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Monthly Archives: February 2023

CreativeA whodunit that gripped Washington and echoed across the nation has officially turned into an unsolved mystery. But while the culprit in this particular malfeasance remains at large, we have more than enough evidence to determine guilt for an even greater outrage — the brazen assault on decency, judicial temperament, and honorable jurisprudence by the current iteration of the United States Supreme Court. Simply put, the court has become a mess — less a hallowed marble edifice to constitutional probity than a dangerously petty and unrestrained mosh pit of dysfunction. Get your house in order, indeed. The black robes aren’t fooling anybody. The court’s investigation into the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was a stunning failure of mission. The inquiry’s stated goal was not just to identify seriously lax practices at the court around information and technology (which the report did do). We were supposed to learn the name or names behind one of the gravest breaches of court protocol in history. And there, we got nothing. When the draft opinion overRoe was leaked, it created a firestorm. It was rightly seen by those on the political left as representing a dangerous break in precedent, weak legal reasoning, and, most importantly, an attack on women’s health and basic rights. In response to the leak, there was no shortage of public handwringing on the part of court watchers and many of the justices themselves. Public speculation quickly jumped to who might have been the leaker and what might have been their motives. Perhaps not surprisingly, Republicans blamed Democrats, and Democrats blamed Republicans.As we now know, the draft document ultimately ended up presaging the final decision. Was the leak a way to lock in wavering votes, as many people speculated, or to undercut the legitimacy of the majority, as others contended? The leak investigation report only creates more questions and elevates the plausibility of theories that had seemed far-fetched. Could it be that some of the justices didn’t want to find out the truth? And might it have been one of those justices (or one of their spouses or assistants) who was responsible for the leak? What has encouraged this speculation is that the justices were not subjected to the same scrutiny in this investigation as everyone else at the court. If the justices think that’s acceptable because they are above reproach, that is only more evidence of how out of touch they are. The real conclusion is that the leak report is far from thorough. In the wake of the report’s release, many observers started floating the names of Justices Alito and Thomas (as well as Thomas’s wife, Ginny) as the most likely leakers. In this case, the conjecture is purely circumstantial — the idea being that these anti-abortion hardliners had the most to gain by locking in the draft decision. Although both justices have shown a lack of ethical restraint in other matters. In an attempt to tamp down this conjecture, the woman overseeing the investigation, United States Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley, issued the following statement: “During the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the Justices, several on multiple occasions. The Justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine. I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the Justices or their spouses. On this basis, I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the Justices to sign sworn affidavits.”Let us note that one of the court’s own, its “Marshal,” did the investigating. There was no independent investigation. And none of the justices was asked to testify under oath.Is this, the whole summation, really sufficient? If the justices are upset that many Americans think it isn’t, they have only themselves to blame. We have a court that is losing the trust of a large swath of the American people. It is a court in which the ends increasingly justify the means, settled law counts for next to nothing, societal upheaval is trivialized, and self-described “conservative” objectives that would never pass in national legislation are turned into the law of the land by judicial decree. We also have a majority of the justices on the court appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote (including three by the twice-impeached former holder of the office). We have had Supreme Court picks blocked (Merrick Garland, chosen by President Obama) and others rushed through (Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by President Trump) based solely on political expediency. As for Ginny Thomas, she is a known supporter of the Big Lie around the 2020 election. The strange and as yet unsolved case of the Supreme Court leak, plus the lame investigation around it, leaves the court with a long, hard road to restoration of its reputation and authority.And as bad as the leak was, it is a symptom of far more systemic rot. Respect must be earned. And it must be earned again once it has been squandere


    CROSS-POST   Friends, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just announced that the federal government will hit the limit on total federal debt on January 19, just two days from now. After that, the Treasury Department will be forced to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on the debt, which would likely trigger a global financial crisis. Congress could defuse this bomb by simply raising the debt limit, as it has dozens of times under presidents of both parties for decades. But the MAGA radicals now in control of the House of Representatives are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Biden agrees to devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other key programs. I was involved in a similar fight over the debt ceiling fight twenty-eight years ago, which holds some lessons for what happens now. In November 1995, Republican refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Bill Clinton agreed to a package of sweeping spending cuts, welfare overhaul, restraints on Medicare and Medicaid growth, and a balanced budget within seven years. I and other Clinton advisers urged him not to negotiate. Even if the public didn’t understand that the debt ceiling had less to do with the nation’s future debt than with obligations the United States had made in the past, we couldn’t allow the Republicans to hold the economy hostage. The full faith and credit of the United States was at stake. It should not be negotiable. Clinton agreed. “If they send me a budget that says simply, ‘You take our cuts or we’ll let the country go into default,’ I will veto it,” he said. He called the Republican tactics “economic blackmail,” which they were. When the Republican House then passed a bill increasing the debt ceiling through December, as well as a continuing resolution that included higher Medicare premiums and other spending cuts, Clinton vetoed both bills. “America has never liked pressure tactics, and I would be wrong to permit these kind of pressure tactics to dramatically change the course of American life,” he said. “I cannot do it, and I will not do it.” What happened next? The government shut down. And as you may recall, the American public was furious — with the Republicans, who paid dearly in the subsequent midterm elections. The budget standoff was resolved in early January 1996 but the debt ceiling issue remained. When Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin wrote to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that Congress had only until March 1 before the Treasury defaulted on its obligations, Moody’s rating agency announced it was considering downgrading the rating on U.S. Treasury bonds. Republicans quickly folded, offering to raise the debt ceiling in return for a few modest measures. The debt ceiling fight of 2011 was different. The Obama administration did negotiate with House Republicans, resulting in the Budget Control Act of 2011. When the debt ceiling had to be raised again in 2013, Obama returned to negotiations. During this standoff, the government was partially closed down. Here again, Republicans took the brunt of the blame. In these fights, some Republicans presented a fallback position: Instead of raising the debt ceiling, the federal government should prioritize which bills to pay — starting with interest payments to lenders to the United States (holders of federal bonds). That way, they argued, there’d be no technical default. The idea never went anywhere because such prioritization would still spook credit markets. It would also cause the economy to tank and the stock market to plunge because of the sudden elimination of huge amounts of government spending. But now, so-called “debt prioritization” is back. According to Friday’s Washington Post, it was part of the secret agreement Kevin McCarthy made with his detractors to support him for Speaker. They agreed that when Republicans hold firm on not raising the debt ceiling, they’ll pass a bill instructing the Treasury to prioritize: 1) first, debt service payments, 2) next, Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, and 3) third, military funding. Everything else would be sacrificed — including critical federal expenditures such as Medicaid, food safety inspections, border control and air traffic control. The U.S. would be forced to halt payment for as much as 20 percent of money it already promised to spend. This could be the most economically irresponsible backroom deal in Republican history (even conservative economists are warning that the consequences could include a stock-market spiral and significant job losses). It’s also the most politically foolish. It would, in effect, put the interest of bondholders — including Chinese lenders to the United States — over the wellbeing of Americans. As George W. might say, “bring ‘em on.”

January 30, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

The news today illustrates a dramatic difference between governing and garnering votes.

President Joe Biden was at the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, today to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law, passed in November 2021, that is investing about $1.2 trillion in fixing our highways, bridges, internet access, and so on. In Maryland it will devote about $4 billion to fixing and expanding the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel, which has become a bottleneck for the 9 million commuters who pass through it as they travel the vital link between Philadelphia and Washington.

The law is formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Biden noted that fixing the tunnel is expected to create 20,000 jobs over the next ten years. He also announced that it, along with all the Amtrak developments on the Northeast Corridor, would be built by union labor.

Tomorrow, Biden will speak at the West Side Rail Yard in New York City to talk about how funding for the Hudson Tunnel Project from the bipartisan infrastructure law will improve reliability for the 200,000 passengers a day who travel through it on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The passage of the measure in late 2021 took months of careful negotiations even as former president Trump—whose own inability to pass an infrastructure measure became a running joke—tried to scuttle the talks. Biden’s victory lap is not undeserved.

The administration today also called attention to the effects of its new border enforcement measures providing migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a legal path to obtain a two-year visa so long as they have a U.S. sponsor and a thorough background check. The new system will admit up to 30,000 migrants a month.

New data shows that the number of migrants from those four countries has dropped 97% since the program went into effect. Overall, migrant encounters at the border have dropped by half, although migration from Ecuador and Peru, which are growing unstable, has increased. The administration has asked Congress repeatedly to fix our outdated immigration system, but Republicans derailed the effort in the previous Congress when they objected to a path to citizenship for so-called dreamers: people brought to this country as children. Now almost twenty states led by Republicans say the administration’s new program violates the law, and they are suing to stop it.

In charge of the House, Republicans plan to hold hearings on what they call Biden’s border crisis. Today the White House called out “some elected officials” for “trying to block the Administration’s effective measures because they would rather keep immigration an issue to campaign on than one to solve. If those elected officials succeed,” the press office said, “their actions will lead to more illegal immigration.”

Actually governing is a lot harder than talking about it. On December 30, House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) promised that the House Republicans would “hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more.” He outlined eleven bills the party would bring to the floor in the first two weeks of the new Congress. Half have indeed been voted on by now—the fifth week of Congress—but they were only for show. They will never pass the Senate, and no one is trying to negotiate to pass them. The other half aren’t on the calendar.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted today that the Republicans have turned to investigations, abortion, threatening the national debt, and trying to defund the Internal Revenue Service rather than dealing with the issues they insisted were vital in 2022: crime and inflation. She also noted that at the very time the Republicans were hyping those issues, both crime rates and inflation were actually falling.

More demonstrations for the extremist base appear to be coming. As Amy B. Wang noted today in the Washington Post, the Republican National Committee is urging lawmakers to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle” on antiabortion measures, although since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have made it clear they want abortion rights protected.

Nonetheless, as party leaders have done repeatedly when voters reject their increasingly extremist stands, the RNC suggests that the party did poorly in 2022 not because their stand was too strong but because it was too weak. Candidates were not clear enough about their opposition to abortion. The RNC wants them to demonstrate their conviction by passing strict laws that outlaw abortion at six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant.

House speaker Kevin McCarthy has, however, backed off on Republican suggestions that they will not agree to raise the debt ceiling without cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On Face the Nation yesterday, he said the party was committed to “strengthening” the programs. In fact, the only proposal on the table right now to strengthen the programs is from the far-right House Republican Study Committee, which calls for strengthening Social Security and Medicare by, among other things, raising the age at which people become eligible for them.

I’d love to hear McCarthy explain how that plan is not a cut in the programs.

Finally, today, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month U.S. tourist visa. Bolsonaro entered the United States when he was still president, two days before his successor took office and a little more than a week before his supporters attacked the government and tried to reinstate him. That timing means he came to the U.S. on an A-1 visa restricted to heads of state, which had to be replaced as soon as he was no longer president.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer told Reuters reporter Daphne Psaledakis that Bolsonaro wants “to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be.” In fact, the right-wing leader has made it clear he is afraid of the many investigations underway in Brazil for fraud and now for inciting the attack on the government that might end up putting him behind bars.


February 22, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

5 hr ago



Last week’s court filing in the Dominion Voting Systems case proved that Fox News Channel personalities knew full well that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. They pushed Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud anyway, afraid they would lose viewers to right-wing networks that were willing to parrot that lie.

Since the 1980s, Republicans have relied on a false narrative to win voters. To get rid of the active government put in place after 1933 to put guardrails around the unfettered capitalism that had led to the Depression, they argued that government regulation, the social safety net, civil rights, and investment in infrastructure were socialism and were undermining traditional America. 

Their argument was that business regulation gave the government control over the way a man ran his business, and that taxes to support government bureaucracy, social services, and public investments redistributed wealth from white men to minorities and women. Real Americans, they suggested, must be willing to defend themselves and the country against the “socialist” national government.

Lately, this determination to get rid of the New Deal government has taken the shape of cutting Social Security and Medicare, which led to the brouhaha over President Biden’s charge during the State of the Union address that Republicans would cut those programs. After Republicans booed him and called him a liar, he backed them into agreeing they would take cuts off the table. 

But former vice president Mike Pence brought it up once more this morning on CNBC, saying, “While I respect the speaker’s commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations, we’ve got to put them on the table in the long term,” because they were facing “insolvency.” 

Reversing 40 years of Republican tax cuts would also address financial shortfalls, but that approach does not fit the Republican narrative that cutting taxes promotes growth and raises revenue.

As their policies became increasingly unpopular, Republicans ramped up that narrative until we have the extraordinary scenario we saw last night: former president Trump telling a campaign audience that the United States has blown right past socialism and is now a communist, Marxist country. That, of course, would mean that the people’s government owns the means of production: the factories, services, and so on.

Instead, as President Biden pointed out today in response to right-wing attempts to blame his administration for the Ohio derailment, deregulation has moved money upward and compromised Americans’ safety. He noted that he has committed the federal government to make sure Ohio has all it needs to address the crisis. Then he added: “Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill—it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.” 

That narrative has also enshrined the idea that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally intended to limit the federal government’s power over state militias but now interpreted to mean that individuals have a right to own whatever weaponry they want, defines the nation. After a number of right-wing congressional lawmakers have taken to wearing assault rifle lapel pins, Representative Barry Moore (R-AL) this week introduced a bill to make the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.” Moore claims that “The anti–Second Amendment group won’t stop until they take away all your firearms.”

From February 17 through February 19, there were ten mass shootings in the United States. According to Grace Hauck of USA Today, there were “two mass shootings in Georgia and Missouri and one each in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi.” Thirteen people were killed and 46 injured. At least 15 of the victims were under 20. Mass shootings are up in 2023 compared to 2022: 82 this year, compared with 59 at the same time last year.  

The idea of strangling government programs and saving tax dollars has gotten to the point that we had the extraordinary scene in Alaska earlier this week of Republican state representative David Eastman, who attended the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., suggesting that children dying of child abuse would save the state money in the social services those children would otherwise need. 

The Republican narrative to attract voters, as warped as it has become, has now begun to drive the government itself. Today, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker of the Washington Post reported that after the 2020 election, Arizona’s then–attorney general, Mark Brnovich, concealed a report produced after 10,000 hours of investigation by his own staff, that said virtually all the claims of fraud leveled against the 2020 Arizona election were unfounded. 

Brnovich was running to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He kept the report hidden and instead released an “Interim Report” saying that his office had found “serious vulnerabilities.” He continued to circulate hints that the vote was off, somehow, despite fact checks disproving those allegations. His office put together a document refuting the idea the election was stolen and saying that none of the people making that accusation produced any evidence. Brnovich did not release that summary. 

In a later memo summarizing their work, investigators noted that none of those making outlandish claims about the election were willing to repeat those claims to agents, when they would be subject to a state law prohibiting them from lying to law enforcement officers.

Brnovich was involved in the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee case, decided in July 2021 by the Supreme Court, that made it much harder to challenge voting restrictions that make it harder for minorities to vote. Voters replaced Brnovich this year with Kris Mayes, a Democrat, who shifted Brnovich’s “Election Integrity Unit,” which focused on fraud, to address voter suppression. 

The attempt to maintain the Republican narrative is now deeply embedded in the government itself. House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has apparently given to Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Channel exclusive access to more than 44,000 hours of video taken within the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. This amounts to “one of the worst security risks since 9/11,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said in protest today, “a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected.”

Carlson has repeatedly challenged the official accounts of the riot, blaming the federal government for launching the attack and claiming that FBI agents were behind it. Carlson is also one of the key conspirators in the Fox News Channel promotion of the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election, even though they dismissed that notion privately. The expectation is that Carlson will hack whatever videos he can into a version of the Republican narrative. 

But there is more: McCarthy is fundraising off his release of the videos to Carlson, claiming he is delivering “truth and transparency over partisan games” and asking “patriots” to “chip…in” to help House Republicans.


President Biden @POTUS

Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill – it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.11:14 PM ∙ Feb 21, 20237,381Likes1,731Retweets

Julie Tsirkin @JulieNBCNews

NEW: Schumer writes to colleagues about McCarthy’s release of 1/6 security tapes to Fox News — Says it’s a “treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected and its public release would compromise the safety of the Legislative Branch.”


9:33 PM ∙ Feb 22, 20231,018Likes512Retweets

Emily Wilkins @emrwilkins

McCarthy fundraising off of giving Tucker Carlson access to 1/6 Surveillance tapes


7:11 PM ∙ Feb 22, 2023373Likes267Retweets

Heather Cox Richardson

5 hr ago

Letter From an American

Speaking at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, today, President Biden continued to define this global moment as one in which democracies are defending their way of life against rising authoritarianism.

Biden’s speech followed his surprise visit to Kyiv yesterday, a visit that demonstrated for the world that Putin has failed to take the city in a year of brutal assaults. It built on Vice President Kamala Harris’s speech to the Munich Security Conference saying that Russian atrocities in Ukraine are crimes against humanity. And it built on the fact that the U.S. sent the largest delegation ever to the conference and that the delegation was bipartisan.

Biden began his speech noting that a year ago “the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv.” But he had just come from there and could report: “Kyiv stands strong! Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall. And most important, it stands free.”

The 2022 Russian invasion tested the world’s democracies, Biden said, and they stood up for national sovereignty, for the right of people to live free from aggression, and for democracy. Putin “thought autocrats like himself were tough and leaders of democracies were soft,” Biden said, but he “found himself at war with a nation led by a man whose courage would be forged in fire and steel: President Zelenskyy.” A year later, “President Putin is confronted with something today that he didn’t think was possible a year ago. The democracies of the world have grown stronger, not weaker. But the autocrats of the world have grown weaker, not stronger.”

“A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to [erase] the people’s love of liberty,” he said. “Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine—Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never. For free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness.”

Biden said it’s time to decide what kind of world we want to build. Looking at the coalition that supports Ukraine, he said: “We need to take the strength and capacity of this coalition and apply it to lifting up—lifting up the lives of people everywhere, improving health, growing prosperity, preserving the planet, building peace and security, treating everyone with dignity and respect. That’s our responsibility. The democracies of the world have to deliver it for our people.”

It’s time to choose “between chaos and stability,” he said. “Between building and destroying. Between hope and fear. Between democracy that lifts up the human spirit and the brutal hand of the dictator who crushes it. Between nothing less than limitation and possibilities, the kind of possibilities that come when people…live not in captivity but in freedom. Freedom. Freedom. There is no sweeter word than freedom. There is no nobler goal than freedom. There is no higher aspiration than freedom.”

“Americans know that, and you know it,” Biden told his Polish audience. “And all that we do now must be done so our children and grandchildren will know it as well.

“Freedom. The enemy of the tyrant and the hope of the brave and the truth of the ages.


“Stand with us,” Biden said. “We will stand with you.”

During his speech, Biden thanked Poland for taking in 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees, then turned to the United States. “The American people are united in our resolve as well,” he said. “All across my country, in big cities and small towns, Ukrainian flags fly from American homes. Over the past year, Democrats and Republicans in our United States Congress have come together to stand for freedom. That’s who Americans are, and that’s what Americans do.”

The line drew applause, and indeed, five Republican lawmakers met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv today. Led by Representative Mike McCaul (R-TX), the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, they pledged their support for Ukraine.

But extremist Republicans stand against continuing Ukraine aid. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and ten other Republican representatives recently introduced to Congress a “Ukraine Fatigue” resolution calling for an end to U.S. aid to Ukraine and urging “a peace agreement,” a position that accepts Russia’s invasion as legitimate.

Right-wing media has been trying to spin Biden’s trip to Kyiv and speech in Poland as proof that he doesn’t care about the derailment of the train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio. In fact, Republican governor Mike DeWine initially rejected federal help when Biden offered it, saying he didn’t see the need for it.

The right wing has also gone after Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for the accident, although it was the Trump administration that weakened safety regulations put in place under Barack Obama that could have mitigated the crisis, and railroad personnel cuts that left the train understaffed. Before the accident, train workers had worried that the 151-car train, 9,300 feet long and weighing 18,000 tons, was too long and too heavy to travel safely.

But Buttigieg is answering his Republican critics. After Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for Buttigieg’s resignation, Buttigieg responded: “I can’t help but notice the last time this agency heard from him on rail regulation was his signature being on a letter that was pretty obviously drafted by industry, calling on us to weaken our practices around track inspection.”

Concerns about train safety seem warranted: on Monday, four train cars derailed in Riverbank, California, and another train of 31 cars carrying coal derailed today in Gothenburg, Nebraska. Unlike in Ohio, in neither case were there injuries or, apparently, hazardous spills.

Buttigieg has called for a three-pronged push to improve safety and hold the freight rail industry accountable for accidents. Among those proposals are calls for safer cars, paid sick leave for railroad workers, and larger crew sizes, some of the very things railroad workers wanted last fall. After Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) tweeted that Buttigieg should “[s]how up, do your job and stop playing politics with every crisis you find,” Buttigieg responded with his proposals and wrote: “If you’re serious, I’ll work with you on this.”

As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post spelled out today, right-wing figures like Fox News Channel (FNC) personality Tucker Carlson and newly elected Ohio senator J.D. Vance are now spinning the Ohio disaster as an issue of racial malice, portraying it not as a result of weakened safety regulations under former president Trump, but as proof that the Biden administration is throwing white people overboard to focus on Buttigieg’s idea that “we have too many white construction workers.”

In fact, Buttigieg’s comments addressed the problem of creating opportunities for minority construction workers when white workers are brought in to work on construction projects in minority communities, and the Biden administration has passed expansive legislation that is bringing jobs to poor white communities, legislation most Republicans opposed. But the race baiting has gone so far that, Sargent notes, right-wing personalities are accusing the Biden administration of “spilling toxic chemicals on poor white people.”

Knocked out of the news by the flurry of activity around the past several days has been the filing in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case against FNC. The texts and testimony in that filing establish that the FNC is a propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

That information is important as we grapple with House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) apparent release of the U.S. Capitol video clips from January 6, 2021, to Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson. According to Politico, Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger, who has oversight responsibility for those files, did not learn of this deal until he heard it on the news. The Capitol Police have been leery of permitting indiscriminate release of the footage out of concern it reveals safety information.

It remains unclear how—or, perhaps, if—this permission was actually granted. Carlson publicly described his access as “unfettered,” but McCarthy isn’t commenting, and the three-person Capitol Police Board, including Manger, that oversees security decisions would likely have had to sign off on the exchange. House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has told House Democrats he and his team are still trying to learn the details.

There is lots of buzz today about comments from the foreperson from the Georgia grand jury investigating the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Emily Kohrs said the grand jury had recommended a number of indictments and suggested that people would not be shocked to hear the names on the list. Actual indictments are in the hands of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.


Secretary Pete Buttigieg @SecretaryPete

Here are some examples of what Congress can do to help (along with immediate steps we’ve been taking and what we demand rail companies do). If you’re serious, I’ll work with you on this. transportation.govUSDOT Secretary Buttigieg Calls on Rail Industry to Take Immediate, Commonsense Steps to Improve Accountability and Safety and Highlights W…Among the immediate calls for action: Freight rail industry should accelerate phase-in of safer tank cars and provide workers paid sick leave, and Congress can raise existing caps on the fines for rail safety regulations9:00 PM ∙ Feb 21, 20233,589Likes514Retweets

Will, from Cal4 hr ago·edited 4 hr agoScrolling through the top couple threads of the comments yesterday, and hoo boy, y’all, I could I feel the anxiety emanating off the screen! Some of y’all are back in election anticipation terror mode almost two years ahead, with a side order of despairing over the national discourse. I get it. Me too. But gather in, because it is time for a pep talk.The primary election took place today in Wisconsin to fill an upcoming vacancy of the state Supreme Court. If a liberal judge wins in April, ideological control of the court will switch. The ramifications would be enormous. Cases would be brought – and almost certainly succeed – to throw out the state and federal gerrymanders, overturn voting restrictions, nullify the state’s abortion ban, give boosts to unions, and much more. Four judges were on the ballot in what is usually a low turnout affair. Democratic endorsee Janet Protaseiwicz, who has been explicit she is running to save democracy and personal freedoms, came out first. Yay. But here’s the kicker: she received slightly more votes than the two conservative challengers *put together*, and a second liberal candidate took an *additional* 7.5% of the vote.This is Wisconsin. Do I gotta tell y’all whether an 8-point democratic preference in Wisconsin is impressive? It’s impressive.Over in Virginia, Jennifer McClellan won her special Congressional election too. Her district was D+35 for Biden, and D+13 in the ’21 gubernatorial. She won today by 48 points. A nearby special state Senate election was held in recent days. Dems flipped it, solidifying their control of that chamber.In Pennsylvania, Dems also recently put a bow on their newfound control of the state legislature there, not just winning all three special elections held, but outdoing Biden’s wide margins by double digits.This is what being on the winning team looks like.Political control is numbers and gamesmanship. Feelings don’t really enter the picture. I know, I know. Most of us here are big liberals with bigger feelings, and right now we have the biggest sense of concern! It doesn’t *feel* like we’re winning, because we see crazy people in positions of power, and that doesn’t *feel* safe. We just want to *feel* like we know it’s going to be ok and that no bad people will ever be in charge anywhere, and we don’t *feel* that yet.But, my friends, that is where we get into trouble.We have all been traumatized these last few years by the madness in our country. Yes, that is what we are feeling: patriotic trauma. Trauma builds anxiety. Anxiety convinces you to doubt and second-guess and triple-check and think and think and think, sending you on a mental wild goose chase to find the feeling of cosmic safety and certainty that life just can’t seem to give you, to crack the code, to find THE ANSWER as to what to think and say and do to make sure the things you want to happen happen, and the things you do not want to happen do not.How do I know this? Hard experience, my friends. I have three overlapping mental health disorders: the poorly-named Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the poorly-portrayed-on-TV Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Major Depressive Recurrent. I’ll spare the gory clinical details of what these each entail. I will simply say that there is a common denomination among all three of these dark clouds that make up this perfect storm, and that is that they are all very good at convincing my entire brain and body that something feels very wrong with everything, even when nothing is actually wrong with anything. The silver lining if years of therapy is that I have been forced – out of the necessity of survival – to realize that feelings are not facts. When your brain is a misgivings machine, you must learn to ignore misgivings and creeping suspicions and sneaking hunches. When OCD tells your body that the appropriate response to something as anodyne as touching a doorknob wrong is a sudden shock of fear, learning to ignore your fears becomes less a noble ideal and more a practical imperative. And I am not a guru: it is way, way easier said than done. Feelings are an essential part of how we experience life, yes. But they cannot be allowed to totally dictate it.We are winning. Winning does not mean winning every battle. It means holding your ground and not giving up. We have the people, and we have the momentum. It feels scary still. But there is nothing different we need to do to get democracy to prevail. We simply need to keep doing what we are doing.And add to your morning tea session while you’re at it!Yes. We. Can! We already are.Expand full comment153ReplyCollapse

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Georgia Fisanick5 hr ago·edited 5 hr agoThe train wreck story is a sign that Republicans are again going to fight the next election exclusively on culture war issues. Buttigieg is hitting a perfect rapid response combative tone, playing up the Republican hypocrisy and pushing the legislation that will protect railroad workers and the public, and programs that will ensure better fair and job opportunities for all workers.Biden and Buttigieg have to keep giving lessons on how to talk back to the Republicans.110ReplyCollapse

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February 18, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

8 hr ago

Republican leaders are recognizing that the sight of Republican lawmakers heckling the president of the United States didn’t do their party any favors.

It not only called attention to their behavior, it prompted many news outlets to fact-check President Biden’s claim that Republicans had called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare or even called to get rid of them. Those outlets noted that while Republicans have repeatedly said they have no intention of cutting those programs, what Biden said was true: Republican leaders have repeatedly suggested such cuts, or even the elimination of those programs, in speeches, news interviews, and written proposals.

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) told Alexander Bolton of The Hill that Republicans should stick to “reasonable and enduring policy” proposals. “I think we’re missing an opportunity to differentiate,” he said. “Focus on policy. If you get that done, it will age well.”

But therein lies the Republican Party’s problem. What ARE its reasonable and enduring policies? One of the reasons Biden keeps pressuring the party to release its budget is that it’s not at all clear what the party stands for.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to issue any plans before the 2022 midterm election, and in 2020, for the first time in its history, the party refused to write a party platform. The Republican National Committee simply resolved that if its party platform committee had met, it “would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration.” So, it resolved that “the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”

Cutting Social Security is a centerpiece of the ideology the party adopted in the 1980s: that the government in place since 1933 was stunting the economy and should be privatized as much as possible.

In place of using the federal government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, protect civil rights, and promote infrastructure, Reagan Republicans promised that cutting taxes and regulation would free up capital, which investors would then plow into new businesses, creating new jobs and moving everybody upward. Americans could have low taxes and services both, they promised, for “supply-side economics” would create such economic growth that lower tax rates would still produce high enough revenues to keep the debt low and maintain services.

But constructing an economy that favored the “supply side” rather than the “demand side”—those ordinary Americans who would spend more money in their daily lives—did not, in fact, produce great economic growth or produce tax revenues high enough to keep paying expenses. In January 1981, President Ronald Reagan called the federal deficit, then almost $74 billion, “out of control.” Within two years, he had increased it to $208 billion. The debt, too, nearly tripled during Reagan’s term, from $930 billion to $2.6 trillion. The Republican solution was to cut taxes and slash the government even further.

As early as his 1978 congressional race, George W. Bush called for fixing Social Security’s finances by permitting people to invest their payroll tax themselves. In his second term as president in 2005, he called for it again. When Republican senator Rick Scott of Florida proposed an 11-point (which he later changed to a 12 points) “Plan to Rescue America” last year, vowing to “sunset” all laws automatically after five years, the idea reflected that Republican vision. It permitted the cutting of Social Security without attaching those cuts to any one person or party.

But American voters like Social Security and Medicare and, just as they refused Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security, recoiled from Scott’s plan. Yesterday, under pressure from voters and from other Republicans who recognized the political damage being done, Scott wrote an op-ed saying his plan was “obviously not intended to include entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security—programs that hard-working people have paid into their entire lives—or the funds dedicated to our national security.” (The online version of the plan remains unchanged as of Saturday morning.)

Scott attacked Biden for suggesting otherwise, but he also attacked Mitch McConnell, who also condemned Scott’s plan, accusing them of engaging in “shallow gotcha politics, which is what Washington does.” He also accused “Washington politicians” for “lying to you every chance they get.” Scott’s venom illustrated the growing rift in the Republican Party.

Since the 1990s, Republicans have had an ideological problem: voters don’t actually like their economic vision, which has cut services and neglected infrastructure even as it has dramatically moved wealth upward. So to keep voters behind them, Republicans hammered on social and cultural issues, portraying those who liked the active government as godless socialists who were catering to minorities and women. “There is a religious war going on in this country,” Republican Pat Buchanan told the Republican National Convention in 1992. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.”

A generation later, that culture war has joined with the economic vision of the older party to create a new ideology. More than half of Republicans now reject the idea of a democracy based in the rule of law and instead support Christian nationalism, insisting that the United States is a Christian nation and that our society and our laws should be based in evangelical Christian values. Forty percent of the strongest adherents of Christian nationalism think “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” while 22% of sympathizers agree with that position.

Scott released his 11-point plan because, he said, “Americans deserve to know what we will do when given the chance,” and his plan reflected the new Republicans. Sunsetting laws and tax cuts were only part of the plan. He promised to cut government jobs by 25% over the next five years, “sell off all non-essential government assets, buildings and land, and use the proceeds to pay down our national debt,” get rid of all federal programs that local governments can take over, cut taxes, “grow America’s economy,” and “stop Socialism.”

But it also reflected the turn toward Christian nationalism, centering Christianity and “Judeo-Christian values” by investing in religious schools, adoption agencies, and social services and calling for an end to abortion, gender-affirming care, and diversity training. It explicitly puts religion above the law, saying “Americans will not be required to go against their core values and beliefs in order to conform to culture or government.”

The document warned that “[a]n infestation of old, corrupt Washington insiders and immature radical socialists is tearing America apart. Their bizarre policies are intentionally destroying our values, our culture, and the beliefs that hold us together as a nation.” “Is this the beginning of the end of America?” it asks. “Only if we allow it to be.”

That new worldview overlaps with the extremist wing that is trying to take over the Republican Party. It was at the heart of the far-right challenge to House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). It informs Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s abandonment of small-government Republicanism in favor of using the power of the state government to enforce a “Christian” vision, including on businesses.

It was also behind Scott’s challenge to McConnell for the position of Senate majority leader. McConnell kept his position and then removed Scott and another extremist who backed Scott, Mike Lee (R-UT), from the Senate Commerce Committee. Scott, anyway, is apparently not backing down.

The struggle between those two factions is showing up at the Munich Security Conference on global security this week. In the U.S. the extremists have called for cutting our support for the Ukrainians as they try to fight off Russia’s 2022 invasion.

Their hatred of the liberal democracy that demands equality for all people has put those extremists on the side of authoritarians like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, both of whom have made attacking LGBTQ people a key feature of their championing of their “traditional values,” a cause the extremists like.

But the United States has traditionally backed democracies against autocracies. Today in Munich, Vice President Kamala Harris talked of the war crimes and atrocities the Russians have committed in Ukraine and said: “We have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt: These are crimes against humanity.”

Mitch McConnell, who does not usually travel to foreign meetings, went to Munich this year along with more than 50 other lawmakers, the largest delegation the U.S. has ever sent, designed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to global affairs. At a private breakfast on Friday, McConnell promised that the Republicans would not abandon Ukraine. One person there told Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer of Foreign Policy, “To me, the subtext was clear: We’re not the crazies like the small handful of House Republicans you see in the headlines so often.”


Rick Scott, “Inconvenient Truths for Joe Biden, Democrats, and the Washington establishment,” Washington Examiner, February 17, 2023.

Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, “Situation Report: Congress Descends on Munich to Support Ukraine”, Foreign Policy, February 18, 2023.

February 16, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

6 hr. ago

A legal filing today in the case of Dominion Voting Systems against the Fox News Corporation provides a window into the role of disinformation and money in the movement to deny that President Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion Voting Systems is suing FNC for defamation after FNC personalities repeatedly claimed that the company’s voting machines had corrupted the final tallies in the 2020 election. The filing today shows that those same personalities didn’t believe what they were telling their viewers, and suggests that they made those groundless accusations because they worried their viewers were abandoning them to go to channels that told them what they wanted to hear: that Trump had won the election. 

The quotes in the filing are eye-popping:

On November 10, 2020, Trump advisor Steven Bannon wrote to FNC personality Maria Bartiromo: “71 million voters will never accept Biden. This process is to destroy his presidency before it even starts; IF it even starts….  We either close on Trumps [sic] victory or del[e]gitimize Biden…. THE PLAN.”

FNC’s internal fact checks on November 13 and November 20 called accusations of irregularities in the voting “Incorrect” and said there was “not evidence of widespread fraud.”

On November 15, Laura Ingraham wrote to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity: “Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry, but she is.” 

On November 16, Carlson wrote to his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, “Sidney Powell is lying.” 

On November 19, FNC chair Rupert Murdoch wrote: “Really crazy stuff.” 

Hannity later testified: “[T]hat whole narrative that Sidney was pushing. I did not believe it for one second.” 

Fox Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt later testified, “[N]o reasonable person would have thought that,” when asked if it was true that Dominion rigged the election.

The filing claims that FNC peddled a false narrative of election fraud to its viewers because its pro-Trump audience had jumped ship after the network had been the first to call Arizona for Biden, and its ratings were plummeting as Trump loyalists jumped to Newsmax. “I’ve never seen a reaction like this, to any media company,” Carlson wrote to Suzanne Scott, chief executive officer of Fox News, on November 9. “Kills me to watch it.” On November 12, Hannity told Carlson and Ingraham, “In one week and one debate they destroyed a brand that took 25 years to build and the damage is incalculable.” 

They went to “war footing” to “protect the brand.” For example, when FNC reporter Jacqui Heinrich accurately fact checked a Trump tweet, correcting him by saying that “top election infrastructure officials” said that “[t]here is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” Carlson told Hannity: “Please get her fired. Seriously…. What the f*ck? I’m actually shocked…. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” 

Heinrich deleted her tweet.  

The filing says that not a single witness from FNC testified they believed any of the allegations they were making about Dominion. An FNC spokesperson today said, “Dominion has mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.”

Today, part of the report of the special purpose grand jury investigating possible criminal interference in the 2020 election in Georgia was released under court order. It explained that 26 Fulton County, Georgia, residents, three of whom were alternates, made up the grand jury, and 16 of them made up a quorum, enabling the jury to conduct business. Beginning on June 1, 2022, the grand jury heard testimony from or involving 75 witnesses, almost all of it in person and under oath. It also heard testimony from investigators and got digital and physical media. 

The grand jury found “by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election.” It also reported that “[a] majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it,” and it asked the district attorney to “seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.” 

Also today, in the wake of the inauspicious first hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on February 9, a bipartisan group of 28 former officials who were part of the Church Committee wrote an open letter to Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH). Republicans have claimed Jordan’s new subcommittee is a modern version of the 1975–1976 committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID), that discovered illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens, CIA operations to assassinate foreign leaders, drug testing on government personnel, discrediting of civil rights and anti-war activists, and so on. 

The letter’s authors reminded Jordan that while the chair of the committee had been a Democrat, its work had been carefully bipartisan, and its members investigated both Republican and Democratic administrations. They had rigorously reported facts in context, “resisting political temptations to assemble misleading mosaics from isolated tidbits.” They had also protected ongoing intelligence and law enforcement operations. 

The committee’s 2,700 pages of exhaustive research were also bipartisan and resulted in the creation of Senate and House intelligence committees to provide congressional oversight of intelligence, as well as the establishment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The former staffers of the Church Committee advised Jordan to follow the model he claimed, remaining objective, grounding the committee’s findings in relevant evidence and applicable laws.” They urged the subcommittee to “consider in good faith whether [Trump attorney general William] Barr and [John] Durham,” whom Barr appointed to discredit the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian operatives, “themselves may have strayed into such weaponization.” 

The Church Committee staffers warned Jordan that if he wanted to claim the mantle of that committee, he would need to move forward with the “same spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship.”


February 11, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

2 hr ago

Since Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) led Republicans in shouts of “Liar!” when President Biden said in his State of the Union address that “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years,” Republicans have been swamping social and news media with accusations that Biden was lying. 

In the speech, Biden continued: “That means if Congress doesn’t vote to keep them, those programs will go away. Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history.”

In fact, Biden’s statement was true. It was based on Florida senator Rick Scott’s 11-point plan, released in February 2022, which promised, “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” (It also promised to “sell off all non-essential government assets, buildings, and land, and use the proceeds to pay down our national debt,” without defining “non-essential.”) 

Since Republicans won control of the House, the extremists have also said they would not approve a clean debt ceiling increase without spending cuts. The history of Republican calls for cuts to Social Security runs long and deep, but just reaching back to 2020: Trump vowed to make cuts in his second term; former vice president Mike Pence last week called for “modest reforms in entitlements,” including privatization; Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson has called for moving the programs to annual funding so they would have to be renewed every year; and the Republican Study Committee, which includes more than 150 Republican House members, has called this year for raising the age of eligibility from 66 or 67 to 70 for Social Security and from 65 to 67 for Medicare.  

Biden’s statement came from what was famously dubbed the “reality-based community” in 2002. 

That year, a senior advisor to George W. Bush told journalist Ron Suskind that “guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’” Suskind responded by talking about the principles of the Enlightenment—the principles on which the Founders based the Declaration of Independence—that put careful observation of reality at the center of human progress. But Bush’s aide wanted no part of that, Suskind recalled: “He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality…. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The statement that Biden won the 2020 presidential election also comes from the reality-based community. 

Today, Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post reported that Trump’s campaign hired a consulting firm to try to prove that the election had been stolen. The Berkeley Research Group examined the election results in six swing states but could not find anything that would have changed the outcome. “They looked at everything,” a source told Dawsey: “change of addresses, illegal immigrants, ballot harvesting, people voting twice, machines being tampered with, ballots that were sent to vacant addresses that were returned and voted…. Literally anything you could think of. Voter turnout anomalies, date of birth anomalies, whether dead people voted. If there was anything under the sun that could be thought of, they looked at it.” 

The consultants briefed Trump, chief of staff Mark Meadows, and others on their evidence that Biden’s election was legitimate in December 2020—before the events of January 6—but the Trump camp continued to insist the election had been stolen. 

The rejection of reality has gone so far that we have in Congress Representative George Santos (R-NY), who appears to have fabricated his entire biography. Yesterday, Jacqueline Alemany and Alice Crites of the Washington Post revealed that the biography of another newly-elected right-wing representative, Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), is also suspect. Family members dispute her stories of an isolated and impoverished youth, there is no record of a nighttime home invasion she claims was formative, and her embrace of her Hispanic heritage—her mother’s family is Mexican-American—is recent enough that in 2015 she identified herself on a voting registration form as “White, not of Hispanic origin.”

After the story appeared, Luna’s lawyer issued a statement from her saying that “anyone who is a conservative minority is a threat to Leftist control. They can try to discredit me, but unfortunately for them the facts completely blow their story out of the water.”

There is a difference between political spin—which virtually all political operatives use and which generally means making a statement without full context so it is misleading—and rejecting the reality-based community in favor of lies and attacks. Political decisions that are not based on reality rob us of our right to make informed decisions about our government and what it will do. 

Social Security and Medicare are currently financially unstable. They can be stabilized by cutting benefits, raising taxes, rearranging government funding, or by some combination of the three. Biden wants to raise taxes; Republicans want to cut benefits, but they won’t say which ones and now deny they meant Social Security and Medicare. 

On Friday, Scott introduced a bill to rearrange government funding, saying it would “increase funding” for the programs, but in fact, it finds the money by achieving another Republican goal: cutting the $80 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act that restored funding to the Internal Revenue Service. That funding has enabled the IRS to answer 88.6% of taxpayers’ phone calls this year, up from 13% in the 2022 tax season and 11% the year before. Adding in automated phone support and chat features, 93.3% of taxpayers have been able to get support. Democrats will almost certainly not agree to stop this program, and Scott is likely hoping to get them on record as “voting against” more money for Social Security and Medicare. 

Voters need fact-based information to elect people who will enact the policies a majority of us want. 

We need politicians to participate in the reality-based community.


Ron Suskind, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004, at

February 10, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

Over all the torrent of news these days is a fundamental struggle about the nature of human government. Is democracy still a viable form of government, or is it better for a country to have a strongman in charge?

Democracy stands on the principle of equality for all people, and those who are turning away from democracy, including the right wing in the United States, object to that equality. They worry that equal rights for women and minorities—especially LGBTQ people—will undermine traditional religion and traditional power structures. They believe democracy saps the morals of a country and are eager for a strong leader who will use the power of the government to reinforce their worldview.

But empowering a strongman ends oversight and enables those in power to think of themselves as above the law. In the short term, it permits those in power to use the apparatus of their government to enrich themselves at the expense of the people of their country. Their supporters don’t care: they are willing to accept the cost of corruption so long as the government persecutes those they see as their enemies. But that deal is vulnerable when it becomes clear the government cannot respond to an immediate public crisis.

That equation is painfully clear right now in Turkey and Syria, where more than 380,000 people are homeless after Monday’s devastating earthquakes. The death toll has climbed to more than 23,000, and more than 78,000 are injured. So far. Just a month ago, Turkey’s president President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised that the country had the fastest and most effective system of response to disaster in the world.

But that promise has been exposed as a lie. As Jen Kirby pointed out in Vox yesterday, Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who have been moving the country toward autocracy, rose to power thanks to a construction boom in the 2010s that both drove economic growth and permitted Erdoğan to hand out contracts to his supporters. The collapse of more than 6,400 buildings in Monday’s quakes have brought attention to cost cutting and bribery to get around building codes. At the same time, since a big quake in 1999, homeowners have been paying an earthquake tax that should, by now, have been worth tens of billions of dollars, but none of that money seems to be available, and Erdoğan won’t say where it went.

“This is a time for unity, solidarity,” Erdoğan told reporters. “In a period like this, I cannot stomach people conducting negative campaigns for political interest.” He has shut down media coverage of the crisis and cracked down on social media as well. Elections in Turkey are scheduled for May 14. Erdoğan was already facing a difficult reelection.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad also has to deal with the horrific scenario. Aid groups are having trouble getting assistance to hard-hit areas controlled by opponents of the regime during the country’s ongoing civil war. Assad has blamed western sanctions, imposed against his regime because of its murder of his opponents, for the slow response to the earthquake, but his government has blocked western aid to areas controlled by his opposition. The U.S. has issued a six-month sanctions exemption for relief in Syria.

Russia is also in trouble as its recent invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a protracted war, but it maintains it will continue to extend its new imperial project. On Tuesday, Ramzan Kadyrov, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, spoke openly of attacking Poland after conquering Ukraine. It was time, he said, for the West to fall to its knees before Russia, and he predicted Ukraine would be Russia’s before the end of 2023. Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and an attack on it would bring the rest of the NATO countries, including the U.S., to its aid.

Today, Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people that borders Ukraine and has been under tremendous pressure from Russia, enduring soaring inflation, an inflow of Ukrainian refugees, and power cuts after Russian attacks on Ukraines’ grid, saw its government resign. That government has worked to move closer to European allies and has applied for admission to the European Union. Russia has sought to destabilize that government and has recently appeared to be planning to invade the country. Moldovan president Maia Sandu has nominated a new prime minister, one that intends to continue orienting the country toward Europe.

The U.S. has stood solidly against Russia’s ambitions, but our own right wing is increasingly supportive of Putin, liking his stand against LGBTQ people, his embrace of religion, and his ruthless determination to impose that vision on his country. Yesterday the president and chief executive officer of Elon Musk’s SpaceX admitted the company has blocked the ability of Ukrainian troops to use the Starlink satellite system to advance against Russia. In October, Musk drew fire for proposing a “peace” plan that would give Russia the territory it has claimed from Ukraine.

Meanwhile, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil met with President Joe Biden at the White House today. (His predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of former president Trump, staged a coup against Lula and is now hanging out in Florida hoping to score a U.S. tourist visa.) In their meeting, Biden and Lula emphasized democracy.

Biden noted that both democracies had been tested lately and that we stand together, rejecting political violence and putting great value in our democratic institutions: the rule of law, freedom, and equality.

Through an interpreter, Lula expanded on what that means. He noted that Brazil had “self-marginalized” under Bolsonaro, rejecting the world and turning inward. But, he said, “Brazil is a country that people enjoy peace, democracy, work, and Carnival, and samba, and a lot of joy. This is the Brazil that we’re trying to reposition in the world.” He called for making sure no more right-wing insurrections undermine our democracies, as well as fighting racism “so that we can guarantee some dreams for the youth.” He called for protecting the natural world to combat climate change, and creating a world governance to enable us to work together against existential threats.

“This is not a government program,” Lula said. “This is a faith commitment of someone that believes in humanism, someone that believes in solidarity. I don’t want to live in a world where humans become algorithms. I want to live in a world where human beings are human beings. And for that, we have to take care very carefully what God gave us: that is the planet Earth.”’

February 3, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

Feb 4



Last night, former vice president Mike Pence came out and said it: “I think the day could come when we could replace the New Deal with a better deal.” 

Pence was talking about Social Security—a centerpiece of the New Deal—saying: “Literally give younger Americans the ability to take a portion of their Social Security withholdings and put that into a private savings account.” 

Privatizing Social Security is his plan to address the growing national debt by cutting expenditures, at least in domestic spending. “It’s absolutely essential that we generate leadership in this country that will be straight with the American people, that will take us off this trajectory of massive debt that we’re piling on the backs of those grandchildren,” Pence said at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors summit in Washington, D.C.

Another way to reduce the debt would be to raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, even to where they were before the massive tax cuts Republicans passed in 2017, but current-day Republicans oppose taxes, claiming they redistribute wealth from hardworking people to those who want a handout. They believe that cutting taxes to enable those at the top to accumulate wealth will enable them to invest their money in businesses, creating more jobs. Wealth will trickle down, and everyone will do better. 

Republicans like Pence believe the federal government should stay out of economic affairs, letting individuals make their own decisions in free markets (although the concept of a “free market” has always been more theoretical than real). Any federal attempts to regulate business or provide a social safety net are “socialism,” they claim, although they have largely forgotten how that argument was established in the United States.

This argument is what gives us the story Kayode Crown reported yesterday for the Mississippi Free Press: thirty-eight of Mississippi’s rural hospitals, more than half of them, are in danger of collapsing because Governor Tate Reeves refuses to allow the state to accept an expansion of Medicaid. The hospitals are required to treat all patients who need care, but since many patients are uninsured, without the expansion of Medicaid the hospitals don’t get paid. 

On Monday, Reeves warned Republican lawmakers not to “cave under the pressure of Democrats and their allies in the media who are pushing for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare, and socialized medicine.” “Instead, seek innovative free-market solutions that disrupt traditional health-care delivery models, increase competition, and lead to better health outcomes for Mississippians.” Last month, in a poll from Mississippi Today/Siena College, about 80% of Mississippi voters wanted Medicaid expansion.  

This theory also says that the government should also stay out of the business of protecting civil rights, because state governments are the centerpiece of American democracy. That’s the idea behind yesterday’s decision by a panel of three judges of the right-wing Fifth Circuit. They ruled that a federal law prohibiting people who are under a domestic restraining order from owning a gun is unconstitutional.

In the 2022 New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, the Supreme Court said that the government must prove that any gun regulation is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” and because the Constitution’s Framers didn’t stop domestic abusers from possessing guns, we can’t either. As Ian Millhiser points out in Vox, it was not until 1871 that a state court determined that “a husband has no right” to beat his wife. 

Slate’s legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern notes, “There is no real doubt that the 5th Circuit’s decision is going to lead to more abusers murdering their wives and girlfriends. It will also increase mass shootings. Domestic abuse[rs] are vastly more likely to commit heinous acts of gun violence.” Millhiser says it is very likely the Supreme Court will take up the case. 

Under the Republicans’ theory, the country has seen wealth move upward dramatically, hollowing out the middle class and leaving it vulnerable to leaders who have attracted voters by telling them that minorities and women who want “socialism” are to blame for their loss of power. 

Today an audio file from November 5, 2020, just after the presidential election, was leaked that shows members of Trump’s campaign staff in Wisconsin acknowledging Trump’s defeat before Andrew Iverson, who led the Wisconsin team, said, “Here’s the deal: Comms is going to continue to fan the flame and get the word out about Democrats trying to steal this election. We’ll do whatever they need. Just be on standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull.” 

Iverson now runs operations in the Midwest region for the Republican National Committee.

In contrast to the Republican theory, President Joe Biden and the Democrats have revived the theory embraced by members of both parties between 1933 and 1981. That theory says that the federal government has a role to play in the economy, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, investing in infrastructure, and protecting civil rights. Rather than freeing capital for those at the top, Democrats want to invest in ordinary Americans who will, they believe, spend their paychecks, thus building the economy as they move money directly into the hands of their neighbors. 

Today at a Democratic National Committee finance event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Biden explained that “when we build from the bottom up and the middle out, poor folks get a shot, the middle class does well, and the wealthy still do very well.” We have to invest in ourselves again, he said. “How…can you be the most successful, powerful nation in the world and have third-rate infrastructure?…  How can you attract business and commerce and keep things moving?”

“[W]e used to invest 2 percent of our G[ross] D[omestic] P[roduct] in research and development…. But about 25 years ago we stopped.” Investment dropped to 0.7 percent of GDP, he said, but now the CHIPS and Science Act will jump-start that research and development again. The administration is also bringing supply chains home and rebuilding foreign alliances. And Biden told the wealthiest people in the room today that they were paying an average of 3% in taxes and needed to pay their fair share. “I don’t want you to pay 90% again”—the top marginal income bracket in the Eisenhower years—but at least 15%, he said. 

From the White House, Biden noted that the “strikingly good” new jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning proved that his vision of society works. It showed an astonishing 517,000 new jobs added in January, the twenty-fifth straight month of job growth. Unemployment fell slightly to 3.4%, a low last seen in May 1969 (not a typo). 

Between 1933 and 1981, Americans of both parties shared the idea of using the federal government to level the social, economic, and political playing fields. The current Republicans are rejecting that vision, reclaiming that of the business-oriented Republicans in the 1920s. Under Biden, the Democrats are trying to rebuild that shared vision, returning the parties to fights over the kinds and limits of government policies, rather than fights over whether they should exist at all.

Biden told his audience that “once every three, four, or five generations, there’s a fundamental shift in world politics and national politics” and that we are in such a shift now.

“What will happen [in] the next three or four years [is] going to determine what this country looks like for the next four or five decades…. We’re laying down a foundation, because the world is changing—dramatically changing. And we have a choice.”


Steve Vladeck @steve_vladeck

The Fifth Circuit strikes again: Unanimous panel (Jones, Ho, Wilson) strikes down the federal statute prohibiting possession of firearms while subject to a domestic violence-related restraining order; holds it violates the Second Amendment under Bruen: 8:03 PM ∙ Feb 2, 20231,392Likes789Retweets

Mark Joseph Stern @mjs_DC

There is no real doubt that the 5th Circuit’s decision is going to lead to more abusers murdering their wives and girlfriends. It will also increase mass shootings. Domestic abuse are vastly more likely to commit heinous acts of gun violence.…

An abuser’s access to guns makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. More than half of intimate partner homicides are committed with guns. An American woman is shot and killed by an intimate partner every 14 hours. Domestic abusers are also disproportionately likely to commit mass shootings: Nearly a third of mass shooters have a history of domestic violence, while more than half of mass shootings with four or more victims are committed by domestic abusers.

8:23 PM ∙ Feb 2, 2023


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