No More Nice Democrats, Please

One side effect of the California recall election is that it appears to be inspiring Democrats to do something bold and unusual: run against Republicans.

People noticed that many 2020 election campaigns amounted to asymmetrical warfare. Democrats often ran on “reaching across the aisle” and bragging about how well they work with everybody to “get things done.” Their Republican opponents, meanwhile, were running ads saying that Democrats will take away your guns and Bibles and eat your babies. Guess who won most of the time?

David Atkins writes that Dems are eager to blast the opposition on covid mitigation.

As of this writing, the United States is once again suffering more than 2,000 deaths per day—the most since over 200 days ago. It is uncomfortable but necessary to point out that it is a primarily Republican plague at this point: The infection rate is twice as high in red counties as in blue ones. Seventy percent of new cases are emerging in red states, and the red-blue divide in vaccination rates is stark.

So it scarcely matters if Republicans are doing this out of ideological fervor or Machiavellian conspiracy. Regardless, the real results of laissez-faire public health policy are a clear abysmal failure. Insofar as it’s an intentional ploy to drag down Biden’s approval rating and the broader economy, the slight dip in public confidence well over a year out from the midterms is hardly worth the anger Republicans are stoking from everyday Americans who have been vaccinated, or are soon to be, and furious over being endangered by conservative anti-vax, anti-mask extremists.

The GOP intransigence is fiercely motivating Democrats to vote even in off-year and special elections, even as Republicans and their conservative infotainment allies are functionally killing and incapacitating literally thousands of their own voters almost every day, including and especially the ones so politically engaged and devoted to the cause that they’re willing to risk death rather than wear a mask or get a shot.

If Roe v. Wade goes down, or if the Texas vigilante law spreads to other states, that’s going to fire up a whole lot of people also. Paul Waldman writes that the pro-choice backlash is already brewing. Noting that polls consistently say that a comfortable majority of Americans want Roe v. Wade to remain in effect, Waldman also says that most American probably still don’t believe it will ever be overturned.

Quinnipiac found that by 54 percent to 35 percent, Americans didn’t think that Roe is likely to be overturned within the next few years. They’re in for a big surprise.

On Dec. 1, the court will hear oral arguments in a case concerning Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a case that supporters quite clearly hope will be the vehicle for overturning Roe.

If and when it does, you won’t need vigilante laws. Republican-run states will just outlaw abortion entirely, with no need to concoct some kind of legal legerdemain to prevent the courts from striking the laws down. But in the meantime, Republican state legislators are already moving to create their own copycat versions of the Texas law. …

… Most Americans may not be paying much attention to the grim situation now faced by women in Texas who need to terminate a pregnancy. But when it’s happening in as many as 23 states where a total of 42 percent of Americans live — the number of states where Republicans control the legislature and the governorship — it will be impossible to ignore.

This week the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments about a Missouri law passed in 2019 that bans abortions after eight weeks’ gestation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Whether it allows abortions to be terminated to save the life of the mother isn’t clear to me. Judges for this court include four Trump appointees, three Reagan appointees, ten Bush appointees (father and son), and one Obama appointee. Be afraid.

But let us hope that in 2022 Democrats make it clear they are not going to cooperate with any of this. No more nice. No more reaching across the aisle.

Here’s More of Trump’s Scheme to End Democracy

Thanks to the new Woodward-Costa book, a memo has emerged detailing a “January 6 scenario” intended to hand the election to Trump. This scenario was proposed to Mike Pence in an oval office meeting with Trump on January 4, it says here. Written by John Eastman, a lawyer on Trump’s legal team, the memo proposed that Mike Pence could toss out the Electoral College votes from the Seven Disputed States (Arizona et al.),, which would have given Trump 232 E.C. votes and Biden 222. If Democrats object, the memo continues, throw out all the E.C. votes and have the election settled by the House. Each state gets one vote, which no doubt would have given the election to Trump. (That’s a very simplified explanation; the memo provides more details.) According to Woodward/Costa, Trump urged Pence to go ahead with what the memo proposed.

I’m not lawyer, but wouldn’t that be sedition, on its face?

A fellow named Ned Foley explains in great detail on the Election Law Blog that this would not have worked, or at least it would not have worked legally and constitutionally. This assumes everyone agrees on what’s “legal” and “constitutional,” which is assuming a lot, IMO.

Among other things, this episode has revealed serious ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which is cited by Eastman copiously in the memo. Eastman points to some of the ambiguities to decide the ECA is unconstitutional, which is a leap according to Ned Foley, but Foley urges that the ECA be tightened up anyway.

Greg Sargent wrote,

In a great new draft paper, election law scholar Richard L. Hasen warns that we face “serious risk” of “election subversion” or an “actual stolen election.” Hasen discusses reforms that could avert such scenarios, which will also be the topic of a conference on Friday.

In the last election, no GOP legislature appointed rogue electors, a majority of Congress voted to uphold Biden’s electors, and Pence ultimately backed away from the plot. But some GOP legislators did consider this scheme, around 150 congressional Republicans did vote to subvert Biden’s electors, and Pence did explore the outer limits of what he might do for Trump.

And if the GOP controls the House and Senate on Jan. 6, 2025, Congress can simply count rogue electors sent by a given state, or refuse to count the rightful ones. If Republicans control just the House, Congress might deadlock, prompting a contingent election in the House decided by state delegations, and the Republican would win.

Indeed, as Hasen notes, the scheme getting even this far shows we are vulnerable to a future “respectable bloodless coup,” one “dependent upon technical legal arguments overcoming valid election results.” This, plus the fact that some Republican candidates are now campaigning on a vow to subvert future losses, requires cutting off these pathways.

Reforms include putting more conditions on congress critters objecting to electors so that they can’t do it for frivolous reasons. We also need to tighten up definisions of “failed elections.” A hurricane wiping out polling places on election day would qualify, whining by the losing candidate would not.

But of course, any election reform depends on reforming the filibuster rules first. So we’re probably screwed.

Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi, January 6, 2021.

Some People Just Like to Watch Things Burn

I am seriously glad I’m not Joe Biden, or even in Congress. The destruction tag team of Manchine and Sinema are effectively slamming the brakes on everything the Democrats want to accomplish. And the Republicans are determined to force the government into default at the end of this month by stopping a debt ceiling increase. If it were left to me to deal with this I’d probably resort to head smacking.

Today the Democrats announced they would propose a bill that would fund the government through the end of this year and suspend the debt ceiling until the end of 2022. Mitch McConnell immediately announced Republicans would oppose it.

Raising the debt ceiling, of course, is about giving Treasury the ability to pay bills already incurred. “The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments,” it says here. Much of the public has been led to believe that raising the debt ceiling allows the government to increase the debt, which is not true. The debt is whatever it is; if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the government will run short of money and default on loan payments. This would be bad.

As they presented their plan, Democrats on Monday once again sounded dire warnings about consequences of failure, which they said could destabilize global markets, shutter critical federal services during a pandemic and hold back assistance to millions of Americans in the aftermath of storms that battered the Gulf Coast and parts of the Eastern Seaboard. They urged Republicans to join them in adopting the measure, arguing that the debt ceiling helps cover prior spending, including the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief package approved by both parties last year.

And, of course, if those bad things happen Republicans would be all over Fox News and other rightie outlets blaming Joe Biden. Americans would suffer, but otherwise it’s a win/win for Mitch.

I’m not sure, but I believe the debt ceiling/government funding bill is not subject to the filibuster rule, which in theory means the Democrats could pass it by themselves. We’ll see.

But the Democratic caucus is falling apart, mostly because of the aforementioned Manchin and Sinema and a few other deadheads, mostly in the House. See, for example, Kyrsten Sinema Threatens to Kill Her Own Infrastructure Bill; Democrats in Congress are melting down by Jonathan Chait.

If you recall, the genesis of this drama began over the summer, when a handful of centrist House Democrats decided to blow up the legislative strategy their party had in place for weeks by refusing to support a budget unless the House passed an infrastructure bill first. That gang, led by Josh Gottheimer, ultimately settled for a promise by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring up the infrastructure bill by September 27.

However, the hollowness of that victory became evident to the centrists this weekend, when House Progressives threatened to oppose the bipartisan bill when it comes for a vote. The Gottheimer Gang had simply assumed that bringing the bill to a vote, with Pelosi’s promise to try really, really hard to pass it even though its passage was not in her interest, would ensure passage. It doesn’t. They have simply set up a scenario where the bipartisan infrastructure bill fails, and the Democratic Party looks incompetent.

That’s where the new threat comes in. Via Playbook, Sinema and the renegade House Democrats now warn that, if the infrastructure bill does not pass next week, they will oppose any budget reconciliation bill, presumably forever.

Sinema also recently announced she will not permit the Senate to pass a plan to lower prescirption drug prices. We wonder why this would be so.

Hmm, a mystery. Paul Waldman:

But in this case, Sinema is putting her foot down on one of the most popular elements of the reconciliation bill: the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, which would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars. She has reportedly told the White House that she will not stand for it to be included in the bill and even opposes a far more modest proposal to allow for negotiation over a small number of medications.

There is absolutely no political advantage in taking this position. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is absurdly popular, with some polls showing over 8 in 10 Americans supporting it. Given Arizona’s large population of senior citizens — who know more about high prescription drug prices than anyone — supporting price negotiation would be a clear political winner for Sinema.

It’s important to understand how central the Medicare provision is to the entire bill. Because Democrats are determined to pay for every last penny of new spending in this legislation, and because negotiating drug prices would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars, eliminating the provision would mean cutting all kinds of other priorities from the bill.

Maybe she’s being paid under the table to keep drug prices high? Maybe she doesn’t plan to run for a second term? The latter is Josh Marshall’s theory.

Like many people I spent a lot of time trying to figure out Kyrsten Sinema’s motivations this year. I’ve discussed my conclusions in other posts. But what I’ve focused on more recently is that as near as I can see, unless she shifts her stance pretty dramatically the odds of Sinema being elected to a second Senate term in 2024 are pretty poor. And that’s made me consider another question: does she just misread the politics of her situation that badly or is she not planning on running? …

… Let’s say things more or less come together on infrastructure but voting rights and a bunch of other stuff goes down in flames. She and Joe Manchin will be the main reasons for that. How well will Sinema be able to sell that record in a Democratic primary? I wouldn’t want to be in charge of running that campaign. What’s her argument exactly? This is wildly more so if her antics crater this infrastructure package.

So, clueless or corrupt? Or both?

 

Sen. Simena

We Pissed Off France, but for a Good Reason

Wow, France is so pissed off at us that its ambassador to the U.S. has been recalled. Quelle surprise!

The issue has to do with the sale of submarines to Austrialia, which is feeling a need to beef up its defenses against China. David Sanger at the New York Times explains:

According to interviews with American and British officials, the Australians approached the new administration soon after President Biden’s inauguration and said they had concluded that they had to get out of a $60 billion agreement with France to supply them with a dozen attack submarines.

The conventionally powered French subs, the Australians feared, would be obsolete by the time they were delivered. They expressed interest in seeking a fleet of quieter nuclear-powered submarines based on American and British designs that could patrol areas of the South China Sea with less risk of detection.

But it was unclear how they would terminate the agreement with France, which was already over budget and running behind schedule.

“They told us they would take care of dealing with the French,” one senior U.S. official said.

Neither Australia nor the U.S. provided any hints to France about the deal until a few hours before it was made public, and the secrecy appears to have particularly infuriated French President Emmanuel Macron.

Even more interesting — according to the Canberra Times, this deal was being planned in Australia for about eighteen months before it was announced this week.

Australia has nuclear experts, but not a civil nuclear industry and not enough military nuclear knowledge to undertake that work from scratch. Not safely. The global history of nuclear development is littered with the kind of risks that the political masters of Australia’s boutique military is infamous for avoiding. Submarine nuclear reactors would needed to be acquired, but the United States had refused to share the technology before.

Dealing with the French was inflicting its own wounds on the government. It has offered an amicable separation from Naval Group. The Prime Minister will say nice things about what was submitted in the final review, no matter the private views of the parties, and has offered to pay “all reasonable costs” associated with them packing up and moving out as well as the contracted exit fees.

There was a bigger problem. A problem to Trump them all.

Linda Reynolds, then the defence minister, and Morrison were the only two Australian ministers with knowledge of the early secret work through 2020. Later Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne was read in as informal negotiations developed, but Australia couldn’t turn a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ as the go-ahead to approach then US president Donald Trump never came.

But once Joe Biden was POTUS, Australia felt more comfortable proposing the deal.

The new deal is part of a new trilateral partnership among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, called “AUKUS,” which includes extensive cooperation on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing among the three countries. A guy writing at Foreign Policy says this is all about China:

… the actions announced on Sept. 15 will complicate Chinese efforts to project power at sea and control critical lines of communication. As such, they will impede future Chinese efforts to overawe nearby countries and gradually persuade them to adopt more compliant postures. In short, it is a move designed to discourage or thwart any future Chinese bid for regional hegemony.

I took a quick survey of some right-wing sites and get the impression that, while they did make an effort to frame the deal as a big Biden fail, their hearts aren’t really in it. If Trump had made this deal, they would have called it the most brilliant in history. I also get the impression that foreign policy experts think this is a good move.

We will have to patch things up with France, though. Josh Marshall writes that neither Australia nor the U.S. anticipated that France would react so badly.

There are obvious and understandable reasons for the French to be upset about it. A big part of that is that it’s a weapons deal worth tens of billions of dollars. But that alone doesn’t explain the intensity of the response which seems in part to lay bare France’s dated pretensions to be a global military power …

… But reading the latest reporting the US and Australia seemed to believe that if they didn’t act in secret the French and China would find out and work to sabotage the deal. So the US made the decision – quite simply – to act behind France’s back. Where we erred, if we did, is not realizing just how angry the French would get.

How did we miss that? Again, if we did? It seems clear the French-Australian deal was on the rocks. The French seem to have been in some denial about that. We seem to have expected they’d be upset but not terribly surprised. But the US and Australia seem to have been equally in denial on that front in the way people often are when they are needing to and avoiding breaking bad news. The US told the Australians it was on them. The Australians seem to have told the US that the French saw the writing on the wall.

We’ll have to do some big, splashy thing to make it up to France, I guess. See also Rana Mitter at The Guardian, The Aukus pact is a sign of a new global order.

In other news:

The rightie rally in Washington DC today appears to have fizzled.

Another debt ceiling crisis is looming. It’s all about Mitch McConnell wanting to destroy America and blame Joe Biden.

Yesterday Trump sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to start “decertifying” the 2020 election. I say again, he did that yesterday.

Worth reading — For one Capitol reporter, Jan. 6 was the final straw — but he had watched a crisis brew for years.

Paris Gargoyles

You Need to Postpone Your Heart Attacks if You Live in a Red State

We’re hearing that Idaho hospitals are officially rationing care, but the same thing is happening in hospitals in many states. There’s a terribly alarming story at ProPublica providing several examples of people who lost their lives from treatable illness because the hospitals were overwhelmed with covid patients.

One boy survived a burst appendix after waiting for hours in an emergency room. Later his father tweeted,

If you want to keep your blood pressure down, don’t read the replies to the tweet. Lots of people either thought the father was lying or that the hospital was just incompetent.

In spring 2020, when covid was new, this was why the public health people wanted to “bend the curve” and slow the spread of covid. They wanted to keep the health care system from being overrun. Well, now it’s happening, in red states.

I just checked; here in St. Francois County we’ve got a 16 percent positivity rate, which is considered extremely bad. So far the hospitals seems to be functioning okay, but we probably have more hospital capacity here than a lot of other counties.

Along with Idaho, Alaska and parts of Montana have also gone “crisis care” mode, meaning you need to reschedule your heart attack there. But the boy with the burst appendix lives in Florida. A man in Texas was diagnosed with gallstone pancreatitis, which is serious but treatable, but it took so many hours to find a hospital that could take him he could not be saved.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times notes that Sarah Palin’s “death panels” seem to have finally materialized, in Republican states. In Idaho, hospitals are having to “triage” patients, and those less likely to survive simply are not going to get aggressive care. Hiltzik writes,

In recent times, the state has become known as a haven for those celebrating rugged individualism, but its leaders have bowed to that principle obsequiously. Back in March, several Republican officeholders attended mask-burning rallies across the state.

“We’re standing here today to rein back government,” one of the organizers said.

The state’s political leaders have scrambled to outdo each other to “protect” the citizens of Idaho from having to wear masks. The state has also been a slacker at reporting vaccination data, I take it.

People aren’t learning from any of this.

Gen. Milley Was Forced to Act Because Others Didn’t

General Mark Milley is getting a lot of criticism for taking steps to ensure that Trump couldn’t unilaterally start a crisis — say, a nuclear war with China — in the closing days of Trump’s administration. Of course, those of us who are not right-wing wackjobs are grateful to him. However, there is an argument to be made that you don’t want the head of the military making decisions like that under most circumstances.

It seems to me that the real deriliction of duty is that Trump wasn’t removed from office long before January 2021, either by the Senate or through the 25th Amendment process. I’m sure it was obvious even to Lindsey Graham that Trump was mentally unfit to be POTUS. He is both intellectually and psychologically unsound, and he obviously did misuse his office in many ways even beyond what he did to get impeached.

The 25th Amendment process is supposed to work this way:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

This assumes that the vice president and the principal officers — cabinet members, I take it — have the moral courage and integrity to do the right thing. Unfortunately, this was the Trump White House we’re talking about. Instead of doing the right thing, they conspired to keep Trump propped up in office. Likewise Senate Republicans would not have removed Trump from office even if he’d been discovered in bed with Vladimir Putin.

And because so many other people wouldn’t do the right thing, wouldn’t do their duty to the United States, it was left to Mark Milley to be sure Trump couldn’t pull some useless stunt that might get countless people killed.

Obviously the 25th Amendment was useless to check Trump. If the Vice President and principal officers of an administration are such a pack of weenies they won’t remove someone as unfit and dangerous as Trump, Congress should perhaps establish some “other body as Congress may by law provide” with the authority to begin the removal process in the future. Congress might also establish criteria for removal, such as neurological and psychological exams by independent physicians, not the one employed by the White House or chosen by the President.

Removing a president should not become routine, but neither should it be left to the Chair of the Joint Chiefs to unilaterally decide that the president can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes. It isn’t General Milley’s fault he was put in that position.

Sorry About the Awful Politicians, Folks

Gov. Newsom’s blowout victory in California is what we should have expected, given the state’s voting history. Larry Elder actually did concede, and he also dropped big hints he wasn’t done with politics. Yes, you are, Larry. I suspect even Republicans agree with me on that.

Philip Bump writes at WaPo that the only hopeful sign for Republicans in yesterday’s election is that other states are not California. On the other hand, Jonathan Martin writes at the NY Times that California isn’t all that different, either.

Mr. Newsom found success not because of what makes California different but because of how it’s like everywhere else: He dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters. …

… The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

Even in red states, like Missouri, a big turnout in cities can cancel out the right-wing rural votes, as happened when the state passed a referendum to expand Medicaid. I understand the rural areas only hold about a third of Missouri’s population. The key for a Democrat to win here, I wrote then, was not to do what Claire McCaskill did and run as a centrist to get conservative votes. I believe the key for Democratic candidates is to just forget the rural vote and march into the more populated urban(ish) areas — St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia — and let their anti-Trumpism flag fly.

Of course, Donald Trump still won the state by 15 points in 2020, so there are no guarantees.

This brings me to the Senate Primary from Hell. Right now the Republican front-runner is Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Former governor Eric Greitens is not far behind. Mark McCloskey is going nowhere, I understand. A U.S. Representative from the state’s 4th district, Vicky Hartzler, appears to be third. She represents mostly rural counties in the western side of the state.

The declared Democratic candidates do not include anyone I’d ever heard of before. One fellow named Lucas Kunce has been making at least a small splash, and I like what I’ve seen of him so far. And the filing deadline isn’t until March 2022.

Regarding Eric Schmitt, do see Kathy Gilsinan at The Atlantic, Missouri Is the Next Front in the Covid Culture War.

Schmitt has placed himself at the center of the COVID wars in a state where vaccinations fall stubbornly below the national average and where, earlier in the summer, the Delta variant ignited its first major outbreak in the United States. In Missouri as elsewhere, the mask-mandate fight is overshadowing the promotion of vaccines—which, as Schmitt himself has noted in lawsuits, remain the best way to combat the pandemic. He rarely advertises this. And although some of his Republican primary rivals encourage vaccination while emphasizing personal choice, Schmitt has appeared hostile even to admitting being vaccinated himself. (He is.) His story, along with the ways in which his ambition has drawn him into partisan combat in a public-health culture war, is a vivid demonstration of how national politics has poisoned local debates, pitting people against one another instead of against COVID-19, even as state and local governments remain the front line of pandemic response.

St. Louis city is solidly Democratic. St. Louis County isn’t, and there are a lot of unmasked people who show up at school board meetings to scream about their freedoms. The current county council has four Democrats and three Republicans, and the county chief executive is a Democrat, so it’s probably safe to call St. Louis County purple. Mask wars have been pretty much ongoing for over a year.

Anyway, as Attorney General, Schmitt has made a name for himself by suing people.

Thus: lawsuits—a blitz against local mask mandates beginning in late July, hitting St. Louis, Kansas City, and their surrounding counties, and then this latest one aimed at school districts. They’ve gotten Schmitt national media attention, including Fox News airtime, scolding from the White House podium, and many opportunities to get his name in front of Republican primary voters in a Senate race where, so far, he’s about neck and neck at the head of the pack. (His chief rival is former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in a sex, blackmail, and dark-money scandal in 2018 but has the virtue of name recognition.)

What they haven’t gotten him—yet—is the reversal of any mandates. St. Louis County’s fell apart on its own, in an intra-Democrat power struggle on the county council, which then backed a symbolic resolution to encourage but not enforce mask wearing. The other mandates remain in place as Schmitt’s lawsuits work their way through the system. Michael Wolff, the former chief justice of Missouri, doesn’t see a high chance of success: “Lawsuits,” he emailed me, “are not effective unless the legislature has passed a bill, signed by the governor, which is law. The courts normally will not enforce some general idea of ‘freedom’—courts need law from the legislature. Courts will not make it up.” …

… Schmitt, from his perch at the AG’s office, is doing his darndest to neutralize Greitens’s name-recognition advantage as lawsuit after lawsuit gets headline after headline. He might just pull it off: A poll from earlier this month has him leading the entire field, beating Greitens by one point. Meanwhile, other polling—not specific to Missouri—suggests that he’s exactly where his target voters are: Republicans overwhelmingly oppose mask mandates and overwhelmingly view the issue as one of personal freedom.

We’ve already got one wingnut disgrace of a senator, Josh Hawley, with whom we are stuck until 2024. See Josh Hawley, Clownish Menace, by Daniel Larison.

Hawley is a hypocrite and an opportunist, and now he has shown himself to be the lowest kind of demagogue. When the president announced his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the senator endorsed the withdrawal decision but faulted Biden for taking too long to implement it. According to Hawley this spring, Biden erred because he wasn’t withdrawing quickly enough. The moment that he saw that there was a partisan angle in attacking Biden because of problems with the evacuation, he took the exact opposite position, denounced Biden, and demanded his resignation.

Now Hawley is threatening to block all of President Biden’s nominations for the Pentagon and the State Department, because grandstanding is so much more important than national security.

Sorry about that, but I didn’t vote for him.

Josh Hawley, attempting to pass as a human being.

Today’s News: Fashion and Insanity

Today is the California recall election. Note that Gov. Newsom’s chief rival, the seriously demented Larry Elder, has already conceded and is claiming election fraud. Make of that what you will.

The flap du jour is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a dress with the words “tax the rich” splashed on it to the Met Gala in NYC. If you aren’t familiar with the Met Gala, understand that it’s a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. Some people come in haute couture; some people come in costumes; some people wear haute couture costumes. For example, check out what actor Dan Levy wore. See also Kim Kardashian’s all-black ensemble, by Balenciaga.

Yeah, her face was covered. I doln’t know why. The Met Gala is very trippy. I understand AOC’s dress, which looked great on her, was designed by an African-American designer and was just borrowed for the evening. Here’s AOC, and I believe the lady with her is her designer, Aurora James. By Met Gala standards, this is downright sedate.

I take it that the entire rightie media echo chamber is having a screaming fit about the dress today.

Speaking of screaming fits, Bob Woodward has a new book out, and newspapers are reporting on the juicy bits. After January 6, it says, Trump had a meltdown. Gen. Mark Milley believed Trump wasn’t mentally fit to be trusted with the car keys; Trump was screaming at everyone and constructing his own reality about his election loss. So Milley called a meeting with top officials in the Pentagon and made it clear no one was to carry out orders from Trump without checking with Milley first. And Milley made back channel phone calls to a top general in China to assure him that he wouldn’t let Trump nuke Beijing.

There are also some new questions about Mike Pence’s role in the January 6 insurrection as a result of the new book. Woodward also reveals that on November 11, 2020, Trump issued an order for all troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Somalia by January 15. No one on the National Security staff were consulted about this, and apparently the People In Charge of These Things just decided to ignore the order.

In the New News department — Senate Democrats have written up a new voter rights bill with input from Joe Manchin. I take it this is a bill that can get the votes of all 50 Democrats, for what good that will do. According to this guy named Mark Elias, it’s a decent bill that would do some good. However, I have no idea who Mark Elias is or why I should respect his opinion.

The catch, of course, is that there is no way any Republican would vote to close debate on the thing and allow a vote on the bill unless Manchin and Sinema cave on the filibuster rule.

Finally, see Sorry, Everyone, but Congress Is Bringing Back Debt Ceiling Foolishness by Grace Segers at The New Republican. I don’t have the strength to think about another debt ceiling fight now.

Here’s the Senate’s Let America Rot Caucus

Something else I don’t want to write about any more is Joe Manchin. Maybe if we all close our eyes and make a wish he’ll disappear.

He was back on the Sunday talk shows explaining, badly, why he will try to eviscerate the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill. Do read Joe Downie, Joe Manchin’s Selfishness, about Manchin’s malicious, destructive obstinance. I want to quote just this part:

new report from Type Investigations and the Intercept on the coal companies that made his fortune found that “for decades,” Manchin’s coal firms “have relied on mines and refuse piles cited for dozens of Mine Safety and Health Agency violations, multiple deaths, and wastewater discharging that has poisoned tributaries feeding into the Monongahela River, as hundreds of thousands of tons of carcinogenic coal ash are dumped across Marion County.”

While Manchin doesn’t own the mines and power plants polluting the state, his businesses have benefited handsomely from them. Since he joined the Senate 10 years ago, the investigation found, he has “grossed more than $4.5 million” from his firms, according to financial disclosures. As the article notes, Manchin has said his ownership interest is held in a blind trust.

No doubt Manchin would bristle at the suggestion that his opposition to the reconciliation bill and its climate provisions would have anything to do with their impact on his personal wealth. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, though, the theme remains the same: Manchin gets his, while everyone else can fend for themselves.

Naturally he doesn’t see any big rush in preparing infrastructure for climate change.

Brigid Kennedy, The Week:

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who has previously referred to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as “the new Mitch McConnell,” took aim at the West Virginia lawmaker once again Monday morning, this time for his refusal to back Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package at its current cost.

“When we talk about a sense of urgency, people are losing their lives and their livelihoods right now because our infrastructure is 100-years-old and climate change is here to stay,” said Bowman on CNN’s New Day, recalling the damage Hurricane Ida wrecked on his district and constituents. “So it’s important for Senator Manchin and others to understand people are dying everyday … and we have to go big right now in this moment. It’s now or never when it comes to infrastructure and climate change, and Hurricane Ida proved that to be true.”

When asked what happens if Manchin holds firm on his price tag concerns, Bowman reminded host John Berman that “we still have a couple of weeks to get this worked out,” adding that “it’s important for the American people to know that this is the Democratic agenda in terms of Democratic leadership.”

That’s a hard message to get across, however, in the absence of any real legislative achievement.

Another charter Democratic member of the Let America Rot caucus, Kyrsten Sinema, has been relatively quiet for about the past three weeks. It may have finally gotten through to her that she was pissing constituents off, although possibly not enough for her to change her position on reconciliation bill or the filibuster. She’s not pissing off Mitch McConnell, however. Mitch recently said of Manchin and Sinema, “I pray for them every night, I wish them well, we give them lots of love.” So sweet.

I don’t know that the Senate Let America Rot caucus has any other firm Democratic members. (All Republicans are in on it, of course.) Sen. Mark Warner recently said he was considering voting against it, but that’s because he wants more money added for housing assistance. I can support that. But that also shows us there will be a lot of work to do to get the thing done.

Progressives are still staying they’ll kill the smaller bipartisan bill if the larger bill fails. I’m also seeing a lot of commentary saying that Manchin just wants some kind of cut out of the bill he can take “credit” for, and then he’ll vote for it. The question is, of course, how much? Conventional wisdom says Sinema will buckle if she’s the only opponent left. We’ll see.

Sinema and Manchin

It’s That Day Again

Jeez, twenty years. I’ve been wrestling with myself to write something about the 20th anniversary, and I didn’t really want to. Just as an experiment I finally did write something and published it on Medium, just to see how it works. No one will read it.

From the Maha archives:

August 1, 2006: Smart War

August 2, 2006: 9/11 Unanswered Questions

June 6, 2007: Little Lulu, People Live Here

September 11, 2009: 9/11: The Story, The Shrines, The Smell, The Scandal, The Meaning

September 11, 2015: Another 9/11