Around the time you read this, Volodomyr will be addressing the U.S. Congress. C-SPAN has its livestream link up for those who wish to watch live; the video will also be there later in the day for post hoc viewing. If you don't like C-SPAN, for some reason, then every news channel is expected to carry the speech. Fox will be carrying it, too.
Zelenskyy's goal, as we noted yesterday, is to lobby the U.S., and in particular the fellow in the White House, to lend as much support to Ukraine as is possible. In this, the Ukrainian has many allies in Congress. There are prominent members on both sides of the aisle who think Joe Biden is being too cautious, and would like to see a more assertive program of support for Ukraine. Of course, none of them are at risk of having "started World War III" engraved on their tombstones, so take their enthusiasm for aggression with a few grains of salt.
Just because Biden isn't doing enough for some people's tastes, however, doesn't mean he's doing nothing. Yesterday, he signed the new budget into law, which means that the $13.6 billion in aid that Congress appropriated for Ukraine is official. Incidentally, and on a side note, take a look at the picture of the signing ceremony:
We understand why the House and Senate leadership (some of it, at least) is there. But why are Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) front and center? Was that a boon granted by Biden? And does that mean he's still trying to wheel and deal with the Senator? Meanwhile, if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is trying to give people fodder for all those "spineless" jokes, he couldn't have chosen a better posture with which to do it.
Now that the money is legal, Biden has to figure out how to actually use it to help Ukraine. It's not quite so easy as writing a check for $13.6 billion and mailing it to Zelenskyy. After all, Ukrainian banks don't take checks drawn on American banks. No, wait, that's not the issue. The issue is that the Ukrainians don't need money, they need materiel. And while the U.S. has plenty of that, it's getting harder and harder to actually get the goods into Ukrainian hands. Further, Biden wants to exercise some control over what Zelenskyy can, and cannot, get right now (e.g., no Polish jets, at least not at the moment).
The President has at least some answers to these questions already. Shortly after today's address by Zelenskyy, Biden will deliver an address of his own, and will detail how $800 million in new aid will be conferred. Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles are expected to be part of the package and, again, jet planes are not. But things will be much clearer mere hours after this post goes live.
Ed Note: We are persuaded by several readers that rendering Zelenskyy's name with the double-y is more apropos, given the conventions of his native language, so we will use that style going forward. Plus, we so rarely get to use a double-y, excepting of course in our weekly analyses of selected passages from "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám." (Z)
When Sarah Bloom Raskin was nominated to the Federal Reserve, to be its vice chair for supervision, progressives were pretty happy. That is because Raskin would like to see to it that when banks loan money to petroleum companies, the loans are very carefully scrutinized, and that the environmental damage that might be done be factored into the costs of the loan. Republicans are not enthusiastic about this philosophy.
Actually, Republicans are not enthusiastic about any of Joe Biden's four nominees to the Fed, which means that they are throwing the senatorial version of a temper tantrum, and are boycotting meetings of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, thus keeping the nominations from being considered (or advancing). That includes nominee Jay Powell, who is a Republican, and who was twice before approved to seats on the Fed. So, it's not like the Republican opposition is due to Biden nominating a gaggle of fire-breathing leftist Bernie Sanders clones.
Eventually, the Republican obstruction will presumably be overcome, one way or another, and the nominees will get an actual floor vote. What Raskin could not overcome, however, was this: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced on Monday that the nominee would never get their votes. It turns out they come from states that produce a lot of fossil fuels, and that they don't like anyone who gets up in Big Oil's/Big Coal's business. Without those votes, Raskin was in big trouble, since she would have needed all of the remaining Democrats, and she would also have needed one Republican, like Susan Collins (R-ME) or Mitt Romney (R-UT). Clearly, either Raskin or the White House (or both) didn't think that was happening. And so, Raskin withdrew from consideration yesterday.
Since Raskin (like Powell) was twice before confirmed by the Senate, she was pretty clearly brought down here by an intense lobbying campaign mounted by fossil fuel producers. It is not known yet, of course, whom Joe Biden will tap to take her place. However, now that their least favorite nominee is out of the running, it's possible the Republicans on the Banking Committee will back down and allow the other three nominees to be considered. (Z)
Do you recall last year when, almost out of thin air, Congress made Juneteenth a holiday? Such legislation had been introduced many times over the years, and then, all of a sudden, it finally took. So now, if you work for a bank or the federal government or the U.S. Postal Service, you have an extra day off. Just like that!
Yesterday, it happened again. Not with the whole Congress, at least not yet, but with the Senate. One of Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) pet projects has been securing year-round Daylight Saving Time (DST), since that means more daytime sunshine. He is, after all, from the Sunshine State. The Senator has introduced a DST bill numerous times, only to see it go nowhere, not unlike his presidential campaign. Yesterday, however, the Senate gave its assent. Unanimously, no less!
We read at least a dozen stories on this particular item of news, and they all contained the same half a dozen or so facts. Like, for example, every story mentioned that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) was presiding at the time the bill was passed, and that she was pleased with the result (despite the fact that Arizona doesn't actually observe DST). So, she doesn't hate all legislation, just the stuff that might help poor people or minorities. In any event, what none of the coverage mentions is exactly why the entire Senate all of a sudden climbed aboard the DST Express.
That means we are left to guess. Fortunately, we think we have a pretty good guess: All 100 Senators were bribed by the Canadians, because the folks up north want their to be plenty of daylight, a.k.a. "invasion time," in the U.S. No wait, that's not our guess... just our suspicion. Our actual guess is based on the fact that The United States tried this twice before, once during World War II, and once in the 1970s. In both cases, the purpose was to conserve energy; the idea being that more hours of daylight means less hours of using lamps and other electric light sources. Presumably, the not-so-great oil market right now is motivating the senators to once again try to conserve some energy.
At this point, the bill heads to the House for its consideration (Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, was non-committal yesterday) and, if it clears that hurdle, to the White House for a signature. It is entirely possible that Pelosi and Joe Biden will decide that permanent DST is a popular thing, and that they should support it. After all, there's no week where Americans are going to be crankier about all this clock-changing business than this week (since clocks change over this weekend, which will remain the case even if the bill becomes law, since it's set to take effect in 2023).
On the other hand, it's also possible that Pelosi and/or Biden will take note of some things. The first is that permanent DST doesn't actually save energy; it tends to increase consumption by about 1% since people begin their days when it's darker and colder and so end up using heaters more, and heaters suck up more electricity than lamps do. Oh, and you can't walk around in the dark, so the "lamp savings" that happen in the afternoon/evening get offset by greater usage in the morning. Another downside to permanent DST, and Americans starting their days in the dark, is more accidents, particularly involving schoolchildren walking to school. And because of these issues, and a few others, both experiments with permanent DST in the past ended pretty quickly, with the first lasting 1942-46 and the second 1973-74. There was a certain senator from Delaware who had just taken his seat in 1973; he voted for the permanent DST and he also voted for its repeal when things didn't work out so well. That experience just might influence his thinking today, should a bill reach his desk. (Z)
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) surprised everyone when he announced his intention to resign his seat with 4 years left in his term. It did not take long for would-be successors to start lining up, however, such that the special primary election held on June 28 will have a lengthy list of candidates for voters to choose from. Well, for Republican voters to choose from, at least.
To start, there is Luke Holland (R). The good news for him is that he used to be Inhofe's chief of staff, and he already has the Senator's endorsement. The bad news for him is that he's an unknown, so much so that he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. This is a site that has an article entitled Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, so it's not really a tough bar to clear. His campaign should probably get on it.
In addition, Oklahoma has five representatives in the U.S. House, all of them Republicans. Markwayne Mullin has already said he's in, while Kevin Hern announced yesterday that he's out. Stephanie Bice has expressed interest, while Frank Lucas and Tom Cole don't appear to have said anything at all. Lucas and Cole are the deans of the delegation, with both having been elected in 2003. The next-longest tenure is Mullin, who's only been in the House since 2013.
There are also various other Republican candidates who have declared. Nathan Dahm is currently an Oklahoma state senator, and has the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). T.W. Shannon is the former speaker of the Oklahoma House, and has the endorsement of Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Alex Gray used to work for the National Security Council, and has the endorsement of Joe Arpaio. Gray must be... nice.
On the Democratic side, things are simpler. The only declared candidate is Kendra Horn, and there aren't too many others who might even plausibly challenge her, since the Democratic bench in Oklahoma is so thin it even meets with Bill Maher's approval. The good news for the blue team is that Horn actually managed to get elected to the U.S. House, serving one term from 2019-2021. The bad news is that Oklahoma is a very red state, and has sent a grand total of one Democrat to the Senate in the last half century (and he, David Boren, was very conservative and was first elected in 1978).
In short, this is the Republicans' race to lose. If they can avoid an absolute stinker of a candidate, then they'll keep the seat. That said, a six- or seven- or ten-headed primary is exactly the kind of contest that allows a stinker to sometimes sneak through, so we'll have to see what happens. Due to an interesting state law, every candidate has exactly three days to file, from the morning of April 13 to the close of business on April 15. So, the field will be in flux until then. (Z)
Speaking of stinker candidates, the Republicans have one in the Georgia U.S. Senate race, courtesy of one Donald Trump. It's Herschel Walker, of course, whose qualifications for high office are that he played pro football, and also that he... played college football? Well, those things, plus he's Black. In Donald Trump's analysis, football + Black means that Black voters will come out of the woodwork to vote for Walker, making him a surefire winner.
That's very poor analysis, of course. And it also overlooks that Walker has some rather serious liabilities beyond his utter lack of experience. Though he's a "successful businessman," that term describes him in much the same way it describes Trump: nowhere near as successful as he claims, and with considerable alleged fraud in his past. Walker also has some domestic violence in his past, as well as some serious mental health challenges. An ideal candidate, he is not.
Because Walker is unpolished, and because he has a tendency to say unwise things, his best chance at election is to talk as little as is possible. Like, if he could somehow spend the entire campaign living in an ice shack in Siberia, that would probably be a savvy move. But that's not the plan; he's actually gonna campaign. And that means he's going to say a lot of really silly things that are not likely to help his cause. For example, he appeared onstage at a megachurch on Sunday with pastor Chuck Allen, and took the opportunity to hold forth on the Theory of Evolution:
Walker: Remember Adam was there. Remember, Adam came there and then Eve came. So, somebody had to start it out. So that means there had to be a God. It wasn't just some bomb blew up and started it out. Then, I'll tell you something else I heard. Now think about this, because at one time, science said that man came from apes. Did it not?
Allen: Every time I read or hear that, I think to myself, you just didn't read the same Bible I did.
Walker: Well, this is what's interesting, though. If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.
Allen: Now you're getting too smart for us, Herschel.
Walker: No, no, think about this. We have evolution that is, we've gotten so intelligent that if that is true, why are there still apes?
In case anyone is wondering about the answer to Walker's question, it is that humans and great apes had a common ancestor many years ago, and evolutionary pressures pushed some descendants in one direction and some descendants in another.
Anyhow, there are undoubtedly still evolution skeptics out there, including many people in the audience that Walker was addressing. However, those folks are already with him. For everyone else, evolutionary skepticism is like doubting the Earth is actually round—it suggests he's damaged goods. Making things even worse is not only that he was saying dumb stuff, but that he clearly thought his insights were profound. That's not a good look, either.
Again, Walker ought to lock himself in a closet until the election is over. But he's not gonna, which means we cannot wait for the Georgia senatorial debates (if Walker agrees to participate) and to his first joint campaign appearance with Trump. That should be appointment TV. (Z)
Those readers who are sports fans know that the NCAA basketball tournaments will commence this week, with brackets having been announced on Sunday, play-in games starting yesterday, and the tournament proper commencing tomorrow.
On the suggestion of reader and sports fan A.B. in Wendell, NC, we've decided to take a page from the NCAA's book and to do our own little bracket competition, with an eye toward identifying the worst political figure in America.
Your role in this, as readers, is really quite simple. We'll give you links to surveys in which political figures will be matched up, head-to-head. For each matchup, you just have to pick the person you think is the worse of the two. This will eventually whittle things down to a Final Four, and ultimately to a "champion."
We would suggest that as you make your picks, these are some things to consider:
Of course, it is ultimately up to each reader to decide for themselves what makes a political figure bad.
We put together a rough list of potential competitors, grouped into themed brackets, and then sent them to a dozen readers (mostly our copy editors) for feedback. Once we had a master list, we used Google searches to seed the competitors, specifically how many hits were generated by "hate" + the person's name. That means that we did not necessarily "force" obvious matchups like Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump Jr. vs. Hunter Biden. The competitors are seeded on their merits (or, perhaps, lack thereof).
Today, we shall unveil and make available for voting the first two brackets. Thursday will be two more.
And without further ado, the first quadrant of the bracket:
In case you are interested, here are the names of the last four people who did not make the cut for this bracket, and the basic reasons why:
Now, the second quadrant of the bracket:
In case you are interested, here are the names of the last four people who did not make the cut for this bracket, and the basic reasons why:
If you want to cast your votes, the link is here. The deadline for submissions is Monday at noon, PT.
When we reveal the results for these rounds, we may run some reader comments. If you have some, either about the brackets in general, or about a specific matchup, let us know. Don't forget to include your city and initials.
Let the games (as it were) begin! (Z & V)