Heather Cox Richardson

February 16, 2023 (Thursday)

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.”


hugh laurie facepalm GIF


Julia Louis-Dreyfus Dnc GIF by MSNBC


the perfect response comes from fox itself


February 17, 2023 (Friday)

Was happily writing away, and hoo, boy, just hit the wall.

Will be back at it tomorrow.

Until then, a fun photo from my favorite beach last weekend. Just like history: layers upon layers…


February 18, 2023 (Saturday)

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.”


… always a good sign when reactionaries refer to people as vermin to be exterminated :rat: :cockroach:


February 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Today in the Washington Post, Nick Anderson showed how the Advanced Placement course on African American studies changed between February 2022, when its prototype first appeared, and February 2023, when the official version was released. One word, in particular, had vanished: the word “systemic.” In February 2022, “systemic” appeared before “marginalization; in April 2022, “systemic” came before “discrimination, oppression, inequality, disempowerment and racism.”

By February 2023, that word was gone. While the College Board, which produces the AP courses, says it did not change the course in response to its rejection by Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who said it contributed to a “political agenda,” its spokespeople have acknowledged that they were aware of how the right wing would react to that word.

The far right opposes the idea that the United States has ever practiced systemic racism. Shortly before former president Trump left office, his hand-picked President’s Advisory 1776 Commission produced its report to stand against the 1619 Project that rooted the United States in the year enslaved Africans first set foot in the English colonies on the Chesapeake, and went on to claim that systemic racism had shaped the eventual American nation.

Trump’s 1776 commission rejected the conclusions of the 1619 Project’s authors and instead declared that “the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice.” While “the American story has its share of missteps, errors, contradictions, and wrongs,” it asserted, “[t]hese wrongs have always met resistance from the clear principles of the nation, and therefore our history is far more one of self-sacrifice, courage, and nobility.”

Since Trump left office, far-right activists have passed laws prohibiting teachers from talking about patterns of racism and have worked to remove from classrooms and school libraries books whose subjects must overcome systemic discrimination.

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1942, during World War II, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 enabling military authorities to designate military areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” That order also permitted the secretary of war to provide transportation, food, and shelter “to accomplish the purpose of this order.”

Four days later, a Japanese submarine off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, shelled the Ellwood Oil Field, and the Office of Naval Intelligence warned that the Japanese would attack California in the next ten hours. On February 25 a meteorological balloon near Los Angeles set off a panic, and troops fired 1,400 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition at supposed Japanese attackers.

On March 2, 1942, General John DeWitt put Executive Order 9066 into effect. He signed Public Proclamation No. 1, dividing the country into military zones and, “as a matter of military necessity,” excluding from certain of those zones “[a]ny Japanese, German, or Italian alien, or any person of Japanese Ancestry.” Under DeWitt’s orders, about 125,000 children, women, and men of Japanese ancestry were forced out of their homes and held in camps around the country. Two thirds of those interned were U.S. citizens.

DeWitt’s order did not come from nowhere. After almost a century of shaping laws to discriminate against Asian newcomers, West Coast inhabitants and lawmakers were primed to see their Japanese and Japanese-American neighbors as dangerous.

Those laws reached back to the arrival of Chinese miners to California in 1849, and reached forward into the twentieth century. Indeed, on another February 19—that of 1923—the Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. It said that Thind, an Indian Sikh man who identified himself as Indo-European, could not become a U.S. citizen. Thind claimed the right to United States citizenship under the terms of the Naturalization Act of 1906, which had put the federal government instead of states in charge of who got to be a citizen and had very specific requirements for citizenship that he believed he had met.

But, the court said, Thind was not a “white person” under U.S. law, and only “free white persons” could become citizens.

What were they talking about? In the Thind decision, the Supreme Court reached back to the case of Japan-born Takao Ozawa, decided a year before, in 1922. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Ozawa could not become a citizen under the 1906 Naturalization Act because that law had not overridden the 1790 naturalization law limiting citizenship to “free white persons.” The court decided that “white person” meant “persons of the Caucasian Race.” “A Japanese, born in Japan, being clearly not a Caucasian, cannot be made a citizen of the United States,” it said.

As the 1922 case indicated, Asian Americans could not rely on the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, to permit them to become citizens, because a law from 1790 knocked a hole in that amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment provided that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” But as soon as that amendment went into effect, the new states and territories of the West reached back to the 1790 naturalization law to exclude Asian immigrants from citizenship based on the argument that they were not “free, white persons.”

That 1790 restriction, based in early lawmakers’ determination to guarantee that enslaved Africans could not claim citizenship, enabled lawmakers after the Civil War to exclude Asian immigrants from citizenship.

From that exclusion grew laws discriminating against Chinese immigrants, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited Chinese workers from migrating to the United States. Then, when Chinese immigration slowed and Japanese immigration took its place, the U.S. backed the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 under which Japanese officials promised to stop emigration to the United States. The United States, in turn, promised not to restrict the rights of Japanese already in the United States, although laws prohibiting “aliens” from owning land meant Japanese settlers either lost their land or had to put it in the names of their American-born children, who were citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1942, the assumption that Japanese Americans were dangerous and anti-American was rooted back in the earliest years of the country, in the 1790 naturalization law designed to make sure that Africans could not become United States citizens.

After the 1923 Thind decision, the United States stripped the citizenship of about 50 South Asian Americans who had already become American citizens. One of them was Vaishno Das Bagai, an immigrant from what is now Pakistan who was born into a prosperous family and who settled in San Francisco in 1915 with his wife and three sons to start a business. Less than three weeks after arriving in the United States, Bagai began the process of naturalization. He became a citizen in 1920.

The Thind decision took that citizenship away from Bagai, making him fall under California’s alien land laws saying he could not own land. He lost his home and his business. In 1928, explicitly telling the San Francisco Examiner that he was taking his life in protest of racial discrimination, Bagai committed suicide. His widow, Kala Bagai, became a community activist.

World War II changed U.S. calculations of who could be a citizen as global alliances shifted and all Americans turned out to save democracy. From Japanese-American internment camps, young men joined the army to fight for the nation. In 1943, the War Department authorized the formation of Japanese-American combat units. One of those units, the 442d Regimental Combat Team, became the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. military history. Their motto was “Go for Broke.”

Congress overturned Chinese exclusion laws in 1943 and, in 1946, made natives of India eligible for U.S. citizenship. Japanese immigrants gained the right to become U.S. citizens in 1952.

“[S]elf-sacrifice, courage and nobility” definitely enabled people like Thind, Vaishno Das Bagai and Kala Bagai, and the soldiers of the 442d Regimental Combat Team to assert “the clear principles of the nation.” But it’s hard to see how a teacher can explain “missteps, errors, contradictions, and wrongs” from 1942 that were rooted in a law from 1790 without using the word “systemic.”


February 20, 2023 (Monday)

We awoke this morning to news that President Joe Biden was in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he pledged “our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” Air raid sirens blared as Biden and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky walked through the streets during the U.S. president’s five-hour stay.

As National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters, Biden’s visit was the first time a U.S. president has visited “the capital of a country at war where the United States military does not control the critical infrastructure”…in other words, an active war zone. Biden traveled in a special mission plane from Germany to Poland, then took a train from Poland to Kyiv. To make sure there would be no attacks, the U.S. notified the Russians that Biden would be in Kyiv, but a Russian MiG 30 flew from Belarus during Biden’s visit, triggering air raid sirens.

According to Sullivan, Biden felt it was important to visit Kyiv at the anniversary of the 2022 Russian invasion. The image of Biden and Zelensky standing together sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin, as David Rothkopf put it in the Daily Beast: “I am here in Kyiv and you are not. You not only did not take Kyiv in days as some predicted, but your attack was rebuffed. Your army suffered a humiliating defeat from which it has not recovered.”

Just under a year ago, the global equation looked very different. On February 4, 2022, Chinese president Xi Jinping hosted Russian president Vladimir Putin on the opening day of the Winter Olympics. The two men pledged to work together in a partnership with “no limits” in a transparent attempt to counter U.S. global leadership and assert a new international order based on their own authoritarian systems.

At the time, Russia was massing troops on its border with Ukraine but fervently denied it was planning to invade. On February 24, 2022, Russian tanks rolled across the border and Russian planes covered them in the air. Biden remembered that Zelensky called him and said he could hear the explosions as they spoke. “I’ll never forget that,” Biden said. “The world was about to change.” When Biden asked what he could do to help, Zelensky said: “Gather the leaders of the world. Ask them to support Ukraine.”

And over 50 nations stepped up to make sure the rules-based international order in place since World War II, which prevents one country from attacking another, held. Those backing Ukraine against Russian aggression have squeezed Russia with economic sanctions and supported Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. As Biden said today, standing next to Zelensky: “Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

Biden pledged another $460 million in aid to Ukraine, emphasizing that U.S. support for the country is bipartisan.

Biden mourned the cost Ukraine has had to bear, but championed its successes. “Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map,” Biden said, but “Putin’s war of conquest is failing. Russia’s military has lost half its territory it once occupied. Young, talented Russians are fleeing by the tens of thousands, not wanting to come back to Russia. Not…just fleeing from the military, fleeing from Russia itself, because they see no future in their country. Russia’s economy is now a backwater, isolated and struggling.”

“Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided,” Biden said. He remembered telling Zelensky that Putin was “counting on us not sticking together. He was counting on the inability to keep NATO united. He was counting on us not to be able to bring in others on the side of Ukraine.” While Biden didn’t say it, Putin had reason to think those things: the four years of the Trump administration had seen the U.S. offending allies and threatening to pull out of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that stands against Russian aggression.

“He thought he could outlast us,” Biden said. “I don’t think he’s thinking that right now…. [H]e’s just been plain wrong. Plain wrong.” A year later, Biden said, “We stand here together.”

“You and all Ukrainians…remind the world every single day what the meaning of the word ‘courage’ is—from all sectors of your economy, all walks of life. It’s astounding. Astounding.
You remind us that freedom is priceless; it’s worth fighting for for as long as it takes. And that’s how long we’re going to be with you, Mr. President: for as long as it takes.”

Zelensky answered, “We’ll do it.”

The world could stand behind Ukraine as it has because Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have held a coalition together and presented a united front with Zelensky and allies and partners in defense of democracy.

In contrast today, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) explicitly called for dividing the nation. She tweeted: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this.” For once I will spare you my usual lecture on how elite southern enslavers in the 1850s made this same argument because they resented the majority rule that threatened their ability to impose their will on their Black neighbors.

(I will note, though, that former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) helpfully reviewed “some of the governing principles of America” for Greene, tweeting: “Our country is governed by the Constitution. You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Secession is unconstitutional. No member of Congress should advocate secession, Marjorie.”)

What Greene had to say next is of more interest in this moment. The Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering for international security discussions, has just reported that the Russian war on Ukraine is a war of authoritarianism on a rules-based international order. At that conference, Vice President Kamala Harris said the U.S. had determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity and noted that the bipartisan U.S. delegation to the conference was the largest we have ever sent. The U.S. president has just entered a war zone to declare U.S. support for democracy and is now in Poland, where he will speak with the leaders of the nine countries that make up NATO’s eastern flank and will deliver a speech that Blinken has described as “very significant.”

In contrast, Greene echoed authoritarian leaders Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Putin himself when she called for splitting the nation over “the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats” and “the Democrat’s [sic] traitorous America Last policies.” Authoritarian leaders insist that the equality that underpins liberal democracy threatens traditional society because it means that LGBTQ people, women, and minorities should have the same rights as white men. Greene appears to be taking the same position.

Meanwhile, Fox News Channel personalities, including Tucker Carlson, are trying to spin Biden’s visit to Ukraine as proof that he doesn’t care about the train derailment in Ohio. Scholar of disinformation behavior Caroline Orr Bueno noted: “There’s a narrative being planted here; watch how support for Ukraine is framed as incompatible with US national interests.” She notes that a similar narrative in Canada argues that support for Ukraine hurts Canadian veterans.

A filing in Dominion Voter Systems’ lawsuit against FNC for defamation revealed last week that FNC personalities knowingly lied to their viewers about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, acting as a propaganda outlet for Trump. This information is a handy backdrop for the news reported today by Mike Allen of Axios, who says that House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has given to FNC host Carlson—who figured prominently in the election fraud lies—exclusive access to 41,000 hours of footage from the U.S. Capitol of the January 6, 2021, attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. According to Allen, Carlson’s producers have already begun going through it to see what they can use on his show.

Putin is scheduled to address the Russian Federal Assembly tomorrow. Billboards in Russia proclaim: “Russia’s border ends nowhere,” but observers believe that he was hoping for a major victory on a battlefield in Ukraine before the speech. Instead, Russian forces have taken severe losses in their recent stalled offensive in eastern Ukraine near Bakhmut.

Biden’s speech in Poland will follow later in the day.


February 21, 2023 (Tuesday)

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.



This Is True The Truth GIF by Markpain


February 22, 2023 (Wednesday)

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.


February 23, 2023 (Thursday)

At Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service today, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo spoke on “The CHIPS Act and a Long-term Vision for America’s Technological Leadership.” She outlined what she sees as a historic opportunity to solidify the nation’s global leadership in technology and innovation and at the same time rebuild the country’s manufacturing sector and protect national security.

Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022 by a bipartisan vote, directing more than $52 billion into research and manufacturing of semiconductor chips as well as additional scientific research. Scientists in the U.S. developed chips, and they are now in cars, appliances, and so on. But they are now manufactured primarily in East Asia. The U.S. produces only about 10% of the world’s supply and makes none of the most advanced chips.

That dependence on overseas production hit supply chains hard during the pandemic while also weakening our national security. The hope behind the CHIPS and Science Act was that a significant government investment in the industry would jump-start private investment in bringing chip manufacturing back to the U.S., enabling the U.S. to compete more effectively with China. In the short term, at least, the plan has worked: by the end of 2022, private investors had pledged at least $200 billion to build U.S. chip manufacturing facilities.

Today, Raimondo framed the CHIPS and Science Act as an “incredible opportunity” to enable the U.S. to lead the world in technology, “securing our economic and national security future for the coming decades.” In the modern technological world, “it’s the countries who invest in research, innovation, and their workforces that will lead in the 21st century,” she said.

Raimondo described the major investment in semiconductor technology and its manufacture as a public investment in the economy that rivals some of the great investments in our history. She talked of Abraham Lincoln’s investment in agriculture in the 1860s to cement the position of the U.S. as a leader in world grain production, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman’s investment in scientific innovation to develop nuclear technology, and John F. Kennedy’s investment in putting a man on the moon.

Each of those massive investments sparked scientific innovation and economic growth. Raimondo suggested that “the CHIPS and Science Act presents us with an opportunity to make investments that are similarly consequential for our nation’s future.”

The vision Raimondo advanced was not one of top-down creativity. Instead, she described the extraordinary innovation of the silicon industry in the 1960s as a product of collaboration between university scientists, government purchasing power, and manufacturing. Rather than dismissing manufacturing as a repetitive mechanical task, she put it at the heart of innovation as the rapid production of millions and millions of chips prompted engineers to tweak manufacturing processes a little at a time, constantly making improvements.

“This relentless pace of lab-to-fab[rication] and fab-to-lab innovation became synonymous with America’s tech leadership,” she said, “doubling our computing capacity every two years.” As the U.S. shipped manufacturing jobs overseas, it lost this creative system. At the same time, inability to get chips during the pandemic hamstrung the U.S. economy and left our national security dependent for chips on other countries, especially China.

Reestablishing manufacturing in the U.S. will spark innovation and protect national security. It will also create new well-paying jobs for people without a college degree both in construction and in the operations of the new factories. With labor scarce, Raimondo called for hiring and training a million women in construction over the next decade, as well as bringing people from underserved communities into the skilled workforce to create “the most diverse, productive, and talented workers in the world.”

Raimondo warned that the vision she laid out would be hard to accomplish, but “if we—as a nation—unite behind a shared objective…and think boldly,” we can create a new generation of innovators and engineers, develop the manufacturing sector and the jobs that go with it, rebuild our economy, and protect our national security.

Just “think about what’s possible 10 years from now if we are bold,” she said.

Later, Raimondo told David Ignatius of the Washington Post: “This is more than just an investment to subsidize a few new chip factories…. We need to unite America around a common goal of enhancing America’s global competitiveness and leading in this incredibly crucial technology.… Money isn’t enough. We all need to get in the same boat as a nation.”

Part of the impetus for the bipartisan drive to jump-start the semiconductor industry is lawmakers’ determination to counter the rise of China, which has invested heavily in its own economy. As the U.S. seeks to swing the Indo-Pacific away from its orientation toward China, Raimondo will travel to India next month to talk about closer economic ties between the U.S. and India, including collaboration in chip manufacturing as India, Japan, and Australia are launching their own joint semiconductor initiative.

For the Biden administration, the investment in chips and all the growth and innovation it promises to spark, especially among those without college degrees, is also an attempt to unite the nation to move forward. Theirs is a heady vision of a nation that works together in a shared task, as Lincoln’s United States did, or FDR’s, or JFK’s.

Their orientation toward the future, growth, and prosperity is a striking contrast to the vision of today’s Republicans, who look backward resolutely and angrily to an imagined past. In the short term, many of them continue to relitigate the 2020 presidential election, long after the Big Lie that Trump won has been debunked and the rest of the country has moved on.

In the New York Times yesterday, Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Swan reported that one of the reasons House speaker Kevin McCarthy handed access to more than 40,000 hours of video from the U.S. Capitol from January 6, 2021, to Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson was that McCarthy had promised the far right that he would revisit that event but did not want to have the Republican Congress tied to the effort. His political advisors say swing voters want to move forward.

In the longer term, today’s Republicans are out of step with the majority of Americans on issues like LGBTQ rights, climate change, gun safety, and abortion. Although Republicans are pushing draconian laws to end all abortion access, today Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, released a report showing that 64% of Americans say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while only 25% say it should be illegal in most cases and only 9% say it should be illegal in all cases. Less than half the residents in every state and in Washington, D.C., supported overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, as the Supreme Court did with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision of last June.

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed Trump’s “American Carnage” inaugural address with his description of today’s America as one full of misery and hopelessness. Florida governor Ron DeSantis traveled this week to New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago to insist those Democratic-led cities were crime-ridden, although as human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid pointed out, Florida has a 19% higher rape rate, 66% higher murder rate, and 280% higher burglary rate than New York.

Another study released yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League, which specializes in civil rights law, noted that domestic extremist mass killings have increased “greatly” in the past 12 years. But while murders by Islamic extremists, for example, have been falling, all the extremist killings in 2022 were committed by right-wing adherents, with 21 of 25 murders linked to white supremacists.

President Biden’s poll numbers are up to 46% in general and 49% with registered voters. Perhaps more to the point is that in Tuesday’s four special elections, Democrats outperformed expectations by significant margins.

There are many reasons for these Democratic gains—abortion rights key among them—but it is possible that voters like the Democrats’ vision of a hopeful future and a realistic means to get there rather than Republicans’ condemnation of the present and vow to claw back a mythological past.


February 24, 2023 (Friday)

“One year and one week ago—on February 17th, 2022—I warned this council that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations Security Council Ministerial Meeting on Ukraine Sovereignty and Russian Accountability today.

“I said that Russia would manufacture a pretext, and then use missiles, tanks, soldiers, cyber attacks to strike pre-identified targets, including Kyiv,” Blinken continued, “with the aim of toppling Ukraine’s democratically elected government. Russia’s representative—the same representative who will speak today—called these, and I quote, ‘groundless accusations.’

“Seven days later, on February 24th, 2022, Russia launched its full-scale invasion.”

When Putin’s initial attack failed to give him control of Ukraine, Blinken continued, “he called snap referenda in four occupied parts of Ukraine, deported Ukrainians, bussed in Russians, held sham votes at gunpoint, and then manipulated the results to claim near unanimous support for joining the Russian Federation.”

“Over the last year,” Blinken said, “Russia has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian men, women, and children; uprooted more than 13 million people from their homes; destroyed more than half of the country’s energy grid; bombed more than 700 hospitals, 2,600 schools; and abducted at least 6,000 Ukrainian children—some as young as four months old—and relocated them to Russia.

“And yet, the spirit of the Ukrainians remains unbroken; if anything, it’s stronger than ever.”

Blinken’s remarkable speech told the history of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, then highlighted that the world community has come together to stand behind Ukraine and the principles of the United Nations Charter that make all countries safer and more secure: “No seizing land by force. No erasing another country’s borders. No targeting civilians in war. No wars of aggression.”

He noted that the war had caused hardship around the globe, but the “vast majority” of states in the United Nations have condemned Russia’s violations of the U.N. Charter, including 141 who voted for a resolution along those lines just yesterday.

When Putin tried to use hunger as a weapon to end sanctions, more than 100 countries stepped up to bring down world grain prices; when Putin tried to use energy as a weapon, the rest of the world redirected national gas supplies so that the countries he was targeting could keep their people warm, and Europe worked hard to end its dependence on Russian energy.

Blinken said that if we do not defend the basic principles of the U.N. Charter, “we invite a world in which might makes right, the strong dominate the weak. That’s the world this body was created to end.”

While everyone—especially Ukraine—wants peace, he said, that peace must be durable, not simply an excuse to let Russia rest, rearm, and relaunch the war. As Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky has outlined, any peace must honor Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. Putin has rejected this condition out of the box, saying that Ukraine must accept his “annexation” of Ukraine’s territories.

Blinken reminded his listeners that not everything in the world has two sides. “In this war, there is an aggressor and there is a victim,” he said. “If Russia stops fighting and leaves Ukraine, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. The fact remains: One man—Vladimir Putin—started this war; one man can end it.”

When Russia and its defenders say the ongoing war is diverting resources from others in need, Blinken said, “look at Moscow’s actions” and look at the numbers. Last year, the U.S. contributed $13.5 billion in food aid and funded more than 40% of the World Food Program’s budget. Russia pays less than 1% of that budget.

Blinken went on: “Based on the latest UN figures, the United States donates over nine times as much as Russia to UN peacekeeping. We donate 390 times as much as Russia to UNICEF. We give nearly a thousand times as much as Russia to the UN Refugee Agency.”

Blinken reminded his listeners that the atrocities we are seeing Russians commit in Ukraine are not normal. “Bucha is not normal,” he said. “Mariupol is not normal. Irpin is not normal. Bombing schools and hospitals and apartment buildings to rubble is not normal. Stealing Ukrainian children from their families and giving them to people in Russia is not normal.

“We must not let President Putin’s callous indifference to human life become our own.”

Today, the leaders of the international Group of Seven, known as the G7, met virtually with Zelensky. The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union.

The statement they issued echoed Blinken’s speech, then went on to pledge to continue food and humanitarian aid as countries suffer from the war, and to continue to design sanctions to make sure those countries continue to have access to food and fertilizers. The G7 leaders expressed “profound sympathy” for those affected by the “horrifying earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria” and pledged continued support.

“Above all,” they said, “our solidarity will never waver in standing with Ukraine, in supporting countries and people in need, and in upholding the international order based on the rule of law.”

The Biden administration today announced $2 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including drones, communications equipment, HIMARS rockets, and 155-millimeter artillery ammunition, while the G7 has increased its 2023 support for Ukraine to $39 billion, and both Germany and Sweden committed to sending more Leopard 2 tanks.

The deputy chair of Russia’s security council, former president Dmitry Medvedev, said today that Russia planned to “push the borders of threats to our country as far as possible, even if these are the borders of Poland.” Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), meaning an attack on it would be an attack on the rest of NATO, including the United States.

At a press conference in Kyiv today, Zelensky said: “Victory will be inevitable. I am certain there will be victory.”

“We have everything for it. We have the motivation, certainty, the friends, the diplomacy. You have all come together for this. If we all do our important homework, victory will be inevitable.”


February 25, 2023 (Saturday)

Yesterday, the chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, James Comer (R-KY), the chair of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce, Pete Sessions (R-TX), the chair of the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs, Glenn Grothman (R-WI), and the chair of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation, Nancy Mace (R-SC), along with seventeen other extremist Republican members of Congress, sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

The letter complained that the federal government had not responded effectively to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. It referred to a preliminary report by the “D[epartment] O[f] T[ransportation]’s National Transportation Safety Board” and demanded Buttigieg provide “[a]ll documents and communications regarding NTSB’s progress on the cause of the derailment.”

The NTSB is not part of the Department of Transportation.

The NTSB is part of the government, but it is an independent agency, charged with investigating civil transportation accidents. It is also in charge of investigating the release of hazardous materials during transportation. Congress deliberately set it apart from the Department of Transportation to guarantee unbiased investigations.

A 150-car Norfolk Southern train was traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania on Friday, February 3, when 38 cars derailed at about 8:54 p.m. Those cars caught fire, and 12 cars that had not derailed also caught fire. The NTSB responded immediately and, the following afternoon, held a press conference explaining that it was collecting perishable evidence to determine what caused the accident and to make appropriate recommendations for safety upgrades if such recommendations were warranted.

Nine NTSB investigators and four engineers in labs have been involved in the accident review. They have reviewed footage of the derailment, interviewed train staff, and examined the train event recorder, a device similar to a black box on an airplane.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal agency in charge of responding to the release of hazardous substances and leading cleanup efforts. Its personnel were at the site by 2:00 on Saturday morning, about five hours after the derailment. It has had six staff and 16 contractors on the ground since the crash.

The Department of Transportation has two agencies that are appropriate to deploy for this kind of an accident. The Federal Railroad Administration enforces safety regulations for railways, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration enforces safety regulations for hazardous materials. Those agencies have deployed ten staff to help NTSB investigate. They will figure out if Norfolk Southern ignored any regulations.

This letter is not about the derailment itself, or the dangers, or the cleanup, or even the history of deregulation.

It is about the careful way generations of Americans have tried to create a government that could support progress while also guaranteeing oversight, and it is about the lawmakers who wrote the letter to Secretary Buttigieg.

Either 21 Republican lawmakers charged with oversight of our government don’t know how the government works and didn’t care to find out, or they are deliberately misleading their loyalists.

We are becoming accustomed to certain Republican lawmakers saying ridiculous things. Just two days ago, in a now-deleted tweet, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claimed that “6 billion” people have illegally crossed the border since President Biden took office. (There are slightly fewer than 8 billion people on earth.)

But the letter these representatives wrote shows such a profound disinterest in how our government works that it suggests these representatives have no real interest in the job they were sent to Washington to do, and instead are weaponizing the government to mislead their followers into believing things that are not true.

Buttiegieg responded: “I am alarmed to learn that the Chair of the House Oversight Committee thinks that the NTSB is part of our Department. NTSB is independent (and with good reason). Still, of course, we will fully review this and respond appropriately.”


February 26, 2023 (Sunday)

Lots of cold and snow in the past few weeks in our part of the world, but the changing light makes it pretty clear that winter won’t be with us too much longer.

Going to take a rest tonight and get back to it tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland]


February 27, 2023 (Monday)

Another filing today in the defamation lawsuit of Dominion Voting Systems against the Fox News Network has revealed more of the machinations behind the construction of the Big Lie that former president Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

A previous filing showed that Fox News Channel hosts knew full well that Biden had won and that Trump loyalists saying the election was fraudulent had no evidence. Personalities like Tucker Carlson continued to push the Big Lie, though, apparently out of fear that they would lose their audience to Newsmax and other right-wing outlets that continued to parrot the idea that Trump had won the election.

Today’s filing shows that executives at the highest levels of the Fox Corporation and the Fox News Network knowingly permitted Fox News Channel personalities to spread false conspiracy theories about the election in order to protect their profits. It includes testimony from Rupert Murdoch, the chair of the Fox Corporation, showing that Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chair and chief executive officer of the Fox Corporation, as well as Suzanne Scott, the chief executive officer of Fox News Media, were all deeply involved in the question of how to deal with Trump’s lies and with the personalities who were echoing those lies, without losing viewership.

Rupert Murdoch spoke with Scott frequently, and testified: “I’m a journalist at heart. I like to be involved in these things.” Lachlan Murdoch, as well, was in the loop with his father and Scott. Ultimately, although they knew that claims of massive election fraud were unfounded, they decided to give the lies airtime anyway to stop their audience from abandoning them for other channels. Fox board member and former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) warned them “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories,” but they ignored him.

Murdoch also revealed FNC’s role as a wing of the Republican Party when he testified that he “provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy… (providing Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public).”

Political writer Rick Wilson summed it up: “They knew Trump lost. They knew there was not then (nor is there now) a scintilla of fraud. They knew, and lied. Over, and over, and over. They chose guests they knew were lying. They allowed story meetings promoting a massive, dangerous lie that reduced faith and belief in the American system. The entire top level of Fox management knew their lies were leading to danger for this nation…. They knew the lies were lies. They fed and fed the beast.”

The Big Lie has become central to the worldview of far-right Republicans. On February 23, in Arizona, newly elected Republican, conspiracy theorist, and election denier Liz Harris hijacked a hearing of the House and Senate election committees to feature a speaker who talked of election fraud and made wild and unsubstantiated accusations that state lawmakers and judges are taking bribes from a Mexican drug cartel.

When another election denier, state senator Wendy Rogers, said the hearing was “not the appropriate venue” to talk about potential criminal activity, one of her own supporters accused her of being “compromised,” and another said that revolution was now “inevitable.”

Also in the news today was the death of Gleb Pavlovsky, former top political consultant to Russian president Vladimir Putin, after a long illness. Before quietly turning away from Putin, Pavlovsky helped to engineer his rise through a concept called “political technology,” a system that uses technology to manipulate voters into rubber stamping the election of favored political leaders.

According to historian and political scientist Andrew Wilson, who specializes in Eastern Europe, “political technologists” in the post-Soviet republics created a virtual political reality by blackmailing opponents, abusing state power to help favored candidates, sponsoring “double” candidates with names similar to those of opponents in order to take their voters, creating false parties to create opposition, and, finally, creating a false narrative around an election or other event that enabled them to control public debate.

Under such manipulation, usually delivered in a firehose of outrageous and competing stories, people lost the ability to tell what was real and lost faith that they could have any effect on the political system.

In the hands of political technologists, democracy was no longer about voters choosing their representatives, but was simply a way to legitimize manipulation by corrupt politicians to keep themselves in power.

After House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave exclusive access to 41,000 hours of video from the U.S. Capitol to Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Channel, news organizations CBS News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica ABC, Axios, Advance, Scripps, the Los Angeles Times, and Gannett have asked the speaker for equal access to the material.

“Without full public access to the complete historical record,” attorney Charles Tobin wrote, “there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of January 6 crimes.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to try to restore faith in the government. The Commerce Department will announce tomorrow that any company that hopes to get one of the new federal subsidies for semiconductor manufacturing under the CHIPS and Science Act must make sure its construction workers and employees have access to affordable, high-quality childcare. Such companies will be able to use some of the government money to build new childcare facilities, subsidize care at existing facilities, or find other solutions.

The measure is designed to ease the labor shortages by enabling women currently unable to find affordable childcare to enter the workforce. It will also leave the establishment of more childcare facilities in the hands of private companies, thus avoiding another round of fights over Biden’s so-called soft infrastructure bill that emphasized childcare, elder care, education, and so on.

Using government contracting to enact social change is a long-standing practice, and the call for childcare is not new. The report from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women declared: “Child care services are needed in all communities, for children of all kinds of families who may require day care, after-school care, or intermittent care. In putting major emphasis on this need, the Commission affirms that child care facilities are essential for women in many different circumstances, whether they work outside the home or not.”

The kicker of that statement is that the president who convened the Commission on the Status of Women was not Biden. It was John F. Kennedy, and the commission issued its report in 1963, sixty years ago.


February 28, 2023 (Tuesday)

Republican control of the House of Representatives has fed a changing dynamic. After decades of playing defense, the Democrats are going on offense.

Today, President Joe Biden visited Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he talked about protecting Medicare and Medicaid. He was careful—as he always is—to differentiate between “an awful lot of really good Republicans” and the “MAGA Republicans.” “There’s kind of like, in my view, sort of two Republican Parties.”

The MAGA Republicans, he said, “want to eliminate a lot of healthcare coverage,… increase costs for millions of Americans, and make deep cuts in programs that families and seniors depend on.” He spelled out that these cuts would mean that more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions would lose coverage, and millions could lose basic services like maternity care, which the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover. Up to 3 million young adults would get kicked off their parents’ insurance, and the cost of premiums in general would go up.

Biden was getting ahead of what seems likely to be the Republican proposal to cut the budget dramatically in the new Congress and the more recent promise of House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to put the U.S. “on a path to a balanced budget” within ten years. Biden noted that Republicans have voted more than 50 times to change or repeal the Affordable Care Act since it passed 13 years ago. He also pointed to the fact that the chief budget consultant for the House Republicans is Trump’s former budget director Russell Vought.

Now that Republicans have committed to taking cuts to Social Security and Medicare off the table, Vought has a plan to cut $9 trillion from domestic programs over the next ten years by cutting more than $400 billion from food stamps, cutting hundreds of billions from education, cutting in half the State Department and the Labor Department, and cutting $2 trillion from Medicaid and more than $600 billion from the Affordable Care Act.

“America cannot be saved unless the current grip of woke and weaponized government is broken,” Vought says in his proposal. “That is the central and immediate threat facing the country—the one that all our statesmen must rise tall to vanquish…. The battle cannot wait.”

But, as Jeff Stein, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf of the Washington Post point out, Vought’s stand is a little awkward, since he oversaw the explosion of the national debt as director of the Office of Management and Budget under Trump. In his first year as director, the debt grew by $1 trillion; in his second, by $4 trillion. Now he claims that the Biden administration is abusing its power by arresting people who participated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and so must be reined in.

Vought’s proposal promises to balance the budget in ten years, but it also predicts the number of working people in the U.S. will increase by 14.5 million more people than the Congressional Budget Office says will enter the workforce. That surge—if it were to come—would push the economy to grow faster, thus reducing the deficit by an additional $3.8 trillion. But where the people will come from is a mystery.

One former Republican official told Stein, Dawsey, and Arnsdorf that Vought was “selling conservatives a fantasy, which is achieving a balanced budget without cutting anything popular. We’re going to balance the budget by ‘ending woke?’ Give me a break.”

Biden continues to push House Republicans to come up with a budget that will show the American people what they intend to cut. It’s hard to see how they can do that, with much of their conference refusing cuts in defense and with them now on the record as refusing cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The math of balancing the budget through cuts to other programs without raising taxes simply doesn’t work.

As G. William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington and a former GOP congressional staffer, said: “I’d be the last person to say you can’t find savings from improved efficiency or the elimination of some programs…. But there’s no way on God’s green earth you’re going to balance the budget in 10 years unless you’re talking about increasing revenues and slowing the rate of growth in some of our major entitlement programs.”

Today, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) pointed out that the Republicans had added 25% of the U.S. debt under Trump and emphasized the economic successes of the Biden administration.

“In 2021, Biden and the Democrats got to work and passed the American Rescue Plan, which fueled a strong, equitable economic recovery with historic reductions in unemployment, poverty, and economic hardship,” Raskin said. “Real GDP increased by 5.7% that year, substantially surpassing pre-ARP forecasts by the Fed. By January 2022, the unemployment rate had decreased to 4%, again surpassing pre-ARP forecasts. Wages increased by 5.7% from the prior year, with the highest increases going to the lowest wage workers. Democratic policies have allowed the U.S. to absorb the shock of rising inflation engulfing the globe since 2020, a phenomenon that economists attribute to coronavirus supply chain disruptions and Russia’s bloody war of aggression in Ukraine.”

Democrats are also on offense as the extremists now in the majority are exposing their lack of understanding of how the government works. Both Raskin and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called out Republicans today for basic errors in drafting legislation, and witness Colin Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, embarrassed Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in a hearing about aid to Ukraine after the congressman apparently thought he had found a “gotcha” story in the Global Times.

“I’m sorry, is this the Global Times from China?” Kahl asked. Gaetz said no, then checked and said yes, it was, asking if that made it untrustworthy. “As a general matter, I don’t take Beijing’s propaganda at face value,” Kahl answered. Gaetz answered: “Fair enough.”

Raskin also called out Republicans for a “grammatical error”: their long-standing habit of using “Democrat” as an adjective as if it is an insult. Noting Colorado Republican representative Lauren Boebert’s reference to a “Democrat solution,” Raskin pointed out that “Democrat” is a noun, and Republicans should, in such cases, be using the adjective: “Democratic.”

He said he was beginning to suspect that this word usage was intended to be “an act of incivility”—as of course it is—and he turned the tables. Their grammatical error was “as if every time we mentioned the other party, it just came out…like: ‘Oh, the Banana Republican Party,’ as if we were to say that every time we mentioned ‘the Banana Republican member’ or ‘the Banana Republican plan,’ or the ‘Banana Republican conference.’” (The term “banana republic” refers to a country that is corrupt and badly governed.)

“But we wouldn’t do that,” he said. “So, out of pure political courtesy, when it’s an adjective, refer to the ‘Democratic’ congresswoman or the ‘Democratic’ member.”

The pressure on the Republicans is not going to let up. Biden has promised to release his budget on March 9, putting down “in detail every single thing—every tax that’s out there that I’m proposing…and what we’re going to cut, what we’re going to spend…. Just lay it on the table.”

“Republicans,” he said, “should do the same thing: lay their proposal on the table. And we can sit down, and we can agree, disagree. We can fight it out.”

But, divided as they are, can Republicans craft a budget they can agree on? And if so, will Americans like what they see? Biden seems to doubt it, and to have confidence that his plans more closely reflect what people want. Today, he promised: “When I introduce my budget, you’ll see that it’s going to invest in America, lower health costs, and protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare while cutting the deficit more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years.”


Bill Hader Yes GIF


Oh good, a Dem finally noticed that and spoke up about it.

If only journalists would call out every use of it. And I agree Mindy, asking if theyd prefer a banana insertion in their name is a great idea. Just listen to it!