the popular vote in 2016 was rigged; and he even said Ted Cruz’s Iowa caucus victory was rigged. How you rig a caucus when the people are publicly counted in front of everyone remains unclear, but this was never supposed to make sense. No one ever explained who was doing the rigging, or how millions of ballots were fraudulent for Biden yet picked Republicans in all the down-ballot races.

Yet instead of believing that the guy who claims to get tweets from Korean War parents is lying, Republicans expect us to believe that all the poll workers, Republican state legislators, the media, Republican governors, Bill Barr, election officials, and all of the judges who threw out more than 60 fake cases--including the ones who were appointed by Trump--were all in a giant conspiracy to help Joe Biden beat Trump. The GOP leaders were so terrified of Trump they actually tried to make this plausible, at great cost to their reputations. Shame, however, is something you need to dispense with if you want to be a Republican official or pundit these days.

The GOP is turning on Trump’s Big Lie, but not because they suddenly got patriotic. These guys aren’t doing it because they want to save Democracy, but because, in Kilmeade’s own words, if “we simply look back and tell our people don’t vote because there’s cheating going on, then we’re going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage.”

He’s right. The Big Lie may soothe Trump’s ego, but if the people he picks in the mid-terms lose and are told it was rigged, his cult-like followers will wonder what’s the point of voting. The only turnout depressed by the Big Lie is Trump’s own people. It’s a lose-lose proposition for Trump, but he’s too arrogant and dumb to change course. He all but said at an unofficial campaign stop that he’s going to run on his 2020 Election loss because that gets the “biggest applause” at his (increasingly sparsely-attended) rallies.

As Trump begins to lose steam, Republican leaders are finally beginning to break ranks. Trump’s cult seems to be open to following other authoritarian leaders, who Republican politicians hope next time won’t be as selfish and self-destructive.

Christian conservative reporter humiliated on social media after attacking BLM on Twitter

If you don’t know who David Brody is, God bless you. He’s a longtime TV personality from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), whose hits include promoting the idea that Donald Trump has been blessed by God to own a private golf course. (True story.) In Brody and CBN’s defense, the conservative Christian God that they pray to is a shitty misogynist. Brody and his employer lost a lot of access to the White House after Donald Trump was trounced by Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Brody has made sure to allow sentient bile tank Trump to promote the Big Lie and whatever other grotesquery the far right doggedly proposes.

On Monday, Brody went to his Twitter account where he traditionally posts all kinds of bad takes to send what appeared to be a screen shot of his phone’s camera (yes, he messed up taking a straight photo), seemingly showing a very snowy road, purportedly in Washington, D.C., from inside of a car he was driving. He wrote: “Today in DC. They knew a snowstorm was coming for days. Apparently ‘black lives matter’ but the lives of people driving in a snowstorm don’t.” It is hard to impart how absolute the incoherence of this attempted political opinion is without crossing one’s eyes. The levels of what was wrong with the image and the tweet and the contents and the logic of everything was more blinding than a whiteout snowstorm. The internet responded to help.

First, a visualization to help us understand the twisted logic of the right-wing fanatic.

There was even some advice.

An offer to spitball a few more Newt Gingrich-level ideas.

An analysis.

Here’s a card that can be used forever.

Let’s call this tweet “Brody’s Dilemma.”

Some practical safety advice.

And some practical life advice for Brody.

Judge wants ‘forgiveness and understanding’ after she’s caught on video calling suspect N-word

Last weekend a Lafayette City Court judge and her family were the victims of a car burglary at their home. Police were called and the suspect was arrested. But, of course, that wasn’t the end of it.

Days later, Judge Michelle Odinet and her four children were captured on cellphone video watching security footage of the moment the suspected burglar was apprehended. And oh boy, did that family enjoy watching it. They whooped and hollered as they joyfully commented on the home surveillance video, calling the suspect, a Black man, a “roach” and using the N-word repeatedly.

“We have a n---—. It’s a n-----, like a roach,” a female’s voice can be heard saying while laughing.

Now Odinet is asking for “forgiveness and understanding.”

“My children and I were the victim [sic] of an armed burglary at our home. The police were called and the assailant was arrested. The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile,” Odinet said in a statement Monday, The Acadiana Advocate reports.

According to the Daily Beast, the Lafayette Police Department confirmed to local media that an attempted burglary of a vehicle took place at Odinet’s home at around 2 a.m. Saturday.

But Lafayette Police Sgt. Paul Mouton told KLFY that the suspect—identified as Ronald Handy—did not have a weapon with him at the time of his arrest despite the fact that Courthouse Karen described the incident to police as an “armed burglary.”

Odinet added that she “was given a sedative at the time” and had “zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”

“Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding as my family and I deal with the emotional aftermath of this armed burglary,” she said.

Odinet was elected to her position on Nov. 3, 2020. According to the website for the City Court of Lafayette, Louisiana, prior to being a judge, she worked as a prosecutor for both Orleans and Lafayette Parish District Attorneys offices, “where she prosecuted juvenile delinquencies and adult felonies ranging from theft and narcotics to rape and first-degree murder.“

Handy was charged with two counts of simple burglary and is being held on a $10,000 bond.

The sedative excuse and nonapology are not working as the judge had hoped for. And now the community is calling for her to lose her damn job—which she should.

“I’m sure that people of color will find it impossible to trust that they will be treated fairly and equally when they have to stand for judgment before Judge Odinet,” Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas said in a statement Tuesday.

“We will not tolerate bigotry from the bench. Fairness and impartiality cannot coexist with racism; Lafayette needs a new Judge,” Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt said in a press release demanding “Judge Odinet’s immediate resignation.”

On Monday, Lafayette NAACP chapter President Michael Toussain called for Odinet to resign.

Toussain’s letter reads in part:

“While we continue to strive to form the more perfect union there are still those who bare the mark of America’s original sin of racism. The recently reveal video is clear that Judge Michelle Odinet see people base on the color of their skin and she holds a firm belief they are no more than roaches, rats or lesser species than herself. Her quote “We got ——!” is the clearest expression of her heart in regards to respecting people of diverse racial backgrounds. If she had said “We got thieves” we would understand that, but the use of the word ——, clearly expresses that Judge Michelle Odinet places all black people in a position of inferiority and discontent. Her voice is remnant of the shouts at lynchings in years gone by and white mob’s mentality that is evident still today.”

Sen. Gerald Boudreaux called Odinet’s comments “reprehensible, offensive and unacceptable” from anyone serving as a judge, according to The Advocate, adding that he will officially petition the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana to investigate the ethical conduct and actions associated with the incident.

"We have struggled miserably to garner public support for our judicial system at every level in this country. The political landscape has become so toxic that the negative impact has been identified and evident from the United States Supreme Court to the Lafayette City Court,” Boudreaux said.

Manchin offers America lumps of coal for Christmas

Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a vote before Christmas on their historic investment in American families and combatting climate change, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"The Senate is moving forward on the reconciliation process so that we can vote on President Biden's Build Back Better Act before the Christmas holiday," Schumer said on Monday from the Senate floor.

But the successful passage of President Joe Biden's roughly $2 trillion signature piece of legislation by Dec. 25 is going to require a miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue—if you listen to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose vote is essential. Manchin spoke to the president by phone Monday.

Sure, "anything is possible here," Manchin said, following the call, according to the New York Times. But let's be real, Manchin is on his own holiday timeline, and instead of delivering massive help to pandemic-overstretched families and the promise of a habitable planet for future generations, he's just fine the status quo.

"People have been in a hurry for a long time to do something, but I think, basically, we’re seeing things unfold that allows us to prepare better,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday, before his call with Biden. “And that’s what we should do."

Following the conversation, Manchin offered, “Listen, let’s at least see the bill. Need to see what they write, what’s the final print. That tells you everything."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki framed the Biden-Manchin call as “a conversation between two people who have been in public life for some time and have had good-faith discussions directly.”

That's a whole lot of nothing in the way of commitments and a clear path forward. The two intend to speak again "in the coming days," according to Politico.

Part of Democrats' urgency is due to the fact that the child tax credit Democrats folded into pandemic relief earlier this year is set to expire at the end of the year.

But part of the Democrats' full-court press also reflects the political realities facing the president's party as it heads into the midterm election year. Once the calendar flips to 2022, every passing day tends to make lawmakers squeamish about taking big votes on historic pieces of legislation.

“There’s nothing more to be gained from more talk,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told the Times. “We have talked and talked and talked. It’s time to make some final decisions and vote.”

Democrats also have other pressing priorities next year—voting rights, first and foremost— and they simply can't afford to waste more precious time on inaction. Very early next year, Democrats must turn one and all to the battle for the soul of our democracy.

The biggest hurdle to both Democratic priorities is Sen. Manchin, who seems quite content to deliver nothing more than a lump of coal, a warming planet, and a fraying democracy to brighten the nation’s holiday season. Republicans are surely loving it.

What killed Trump's coup inside the Capitol may have been Trump's insurgency outside the Capitol: analysis

The texts released by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 show that the White House, Republicans in Congress, and Donald Trump Jr. were all terrified about the insurgents breaching the Capitol. Some were terrified for how it would cost them politically. Some for how the insurgents might harm them physically. Right-wing pundits, hoping to make the best of embarrassing and incriminating information, have hurried to claim that, if Fox News and congressional Republicans were screaming to make it stop, they couldn’t have been in on the insurgency.

However, the latest releases drop several more puzzle pieces into place. The picture of how Donald Trump and the Republican Party planned to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 election and install Trump as dictator in everything but name still isn’t quite complete. But what’s there is frightening in both its depth and breadth.

It shows that they had the means of keeping Trump in power, a supposed motivation for their actions, and that they viewed Jan. 6 as an opportunity to put their plans into effect. Only not everyone was playing from the same book, and some of them forgot to synchronize their watches.

This was not a closely held scheme. The plan to refuse to seat electors from states that voted for Joe Biden wasn’t whispered about solely in one White House meeting, where Mike Pence made some kind of heroic stand against Trump, chief of staff Mark Meadows, and attorney John Eastman. The essence of the plan circulated widely among Republicans. Versions of it were batted around by White House staffers and among Trump’s campaign team. They played through themes, scenarios, and alternatives.

A 38-page PowerPoint discussion of all the different ways that Pence could wreck the electoral vote certification on Jan. 6, and how they could put down any attempts to prevent Trump from seizing power, was briefed to Republicans in Congress. Some of those briefed were sill texting elements of the plan back to Meadows even as the assault on the Capitol was underway.

There was a second track to this plan. That was the pseudo-legal track being managed by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and a revolving cast of others willing to sign their names to lawsuits that vanished as quickly as they appeared. The purpose of this team was to generate theoretical justification for taking action that would overturn one of the cleanest, most closely observed elections in American history. It didn’t matter that this track ran on malicious speculation and deliberate lies, not when there was media—and Republicans in Congress—ready to pretend that it was real. Whether it was Venezuelan dictators, Italian satellites, or just “trash cans of votes,” evidence wasn’t required.

And then there was the third track. That was the Trump rally track. The “wild time” track. The Stop the Steal track being managed by Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander. The purpose of this track was simple enough: It was there to generate anger. Anger that could help justify action. Anger that could bully the reluctant into going along.

On Jan. 6, that anger got ahead of everything else, and the third track turned into a third rail.

Both the “legal” track and the protest track were there, in part, to demonstrate to Republicans inside and outside Congress what it meant to defy Trump. It didn’t matter if it was county-level election officials in Michigan, or the hard-right governor of Georgia: No one was above being named in a lawsuit, or turned into the object of death threats. Anyone could find their home surrounded by angry white militants screaming at their spouse and children, or being labeled across right-wing media as a RINO traitor. All it took was a tweet.

Much of this was visible before the select committee began its work. Or even before Jan. 6. Trump and company were not exactly subtle, nor secretive.

Some of these issues raise real points of concern. Such as: How did multiple members of the Republican Party in Congress receive an extended briefing on methods by which they might illegally overturn the election results, and none of that appeared in the press? It might be too much to think that a Republican in the House would let the media in on what they were up to, but were there no staffers, no observers, no AV guy hired to run the projector who thought the public needed to know what these guys were up to? The idea that Republicans sat through a 38-page PowerPoint on “How to Destroy America” in the week before Jan. 6, and the public didn’t learn about it for 11 months, should be—and is—terrifying.

The coup plans were the means of execution. The legal claims, ridiculous as they were and are, were the justification. But the rally track, the violence track, was the lever to make it all happen.

Bannon and Stone didn’t come into this cold. They had worked on “Stop the Steal” in 2016, with intentions of accusing Democrats of voter fraud in that election. Stone was back with “Stop the Steal” in Florida for 2018, deploying claims that the election there was going to be stolen when it looked like Democrats might pull off a victory in the Senate and governor’s race. They had it ready again in 2020, with Trump, Stone, and others insisting there was going to be massive election fraud months before the election was ever held. Trump underlined all this with claims that the only way he could lose was if there was fraud.

Months before the election, Alexander announced that he was already building out “digital infrastructure” for “Stop the Steal 2020.” That included a database of Trump supporters who could be activated for the purposes of intimidating poll workers and state officials through their “physical presence.” Trump tweeted his own “Stop the Steal!” tweet the same day as Alexander’s announcement, showing the closeness of his efforts and those of the Trump campaign.

After the election, from Pennsylvania, to Georgia, to Arizona, to Michigan, to Nevada, to Wisconsin, Trump’s team launched anger-a-thons that terrorized vote counters and election officials at all levels. Some of these were done on the off chance that they might intimidate an official into actually trying to flip electoral votes. All of them were done to perpetuate the idea that there was “a dispute” over the vote count in these states. That idea was given an enormous boost by attention from the media; primarily Fox News, where the claims of Trump’s legal team aired on a constant loop.

In the days before Jan. 6, the violence track got special attention. Trump had sent a signal to his white supremacist militia supporters, promising them “it will be wild” if they showed up. The Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, and other militant groups didn’t show up unprepared. They planned for months, using encrypted platforms like Telegram, where they and worked with neofascist groups supported by Bannon.

In advance of Jan. 6, these groups decided to change up their uniform, appearing in all black. That clothing came in handy for Fox News host Laura Ingraham and a cluster of right-wing radio hosts (including former FEMA director Michael “Brownie” Brown). Even as Ingraham was texting with Mark Meadows, trying to get him to halt the assault on the Capitol, she was back on Fox, insisting to her audience that the black outfits were “not what Trump supporters wear”, and that there were “some reports that antifa was sprinkled throughout the crowd." That same argument was making its way across right-wing radio. Ingraham also insisted to her audience that only “around three dozen” people were involved breaching the Capitol, no matter what they may have seen on their screens.

But there’s another reason that the violence squad was wearing black that day. A Jan. 5 email from Meadows to an unknown party indicated that the National Guard would be standby on Jan. 6 to “protect pro Trump people.” As Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch has pointed out, Trump tweeted about antifa twice on Jan. 5, indicating that trouble was expected. Trump had also spoken with the Pentagon when planning events for that day. It was not a coincidence that Mike Flynn’s brother was in position to release, or withhold, National Guard support on that day.

Here’s some selections from a timeline for events that actually happened on Jan. 6:

09:00 AM—Trump rally begins at the Ellipse, with the hanging of banners for the “Save America March.” Rep. Mo Brooks steps up, to deliver a speech in which he demands that those present “fight for America” and calls on them to “kick ass.” Then Rudy Giuliani steps in front of the mic to demand "Let's have a trial by combat.” Even before his speech has ended, the first contingent of Proud Boys leaves the Ellipse area and begins moving toward the Capitol.

12:00 PM—Trump begins his speech at the rally. He promises to march with his supporters to the Capitol, tells them “We are going to have to fight much harder,” that the election outcome is an “egregious assault on our democracy,” and instructs them “You have to show strength.” Shortly after Trump begins speaking, Rep. Paul Gosar sends this tweet, with a hat tip to Ali Alexander.

What happens next is the critical point. A point where both the law, and the coup plan, may have simultaneously exited the scene.

12:30 PM—Though Trump is still speaking, at least 300 Proud Boys are already confronting police at the Capitol. Within minutes, 10,000 to 15,000 more people are marching that way. Before Trump finishes making his promises to the crowd, his supporters have already pushed through the first police barriers. The chief of the Capitol Police makes his first call for help from the National Guard.

1:00 PM—Senators and Pence walk to the House chamber to begin the formal certification of electoral votes.

1:10 PM—Trump finishes his speech, with another call to march on Congress and to give Republicans the “pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."

1:12 PM—The list of states being counted reaches Arizona. Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz immediately object to certifying the results in that state. The House and Senate split apart for two hours of debate over the objection.

1:17 PM—As Trump supporters climb scaffolding, force their way up stairs, and press into the tunnel beneath the House, Lauren Boebert tweets “We are locked in the House Chambers.” and then tweets “The Speaker has been removed from the Chambers.”

1:51 PM—Alex Jones tells the crowd on west side of Capitol to come around to the east side, claiming there is a stage there and that Trump will join them. Some follow Jones, but others began battering the doors and window of the Capitol.

2:11 PM—Insurgents enter the Capitol.

With the insurgents occupying the building, ransacking offices, invading both congressional chambers, carrying off souvenirs, and smearing feces on the walls, Congress doesn’t return to finish the count until 8:06 PM.

When Congress finally reconvened, the Arizona objections were dealt with, the vote continued, then, despite several other objections, Pence announced the results of Biden’s victory.

But consider this alternate timeline:

3:05 PM—Congress completes debate and the session reconvenes to report the results of that discussion. Pence then doesn’t immediately move to count the Arizona votes, but—as both the memo from attorney John Eastman explained, and as was detailed in the coup plan briefed to Congress—Pence insists that Arizona be skipped over, and that the count continue with other states. This soon brings other objections, resulting in Pence either calling for Congress to once again adjourn for separate debates, or adding them to the “in dispute” category.

Meanwhile, outside the Capitol, men dressed in black threaten police and shove against barricades. As Congress continues with the count, and Pence continues to set states aside, Trump calls in the National Guard, insisting that they protect both Trump supporters and Congress from antifa terrorists. When they are deployed, Trump joins Jones and others on the east side of the Capitol, raising the crowd to a fever pitch.

It’s not difficult to see how this day spins out very differently, and more along the lines of the coup scheme, ending with either Pence declaring Trump the winner, or—as Bannon suggested—with Trump announcing a do-over election under military supervision.

The difference in this timeline is that in the second version, Trump’s supporters don’t actually breach the Capitol, or at least don’t do so until after Pence has the chance to declare Arizona in dispute.

And yes, in the real world, Pence did not do that. Instead, he’s been lauded handing over a letter at the beginning of the session indicating that his powers there were limited, and for pushing past objections to reach a Biden victory as the Electoral Count Act demands.

However, Pence’s apparent bold stand, and the reversal of some votes among Republicans in Congress, came after the invasion of the Capitol. It came after Fox News pundits texted warnings that the scenes of violence on television were ruining everything. It came after multiple Republicans had texted Meadows, mostly to let him know they were scared shitless. When the Capitol was breached and Pence led away from the crowd chanting for his death, the Arizona votes had not been counted.

Pence declared Biden the victor in the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol. That he would have done the same thing without hours of America watching Trump’s supporters loot and pillage and threaten—without the audible chants of “hang Mike Pence”—is only an assumption.

Trump had the plan for how he would reverse the election. He had the pretense of a justification. He had a large percentage of Republicans thinking that the election had problems. He had support among Republicans in both the House and Senate to raise the objections that would put his plan in play. But on Jan. 6, it may not have been Pence that generated the point of failure in this plan.

Instead, it seems as if the part of Trump’s plan that was left to Bannon, Stone, and others who sat back to watch from their control room at the Willard Hotel simply moved too fast and too hard. The wild time got too wild.

What sank Trump’s coup inside the Capitol may have been Trump’s insurgency outside the Capitol.

Democratic lawmakers blast Supreme Court commission for 'both-sidesing' court politicization

Four congressional Democrats wrote a scathing letter to President Joe Biden's Supreme Court reform commission this week, calling out the commission's failure to address or even examine the degree to which dark money groups with well-funded lobbying campaigns have influenced the court, both in terms of the justices appointed and their decisions.

In the letter, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, and Georgia Representative Hank Johnson remind the commission that they've already called this issue out: "We wrote to you earlier this year to emphasize that the issues your Commission is tasked to consider cannot be addressed without grappling with pressing judicial ethics concerns, including the role of secretive special-interest influence in and around the Court." The commission released its first discussion drafts last month, showing that it was failing to address some of the Court's fundamental problems—like the politicization of the court through groups like the Federalist Society—and downplaying others.

"As currently drafted, this report is a disappointment to anyone who had hoped for a clear-eyed effort to address the Supreme Court's deep troubles," the lawmakers write. "The Commission's draft report acknowledges in passing that 'confirmation battles of recent years have given rise to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaigns' to support and oppose particular nominations," the lawmakers note.

"But the Commission has failed to probe why such sums are being spent to control the Court's composition, or to ask who might be spending this money and—most important—what interests they may have before the Court. The Commission has also failed to consider whether these investments have actually shaped the substance and outcomes of the Court's decision-making, as they were no doubt intended to do."

The lawmakers also strike at the core of the commissions' failings, it's insistence on "both-sidesing" the politicization of the court. "This view that 'both sides' are equally to blame for the politicization of the Court, and the implicit assumption that members of the Court are themselves insulated and apart from this politicization, is an unproven proposition," they wrote.

"In the face of overwhelming evidence that the Court has been captured by partisan donor interests, it is wrong to perpetuate the fiction that it has not been," the lawmakers write. "By grounding its draft report foremost in the concern that the public must perceive the Court to be legitimate and independent, the Commission fails to consider the very real and much more dangerous possibility that it might not be."

The updated draft of the commission, released ahead of a Friday public meeting, shows that the commission is still not dealing with that fundamental challenge of this court. That's not too surprising—the commission includes a few staunchly anti-abortion lawyers and Federalist Society members.

Although the Federalist Society has succeeded in packing the court, the commission argues that expanding the court would endanger the court's legitimacy. "This uncertainty leads even some who fundamentally disagree with aspects of the current Supreme Court's jurisprudence to believe it is better to preserve the court's long-term legitimacy and independence than to open up the court to be packed by potentially dangerous and even authoritarian political movements going forward," the commission materials said. Again, as if this court, with three Trump appointees whose legitimacy is at best questionable, is above question.

The lawmakers detail the evidence of a broken court, influenced by political groups, and demand that the commission address these facts:

(a) that the last three Supreme Court vacancies were filled through the efforts of a private organization (the Federalist Society) receiving enormous contemporaneous, anonymous donations;

(b) that anonymous individual checks as large as $17 million funded Supreme Court confirmation battle advertising, with no way to know what business those donors had before the Court;

(c) that orchestrated flotillas of anonymously funded right-wing amici appear regularly before the Court, and achieve virtually perfect success with the Republican appointees;

(d) that a peculiar fast lane has emerged that rushes politically loaded cases to the Supreme Court through deliberate trial and appellate court losses;

(e) that intensely political partisan decisions have hinged on findings of fact that were not an appellate court's ordinary province, that were not supported by a factual record, and that ultimately were demonstrably false;

(f) that capture by special interests is not limited to administrative agencies but can infect courts as well;

(g) that as much as $400 million in anonymized money has been spent through an array of coordinated groups seemingly designed to capture the Supreme Court, a sum not usually spent without motive; and

(h) that, in civil cases decided by a 5-4 partisan Supreme Court majority during the Roberts era in which there was an evident Republican donor interest, the donor interest win record was an astonishing 80-0.

"These unpleasant facts do not disappear just because we may wish them to," the lawmakers write. "The American people are counting on this Commission. Please do your duty."

The commission is expected to release its final report on Dec. 15.

Trump gave $100M for COVID-19 supply chains — $99M was left unspent as the pandemic raged

The Trump administration was a swampy con job. The Trump organization is a swampy con. The only saving grace of the Trump administration and Trump as a person and brand is that he and it is and are incompetent. The fruit is so low-hanging, the participants are usually rich kids who have never had to really work hard for anything, and the laziness of thought and execution is apparent. This incompetence is also attached to a cruelty and sociopathy that has been destructive to millions of people around the world, and ultimately helped lead to a poorly managed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBC News has a report about one such example. One of the agencies run by a college buddy of Jared Kushner reportedly received $100 million in federal funds to help ameliorate issues facing our supply chain due to the pandemic. That by itself would not be news. What is news is that in the year since receiving that money, the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has "so far failed to invest a single dime" towards its directive. In opposite land, one might say they were shocked by this news.

The DFC was led by former Jared Kushner roommate Adam Boehler from 2019 until the end of Trump's reign of terror. This position afforded him all kinds of fun times, bopping around the globe fixing all of the world's and America's problems with Trump's son-in-law. Remember how Jared solved the Israel/Palestine problem? Remember how the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly had Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered, and then we helped cover it up? Boehler got to be on most of those plane flights and in those meeting rooms with Kushner.

The Trump administration tasked Boehler's DFC, through an executive order that expanded the DFC's purview, with re-shoring the manufacturing of personal protective equipment and other pandemic necessitates in the hopes of relieving the stresses on the world's supply chains. However, Trump's move to earmark the money for the DFC was an attempt to alleviate the crunch felt domestically as the U.S. scrambled to find gloves and masks for front-line workers.

The $100 million given to the DFC was reportedly there to be potentially "leveraged" into many billions of dollars in loans. One of the promises being made to the American public was that in creating this international loan program that would help keep supplies like pharmaceuticals coming into the United States, it would bring jobs into the country by leveraging these loans to give the U.S. supply chain manufacturing footholds that have disappeared over the decades with China's dominance as the world's manufacturing hub.

At the time, Boehler told Reuters that an attractive $12 billion Taiwanese semiconductor plant could end up in Arizona with this money. "We provide loan and investment financing, so could we be relevant there? Absolutely. We're talking tens of billions of dollars in potential here, so that's a possibility, I wouldn't exclude that."

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) points out that none of this seems to have happened. Not that the promises made didn't happen, just that the $100 million that was taken from the CARES Act didn't go anywhere. The author of the GAO report, Chelsea Kenney, told NBC News that the DFC sat on the money for two years, looking at 175 loan applications and getting them down to eight. After two years and being floated $100 million, the DFC has next to nothing to show for it.

The DFC says that even though it was tasked with this job, there are other agencies that are tasked with jobs too, and there are a lot of reviews that must happen before money is handed out, and it is unfair that the DFC has only just begun handling this money and is being judged harshly. Kenney told NBC that that's the job of the GAO, to figure out how well or not well a government agency is working. "Here we are two years in and without an evaluation we can't really understand if this is a tool to address these needs in a national emergency."

The DFC, however, responded and said that while it did not disburse any of the $100 million towards its stated goals, it had spent about $1 million going through the loan applications. The GAO also found that the "DFC has not tracked how much money it spent on the Covid supply-chain program."

The silverish lining in all of this is that while tens of millions of dollars were irresponsibly frittered away by the Trump administration during the pandemic, the DFC seems to have mostly just been a waste of time and resources, wrapped inside of a PR stunt facade:

In July 2020 the agency announced a $765 million commitment to work with Kodak to make generic drug ingredients needed in the pandemic. Kodak's stocks soared by 570 percent and the company said it was planning to expand existing facilities in Rochester, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
The deal came under immediate scrutiny and never went through.

The fact of the matter is that from the very beginning of the pandemic, the Trump administration did what it did in regards to every single move it made even before the pandemic: Trump and his hangers-on looked to find out how it could make money, meaning siphon off taxpayer dollars to Trump and his allies.

How Democrats can deal with Manchin and McConnell in one go

The House and Senate are both in recess this week, neither planning floor sessions. However, that doesn't mean that they're not working on the critical half of President Joe Biden's big economic, climate change, and family agenda he's calling Build Back Better (BBB). It's the companion bill to the hard infrastructure bill that both the House and Senate have passed. Now that House Democrats have decided to trust Biden's ability to bring recalcitrant Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema along and do it in the next three weeks, with the Thanksgiving holiday thrown in, the pressure is very much on. Because it's not just BBB that has to be dealt with by Dec. 3.

The conservative House Democrats who have been fighting that larger budget reconciliation bill agreed that they would allow for a vote on the package "no later than the week of Nov. 15." So that's the immediate job. There won't be any time to rest if that achievement is met because Congress agreed to give themselves that Dec. 3 deadline for two rather important things: lifting or suspending the debt ceiling, and providing government funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2022 (we're already almost a month and a half into it).

Republicans are going to help with neither task. Which means it would make a lot of sense for Democrats to get one of those big must-pass things done as quickly as possible—they need to put the debt ceiling suspension in the budget reconciliation BBB bill, which will pass with only Democratic votes.

There's a lot of good reasons to do that. Joe Manchin is one big one. He backed the idea as recently as a few weeks ago, saying, "Democrats have the responsibility, being the majority party right now, to do it through reconciliation" if Republicans refuse to help. Republicans will refuse to help.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already promised that, and he can't back down. He's already been blasted by other Senate Republicans who said he caved on extending the deadline in early October. For his reward, the former guy is renewing his attacks on McConnell. Republicans aren't going to help.

It would be a sweetener for Manchin—as much of an obstructionist asshole as he is, he's not willing to play with that particular fire, the full faith and credit of the United States. But he is going to be more than willing to delay and delay and delay the BBB budget reconciliation bill. It's been a constant game of whack-a-mole for Democrats with him, as he takes turns with Sinema to pose objections that Democrats have to address—because this thing doesn't pass without them.

If it's the only game in town for lifting the debt ceiling, or better yet forever eliminating it as a weapon for McConnell, then Democrats had better do that.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has blessed the strategy. On the way to the Glasgow climate summit last week, Yellen told reporters that Democrats should be willing to do it. "Should it be done on a bipartisan basis? Absolutely. Now, if they're not going to cooperate, I don't want to play chicken and end up not raising the debt ceiling. I think that's the worst possible outcome," Yellen told The Washington Post. "If Democrats have to do it by themselves, that's better than defaulting on the debt to teach the Republicans a lesson."

The Senate Budget Committee has ruled out that approach previously, but they could and should change their minds, and they should do it using the process Greg Sargent at the Post discussed with Georgetown law professor David Super. The reluctance of Democrats to deal with the debt limit in reconciliation has been because this form of bill requires specific amounts of either spending or revenue increases, and they don't want to saddle themselves with having passed a $3 or $4 or whatever trillion increase. But, Super has argued, they don't actually have to specify a number: "You can probably change the number to something you don't spell out in ink, but that you describe," Super explained. "You tie it to the national debt. That is a number. It's just not a number you wrote out." The number is the national debt, and the debt ceiling is set is tied to that number. Period. No more need for Congress to ever get involved.

Resolve those two things by Thanksgiving (a tall order, but not impossible). Then Congress can focus all of its attention on government funding, which is also mired down right now by Republicans refusing to help appropriators in the Senate set spending levels. They want to skip the budgeting and appropriations process completely and just have another full-year continuing resolution—the kind of stop-gap funding measure that continues funding for everything at current levels until a date specified in the resolution. The current one runs until Dec. 3.

"An endless cycle of continuing resolutions is not a responsible way to govern," Appropriations Chairman Patric Leahy said in response to the proposal. "It means cuts to veterans, cuts to national security and defense, handcuffing our response to the pandemic, and not meeting the challenges of climate change. We have made clear what we are for. What are they for? We are ready to get to work as soon as they come to the table."

They will not come to the table, and they don't have to. There are 50 of them, just like there are 50 Democrats, and they have Manchin and Sinema willing to continue giving Republicans veto power over the Democrats' agenda. As long as the two of them insist the filibuster remains, McConnell has minority rule, with the exception of budget reconciliation. So Democrats need to use it, and they need to make Manchin help. That would make the next two months just slightly less hellish.

GOP congressman appears unaware of how unemployment insurance works — so Ocasio-Cortez helps him out

Tim Burchett is an actual U.S. representative from the state of Tennessee, and he apparently has no idea how unemployment insurance (UI) works. As in, we don't (very rarely, anyway) pay people who quit their jobs. The people who are quitting are frequently applying early for Social Security and/or living off whatever savings they managed to claw back from the hulking dragon hoard of our oh-so-magnanimous cabal of hardly working plutocrats.

Okay, so we're dusting off the bleached bones of this talking point? I'm starting to miss the intellectual heft of the Dr. Seuss/Mr. Potato Head wars. It's like everything Republicans say these days was crafted and focus-grouped by a think tank that shares coworking space with painter Jon McNaughton and a meth lab.

But, hey, why let reality get in the way of a fun narrative?

Unfortunately, this bullshit story is so old it should be meeting Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" trope at Perkins every morning to double-fist Sankas and parse the latest Bonanza fanboy theories.

For the nontweeters:

TIM BURCHETT: "4.3 million workers quit their jobs. We need to quit paying folks not to work."

Good gourd, that's ignorant.

The tweet caught the attention of 10th-level Twitter ninja Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has turned down numerous overtures to join me at Perkins for late-night Sanka bacchanals. It's starting to make me feel just a little uncool.

For the nontweeters:

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: "Y'all already did over a month ago despite everyone having data that ending UI doesn't push people back to work. Conservatives love to act like they're 'fiscally savvy' yet remain puzzled as to why people can't work a job whose pay won't even cover the childcare costs to work."

Yup. As many people who aren't members of Congress know, extended federal UI benefits expired in early September, and their removal didn't meaningfully goose hiring rates, even though Republicans were convinced that "free money" was the sand in the gears preventing more robust recovery from the pandemic.

In fact, 26 states stopped those payments early, and it did bupkis.


The hiring boom many seemed to expect has yet to materialize. Job growth actually skidded in August, despite the fact that 26 states had already cut off federal aid. Employers added just 235,000 workers to their payrolls, and the leisure and hospitality industry, which had arguably complained loudest about the effect of UI on hiring, tacked on precisely zero. Surveys from Indeed.com suggest that online job searching has yet to meaningfully pick up and Bloomberg reports that applications in the restaurant sector have actually declined in each of the last nine weeks. Meanwhile, employment hasn't grown any faster overall in states that decided to drop out of the UI programs early than in the ones that continued them into September.

Not only did ending enhanced unemployment benefits do little to boost hiring, the states that ended the programs early also damaged their own economies. According to a paper released in August from researchers at Columbia, Harvard, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the University of Toronto, the decision to end benefits early actually resulted in a significant financial hit.


The employment dynamic — a loss of benefits without resulting job income for most people — led households to cut their weekly spending by 20%, according to the paper. As a result, economies of the cutoff states saw a reduction of nearly $2 billion in consumer spending from June through the first week of August.
"They turned down federal transfers and that money didn't come back into the state [from new job income]," University of Toronto assistant professor Michael Stepner said. He also co-authored the paper.
A 20% spending cut amounts to a big reduction in quality of life for these households, which are largely lower-income, Stepner said.

As Ocasio-Cortez notes, people are starting to realize that working a job (or two, or three) that doesn't pay all their bills—or even all the expenses related to getting back into the workforce—is sort of pointless. Without a strong push for human infrastructure—which includes government support for child care—you'll never get some of these people back to work, because they literally can't go.

But since Republicans found a talking point that works for them, they're going to dry-hump it into humiliated mounds of lint. Never mind that it's a total lie. Their die-hard base doesn't know that, after all. All they "know" is that Joe Biden is the next Che Guevara. And they don't want communism—unless, of course, Donald Trump tells them it's okay.

Current and former Blue Origin employees say it's a hellish workplace — like another Bezos company

So remember when multibillionaire e-tailer Jeff Bezos got shot into space and acted like it was something brand new that a monkey hadn’t done seven decades ago? And how he thanked his long-beleaguered Amazon employees for paying for his ride, and did it all while wearing a cowboy hat that made him look like a 6-year-old posing for sepia-toned GlamourShots at a half-occupied mall outside of Boise, Idaho?

Yeah, you remember.

At the time, some of us thought that maybe he should have brought back old-timey pee breaks instead of small-brained-primate space travel, but apparently Bezos was laser-focused on making his Blue Origin employees just as miserable as his Amazon grunts.

At least that’s the takeaway from a new open letter penned by 21 current and former Blue Origin employees, who complained of … well, practically everything.

The Daily Beast:

Twenty-one current and former employees at Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, published an open letteron Thursday, saying they suffered from “dehumanizing” treatment that left some staffers with suicidal thoughts—all while the firm allegedly sacrificed safety measures in favor of speed.

“When Jeff Bezos flew to space this July, we did not share his elation. Instead, many of us watched with an overwhelming sense of unease. Some of us couldn’t bear to watch at all,” the workers said.

Alexandra Abrams, Blue Origin’s former head of employee communications, was the only named signatory on the letter, which outlines a wide range of grievances. She was fired from Blue Origin in 2019 and now works at Oracle. Others opted to remain anonymous, telling Fortune that they had signed non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements and feared retaliation. In the letter, they said that they were “terrified of the potential consequences for speaking out against the wealthiest man on the planet.”

Yes, Bezos is wealthy, but is he really that scary? Sure, he's suing NASA. And he could probably pass for a James Bond villain, if he didn't wear hats large enough for the Duck Dynasty cast to use for a team sponge bath. But is Bezos really so diabolical?

You can judge for yourself. The entire letter, which was written by Abrams and 20 others, can be viewed here.

Here are some of the more jarring excerpts.

All of us joined Blue Origin eager to innovate and to open access to space for the benefit of humanity. We believe exploring the possibilities for human civilization beyond Earth is a necessity. But if this company's culture and work environment are a template for the future Jeff Bezos envisions, we are headed in a direction that reflects the worst of the world we live in now, and sorely needs to change.

Yeesh. That doesn't sound good.

Workforce gender gaps are common in the space industry, but at Blue Origin they also manifest in a particular brand of sexism. Numerous senior leaders have been known to be consistently inappropriate with women. One senior executive in CEO Bob Smith's loyal inner circle was reported multiple times to Human Resources for sexual harassment. Even so, Smith personally made him a member of the hiring committee for filling a senior HR role in 2019.

A male-dominated corporate culture that creates a toxic working environment for women, whose complaints go largely unheeded? Guess Bezos is reinventing the 1950s office climate as well as the 1950s space capsule.

And don't forget the hypocrisy. We got your hypocrisy right here! Red hot!

What are the blind spots of an organization whose stated mission is to enable humanity's better future, yet is rife with sexism? Blue Origin's flaws extend further, unfortunately. The company proclaims it will build a better world because we're well on our way to ruining this one, yet none of us has seen Blue Origin establish any concrete plans to become carbon neutral or significantly reduce its large environmental footprint.

That's pretty bad. And just in case you thought the working environment was only poisonous for women, think again. Just as Amazon is a shitshow for everyone with a urethra, Blue Origin is apparently a sad place for anyone with emotions or a rapidly fraying sense of basic dignity. The letter states that "Memos from senior leadership reveal a desire to push employees to their limits, stating that the company needs to 'get more out of our employees' and that the employees should consider it a 'privilege to be a part of history.' One directive held out SpaceX as a model, in that 'burnout was part of their labor strategy.' Former and current employees have had experiences they could only describe as dehumanizing."

The signatories also claimed that Bezos' rush to beat fellow rich dudes Elon Musk and Richard Branson into space compromised their missions' safety: "At Blue Origin, a common question during high-level meetings was, 'When will Elon or Branson fly?' Competing with other billionaires—and 'making progress for Jeff'—seemed to take precedence over safety concerns that would have slowed down the schedule."

It's interesting—and perhaps not entirely coincidental—that this story broke right as congressional Democrats are wrangling over the size and scope of their Build Back Better infrastructure plan, and the means to pay for it. We used to do these kinds of projects for the sake of pure scientific inquiry, technological advancement, and national pride, not to launch giant dildos into space—or even the penis-shaped rockets that carry them.

Seems like just a portion of Bezos' hulking dragon hoard could be productively applied toward making thousands of kids' dreams come true, instead of just one obscenely well-heeled dork's masturbatory fantasies.

As Abrams and her colleagues conclude in their letter, "At a minimum, Jeff Bezos and the rest of the leadership at Blue Origin must be held to account, and must learn how to run a respectful, responsible company before they can be permitted to arbitrarily use their wealth and resulting power to create a blueprint for humanity's future. But beyond that, all of us should collectively, urgently, be raising this question: Should we as a society allow ego-driven individuals with endless caches of money and very little accountability to be the ones to shape that future?"

No, no, we shouldn't. Actually, the choice could not be more clear now, could it?

Here's the cynical reason Ohio Republicans punted on drawing a new congressional map

In a very strange development, Ohio's Republican-run legislature has ceded control of congressional redistricting to a so-called "backup" commission by missing a Sept. 30 deadline to pass new maps set in the state constitution.

Given how jealously lawmakers everywhere protect their power, it's necessary to ask why Buckeye Republicans have voluntarily relinquished it in this case. And while state Senate President Matt Huffman claimed that staffers had been too preoccupied with legislative remapping to draw up new congressional lines, there's a likelier explanation that's far more cynical.

Under state law, if lawmakers fail to approve a congressional plan, responsibility is handed over to a panel comprising the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and four legislative appointees, one from each chamber's party leader. That commission, which has exclusive jurisdiction over legislative redistricting, has a 5-2 Republican majority, which already passed an extreme set of gerrymanders for the state House and Senate.

So why punt to the backup commission when Republicans are already in charge of the legislature? Under a feeble reform passed in 2018, congressional maps passed by legislators require a three-fifths supermajority and the support of at least half the members of each party. There's a way around this, though. The commission must also muster bipartisan support for any such maps, but if it fails to do so by Oct. 31, the task reverts to lawmakers, who can then pass a map that's good for a full 10 years with the backing of just one-third of Democrats—or they can approve one without any Democratic support that will last for four years.

That final option may be the most desirable. It would allow Republicans to fine-tune their gerrymanders after just two elections. In fact, that's exactly what transpired when the commission drew up legislative maps: The GOP majority failed to win the votes of the two Democratic members, likewise leading to a four-year map under a similar provision of the constitution.

And even if Republicans don't exercise the chance to go it alone, the mere fact that they can gives them leverage over Democrats to pressure them into accepting a slightly more modest but still durable 10-year gerrymander. Whatever winds up happening, it's advisable to be very skeptical of the GOP's motives.

Senator’s unhinged rant on Build Back Better plan shows how desperate GOP is to stop it

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) appeared "exclusively" on Fox Business' Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo this week to weigh in on Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better human infrastructure plan. I guess the interview was "exclusive" because no one else was talking to her at that very moment, other than the tiny right-wing, Harley-riding Jesus who lives in the part of her brain they scooped out to stop her from eating airplane glue.

Anyway, she's not a fan of the 10-year, $3.5 trillion plan—probably because it would help people other than oil company executives and apoplectic ex-presidents. In fact, the individual provisions of the bill—in addition to the bill as a whole—are so popular, the only thing Republicans can do at this point is lie about it. Fortunately for them, they've had lots of practice.

That said, this take is just a rootin’, tootin’, Jethro Tull-flutin’ cornucopia of unhinged crackpotter.

BLACKBURN: “Maria, we know that the Build Back Better agenda has become the Biden Build Back Broke agenda, and the American people have figured out that what they’re trying to do is institutionalize socialism. They’re trying to do a takeover of the country in one vote. They want government control of your kids, they want to look at your bank account for every transaction over $600. Anything that you do on Venmo or PayPal, they want a part of that transaction. They want government control of health care, they want to demoralize the military, close the churches, destroy your faith in the American system, and then here they’re going to come with the socialist program to run your life from cradle to grave, daylight to dark."

BARTIROMO: “Unbelievable ..."

Yes, it is unbelievable, Maria—though more in the literal sense of “that which cannot be believed.” Not sure that the government ensuring reliable and affordable child care so Americans can afford to go back to work is an example of “running your life from cradle to grave,” but we can agree to disagree on some of the particulars.

The point is, the Build Back Better plan—which provides help paying for child care, establishes universal pre-K education, extends the child tax credit, expands Medicare, provides paid family and medical leave, boldly addresses climate change, and much more—is total jazz pants*, and Republicans simply can’t let you know that or the jig is up. (*I’m trying to get “jazz pants” going as a saying/interjection. I’ve wasted most of my life eating expired Funyuns, and I just want to be remembered for something. The other day I got a senior discount at my weed dispensary. I was so depressed I skipped my regular early bird special at Perkins, went home, and nodded off at 7:30 in the middle of my programs. So, please, drop “jazz pants” into your everyday conversations.)

Anyway, Donald Trump campaigned as a populist who would fight on behalf of the forgotten working class, but his one big legislative “victory” was a tax plan that simply larded the coffers of his billionaire friends. And then, of course, he lied about it.

Blackburn and the rest of the GOP are now panicking at the thought that Biden will get a substantial portion of his plan through Congress, and then Americans will actually see the benefits—which would be a disaster for Republicans, who have become accustomed to Democrats going small and nibbling around the edges while Republicans continually swing their arms and break things.

A big Democratic victory here would expose the GOP as the phony populists they are, and Blackburn simply can’t have that—so they need to scaremonger about Venezuela and communist takeovers and widespread church shutdowns as much as possible.

Because they’re simply brimming with bullshit, and more than anyone else, they fucking know it. It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Florida landlord requires new and current tenants to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine

When it comes to Florida making headlines in recent months, it's more often than not because Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow GOP lackeys in the state are leading residents into disarray because of poor pandemic management. COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged in the state on more than one occasion, and we've covered instances of people absolutely losing it over mask requirements. We've also seen how huge theme parks like Disney and Universal have reacted to the pandemic, with varying risk levels and responsibility to patrons and workers.

With all of this said, Santiago Alvarez, a landlord who oversees more than 1,000 apartments in South Florida, has people talking about the state for a different reason, as reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As of August, Alvarez requires his tenants over 18 to be vaccinated against the virus to live on his property. The policy applies to renters who are renewing their leases, as well as any new tenants. The vaccine requirement also extends to his employees. Important context? 80-year-old Alvarez told The Washington Post that twelve of his tenants have already died from the virus, and he has already caught and survived the virus.

One tenant, 28-year-old Jasmine Irby, complained to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to protest Alvarez's new policy, arguing she should be able to renew her lease "without having to disclose my personal health information," The Post reported. Irby, a security guard who does not plan on getting vaccinated, ultimately moved out of her two-bedroom apartment when her lease ended in late August. Irby, who moved in with her brother, told the outlet that "no one wants to live where they are not wanted."

Of Alvarez's 70 employees, he says only two refused to get vaccinated and decided instead to walk away from the job. Alvarez, who owns eight apartment buildings, has said he's willing to make exemptions for people who have medical and religious barriers to getting the vaccine.

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, argued that this policy violates the state's ban on requiring "vaccine passports." Pushaw said business owners—including landlords—can't require "vaccine passports" as a requirement of entry and that each violation of the law can result in a $5,000 fine. She argued that vaccine passports are "unscientific" and won't result in a drop in cases.

Juan C. Zorrilla, an attorney representing Alvarez, told The Post that his client is, technically, not violating the governor's order because tenants are not "customers or patrons," as Alvarez isn't providing a service. His attorney also argues that Alvarez isn't violating any other county or state laws or ordinances.

Kevin McCarthy is terrified that the truth will come out about his Jan. 6 phone call to Trump

The best solution to investigating the events related to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol would have been a nonpartisan outside commission, which was used several times to examine critical issues and key events. But Republicans shot that effort down in the Senate, using the filibuster to defeat the proposal. With an independent commission off the table, Democrats in the House turned to the next best option: a select committee that would have the authority to reach beyond the limitations of standard committees to collect the evidence necessary to understand the events that led up to a vicious mob of paramilitary white supremacists creeping through the halls of Congress hunting for political opponents to hang.

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi formed the House Select Committee investigating the insurgency, Republicans had another chance to cooperate. Instead, minority leader Kevin McCarthy attempted to sabotage the committee by planting it with people who were not only dedicated to seeing the effort derailed but representatives who are extremely likely to end up as witnesses testifying before that committee.

And now that the committee—the bipartisan committee, which includes two Republicans who defied McCarthy to join in finding the truth—has requested electronic records on Jan. 6 to discover who was communicating with Trump and with the insurgents, McCarthy has stepped in again. Only this time, he's not trying to threaten Pelosi or break the committee. That ship has sailed. This time, McCarthy is threatening telecommunications companies and social media companies, telling them that if they cooperate with the investigation, they will be punished when and if the Republicans return to power.

It's a desperate, ugly ploy—that only shows exactly how terrified Kevin McCarthy is of the truth coming out.

As CNN reports, McCarthy has issued a statement claiming that if the companies turn over information in response to a congressional subpoena, they would be "in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States." However, when asked about what last the companies would be violating, McCarthy had no reply. Instead, he just ended with the ominous threat that "a Republican majority will not forget."

The problem for McCarthy is that federal law lies with the committee, which is fully within its rights to issue subpoenas for records connected to the topic of the investigation. And in fact, the committee hasn't yet asked for telecom records from anyone. Despite McCarthy's blunt attempt to bully companies into noncompliance, all that the committee requests is that telecom companies preserve these records in case they are needed.

Even so, just edging around these requests has already promoted Jim Jordan to get nervous enough to admit that he talked to Donald Trump multiple times on Jan. 6. It now appears that Jordan, along with Matt Gaetz, called Trump while huddled in the House "safe room" and begged him to call off the insurgents.

But the real call that McCarthy doesn't want to talk about is the one he made to Trump on Jan. 6. As NBC News reported in February, McCarthy and Trump engaged in an "expletive-filled" call in which McCarthy got pissed off after Trump breezily claimed that it was Antifa ransacking the Capitol. "Who the f—k do you think you are talking to?" McCarthy is reported to have said. But when it came down to getting Trump to halt his followers before they got their hands on a Representative or two, Trump just replied. "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

For a few days following these events, McCarthy maintained his concern about the potential fall of democracy, or at least the potential stretching of his own neck. But within a few weeks, he was at Mar-a-Lago, apologizing to Trump for having the temerity to allow something as unimportance as the continuation of representative democracy to get in the way of Trump's fun.

In response to reporters' questions about that day, McCarthy has given answers like "my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president," which sounds like McCarthy is claiming executive privilege—except he can't. Executive privilege does not extend to conversations held with members of the legislative branch.

The truth is, if the select committee asks telecoms to turn over McCarthy's phone records for that day, they are legally obligated to provide them. Chairman Bennie Thompson has made it clear that the contents of that conversation between Trump and McCarthy are of interest to the committee. At an absolute bare minimum, calls like the one McCarthy and Jordan made show that: 1) Republicans understood that the people attacking the building were not Antifa and were Trump supporters, 2) those Republican representatives believed the insurgents were acting at Trump's request and could be halted by Trump.

If McCarthy is called to testify before the committee, he has two options: testify or claim the right not to testify under the Fifth Amendment. Of course, that second claim would be an admission that McCarthy believes he might be charged with some crime in connection with the events, which would in itself be … not the best look.

Even so, it's a better look than threatening U.S. companies with destruction because they obeyed a legal request. Seems like the best thing these companies, and every other company concerned about the rule of law, can do is to help make sure there never is another Republican majority.

What’s this Texas Republican’s answer to the climate crisis? 'Turn the damn air conditioner up'

Whether you believe it is branded better as climate change or global warming, one thing is clear: Human-driven environmental disasters are a very real thing, and it is only going to get worse. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a truly disastrous report at the beginning of August. In it scientists explain, irrefutably, how our planet's atmosphere is hotter now than it was before humans figured out how to burn everything up in the name of progress. It lays out the dire need for our civilization to move faster toward green energy, even as we have run out of time.

The Texas railroad commissioner's job includes overseeing oil and gas drilling and transportation in the Lone Star State, and Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian has some ideas on how to solve this conundrum. According to Bloomberg, here's what Commissioner Christian told an audience at the NAPE Summit in Houston, an energy industry extravaganza: "Rather than $78 trillion dollars in spending, shutting down the industries around the world, keeping third-world countries from having coal-generated electric power and all kinds of things—turn the damn air conditioner up. It's that simple."

That's a real cynical and dark thing to come out of the mouth of a 70-year-old man. It isn't surprising, mind you, as Christian has been a climate denier for some time now. But what is arguably the most shocking aspect of this all is the fact that after years of denying the science of climate change and humankind's hand in accelerating the warming of the globe, he's in essence now just saying we are fucked, so why stop now since that would be hard and we couldn't make our money the way we make it now.

Christian is running for reelection this year, after a handful of extreme environmental events exposed how terrible and corrupt he and other conservative lawmakers have been for Texas. But getting your conservative bonafides in order has always been more important to Christians like Christian, which is why he has been vocal of late, lying about the financial risks of President Biden rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. In 2018, Christian argued that the only problems with fossil fuels was that millennials didn't understand the fossil fuel industry because they are all woke, which has led to "the acceptance of the politically-correct-driven environmental anti-oil and gas science."

Republican Wayne Christian has been involved in Texas politics for a long time. He started out as a gospel singer in the 1970s and 1980s with The Singing Christians and then the Mercy River Boys. From there Mr. Christian moved into classic right-wing conservative Bible politics, which argue no one should have access to birth control and women shouldn't be allowed to do anything that a good Christian man—maybe even a man with the last name of "Christian"—doesn't sign off on first.

Bloomberg points out that air conditioning use around the world has "tripled" since 1990.

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