Thursday, September 30, 2021

Last Call For Biden, Ridin' Again

 President Joe Biden has rebounded from his August polling lows as it turns out Afghanistan wasn't the "disaster" that everyone predicted.
Since the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan a month ago, President Biden's approval rating has recovered some in the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Last month, just 43% of survey respondents approved of how he was doing his job and a majority — 51% — disapproved. Since then, Biden has gained back some of that, drawing to about even, with 45% approving and 46% disapproving.

"Some of it had to do with the proximity of Afghanistan, and that has sort of faded a little bit and is not as prominent in people's minds," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. Miringoff said Biden appears now to be at "more of a plateau" rather than a continued decline.

The survey of 1,220 adults was conducted from Sept. 20 through Sunday and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, meaning Biden's approval rating could be about 3 points higher or lower. The 7-point net change in his approval rating from one month to the next is slightly outside the margin of error.

Biden's somewhat-recovered numbers come from registered Democrats and independents. Miringoff noted that Republicans are essentially maxed out in their disapproval of Biden, and that of the 9% of respondents unsure of how they feel about the job the president is doing, many are Democratic-leaning voters.

"There are still some Democrats on the table," he said. "Those are winnable people. If he can get past this current congressional battle, there's the potential some of them could come home."

Democrats on Capitol Hill are currently negotiating with themselves over two massive spending bills. Centrists want the price tag of one bill to come down, while progressives want as much investment as they can get in infrastructure, social spending, climate and other measures while Democrats retain control of Congress.
If Biden can deliver the Good Package, things are going to take a major turn upwards for Democrats in general.
If he can't, well...

Cuomo's #MeToo Moment, Con't

Disgraced abuser and former NY Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn't out of the woods yet, and could be facing a new round of legal action when the state's General Assembly investigation's completed report on the harassment claims against Cuomo lands next month.
In the weeks before and after his resignation as governor, Andrew M. Cuomo defended his behavior, deflected blame and tried to discredit Letitia James, the state attorney general who concluded that he had sexually harassed multiple women while in office.

As Ms. James put it this week, Mr. Cuomo “has never taken responsibility for his own conduct.”

“He has never held himself accountable for how his behavior affected our state government,” Ms. James, a fellow Democrat, said on Wednesday during a breakfast with powerful business and civic leaders in Manhattan.

She added, “No one is above the law.”

Ms. James’s findings are expected to serve as a blueprint for a far-ranging investigation by the State Assembly that is in its final stages. A report is expected to be made public in October, according to a person familiar with the inquiry who requested anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Some lawmakers briefed on the inquiry said that a portion of the Assembly’s investigation would largely mirror the findings of the state attorney general’s 163-page report, which concluded that Mr. Cuomo fostered a toxic work environment and sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former female staffers.

State lawmakers started the investigation six months ago to potentially impeach Mr. Cuomo, but they pledged to finish the inquiry even after he left office, eager as they are to move past one of the most tumultuous phases in New York political history.

The final report could revive calls among some lawmakers to impeach Mr. Cuomo to prevent him from running again, though that seems unlikely. Carl E. Heastie, the speaker of the Assembly, has argued it would be unconstitutional to impeach a governor out of office, and many Democrats see impeachment as an unnecessary distraction.

Even so, the culmination of the investigation will allow Democratic lawmakers to close a chapter of the Cuomo scandals, which overshadowed the Legislature’s work and tormented the party, and turn their full attention to the state budget, the redistricting process and next year’s elections.

For Mr. Cuomo, the outcome of the inquiry could cement the stain of the sexual harassment allegations on his legacy, and lead to additional fallout: The investigation is also scrutinizing whether Mr. Cuomo deliberately obscured the number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic or unlawfully used state resources to write his pandemic memoir, which earned him $5.1 million.

Assemblyman David Weprin, a Democrat from Queens, said the investigation “is going to reach a conclusion similar to some of the findings of the attorney general.”
Either way, Cuomo's in a lot of trouble, and could very well end up in prison.
If only Republicans faced actual consequences like these.

The Good Package, Con't

We're headed for the part where Dems crater and fail on the infrastructure bills, as they have time and again, and Steve M. expertly and eloquently explains why:

We can't have nice things because in order to have nice things we have to fight capital. And this is how capital fights -- not by sending out a rich man who looks like Gordon Gekko to say, "Give me all the nice things!," but by deploying someone more sympathetic as the alleged voice of reason. Thirty years ago, I used to read William Greider writing about how fat cats would send small business men to lament the harm that a liberal bill would do to them, when the bill's real targets were actually the fat cats themselves. Want to raise the estate tax on the Kardashians? Think of the poor family farmers!

In this fight, they sent out Manchin, who's meant to stand in for dirt-poor West Virginians in coal country, people presumed to have the elemental values of hard work and thrift. (Don't laugh -- much of America believes that narrative.) Sinema stands in for ... um, I don't know what she stands in for. Maybe she's the kooky upstairs neighbor in a beloved sitcom. But she says that all those liberals in Washington, D.C., like that big spending, but she's a moderate, dammit, and she doesn't trust it! And more people than we'd like to believe fall for that. (At least one Arizona poll shows Sinema with higher statewide approval ratings than Arizona's other Democratic senator Mark Kelly.)

Capital knows how to run this play, which works nearly every time. Capitalism knows how to buy politicians like Manchin and Sinema so they stay bought. For capital, this is a fight to the death. And capital is on the verge of victory -- not just the death of the reconciliation bill but full Republican control of D.C. by 2025.

Old liberals with New Deal dreams should have known capital would find a doomsday weapon, but they didn't. Progressives absolutely should have known the same thing, but they didn't.

The liberals don't want to openly blame capitalists for this impasse -- they believe you can establish detente with capitalism, taking their money while curbing their greed. Progressives -- people who have no illusions about capitalism -- really should have anticipated how hard this fight would be.

Democrats of all stripes need to tap into the anti-elitist anger of Americans, which polls say is actually quite high. But that hasn't happened. Capital has tapped into Americans' anti-spending skepticism instead, while buying off just enough politicians to be on the verge of victory. And that's why we are where we are.

In the end, the corporate lobbyists always, always, always win. There is never any reason to think it will ever end differently.  They will buy off who they need, and we will keep electing both the same people like Manchin, the only Dem who could possibly win in blood-red Trump +25 WV, and different people like Sinema, who is a former Green progressive herself.

They both had a price, and they were both bought. Lobbyists don't need to buy anyone else if they have two in pocket, they win every time, because the entire GOP is already working for them.

When the lobbyists get 51 votes in the Senate, they can stop anything. That's been the case for all of my natural life.


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Last Call For School Of Hard-Right Knocks, Con't

And what I have predicted from the reactionary racists on the right over "critical race theory" has come to pass in Tennessee: white parents demanding accurate history of American racism be removed from the classroom entirely because it makes white students "feel bad".

Robin Steenman pulled her daughter out of public school over a mask mandate last year.
She's now in private school and misses public school. But Steenman is keeping her out not because of masks, but because of lesson plans she says make students feel bad about their race. 
"The school bus goes right in front of my house and my kid is dying to ride it," she told CNN. "But not until I have deemed that the curriculum is safe and will do no harm." 
Steenman is counting on a new Tennessee law to force schools to end that curriculum -- and ban at least one book in the elementary school library written from the perspective of Mexican Americans. 
The former fighter pilot leads a chapter of Moms For Liberty in this wealthy, Republican-leaning suburb of Nashville. 
She says her group has ballooned in size since April, from less than 20 parents meeting at her house to more than 3,000 connecting on Facebook. The chapter has grabbed headlines for belligerent protests at school board meetings. They have attacked a high school LGBTQ pride float -- one tweet wondered if students passing out pride literature were doing "recruitment." And another meeting featured a tirade by a Moms For Liberty member against a children's book about the lives of seahorses, which she said was too sexual. 
But the group's main concern is how American history is taught in school, particularly to younger kids.  
In a multi-page complaint to the state department of education filed this summer, Moms For Liberty says the Williamson County Schools curriculum violates state law because it includes "anti-American, anti-White and anti-Mexican teaching." 
In May, Gov. Bill Lee signed HB 580, a law aimed at banning so-called critical race theory from schools. Educators argue that critical race theory is not taught or included in the K-12 curriculum and is usually an elective class in college or law school. 
Section 51, part 6 of the Tennessee law makes lesson plans illegal if students "feel discomfort, guilt, or anguish." 
Steenman says the Williamson County curriculum makes students feel bad about their race, meaning the law should invalidate it. 
The Tennessee Department of Education declined a request for comment from CNN on the complaint.
And just like that, in five years, I predict national US history curricula will not include a word about slavery, the civil war or the civil rights movement, other than to say white people fixed all that, the end.

Time For Dems To Burn It All Down

With the House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Good Package scheduled for tomorrow, Josh Marshall says that House Democrats should be prepared to kill the bipartisan bill and force the Good Package through.

Back in 2004 and 2005, President Bush tried to partially abolish Social Security. There was huge pressure on Democrats to negotiate, to put up a counter-proposal, to get involved in the process to limit the damage. At the time, Republicans had unified control of the federal government. They could do the thing if they wanted to. Democrats finally settled on the right approach which was: no. No negotiations. No support. No nothing. Democrats couldn’t control the outcome. But they could clarify what was happening. Democrats support Social Security. Republicans want to abolish it.

In the event, Bush’s plan collapsed. Democrats were ready to lose well and that helped them win.

But it’s worth thinking through the alternative scenario. What if Bush had in fact abolished most of Social Security. That would have been a policy disaster for hundreds of millions of Americans. But if the Democrats had been part of it it would have been disastrous for them as a party. The cases are very different but there are some similarities to now. If the upshot of the Biden presidency is that Democrats delivered the votes for Kyrsten Sinema’s infrastructure bill vanity project and got nothing else it will be profoundly self-discrediting for the Democratic party in addition to being a disaster for the climate future and much else. Democrats and the White House need to be ready to kill the infrastructure bill.

It is perverse and bizarre since the Democrats, though tenuously, now have unified control of the government rather than being a beleaguered opposition with no holds on any levers of power. How we’ve gotten to the point that they cannot collectively control the outcome … well, that’s crazy. But that’s where we are. Largely because of Kyrsten Sinema. But look at what we’re talking about here. Is the reward for her betrayal having the party she is betraying passing her infrastructure bill? That’s too crazy to allow to happen. It is a basic element of life for individuals that we must strive to confront with dignity things we cannot control. It shapes who we are. And something similar applies to political coalitions and parties.

Now there are potentially lots of ways to skin this cat. Maybe the House passes the bill but Speaker Pelosi declines to send it to the President until there’s movement on the reconciliation bill. Or the President would hold it for a week himself. As has been the case throughout this maddening year there are just too many factors that aren’t visible to us. Democrats will have to rely on Nancy Pelosi and others make good decisions based on knowledge of details they cannot share. But to the extent we can be clear on goals, to the extent we must shape transitory tactics with a clear understanding of where we want to end up, a final outcome that is an infrastructure bill and nothing else is just not tenable. It leaves too many critical priorities unaddressed – especially climate – and makes a mockery of the whole Democratic coalition.

If it’s the BIF and nothing else, kill the BIF


Democrats appear likely to opt for Plan B, which is to raise the debt limit in the reconciliation process. But if so, they have another option: They can try to use reconciliation to effectively nullify the debt limit, which if it works would end this nonsense for good.

What just happened makes this option newly relevant. Indeed, what Democrats themselves are thinking about what just happened forcefully argues for giving this option serious consideration.

Punchbowl News reports that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democrats are steamed because McConnell is forcing them to raise the debt limit, which is all you can do in reconciliation, rather than suspend it, which is politically easier:

Schumer and his fellow Senate Democrats remain furious about McConnell’s handling of this issue, although there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it. Yet it’s impossible to overstate the level of frustration among Democrats right now. Democrats say McConnell is cynically using this issue to force Democrats up in 2022, such as Sens. Maggie Hassan (N.H.) and Mark Kelly (Ariz.), to vote for a debt-limit increase.

But if this is a problem, then there is something that can be done about it. David Super, a law professor at Georgetown, has suggested that Democrats use reconciliation to tie the size of the debt limit to whatever is necessary to cover the national debt at any given moment.

Before, Democrats had an understandable reason for refraining from this. They didn’t want to use reconciliation to deal with the debt limit at all, because it will complicate passing their multitrillion-dollar social policy bill.

But now, if Democrats may have to use reconciliation on the debt limit anyway, why not consider using the process to nullify it?

Dems are terrified. The last time they moved on a big stimulus package and big social plan, they were butchered in Congress and in states, leading to the current Midwestern realignment towards the GOP. States Obama won in 2008 like Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and came close in like Missouri and Kansas are now blood red, along with thousands of state legislature seats. Democratic state parties were wiped out of a dozen states, on a semi-permanent basis.

But Obamacare was the right thing to do. It could have been far better.

This time around, the compromise option is a loser. If Dems wait around for the rules to line up correctly and proceed with a timid, minimal response, then yes, they will lose 40, maybe 60 House seats and 4-6 Senate seats.  Maybe more. That's a guarantee.

But if they kill the debt ceiling garbage fire and pass the Good Package, well...

They just might pull it off.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp failed to deliver the state into Donald Trump's win column, and then had the unmitigated gall to say that no, the elections for President and for both senators were not stolen. As such, Donald Trump now wants Kemp gone by any means necessary, even if that means voting in Democratic challenger and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams as governor of Georgia.

Donald Trump is escalating his fight against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, and state Republicans fear it will give Democrats a stronger foothold in the key swing state as next year's midterm elections loom. 
The former President's criticism of Kemp now includes hyping Democrat Stacey Abrams as a preferable alternative to the GOP governor, whose crime against Trump was staying out of his attempt to overturn the Georgia 2020 election returns. 
"Having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think," Trump said Saturday at his rally in Perry, adding later, "Stacey, would you like to take his place? It's OK with me." 
Party leaders worry a divided Georgia GOP next year could hand Democrats the governor's mansion and help them keep a Senate seat in a year when Republicans should do well. And the former President's quasi-endorsement of Abrams reveals the diffidence among party leaders about how to proceed. 
"I think the most notable part is the quiet of everyone in the GOP in Georgia," said Erick Erickson, an Atlanta-based talk radio host. "No one agrees with him. No one is endorsing it. But no one is vocally pushing back, either." 
At the same time, the battle in Georgia reveals the larger war for the party's future and what role Trump occupies in it. 
The former President is doing his part to try to shape this future in his own image in Georgia. He has endorsed a slate of Republican candidates for statewide office in competitive primaries. Several of these attended his rally in Perry last weekend, including Herschel Walker for US Senate, Burt Jones for lieutenant governor and Jody Hice for secretary of state. 
"I do not see how the governor can unite the party without reconciling with the former President," said one longtime Georgia Republican operative. "This is not a question of fairness. It is a question of reality. Kemp needs the party united in 2022." 
But other Republicans in Georgia say demanding total loyalty is a risky proposition for a decidedly purple state that Trump lost in 2020. And the stakes for the GOP are high, with the US Senate race in Georgia potentially determining which party holds the majority after next fall's midterms. 
"Trump could prevent Republicans in Georgia from riding a massive anti-Biden wave that could put them almost where they were pre-Trump," said a second Republican operative from Georgia. 
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican and vocal critic of Trump's false claims about the 2020 election, wrote in a CNN op-ed last week that Trump threatens to "hijack our great state for his own selfish agenda." 
"It might make for good theater, but it is setting back the conservative movement. If we keep it up, we are looking at another four years of President Biden calling the shots," Duncan wrote.
So yes, Trump is both willing to load up his GOP endorsements based solely on loyalty to helping him steal elections, and he will punish those who do not by replacing them with Democrats. The Trump party is all Trump, all day, all the time, forever.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Last Call For The Rent Is Too Damn High, Con't

As the national moratorium on evictions was thrown out by the Supreme Court last month, evictions are happening, but not the flood of millions being made homeless that we feared. But that doesn't mean that the problem is resolved, not in the least.

When the Supreme Court decided to strike down a federal ban on evictions in August, lawmakers and housing experts mentioned a slew of devastating metaphors — cliff, tsunami, tidal wave — to describe the national eviction crisis they saw coming. One month later, however, many of those same authorities find themselves wondering: Where is the cliff?

In major metropolitan areas, the number of eviction filings has dropped or remained flat since the Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on Aug. 26, according to experts and data collected by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. In cities around the country, including Cleveland, Memphis, Charleston and Indianapolis, eviction filings are well below their pre-pandemic levels.

Housing and eviction experts offered a mix of guesses about why an expected onslaught of evictions has not yet materialized, including that the wave could still be coming. The pace at which courts handle cases varies widely across the country, and some courts may be severely backlogged. In some regions of the country, the federal eviction moratorium did little to slow filings amid the pandemic and, in other areas, protections are in place. Some tenants may have also moved on their own to avoid an eviction.

Housing experts don’t believe the country has solved its eviction issues, and there are still places where evictions have risen since the ban ended. Filings have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels in Gainesville, Fla., and have come close in Cincinnati and Jacksonville, Fla.

Still, the overall picture has confused experts who had grim warnings for the looming crisis once the federal ban was no longer in place. Those same experts are hesitant to say the wave won’t come. After all, recent Pulse Survey data by the Census Bureau suggests that some 3 million households have reported concerns of imminent eviction.

“I think it’s too early to declare decisively that this isn’t happening,” said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab, which tracks cases in 31 cities and six states around the country. “This may not take the form of a sudden spike in eviction cases all at once. It may be something that’s much more delayed and diffuse.”
I think that the theory where the courts can't handle the backlog of eviction cases is most likely correct. We're not seeing evictions hit massive numbers because the courts are stuck processing them, and in some cases, are working with landlords and tenants.

Rental assistance programs are there, they just have to be accessed, and I think courts are turning to these systems to get landlords their money and tenants their help.

For now, the dam is holding. How long, well, we'll see.

The Good Package, Con't

President Biden Manchin and Vice-President Harris Sinema will meet separately with former US Senator Joe Biden today to discuss what the people will be allowed to have going forward.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are expected to meet with President Biden at the White House on Tuesday as administration officials and congressional Democrats seek a path forward on the president's economic agenda.

The two senators will meet with Biden separately, a source familiar with the plans said. Manchin and an aide confirmed the West Virginia senator would head to the White House later Tuesday.

The meetings mark the third time in as many weeks the two key centrist Democrats will visit the White House to discuss Biden's agenda. Both Sinema and Manchin have raised concerns about the size of a proposed $3.5 trillion spending package put forward by Biden and other Democrats.

But the two have frustrated progressives, in particular, as they have largely stopped short of articulating what specifically they want to see in the reconciliation package, which Democrats hope to pass without Republican support. Sinema gave an interview to an Arizona news outlet in which she talked about the urgent need to address climate change.

Manchin, meanwhile, threw cold water on the prospects of getting the reconciliation bill done in time for a planned Thursday House vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate.

Democratic leaders are seeking to thread the needle between satisfying moderates, who want to see the bipartisan infrastructure bill pass the House as soon as possible, and appeasing progressives, who want to see the party prioritize the sweeping reconciliation package that includes funding for child care, health care and climate initiatives.
Manchin keeps shitting on everything but won't say what he does actually want, and Sinema does the same, only with a healthy dose of Manic Pixie Dream Senator.  Both are racking up the fundraising from corporations and lobbyists opposed to actually having to pay taxes, with Sinema practically salivating over the prospect of becoming a major K Street player herself after she's booted from her office.

Meanwhile the prospects of any infrastructure package passing is becoming dimmer every hour. Republicans aren't going to allow anything to pass, and the Dems are going to have to attach the debt limit suspension bill to the Good Package too.

All that has to happen in the next few days or the economy crashes, and everyone's juggling chainsaws.

The Big Lie, Con't

Trump and his cronies continue to openly lie that the Arizona "audit" really proves that Trump "won" the state in a fantastic example of national gaslighting, with the point being to normalize the idea that elections can't possibly be truly fair and accurate in order to normalize overturning them in the years ahead.

The Cyber Ninjas failed to prove fraud in the Arizona 2020 election, but former President Donald Trump's election fraud crusade is now proceeding as if they'd won -- pushing for more "forensic audits" and restrictive voting in that state and elsewhere across the country.

Trump's allies are already demanding a new review of another Arizona county won by President Joe Biden. They are launching more partisan ballot reviews in other states following the Arizona playbook after passing laws making it harder to vote earlier this year. And they are calling for decertification of Arizona's 2020 election despite the lack of fraud, as part of a larger effort to validate Trump's "Big Lie" and undermine the 2020 election results.

The lesson they're taking from Arizona's Maricopa County ballot review is not that they failed and should stop, but rather that they should try to avoid the negative scrutiny that hounded the Cyber Ninjas' review and "do it better" in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, even if there's no evidence of fraud, said Sarah Longwell, a conservative publisher and executive director of the conservative group Defending Democracy Together.

"It has nothing to do with auditing votes," Longwell told CNN. "It has to do with creating a cloud of suspicion around the elections and keeping their fraud narrative front and center."

The partisan ballot review in Maricopa County released last week reaffirmed Biden's victory. But Trump and the Arizona GOP officials who backed it ignored that conclusion and the highly problematic nature of the review itself, run by a company inexperienced in election audits and which failed to follow standard auditing procedures, and instead touted other issues raised in their report -- even though they were quickly rebutted by election experts and county officials.

Similar election "audits" already are moving forward in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And Texas' secretary of state's office announced a "full and comprehensive forensic audit" in four counties hours after Trump fired off a letter to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott demanding just such a review.
The partisan reviews of the 2020 election results have come after a host of Republican-led state legislatures enacted restrictive voting laws, frequently citing Trump's lies as reason to enact new measures in the name of "election integrity." Eighteen states, including Arizona, have enacted laws this year that make it harder to vote, according to a tally by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law.

In one sign of how much the falsehoods about the 2020 election have become linked to the GOP's identity, a recent CNN poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said "believing that Donald Trump won the 2020 election" was "very" or "somewhat" important to their definition of what it now means to be a Republican
The ground is being primed for a situation in the upcoming elections where a Democratic candidate in a red state wins a relatively close election, and that election is overturned on "fraud" and given to the Republican. It will probably happen in 2022, and it will definitely happen in 2024 when it comes to state electoral votes for President.

Republicans are now defined by the belief that the 2020 election was "stolen" and so they will not just accept but demand that the election be stolen right back in the years ahead, a hundredfold.

Democrats don't seem to be even considering that this is where we are going.


Monday, September 27, 2021

Last Call For Spinning The Chambers In Debt Ceiling Roulette

If even old hands like NY Times reporter Jim Tankersley are sounding the alarms about Senate Republicans being willing to default on America's debt in order to crash the economy and warning that it's definitely not the usual Capitol Hill Kabuki show, then things are a lot worse than I feared.

For nearly two decades, lawmakers in Washington have waged an escalating display of brinkmanship over the federal government’s ability to borrow money to pay its bills. They have forced administrations of both parties to take evasive actions, pushing the nation dangerously close to economic calamity. But they have never actually tipped the United States into default.

The dance is repeating this fall, but this time the dynamics are different — and the threat of default is greater than ever.

Republicans in Congress have refused to help raise the nation’s debt limit, even though the need to borrow stems from the bipartisan practice of running large budget deficits. Republicans agree the U.S. must pay its bills, but on Monday they are expected to block a measure in the Senate that would enable the government to do so. Democrats, insistent that Republicans help pay for past decisions to boost spending and cut taxes, have so far refused to use a special process to raise the limit on their own.

Observers inside and outside Washington are worried neither side will budge in time, roiling financial markets and capsizing the economy’s nascent recovery from the pandemic downturn.

If the limit is not raised or suspended, officials at the Treasury Department warn, the government will soon exhaust its ability to borrow money, forcing officials to choose between missing payments on military salaries, Social Security benefits and the interest it owes to investors who have financed America’s spending spree.

Yet Republicans have threatened to filibuster any attempt by Senate Democrats to pass a simple bill to increase borrowing. Party leaders like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky want to force Democrats to raise the limit on their own, through a fast-track congressional process that bypasses a Republican filibuster. That could take weeks to come to fruition, raising the stakes every day that Democratic leaders decline to pursue that option.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that no one is quite sure when the government will run out of money. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States in waves, frequently disrupting economic activity and the taxes the government collects, complicating Treasury’s ability to gauge its cash flow. Estimates for what’s known as the “X-date” range from as early as Oct. 15 to mid-November.

Amid that uncertainty, congressional leaders and President Biden aren’t even attempting to negotiate a resolution. Instead, they are sparring over who should be saddled with a vote that could be used against them, raising the odds that partisan stubbornness will propel the country into a fiscal unknown.

It all adds up to an impasse rooted in political messaging, midterm campaign advertising and a desire by Republican leaders to do whatever they can to protest Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, including the $3.5 trillion spending bill that Democrats hope to pass along party lines using a fast-track budget process.

Republicans say they will not supply any votes to lift the debt cap, despite having run up trillions in new debt to pay for the 2017 tax cuts, additional government spending and pandemic aid during the Trump administration. Democrats, in contrast, helped President Donald J. Trump increase borrowing in 2017 and 2019.

“If they want to tax, borrow, and spend historic sums of money without our input,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor this week, “they will have to raise the debt limit without our help.”

Thus far, Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress have declined to do so, even though employing that process would end the threat of default.

Jon Lieber, a former aide to Mr. McConnell who is now with the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy in Washington, wrote in a warning to clients this week that there is a one-in-five chance the standoff will push the country into at least a technical debt default — forcing the government to choose between paying bondholders and honoring all its spending commitments — this fall.

“That’s crazy high for an event like this,” Mr. Lieber said in an interview, noting that the odds are significantly higher than in past standoffs. “But I feel really confident that’s the level of panic we should be having.”
Remember, Republicans tried to do this to Obama too, and it worked. Republicans got what they wanted: a decade of massive "sequestration" spending cuts, $2.4 trillion over ten years. What people are saying now is that there's a significant chance that the GOP burns the economy down in the weeks ahead, and that there's no deal that they are willing to make.

I don't know where we go from here, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.


MAGA Runs Out Of Gas In Cincy

A threatened "Patriot shutdown"of some of America's busiest interstates and bridges today has yet to materialize after Ohio cops and prosecutors got word of it on social media and vowed publicly to start throwing MAGA assholes in prison on felony terrorism charges over the weekend.
There's no sign Monday morning that truckers are staging protests of COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates by causing disruptions on local highways.

Ohio officials are monitoring after reports of calls on social media for truck drivers to participate in a "Patriot Shutdown" on Monday.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is keeping an eye on the situation, but saw no sign of a demonstration in the Cincinnati area or elsewhere in the state this morning.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and there are no known issues at this time,” Lt. Nathan Dennis, a spokesman with the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Columbus, said.

Both the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office are on alert, officials said Monday morning.

"We are actively monitoring the situation and have been for days," said Emily Szink, spokewoman for the Cincinnati Police Department.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters warned over the weekend that any demonstrators participating in a nationwide call on social media such as Facebook and TikTok for truck drivers to participate in a "Patriot Shutdown" on Monday would be put behind bars.

"I want to be perfectly clear," Deters said in a news release. "Anyone who attempts to shut down the highways in Hamilton County will be removed from their vehicles, charged with felony disrupting public services, and they will go to jail.

"To those who claim to be supportive of law enforcement - law enforcement is not with you. This would pose a serious danger for our first responders and the community at large.

"I have always been supportive of a citizen’s First Amendment right to protest. But, this is not lawful and it is reckless. It will not be tolerated," he said.
A miserable failure, even in deep red Ohio. 
Blocking the Brent Spence Bridge carrying I-71 and I-75 traffic definitely would have caused chaos across the region, especially if they had blocked the supporting bridges on the I-471 spur into NKY and the I-475 loop.

But nobody showed up.Vaccine mandates continue to be rolled out. We're muddling through it all.

Terrorism doesn't work if it's not allowed to work.

It's A Gas For Boris And It's All On Fire

Brexit on top of COVID-19 supply chain shortages means the UK is in dire straits right now when it comes to the basics, and panic buying of fuel around the country and massive shortages means PM Boris Johnson is calling in the British Army to handle distribution.

Boris Johnson is preparing to draft in hundreds of soldiers to tackle the UK’s fuel crisis as at least half of petrol stations outside the motorway network have run out of fuel after Britons engaged in panic buying.

The prime minister will meet senior ministers and officials on Monday to examine the latest data following the disruption to fuel supplies caused by a scarcity of tanker drivers. One senior government insider said: “The situation in England is very bad.”

Johnson will consider plans on Monday to use the army to drive tankers around the country, under contingency planning known as Operation Escalin. One Whitehall official said that petrol sales on Friday were up 180 per cent on normal levels as the result of panic buying.

Brian Madderson, chair of the Petrol Retailers Association, a trade body, said a survey of members on Sunday indicated 50 to 85 per cent of all independent service stations had now run dry, excluding motorway forecourts and some supermarket sites that had been given priority by oil companies.

The government announced on Sunday evening that it would temporarily exempt the energy industry — including producers, suppliers, hauliers and retailers — from the 1998 competition act, allowing companies to share information and prioritise deliveries to areas of greatest need.

Officials are receiving updates up to four times a day. But there was some hope in government that the panic buying had calmed by Saturday. Those with knowledge of the situation said that the best-case scenario was that disruption would clear within five days. “There is a crisis in data, we are trying to get a better picture on when the panic will pass,” one insider said.

Madderson said what had been a “manageable issue” of localised shortages at a small number of retail sites last week had quickly spiralled after media reports of supply problems had set off panic buying by motorists, with some members stating demand had surged “500 per cent above the normal level” on Saturday, quickly draining forecourt fuel tanks.

The UK has about 8,000 petrol stations, the majority run by independent retailers, some of whom operate franchises using the big oil companies’ brands.

Madderson told the Financial Times that while the short-term issue was “panic buying”, the root cause was “a government that’s been dragging its feet over the issue of the number of haulage drivers on the ground”.

Ministers bowed to business pressure on Saturday and announced they would issue temporary visas to 5,000 foreign heavy goods vehicle drivers to help tackle major labour shortages in the logistics industry.

The government move came after panic buying followed BP saying last week that as many as 100 service stations had been disrupted and several forecourts closed because of a shortage of tanker drivers.
Brexit continues to be an enduring disaster for Boris and the boys, and the shortages aren't just in the energy sector.
The United Kingdom is facing possible shortages in meat, poultry and packaged foods as a rise in energy costs may lead some companies to stop production, the Associated Press reported.

British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Tuesday that he's trying to ink a deal with CF Industries, the main provider of food-grade carbon dioxide, which is used to stun animals preceding slaughter, preserve fresh produce and carbonate beverages. The company stopped production at its U.K. plants last week because of high natural gas prices and said that it couldn't provide an estimate for when operations would resume.

"We're hopeful that we can get something sorted today and get the production up and running in the next few days," Kwarteng told the BBC. "It may come at some cost. We're still hammering out details. We're still looking at a plan."

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that unless a deal is worked out soon with food-grade carbon dioxide providers, U.K. residents could start seeing food shortages "in about 10 days. Meanwhile, the production of poultry and pork is projected to decline by the end of the week.

Four small energy providers have failed in recent months, and the U.K. government is in talks with larger firms to ensure that gas and electricity keeps flowing to customers this winter if any other suppliers collapse.

The squeeze on Britain's food processing industry is among the most visible impacts of a spike in natural gas prices as the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic—boosting demand for energy. Wholesale gas prices have tripled this year in Britain.
It's going to get a lot worse in the UK before it gets better, and this winter may be painfully bad for a lot of Britons.  The fuel shortages are only going to make distribution of other goods that much harder, in what could be a nasty spiral that gets out of control and wrecks the "just in time" delivery system that most companies run on these days.

I've been in automotive manufacturing, and for all the talk of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing techniques as a groupthink brain fart situation, it really is a system where a couple of large delayed or missed shipments can throw off everyone down the line in a number of areas, especially when it comes to perishable goods like food.

Britain is finding this out in the worst possible of ways, with Brexit already breaking most of those shipment, distribution, and labor systems. Brexit during COVID-19's resurgence, see the results.

It's not going to be pretty, and folks here in the US should definitely be paying attention.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Last Call For The Good Package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may not bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House floor Monday as she had previously committed to, she said Sunday.

"I'm never bringing to the floor a bill that doesn't have the votes," Pelosi told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, adding it could be Monday.

"You cannot choose the date," Pelosi said. "You have to go when you have the votes in a reasonable time, and we will."

Pelosi had previously agreed to put the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor to be considered by Sept. 27, after moderates in her caucus demanded a vote.

Still, she said of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, "Let me just say, we're going to pass the bill this week."

House progressives have warned leadership they will not vote on the bipartisan bill until the larger $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill is also ready for a vote. Pelosi acknowledged, "In order to move forward, we have to build consensus."

Pelosi said the price tag for that larger bill could drop in negotiations with concessions.

"I know the budget committee passed a resolution calling for $3.5 trillion, but it sounds like you acknowledge that the final number is going to be somewhat smaller than that," Stephanopoulos pressed.

"Yeah, I mean, that seems self-evident," Pelosi responded.
Now, she still plans to have the votes for something later this week.
There is actual hope as she's mostly there.

Two of the nine House centrists who demanded Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) bring the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor by Monday are now publicly promising to vote for the separate $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: By explicitly announcing their support for a big package targeting climate change and expanding the social safety net, Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas) are trying to convince progressives to vote for the infrastructure bill this week. 
Nonetheless, the two lawmakers also make it clear the House needs to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill as soon as possible. 
“We support swift passage of the president’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package,” they write in a joint statement obtained by Axios. “The bipartisan infrastructure framework would, on average, deliver $1.2 billion per congressional district.” 
“However, the idea that denying passage of the Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure bill [BIF] somehow exercises 'leverage' over some of our more fiscally conservative members is wholly misguided."

Between the lines: It’s unclear how many of the nine centrists who forced Pelosi to schedule the vote by Sept. 27 are actually on board for a big spending bill.
So we're still at the tender mercies of President Manchin and Vice-President Sinema now.  This all reminds me of Obama's stimulus package, which was pared down mightily thanks to Presidents Collins, Snowe, and Lieberman.
But what form will the final bill take?
Nobody knows right now.

Operation Plug The Leak

I absolutely hate to say this, but for once, Double G was actually correct. Why yes, the Trump regime did want the CIA to kidnap WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from London's Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been hiding for years, and some of then CIA Director Mike Pompeo's ghouls wanted to outright assassinate him.

In 2017, as Julian Assange began his fifth year holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, the CIA plotted to kidnap the WikiLeaks founder, spurring heated debate among Trump administration officials over the legality and practicality of such an operation.

Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request “sketches” or “options” for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. “There seemed to be no boundaries.”

The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency’s multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.

While Assange had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for years, these plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks’ ongoing publication of extraordinarily sensitive CIA hacking tools, known collectively as “Vault 7,” which the agency ultimately concluded represented “the largest data loss in CIA history.”

President Trump’s newly installed CIA director, Mike Pompeo, was seeking revenge on WikiLeaks and Assange, who had sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape allegations he denied. Pompeo and other top agency leaders “were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7,” said a former Trump national security official. “They were seeing blood.”

The CIA’s fury at WikiLeaks led Pompeo to publicly describe the group in 2017 as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” More than just a provocative talking point, the designation opened the door for agency operatives to take far more aggressive actions, treating the organization as it does adversary spy services, former intelligence officials told Yahoo News. Within months, U.S. spies were monitoring the communications and movements of numerous WikiLeaks personnel, including audio and visual surveillance of Assange himself, according to former officials.

This Yahoo News investigation, based on conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials — eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange — reveals for the first time one of the most contentious intelligence debates of the Trump presidency and exposes new details about the U.S. government’s war on WikiLeaks. It was a campaign spearheaded by Pompeo that bent important legal strictures, potentially jeopardized the Justice Department’s work toward prosecuting Assange, and risked a damaging episode in the United Kingdom, the United States’ closest ally.

The CIA declined to comment. Pompeo did not respond to requests for comment.
I think Mike Pompeo needs to testify to Congress about this, and then enjoy a nice vacation in his own small room for eight or nine years. 

I have my problems with Assange, he's definitely a Russian disinformation asset, willing or otherwise, and he should be rounded up and allowed to alk his heart out about his Fancy Bear friends in the GRU, but sending the CIA to assassinate him is something entirely else.

I'm way more interested in seeing Pompeo answer for that. As Marcy Wheeler notes, there's historical context here, and it's long and complex.

As to the discussions of kidnapping Assange, both the UK and NSC nixed those ideas, though White House Counsel lawyer John Eisenberg (who is presented as the hero of the Yahoo story, and who was a national security lawyer at DOJ during the Bush Administration when such things did get approved) worried that CIA would do it without alerting him and others, and so pressed DOJ to indict Assange if they were going to.

There's a lot here to absorb, and a lot here to probe. Add it to the list, I guess.

Sunday Long Read: Neighborhood Watch(ing You)

During the Trump years, Amazon partnered with police and fire departments across the country to distribute Ring doorbell camera systems to hundred of thousands of home, especially to help the elderly and single women protect themselves.  Now critics say Amazon and police departments have a suburban surveillance network millions strong, with no oversight, and rife with civil liberties abuses.

A few hours before dawn in early May of last year, four police officers were dispatched to an address that they had come to know: the home of Gemma Smith in Cape Coral, Fla. (Her name has been changed because of the sensitivity of the crimes described.)

There, they arrested the man who had broken into and entered the home: Smith’s ex-boyfriend of almost 15 years, the father of her young daughter and, for most of their relationship, the perpetrator of her physical and emotional abuse. It was the second time in six months that officers in the city of almost 200,000 people on Florida’s southwest coast had responded to a call that Smith’s ex-boyfriend had violated an order of protection.

Her ex claimed to have entered through a window. But thanks to a new tool in their arsenal, the police could show otherwise. As part of a program to combat domestic violence, Smith had been loaned an Amazon Ring doorbell camera. The video showed the suspect letting himself into her home with a key that, until then, she didn’t know he had.

The deputies on the scene confiscated the key, and Smith sent them the Ring camera footage, which they used to press charges for burglary and violation of the injunction.

When Ring launched eight years ago with a crowdfunding campaign, the market for home surveillance cameras and video doorbells barely existed. Now Ring has it cornered: In 2020, the company sold an estimated 1.4 million devices globally—as much as the next four competitors combined, according to a report by the business intelligence company Strategy Analytics. Many consumers are drawn in by Ring’s central marketing pitch: that the cameras can reduce crime by making it easy to keep an eye on people’s front porches, driveways, and—often—passersby. The company’s acquisition by Amazon in 2018 has further expanded Ring’s reach, as have its close partnerships with law enforcement agencies.

As a result of these partnerships, police forces around the country are awash in Ring cameras. Ring gave free devices to individual officers as well as entire departments from 2016 to January 2020, often in exchange for promoting the cameras and their accompanying social network and app, Neighbors by Ring. Until June 2021, the company also provided a special Neighbors portal that let law enforcement request access to footage from Ring owners, even if they had not posted it publicly.

Today, more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. use the Neighbors app, along with more than 360 fire departments. Ring’s partnerships with many police forces give the participating departments a “much wider system of surveillance than police legally could build themselves,” as Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wrote in a June 2020 letter to Amazon.

Despite the company’s focus on police partnerships, it’s unclear how much the cameras actually help in deterring or solving crimes. After its first pilot project in an upscale neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2015, Ring said the presence of its cameras had reduced burglaries in the neighborhood by 55 percent from the previous year, but the figure could not be replicated by independent analysis.

Meanwhile, civil liberties groups have raised concerns about how Ring’s cameras and app may lead to racial profiling, excessive surveillance by police, and a loss of privacy—not just for the consumers who purchased the cameras and opted in to Ring’s privacy policies, but also for every passerby caught on a camera.

As these doorbell cameras have become more widespread, law enforcement agencies have experimented with using them in more targeted ways, including to address one of the most intimate and complicated of crimes: domestic violence.

That was how there came to be a Ring video doorbell mounted next to Gemma Smith’s front door. A program started in Cape Coral in 2019, designed in close collaboration with Ring, offered video doorbells free to domestic violence survivors “as an additional resource for them to feel safe in their residence and potentially assist in the prosecution of their offenders,” according to Cape Coral Police Department documents obtained through a public records request. Ring helped start similar programs elsewhere. Shortly after Cape Coral’s pilot began, two initiatives were launched in Texas, with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) and the Sheriff’s Office for Bexar County, which surrounds the city.

There is a logic to these programs. After all, who would be more concerned about a potentially dangerous visitor at their door than someone who had just left an abusive partner?

But some domestic violence experts are concerned that these initiatives inject a combination of potentially dangerous factors into the lives of those they are supposed to protect: law enforcement that doesn’t always listen to survivors; a technology company with a patchy record on privacy and transparency; and programs launched without much department oversight—or input from experts on domestic violence.

Technologies such as Ring cameras “make the process of intervening in domestic violence more convenient, maybe more efficient,” says Laura Brignone, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the intersection of technology and violence against women. “But they don’t necessarily make it better.”


My problem with Amazon Ring is the same with Amazon Echo: you're giving surveillance data to one of the most powerful and corrupt corporations on earth in exchange for a bit of comfort. I guarantee you Amazon -- and your police department -- are using this data in ways you don't consent to, and they've been doing it for years. Your local cops have a nice little local surveillance network set up watching the front doors of millions of homes, and you're paying them for the privilege.

Don't buy or use these devices, don't give them as gifts, don't don't don't. Even if you agree to it, your neighbors certainly don't, and it's not fair to them.

It's not just about you and your family, and it never was.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Big Lie, Con't

People keep saying the GOP's Arizona audit adventure was a joke, a laughable, risible exercise that accomplished nothing for the Republicans and for Trump, and that's simply not the case. Steve M makes some very good points here:
But Republicans are usually slicker than this. They know that most people won't read the report -- they'll just absorb the headline, which is that the audit affirms Biden's victory (and increases his winning margin). Outside the fever swamps of the right, this audit looks like a joke. And within Wingnut World, it's unnecessary -- rank-and-file right-wingers already "know" the election was stolen by the Democrats. It's a core element of their worldview. They don't need audits to confirm something they regard as self-evident. Nor do GOP legislators seem to need any excuse to pass new voting restrictions aimed at Democrats. They certainly didn't need an audit for that purpose earlier this year in Georgia, Florida, or Texas (although Texas is now planning to audit the 2020 vote in four large counties, three of which went Democratic in 2020 and the other of which, Collin County, was 13% more Democratic in 2020 than in 2016 and nearly went for Joe Biden).

Why conduct audits when the faithful are already certain that Democratic fraud is rampant, no one else is persuaded by the audits (especially when they don't find any fraud), and GOP-run legislatures need no pretext to manipulate elections in their favor? I'm stumped. Apart from the need to feed the instatiable ego of Donald Trump, I don't get it -- and even Trump won't be satisfied unless the audits make him president again, which they won't. So what's the point?
The point, as I said yesterday, is to prepare the 2022 and 2024 field for overturning Democratic wins in the future by normalizing endless audits in multiple states now.

This is happening, out in the open, and it is happening now.  2020 was a dress rehearsal. The 2024 revision will, unless it is stopped, put America into a hell of authoritarian make where the only party will be the GOP, and we will join the many other dictator "democracy" states: the Philippines, Brazil, Turkey, Poland, Russia, where the reality of elections is permanent one-party rule by a tyrant dynasty for decades, cemented by military power.

We barely escaped it last time.  We won't be so lucky in 2024. Trump is setting the stage for a coup if he loses, and more importantly, he's setting the stage to normalize challenging and even nullifying and overturning election wins by Democrats in the years ahead.

The point is to normalize questioning election results where Dems win, whether by 1% or by 25%. The point is to always call them fraudulent and to investigate them. The point is to question county election results in large blue counties in red states, counties with large numbers of Black and brown voters, and to invalidate those votes and those voters. It was to justify the raft of scores of voter suppression bills, to pretend it was "due diligence".

In 2022, when these states find "fraud", the stage is set.

That's the point.

The Good Package, Con't

President Joe Biden Manchin doesn't want to pass any more legislation until 2022 or something, because everything's fine now and why bother?

Democratic leaders and President Joe Biden are speeding up their work on Biden’s massive jobs and families plan. Joe Manchin keeps throttling momentum back.

The president wants Manchin and other holdouts to find a top-line number they are comfortable with for the transformational spending bill that will run into the trillions of dollars, but Manchin isn’t yet ready to give one. His colleagues hope he will single out which provisions in the social spending program that he wants to ax so they can begin negotiating in earnest, but he’s in no rush to do so.

Instead, Manchin sees the current state of spending programs in good shape through the end of the year, when the expiration of the expanded child tax credit could force more action in Congress. And so even as the House looks to vote on a reconciliation bill totaling into the trillions as soon as next week, they are unlikely to have Manchin’s blessing anytime soon.

“What’s the need? There is no timeline. I want to understand it,” Manchin said in an interview on Thursday as he walked to his office. “I don’t think anything runs out. Right now, we’ve got good nutrition for children, a lot of things are covered right now clear [into] next year.”

The idea of a bicameral deal on reconciliation ahead of Monday’s House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill seems unlikely at best. Democrats need all 50 of their members to vote for a bill in the Senate, which allows Manchin to dictate the pace on a bill expected to raise taxes on the wealthy, expand child care problems, fight climate change and increase access to education.

But even as the West Virginian takes his time, there is good news for Democrats worried that Biden’s agenda could fall apart amid warring liberal and moderate factions over the size and scope of the legislation. At his core, Manchin seems relatively committed to getting something done instead of fighting to stop the reconciliation bill altogether.

“I don’t think Joe is unworkable, I think, look he’s fiscally conservative, OK? So, $3.5 trillion is a lot of money, it shakes into his soul,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “We can get to a point where we’re all happy. Maybe not tickled, but happy.”

Already, there are subtle signs of movement in Biden’s direction. Manchin acknowledges his idea of a “strategic pause” is not accepted by his colleagues, so he understands he and the other 49 senators in the Democratic Caucus need to keep moving forward, even if the pace frustrates those looking for quick action.

“I’ve always said pause. I thought because this is such a big thing. Right now I can tell they’re not moving for a pause and looking for a pause,” Manchin said. “I don’t know what the time frame is, but I want to understand it right now before I do anything.”

Manchin was also confronted by an activist during the interview, who asked for his vote on reconciliation. Manchin was noncommittal but buoyed by the activist’s polite approach, saying, “See? Positive. Everybody’s positive.” He is now frequently approached as he walks across the Capitol grounds by passersby, who are eager to give him either a personal word of encouragement or try and change his mind. A shirtless man yelled at Manchin earlier this month, encouraging Manchin not to “make us go broke.”

And Manchin has been the subject of intense lobbying, from his own colleagues at Senate leadership huddles and during two meetings with Biden in recent days. He says most of it will be ineffectual, even as Democrats privately grouse that Manchin is delaying the inevitable give-and-take of negotiation.

Everyone seems to be very content to let Joe Manchin run the Democratic party, Congress, and the country right now, for as long as he wants to. "Eventually" he'll come around.



Friday, September 24, 2021

Last Call For Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Republican-sponsored violence against local public health officials in states like Michigan continues, and of course the party of violent, killer terrorists doesn't want to condemn the violence on record, lest they too become the next victims.
After Kent County Health Department director Adam London detailed threats and acts of violence against him following his schools mask mandate, Kent County Board of Commissioners members denounced the aggression — but would not unanimously agree to sign a statement saying as much during their Thursday meeting.

As first reported by the Michigan Advance this week, London wrote in an Aug. 22 email to commissioners that a woman twice attempted to run him off the road at 70 mph just hours after he announced a mask mandate for anyone in preschool through sixth grade school buildings in Kent County to protect them against COVID-19.

In his email to commissioners, London discussed concerns over his safety and that of his family’s and described the low morale in the county health department that has faced a barrage of vitriolic criticism and threats of violence over the mask requirement.

I need help,” London wrote in the email obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. “My team and I are broken. I’m about done. I’ve done my job to the best of my ability. I’ve given just about everything to Kent County, and now I’ve given some more of my safety.”

Following the Advance’s story, national media, including the Washington Post, reported on the threats to London as part of a national trend of what health officials are facing during the pandemic.

During Thursday’s meeting, East Grand Rapids resident Tricia Ophoff of the organization Smart Science Alliance, which advocates for masks in schools, submitted a petition with some 800 signatures calling on commissioners to unanimously issue a statement “condemning all forms of threats and intimidation made against local, state and federal public servants.”

“We would also request you do this soon so as to give Dr. London, and all the other officials and administrators who are being threatened, the peace of mind that county leadership is concerned for their safety,” Ophoff said.

Commissioners’ responses to signing such a document varied along party lines, with all those backing the statement being Democrats and those who did not being Republican.

“For some reason, because I haven’t signed a petition to denounce violence, somehow I hate Dr. London and I don’t care about the community; that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Republican Commissioner Stan Ponstein, who represents the city of Grandville and part of the city of Wyoming, said during the meeting.

Ponstein said that he also has received threats of violence while in office.

“That’s part of public service,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Antor, a Republican who represents Alpine Township, Algoma Township, Sparta Township and Sparta Village, reported he has recently received threats and said he and his wife have gotten “vile phone calls” in recent days “from people in Seattle, Wash.”
The Republicans only care inasmuch that they all think it's Antifa or something, and they want to see "Seattle people" put in front of a firing squad anyway.  But they won't sign the petition, because they fear the crazies, and they fear their ringmaster. None of them want to see their families hurt or killed. It's fine if it happens to those liberal elitist health mask fascists though.

American politics in 2021 are completely defined by stochastic terrorism and the various responses by politicians to changing laws because of it.

Which is textbook terrorism.

The Big Lie, Con't

Amazingly enough, the Arizona GOP audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County found that Joe Biden not only won the state but did so by a slightly larger margin than the official count.

A monthslong hand recount of Maricopa County’s 2020 vote confirmed that President Joe Biden won and the election was not “stolen” from former President Donald Trump, according to early versions of a report prepared for the Arizona Senate.

The three-volume report by the Cyber Ninjas, the Senate’s lead contractor, includes results that show Trump lost by a wider margin than the county’s official election results. The data in the report also confirms that U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly won in the county.

The official results are set to be presented to the Senate at 1 p.m. Friday. Several versions of the draft report, titled “Maricopa County Forensic Audit” by Cyber Ninjas, circulated prematurely on Wednesday and Thursday. Multiple versions were obtained by The Arizona Republic.

The Cyber Ninjas and their subcontractors were paid millions to research and write the report by nonprofits set up by prominent figures in the “Stop the Steal” movement and allies of Donald Trump, but Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan said that would not influence their work.

The draft reports reviewed by The Republic minimize the ballot counts and election results and instead focus on issues that raise questions about the election process and voter integrity.

Election analysts say those findings are misleading and built on faulty data.

The draft report shows there was less than a 1,000-vote difference between the county's certified ballot count and the Cyber Ninjas' hand count.

The hand count shows Trump received 45,469 fewer votes than Biden. The county results showed he lost by 45,109.

The draft audit report says, however, the election results are inconclusive.

Maricopa County Board Chairman Jack Sellers said the overall results in the draft report confirm “the tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do, and the results reflect the will of the voters.”

“That should be the end of the story,” he said. “Everything else is just noise.”
Sellers is right, this should be the end of the story, the end of Trump, and the end of the GOP. Republicans who supported the Big Lie should be laughed out the room, shamed out of office, and charged with fraud.
The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial. But about these things there should be no doubt:

First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running.

Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest.

Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power.
Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests? Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have.

Today’s arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the Constitution offers no remedy
This is happening, out in the open, and it is happening now.  2020 was a dress rehearsal. The 2024 revision will, unless it is stopped, put America into a hell of authoritarian make where the only party will be the GOP, and we will join the many other dictator "democracy" states: the Philippines, Brazil, Turkey, Poland, Russia, where the reality of elections is permanent one-party rule by a tyrant dynasty for decades, cemented by military power.

We barely escaped it last time.  We won't be so lucky in 2024. Trump is setting the stage for a coup if he loses, and more importantly, he's setting the stage to normalize challenging and even nullifying and overturning election wins by Democrats in the years ahead.

Pay attention. It only gets worse from here.
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