Sunday, February 4, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" This Week

 As a new week and month dawns, our team pulled together an assessment of the week that was as we look forward to the continued privilege to serve with thoughts courtesy of Defense One, The Coop  Scoop, Heather Cox Richardson, and Crooked Media:  


“If they can do this to populist billionaires like Donald Trump and Elon Musk, just imagine what they can do to the rest of us.”

- Former conservative Supreme Court clerk Mike Davis seemingly confused about the problems that affect 99.9% of regular Americans. 

The 2024 campaign season was already messy enough for our liking, but it just got messier.

  • Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D-GA) admitted on Friday that she had a personal relationship with the outside prosecutor she appointed to manage the election interference case against disgraced former president Donald Trump and his band of corrupt lackeys, after accusations surfaced in January. She denied claims that the relationship has tainted the proceedings but damn, this doesn’t look good! 

  • In a 176-page court filing on Friday, Willis insisted the situation created no conflict of interest that could warrant removing her from the case. She called the claims against her “meritless” and “salacious” and asked a judge to reject motions from Trump and his other co-defendants seeking to disqualify her office from the case. She denied claims of misconduct and said there was no evidence that the relationship between her and special prosecutor Nathan Wade had corrupted the proceedings. The filing includes a sworn affidavit from Wade, who said that his personal relationship with Willis did not pre-date his appointment as special prosecutor. He also denied that his role financially benefited Willis, as Trump’s co-defendant Mike Roman had claimed.

  • Still: So messy. Republicans were always going to shove a crowbar in the smallest opening of impropriety, and now they can. The unhinged psychos in the House GOP were already hot on Willis’s trail because her two-year investigation into their precious daddy god Donald Trump resulted in major charges against him and his co-conspirators. On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) subpoenaed Willis, demanding documents from her office. The Judiciary Committee is investigating allegations that Willis fired a whistleblower who tried to stop a campaign aid from misusing federal funds. Jordan is trying to prove that she used federal funds in her investigation of Trump. Willis’s office has shot back at Jordan and the committee’s requests, writing in a letter last year that there is “no justification in the Constitution for Congress to interfere with a state criminal matter.”

The all-important question now is whether the judge will kick Willis off this case, after a hearing scheduled for February 15. Some legal experts insist that there’s no technical or legal reason to do this—but, in theory, he could. If that happens, it will take months to find a new prosecutor and likely push the start date of the trial past the election, which would be good for Trump and bad for everyone else. If not, Republicans will just yell and scream about impropriety—which is fine because they yell and scream about everything to begin with. 

  • So where does this leave the man at the center of the allegations? Well, Trump has breezed past all of his primary challengers and is swiftly on his way to the GOP nomination. Sources told Axios that he privately expressed a belief that he would likely be convicted if the January 6 case came to trial in Washington. On Friday, he caught a break when a federal judge in Washington formally postponed the trial, which was slated to begin in March, because a key legal appeal resting on the idea of “presidential immunity” remains unresolved in the court system. That means the New York hush money case—largely considered to be the least legally perilous for Trump—is now likely to go first. Any postponement of his myriad criminal cases will be a boon to his campaign.

  • Trump has made his legal battles a central focus of his presidential campaign as a way to portray himself as a beleaguered hero under constant siege by The Libs. But after raking in the big bucks around the time of his first court appearances last year, his recent deranged clashes with judges have produced diminishing returns in campaign fundraising. In fact, his legal problems are showing more and more signs of adversely affecting the financing of his campaign. There’s also the fact that Trump’s legal bills are causing his PACs to hemorrhage money

Despite the cloud of perceived impropriety that now hangs over the Fulton County RICO case, the four indictments and 91 felony counts hang even more heavily on Donald Trump. 


American forces launched a broad attack against Iran’s military and its affiliated militant groups in Iraq and Syria on Friday. The latest escalation in Middle East violence delivered a blow to the groups that Washington accused of attacks on U.S. forces that killed three American service members in Jordan on Sunday. U.S. Central Command reported that low-range bombers hit more than 85 targets affiliated with the Quds, a powerful unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the local militias it supports. The Biden administration has blamed Iran for expanding violence in the Middle East in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. Iraqi military spokesman Yahaya Rasool described the U.S. strikes as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and would “undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, and pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region to dire consequences.”

President Biden released a statement on Friday afternoon, which, in part, read: “[Our military response] will continue at times and places of our choosing. The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”

A federal judge found all five members of a group of January 6 insurrectionists who heaved a line of linked barriers onto a group of Capitol Police officers guilty of assaulting law enforcement and convicted three of them for obstructing the confirmation of the 2020 presidential election. Prosecutors said these five defendants set a heightened precedent of violence for the deadly chaos that ensued that day. 


After other European Union members strong-armed Hungarian President Viktor Orbán into signing on to a new aid package to Ukraine, pressure is mounting on the country to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO


The Intenational Court of Justice ruled on Friday that it will hear a case brought by Ukraine seeking to debunk the claim that Russia used as pretext for its invasion two years ago: that Kyiv committed genocide in eastern Ukraine.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack of an Ontario mosque on Thursday, which is being probed as a hate crime. Activists have described the attack as part of a rise in Islamophobia. 


American auto safety regulators have turned up their probe into Tesla vehicles over power steering loss. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the investigation covers about 334,000 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles from the 2023 model. 

Lawmakers in Northern Ireland are set to elect an Irish nationalist First Minister for the first time on Saturday, which will bring the unionist party Sinn Féin to power in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

As the world waits for Hamas’s response to the triphasic hostage exchange plan submitted to them by Israel last week, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant seems undeterred in his plans to continue the military campaign against Gazans. Gallant said on Friday that Israeli ground forces will advance on Rafah—one of the last cities in southern Gaza they have not yet reached—raising new concerns about the fate of the hundreds of thousands of people from other parts of the enclave who have crowded there. Roughly half of Gaza’s population are crammed into Rafah and its surrounding area, according to a United Nations report released Friday. Many there have fled multiple times since the war began. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will continue fighting in Gaza until “complete victory” is reached, even as he faces growing pressure at home and abroad to make a deal for the release of hostages and to ease fighting in the enclave to limit the harm of civilians.


U.S. job growth picked up speed in January and wages increased by the most in nearly two years, signs of a persistently-strong labor market. 


Europe moved one step closer to adopting rules governing the use of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT on Friday. The rules aim to set a global standard for use of the technology. I vote "Don't use it to hurt my feelings" for Rule Number 1. 


Did you hear? The economy is doing way better than anyone expected. That could be good news for President Biden’s reelection campaign

Democrats might be fighting for their lives at the federal level, but they’re having big-time success in special elections at the state and local levels. The secret? Voter turnout.


Mideast strikes


The U.S. will soon conduct counterstrikes on militia targets inside Iraq and Syria in response to the drone attack in Jordan that killed three Americans and wounded at least 41 others on Sunday, U.S. officials told CBS News on Thursday. The strikes are expected to take place “over a number of days” and will target “Iranian personnel and facilities,” CBS reports. 


White House’s John Kirby told reporters Wednesday, “We believe the attack in Jordan was planned, resourced and facilitated by an umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which contains multiple groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah.” 


“This a dangerous moment in the Middle East,” but the U.S. is determined not to widen conflict across the region while Israel continues its war with Hamas in Gaza, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday at the Pentagon. It was Austin’s first press briefing since being secretly hospitalized twice in late December and early January. 


By the way: Iranian officials have largely fled Syria “and will rely more on allied Shi'ite militia to preserve their sway there” as they recover from recent Israeli strikes and await future U.S. strikes, Reuters reported Thursday. 




When asked if the U.S. is doing too much to warn about its Jordan response, Austin demurred and insisted the Defense Department maintains the ability to strike back “a number of times, depending on what the situation is.” 


New: The U.S. military attacked a “ground control station” with 10 “Houthi one-way [drones]” inside Yemen shortly after midnight local time, the U.S. military’s Tampa-based Central Command said Thursday in the latest “self-defense strike” linked to the Iran-backed group ruling from the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a. 


An “explosive sea drone” was also destroyed in the Red Sea overnight, according to CBS, though the outlet had no further details. 


The U.S. Navy’s USS Carney also shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen and toward the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday. Just over half an hour later, the same Navy vessel shot down three “Iranian [drones] in its vicinity,” CENTCOM officials said afterward. 


Earlier in the afternoon, unspecified U.S. forces shot down a Houthi missile intended for aircraft and drones. “U.S. forces identified the missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that it presented an imminent threat to U.S. aircraft,” CENTCOM said.


A cruise missile launched from Yemen on Tuesday came within one mile of the USS Gravely, whose crew shot it down with the ship’s Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems, which is essentially an automatic machine gun and “one of the final defensive lines the ship has to shoot down an incoming missile,” CNN reported Wednesday. 


“If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time that a [U.S. Navy] warship has ever had to use its last-ditch Phalanx close-in weapon system to defend itself from an inbound anti-ship cruise missile,” said former U.S. Navy submariner Tom Shugart of the Center for a New American Security. 


A second opinion: The U.S. Navy “can’t afford to sit here and play catch indefinitely,” Tom Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNN. 


Developing: The European Union says its Red Sea naval mission will be launched in about two weeks, Reuters reported Wednesday from Brussels. “I hope that on the 17th of this month the mission can be launched,” EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters. 


Update: The Pentagon has listed 15 nations participating in its Red Sea shipping mission Operation Prosperity Guardian, but officials say “more than 20 nations” have committed to the operation. Why don’t we know all of the participants? “It is longstanding DoD policy that we respect each sovereign nation’s right to characterize their participation as they see fit and not get ahead of any national announcements,” Air Force Lt. Col. Bryon McGarry said in a statement Wednesday. “That being said,” he continued, “the following nations have publicly acknowledged their participation in Prosperity Guardian: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, and the United States.”


“This is about freedom of navigation,” SecDef Austin said Thursday. “There are others in the world who are watching this to see how serious we are about this. And we are serious…This is costing companies and countries significant amounts of money as they are having to redirect commercial traffic around” southern Africa, he said. 


In video: Norah O’Donnell of CBS News this week visited the USS Eisenhower and USS Mason, the aircraft carrier and destroyer defending ships in the Red Sea. “Bottom line,” she said, “despite the Biden administration’s efforts to calm tensions, things are escalating.” View her nearly six-minute dispatch, here


Also: The U.S. sanctioned four people from Lebanon and Turkey on Wednesday for their role facilitating payments to Iranian and Hezbollah officials, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday. Details here



New: The European Union agreed to a new €50 billion aid package to Ukraine, the Associated Press reported Thursday from Brussels. “The financial package was part of a review of the EU’s continuing seven-year budget, which requires unanimous approval,” AP writes. 


Bloc-wide approval was in limbo as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused to support the plan; however, he dropped his opposition this week after he said he “received a guarantee that Hungary’s money would not be transferred to Ukraine.” 


On the other hand, the EU said Wednesday that it’s fallen well short of its ammunition promises for Ukraine. The bloc had promised to deliver a million artillery rounds by March; but now only 524,000 shells are expected by that date, Josep Borrell said. Agence France-Presse has more. 


Germany investigating a former spy chief for right-wing extremism. Hans-Georg Maassen has been designated an “observation case” by Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)—the domestic intelligence agency Maassen once led, the Financial Times reports.


Around the Pacific

China’s new defense minister chats with Russian counterpart. Chinese officials say Dong Jun held a video call with Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday, in his first public engagement since being appointed last month. “Former Navy chief Dong's appointment came after his predecessor, Li Shangfu, disappeared from public view in August, throwing China's military diplomacy in doubt,” Reuters writes. “Dong told Shoigu that the Chinese and Russian militaries will ‘promote bilateral military relations to reach an even higher level, in order to play an even bigger role in upholding global security and stability’.” More, here.


A new wrinkle in China’s censorship? “Several prominent commentaries by economists and journalists in China have vanished from the internet in recent weeks, raising concerns that Beijing is stepping up its censorship efforts as it tries to put a positive spin on a struggling economy,” the WSJ reports.

F-16 crashes near Kunsan Air Base in South Korea. The pilot, who is assigned to the U.S. Air Force’s 8th Fighter Wing, experienced an in-flight emergency over the West Sea and ejected about 8:40 a.m. local time. “The pilot ejected safely and was recovered at around 9:30 a.m. He is conscious and was transported to a medical facility for assessment,” the Air Force said in a statement.



Pentagon may take over Starship rocket for some missions. DOD officials have asked SpaceX about taking over its still-under-development super-heavy-lift rocket “for sensitive and potentially dangerous missions as a government-owned, government-operated asset instead of contracting the company to launch payloads,” Aviation Week reported, citing a SpaceX advisor who spoke at the the Space Mobility Conference earlier this week.


Army prep course has graduated 15,000 potential soldiers. In August 2022, the Army launched the Future Soldier Preparatory Course at Fort Jackson, S.C., to help would-be recruits raise their physical and academic scores enough to meet enlistment standards. 


Within a year, 10,260 soldiers—some 95% of participants—had graduated from the course and begun basic training, the first step in an Army career, reported


Now a total of 14,700 applicants have graduated, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. D1’s Sam Skove has more, here.


Meanwhile, the Navy is lowering requirements again. “The U.S. Navy is starting to enlist individuals who didn’t graduate from high school or get a GED, marking the second time in about a year that the service has opened the door to lower-performing recruits as it struggles to meet enlistment goals,” Stripes reports.


A Space Force guardian will head to space in August. Space Force Col. Nick Hague will head to the International Space Station on NASA’s Space X Crew-9 mission. Once the crew arrives, Hague will transition to the role of flight engineer where he “will conduct a wide-ranging set of operations and research activities for the duration of their more than six-month mission,” according to the Space Force.

Note: Hague will be the first guardian launched into orbit, but not the first one in space. “That honor belongs to Col. Mike Hopkins, who was orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station in 2020 when he transferred from the Air Force to the Space Force,” writes D1’s Audrey Decker.


Lastly, “Dr. Strangelove” was released 60 years ago this week. Read a chronology of how the film came to be (from All the Right Movies), and an examination of what it got right (from Eric Schlosser).

The border crisis is politically manufactured and could be politically solved.


February 1, 2024

By Marc Cooper

If you want to measure the immense depth of our current political dysfunction you need only take a quick peek into the “border crisis” to see just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone.  It’s rare to see when a political party, in this case the House GOP and its sure-to-be presidential nominee, are doing everything they can right out in public that we would expect them to do only in private. But MAGA and its followers have lost any and all sense of shame and feel they no longer even need to pretend that they are interested in governing, in solving any problems, in engaging in any dialogue and they have no problem demonstrating their commitment to a continuing legal and legislative logjam for the most banal of political purposes.

First, the narcissistic psychopath that is the virtual Republican nominee starts beating the drum again about the poisonous effects of so many foreigners – migrants—coming into the country with their diseased minds and bodies, intent on poisoning our bloodline, over running our cities and perhaps even conspiring with Taylor Swift to help install a communist dictatorship.  The fear mongering is way over the top but as political demagogy goes, it’s pretty much a sure winner.  It always is.

We have seen historically, and quite a bit just these last 30 years, that one of the great weaknesses of groups of human beings is their irrational and often dangerous fear of other groups of human beings, especially one that is poorer and looks different and doubly so if they are darker skinned and speak a different language.  The now undisputed gains in the macro-economy are rendering impotent the whining from the Right about the “Biden Economy.”  So Orange Jesus has jumped horses and gone back to the old reliable of intense xenophobia.

There is no question that there is an elevated and seemingly unstoppable flow of migrants across the border and –by the way—through the airports on tourist and other visas that are then overstayed.  The reasons for this inflow are myriad and have little to do with “so-called” border policy. We can tick off a few relevant factors.  The Central American economy and the pillars of its civic society were pretty much demolished by Ronald Reagan’s regional wars of the 1980’s and we are now reaping the full consequences.  The NAFTA package of two decades ago decimated the subsistence farmers of southern Mexico who have been forced to pull up stakes.  It basically comes down to he United States having a 2000 mile long land border that butts up against an impoverished Global South.  Wages for immigrant workers -legal or not- are ten to twenty times higher than they are in rural Mexico and most all of Central America.  Let’s not even get to Venezuela from where some 7 million have recently fled the marvels and miracles of President Maduro’s “revolutionary” regime.  Argentina is now also in the crapper with 150% inflation and an extremist president who doesn’t seem to be all there; I would expect a new contingent of Argentines to be soon joining the northward flow of migration. And Nicaraguans who have always been reticent to emigrate are now doing so in much greater number as Daniel Ortega continues to defile Sandinismo and tightens his one family dictatorship.  Cuba’s economy has also entered a new phase of radical shortages and folks are leaving in droves.

If the minimum wage is Canada was 10 times higher than the U.S. – if you could make $1000 a day by picking tomatoes or washing dishes — you too might also be jumping over some border walls and trekking through glaciers to get to the Great Northern Paradise, eh?

This massive flow into the Unites states via Mexico –taken over the last 4 decades—is the largest cross-border migration in modern history – one of biblical proportions and that includes tens of millions.  Trying to stop that flow, trying to stop people from flooding into the US as their societies crumbles, makes about as much sense and will be just about as effective as standing on the Dover Cliffs and yelling out loud for someone to stop the tides.  It’s not going to happen.

The United States also requires a good chunk of immigration to maintain and grow the economy.  It’s going to be hard for the xenophobes – and that’s what those “concerned about the border” are—to explain why at a time there is an unprecedented pile up at the border we also have the lowest unemployment rate in decades and continuing booming growth (in spite of two constant years of CW that we were headed for an all-consuming recession).  We need younger, foreign workers, period.  As many as a million new ones a year.  If we just recognized the fact, issued the visas, and calmly regulated this flow, tehre would be no “crisis.”

America’s birth rate, like all developed countries, is anemic.  And, fortunately, our educational system has not been stagnant and over the last 50 years or so and has completely re-configured the American work force.  The percentage of high school grads that go to college has more than doubled since World War II.  De-industrialization has reconfigured the nature of “jobs.”  A lot of these changes have been for the worse. Some for the better, Either way, if one does not recognize the changes then immigration cannot be understood, let alone managed.  So here’s a question for you: how many parents do you know who are staying up nights hoping that when Johnny graduates high school he can get that job down at the car wash or on the construction site while his sisters takes on the work of live-in maid?  You know any kids taking students loans to study bussing tables, gardening and roofing?

The issue we face is NOT “immigration,” it is rather how to manage what is the inevitable flow of humanity to our shores.  There are solutions, or at least, some remedies.  And we know what they are because in the last 20 years they have been on several occasions packaged into proposed legislation, reviewed by both parties, won support from sectors of both parties and then have consistently been voted down.  Comprehensive reform would create a massive number of work permits, an acceleration in processing asylum at the border, more immigration judges, and some rational path to legalization and residency for the 10-15 million already resident without legal standing.  Remember that while the President has some, and quite limited, authority to decree policy tweaks at the border, it is congress and congress alone that must approve and  shape that policy.  And congress has consistently failed, over and over again. Much like opposing abortion, they would rather have the political issue than the political remedy.

We are seeing that in spades this week.  President Biden, apparently, has forced a Democratic capitulation in a yet-to-be-revealed “border deal” with a group of Senate Republicans.  Sounding exactly like Donald Trump. Biden has twice said this week he is ready “to shut down the border tomorrow” if Congress approves this deal we have not seen.  I assume that the agreement has a number of points that Democrats want: funding for Israel and Ukraine (which has been cynically tied to the border issue) and some forward-looking reforms for migrant processing.  The Republicans have put Biden in a jam that I am sympathetic to but his mouthing off about closing the border is not only political suicide for a Democratic candidate, it is also immoral and repulsive and should not be rationalized.  It will only heighten the ignorance and undue fear.

The good news for Biden, though, is that the Republicans are even more craven than he is so he probably won’t get his Trumpian chance to shut the border..  Mitch McConnell told his congressional troops and House allies that they should think twice about passing this measure as it would upset Donald Trump who wants no solution, just the issue itself to harp on for his campaign of fear.   The religious nut, House Speaker Mike Johnson, is also blocking the bill as he does not want his name on a measure that would require some Democratic votes.  As I write this on Wednesday, I think there is little to no chance of it passing unless Johnson can skew it farther to the right – thereby losing the Democratic and even some Republican Senate votes.  So as of today, a 99% chance of no immigration legislation.

Instead, we have the absolutely bizarre tragi-comedy today of MAGGAT House Republicans moving to impeach DHS Secretary Alexander Mayorkas for his alleged failure to control the border and allow the current “invasion.”  Impeachment should be used for high crimes and misdemeanors, not for policy differences and the only crime Mayorkas has committed is working for a Democratic president.  With a 3 seat majority, it’s not clear the Republicans even have the votes to get to formal impeachment. And if they do, the Senate is not going to touch this travesty with a ten foot pole.  This is100% political theater.

Instead of doing anything to remedy the border crisis, the MAGGATS  are going to do NOTHING except engage in right wing virtue-signaling. Scapegoating Mayorkas to earn more Brownie points among its riled up and howling base of racists.   Indeed, imagine a series of interviews with MAGGAT voters in, say, Iowa or Wisconsin and ask them directly, how is it, sir, that immigration is affecting “your life” apart from someone to cart away your dirty dishes?  No matter.  Jews had little to no effect on the lives of ordinary Germans and, initially, Hitler even downplayed antisemitism because he thought the Germans wouldn’t but it.  Goebbels thought differently and finally convinced Hitler that with enough propaganda, Germans can be convinced that Jews were at the root of all the indignities average Germans experienced. And the rest is history.

Which brings us to Fox News, the caravans, the breathless reports about mentally-ill fentanyl-armed migrants storming the border, and so on and so on.  Nothing is going to change policy-wise as a debased Republican House works only for The Leader and not for us.  It’s going to get worse and do not buy into the now relentless propaganda. Biden cannot continue to show weakness on this issue and cower and capitulate to Republican demands. That’s why he must take immediate action to shut down the current stunt run by the fascist and rogue Governor of Texas who is defying the Supreme Court by permitting his National Guard to block Border Patrol from the borders!  That guard must be immediately federalized and Biden must take command.  Likewise with the trucker bozos and their “Army of God” currently barreling toward the border.  There are legal ways to stop this before it spins into bloody violence and now is the time.

One final piece of news:  Nancy Pelosi.

I’ve never been a fan of hers.  I’ve always seen her as more of a hardball pol from a politically connected East Coast family rather a benign Queen of Social Justice from San Francisco.  This week, the octogenarian former speaker threw some of her admirers for a loop when she loudly suggested –as if she were Richard Nixon-- that the FBI investigate what she said are links between some ceasefire in Gaza activists and Russia. Wowza!  She tried a couple of times to clarify and water down such a stupid and chilling statement but I am afraid its substance still sticks. Apart from its appalling stench disregarding civil liberties, it’s about as reckless a statement she could have made.  Somewhere between 65-80% of Democrats favor a cease fire and Nancy’s not gonna make them rush to the polls to reward her or the party for her insulting statement.  There’s an easy solution here. Nancy Pelosi should resign and take the time to enjoy her $200m in net worth while she’s still young enough.++


One of the biggest stories of 2023 is that the U.S. economy grew faster than any other economy in the Group of 7 nations, made up of democratic countries with the world’s largest advanced economies. By a lot. The International Monetary Fund yesterday reported that the U.S. gross domestic product—the way countries estimate their productivity—grew by 2.5%, significantly higher than the GDP of the next country on the list: Japan, at 1.9%.

IMF economists predict U.S. growth next year of 2.1%, again, higher than all the other G7 countries. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projects growth of 4.2% in the first quarter of 2024.

Every time I write about the booming economy, people accurately point out that these numbers don’t necessarily reflect the experiences of everyone. But they have enormous political implications. 

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, and the Democrats embraced the idea that using the government to support ordinary Americans—those on the “demand” side of the economy—would nurture strong economic growth. Republicans have insisted since the 1980s that the way to expand the economy is the opposite: to invest in the “supply side,” investors who use their capital to build businesses. 

In the first two years of the Biden-Harris administration, while the Democrats had control of the House and Senate, they passed a range of laws to boost American manufacturing, rebuild infrastructure, protect consumers, and so on. They did so almost entirely with Democratic votes, as Republicans insisted that such investments would destroy growth, in part through inflation. 

Now that the laws are beginning to take effect, their results have proved that demand-side economic policies like those in place between 1933 and 1981, when President Ronald Reagan ushered in supply-side economics, work. Even inflation, which ran high, appears to have been driven by supply chain issues, as the administration said, and by “greedflation,” in which corporations raised prices far beyond cost increases, padding payouts for their shareholders.

The demonstration that the Democrats’ policies work has put Republicans in an awkward spot. Projects funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, are so popular that Republicans are claiming credit for new projects or, as Representative Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) did on Sunday, claiming they don’t remember how they voted on the infrastructure measure and other popular bills like the CHIPS and Science Act (she voted no). When the infrastructure measure passed in 2021, just 13 House Republicans supported it. 

Today, Medicare sent its initial offers to the drug companies that manufacture the first ten drugs for which the government will negotiate prices under the Inflation Reduction Act, another hugely popular measure that passed without Republican votes. The Republicans have called for repealing this act, but their stance against what they have insisted is “socialized medicine” is showing signs of softening. In Politico yesterday, Megan Messerly noted that in three Republican-dominated states—Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi—House speakers are saying they are now open to the idea of expanding healthcare through Medicaid expansion.

In another sign that some Republicans recognize that the Democrats’ economic policies are popular, the House last night passed bipartisan tax legislation that expanded the Child Tax Credit, which had expired last year after Senate Republicans refused to extend it. Democrats still provided most of the yea votes—188 to 169—and Republicans most of the nays—47 to 23—but, together with a tax cut for businesses in the bill, the measure was a rare bipartisan victory. If it passes the Senate, it is expected to lift at least half a million children out of poverty and help about 5 million more. 

But Republicans have a personnel problem as well as a policy problem. Since the 1980s, party leaders have maintained that the federal government needs to be slashed, and their determination to just say no has elevated lawmakers whose skill set features obstruction rather than the negotiation required to pass bills. Their goal is to stay in power to stop legislation from passing.

Yesterday, for example, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who sits on the Senate Finance Committee and used to chair it, told a reporter not to have too much faith that the child tax credit measure would pass the Senate, where Republicans can kill it with the filibuster. “Passing a tax bill that makes the president look good…means he could be reelected, and then we won’t extend the 2017 tax cuts,” Grassley said.

At the same time, the rise of right-wing media, which rewards extremism, has upended the relationship between lawmakers and voters. In CNN yesterday, Oliver Darcy explained that “the incentive structure in conservative politics has gone awry. The irresponsible and dishonest stars of the right-wing media kingdom are motivated by vastly different goals than those who are actually trying to advance conservative causes, get Republicans elected, and then ultimately govern in office.” 

Right-wing influencers want views and shares, which translate to more money and power, Darcy wrote. So they spread “increasingly outlandish, attention-grabbing junk,” and more established outlets tag along out of fear they will lose their audience. But those influencers and media hosts don’t have to govern, and the anger they generate in the base makes it hard for anyone else to, either. 

This dynamic has shown up dramatically in the House Republicans’ refusal to consider a proposed border measure on which a bipartisan group of senators had worked for four months because Trump and his extremist base turned against the idea—one that Republicans initially demanded. 

Since they took control of the House in 2023, House Republicans have been able to conduct almost no business as the extremists are essentially refusing to govern unless all their demands are met. Rather than lawmaking, they are passing extremist bills to signal to their base, holding hearings to push their talking points, and trying to find excuses to impeach the president and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Yesterday the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which is firmly on the right, warned House Republicans that “Impeaching Mayorkas Achieves Nothing” other than “political symbolism,” and urged them to work to get a border bill passed. “Grandstanding is easier than governing, and Republicans have to decide whether to accomplish anything other than impeaching Democrats,” it said. 

Today in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin called the Republicans’ behavior “nihilism and performative politics.”

On CNN this morning, Representative Dan Goldman (D-NY) identified the increasing isolation of the MAGA Republicans from a democratic government. “Here we are both on immigration and now on this tax bill where President Biden and a bipartisan group of Congress are trying to actually solve problems for the American people,” Goldman said, “and Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump, Mike Johnson—they are trying to kill solutions just for political gain." 


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Another marker for today:

Yesterday, after the U.S. military’s strike on more than 85 targets at four facilities in Syria and three in Iraq used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the militant groups it sponsors, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was clear that there would be additional responses to the attacks on U.S. troops. 

Today, U.S. and British forces launched strikes against 13 military targets in areas of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis, who have disrupted international shipping by attacking international vessels in the Red Sea. The coalition struck against “deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, and radars,” according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Austin continued: “This collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels. We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world's most critical waterways.”


We close out with the following: 

16 Quotes About Overcoming Fear
Many famous figures such as Stephen King and Rosa Parks have offered advice on conquering the fears that threaten to hold us back.
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