Dem 51
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GOP 49
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020 Senate: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 Senate : (None)

Dianne Feinstein Has Passed Away

This news broke mere moments before we were set to make this post live. ABC's San Francisco affiliate, and shortly after that many other outlets, reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) died last night at the age of 90.

Feinstein was a legend in Washington and a trailblazer in politics, both as a woman and a Jew, not to mention being a kingmaker and queenmaker in her home state. Her general centrism did not sit well with some California Democrats, but it was just fine and dandy with the majority of them, as well as a fair number of independents and moderate Republicans, with the result that she collected more votes in her lifetime than any U.S. Senator in American history. The final chapter of her Senate career was not a highlight, of course, but she died with her boots on, which is clearly what she wanted to do.

Her replacement will be chosen by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), who immediately has two tough judgment calls to make. The first is how quickly to name someone. Newsom wants to be respectful to someone who was not only a legend, but was a mentor of his. That said, given the situation with the budget, the Democrats are not in a great position to be one person down right now. Though it's possible that, out of respect to Feinstein's career, one of her longtime colleagues will agree to the arrangment that was once common, and withhold their vote to balance out her missing vote.

Newsom's second tough decision will be choosing a replacement. He's already said that he wants to pick a Black woman, and that he doesn't want to give anyone an undue advantage in next year's Senate race. That means a placeholder. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who at 85 is also nearing the end of a long and successful career, would seem to be an obvious pick. If not her, then maybe L.A. mayor Karen Bass, who is 69. However, Bass just won that job after a tough campaign, and likely wouldn't want to give it up for a fairly brief Senate term.

In view of the fact that Feinstein first took office in 1992, over 30 years ago, there are millions of Californians who have never known a U.S. Senate without her. She will be well and rightfully honored in the next several days. Yehi zichra baruch—May her memory be a blessing. (Z)

Republicans in The House, Part I: A Hard Day's Night

Things continue to go poorly for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He had a rough day, as there was a confrontation between him and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Then, as the House worked into the evening on the budget situation, things did not get better.

The Gaetz dustup involved a claim that the Speaker is paying social media influencers to say bad things about the Floridian. Anything is possible, we suppose, but that sounds like loony conspiracy theorizing to us. There's plenty of bad stuff about Gaetz on social media without McCarthy having to spend money to add to the (massive) pile. The Speaker said as much, observing that Gaetz isn't worth wasting time on, much less money. This led to some rather loud shouting, and possibly to brief fisticuffs, depending on who is telling the story. The meeting was behind closed doors, so only members of the House Republican Conference know for certain.

A few hours later, it was time for the Speaker to finally "show" that he can take this shutdown bull by the horns, and get something done. So, he scheduled votes on several spending bills. The good news for McCarthy, such as it is, is that he managed to get three bills approved by the House: State Department and Foreign Operations passed 216-212 (with all Democrats along with Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA voting against), Defense passed 218-210 (with two Democrats, Jared Golden, D-ME, and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, D-WA, voting for and two Republicans, Tim Burchett, R-TN, and Ken Buck, R-CO voting against), and Homeland Security passed 220-208 (with all Republicans, along with Golden and Gluesenkamp Pérez voting in favor).

Now the bad news. The three bills that passed the House have no real chance of passing the Senate, much less getting a presidential signature. Further, the fourth bill brought to the floor, Agriculture and FDA, failed badly, 191-237, as 27 moderate Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats due to anti-abortion-pill language in the bill. And finally, even if one or more of these bills somehow do become law, they would not actually avert the shutdown.

The Senate continues to work on its (mostly clean) continuing resolution, but that vote is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Not likely it will pass, get sent over to the House, and pass the lower chamber in a matter of 5 or 6 hours. Meanwhile, McCarthy's plan for Friday is basically the same plan he's had several times this week. He wants to cue up a resolution that would fund the government short term, and would also have a bunch of goodies for Freedom Caucusers. However, the bill doesn't have enough of what the FCers want, so they are against it. House Democrats, the 18 Biden Republicans in the House, and the Senate are not terribly interested in the bill, either. So, it's pretty much dead on arrival.

Given that, as you read this, there are roughly 36 hours left to a shutdown, the likeliest sequence of events is becoming clear: (1) the government shuts down, (2) in view of the "emergency" and the unwillingness of the FCers to compromise, McCarthy brings the Senate resolution, or some other moderate short-term bill to the floor and gets it passed with Democratic votes, and (3) the FCers try to vacate the chair.

In view of where things appear to be headed, members in the House are already (tentatively) making plans, just in case. On the Democratic side, members are pointing out that if McCarthy alienates the Freedom Caucusers by working with Democrats on the budget, is will be in a de facto permanent partnership with the blue team, since the Democrats' votes would be needed for him to keep his job. So, they want a power-sharing agreement, wherein House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) would enjoy some of the prerogatives of the speakership. Republicans don't love that idea, but many of them ARE casting about to see if there's a candidate to succeed McCarthy who might plausibly get 218 votes.

The fall of Kevin McCarthy is not a done deal yet, of course. He might pull a rabbit out of the hat in the next 36 hours or so (and keep in mind that since the government doesn't do all that much on Sunday, a shutdown won't really start to hurt until Monday morning, giving him a de facto extra day if he needs it). Meanwhile, the FCers are impetuous and angry, and Gaetz in particular is looking to get some headlines in advance of his expected 2026 Florida gubernatorial bid. However, they will nonetheless need to think long and hard about whether to boot McCarthy, because the odds are very high that the next Speaker will be nowhere near as beholden to them and nowhere near as willing to kowtow to them. (Z)

Republicans in The House, Part II: You Fool No One

We honestly cannot grasp the thinking of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and his fellow witch hunters. Not that they're pursuing a Joe Biden impeachment. That may be venal, nakedly partisan and an abuse of power, but at least we understand what the goal is. The part we don't get is the rush to get the proceedings underway. Because Jordan & Co. just had to start this week, they allowed themselves to be substantially drowned out by bigger news (say, the GOP debate, the budget mess, etc.), and they also moved forward with three witnesses of dubious merit whose testimony was a waste of 6 hours of everyone's time (well, everyone who watched, that is—for our part, we did our duty with 3 hours of GOP debate and Trump speech on Wednesday).

Here are the three people who testified on opening day of the impeachment inquiry:

  1. Bruce Dubinsky: He is a world-class forensic accountant. How do we know? Because the website where he markets his services says so, and everyone knows you have to tell the full and honest truth on the Internet. He's testified in many, many criminal cases where accounting expertise was needed. Of the three witnesses called by the Republicans yesterday, he is the one most appropriate... if only there was some actual evidence for him to discuss.

  2. Jonathan Turley: He is the legal scholar whose fame far outweighs his scholarship, and who continues to present himself as a liberal who is "open" to many ideas. Everyone else thinks he's a conservative. In any event, he does not know the Biden family, and so has no direct testimony to give. Obviously, he was just there to prattle on about how impeaching a president like Biden is legal and justifiable and within the bounds of the Constitution. Of course, one guy's broad legal opinion does not an impeachment case make; Turley's appearance achieved so little that even a Biden hater like Steve Bannon wondered why Turley was there.

  3. Eileen O'Connor: She worked in the tax division of the Bush 43 era DoJ. She also writes op-eds about her dislike of the Biden family. Oh, and she uses her LinkedIn page to warn about how the U.S. is being destroyed by "hordes" of immigrants. Needless to say, someone with a last name like O'Connor is undoubtedly of Native American extraction, and could not themselves be the descendant of immigrants who came to America oh, say, in the 1850s or so.

    Anyhow, which of the three things—former bureaucrat, editorialist, or xenophobe—qualifies her to be a material witness in a de facto criminal prosecution, nobody seems to know.

When the 1/6 Committee called witnesses, they were powerhouses, and carefully chosen for both relevance and impact. This trio falls just a wee bit short of that standard, so much so that House Democrats had a field day poking them in their eyes. MSNBC even put together a montage of Democrats doing so, which you can view here, if you wish.

It is not just us, or House Democrats, or even Steve Bannon who were unimpressed, however. Even several Fox-ers offered negative reviews. For example, this from Neil Cavuto:

There is no doubt about the curious nature of Hunter Biden's financial connections to a host of foreign players. There is still, at best, circumstantial evidence to connect his father to it. That's not to be a legal apology for his father, but many times I saw references to Biden in these remarks as if they were Joe Biden. Repeatedly, they were references to Hunter Biden. Now, again, I'm not a lawyer. I'm not even smart in interpreting legal shows I see on TV.

But when you begin to trumpet what you have as the beginning of an explosive inquiry into the president of the United States to potentially remove him from office, you think you'd bring your A-game. Maybe this is part of a pattern and a legal process of which I'm totally unfamiliar. Guilty as charged. But this took over six hours today, my friends. Over six hours. I wonder.

As one MSNBC anchor observed, "If you've lost Fox, then who have you still got?"

But again, the big problem is not the less-then-stellar witnesses. That can be dealt with; lawyers do it all the time. No, it's the lack of evidence. And the fact that Republicans still have nothing (despite their constant and ongoing claims that they are JUST about to reveal utterly damning proof of everything) is that their own witnesses conceded there was no evidence against Biden. "I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment," Turley admitted. "I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud, or any wrongdoing. In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment," acknowledged Dubinsky.

If you would like even more of an indication that this is all smoke and mirrors, take a look at this clip brought to our attention by reader I.H. in Washington, DC:

In the event you don't want to watch it, it features a reporter from NBC asking House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) about a couple of items of Biden corruption "evidence" that are in the 700 pages of material House Republicans released earlier this week. The most salient question is that something from 2017 is held out as "proof" of Biden influence peddling, but Biden was a private citizen in 2017. Smith uses every trick in the book to avoid answering the question, including the good ol' "you're a liberal media member who just isn't willing to have an open mind." The Representative never does answer the question, or even appear to understand it.

Meanwhile, as the Republicans flail around, the Democrats are working to turn the tables. Recall that the person who has been most central in the Biden corruption narrative is... Rudy Giuliani. So, the blue team thinks it would be swell if he showed up to share his insights. Republicans are... reluctant, thus far, since they know full well that would be a massacre.

And to return to the question at the beginning of this item for a moment, we actually do have a fairly good idea of what it is that is driving Jordan and his cronies to make this a rush job. You might think it's the shutdown, and that they want to squeeze this in before the government is closed for business for days or weeks. However, the Republicans on the committee have already said that they'll keep at it, even if there is a shutdown.

The only reason to rush it, unless they are just drunk on power, is that they fear the mandate to launch an impeachment inquiry has an expiration date. Either Kevin McCarthy could be removed and replaced by someone who would cancel the inquiry or, more likely, McCarthy could be compelled to strike a deal with House Democrats that includes an end to the impeachment "investigation." If it was us, we'd rather hold our breath and take our chances on waiting until we could put our best foot forward, and not have to compete with other news. However, if you don't have a good foot to put forward, then it probably makes sense that you might as well get going before the rug might be yanked out from under you. (Z)

Meanwhile, Over in the Senate: You Got The Look

While things are not going great in the House right now, the good news is that our long national nightmare in the Senate is finally over. That's right, a group of mostly Republican senators, led by Republican senator Mitt Romney (UT) and honorary Republican senator Joe Manchin (WV), has written up and passed a formal dress code for the floor of the Senate. That brings an end to the laissez faire dress code that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced just last week, and it means that Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) will once again be forbidden from wearing a hoodie and flip-flops to work. Who said the Senate can't get things done?

We mention this news for just one reason. Given how much dysfunction there is in Congress, including in the Senate, it makes an interesting statement about priorities that this got done in just a matter of days. That statement becomes even more interesting up against the backdrop of a looming government shutdown. We understand full well, of course, that a dress code is a slightly easier thing to hammer than the federal budget, and that the current holdup with the budget is really the House and not the Senate. But most voters don't follow politics as closely as we, and as the readers of this site, do. And we can imagine that if your average voter learns that the upper chamber was focusing on a dress code the same week the government was shut down, that might make that voter none too happy.

If there is voter pique over the choices being made by the senators, we doubt that pique will be visited on members of one political party substantially more than on members of the other political party. Still, given the not-too-great optics of the situation, and given that the American people should have every reason to believe that getting the budget in order is priority #1, couldn't this have waited another week or two? Is it really that big a problem if Fetterman wears his flip-flops to work a few more times? (Z)

Trump Legal News: Moby Dick

Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, who is the featured instrumentalist on "Moby Dick," was famous for being able to extend drum solos longer than any other drummer. Donald Trump is famous for being able to extend court cases longer than any other defendant. If you feel that a song that references a book about a great white whale has any other connections to Trump, that is up to you.

Yesterday's Trump legal news actually went against the usual grain when it comes to the former president and litigation. To start, Trump's legal team advised Judge Scott McAfee that they will not try to move the Georgia election interference case to federal court. If they did plan to make such a request, the deadline for it was 5:00 p.m. today.

Here is the rational reason for this decision: Several of Trump's Georgia co-defendants already tried to move their cases to federal court and failed. And by "failed," we mean "remember the Hindenburg" level failure. The rulings in these cases made clear that the defendants were not within a country mile of securing the decisions they wanted. That includes former Trump chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, whose argument for removal most closely approximates the one Trump would have made. Since Trump was likely to join his co-defendants in losing, and since every Hail Mary pass a legal team throws causes the judge to take the next Hail Mary pass a little less seriously, there was wisdom in not wasting a bullet here tilting at windmills. If we may mix our metaphors for a moment.

So that is the rational reason. Why Team Trump made this decision, we do not know. Maybe Trump's lawyers laid it out to him, and said that fighting for removal was a dumb play. Maybe he has decided that the more times a judge says "no" to him, the worse he looks. Truth be told, if we had to guess, we would speculate that Trump is starting to get nervous about money, and that he might start clamping down on longshot motions that cost him five figures to produce and file, and that have virtually no chance of being successful.

And now that we're on the subjects of Trump's finances and of failed motions, that brings us to the other big story from yesterday. Trump did not try to remove his New York (civil) fraud case, since there is no argument for doing so. But he did try to delay it. And yesterday, the appellate court issued one of the shortest legal rulings we've ever seen. The executive summary: "Hmmm. No." The actual ruling isn't much longer than that. This means that, barring some sort of last-second "Trump miracle," the case will proceed on Monday.

We have noted that New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled summarily against Trump and his sons on one count, finding that they are guilty of fraud. We've also noted that in the case that will go to trial next week, New York AG Letitia James is seeking a fine of $250 million, which is a chunk of change. That said, we really should emphasize how much financial peril the former president is in. If he is unable to get Engoron's order overturned (and the case against the Trumps is rock solid), or if he loses on the other counts, Trump will be unable to do business in New York and will have to divest himself of his New York properties, like Trump Tower. The Trump Organization, which is incorporated in New York, will be badly wounded, and may collapse. The same is true of at least a dozen other LLCs, and God (and Mazars) only know how many S-Corps.

Meanwhile, the fine that James is seeking is actually a baseline. Experts who have looked at the case, and who have watched similar cases in the past, guess that the final hit could be something more like $500-$750 million. Even if you believe Trump really is a billionaire (and many do not), he certainly doesn't have that kind of cash laying around. And this is before we consider that he'd have to pay up right at the time that his business empire would be crumbling into dust.

Trump's criminal cases get more attention because they threaten his freedom as a citizen. But our guess is that, at least at the moment (thanks to the power of positive delusion), the former president is most worried about the New York case, because it threatens him as Trump the tycoon. Of course, if Trump the tycoon is broke, or nearly so, it will be rather harder to pay the bills needed for lawyers to protect Trump the citizen. Which goes back to why he might be putting the brakes on moderately expensive legal longshots. (Z)

The Day After the Debate: A Little Less Conversation

There has been time for the post-debate dust to settle. So, we thought we'd pass along a few ideas and other tidbits before we put the second Republican candidates' debate to bed, and start looking ahead to (well, dreading) the third one:

  • A Little Less Conversation: Actually, more like a little less debating. Because these vapid events are producing nothing of value, they are not moving the needle at all. Quite a few organizations (like, for example, Politico) ran focus groups of GOP voters. The story is the same, over and over: The debate isn't going to help them decide how to vote.

  • Perino Agrees: Fox's Dana Perino, who was one of the three moderators of the debate, also opined that nothing useful was said during the debate. Hmmm, wonder if Perino knows who might be partially to blame for that, and who might have had the power to insist that the candidates say something beyond their canned talking points?

  • The Ratings Also Agree: The ratings for the first candidates' debate weren't great. The ratings for the second one were worse; 3.5 million fewer people tuned in, leaving Fox with a viewing audience of less than 10 million people. Unless Donald Trump shows up for the next one, that trend is only going to continue. And the smaller the fraction of the voting public you're reaching, the less chance you have to break through as a candidate.

  • Trump Agrees, Too: Trump is not too likely to show up for debate #3. He's not exactly a neutral party here, but he declared yesterday that all future debates should be canceled, so the Republicans can unite and focus their fire on Joe Biden. Put another way: The primaries are over, I'm the candidate, deal with it.

  • General Pivot: We wrote yesterday that the general election has clearly already begun, primaries be damned, as Joe Biden is now targeting Trump directly. We should have also pointed out a bit more explicitly that Trump's speech to the auto workers was much more about the evils Joe Biden than it was about the concerns of the working class. In other words, Trump has moved on to the general, and the RNC can either join him or be left behind.

  • Fake News: As we noted yesterday, the Trump campaign clearly tried to massage things so that it appeared that his speech was before a pro-union crowd. In truth, it was at a non-union shop, and only a few UAW members were in attendance. And actually, it appears that most or all of those "UAW members" were phonies, holding counterfeit signs. Can't this guy do anything honestly? Is it that hard to find a few actual pro-Trump union members in Michigan, of all places?

  • Not Fake News: It turns out, as several readers wrote in to advise us, Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) story about the infant who died from fentanyl poisoning is at least partly true. There was an infant who died that way, and the family had recently stayed at an AirBnB. DeSantis presented it as a matter of fact that the drugs came from the AirBnB; in truth that is merely the claim being made in a lawsuit that has yet to be adjudicated. Nonetheless, DeSantis' imprecision does not materially change the point that there is a serious fentanyl problem in the U.S.

  • Fake News, Part II: We also had several readers write in to tell us that Vivek Ramaswamy's border tunnels are a real thing. Yes, they are. The part we looked askance at is his claim that they are being used for semi trucks full of fentanyl. Most or all of the tunnels are not that large, and semi trucks are not how most fentanyl ends up in the U.S.

  • Institutionalized: David Faris, writing for Slate, makes an interesting argument that Republican primary candidates are leaning into extreme, unpopular positions because they really don't care about pivoting to the center if they get the nomination. Their thinking, in his view, is that winning the Republican nomination is really what matters, and institutional advantages (e.g., the Electoral College) will take care of the rest.

  • Irreligious: Molly Olmstead, also writing for Slate, points out that Republican presidential candidates are barely bothering to pay lip service to evangelicals anymore. The clear lesson of the Trump years is that culture wars stuff is more than enough to keep them loyal. If Olmstead is right, and we think the evidence is pretty strong, then the evangelicals' power over the Republican political program is going to get weaker and weaker over time.

As we did last time, for a more black and white breakdown of the debate, here's a chart of the various winners/losers pieces we could find. Left-leaning outlets are in blue, right-leaning in red, and international in beige. And we're only including "wins" and "losses" for the seven people who were actually on stage, though note that half of them had Donald Trump as a winner (and Vox and The Guardian had him as the ONLY winner):

The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Left-leaning Total
The Daily Mail (UK)
The Independent (UK)
The Guardian (UK)
The Telegraph (UK)
International Total
The Hill
The Washington Examiner
The Washington Times
Right-Leaning Total
Overall Total

The messages here are pretty clear. Nobody is buying what Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence, Chris Christie or Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) is selling. Ron DeSantis is treading water, and Tim Scott is barely making an impression. Meanwhile, Haley is lapping the field (she also crushed everyone in wins and losses last time). Not that winning the debates is helping her polling numbers, mind you. (Z)

Another GOP Presidential Candidate?: I Heard It through the Grapevine

Tomorrow, we will have a list of some of the best political news aggregators, as suggested by readers (there's still time to weigh in; don't forget your initials and location).

Nobody has, as yet, suggested the Drudge Report, presumably because it's quite right-leaning. Matt Drudge is also prone to sensationalism, muckracking and general sh**-stirring. That said, he's also dialed in to some of the insider circles of the Republican Party. So, take all of these things in mind when we pass along the news that Drudge is strongly hinting that he has heard credible rumors that a Republican heavyweight is about to enter, and shake up, the race.

The obvious person here is Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA). And indeed, Drudge has hinted that Youngkin is the person he's talking about. That said, Drudge also likes a good misdirect, and there are certainly other would-be GOP presidential candidates who would get some attention, like Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA), Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), former Maryland governor Larry Hogan and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

All the semi-hoopla about Youngkin notwithstanding, he is betting the farm on the Republicans capturing the Virginia state legislature, going all out to campaign for Republicans. If he fails, the story will be "Youngkin doesn't even have any power in his own state." That is not a great way to start a presidential campaign.

It is plausible, in our view, that someone could still come along and knock off Trump. He's got serious vulnerabilities and many Republican voters have made clear their minds are not made up (for example, a new poll of Iowa says that 79% of Republicans there are considering non-Trump candidates). However, we seriously doubt that any of the people at the debate last night can be the one to topple The Donald. The person to do it, if there is one, has to jump in, get some momentum, qualify for and crush the third GOP debate, and then get a lot of press about how maybe they just might be the Trump vanquisher. Then the donor class would have an actual alternative to Trump, and things could get interesting.

For now, however, it's all just rumors, hints and idle speculation. (Z)

My Gift Is My Song: Don't Fear the Reaper

The end comes for all men (and women, of course, though we thought Elizabeth II might just rewrite the rules). It also comes for all musical acts, either due to the death of a key member, or to internal tensions that make it impossible to keep moving forward, or to a host of other potential issues.

That brings us to the solution to last week's theme. We'll let reader A.F. in New Taipei, Taiwan, lay it out:

The songs are all tracks from the final studio album by the performers.
  • "You Never Give Me Your Money," by the Beatles (Abbey Road)
  • "Let It Be," by the Beatles (Let It Be)
  • "Keep the Customer Satisfied," by Simon and Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water)
  • "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win," by Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two)
  • "All Apologies," by Nirvana (In Utero)
  • "You Know I'm No Good," by Amy Winehouse (Back to Black)
  • "Oh My Heart," by R.E.M. (Collapse Into Now)
The ambiguity for the Beatles would arise as Abbey Road was the final album recorded by the group, but Let It Be was the final album released (despite being recorded earlier).

That is 100% on target, including the Beatles-related twist. The clue we gave on Saturday is that we almost used "Sitting on Top of the World" from the Cream album Goodbye. Obviously, Goodbye is Cream's final effort. Can't really release another album after you've released one with that title. Unless that subsequent album is We Spoke Too Soon.

The first 10 readers to get it right:

  1. J.L. in Hampton, VA
  2. M.J.S. in Cheshire, CT
  3. B.K. in Champlin, MN
  4. W.M.H.B. in Salamanca, Spain
  5. J.N. in Zionsville, IN
  6. N.S. in North Hollywood, CA
  7. F.Y. in Ann Arbor, MI
  8. D.L. in Uslar, Germany
  9. J.S. in Pittsburgh, PA
  10. T.D. in Chicago, IL

As to today's theme, it will be trivially easy if you deploy Google, but what's the fun in that? If you don't take that particular shortcut, we'd put the difficulty around a 5.5. The hint is that the theme was inspired by "A Little Less Conversation," as (Z) listened to that song on his phone. The version on the phone is actually the remix by Junkie XL. If it had been the original, then (Z) would have no reason to think of this particular theme.

We'll give another clue tomorrow; we've got a pretty good one in mind. If you have a guess as to what the theme is, either now or then, let us know here. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Got to Give It Up

Anytime we see a picture of state Sen. Colton Moore (R-GA), we for some reason start to think about the many and varied benefits of picking someone other than your first cousin to reproduce with:

Colton Moore

Don't know why that keeps popping into our heads. In any event, Moore is a far-right Trumper, conspiracy theorist and rabble-rouser. Undoubtedly you will be shocked to learn that his Senate district (SD-53) is contained within the U.S. House district (GA-14) of Marjorie Taylor Greene. They're both in the far northwest corner of the state.

In the past several months, Moore has been out for blood. And he wants it to come from Fulton DA Fani Willis, who had the temerity to indict Moore's Dear Leader. To that end, Moore has been pushing, prodding, and nagging his GOP colleagues to call a special session of the Georgia legislature, so as to investigate and then remove Willis.

There are a couple of problems here. The first is that special sessions are kind of a pain for legislators, since they have real jobs they're doing right now to support themselves. That is how it is in a state where the legislature meets for 40 business days per year. The second is that there is no basis for investigating or removing Willis, as there is no evidence she's done anything criminal or otherwise corrupt. The 32 non-Moore Republicans who control the agenda for the Georgia Senate do not want to bend over backwards in order to engage in political stunts that may not sit well with the somewhat non-Trumpy voters of the Peach State.

Moore is a True Believer, however, and would not give it up, no matter how many times his colleagues said "no." So, he launched a PR blitz, in which he talked to any outlet in Georgia who would have him, from the South Cupcake Junior High School Daily Reporter to Fox 5 Atlanta. And during those appearances, he said many things that were not only provocative, but outright false.

In response to the Senator's activities, his fellow Republicans decided that maybe they could conduct a little business right now. And so, they indefinitely booted him out of the Senate GOP caucus. Here's the key portion of the statement they issued explaining their decision:

Despite the fact that 32 of 33 Republican State Senators, the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, and the Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party agree that a Special Session to take action against the Fulton County District Attorney is impossible, Senator Moore has a right to his opinion. However, during his advocacy for his ill-conceived proposal, Senator Moore has knowingly misled people across Georgia and our nation, causing unnecessary tension and hostility, while putting his Caucus colleagues and their families at risk of personal harm.

Furthermore, Senator Moore was informed that he has violated multiple Caucus Rules on multiple occasions and was given every opportunity to simply adhere to the Rules going forward, not to abandon his wrongheaded policy position. Unfortunately, he has refused and was suspended by Leadership from participating in the Caucus until he agrees to abide by the Rules which he voted for at the beginning of his term.

You have to be pretty extreme, rhetoric-wise, to get smacked down by your own party like this. Although it means that Moore and Greene now have something else in common.

The clear message of the statement is that if Moore shuts up and flies right, he'll be welcomed back. However, he has no interest in doing so, it would seem, and has already taking to slurring his now-semi-colleagues as the "RINO caucus." So, this estrangement could last a while. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Hold Your Head Up

It is not just some Americans, like Eileen O'Connor (see above), who are hostile to immigrants. It happens in other countries too, of course. For example, we give you the U.K.'s Minister of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick. It's probably just a coincidence that his last name has all the letters you need to spell J-E-R-K.

Jenrick has a long list of controversies he's been involved in while serving in government, as he appears to be something like the Greg Abbott of England. We're just going to limit ourselves to (a part) of his anti-immigrant activity, or we'll be here all day. The Secretary's dislike for refugees and other foreigners is well known and is not in doubt, and his preferred approach to dealing with the matter is to make refugee accommodations as unpleasant as possible, so as to discourage as many people as possible from heading to the U.K.

Now let us pause to say that one can reasonably argue that immigrants are fine and well, but that they put strains on a nation, and there is a limit to how many people can be absorbed at one time. Is this where Jenrick's is coming from? Let's check his remarks in favor of the Illegal Migration Bill, which became law in July. He warned that the problem with immigrants is that they "cannibalize" the communities they settle in, by bringing "different lifestyles and values," thus undermining "cultural cohesiveness." He also declared that "a nation has a right to preserve itself." We don't know how Britons would describe such verbiage, but on the U.S. side of the pond, that sort of rhetoric is right out of the white supremacist playbook.

So, it's pretty clear where Jenrick stands and why. And that brings us to an absolutely petty thing he did in service of his "let's not make the accommodations too nice" approach. In Kent, there is a center for unaccompanied children who are seeking asylum. Obviously, these kids are blameless, and are going to be quite uncomfortable and scared to be in a new country, all alone, very possibly unable to speak the language. So, in order to make them feel a bit more at ease, an artist painted a large mural featuring a bunch of animated characters, including some from Disney, like Mickey Mouse. That Disney did not try to enforce its copyrights probably tells you something about how icky it would look to do that at a refugee facility. Jenrick, however, has no problem being even more cutthroat than the House of Mouse, and so immediately after the Illegal Migration Bill was passed, he ordered that the wall be painted over. Remember that line about J-E-R-K?

The good news is that there are also some very decent folks in Britain, including some rather notable artists and cultural figures like Guy Venables. Venables, for those who don't know him, is a prominent cartoonist, somewhat along the lines of a Garry Trudeau (of Doonesbury fame). As an insider, Venables knows everyone, and so was able to rally a gaggle of prominent folks to help bring his idea to fruition.

So what was that idea? Well, private citizens have no authority over a wall at a government facility. However, they do have the power to produce their own art in the form of, say, a coloring book. And so Venables and 50 of his friends produced The Great British Colouring Book, which has 68 different pages to color, like this one:

It shows a British double-decker
bus with a sign that says 'Welcome, Refugees!'

Among the other contributors are Tony Husband, Quentin Blake, Adam Hargreaves and Terry Gilliam. The activist group 38 Degrees has raised enough money to give every refugee child who arrives in England this year a book and a set of coloring pencils, and lift their spirits a little bit. Additional efforts are underway to do the same in the other realms of the United Kingdom.

So, a salute to Mr. Venables; if fundamental decency qualifies a person for knighthood, then he should be in line for one tout suite. Or, perhaps better yet, how about appointment as Minister of State for Immigration? That's a job that could use some new blood.

Hae a good weekend, all! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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