Laura Clawson

'He personally asked us to come to DC': Insurrectionists explain why they were there on Jan. 6

Thursday night, the Jan. 6 committee laid the foundations of a case against Donald Trump for inciting the bloody attack on the U.S. Capitol. One key piece of that came toward the end of the two-hour hearing, in a brief video showing a series of insurrectionists explaining why they were at the Capitol that day: Because Donald Trump asked them to be.

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“We were invited by the president of the United States,” a member of the mob screams, in footage from the attack, as the video opens.

Next, Robert Schornack, who a chyron tells us was sentenced to 36 months probation, says in a committee interview, “What really made me want to come was the fact that, you know, I had supported Trump all that time. I did believe, you know, that the election was being stolen, and Trump asked us to come.”

“He personally asked us to come to D.C. that day,” Eric Barber, charged with theft and unlawful demonstration in the Capitol, says in another interview. “And I thought, for everything he’s done for us, if this is the only thing he’s going to ask from me, I’ll do it.”

Trump appears next, speaking at the rally that day. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.”

A voice asks Barber, “Do you recall President Trump mentioning going to the Capitol during his speech?”

“Oh, yes. So that’s one of my disappointments. He said he was going to go—go with us, that he was going to be there.”

Several more insurrectionists follow, including Proud Boy George Meza, saying, “But I remember Donald Trump telling people to be there.”

“You know, Trump has only asked me for two things. He asked me for my vote, and he asked me to come on Jan. 6,” Schornack says at the close of the video.

Donald Trump called them to Washington, D.C., and then he told them to march on the Capitol, saying he would be with them. That’s the crux of it.

Virginia and Maryland governors demand that Garland ban protest outside justices' homes

The Republican governors of Maryland and Virginia are calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to ban protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices living in those states. Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin cited a 1950 law criminalizing protests at courthouses or other places occupied by judges carried out “with the intent of influencing any judge.”

Protesters told The Washington Post they weren’t there to influence the justices, they were there to speak out against a decision that has, as Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion shows, already been made. “There’s no changing their minds. We’re expressing our fury, our rage,” said one.

“I don’t think a bunch of neighbors walking by with candles is going to change Kavanaugh’s mind—or endanger him,” said another, Lynn Kanter, who had carried a sign the five blocks from her house to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s to join a protest.

Kanter also noted the obvious divide in who is permitted privacy, according to Republicans, and who is not, saying, “It’s absolutely hypocritical, because the Supreme Court wants to have domain over women’s uteruses and yet the sidewalk in front of their homes is somehow sacred ground.”

Youngkin actually tried to make Alito’s entire neighborhood sacred, or at least heavily restricted, ground. He asked local authorities to set up a perimeter around the area, limiting who could enter, and offered the state police to help. Fairfax County officials essentially told him to shove it.

“Your suggestion to establish a ‘perimeter’ for the purpose of ‘limiting unauthorized vehicle and pedestrian access’ to neighborhoods surrounding the homes of the Justices is paramount to a checkpoint that federal courts have held violates the Fourth Amendment. There are obvious First Amendment concerns as well,” replied the chair of the county board of supervisors, while adding that the police would of course respond to situations as needed “to protect public safety,” and “without consideration of politics or the opinions expressed by any group demonstrating in the County.”

People going into clinics for legal medical care are routinely harassed and threatened by anti-abortion protesters. Abortion providers live under constant threat. But a few candlelight vigils and peaceful protests directed at Supreme Court justices who hold power over the lives of everyone in this country and we’re supposed to be shocked and deeply concerned.

The Supreme Court has never been as insulated from politics as its defenders would have us believe, but now? The Supreme Court of Kavanaugh and Alito and Barrett? Of Clarence Thomas and his insurrectionist wife? A Supreme Court with five justices nominated by men who got into the White House after losing the popular vote? Spare me the pieties about the sanctity of the institution. The justices should receive reasonable protection from credible threats, as should any other member of government (on down to the school board members whose harassment Youngkin has essentially encouraged), but they are not impartial sages set apart from the tawdry partisan concerns of us mere mortals.

These are people who lied to the Senate in their confirmation hearings about their intentions on Roe v. Wade—not that senators plausibly believed those lies—and turned around and voted to strike it down as soon as they could, overturning 50 years of precedent. Some of them are reportedly holding a decade-old grudge against Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding most of the Affordable Care Act. Two of them were confirmed despite credible accusations of sexual misconduct, and now they’re votes to deny women bodily autonomy. These are political actors who were put on the court through an overwhelmingly politicized process and are now making policy from the bench in accord with their partisan views. They can take the heat of the First Amendment.

Trevor Reed's parents say Biden saved their son's life. Why can't McCarthy give credit where due?

Wednesday brought news of a surprise prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia, with Russia releasing former Marine Trevor Reed as the U.S. released Konstantin Yaroshenko. The decision to make the exchange came amid the relentless advocacy of Reed’s parents and news of his deteriorating health, with President Joe Biden ultimately making the decision to trade Yaroshenko, who was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010.

Embattled House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy celebrated the news … with a noteworthy omission. “After being held captive by Russia's corrupt system since 2019, Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reed will finally be returned to U.S. soil,” McCarthy tweeted Wednesday. “Securing his freedom has been a years-long process—I am relieved for his family. I invite them all to my office to celebrate Trevor's freedom.”

Okay, Kevin. “Securing his freedom has been a years-long process,” huh? That makes it sound like you were intimately involved. But, uh, how did it ultimately happen?

Reed’s parents have answered that question: They credit Biden for saving their son’s life.

Biden has said he raised the issue with Russia “three months ago,” CNN reports, while an administration official described “months and months of hard, careful work across the U.S. government,” with outreach not only from U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan but Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden, and others, as well. The Richardson Center, headed by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also served as an intermediary.

The decision to commute Yaroshenko’s sentence was Biden’s, with approval from the Department of Justice.

Biden’s focus on Reed’s case came after Reed’s parents, Joey and Paula, fought to get his attention, asking for a meeting when he visited Texas in early March and, when they were turned down, standing along his motorcade route with a sign. On a phone call afterward, Biden told them he had prayed the rosary for their son and “thinks of Trevor every day.” But when they didn’t see further action, they went and stood outside the White House with a sign about their son. By the end of the day, they were inside the White House meeting with Biden. That was March 30—before which Biden and others in his administration had talked to Russian officials about releasing Reed. He still had to make the decision to do a prisoner exchange, though.

Trevor Reed and Constantin Yaroshenko were returned to the custody of their respective countries in Turkey, and Reed arrived in the U.S. in the early hours of Thursday morning.

“We are grateful beyond words,” Paula Reed tweeted. “We actually said that we believe @POTUS saved @freetrevorreed's life by agreeing to this prisoner swap. We truly mean that!”

But Kevin McCarthy? He couldn’t unbend enough to give that tiny bit of credit for the months of work by the Biden administration. And no wonder. McCarthy has in recent days been busy groveling for Donald Trump’s forgiveness for recordings of McCarthy, in Jan. 2021, saying he was going to urge Trump to resign the presidency, and expressing what at moments sounded like real outrage at the Trump-supporting mob’s attack on the Capitol. McCarthy has gotten Trump to express public support, but praising Biden for anything, at all, however glancingly, would be the kind of tweak Trump’s ego cannot stand. So even if it was McCarthy’s instinct to acknowledge that Biden was responsible for Reed’s release—which it probably was not—there’s no way McCarthy’s current political position would allow him to do so. That’s today’s Republican Party: run by Donald Trump’s ego and the imperative to never, ever to give a Democrat credit for anything, however detached it might be from partisan policy battles.

Jared Kushner got $2 billion in Saudi investment despite 'unsatisfactory' business operations

After his father-in-law left the White House, Jared Kushner got a $2 billion golden parachute—from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Kushner predictably started a private equity firm despite his lack of experience in private equity, and went to the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), asking for an “investment.”

The professionals in charge of screening possible investments for the PIF raised a series of objections only to be overruled days later by the fund’s board, which is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Kushner became close during his time as a senior White House adviser.

The objections to investing in Kushner’s private equity firm, Affinity Partners, included “’the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management’; the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for ‘the bulk of the investment and risk’; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them ‘unsatisfactory in all aspects’; a proposed asset management fee that ‘seems excessive’; and ‘public relations risks’ from Mr. Kushner’s prior role as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald J. Trump, according to minutes of the panel’s meeting last June 30,” The New York Times reports.

The reason given internally was that Kushner was worth the risk despite his inexperience and potential public relations problems, in order to “capitalize on the capabilities of Affinity’s founders’ deep understanding of different government policies and geopolitical systems.” That’s a lot of words when you could just say “buying access and influence.”

As a measure of how much the eventual bin Salman-led decision to hand over $2 billion to Kushner was driven by relationships, Steven Mnuchin, the former Trump treasury secretary, also started a private equity firm and went to Saudi Arabia asking for money. He got $1 billion despite having relevant experience in the field. Kushner is also getting a higher asset management fee from the PIF than Mnuchin is.

Few other investors have bought what Kushner was selling. According to public filings, the main fund at Affinity Partners had just $2.5 billion invested. It sounds like he’s basically owned by Saudi Arabia at this point. But then, he did a lot to earn this kind of loyalty when he was in a position to do so.

In a side note on the brokenness of the traditional media, check out this framing: “Ethics experts say that such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024.”

Guys. You really don’t need ethics experts to tell you that. Everyone can see it. Nor do you need to include the waffling “the appearance of.” It’s blatantly corrupt, even if we don’t know if it’s more of a thank you for Jared’s help providing cover on the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or more of a down payment on future services should Trump make it back to the White House. And it’s business as usual for all of Team Trump.

Mo Brooks goes ballistic on Donald Trump after losing his endorsement

Hours after Donald Trump withdrew his endorsement from Rep. Mo Brooks’ Senate campaign in Alabama, Brooks—who spoke (while wearing body armor) at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol and voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s victory—issued a statement that should have the Jan. 6 select committee and Attorney General Merrick Garland sitting up and taking notice.

Trump blamed Brooks’ statements about the need to move on from the 2020 elections for his decision to rescind the endorsement, saying Brooks “went ‘woke.’” But Brooks first said that last August, and the decision also comes as Brooks is trailing in Alabama Senate primary polls. So it may be a case of Trump trying to avoid the stench of loser as much as Trump being butthurt that Brooks no longer thinks the last election is the biggest thing in U.S. politics today. But he’s turning his back on a guy who may have things to say that people want to hear.

In his response statement, Brooks first blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for having “manipulated” Trump. Brooks called himself “the only candidate who fought voter fraud and election theft when it counted, between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6.”

Brooks then went on to say, “I repeat what has prompted President Trump’s ire. The only legal way America can prevent 2020’s election debacle is for patriotic Americans to focus on and win the 2022 and 2024 elections so that we have the power to enact laws that give us honest and accurate elections.”

Brooks isn’t saying that he thinks President Joe Biden won the 2020 elections fair and square. He says there was voter fraud and election theft (this is a lie) and that he wants to change elections law to prevent it from happening again. But there’s an interesting word in there. “Legal.”

And that word is an important lead-in to the final paragraph of Brooks’ statement: “President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency. As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that Jan. 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”

Mo Brooks was totally on board with trying to overturn the election on Jan. 6. But Trump’s demands that he participate in a coup have gone way past Jan. 6, his statement makes clear. That’s something that federal law enforcement and the select committee alike should be asking Brooks about, in addition to questions about his role in spreading lies about the 2020 election and inciting and planning Jan. 6.

There’s a lot going on in the world, but a sitting member of Congress alleging that a former president has tried to get him to join a coup—not just before Jan. 6 but also since President Biden’s inauguration—is worth some attention.

GOP governor blubbers while signing bill banning critical race theory – which is not taught in schools

Less than a year after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said, “I am not aware of any school district that currently allows for” the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in his state, he sounded the alarm about the alleged spread of CRT that had forced him to sign a bill banning it.

“Students are being force-fed an unhealthy dose of progressive fundamentalism that runs counter to the principles of America’s founding,” Reeves said as he signed the law, in a pretty straightforward admission that racism is one of the principles of America’s founding. “Children are dragged to the front of the classroom and are coerced to declare themselves as oppressors, that that they should feel guilty because of the color of their skin, or that they are inherently a victim because of their race.”

Big claim there, but, “He did not point to any real-life examples of the scenario he described happening in Mississippi, though he may have been referring to a single alleged incident at a public charter school in Las Vegas, Nevada,” the invaluable Ashton Pittman of the Mississippi Free Press noted. Nor could the bill’s author point to any such examples at the time he introduced it in the state Senate.

Critical race theory “threatens the integrity of our kids’ education and aims only to humiliate and indoctrinate,” according to Reeves’ social media posts about the new law. And the only humiliation and indoctrination that’s going to happen on his watch are in service of white people.

“I want to set the record straight about critical race theory because the radical left and the media continue to spread misinformation on this critical issue,” said Reeves in his statement about the law. “And while they may be okay lying to you, I believe you deserve the truth. Across this great country, we’re seeing a full-court press by a vocal minority of well-organized and well-funded activists who seek to tear down the unity that has helped make our country great.”

We are in fact seeing a full-court press by a vocal minority of well-organized and well-funded activists, but they’re on Reeves’ side. They’re the reason Reeves is signing a law banning something he said less than a year ago was nonexistent in Mississippi schools, without offering any evidence that anything had changed in the intervening months. They’re the reason state after Republican-controlled state has passed anti-CRT laws, just all of a sudden discovering a massive problem they hadn’t even been aware existed until right-wing think-tanker Christopher Rufo began an organized campaign to make it an issue—“We have successfully frozen their brand—‘critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions,” Rufo tweeted in March 2021—with Fox News eagerly offering a platform.

This is something cooked up in a right-wing think tank and spread on a right-wing cable network, and Republican lawmakers across the country are seizing on it eagerly. Of course, they’re not actually banning critical race theory, because they know it’s not being taught in K-12 schools. They’re banning, in the Mississippi case, teaching students that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” Which sounds unobjectionable, except that very similar language in other states is being used to ban children’s books and intimidate teachers away from teaching basic facts of history, let alone touching on current events.

In his remarks, Reeves insisted that wouldn’t happen, saying, “critical race theory proponents will claim that this law prevents the teaching of history. They’ll claim that our kids won’t learn about important historical events like slavery or the Civil Rights Movement. But we know the truth. Contrary to what some critics claim, this bill in no way, in no shape, and in no form prohibits the teaching of history.”

But we know the truth, which is that this law is part of a movement that is very much about limiting what histories can be taught, what books will be available to children, and which children’s feelings will be protected by powerful people.

Cue 'Handmaid’s Tale': Michigan Republicans say 1965 Supreme Court decision legalizing birth control was wrong

A debate between the Republicans running for Michigan attorney general confirmed warnings from reproductive rights advocates that Republicans aren’t going to stop with abortion bans—they’re coming for birth control next. In the last question of last Friday’s debate, all three men said they thought the 1965 Supreme Court decision striking down laws banning the sale of contraception had been wrongly decided, because states’ rights.

At least two of the three candidates did not know what Griswold v. Connecticut was about—which itself is kind of an issue in people campaigning to be Michigan’s top lawyer, since Griswold is a pretty damn famous case. (I literally learned about it in high school, and I am not a lawyer.) But all three agreed, once they learned what it was, that it was bad.

The Connecticut law struck down in Griswold allowed the prosecution of married couples for buying contraception. In Griswold, the Supreme Court said that the law violated the “right to marital privacy,” foreshadowing the privacy right that would be invoked in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Here’s what the Michigan Republicans seeking to be the state’s top law enforcement officer had to say about the marital right to privacy around birth control decisions.

“Remind me,” Tom Leonard, the former speaker of the state House, said. After an explanation, he was ready to condemn the decision.

“Yeah, okay, I just, and I wanted clarification,” Leonard said. “This case, much like Roe v. Wade, I believe was wrongly decided, because it was an issue that trampled states’ rights and it was an issue that should have been left up to the states.”

State Rep. Ryan Berman literally pulled out his phone during that exchange.

”Yeah, you know what, I wasn’t familiar with Griswold v. Connecticut, but I’m an advanced legal researcher so I pulled it up real quick to look what it’s about,” he said. “And it says the court ruled that the Constitution did in fact protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on contraception. Again, I would have to look more into it and the reasoning behind it, but I’m all about states’ rights and limiting federal judicial activism.”

Matthew DePerno, endorsed by Donald Trump for enthusiastically signing on to the Big Lie about the 2020 elections, had the same basic answer, minus the admission that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

”Listen, all these cases that deal—Griswold, Roe v. Wade, Dobbs— these are all state right issues. I think that’s what we’re gonna see with the US Supreme Court. They’re gonna come down on the side that these liberty issues—number one, the wide expanse that was given on Roe v. Wade and this litany—are unworkable. The Supreme Court has to deal with that, has to decide, mark my words, that the privacy issue currently is unworkable. It’s going to be a state right issue on all of these things—as it should be!”

DePerno wasn’t done. “We need to start defending state rights as attorney generals, across this country,” he said. “Too many people, even in our own party, too many people have lost the idea of what states’ rights means. They haven’t read the works of our Founding Fathers. They haven’t read The Federalist Papers. They continue to push the idea that we need to give rights away to the federal government. We don’t. We need to take state rights back. We need to stand in our borders. When the feds come and try to take our rights, we need to stand as citizens in Michigan and hold the line and protect states’ rights.”

So, yes. Republicans are 100% coming for the right to obtain birth control once the Trump Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, with that decision likely coming this June. Already some states are advancing personhood legislation, which would declare an embryo or fetus to be a legal person. Such laws criminalize abortion, but they also potentially ban forms of birth control like the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception.

”All 3 Republicans running for Michigan Attorney General just stated that they oppose the ruling in Griswold v Connecticut which outlawed prosecuting married couples for using contraception,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted Friday evening. “You read that right. Terrifying.”

Lots of people who support abortion rights spent years responding lackadaisically to warnings that Republicans were stacking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and legalize abortion bans. Now we see how true those warnings were, as they come to fruition. It’s time to sit up and listen to the warnings that Republicans won’t stop there.

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North Carolina elections board asserts power to bar Cawthorn from 2022 ballot

The North Carolina State Board of Elections told a federal court that it absolutely does have the authority to block Rep. Madison Cawthorn from the ballot over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Cawthorn has sued, trying to prevent the state board from hearing a challenge to his candidacy by a group of North Carolina voters.

The Civil War-era 14th Amendment to the Constitution has a provision that was intended at the time to bar Confederate traitors from Congress. “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State,” it reads, “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. ”

North Carolina allows challenges to candidacy based on a number of grounds and, since the group Free Speech for People has submitted such a challenge, it should be on Cawthorn to prove to the Board of Elections that he didn’t engage in insurrection or rebellion. Rather than simply proving that to the board’s satisfaction, he has sued in federal court, arguing that such challenges are too easy in his state and that the process infringes on his constitutional right to run for office.

Without ruling on whether Cawthorn did disqualify himself by participating in insurrection, the North Carolina Board of Elections asserted in a court filing that the process is proper.

“States have long enforced age and residency requirements, without question and with very few if any legal challenges,” the board wrote. “The State has the same authority to police which candidates should or should not be disqualified per Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Cawthorn keeps insisting that he would never participate in an insurrection, yet somehow he doesn’t want to try to prove that. He could take two paths to doing so: showing that the attack on the Capitol didn’t qualify as an insurrection, or that he did not engage in it. The former course would be fairly difficult since we’re talking about an event in which thousands of people violently attacked the seat of government to try to prevent Congress from doing its part in the peaceful transition of power, successfully delaying it from doing so. The latter course would involve Cawthorn explaining how his statement at a December 2020 Turning Point USA event, “call your congressman and feel free—you can lightly threaten them,” isn’t relevant, along with his Jan. 4 “It’s time to fight” tweet, his speech at the Jan. 6 rally before the storming of the Capitol, and his subsequent threat that “if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place—and it’s bloodshed.”

But Cawthorn doesn’t want to make those arguments with any specificity. He just wants to strip the North Carolina Board of Elections of its role in determining who is a legitimate candidate for office. And the board isn’t going to let that happen without a fight.

Susan Collins sure doesn’t think Trump should promise Jan. 6 pardons — but that won’t dent GOP support for him

It’s almost like it’s 2017 again. Or 2018. Or 2019. Or 2020. Donald Trump has said something horrifying—in this case, that if elected in 2024, he would pardon people for their Jan. 6 crimes—and Senate Republicans are trying to get credit for disapproving of what Trump said while also making their loyalty to him clear.

Sen. Susan Collins voted to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but refuses to rule out voting for him in 2024. If you’re leaving the door open to helping make the guy president, it doesn’t really matter that you’re saying “I do not think the president should have made—that President Trump should have made that pledge to do pardons.” But Collins is far from the only one walking that tightrope.

Many Republicans are dodging the basic question of whether it’s acceptable for Trump to publicly dangle pardons for people who committed crimes to try to overturn his election loss.

Sen. Rick Scott, a former governor of Florida, dodged by talking about how he had done pardons: “The way I would do it is go through every case, everybody's cases, and that's what I did when I was governor, case by case.” Yeah, okay, that’s not what Trump’s saying he would do if given the chance. What do you think about what he’s publicly pledging, Rick?

”I can't speculate on anything,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley. It’s … not speculation that he said it, Chuck.

Sen. Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the statements, which is a particularly transparent dodge since it would take all of 30 seconds for him to familiarize himself with them. Sen. Mike Braun said he saw Trump’s remarks, but “didn’t really think much about it” because “he says a lot of things that, at the rallies, that I don't know if he means it or not.” But he said it, Mike, whether or not he really meant it, and saying something to a large audience—say, of people who may in the future be deciding whether to commit crimes to help you win an election—has its own relevance.

Braun also said, “I'm going to support whoever the Republican nominee is.” Sen. John Cornyn said, “I will support the nominee of my political party,” which means there was absolutely no weight to his statement that, “I just think people who broke the law on January the 6th need to be held accountable. Period.” There’s no “period” about it if you’re saying you’d try to elect the guy saying he’d pardon those people who broke the law. Senate Minority Whip John Thune doesn’t like Trump’s repeated lies about the 2020 elections and thinks dangling pardons is “only going to encourage unlawful behavior,” but “I'll support our nominee.”

Then there’s Sen. Josh Hawley, he of the raised fist of solidarity with the Jan. 6 attackers, who showed his utter subservience to Trump by saying he would “never judge the appropriateness or not of his comments ... That's not my role.” Never. No matter what Donald Trump says, Hawley would not even judge whether it was appropriate. That’s an amazing statement for a sitting senator to make, but because he cloaks it in this “not my role” language, he makes it sound like something other than “I’m on board with anything.” Which is what it is.

Meanwhile, large numbers of Democratic senators are ready to throw President Joe Biden under the bus the instant he says something that the media wants to use for “both sides do it” faux-balance.

Spare us the fake frown-y faces. The only thing that matters is whether congressional Republicans will support Donald Trump next time, and the answer is yes, despite Jan. 6 and virtually no matter what he says or does between now and 2024.

Trump is trying to incite violence against prosecutors investigating him. One has turned to the FBI

The Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney is asking for the FBI’s help with security after Donald Trump targeted her in his speech at a Texas rally on Saturday. ”These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They're racists and they're very sick—they're mentally sick,” Trump said, referring to multiple investigations he faces. “They're going after me without any protection of my rights from the Supreme Court or most other courts. In reality, they're not after me, they're after you.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is specifically investigating Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” the 11,780 votes needed to overturn the election in Georgia, so she is definitely after Trump, not his supporters who were not involved in that phone call.

Trump did not name the prosecutors he was referring to, but he made his meaning clear by naming their locations. “If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt,” he said. New York Attorney General Letitia James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and Willis are all Black, as is Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the select committee investigating Jan. 6.

”In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you,” he said as James and Bragg investigate the Trump Organization’s financial dealings, as if Trump supporters were the ones claiming inflated valuations of Trump properties for the purposes of getting loans and deflated valuations for the purposes of taxation, among other such complex financial maneuvers.

But even more than the gross demonization of prosecutors doing their jobs as “vicious, horrible” and “racists” and “very sick—mentally sick” and “radical, vicious, racist,” Trump’s call to his supporters to take action against the prosecutors he had just described in dehumanizing terms is particularly scary.

“I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt” in particular stands as a potent incitement to Trump’s supporters—and a dangerous echo of his Dec. 19, 2020 tweet promoting the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a bloody attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” he tweeted. “Be there, will be wild!”

Trump’s speech was Saturday. On Sunday, Willis wrote to J.C. Hacker, the head of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, saying that “security concerns were escalated this weekend” in reference to Trump’s speech, and requesting a risk assessment of the courthouse where a special grand jury to investigate Trump will soon be impaneled, as well as surrounding buildings. Willis also requested that the FBI “provide protective resources to include intelligence and federal agents.”

”We must work together to keep the public safe and ensure that we do not have a tragedy in Atlanta similar to what happened at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,” Willis wrote. She’s right to be concerned: That appears to be exactly what Donald Trump is trying to incite, and we have to assume he’s just getting started.

Omicron continues to batter schools, with staffing shortages forcing many to close

Staffing shortages have forced more school closures around the country in recent days, and the locations of some of those schools should give pause to the flood of hot-takers wanting to blame it on teachers unions and Democratic lawmakers any time a school closes or goes remote.

Six elementary schools in Wichita, Kansas, were closing on Tuesday due to coronavirus-related absences. Three of the schools were public, three were private, and two of the private Catholic schools were planning to be closed Wednesday as well. A Wichita high school had to close last Friday. About 10% of students and 8.5% of staff in the district were in quarantine.

Wichita isn’t unique in Kansas: Schools in Olathe, Kansas City, Eudora, Desoto, Manhattan-Ogden, Bonner Springs, and El Dorado have also had recent closures because of high COVID-19 rates.

In Alabama, one in four students were on remote learning last week, and many schools in the state remained remote in the days following Martin Luther King Day. Elmore County, Alabama, was returning to in-person school on Tuesday, but anticipated school bus delays “due to a shortage of drivers and substitute drivers. This situation may continue for the duration of the COVID spike.”

Two school districts in Hancock County, Indiana, have shifted to distance learning, one of them with a staff absence rate hitting 19%. Schools didn’t even have enough teachers to do remote teaching; rather, students were accessing assignments online and doing them from home. But hey, a day of canceled school plus a long weekend plus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s revised five-day isolation period means teachers should be coming back.

“The nice thing with the five days is that we can get teachers back to work sooner,” a school official said. Yeah, gee, really nice.

Two districts in the San Antonio, Texas, area closed for part or all of the week, with one saying the closure would give students and staff time to “restore their health.”

”Closing schools is a difficult decision to make, and I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause. However, to mitigate the spread of this virus has lead us to this decision,” said the superintendent of the other district. "As able, our teachers will be providing educational resources for the next two days or until this school closure ends.”

Neither district requires masks in schools.

Schools in Fulton, Missouri, were closed Tuesday, with at least one potentially remaining closed Wednesday.

The school superintendent in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, recently warned parents to be prepared for schools to temporarily close after a week in which one in six teachers needed a substitute, and on at least one day, only 60% of teacher absences could be covered by the available substitutes.

These are not states in which either Democrats or unions have a tight grip on policy. And indeed, school closures or temporary transitions to virtual learning are not a matter of policy right now. They are a matter of numbers: the number of teachers and staff (very much including bus drivers) either sick or quarantined, the number of students either sick or quarantined. Yet the steady stream of local news stories about these closures is met with a loud debate in the national media over whether schools should go remote and who is to blame when they do. (The virus. The virus is to blame.) Virtually nobody—or, to be specific, a majority of absolutely no group—thinks that remote learning is ideal for kids. Or for teachers, for that matter. The question is what is safe and, lately, what is even possible under the circumstances. Anyone who wants to talk about schools without acknowledging the reality should face serious questions about their motives.

Second state attorney general refers fake Trump electoral certificate to federal prosecutors

After Republicans in several states forged documents claiming Donald Trump had won their states and submitted the documents to the federal government, the attorney general of a second state has made a referral to federal prosecutors. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was the first to do so last week, but late Friday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he had done the same.

“Election laws are the foundation of our democracy and must be respected,” Balderas, a Democrat, said in a statement. “While review under state law is ongoing, we have referred this matter to the appropriate federal law-enforcement authorities and will provide any assistance they deem necessary.”

The New Mexico Republicans who created alternate paperwork awarding the state’s electors to Trump—who lost by 11 percentage points, nearly 100,000 votes—fudged a little, claiming that their move was made “on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of New Mexico.”

Republicans in Pennsylvania used similar language in their fake “Trump won” documents, but Republicans in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada did not qualify their claims, instead submitting documents claiming that they were the “duly elected and qualified electors.” Which they were not.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said that because of the language admitting that the fake electors were being named for a possible future in which Trump would be named the winner, the documents don't meet the standard for forgery. New Mexico’s Balderas appears to disagree. But either way, there are five states where that language wasn’t included and Republicans unambiguously tried to present themselves as electors and Trump as the winner despite his losses in those states.

This was not a case of Republicans in different states independently coming up with the same idea. “The fake documents had identical formatting, spacing, fonts, and phrasing, leaving little doubt that there was a template for Republicans to follow in each of these states,” Steve Benen writes, linking reports in Pennsylvania and Michigan in which local Republicans point to Trump campaign lawyers as the source of the plan. A participant in the Arizona documents said she had met with Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows, who was then the White House chief of staff, exchanged text messages about the plan with members of Congress. No one was freelancing here. This plan came from the top.

These documents, which tried to replace the legitimate electors of five states with fakes awarding the election to the loser, with provisional attempts in two more states, have to be seen as part of a broader coup attempt. “[A]t the same time he was urging his MAGA hat-wearing supporters toward insurrection, Trump was engaged in an extensive coup plot that involved attempts to strong-arm local officials, enlist state legislators, subvert the Department of Justice, and instruct Republicans in Congress on how they could support the end of American democracy. That plot included a series of memos from Trump attorneys creating a false legal pretext for the coup and a PowerPoint briefing for Republicans in Congress filling them in on next steps,” Mark Sumner has written. “The fake electoral certificates were a key part of this effort. They were the props Republicans were to turn to—the bloody shirt to be waved—as ‘proof’ that the election remained undecided. As such they played a central role in a conspiracy to interfere with counting the electoral votes in a U.S. election.”

Donald Trump attempted a coup, with the eager participation of Republicans in positions of power in multiple states and the U.S. Congress. This is something we should continue to be very alarmed about.

Kamala Harris faces predictable but rage-inducing bashing from the media

It appears that the media has declared this “Bash Kamala Harris Week,” a recurring feature of the past year as surely as Infrastructure Week was a recurring feature of the Trump years. One key difference is that Donald Trump kept trying to do Infrastructure Week only to tank his own proclamation by, say, both-sidesing Nazi violence or storming out of a meeting with Democrats, whereas Vice President Kamala Harris is just there being vice president, and every now and then there’s a little media frenzy dragging her, almost as if it were being coordinated.

This week’s fad is questions about whether President Joe Biden will keep Harris on the 2024 ticket or whether he will ditch her in favor of a Republican. Yeah. That’s a thing.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman proposed Rep. Liz Cheney via an elaborate comparison with Israel’s coalition government—a comparison that completely fails on the most basic point since Israel has a completely different system of government than the U.S., one in which a coalition government is actually a thing. The U.S. system is not built to accommodate that, so the effect of floating it is simply to put “Biden-Cheney” out there in the political discourse as a reasonable idea even as the entire basis for the proposal is fraudulent.

It’s fraudulent, also, because Friedman’s premise in the U.S. context is that Cheney could somehow bring along enough Republicans to overwhelm the vast majority of her party that’s dedicated to Donald Trump’s Big Lie, whether out of loyalty to Trump or a simple desire to steal elections now that he’s shown them it could work with enough planning. There is no evidence that this is true.

The column suggesting that Biden ditch Harris for Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Republican governor? That was a joking criticism of Friedman’s column. But this was not a joke:

The Today Show had the vice president sit down for an interview and asked her about a New York Times columnist’s inane clickbait proposal for something that could not work for several reasons—even if it was desirable for a rather old president to have a vice president with politics diametrically opposed to his own—and that was grounded in absolutely nothing. There have been no high-profile rumors from actual Biden sources that Biden is thinking about replacing Harris. There has only been speculation from media predators.

That speculation about 2024 has followed repeated rounds of attacks on Harris. There was her trip to France, during which she dared to buy some nice but not outlandishly expensive cookware with her own money, a major scandal for a hot second. Also on that trip to France, Harris came under attack from the likes of Sean Hannity for supposedly using a French accent, which she did not, and then a Bloomberg News reporter piggybacked on that to make an issue of how Harris pronounced the word "the."

Before that, and since, there have been multiple rounds of rumors and gossipy reports on how Harris interacts with her staff, and a huge amount of recent coverage of some staff turnover in Harris’ office. There was bizarre coverage of complaints from donors and the like finding that it was harder to get access to the vice president than it had been to the attorney general of California or a U.S. senator.

Mike Pence spent four years publicly fawning over Trump in the most embarrassing way possible, got edged out of pandemic response by Jared freaking Kushner, stayed at a Trump hotel 180 miles from his official meetings on a trip to Ireland, and took part in stupid political stunts like leaving a football game because the players—as he knew they would—engaged in silent, respectful protest. And he was not immune to his own staff shakeups. His first chief of staff left the role after less than six months. Three more top staffers left before his first year in office was up. Somehow, these departures did not draw half the attention that departures from Harris’ office have.

Now, Pence was continually overshadowed by the four-year dumpster fire in the White House, and for that matter Trump got better coverage than Biden, relatively speaking. But there is also, 100%, no contest, an offensive amount of extra scrutiny and criticism applied to Harris because she is the first woman vice president and the first Black vice president and the first Asian American vice president. Harris is being hit with a toxic combination of sexism and racism and the media’s established tendency to defer to Republicans while trashing Democrats. It’s staggering to see how prevalent all three of those strains remain in media coverage in the year 2022.

Obama warns of 'slow unraveling of basic democratic institutions' — and calls on Democrats to act

“America’s long-standing grand experiment in democracy is being sorely tested,” former President Barack Obama writes in his first opinion piece since leaving the White House, making the urgent case for Democrats to pass voting rights legislation. State laws passed in recent years making it harder to vote, along with aggressive gerrymandering and laws giving partisan state legislatures control over election officials and election certification, represent a “slow unraveling of basic democratic institutions and electoral mechanisms.”

That’s not just happening, either. Someone—a political party—is doing that, and Obama does not pull that punch, as much as even some Democrats would like him to do so. Nor does he shy away from the solution, backing President Joe Biden’s call “to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote.”

The stakes, Obama writes, are high. There’s a question of the United States’ role in the world, and a moral one: “We have spilled precious blood and spent countless treasure in defense of democracy and freedom abroad. But as we learned during the Jim Crow era, our role as democracy’s defender isn’t credible when we violate the rights and freedoms of our own citizens. And at a time when democracy is under attack on every continent, we can’t hope to set an example for the world when one of our two major parties seems intent on chipping away at the foundation of our own democracy.”

The strength of the democracy and of voting as a right also has policy effects: “It’s how we can overcome the gridlock and cynicism that’s so prevalent right now. It’s how we can stop climate change, and reform our broken immigration system, and help ensure that our children enjoy an economy that works for everyone and not just the few.”

So what’s to be done? Obama makes it clear that, yes, it’s Democrats who have to do this, because Republicans will not. Sponsors of voting rights bills “have diligently reached out to their Republican colleagues to obtain their support. Sadly, almost every Senate Republican who expressed concern about threats to our democracy in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection has since been cowed into silence or reversed their positions,” he writes. That’s why modifying the filibuster rules for at least this one issue is a necessity.

Obama takes on the people who claim they are protecting the institution of the Senate by protecting the filibuster, and does so on two grounds. Directly, he points out that “The filibuster has no basis in the Constitution,” and that its use became routine only in recent years. Changing it does not shake the foundations on which the nation rests. But that’s where Obama makes an indirect case that anyone who says they’re protecting the institution, or the norms, is wrong to allow the filibuster to get in the way of passing voting rights legislation: because democracy itself is America’s most important institution. Allowing the filibuster to unravel basic democratic institutions is far more harmful, he argues, than creating another exception to its dominance of the Senate.

Obama also takes on Democratic reticence in another, much subtler way. In his speech on voting rights this week, Biden took an unusually assertive stance—a long overdue, very welcome move—saying, “At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” Obama’s op-ed is framed around an invocation of the memory of John Lewis and his fight for voting rights, while he correctly notes that the filibuster was used to bolster Jim Crow. If he’s not as blunt as offering the direct choice between John Lewis and Bull Connor, he nonetheless shows that that is the choice here—an important corrective as some Democrats, like Sen. Dick Durbin, are going squishy, trying to back away from the accurate challenge that Biden may have put into words, but that comes directly from our history.

That is the challenge conservative Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema face. Are they going to be on the side of John Lewis, or are they going to be on the side of the people who cracked Lewis’ skull? No one is accusing Joe Manchin of cracking anyone’s skull, but it’s doing what’s needed to pass voting rights legislation or actively allowing voting rights to be limited in the states. It’s restricting gerrymandering or being complicit in the dismantling of democracy. There is a choice here, and there is a history that shows us what that choice means.

The most effective anti-child poverty measure in decades has lapsed — and its future is in doubt

On Jan. 15, around 36 million households with children won’t get a payment that many had come to rely on over the previous six months. Thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin and every single Senate Republican, the expanded child tax credit lapsed, and Democrats aren’t sure how to move forward on restoring it.

Senate Democrats have shifted to bashing their heads against the problem of getting voting rights—another top priority—passed. They and the White House continue to hope for a way to get Manchin and fellow problem Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on board with some version of President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better agenda. But that means getting through Manchin’s right-wing—but also notably boneheaded—opposition to the most successful anti-child poverty program in decades over his offensive and inaccurate view that the benefit is being used to buy drugs.

Thanks to Manchin’s specific opposition to the child tax credit, even attempting to pass it as a stand-alone bill while the rest of Build Back Better is negotiated would be unlikely to work.

Meanwhile, not just the poor families that Manchin has such contempt for but many middle-class families as well will deal with the loss of income. Under the expanded child tax credit, all but the highest-income families have been eligible for monthly checks of $250 per child aged 6 to 17, and $300 per child 5 and under.

“The CTC went away, but grocery prices haven't gone down,” said Stormy Johnson, a single mother of three in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. “Now that I don't have that payment, the reality of life is that there will be times I won't eat to make sure my kids can.”

Johnson’s income as a student support specialist pays the rent, car payments and car insurance, and utilities, but leaves just $50 per month over those basic bills.

A woman caring for an orphaned granddaughter worries that without the checks, the family won’t be able to afford to keep a puppy they got to comfort the girl after the deaths of her parents.

A data center architect with a middle-class salary nonetheless will feel the loss of the money, which the family has dedicated directly to special help for his autistic daughter. “It just boils my blood that a 74-year-old man who drives a Maserati is holding this up,” Matthew Taylor told HuffPost.

These individual stories are examples of the child tax credit’s broader effects. Food insecurity in households with kids dropped from 11% to 8.4%. The tax credit brought 3 million children out of poverty almost immediately. And for families that have been getting by, able to pay the bills but living paycheck to paycheck, it meant a little added security, maybe an extra or two for the kids. That, not drug money, is what Manchin has yanked away from 36 million families—and what Democrats have to find a way to bring him around on.

New jobless claims hit a 52-year low — how will the media spin that to be bad for Biden?

New unemployment claims dropped to 184,000 last week, the lowest since 1969. It sure is going to be interesting watching the media find a way to turn that into bad news for President Joe Biden. Perhaps Vice President Kamala Harris will be too concerned about information security or buying a kitchen implement that costs less than half what many guns cost, and that can dominate the headlines instead.

It is the case that the jobless claims numbers come with caveats: This remains a volatile, unpredictable economic recovery, and seasonal adjustments, which played a significant factor in the historically low number, are harder for Labor Department economists to pin down than in a usual year. But according to the best available data … new unemployment claims were at a 52-year low, even as the headlines have been dominated by talk of how the economy is dragging Biden’s presidency down.

When we look at the economic recovery from the lowest lows of the COVID-19 pandemic, one key question is what effect the federal government’s relief packages had. The Roosevelt Institute is out with a review answering that question about the American Rescue Plan, and the conclusion is that it fulfilled the most optimistic predictions.

In fact, unemployment has dropped faster than the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee projected even after the American Rescue Plan was passed.

People aren’t just employed at higher rates than expected at the beginning of 2021. “Using the Atlanta Fed’s Wage Growth Tracker, we see younger workers (16-24 years old) saw a 9.7 percent wage increase, and the bottom 25 percent of earners saw a 5.1 percent raise,” Mike Konczal and Emily DiVito write. “Workers with a high-school education and those at the bottom of the income distribution all saw wage growth stronger than average for recovery periods. This is still true when you account for the effects of inflation. Multiple sources find that around the bottom 70 percent of workers had real hourly wage increases over the past two years.”

Additionally, low-income families have gained wealth thanks to the investments of the American Rescue Plan and other relief packages—but especially thanks to the expanded child tax credit.

It’s not that everything is perfect. Thursday’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed continuing weakness in state and local government jobs, particularly in education. There are still millions of missing jobs relative to February 2020. The recovery remains unequal, with Black and Latino workers facing higher unemployment rates. Women are returning to the paid workforce, but the lost ground is likely to take years to regain.

But. With the bad news, there is plenty of good news, and in particular there’s evidence that Biden’s economic policies are working as planned, and lifting up the economy and the families in it. Not that the media is as interested in talking about that as it is in talking about the price of milk.

Anti-vaxx Republican senator wants you to gargle the coronavirus away

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has a hot new suggestion for stopping the coronavirus in its tracks, and the best thing that can be said for it is … at least he didn’t suggest bleach. No, Johnson suggested mouthwash instead.

“There are things you can do: Vitamin D, you know, zinc, keep yourself healthy, vitamin C—by the way, standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” Johnson said during a Wednesday town hall meeting, according to a recording shared on Twitter by a local radio station. “If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things? It just boggles my mind that the NIH continues to tell people ‘Do nothing, you know, maybe take Tylenol.’”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), in fact, tells people to get vaccinated, along with a long list of possible treatments. But about that mouthwash.

Johnson subsequently linked to a study of 176 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or only mildly ill. They were given mouthwash regularly for seven days, with the study concluding that the mouthwash “appears to provide a modest benefit compared with placebo in reducing viral load in saliva.”

That’s interesting, but you know what definitely provides more than a modest benefit compared with placebo in reducing viral load in more parts of the body than just saliva? Vaccines, which Johnson has repeatedly expressed suspicion of, to the point of being suspended from YouTube for spreading disinformation.

Mouthwash? Maybe it can reduce the virus levels specifically in your saliva, but, “Even if gargling kills some of the virus, it won’t be able to clean the nasal area, nor the viruses that’s already penetrated deeper into the body,” Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease expert at Korea University, told The Washington Post. And no, that part about cleaning the nasal area is not a suggestion to waterboard yourself with Listerine.

On a site for health care professionals, Listerine details studies involving mouthwash, stating, “We are aware of several ongoing, independent clinical trials where LISTERINE® is being assessed in patients with COVID-19. However, the current available data is not sufficient to support a conclusion that the use of LISTERINE® mouthwash is helpful against the COVID-19 virus. As a company firmly rooted in science, we are committed to advancing research in oral and public health.” Listerine is made by Johnson & Johnson, a company which, of course, also has a vaccine—and while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not the most effective one out there, it is far, far, far more effective than Listerine. Or vitamin D. Or zinc. Or generic wellness.

It is so very, very special that here we are, with vaccines that are very effective at preventing severe illness even if delta and omicron have reduced their effectiveness at preventing any infection at all, and a United States senator is suggesting mouthwash. Death rates in Republican-voting counties are far higher than those in counties that vote for Democrats as vaccination rates among Republicans lag, but Republican politicians like Johnson are still promoting a line that will make it more likely for their own supporters to die horrible, painful deaths. The only good thing that can be said about Johnson’s mouthwash suggestion is that mouthwash is not going to harm anyone. But it’s not going to protect them, either, so suggesting it in place of the thing that will protect them is itself harmful. Ron Johnson has already shown that he doesn’t care if he causes harm, though, so it’s no big surprise.

Sinema is getting a boost from multi-level marketing companies — and they want something in return: report

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has emerged as the favored candidate of multilevel marketing companies, and it's not because of her statement handbags and dresses, as easy as it would be to imagine her recruiting a group of coworkers or friendquaintances to aggressively pitch said handbags and dresses over a few glasses of red wine. It's because multilevel marketing companies, many of which come about as close as possible to being full-on pyramid schemes while remaining within the law, are worried about Democrats passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and see Sinema as a key ally in defeating it, Politico reports.

The PRO Act would, among other things, make it more difficult for companies to misclassify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Independent contractors don't have many protections and rights that employees have—little things like the minimum wage, overtime pay, Social Security contributions, and protections against discrimination. Multilevel marketing companies want to keep it that way because their entire business model is built around people working for them for very little—in some cases, even losing money.

Sinema is one of three Democratic senators who hasn't signed on to the bill, with her fellow Arizona senator, Mark Kelly, who has said he wants changes to the independent contractor provisions, and Sen. Mark Warner, who has signaled support despite not having formally co-sponsored it. Even Sen. Joe Manchin is theoretically on board.

Multilevel marketing companies are not traditionally big political givers, and especially not to Democrats. The DeVos family got its wealth through Amway, one of the early big names in the industry, and they are obviously huge Republicans. But the PAC for Alticor, Amway's parent company, gave Sinema $2,500 in June. The bat signal definitely went out in June, because, Politico reports, three other multilevel marketers gave Sinema $2,500 apiece that month. She got other chunks of $2,500 from industry players in April and July. Aside from the DeVos family, several of these firms make few political contributions: two of the PACs that donated to Sinema haven't given to any other federal lawmakers this year, and a third has otherwise only given to lawmakers in its home state of Utah.

In addition to her opposition to strengthening worker protections, Sinema has been a supporter of multilevel marketing, joining a virtual town hall put on by the Direct Selling Association and Isagenix in May 2020, and saying she would help them "succeed through these difficult circumstances." The Direct Selling Association has described her as "One of the few Democratic Senators who supports direct selling."

Come to think of it, if Sinema gets primaried out in the future, she could have a future as a real rock star MLM seller and recruiter.

Joe Manchin’s current hostages: Universal pre-K and affordable elder care

After months of negotiation, and a massive amount of compromise by President Joe Biden and congressional progressives trying to come up with a Build Back Better bill that would get the votes of conservative Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the White House last week released a revised policy framework. It sharply reduced the agenda Biden had previously laid out … and Manchin is holding it hostage. Again.

It's easy to focus on the negotiations—the constant up and down of Manchin reentering negotiations and better Democrats than him seeming to believe they're getting somewhere on a deal with him, only to have Manchin come out and blow it up again with his signature blend of self-righteousness, dishonesty, and sheer dopiness—and it's essential to do that, to know where there might be leverage or opportunities for truly transformative legislation. But we also need to talk about what it is that Manchin's holding hostage here because this affects many people and families with caregiving responsibilities in particular.

When the White House released its framework, The New York Times' invaluable Claire Cain Miller gave a rundown of what it would do for families should it be passed into law. More people need to know about this.

Build Back Better would include universal pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds. That in itself is huge, providing two years of early childhood education for families that currently have to pay for child care until their children turn five and go to kindergarten. (Some states and cities do already have universal pre-K.) Teachers would get pay equivalent to what elementary teachers with the same credentials get. There would be a phased-in requirement for lead pre-K teachers to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, both moves that would potentially raise the standard of care.

But the draft legislation would benefit families with younger children, too, by subsidizing child care. Many families would get free child care, while families earning up to 250% of their states' median incomes would pay no more than 7% of their income.

Both of those programs would be funded for six years. The expanded child tax credit, by contrast, would get only one more year of funding. That tax credit, which was included in the American Rescue Plan, lets all but the wealthiest families with children get a child tax credit maximum increased from $2,000 to $3,600, and get it monthly rather than in a lump sum after filing their taxes. It also became fully refundable so that even families with very low incomes could get the full credit. According to Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy, 3.5 million children were lifted from poverty with the first two payments alone. This program should be permanent, but extending it for one year is … well, it's more than nothing. According to the draft legislation, though, the child tax credit would remain fully refundable so low-income families could at least continue getting something.

The Biden Build Back Better framework also expands affordable care for elders and people with disabilities and improves working conditions for the home care workers they rely on. What would be big for working-age adults who are trying to care for their aging parents, often at the same time as they raise children.

There is so much that is not here anymore thanks to Manchin and Sinema and—let's never, ever forget—every single Republican. Paid family and medical leave should be here, but instead, conservatives are committed to keeping the United States as one of just six countries in the world not to offer it. The child tax credit expansion should be permanent. Free community college should be here.

The vast majority of Democrats are trying to do the right thing for U.S. families, provide needed care for young children and seniors alike, help parents struggling to hold jobs and raise children and care for their aging parents, and expand education to young children and young adults. A couple of Democrats are joining every Republican in blocking that right now. But don't lose sight of what should be possible here.

GOP rep shows he prioritizes being a good Republican over being a good doctor with latest ivermectin claims

Republican Rep. Andy Harris is a doctor, too, but it's pretty clear that if he had to choose which of those identities is more important to him, he'd go with Republican. The Maryland congressman once again offered Very Bad medical advice about dealing with COVID-19—and not just bad advice. Harris said on a radio show that he has been prescribing ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

"I wrote a prescription for ivermectin—I guess it's now three weeks ago, four weeks ago—and yeah, couldn't find a pharmacy to fill it," Harris said on a call-in show in September, The Washington Post reports. "It's gotten bad. [...] The pharmacists are just refusing to fill it."

Go, pharmacists!

Studies have repeatedly shown that ivermectin does not work as a COVID-19 treatment. The most-cited study suggesting it might has been revealed as seriously flawed, if not a complete fabrication. There are formulations of ivermectin that are safe and widely used to treat parasites in humans, but that doesn't make it a good idea to take the drug in place of things that can actually prevent COVID-19 deaths—vaccines—let alone to take veterinary formulations of the drug in massive quantities, as too many people have done. The American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists have warned against taking ivermectin to combat COVID-19.

But as far as Dr. Andy Harris, a member of the United States House of Representatives, is concerned? Those national organizations that say people shouldn't take an anti-parasitic veterinary drug to treat a human virus are being "ridiculous." This isn't a first for Harris. He previously touted the supposed benefits of hydroxychloroquine, which not only didn't work to treat COVID-19, it had deadly side effects. And Harris wasn't promoting the drug before the facts were in—he was doing so after the FDA revoked its emergency use authorization.

Harris is an anesthesiologist. He's not a primary care doctor, an infectious disease doctor, a critical care doctor, a heart or lung doctor, an obstetrician. Anesthesiologists play a very important role in COVID-19 care, though: They're the doctors who intubate people going on ventilators. But that critical role, if Harris has filled it in his continuing part-time anesthesiology work or has even talked with his fellow anesthesiologists who have done so, should show him the stakes when it comes to prescribing and publicly recommending drugs that do not work to treat this virus.

The hospital where Harris practices (as part of an independent physician group, not as a direct employee), said in a statement, "Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications."

If Harris is not acting as a responsible doctor, though, he is acting very much as a Republican politician. At one point he promoted vaccines, only to turn around and oppose vaccination for children in addition to opposing mandates requiring both vaccines and masks. In that he's being a typical Republican, joining Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others in howling about vaccine mandates despite all the evidence that they work.

"The only thing I'm worried about is because of the media push and all of the hype about covid is that the majority of Americans actually agree with these mandates," Harris said on the radio show where he promoted ivermectin. "What are we, a bunch of lemmings?" He said, encouraging people to engage in stereotypical lemming behavior by taking drugs shown not to work by multiple studies and advised against by the major medical associations rather than taking a thoroughly documented, effective vaccine.

The thing is, Republicans know they need some kind of answers to COVID-19 beyond "eh, it's just like the flu." No matter how much they trot out that lie, it doesn't convince enough people. But Republicans are opposed to the things that actually work to fight the pandemic, like vaccination and masking, so they keep coming up with these other answers, which may not work and may even be dangerous, but make it look like they're offering solutions. They don't give a damn about the reality of the pandemic, so they're treating it as a political problem that can be addressed with lies.

Bannon is defying Jan. 6 committee subpoena — but other former Trump aides are cooperating

There's a lot of activity from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but continuing questions about how much it's going to shake loose from key players in Team Trump. A new subpoena to former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark went out on Wednesday, but cooperation from the people who have already gotten subpoenas remains scant.

Former Trump administration official Kash Patel and former Trump campaign manager and adviser Steve Bannon are scheduled for depositions on Thursday … but neither is going to show up. Bannon is flatly refusing, citing executive privilege he has no claim to, while Patel continues to "engage" with the committee, the question being when the committee will conclude that "engage" is a synonym for "string along." Members of the committee have threatened criminal referrals against anyone who defies its subpoenas, and will reportedly begin the process within hours of Bannon missing his Thursday deadline.

One of the reasons Bannon's claim to executive privilege is so thin is that Donald Trump's claim to executive privilege is itself extremely thin. Executive privilege resides in the office of the executive, and Trump was booted out of there by the will of the people. The White House is moving forward on releasing a set of documents from the National Archives to the select committee. The other reason Bannon's claim is so thin is that Bannon hadn't even been a White House aide since 2017.

The new subpoena to Clark calls on him to produce documents and testify at a deposition on Oct. 29. Though not—so far as we know, yet—directly involved in the planning for the Jan. 6 rallies that turned into a violent insurrection, Clark was deeply involved in Trump's efforts to overturn the election, with his role climaxing in a Jan. 3 meeting at which Trump threatened to fire Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and replace him with Clark so that Clark could proceed with using the power of the Justice Department to get key states to choose new electors, reversing the results of their elections.

"The select committee needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results," Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, said in a statement. "We need to understand Mr. Clark's role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration."

The committee is getting cooperation on some of its subpoenas already, though. The Associated Press reports that three of the 11 people involved in organizing the Jan. 6 rallies have turned over documents or plan to do so.

Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm provided security that day, told the AP, "All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were handed in." He has distanced himself from the subject matter of the rallies, saying: "As far as we're concerned, we ran security at a legally permitted event run in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service and the Park Police."

Interestingly, the other people who have turned over documents or plan to do so are former Trump campaign and White House staffers. Megan Powers and Hannah Salem appear on the Jan. 6 rally permit as "operations manager for scheduling and guidance" and "operations manager for logistics and communications." Later in January, Rolling Stone reported that Powers' "LinkedIn lists her as working as director of operations for the Trump campaign into January of this year." She had been with Trump since 2015. Salem was a special assistant to the president and director of press advance at the White House.

Hopefully the committee is getting useful information from them and others. But it must move quickly to hold Bannon to account—criminal account—and it cannot let Patel delay without showing serious intention of turning over documents or sitting for a deposition. If Trump loyalists believe they'll get away with defying they committee, they will do it.

Jim Jordan​ humiliated on Twitter over anti-vax tweet

Republicans are increasingly making opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates a requirement for membership in their club, but sometimes, as Rep. Jim Jordan found out Tuesday night, that sets you up for a takedown.

Ouch. But hey, a man who spent his early career ignoring sexual abuse against the college students he was responsible for and then goes on to have a highly public career as a loudmouth attack dog is going to have to learn to handle that kind of reminder.

For the record, Ohio has had more than 1.47 million cases of COVID-19, and more than 23,000 deaths from the disease.

Ohio also currently has a fairly standard list of required immunizations for children to attend public school: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, and meningococcal. Does Jordan want to bring back polio, tetanus, and measles? See if he can boost those numbers up to compete with coronavirus numbers for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths?

Throughout the pandemic, Republicans have fought one kind of public health measure after another, insisting on their absolute right to spread disease in whatever way they want. The new hotness is opposition to vaccine mandates—mandates that wouldn't have been necessary if high-profile Republicans hadn't made vaccination a partisan issue to begin with. Republican lawmakers in many states, including Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, and more are pushing for bans on vaccine requirements. Florida has already fined one county for putting a vaccine mandate into place. This trend is dangerous in itself as it exists right now. But it could become much more dangerous because today's Republicans are so happy to climb on any slippery slope and then throw lubricant in front of themselves.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly made clear that he didn't start out wanting to impose mandates. But they became necessary because a lot of people—including a disproportionate number of Republicans—refused to get vaccinated, and COVID-19 rates were skyrocketing. And mandates work. A lot of people are vaccinated who would not otherwise be, and that is saving lives and, ultimately, slowing the spread of the virus. But Republicans, ever in search of 1) something to be angry about and 2) ways to ensure that the government in general and Democratic leadership in particular fail, are making the righteous fight against a life-saving vaccine their big cause. Even, as in Texas, when it leads them to turn their backs on previously held positions like "private companies should get to do whatever they want."

Jim Jordan is an angry clown, but these days, he's one of the official faces of the Republican Party, the guy House Republicans put on every high-profile committee and want the media to go to for a quote on every hot issue. And at this rate—considering the recent record of the Republican Party in moving ever toward the fringe—we can't be surprised if Republicans do move from opposing COVID-19 vaccination mandates to opposing all vaccination mandates, even the ones that are uncontroversially the law in their own states. When a Florida state legislator floated exactly that idea a few weeks ago, he ended up walking it back. But it would be foolish to bet that the idea is dead.

Raskin floats inherent contempt as former Trump aides defy Jan. 6 subpoenas

The House select committee to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol issued three more subpoenas on Thursday, seeking information about the set of rallies planned on Jan. 6. The new subpoenas went to Nathan Martin, Ali Abdul Akbar (also known as Ali Alexander), and Stop the Steal LLC. But on the same day, deadlines expired for four former Trump aides to comply with committee subpoenas, with Donald Trump explicitly telling them not to cooperate and one, former campaign manager Steve Bannon, announcing he'd follow Trump's instructions and refuse to cooperate.

While the instruction from Trump's lawyers to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, aide Dan Scavino, administration official and diehard loyalist Kash Patel, and Bannon cited "the executive and other privileges, including among others the presidential communications, deliberative process, and attorney-client privileges," claims that wouldn't apply to Martin, Alexander or Stop the Steal, it's a likely sign of the level of cooperation coming from those targets as well. We are talking about people who fomented an insurrection to try to block the peaceful transition of power.

As for Meadows, Scavino, Patel, and Bannon, the White House has already said that President Joe Biden—the person who actually has executive privilege these days—has "concluded that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege," and members of the Jan. 6 committee have made clear that they are not taking no for an answer.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee, said it was up to Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, but "I believe this is a matter of the utmost seriousness and we need to consider the full panoply of enforcement sanctions available to us, and that means criminal contempt citations, civil contempt citations and the use of Congress's own inherent contempt powers."

Yes. Inherent contempt, please! Send the sergeant-at-arms after them.

Alexander and Martin attempted to organize a "One Nation Under God" rally against "the election fraud in the swing states."

According to the subpoena, "Mr. Alexander explained it was the intention of Stop the Steal to direct earlier attendees of a rally on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. oh Jan. 6 held by Women for America First and 'sponsored' by Stop the Steal to march at the conclusion of that rally to Lot 8 on the U.S. Capitol Grounds, which is the location for which the [U.S. Capitol Police] granted the permit for the 'One Nation Under God,' rally."

So you can see why the committee would be interested in hearing from the organizers of the event planned to occur on the Capitol grounds after the earlier rally. Also, the committee's letter to Alexander notes, "According to press reports, in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, you made repeated reference during Stop the Steal-sponsored events to the possible use of violence to achieve the organization's goals and claimed to have been in communication with the White House and members of Congress regarding events planned to coincide with the certification of the 2020 election results."

First and foremost, though, the committee must move aggressively after Meadows, Scavino, Patel, and Bannon. We know that just days earlier Trump was personally trying to get the Justice Department to overturn the election. It's not like there's some big disconnect between Jan. 3, when Trump really wanted to fire the acting attorney general and replace him with a toady eager to instruct state legislatures to set aside their states' election results but just concluded it wouldn't work, and Jan. 6, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the election. These are all part of one series of events, and the reason for that is that Donald Trump could not accept that he lost an election and was looking for every bit of leverage he could muster to overturn that election. We need the whole story, and the whole story hinges on Trump and his aides.

These 4 Trump loyalists are on the brink of criminal referrals in Jan. 6 investigation

Four top members of Team Trump have an October 7 deadline to turn documents over to the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It's not looking like they're going to comply, a possibility Chair Bennie Thompson anticipated when he said the committee was prepared to make criminal referrals. Rep. Jamie Raskin reinforced that point on Tuesday, tweeting that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, aide Dan Scavino, Trump loyalist Kash Patel, and former campaign manager Steve Bannon "have two days left to comply with the @January6thCmte's subpoenas. Each of these men should be ready and willing to protect their country against violent insurrection, but as a reminder: noncompliance with Congress invites criminal sanctions."

The committee hasn't even been able to physically serve Scavino with his subpoena, CNN reports, about which "One source familiar with the situation joked that the committee should just tweet the subpoena to the former Trump aide since he's been actively trolling the panel there in recent days."

It's not a surprise that a source tells The Guardian's Hugo Lowell that all four—Meadows, Scavino, Patel, and Bannon—are planning to defy the subpoenas in whole or in part. That is reportedly at the instruction of Donald Trump or his lawyers, not that any of the four probably needed encouragement. Trump has claimed that executive privilege covers White House communications relating to the effort to overturn the election and the attack on the Capitol. Still, President Biden gets to make that call—after all, Trump is not the executive—and he's said no dice.

These are just the first four people to get subpoenas from the January 6 committee. Eleven more people got subpoenas at the end of September, including leaders of "Women for America First," the group that formally staged the rally that turned into a march on and attack of the Capitol, as well as former Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.

The committee isn't stuck waiting for the subpoenas to succeed, though. Speaking of the four men expected to refuse to turn over documents this week, and the committee's progress in general, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the Republicans on the committee, told CNN, "The problem is when you start seeing people resist, and people obfuscate, you have to look at that and go why are they doing that if they have nothing to hide? We have a lot of people coming and talking to us voluntarily. We'll get to the bottom of it. We want to do it quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly."

Thursday, we'll see how the committee responds when Meadows, Scavino, Patel, and Bannon blow off its subpoenas. The correct answer for how, by the way, is swiftly and harshly.

The Supreme Court is gunning to cement itself as a fully partisan Republican institution

The Supreme Court is teeing up its next round of far-right decisions, after which the far-right justices making those decisions will doubtless trot out for another round of claiming that the court is not partisan. Following its shadow docket decision effectively overturning Roe v. Wade in Texas, the court is setting up the next step by hearing arguments on a Mississippi abortion ban that could be the official, nationwide end of Roe. But that's not all.

Before it gets to the Mississippi abortion ban, the Supreme Court will consider a major gun case, its first in a decade. That case centers on a New York law requiring people to show "proper cause" as to why they need to carry guns outside their homes in order to get a permit to do so. What's particularly disturbing about the court's attention to that law is that this is not a new law coming under review—it's been around for a long time, so this is unmistakably a case where what changed is not the law but the composition of the court.

A week after it hears the Mississippi case, the court will turn its attention to the question of whether Maine can exclude religious schools providing a religious education from public tuition dollars. The creeping-theocracy implications of that should be clear.

As well, the Supreme Court will look at the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which was thrown out by an appeals court; a Texas death row inmate's request to have his pastor be allowed to touch him and pray out loud with him in the death chamber (possibly providing an interesting religious freedom comparison with the Maine case); and a government effort to keep Guantánamo detainee Abu Zubaydah, the first victim of horrific CIA torture after 9/11, from getting information from two of his torturers.

All in all, it's a slate of chances for the Trump Supreme Court to tighten the Republican Party's anti-democratic grip on U.S. law.

The Mississippi abortion case will draw—already is drawing—the most attention. And it should be an attention-grabber as an explicit effort to overturn decades of settled precedent. Mississippi Republicans aren't really trying to keep it secret, either. Up until the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they pretended the goal was something other than overturning Roe. Once Donald Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had rammed Amy Coney Barrett onto the court at the highest speed possible, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch came out with the real goal: "Roe and Casey are unprincipled decisions that have damaged the democratic process, poisoned our national discourse, plagued the law—and, in doing so, harmed this Court," so they should be overturned.

All of this comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court's intensifying partisanship, which people are starting to notice. A series of polls shows the public's faith in the Supreme Court dropping and an understanding of the court's partisanship rising. The furthest-right, most partisan justices are hearing that criticism, but their response has been a series of gaslighting speeches.

Barrett claimed to be "concerned" about the public's view of the court as partisan. She said this in a speech at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center, founded by McConnell, after being introduced by … McConnell. You know, the guy who held one Supreme Court seat open for nearly a year because there was an election coming and it would be wrong to let a president fill a Supreme Court seat in the last year of his term, then turned around and got Barrett onto the court in the matter of weeks between Ginsburg's death and the election.

Samuel Alito, basically a Republican operative in the guise of a justice, recently whined about "unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution," aka observations that the court has been packed with far-right justices by Republicans who lost the popular vote for the presidency, and has consistently acted to bolster Republican electoral chances to solidify that control. How dare Democrats notice that Republicans have waged a decades-long campaign to take over the courts, just as Republicans succeeded at taking over the courts!

Clarence Thomas also chimed in, talking about people "destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it." Again, after decades of Republicans undermining the reputation of the court for partisan purposes—Bush v. Gore, anyone?

And now the cycle begins anew: A likely series of devastating far-right decisions by the court will be followed by the partisan Republicans who made those decisions coming out to rail against anyone who dares suggest that the court has a legitimacy problem.

Florida Republicans look to take advantage of the Supreme Court's abortion ban green light

Once the Supreme Court allowed the Texas abortion bounty hunter law to go into effect, you knew it was just a matter of time before another state moved to copy it. And here comes Florida to do exactly that, days after the first Texas doctor was sued for violating the law.

State Rep. Webster Barnaby has filed a bill that would, as in the Texas law, allow anyone to pursue any person who "knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion" for $10,000. As in Texas, the bill would ban abortions after six weeks, which is before many women know they are pregnant and which, even for those who do know it, requires a speedy decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy.

Unlike in Texas, Barnaby's bill includes exemptions for rape, incest, domestic violence, human trafficking, or a threat to the woman's health. But it requires documentation to get an exemption, and for many women in those circumstances, getting that documentation would pose its own threat. Additionally, a woman should not have to have been the victim of a crime to make decisions about her own health care.

The Texas law faces ongoing lawsuits, which would be guaranteed in Florida if this bill passes. The Supreme Court, though, may make it all irrelevant by officially overturning Roe v. Wade when it hears a case involving a Mississippi abortion ban.

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis released a noncommittal statement saying, "Governor DeSantis is pro-life. The governor's office is aware that the bill was filed today and like all legislation, we will be monitoring it as it moves through the legislative process in the coming months."

DeSantis will no doubt be monitoring not just the bill but the polls. The Texas abortion ban and the Supreme Court's decision to allow it are not popular, and DeSantis has presidential ambitions. Does he need to cater more aggressively to Republican primary voters or to a general electorate not enthused about setting bounty hunters on women's family and friends and doctors? How many companies would steer clear of Florida if such a law passed? Likely those questions are very much on his mind as he monitors the Florida bill as it moves through the legislative process.

'No one would be spared' from economic disaster if Republicans block debt ceiling increase

Congress has one week to prevent a government shutdown, and Republicans are basically sitting back and saying, "Bring on the shutdown."

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to extend federal funding into December and suspend the debt limit until December 2022, but Senate Republicans plan to filibuster that, not because they oppose those things—Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling three times under Donald Trump and know it needs to happen again—but because they want to force Democrats to unilaterally suspend the debt limit. Why do Republicans want Democrats to unilaterally suspend the debt limit? So Republicans can whine about how mean and autocratic Democrats are.

Got that? Republicans will shut down the government to avoid doing a thing that they want someone else to do. They're not trying to prevent the debt limit from being raised, they're just trying to control how it happens.

This is partly just Republicans being obstructionist asshats, as per usual—Republicans have repeatedly forced government shutdowns since the 1990s (and it has usually cost them public support) and taken the government hostage in ways just like this. But it's also a ploy to put pressure on the major budget reconciliation bill Democrats are negotiating. That can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote, meaning Republicans can't filibuster it, so Republicans are saying Democrats should just put the debt limit suspension in the reconciliation bill and proceed without Republican votes.

"They have the House, the Senate and the presidency. It's their obligation to govern," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said, which is an interesting explanation of his intention to try to block Democrats from governing wherever and whenever possible. If he wants to contribute votes to abolishing the filibuster so that Democrats can pass anything in the Senate without Republican votes, then I'm sure Democrats would be happy to govern!

With Republicans planning a filibuster on the debt ceiling, "I assume Democrats go to the drawing board," Sen. John Thune told The Hill.

The drawing board Republicans want Democrats to go to is that reconciliation bill, but there's no guarantee Democrats can have it ready in time to avoid the U.S. bumping up against the debt ceiling and defaulting on its obligations.

That would be a disaster.

"Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences," according to the Treasury Department, while the White House pointed out a long list of programs that could be cut off, including disaster relief, Medicaid, infrastructure funding, education, public health, child nutrition, and more.

"No one would be spared," Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told CNN. "It would be such a self-imposed disaster that we wouldn't recover from, all at a time when our role in the world is already being questioned."

This needs to get done. Democrats—thanks in large part to Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—aren't close enough to having a reconciliation bill ready to stick the debt limit in there and pass it before the U.S. defaults on its obligations. But Democrats also think, on principle, that Republicans should be part of what has been a bipartisan process literally dozens of times, and is now needed overwhelmingly because of government spending passed under Trump and with a Republican-controlled Senate.

"Are we hostage to Republicans who are threatening to blow up a part of the economic system because they want to do that for politics?" asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren. "That's just not where we should be as a nation."

It's not. The question is how to get the hostage out of Republican control.

'Every node of this supply chain is maxed out' — and the consequences could hit you at home

Bare toilet paper shelves in supermarkets were a big story early in the coronavirus pandemic but they may not remain a thing of the past, and consumers are being warned to do their holiday shopping early—like, now—thanks to supply chain problems. And even then, you might have to settle.

"We're getting into the full peak season," Gene Seroka, executive director the Port of Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. "Every node of this supply chain is maxed out." That means 89 container ships waiting to be unloaded at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and cargo containers piled up on the docks at those ports, which handled nearly one-third of the nation's imports last year. It means a shortage of those container ships after many were put out of service early in the pandemic.

Companies are having to figure out how to ship imports that they can't send on actual ships. Dollar Tree "previously assumed that ocean carriers would fulfill 85% of their contractual commitments—already a problematic situation—along with higher rates. Now the company projects that its regular carriers will fulfill just 60% to 65% of their commitments," Retail Dive reported.

There's more. There are hold-ups in warehousing and land transport because it's hard to find workers at the wages companies are offering, or companies (Amazon) are burning through workers too fast to be sustainable in the long run. Consumer demand has dropped and risen with the waves of the pandemic, making things unpredictable. And businesses have found out that the just-in-time supply chains they've spent years honing to save money be ensuring they never have anything extra are also vulnerable supply chains. That hit Toyota hard, when one COVID-19 case in an auto supply manufacturer in Vietnam was the straw that forced Toyota to cut its September output by 40%.

You might see the outcome of supply chain problems on the shelves of your local grocery store. Some stores are limiting purchases of certain items—including, yes, toilet paper. But also peanut butter, pasta, and more. Then there's the holidays.

"I'm afraid there is simply not enough time to get products on the shelf this year," Isaac Larian, chief executive of toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment, told The Washington Post at the beginning of September. "The holidays are going to be very tough and, frankly, a lot of families are not going to be able to get the toys they want."

And, as usual, this won't hit all families equally. Families that have the money lying around can shop early. Their problem will be how to keep all those gifts hidden for months without being found. Families that save until the last minute to be able to afford holiday gifts will be the ones most affected when popular toys sell out, or when prices go up.

For a clear look at how this all works, check out this Twitter thread in which New Orleans indie bookstore Tubby & Coo's recently laid out how supply chain issues are affecting its business—and others.







Texas abortion opponents are furious someone is taking advantage of their bounty hunter law

A Texas doctor is being sued under the state's new abortion vigilante law, and the anti-abortion groups that pushed the law are not happy about it.

"On the morning of Sept. 6, I provided an abortion to a woman who, though still in her first trimester, was beyond the state's new limit," Dr. Alan Braid wrote in The Washington Post on Saturday. "I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care."

"I fully understood that there could be legal consequences," Braid continued, "but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn't get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested."

Men in Arkansas and Illinois quickly filed lawsuits against Braid under the new Texas law, which allows anyone, anywhere, to go after anyone who "aids or abets" a woman getting an abortion. Felipe Gomez of Illinois filed his suit as a "Pro-Choice plaintiff" seeking to get the law declared unconstitutional. Oscar Stilley, who describes himself in his complaint as a "disbarred and disgraced former Arkansas lawyer" on home confinement for "utterly fraudulent federal charges," wants that $10,000.

"If this is a free-for-all, and it's $10,000, I want my $10,000," he told The New York Times. "And yes, I do aim to collect."

This is just a tiny fraction of the circus Texas Republicans invited with this law, but they're somehow surprised and unhappy about it.

According to the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, which lobbied for the bounty hunter law, "Neither of these lawsuits are valid attempts to save innocent human lives." You don't say! Instead, he continued, "Both cases are self-serving legal stunts, abusing the cause of action created in the Texas Heartbeat Act for their own purposes."

As the law you promoted invites. This was 100% predictable, baked into the very design of the Texas abortion ban. Anyone claiming to be surprised at the quality of the initial efforts to collect the $10,000 bounty is mind-bendingly stupid, or they're lying.

The geniuses over at Texas Right to Life also "believe Braid published his Op-Ed intending to attract imprudent lawsuits." Again: You don't say! What tipped them off? Was it the part where he said in a major newspaper that he had broken a law that requires someone harmed by it to challenge its constitutionality in court? In the same op-ed, he wrote, "I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it's something I believe in strongly. Represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, my clinics are among the plaintiffs in an ongoing federal lawsuit to stop S.B. 8."

Braid concluded his op-ed, "I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can't just sit back and watch us return to 1972." With that, and with the inevitable suits against him as a result, the battle against the Texas law enters a new phase.

Anti-vaxxers shut down Georgia vaccination event

COVID-19 vaccination rates rose in August after dipping down earlier in the summer. But anti-vaxxers remain a danger not just to themselves but to everyone around them. We see the danger to individual anti-vaxxers in one story after another about their miserable deaths. We see the danger to the population as a whole as the pandemic continues to rage because we haven't reached the vaccination levels that would tamp it down.

The damage anti-vaxxers are doing doesn't end with their own personal refusal to be vaccinated, though. Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, recently revealed the ways anti-vaxxers are making it hard for other people to be vaccinated if they want to. After Toomey described a vaccination event being shut down by protesters, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Patricia Murphy and Greg Bluestein reached out to her office for details.

Local public health workers, Toomey's office said, "have been harassed, yelled at, threatened and demeaned by some of the very members of the public they were trying to help." And no surprise, when members of Congress have compared public health workers to Nazis.

One north Georgia mobile vaccination event was canceled when protesters showed up because, "Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left."

That's not the first time something like this has happened. In January, when people were lining up, practically begging to be vaccinated and every dose that expired was its own little tragedy, anti-vaxxers shut down a mass vaccination site in Los Angeles for an hour. In May, a woman endangered vaccination workers when she sped her SUV through a Tennessee vaccination site. Protesters in Washington State intimidated teens going into a high school vaccination event. Anti-maskers are intimidating school boards around the country.

And all of those people are egged on by a constant stream of anti-vaccination, anti-mask messaging from Fox News and other right-wing news outlets.

If the people dying of COVID-19 because they refused to be vaccinated or wear masks were the only people affected, it would still be tremendously sad for them and their families. But it's more than that—they're helping the pandemic continue, they're endangering people they intimidate out of getting vaccinated, they're endangering kids in school, they're weakening the nation's public health infrastructure by harassing people out of the profession.

The fundamental responsibility for this, though, goes to the Tucker Carlsons and Donald Trumps and Sean Hannitys, who are themselves vaccinated but have encouraged their followers to take up opposition to vaccination and public health guidelines as a culture war, only to then drop in the occasional, too-little-too-late endorsement of vaccination to be rejected by the people they've already convinced that liberty requires support for COVID-19. Republican leaders and media personalities built this. The rest of us live with it.

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Anti-masking and lies about critical race theory are all part of the Betsy DeVos agenda

Republicans and the well-funded right-wing web of media, think tanks, and astroturf groups are going after public schools by whipping up a culture war with several fronts that keep kind of blending together: critical race theory, masks, and transgender kids. But if that all seems separate from the Betsy DeVos wing of right-wing attacks on public education that focus most of all on privatizing schools, think again. The two projects are intertwined, as glaringly revealed by Florida's recent announcement that families can get vouchers to attend private schools if they don't like their public school's mask-wearing policies. Outcomes like that come from concerted outreach efforts, and we can see in one figure how that's working.

Corey DeAngelis is the national director of research at the DeVos-founded American Federation for Children. He is also, according to his bio at that organization, "the executive director at Educational Freedom Institute, an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at Reason Foundation." In other words, DeAngelis is highly networked in the world of right-wing and libertarian education policy—really a go-to guy if you want to dismantle education as a public good available to all kids.

DeAngelis is also extremely comfortable bringing his message onto extremist platforms. In March, DeAngelis showed up on the podcast of one Jack Murphy, alongside Christopher Rufo, the brains behind the big push to pretend that critical race theory is being taught in K-12 schools and use the term to demonize any teaching about racism. Rufo is, like DeAngelis, a creature of the right-wing think tank world, what passes for an intellectual of the right. Murphy is … a different story.

Murphy was placed on administrative leave from the D.C. Public Charter School Board for his tweets and blog posts containing gems like "Feminists need rape … It is our duty as men to save feminists from themselves. Therefore, I am offering rape to feminists as an olive branch." According to Right Wing Watch, "Murphy is an associate of conspiracy theorists, right-wing online personalities, and so-called 'alt-light' characters including Jack Posobiec, Mike Cernovich, Laura Loomer, Cassandra Fairbanks, and Tim Pool."

And there were Corey DeAngelis and Christopher Rufo chatting it up with him. But that wasn't DeAngelis' first rodeo with a questionable podcaster. In spring 2020, he was a guest of Dr. Jason Dean, an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorist who was subsequently suspended from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. Is DeAngelis an anti-vaxxer who fantasizes about raping feminists? Who can say—but he doesn't mind talking to people like that if it lets him promote school privatization. And at any given time these days, DeAngelis' Twitter feed is a mix of anti-masking and anti-teaching-about-racism, all with the singular goal of leveraging right-wing outrage over masks and the false picture of critical race theory to defund public schools and privatize public education dollars.

To be clear, this isn't about one guy. This is about the alliance between the institutional—Betsy DeVos-founded—school privatization movement and anything that allows them to undermine public education. They are willing to cozy up to conspiracy theorists and rape fantasizers and actively endanger kids' health in the pursuit of that goal.

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