Heather Cox Richardson

Sucks that anything owned by Rupert Murdoch is considered mainstream media. I can’t understand how the WSJ has anymore credibility than Fux News does. I guess it’s just a “venerable” old institution, no matter who owns it.


apparently, it’s been there since february and then was quickly removed without comment after reporters noticed


Next week on Catfish, look out Milwaukee that skyscraper’s only a Ho Chi Minh 6 but is it still too good to be true?


June 6, 2024 (Thursday)

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had good news for the American people when he gave his twenty-ninth Fireside Chat on June 5, 1944. The day before, on June 4, Rome had fallen to Allied troops. “The first of the Axis capitals is now in our hands,” Roosevelt said.

The president pointed out that “it is…significant that Rome has been liberated by the armed forces of many nations. The American and British armies—who bore the chief burdens of battle—found at their sides our own North American neighbors, the gallant Canadians. The fighting New Zealanders from the far South Pacific, the courageous French and the French Moroccans, the South Africans, the Poles and the East Indians—all of them fought with us on the bloody approaches to the city of Rome. The Italians, too, forswearing a partnership in the Axis which they never desired, have sent their troops to join us in our battles against the German trespassers on their soil.”

This group of ordinary men from many different countries had worked together to defeat the forces of fascism.

But FDR warned Americans that the fall of Rome was only the beginning. “We shall have to push through a long period of greater effort and fiercer fighting before we get into Germany itself,” he said. [T]he victory still lies some distance ahead. That distance will be covered in due time—have no fear of that. But it will be tough and it will be costly.”

FDR knew something his audience did not. On the other side of the Atlantic, paratroopers, their faces darkened with cocoa, were already dropping into France, and the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allies were on their way across the English channel.

The order of the day from their commander Dwight D. Eisenhower that day had read: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

“Your task will not be an easy one,” it read, but it assured the troops that the Germans had suffered great defeats and Allied bombing had reduced German strength, while “[o]ur Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!”

Eisenhower’s public confidence did not reflect his understanding that the largest amphibious invasion in military history was a gamble. On June 5, in pencil on a sheet of paper, he had written a message to be communicated in case the invasion failed.

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops,” it read. “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and dedication to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

On the morning of June 6, 1944, five naval assault divisions stormed the beaches of Normandy. Seven thousand ships and landing craft operated by more than 195,000 naval personnel from 8 countries brought almost 133,000 troops to beaches given the code names UTAH, OMAHA, GOLD, JUNO, and SWORD. By the end of the day, more than 10,000 Allied troops were wounded or killed, but the Allies had established a foothold in France that would permit them to flood troops, vehicles, and supplies into Europe. When FDR held a press conference later that day, officials and press both were jubilant.

Today, eighty years later, world leaders and more than two dozen U.S. veterans of D-Day gathered to commemorate that day. They met above Omaha Beach at the Normandy American Cemetery, where the remains of 9,388 Americans, many of whom were killed on D-Day, are buried.

“Hitler and those with him thought democracies were weak, that the future belonged to dictators,” President Joe Biden said in a speech. “Here, on the coast of Normandy, the battle between freedom and tyranny would be joined.”

Biden honored the visiting veterans by name—Kenneth Blaine Smith, Bob Gibson, Ben Miller, Louis Brown, Woody Woodhouse, Marjorie Stone—and recounted what they did that day: operating radar, driving an M4 tractor mounted with an anti-aircraft gun, dragging injured soldiers to safety, treating wounds, driving trucks carrying supplies, flying and fixing planes.

Echoing FDR’s chat about the fall of Rome, Biden attributed D-Day’s success to ordinary people. “Every soldier who stormed the beach, who dropped by parachute or landed by glider; every sailor who manned the thousands of ships and landing craft; every aviator who destroyed German-controlled air fields, bridges, and railroads—all—all were backed by other brave Americans, including hundreds of thousands of people of color and women who courageously served despite unjust limitations on what they could do for their nation,” Biden said.

The story of the veterans “has always been the story of America,” Biden said. “Just walk the rows of this cemetery…. Nearly 10,000 heroes buried side by side, officers and enlisted, immigrants and native-born. Different races, different faiths, but all Americans. All served with honor when America and the world needed them most.”

“Millions back home did their part as well. From coast to coast, Americans found countless ways to pitch in. They understood our democracy is only as strong as all of us make it, together.”

“The men who fought here became heroes not because they were the strongest or toughest or were fiercest—although they were,” Biden said, “but because they…knew, beyond any doubt, there are things that are worth fighting and dying for.”

“Freedom is worth it. Democracy is worth it. America is worth it. The world is worth it—then, now, and always.”

“Here we proved the forces of liberty are stronger than the forces of conquest,” Biden said. “Here we proved that the ideals of our democracy are stronger than any army or combination of armies in the entire world.”

D-Day also proved that alliances make us stronger, Biden said, a principle that after the war led to the creation of “the greatest military alliance in the history of the world,” NATO. He continued, to applause: “America’s unique ability to bring countries together is an…undeniable source of our strength and our power. Isolationism was not the answer 80 years ago, and it is not the answer today.”

“The struggle between a dictatorship and freedom is unending,” he said, and he vowed that the U.S., NATO, and allied countries will not walk away from Ukraine in its fight to resist Russia’s assault. “[T]o bow down to dictators,” he said, “means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.”

“History tells us freedom is not free,” Biden said. “If you want to know the price of freedom, come here to Normandy…and remember: The price of unchecked tyranny is the blood of the young and the brave.

“In their generation, in their hour of trial, the Allied forces of D-Day did their duty. Now the question for us is: In our hour of trial, will we do ours?

“We’re living in a time when democracy is more at risk across the world than at any point…since these beaches were stormed in 1944. Now, we have to ask ourselves: Will we stand against tyranny, against evil, against crushing brutality of the iron fist?

“Will we stand for freedom? Will we defend democracy? Will we stand together?

“My answer is yes. And it only can be yes.”

“Let us be the generation that when history is written about our time—in 10, 20, 30, 50, 80 years from now—it will be said: When the moment came, we met the moment. We stood strong. Our alliances were made stronger. And we saved democracy in our time as well.”

During the ceremony, the past and the present came together. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky shook the hand of a U.S. veteran in a wheelchair. When the man tried to kiss Zelensky’s hand, the Ukraine president instead stooped and hugged him. “You’re the savior of the people,” the man said. Zelensky answered, “You saved Europe.” The exchange continued: “You’re my hero.” “No, you are our hero.”

As the crowd cheered, the old man turned to look at the younger one and said, “I pray for you.”


Sad Season 1 Episode 1 GIF by NBC


June 7, 2024 (Friday)

Two big stories today that together reveal a broader landscape.

The first is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics today released another blockbuster jobs report. The country added 272,000 jobs in May, far higher than the 180,000 jobs economists predicted. A widespread range of sectors added new jobs, including health care, government, leisure and hospitality, and professional, scientific, and technical services. Wages are also up. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have grown 4.1%, higher than the rate of inflation, which was 3.4% over the same period.

The unemployment rate ticked up from 3.9% to 4%. This is not a significant change, but it does break the 27-month streak of unemployment below that number.

The second big story is that Justice Clarence Thomas amended a financial filing from 2019, acknowledging that he should have reported two free vacations he accepted from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. While in the past he said he did not need to disclose such gifts, in today’s filing he claimed he had “inadvertently omitted” the trips on earlier reports. ProPublica broke the story of these and other gifts from Crow, including several more trips than Thomas has so far acknowledged.

Fix The Court, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to reform the federal courts, estimates that Thomas has accepted more than $4 million in gifts over the last 20 years. As economic analyst Steven Rattner pointed out, that’s 5.6 times more than the other 16 justices on the court in those years combined.

These two news items illustrate a larger story about the United States in this moment.

The Biden administration has quite deliberately overturned the supply-side economics that came into ascendancy in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan took office and that remained dominant until 2021, when Biden entered the White House. Adherents of that ideology rejected the idea that the government should invest in the “demand side” of the economy—workers and other ordinary Americans—to develop the economy, as it had done since 1933.

Instead, they maintained that the best way to nurture the economy was to support the “supply side”: those at the top. Cutting business regulations and slashing taxes would create prosperity, they said, by concentrating wealth in the hands of individuals who would invest in the economy more efficiently than they could if the government interfered in their choices. That smart investment would dramatically expand the economy, supporters argued, and everyone would do better.

But supply-side economics never produced the results its supporters promised. What it did do was move money out of the hands of ordinary Americans into the hands of the very wealthy. Economists estimate that between 1981 and 2021, more than $50 trillion dollars moved from the bottom 90% of Americans to the top 1%.

In order to keep that system in place, Republicans worked to make it extraordinarily difficult for Congress to pass laws making the government do anything, even when the vast majority of Americans wanted it to. With the rise of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to the position of Senate majority leader in 2007, they weaponized the filibuster so any measure that went against their policies would need 60 votes in order to get through the Senate, and in 2010 they worked to take over state legislatures so that they could gerrymander state congressional districts so severely that Republicans would hold far more seats than they had earned from voters.

With Congress increasingly neutered, the power to make law shifted to the courts, which Republicans since the Reagan administration had been packing with appointees who adhered to their small-government principles.

Clarence Thomas was a key vote on the Supreme Court. But as ProPublica reported in December 2023, Thomas complained in 2000 to a Republican member of Congress about the low salaries of Supreme Court justices (equivalent to about $300,000 today) and suggested he might resign. The congressman and his friends were desperate to keep Thomas, with his staunchly Republican vote, on the court. In the years after 2000, friends and acquaintances provided Thomas with a steady stream of gifts that supplemented his income, and he stayed in his seat.

But what amounts to bribes has compromised the court. After the news broke that Thomas has now disclosed some of the trips Crow gave him, conservative lawyer George Conway wrote: “It’s long past time for there to be a comprehensive criminal investigation, and congressional investigation, of Justice Thomas and his finances and his taxes. What he has taken, and what he has failed to disclose, is beyond belief, and has been so for quite some time.” A bit less formally, over a chart of the monetary value of the gifts Thomas has accepted, Conway added: “I mean. This. Is. Just. Nuts.”

As the Republican system comes under increasing scrutiny, Biden’s renewal of traditional economic policies is showing those policies to be more successful than the Republicans’ system ever was. If Americans turn against the Republican formula of slashing taxes and deregulating business, those at the top of the economy stand to lose both wealth and control of the nation’s economic system.

Trump has promised more tax cuts and deregulation if he is reelected, although the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently projected that his plan to extend the 2017 tax cuts that are set to expire in 2025 will add more than $3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. In April, at a meeting with 20 oil executives, Trump promised to cut regulations on the fossil fuel industry in exchange for $1 billion in donations, assuring them that the tax breaks he would give them once he was in office would pay for the donation many times over (indeed, an analysis quoted in The Guardian showed his proposed tax cuts would save them $110 billion). On May 23, he joined fossil fuel executives for a fundraiser in Houston.

In the same weeks, Biden’s policies have emphasized using the government to help ordinary people rather than to move wealth upward.

On May 31 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will make its experimental free electronic filing system permanent. It asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia to sign on to the program and to help taxpayers use it. The program’s pilot this year was wildly successful, with more than 140,000 people filing that way. Private tax preparers, whose industry makes billions of dollars a year, oppose the new system.

The Inflation Reduction Act provided funding for this program and for beefing up the ability of the IRS to audit the wealthiest taxpayers. As Fatima Hussein wrote for the Associated Press, Republicans cut $1.4 billion from these funds last summer and will shift an additional $20 billion from the IRS to other programs over the next two years.

Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued five new reports showing that thanks in part to the administration’s outreach efforts about the Affordable Care Act, the rate of Black Americans without health insurance dropped from 20.9% in 2010 to 10.8% in 2022. The same rate among Latinos dropped from 32.7% to 18%. For Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, the rate of uninsured dropped from 16.6% to 6.2%. And for American Indians and Alaska Natives, the rate dropped from 32.4% to 19.9%. More than 45 million people in total are enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

President Biden noted the strength of today’s jobs report in a statement, adding: “I will keep fighting to lower costs for families like the ones I grew up with in Scranton.” Republicans “have a different vision,” he said, “one that puts billionaires and special interests first.” He promised: “I will never stop fighting for Scranton—not Park Avenue.”


But the public still believes Republicans are better at handling the economy. :exploding_head: This myth has got to die in a fire. Like now.


June 8, 2024 (Saturday)

I’ve been traveling, and Buddy took out the camera in my absence. This is the view as he left the harbor one morning this week— that’s his brother’s buoy in the foreground.

I’m heading back to Maine tomorrow, and I can’t wait. But before I hit the road, I need to sleep for a very long time.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland.]


June 9, 2024 (Sunday)

Yesterday the Washington Post published an article by Beth Reinhard examining the philosophy and the power of Russell Vought, the hard-right Christian nationalist who is drafting plans for a second Trump term. Vought was the director of the Office of Management and Budget from July 2020 to January 2021 during the Trump administration. In January 2021 he founded the Center for Renewing America, a pro-Trump think tank, and he was a key player in the construction of Project 2025, the plan to gut the nonpartisan federal government and replace it with a dominant president and a team of loyalists who will impose religious rule on the United States.

When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2023, Vought advised the far right, calling for draconian cuts to government agencies, student loans, and housing, health care, and food assistance. He called for $2 trillion in cuts to Medicaid over ten years, more than $600 billion in cuts to the Affordable Care Act, more than $400 billion in cuts to food assistance, and so on.

Last month the Republican National Committee (RNC), now dominated by Trump loyalists, named Vought policy director of the RNC platform committee, the group that will draft a political platform for the Republicans this year. In 2020 the Republican Party did not write a platform, simply saying that it “enthusiastically” supported Trump and his agenda. With Vought at the head of policy, it is reasonable to think that the party’s 2024 platform will skew toward the policies Vought has advanced elsewhere.

Vought argues that the United States is in a “post constitutional moment” that “pays only lip service to the old Constitution.” He attributes that crisis to “the Left,” which he says “quietly adopted a strategy of institutional change,” by which he appears to mean the growth of the federal government to protect individual Americans. He attributes that change to the presidency of President Woodrow Wilson beginning in 1913. Vought calls for what he calls “Radical Constitutionalism” to destroy the power of the modern administrative state and instead elevate the president to supreme authority.

There are historical problems with this assessment, not least that it attributes to “the Left” a practical and popular change in the U.S. government to adjust it to the modern industrial world, as if somehow that change was a fringe stealth campaign.

While it has been popular among the radical right to bash Democratic president Woodrow Wilson for the 1913 Revenue Act that established the modern income tax, suggesting that it was this moment that began the creation of the modern state, the recasting of government in fact took place under Republican Theodore Roosevelt a decade before Wilson took office, and it was popular without regard to partisanship.

The liberalism on which the United States was founded in the late 1700s came from the notion—radical at the time—that individuals have rights and that the government generally must not intrude on those rights. This idea was central to the thinking of the Founders who wrote the Declaration of Independence, who put into the form of a mathematical constant—“we hold these truths to be self-evident”—the idea that “all men are created equal” and that they have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as well as the right to live under a government of their own choosing.

To keep the government from crushing those individual rights, the Constitution’s Framers wrote the Bill of Rights. Those first ten amendments to the Constitution hold back the federal government by, among other things, prohibiting Congress from making laws that would establish a national religion or prohibit the free exercise of religion, limit freedom of speech or of the press, or hamper people’s right to assemble peacefully or to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The belief that liberalism depended on a small government dominated the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but the rise of industry in the late nineteenth century shifted the relationship between individuals and the government. Was everyone really equal when industrialists were worth millions and commanded state legislatures and Congress, while workers, consumers, and children had little leverage to protect themselves?

The majority of Americans said no, and Theodore Roosevelt agreed. The danger for individuals in their era was not that the government would crush them, but that industrialists would. In order for the government truly to protect the people, Roosevelt argued, it must regulate businesses and support the ability of ordinary Americans to prosper. A true liberal government, one that protected the rights of individuals, must be big enough and strong enough to act as a referee between workers, consumers, and businessmen.

Roosevelt actually loathed Wilson, in part because Wilson ran for office in 1912 with the argument that as soon as the government broke up big corporations, the country could revert back to a small government. To Roosevelt, this made no sense. Unless the conditions of the modern economy were changed—and he believed they could not be, because the trend was always toward bigger and bigger enterprises—industry would always concentrate. Only a big government could stop those corporations from taking over the country.

Tearing apart the modern state, as those like Vought advocate, would take us back to the world Roosevelt recognized as being antithetical to the rights of individuals promised by the Declaration of Independence.

A key argument for a strong administrative state was that it could break the power of a few men to control the nation. It is no accident that those arguing for a return to a system without a strong administrative state are eager to impose their religion on the American majority, who have rejected their principles and policies. Americans support abortion rights, women’s rights, LBGTQ+ rights, minority rights: the equal rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

And therein lies the second historical problem with Vought’s “Radical Constitutionalism.” James Madison, the key thinker behind the Constitution, explained why a democracy cannot be based on religion. As a young man, Madison had watched officials in his home state of Virginia arrest itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by 1773 he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices, but he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience.

In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights on which our own Bill of Rights would be based. It reads: “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” Madison explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants.

Journalist Reinhard points out that Trump strategist Steve Bannon recently praised Vought and his colleagues as “madmen” who are going to destroy the U.S. government. “We’re going to rip and shred the federal government apart, and if you don’t like it, you can lump it,” Bannon said.

In July 2022 a jury found Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress for his defiance of a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, and that October, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, sentenced him to four months in prison. Bannon fought the conviction, but in May 2024 a federal appeals court upheld it.

On June 6, Judge Nichols ordered him to report to prison by July 1.


June 10, 2024 (Monday)

Former president Trump met with a New York City probation officer today for a pre-sentencing interview. They met over video for a first step in the sentencing process, in which an officer assesses the convicted criminal’s living situation, finances, mental health, addiction, and criminal record. Trump was expected to have his lawyer, Todd Blanche, with him when he linked in from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Judge Juan Merchan will take the information from the interview into account when he sentences Trump. He will also consider that Trump was held in contempt 10 times during the trial for violating the gag order designed to stop him from attacking witnesses and court personnel and their families.

Ever since a New York jury unanimously found the former president guilty of 34 felonies on Thursday, May 30, he and his supporters have tried to assert that he is, in fact, in a strong position for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and for the November election itself. First, they insisted that his convictions made him more popular than ever, an assertion undermined by their own desperate avoidance of other trials and the demands of both Trump and House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to have the Supreme Court somehow step in to overturn a conviction by a state court.

Trump has also tried to reassert dominance by insisting in at least five interviews that he will seek “revenge” on Democrats for prosecuting him, and MAGA loyalists have echoed this threat. But as Greg Sargent pointed out today, this, too, is spin.

There is a big difference between a prosecution advancing on the basis of evidence gathered by law enforcement, evidence that prompted grand juries to indict Trump, and his own threats to prosecute President Joe Biden and other Democrats simply because he had to endure a prosecution, not because there is any evidence that they have committed crimes. The first serves the rule of law, the second shatters it.

Since the conviction, as political analyst Simon Rosenberg points out, the right-wing Murdoch media empire “has gone into hyperdrive.” That empire, which includes the Fox News Channel, supports Trump and knowingly lied that the 2020 election had been stolen. On June 4, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal printed a story saying that “behind closed doors, Biden shows signs of slipping,” but the piece quoted only former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who previously had hammered Biden in public but privately assured colleagues he was mentally sharp.

One of the authors of the piece sparked outrage in October 2021 by tweeting that Biden, who was visiting the graves of his dead children and wife, “goes to church and walks through a graveyard in Wilmington as his legislative agenda is dying in Washington.”

In November 2021, Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. In June 2022 he signed into law the Safer Communities Act, a gun safety law. In August 2022 he signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act that invested billions in semiconductor manufacturing and science, and the Inflation Reduction Act that provided record funding for addressing climate change and permitted Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices. Together, those legislative accomplishments rival those of Presidents Lyndon Baines Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose congressional majorities were far stronger than Biden’s.

The Republicans’ frantic pushback on Trump’s conviction reveals both that it has hurt him badly, and that without Trump projecting the dominance of a strongman, they have little to fall back on except for personal attacks on Biden.

Trump had counted on using immigration against Biden and ordered his loyalists to scuttle the bipartisan immigration measure the Senate hammered out in February in order to keep the issue alive. Swing voters took notice: in March a focus group showed that 9 out of 13 Wisconsin swing voters blamed Trump for killing the bill.

As soon as that measure failed, the administration began to talk of what Biden could do through an executive order, despite believing that such an order would be challenged in the courts. At the same time, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continued their pressure on the Mexican government to increase its own immigration enforcement. That process worked, and undocumented migration has dropped sharply at the southern border. Meanwhile, the administration’s parole program for people from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba has cut undocumented migration from those countries by almost 90%.

Then on Tuesday, June 4, likely trying to get ahead of the usual summer rise in immigration, and after Senate Republicans once again killed the bipartisan border measure, Biden issued an executive order permitting him to seal the southern border temporarily when undocumented crossings surge to more than 2,500 a day, a restriction stricter than that negotiated in the Senate measure Trump scuttled. This order looks more like Trump’s effort to curb migration—one that courts blocked—at least in part because without legislation, there is no new funding to provide the additional courts the administration wants in order to move asylum cases faster.

As predicted, the order is likely to face legal challenges. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who worked with Senator James Lankford (R-OK) on the Senate immigration bill, wrote in a statement: “I am sympathetic to the position the administration is in, but I am skeptical [that] the executive branch has the legal authority to shut down asylum processing between ports of entry on its own. Meaningful asylum reform requires a bipartisan solution in Congress.”

Nonetheless, while Trump continues to demagogue immigration issues, the charge that Biden wants “open borders”—which was always disinformation—is now harder to make.

Meanwhile, the measures Democrats advocate are so popular that Republican legislators are taking credit for projects funded by them even though they voted against the laws themselves. Katherine Tully-McManus of Politico pointed out today that Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will deliver nearly $470 million to her district. She has attended a highway ribbon cutting and boasted of the modernization of locks and dams on the Mississippi River in her district despite her “no” vote.

Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) called the infrastructure law a “socialist wish list” and a “fiasco” but nonetheless celebrated a federal grant for nearly $26 million to invest in public transit in her district.

This credit-taking is widespread among those who opposed the law. Just this weekend, Trump falsely asserted that it was he, not Biden, who lowered the cost of insulin to $35 a month. In fact, it was Biden who signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act that made such negotiations possible.

There is little else for Trump to stand on. The Republicans’ position on abortion is so unpopular that when Trump spoke today to the Danbury Institute, which calls for abortion to be “eradicated entirely,” he never mentioned the word abortion. Instead of delivering a keynote address, he spoke for less than two minutes and said that the attendees “can’t vote Democrat” because “[t]hey’re against religion.”

Democrats pushed back on the Wall Street Journal’s article attacking Biden, calling it a “hit piece” and noting that their own quotations did not make the cut. Observers pointed out that reporters jump on Biden’s speech while Trump’s jumbled and offensive statements—like his crazy hash of MIT, electric batteries, boats, and sharks yesterday—rarely get reproduced.

The Biden campaign is addressing that lack with a new ad campaign, one that deliberately punctures the idea of Trump as a strongman. One ad shows foreign leaders laughing at Trump’s statements, and another, directed at Latino voters, shows Trump last week kissing former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned after his conviction related to racial profiling. Another ad from the Biden campaign in the wake of the 80th anniversary of D-Day focuses on Trump’s quotations mocking the military as suckers and losers and quoting some of his other offensive statements about those who serve.

Finally, the Biden team rushed to produce an ad today using Trump’s own words from a rally this weekend in the broiling Nevada desert in which he said he didn’t want people to keel over because: “We need every voter. I don’t care about you. I just want your vote. I don’t care.”


Well, looky here! Every now and then, he really does tell the truth!


June 11, 2024 (Tuesday)

“We’re producing more energy than ever before in this nation. We have the strongest economy in the world, and we are beating China for the first time in decades. More people went to work this morning in America than at any other time in our nation’s history. So I’ve got a message to Donald Trump and all his negativity and his whining: Stop sh*t talking America. This is the greatest country on earth, and it’s time that we all start acting like it.”

Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro’s words to Jen Psaki on MSNBC yesterday illustrated that Democrats are flipping the script on the MAGA Republicans.

Since he decided to run for president in 2015, almost exactly nine years ago, Trump’s narrative has been that the United States is in terrible decline and that only he can “make America great again.” In his speech announcing his candidacy on that June day in 2015, he claimed that “our country is in serious trouble” and complained that China, Japan, and Mexico were all “beating” the U.S. and “laughing at us, at our stupidity…. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” he said before launching into the idea that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists across the border. “Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger…, and we as a country are getting weaker,” he said. “Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.”

Trump claimed—falsely—that the nation’s gross domestic product was below zero, that the labor participation rate was “the worst since 1978,” that unemployment was between 18 and 20 percent, and that while Obamacare was “amazingly destructive,” he would replace it with something cheaper and better.

Trump continued this theme of decline and what he called “American carnage” in his inaugural address. He described “[m]others and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our Nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Trump initially seemed to blame inept politicians and bureaucrats for what he claimed was America’s decline, assuring the audience at his 2015 campaign announcement: “Well, you need somebody, because politicians are all talk, no action. Nothing’s gonna get done. They will not bring us—believe me—to the promised land. They will not.” But when then–FBI director James Comey refused to drop the investigation into the relationship between Russian operatives and the 2016 Trump campaign, Trump and his loyalists began to warn of a secretive “deep state” that was working to undermine Trump and, with him, the nation.

Trump’s narrative that he is the true defender of the United States, under attack by dark forces, maps beautifully over white evangelical narratives of religious decline. Trump continued that storyline even after voters turned him out of the White House, insisting that a nefarious conspiracy of Democrats, undocumented immigrants, and foreigners stole the election from him.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol estimated that Trump raised $250 million in donations from supporters for an “election defense fund” to pay the legal fees to overturn the results of the 2020 election. But the Trump team never actually set up that fund. Instead, the money went to the Save America political action committee founded and controlled by Trump, and from there the money went to Trump loyalists and pro-Trump organizations.

And therein lies a key reason for Trump’s story of an apocalyptic America: describing the nation as a hellhole that only he can fix also maps over a common pattern of American grifters. So long as supporters send him money, he claims, they will be able to defend the country against dark forces: communists, Marxists, atheists, immigrants, pedophiles, feminists—just what the dark forces are matters far less than that they are a foil for the grifter.

When Trump made that argument in 2015, it was not all that far-fetched. Economists estimate that the supply-side economics of the past 40 years had shifted $50 trillion dollars from the bottom 90% of Americans to the top 1%, hollowing out the middle class. Schools had been chronically underfunded, and the opioid epidemic, which began in 1999, was claiming more than 10,000 Americans a year (a number that has continued to rise ever since). And by weaponizing the filibuster and gerrymandering states, Republicans had made it extraordinarily difficult for Congress to accomplish anything that would address these issues.

When Biden took office, he was in the unusual position of signing executive orders to establish policies that were not unpopular, like Trump‘s, but that were extraordinarily popular. This began the process of showing that the government could, in fact, represent the people.

Then, thanks to the election of Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in a runoff election on January 6, 2021—that was the seismic shift of January 6, 2021, that is often forgotten—the Democrats continued to demonstrate that the government could work for the people. They passed the American Rescue Plan to shore up the U.S. economy after the pandemic shutdowns, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to rebuild roads and bridges and improve broadband access, the CHIPS and Science Act to promote semiconductor manufacturing, the Inflation Reduction Act to invest in climate change mitigation and permit the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices, and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to close loopholes in gun purchases.

Those changes have created a roaring economy with an unemployment rate that has just last month ticked up to 4% after 27 months below that number, with wages growing faster than the inflation that plagued the U.S.—and the world—after the pandemic eased. The highest wage growth has gone to the lowest earners, helping to cut the nation’s extreme wealth inequality.

That booming economy might be partly what’s behind another significant change: for all that Trump and MAGA Republicans still talk about Democratic cities as hellholes, the FBI yesterday released a report showing that violent crime in fact dropped by more than 15% in the U.S. during the first three months of 2024. As Jim Sciutto of CNN pointed out today, “Murders fell 26.4% and rapes decreased by 25.7%. Aggravated assaults decreased by 12.5%, according to the data, robberies fell 17.8%.” In his own assessment, Biden attributed those dropping numbers to “putting more cops on the beat, holding violent criminals accountable, and getting illegal guns off the street.”

On June 1, top sports talk host Colin Cowherd anticipated Shapiro’s pro-American stance when he pushed back on the Republican idea that the country is a dystopian nightmare. “[Trump’s] trying to sell me an America that doesn’t exist,” he said. “Stop trying to sell me on ‘everything’s rigged, the country’s falling into the sea, the economy’s terrible,’” he continued. “The America that I live in is imperfect. But compared to the rest of the world, I think we’re doing okay.”

Today, Biden pointedly illustrated one more difference between Trump and the real world. In the wake of his own conviction on 34 criminal counts, Trump has amped up his insistence that the Department of Justice is rigged against him and must be purged of nonpartisan civil servants and repopulated with his own loyalists. Biden today underscored his own respect for the rule of law.

This afternoon a jury found Biden’s 54-year-old son Hunter Biden guilty on three charges of lying on a form required to purchase a gun in 2018 when he checked the “no” box that asked if he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to,” drugs. That lie permitted him to buy the gun that he owned for 11 days. His lawyer argued that he did not consider himself an addict because he was trying at the time to end his drug dependence.

The news made the Trump team rush back to their narrative. “This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine,” Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said. Echoing the false allegations MAGA Republicans have made about President Biden, she added: “Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit.”

But there is no Biden family business, and Hunter Biden is not in the administration. President Biden has kept his distance from the case. Today he said, “I am the president, but I am also a dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery. As I…said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that."


June 12, 2024 (Wednesday)

On June 13, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9182, consolidating a number of different government information offices into the Office of War Information (OWI). The mission of the new agency was to gather public information and to spread it across the U.S. and abroad through the press, radio, motion pictures, and other media. Its aim, in the middle of World War II, was to develop “an informed and intelligent understanding, at home and abroad, of the status and progress of the war effort and of the war policies, activities, and aims of the Government.”

The United States had experimented with a government information bureau during World War I. After the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, the Secretaries of State, War, and the Navy asked the president to create a Committee on Public Information (CPI) to unify Americans behind the war. They had watched as artists whipped up enthusiasm for enlisting to fight the Germans as early as 1915, with the sinking of the Lusitania, and wanted to create a similar shared experience over the war itself.

On April 13, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson created the committee through an executive order, then put newspaperman George Creel in charge of it. Creel had organized a committee of friendly newspapermen to promote Wilson’s reelection in 1916. Strongly opposed to the idea of government censorship during the war, he instead promised to create an agency that, as he later wrote, would use “every possible media…to drive home the justice of America’s cause. Not to combat prejudices and disaffection at home was to weaken the firing line.” The CPI set out to reach every person in the U.S. by flooding the media zone with pamphlets, newspapers, posters, films, and short speeches given by so-called Four Minute Men, local figures who embellished talking points handed out by the CPI.

In 1940 the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan foreign relations think tank in New York City that had grown out of Wilson’s internationalism, published a book by Harold Tobin and Percy Bidwell titled Mobilizing Civilian America. It set out plans for putting the nation’s manufacturing and military on a war footing. It also noted that in the modern world, in which war was often about domestic production as much as numbers of troops, “victory may depend not so much on the skill of generals or the fighting quality of their troops, as on the loyalty and stamina of the men and women on the home front.”

With that in mind, the authors examined the Committee on Public Information and concluded that while the committee had done brilliantly at informing the public of the facts, the Four Minute Men and other local writers during World War I had spread “hysterical and fanatical outbursts,” sometimes in connection with bond drives, that had whipped up communities against their foreign-born neighbors and other alleged “spies in our midst.” After the war, Americans were so disgusted by their own campaign of hatred and violence against German-Americans, the authors wrote, that they were hugely resistant to anything they saw as propaganda.

Nonetheless, the authors said, if the U.S. got involved in another war, the government must be prepared for a public relations campaign. In such a case, they said, it was crucial for the government to make sure it stuck firmly to the truth and did not permit the kind of freelancers whose extreme rhetoric had hurt the CPI.

That advice seemed prescient in the months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor ushered the U.S. into World War II. Information came from different departments and bureaus, but no one seemed to be explaining what America’s goals were or what it was doing to achieve them. FDR was reluctant to set up an agency that his political opponents would charge was a propaganda outlet, but gradually he greenlit small agencies to explain the war to the country.

In June 1942, FDR pulled those agencies together as the Office of War Information, putting popular news commentator Elmer Davis in charge. Davis vowed to focus not on building morale but on delivering news that would enable people to understand what was at stake. OWI officials were chagrined to learn that in summer 1942 almost a third of Americans said they did not know what the country was fighting for, while Representative Joe Starnes (D-AL), for example, complained, “I think it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to say that we do not know why we are fighting.”

In the three years it operated, the Office of War Information created radio programs that explained to Americans which nations were at war and why and others that portrayed life on the home front, and film documentaries about Japanese American incarceration, military training, and so on. Overseas, the OWI established the Voice of America, which is still the official U.S. international broadcasting service, as well as running secret radio stations and disseminating propaganda to harass enemy forces in combat zones. The OWI also examined scripts for Hollywood movies—1,652 of them before the war ended—to make sure they supported the Allies’ mission.

The OWI ran into trouble quickly as reporters determined to explain facts were overridden by advertising men who wanted to sell the war with positive stories, and both were often tripped up by military leaders who withheld information, especially negative stories, for “public safety.” By 1944, OWI operated mostly overseas, as FDR’s opponents insisted its domestic efforts were designed to help him politically. In September 1945, with the war over, president Harry Truman ended the OWI by executive order after congratulating it for its “outstanding contribution to victory.”

In the years to come, especially after the government’s disinformation regarding the Vietnam War, the idea of government propaganda fell into even more disrepute in the United States than it had in the aftermath of World War II, as the excesses possible under someone like the chief propagandist for Germany’s Nazi Party, Joseph Goebbels, became clear.

But we have been far less guarded against the ways in which other actors shape public opinion.

In February, cyber experts said that Russia was already spreading disinformation to influence the 2024 election, and in April, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that the U.S. is more susceptible to Russian influence operations than it has ever been, despite the understanding of the importance of Russian influence operations on the 2016 election. “With polarization in this country, and the lack of faith in institutions, people will believe anything or not believe things that come from what used to be viewed as trusted sources of information,” Warner told Julian E. Barnes of the New York Times. “So there’s a much greater willingness to accept conspiracy theories.”

Also in April, Microsoft said it had uncovered fake social media profiles run by Chinese operatives to destabilize U.S. politics, and in May, TikTok said it took down thousands of accounts from fifteen covert influence operations in the first four months of 2024. Last week, NewsGuard reported on a network of 167 Russian disinformation sites fronted by a former deputy sheriff from Florida.

On June 6 the State Department’s top official on digital and cyber policy, Nate Fick, told an audience: “I don’t think most American citizens really viscerally understand how much of the content they see on social platforms is actually a foreign intelligence operation…. I just don’t think we viscerally get how much of what we see is bot-generated or foreign intelligence service–generated.”

Today, officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) told lawmakers that Russian influence operations aimed at undermining support for Ukraine and faith in democratic institutions provide the top threat to the upcoming U.S. election. China is the second-greatest threat but is more cautious because it is concerned about U.S. blowback, while the third, Iran, acts primarily as a “chaos agent,” trying to confuse voters. The ODNI officials said they have been issuing warnings to political candidates, government officials, and others targeted by foreign groups.

Senator Angus King (I-ME) urged Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to make threats known to the public. “I’m worried that you may be overly concerned with appearing partisan and that that will freeze you in terms of taking the actions that are necessary,” he said. “Please ramp it up. We’ve got about six months and…we know that these adversaries are going to be coming at us.”

The modern propaganda flooding the U.S. portrays us as bitterly divided along lines of race and gender, religion and ethnicity. In contrast to this version of America is the one portrayed during World War II by the OWI documentary photography unit. Photographers who had been moved into the agency from the Farm Security Administration documented war work, women in the factories, and civil rights struggles, including those of the incarcerated Japanese Americans as well as Black and brown Americans, showing them at work or in their small towns or cities. The images were of ordinary Americans, often singled out as heroic individuals in their own frames, to represent the American people as a whole.

And these images were some of the most lasting and vital elements of the OWI’s work. If the hero of the military was the ordinary soldier, the G.I., as newspaper reporters wrote, the hero of the home front was the ordinary American who, in order to make sure that the G.I. had supplies, went to work in a factory or on a farm.

That image was central to the shaping of postwar America.

[Alfred T. Palmer, “Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee,” 1943, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs, Library of Congress]


This is the thing. It is partisan. The Russians are not equal opportunity offenders, they support fascist candidates who will push their agenda. There is no way to point this out and oppose it without singling our Republican candidates, because those are the fascists. And the right will make it “weaponization of government.” Thing is, they will do that no matter what happens. Not opposing this will not improve their mood any. So what do we do? We punch them in the mouth. Period.


June 13, 2024 (Thursday)

The Port of Baltimore reopened yesterday, fewer than 100 days after a container ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, collapsing it into the channel. The port is a major shipping hub, especially for imports and exports of cars and light trucks—about 750,000 vehicles went through it in 2022. It is also the nation’s second-biggest exporter of coal. In 2023 it moved a record-breaking $80 billion worth of foreign cargo.

After the crash, the administration rushed support to the site, likely in part to emphasize that under Democrats, government really can get things done efficiently, as Democratic Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro demonstrated in June 2023 when he oversaw the reopening of a collapsed section of I-95 in just 12 days. Reopening the Port of Baltimore required salvage workers, divers, crane operators, and mariners to clear more than 50,000 tons of steel.

Yesterday, at the reopening, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg noted the “whole of government” response. State leadership under Maryland governor Wes Moore worked with those brought together by the Unified Command set up under the National Response System to coordinate the responses of the local government, state government, federal government, and those responsible for the crisis to make them as effective and efficient as possible; the Coast Guard; the Army Corps of Engineers; the first responders; and the port workers.

Buttigieg noted that the response team had engaged all the stakeholders in the process, including truck drivers and trucking companies, trade associations, and agricultural producers. He gave credit for that ability to the administration’s establishment of the White House Supply Chains Disruptions Task Force, which, he said, “put us in a strong place to mitigate the disruptions to our supply chain and economy.”

Clearing the channel was possible thanks to an immediate down payment of $60 million from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The department estimates that rebuilding the bridge will cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion. President Joe Biden has said he wants the federal government to fund that rebuilding as it quickly did in 2007, when a bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed. Within a week of that collapse, Congress unanimously passed a measure to fund rebuilding the bridge, and President George W. Bush signed it into law. But now some Republicans are balking at Biden’s request, saying that lawmakers should simply take the money that has been appropriated for things like electric vehicles, or wait until insurance money comes in from the shipping companies.

Meanwhile, former president Trump traveled to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the January 6, 2021, riots. Passing protesters holding signs that said things like “Democracy Forever, Trump Never,” Trump met first with Republican lawmakers from the House and then with Republican senators, who, according to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), gave him “a lot of standing ovations.” Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called it “bring your felon to work day.”

Republicans billed the visit as a brainstorming session about Trump’s 2025 agenda, but no discussions of plans have emerged, only generalities and the sort of cheery grandstanding McConnell provided. The meeting, along with a press appearance at which Trump made a short speech but did not take questions before shaking a lot of Republican hands, appeared to be an attempt to overwrite the news of his conviction by indicating he is popular in Congress.

The news that has gotten traction is Trump’s statement that Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Republicans are holding their convention in July, is a “horrible city.” Republicans are trying hard to spin this comment as a misunderstanding, but their many different attempts to explain it away—as meaning crime, or elections, or Pere Marquette Park (!)—seem more likely to reinforce the comment than distract from it.

Indeed, it’s possible that the agenda had more to do with Trump than with the nation. Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets reported today that Trump’s political operation spent more than $20 million on lawyers in the first four months of 2024, and Rachel Bade of Politico reported hours before the House meeting that Trump has been obsessed with using the powers of Congress to fight for him and to, as she puts it, “go to war against the Democrats he accuses of ‘weaponizing’ the justice system against him.”

Bade said that after his May 30 conviction by a unanimous jury on 34 criminal counts, Trump immediately called House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), insisting in a profanity-laden rant that “We have to overturn this.” Johnson is sympathetic but has too slim a House majority to deliver as much fire as both would like, especially since vulnerable Republicans aren’t eager to weaponize the nation’s lawmaking body for Trump.

As David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo explained this morning, House Republicans “are already advancing Trump’s campaign of retribution.” Yesterday they voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress and recommended his prosecution for refusing to hand over an audio recording of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden. Biden, who was not charged over his retention of classified documents as vice president, has provided a transcript of the interview but has exerted executive privilege over the recording.

The demand for the audio is particularly galling, considering that Biden voluntarily testified while Trump refused to be interviewed by either special counsel Robert Mueller or special counsel Jack Smith. But Biden has a well-known stutter, and having hours of testimony in his own voice might offer something that could be chopped up for political ads.

Indeed, former Republican representative Ken Buck (R-CO) acknowledged that Republicans are “just looking for something for political purposes,” and House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) sent out a fundraising appeal promising that the audio recording “could be the final blow to Biden with swing voters across the country.”

White House Counsel Edward Siskel wrote to Comer and Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) saying that the administration “has sought to work in good faith with Congress.” It released Hur’s long report editorializing on Biden’s mental acuity without redacting it, allowed Hur to testify publicly for more than five hours, and provided transcripts, emails, and documents. “The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal,” Siskel wrote, “to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes.”

The attack on Garland, journalist Kurtz notes, continues the steady stream of disinformation the House Republicans have been producing through their “investigations” and impeachment hearings and press conferences.

In the Senate, six MAGA Republicans demonstrated their support for Trump by threatening to block Biden’s key nominees in protest of the New York jury’s conviction of Trump, although they are trying to frame the convictions as “the current administration’s persecution of” Trump. The senators are J. D. Vance (R-OH), Mike Lee (R-UT), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Eric Schmitt (R-MO).

While MAGA Republicans show their reverence for Trump, Democrats are working to get them on the record on issues the American people care about.

Today, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a vote on whether to advance a bill that would provide federal protection for in vitro fertilization (IVF), an infertility treatment in which a human egg is fertilized outside the body and then placed in a human uterus for gestation. IVF is popular: a March poll by CBS News/YouGov found that 86% of Americans think it should be legal, while only 14% think it should be illegal. But the white evangelical Christians who make up the Republicans’ base are increasingly demanding that the nation’s laws recognize “fetal personhood,” the idea that a fertilized egg has the full rights of a living human. This would end all abortion, of course, as well as birth control that prevents implantation, such as IUDs and Plan B. And, if fertilized eggs are fully human, it would also end IVF because the procedure often results in some fertilized eggs being damaged or discarded.

This is a vote Republicans did not want to take because voting to protect IVF will infuriate their base and voting to end it will infuriate the 86% of Americans who support it. So they tried to get around it by signing a statement noting that IVF is legal and that they “strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF.” While it is true that IVF is currently legal, the Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that frozen embryos should be considered unborn children and their destruction could be prosecuted under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. In the wake of that decision, two of Alabama’s eight fertility clinics paused their IVF treatments.

In today’s vote, all but three Republicans voted against taking up the bill protecting IVF. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in favor of it; Eric Schmitt of Missouri did not vote. All the Democrats voted in favor, although Schumer changed his vote to a “no” so he could bring the vote up again later.

Regarding the difference between the statement and the votes, Leah Greenberg of Indivisible posted: “Who are you gonna believe, me or my voting record?”

In another window onto the future of reproductive rights, the Supreme Court today unanimously decided that the antiabortion groups trying to get the drug mifepristone banned did not have standing to bring the case. This preserves access to mifepristone, commonly used to induce medical abortions, but as legal observers point out, the court ruled only on standing, meaning that others, who do have standing, could bring a similar case.

This afternoon, Biden posted: “Kamala and I stand with the majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. And our commitment to you is that we will not back down from ensuring women in every state get the care they need.”

And so, going into the 2024 election, the question of abortion is on the table.


June 14, 2024 (Friday)

Today, former president Trump turned 78. For his birthday, Representative Greg Steube (R-FL) introduced a bill to name 4,383,000 square miles of the coastal waters off the United States over which the U.S. has sole authority, a region called the exclusive economic zone, the “Donald John Trump Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States.”

A less welcome present was that the chief executive officers who attended a meeting with Trump in Washington yesterday told reporters they found him uninformed and unfocused. Christina Wilkie and Brian Schwartz of CNBC noted that the attendees dislike the Biden administration’s enforcement of antitrust laws, its price caps on drugs and medical products, and its promise of progressive tax policy and like Trump’s promise to slash regulations and cut taxes, so they went into the meeting hoping to support him.

One CEO left the meeting with the takeaway that “Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” and several, Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC reported, said that he “was remarkably meandering, could not keep a straight thought [and] was all over the map.” He could not explain how he planned to accomplish any of the policies he was proposing. When asked why he had chosen a policy of bringing the corporate tax rate down to 20%, he allegedly answered: “Well, it’s a round number.”

No one applauded Trump, attendees reported, in striking contrast to reports of the enthusiasm of Republican lawmakers yesterday. This difference underscores that Trump likely intended yesterday’s grandstanding to send a political message that Republican members of Congress support him despite his criminal convictions, while the lawmakers themselves were trying to show party unity at a time when they are bitterly divided.

Also today, the Supreme Court handed down the Garland v. Cargill decision, which considered whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) correctly determined that a device that dramatically increases the speed at which a semiautomatic weapon fires bullets, called a bump stock, could be prohibited under the law, originally passed in 1934, that outlawed machine guns.

By a 6–3 vote, the Supreme Court said the ATF did not make that decision correctly and that bump stocks were not banned under the law.

After the Parkland, Florida, shooting of February 14, 2018, when Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, then-president Trump told reporters that he had been studying the issue of gun safety. This was his first articulated policy on that issue, and although the Parkland shooter did not use a bump stock, Trump said he had told then–attorney general Jeff Sessions to write regulations to ban bump stocks in October of the previous year, after a gunman using them had fired up to 1,000 rounds of ammunition in 11 minutes, killing 58 people and wounding about 500—two died later—at a Las Vegas music festival.

By the time the ATF finalized a new rule on December 18, 2018, Sessions was gone and it was Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker who announced that bump stocks would be classified as a “machinegun” under federal law. The rule went into effect on March 26, 2019. People who owned bump stocks had to get rid of them, either by destroying them or by taking them to an ATF office. The ATF estimated that about 520,000 bump stocks needed to be destroyed.

A Texas gun store owner, Michael Cargill, handed over his two bump stocks under protest and then sued the ATF, saying it did not have the authority to reclassify bump stocks.

Today, in a majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court dove deep into the mechanics of bump stocks to try to establish that they were not physically machine guns and that because of differences in the mechanical operations between true machine guns and bump stocks, the law did not prohibit bump stocks. ATF officials thus had no business defining bump stocks as they did in 2018, and those who want them can own them.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “There is a simple remedy for the disparate treatment of bump stocks and machineguns. Congress can amend the law—and perhaps would have done so already if ATF had stuck with its earlier interpretation. Now that the situation is clear, Congress can act.”

Indeed, if Congress truly reflected the will of the people, it would have acted on this issue years ago. A Pew poll from June 2023—when bump stocks were illegal—showed that 64% of Americans want assault-style weapons banned altogether, as they were between 1994 and 2004. But Republicans have increasingly fetishized guns as a symbol of individualism, and Republican senators have kept most gun safety legislation at bay by weaponizing the filibuster, which means that any legislation must have not simply a 51-vote majority to pass the Senate, but 60 votes.

In other Supreme Court news, yesterday Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) released documents showing that Justice Thomas accepted at least three more trips from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow than had previously been known.

And in other news concerning our nation’s horrific history of mass shootings and the political meaning of guns, today a federal judge ordered the liquidation of the personal assets of conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones to begin the payment he owes to the families of those murdered at Sandy Hook. For years, Jones told his followers that the shooting was a hoax to encourage restrictions on gun ownership, prompting harassment of the victims’ families.

A jury in Texas and a jury in Connecticut awarded the families $1.5 billion in damages for defamation; Jones owns about $9 million of personal assets but will keep his $2.8 million home in Texas. The judge threw out an attempted reorganization of Jones’s company, Free Speech Systems, saying Jones’s creditors would recover more money in state courts. The families have sued Jones for hiding millions of dollars in assets.

Reacting to the news of the Supreme Court’s decision in Garland v. Cargill, gun safety advocate David Hogg, who survived the Parkland shooting, wrote: “Ah yes because who doesn’t need the ability to freely turn a semiautomatic AR-15 into what in effect is a machine gun. This is f*cking insane.”

“We know thoughts and prayers are not enough,” President Biden said in his own statement about the Supreme Court’s decision, referring to the usual response of Republicans after a mass shooting. “I call on Congress to ban bump stocks, pass an assault weapon ban, and take additional action to save lives—send me a bill and I will sign it immediately.”


When has he ever actually explained that, or anything really, anyway?


June 15, 2024 (Saturday)

I spent so much time in my friend Mike’s house growing up that I knew his parents as Mama and Papa. His father, Kenneth Edward Nyboe, was born in 1924 in New York City but spent his summers in Maine, where he knew my mother and my aunt and where he met, and secretly married, my aunt’s friend Helen Bryant just before he shipped overseas to be in the tank corps with Patton’s Third Army in World War II.

Papa’s war was not an easy one, although he came home without visible wounds. After the war, he went to the University of Maine on the GI Bill, spurred by Helen, who had never been to college herself but made it clear she expected him to live up to her faith in him by making it through school.

After college, he went to work for the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., insisting on the simplest solutions—the ones that worked—even when the rest of the team scoffed that they were too easy. For years, while Helen and their two sons were in Maine for the summer, he commuted between there and Washington, driving back and forth on the weekends because even though it was a 12-hour drive, nothing mattered more than driving down Carter’s Lane at the end of it.

Papa was away a lot, but when he was home, he always had time for us kids. He taught me how to shingle a roof and to sand a deck and to wire lights and to spell out the NATO phonetic alphabet and to count hours in military time and what to do when you cut an artery (which came in surprisingly handy after a kitchen accident many years later).

He took all of us out to the islands in his boat for hiking and picnics. On one incredibly special, brutally hot August day, when everyone else had gone somewhere and the tide was way too low to swim, he took me out into the sound to find deep, cold water so I could jump in. The heat made things waver; we saw mirages among the islands that day.

Papa Ken had a huge heart. He could whistle “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof loud enough to hear all the way across the harbor. And he always said there was nothing anyone couldn’t work out, so long as they talked to each other honestly.

Papa had a wonderful voice, a resonant baritone. When Helen was in the hospital after giving birth to one of their sons—these were the days when you stayed in the hospital for a week—she got lonely and scared. She called Papa in tears. “Say something,” she begged. “Just say something to me. I need to hear your voice.”

And in the middle of the night, Papa didn’t even say hello. He took a deep breath. “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….”

And he recited the Gettysburg Address until she could sleep.

Happy Father’s Day to dads and to those who fill the role.


June 16, 2024 (Sunday)

Early in the morning on June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, a 24-year-old security guard at the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C., noticed that a door lock had been taped open. He ripped off the tape and closed the door, but when he went on the next round, he found the door taped open again. He called the police, who found five burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in the building.

And so it began.

The U.S. president, Richard M. Nixon, was obsessed with the idea that opponents were trying to sink his campaign for reelection. The previous year, in June 1971, the New York Times had begun to publish what became known as the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study that detailed U.S. involvement in Vietnam from presidents Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson. While the study ended before the Nixon administration, it showed that presidents had lied to the American people, and Nixon worried that the story would hurt his administration by souring the public on his approach to the Vietnam War. Worse, if anyone leaked similar information about his own administration—and there was plenty to leak—it would destroy his reelection campaign.

To stop his enemies, Nixon put together in the White House a special investigations unit to stop leaks. And who stops leaks? Plumbers.

These operatives burglarized the office of the psychiatrist who worked with the man who had leaked the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, to find damaging information about him. They sabotaged opponents by “ratf*cking” them, as they called it, planting fake letters in newspapers, hiring vendors for Democratic rallies and then running out on the unpaid bills, planting spies in Democrats’ campaigns and, finally, wiretapping.
On June 17, 1972, they tried to tap the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington’s fashionable Watergate complex.

The White House denied all knowledge of what it called a “third-rate burglary attempt,” and most of the press took the denial at face value. But two young reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, followed the sloppy money trail behind the burglars directly to the White House.

The fallout from the burglary gained no traction before the election, which Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew won with an astonishing 60.7 percent of the vote. They took 520 electoral votes—49 states—while the Democratic nominees, South Dakota senator George McGovern and former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, won only 37.5% of the popular vote and the electoral votes of only Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

But in March 1973, one of the burglars, James W. McCord Jr., wrote a letter to Judge John Sirica before his sentencing, saying that he had lied at his trial, under pressure to protect government officials. McCord had been the head of security for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, known as CREEP. Sirica was known for his stiff sentences—reporters called him “Maximum John”—and later said, “I had no intention of sitting on the bench like a nincompoop and watching the parade go by.” Sirica made the letter public, and White House counsel John Dean promptly began cooperating with prosecutors. In April, three of Nixon’s top advisors resigned, and in May the president was forced to appoint Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor to investigate the affair.

In May the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, informally known as the Senate Watergate Committee, began nationally televised hearings. The committee’s chair was Sam Ervin (D-NC), a conservative Democrat who would not run for reelection in 1974 and thus was expected to be able to do the job without political grandstanding.

The hearings turned up the explosive testimony of John Dean, who said he had talked to Nixon about covering up the burglary more than 30 times, but there the investigation sat during the hot summer of 1973 as the committee churned through witnesses. And then, on July 13, 1973, deputy assistant to the president Alexander Butterfield revealed that conversations and phone calls in the Oval Office had been taped since 1971.

Nixon refused to provide copies of the tapes either to Cox or to the Senate committee. When Cox subpoenaed a number of the tapes, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. In the October 20, 1973, “Saturday Night Massacre,” Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckleshaus, refused to execute Nixon’s order and resigned in protest; it was only the third man at the Justice Department—Solicitor General Robert Bork—who was willing to carry out the order firing Cox.

Popular outrage at the resignations and firing forced Nixon to ask Bork—now acting attorney general—to appoint a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, a Democrat who had voted for Nixon, on November 1. On November 17, Nixon assured the American people that “I am not a crook.”

Like Cox before him, Jaworski was determined to hear the Oval Office tapes. He subpoenaed a number of them, and Nixon fought the subpoenas on the grounds of executive privilege. On July 24, 1974, in U.S. v. Nixon, the Supreme Court sided unanimously with the prosecutor, saying that executive privilege “must be considered in light of our historic commitment to the rule of law. This is nowhere more profoundly manifest than in our view that ‘the twofold aim (of criminal justice) is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.’… The very integrity of the judicial system and public confidence in the system depend on full disclosure of all the facts….”

Their hand forced, Nixon’s people released transcripts of the tapes. They were damning, not just in content but also in style. Nixon had cultivated an image of himself as a clean family man, and the tapes revealed a mean-spirited, foul-mouthed bully. Aware that the tapes would damage his image, Nixon had his swearing redacted. “[Expletive deleted]” trended.

In late July 1974 the House Committee on the Judiciary passed articles of impeachment, charging the president with obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. Each article ended with the same statement: “In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.”

Still, Nixon insisted he was not guilty, saying he did not know his people were committing crimes on his watch. Then in early August a new tape, recorded days after the Watergate break-in, revealed Nixon and an aide plotting to invoke national security to protect the president. Even Republican senators, who had not wanted to convict their president, knew the game was over. A delegation went to the White House to deliver the news.

On August 9, 1974, Nixon became the first president in American history to resign.

Rather than admit guilt, though, he told the American people he had to step down because he no longer had the support he needed in Congress to advance the national interest. He blamed the press, whose “leaks and accusations and innuendo” had been designed to destroy him. His disappointed supporters embraced the idea that there was a “liberal” conspiracy, spearheaded by the press, to bring down any Republican president.

When his replacement, Gerald Ford, issued a preemptive blanket pardon for any crimes the former president might have committed against the United States, he guaranteed that Nixon would never have to account for his illegal attempt to undermine his Democratic opponent, and that those who thought like Nixon could come to think they were above the law.

On May 30, 2024, when a jury of twelve ordinary Americans found a former president guilty on 34 criminal counts, it reasserted the principle that no one is above the law.


The current Supreme Court would probably just find that Nixon had immunity. They would buy his argument that “when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”