The Bhalswa landfill, on the outskirts of Delhi, is an apocalyptic place. A gray mountain of dense, decaying trash rises seventeen stories, stretching over some fifty acres. Broken glass and plastic containers stand in for grass and stones, and plastic bags dangle from spindly trees that grow in the filth. Fifteen miles from the seat of the Indian government, cows rummage for fruit peels and pigs wallow in stagnant water. Thousands of people who live in slums near the mountain’s base work as waste pickers, collecting, sorting, and selling the garbage created by around half of Delhi’s residents.
This March was the hottest on record in India. The same was true for April. On the afternoon of April 26th, Bhalswa caught fire. Dark, toxic fumes spewed into the air, and people living nearby struggled to breathe. By the time firefighters arrived, flames had engulfed much of the landfill. In the past, similar fires had been extinguished within hours or days, but Bhalswa burned for weeks. “The weather poses a big challenge for us,” Atul Garg, the chief of the Delhi Fire Service, said, nine days after the fire began. “Firefighters find it difficult to wear masks and protective gear because of the heat.” A nearby school, blanketed by hazardous smoke, was forced to close. In the end, it took two weeks to extinguish the blaze. The charred bodies of cows and dogs were found in the debris.
I have family in Delhi, and have visited regularly over the decades. Each year has always felt hotter than the last. But this spring’s heat wave, which continued into the summer, has been unprecedented in its severity, duration, and geographic expanse. Across much of northern India, where more than a billion people live, temperatures have regularly soared past a hundred and ten degrees, and slightly lower temperatures have often combined with very high humidity—a dangerous combination. “The heat is rising rapidly and much earlier than usual,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, in April. “Fire has broken out in many forests, historical monuments, and hospitals.” Indians who work outside—about half the population—have sometimes had to stop in the afternoons, relinquishing their wages; schools and businesses have had to adjust their hours or shut entirely; and farmers have seen their crop yields drop by a third or more. On a particularly hot day in May, the high in Delhi hit a hundred and twenty-one, and overheated birds fell from the sky.
According to the official count, the heat wave has killed around a hundred people. But the true toll is certainly higher: in the summer of 2003, a less severe event killed seventy thousand across Europe. Only eight per cent of Indians have air-conditioning, and many lack reliable electricity, a situation that limits their use of fans and other cooling devices. In 2010, during a heat wave in Ahmedabad, the financial center of the state of Gujarat, officials counted seventy-six heatstroke deaths during the hottest week—but a later analysis of death certificates revealed that there had been at least eight hundred more deaths than usual during that time, some two hundred of them on a single day. Research has shown that, each day the temperature rises above ninety-five degrees in India, the annual mortality rate increases by three-quarters of a per cent. (In the United States, the rate increases by only .03 per cent.)
The dusty road leading to Bhalswa is lined with ramshackle shops and gutters full of stagnant water. When I visited, in May, some sections of the landfill were still releasing angry coils of smoke. In the car, I consulted my phone, which told me that it was a hundred and three degrees outside, with thirty-two-per-cent humidity. Still, when I opened the door, I was stunned by the three-dimensionality of the heat. The sun fried my skin but also somehow roasted me from within. I felt as if I’d swallowed a space heater.
A dirt path wound between tents and shacks. Tattered sheets, hung from wires attached to wooden poles, provided only a little shade. Fat plastic bags full of trash for resale leaned against crumbling brick walls; alongside them were broken chairs, metal buckets, plastic bottles, cracked pots, torn trousers, errant shoes, and a dirty diaper. Two women cooked over an open fire while an elderly man pushed a wooden cart, a young child lugging a sack behind him.
In a small brick hut, a man sat cross-legged amid a thick knot of flies, braiding human hair that he’d collected from the landfill. Half a dozen women in brightly colored clothing, their heads covered in scarves, sat on the floor.
“It didn’t use to be this hot,” Saira, the woman in charge of the group, said. “Before, it felt like it was possible for humans to work the landfill.” Now, because of the heat, they tried to stay out of the sun. “If you see five hundred people working there right now, you’ll see at least two thousand people up there at night,” she said.
“We eat up there, sleep up there sometimes,” another worker added.
Hema, a thin woman in a purple sari, sat on the stairs. “When the sun hits, it feels like your body is on fire,” she said. “I drape a shirt over my head—that makes it feel even hotter. When we come back home, our heads feel like they will explode. We take water with us, but it’s boiling by the time we can drink it.”
The women described headaches, exhaustion, dizziness, rashes, fever. The stench of the landfill—an acrid mixture of excrement and rotting trash—was sickening, they said, but the heat made it hard to tolerate masks. Outside the hut, children kicked a ragged soccer ball. A scrawny dog panted on a mound of refuse. Flies swarmed a heap of dung.
“We are living,” Saira said. “But we are also dying.”
Sunday, July 31, 2022
In rural California, as in many parts of the country, wildfires, flooding, storms and mudslides cause by climate change are the perfect opportunity for white supremacist domestic terrorist militias to recruit from people whose lives have been devastated, posing as "helpful concerned citizens" when state and local officials are overwhelmed by increasingly powerful and more numerous disasters.
The parking lot of H&L Lumber in Mariposa, California, was host to a flurry of activity Sunday as members of a local militia sporting military-style fatigues handed out pancakes and steak sandwiches to evacuees of the Oak Fire raging nearby. Along with breakfast, they doled out business cards with QR codes and directions to join their militia.
Some say the members of the Echo Company militia served as a de facto checkpoint or an advertisement for the group during the crisis, according to witnesses who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified.
“They had their whole setup with military-style trucks, and they were in their fatigues and whatnot,” said Rain Winchester, a manager at Mariposa’s nearby Monarch Inn. “I’m fine with them helping out with relief efforts as long as they don’t start to set up roadblocks or do any security work. I don’t want them doing the work of the sheriff’s office.”
The militia is becoming a consistent presence in rural Mariposa County southeast of Sacramento with a population of 17,131 scattered across 14 towns, according to the 2010 U.S. census.
Providing immediate assistance in military-style garb during an emergency is a recruiting tactic used by militias nationwide, and not confined to Mariposa County. As climate change creates more wildfires and adverse weather events, further straining local law enforcement and fire services, militias around the nation have seized on the disasters as opportunities to entangle themselves into the politics and emergency services of small communities.
In the aftermath of fires in Oregon in 2020, militias set up civilian roadblocks, which stopped at least one fleeing Black family and were ignored by local police. Members of the Oath Keepers have created a “community protection team,” six of whom were arrested for breaking a curfew during Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Joshua James, an Oath Keeper who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, met and joined the militia during relief efforts for Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Wildfires in the United States this year have consumed 5.6 million acres. The Oak Fire destroyed at least 116 homes and burned more than 19,000 acres, according to local fire authorities.
Serving as de facto aid organizations is a common recruitment and community ingratiation tactic used in rural areas to win support and acceptance during emergencies, said Rachel Goldwasser, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Although help is always needed in difficult times, it is incredibly important to remember that militias are providing it with an agenda,” she said.
“That agenda is to recruit members of the community, including victims into their organizations, legitimize them, and radicalize people into holding grievances against the government they may very well express through intimidation or violence.”
Echo Company is one of hundreds of active militias across the U.S., according to a 2016 tally by the Southern Poverty Law Center, numbers that have climbed steadily in recent years. Experts have warned that militia groups have been emboldened by former President Donald Trump and other leaders of the Republican Party.
It was not immediately clear how many members Echo Company has. In times where there are no disasters, it’s most commonly known for holding training sessions for its members and attending protests, common practices for U.S. militias.
Echo Company is, however, well known among California militias.
It was ousted from the larger California State Militia organization in 2020 for capitalizing on larger, fictitious fears of antifa looters and “for behavior that was interpreted as potentially inciteful and militant.”
Echo Company attended a “straight pride” rally in 2020, alongside the Central Valley Proud Boys.
But there are signs its efforts to provide services have worked. The group has in recent years gained favor among some in the community, as evidenced by the response to a sheriff’s office Facebook post that warned residents to “be aware of a local militia around the Mariposa town area.”
The post was soon flooded with support for the militia. Hours later, the sheriff’s department issued an “update” softening their stance.
“Clearing up confusion and answering the large amount of comments on this original post,” the updated post reads. “We are not unsupportive of community groups helping those affected by the Oak Fire, however it is important that we inform the community of resources available to them by the incident and Mariposa County.”
Saturday, July 30, 2022
As Ed Kilgore said earlier this week, there's no reason to consider Sen. Joe Manchin's deal on climate change legislation a done deal, simply because Democrats will need all 50 Senate vote to pass anything in budget reconciliation, and it also means Republicans only need to present a united front and peel off one vote to amend the package, perhaps fatally so. President Manchin has signed on.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) had a message for her Democratic colleagues before she flew home to Arizona for the weekend: She's preserving her options.
Why it matters: Sinema has leverage and she knows it. Any potential modification to the Democrat's climate and deficit reduction package — like knocking out the $14 billion provision on carried interest — could cause the fragile deal to collapse.
Her posture is causing something between angst and fear in the Democratic caucus as senators wait for her to render a verdict on the secret deal announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin last Thursday.
Driving the news: Sinema has given no assurances to colleagues that she’ll vote along party lines in the so-called “vote-a-rama” for the $740 billion bill next week, according to people familiar with the matter.The vote-a-rama process allows lawmakers to offer an unlimited number of amendments, as long as they are ruled germane by the Senate parliamentarian. Senators — and reporters — expect a late night.
Republicans, steaming mad that Democrats have a chance to send a $280 billion China competition package and a massive climate and health care bill to President Biden, will use the vote-a-rama to force vulnerable Democrats to take politically difficult votes.
They'll also attempt to kill the reconciliation package with poison pills — amendments that make it impossible for Schumer to find 50 votes for final passage.
The intrigue: Not only is Sinema indicating that she's open to letting Republicans modify the bill, she has given no guarantees she’ll support a final “wrap-around” amendment, which would restore the original Schumer-Manchin deal.
The big picture: Schumer made a calculated decision to negotiate a package with Manchin in secrecy. He assumed that all of his other members, including Sinema, would fall into line and support the deal.Now his caucus is digesting the specifics, with Sinema taking a printout of the 725-page bill back to Arizona on Friday for some dense in-flight reading.
Schumer will find out this week if his gamble in keeping Sinema in the dark will pay off.
GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, already facing an ongoing federal investigation for assaulting and trafficking underage girls, on top of voting last week against federal sex trafficking legislation in the House that passed easily, of already facing an ongoing investigation into his involvement in the January 6th insurrection, now faces new allegations of being Trump's pardon pimp for Roger Stone.
As Roger Stone prepared to stand trial in 2019, complaining he was under pressure from federal prosecutors to incriminate Donald Trump, a close ally of the president repeatedly assured Stone that “the boss” would likely grant him clemency if he were convicted, a recording shows.
At an event at a Trump property that October, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) predicted that Stone would be found guilty at his trial in Washington the following month but would not “do a day” in prison. Gaetz was apparently unaware they were being recorded by documentary filmmakers following Stone, who special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had charged with obstruction of a congressional investigation.
“The boss still has a very favorable view of you,” said Gaetz, stressing that the president had “said it directly.” He also said, “I don’t think the big guy can let you go down for this.”
Gaetz at one point told Stone he was working on getting him a pardon but was hesitant to say more backstage at the event, in which speakers were being filmed for online broadcast. “Since there are many, many recording devices around right now, I do not feel in a position to speak freely about the work I’ve already done on that subject,” Gaetz said.
The lawmaker also told Stone during their conversation that Stone was mentioned “a lot” in redacted portions of Mueller’s report, appearing to refer to portions that the Justice Department had shown to select members of Congress confidentially in a secure room. “They’re going to do you, because you’re not gonna have a defense,” Gaetz told Stone.
The 25-minute recording was captured by a microphone that Stone was wearing on his lapel for a Danish film crew, which was making a feature-length documentary on the veteran Republican operative. The filmmakers allowed Washington Post reporters to review their footage in advance of the release of their film, “A Storm Foretold,” which is expected later this year.
The recording gives a rare unguarded view of Trump confidants candidly discussing legal peril away from public eyes. Mueller’s report said it was possible that Trump had both lied to investigators about his contacts with Stone and was aware Stone might provide damaging testimony against him if he chose to cooperate with prosecutors.
Gaetz is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. At the time of the conversation, the committee was investigating whether Trump might have obstructed justice by floating possible pardons to Stone and other allies who were swept up in Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
In a statement to The Post, Gaetz’s office said he was not speaking on Trump’s behalf during the pardon discussion with Stone. His remarks about secret portions of the Mueller report were not specific enough to violate the terms under which he had been permitted to view them, the statement said.
The US Secret Service's texts on January 6th, 2021 are key evidence against Trump, if not the USSS itself as an active participant in his palace coup. No wonder then that much of those texts have disappeared, and the Inspector General's office in Homeland Security was aware of the missing texts as early as February 2021...and then the investigation was dropped, without Congress being informed.
The Department of Homeland Security’s chief watchdog scrapped its investigative team’s effort to collect agency phones to try to recover deleted Secret Service texts this year, according to four people with knowledge of the decision and internal records reviewed by The Washington Post.
In early February, after learning that the Secret Service’s text messages had been erased as part of a migration to new devices, staff at Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s office planned to contact all DHS agencies offering to have data specialists help retrieve messages from their phones, according to two government whistleblowers who provided reports to Congress.
But later that month, Cuffari’s office decided it would not collect or review any agency phones, according to three people briefed on the decision.
The latest revelation comes as Democratic lawmakers have accused Cuffari’s office of failing to aggressively investigate the agency’s actions in response to the violent attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.
Cuffari wrote a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security committees this month saying the Secret Service’s text messages from the time of the attack had been “erased.” But he did not immediately disclose that his office first discovered that deletion in December and failed to alert lawmakers or examine the phones. Nor did he alert Congress that other text messages were missing, including those of the two top Trump appointees running the Department of Homeland Security during the final days of the administration.
Late Friday night, Cuffari’s spokesman issued a statement declining to comment on the new discovery.
“To preserve the integrity of our work and consistent with U.S. Attorney General guidelines, DHS OIG does not confirm the existence of or otherwise comment about ongoing reviews or criminal investigations, nor do we discuss our communications with Congress,” the statement read.
Cuffari, a former adviser to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), has been in his post since July 2019 after being nominated by Trump.
DHS spokeswoman Marsha Espinosa said the agency is cooperating with investigators and “looking into every avenue to recover text messages and other materials for the Jan. 6 investigations.”
After discovering that some of the text messages the watchdog sought had been deleted, the Federal Protective Service, a DHS agency that guards federal buildings, offered their phones to the inspector general’s investigators, saying they lacked the resources to recover lost texts and other records on their own, according to three people familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation.
A senior forensics analyst in the inspector general’s office took steps to collect the Federal Protective Service phones, the people said. But late on the night of Friday, Feb. 18, one of several deputies who report to Cuffari’s management team wrote an email to investigators instructing them not to take the phones and not to seek any data from them, according to a copy of an internal record that was shared with The Post.
Staff investigators also drafted a letter in late January and early February to all DHS agencies offering to help recover any text messages or other data that might have been lost. But Cuffari’s management team later changed that draft to say that if agencies could not retrieve phone messages for the Jan. 6 period, they “should provide a detailed list of unavailable data and the reason the information is unavailable,” the three people said.
Cuffari also learned in late February that text messages for the top two officials at DHS under the Trump administration on the day of the attack were missing, lost in a “reset” of their government phones when they left their jobs in January 2021, according to an internal record obtained by the Project on Government Oversight. But Cuffari did not press the department’s leadership to explain why they did not preserve these records, nor try to recover them, according to the four people briefed on the watchdog’s actions. Cuffari also did not alert Congress to the missing records.
Friday, July 29, 2022
Sen. Susan Collins, one of a handful of GOP senators working to garner support in her party for a bill to codify gay marriage, said the Democrats’ surprise embrace of a tax and climate change bill made her job much harder.
“I just think the timing could not have been worse and it came totally out of the blue,” the Maine senator told HuffPost Thursday about Senate Democrats’ unveiling of their bill to raise taxes on some companies, boost IRS enforcement and spend the resulting money to fund anti-climate change efforts.The news that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) had arrived at an agreement broke like a thunderclap over official Washington early Wednesday night. The bill still faces hurdles, including ensuring all Senate Democrats are on board and will be available to vote on it when it comes to the floor. But if Democrats pull it off, it could be a big political victory for the party and the White House.
Still, Collins warned that the manner in which that victory was secured, where it appeared Democrats kept Manchin and Schumer’s negotiations under wraps until a separate bipartisan computer chip production incentive bill was passed by the Senate, hurt the effort to gather support among Republicans to bring the gay marriage bill to the floor.
“After we just had worked together successfully on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPs bill, it was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way,” she said.
An effort to give millions of veterans easier access to health and disability benefits suffered another surprising setback Wednesday on the Senate floor when supporters couldn’t muster the 60 votes needed to limit debate.
The 55-42 procedural vote on cloture derailed, at least temporarily, a sweeping expansion of veterans benefits that appeared to be heading to President Joe Biden’s desk this week.
The vote marked the second time the bipartisan legislation hit an unexpected snag. The bill had to be revised — and receive a second vote in both chambers — to remove an obscure tax provision that raised a constitutional concern in the House. The House passed the revised version two weeks ago on a 342-88 vote and the Senate planned to pass it this week.
A nearly identical bill, without the tax tweak, passed the Senate on a lopsided 84-14 vote last month with strong bipartisan support. But Republicans mounted an 11th-hour challenge to the legislation and decided not to let the revised bill advance Wednesday.
Some conservatives have raised objections to the bill because it would reclassify nearly $400 billion in current-law VA spending from discretionary to mandatory accounts, thereby potentially freeing up more budget authority to increase discretionary spending on other domestic programs.
“It’s about a budget gimmick that’s designed to allow hundreds of billions of dollars in additional unrelated spending, having nothing to do with veterans,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., who voted against the cloture motion.
And now, Collins is signaling that the same-sex marriage bill will be blocked by Republican bigots in the Senate just to hurt Obama coalition voters.
Republicans have no problem going after veterans and gay marriage to hurt people when they don't get their way, folks.
Might want to remember that this fall. They're still the bad guys.
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Democrats are understandably excited by the unexpected reemergence of the left-for-dead FY 2022 budget reconciliation bill (formerly Build Back Better, now known as the Inflation Reduction Act). Just when it looked like holdout Joe Manchin was going to object to anything other than a very narrow health-care bill, if even that, he and Chuck Schumer suddenly unveiled a bigger package including energy investments and tax provisions in addition to the expected Medicare prescription-drug-price negotiation powers and a temporary extension of Obamacare subsidies. Looks like Senate Democrats wrong-footed Mitch McConnell for once, giving the White House an unexpected and much-needed win and providing a tonic for dispirited Democratic troops in the home stretch of the midterm election cycle.
Before anyone can take the Manchin-Schumer deal to the bank, there are some other fractious Democrats beyond the West Virginian who will need to sign off. First and foremost is Manchin’s long-time partner in obstruction, the senior senator from Arizona. As Axios puts it: “Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has spent the summer out of the spotlight. That’s now going to change.” And while Manchin’s little red wagons in the yearlong struggle over reconciliation have been anti-inflation measures and propitiating fossil-fuel interests, Sinema has had other priorities:“We do not have a comment, as she will need to review the text,” a Sinema spokesperson said in the hours after news broke of Manchin’s stunning reversal.
One of the first signs Sinema wasn’t consulted on the Schumer-Manchin agreement was that it included some $14 billion in new revenue from taxing carried interest, which she has indicated she opposes
Between the lines: Sinema was on record last December supporting the 15% corporate tax rate, which will raise an estimated $313 billion to fund the Democrats’ climate priorities.
But that was before inflation took off and the constant chatter about a potential recession subsumed Washington.
While Sinema may not want to personally kill this heaven-sent deal herself, it would be surprising if she doesn’t take at least a pound of flesh in concessions to show her corporate friends she is still a major player.
Here in Kentucky, massive flash flooding over the last 24 hours has trapped hundreds of residents in the eastern part of the state as emergency crews are working to rescue people from rapidly rising floodwaters.
Several people in Southeastern Kentucky reported being trapped inside their homes early Thursday by rising waters as “catastrophic” flash flooding hit the region. “We are dealing with a catastrophic and historic flash flooding situation in parts of the region,” WYMT anchor Steve Hensley said on Twitter.
“I’ve never seen water come off the hill behind my house like this. There are people trapped and homes and roads flooded. A flash flood emergency continues for several counties. I pray nobody has lost their life. I’m afraid the devastation we will see after daybreak will be significant.”
There is flooding reported in several southeastern Kentucky counties, including Breathitt, Floyd, Perry, Knott, Leslie, Pike and Magoffin.
Gov. Andy Beshear signed a state of emergency Thursday morning in response to severe flooding late Wednesday and early Thursday in Eastern Kentucky.
Beshear called last night and early this morning “one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky‘s history.” At a 9:30 a.m. presser he called the situation “dynamic,” and said that in most places the rising waters had not even crested yet. Beshear said that the administration expects loss of life to occur because of the flooding. ‘
Todd Depriest, mayor of Jenkins in Letcher County, said the water came up quickly in and around town Thursday morning, preventing people from getting out.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, there were still people trapped in the upper floors of their houses in an area just outside the city, he said. ”I’ve never seen it do this,” said DePriest, who has lived in Jenkins for 54 years. “Been a rough one.”
DePriest said he had not heard of any injuries or deaths in the Jenkins area, though he had heard a report of a car being swept away with someone in it.
Kentucky's has a number of extreme weather events, ice storms, tornadoes, and now flash flooding, in just the last six months. Expect more of this, more often, as the era of climate change continues. Even if Democrats pass the climate change funding provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer came to an agreement on yesterday, we're still trillions behind in carbon reduction.
Extreme weather that destroys lives will be a function of the rest of our lifetimes.
America has a long history of third parties handing elections over to Republicans, with Ralph Nader getting enough votes in Florida in 2000 to cost Al Gore the state and the country, and Jill Stein, the
Russian operative Green Party candidate and her successful sabotage of Hillary Clinton in enough states to give Trump the win in 2016. Here and now, it's time for a new generation of Horseshoe Theory "alternatives" to prepare for dirty tricks against Dems in 2024, and they're getting a head start in 2022 with names like Andrew Yang, and Christie Todd Whitman.
Dozens of former Republican and Democratic officials announced on Wednesday a new national political third party to appeal to millions of voters they say are dismayed with what they see as America's dysfunctional two-party system.
The new party, called Forward and whose creation was first reported by Reuters, will initially be co-chaired by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey. They hope the party will become a viable alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties that dominate U.S. politics, founding members told Reuters.
Party leaders will hold a series of events in two dozen cities this autumn to roll out its platform and attract support. They will host an official launch in Houston on Sept. 24 and the party's first national convention in a major U.S. city next summer.
The new party is being formed by a merger of three political groups that have emerged in recent years as a reaction to America's increasingly polarized and gridlocked political system. The leaders cited a Gallup poll last year showing a record two-thirds of Americans believe a third party is needed.
The merger involves the Renew America Movement, formed in 2021 by dozens of former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump; the Forward Party, founded by Yang, who left the Democratic Party in 2021 and became an independent; and the Serve America Movement, a group of Democrats, Republicans and independents whose executive director is former Republican congressman David Jolly.
Two pillars of the new party's platform are to "reinvigorate a fair, flourishing economy" and to "give Americans more choices in elections, more confidence in a government that works, and more say in our future."
The party, which is centrist, has no specific policies yet. It will say at its Thursday launch: "How will we solve the big issues facing America? Not Left. Not Right. Forward."
No actual policies yet, other than putting a Republican fascist in the White House, that is. I'm hoping these idiots will run out of money before they can peel enough support away from Biden to assure even a Trump win, never mind DeSantis or another competent fascist getting the nod.
Sadly, I'm betting there will be billions of bucks thrown down the pit over the next couple of years to drive a wedge in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas to ensure that Democratic votes are split, allowing a plurality (and not a majority!) of Republicans to win those states in 2024.
Trump may not have to try to steal the Electoral College this time in order to win thanks to these assholes.
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
I've spent a good year plus slagging WV Dem Sen. Joe Manchin over his constant games, screwing Democrats over at every damn turn as his games consistently killed climate change and environmental legislation in President Biden's Build Back Better plan. Manchin was willing to play his 50th Dem vote at every turn, and he kept getting away with it.
That was until earlier this month when he finally stuck a pitchfork in the chest of the legislation and finally became the bad guy in the story. The reaction from Democrats and the press was that Manchin would be remembered as one of the great villains in history, the man that killed climate change legislation and handed the planet over to Big Energy to cook all of us alive.
I've said before that Manchin, for whatever reason, didn't want his legacy to be nothing more than a back-country coal baron who screwed the planet over. But it didn't seem like he cared anymore.
And today, Manchin finally drove the knife in.
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday reached a deal with Democratic leaders on a spending package that aims to lower health-care costs, combat climate change and reduce the federal deficit, marking a massive potential breakthrough for President Biden’s long-stalled economic agenda.
The new agreement, brokered between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), opens the door for party lawmakers to try to advance the measure next week. It caps off months of fierce debate, delay and acrimony, a level of infighting that some Democrats saw as detrimental to their political fate ahead of this fall’s critical elections.
Under the deal, Schumer secured Manchin’s support for roughly $433 billion in new spending, most of which is focused on climate change and clean energy production. It is the largest such investment in U.S. history, and a marked departure from Manchin’s position only days earlier. The Democrats coupled the spending with provisions that aim to lower health-care costs for Americans, chiefly by allowing Medicare to begin negotiating the price of select prescription drugs on behalf of seniors.
To pay for the package, Manchin and Schumer also settled on a flurry of changes to tax law that would raise $739 billion over the next decade — enough to offset the cost of the bill while securing more than $300 billion for cutting the deficit, a priority for Manchin. Democrats sourced the funds from a series of changes to tax law, including a new minimum tax on corporations and fresh investments in the Internal Revenue Service that will help it pursue tax cheats.
Taken together, the package represents more than some Democrats once thought they might win from Manchin, who repeatedly has raised fiscal concerns with his own party’s ambitions. Only two weeks ago, the moderate from West Virginia, a coal-heavy state, signaled his opposition to new climate investments out of a fear that spending increases — funded in part by tax hikes — could harm the economy and worsen inflation.
“This is the most significant action we’ve taken on climate, that we will take on climate and clean energy, ever,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who led Democrats on a plan that would have punished polluters in the electricity sector before Manchin blocked it.
But the new agreement still totals significantly less than Democrats had hoped to achieve through the more sweeping, roughly $2 trillion initiative known as the Build Back Better Act. Manchin angered many colleagues when he scuttled his party’s proposed overhaul to the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws last December, a version of which passed in the House. Manchin described that since-abandoned plan in defiant terms Wednesday.
“For too long, the reconciliation debate in Washington has been defined by how it can help advance Democrats’ political agenda called Build Back Better,” Manchin said in a lengthy statement, referring to Democrats’ initial, larger spending package that bore Biden’s 2020 campaign slogan.
“Build Back Better is dead, and instead we have the opportunity to make our country stronger by bringing Americans together,” Manchin said.
Biden, meanwhile, described the legislation as “historic,” stressing in a statement: “This is the action the American people have been waiting for.” The White House had issued its own ultimatum earlier this month, stressing that if Congress didn’t act on climate change, then Biden would issue executive orders to address the issue.
“This addresses the problems of today — high health care costs and overall inflation — as well as investments in our energy security for the future,” Biden said.
With an agreement in hand, Schumer soon set about briefing members of his party on the bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. It came as a surprise to many Democratic lawmakers, illustrating the tumultuous and secretive negotiations between Schumer and Manchin, which have spanned months.
From here, Schumer aims to finalize the proposal and advance it through the process known as reconciliation. The tactic allows Democrats to move their spending bill through the narrowly divided Senate using their 50 votes and Vice President Harris’s tiebreaking power, sidestepping Republicans’ opposition and filibuster. Late Wednesday, Schumer said the hope is to “vote on this transformative legislation next week," though it is not yet clear if his entire caucus supports the scaled-back plan.
It passed with broad bipartisan support, 64 to 33.
The measure now goes to the House for approval before it can be sent to President Joe Biden for his expected signature.
The legislation is aimed at addressing a semiconductor chip shortage and making the US less reliant on other countries such as China for manufacturing. Supporters say the measure is important not only for US technological innovation, but for national security as well.
It sets up incentives for domestic semiconductor manufacturing as well as research and development and includes more than $50 billion in funding for that aim. It includes a number of provisions aimed at bolstering scientific research, including authorizing billions of dollars for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has praised the bill as a major bipartisan achievement and touted it as highly consequential.
After months of internal debate, the Biden administration has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence, as part of a potential deal to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, according to people briefed on the matter.
These sources told CNN that the plan to trade Bout for Whelan and Griner received the backing of President Joe Biden after being under discussion since earlier this year. Biden's support for the swap overrides opposition from the Department of Justice, which is generally against prisoner trades.
"We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians," a senior administration official told CNN Wednesday. "We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June."
The official declined to comment on the specifics of the "substantial offer." They said it was in Russia's "court to be responsive to it, yet at the same time that does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very senior levels."
"It takes two to tango. We start all negotiations to bring home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained with a bad actor on the other side. We start all of these with somebody who has taken a human being American and treated them as a bargaining chip," the official said. "So in some ways, it's not surprising, even if it's disheartening, when those same actors don't necessarily respond directly to our offers, don't engage constructively in negotiations."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the US presented a "substantial proposal" to Moscow "weeks ago" for Whelan and Griner, who are classified as wrongfully detained. The top US diplomat said he intended to discuss the matter on an expected call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week.
The families of Whelan, who has been held by Russia for alleged espionage since 2018, and WNBA star Griner, jailed in Moscow for drug possession since February, have urged the White House to secure their release, including via a prisoner exchange if necessary.
Griner, who pleaded guilty in early July but said she unintentionally brought cannabis into Russia, testified in a Russian courtroom Wednesday as part of her ongoing trial on drug charges, for which she faces up to 10 years in prison. It is understood that her trial will have to conclude prior to a deal being finalized, according to US officials familiar with the Russian judicial process and the inner workings of US-Russia negotiations.
During months of internal discussions between US agencies, the Justice Department opposed trading Bout, people briefed on the matter say. However, Justice officials eventually accepted that a Bout trade has the support of top officials at the State Department and White House, including Biden himself, sources say.
The races for Governor and Senator in Georgia are shaping up to have no small amount of ticket-splitting, if the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll is any indication.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is slightly ahead of Republican Herschel Walker in the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of a race that could decide control of the Senate, while Gov. Brian Kemp has an apparent lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch for Georgia’s top office.
The AJC poll is the latest that suggests a split-ticket dynamic may be emerging in Georgia’s two marquee races, with a small but crucial bloc of voters indicating they’re willing to cross party lines to cast ballots for both the incumbents in the nationally watched contests.
In his second election against Abrams, Kemp leads the Democrat 48% to 43% with an additional 7% of likely voters who haven’t made up their minds. A statistically insignificant number of voters back Libertarian Shane Hazel and Al Bartell, an independent candidate.
Warnock edges Walker 46% to 43% in his bid for a full six-year term, with about 3% of voters indicating they’ll support Libertarian Chase Oliver. About 8% say they’re still undecided about the race, which is likely to be among the costliest in the nation.
“Both of these races are very close statistically,” said Trey Hood, a University of Georgia political scientist who conducted the poll.
“There’s a long way to go before the general election, but a trend is emerging with recent polls: Kemp is consistently polling ahead of Abrams and Warnock is polling ahead of Walker.”
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Previously undisclosed emails provide an inside look at the increasingly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to President Donald J. Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack, including acknowledgments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as “fake.”
The dozens of emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers and close associates of Mr. Trump show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim — with no basis — to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battleground states that he had lost.
In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussions repeatedly used the word “fake” to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny.
“We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020, email to Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign.
In a follow-up email, Mr. Wilenchik wrote that “‘alternative’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes,” adding a smiley face emoji.
The emails provide new details of how a wing of the Trump campaign worked with outside lawyers and advisers to organize the elector plan and pursue a range of other options, often with little thought to their practicality. One email showed that many of Mr. Trump’s top advisers were informed of problems naming Trump electors in Michigan — a state he had lost — because pandemic rules had closed the state Capitol building where the so-called electors had to gather.
The emails show that participants in the discussions reported details of their activities to Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and in at least one case to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. Around the same time, according to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, Mr. Meadows emailed another campaign adviser saying, “We just need to have someone coordinating the electors for states.”
Many of the emails went to Mr. Epshteyn, who was acting as a coordinator for people inside and outside the Trump campaign and the White House and remains a close aide to Mr. Trump
Mr. Epshteyn, the emails show, was a regular point of contact for John Eastman, the lawyer whose plan for derailing congressional certification of the Electoral College result on Jan. 6, 2021, was embraced by Mr. Trump.
The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to four people familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
The prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states, the people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump’s involvement in the fake-elector effort led by his outside lawyers, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, these people said.
In addition, Justice Department investigators in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter. That effort is another indicator of how expansive the Jan. 6 probe had become, well before the high-profile, televised House hearings in June and July on the subject.
The Washington Post and other news organizations have previously written that the Justice Department is examining the conduct of Eastman, Giuliani and others in Trump’s orbit. But the degree of prosecutors’ interest in Trump’s actions has not been previously reported, nor has the review of senior Trump aides’ phone records.
A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokesman and a lawyer for Meadows both declined to comment.
Chief Justice John Roberts privately lobbied fellow conservatives to save the constitutional right to abortion down to the bitter end, but May's unprecedented leak of a draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade made the effort all but impossible, multiple sources familiar with negotiations told CNN.
It appears unlikely that Roberts' best prospect -- Justice Brett Kavanaugh -- was ever close to switching his earlier vote, despite Roberts' attempts that continued through the final weeks of the session.
New details obtained by CNN provide insight into the high-stakes internal abortion-rights drama that intensified in late April when justices first learned the draft opinion would soon be published. Serious conflicts over the fate of the 1973 Roe were then accompanied by tensions over an investigation into the source of the leak that included obtaining cell phone data from law clerks and some permanent court employees.
In the past, Roberts himself has switched his vote, or persuaded others to do so, toward middle-ground, institutionalist outcomes, such as saving the Affordable Care Act. It's a pattern that has generated suspicion among some right-wing justices and conservatives outside the court.
Multiple sources told CNN that Roberts' overtures this spring, particularly to Kavanaugh, raised fears among conservatives and hope among liberals that the chief could change the outcome in the most closely watched case in decades. Once the draft was published by Politico, conservatives pressed their colleagues to try to hasten release of the final decision, lest anything suddenly threaten their majority.
Roberts' persuasive efforts, difficult even from the start, were thwarted by the sudden public nature of the state of play. He can usually work in private, seeking and offering concessions, without anyone beyond the court knowing how he or other individual justices have voted or what they may be writing.
Kavanaugh had indicated during December oral arguments that he wanted to overturn Roe and CNN learned that he voted that way in a private justices' conference session soon afterward. But the 2018 appointee of former President Donald Trump who had been confirmed by the Senate only after expressing respect for Roe has wavered in the past and been open to Roberts' persuasion.
Fresh from a double contempt of Congress conviction linked to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Steve Bannon is now calling on “4,000 shock troops” to “deconstruct” the federal government “brick by brick.”
He wants to see people “stepping forward, say[ing], ’Hey, I want to be one of those 4,000 shock troops,” Bannon said on his “War Room” podcast Monday. “This is taking on and defeating and deconstructing the administrative state,” he added.
“Shock troops” are assault forces that lead an attack.
“Suck on it,” said Bannon. “We’re destroying this illegitimate regime.”
Bannon’s incendiary comments evoked his ominous call the day before the U.S. Capitol riot, when he told supporters of then-President Donald Trump on his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. We’re on ... the point of attack ... strap in.”
Bannon was responding to an Axios report last week that Trump and his allies are already plotting to replace all federal officials and civil service workers with those whose key qualification would be slavish devotion to Trump if he retakes the White House in the 2024 election.
Bannon hailed the radical plot for Trump to take control of the nation. Former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes vowed on the podcast that Trump’s “next” term would be “far more consequential” than his last one. Both men were clearly familiar with the game plan.
Bannon had also called for “shock troops” to “immediately” seize control of the nation a month before the 2020 election, when he expected Trump to win reelection — or seize control of the vote results. “Pre-trained teams” need to be “ready to jump into federal agencies,” Bannon told NBC News then.
Bloomberg opinion columnist Jonathan Bernstein wrote Monday that “contempt for the rule of law” appeared to be a key qualification for workers in Trump’s future world in office, to fulfill his aim to “blow up the Constitution.”
Bannon was convicted Friday of two counts of contempt of Congress for blowing off a subpoena to provide documents and be interviewed by members of the House select committee about his activities linked to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — including plotting with Trump to overthrow presidential election results.
Monday, July 25, 2022
As David Freedlander points out in New York Magazine, Republican candidates in 2022 increasingly have decided that they no longer need a free press, and that the far friendlier confines of right wing talk radio, podcasts, viral social media and FOX News are all they need to reach in order to get enough votes to win in November.
When Fox News host Tucker Carlson appeared last week at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa — an annual cattle call for Republican would-be presidential contenders — he insisted that he was a not a candidate, but he had advice for what GOP voters should look for in one: “You need to be really wary of candidates who care what the New York Times thinks,” he said. Singling out former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who, after the murder of George Floyd, tweeted that his death was “personal and painful,” Carlson accused the likely presidential candidate of pandering to the wrong audience.
“You’re trying to please the people whose opinions you actually care about — at the New York Times,” he said, mocking Haley.
This view — that approval from the mainstream press isn’t just unnecessary but actually suspect — is one that has come to dominate GOP politics in the Trump era. And while railing against the so-called liberal media has long been a part of the Republican playbook, more than a dozen GOP campaign operatives, senior Hill aides, and political reporters from major news outlets say the past few years have brought something new: actively courting the media’s scorn while avoiding anything that may be viewed as consorting with the enemy.
At this point in the political cycle six years ago, Rand Paul was on the cover of Time magazine. “The Most Interesting Man in Politics,” the headline said of the junior senator from Kentucky and 2016 presidential aspirant. He was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine too, billed as a “Major Threat” (with a design riffing off the visual language of the punk band Minor Threat).
In both instances, Paul spent lots of time with the reporters, posing for pictures, and his views were given at least a fair, if not flattering, airing. And if Paul was a sympathetic figure for the media in his pre-2016 days — a civil libertarian who opposed military escalation abroad and seemed to hate the Republican Establishment as much as Democrats did — he wasn’t alone in receiving and participating in coverage from the elite media. Ted Cruz was profiled in The New Yorker, pictured in his cowboy boots before a painting of Ronald Reagan. He was portrayed as an archconservative, but a swashbuckling one, with his father and various employers, friends, and former college professors speaking to his intelligence. Marco Rubio was also in the magazine and was compared to a Republican Kennedy.
It wasn’t just Paul, Cruz, and Rubio. Take a look at any of the prestige- and Establishment-media outlets from around this time (including this one), and all of their pages were graced with the Jeb Bushes, Chris Christies, John Kasichs, and other contenders who were making up an already overstuffed presidential-primary field.
We are at the same point now in the 2024 election cycle, and again two fistfuls of Republicans are making noises about running for president. But that kind of long look at the life and career of the contenders has been all but absent so far this election cycle. Save for a recent Time profile of Glenn Youngkin, still considered a long shot for a 2024 run, the closest we’ve seen to what used to be a staple of political journalism is a long New Yorker profile of Florida governor Ron DeSantis — one in which the subject didn’t participate, a previously almost unheard-of press strategy for a presidential aspirant. And it is not just the prepresidential campaign profile that is suffering from a lack of Republican engagement. Increasingly, even simple news stories from national newspapers and wire services will feature a direct quote from a Democrat but just a tweet or a line from a speech by a Republican, typically a sign the latter declined to respond to the reporter.
“I just don’t even see what the point is anymore,” said an adviser to one likely GOP presidential aspirant, who requested anonymity to discuss press strategy. “We know reporters always disagreed with the Republican Party, but it used to be you thought you could get a fair shake. Now every reporter, and every outlet, is just chasing resistance rage-clicks.”
Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime,” expressing the Kremlin’s war aims in some of the bluntest terms yet as its forces pummel the country with artillery barrages and airstrikes.
The remark from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comes amid Ukraine’s efforts to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports, something that would help ease global food shortages, under a new deal tested by a Russian strike on Odesa over the weekend.
Speaking to envoys at an Arab League summit in Cairo late Sunday, Lavrov accused Kyiv and its Western allies of spouting propaganda intended to ensure that Ukraine “becomes the eternal enemy of Russia.”
“We are determined to help the people of eastern Ukraine to liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime,” he said. Apparently suggesting that Moscow’s war aims extend beyond Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region in the east, Lavrov said: “We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical.”
Lavrov’s comments followed his warning last week that Russia plans to retain control over broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, and will make more gains elsewhere.
First-term Texas GOP governor Greg Abbott, busy reducing women to second-class citizens, running a third-world power grid, covering up for a fourth-grade police force, giving kids a fifth-rate education and with his sixth sense on immigration an absolute failure, is all shaping up to give Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke a seventh heaven of a chance in November.
One of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The revival of a 1920s ban on abortion. The country’s worst episode of migrant death in recent memory. And an electrical grid, which failed during bitter cold, now straining under soaring heat.
The unrelenting succession of death and difficulty facing Texans over the last two months has soured them on the direction of the state, hurting Gov. Greg Abbott and making the race for governor perhaps the most competitive since Democrats last held that office in the 1990s.
Polls have shown a tightening, single-digit contest between Mr. Abbott, the two-term incumbent, and his ubiquitous Democratic challenger, the former congressman Beto O’Rourke. Mr. O’Rourke is now raising more campaign cash than Mr. Abbott — $27.6 million to $24.9 million in the last filing — in a race that is likely to be among the most expensive of 2022.
Suddenly, improbably, perhaps unwisely, Texas Democrats are again daring to think — as they have in many recent election years — that maybe this could be the year.
“It seems like some the worst things that are happening in this country have their roots in Texas,” said James Talarico, a Democratic state representative from north of Austin. “We’re seeing a renewed fighting spirit.”
At the same time, the winds of national discontent are whipping hard in the other direction, against Democrats. Texans, like many Americans, have felt the strain of rising inflation and have a low opinion of President Biden. Unlike four years ago, when Mr. O’Rourke challenged Senator Ted Cruz and nearly won during a midterm referendum on President Donald J. Trump that lifted Democrats, now it is Republicans who are animated by animus toward the White House and poised to make gains in state races.
But in recent weeks there has been a perceptible shift in Texas, as registered in several public polls and some internal campaign surveys, after the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that brought back into force a 1925 law banning all abortions except when the woman’s life is at risk.
“Dobbs at the margins has hurt Republicans in Texas. Uvalde at the margins has hurt Republicans in Texas. The grid has hurt Republicans in Texas,” said Mark P. Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University who helped conduct one recent poll. “Biden and inflation have been their saving grace.”
Most voters polled did not rank guns or abortion among their top issues in the recent survey, by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, but many of Mr. O’Rourke’s supporters did, suggesting the issues could help to energize his voters, Mr. Jones said.
And the issue of gun control was a top concern among another group that Republicans have been fighting hard to win away from Democrats: Hispanic women.
A separate poll, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin and released this month, showed 59 percent of respondents thought Texas was on the “wrong track,” the highest number in more than a decade of asking that question. Another, from Quinnipiac University, found Mr. O’Rourke within 5 percentage points of the governor.