Human Rights

'Tonal whiplash': Ron DeSantis faces criticism over federal aid request for Hurricane Ian recovery

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing criticism over his request for federal disaster funding as his state faces the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

While it would seem relatively normal, and even expected, for states to receive funding for disaster recovery, things are a bit different where this situation is concerned. That is largely due to DeSantis' previous stance on disaster funding along with his mocking criticism of President Joe Biden.

Now, according to The New York Times, DeSantis has drastically changed his stance. Not only is he requesting funding, but he has also praised Biden for his efforts to assist the disaster-stricken state.

READ MORE: 'This is a new low': Ron DeSantis faces blowback after 'trafficking' migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

On Wednesday, September 28, the Republican governor appeared on Fox News where he suggested to Tucker Carlson that now is a time to put politics aside.

"As you say, Tucker, we live in a very politicized time,” DeSantis told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night, as he detailed his request for full federal funding. “But you know, when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, then you’re just not going to be able to.”

The Times' Matt Flegenheimer explained the shift in DeSantis' stance on federal funding.

"The tonal whiplash for Mr. DeSantis reflects a different job and a different moment — a Tea Party-era House Republican now steering a perennially storm-battered state dependent once more on federal assistance to rebuild," Flegenheimer said. "Yet even in the context of his term as governor, the hurricane has required Mr. DeSantis to test another gear."

READ MORE: 'Sellout': Ron DeSantis faces backlash from anti-vax extremists as Florida becomes COVID-19 'hotspot'

Flegenheimer also recalled how DeSantis has often used his platform to politicize critical issues. "He has, to date, often used his executive platform to elevate himself to Republican rock-stardom, positioning himself as a possible 2024 presidential contender with a series of policy gambits that can feel precision-engineered to maximize liberal outrage," he wrote.

Using the immigrant relocating controversy as an example of DeSantis' actions, he added, "His most recent stunt — flying undocumented Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard — reinforced that he is more than willing to turn the machinery of the state against specific political targets. He has suggested that the next plane of immigrants might land near President Biden’s weekend home in Delaware."

In response to criticism over his past handling of storms, his office insisted that he is “completely focused on hurricane response.” “As the governor said earlier,” the spokesman, Jeremy T. Redfern, said, “we have no time for politics or pettiness.”

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis appointee to manage majority Black county quits after KKK photo emerges

Russian consulate in NYC vandalized as Ukraine applies for 'accelerated' NATO membership

Although the invasion of Ukraine has not been going well for Russia, President Vladimir Putin has stubbornly vowed to move ahead with the conflict. The invasion has intensified anti-Putin feelings not only in Europe, but in the United States as well. And early Friday morning, September 30, the Russian Consulate of New York City was targeted for vandalism.

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department told The Hill that the vandals defaced the Consulate using red spray paint.

The Hill’s Julia Shapero reports, “Police responded to a call just after 1:30 a.m. on Friday that the facade of the Russian Consulate on the Upper East Side had been vandalized. No arrests were made, and the NYPD is continuing to investigate what it has deemed a ‘possible bias incident,’ the spokesperson said. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties of annexation for four Ukrainian regions on Friday, further escalating his war with Ukraine after seven months of fighting. The move has been deemed illegal by the United States and its allies.”

READ MORE: 'This is so crazy': Vladimir Putin is running out of options in Ukraine. Experts are split on what it means

According to Shapero, “At the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., was frequently the target of protests. A driveway outside of the embassy was painted with the word ‘murder’ in large red letters, just after Russian forces invaded in February. Protesters also placed a sign in front of the Russian Embassy in early March, unofficially renaming the street ‘President Zelensky Way,’ and projected the Ukrainian flag onto the Russian Embassy in April.”

The attack on the Russian Consulate in Manhattan comes at a time when Ukraine has decided to apply for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is something that Putin has been dreading. Putin has feared the expansion of NATO, and earlier this year, Sweden and Finland applied for membership — a move that President Joe Biden applauded. And now, Ukraine is not only applying for membership in NATO; the application is for an "accelerated accession" into the defensive alliance.

READ MORE: Chances of 'cornered' Vladimir Putin going nuclear in Ukraine 'going up by the day': ex-CIA officer

Watch: Alex Jones declares that he is Adolf Hitler and a child murderer in unhinged interview

Alex Jones, the host of the conspiracy theory show InfoWars declared that he himself is Hitler and that he shot kids to death in an interview on Channel 5 with Andrew Callaghan.

When Callaghan asked Jones if he felt responsible for what happened to the Sandy Hook parents, meaning the harassment and death threats they faced after Jones told his millions of viewers that they were “crisis actors” who helped fake a 2012 school shooting in order to help the government confiscate people’s guns.

Jones responded, “I went to that school. I pulled the gun out. I shot every one of myself. I mean, I’m guilty.” Later on, he repeats over and over again, “I killed them. I’ll admit it. I did it. I’m the bad guy…. I murdered those children. I did. I did it myself.”

The December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting left 26 people dead, including 20 children ages 6 and 7. Jones was not the shooter.

“We should bow five times a day to New Haven, Connecticut for the kids that died,” Jones said, before saying that people have been hypnotized into believing that they should give their guns to George Soros, a Jewish billionaire that anti-Semites think controls left-wing politics.

“I was actually Hitler. It wasn’t actually Hitler,” Jones said. “I did it. I was in a time machine in Germany. I did all that.”

Later in the interview, Jones said, “I was being sarcastic earlier. I didn’t kill the children. I’m not Jeffrey Dahmer. I didn’t invent hemorrhoids. I simply questioned things and they’re trying to demonize me to say questioning things is a bad deal.”

That’s a lie though. Jones himself said the shooting was fake, and he has said in court that he believed it was, though he now believes otherwise. He has also claimed that his company is broke, despite raking in millions in online sales.

“Nobody thinks you killed the kids,” Callaghan told Jones during their interview. “Nobody thinks that oh, it’s what you did. What you killed is [the parents’] ability to get over the death of children.”

Jones responded, “Everyone’s like yeah, ‘We’re gonna get him immediately.’ Like, they’ve built me up and like I’m this giant creature like all-powerful, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and none of it’s real. So it’s like it’s funny, actually. It’s actually comical. I mean, it’s, it’s actually hilarious.”

Alex Jones Interview youtu.be

'This is personal for me': Researchers say abortion helps Democrats with swing voters — but how much?

Seven or eight months ago, many Democratic strategists feared that the 2022 midterms would bring a massive red wave like the red waves that plagued President Bill Clinton in 1994 and President Barack Obama in 2010. But that was before the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical-right majority handed down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and overturned Roe v. Wade after 49 years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still believes that Republicans are likely to “flip” the U.S. House of Representatives, but he considers the U.S. Senate a toss-up.

In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on September 30, Rich Thau (president of the research firm Engagious and a moderator for the Swing Voter Project) and Susie Pieper (an Engagious intern and student at Haverford College in the Philadelphia suburbs) examine the effect that the abortion issue could have with swing voters in the 2022 midterms. The Dobbs decision, according to Thau and Pieper, definitely helps Democrats among swing voters. But the burning question is: How much?

“An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Thau and Pieper explain. “Concurrently, an overwhelming majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some cases. But how will these views translate to voting behavior among swing voters? This month, as part of our Swing Voter Project, we asked focus groups of Trump-to-Biden voters across North Carolina what’s changed for them when it comes to their likely voting behavior in the wake of the Dobbs decision.”

READ MORE: Why Lindsey Graham’s anti-abortion bill is a major 'gift to Democrats': conservative

Abortion rights, according to Thau and Pieper, are a high priority for the swing voters that the Swing Voter Project spoke to in North Carolina. But they have other priorities as well.

“Among eleven North Carolinian swing voters, nine said that Dobbs would be a top-three issue for them in the midterms, which seems significant,” Thau and Pieper report. “Except that issue matrixes are often complicated: Earlier in the same focus groups, we asked which one issue in the news concerns them the most — and only one said abortion. We have seen similar results in recent months, where abortion is a leading issue, but it competes with various others — such as inflation and gun violence — for the top concern.”

Alana, a 26-year-old swing voter from Dover, North Carolina, told researchers, “I was registered as a Republican. I still am right now, but I’ll be switching completely to Democrat. As I say, most Republicans are the reason why this happened, and I just can’t stand by and agree with something that has affected myself, my family, and friends so much. It’s just something that has upset me greatly.”

Abortion is clearly a major issue for Kayla, a 34-year-old swing voter from Mocksville, North Carolina who told researchers, “I was registered unaffiliated. I didn’t see myself as a Republican or a Democrat, but I would vote for a Republican if I thought that candidate had my views for the economy. But nah, I’m leaning left completely. And this is personal for me. So, I’m probably going to end up registering as a Democrat from here on out.”

READ MORE: 'This is a powder keg': Lindsey Graham’s abortion ban splits Republicans over the issue of states' rights

The Swing Voter Project found that some of the swing voters were leaning towards pro-choice Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley in North Carolina’s 2022 U.S. Senate race. A Civitas/Cygnal poll released in late September found Beasley and Ted Budd, the Donald Trump-backed Republican nominee, in a virtual dead heat. However, Beasley trailed Budd by 3 percent in an Emerson College/The Hill poll released on September 20.

“We won’t know the electoral impact of Dobbs until the votes are counted,” Pieper and Pieper observe. “But this month’s focus group suggests that with swing voters, the issue salience is high and helpful to Democrats.”

READ MORE: Georgia swing voters don’t view ‘abortion v. inflation’ as a ‘simple binary choice’

Climate activists are parading a Ron Johnson 'scatue' around Milwaukee: report

United States Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) is trailing in the polls ahead of the November midterm elections to Wisconsin's Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. With just forty days to go, a group of climate activists has obtained a statue made of feces in Johnson's honor that they are showcasing around the Badger State metropolis

According to The Huffington Post, "activists with the progressive groups NextGen PAC and MoveOn hosted events around the city with a six-foot-tall, 80-pound 'scatue' of Johnson made out of dried cow manure. The kaka creation silently stood with activists in solidarity as they protested Johnson’s belief that climate change is 'bullsh*t,' a claim he made last year."

Johnson, who denies that burning fossil fuels is triggering ecological disruptions around the world, said last year that “I don’t know about you guys, but I think climate change is ― as Lord [Christopher] Monckton said ― bullsh*t,” incorrectly adding that “there are more and more scientists” who are “just laying this to waste.”

READ MORE: 'Infiltrated': GOP senator angered that Democrats are allowed to participate in American life

Per HuffPost, "Thursday’s tour of the sh*t statue, which was created by 'a manure artist' from Colorado, is part of a broader effort by progressive activists to unseat Johnson. During their stop at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the groups collected students’ pledges to vote and urged them to show up for Johnson’s Democratic challenger," who happens to be in charge of incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers' climate change task force.

“Young people are fired up because they understand the urgency of the climate crisis and are hungry for change,” Sonja Chojnacki, the Wisconsin state director of NextGen PAC, told HuffPost. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get people to the polls. Ron Johnson must go!”

READ MORE: Watch: Ron Johnson whines that 'people in Wisconsin think I'm a tool of Vladimir Putin'

'Just kidding': Biden Administration yanks student debt relief for millions as GOP states sue

"The Biden administration told several million people they'd see their debt reduced by $10-20K, and a month later quietly wrote 'just kidding' on a website," said one affected borrower.

Progressives on Thursday decried the Biden administration's decision to exclude millions of people from its student loan relief plan, a move meant to thwart legal challenges like the lawsuit filed on the same day by six Republican-led states seeking to block President Joe Biden's proposal to cancel up to $20,000 of federal educational debt per borrower.

Politico reports worries over legal challenges from the student lending industry prompted the U.S. Department of Education to reverse course and no longer allow borrowers with Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) and Perkins loans—which are guaranteed by the federal government but held by private lenders—to participate in the debt cancellation plan.

Biden announced last month that his administration will forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who attended college without Pell Grants and who earn less than $125,000 individually, or $250,000 as a household. Borrowers who received Pell Grants will have $20,000 in federal debt erased.

The president's approval rating bounced by double-digits among young voters in the weeks after his announcement, which fulfilled a campaign promise and came just over two months ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

However, student loan debtors expressed deep disappointment over Thursday's move, with one borrower and activist calling the administration's about-face a "gut punch."

Another, journalist Dell Cameron, tweeted: "The Biden administration told several million people they'd see their debt reduced by $10-20K, and a month later quietly wrote 'just kidding' on a website. Where's the legal threat over that?"

The administration's reversal came as six Republican-led states filed a lawsuit in a Missouri federal court Thursday arguing that the president's debt relief plan is "not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers," a legal requirement under the administration's justification

✎ EditSign for the cancellation.

According to The Washington Post:

The suit emphasizes that Missouri's student loan servicer, which is part of its state government, could see a drop in revenue because borrowers are likely to consolidate their loans under the Federal Family Education Loan program.
On Thursday, however, the administration said it would exclude FFEL from the loan forgiveness program... That change could help head off legal claims against the policy, although it will mean that roughly two million of the 44 million otherwise eligible borrowers will not qualify for relief.

Politico cites June federal data showing there were more than four million borrowers with $108.8 billion in privately held student loans.

"Republicans want to keep you in debt for the rest of your life and take away student debt cancellation," the Debt Collective, the nation's first debtors' union, tweeted in response to the suit. "It is an interesting strategy to adopt before the midterms."

'Fact-check me': Donald Trump Jr. touts 'firearms' training in rant against pre-hurricane vaccine push

Donald Trump Junior threw a fit on Thursday over President Joe Biden's 2021 recommendation that unvaccinated people get their COVID-19 inoculations before hurricanes strike their states.

"Is that a cult? Is this a cult? What does it have to do with anything? I mean, there are so many more important things to dealing with a situation – an emergency situation – that could arise from a hurricane. And being vaccinated is not one of them, folks. Not even remotely. Not even pretend," Junior raved. "I'm gonna say that this is my opinion because I know that someone will try to fact-check me for it, Not based on actual science, but they'll have a couple people that agree and they want to push their crap upon us and so they'll say I'm spreading misinformation. So this is just my opinion."

In fact, Biden's remarks were delivered last year at a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FactCheck.org noted on Wednesday as Hurricane Ian battered the Sunshine State's Gulf Coast that "social media posts were sharing an out-of-context clip of Biden’s 2021 remarks to incorrectly suggest he is proposing vaccination as a form of hurricane protection."

READ MORE: Donald Trump Jr. calls student loan forgiveness 'a slap in the face'

Junior's tantrum is the latest such example.

"It literally has no bearing on the situation at hand. If you're dealing with 150-mile-per-hour winds, I can assure you that your vaccination status means nothing to you, your family, your friends, the situation at hand, your ability to actually survive it. No. Actually being prepared probably does, and actually having an understanding of what to do definitely does," Junior seethed. "Actually taking the time and the precautions to take these things seriously, to get training – again whether that be with firearms if it gets really bad – hopefully that never has to come about."

Access to public health services was likely crippled by Ian's impact, due to the historic storm surge that flooded communities along the Gulf. It was also not clear why Junior believes that guns would be helpful in the aftermath of a Category 4 tropical cyclone.

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump documentary filmmaker sheds light on the odd dynamic between Eric Trump and Don Jr.

'We were shocked': Scientists discover Arctic Ocean acidifying up to four times the rate of other seas

The acidification of the Arctic Ocean is occurring at quadruple the rate of Earth's other seas, according to a new study that was published in the journal Science and reported by The Guardian on Thursday.

Anthropomorphic climate change has disproportionately impacted the Arctic and Antarctic regions, which under normal conditions reflect solar radiation. This is a key tenet of the planet's self-cooling process, known as the albedo effect. But the accumulation of greenhouse gases like CO2, methane, and water vapor in the atmosphere – which are byproducts of burning carbon – has destabilized these processes.

"The ocean, which absorbs a third of all of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, has grown more acidic because of fossil fuel use. Rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic region over the past three decades has accelerated the rate of long-term acidification," The Guardian noted. "Researchers from the Polar and Marine Research Institute at Jimei University, China, and the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware in the US, say rapid sea-ice loss exposes seawater to the atmosphere, promoting takeup of carbon dioxide at a faster rate than in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Antarctic and sub-Antarctic basins."

READ MORE: Greenland's rapidly melting ice could raise sea levels one foot by 2050

Researchers expressed astonishment at the disruption rate, which underscores the fragility of Earth's systems.

“In other ocean systems, acidification is being driven by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is increasing at a rate of around 2ppm [parts per million] per year,” paper author Wei-Jun Cai, a marine chemistry expert at the University of Delaware, said. “We were shocked to see acidification is happening three to four times faster."

The consequences of continued acidification – which are exacerbated by melting sea ice – are profound. For example, the disappearance of glaciers reduces the salinity [salt content] of seawater, throwing currents that drive weather patterns out of balance. It also impedes "the buffering capacity of the water, its ability to resist acidification,” Cai said.

The survey's findings also have "huge implications" for marine life.

"In lower latitudes, you have coral reefs and if you add carbon dioxide to the water, the carbon saturation rate will increase and the coral won’t grow,” Cai explained, emphasizing that "we are far from knowing what the cost is for biological systems. We don’t know what organisms could be affected. This is something the biological community needs to look into.”

READ MORE: Russia is burning off natural gas as global temperatures soar and energy costs skyrocket: report

'Tarnished image': Gallup releases devastating SCOTUS poll underscoring Dobbs ruling fallout

Ever since December of 2021, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case that six months later would overturn Roe v. Wade, a 49-year old precedent – “settled law,” Americans were assured by the Court’s Justices in their confirmation hearings – ensuring women have the constitutional right to abortion, Chief Justice John Roberts has been accused of losing control of his justices.

On Thursday, just days before the high court begins its new term, as one of the Justices’ spouses delivers testimony on her role in the coordinated efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, amid sniping by the Chief Justice and a conservative justice at their liberal colleague, and anger across the nation so virulent the midterm elections appear to be rapidly swinging back to Democrats, the right-leaning Gallup organization has released a new poll that’s absolutely devastating for the Chief Justice and the Court he was entrusted to lead – not to mention American democracy itself.

Supreme Court Trust, Job Approval at Historical Lows,” Gallup’s damning headline reads.

READ MORE: Justice Alito’s Secret Speech ‘Spiking the Ball’ on Revoking Abortion Seen as Worsening Court’s ‘Credibility Crisis’

The highlights:

“47% trust the judicial branch; previous low was 53%,” “40% job approval of U.S. Supreme Court is tied for record low,” and “Record-high 42% say Supreme Court is too conservative.”

Translated, that means the legitimacy of the court is in question, despite entreaties from Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the Dobbs opinion that discarded nearly five decades of settled law to achieve a desired goal: rescinding the constitutional right to abortion, and with it, quite possibly not far down the road, the constitutional right to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage.

“‘Less than half of Americans say they have ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of trust in the judicial branch of the federal government, representing a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago, including seven points since last year,'” Politico reports, quoting an advanced copy of Gallup’s findings.

READ MORE: Texas Attorney General Says He’s ‘Willing and Able’ to Defend Law Banning Sodomy if Supreme Court Reverses Ruling

“This represents a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago,” Gallup’s own report reveals, “including seven points since last year, and is now the lowest in Gallup’s trend by six points. The judicial branch’s current tarnished image contrasts with trust levels exceeding two-thirds in most years in Gallup’s trend that began in 1972.”

Respect for the Supreme Court was such a non-question that from 1976, when Americans’ “trust and confidence” in the nation’s highest court stood at 63%, Gallup, it appears, did not even ask the question again in polls again until 1997, when the answer came back at 71%.

Today, under Chief Justice Roberts, it is a mere 47%.

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas ‘Intertwined’ With ‘Vast’ Campaign Pressuring Supreme Court to Overturn Roe: Report

Also today, Ginni Thomas, the far right wing activist spouse of one of the Court’s most right-wing jurists, Clarence Thomas, is testifying before the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack regarding her role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

This week Justice Alito, also a far-right conservative, delivered a thinly-veiled attack against Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, in a rare public forum.

So did the Chief Justice, just weeks earlier.

“The very worst moments [in the court’s history] have been times when judges have even essentially reflected one party’s or one ideology’s set of views in their legal decisions,” Justice Kagan said recently, sparking anger from the right. “The thing that builds up reservoirs of public confidence is the court acting like a court and not acting like an extension of the political process.”

“Judges create legitimacy problems for themselves when they don’t act like courts,” she also said, and “when they instead stray into places that looks like they are an extension of the political process or where they are imposing their own personal preferences.”

“If, over time, the court loses all connection with the public and with public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for democracy,” Kagan warned.

READ MORE: An Angry Biden Blasts ‘Raw Political Power’ of Supreme Court as He Signs Order Aiming to Protect Abortion Access (Video)

Chief Justice Roberts later delivered a terse retort.

“Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court.”

Bloomberg Law columnist Vivia Chen, citing the well-respected constitutional scholar and retired Harvard Law professor of law, Laurence Tribe, recently wrote: “Chief Justice Roberts Is Officially Irrelevant.”

“Having had both John Roberts and Elena Kagan as my brilliant students in constitutional law, and having watched each of their careers unfold, I can’t help thinking that one of them, Justice Kagan, has grown into her role as a wise jurist,” Tribe told Chen in response to the Roberts-Kagan flap.

“Chief Justice Roberts has dwindled in stature as his cliches have lost their power and even their relevance,” Tribe added.

Justice Alito entered the sparring match this week, telling The Wall Street Journal: “It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line.”

It was a clear swipe at Justice Kagan.

“It’s embarrassingly obvious that recent decisions rendered by the conservative supermajority hew to a certain political agenda,” Bloomberg’s Chen noted, asking: “where does one start? I guess Dobbs was a biggie because it destroyed almost 50 years of reproductive rights for women.”

“Then,” she added, “there’s the decision that crippled New York’s gun-control law and the one that severely cut back climate change regulations. And let’s not forget how the court keeps siding with religion, as if the separation of church and state is an optional part of the Constitution.”

“That the Supreme Court lurched so far to the right in less than a year is breathtaking,” Chen observes. “It’s like we’re suddenly transported to a country where Wayne LaPierre, Christian fundamentalists, corporate polluters, and the ghost of Phyllis Schlafly are calling the shots.”

(For those looking for even more justification of how the Supreme Court is undermining its own legitimacy, this video clip offers an additional answer.)

All this turmoil, turbulence, and trouble comes days before the Court begins its new term.

READ MORE: Supreme Court Conservatives Say Taxpayers Must Fund Anti-LGBTQ Religious Private Schools

“The Supreme Court will return to work on the first Monday of October, after a three-month summer break, with all the determination of a Renaissance-era explorer looking for new lands to conquer,” snarked – or warned – The Nation‘s Elie Mystal. “Last term, the court’s conservative supermajority showed it was willing to ignore precedent (overturning Roe v. Wade), reality (issuing rulings that will lead to more gun violence and climate pollution), and facts (making up evidence in the praying-football-coach case) to arrive at its preferred judicial outcomes.”

“This term, the high court will cement its grip on political life in America, overturning affirmative action and other critical protections along the way,” he says.

“The conservative Supreme Court has been willing to suppress the vote or let Republican-controlled state legislatures gerrymander district maps to the point where the popular vote is all but meaningless, but so far, the court has been unwilling to throw away enough votes after the fact to change the outcome of an election. We’ll see if there’s a first time for everything.”

How bad could it be?

A picture’s worth a thousand words.

These Supreme Court cases 'could reshape the 2024 election': report

The U.S. Supreme Court will be examining two cases having to do with voting rights, and both of them are from southern states: Moore v. Harper from North Carolina, and Merrill v. Milligan from Alabama. The High Court will begin hearing Merrill v. Milligan on October 4, and both cases, according to Politico’s Zach Montellaro, “could reshape the 2024 election.”

“One lawsuit out of North Carolina could have broad ramifications, with Republicans asking the Supreme Court to revoke the ability of state courts to review election laws under their states’ constitutions,” Montellaro explains in an article published on September 29. “The reading of the Constitution’s Elections Clause that underpins the case — called the ‘independent state legislature’ theory — has gotten buy-in from much of the conservative legal world, and four Supreme Court justices have signaled at least some favorability toward it.”

Montellaro continues, “The decision in the case could upend American elections. And another case out of Alabama that will be heard on Tuesday, (October 4) involves a challenge to the state’s congressional map — and whether Black voters’ power was illegally diluted. The result could kick back open congressional redistricting in several states two years after the entire nation went through a redraw.”

READ MORE: Robert Reich warns of Supreme Court case that could give GOP-led states 'total power over our democracy'

The most severe form of the “independent state legislature” theory argues that state legislatures alone should determine how elections are run in a state — not judges, not governors, not state supreme courts.

“Practically, the results of the cases could open the door to even more gerrymandering by legislators around the country,” Montellaro notes, “and they could also give legislatures even more power within their states to determine rules for voting — including how, when and where voters could cast their ballots…. In both cases, Republican litigants are looking to reverse lower court orders — a federal court in Alabama and the state Supreme Court in North Carolina — that threw out political maps drawn by GOP-controlled legislatures.”

Rick Hasen, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) law professor known for his election law expertise, told Politico, “This term has the potential to be a blockbuster term in terms of election law, but it really depends on how far the Court is willing to go.”

Eric Holder, who served as U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama and now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, believes that both cases have huge implications for the wellbeing of U.S. democracy.

READ MORE: How GOP-controlled state legislatures could pull off a coup in 2024: journalist

Holder told Politico, “You cannot look at these cases objectively, without acknowledging the fact that taken together, they could determine whether or not the United States remains as the democracy that we have come to love. I think, unfortunately, we take for granted a democracy that fulfills the promise of one person, one vote.”

READ MORE: Experts warn Supreme Court supporting this 'dangerous' GOP legal theory could destroy US democracy

Hurricane Ian washes away home of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law co-sponsor: report

Hurricane Ian plowed through Southern Florida on Wednesday leaving millions of residents without electricity after it flooded numerous cities and swept away homes and businesses. Concerns are mounting that Ian may have taken hundreds of lives.

The Category 4 storm's fury was likely exacerbated by climate change and was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones to ever hit the Sunshine State's Gulf Coast.

Lee County, which contains the city of Fort Myers, was among the areas that experienced the worst of Ian's tempestuous wrath.

READ MORE: Watch: Hurricane Ian hammers Florida as a monster Category 4 storm

“It’s going to take over a decade to rebuild Lee County. This is something we have not suffered in many years," Florida State Representative Spencer Roach (R-79th District) said as Ian moved toward the Atlantic Ocean.

According to FloridaPolitics.com, Roach's residence was destroyed by Ian.

“People have made a lot of comparisons to Irma and Charley," he noted. "This is more similar to Katrina than the Florida storms we are familiar with. There is a different level of devastation and recovery, and it is going to impact a lot of folks.”

Roach is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and was a co-sponsor of Florida's infamous "Don't Say Gay" legislation – the Parental Rights in Education Act or House Bill 1557 – that GOP Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law back in March. Roach is also a supporter of former President Donald Trump.

READ MORE: Florida's ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law takes effect today as schools scramble to avoid parental lawsuits

Something is rotten in the United States Military

William Astore, Something Is Rotten in the U.S. Military

Here’s the curious thing: since at least the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and early 1970s, the United States has been almost continuously at war. Certain of those conflicts like the Vietnam War itself and those in Iraq and Afghanistan in this century are still remembered by many of us. Honestly, though, who remembers Grenada or Panama or the first Gulf War or even the struggle against ISIS, the endless (still ongoing) bombing of Somalia, and this country’s military adventures in Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Northern Africa? And doubtless, I’m forgetting some conflicts myself. Oh, yes, what about the 1999 bombing of Serbia? So it goes, or at least has gone, for more than half a century.

As Stan Cox pointed out at TomDispatch recently, the U.S. military, as the largest institutional user of petroleum in the world today, now seems at war not just with other countries or terror movements of various sorts, but with the planet itself. And don’t forget those 750 bases our military occupies on every continent except Antarctica or the staggering Pentagon and national security budgets that have continued to fund all of the above (and so little else).

Russia has indeed invaded Ukraine, causing a harrowing nightmare all too near the heart of Europe. And China has indeed been dispatching warships, drones, and missiles menacingly close to Taiwan. Still, when it comes to militarizing the planet in these last decades, nothing compares to our own military. And looking back — as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore, who also runs the Bracing Views blog, does today — tell me that it truly isn’t the story from hell.

Astore mentions a phrase that no one who lived through the Vietnam years is ever likely to forget: “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Even the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam used it about a conflict in which only darkness lay at the end of that very “tunnel.” As an image, it was, of course, supposed to offer hope in a war that seemed, like enough of our conflicts in the years that followed, to be going anything but our way. And these days, with such conflicts seemingly heading home in some bizarre fashion, who could doubt that, metaphorically speaking, all of us now find ourselves in some version of that same tunnel — with the light at its end perhaps the flames of an overheating planet. And with that in mind, let Astore explore the nature of the military that so many of your tax dollars have gone to support in these years. And then, be depressed, very depressed. Tom

Integrity Optional: Lies and Dishonor Plague America's War Machine

As a military professor for six years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the 1990s, I often walked past the honor code prominently displayed for all cadets to see. Its message was simple and clear: they were not to tolerate lying, cheating, stealing, or similar dishonorable acts. Yet that’s exactly what the U.S. military and many of America’s senior civilian leaders have been doing from the Vietnam War era to this very day: lying and cooking the books, while cheating and stealing from the American people. And yet the most remarkable thing may be that no honor code turns out to apply to them, so they’ve suffered no consequences for their mendacity and malfeasance.

Where’s the “honor” in that?

It may surprise you to learn that “integrity first” is the primary core value of my former service, the U.S. Air Force. Considering the revelations of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971; the Afghan War papers, first revealed by the Washington Post in 2019; and the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, among other evidence of the lying and deception that led to the invasion and occupation of that country, you’ll excuse me for assuming that, for decades now when it comes to war, “integrity optional” has been the true core value of our senior military leaders and top government officials.

As a retired Air Force officer, let me tell you this: honor code or not, you can’t win a war with lies — America proved that in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq — nor can you build an honorable military with them. How could our high command not have reached such a conclusion themselves after all this time?

So Many Defeats, So Little Honesty

Like many other institutions, the U.S. military carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. After all, despite being funded in a fashion beyond compare and spreading its peculiar brand of destruction around the globe, its system of war hasn’t triumphed in a significant conflict since World War II (with the war in Korea remaining, almost three-quarters of a century later, in a painful and festering stalemate). Even the ending of the Cold War, allegedly won when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, only led to further wanton military adventurism and, finally, defeat at an unsustainable cost — more than $8 trillion — in Washington’s ill-fated Global War on Terror. And yet, years later, that military still has a stranglehold on the national budget.

So many defeats, so little honesty: that’s the catchphrase I’d use to characterize this country’s military record since 1945. Keeping the money flowing and the wars going proved far more important than integrity or, certainly, the truth. Yet when you sacrifice integrity and the truth in the cause of concealing defeat, you lose much more than a war or two. You lose honor — in the long run, an unsustainable price for any military to pay.

Or rather it should be unsustainable, yet the American people have continued to “support” their military, both by funding it astronomically and expressing seemingly eternal confidence in it — though, after all these years, trust in the military has dipped somewhat recently. Still, in all this time, no one in the senior ranks, civilian or military, has ever truly been called to account for losing wars prolonged by self-serving lies. In fact, too many of our losing generals have gone right through that infamous “revolving door” into the industrial part of the military-industrial complex — only to sometimes return to take top government positions.

Our military has, in fact, developed a narrative that’s proven remarkably effective in insulating it from accountability. It goes something like this: U.S. troops fought hard in [put the name of the country here], so don’t blame us. Indeed, you must support us, especially given all the casualties of our wars. They and the generals did their best, under the usual political constraints. On occasion, mistakes were made, but the military and the government had good and honorable intentions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Besides, were you there, Charlie? If you weren’t, then STFU, as the acronym goes, and be grateful for the security you take for granted, earned by America’s heroes while you were sitting on your fat ass safe at home.

It’s a narrative I’ve heard time and time again and it’s proven persuasive, partially because it requires the rest of us, in a conscription-free country, to do nothing and think nothing about that. Ignorance is strength, after all.

War Is Brutal

The reality of it all, however, is so much harsher than that. Senior military leaders have performed poorly. War crimes have been covered up. Wars fought in the name of helping others have produced horrendous civilian casualties and stunning numbers of refugees. Even as those wars were being lost, what President Dwight D. Eisenhower first labeled the military-industrial complex has enjoyed windfall profits and expanding power. Again, there’s been no accountability for failure. In fact, only whistleblowing truth-tellers like Chelsea Manning and Daniel Hale have been punished and jailed.

Ready for an even harsher reality? America is a nation being unmade by war, the very opposite of what most Americans are taught. Allow me to explain. As a country, we typically celebrate the lofty ideals and brave citizen-soldiers of the American Revolution. We similarly celebrate the Second American Revolution, otherwise known as the Civil War, for the elimination of slavery and reunification of the country; after which, we celebrate World War II, including the rise of the Greatest Generation, America as the arsenal of democracy, and our emergence as the global superpower.

By celebrating those three wars and essentially ignoring much of the rest of our history, we tend to view war itself as a positive and creative act. We see it as making America, as part of our unique exceptionalism. Not surprisingly, then, militarism in this country is impossible to imagine. We tend to see ourselves, in fact, as uniquely immune to it, even as war and military expenditures have come to dominate our foreign policy, bleeding into domestic policy as well.

If we as Americans continue to imagine war as a creative, positive, essential part of who we are, we’ll also continue to pursue it. Or rather, if we continue to lie to ourselves about war, it will persist.

It’s time for us to begin seeing it not as our making but our unmaking, potentially even our breaking — as democracy’s undoing as well as the brutal thing it truly is.

A retired U.S. military officer, educated by the system, I freely admit to having shared some of its flaws. When I was an Air Force engineer, for instance, I focused more on analysis and quantification than on synthesis and qualification. Reducing everything to numbers, I realize now, helps provide an illusion of clarity, even mastery. It becomes another form of lying, encouraging us to meddle in things we don’t understand.

This was certainly true of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, his “whiz kids,” and General William Westmoreland during the Vietnam War; nor had much changed when it came to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General David Petraeus, among others, in the Afghan and Iraq War years. In both eras, our military leaders wielded metrics and swore they were winning even as those wars circled the drain.

And worse yet, they were never held accountable for those disasters or the blunders and lies that went with them (though the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era certainly tried). All these years later, with the Pentagon still ascendant in Washington, it should be obvious that something has truly gone rotten in our system.

Here’s the rub: as the military and one administration after another lied to the American people about those wars, they also lied to themselves, even though such conflicts produced plenty of internal “papers” that raised serious concerns about lack of progress. Robert McNamara typically knew that the situation in Vietnam was dire and the war essentially unwinnable. Yet he continued to issue rosy public reports of progress, while calling for more troops to pursue that illusive “light at the end of the tunnel.” Similarly, the Afghan War papers released by the Washington Post show that senior military and civilian leaders realized that war, too, was going poorly almost from the beginning, yet they reported the very opposite to the American people. So many corners were being “turned,” so much “progress” being made in official reports even as the military was building its own rhetorical coffin in that Afghan graveyard of empires.

Too bad wars aren’t won by “spin.” If they were, the U.S. military would be undefeated.

Two Books to Help Us See the Lies

Two recent books help us see that spin for what it was. In Because Our Fathers Lied, Craig McNamara, Robert’s son, reflects on his father’s dishonesty about the Vietnam War and the reasons for it. Loyalty was perhaps the lead one, he writes. McNamara suppressed his own serious misgivings out of misplaced loyalty to two presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, while simultaneously preserving his own position of power in the government.

Robert McNamara would, in fact, later pen his own mea culpa, admitting how “terribly wrong” he’d been in urging the prosecution of that war. Yet Craig finds his father’s late confession of regret significantly less than forthright and fully honest. Robert McNamara fell back on historical ignorance about Vietnam as the key contributing factor in his unwise decision-making, but his son is blunt in accusing his dad of unalloyed dishonesty. Hence the title of his book, citing Rudyard Kipling’s pained confession of his own complicity in sending his son to die in the trenches of World War I: “If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied.”

The second book is Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America’s Misguided Wars, edited by Andrew Bacevich and Danny Sjursen. In my view, the word “misguided” doesn’t quite capture the book’s powerful essence, since it gathers 15 remarkable essays by Americans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and witnessed the patent dishonesty and folly of those wars. None dare speak of failure might be a subtheme of these essays, as initially highly motivated and well-trained troops became disillusioned by wars that went nowhere, even as their comrades often paid the ultimate price, being horribly wounded or dying in those conflicts driven by lies.

This is more than a work of dissent by disillusioned troops, however. It’s a call for the rest of us to act. Dissent, as West Point graduate and Army Captain Erik Edstrom reminds us, “is nothing short of a moral obligation” when immoral wars are driven by systemic dishonesty. Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, who blew an early whistle on how poorly the Afghan War was going, writes of his “seething” anger “at the absurdity and unconcern for the lives of my fellow soldiers displayed by so many” of the Army’s senior leaders.

Former Marine Matthew Hoh, who resigned from the State Department in opposition to the Afghan “surge” ordered by President Barack Obama, speaks movingly of his own “guilt, regret, and shame” at having served in Afghanistan as a troop commander and wonders whether he can ever atone for it. Like Craig McNamara, Hoh warns of the dangers of misplaced loyalty. He remembers telling himself that he was best suited to lead his fellow Marines in war, no matter how misbegotten and dishonorable that conflict was. Yet he confesses that falling back on duty and being loyal to “his” Marines, while suppressing the infamies of the war itself, became “a washing of the hands, a self-absolution that ignores one’s complicity” in furthering a brutal conflict fed by lies.

As I read those essays, I came to see anew how this country’s senior leaders, military and civilian, consistently underestimated the brutalizing impact of war, which, in turn, leads me to the ultimate lie of war: that it is somehow good, or at least necessary — making all the lying (and killing) worth it, whether in the name of a victory to come or of duty, honor, and country. Yet there is no honor in lying, in keeping the truth hidden from the American people. Indeed, there is something distinctly dishonorable about waging wars kept viable only by lies, obfuscation, and propaganda.

An Epigram from Goethe

John Keegan, the esteemed military historian, cites an epigram from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as being essential to thinking about militaries and their wars. “Goods gone, something gone; honor gone, much gone; courage gone, all gone.”

The U.S. military has no shortage of goods, given its whopping expenditures on weaponry and equipment of all sorts; among the troops, it doesn’t lack for courage or fighting spirit, not yet, anyway. But it does lack honor, especially at the top. Much is gone when a military ceases to tell the truth to itself and especially to the people from whom its forces are drawn. And courage is wasted when in the service of lies.

Courage wasted: Is there a worst fate for a military establishment that prides itself on its members being all volunteers and is now having trouble filling its ranks?

JR Majewski, heir to white power, deserves democratic contempt

Last Friday, I argued, a la Tom Paine, that to democratize our way of life, we must embrace “democratic contempt.” Today, I would like to offer a meaningful illustration of Paine’s revolutionary concept.

The Associated Press published a report last week exposing a congressional candidate in Ohio for misrepresenting his military record. JR Majewski, who “presents himself as an Air Force combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” did no such thing, according to public records obtained by the AP.

“They indicate Majewski never deployed to Afghanistan but instead completed a six-month stint helping to load planes at an air base in Qatar, a longtime US ally that is a safe distance from the fighting.”

READ MORE: This Trump-backed Ohio congressional candidate is a full-fledged QAnon extremist

Prior to the report, Majewski told macho tales of his time overseas. He talked about going 40 days without a shower for lack of running water; about his squadron being “one of the first on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11”; about how, after last year’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, he’d “gladly suit up and go back to Afghanistan.”

His campaign is littered with references to a manufactured war record. He identified himself as a “combat veteran” and “Afghanistan war veteran.” He’s portrayed, in one TV spot, as marauding “through a vacant factory with a rifle while pledging to restore an America that is ‘independent and strong like the country I fought for,’” per the AP.

It seems to me that his campaign’s fighting-man image looks like a cover-up for a “post-military career [that] has been defined by exaggerations, conspiracy theories, talk of violent action against the US government and occasional financial duress,” the AP said.

After the AP’s report, Majewski doubled down.

READ MORE: QAnon candidates eyeing congressional seats and state offices that decide the outcomes of elections

He said he couldn’t show documents proving that he’s a combat veteran, because his missions were classified. Majewski insisted, given that the air base in Qatar is designated a “combat zone,” that that makes him a combat veteran, even though he never saw combat. He called the AP story a hit piece. He threatened to sue the reporters

When a reporter from the Ohio Capital Journal asked “directly if he can call himself a combat veteran, Majewski offered: ‘I believe so.’”

Heh.

It seems to me that Majewski illustrates meaningfully why Paine’s “democratic contempt” is necessary to democratize our way of life – the socioeconomic structure of our society, the top-down orders of political power that normalize, influence or coerce every decision.

In Common Sense, Paine argued that monarchies are undeserving of respect. Kings and queens are born into unquestioned privilege. They inherit their parents’ power. They never earned the right to rule. Because nature affirms political equality, their rule offends nature.

Paine’s concept addressed not only monarchy but any kind of “hereditary political privilege,” according to Mario Feit, who wrote about Paine for 2018’s Democratic Moments. In an American context, I argued last Friday, “hereditary political privilege” is white power.

White power, I said, is passed down from one generation to the next, as if it were wealth, land or property, just as kings, queens and dynasties passed down wealth, land or property to the next children.

In effect, the dead grant the living privileges that they neither earned nor deserve. By accepting their inheritance, the heirs of white power deprive those born without an inheritance of political equality.

The result is a social structure resistant to change on account of change requiring the heirs of white power to choose between the easy advantages sent from the past and hard responsibilities expected in the present. It calls on heirs to recognize that their liberty rests on a bed of oppression and injustice. They rarely do.

Hereditary political privilege – whether monarchy or white power – is a perversion of the natural order, as Paine understood it. To be sure, the champions of “family values” believe social strata are natural. White people at the top isn’t a choice. It’s just the way things are. Any effort to change that is a perversion of the “natural order,” they say. But this is where Paine’s genius, Common Sense, comes in.

If the heirs of hereditary white power (or in Tom Paine’s case, the heirs of hereditary monarchical power) deserved naturally to be born at the top of the hierarchies of political power, you would never see a mediocre white person (or mediocre prince). They wouldn’t exist.

Obviously, they do, in abundance.

White people, like other people, are born with attributes that may or may not send them to the top of the social hierarchy. Everyone is born with an equal chance. White power defies the natural order.

Paine’s argument turns the conservative view on its head.

What is natural, according to Paine, is political equality – for the same reason. Mediocre white people, who are born with advantages nonwhite people can only dream of, can and do fail spectacularly.

JR Majewski, for instance, inherited the unearned and undeserved rights and privileges of white power. But he’s a born mediocrity. When challenged, he falls to pieces. He can’t keep his fictional stories straight. He wants the glory of “combat veteran,” but none of the sacrifices. He’s nothing special, as good or bad as any schmuck.

Majewski laid claim to the prestige of combat veterans by lying while attacking honorable people – ie, AP reporters – who exposed his lies.

That’s contemptible.

To be worthy of democratic contempt, however, social conditions must be structural, as when an entire society organizes itself around protecting the heirs of white power, going so far as to using propaganda, lies and violence to ensure that it stays that way.

As such, Majewski can lie, be exposed for lying, then double down, all the while trusting that his inheritance, established 10 generations ago, will carry him over. A victory for Majewski would indeed reflect the political tyranny of the dead over the political rights of the living.

That’s democratically contemptible.

Contempt is necessary for democratizing our way of life, Paine said, because anti-democratic forces are too entrenched to be dislodged by reason alone. “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right,” Paine wrote in Common Sense, “and raises a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

Something stronger is needed.

“There is existing in man a mass of [common] sense lying in dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him in that condition to the grave,” Paine went on to say.

That’s democratic contempt for people like JR Majewski.

READ MORE: Conservative buries GOP for standing by Donald Trump's 'garbage' candidates

'Shame on you': House Democrat rebukes Republicans for depriving veterans of abortion rights

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, blasted congressional Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday, accusing them of turning a basic, bipartisan bill to help the nation’s veterans into “a cold heartless, violent” referendum on the right to abortion.

“In terms of making decisions on behalf of women, if you want to take a veterans’ bill and make it about abortion, then let’s do it,” Slotkin dared her Republican colleagues. “What you are saying – and you’re saying in front of the American people – is that you believe a veteran who has been raped, who was the victim of incest, or who is having a dangerous miscarriage, does not deserve access to abortion.”

Slotkin was referring to the Solid Start Act, her legislation designed to help veterans transition into civilian society. Republicans tried to block the bill after learning it includes a “requirement that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide female veterans with information ‘tailored to their specific health care’ needs, which would adhere to a new VA policy providing abortion access for women vets who are victims of rape, incest or whose life is jeopardized,” HuffPost reports.

READ MORE: ‘Yes’: GOP Nominee Mastriano Supports Charging Women With Murder if They Have an Abortion After a 6 Week Ban (Audio)

“If you can’t state it, then be clear you believe in no exceptions for women — a cold heartless, violent approach to women’s health,” said Slotkin, whose stepdaughter is a female Army officer. “You want to ban all abortions. That is your goal. Many of you have been open about that, and if you flip the House, we know that you will put forward a full ban on all abortion for all states.”

Slotkin, a military spouse and military step mother, is correct. House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s plan for Republicans to take back control of the House, his Newt Gingrich-endorsed “Commitment to America” says it very clearly. In the section called “Preserve Our Constitutional Freedoms,” he says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.”

But GOP opposition to the abortion provisions in the veterans’ bill is even more extreme than McCarthy’s message – and does not protect the life of the mother.

READ MORE: ‘Doesn’t Get to Tell the County What They Can Read’: Lawmaker Blasts Christian in Viral Video Attacking LGBTQ Library Books

“We are all, on this floor, elected officials and not medical professionals,” Slotkin added in her more-then two-minute rebuke. “If it was your wife, your daughter who was suffering through a miscarriage, are you going to tell her she can’t until her fever gets high enough and until she’s bleeding harder?”

“If that’s what you want for veterans, shame on you! Shame on you!”

Watch below or at this link.

The unbearable sexism of a press corps covering Ron DeSantis more than Gretchen Whitmer

You’ll never find anyone who loves you the way the Washington press corps loves the idea of Ron DeSantis usurping Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2024.

Only the sweet relief of a medical coma could save you from all the stories about the Florida governor’s attempts to claim the former president’s anointment as Republican God-Emperor.

The search “DeSantis president” elicits 69 million Google results, compared to around 18 million for “DeSantis governor.”

READ MORE: 'A common middle ground': These Michigan Republicans are campaigning for Gretchen Whitmer — here’s why

You’d think that, with a media infatuation like this, the Republicans’ great white hope would be cruising to reelection with a double-lead over his chump opponent.

Instead, he’s in a somewhat bruising race against a former governor of the state, even as he gallivants around the country trying to play the role of a benevolent despot by campaigning for Republican wannabees like JD Vance and actual insurrectionist Doug Mastriano.

Despite this posturing and big GOP donors circling around him like he’s the EpiPen that could save the party from the nation’s allergic reaction to the 45th president, you can smell DeSantis’ flop sweat rising faster than the oceans around Florida.

A governor of Florida doesn’t go kidnapping dozens of asylum seekers in Texas to “deport” them to Massachusetts if he feels confident about his life choices.

READ MORE: Two men found guilty in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

He’s obviously jealous of the way Republicans have rushed to defend Trump after the raid of Mar-a-Lago. So he’s seeking legal peril of his own to gain the semi-fascist affections of his party.

But this crime against humanity-sized distraction is probably also aimed at keeping headlines away from his state’s skyrocketing energy bills along with the one issue that will likely end up defining the 2022 elections.

Earlier this year, DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban like Lindsey Graham has introduced in the US Senate. The bill has no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the patient, and was opposed by 60 percent of Floridians, according to one poll.

The vast majority of DeSantis’ constituents are pro-choice and likely hate the ban because of its excessive cruelty and limitations on freedom. And the GOP base, the white evangelicals he’s trying to impress with his recreational human trafficking, likely despise it because it still allows “nearly all” abortions, according to the CDC.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ lead in the polls is under 6 percent, which is nothing compared to the more than 20 percent lead in the polls registered by the presidential aspirant he’s most often compared to – California Governor Gavin Newsom.

It’s also less than half the dominating poll lead of an incumbent of a swing state governor who continues to demonstrate the actual political skill the national press keeps hoping to see from DeSantis.

Yet the media doesn’t seem to notice - probably because this particular governor is a woman.

Gretchen Whitmer is everything Ron DeSantis pretends to be – and more.

Unlike DeSantis, Whitmer crushed her opponent in 2018, winning by more than 400,000 votes, a nearly 10 percent lead, as the poser from Jacksonville slipped by a mere 32,463 votes, an 0.4 percent lead.

Unlike DeSantis, Whitmer attracted an absolute clown as her opponent in 2022.

Tudor Dixon is a failed B-movie actress handpicked by the DeVos family to continue their war on public education and make Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin seem like a moderate by insisting on an abortion ban with “no exceptions” because, to her, forcing raped kids to give birth is “healing” both for the child – and the rapist.

Dixon has taken to making jokes about a kidnapping conspiracy that targeted Whitmer, resulting in multiple convictions, because – honestly – that’s all she’s got, as her poll numbers keep getting worse.

Unlike DeSantis, Whitmer champions her constituents’ reproductive rights – leading the effort to overturn a 1931 law that would ban abortion in the aftermath of the disastrous Dobbs decision.

Unlike DeSantis, Whitmer hasn’t gone to war with one of her state’s largest employers.

While the governor of the Disney State has targeted the House of the Mouse for speaking out against his completely unnecessary “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the governor of the Auto State has worked hand-in-hand with the Biden administration as it’s signed into law more than half a trillion dollars in infrastructure investments, including billions and billions for electric vehicles, the batteries that fuel them and the semiconductors that run them.

Whitmer clearly sees politics as the “art of the possible” – problem-solving to achieve actual goals. DeSantis sees politics as “war” – like Andrew Breitbart and Donald Trump before him.

A human troll doll, he judges success by how upset he makes liberals – how “owned” they are by his stunts. And he’d rather ship migrants around like cattle than accept either their basic human dignity or answer the pleas of employers in his state for more workers.

The press obviously loves the drama, his slight rebranding of boring reactionary politics and – I guess – his stuffed Men’s Wearhouse suit.

Thus they ignore or seek to soften the shrillness of this Craft Beer Trump’s policies, affect and voice. They pretend he’d survive a primary campaign with Trump without being reduced to a sniveling “Lil’ Marco” or an unctuous “Lyin’ Ted.”

DeSantis has become the most overrated Republican politician since, at least, Chris Christie. And Whitmer may be the most underrated.

There are fewer than 3 million search results for “Whitmer president,” though she’s proven she can govern and deliver a state that will, unlike Florida, be among the handful that will decide the 2024 election. And she’s deft, likable and the one elected official who has done the most to defend her constituents’ bodily autonomy, an issue that will likely play a starring role in any 2024 campaign.

DeSantis is lucky the media is so manifestly and latently sexist.

And frankly – given the press corps’ love for casting doubt on whether he will run again in 2024 – so is Joe Biden.

READ MORE: The Roe backlash is real. And, as they say, it is spectacular

'Doesn’t get to tell the county what they can read': Lawmaker blasts Christian attacking LGBTQ books

A Tennessee Democratic state lawmaker is responding to a viral video of a Christian woman in her home state railing against “perversion,” apparently upset with LGBTQ-themed books being in a local public library, while ranting about Satan and “revelation prophecies.”

Rep. Gloria Johnson, a retired special ed teacher, blasted the young woman who spoke in the video for about three minutes berating, lecturing, and preaching to her fellow Maury County, Tennessee residents about books she believes the public library should not have.

After introducing herself as “Stephanie” (her last name was not discernible), the young woman in the undated video declares, “I speak on behalf of God Almighty, my husband, the daughter in my womb and every law-abiding God fearing taxpaying citizen here in Maury County.”

She admitted she is not from Maury County, but she did feel very comfortable telling Maury County locals what to do and think.

“We moved here from Indiana to start our family,” she said. “I will not raise kids in a county that has sexual oriented books on the counter,” she insisted, later stating, “My taxes pay [for] this place.”

“The kingdom of God is within reach,” Stephanie went on to preach. “It is within here and we live not for heaven but from heaven. What that means is when perversion permeates our county, that is when the devil gets our children. If you don’t see this you are blind. We must understand that there cannot be perversion in this county, in this country. Obviously revelation prophecies are occurring right before our eyes. But what you need to know first and foremost, that obviously the future generation is our children.”

READ MORE: Christian Nationalist GOP Nominee Doug Mastriano Calling for ‘40 Days of Fasting and Prayer’ to Help Campaign

By the end of her lengthy rant she decreed, “God sees everything and by the grace of God, we will rise above this, but I’m not gonna let my children be raised – I’m gonna homeschool, you better believe it. I will not let my children be raised in a county like this. If we’re having sexual oriented books. You can even ask the gay community, a lot of them say why would you want to bring kids to the bars? They already think of pedophilia, why would you want them to come to the bars?”

“Understand that you serve our country second. You serve our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob first,” she concluded.

She also flew into a false screed straight out of recent Fox News reports.

READ MORE: Trump Uses Crude Anti-LGBTQ Language – Aides Stunned by Obsession With Staffers’ Sexuality: New Book

Saying, “I speak on behalf of millennials my generation,” she claimed, “We already have so many illegal aliens here who are bringing fentanyl they are killing our children, our youth.”

That’s false.

A right-wing think tank, the Cato Institute states: “Fentanyl is primarily trafficked by U.S. citizens.”

Rep. Johnson, who served in the Tennessee state House from 2013-2015, and is again serving, since 2019, also served up strong criticism against the woman in the video.

“She is welcome to monitor the books her children read, but she doesn’t get to tell the rest of the county what they can read,” Johnson tweeted.

Johnson is apparently a strong supporter of public libraries. This was posted to her Facebook page just days ago:

Watch the viral video below or at this link.

Tactical nuclear weapons: Security expert assesses what they mean for the war in Ukraine

Tactical nuclear weapons have burst onto the international stage as Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing battlefield losses in eastern Ukraine, has threatened that Russia will “make use of all weapon systems available to us” if Russia’s territorial integrity is threatened. Putin has characterized the war in Ukraine as an existential battle against the West, which he said wants to weaken, divide and destroy Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden criticized Putin’s overt nuclear threats against Europe. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg downplayed the threat, saying Putin “knows very well that a nuclear war should never be fought and cannot be won.” This is not the first time Putin has invoked nuclear weapons in an attempt to deter NATO.

I am an international security scholar who has worked on and researched nuclear restraint, nonproliferation and costly signaling theory applied to international relations for two decades. Russia’s large arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, which are not governed by international treaties, and Putin’s doctrine of threatening their use have raised tensions, but tactical nuclear weapons are not simply another type of battlefield weapon.

Tactical by the numbers

Tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes called battlefield or nonstrategic nuclear weapons, were designed to be used on the battlefield – for example, to counter overwhelming conventional forces like large formations of infantry and armor. They are smaller than strategic nuclear weapons like the warheads carried on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While experts disagree about precise definitions of tactical nuclear weapons, lower explosive yields, measured in kilotons, and shorter-range delivery vehicles are commonly identified characteristics. Tactical nuclear weapons vary in yields from fractions of 1 kiloton to about 50 kilotons, compared with strategic nuclear weapons, which have yields that range from about 100 kilotons to over a megaton, though much more powerful warheads were developed during the Cold War.

For reference, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons, so some tactical nuclear weapons are capable of causing widespread destruction. The largest conventional bomb, the Mother of All Bombs or MOAB, that the U.S. has dropped has a 0.011-kiloton yield.

Delivery systems for tactical nuclear weapons also tend to have shorter ranges, typically under 310 miles (500 kilometers) compared with strategic nuclear weapons, which are typically designed to cross continents.

Because low-yield nuclear weapons’ explosive force is not much greater than that of increasingly powerful conventional weapons, the U.S. military has reduced its reliance on them. Most of its remaining stockpile, about 150 B61 gravity bombs, is deployed in Europe. The U.K. and France have completely eliminated their tactical stockpiles. Pakistan, China, India, Israel and North Korea all have several types of tactical nuclear weaponry.

Russia has retained more tactical nuclear weapons, estimated to be around 2,000, and relied more heavily on them in its nuclear strategy than the U.S. has, mostly due to Russia’s less advanced conventional weaponry and capabilities.

Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons can be deployed by ships, planes and ground forces. Most are deployed on air-to-surface missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs and depth charges delivered by medium-range and tactical bombers, or naval anti-ship and anti-submarine torpedoes. These missiles are mostly held in reserve in central depots in Russia.

Russia has updated its delivery systems to be able to carry either nuclear or conventional bombs. There is heightened concern over these dual capability delivery systems because Russia has used many of these short-range missile systems, particularly the Iskander-M, to bombard Ukraine.

Russia’s Iskander-M mobile short-range ballistic missile can carry conventional or nuclear warheads. Russia has used the missile with conventional warheads in the war in Ukraine.

Tactical nuclear weapons are substantially more destructive than their conventional counterparts even at the same explosive energy. Nuclear explosions are more powerful by factors of 10 million to 100 million than chemical explosions, and leave deadly radiation fallout that would contaminate air, soil, water and food supplies, similar to the disastrous Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown in 1986. The interactive simulation site NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein depicts the multiple effects of nuclear explosions at various yields.

Can any nuke be tactical?

Unlike strategic nuclear weapons, tactical weapons are not focused on mutually assured destruction through overwhelming retaliation or nuclear umbrella deterrence to protect allies. While tactical nuclear weapons have not been included in arms control agreements, medium-range weapons were included in the now-defunct Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (1987-2018), which reduced nuclear weapons in Europe.

Both the U.S. and Russia reduced their total nuclear arsenals from about 19,000 and 35,000 respectively at the end of the Cold War to about 3,700 and 4,480 as of January 2022. Russia’s reluctance to negotiate over its nonstrategic nuclear weapons has stymied further nuclear arms control efforts.

The fundamental question is whether tactical nuclear weapons are more “useable” and therefore could potentially trigger a full-scale nuclear war. Their development was part of an effort to overcome concerns that because large-scale nuclear attacks were widely seen as unthinkable, strategic nuclear weapons were losing their value as a deterrent to war between the superpowers. The nuclear powers would be more likely to use tactical nuclear weapons, in theory, and so the weapons would bolster a nation’s nuclear deterrence.

Yet, any use of tactical nuclear weapons would invoke defensive nuclear strategies. In fact, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis notably stated in 2018: “I do not think there is any such thing as a tactical nuclear weapon. Any nuclear weapon use any time is a strategic game changer.”

This documentary explores how the risk of nuclear war has changed – and possibly increased – since the end of the Cold War.

The U.S. has criticized Russia’s nuclear strategy of escalate to de-escalate, in which tactical nuclear weapons could be used to deter a widening of the war to include NATO.

While there is disagreement among experts, Russian and U.S. nuclear strategies focus on deterrence, and so involve large-scale retaliatory nuclear attacks in the face of any first-nuclear weapon use. This means that Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent to conventional war is threatening an action that would, under nuclear warfare doctrine, invite a retaliatory nuclear strike if aimed at the U.S. or NATO.

Nukes and Ukraine

I believe Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would not achieve any military goal. It would contaminate the territory that Russia claims as part of its historic empire and possibly drift into Russia itself. It would increase the likelihood of direct NATO intervention and destroy Russia’s image in the world.

Putin aims to deter Ukraine’s continued successes in regaining territory by preemptively annexing regions in the east of the country after holding staged referendums. He could then declare that Russia would use nuclear weapons to defend the new territory as though the existence of the Russian state were threatened. But I believe this claim stretches Russia’s nuclear strategy beyond belief.

Putin has explicitly claimed that his threat to use tactical nuclear weapons is not a bluff precisely because, from a strategic standpoint, using them is not credible. In other words, under any reasonable strategy, using the weapons is unthinkable and so threatening their use is by definition a bluff.The Conversation

Nina Srinivasan Rathbun, Professor of International Relations, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

'Yeah right': Skepticism follows Pentagon report that it only killed 12 civilians in 2021

An annual report published Tuesday by the Pentagon claiming that the U.S. military only killed 12 noncombatants last year was met with skepticism by civilian casualty monitors, who perennially accuse the United States of undercounting the people killed by its bombs and bullets.

The U.S. Department of Defense "assesses that there were approximately 12 civilians killed and approximately five civilians injured during 2021 as a result of U.S. military operations," the report—the fifth of its kind—states.

However, the U.K.-based monitor group Airwars counted between 12 and 25 civilians likely killed by U.S. forces, sometimes working with coalition allies, in Syria alone last year, with another two to four people killed in Somalia and one to four killed in Yemen.

"Once again the confirmed civilian casualty count is below what communities on the ground are reporting," Airwars director Emily Tripp told Al Jazeera.

Airwars does not count civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan, where all of the 2021 casualties acknowledged by the Pentagon occurred. These incidents include an errant August 29 drone strike that killed 10 people—most of them members of one family—including seven children.

No one was ever held accountable for the attack, which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley first described as a "righteous strike."

However, nearly 20 witnesses who spoke to CNN after a suicide bomber killed more than 100 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops on August 26 during the rushed American withdrawal from the country said that U.S. and British troops opened fire on the panicking crowd, killing and wounding many civilians.

"They were targeting people. It was intentional," said one survivor. "In front of me, people were getting shot at and falling down."

Although the U.S. military claimed all of the casualties at the airport that day were caused by the bombing, a doctor working at a local hospital said that "there were two kinds of injuries... people burnt from the blast with lots of holes in their bodies. But with the gunshots, you can see just one or two holes—in the mouth, in the head, in the eye, in the chest."

The Italian-run Emergency Surgical Center in Kabul said it received nine bodies with gunshot wounds following the bombing.

Despite all this—and forensic analysts' assertions that so many people could not have been killed by a single bomb—a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command refuted the claim that U.S. troops shot civilians at Kabul's airport, attributing eyewitness accounts, including by people who were shot, to "jumbled memories."

U.S. administrations have long been accused of undercounting civilians killed by American forces. During the administration of former President George W. Bush, top officials dismissed the carnage that critics warned the so-called "War on Terror" would cause, with one top general declaring that "we don't do body counts." The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in the war died during Bush's two terms.

While civilian casualties declined dramatically during the tenure of former President Barack Obama, his administration was criticized for relying heavily upon unmanned aerial drones—whose strikes killed hundreds of civilians in more nations than were bombed by Bush—and for redefining "militant" to mean all military-aged males in a targeted strike zone in a bid to falsely lower noncombatant casualty figures.

Former President Donald Trump dispensed with pretenses, relaxing rules of engagement meant to protect civilians from harm and vowing to "bomb the shit out of" Islamic State militants and "take out their families." Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis—who earned his "Mad Dog" moniker during the fight for Fallujah in which hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded by American forces—said in 2017 that noncombatant deaths "are a fact of life" as the U.S. transitioned from a policy of "attrition" to one of "annihilation" in the war against Islamic State.

The result was a sharp increase in civilian casualties as U.S. and allied forces laid waste to entire cities like Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, killing and wounding thousands of men, women, and children. As Common Dreams reported at the time, Trump's decision to loosen rules of engagement was blamed for a more than 300% spike in civilian casualties in Afghanistan as well.

U.S.-caused civilian casualties have declined precipitously with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, although deadly incidents still occasionally occur. The initial annual Pentagon civilian casualty report, released during the Trump administration's first year, admitted to 499 civilians killed by U.S. forces. The true figure is believed to be much higher.

Last month, human rights groups cautiously welcomed news that the U.S. military—which has killed more civilians in foreign wars than any other armed force on Earth in the post-World War II era—published a plan aimed at reducing noncombatant casualties.

Watch: Hurricane Ian hammers Florida as a monster Category 4 storm

Hurricane Ian struck Florida on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm with massive storm surge, devastating winds, and excessive rains.

"The storm put Fort Myers directly in its path after straying eastward from initial forecasts and is currently a Category 4 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center forecasts a life-threatening 12-to-16-foot storm surge from Engelwood to Bonita Beach," the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

On Facebook, the Naples Fire-Rescue Department posted a video of a water rescue outside a flooded firehouse.

The video shows multiple first responders escorting a woman through chest-deep water.

Firefighters had to push an engine out of the flooded station.

Meteorologist Kaitlan Wright posted video from a multi-story building in Fort Myers showing widespread devastation, with boats between flooded buildings and what appears to be multiple feet of standing water.

Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Bettes posted video of a camera six feet off the ground in Fort Myers.

Hurricane tracker Mark Sudduth also posted video from Fort Myers:

Spectrum News reporter Zach Covey warned survivors against being in the water.

Multiple students injured during mass shooting at Oakland, California school: report

Multiple injuries have been reported following a mass shooting at a high school near Oakland, California, according to local law enforcement.

"The shooting happened at around 12:45 p.m. at facilities shared by Rudsdale Newcomer and Bay Area Technology School (BayTech) at 8210 Fontaine St. in the city's Oak Knoll/Golf Links neighborhood. The Sojourner Truth Independent Study online learning program is also based at the site," CBS News Bay Area confirmed on Wednesday.

"Three patients were taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland and two others to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley," the affiliate noted, adding that "multiple shooters were possibly involved, but Oakland police do not believe the shooter or shooters were still at the school following the shooting."

READ MORE: Uvalde residents are skeptical of school safety plan proposals as new academic year approaches

The student body at the 6th through 12th-grade charter school consists mostly of "recently-arrived immigrants who have fled their home countries because of violence and instability," the outlet pointed out.

There have been nearly thirty school shootings in the United States so far in 2022.

This is a breaking news story and is still developing.

'We'll beat you again': Climate advocates blast White House for trying to resurrect Joe Manchin's dirty deal

"Shame on President Biden and the White House for doubling down on environmental deregulation to benefit dirty industry," said one campaigner.

Sen. Joe Manchin may have pulled the plug on efforts to include his dirty permitting deal in must-pass government funding legislation, but the Biden White House said late Tuesday that it intends to seek out another "vehicle" to pass the gift to the fossil fuel industry, prompting climate advocates to vow to tank the measure again if necessary.

In a statement after Manchin (D-W.Va.) asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to remove the permitting overhaul from the government funding bill, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made clear that President Joe Biden doesn't intend to let the measure die despite fresh warnings over its potentially disastrous emissions impacts.

"The president supports Senator Manchin's plan because it is necessary for our energy security, and to make more clean energy available to the American people," Jean-Pierre said. "We will continue to work with him to find a vehicle to bring this bill to the floor and get it passed and to the president's desk."

Climate groups reacted with anger to Biden's insistence on a path forward for the proposed permitting overhaul, which would weaken bedrock environmental laws and fast-track dirty energy projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a top priority of Manchin and his fossil fuel industry donors.

"Shame on President Biden and the White House for doubling down on environmental deregulation to benefit dirty industry, even after a defeat they deserved," tweeted Basav Sen, director of the Climate Justice Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. "Our grassroots movement power defeated you once. We'll beat you again."

During a press call on Wednesday, climate campaigners stressed that continued resolve will be necessary to prevent a revival of Manchin's proposed permitting overhaul, particularly as reports suggest Democratic leaders could try to attach the measure to an annual Pentagon funding bill ahead of the November midterms.

"The fight is not over, but it should now be crystal clear that Congress needs to listen to and meaningfully engage impacted communities," said Stephen Schima, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice.

Lauren Maunus, advocacy director at the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said on the call that "the last thing" Biden should do is "further appease one coal baron in Washington and perpetuate more climate disaster through expanding fossil fuels."

"As we're six weeks out from the midterms election, voters like myself need to see Biden deliver further action on climate," Maunus added. "We need to see him declare a climate emergency and use his full power to prevent these record-strength hurricanes from further destroying our homes."

Manchin and Schumer's scheme to expedite the passage of permitting reforms by attaching them to government funding legislation collapsed after it became clear that there weren't enough Republican votes to make up for opposition among members of the Democratic caucus, spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

In a statement late Tuesday, Sanders credited "the more than 650 environmental groups and community organizations who made clear that, in the midst of the horrific climate crisis that we face, the last thing we need is a side deal which would build more pipelines and fossil fuel projects that would have substantially increased carbon emissions."

With a number of Democratic caucus members in the House and Senate opposed to Manchin's permitting plan on climate grounds, its future prospects are highly uncertain.

One path forward could involve securing enough GOP support to nullify Democratic opposition, an effort that would likely entail making the plan even more friendly to the fossil fuel industry—something more along the lines of what Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) has proposed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who whipped his members against Manchin's proposal, has voiced support for Capito's legislation, calling it "a strong, robust package that would actually move the ball forward."

The next opportunity for Manchin to ram through permitting reforms as part of a separate package could be the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bloated Pentagon funding bill that typically sails through both chambers of Congress each year with relatively little opposition.

"The NDAA is still out there," Capito told reporters Tuesday.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a supporter of Manchin's legislation, also said Tuesday that he sees the NDAA as the "most likely next viable vehicle" for permitting reforms.

With the Senate expected to return to session after an early-October recess to vote on the NDAA, Food and Water Watch policy director Jim Walsh warned that a bipartisan permitting deal "will be even worse than what Manchin was proposing."

"They are specifically eyeing the defense spending bill," he added, "bringing fossil fuel politics into national defense."

The Democratic leadership could also opt for a standalone vote on permitting reforms, which rank-and-file lawmakers have been demanding for weeks.

Mary Small, national advocacy director at the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, said Tuesday that "given the intense debate over the provisions in the deal, we look forward to debating the merits of this deal in a standalone vote."

"In the wake of this win and over the next few months, we urge leadership to focus on a winning legislative agenda that unifies the Democratic caucus," said Small. "As we have seen with this fight, attaching controversial policies to must-pass vehicles is a recipe for infighting and failure."

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