More to ignore, Book 84.......

Ten Thousan Marbles

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John J. Pitney, Jr., professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, is the author of Un-American: The Fake Patriotism of Donald J. Trump.
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In a typical midterm election, the party not holding the presidency casts itself as a check on the incumbent administration, even more so when the president’s party controls both chambers of Congress. The elections of 1994, 2006, 2010, and 2018 all started with unified government and all ended with the out-party winning control of the House (and the Senate in 1994).

The in-party has never been able to wear the “check and balance” mantle—until this year. During the 2022 midterm, there are a couple of ways in which the Democratic appeal is essentially that they will act as a counterweight against an out-of-step Republican party.

The first involves the Supreme Court. Historically we refer to the legislative and executive as the “political branches,” as opposed to the supposedly apolitical judiciary. The general public no longer sees the Court that way. In a Quinnipiac University survey, 63 percent of voters agreed that “the Supreme Court is mainly motivated by politics.” And a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 74 percent of adults say the Court has become “too politicized.”

If people regard the Court as a political branch that is overreaching what the public wants, then they may view the midterms as a way to check it.

Earlier this year, a C-SPAN survey asked likely voters if they could name any Supreme Court cases. Only one case was broadly familiar to respondents: Roe v. Wade. (Roe was named by 40 percent of the survey; Brown v. Board of Education came in second at 6 percent.) When the Court overturned Roe with the Dobbs decision, public disapproval was quick and emphatic.

And questions about the Court extend beyond abortion. When Justice Thomas suggested that the Court should revisit same-sex marriage and contraception in his concurring opinion, he handed Democrats a sharp rhetorical weapon. They are using it.

Democrats have followed up with bills to codify various (quite popular) rights that could be under threat from the Court. Whether or not any such legislation makes it into law this year, the roll-call votes are putting the GOP on the defensive and keeping “the Republican Supreme Court” in voters’ minds.

The Court does seem to be on the ballot. Democrats began reversing their polling declines only after the Dobbs decision as released. Having trailed in the generic congressional ballot, they have made real gains. In many polls, abortion ranks high as an election issue.

Another target for checks and balances is Donald Trump. In normal times, voters would not see any need to check the loser of the last presidential election. But these are not normal times. Trump is likely to run in 2024 and has already said as much.

Most Republican voters believe the lie that Trump won the 2020 election and as we saw on January 6, some of them are willing to act on that delusion. Trump and his followers are openly trying to stock Congress and state governments with election deniers. Many of them will be in office next year. Accordingly, a vote for Democrats is a vote against a powerful foe—not an incumbent administration, but a government-in-waiting and its accomplices.

In a just-released CBS poll, 45 percent said that their vote for Congress is about Donald Trump—which is statistically the same as the 47 percent who said that it is about the actual president, Joe Biden.

Democrats have many problems. The economy is rocky and Biden is deeply unpopular. A larger than normal share of Democratic House incumbents are not running for reelection, which is always a leading indicator of losses. Their starting margins are thin.


And yet, Democrats have been handed an opportunity to portray themselves as the opposition party. For the last five election cycles, that has been a good place to be.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ten Thousan Marbles

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The GOP’s furious desire to transform America into Gilead gives Democrats a perfect opportunity to turn the tables in the upcoming midterm elections, but only if they go all-in and commit to fighting the culture war.

Earlier this week, passionate opponents of Roe v. Wade were eagerly expecting conservative Kansas voters to allow the Republican-dominated state legislature to potentially outlaw abortion.

In a stunning plot twist, Kansas voters rejected the hateful amendment by a nearly 20-point margin.

Surely, there can be only one explanation: latte-loving, vegan liberals, who eat avocado toast and change pronouns as frequently as their hybrid vehicles, emerged and voted en masse from their biodegradable plastic bubbles. Nope. Turnout was enormous across the board, even in solidly red conservative and rural areas. It seems that a majority of Americans in the 21st century recognize women as human beings who deserve to have autonomy over their bodies, and they refuse to be handmaidens subservient to a radicalized GOP that won’t rest until it creates a Christian theocracy.

A Monmouth Poll released this week backed it up. American voters’ top concern after economic policy (24 percent) was abortion (17 percent) and gun control (17 percent). The right to privacy is a “kitchen table” issue after all. There’s something about losing a 50-year constitutionally protected right to people who claim to be “pro-life” that seems infuriating and hypocritical when juxtaposed to videos of children in school trying their best to outrun bullets because many Republicans refuse to support gun control. Even with inflation, a pandemic, disinformation, and high gas prices, a majority of Americans still want Democrats to retain political control......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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A stunning GOP losing streak since Dobbs could remake the midterm landscape
By Jennifer Rubin

Consider how the political landscape has changed since June 24, the day the Supreme Court handed down Dobbs and stripped women of the fundamental right to control their bodies and to make critical, life-changing decisions.

Polls asking voters which party they would vote for if the congressional election were held today have steadily moved in Democrats’ favor ever since Dobbs.

The abortion issue is entirely polarized on partisan lines. If you want to preserve women’s health and freedom, you’ll vote Democratic (if this is an important issue to you). If you want to force women to give birth against their will and to criminalize medicine, you’ll vote for the GOP. There is no place for Republicans, who have made abortion extremism their signature issue, to hide.

The importance of abortion to voters is also soaring. More voters will cast their ballots based on this issue, and the pro-choice sides enjoy a 2-to-1 advantage over the forced-birth side.

The point of this is not to predict sweeping Democratic wins in 95 days. It is to highlight the dramatic shift — with plenty of help from Republicans — in the political atmosphere in ways that uniformly benefit Democrats. If you had asked Democrats on June 23 for a list of developments they’d pray would turn around the midterms, they likely would not have had the nerve to include all the items that came to pass. They surely wouldn’t have dared to put “a huge victory for pro-choice forces in Kansas” on their bingo cards.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

When Jesus appeared before Pilate, they spoke different languages. I don’t mean that literally — although maybe they did speak different languages and used a translator, or maybe spoke Aramaic, or Latin. I mean that they used language in completely different ways. Jesus was preaching. Pilate was judging. Jesus was talking about truth with a capital T. Pilate was trying to focus Jesus on the practicalities of the case, and perhaps making a mordant quip about the futility of the process when he said “what is truth.” There was no meeting of the minds.

When modern American political culture winds up in court, the effects are similar. The participants are speaking different languages, and using language in different ways. Courts are focused on a taxonomy of words. Are they factual? Are they opinion? Are they literal or figurative? Courts also care about the literal truth of words. That’s central to defamation law — it’s not defamatory unless it was false. Courts are about analysis, and the entire project of the law is about words meaning specific things.

But modern American political culture is emotive and even artistic. It uses language like a musician uses notes or an impressionist uses brush strokes. Whether it’s Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about Bill Gates' efforts to colonize our bowels through "peach tree dishes" or Alex Jones ranting about gay frogs, modern politicians and pundits use language to convey feelings and attitudes and values, not specific meanings. If you demand Alex Jones defend the specific meaning of his words, it’s like demanding your eight-year-old defend his statement that his birthday party was the best day ever when previously that’s what he said about Disneyland. Trump was the Salvador Dali of this movement, his speeches full of melting clocks of ire and resentment. As an artist of lies he was prolific.

I’m offering a descriptive observation, not a positive normative judgment. Truth exists. Truth matters. Even if Alex Jones’ broadcasts are dreamscapes of spleen, they have real-world effects. Some people take them literally and act accordingly, as we’ve seen as the parents of murdered children tell their harrowing stories of the harassment Jones encourages. And a society where words are unaccountable, where language is just us finger-painting with our own shit, is ungovernable and unlivable.

The point is that courts are ill-equipped to deal with people like Alex Jones, and people like Alex Jones are ill-equipped to deal with courts. Jones’ catastrophic testimony in his own defense illustrates this. Jones struggled to fit his bombast within the framework of the law, within the distinction between fact and opinion. It’s a bad fit because that’s not how he uses words. If Jones had been honest — an utterly foreign concept to him — he might have said “I just go out there and say what I feel.” The notion that Sandy Hook was a hoax is a word-painting, a way of conveying Jones’ bottomless rage at politics and media and modernity, and he can no more defend it factually than Magritte could defend the logical necessity of a particular brushstroke.

It’s fit that Alex Jones is held accountable for the impact of his words. He used false statements of fact to paint his picture, and those false statements of fact caused harm. But I suspect that a vast judgment against Jones won’t have much value as a deterrent or proclamation of truth. Jones is loathsomely rich because people want to consume his art. His landscapes of hate and fear and mistrust resonate with a frightening number of Americans. The people who enjoyed his Sandy Hook trutherism didn’t enjoy it because it was factually convincing or coherent; they enjoyed the emotional state it conveyed because it matched theirs. The plodding technicalities of law are probably inadequate to change their minds.

Defamation cases like this one — or Dominion’s case against Sidney Powell, or the parade of defamation claims against Trump — are just, and it’s just that the victims receive compensation. But they don’t solve the problem. America can survive the demagogues themselves, it’s their audience that will kill us.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate parliamentarian narrowed Democrats' plan for curbing drug prices but left it largely intact Saturday, Democrats said, as party leaders prepared to start moving their sprawling economic bill through the chamber.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber's rules arbiter, also gave the green light to clean air provisions in the measure, including one limiting electric vehicle tax credits to those assembled in the U.S., Democrats said.

The nonpartisan official's rulings came as Democrats planned to begin Senate votes Saturday on their wide-ranging package addressing climate change, energy, health care costs, taxes and even deficit reduction. Party leaders have said they believe they now have the unity they will need to move the legislation through the 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote.

MacDonough said provisions must be removed that would force drugmakers to pay rebates if their prices rise above inflation for products they sell to private insurers. Pharmaceutical companies would have to pay those penalties, though, if their prices for drugs bought by Medicare rise too high.

Dropping penalties on drugmakers for boosting prices on private insurers was a clear setback for Democrats. The decision reduces incentives on pharmaceutical companies to restrain what they charge, increasing costs for patients.

Erasing that language will cut the $288 billion in 10-year savings that the Democrats’ overall drug curbs were estimated to generate — a reduction of perhaps tens of billions of dollars, analysts have said. But other restrictions on rising pharmaceutical costs survived, including letting Medicare negotiate costs for the drugs it buys, capping seniors' out-of-pocket expenses and providing free vaccines.

The surviving pharmaceutical provisions left Democrats promoting the drug language as a boon to consumers at a time when voters are infuriated by the worst inflation in four decades.

“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “While there was one unfortunate ruling in that the inflation rebate is more limited in scope, the overall program remains intact and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said that while he was “disappointed” the penalties for higher drug prices for privately insured consumers were dropped, “the legislation nevertheless puts a substantial check on Big Pharma’s ability to price gouge.”

The parliamentarian's decision came after a 10-day period that saw Democrats resurrect top components of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda after they seemingly were dead. In rapid-fire deals with Democrats' two most unpredictable senators — first conservative Joe Manchin of West Virginia, then Arizona centrist Kyrsten Sinema — Schumer pieced together a broad package that, while a fraction of earlier, larger versions that Manchin derailed, would give the party an achievement against the backdrop of this fall's congressional elections.

The parliamentarian signed off on a fee on excess emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributor, from oil and gas drilling. She also let stand environmental grants to minority communities and other initiatives for reducing carbon emissions, said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Thomas Carper, D-Del.

She approved a provision requiring union-scale wages to be paid if energy efficiency projects are to qualify for tax credits, and another that would limit electric vehicle tax credits to those cars and trucks assembled in the United States.

The overall measure faces unanimous Republican opposition. But assuming Democrats fight off a nonstop “vote-a-rama" of amendments — many designed by Republicans to derail the measure — they should be able to muscle the measure through the Senate.

House passage could come when that chamber returns briefly from recess on Friday.

“What will vote-a-rama be like. It will be like hell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Friday of the approaching GOP amendments. He said that in supporting the Democratic bill, Manchin and Sinema “are empowering legislation that will make the average person’s life more difficult” by forcing up energy costs with tax increases and making it harder for companies to hire workers.

The bill offers spending and tax incentives for moving toward cleaner fuels and supporting coal with assistance for reducing carbon emissions. Expiring subsidies that help millions of people afford private insurance premiums would be extended for three years, and there is $4 billion to help Western states combat drought.

There would be a new 15% minimum tax on some corporations that earn over $1 billion annually but pay far less than the current 21% corporate tax. There would also be a 1% tax on companies that buy back their own stock, swapped in after Sinema refused to support higher taxes on private equity firm executives and hedge fund managers. The IRS budget would be pumped up to strengthen its tax collections.

While the bill's final costs are still being determined, it overall would spend more than $300 billion over 10 years to slow climate change, which analysts say would be the country's largest investment in that effort, and billions more on health care. It would raise more than $700 billion in taxes and from government drug cost savings, leaving about $300 billion for deficit reduction — a modest bite out of projected 10-year shortfalls of many trillions of dollars.

Democrats are using special procedures that would let them pass the measure without having to reach the 60-vote majority that legislation often needs in the Senate.


It is the parliamentarian's job to decide whether parts of legislation must be dropped for violating those rules, which include a requirement that provisions be chiefly aimed at affecting the federal budget, not imposing new policy.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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An Aitkin County jury has awarded a Minnesota woman $25,000 in damages after she filed a lawsuit claiming she was denied emergency contraception by a pharmacist in McGregor in 2019.

However, the woman's legal representatives from Gender Justice still plan to appeal the ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals....