Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Last Call For The GOP Circus Of The Damned, Con't

GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is losing control of his caucus after the debt ceiling deal with Hakeem Jeffries and President Biden, and the clock is ticking on how long he keeps his ringmaster hat and jacket.
House conservatives on Tuesday blew up an effort by GOP leadership to advance several bills in a dramatic confrontation on the House floor, the result of a revolt against the debt limit deal cut by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Biden just days before.

Eleven Republicans — most of whom are members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — joined Democrats in voting against a rule to advance four bills related to gas stoves and regulatory reform, enough opposition to tank the rule and block the legislation from advancing to the floor.

Just before the vote closed, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) changed his vote to oppose the rule as well, a move that allows him to bring up the rule for another vote at a later time. The final vote was 206-220.

The revolt made for a dramatic scene on the House floor, where Scalise huddled with more than a dozen conservatives in the back of the chamber in a tense effort to flip votes and allow the bills to advance to the floor.

The normally-routine rule vote — which was scheduled to be only five minutes — went on for more than 50 minutes.

The revolt was a reality check for McCarthy, who has been taking a victory lap after Congress passed and Biden signed a bill to suspend the debt limit that was the product of negotiations between House Republicans and the White House.

“We’re frustrated at the way this place is operating,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — one of the conservative who voted against the rule — told reporters as the vote was still happening.

“We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial Speakership, and we’re concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the Speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal. And, you know, the answer for us is to reassert House conservatives as the appropriate coalition partner for our leadership instead of them making common cause with Democrats,” he added.
If the House GOP can no longer pass simple, performative bills like FREEDOMS FOR GAS STOVES ACT '23 or whatever, the measure of McCarthy's reign gets shortened considerably. And yes, for once Matt Gaetz is correct: McCarthy absolutely made common cause with Hakeem Jeffries and the House Democrats on the debt ceiling measure, despite all the House Republicans who wanted to blow up the economy. 

If McCarthy can't handle even basic nonsense legislation, the next time real stuff comes up, he's toast.

Putin's Pipe-Lying Problem, Con't

A lot of ink has been spilled over the Nord Stream pipelines, but the fact remains that the Nord Stream pipelines both blew up, and somebody is responsible for it. Russia blames the US, the US blames Russia, but the actual team that did it could very well be Ukrainian, at least, that's what the Washington Post is reporting today.
Three months before saboteurs bombed the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, the Biden administration learned from a close ally that the Ukrainian military had planned a covert attack on the undersea network, using a small team of divers who reported directly to the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Details about the plan, which have not been previously reported, were collected by a European intelligence service and shared with the CIA in June 2022. They provide some of the most specific evidence to date linking the government of Ukraine to the eventual attack in the Baltic Sea, which U.S. and Western officials have called a brazen and dangerous act of sabotage on Europe’s energy infrastructure.

The European intelligence reporting was shared on the chat platform Discord, allegedly by Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira. The Washington Post obtained a copy from one of Teixeira’s online friends.

The intelligence report was based on information obtained from an individual in Ukraine. The source’s information could not immediately be corroborated, but the CIA shared the report with Germany and other European countries last June, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations and diplomatic discussions.
Which brings us back to the Discord leaks on Ukraine's military intelligence to begin with. The folks profiting the most from this scenario are of course Vladimir Putin and his merry band of oligarchs. How white-hot intel like this ended up in the hands of an Air Force reservist, well, as I've said since Snowden, the Russians have had the crown jewels of US intelligence for nearly a decade now. 

And pointing the finger at Ukraine for the pipeline is exactly the kind of thing Russia wants in order to justify actions like this.

A torrent of water burst through a massive dam on the Dnipro River that separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, flooding a swathe of the war zone, forcing villagers to flee and prompting finger-pointing from both sides.

Ukraine said Russia had committed a deliberate war crime in blowing up the Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam. The Kremlin blamed Ukraine, saying it was trying to distract from the launch of a major counteroffensive Moscow says is faltering.

Some Russian-installed officials said the dam had collapsed on its own.

Neither side offered immediate public evidence of who was to blame. The Geneva Conventions explicitly ban targeting dams in war because of the danger to civilians.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from settlements along the southern stretch of Ukraine's Dnipro river as flood waters submerged streets, town squares and homes.

It was not immediately clear if anyone had been killed. The White House said it could not say conclusively what caused the destruction of the dam, but spokesman John Kirby said it had probably caused "many deaths".

Lidia Zubova, 67, waiting for a train out of the city of Kherson in Ukrainian government-controlled territory after abandoning her inundated village of Antonivka, told Reuters: "Our local school and stadium downtown were flooded... The road was completely flooded, our bus got stuck."
The suffering in Crimea because of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam is already massive, with thousands fleeing the area, and sustainability of water supplies in the region now questionable for decades. It's a straight up violation of the Geneva Conventions, but it happens to be payback for the Nord Stream, and everyone knows it.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is becoming more and more of a nightmare each day, it seems. And Putin is still the one laughing about it.

Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is in hot water with both Texas and California for his immigration "relocation" stunts, as officials in both states are considering his practice of taking loads of undocumented immigrants and dumping them in other states as human trafficking.
A Texas sheriff’s department has recommended that the district attorney in Bexar County bring criminal charges over the first iteration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ so-called migrant relocation program. Those flights last September sent 49 asylum seekers, most of them Venezuelans, from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

According to a statement provided to the Miami Herald, the Bexar County sheriff completed its criminal investigation into the on-the-ground operation that allegedly lured migrants onto the flights with false promises of jobs and opportunities on the other end.

“The case filed includes both felony and misdemeanor charges of Unlawful Restraint,” according to the statement. “At this time, the case is being reviewed by the DA’s office. Once an update is available, it will be provided to the public.”

Now it’s up to prosecutors in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, to decide whether to follow the sheriff’s recommendation. The district attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last fall, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar issued special certifications to all of the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard declaring them to be official victims of a crime and paving the way for them to stay in the United States under a special visa for those helpful to law enforcement. Unlawful restraint is a misdemeanor unless the victim is younger than 17 — as was the case for five of the migrants.

Handing the case over to prosecutors is a critical juncture in a criminal probe that could snare some of DeSantis’ top aides. The migrant relocation program, using Florida tax dollars, was overseen by DeSantis’ chief of staff, James Uthmeier, and public safety czar Larry Keefe.

The sheriff announced its charging recommendation in a statement to the Herald Monday as news broke of several dozen migrants transported from El Paso to Sacramento, California, using a playbook similar to the one DeSantis used to send asylum seekers to Massachusetts last year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom took his feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis to new heights on Monday, seemingly threatening him with kidnapping charges after California officials say South American migrants were sent to Sacramento by the state of Florida as a political stunt.

Newsom, a Democrat, cited state kidnapping laws in a tweet to the Florida governor and Republican presidential hopeful, whom he called a “small, pathetic man.”

“This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard. Kidnapping charges?” Newsom said in the tweet, referencing DeSantis’ action last year to send a group of Venezuelan migrants to the wealthy liberal vacation spot in Massachusetts.

Sixteen migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were transported from Texas to New Mexico and flown on a chartered jet to Sacramento, where they were dropped off Friday at a church, Newsom said.

On Monday, a plane carrying 20 migrants arrived in Sacramento. Both groups were flown by the same contractor and were carrying documents indicating that their transportation involved the state of Florida, according to officials with the California Department of Justice.

Newsom said that his administration is working with the agency to “investigate the circumstances around” who paid for the plane trips, whether migrants were misled and whether laws were violated, including kidnapping.

It is unclear what legal action the state plans to take. After Newsom tweeted the threat of kidnapping charges, his spokesperson deferred questions to Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office. Bonta said over the weekend that he was “evaluating potential criminal or civil action” but did not release additional details Monday.
At some point, DeSantis has to answer for this.
Who will actually make him do that, well...

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