Russian Forces Retreat from Lyman
Trump Claims McConnell Has a ‘Death Wish’
Ticket-Splitting May Be Back
Wes Moore Headed for Landslide Win in Maryland
Another Wave Election Is Coming
Ukraine Bears Down on Strategic City of Lyman
• Cannon Blasts Dearie
• Keystone Kandidates
• Grab That Cash with Both Hands and Make a Stash
• This Week in Schadenfreude: Greene's Day
• This Week in Freudenfreude: From the Front Line to the D-Line
• Today's Senate Polls
Last month, Joe Biden announced that the federal government will forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 in student debt for many borrowers. This has many on the right hopping mad, producing two different lawsuits just this week.
Before we get to the lawsuits, let's talk about the underlying political dynamics here a bit. Biden promised to do something about student debt while he was campaigning for president. The progressive wing of the party was not willing to drop the matter, and even some of the more centrist Democrats told Biden he needed to do something to get younger voters to the polls this year. However, Biden was also aware that he would be pushing his executive powers to the limit, and that he'd be handing the Republicans a cudgel to wield with some voters, particularly blue-collar laborers. As a veteran politician, he's leery of both of these things, which is undoubtedly why he dithered so long about making a decision. The point is that the President's actions here were very much about politics, and not necessarily about his own personal enthusiasm for the debt-relief plan.
The same dynamic holds true on the right. We have no doubt that many Republicans are personally displeased by the debt-relief plan. However, the lawsuits filed this week were both extremely premature, inasmuch as the specifics of the plan haven't even been hammered out, much less implemented. It's crystal clear that the would-be plaintiffs wanted to fire off their first salvos as quickly as possible, making sure to do so prior to November 8.
And that brings us to the actual lawsuits. Those who would sue the Biden administration must establish standing, which means they have to prove they've been harmed by the plan. The fact that the plan is still a work in progress, and hasn't actually been implemented yet, makes that something of a problem. An even bigger problem is that the debt in question is held by... the federal government. If the government says, "Nah, don't worry about paying that money back," then it's not so easy to argue that anyone other than the government has been harmed.
The first lawsuit of the week was filed by the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of a man named Frank Garrison. Garrison is actually already scheduled to get student loan debt relief from another federal forgiveness program. However, that forgiveness will not count as income, and so will be tax free. That might not be true of the Biden forgiveness plan (again, the details are not fully ironed out). Anyhow, Garrison argued that the Biden forgiveness would do harm to him, since it would force him to pay taxes he shouldn't have to pay. And presto: standing!
This was not a very strong argument. In fact, less than 24 hours after the suit was filed, it was dead. The Department of Justice advised that people will be able to opt out, should they wish to forego the Biden loan forgiveness. In addition, the Department took note of the fact that Garrison has made clear he is among those who wishes to opt out, so he's already been put on the "no, thanks!" list. And presto: No more standing!
The second lawsuit of the week came from six Republican attorneys general, in the states of Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina. A few hours later, Arizona AG Mark Brnovich, who hates vowels, but who loves opportunities to score political points, jumped on board. The initial filing isn't online yet, but here is Brnovich's complaint, which he helpfully posted to his website, in case anyone wants to know how he's owning the libs today.
As with the Pacific Legal suit, the AGs' lawsuit does some very heavy lifting in order to create "harm," and thus standing. In short, those states administer some student loans themselves, through a state agency. The Biden plan only applies to federal loans. So, the argument is that some state-held loans will be consolidated into federally-held loans by people who want to take advantage of the Biden forgiveness. In turn, that will cost the states some money in terms of lost interest income. And presto: standing!
This looks to be a pretty shaky argument to us, but we're hardly law experts, and you never know what might happen in front of the right judge (or, perhaps more precisely, in front of a far-right judge). If Biden does lose in court, he still has other options to get to the same end. And if he doesn't lose, there will undoubtedly be more lawsuits. And don't forget, when the students who would benefit from the forgiveness see that the Republicans are against the forgiveness, how it that going to go over with them? Either way, this is a story that is far from the finish line. (Z)
Judge Aileen Cannon did not directly attack Judge Raymond Dearie, in the sense of going after him personally. But we still think "blasts" works, because yesterday she reminded him (and everyone else) that the Trump Mar-a-Lago matter is currently on her docket, will be staying on her docket, and will be handled in a way that pleases her (unless that which pleases her displeases the Eleventh Circuit).
Keep in mind that Dearie, while himself a judge, is a servant of the Cannon court in this matter. And her newest order, issued yesterday, makes some significant changes to the plan laid out by Dearie. No longer with Trump and his legal team be required to provide support for their claims that the FBI planted evidence, nor will he have to explain his reasoning for why particular documents should be covered by executive privilege. Cannon also extended the deadline for completing the process by a couple of weeks. Although if Dearie finishes on the timeline that he himself set out, what is she going to do?
We simply cannot see a way to look at everything that is happened, and conclude that Cannon is anything other than a Trump lackey. She just bends over backwards, sideways, and cattywampus to the perpendicular to accommodate his point of view. If any reader can make the counterargument, we'd like to hear it, and we will certainly run it in the mailbag this week. Still, all that really matters are the classified documents, and Cannon can't stop the Department of Justice from working with those, because of the aforementioned Eleventh Circuit. So, Thursday's "victory" would appear to be a hollow one for the former president.
Meanwhile, in other Trump legal news, New York AG Tish James asked the state Supreme Court to expedite the Trumps' trial for fraud, so that they end up in court before the end of 2023. Her official explanation is that if they are fraudsters, as she claims, then their ability to keep cheating people should be curtailed as rapidly as is possible. That's probably a fair argument, though it must be the case that she's also worried about the 2024 election cycle complicating things. If Trump is a candidate, or might be a candidate, he would certainly ask the court for a postponement, and he might well get it. So, better to get it done before that, if you're James. (Z)
Pennsylvania is a purple state. The current political environment should, theoretically, favor Republicans. However, the Party's two most important candidates in the Keystone State appear to be in a competition with each other to see who can do more to shoot themselves in the foot and blow what should be two very winnable elections.
We'll start with would-be senator Mehmet Oz, who keeps reminding us that he's not only an elite, but that he honestly has no idea why so many voters seem to like his opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA). Everyone knows about the crudités at this point, but this week, Oz did it again. Here is the clip, if you wish to hear it for yourself (it's less than a minute):
Dr. Oz took aim at John Fetterman’s clothing and said he was “stunned by” the “costume”and believes it contains a “deeper message.”— PatriotTakes (@patriottakes) September 26, 2022
Oz: “When he dresses like that, he’s kicking authority in the balls.” pic.twitter.com/Mrne6ZEOGJ
The particular bee in Oz's bonnet, on this occasion, was Fetterman's habit of dressing in a hoodie. "When he dresses like that, it's not an accident," observed the doctor. "He's kicking authority in the balls."
This is a blunder in three ways. First, Oz needs to get his dog whistles correct. "Hoodie" is code for "young Black man," not "6'9" guy who looks like a Hells Angel." Second, there are a lot of people who wear hoodies and who will not be pleased to be told that their sartorial choices reflect poorly upon them.
The third, and biggest, blunder, of course, is Oz's bizarro notion that "rebel" and "willing to challenge authority" are anything other than a huge selling point for politicians. Did he not study Donald Trump's campaign at all? Or how about Fetterman's campaign? "I'm 100% an outsider (and disregard my Harvard degree)" is Fetterman's brand. And in Pennsylvania, in particular, it's rather on point. This Twitter user explained things better than we can:
Oz again shows that he is not from Pennsylvania.— Toxic (@toxic) September 27, 2022
I mean, if you advertised an event where Philadelphians were given the opportunity to "Come kick authority in the balls." there would be a line 6 miles long before the first kick was landed. https://t.co/TB2lSlMOx9
That actually means that Oz blundered in four ways, because he also reiterated that he doesn't get Pennsylvania culture (though you think a guy from New Jersey would know something about the appeal of kicking authority in the balls).
And then there is would-be governor Doug Mastriano (R), who is doing everything he can to make himself as unelectable as is possible. In addition to his far-right political ideas, his election denial and his participation in the 1/6 insurrection, the candidate now has a "problematic photo" scandal that's dragging him down. As you may have read, a 2014 photo came to light showing Mastriano dressed as a Confederate soldier for a Halloween Party.
Note that this news actually broke several weeks ago, and we've been sitting on it because a lot of more time-sensitive news came up. That said, it was sent in by a number of readers, presumably due to (Z)'s expertise in Civil War history and memory. From that, we infer that people would like some commentary of the sort that you won't find anywhere else. So, here's our basic take: There are two ways in which this isn't a big deal, and one way it's a big deal, indeed.
The first reason that it is not a big deal is that the Confederate soldier has become a truly problematic symbol only fairly recently. It's true that 2014, when the Mastriano picture was taken, is on the wrong side of that line. However, it is also true that he spent his formative years on the other side of the line. (Z) has noted, a couple of times, that his dissertation was about Civil War reenactors. And a lot of these fellows, now in their AARP years, really don't understand the hullaballoo, as they grew up in a time when the common soldier of the Confederacy was politically neutral and/or heroic.
To try to help explain the dynamic, we will point out two things for your consideration. First, a lot of the unpleasant things that Confederate soldiers symbolize would also apply to cowboys. One is a big part of the fight to save slavery, the other a big part of the fight to wrest the West from the Native Americans. And yet, people still dress as cowboys for Halloween parties without comment. Heck, there's a cowboy in the Village People (though no Confederate soldier). It's entirely possible that, 20 years from now, a picture of someone in a cowboy costume will be just as problematic as a picture of someone in a CSA uniform. And a lot of people who are in their thirties or forties or fifties (or older) today will have trouble wrapping their minds around that.
Second, there really was a time when the "Lost Cause" and "Reconciliatonist" interpretations of the Civil War ruled, and the common soldier of the Confederacy was an apolitical symbol to many/most Americans. Consider this: There also exists a picture of (Z) in a Confederate uniform. In fact, here it is:
That was taken at one of those Old Tyme Photo Studios, possibly at Knott's Berry Farm, but probably in Solvang (The Danish Capital of America!); (Z) is on the right. Presumably, a photo taken at age 11 in 1985 or so would not be judged as harshly as a photo taken at age 50 in 2014, but you never know.
That is the first reason this isn't a big deal—a photo like that does not always justify the strong conclusions that people today are prone to leaping to. The second reason it's not a big deal is this: When someone gets caught in blackface, or parading around in a KKK costume, or dressing as a Confederate soldier, the (often reasonable) assumption is that they are revealing something about themselves that they've previously kept hidden. After all, most people would be terribly uncomfortable dressing as, say, a klansman, even if Halloween or some other occasion raised the possibility. And if they're not uncomfortable, that raises some pretty big questions.
In Mastriano's case, however, we already know full well who he is. He's a far-right Trumper who has retrograde ideas on everything. The fact that he was once photographed in a CSA uniform tells us absolutely nothing we didn't already know. Does he harbor racist sentiments? Of course he does. We know that because of his statements about the border, about immigrants, and about Christian nationalism. At most, the photo is just the icing on the cake (which, in Mastriano's case, is most certainly a white cake).
And let us now move on to the one reason this is a big deal, indeed: Because people think it is a big deal. After the Confederate picture came out, Republican officeholders started deserting Mastriano in droves. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) made clear that he's unwilling to back Mastriano. Numerous prominent Pennsylvania Republicans, including former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, went even further, and said they were throwing their support behind Josh Shapiro (D), Mastriano's opponent. Is this because these Republicans were legitimately offended by the photo? Or does the photo merely give them a socially acceptable excuse to turn against him? Only they know for sure.
In any event, since the photo came out, and following on the heels of other missteps, Mastriano's campaign has been foundering. He's down to less than $500,000 in the bank, which might be manageable in Wyoming, but is nowhere near enough to wage a come-from-behind campaign in Pennsylvania. Last weekend, he held a "big rally" for supporters, and the total attendance was... 60 people.
Pennsylvania is on the east coast, of course, and so the results there will be among the first to come in on the evening of November 8. If Oz and Mastriano get trounced, as seems fated to be, then it maybe doesn't tell us much. But if things stay competitive as the returns roll in, that could be an early sign that the fundamentals of 2022 do indeed favor the Republicans, so much so that candidate quality doesn't matter. If that proves to be the case, then it will be a very unhappy night for the Democrats. (Z)
When we announced the creation of the new Patreon account, the headline we used came from a Beatles song. We thought we'd end the week with a brief report on how things are going, and this time around we're cribbing a Pink Floyd song. Maybe one day our cultural references will come from a year that starts with a "2," but don't bet on it.
As we have noted several times, we are deeply honored that so many people have seen fit to support us with some of their hard-earned money. A few bits of information that readers might find intriguing:
- There is a lag in the numbers that Patreon provides to us, so we don't have a perfectly accurate count of the number
of folks who have decided to lend their support on an ongoing basis, but it's approaching 850. If the number crosses
1,000, that seems like a big deal to us, and we will make a brief announcement.
- PayPal is even less helpful when it comes to giving us details, but we know there have been multiple dozens of
contributions there this week, which we also very much appreciate. There were a couple of technical issues with the PayPal link
for about a day, but we have resolved them.
- We think it would be crass to reveal specific financial numbers, but we will tell you the site will be a strong
footing going forward, and we'll be in a position to do some things to make the site even better. We don't want to
reveal too much at this point, but if you want a hint, the E-V.com swimsuit issue just took a big step toward becoming a
reality. There will also be enough funds that we will never again have to settle for crummy domestic blow for the annual
cocaine and hookers party.
- We really thought only one person, the person who specifically asked for it, would choose the $20/month tier. We
were WAY wrong.
- We are also pleased to report that we did get one $6.66/month pledge.
- Consistent with the international character of the readership, in addition to U.S. Dollars, we are receiving contributions in the following currencies: Singaporean Dollars, Mexican Pesos, Norwegian Krones, Danish Krones, Euros, Polish Zlotys, Australian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, Canadian Dollars, and British Pounds. Given how things are going these days, we may have to contact the folks in the latter group and ask them to switch to a more reliable currency, like Monopoly money. Note also that it's possible that there are other currencies as well, and that we don't realize it because they are being converted automatically to U.S. currency.
Again, we hope that was of some interest. If you still want to sign up for a regular contribution, the Patreon link is here, and if you want to make a one-time donation, then the PayPal link is here. This is the last time, at least for a while, that we'll directly mention the matter. However, the two links will also take up permanent residence at the top right, if signing up in the future, rather than now, works better for you.
Once again, we thank all of you for reading, and 800+ of you for your financial support. (V & Z)
We thought long and hard about this item. For most of the week, we were thinking that the story above, about Mehmet Oz, would become this week's schadenfreude item. But a late entry led to a change of plans. As you may have heard, because pretty much every outlet had it, the husband of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has filed for divorce.
The reason we thought hard is that our instinct, at the outset, was that using this for "schadenfreude" was a form of punching down. Greene is still a person, and she's got kids, and deserves some base level of consideration for those reasons. Further, someone's marriage and personal life are really their own private business.
However, that last sentence is also why we ultimately decided the item was appropriate, and maybe even called for. The issue here is not merely that Greene is not a very nice person. It's that she has spent much of her public career butting into other people's lives, other people's lifestyles, and other people's marriages (or would-be marriages). She is, of course, virulently anti-trans, even though people's gender identities are none of her damn business. She has said welfare keeps women from getting married, even though the romantic lives of people on assistance are none of her damn business. She's opposed same-sex marriage, even though other people's marriages are none of her damn business.
So, we must conclude there is some very justifiable schadenfreude in the news of her pending divorce. Not because the setback will hurt her, but because it might just open her eyes a little bit. If she doesn't enjoy people putting her personal life under the microscope, then, just maybe, she'll have a revelation or two about her own habit of putting others' personal lives under the microscope. We're not optimistic, but you never know. Stranger things have happened. (Z)
When (Z) teaches modern U.S. history (1877-present), he gives an outline prior to each lecture. Some items on that outline are in bold; that tells the students "This is what you should take notes about, because this is what is important, and so might show up on a quiz." To take one example, the bold terms for the World War II lecture are, in order, Adolf Hitler, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the war on the homefront, D-Day, and the Yalta Conference.
In addition, some bold terms have a ranking next to them. For example, on the World War II outline, it says "The Battle of Midway (Top 25: #8)." What this does, over the course of the semester, is slowly reveal a list of the 25 most important events of modern U.S. history, at least in (Z)'s estimation. Each lecture has at least one of them, some lectures have as many as three. This adds a little more interest to the course, and also clues students in as to the things they might want to keep in mind once the course has concluded.
To qualify for the list, the event must have taken place in a week or less. Or, at very least, it must have a focal point of that length. It takes a while to invent something new, or to haggle about a bill in Congress, or to execute a grand military maneuver, but all of those things ultimately come to a climax—a patent is applied for, legislation is signed into law, a battle takes place. By contrast, something like "World War II" or "The Cold War" or "The feminist movement" are broader, and don't have a single, clear focal point. The purpose of this restriction is to try to avoid comparing apples and oranges.
Here, as we know it will be of interest to readers, are numbers 25 through 6 on the list:
- The first credit cards are issued by Visa (September 15, 1958)
- The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964)
- Jackie Robinson debuts (April 15, 1947)
- The September 11 attacks (September 11, 2001)
- The Watergate break-in (June 17, 1972)
- The moon landing (July 20, 1969)
- The Battle of Wounded Knee (December 29,1890)
- The U.S.S. Maine sinks (February 15, 1898)
- Donald Trump is elected president (November 8, 2016)
- The Tet Offensive (January 30, 1968)
- The Triangle Shirtwaist fire (March 25, 1911)
- The founding of Israel (May 14, 1948)
- The Zimmermann telegram (January 16, 1917)
- Black Tuesday (October 29, 1929)
- D-Day (June 6, 1944)
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (July 2, 1964)
- The G.I. Bill (June 22, 1944)
- The Battle of Midway (June 4, 1942)
- Russia gets the bomb (August 29, 1949)
- China becomes communist (October 2, 1949)
Where are the top five? Well, we thought some folks might like to guess, so they're at the very bottom of the page. Some of the things above wouldn't necessarily show up in every U.S. history class, but you can be assured the top five are of such universal importance that a professor would be committing malpractice by not mentioning them. Note that the top five are really seven events, as #5 and #1 are both "ties" between two events that cannot be meaningfully separated.
For now, numbers 6-25 are enough for our purposes, as the particular utility of this exercise was to make the point that one of the most historically illiterate quotes ever uttered by a politician came courtesy of one Ronald Wilson Reagan: "The top 9 most terrifying words in the English Language are: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'" Does the government botch things on occasion? Sure. But so too does the private sector. And if you look at the list above (and, eventually, the list below), there are some absolutely resounding successes on the part of the federal government that have literally made million and millions of lives better.
In particular, the G.I. Bill (which even the Gipper agreed with) was an absolutely staggering accomplishment. Learning from the mistakes of World War I, where bonus benefits for veterans were awarded 25 years in the future (e.g., 1943), the Congress decided in 1944 that the men who fought in World War II would be given assistance with their future education and/or housing needs. Over a million Black men were excluded, as were women; these things are obviously embarrassments. However, subsequent Congresses did eventually rectify the problem, while also extending benefits to all U.S. veterans. And the result has been a transformative redistribution of wealth, allowing tens of millions of people to move up the economic ladder. That includes both of (Z)'s grandfathers (World War II), as well as his stepfather (Vietnam). Put another way, if there was no GI Bill, you almost certainly wouldn't be reading this right now.
Another beneficiary of the G.I. Bill is Ray Ruschel, who has been in the news this week. He is a U.S. Army veteran who served a tour in the Middle East. Last year, taking note of his G.I. Bill eligibility, he decided that he would go to college and pursue a bachelor's degree. So, at the start of the current semester, he enrolled at the North Dakota State College of Science.
This is not an uncommon story, of course. Part of the reason that (Z) is impressed with the impact of the G.I. Bill is that he's never taught the U.S. history course described above without at least one student who was there thanks to G.I. Bill support. Where Ruschel's story gets more interesting, however, is that he also decided to walk on to the school's football team. He plays defensive end, has appeared in three games, and has recorded several tackles.
You might still be wondering why we are writing about Ruschel, since playing a little football is not all that extraordinary, either. Lots of people do it (or try to do it, at very least, as in the case of the Chicago Bears). The reason he's getting a lot of attention is that... he's 49 years old. He is, in fact, the oldest person ever to play in an NCAA-sanctioned college football game.
They say that age is just a number, and Ruschel proves that every time he put on pads and takes the field, while at the same time reminding us that the G.I. Bill is one of the federal government's truly great accomplishments. Our hat is off to him. (Z)
Is the Pennsylvania race really tightening up? Obviously, we are skeptical, given the item above. On the other hand, we are very much willing to believe that Don Bolduc (R) is a poor candidate with zero chance of winning in New Hampshire. (Z)
|Franklin + Marshall Coll.
|Fabrizio + Impact
* Denotes incumbent
Here are the top five, to complete the above list:
- (tie) Brown v. Board of Education (May 17, 1954)/Rosa Parks arrested (December 1, 1955)
- The Social Security Act (August 14, 1935)
- The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified (August 18, 1920)
- Plessy v. Ferguson (May 18, 1896)
- (tie) The bombings of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep29 No Love Lost between Trump and DeSantis
Sep29 Manchin Retreats
Sep29 Slotkin Shifts Gears
Sep29 The House Could Go Native
Sep29 And Now for Something Completely British
Sep29 Today's Senate Polls
Sep28 Freedom Caucus Won't Block McCarthy
Sep28 Manchin's Bill Is a Loser
Sep28 Manchin's Bill Is a Winner
Sep28 A Hurricane Is about to Hit Tallahassee
Sep28 A Different Kind of Hurricane Is Also Aimed at Palm Beach
Sep28 Five Republicans Poised to Take Power in a GOP House
Sep28 The Three Types of Election-Denying Secretary of State Candidates
Sep28 Split Polls for Governor
Sep28 Today's Senate Polls
Sep27 Money Don't Get Everything, It's True...
Sep27 The Grand Finale?
Sep27 Student Loan Forgiveness Price Tag: $400 Billion
Sep27 McConnell, Sinema Form Mutual Admiration Society
Sep27 Gaetz Skates
Sep27 Foreign Affairs Desk, Part I: Il Duchessa
Sep27 Foreign Affairs Desk, Part II: (Economic) Anarchy in the U.K.
Sep27 Foreign Affairs Desk, Part III: Putin's Snow(den) Job
Sep27 Today's Senate Polls
Sep26 Trump May Finally Start Spending Big Time on 2022 Races
Sep26 Senate Republicans Block Bill that Would Expose Dark Money
Sep26 McConnell May Support Updating the Electoral Count Act
Sep26 Liz Cheney Will Campaign for Democrats
Sep26 Democrats Are Finally Looking Downballot
Sep26 Are Republican Legislatures Going too Far on Abortion?
Sep26 Why Didn't Letitia James Bring Criminal Charges against the Trumps?
Sep26 Most Americans Do Not Back the Migrant Flights
Sep26 CBS Model Predicts Republicans Will Win 223 House Seats
Sep26 In Politics, 20 Years Is a Long Time
Sep25 Sunday Mailbag
Sep24 Saturday Q&A
Sep24 Today's Senate Polls
Sep23 Special Master Quickly Turning Into Special Disaster for Trump
Sep23 C.I.A. Losing Informants at an Alarming Rate
Sep23 Where Is the Save America PAC Money Going?
Sep23 McCarthy: A Man with a "Plan"
Sep23 Whither Cheney?
Sep23 Everybody Hates Kyrsten
Sep23 This Week in Schadenfreude: Don't Be a D**k
Sep23 This Week in Freudenfreunde: Don't Be a Tucker
Sep23 Today's Senate Polls
Sep22 And You Thought Your Day was Bad, Part I: James Sues Trump
Sep22 And You Thought Your Day was Bad, Part II: The Eleventh Circuit Makes Its Ruling
Sep22 And You Thought Your Day was Bad, Part III: E. Jean Carroll Sues Trump under New Law