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Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: NV

Another One Bites the Dust

2022 has not been a good year for British PMs. Or for high-profile members of the British government named Elizabeth. So, if you're a PM named Elizabeth, you don't need a crystal ball to figure out that trouble might be ahead. And indeed, trouble definitely found PM Liz Truss yesterday. After a disastrous tenure marked by some of the most ill-advised policy initiatives England has ever seen (right up there with appeasement and the Stamp Act), Truss fell on her sword and announced that she will resign the premiership.

Although we are a U.S. politics site, we've given a lot of coverage to what is going in Britain these days. As we've noted many times, the U.K. is a very important ally, in terms of the international order in general, and the Ukraine War in particular. The U.S. and U.K. economies are also linked at the hip in many ways, with the result that turmoil on one side of the pond generally produces turmoil on the other side.

More broadly, it's pretty clear that people across the globe are grappling with some of the changes wrought by increasing globalization. Whether that means joining alliances (e.g., Finland entering NATO) or leaving alliances behind (e.g., Brexit) or embracing right-wing populists (e.g., Viktor Orbán, Jair Bolsonaro) or tossing such populists overboard (e.g., Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Truss), it all appears to be part of the same big, unfolding story. A story that is in many ways similar to what happened in the early decades of the 20th century.

One other thing. Truss went all-in on a trickle-down "solution" to Britain's economic woes. Just announcing that plan sent the British economy into a tailspin and led to the collapse of Truss' government. This left us wondering if trickle-down, which has failed time and again, has received the final dagger in its heart. There's no way to know yet, but what we can say is we're not the only ones asking that question.

Now that we've given a few of our thoughts, we'll turn it over to the readers. To start, we've run numerous reports from three of our British readers in the last few weeks. All three were kind enough to send in some thoughts on the fall of the Truss ministry. So, we'll start with that trio:

Comments from a few other denizens of the British Isles:

And a few thoughts from readers who do not reside in the U.K.:

Let us finish with a reminder that the Brits may sometimes have trouble coming up with a stable government, but they are second to no one when it comes to satire and their sense of the absurd. The Daily Star sent a staffer to a local store to buy, for the very reasonable price of 60 pence, a head of lettuce. The paper then set up a webcam, aimed at the (unrefrigerated) head of lettuce, wondering which would last longer—the lettuce, or the PM.

The lettuce won, of course. And now, you can get a personalized video message from the head of lettuce, via Cameo, for just $15. One wonders if Liz Truss would be able to command that high a fee, at this point. (Z)

Not a Good Day for Debt Forgiveness Opponents...

Yesterday, we wrote about the rather farfetched challenge that a couple of right-wing activist groups in Wisconsin filed, trying to get the Supreme Court to pause Joe Biden's student-loan-forgiveness program. We observed that "there is just no way that this filing can prevail." It did not take long for us to be proven correct. Wisconsin falls under the purview of Amy Coney Barrett, and it took her less than 24 hours to reject the request for an injunction. That means that it won't even reach the full Supreme Court, where it would have needed four votes just to get a hearing.

Consequently, those hoping for legal intervention were left with the case filed by the AGs of Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina. As we pointed out in the item yesterday, the big problem with these cases is establishing standing. In order to push back against the Biden plan, one has to prove that the Biden plan has done the plaintiff(s) some specific harm. The AGs of the six states tried to address that by arguing that those states administer some student loans at the state level (true), and that the Biden program could serve to cause people to shift from state-backed loans to federally backed loans (very possible), thus depriving those states of an important repository for state pension fund investments (maybe, but tough luck, we would say).

Not long after Barrett announced that she was not buying what the Wisconsin lawyers were selling, Judge Henry Edward Autrey, a George W. Bush appointee, announced that he is not buying what the AGs are selling. In his decision, Autrey said that he was not even going to consider the legality of the student loan program because he does not believe that the plaintiffs have actually established that they have standing to sue. So, he dismissed the case.

The AGs will presumably appeal; their political goals are served by fighting the fight; winning is just a little bit of icing on the cake. And the AGs will probably lose again, and again. We are thus left with the same conclusion as we reached in yesterday's item: The Biden initiative, more and more, is looking bulletproof. (Z)

...Or for Lindsey Graham

In December of 2020, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made what certainly seems to be a very unwise choice, getting involved in efforts to turn the screws on Georgia election officials in order to flip the state to Donald Trump. Honestly, we can't figure out what he was thinking. Did he really believe that the Georgians might say "13,000 more Trump votes? Coming right up, Senator!"? And did he really think that would get the ball rolling, and would cause several other states that Biden won narrowly to do the same? And did he imagine that, no matter how things turned out, this would all be forgotten once Inauguration Day rolled around?

In any event, Graham foolishly made his bed, and now he has to lie in it. Fulton County DA Fani Willis wants to have a chat with the Senator, and has issued a subpoena to that effect. Graham would prefer not to have that conversation, since it will force him to do at least one of these things: (1) plead the Fifth, which makes him look guilty; (2) betray Donald Trump, (3) commit perjury and/or (4) admit he broke the law. So, Graham has been trying to get out of the subpoena, arguing that he was acting in his capacity as a legislator, and therefore that he cannot be held to account.

Graham already lost this case once, when U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May told him he had to show up and talk to Willis. And yesterday, he lost again. A three-judge panel from the Eleventh Circuit, made up of two Trump appointees and one Clinton appointee, issued a 6-page order in which they found, in so many words, that Graham is full of it. The judges said that he has to appear, and that while he is free to assert that some questions may be out of bounds due to his duties as a legislator, they are somewhat skeptical that [the] "phone calls with Georgia election officials were legislative investigations at all."

The Senator has previously warned that, if he did not get the ruling he wanted from the Eleventh Circuit, he would appeal to the Supreme Court. He will presumably make good on that threat, though the odds are that they will reject the appeal. Even if they hear it, they are not likely to rule in his favor. So really, he's just killing time. And given the speed with which SCOTUS is rejecting such appeals these days (see above), he may be killing very little time, indeed. (Z)

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

When it comes to the two major political parties, there is one very attractive thing about billionaire donors: one-stop shopping. If DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, or RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, or any of the other pooh-bahs responsible for fundraising can persuade a billionaire to get out their checkbook, they can accomplish in a few hours (or a few minutes) what otherwise might take weeks or months of fundraising to do. On top of that, when it comes to modern fundraising, you often have to spend money to raise money. But with a billionaire, there's very little of that—maybe some nice sushi for the pitch meeting, and a handsome elephant- or donkey-shaped toilet paper cozy as a thank you gift, but that's about it.

On the other hand, there are also some problems with billionaire donors. They tend to think that writing a check gives them the right to dictate to the party or the politician they are donating to. Of course, they are usually right about that, and every politico knows that part of the devil's bargain you make when you cash a check from the Kochs or the Uihleins or George Soros is that when they say "jump," the only acceptable answer is "How high?"

There are some other problems, too, that have been on particular display this cycle. Billionaires tend to be fickle, and what they say today may not be what they think tomorrow (see Musk, Elon and the purchase of Twitter). They also tend to really love money—you don't generally become a billionaire unless you're somewhat obsessive on that score. The implication of these two things, when taken together, is that the parties often plan their strategy around funds they think are coming down the pike, only to see those dollars go "poof" faster than your average British prime minister.

The most notable recent example, perhaps, is Miriam Adelson. Her husband Sheldon, of course, used to dispatch Brink's trucks full of cash to the Republican Party on a regular basis. Miriam's political outlook is quite similar to Sheldon's, particularly when it comes to being anti-labor and pro-Israel. So, the GOP assumed the Brink's trucks would just keep coming. Not so much, as it turns out. Adelson has donated less than $10 million this cycle, and has made clear that she is largely uninterested in underwriting the Republican Party.

And then there is Peter Thiel. The Silicon Valley tycoon has a very particular worldview, though his core issue is isolationism and anti-globalization. This cycle, he picked about a dozen pet candidates to support with his bucks. Most obviously, Thiel almost single-handedly propelled Republican U.S. Senate nominees Blake Masters (Arizona) and J.D. Vance (Ohio) to victory over crowded primary fields.

Party muckety mucks have no problem with an arrangement like this. McDaniel, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) largely don't care who gets elected, as long as they have an (R) next to their names. And if those victories can be secured on someone else's credit card, leaving the Party to send their precious dollars to other right races? That's a win-win. But the Faustian nature of the bargain reared its ugly head in Thiel's case when the billionaire suddenly became uninterested in seeing the races through to the end. By getting his guys nominated, Thiel felt he'd done enough. McConnell disagreed. Unfortunately for the Kentuckian, only one of these two men has access to Thiel's bank account, and it ain't the Minority Leader. So, the Republican Party has been left to make up the difference, which is no small thing, given that Ohio and Arizona are both pretty expensive places to campaign, and that Masters and Vance (especially Vance) are mediocre fundraisers.

The Democrats are having their own issues along these lines. The Party has been working desperately to cultivate replacements for Soros, Warren Buffett and other mega-donors who are likely to be crossing the rainbow bridge sooner rather than later. They thought they had struck gold (or, maybe Ethereum) with cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried is only 30 and he's got a net worth of $15 billion. So Harrison, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) were absolutely drooling as they got out their actuarial tables and figured out that they should be able to shake Bankman-Fried down for at least a half a century. And, in contrast to Miriam Adelson, who never promised that she would become a megadonor, Bankman-Fried encouraged this line of thinking. He predicted that he would spend "at least $100 million" this cycle, and said that a total outlay of $1 billion was within the realm of possibility.

Not so much, as it turns out. As with Thiel, Bankman-Fried got a bunch of his candidates through the primaries, and then promptly shut his wallet. Last week, he talked to Politico, and described his previous promise as "a dumb quote." Bankman-Fried also said that he views primaries as more important than general elections. That's a fair point. Just ask President Kerry, Sen. Cunningham (D-NC), and Gov. Whitman (R-CA) about how the important thing is to win primary elections.

Neither Thiel nor Bankman-Fried has given all that much of an explanation for their changes of course. However, one has to imagine that the upheavals in the economy are a part of the equation (that may also be playing a role in Miriam Adelson's reticence, since all her money comes from tourism). In particular, crypto has been an absolute roller coaster in the last 6 months or so. Bankman-Fried can't exactly announce that he's implemented austerity measures because the crypto market has become unreliable—that alone, coming from him, could cost him tens of millions of dollars if it makes crypto investors more skittish. Plus, his wealth is almost entirely theoretical, and it's surely not easy for him to cash out if he needs nine or ten figures in cold, hard cash.

Ultimately, the benefits from climbing into bed with billionaires are so great that the parties will keep doing it. But the risk is very clear: Dance with the devil, and you may just get burned. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Bad Company

Most folks in the tech sector would not be caught dead working for a right-wing social media platform. The first issue is their own personal politics; the people in tech skew heavily young, educated and liberal. The second issue is the politics of those who run tech. If you apply for a job at Google or Facebook or Yahoo, and your résumé includes a stint at Gab, Parler, Truth Social, Gettr, etc., you are all-but-certain to be passed up in favor of some other candidate.

This means that the right-wing platforms have access to a limited pool of talent—certainly much less talent than is actually needed to run a site effectively. So, it stands to reason that the people running the show at a Gab or a Gettr or a Truth Social are living embodiments of the Peter Principle—they've been promoted a level (or two, or ten) above their true competence.

Someone at Parler provided some evidence for this assumption this week. The people who run that platform are very excited that it is being acquired by Kanye West (probably because that is going to save Parler from going under). And the Parler pooh-bahs wanted their VIP users to know about the exciting news, so they sent an e-mail to said VIPs. However—and we thank the dozen or so readers who sent the story in—the addresses of the VIPs were put into the cc: field rather than the bcc: field. That means that, as everyone knows, everyone's e-mail address was visible to everyone else who got the message. And now, those e-mail addresses are also known to people who laid hands on a copy of the message (like, say, members of the media).

Consequently, among the folks outed as denizens of this particular cesspool are conspiracist and perennial candidate Laura Loomer, YouTuber Tim Pool, Daily Wire podcaster and admitted fascist Matt Walsh, Trump in-law Lara Trump, Trump attorney Lin Wood, and a bunch of other upstanding citizens. Because it's not always clear who owns a particular e-mail address, unless one uses one's actual name, there are others who are suspected but not yet verified, including Ivanka Trump and Dan Scavino.

Given that the far right is ultimately kind of incestuous, most of these folks probably had contact info for most of the other folks. And it's not exactly a secret that someone like Loomer or Walsh or Wood has some pretty unpleasant ideas. Still, it's embarrassing for Parler to make such an elementary screw-up, and it's embarrassing for the people who were doxxed to be all over the news for this particular reason. Further, there will surely be some enterprising young activist who takes advantage of the now-public e-mail addresses, and signs Loomer up for e-mails from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or Walsh up for e-mails from The Advocate. So, there is certainly plenty of schadenfreude here. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Doing Right by Wong

The United States, in its history, has done some pretty terrible things to Black people. And it's done some pretty terrible things to Native American people. And it's done some pretty terrible things to Latino people. The lowlights of these stories are fairly well known to people today, with the result that there is some substantial basis for a "make it right" impulse. Something like reparations for Black Americans is not likely to happen, of course, but there is at least some effort to acknowledge some of the mistakes of the past, and to try to honor Black, Latino, and Native American contributions to American culture. To take but one example, there is now a Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a Cesar Chavez Day and an Indigenous Peoples' Day, in addition to the newest federal holiday, Juneteenth.

Asians have also been the subject of some pretty shoddy treatment in the past. The Chinese folks who came to the U.S. during the gold rush were forced out of the mining business, targeted for acts of violence, slurred with all manner of vile language and forcibly segregated into Chinatowns. Demagogues thundered "The Chinese must go!," and while that specific policy was not implemented, Chinese immigrants were denied the right to come to the U.S. after 1882. They were largely replaced by Japanese immigrants, who were likewise targeted for violence, slurs, segregation and the like, laying the groundwork for internment during World War II.

There has, as a general rule, been less effort put into acknowledging the wrongs the U.S. has committed against Asians. Yes, there were payments made to Japanese internees back in the 1980s, and the terrible verdict in the case of Korematsu v. United States was overturned in high-profile fashion in 1988. But there is no Asian-inspired national holiday (unless you want to count Christmas, since Jesus, as a resident of Nazareth, was technically an Asian). There are few statues commemorating Asian Americans or their experience, few historical sites that recall the wrongs done to Asian people, and few stamps, coins, or other ephemera that honor prominent Asian Americans.

This week, however, the U.S. mint announced some important news on that latter point. Beginning Monday, it will begin circulating quarters—as previously announced—bearing the likeness of actress Anna May Wong. Here's what the coins look like:

You can see the entire left side of Wong's face plus
part of the right side, with her chin leaning on her left hand. Next to her face is her name.

Wong becomes the first Asian American to be featured on U.S. currency.

If you are not familiar with the career of Wong, you might find it of interest to read a little bit about her (Wong's Wikipedia article is a good place to start). Born in 1905, she was determined to make it in Hollywood. This despite the fact that there were relatively few Asian roles, and those that did exist were often played by white actors who were made to look Asian (for example, Warner Oland, a Swede who played the Chinese detective Charlie Chan in 16 movies). Overcoming these substantial obstacles, Wong carved out a 40-year career that included more than 60 screen credits. Along the way, she became the first Asian performer to play the lead in an American TV show (The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong), and, in 1960, the first Asian person to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In many of her appearances, Wong played roles that were rooted in ethnic stereotypes. She was particularly known for playing "dragon lady" type characters, though she also sometimes played demure and submissive wallflowers, as well. On many occasions, when showing clips from films like Gone with the Wind to students, (Z) has been asked why a minority actor would agree to take on such a stereotypical role. And the answer has two parts: (1) Because those were the only roles available, and (2) There was at least some possibility of pushing back at the stereotypes, if done in some subtle way. Wong was particularly good at giving her performances a subtext that pushed back against Asian stereotypes. If you'd like to see her in action, consider a viewing of Daughter of Shanghai (1937), which is one of her best, and still shows up on cable from time to time.

In any event, the release of the new quarter will bring attention to a trailblazing actor of Hollywood's golden age. And that's a good thing. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

We don't really believe Pennsylvania is tied. Still, it's clear that Mehmet Oz's weaponization of John Fetterman's stroke is working. That's too bad, because it will encourage other candidates to do the same, thus opening up a new front in the nastiness that is modern American politics. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arkansas Natalie James 32% John Boozman* 52% Oct 17 Oct 18 Hendrix Coll.
Colorado Michael Bennet* 54% Joe O`Dea 41% Oct 15 Oct 18 Civiqs
Florida Val Demings 45% Marco Rubio* 50% Oct 10 Oct 13 RMG Research
Illinois Tammy Duckworth* 48% Kathy Salvi 29% Oct 05 Oct 11 Research America
Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto* 48% Adam Laxalt 49% Oct 14 Oct 19 YouGov
New York Chuck Schumer* 52% Joe Pinion 38% Oct 14 Oct 18 SurveyUSA
Oregon Ron Wyden* 55% Jo-Rae Perkins 38% Oct 15 Oct 18 Civiqs
Pennsylvania John Fetterman 46% Mehmet Oz 46% Oct 19 Oct 19 InsiderAdvantage
Washington Patty Murray* 55% Tiffany Smiley 41% Oct 15 Oct 18 Civiqs

* Denotes incumbent

Today's post is already pretty long and kinda late, and already has a lot of content from readers in the Truss item. So, we'll have answers to the question about historical TV shows on Monday.

For now, however, we will have a slight follow-up to yesterday's item, at the suggestion of reader T.P. in Cleveland. The original question from in F.S. in Cologne, which we edited, asked for the top 10 entrepreneurs in American history. So, let's put it to a vote. You can choose up to three.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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