Heather Cox Richardson

May 17, 2023 (Wednesday)

The debt ceiling crisis is already affecting our national security. Because President Biden has pulled out of his trip to Australia so he can come home to address the crisis, a planned meeting of the Quad will not go forward. The Quad, whose official name is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a security group consisting of Australia, India, Japan and the United States that organized in 2007 as a response to China’s rising power.

Biden’s visit to Australia and to Papua New Guinea was designed to cement the interest of the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific region. Daniel Hurst of The Guardian was quite clear what it meant to have Biden forced to cancel because of the Republicans’ debt ceiling demands. His article on the issue was titled: “The cancelled Quad summit is a win for China and a self-inflicted blow to the US’s Pacific standing.” “Chinese state media outlets won’t need to muster much creative energy to weave together some of Beijing’s preferred narratives,” Hurst wrote, “that the US is racked by increasingly severe domestic upheaval and is an unreliable partner, quick to leave allies high and dry.”

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Knott called Biden’s forced withdrawal “a disappointment, a mess and a gift to Beijing.”“The US wants to remain the leader of the free world but domestic divisions mean it now regularly struggles to keep its government from shutting down and defaulting on its debts,” he wrote. “The Quad summit in Sydney should have provided a powerful symbol of four proud democracies working together to get things done. Instead, it will serve to highlight the systemic problems plaguing the world’s longest-standing democracy and its aspirations for ongoing global leadership.”

And, astonishingly, stepping on this global rake is an unforced error. The debt ceiling is not about future spending, it is about paying bills Congress has already incurred. If it comes to that, failing to raise the debt ceiling—the amount of money the Treasury can borrow to meet its obligations—so that Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), can get concessions they cannot win through normal legislative procedures, will be an unforced error of truly epic proportions, a larger version of undercutting years of work building U.S. standing in the Indo-Pacific region.

Senate Democrats have begun to push for honoring the nation’s debts without trying to bring Republicans along. They are circulating a letter urging President Biden to invoke the fourth section of the Fourteenth Amendment to override the debt ceiling. That section reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Republican congressmen wrote that section to prevent Democratic opponents, who hated the newly powerful government that had won the Civil War, from changing the terms of repayment of the debt. Democrats called for turning gold interest payments into payments in paper money. That change would have significantly degraded the value of the debt. It would also have destroyed confidence in the government, a result those who had just lost the Civil War quite liked.

Congress intended the Fourteenth Amendment to assert the power of the federal government over the states once and for all, making sure that no one could discriminate against individuals within the states or make war on the United States from within. It was an attempt to make it impossible for those trying to destroy the nation to carry out their plans.

Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) told Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris of Politico, “It’s not about being comfortable with Biden or anyone else. It’s about the House. Kevin’s in shackles. He’s in leg, arms and hand cuffs. And frankly I don’t think he’s got much capacity to negotiate. And very little capacity to advance a deal.” Welch, who served eight terms in the House before moving to the Senate in 2023, added, “I’m quite pessimistic about McCarthy. He’s very constrained…. I think we’re heading toward a decision on the 14th Amendment.”

Interestingly, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has indicated he’s on board with the idea of Biden invoking the Fourteenth Amendment. “I think if I were president, I would be tempted” to use the Fourteenth Amendment, Hawley said. “Because I would just be like, ‘Listen, I’m not gonna let us default. So end of story. Y’all will do whatever you want to do.’ But I’m not necessarily giving him that advice. It’s against my interest.” Hawley’s defense of the idea suggests that Republicans are eager to find a solution to the crisis that does not involve them, so that they can then condemn the Democrats for whatever they do.


since the white house is “negotiating” i’ve been hoping that this [ the 14th amendment ] is the basis of the negotiation. not: hi, we’ll give up the last 3 years of progress – but, we’ll do this without you if we have to.

otherwise, there’s no “middle ground” other than the do whatever the republicans want


May 18, 2023 (Thursday)

Citing “changing business conditions,” Disney leadership today canceled plans to build an office complex near Orlando, Florida. The construction was estimated to cost about $1 billion, and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projected it would bring to Florida more than 2,000 jobs with an average salary of $120,000. In his email to employees, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chair Josh D’Amaro made it clear that even more was on the line. He noted that Disney has planned more than $17 billion of construction in Florida, bringing about 13,000 jobs, over the next ten years but suggested that, too, was being reexamined. “I hope we’re able to,” he said.

Disney is locked in a battle with Florida governor Ron DeSantis that began when, under pressure from employees, then–Disney chief executive officer Bob Chapek spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act. This law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law because its vague language prohibiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation seems designed to silence any acknowledgement of LGBTQ Americans in grades K–3, was DeSantis’s pet project.

In retaliation, DeSantis led Florida Republicans to strip Disney of its ability to govern itself as if it were a county—as it has done since its inception in 1967—putting the board that controlled Disney under the control of a team hand-picked by DeSantis. But before the new board took over, the old board quietly and legally handed control of the parks over to Disney.

Apparently furious, DeSantis suggested he would build a competing state park or a prison next to Disney’s Florida theme park. In April, the new board set out to claw power from Disney, while the company announced it will hold its first gay-themed pride event in California and that it will build an affordable housing development in its Florida district, a move that Floridians will like. Meanwhile, with DeSantis’s blessing, the Florida state board of education approved expanding the ban on classroom mention of LGBTQ people to include grades 4–12.

On April 26, Disney sued the governor and those of his top advisors behind the attacks on Disney. The lawsuit noted that for more than 50 years, Disney “has made an immeasurable impact on Florida and its economy, establishing Central Florida as a top global tourist destination and attracting tens of millions of visitors to the State each year.” But, it said, “[a] targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech— now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

The lawsuit called out DeSantis’s actions as “patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional. But,” it said, “the Governor and his allies have made it clear they do not care and will not stop.” The company said it felt forced to sue for protection “from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”

The fight between DeSantis and Disney illustrates the dramatic ideological change in the Republican Party in the last two years. No longer committed to keeping the government weak to stay out of the way of business development, the party is now committed to creating a strong government that enforces Christian nationalism.

This is a major and crucially important political shift.

From the earliest days of the Reagan Revolution, those leaders who wanted to slash the federal government to end business regulation and cut the social safety net recognized that they did not have the votes to put their program in place. To find those votes, they courted racists and traditionalists who hated the federal government’s protection of civil rights. Over time, that base became more and more powerful until Trump openly embraced it in August 2017, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

As he moved toward the techniques of authoritarians, his followers began to champion the system that Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán called “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy” in his own country. Orbán argued that the principle of equality in liberal democracy undermines countries by attacking the national culture. Instead, he called for an end to multiculturalism—including immigration—and any lifestyle that is not based on the “Christian family model.” He seized control of universities to make them preach his values.

Today’s Republican leaders openly admire Orbán and appear to see themselves as the vanguard of a “post-liberal order.” They believe that the central tenets of democracy—free speech, religious liberty, academic freedom, equality before the law, and the ability of corporations to make decisions based on markets rather than religious values—have destroyed national virtue. Such a loss must be combated by a strong government that enforces religious values.

Right-wing thinkers have observed with approval that DeSantis’s Florida is “our American Hungary.” Indeed, DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law appears to have been modeled on Orbán’s attacks on LGBTQ rights, which he has called a danger to “Western civilization.” DeSantis’s attack on the New College of Florida, turning a bastion of liberal thought into a right-wing beachhead, imitated Orbán’s attack on Hungary’s universities; on Monday, DeSantis signed three more bills that undermine the academic freedom of all the state universities in Florida by restricting what subjects can be taught and by weakening faculty rights.

DeSantis’s attack on Disney is yet another attack on the tenets of liberal democracy. He is challenging the idea that Disney leaders can base business decisions on markets rather than religion and exercise free speech.

There is another aspect of the Republicans’ turn against democracy in the news today. If democracy is a threat to their version of the nation, it follows that any institution that supports democracy should be destroyed. Today, the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, led by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), continued its attack on the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ranking member Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) pointed out that Jordan was violating committee rules by refusing to let Democrats on the committee see the transcripts he claims to have from a whistleblower. Other committee members noted that two of the witnesses have been paid by Trump loyalist Kash Patel.

Plaskett warned: “The rules don’t apply when it comes to the Republicans… It’s all part and parcel of the Republicans’ attempt to make Americans distrust our rule of law so that when 2024 comes around and should their candidate not win, more and more people will not believe the truth. The truth matters.”

And so does power. Although House Republicans are trying to protect Representative George Santos (R-NY), who was just indicted on 13 counts, by sending his case to the Republican-dominated Ethics Committee rather than allowing a vote on whether to expel him, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) introduced articles of impeachment against President Biden.

Also today, the far-right House Freedom Caucus has called for an end to any discussions of raising the debt ceiling until the Senate passes its bill calling for extreme budget cuts. Forcing the nation into default will cause a global economic panic and, asked if they should compromise with the White House, Representative Bob Good (R-VA) said: “Why would we? We have a winning hand.”


At this point, there’s no way voters can claim to be confused about where support for the GOP will lead. I’m hoping Democrats can counter the worst of these attempts before 2024. We’ll see how the debt ceiling and partisan “investigations” play out soon.




Voters should not be confused, but I fear the voters that need convincing would only see abstract harms in a “post-liberal order” that won’t affect them. I believe what they will hear (and what the Dems should be shouting from the rooftops) are the hard numbers reflecting capital flight:


May 19, 2023 (Friday)

Yesterday the far-right House Freedom Caucus called for an end to any discussions of raising the debt ceiling until the Senate passes its bill calling for extreme budget cuts. Today, former president Trump announced on his social media channel that “REPUBLICANS SHOULD NOT MAKE A DEAL ON THE DEBT CEILING UNLESS THEY GET EVERYTHING THEY WANT (Including the ‘kitchen sink’).” THAT’S THE WAY THE DEMOCRATS HAVE ALWAYS DEALT WITH US. DO NOT FOLD!!!”

(In reality, Congress raised the debt ceiling without conditions three times when Trump was president as Trump added an astonishing almost $7.8 trillion to the national debt, much of it thanks to his tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations before the coronavirus pandemic hit.)

Immediately after Trump’s demand, the Republicans walked away from negotiations over the budget that they are demanding before they will vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Then, hours later, they came back to the table.

Meanwhile, the headline in the Washington Post read: “World watches in disbelief and horror as U.S. nears possible default.” The story by Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein revealed that at the meeting of the G7 leaders in Hiroshima, Japan, this week, the finance ministers for the G7—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union—have been pulling U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aside to ask her what is going to happen.

“Around the world,” Siegel and Stein write, “experts have been watching in disbelief as the U.S. flirts with its first default, fearful of the potential international economic ramifications—and astonished by the global superpower’s brush with self-sabotage.”

“[T]he debate over the debt ceiling is unnerving,” Michal Baranowski, managing director of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. told Siegel and Stein. “We really need the U.S. as a strong leader in world affairs during this time of deep global instability. I worry that the debt ceiling debate burns up valuable political oxygen that I would rather the U.S. spend for leadership abroad. It makes the U.S. look inward-looking, at best.”

Time is running out for Congress to pass a measure that will raise the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, today at the G7 meeting—which Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will attend—leaders announced a new slate of sanctions on more than 300 targets designed to block workarounds that have permitted Russia to continue its war against Ukraine. “Today’s actions will further tighten the vise on [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s ability to wage his barbaric invasion and will advance our global efforts to cut off Russian attempts to evade sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Yellen said in a statement.

In retaliation, Russia announced that it would not allow consular access to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in March on false charges of espionage. It also banned a somewhat random list of 500 Americans from entering Russia, including former president Barack Obama, comedian Stephen Colbert, 45 members of the House of Representatives, former ambassadors to Russia, various journalists, and me (!), accusing us of being hostile to Russia.

The statement also aligned Putin with far-right Republicans who back Trump, blaming those on the list for being “directly involved in the persecution of dissidents in the wake of the so-called ‘storm of the Capitol.’” One of those banned was Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who killed Ashley Babbitt as she attempted to break into the chamber of the House of Representatives, where more than 60 representatives and staffers were holed up, on January 6, 2021.

Also today, Washington, D.C., police lieutenant Shane Lamond was arrested on charges that he warned Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, that he was about to be arrested just before January 6, 2021, and then lied about it to investigators. As head of the department’s intelligence unit, Lamond monitored extremist groups but appeared to support the Proud Boys. “Of course I can’t say it officially,” Lamond told Tarrio in a message on January 8, “but personally I support you all and don’t want to see your group’s name or reputation dragged through the mud.”

The Republicans’ threat to blow up the U.S. economy—and, with it, the global economy—comes at a time when the economy is, in fact, quite strong and President Biden’s measures have significantly reduced the deficit after Republican tax cuts exploded it. Destroying the economy on Biden’s watch would undoubtedly help to hamstring his reelection campaign. It would also kill popular support for his return to a government that supports ordinary Americans rather than concentrating wealth at the top of the economy, as Republicans insist—contrary to economic studies—will expand the economy and benefit everyone.

Their attack on the economy is more than that, though: it is an attack on the nation’s global standing. Yesterday, Christopher Chivvis, the director of the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment, wrote that the debt ceiling crisis brings into question “how serious Washington is about leading the world…. In an era of global strategic competition, the United States will be entering the ring with one hand tied behind its back if its leaders can’t make progress on their domestic disagreements and moderate vicious political polarization.”

“Foreign leaders will doubt American reliability more and more, hurting Washington’s relationships with the very countries whose loyalty it’s competing for with Beijing,” he wrote, as other countries doubt that the U.S. can commit to a program for longer than a single administration. Moreover, the crisis will hurt the power of the dollar, whose domination of the international monetary system has brought the U.S. extraordinary advantages.

“Washington’s dysfunction also helps its autocratic adversaries in the global contest over ideology,” Chivvis notes.



i wonder if a congratulations is in order? :thinking:

ah, well. i guess the best i can do is put her new book on pre order


May 20, 2023 (Saturday)

Grades are in and summer is on the way. I cannot wait.

Taking the night off. Will be back at it tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland.]



Point one: There are some reports with claims of voting fraud, which have been called credible by other sources I follow. Votes for the YSP might have been systematically counted as votes for the AKP. If these reports are true - and they are reportedly well-documented — then we can expect more of the same on the day of the upcoming runoff.

Point two: Kılıçdaroğlu has doubled down on his stance that, if he gets elected, the refugees would be returned home. This is going to be a major headache for diplomacy, and a VERY large lever in regard to any further negotiation the EU, on any topic.

The runoff is going to happen on the 28th of May.

I hope HCR will widen her focus before, on, and after that day to cover this election. Either way the decision goes: it is going to be important for the whole northern hemisphere. The US public might think that this regional power is far away and not care much about news on that election. I, for one, expect important ramifications for the Russian war against Ukraine (and, by proxy, on food security all over the Middle East and large parts of he African continent), for Syria (and, by proxy, on the whole Middle East and especially Iran), and on the EU. The first and the latter will have a quite noticeable influence the US, methinks. (Just FTR: in the beginning of June 2024, the EU will hold elections for the parliament in Strasbourg. And those will be strongly influenced by whoever holds the power in Ankara after May 28th 2023.)

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May 21, 2023 (Sunday)

The list of 500 banned Americans that Russian president Vladimir Putin released on Friday makes it clear that Putin is openly aligning himself with Trump and today’s MAGA Republicans. The people on the list are not necessarily involved with U.S. policy toward Russia; they are Americans who are standing in the way of the Trump movement’s takeover of our country.

Notably, one of the names on the list is Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who refused to “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win Georgia in 2020 and thus take the state’s electoral votes from Democratic winner Joe Biden. Also on the list was Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who killed Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to break into the chamber of the House of Representatives, where more than 60 representatives and staffers were holed up, on January 6, 2021. Others made the “500 list,” according to the statement, for being part of “power or law-enforcement structures directly involved in the persecution of dissidents in the wake of the so-called ‘storm of the Capitol.’”

Since Trump’s attempt to overthrow the will of the voters on January 6, 2021, his supporters have imitated the language and the laws that enabled Putin to destroy representative democracy in Russia and Viktor Orbán to undermine liberal democracy in Hungary.

Attempting to set a new kind of imperial Russia up as a challenger to the liberal democracies that have held the majority of global power since World War II, Putin in 2019 declared liberal democracy “obsolete.” At a time when his own economic and social troubles at home threatened his continuing hold on power, he lashed out at democracy’s emphasis on equality before the law, saying that immigrant rights, gay rights, and women’s rights undermine “the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

Like Putin, Orbán cemented power with attacks on immigrants, LGBTQ people, and abortion rights while claiming to be shoring up traditional religion. Not surprisingly, both Putin and Orbán have praised Trump, with the overlap between the former U.S. president and the autocratic leaders becoming more pronounced as Trump’s followers work to undermine U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight to push back Russia’s invasion and in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s decision to hold a second meeting in Budapest, Hungary, this month.

That overlap is also visible in the anti-immigrant, anti-LBGTQ, and antiabortion legislation spreading through U.S. states dominated by Trump loyalists.

When Trump was in the White House, his team worked hard to put loyal supporters into power in state Republican parties before the 2020 election, possibly aware that he was likely to lose the vote and would have to turn to loyalists to steal it for him. (Recall that on October 31, 2020, Trump ally Stephen Bannon told an audience that the plan was simply to say he had won, and now, in a lawsuit filed last week against Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Noelle Dunphy alleges Giuliani told her of the scheme on February 7, 2019.) Packing the state parties with loyalists did indeed pay off: according to a study by Nick Corasaniti, Karen Yourish, and Keith Collins of the New York Times, at least 357 sitting Republican legislators in battleground states used their official positions either to discredit or to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Radicalizing the state parties has continued since Trump left office, strengthening his base in state legislatures. Those legislators are now advancing the illiberal Christian democracy embraced by Putin and Orbán, using the same language and politics of fear to pass laws that explicitly reject the principle of a nation based in the idea that is central to democracy: that everyone is equal before the law.

The attempt to demonize immigrants has been central to the Trump base since he announced his presidential campaign with the statement that “the U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems” and went on to say that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs…bringing crime. They’re rapists.” (In fact, undocumented immigrants are less than half as likely as native-born Americans to be arrested for violent crimes or drug offenses.)

Republicans have refused to consider bipartisan legislation that would fund immigration courts and border security, and instead have hammered on the idea that immigrants are “flooding” our borders. They fought to keep the pandemic-related Title 42 in place, insisting that its end would create, as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) put it, an “Imminent Invasion.” When, in fact, the end of Title 42 led to a 60% decrease in unauthorized crossings, Greene still pushed forward, calling for Biden’s impeachment for his handling of immigration issues.

This same antidemocratic extremism explains the anti-trans, anti-drag, and anti-LGBTQ legislation, all of which are an attack on equality before the law. A March 8 article in Mother Jones by Madison Pauly exposed how the wave of anti-trans legislation passing through Republican-dominated state legislatures is written and pushed by well-funded Christian activists and organizations who argue, like Orbán, that they are protecting children (although 86% of trans or nonbinary young people have reported the attacks on them are affecting their mental health, and nearly half have seriously considered suicide).

Advocates for those laws inaccurately claim that they are protecting children from genital mutilation, but as Nancy Goldstein of the Texas Observer pointed out, the American Academy of Pediatrics stands behind gender-affirming care. Dr. Joshua Safer, the executive director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City, explains: No other countries “are reconsidering the use of hormones and surgeries as first-line treatment for transgender children because hormones and surgeries are not first-line treatment for transgender children…. First-line interventions include mental health intakes and social adjustments…. Puberty blockers sometimes follow.” Those treatments are reversible if a patient changes their mind.

Nonetheless, the rhetoric of demonization is working: Brian Tyler Cohen reports (with video) that “Christian” pastor Jason Graber recently called for the execution of all LGBTQ people as well as the parents of transgender people: “They just need to be shot in the back of the head and then we can string them up above a bridge.”

Goldstein points out that the language of demonization Republicans are using mimics that of the “southern strategy,” by which Republican leaders from President Richard Nixon onward solidified their base by creating the idea that Black Americans threatened the well-being of white people. That strategy, too, is ongoing in the Republican Party. On Monday, May 15, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that defunds any state college or university with a diversity, equity, and inclusion program and that bans courses that “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics,” a reference to courses that acknowledge racism or sexism. Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota, Iowa, and Ohio are considering similar legislation.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization; Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have all issued advisories warning against travel to Florida. “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP said. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

With its antiabortion legislation, the MAGA movement is also signaling its abandonment of the idea that everyone should be equal before the law. Since the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision last June, fifteen states have banned or severely restricted abortion rights. On Tuesday a supermajority of the North Carolina legislature, established when Tricia Cotham, a Democrat who ran on abortion rights, switched parties, overrode the veto of the Democratic governor Roy Cooper to ban virtually all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In Sumner County, Tennessee, these antidemocratic Republicans have taken over the county government and, as Christina A. Cassidy wrote today in the Associated Press, promptly changed the county’s official documents to say that operations would be “most importantly reflective of the Judeo-Christian values inherent in the nation’s founding.” They are trying to shape the county, including election rules, according to their ideology.

It is these same MAGA Republicans who are threatening to force the United States to default on its debt for the first time in our history, with catastrophic consequences, unless the Democrats agree to protect all tax cuts and slash the domestic spending that protects ordinary Americans. It’s important to remember that the global autocratic movement is not solely about creating a traditional religious society; it is about destroying democracy to concentrate wealth and power in a small group of men, usually white men, who will dominate the rest of us.

For all the talk of House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) negotiating over a budget that Republicans will then approve before they are willing to raise the debt ceiling, he has never had the votes of the extremists that he needs to make that happen. They are demanding that the Democrats dismantle the government programs that protect ordinary Americans in exchange for agreeing not to blow up the world economy.

And so, the battle over democracy has come down to the debt ceiling.

Today, Biden told reporters that he would not agree to the extremists’ demands. “We put forward a proposal that cuts spending by more than a trillion dollars, and on top of the nearly $3 trillion in deficit reduction that I previously proposed through the combination of spending cuts and new revenues,” he said.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects, for example, a $30 billion tax break for the oil industry, which made $200 billion last year—they don’t need an incentive of another $30 billion—while putting healthcare of 21 million Americans at risk by going after Medicaid.

“I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects $200 billion in excess payments for pharmaceutical industries and refusing to count that while cutting over 100,000 schoolteachers and…assistants’ jobs, 30,000 law enforcement officers’ jobs cut across…the entire United States of America.

“And I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects wealthy tax cheats and crypto traders while putting food assistance at risk for nearly… 1 million Americans.

“And it’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely—solely—on their partisan terms. They have to move as well.

“All four congressional leaders agree with me that…default is not—let me say it again—default is not an option. And I expect each of…these leaders…to live up to that commitment.

“America has never defaulted—never defaulted on our debt, and it never will.”


May 22, 2023 (Monday)

The debt ceiling crisis has deflected attention from actual work of the federal government, which continues.

The meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) in Hiroshima, Japan, which began on May 19 and ended yesterday, emphasized the Biden administration’s focus on preventing the rise of dominant authoritarian powers by ruining Russia’s imperial ambitions and by creating regional partnerships to counter the rise of China. The G7 is a forum made up of democracies with advanced economies and includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union is also a member.

The meeting demonstrated the strength of the G7’s support for Ukraine. The leaders agreed to increase financial and military support for the beleaguered country after Russia’s February 2022 invasion. G7 leaders also announced they would take new steps to isolate Russia economically from the rest of the world, thus weakening its ability to wage war. New sanctions on more than 70 companies and more than 300 individuals and entities around the globe are designed to close off the loopholes and workarounds that have enabled Russian president Vladimir Putin to continue to raise money. (Hence Russia’s retaliatory ban of those who have stood in Trump’s way as an open declaration of solidarity with Trump, who has threatened to cut support for Ukraine if he regains power.)

Gathered in the historic city of Hiroshima, where an American B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, ultimately killing more than 140,000 people, members of the G7 condemned Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and called for a return to nuclear disarmament. The G7 also said it would hold Russia financially accountable for the damage it has done to Ukraine.

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky was a surprise visitor to the meeting, his presence a powerful illustration to Putin that the leaders of the G7 are firmly behind Ukraine’s cause. U.K. prime minister Rishi Sunak noted that the G7 was briefly the G8 when Russia was a member before being expelled in 2014 for its illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Zelensky’s presence, Sunak said, “demonstrates that brute force and oppression will not triumph over freedom and sovereignty.”

G7 leaders indicated they are united in the attempt to stand up to China. While they reiterated that their countries will continue to trade with China, they vowed to push to establish a level economic playing field between China and other countries, and to “foster resilience to economic coercion.” Just days after the Department of Justice charged a Chinese national—as well as two Russian people and a Greek man working for Russia—with stealing sensitive technologies, the G7 also vowed to protect technologies that could threaten our national security.

The leaders also expressed concerns about China’s record on human rights and “called on China not to conduct interference activities or undermine the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

The meeting also demonstrated support for regional partnerships in the Indo-Pacific and Africa that will counterbalance China. The leaders included in their deliberations guests from Australia, Brazil, and India. They also reached out to countries in Africa by including Comoros, an island nation off southeastern Africa, which is currently chairing the African Union. They included the Cook Islands, an island nation in the South Pacific that is currently chairing the Pacific Islands Forum, a group of 18 nations including Australia and New Zealand. And they included key G7 partners Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Republic of Korea.

The World Bank, an international financial institution with 189 member nations cooperating to make loans and grants to enable low- and middle-income countries to develop capital projects, was at the meeting. So were a number of leaders from private financial, communications, and IT infrastructure institutions, including Citi, Global Infrastructure Partners, Japan Foreign Trade Council, and Nokia. They discussed ways to unlock public and private capital to fund projects in the developing world as part of a way to relieve the mounting debt obligations of low- and middle-income countries, often a result of Chinese investment, and to counter Chinese investment in those regions.

Biden was supposed to go from Hiroshima to Australia for a meeting of leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), a strategic security group that includes Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S. He had to cancel because of the debt ceiling crisis, so the group met in Japan at the G7, where they issued a statement reaffirming “our steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient…. We believe all countries have a role in contributing to regional peace, stability, and prosperity, as well as upholding international law, including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the rules-based international order. We seek a region where no country dominates and no country is dominated—one where all countries are free from coercion, and can exercise their agency to determine their futures.”

They said they see the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a political and economic group made up of 10 member states, as the central leader of the effort to create a strong Indo-Pacific regional partnership, and they reiterated their support for Pacific island nations, especially those in the Pacific Islands Forum.

Biden was also supposed to go to Papua New Guinea after the G7 for a meeting with the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum but had to cancel the trip to come home and deal with the debt ceiling crisis. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went instead and today signed a security agreement with the strategically located nation, as well as confirming that the administration is seeking $7.1 billion for 20 years of investments in the region through diplomatic and cultural ties, including new embassies; infrastructure projects; and addressing climate change.

The Pacific Islands Forum responded by reaffirming “our shared vision for a resilient Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity. We are committed to bolstering Pacific regionalism,” it said, “with a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum at its center.”

A domestic emphasis on regional cooperation appears to have paid off today, at least temporarily as, working with the Department of the Interior, the governors of Arizona, California, and Nevada have agreed on a plan to conserve water in the Colorado River system over the next three years in an effort to rebuild the depleted reservoirs on which 40 million people depend. All seven of the states in the Colorado River Lower Basin have agreed in principle to the plan, which will require the three states to cut about 13% of their water usage in exchange for about $1.2 billion in federal grant money funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. Had the states not come up with their own plan, the administration threatened bigger, unilateral cuts in water usage.

In a statement, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said: “Today’s announcement is a testament to the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to working with states, tribes and communities throughout the west to find consensus solutions in the face of climate change and sustained drought.”

Also today, Vice President Kamala Harris was in Sunnyvale, California, on a visit to Applied Materials, which has just announced it will invest up to $4 billion in a new research and development facility for designing semiconductor-manufacturing tools in collaboration with the chipmakers who will use the tools in their factories. Since the CHIPS and Science Act became law last August, the White House noted, “private companies have announced nearly $140 billion in investments in semiconductor production, supply chains, and R&D to be made over the next decade.”


Beau’s emphasis on how the Biden administration handled this (and the likely outcome under the GOP budget) was great:


May 23, 2023 (Tuesday)

Both President Joe Biden and House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have stated publicly that the U.S. will not default. They are negotiating over the budget. For my part, I’ve started to wonder if the whole debt ceiling crisis isn’t about Republicans’ determination to cut taxes for the wealthy at all costs.

When Ronald Reagan called for tax cuts in 1980, he argued that tax cuts would concentrate money in private hands, enabling investors flush with cash to build the economy. That growth would keep tax revenues stable even with the lower rates. That was the argument, but it never came to pass. In fact, a 2022 study by political economists David Hope and Julian Limberg shows that “tax cuts for the rich…do not have any significant effect on economic growth or unemployment,” but they do “lead to higher income inequality in both the short- and medium-term.”

Indeed, Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price of the Economic Policy Institute, an independent, nonprofit think tank, noted in 2018 that 1% of all families in the U.S. take home 21% of all the income in the U.S., making 26.3 times more than the bottom 99%, whose average income is slightly more than $50,000 a year. On average in the U.S., someone would need an annual income of slightly more than $420,000 to be a member of that top 1%. In 2020, annual wages for the top 1% grew by 7.3% while those in the bottom 90% grew just 1.7%.

A 2020 study by Carter C. Price and Kathryn A. Edwards of the RAND Corporation showed that the changing economic distribution systems of the past forty years have moved a staggering $50 trillion upward, out of the hands of the bottom 90% of Americans. (The national debt is currently about $31.5 trillion.)

Nonetheless, today’s Republicans continue to insist that cutting taxes promotes growth. Today, Representative Bob Good (R-VA) talked over journalist Katy Tur to defend his support for extending the Trump tax cuts, which are due to expire in 2025 and which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates will add $3.5 trillion to the debt. Good insisted that tax cuts are “incentivizing the right things.”

Leaving the White House today, McCarthy told reporters that he would not entertain rolling back the 2017 Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. “[T]he problem is not revenue,” he insisted. “The problem is spending.”

But the Trump tax cuts and Trump’s increased spending even before the pandemic ultimately added $7.8 trillion to the national debt, about $23,500 for every person in the country. The increase in the annual deficit under Trump was the third-biggest increase of any administration, relative to the size of the economy. He was beaten out only by George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln. Bush, of course, led the U.S. into two foreign conflicts that were financed almost entirely through debt (in the past, the U.S. paid for war through taxes and war bonds), after Congress cut taxes by about 8% for the wealthiest Americans. Lincoln fought the Civil War.

“It’s not that Americans are taxed too little, it’s that Washington spends too much,” Russ Vought, Trump’s acting budget director, wrote in 2019. He was defending Trump’s 5% budget cuts to nondefense discretionary spending .

President Biden’s 2024 budget proposes to reduce the federal deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade by raising taxes on those who make more than $400,000 a year. His budget would effectively repeal the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy, restoring the top tax rate to 39.6% rather than the 37% the 2017 cuts established. It would also raise corporate taxes from 21%, to which the 2017 tax cuts dropped them, to 28%, lower than the high of 35% before the Trump tax cuts.

Biden’s budget also calls for taxing capital gains at about the same rate as income for those making more than $1 million, and it calls for a new tax on unrealized capital gains. It also seeks to close loopholes that enable high earners to avoid taxes. Funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that was passed in the Inflation Reduction Act will enable the IRS to go after tax cheats who make more than $400,000 a year, netting an estimated $204 billion through 2031.

But the Republicans say they will not agree to any tax hikes of any sort, and the right-wing extremists in the Freedom Caucus have said they would not agree to anything but the bill McCarthy muscled through the House by promising it would never become law. That bill, called Limit, Save, Grow, would cut discretionary government programs by at least 18%—more if Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits aren’t included. “My conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, and they don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage,” said right-wing Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

As Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post pointed out last week, the bill also forces Congress to approve every “major” regulation proposed by a government agency, with the recognition that Congress is unlikely to agree to any such regulation, thus unraveling the federal government.

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who before the 2022 election called for sunsetting all laws every five years, forcing Congress to repass all discretionary spending, today fell back on the idea that Democrats calling for addressing the deficit through taxation are socialists. Poking fun at the recent travel advisories by LGBTQ, immigrant, and Black rights organizations warning against visiting Florida, he issued a “formal travel advisory” for “socialists” “in direct response to the Biden Administration attempts to erase capitalism and the system that has brought prosperity to Florida and the entire United States.”

And yet it was the Republican Party that originally established the pattern of turning to increasing revenue to enable the government to meet its financial obligations, a pattern members of both parties relied on until 1981. Faced in 1861 with funding the Civil War, members of the Republican Party invented the U.S. income tax and graduated it to make sure that “the burdens will be more equalized on all classes of the community, more especially on those who are able to bear them,” as Senator William Pitt Fessenden (R-ME) put it.

Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT) agreed. “The weight [of] taxation must be distributed equally,” he said, “Not upon each man an equal amount, but a tax proportionate to his ability to pay.” The government had a right to “demand” 99 percent of a man’s property for an urgent necessity, Morrill said. When the public required it, “the property of the people…belongs to the Government.”

Far from objecting to taxes, Americans asked their congressmen to raise them, out of concern about the growing national debt. In 1864, Senator John P. Hale (R-NH) said: “The condition of the country is singular…I venture to say it is an anomaly in the history of the world. What do the people of the United States ask of this Congress? To take off taxes? No, sir, they ask you to put them on. The universal cry of this people is to be taxed.”

Those taxes helped to pay for the war and, after it, to repay the debt. And in 1866, when Confederate-sympathizing Democrats tried to undermine support for the government by changing the terms of that debt to make it less valuable, Republicans wrote into the Constitution that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”


Hear, hear! “No representation without taxation!”, they sang out!

Could that be the reason why the GOPplers want to cut taxes - so they do not have to represent?

SCNR. Politics is simply absurd.


May 24, 2023 (Wednesday)

The Department of Homeland Security today issued a bulletin warning, “Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland.” Both domestic extremists and foreign terrorists are using online extremist messaging and calls for violence to motivate supporters to launch attacks. Individuals upset about the 2024 election and new laws or court decisions might attack “US critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement.” The advisory is in force for six months.

The announcement warned that a key factor in potential violence is “perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle,” a reference to disinformation suggesting that U.S. elections are rigged. This false allegation is a staple of former president Trump’s political messaging.

That disinformation led to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, of course, although many of those who have stood trial for participating in that attack have expressed regret—at least in front of the judge. But not all of them. Today Judge Christopher Cooper noted that Richard “Bigo” Barnett had “not shown any acceptance of responsibility” for his actions before sentencing him to four and a half years in prison. Barnett is an Arkansas man who was convicted on eight counts for his participation in the attack, during which he was famously photographed with his foot on then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre informed reporters about the budget negotiations and averting default, calling it a “manufactured crisis.” She called out members of the far-right Freedom Caucus for referring to the full faith and credit of the United States as a hostage, and reiterated that it is the duty of every member of Congress to avert the default that will cost millions of jobs lost, devastate retirement accounts, and throw the United States—and the world—into a recession.

“Let’s be clear about what Republicans are demanding in exchange for doing their job and preventing a default,” she said. “Earlier this year, they put forward an extreme package of devastating cuts that would slash…support for education, law enforcement, food assistance—the list goes on and on and on and on—by what now would be about 30 percent.”

While Jean-Pierre didn’t say it, the Republicans’ insistence that spending is out of control does not reflect reality. In fact, discretionary spending has fallen more than 40% in the past 50 years as a percentage of gross domestic product, from 11% to 6.3%. What has driven rising deficits are the George W. Bush and Donald Trump tax cuts, which will have added $8 trillion and $1.7 trillion, respectively, to the debt by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

The U.S. is far below the average of the 37 other nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental forum of democracies with market economies, in our tax levies. According to the Center for American Progress, if we taxed at the average OECD level, over ten years we would have an additional $26 trillion in revenue. If we taxed at the average of European Union nations, we would have an additional $36 trillion.

What Jean-Pierre did say is that the Republicans’ demand for cuts in the name of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction is belied by their protection of tax breaks skewed for the wealthy and corporations. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said those tax cuts would add $3.5 trillion to the debt over the next decade.

As the credit rating of the United States totters, House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) repeatedly told reporters the debt ceiling crisis is not his fault. Indeed, he cannot corral the votes of members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, who say they will not agree to raise the debt ceiling unless the Senate passes the extremist bill McCarthy got through the House by assuring party members that it was designed only to increase his bargaining power with Biden and that it would never become law. That passage is a nonstarter for Democrats and also for a number of vulnerable Republicans. And yet without it, McCarthy can’t get the votes he needs from the Freedom Caucus. And yet, the Republicans refuse to work with the Democrats, so the extremists can dictate what the House Republicans do.

We’re right back to the same fight we saw over McCarthy’s speakership, where extremists held the trump cards. “We’re not going to default,” McCarthy insisted.

In contrast, all the House Democrats have backed a discharge petition that would force a bill to increase the debt ceiling to the floor, but they need five Republicans to sign on to it. So far, no Republican has publicly stepped up.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s announcement today that he is running for president was awkward. He made the announcement on Twitter, whose owner, Elon Musk, has said he supports DeSantis, but the technology didn’t work and Twitter crashed repeatedly, leaving DeSantis’s audience unimpressed.

The campaign of rival Republican candidate Trump scoffed. A spokesperson said: “Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate!” His commentary later in the day was even harsher.

President Joe Biden also threw shade. His team tweeted: “This link works.” The link went to the Biden-Harris campaign donation site.

On a more serious note, the president today used the one-year anniversary of the massacre at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and 2 teachers died and 17 more were injured, to call for gun safety measures. Since the Uvalde murders, Biden said, the U.S. has experienced 650 mass shootings and well over 40,000 deaths from gun violence. Guns are the top killers of children in the U.S.

Biden called for a ban on AR-15-type firearms and high-capacity magazines, and for the establishment of universal background checks, national red-flag laws, required safe storage of firearms, and an end to the immunity from liability that gun manufacturers enjoy. He noted that these commonsense measures are popular.

“To the families of the children and to the educators…we know that, one year later, it’s still so raw for you. A year of missed birthdays and holidays, school plays, soccer games, just that smile. A year of everyday joys gone forever. The bend in his smile. The perfect pitch of her laugh.

“God bless those 21 blessed souls lost on this day in Uvalde,” Biden said. “And may God bless their families. We’re thinking of you.”


May 25, 2023 (Thursday)

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta today sentenced the leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers organization, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, to 18 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. In November a jury found Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, and tampering with documents and proceedings, for his role in organizing people to go to Washington in January 2021 and try to stop the counting of the electoral votes that would make Joe Biden president.

Rhodes told the court that his only crime was standing against those who are “destroying our country.” He says he believes he is a “political prisoner” and that he hopes Trump will win the presidency in 2024. “You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” Judge Mehta said. “You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy.”

And yet, former president Trump has said he would not only pardon the January 6 offenders, but would apologize to them for their treatment by the government. Today, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who yesterday announced he is running for president, said he, too, would consider pardoning them, promising to be “aggressive in issuing pardons.”

Rhodes struck at our elections. Today in the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency decision, the Supreme Court struck at the government regulations that underpin modern America.

Michael and Chantell Sackett bought land near Priest Lake, Idaho, and backfilled the wetlands on the property to build a home. The EPA found they had violated the Clean Water Act, which prohibits putting pollutants into “the waters of the United States.” Officials told them to restore the site or face penalties of more than $40,000 a day. By a vote of 5–4, the Supreme Court found that “waters” refers only to “‘streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes’ and to adjacent wetlands that are ‘indistinguishable’ from those bodies of water due to a continuous surface connection.”

This decision will remove federal protection from half of the currently protected wetlands in the U.S, an area larger than California. Homeowners, farmers, and developers will have far greater latitude to intrude on wetlands than they did previously, and that intrusion has already wrought damage as wetlands act like a sponge to absorb huge amounts of water during hurricanes. From 1992 to 2010, Houston, for example, lost more than 70% of its wetlands to development, leaving it especially vulnerable to Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 hurricane that in 2017 left 107 people dead and caused $125 billion in damage.

The decision said that the EPA had overreached in its protection of wetlands as part of the Clean Water Act, and that Congress must “enact exceedingly clear language” on any rules that affect private property. This court seems eager to gut federal regulation, suggesting that Congress cannot delegate regulatory rulemaking to the executive branch. As investigative journalist Dave Troy put it, “If [the] EPA can’t enforce its rules, what federal agency can?”

Justice Elena Kagan warned that by destroying the authority of the EPA, both now and in the West Virginia v. EPA decision last June that restricted the agency’s ability to regulate emissions from power plants, the court had appointed itself “as the national decision maker on environmental policy.”

The Clean Water Act passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote in 1972, during the administration of Republican president Richard M. Nixon. Nixon backed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 after a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, over ten days in January–February 1969 poured between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific, fouling 35 miles of California beaches and killing seabirds, dolphins, sea lions, and elephant seals, and then, four months later, in June 1969, the chemical contaminants that had been dumped into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. In February 1970, Nixon told Congress “[W]e…have too casually and too long abused our natural environment. The time has come when we can wait no longer to repair the damage already done, and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future.”

Nixon called for a 37-point program with 23 legislative proposals and 14 new administrative measures to control water and air pollution, manage solid waste, protect parklands and public recreation, and organize for action. At Nixon’s urging, Congress created the EPA in 1970, and two years later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, establishing protections for water quality and regulating pollutant discharges into waters of the United States.

House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted that “[t]oday’s Supreme Court ruling is a win for farmers, businesses, and Americans across the nation by rejecting, yet again, the Biden administration’s costly and burdensome regulatory overreach.” But it sure looks like the story is not about Biden, but rather is about an extremist SCOTUS overturning 50 years of law that gave us clean water because it is determined to slash federal authority to regulate business.

McCarthy is trying to manage his conference while members of the far-right Freedom Caucus strike at our economy. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated today that defaulting on the national debt is not an option. “The President has said that, the Speaker has said that, and we want the American people to understand that as well…. What is up for debate, though, is the budget,” she said. “And that’s what these discussions are about: two very different fiscal visions for our country and our economy.”

Biden’s proposed budget invests in ordinary Americans and over 10 years is projected to reduce the deficit by nearly $3 trillion by “asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share and by slashing wasteful spending on special interests.” In contrast, “House Republicans…want to slash programs millions of hardworking Americans count on, while also protecting tax breaks skewed to the wealthy and corporations that will add $3.5 trillion to the debt. That’s where these negotiations began,” she said.

Finally, there is news today about the man that Rhodes is going to prison for, concerning his strike at our national security. Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, and Perry Stein of the Washington Post reported that on June 2, 2022, the day one of Trump’s lawyers contacted the Justice Department to say that officials were welcome to come to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the classified documents the department had subpoenaed, two of Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers. The next day, when FBI agents arrived, Trump’s lawyers gave them 38 documents, said they had conducted a “diligent search,” and claimed that all the relevant documents had been turned over. Yet, when FBI agents conducted a search two months later, they found more than 100 additional classified documents.

The timing of the moved boxes suggests that Trump was deliberately hiding certain documents. The Washington Post article also says that more than one witness has told prosecutors that Trump sometimes kept classified documents out in the open and showed them to people.

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement: “This is nothing more than a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt against President Trump that is concocted to meddle in an election and prevent the American people from returning him to the White House.”


As an ecologist I have one thing to say to that:

Animated GIF

ETA: honestly, that is so fucking dumb, so magnificently and patently stupid, so factually wrong, and so breathtakingly dangerous, it needs a new scale of measurement.


Oil companies have said in the past that they can’t build more refineries because of wetland protections. Wanna bet they they come up with another reason not to build so they can keep gas prices high?


May 26, 2023 (Friday)

While we wait to learn more about a possible budget deal under which Republicans would agree to raise the debt ceiling before June 5, the date Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says will see the U.S. run out of funds, there is an interesting story coming out of Texas that might well shed light on the current dynamics in the Republican Party.

On Wednesday, witnesses testified before the Republican-led Texas House General Investigating Committee about how the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, has committed crimes in office, including trying to hide an affair, using his office to help a donor, building a culture of fear in his office, using his power to retaliate against opponents, misusing official information, and abusing his office. As attorney general, Paxton is in charge of overseeing the enforcement of the law in the state.

On Thursday the committee voted unanimously to recommend that Paxton be impeached and removed from office, citing 20 counts, including bribery and retaliating against whistleblowers, for his impeachment.

Paxton is not unused to trouble. He has been under a felony indictment for securities fraud since 2015, successfully holding off the charges through repeated delays. In 2020, eight of his top advisors accused him of abusing his office to help a wealthy donor, Nate Paul, resist an FBI investigation. But he has maintained his popularity with Republican voters in Texas by standing as a fervent Trump supporter and attacking the Biden administration, and party leaders would not turn on him.

That formula appears to be less potent than it used to be. It turns out that the House committee began investigating Paxton in March, after he tried to get $3.3 million of taxpayer money to settle a lawsuit with four whistleblowers who said he retaliated against them after they tried to expose his unsavory relationship with Paul.

Apparently aware of what was about to drop, Paxton on Tuesday accused House speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, of being drunk at a public hearing and said he should resign. Once news of the committee vote dropped, Paxton on Friday attacked the “illegal impeachment scheme” and asked supporters to descend on the Texas Capitol for the impeachment vote. Paxton accused those calling for his impeachment of helping President Biden.

“The House is poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office: sabotage our work, my work, as attorney general of Texas,” Paxton said. He refused to take questions. Right-wing figures, including the head of the Texas Republican Party and key Trump advisors—but not Trump himself—have declared their support for him. Texas governor Greg Abbott has stayed silent.

The full House will take up the question of Paxton’s impeachment tomorrow, with both Paxton’s supporters and Democratic supporters coming for the event.

Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune noted today that the impeachment effort has set off “a political earthquake in Texas.” “Republicans have chosen to remain largely silent
during years of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking by the attorney general. Now they will have to take a public stand,” he wrote. Local observers recognize the battle as one between far-right extremists, represented by Paxton, and Republicans who are trying to recover the party from the Trump wing.

There is likely a political calculation behind this move. Texas is a crucially important state for 2024, and voters are angry at the apparent corruption of prominent Republican figures like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Some leaders are likely eager to cut loose some big fish to reassure voters that they are not, in fact, the party of corruption. But in states that are currently dominated by Republicans so thoroughly that they are essentially one-party states, there are indeed systemic corruption problems because there is not the oversight that a healthy opposition party brings.

Both Paxton’s actions and his attempt to dismiss his Republican accusers as working for Biden appear to be a classic example of the behavior of political leaders in a one-party state. He has allegedly used his office to reward friends, retaliate against enemies, and avoid accountability for apparent lawbreaking. This pattern is common in authoritarian governmental systems; it was also common in the American South from about 1874 to 1965, when the Voting Rights Act that protected Black voting finally broke the one-party region dominated by white men.

Tomorrow, as Republican leaders in Texas look toward the 2024 election, they are going to have to decide whether to back an apparently corrupt attorney general who is popular with the Republican base or appeal to Republicans turned off by how extreme the party has become and get rid of him.

It will take a majority of the 149-member House to send the articles of impeachment to the Texas Senate for a trial. All 64 House Democrats will likely vote for impeachment. It is not clear what the Republicans will do.