Heather Cox Richardson

I agree.

If we’re going to save this village, we must destroy it!


I just hope all their corporate donors owners are panicked enough to stomp down hard and put a stop to it. Or that the hold-out democrats grow a spine and kill the filibuster in time.


September 28, 2021 (Tuesday)

Today, the fight over the debt ceiling continued. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that breaching the debt ceiling would delay Social Security payments and military paychecks, as well as jeopardizing the status of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered Senate Republicans “a way out” from having to participate in raising the ceiling, despite the fact that the Republicans had added $7.8 trillion to the now-$28 trillion debt during Trump’s term. Schumer asked for unanimous consent to pass a debt ceiling increase with a simple majority that the Democrats could provide alone.

Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked the effort. “There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy, so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible,” he said.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that McConnell is deliberately running out Congress’s clock, and it is hard to ignore that the big item on the Senate’s agenda is the Freedom to Vote Act, which Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Angus King (I-ME) have worked to hammer out in place of the voting rights bills passed by the House.

The Freedom to Vote Act protects the right to vote. It also bans partisan gerrymandering.

States have already begun to carve up districts based on the 2020 census numbers. The Texas legislature, for one, has gerrymandered its state—one that is imperative for the Republicans to hold for the 2024 presidential election—to protect Republicans and underrepresent Black and Latino voters, who tend to vote Democratic. (Growth in the Latino population is what gave the state two new representatives.) If Texas redistricting is completed by November 15, the candidate filing period will end on December 13. At that point, after candidates have filed according to established district lines, it will be significantly harder for courts to overturn those lines before the 2022 election.

So if McConnell can tie up Democrats over the absolutely must-pass debt ceiling increase and can stave off a voting rights bill, Republican gerrymandering might well survive for the 2022 election.

Indeed, the political news out of Washington must all be read with an eye to the 2022 election, including the other big story from today: the testimony of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and General Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Before his testimony, Milley submitted a statement that was quietly remarkable. A highly decorated career soldier, Milley was appointed by former president Trump and, after making the mistake of walking with Trump across Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square in June 2020 for the former president’s ill-received photo-op with a Bible, has become a principled and outspoken advocate for the military’s defense of the United States Constitution, even, when necessary, against domestic enemies.

In his statement, Milley laid out the course of the war in Afghanistan. He noted that in 20 years there, more than 800,000 U.S. military personnel served; 2,461 were killed in action, 20,698 were wounded, and countless others came home with internal scars. Milley expressed his opinion that their service in Afghanistan prevented another attack on America from terrorists based there.

Then Milley talked of our exit from the country, emphasizing that it is a mistake to focus only on our rushed exit in August. In 2011, we began a long-term drawdown of troops from their peak of 97,000 U.S. troops and 41,000 NATO troops. On February 29, 2020, when the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban, there were 12,600 U.S. troops, 8,000 NATO troops, and 10,500 contractors in Afghanistan. With that agreement, known as the Doha Agreement, we agreed to withdraw if the Taliban met seven conditions that would lead to a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, while we agreed to eight conditions.

Milley wrote that the Taliban honored only one of its seven required conditions: it did not attack U.S. personnel. It did not cut ties to al Qaeda, and it significantly increased, rather than decreased, its attacks on Afghan civilians. Nonetheless, in the 8 months after the agreement, “we reduced US military forces from 12,600 to 6,800, NATO forces from 8,000 to 5,400 and US contractors from 9,700 to 7,900….”

On November 9, 2020, six days after the presidential election, Milley and then–Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recommended stopping the withdrawal until the Taliban met the required conditions. Two days later, on November 11, then-president Trump ordered the military to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan by January 15, 2021. Blindsided, military officers were able to talk Trump out of that rushed timetable, but on November 17, Trump ordered Milley to reduce troop levels to 2,500 no later than January 15.

So, when President Biden took office, only about 3,500 U.S. troops, 5,400 NATO troops, and 6,300 contractors were still in Afghanistan, leaving him with the problem that he would have either to leave altogether or to put in more troops in anticipation of resumed hostilities with the Taliban. Biden ordered a review of the situation and ultimately decided to withdraw from the country altogether.

Milley went on to explain some of the issues that have preoccupied pundits. He said he saw no predictions that the Afghan Army would melt away in 11 days. “The speed, scale and scope of the collapse was a surprise.” He said that holding the Bagram air base would have required 5,000–6,000 additional troops and that staying on after the August 31 deadline would have required 15,000–20,000 more troops, who would have faced significant risks, including the likelihood of casualties. “While it was militarily feasible,” he wrote, “we assessed the cost to be extraordinarily high…. Therefore, we unanimously recommended that the military mission be transitioned on 31 August to a diplomatic mission in order to get out the remaining American citizens.” In response to a question from Senator King, Milley put it more clearly: “On the first of September, we were going to go to war again with the Taliban. Of that there was no doubt.”

In short, Milley’s statement was a clear explanation of the last year and a half of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and it placed the blame for the messy withdrawal largely on Trump, rather than Biden, despite Milley’s own advice to Biden that the new president keep in place the troops remaining there when he took office.

But that did not reflect the questioning of the Republicans on the committee. They focused not on finding out about the failures—or successes—of our time in Afghanistan, but on attacking Milley himself. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted that the Republicans “assassinated his character and impugned his patriotism, accusing him of aiding the enemy and of placing his own vanity before the lives of the men and women serving under him.” Milley explained that recent reports of his having communicated with his Chinese counterpart to assure him the U.S. would not attack in the last day’s of Trump’s term were incomplete: he was authorized to do so by law, did so with the knowledge and advice of Esper and other administration officials, and made the calls with a significant number of people in the room.

Nonetheless, Republicans berated him, often not permitting him to respond. They seemed to be following the pattern established at hearings during the Trump administration of creating sound bites for later right-wing media stories. In this case, though, there is a deeper story: they are continuing the right-wing media’s undermining of the military officers who defended our Constitution.

The Republicans accused Milley of working with “the Chinese Communist Party” and leaking “private conversations with the president.” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) suggested that Milley was personally responsible for the deaths of the 13 personnel killed in the last days of the Afghanistan evacuation and told him: “General, I think you should resign.”

It’s hard to miss the mechanics and narratives being set up for 2022.

“I have served this Nation for 42 years,” Milley wrote in his statement. “I’ve spent years in combat and buried a lot of my troops who died while defending this country. My loyalty to this Nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn’t changed and will never change as long as I have a breath to give. My loyalty is absolute.”


“After your participation in a failed insurrection against the United States, Senator Hawley, I’ll insist you go first.” Would have been my response.


September 29, 2021 (Wednesday)

We are coming down to the wire for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.

This bill was hammered out earlier in September by a group of senators trying to find common ground with conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who objected to the sweeping For the People Act passed by the House. The Freedom to Vote Act pared down that larger bill but retained its most important pieces. It creates a national standard for voting rules and tries to stop voter suppression, modernizes voter registration, and replaces old, paperless voting machines with new ones that have a voter-verified paper trail. It slows the flood of money into our elections and ends partisan gerrymandering. It establishes strict rules for post-election audits.

This defense of voting is popular. A Data for Progress poll found that 70% of likely voters support the act. That number includes 85% of self-identified Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 54% of Republicans.

Manchin maintains that he can find 10 Republican senators to join the Democrats to get 60 votes, enabling the measure to overcome a Republican filibuster. But there is, so far, no sign that those votes are materializing, and every day that goes by brings us closer to having gerrymandered district lines hardened into place before the 2022 election. Indeed, the stonewalling by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of Democratic attempts to lift the debt ceiling is wasting time that otherwise would be given to the voting rights bill.

If Manchin cannot find ten Republican votes, the measure will die unless the Senate agrees to block a filibuster on it, as it has done for judicial appointments. A simple majority cannot pass it, even though the 50 Democratic senators (who would make a majority of 51 if Vice President Kamala Harris were called in to break a tie) represent about 40.5 million more Americans than the 50 Republican senators. (The U.S. has about 328 million people.)

It is imperative that this bill become law. Without it, the Republicans will almost certainly regain control of Congress, and with new voter suppression and election-counting laws in place in 18 Republican-dominated states, they will likely command the Electoral College as well. Once installed in power, will this particular incarnation of the Republican Party ever again permit a Democratic victory?

Congress today illustrated the importance of making sure all Americans have the right to choose their lawmakers.

The media focused on the intraparty fighting of the Democrats over a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that is supposed to be linked to the $1 trillion bipartisan package, but it is important to remember that the only reason anyone is even discussing an infrastructure package is because voting rights activist Stacey Abrams helped so many Georgians register to vote in 2020 that they were able to overcome Republican roadblocks and elect two Democratic senators. Without Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff, the two men who gave the Democrats 50 seats in the Senate to shift the majority from the Republicans, we would not be having this discussion at all.

Both infrastructure bills are popular. Americans support the bipartisan bill by 51% to 19% (with 30% unsure). About 62% of Americans like the larger package, despite a price tag that seems larger than it really is, since it spreads out funding for ten years. Even among Republicans, more like it than dislike it, at 47% to 44%.

But it took months of negotiations to secure the ten Republican votes necessary on the smaller package to get it past a filibuster of the other Republican senators, and the Republicans are united in their opposition to the larger bill.

Our right to vote was also on the table as our most effective tool for stopping the Republican Party’s current fall into authoritarianism.

After yesterday’s hearing in the Senate, Senator Angus King (I-ME) told reporters that the Senate Armed Services Committee had had only one hearing all last year when the Republicans were in control of the Senate. Washington reporter Laura Rozen recounted the conversation on Twitter. Since the Democrats retook control of the Senate, King said, they have held five hearings. But he pointed out that senators in yesterday’s hearing spent a great deal of time asking questions about the decisions to withdraw from Afghanistan, a decision made by former president Trump and unquestioned either as he made it or as he quickly began withdrawing troops. King noted that those questions should have been asked a year ago.

In today’s hearings before the House Armed Services Committee, Republicans defended the former president and attacked the man who helped to stop his takeover of the U.S. government, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley.

They insisted that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was “an extraordinary disaster” that “will go down in history as one of the greatest failures of American leadership,” although it was former president Trump who set the terms of the withdrawal and tried to make it happen in the dead of winter, which would almost certainly not have permitted the successful airlift of 130,000 Americans and allies that the military ultimately pulled off. (Interestingly, Milley also explained that U.S. commanders missed that the Afghan army and government would crumble because the withdrawal of tactical advisers over the past few years hurt U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities.)

Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Ronny Jackson (R-TX) did not simply defend Trump, though. They demanded that Milley resign. Gaetz repeatedly interrupted and berated the general, who has served the United States in uniform for more than 40 years—two years longer than Gaetz has been alive.

The attacks on Milley were not simply partisanship. They are part of a longer crusade of the pro-Trump forces against the man who stood against Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. For months now, right-wing media has attacked Milley and called for his ouster, complaining that his support for minority rights and desire to understand white rage has weakened the military.

Finally, the importance of our right to choose our lawmakers showed up in today’s fight over funding the government before the end of the day tomorrow, when funding passed as part of a huge package in December 2020 ends.

Democrats tried earlier to pass a funding bill that also addressed the debt ceiling, only to have Senate Republicans filibuster it, falsely claiming that raising the debt ceiling was a free pass for Democrats to spend on their infrastructure bill (in fact, lifting the ceiling permits the government to pay debts already incurred, and the Democrats want to pay for their infrastructure bill by clawing back some of the tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy the Republicans passed in 2017). But if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill, the government will have to shut down, likely hobbling the economic recovery.

So, tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced he will bring a bill to the Senate floor tomorrow for a vote. From there, it will go to the House and should be in front of President Joe Biden for his signature before midnight. The bill is “clean,” as Republicans demanded, in that it doesn’t include the debt ceiling issue. But Republicans did secure the right to offer amendments. According to Washington Post reporter Tony Romm, Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) plans to try to add to the bill a provision to stop the government from enforcing Biden’s vaccine mandate on companies with more than 100 workers.

House Democrats passed a bill raising the debt ceiling today, but Republican senators are expected to kill it. The clock will continue to tick down toward a U.S. default on its debt…and on Congress’s ability to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.


I’d love to see a historian’s take on the process of reconciliation, and if the approach described here would work (search for the word “infrastructure” to jump to the relevant section in the article below):

If it’s true that Democrats could’ve ended these Senate roadblocks and pushed through legislation in the same way the GOP has been doing it since the George W. Bush years, leaders need to explain why they haven’t - after they change course and get it done. The answer better not be some performative unity crap. You don’t offer to join hands and sing “Kumbaya” with people who are trying to stab you, kill your family, and burn down your house for good measure.


Yes! I think there are a few reasons why democrats are not understanding that.

  1. For so many democrats it isn’t their families or themselves at risk, particularly the democratic leaders. It is hard for them to see the danger when it isn’t them or their families under threat. Too many are white, male, cisgendered, or wealthy. Pretty much all the politicians on the national stage are at least one of those. And being a politician tends to self-select for selfishness.
  2. Feeding into that- prior to Trump, so many politicians were able to tell themselves steady movement in the right direction was the correct choice. Moving too fast would solidfy and harden the far right. But that has happened anyway, particularly in the last year. And they, especially the leaders, are just not adjusting to our new reality. They are still stuck thinking that good will win out in the end. That we will always move towards a more just society.
  3. Along with that outdated thinking of slow progress, too many are invested in appearing nice and playing by the rules. Not understanding that the rules have changed and we can no longer afford nice. We need fierce. The high road is on fire. It’s the low road or nothing.
  4. They are afraid of big changes. They want to make small changes a bit at a time to retain control. If voting in particular was seriously protected, no more voter suppression and gerrymandering, who knows what the consequences will be? More domestic terrorism? A change so far to the left the democratic moderate becomes extinct?
    Our democratic politicians are afraid of the wrong things.

To be fair, all the experience of politicians has trained them to move slowly and it must be hard to shake that. But they have to move quickly. We need the voting protections right now. Not in 6 months, not in a year. Now, before the gerrymandering states like Texas are doing effect the next election.

Sometimes I wonder what I will tell my daughter about this time period. I fear it will be a story of dashed hope, of watching our country slide into fascism where the white cisgendered male is the only person with rights. I want it to be a story of how we, as a country, pulled out that. Out of fascism, out of white evangelical conservatism, and away from rascism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny.


September 30, 2021 (Thursday)

Tonight, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that extends funding for the government until December 3, 2021. The government won’t shut down tomorrow.

In the Senate, Republican Tom Cotton (R-AR) tried to amend the measure to stop aid for Afghan refugees who were evacuated to the United States. That amendment reflected the demands of former president Donald Trump, who insisted that Republicans should oppose the bill, calling it “a major immigration rewrite that allows Biden to bring anyone he wants from Afghanistan for the next year—no vetting, no screening, no security—and fly them to your community with free welfare and government-issued IDs.” Trump suggested they would bring “horrible assaults and sex crimes” that would be “just be the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming if this isn’t shut down.”

For all their talk of concern about taking care of our Afghan allies during the evacuation of Afghanistan, all 50 Republican senators voted for Cotton’s measure. Democrats killed it on a strict party line vote.

Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) also tried to amend the bill. He wanted to prohibit the use of federal funds to implement vaccine requirements for the coronavirus. This failed, too, but only after all Republicans voted for it.

The Senate went on today to confirm Rohit Chopra to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for a five-year term. Chopra worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to establish the CFPB after the financial crisis of 2008, and in its first five years it recovered about $11.7 billion for some 27 million consumers. Former president Trump appointed former South Carolina representative Mick Mulvaney to head the bureau while he was also the director of the Office of Management and Budget; when he was in Congress, Mulvaney had introduced legislation to abolish the bureau. At its head, Mulvaney zeroed out the bureau’s budget and set about dismantling it.

When he took office, Biden began to rebuild the bureau and, in mid-February, appointed Chopra to head it, but Republicans objected to him. Now, more than seven months later, with Republicans insisting he would be anti-business, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote to confirm his appointment.

The rest of the congressional day was consumed with Democrats trying to hash out a final version of the Build Back Better infrastructure bill. While the Republicans largely sat the debate out—they oppose the Build Back Better plan altogether—conservative Democrats want to pass a smaller $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure before taking up the larger $3.5 trillion measure currently under discussion. That smaller measure focuses on repairing roads and bridges and extending broadband, and lobbyists for construction industries are very keen indeed on getting it into law.

But progressive Democrats cut a deal months ago that the smaller measure would go forward together with the larger one, and they are refusing to allow conservatives to change the terms of that deal now. The Build Back Better bill appropriates $3.5 trillion over ten years to expand child care and elder care, expand Medicare, cut prescription drug prices, provide two years of community college, extend the child tax credit, and combat climate change.

Aside from the measure itself, there are two issues at stake in the debate over it.

The first is about how the Democrats should interpret their victory in 2020. Conservative Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) appear to think the Democrats should limit the scope of their legislation to try to pick up moderate Republican votes in the future. More progressive Democrats, led by Pramila Jayapal (WA), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, believe the Democrats were elected to pass laws that help ordinary Americans who have felt unrepresented by Republicans.

The other fight behind the Build Back Better measure is over how Americans choose to spend their tax dollars. Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats like Manchin, believe that spending $3.5 trillion on human infrastructure is a waste of money and that the new programs will create an “entitlement mentality.”

In contrast, though, Congress spends very little time discussing the defense budget, which, at its current rate, would cost $7.78 trillion over the next ten years. That amount is significantly higher than the defense spending of any other nation in the world. In 2020, the U.S. spent $778 billion on defense, making up 39% of our overall spending. China, the country with the next highest defense budget, spent 13% of its overall spending on defense at $252 billion, India spent 3.7% at $72.9 billion, Russia spent 3.1% at $61.7 billion, and the United Kingdom spent 3% at $59.2 billion.

At the heart of the question of how we spend our tax dollars, of course, is who pays those tax dollars. The Biden administration wants to fund the Build Back Better plan not by borrowing, but by closing tax loopholes and clawing back some of the 2017 cuts to corporate taxes and income taxes on the nation’s highest earners. At Rolling Stone today, reporters Andy Kroll and Geoff Dembicki wrote that political groups funded by the network of right-wing libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, who is deeply invested in fossil fuels, are pouring money and effort into killing the Build Back Better plan.

Meanwhile, the Senate still has not taken up either of the two voting rights acts passed by the House or the Freedom to Vote Act hammered out this month by Democratic senators led by Manchin.

Yesterday, the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab released a report that noted the new voter suppression laws in place in 18 Republican-dominated states but focused instead on 17 new election subversion laws in 11 of those same states. Those new laws put into place the policies former president Trump’s campaign demanded in 2020. They threaten election officials with prosecution if they send out mail-in ballots to anyone who has not requested one, require legislatures to agree to changes in election rules, transfer control of elections or reporting results from nonpartisan officials to political operatives, and allow candidates to demand recounts at will.

A new law in Arizona, for example, “shifts control of election litigation from the secretary of state (currently a Democrat) to the attorney general (currently a Republican). The provision is designed to sunset on January 2, 2023, when a new attorney general potentially takes office.”

“When Voting Rights Lab launched a few years ago, we knew we’d be busy tracking many disturbing, and oftentimes veiled efforts to suppress the vote of historically excluded Americans,” the report concludes. “What we couldn’t have anticipated at that time was that current officeholders would warp the election process itself….”


October 1, 2021 (Friday)

For those of you exhausted by this week’s news, you can take a break tonight. Lots of moving pieces are in play, but nothing that would hold a historian to her desk a hundred years from now, so skip this letter with a clean conscience.

For those of you who do want some reflections, I am struck today by the media’s breathless recounting of how the ongoing negotiations over the two infrastructure bills shows that the Democrats are in disarray and President Joe Biden’s agenda is crashing and burning. The New York Times called a delay in the vote on the measures “a humiliating blow to Mr. Biden and Democrats” and wondered if “Biden’s economic agenda could be revived.”

Exactly a year ago, the news reported that Trump adviser Hope Hicks had coronavirus and that she had recently traveled with White House personnel on Air Force One. The stock market dropped 400 points on the news. The previous day had been the infamous presidential debate when Trump yelled and snarled at Biden, while his entourage, including Hicks, refused to wear masks despite a mandate that they must do so. We did not know who else might be infected.

Hours later, we learned that the president and First Lady were both sick, and within hours the president would be hospitalized.

The rest of the news provided a snapshot of the Trump presidency:

•A study of more than 38 million English-language articles about the pandemic between January 1 and May 26 showed that Trump was “likely the largest driver of…Covid-19 misinformation.”

•Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster, told MSNBC that Trump was “aiding and abetting Putin’s efforts” to disrupt the November election.

•We learned that Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, had not disclosed that in 2006, she signed an anti-abortion ad in the South Bend Tribune. It appeared near another ad from the same organization that called for putting “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children.”

•A tape leaked of Melania Trump complaining about having to decorate the White House for Christmas—“I’m working… my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?”—and then said of criticism that she was not involved with the children separated from their parents at the southern border: “Give me a f****** break.”

•News broke that Donald Trump, Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, had left the Fox News Channel after an employee complained of sexual harassment, saying she required the employee to work at her apartment, where she would sometimes be naked, and where she would share inappropriate photos of men and discuss her sexual activities with them. She denied any misconduct, but FNC settled the case against her for $4 million.

•The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief measure. No Republicans voted for it.

•Right-wing conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged with four felonies in Michigan for intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election laws, and using a computer to commit a crime.

•Claiming he wanted to prevent “voter fraud,” Republican governor Greg Abbott of Texas limited the number of locations for dropping off mail-in ballots to one site per county. While Republican counties tended to have just one location already, Democratic Harris County, the third largest county in the country, with a population of more than 4.7 million and an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, had previously used 12. Democratic Travis County, which includes Austin, previously had four.

That was one single day in the Trump presidency.

In contrast, today, the Democrats are trying to pass an extremely complicated package, consisting of two major infrastructure bills, backed by different constituencies, that will alter the direction of our country by investing in ordinary Americans and revising the tax code to claw back some of the 2017 tax cuts the Republican Congress gave to corporations and the very wealthy. Although there is no guarantee they will pass, the bills are currently still on track, and all the relevant parties are still at work discussing them, exactly as one would expect.

What is the unusual piece in this process is that the other major American political party—the Republicans—is refusing to participate in the crafting of a major bill that is extremely popular.

This infrastructure package is huge, but it is hardly the only item in Biden’s agenda. In March 2021, the Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package that has helped the administration produce more jobs in its first six months than any other administration in American history.

Not a single Republican voted for that bill; it passed while they were focusing on the ungendered Potato Head kin and the decision of the Dr. Seuss estate to stop the publication of some of Theodor Geisel’s less popular books.

The economy has recovered in large part because of the Biden administration’s enormous success at distributing the coronavirus vaccines to every American who wanted one.

Republican lawmakers have worked against this process, and today we crossed the unthinkable line of 700,000 officially counted deaths from Covid-19.

Now, the administration has begun to put vaccine mandates into effect, and they are working. Those who insisted they would never get vaccines changed their minds when employers and public venues required them. Today, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state will require coronavirus vaccines for school children, along with the ten others it already requires, as soon as the Food and Drug Administration fully approves them for use in children.

Meanwhile, Republican-dominated state legislatures are following through on the voter suppression noted a year ago, passing measures to cut down Democratic voting and install Republican operatives in key election posts before the 2022 election.

As political scientist and foreign relations expert David Rothkopf tweeted: “Are the Dems the ones in disarray when they are crafting specific programs while the GOP offers up only cynical Tweets & obstruction? The only GOP agenda items are voter suppression, defending the worst president in history & when they have power, pushing tax cuts for the rich.”

For my part, I’m not sure what is driving the stories that seem to paint Biden’s work as a lost cause: The recent position that Democrats are hapless? That it’s safer to be negative than positive? That our news cycle demands drama?

Whatever it is, I continue to maintain that the issue right now is not Democrats’ negotiations over the infrastructure bills—regardless of how they turn out—but that Republican lawmakers are actively working to undermine our democracy.


October 2, 2021 (Saturday)

The light in Maine in the fall is unparalleled, and sunsets from the kayak… well, see for yourself.

I had hoped to write tonight about Thurgood Marshall, who was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on this day in 1967, but I’m going to admit defeat, throw in the towel, and take an early night.

I’ll see you tomorrow.


October 3, 2021 (Sunday)

Yesterday, people rallied at more than 600 marches across the country to demonstrate their opposition to Texas’s new restrictions on abortion rights.

Today, the Washington Post broke the story that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained more than 11.9 million financial records including emails, spreadsheets, contracts, and so on, that reveal a vast international network of financial schemes to hide money from taxation, investigators, creditors, and citizens. The trove is named the Pandora Papers, after the Greek myth of Pandora, who opened a container and released a host of evils upon the world.

The two stories are not unrelated.

Today’s Republican Party would like to end government oversight of wealthy individuals, but such oversight is actually popular. So, to win elections, officials have turned to ginning up their voting base.

That base is fired up by causes they have been taught to see as imperative to make America a free, virtuous country, as it was in their imagined past and as they want it to be again. Since 1972, when President Richard Nixon threw the issue of abortion on the table to attract Catholic Democrats to his standard after the 1970 Kent State shooting cut into his support, Republican politicians have called for an end to the constitutional right to reproductive rights.

Decades of gerrymandering and voter suppression mean that today’s Republicans are less worried about winning moderates to their standard than they are about firing up their base. So today’s Republicans are becoming more and more extreme. The recent Texas abortion bill, the so-called “heartbeat bill,” bans abortion six weeks into a pregnancy—before many women even know they’re pregnant—and it makes no exception for rape or incest.

To make it hard to challenge the new law, the Texas legislature left its enforcement up to individual citizens, leaving no state entity for opponents to sue. The law went into effect on September 1, after the Supreme Court declined to stop it.

But while extremists who back the current Republican Party applaud what is essentially the outlawing of abortion, most Americans don’t like it. According to a new Monmouth poll, only 11% of Americans think abortion should always be illegal. Sixty-two percent want the Roe v. Wade decision to stand; only 29% want it overturned. The Texas law is especially unpopular. Seventy percent of Americans oppose turning the enforcement of the act over to vigilantes, and 81%, including 67% of Republicans, oppose the bill’s provision awarding $10,000 to anyone who wins a suit against someone helping a woman obtain an abortion.

Crucially, Democrats (77%) and Independents (61%) say they have heard a lot about the new Texas law, while only 47% of Republicans say they have.

Republicans have fired up their base, but at the cost of alienating women and their allies who did not truly think that abortion rights were in danger. Those people were in the streets yesterday, illustrating their determination to reclaim a government that listens to what the majority wants.

And that’s where the second story comes in.

A government that answered to a majority rather than an extremist minority would crack down on the growing global elite uncovered by the journalists who pored over the Pandora Papers, an elite that has managed to hide its wealth in offshore accounts (meaning any accounts away from their country of citizenship) thanks to deregulation and lack of oversight.

The internet and a global economy have permitted the rise of a global elite that, as the Pandora Papers reveal, often overlaps with criminality. In January 2011, when he was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III gave a landmark speech in which he explained how globalization and technology had created “iron triangles” of “organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders” who were “motivated by money, not ideology.”

The United States government has the power and the ability to take on this anti-democratic global elite. Since he took office, Biden and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, have made it clear that they consider our foreign policy and our democracy to go hand in hand.

In a speech to the State Department on February 4, Biden said that he would put “America’s most cherished democratic values” back at the center of American diplomacy, “defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.”

Domestic policy, Biden said, was central to foreign policy. “We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home,” he said. “When we…rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back…authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.”

Those marching yesterday for women’s lives and their constitutional right to abortion were not commenting on the secret web of global finance that lets autocrats hide the enormous wealth they have taken from their people. But they were indeed commenting on governance, in particular whether a majority of the people, or a minority kept in power by passionate extremists, should run our country.


October 4, 2021 (Monday)

“hello literally everyone,” the official account of Twitter tweeted this afternoon, after Facebook and its affiliated platforms Instagram and WhatsApp went dark at about 11:40 this morning. The Facebook outage lasted for more than six hours and appears to have been caused by an internal error. But the void caused by the absence of the internet giant illustrated its power at a time when the use of that power has come under scrutiny.

In mid-September, the Wall Street Journal began to publish a series of investigative stories based on documents provided by a whistle-blower.

The “Facebook Files” explore how the company has “whitelisted” high-profile users, exempting them from the rules that put limits on ordinary users. Another article reveals that researchers showed Facebook executives evidence that Instagram damages teenage girls by pushing an ideal body image and that they flagged the increasing use of the site by drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals; their discoveries went unaddressed.

Concerned about declining engagement with their material, Facebook allegedly privileged polarizing material that engaged people by preying on their emotions. It appeared to have encouraged the extremism that led to the January 6 insurrection, lowering restrictions against disinformation quickly after the 2020 election.

Last night, on CBS’s 60 Minutes, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealed herself to be the source of the documents. She is concerned, she says, that Facebook consistently looks to maximize profits even if it means ignoring disinformation. Her lawyers have filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees companies and financial markets. Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said it was “ludicrous” to blame Facebook for the events of January 6. Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have not commented.

Lawmakers have repeatedly asked Facebook to produce documents for their scrutiny and to testify about the social media platform’s public safeguards. Tomorrow, Haugen will testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security about the effects of social media on teenagers. Her lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, told Cat Zakrzewski and Cristiano Lima of the Washington Post that Haugen’s information is important because “Big Tech is at an inflection point…. It touches every aspect of our lives—whether it’s individuals personally or democratic institutions globally. With such far-reaching consequences, transparency is critical to oversight, and lawful whistleblowing is a critical component of oversight and holding companies accountable.”

Amidst the outrage over the Facebook revelations, technology reporter Kevin Roose at the New York Times suggested that the company’s aggressive attempts to court engagement reveal weakness, rather than strength, as younger users have fled to TikTok and other sites and Facebook has become the domain of older Americans. He notes that Facebook’s researchers foresee a drop of 45% in daily use in the next two years, suggesting that the company is desperate either to retain users or to create new ones.

While the technology Facebook represents is new, the concerns it raises echo public discussion of late nineteenth century industrialization, which was also the product of new technologies. At stake then was whether the concentration of economic power in a few hands would destroy our democracy by giving some rich men far more power than the other men in the country. How could the nation both preserve the right of individuals to build industries and preserve the concept of the common good in the face of technology that permitted unprecedented accumulations of wealth?

While money is certainly at stake in the issue of Facebook’s power today, the more pressing issue for our country is whether social media giants will destroy our democracy through their ability to spread disinformation that sows division and turns us against one another.

When we began to grapple with the excesses of industrialism, lots of people thought the whole system needed to be taken apart—by violence if necessary—while others hoped to save the benefits the technology brought without letting it destroy the country. Americans eventually solved the problems that industrialization raised for democracy by reining in the Wild West mentality of the early industrialists, protecting the basic rights of workers, and regulating business practices.

The leaked Facebook documents suggest there are places where the disinformation at Facebook could be reined in as the overreaches of industrialization were. When Zuckerberg tried to promote coronavirus vaccines on the site, anti-vaxxers undermined his efforts. But one document showed that “out of nearly 150,000 posters in Facebook Groups disabled for Covid misinformation, 5% were producing half of all posts, and around 1,400 users were responsible for inviting half the groups’ new members.” Researchers concluded: “We found, like many problems at FB, this is a head-heavy problem with a relatively few number of actors creating a large percentage of the content and growth.”

“I don’t hate Facebook,” Haugen wrote in a final message to her colleagues at the company. “I love Facebook. I want to save it.”

While most Americans were busy watching Facebook crash—the falling stock took between $5 billion and $7 billion of Zuckerberg’s net worth—drama in Washington, D.C., was an even bigger deal.

Los Angeles Times reporter Sarah D. Wire noted that the rioters who broke into the Capitol on January 6 ran more than 100 feet past 15 reinforced windows, “making a beeline” to four windows that had been left unreinforced in a renovation of the building between 2017 and 2019. They found the four windows, located in a recessed part of the building, Wire wrote, “by sheer luck, real-time trial and error, or advance knowledge by rioters.”

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will likely look into this oddity.

The committee has begun to take testimony from cooperative witnesses. Observers expect fireworks on Thursday when former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, longtime Trump aide Dan Scavino, Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump appointee Kash Patel must hand over documents. Trump has vowed to fight the release of any information to the committee. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) says the committee will make criminal referrals for anyone ignoring a subpoena.

Finally, today, the debt ceiling fight got even hotter. While Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through December 3, the issue of the debt ceiling, which stops the government from borrowing money Congress has already spent, remains unresolved. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the government will be unable to pay its obligations after October 18, and warns that a default, which has never before happened, would be catastrophic.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insists the Democrats must raise the debt ceiling themselves, although the Republicans raised it three times under former president Trump and added $7.8 trillion to the debt, which now stands at $28 trillion. But when Democrats tried to pass a measure to raise the ceiling, Republicans filibustered it. As Greg Sargent points out in the Washington Post, McConnell is trying to force the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. Since they get only one chance to pass such a bill this year, this would force them to dump their infrastructure bill.

McConnell is holding the nation hostage to keep the Democrats from passing a very popular bill, and today, Biden called him on it. McConnell complained that congressional Democrats were “sleepwalking toward significant and avoidable danger,” prompting Biden to demand that Republicans “stop playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy… Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, but threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job—saving the economy from a catastrophic event—I think, quite frankly, is hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful. Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows absolutely no bounds.”

When asked if he could guarantee we would not default on our debts, Biden said, “No, I can’t…. That’s up to Mitch McConnell.” If McConnell doesn’t blink and the Republicans continue to filibuster Democrats’ attempts to save the economy, there will be enormous pressure on the Democrats to break the filibuster.

Meanwhile, every day this drags on, Congress does not pass the Freedom to Vote Act.


October 5, 2021 (Tuesday)

Today, Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security. Haugen noted that Facebook co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg controls about 58% of Facebook’s voting shares, meaning he sets the terms of the company’s behavior. Her documents, illustrating that Facebook addressed only about 1% of hate violent speech and that its own algorithms pushed disinformation, supported her general observations about the need for government regulation of the social media giant.

While Haugen was testifying, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone reinforced that message when he texted the ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, to note that Haugen had not worked directly on issues of child safety or Instagram at Facebook, facts Haugen had already established.

Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch issued a statement attacking Haugen as untrustworthy but saying, “we agree…it’s time to begin to create standard rules for the internet…. [I]t is time for Congress to act.”

Tonight Zuckerberg responded in a Facebook post of his own. He echoed Pietsch’s call for government regulation.He called the recent coverage of the company a “false picture,” with claims that “don’t make any sense” because the company has “established an industry-leading standard for transparency.” He wrote that “[w]e care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health.” He says it is “just not true” that “we prioritize profit over safety and well-being,” and that it is “deeply illogical” that they “deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit.” “It’s very important” to him, he says, “that everything we build is safe and good for kids.”

While information about Facebook has demonstrated the dangers the social media giant poses for our democracy, the congressional fight over the debt ceiling has brought into relief a different struggle for the same cause.

The Republican Party has now swung almost entirely behind former president Trump—one heck of a gamble as his legal jeopardy continues to mount. Today, a New York state court said Trump must give a deposition in the defamation case brought against him by Summer Zervos, the former “Apprentice” contestant who said he sexually assaulted her and sued him for defamation after he called her a liar. And as the January 6 committee continues to take evidence, bipartisan groups of lawyers have asked legal organizations to investigate and possibly disbar the lawyers who backed Trump’s attempted coup, John Eastman and Jeffrey Bossert Clark.

Nonetheless, right-wing insurgents are tripping over each other to move to extreme positions behind the positions of the former president.

In Idaho today, for example, as soon as the state’s governor, Republican Brad Little, left the state for Texas to meet with nine other Republican governors about President Biden’s approach to securing the border, Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, who is challenging Little for governor next year, flexed her muscles over the state. She issued an executive order declaring she had “fixed” Little’s executive order prohibiting the government from requiring proof of vaccines to access services by extending the prohibition to schools, saying “I will continue to fight for your individual Liberty!” Then she enquired about activating the Idaho National Guard to go to the southern border.

Little promptly responded to her declarations with his own statement calling her actions “political grandstanding,” noting that he had not authorized her to act on his behalf, and saying he would be “rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return.” In the midst of all this posturing, Idaho is suffering a spike in coronavirus cases, with death rates at nearly three times the national average.

But while Republican leaders have encouraged the rush to the right because it fires up the party’s base voters, it may now have painted them into a corner from which they’re hoping the Democrats will rescue them.

The fight over the debt ceiling suggests that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is no longer in control of his caucus.

The debt ceiling is a cap on how much the Treasury can borrow to meet its obligations. We are now in trouble because under former president Trump, Congress created $7.8 trillion of debt, and now the Treasury cannot borrow to pay back that money. Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, have said they want the ceiling lifted, but they want Democrats to do it on their own.

But Republicans do not want the ceiling lifted by a simple vote, which the Democrats tried and the Republicans filibustered. They want to force the Democrats to raise the ceiling under the process of reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. This would prevent the Democrats from using the reconciliation process for their infrastructure package that would support human infrastructure like child care and elder care, and address climate change.

Yesterday, Democrats called Republicans out on this manipulation, and today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set up a vote on the debt ceiling for Wednesday. Democrats today suggested that McConnell and the Republicans are not simply trying to stop the Democrats’ infrastructure plans, but want to sow chaos by crashing the economy. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wondered on Twitter whether the billionaires “who prop up McConnell actually want a default” so “out of ashes they can build their new oligarchy.”

But tonight Adam Jentleson, an expert on the Senate whose knowledge of the institution is unparalleled among scholars, pointed out that McConnell seems unable to agree to let the Democrats save the country by a simple vote because five or six Republican senators will refuse. So, unable to control them, he seems to be forcing Democrats into a position in which they have no choice but to break the filibuster. Jentleson suggests McConnell knows that his own caucus might obstruct even reconciliation, so he is trying to open a door to make sure Democrats can keep the nation from defaulting and crashing the U.S. economy.

The fall of the Republican Party into the hands of extremists who are willing to destroy it recently prompted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare, “I’m astonished that more people don’t see, or can’t face, America’s existential crisis.”

Restoring sanity to the country will require free and fair elections, which, after years of Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression, will require federal legislation. The time for that to be most effective is running out, as Republican-dominated states are currently in the process of redistricting, which will determine their congressional districts for the next decade.

Today, in the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This measure would restore the parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court gutted in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder and the 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decisions. Of the three voting acts currently in play, the John Lewis Act seems like the easiest to pass, since Congress has repeatedly reauthorized the 1965 Voting Rights Act, most recently in 2006 by a vote of 98–0 in the Senate and 390–33 in the House of Representatives.

And yet, even this measure will be a hard sell for today’s extremist Republicans. When House Democrats brought the John Lewis bill up for a vote in August, not a single Republican voted for it.


Happy Role Playing GIF by Hyper RPG


October 6, 2021 (Wednesday)

Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) backed down from his obstructionism, agreeing to let the Democrats raise the debt ceiling by a simple majority rather than by the 60 votes they needed when the Republicans kept filibustering their bills.

A quick recap: the issue at stake was whether the United States would default on its debts, which it has never done before. The threat to default was purely a political ploy on the part of the Republicans to try to force the Democrats to abandon their very popular infrastructure measure.

Here’s the backstory: Congress actually originally intended the debt ceiling to enable the government to be flexible in its borrowing. In the era of World War I, when it needed to raise a lot of money fast, Congress stopped passing specific revenue measures and instead set a cap on how much money the government could borrow through all of the different instruments it used.

Now, though, the debt ceiling has become a political cudgel because if it is not raised when Congress spends more than it has the ability to repay, the country will default on its debts. The cap has been raised repeatedly since it was first imposed; indeed, the Republicans raised it three times under former president Donald Trump. Once again, it is too low, and by October 18, the Treasury will be unable to pay our debts.

To meet the nation’s obligations, Congress needs either to raise taxes, which Republicans passionately oppose, or to raise the debt ceiling so the Treasury can borrow more money. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has voted to raise or suspend the debt ceiling 32 times in his career, including the three times under Trump, refused to allow Republicans to vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Although the ceiling needed to be lifted because Trump added $7.8 trillion to the debt (which now stands at about $28 trillion), in part with the huge 2017 tax cuts that went overwhelmingly to the wealthy, McConnell tried to tie the need for more money to the Democrats’ infrastructure plan. This was false: the debt ceiling is not an appropriation; it simply permits the government to borrow money it needs to pay debts already incurred.

But McConnell and the Republicans want to dismantle an active government, not to build it. They hope to convince Americans that Democrats are racking up huge debts—even though it is the Republicans on the hook for today’s crisis—and that they should not be permitted to pass a bill that supports children and working parents and addresses climate change.

The Democrats insisted that the Republicans should join them in raising the ceiling, since they had been instrumental in making it necessary, but McConnell and his caucus refused. Finally, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warning that defaulting would crash the economy and with financial services firm Moody’s Analytics warning that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth, the Democrats tried to pass a measure themselves.

Republicans wouldn’t let them. They filibustered it, trying to force the Democrats to save the country by raising the debt ceiling through a bill that can’t be filibustered, a process called reconciliation, which would make it harder for them to use reconciliation for their own infrastructure bill since Congress can pass only one of that type of reconciliation bill per year.

It was a remarkably cynical ploy, risking the financial health of the country and our standing in the world to make sure that a Republican minority could continue to hamstring what the Democratic majority considers a priority. Republicans have played chicken with government shutdowns since the 1980s, refusing to pass measures to fund the daily operations of the government and thereby stopping paychecks and government operations.

But defaulting on our obligations was a whole new game of brinksmanship. The greatest international asset the U.S. has right now is its financial system. To bring that to its knees to score political points would be interpreted, correctly, as a sign our country is so unstable it must be sidelined.

Midday today, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted this international doubt when he took the unusual step of weighing in on politics. He warned that a default would “undermine the economic strength on which our national security rests.” Paychecks for 1.4 million active duty military personnel and veterans’ benefits for 2.4 million veterans, as well as payments on military contracts, would stop. Equally dangerous, defaulting on loans would devastate the nation’s international reputation “as a reliable and trustworthy economic and national security partner.”

Democrats said they could not guarantee the country would not default, and they were clearly starting to consider getting rid of the filibuster, at least for this particular issue, to enable them to pass a debt ceiling bill by a simple majority rather than by 60 votes.

Then McConnell blinked (although he didn’t cave). In a scorching statement that laid all the blame for the crisis on the Democrats, he offered to “allow” Democrats to use normal procedures—that is, the Republicans won’t filibuster them!—to extend the ceiling into December. Democrats indicate they will take that deal.

There is one major takeaway from this manufactured crisis: McConnell was willing to come right to the verge of burning the nation down to get his way. In the end, he stopped just before the sparks became an inferno, but it was much too close for comfort.

Still, he stopped. Trump and his supporters did not. The former president has been pushing Republicans to use the threat of default to get what they want, and he was not happy that McConnell had backed down. He issued a statement blaming McConnell for “folding” and added “He’s got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it’s time to play the hand.”

Trump’s willingness to burn down the country is ramping up as the January 6 investigation gets closer to him. Tomorrow is the deadline for four of his aides to respond to subpoenas for documents and testimony from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, adviser Steve Bannon, and Defense Department aide Kash Patel. Meadows worked to overturn the 2020 election results and was in the thick of things on January 6, Scavino had met with Trump to plot to get congresspeople not to count the certified votes on January 6, Bannon strategized with other officials on January 5 to stop the count, and Patel was part of discussions about the strength of the Capitol Police.

The four are expected to defy the subpoenas at Trump’s insistence, a defiance that suggests they think he and his people are going to regain power. According to Glenn Kirschner, a former U.S. Army prosecutor, contempt of Congress earns a year of prison time; obstruction of Congress, five years; and obstruction of justice, 20 years.

The rest of the former president’s statements today were unhinged attacks on the committee.

A final note for October 6: U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman has temporarily blocked enforcement of Texas’s S.B. 8, the so-called “heartbeat” bill prohibiting abortions after six weeks, when most women don’t know they’re pregnant. The Justice Department had sued to stop enforcement of the law. Pitman stopped it on the grounds that it deprived “citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.”


Just want to point out that one of the major reasons that the Afghan army largely refused to fight the Taliban was due to not getting paid by the Afghan government.

Mitch Mcconnell GIF by GIPHY News


October 7, 2021 (Thursday)

On this date five years ago, in the run-up to the 2016 election, the Washington Post broke the story of the so-called Access Hollywood tape, a video from 2005 in which Donald Trump told television host Billy Bush about his approach to women. “I don’t even wait” to start kissing them, he said. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab 'em by the p***y. You can do anything.”

Today’s events indicated that, as president, he took a similar approach to the Department of Justice.

This morning, the Democratic majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee released a draft report of its investigation into Trump’s attempt to use the Department of Justice to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The report found that Trump repeatedly tried to get the DOJ to endorse his false claims that the election was stolen and to overturn its results, singling out nine specific attempts to change the outcome. Trump, the report says, “grossly abused the power of the presidency.”

The report points to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as a key player in the attempt to subvert the DOJ, and it singles out a number of other officials as participants in the pressure campaign. Those people include Jeffrey Bossert Clark from within the DOJ, whom Trump tried to install as acting attorney general to push his demands; Representative Scott Perry (R-PA); Doug Mastriano, a Republican state senator from Pennsylvania; and Cleta Mitchell, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign. The draft report also notes that under Attorney General William Barr, the DOJ “deviated from longstanding practice” when it began to investigate allegations of fraud before the votes were certified.

The report concludes that the efforts to subvert the DOJ were part of Trump’s attempt “to retain the presidency by any means necessary,” a process that “without a doubt” “created the disinformation ecosystem necessary for Trump to incite almost 1000 Americans to breach the Capitol in a violent attempt to subvert democracy by stopping the certification of a free and fair election.”

The minority of the Senate Judiciary Committee promptly published a rebuttal, defending the former president by saying that “President Trump listened to his advisors, including high-level DOJ officials and White House Counsel and followed their recommendations.”

The top Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is running for reelection in 2022 and is facing a primary challenger from the right. Grassley will be speaking on Saturday at Trump’s “rally” in Iowa. As then–Senate president pro tempore and thus the next person in line to count the electoral votes if Vice President Mike Pence were absent, Grassley was not uninvolved in the events of January 6.

Indeed, on January 5, Roll Call reported Grassley’s statement that he and not Vice President Mike Pence would preside over the counting of the certified votes the following day. “[I]f the Vice President isn’t there, and we don’t expect him to be there, I will be presiding over the Senate,” Grassley said. His staff immediately walked the statement back, but it does suggest he might have been aware of some of the White House machinations to overturn the election.

On CNN, host Jake Tapper called Grassley’s response to the majority’s report “a very, very generous to the point of delusional reflection of what actually happened.”

Today was also the deadline for four of Trump’s closest allies to turn over documents to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol and to schedule testimony. Former chief of staff Mark Meadows, social media manager Dan Scavino, adviser Steve Bannon, and former Defense Department official Kash Patel have until midnight tonight to contact the committee.

Trump’s lawyers wrote a letter telling the four men not to cooperate with the congressional subpoena. The letter claims that Trump is planning to contest the subpoenas on the basis of executive privilege.

But even if this president does accept his assertion of executive privilege—and there are good reasons for any president to be nervous about depositions from a chief of staff—such an assertion would likely not cover Steve Bannon.

Meanwhile, the committee issued three new subpoenas today, this time for people or entities involved in rallies to protest the 2020 election results to testify. The committee subpoenaed Ali Abdul Akbar, known as Ali Alexander, and Nathan Martin, as well as Stop the Steal L.L.C., an organization affiliated with the January 6 protest in Washington.

After the election, Alexander called frequently for violence to overturn the results and claimed to be in contact with White House officials and Representatives Mo Brooks (R-AL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ) about January 6. In a now-deleted video, Alexander said: “We four schemed up… putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting… so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”

This evening the Senate managed to pass a measure to raise the debt ceiling until December, but it was not an easy sell. Trump continued to object to clearing the way for Democrats to keep the nation from tipping over the cliff into default despite the fact that the nation racked up $7.8 trillion in debt on his watch and raising the debt ceiling is necessary to cover that debt.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) promise that the Republicans would no longer block the Democrats from addressing the issue did not stop a number of Republican senators from continuing to object. Finally, 11 Republicans agreed to join the Democrats to break a Republican filibuster by a vote of 61–38. The Democrats then passed legislation to address the debt ceiling by a strict party vote of 50–48 and sent the measure to the House.

It took a filibuster-proof majority of the Senate not to pass a bill to protect the nation’s economic health and international standing, but simply to keep an angry minority at bay long enough to permit Democrats to pass that bill.

The news that the Senate had agreed to a deal made the Dow Jones Industrial Average jump 330 points.


October 8, 2021 (Friday)

By midnight last night, four of former president Donald Trump’s closest allies were required to turn over documents to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. The four are former chief of staff Mark Meadows, social media manager Dan Scavino, adviser Steve Bannon, and former Defense Department official Kash Patel.

Today, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) released a statement saying that Meadows and Patel “are, so far, engaging” with the committee, but that “Bannon has indicated that he will try to hide behind vague references to privileges of the former President.”

Meanwhile, Bannon told his podcast audience that he will have 20,000 “shock troops” ready to take over the country. “We control this country,” he said. “We have to start acting like it.” Bannon is using Trump’s reliance on executive privilege to defy the congressional subpoenas. Legal observers say this is a stretch, since Bannon was not part of the executive branch after 2017.

The committee expects all the witnesses to cooperate. “[W]e will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” they wrote.

It seems significant that Meadows and Patel are not, apparently, relying on the former president to protect them, while Bannon is. Scavino has been eluding the subpoena, but Rawstory reported tonight that he had finally been served.

Bannon and Patel are scheduled to testify before the committee on October 14, while Scavino and Meadows are scheduled for October 15. Their cooperation—or lack of it—will then become very clear.

Today, the pressure on the former president got higher when the White House declined to assert executive privilege over some of the documents requested by the January 6 committee. Former president Trump’s attorneys had requested that the Biden administration withhold documents about Trump’s actions on January 6. NBC News reported this afternoon that White House Counsel Dana Remus has sent a letter to the National Archives saying that “President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents.”

“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances,” Remus added. “Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities. The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”

According to MSNBC, those documents include Twitter messages, phone and visitor logs, videos and photos of Trump’s events, all documents and communications related to Vice President Mike Pence’s movements and security, the planning around the counting of the certified votes, and any other documents concerning either the rally at the Ellipse or the Capitol riot.

In other news, the Republican attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, asked a federal appeals court to reinstate S.B. 8, the so-called heartbeat bill banning abortion six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granted his request to suspend the order blocking the law. So S.B. 8 is back in force.


October 9, 2021 (Saturday)

Spent the day with family and friends, and they wore me out!

The only sunrise I’m going to be awake for in the next several hours is the one below. I’ll see you all tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland]


October 10, 2021 (Sunday)

The fight over raising the debt ceiling reveals that the Trump wing has taken control of the Republican Party.

Defaulting on our debt for the first time in our history would have crushed our economy and forfeited our international standing. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that a default would be “catastrophic,” creating “a permanently weaker nation.”

Financial analysts at Moody’s Analytics noted that when a problem with word-processing equipment at the Treasury led it inadvertently to miss payments on Treasury bills in 1979, the resulting jump in interest rates ultimately cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that default would undermine our international reputation.

But when the House passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling, Senate Republicans killed the measure with the filibuster, the Senate rule that allows debate to continue without a vote until 60 members of the Senate vote to end debate—a rule that essentially means it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to pass any bill the minority wants to block.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed that the ceiling must be raised. But then he insisted he would not allow Democrats to pass the bill with a simple majority. He told them they must pass a measure raising the debt ceiling in a reconciliation package, which cannot be filibustered but which would make it harder for Democrats to pass their popular infrastructure measures. Democrats noted that the Republicans ran up the debt and now should agree to pay it, and they refused to try to rush through a reconciliation package to shield the Republicans from their responsibility.

And then, as business leaders began to map out a pressure campaign to get McConnell to drop the filibuster, he backed down and agreed…not to allow a simple majority vote, but to find ten votes to break a filibuster.

As co-host of Pod Save America Dan Pfeiffer noted in his newsletter The Message Box, that approach suggested that McConnell has lost control of his caucus. Any senator can vote against allowing a simple majority, and it seems McConnell could not trust the other Republican senators to permit a vote and so had to try to force the Democrats to do things his way. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called his bluff.

McConnell scrounged up the votes he needed but then wrote a scathing letter to President Joe Biden, announcing he would “not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis.” But the truth is that he is putting the best spin he can on the fact he can’t help even if he wanted to: he no longer controls the caucus.

Immediately, former president Trump issued a statement blaming McConnell for “folding to the Democrats, again. He’s got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it’s time to play the hand. Don’t let them destroy our country!”

On September 22, Trump explained that to stop the Democrats, the Republicans might have to burn down the country: “The way I look at it,” he wrote, “what the Democrats are proposing, on so many different levels, will destroy our country. Therefore, Republicans have no choice but to do what they have to do, and the Democrats will have no choice but to concede all of the horror they are trying to inflict upon the future of the United States.”

Those who agree with Trump are now in charge of the Republican Party.

Today, on Fox News Sunday, the second-ranking Republican in the House, Steve Scalise (R-LA), refused repeatedly to say that Biden had won the 2020 election. Although then–attorney general and Trump loyalist Bill Barr said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and state election officials and judges have all agreed there were no irregularities that would have changed the outcome, Scalise backed Trump’s Big Lie that he actually won the 2020 election.

He did so by arguing that certain states had not followed the Constitution when state judges, governors, and election officials expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic. There is no indication that those adjustments changed the outcome of the election, but in summer 2020 Trump became fixated on the idea that mail-in voting hurt his reelection campaign.

As soon as Trump lost the election, he began to try to get officials to cheat to say he won, and then to replace officials who refused with those he thought would help him keep the presidency. On January 2, he tried to browbeat Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into “finding” 11,780 votes in Georgia—one more than Biden’s margin of victory. Then he fired the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, BJay Pak, because he would not produce evidence of fraud, replacing him with someone Trump hoped would.

Now, across Republican-dominated states, Trump Republicans are doing the same thing: attacking those Republican officials who refuse to say the 2020 election was stolen and replacing them with partisans who will. In Hood County, Texas, where Trump won 81% of the vote, his supporters are trying to get rid of the Republican elections official who is trying to preserve the security of elections by, for example, excluding from a private meeting a journalist from One America News.

At the local level, anti–mask mandate and anti-vaccine protesters are bullying school board members and town officials to demand that local leaders bow to their wishes, and they are threatening violence in a way that looks much like the rise of anti-socialist gangs in the 1930s that fed the rise of fascism.

Last week, Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who is currently defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol, told an audience that he would have 20,000 “shock troops” on hand to take over the government and deconstruct it as soon as Republicans again are in charge. “We control this country,” he said. “We have to start acting like it.”

Today, on the birthday of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by an officer as she tried to break through a barricaded door to stop the counting of the ballots that would make Biden president, Trump recorded a video for a family event saying: “There was no reason Ashli should have lost her life that day. We must all demand justice for Ashli and her family.”

Last night, in Iowa, Trump held a “rally.” Mainstream Republican officials, including Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Kim Reynolds, and Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson, attended. Right on cue, a Trump supporter told a reporter: “We’re just sick of it, you know, and we’re not going to take it any more. I see a civil war coming….”

Today’s split in the Republican Party mirrors the split in the Democrats in 1860. The leadership is made up of extremists who consider their opponents illegitimate, maintain they alone understand the Constitution, and are skewing the mechanics of our electoral system to keep themselves in power. In 1860, the Democratic Party split, its moderates joining with the fledgling Republicans to defend the United States of America.

Then, as now, the radicals calling for the destruction of the nation were a shrinking minority desperate to cling to power. Then they took up arms to divide the nation in two and keep power in their part of it; now they are launching a quieter war simply by rigging future elections to conquer the whole nation.