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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020: (None)
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Political Wire logo House to Vote on Allowing Staffers to Unionize
Abortion Bans and Penalties Would Vary Widely by State
‘An Appeal from Brett Kavanaugh’
A Few Thoughts for the End of the Week
Trump Robocalls Against Raffensperger In Georgia
Bolsonaro Lays the Groundwork to Challenge Election

Governors Are Now in the Hot Seat

Starting in June, states will be able to pass laws banning abortions completely. Or pass laws making them explicitly legal. However, that will require both chambers of the state legislature to agree (except in Nebraska, which is unicameral) and also the governor—unless the votes are there in the legislature to override a veto. This suddenly puts a spotlight on the governors, not all of whom are from the party that controls the legislature. For example, the governors of Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina are Democrats while the legislatures are controlled by the Republicans. The reverse is true in Maryland, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

In Wisconsin and Michigan, the Democratic governors, Tony Evers and Gretchen Whitmer, are up for reelection along with the Republican-controlled legislatures. The governors could be defeated or the legislatures could flip. Needless to say, abortion is going to be a campaign issue for both parties. In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz (DFL-MN) is up and the Democrats control the state House by five seats and the Republicans control the state Senate by one seat. Anything could happen there. Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Greg Abbott (R-TX), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Eric Holcomb (R-IN) have all signed bills restricting abortion in the past year. How will abortion affect them?

In short, the abortion issue upends all calculations for both parties for both governors' races and state legislative races. Christian evangelicals will be sure to vote, but they usually do, so abortion may not affect how many of them vote. On the other hand, single women, who have the most to lose if abortion is banned, have a spotty voting record. Will this new development light a fire under them?

Races for governor normally get less attention than races for senator but that could change this year because governors can sign or veto abortion-related bills and senators can't. In addition, races for state legislature are likely to get much more attention this year than usual as reporters ask candidates for their views on abortion laws. Sometimes politicians hem and haw but when asked point blank: "Will you vote to ban all abortions in our state?" an answer of: "I dunno. Gotta check with my staff" is not going to cut it. (V)

Roberts' Investigation of the Leak Could Get Awkward

Republicans are hugely upset about SCOTUSgate and screaming that they want the head of the leaker on a platter. Chief Justice John Roberts has obliged them and has started an investigation. But that opens a whole can of worms.

The Court has a marshal, Gail Curley, who oversees a staff of 260 people who protect the justices and the court grounds. But they have no experience with this kind of investigation and may not know how to go about it. Would they start by asking each justice: "Did you do it?" Some of the justices may not like that kind of questioning and might shoot back: "I thought your job was to protect me. How does this protect me?"

Roberts could ask the FBI to investigate, but that raises (at least) three obvious issues. One is the separation of powers. Congress routinely investigates the Executive Branch, but that is clearly within the scope of Congress' powers. The Executive Branch investigating the Judicial Branch is something new. Second, would Roberts feel comfortable with an employee of the Executive Branch sniffing around in all of his papers and possibly reporting that back to Joe Biden? What if the FBI started asking each of the justices separately what exactly was said and by whom at the initial meeting when the vote was taken? Roberts can hardly ask the FBI to investigate and then balk when it starts asking questions. Third, if the FBI were asked to investigate, the first question the director would ask is: "What law do you suspect was broken?" The FBI's job is to investigate crimes, not political events. Leaking information may be embarrassing, but unless it is formally classified, leaking it is not a crime and the FBI does not go on fishing expeditions.

If the FBI does not get involved for the above reasons, what powers does the marshal's staff have? Can they force a justice—or even a clerk—to testify under oath? Hell, the ability of Congress to force someone to testify under oath is being questioned right and left and those cases will probably end up at the Supreme Court. Could Roberts just tell Curley to force the other justices and all the clerks to testify under oath and then later vote that Congress can't force people to testify? Would the Court have even a smidgen of credibility left if he did that? Could a justice or clerk take the Fifth Amendment and then sue and then take the case to the Supreme Court? What if the justice refused to recuse himself or herself? How far does Roberts want to push this? Maybe the investigation is just for show and it will consist of asking each justice and clerk: "Did you do it?" and leaving it at that. (V)

Plaintiff in Same-Sex Marriage Case Is Worried That Issue is Up Next

Jim Obergefell, the gay-rights activist and plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, did an interview with CNN about what's next on the Supreme Court's agenda. He is very worried that since a majority of the Supreme Court doesn't believe in unenumerated rights any more and also doesn't care much about stare decisis, the Court is simply waiting for the right case to say that his case was also wrongly decided from the start. After all, Roe v. Wade was the law of the land for almost 50 years and Obergefell has only been around for 7 years. So, it would be much easier to defend reversing it, in view of the logic outlined in Samuel Alito's draft decision. Obergefell is so worried that he is running for a seat in the Ohio House.

In case you are keeping score at home, Obergefell was a 5-4 decision written by Anthony Kennedy. He was joined by Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Kennedy, Breyer, and Ginsburg will not get to vote if and when the case comes up again. It was opposed by John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia. Roberts, Thomas, and Alito will be available to vote on it. All they need to reverse Obergefell are two of the three Trump appointees to the Court. That shouldn't be too hard to pull off.

Once that hurdle has been cleared, there is Loving v. Virginia (interracial marriage) and Griswold v. Connecticut (contraception) to be tackled. Of these two, Griswold seems to be more likely because some forms of contraception, such as IUDs and some kinds of birth control pills, don't block conception—the magic moment when both the sperm and the soul penetrate the fertilized egg working as a team. Instead, they prevent the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. Some people contend this is just like an abortion.

Whether the Court will branch out and go after any of these previous decisions depends on what happens in November. Justices read the newspapers. If the Republicans blow an easy election and fail to capture Congress or lose other major races where abortion was the main issue, the justices may think twice about causing another disastrous election. It could have real consequences for them (see next item). (V)

Democrats Are Complaining that SCOTUS Is at Odds with Democracy

For decades, from Brown v. Board of Education through Roe v. Wade and beyond, Republicans complained about activist judges and an activist Supreme Court. Now the shoe is on the other foot and it is the Democrats who are doing the complaining about activist judges who are undermining democracy.

They are quick to note that Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past nine presidential elections, yet six of the nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents, including five who were appointed by presidents (Bush 43 and Trump) who lost the popular vote. They also note that the Senate is a gerrymander of the entire country, with 50 Democratic senators representing 87 million voters and 50 Republican senators representing only 63 million voters. That is not how the famous "checks and balances" are supposed to work. If a party wants to appoint Supreme Court justices, then it is told to get more votes than the other party. The Democrats have done that, but between the way the Senate is constructed and some shenanigans by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republicans got a two-thirds majority on the Court anyway. This is not how it is supposed to work.

Democrats are also loudly complaining about gerrymandering at the state level. For example, in Michigan, Democrats have gotten more votes than Republicans for the state legislature for decades, but due to Republican gerrymandering, the Republicans have maintained control. And since they are in control, they continue to draw gerrymandered maps that keep them in control. Democrats see that as fundamentally antithetical to democracy as the people's clear choices don't actually matter.

As a consequence, Democrats increasingly don't see the Supreme Court as a neutral, nonpolitical body. That could have consequences if the Democrats manage to hang onto a House majority and win a net of 2-3 seats in the Senate. Until this week, that seemed unlikely, but now all bets are off. If the Democrats get working control of Congress, they could abolish the filibuster and use those famous checks and balances to rein in the Court. Some possibilities include:

  • Increasing the number of justices to 13 or 15
  • Creating a new court for handling all constitutional cases
  • Stripping the Supreme Court of much of its authority

All of these things simply require new laws. No constitutional amendment is needed for any of them. The more the Democrats see the Court as illegitimate, the more motivated they would be to make substantial changes if they get the chance. On the other hand, the Republicans are very happy with how things are now, so if they win all the marbles in 2024, they are not likely to change anything. (V)

Fed Raises Interest Rates by Half a Point

While abortion is surely going to be a big issue in November, the economy is always a big issue. Yesterday the Fed raised interest rates by half a percentage point in an attempt to achieve a soft landing (translation: taming inflation without causing a recession). It's a huge gamble. If the rate hike isn't enough, inflation will continue to soar. If it is too much, the economy could tank. While Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is keenly aware of this, there is no reason to believe his decisions are based on politics.

The stock market believes Powell is on the right track. The S&P 500 index was up 2.99% yesterday, the Dow Jones index was up 2.81%, and the NASDAQ was up 3.19%. Powell has said that this is the second of eight rate hikes planned for this year. If the next five are each a quarter of a point, that will be a total of 2¼ for the year. Will that be enough to cool inflation by the midterms? The election results could depend on it.

Poll after poll have shown that for many voters, inflation is problem #1. Powell is trying to address it. If things work out well, Joe Biden will try to take credit for slower inflation by pointing out that he gave Powell a second term. It is a valid argument, especially since many Democrats told the President not to do so. Of course, if the economy is in recession in November, that is a big problem for the Democrats.

But the economy is like a giant oil tanker: It doesn't turn on a dime. The effect of eight rate hikes might not be felt much this year, but could throw the economy into a recession in 2023 or 2024, when it would affect the 2024 races. Donald Trump would be sure to point out that during his administration, the economy hummed along fine, so if people vote for him, it will do so again. He actually had little to do with the economy, but a lot of people might believe the argument, so a recession in 2023 or 2024 could give the Republicans unified control of all three branches of government: the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches, with all the consequences thereof. Democrats have to be hoping that Powell guesses right. (V)

It Wasn't Just Trump's Endorsement in Ohio

There are many media outlets reporting that it was Donald Trump's endorsement that carried former hillbilly James Vance to victory in Ohio. Turns out it was not so simple. Politico has the scoop on that, as well.

Long before Trump decided to endorse Vance, the candidate had another endorsement that was probably even more important—that of Peter Thiel. The tech billionaire donated $15 million to a super PAC he controlled that supported Vance. This is the largest single donation to a Senate candidate ever. When Vance started his campaign, he was as green as grass and knew nothing about running for office. Thiel liked Vance's populist views, but apparently didn't quite trust his judgment. So, Thiel's super PAC kind of ran the show.

Super PACs are expressly forbidden by federal law from coordinating with candidates, so Thiel adopted an unusual strategy. The super PAC ran TV ads, did oppo research, ran polls, etc.—the kind of things campaigns normally do but that Vance didn't have the know-how or money to do. Thiel and his staff of operatives did them all. But by law, they couldn't just hand the data over to Vance. So instead, they created a secret website and published all the data on the website. Somehow—miraculously!—Vance "discovered" the Website and its treasure trove of valuable information. Normally, campaigns keep the polling data, oppo research, etc. top secret, but Thiel wanted to keep everything technically legal, so he just published everything. Of course, only people who knew the secret URL could find it, but Thiel has always been a risk taker and accepted that risk.

This isn't the first time a super PAC and a candidate communicated in a manner designed to skirt the law. A more common example is that a super PAC does some extensive polling and focus groups and learns how to target a campaign. Then the head of the super PAC does an interview with a friendly reporter from some print, television, or online news organization. The reporter than asks the guy: "If you were running the campaign, what would you do?" The super PAC guy then tells him what he has learned from his research. If the candidate is reading or watching, they are well advised to take notes. Of course, the candidate has to be alerted where to look, but if the head of the super PAC tells a friend who tells another friend who tells a friend of the candidate's brother-in-law, it would be hard for the DoJ to later prove any laws were broken, especially if all the communication is oral and there is no paper or electronic trail. But the scale of Thiel's operation in Ohio dwarfed anything anyone else had ever done like this.

It's a good thing Thiel understood he was taking a risk with this strategy, because Josh Mandel's team discovered Thiel's secret website, probably because Thiel's team was scouring Mandel's website a little too much and that attracted attention. All of a sudden, Mandel saw the polling and oppo research on himself. It was a huge breach.

Vance needed all the help he could get after the Club for Growth (which supported Mandel) ran a massive campaign to take Vance down. Since Vance didn't have the money to out-blitz the Club, he went to right-wing platforms like Breitbart, Steve Bannon's podcast, and Tucker Carlson's show and made outrageous statements. The statements didn't matter, but they attracted massive media attention. It worked. Since June 1, 2021, Vance was mentioned on television 7,200 times, twice as much as Mandel. The purpose of the bomb-throwing was twofold. First to get the media's attention for free and second to get Donald Trump's attention for free. It worked. Trump ultimately fell for the stunt and endorsed Vance, and that was the cherry on top of the sundae. But without Thiel and his money, there wouldn't have been a sundae in the first place. (V)

Majority Wants Trump Charged for Role in Attempted Coup

A new poll from The Washington Post/ABC News reveals that 52% of American adults want to see Donald Trump charged for inciting an insurrection in Jan. 2021. That breaks down as 88% of Democrats, 56% of independents, and 11% of Republicans. A total of 42% do not want to see Trump charged.

However, on the question of whether the House Select Committee is conducting a fair investigation, the split is exactly 40-40, with 20% undecided. However, a surprising 18% of Democrats think the Committee is not being fair. Among Republicans, 69% think Trump is being screwed. Of course, very few people know what the Committee is doing since it has been largely working in secret, other than the occasional court filing. When hearings begin in public on June 9, that could change dramatically as eyewitnesses tell what they saw.

Despite the victory of James Vance in the Ohio GOP senatorial primary on Tuesday, Trump's grip on the voters is slipping. In Feb 2018, nearly 80% of Republicans wanted the GOP to follow Trump's lead. Now that is only 60%, and the number opposed has grown from under 20% to 34%:

Poll on Trump's leadership; he had
the support of 80% of Republicans in Feb. 2018, but it's been downhill since, to his current, but basically stable, 64%

In contrast, Joe Biden's grip on the leadership is weaker. Only 53% of the Democrats want to follow his leadership and 38% do not. Younger Democrats are far less supportive of Biden than older ones. (V)

Can Democrats Win Back Rural Voters?

It should be obvious to the Democrats: There are not enough blue states to produce a working majority in the Senate. Currently there are 50 members of the Democratic caucus and three of them (Jon Tester, MT; Sherrod Brown, OH; and Joe Manchin, WV) are from red states and any of them could easily be dumped at their next election. The Democrats' margin in the House is only 5 seats. The message here is that if the Democrats want to elect enough members of Congress to get anything done, they have to start winning in rural areas.

A 29-year-old Maine state senator, Chloe Maxmin (D), and her campaign manager, Canyon Woodward, have written an op-ed in The New York Times on this topic that should be required reading for all Democrats. Maxmin was a 25-year-old progressive climate activist when she got the nutty idea to run for the Maine House of Representatives in an entirely rural district that falls in the Maine county with the oldest average age in the state. And she won. Two years later she challenged the minority leader in the state Senate in one of the most rural districts in the state. And she beat him, too. Maybe other Democrats could learn something from her.

Her message is the Democrats have simply given up on winning rural voters and that is a big mistake. Some are indeed hopeless, but some are winnable, if approached properly. Her campaigns were entirely on the ground. She didn't have expensive consultants produce nasty negative ads about her opponents. She knocked on doors, talked to voters, and, especially, listened to them. And she certainly didn't take the advice of then-DNC chairman Tom Perez who told MSNBC: "You can't door-knock in rural America." Actually, you can, Maxmin did, and she won. Twice.

What Democratic consultants don't understand is that in rural areas, values are often much more important than policies. Rural values include independence, tradition, community, hard work, and common sense. When a candidate comes calling, they are thinking: "Can this person be trusted?" They are not thinking about some wonky policy issue. Many of the rural values fit in with what Democrats believe. Community isn't hard to defend. Neither is helping people when they are down and need a hand. These people aren't stupid and if you point out that Republicans do nothing for them when they are in power, it can sink in.

The candidate can't talk to every voter in a state Senate district and certainly not in a U.S. House district, but if the candidate can get enough volunteers, enough voters can be personally approached to move the needle. A key point is listening to what they think the problems are and then trying to explain how the Democrats are trying to solve at least some of them and arguing how Republicans really care only about very rich people.

Because there is virtually no outreach to rural voters, they (rightly) conclude that Democrats don't care about them. But again, winning rural voters is not impossible. In addition to the op-ed, Maxmin and Woodward wrote a book explaining how they did it in more detail and giving concrete advice about how to approach rural America and win. (V)

How Minority Parties Could Compete in One-Party States

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has an article that is complementary to the op-ed discussed above. It is what the minority party can do in states that lean strongly the other way—say, Democrats in Idaho or Republicans in Illinois. Sometimes there are things they can do. Simply giving up is not a good political strategy.

The approach depends on the local circumstances. Consider Utah, a very red state where Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is running for reelection. The Democrats could have found some sacrificial lamb, run a campaign, and maybe harvested 38% of the vote (Joe Biden's total in 2020). But they didn't. They didn't nominate anyone. Instead they are backing independent Evan McMullin, who ran for president and got 22% of the Utah vote in 2020. If all the Utah Democrats vote for him, he might actually be able to pull it off. And he would no doubt realize how he won and act accordingly as a senator.

As another example, Alaska has a new all-party primary in August followed by a ranked-choice election in November among the top four primary finishers. Donald Trump has endorsed Kelly Tshibaka, who is (naturally) very Trumpy. Democrats should, and presumably will, tell voters to vote for Al Gross (who ran as a Democrat in 2020 and is running as an independent this year) in the primary, and if he is in the top four, to vote for him as #1 in November and for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as #2 in the general election. Yes, she is a Republican, but she is a lot better than Tshibaka.

A similar lesser-of-two-evils strategy can be used in states with an open primary, where anyone can get either party's ballot just by asking for it. Red states with open primaries include Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Texas. Democrats in those states have no chance to elect a Democrat statewide unless the Republicans blow it, but by voting in the Republican primary they may be able to force the Republicans to nominate the least-bad candidate for every office. The same holds for Republicans in blue states.

Going a step further, in red states with a closed primary, Democrats could reregister as Republicans in order to help pick a not-too-toxic nominee. Same for Republicans in blue states with closed primaries.

Going much further, Democrats running for office in red states could run as Republicans and emphasize issues that Republicans like and keep a narrow focus on them. For example, in some states in the West, running as a Democrat and talking abstractly about the environment won't work because all the voters will see is that (D) after the name. But running with an (R) after the name and making the whole campaign about protecting the state's natural beauty and preserving the wilderness for hunters and fisherman might actually work in some cases, especially if the dominant party's preferred candidate is deeply flawed.

Depending on the local circumstances and rules, minority parties can actually have some impact in some cases, but it may require thinking outside the box. (V)

New Voting Restrictions Hit Disabled Voters Hard

To combat (nonexistent) voter fraud, Republican-controlled state legislatures have effectively disenfranchised many disabled voters. For example, in some states, "ballot harvesting" is now forbidden. That means that a disabled voter who can't walk and can't drive also can't vote, even if absentee ballots are available, because he or she can't bring the ballot to a drop box personally. In Wisconsin, for example, conservatives have gone to court to argue that giving your ballot to someone else to deposit violates state law. A decision is expected in June.

In Georgia, legislators have greatly reduced the number of drop boxes, making it harder for people who can't drive to get to one. In Florida, it is legal to hand an absentee ballot to someone else to bring to a drop box, but no one can bring more than two ballots.

Researchers at Rutgers University estimate that 38 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in 2020. About 62% of them voted, in part because absentee voting became much easier on account of the pandemic. The laws that allowed widespread absentee voting then have been repealed in a number of states, which is likely to create insurmountable barriers for many of them in 2022.

The issue is not always mobility. For example, a new Texas law requires disabled voters (one of the few categories of voters allowed to vote by absentee ballot) to provide an ID number twice. The first time is when requesting an absentee ballot and the second time on the envelope containing the ballot. The official can then check if they match. But the place on the envelope where the number goes is so small that people with a visual impairment often can't find it. In all, 23,000 mail-in ballots were disqualified as a result of the new law, many from people with disabilities, some of them physical and some of them mental.

Numerous other laws, restrictions, and procedures make it difficult for disabled people to vote, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act. In some cases, poll workers and other officials are not familiar with the ADA and refuse to make the accommodations it requires. Also, to register to vote in some states, one needs to show a birth certificate. But getting to the office that issues birth certificates and handling the paperwork can be a huge problem for some people with disabilities. For a long time, it was generally easier and easier every year for people with disabilities to vote, but in the past 2 years, Republicans have reversed the trend and made it more difficult—all in the name of fighting nonexistent voter fraud. (V)

Senate Rules Committee Approves Lindenbaum to the FEC

The Federal Election Commission is kind of a toothless tiger under the best of conditions, but even more so when all the seats are not occupied. By design, the Commission has three Democrats and three Republicans, which more or less guarantees deadlocks on everything. One of the seats is currently occupied by an independent placeholder. Joe Biden finally got around to naming a Democrat, Dara Lindenbaum, as a regular member representing the Democrats on the FEC. The Senate Rules Committee has now approved her nomination and sent it to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is the ranking member, voted for her. Nevertheless, Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Deb Fischer (R-NE) all voted against her, even though she would be one of the three Democrats on the Commission. This says something about the Senate. When voting to confirm someone who by law must be a Democrat, three Republican senators voted no. Of course, if something were seriously wrong with Lindenbaum, then a "no" vote would make sense, but there is nothing wrong with her. The senators just don't like Democrats. If Biden were to withdraw her name and nominate a different Democrat, they would vote "no" on that nomination as well. And the next one and the next one and the next one as well.

Lindenbaum is an election lawyer with a prominent law firm. She earned a J.D. degree from the George Washington University Law School in 2011. During the 2018 campaign, she was the general counsel for Stacey Abrams' gubernatorial campaign and was legal counsel for Fair Fight Action. Perhaps what the three senators envision is the Republican members are all extreme partisans and the three Democrats are all politically neutral. But that is not how the Commission is supposed to work. The Rules Committee received 30 letters from a bipartisan collection of lawyers encouraging the Committee to approve her, so there isn't any question about her abilities and no scandals from her past have emerged. Since nominations cannot be filibustered on the Senate floor, it is virtually certain that she will be confirmed shortly. (V)

The War in Ukraine Is Still There

In case you missed the news, the war in Ukraine is still on. Oh, wait. There was no news. Apparently no reporter went to the trouble of trying to find out if abortion is legal in Ukraine. Surely worth a story or two. In case you are wondering, up to 12 weeks it is available on request. Then up to 28 weeks, it is available for a variety of reasons, including "personal grounds," which, in practice, probably means if the doctor approves it, it is legal. If you are also curious about abortion in Russia, it has changed over time with the political winds. If you want all the details, there is a long Wikipedia article on the subject.

In any event, the Supreme Court leak notwithstanding, the war in Ukraine is still going on and the outcome could still have a big effect on the midterms. Imagine the effect on Joe Biden's popularity if: (1) Ukraine wins a decisive victory and a bunch of Russian generals decide to put Russian President Vladimir Putin on the wrong end of a firing squad or (2) Russia wins and incorporates Ukraine fully into Russia as the 47th oblast (province).

There were two interesting new developments in the war yesterday. First, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the E.U. will stop importing Russian oil and oil-based products by the end of this year. That will be a huge blow to Russia for years to come as exports of oil and gas are Russia's only substantial sources of foreign income. Gas will take a bit longer to phase out. Russia will try to find other buyers, but that will be extremely difficult in both the short run and long run. Even if China agreed to take all the excess oil, it would demand a massive discount, so Russia would be lucky to make a profit on it at all. Plus, there is no infrastructure in place to actually ship the oil to China. All the pipelines run from the oilfields to Europe, not to China.

Here is a map of the Russian oil fields:

Map of Russian oil fields, they are all in eastern
Siberia, western Siberia, or the far southwest

The distance from Surgut, in the middle of the Russian oil patch, to the closest point on the Chinese border, is 1,000 miles across Siberia and there is no oil infrastructure in that part of China to receive it. From Surgut to Beijing is 2,300 miles as the crow flies, and they would need a lot of crows to handle the 1.5 million barrels of oil and oil products Russia exports to Europe every day. Building 1,000+ miles of massive pipelines over mountainous and fairly inhospitable tundra is not something that would magically happen in a flash if Putin snaps his fingers. And then China has to build its part. Since China would not want to be dependent on Mongolia, an independent country, it would have to route the pipeline around it, giving it a length of about 2,800 miles to Beijing.

Alternatively, Russia could build pipelines to the Pacific port of Vladivostok (2,600 miles) and ship the oil to China in tankers, but that means Russia has to pay for the entire length of the pipeline, rather than splitting the cost with China. A longshot option is a pipeline to Murmansk, way north of the Arctic Circle. That is 2,300 miles by road. Murmansk has a Russian submarine base, but no oil infrastructure, and using a port city that is below freezing half the year is far from ideal. Going through the Black Sea would require passing through the Bosphorus Strait, which Turkey controls and would never allow. In short, there is no way to get the oil to China without first building massive infrastructure.

As an aside, Von der Leyen has talked to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy many times. By now she has probably asked him: "How do you like suddenly being one of the most important people in the world?" That's true of her as well. For many people, the European Union was always an abstract faceless entity. Now it has a face: an extremely poised 63-year-old German woman and mother of seven kids. She was born and raised in Brussels, an obvious head start for someone who ended up as the de facto "president of Europe." She was brought up speaking French and German. Her father later became governor of the German state of Lower Saxony and then director-general of the E.U.'s anti-monopoly agency, so politics was also in her background. She studied medicine at Hanover Medical School, specializing in women's health. After she got her doctorate in medicine, she moved to Palo Alto for 4 years while her husband was on the Stanford faculty. In 1997 she moved back to Germany and held several lower political offices until she landed a spot in Angela Merkel's first cabinet, the first of several stints as a cabinet minister, including one as minister of defense. In July 2019, the European Parliament elected her as the first woman to serve as president of the European Commission.

Oil isn't the only Ukraine story right now. Sanctioned Russian oligarchs are desperately trying to hide their megayachts lest the U.S. seize them. What better place than Fiji, an island nation almost 2,000 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia and 3,000 miles southwest of Hawaii? Who would think to look there? Oligarch Suleiman Kerimov thought that would be a grand hiding place. The only problem is that $325 million yachts longer than a football field don't show up every day in Fiji, a poor country whose entire national GDP is roughly ⅛ of Vermont's. Somebody noticed and the U.S. seized the yacht. Kerimov complained and went to court. On Tuesday, Fiji's Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. can keep the boat. The House has already passed a bill giving the president the authority to sell property seized from Russian oligarchs. The vote was 417 yea and 8 nay. Here are the naysayers.

Vote on HR6930; the four members of
the squad voted no, and so too did Madison Cawthorn, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Chip Roy, and Thomas Massie

See, when four extremely progressive women of color team up with Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and two of their good friends, you know bipartisanship is alive. Or maybe politics makes for strange bedfellows. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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Apr29 Oklahoma One-Ups Texas
Apr29 Mayorkas Gets a Preview of Life Under a Republican-led House
Apr29 Trump Grand Jury Expires
Apr29 Governors Up in 2022 Look to Be in Good Shape
Apr29 Trump Endorses in Nevada
Apr29 Rep. Kai Kahele to Retire from the House
Apr29 Democrats Gunning for Cawthorn
Apr29 This Week in Schadenfreude
Apr28 McCarthy Got a Standing Ovation from the House GOP Caucus Yesterday
Apr28 New York Court of Appeals Throws Out Gerrymandered Map
Apr28 Trump Appeals Contempt Ruling
Apr28 New Hampshire May Go First in 2024
Apr28 Harris Has COVID-19 and Is Taking Paxlovid
Apr28 Microsoft Has Detected Hundreds of Russian Cyberattacks in Ukraine
Apr28 Black Voters Are Stuck
Apr28 Cawthorn Caught at Airport with Loaded Gun
Apr27 What about the Leprechaun Police?
Apr27 Perdue's a Dead Man Walking
Apr27 Judge Gives Democrats Immigration Reprieve...
Apr27 ...Though That Doesn't Stop Maggie Hassan from Making an Unforced Error
Apr27 House Republicans Are Shredding Each Other in Public
Apr27 March... Sadness, Part XIX (The Write-Ins)
Apr26 Twitsla
Apr26 Trump Is Contemptible
Apr26 Oz, Rest of Republican Field, All-In on Trumpism During Debate
Apr26 House Republicans Are Working on Their Impeachment Strategy
Apr26 Meadows Texts Made Public
Apr26 Hold the Presses: White House Is Running Short on Crystal