The Sublime and the Shambolic
Our split screen news cycle.
“Impact confirmed for the world’s first planetary defense test mission.” - NASA
A reminder that we can still do big things.
Humanity's first attempt to alter the motion of an asteroid or any celestial body played out in a NASA webcast from the mission operations center outside Washington, D.C., 10 months after DART was launched.
The livestream showed images taken by DART's camera as the cube-shaped "impactor" vehicle, no bigger than a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, streaked into the asteroid Dimorphos, about the size of a football stadium, at 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT) some 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth
Now back to our shambolic, petty politics.
ICYMI, the House GOP released its Gingrich-lite “Commitment to America” last week. “The document,” writes Ed Kilgore, “clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his ‘Democrat’ Party.”
But, as befitting a political party that in 2020 felt no need to actually have a platform, it is decidedly light in its policy loafers. It “does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy,” and “suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut ‘wasteful government spending’ without explaining what that means. . . .”
Even Fox News hosts have noted the essential nothingness of the non-legislative agenda, beyond the usual bromides.
And, of course…
Instead of legislating, Adam Kinzinger predicts, a GOP-run House will impeach Joe Biden every week. The specific charges? TBD.
"Back before we had all the crazies here — just some crazies — you know, every vote we took, we had to somehow defund ObamaCare in it…
"That's going to look like child's play in terms of what Marjorie Taylor Greene is going to demand of Kevin McCarthy…
You know that, right? Everybody knows that. So why pretend otherwise?
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Speaking of actual legislation…
A big day for the Electoral Count Act. . . via the Wapo’s Early 202:
The Senate bill to strengthen the Electoral Count Act, the 19th century law that governs Congress' role in certifying presidential election results, will be considered by the Senate Rules Committee this afternoon, the final step for the bill before it heads to the floor for a vote.
All signs point to a major bipartisan victory on an issue that has divided the country since Trump exploited loopholes in the law in his attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. Just nine Republicans, none of whom will face voters in November, voted for a similar version in the House last week.
Meanwhile, in Texas…
Checking in on the rule of law and the state’s top law enforcement officer. Via the Texas Tribune:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled his home in a truck driven by his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, to avoid being served a subpoena Monday, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
Ernesto Martin Herrera, a process server, was attempting to serve the state’s top attorney with a subpoena for a federal court hearing Tuesday in a lawsuit from nonprofits that want to help Texans pay for abortions out of state.
But . . . Texas is still #1!
Texas banned more books from school libraries this past year than any other state in the nation, targeting titles centering on race, racism, abortion and LGBTQ representation and issues, according to a new analysis by PEN America, a nonprofit organization advocating for free speech.
The report released on Monday found that school administrators in Texas have banned 801 books across 22 school districts, and 174 titles were banned at least twice between July 2021 through June 2022. PEN America defines a ban as any action taken against a book based on its content after challenges from parents or lawmakers.
A reminder: candidates matter
As you know, we’re out of the prediction business here at Morning Shots. But if the GOP fails to capture the senate and key governorships, this chart may explain the party’s “popularity gap” problem. Aaron Blake writes:
While it doesn’t count the GOP out of potentially winning the House and Senate and some key governor’s races, candidate popularity presents a significant and unnecessary hurdle in what should, historically speaking, be a good election for Republicans…
The gap is perhaps most pronounced in Pennsylvania, where both GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano have trailed consistently in the polls.
Check out the chasm here:
Speaking of Doug Mastriano, you really don’t hate to see it: “Mastriano’s Sputtering Campaign: No TV Ads, Tiny Crowds, Little Money.”
Mr. Mastriano, an insurgent state senator who in the spring cruised to the Republican nomination, is learning this fall that while it is one thing to win a crowded G.O.P. primary on the back of online fame and Donald J. Trump’s endorsement, it is quite another to prevail in a general election in a battleground state of nearly 13 million people.
He is being heavily outspent by his Democratic rival, has had no television ads on the air since May, has chosen not to interact with the state’s news media in ways that would push his agenda, and trails by double digits in reputable public polling and most private surveys.
There’s no sign of cavalry coming to his aid, either: The Republican Governors Association, which is helping the party’s nominees in Arizona, Michigan and six other states, has no current plans to assist Mr. Mastriano, according to people with knowledge of its deliberations.
Russia on the edge
Make sure you read our friend Tom Nichols in the Atlantic: “The Russian Clocks Are All Ticking.”
The Russian president is facing multiple countdowns that could end in disaster, all of them set in motion by a series of his own stupid and reckless decisions that has cost thousands of lives and put world peace at risk. There is one last mistake he has not yet made—the use of a nuclear weapon—and we can only hope that all the other clocks run out before he even considers the most dire misstep of all.
Once more into the breach…
Let’s talk about that student loan forgiveness plan. Again. On Monday, we got the price tag, and it ain’t cheap.
The White House’s plan to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of American borrowers will cost roughly $400 billion, according to a new estimate released by Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper.
The scorekeeper also found that the White House’s plan to temporarily extend an existing pause on student loan payments would cost roughly $20 billion.
But, wait, there’s more…
The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate excludes the White House’s simultaneous move to lower the monthly amount borrowers can be forced to repay as a percentage of their income from 10 percent to 5 percent. That policy is set to cost an additional $120 billion, according to estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a D.C.-based think tank that has opposed Biden’s policy.
I know this is a quibble for you fans of democracy out there, but you’ll note that there was not single vote in Congress on this. Despite the “power of purse strings,” Congress passed no bill or appropriation for this (rather large) expenditure of taxpayer funds.
It was all by executive fiat. Forbes explains:
The Biden administration claims that its authority to forgive the student loans derives from section 1098bb(a)(1) of the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act.
Passed in 2003 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, in the HEROES act Congress wished to grant the executive the power to give students serving in the military financial assistance with their student loan obligations in the event their studies were disrupted because of deployment or national emergency, and to do so quickly, with minimal administrative requirements.
Exit take: If presidents can bypass Congress on this scale because of “national emergencies”… what could possibly go wrong?
I had some thoughts
1. The Dictator and the Diva
Meet Alla Pugacheva, the Russian pop mega-star who is challenging Putin.
Of all the different reasons given for Vladimir Putin’s decision last week to order “partial mobilization” of Russian reservists, the most unusual one has been offered—perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek—by Oleksiy Arestovych, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: that Putin’s move was provoked by a defiant antiwar declaration from a 73-year-old Russian singer who has been likened to Madonna, Tina Turner, and other goddesses of American pop music. What’s more, Arestovych has also asserted that the singer, Alla Pugacheva, had not only emasculated Putin (he put it rather more colorfully) but “driven a wooden stake through [his] coffin.”
A bit of a stretch, perhaps; but Pugacheva is a fascinating figure, and her open antiwar stance could be a big deal, particularly as Putin’s “special operation” becomes more and more of a blatant fiasco.
2. Can Wes Moore’s Progressive Patriotism Make Him a Democratic Star?
Tim Miller and Jim Swift in today’s Bulwark:
Moore’s unique selling proposition is that his candidacy and the message of progressive patriotism he is pitching might just win over both groups—the poorer voters who have long been loyal Democrats but are being targeted by the “populist” GOP, and the better-off suburban swing voters who are moving towards the Democratic camp but remain susceptible to a backslide. He presents this vision in both environments with equal swagger and skill. You might not guess that he’s new to the political game: Moore has a natural politician’s mien; his talent is so pronounced that even the longtime pros are jealous. His last Democratic predecessor in the governor’s office, Martin O’Malley, says of Moore that “in terms of connecting with peoples’ head[s] and their hearts, [he’s] probably the most skilled communicator that we’ve nominated in many years.”
Well Charlie...I still disagree with you vehemently on this issue. Executive orders are the result of a gutless and useless legislative branch that spends its time investigating each other rather than doing their duty. MILLIONS of Americans are heavily burdened by student debt. It may not be a crisis as you would define it but for those Americans it is. We bail out airlines, other countries and special interests all the time. It is refreshing to see a President act for the American people. Republicans whine constantly about the cost...on their watch, the top 1% got quite a tax cut that benefitted very few yet , that was ok? Anyhoo..love the Bulwark and all you guys do! PC
I’m old enough to remember when the neocons were all in on executive power. Spend trillions of dollars to invade another country because we don’t like the guy in charge? CHECK!
Spend a fraction of that amount to release millions of Americans from indentured servitude to a predatory student loan system? TYRANNY!
This is my now almost weekly reminder that the one tide that is historically proven to lift all boats is education (not trickle-down economics, despite the GOP’s long-suffering devotion to that turd of a theory). The student loans people took out to get a college education were invested in local communities (restaurants, clothing stores, mechanic shops, etc.)… and the spillover effects of having more dentists, and doctors and even (gasp!) philosophy majors in a community are also well documented.
But, HEAVEN FORBID we try to do anything about the crushing debt these folks took on to give those benefits to their communities! SOCIALISM!!! Why, if we let these folks off the hook it might even incentivize more people to get educated! An educated populace? National disaster! I mean, just look at the dystopian wastelands of Canada, Sweden, Norway and every other country that provides a free university education to citizens. What would happen to us if we emulated their happier citizens and better healthcare systems?! Better the vagaries of the free market and for-profit lending in education, I say!
Gimme a break… Charlie, we agree on a lot, but you’re dead wrong on student loans. (And this is coming from a guy who gets no direct benefit out of the program.)