SHUT UP LARRY. American Middle, Working Classes Got Some $$$ In Their Pockets!

While Fox News is busy telling us that inflation will be the death of America — an economy-crippling burden that Joe Biden did because he hates America — the real economic news is actually pretty damn good. Yes, Inflation is real, and if you have a very large family that drinks a dozen gallons of milk a week, that can be a (fake) worry. But here's the thing: This pandemic recovery is weird, but more American families are doing a lot better, thanks to Biden's American Rescue Plan, and are in far better shape to weather what's still expected to be a temporary increase in overall inflation — much of it driven by the high cost of new cars due to supply chain issues.

Yes, we just did what Fox News would call "downplaying the crisis" and what normal folks would call "putting inflation in context." On the whole, the economy is doing well, and average Americans are doing a lot better now than we were during the slow recovery that followed the Great Recession. And damn straight, much of that is due to Biden's American Rescue Plan, which got money into the hands of ordinary Americans, and thence into the cash registers of grocery stores and retailers.

Most importantly, the economic lessons of history should be that now is not any time to be cutting back on help for the middle and working classes. When the Roosevelt administration pulled back on New Deal spending in 1936, that was followed by a big economic contraction from 1937 to 1938, and the Great Depression really only ended with the federal spending boom of WWII.

How about we not do that this time around? One reason the recovery from the Great Recession was so shallow was that Obama advisors like Larry Goddamn Summers fretted about inflation, which never happened. We should be passing the Build Back Better reconciliation bill to keep the economy growing, so that working Americans really can build up their economic security, and to put the economy on a sounder, more equitable, and yes, much greener footing.

The inflation hawks who claim that the Rescue Plan overheated the economy are just plain wrong, as economist Claudia Sahm explains in a data-rich Substack column (and an accompanying Twitter thread). In fact, Americans are doing pretty damn well:

If you look broadly at what’s happening in the U.S. economy—inflation-adjusted consumer spending, jobs, business investment, and household balance sheets—it’s clear that Americans are winning. That was not the case after the Great Recession when some of today’s hawks led policy.

Sahm, a former Federal Reserve policy wonk who's now a senior fellow at the Jain Family Institute, shares a bunch of economic charts based on federal data making clear that in context, we're really doing pretty well. Take consumer expenditures: Even with higher prices, we're buying more stuff, and that's driving economic growth.

Chart showing index of personal consumption expenditures and prices from Jan 2004.

Jobs keep growing, with an average for 2021 of a half million new jobs per month. (And remember, the seeming slump in job growth during the summer wasn't real — businesses were just late in getting data to the feds, and the revised reports were far better than expected. You want that to continue? Keep increasing vaccination rates in the US, and for Crom's sake, vaccinate the damn world. It'll pay off.)

Perhaps most importantly, the wealth of Americans in the bottom half of the wealth distribution has increased considerably — especially compared to how the least-wealthy 50 percent were doing following the Great Recession, but also in comparison to how low-income families were doing before the pandemic.

Wealth by percentile group: Bottom fifty percent has about tripled its wealth from 2006, to $3 trillion.

This is a hell of a big deal.

Sahm says on Twitter that this chart actually "brings tears to my eyes," because she worked on the Federal Reserve's initial 2012 study that measured Americans' ability to handle a relatively small, sudden emergency expense of $400, the cost of a significant car repair or unexpected medical bill (for like, a Tylenol in a hospital we guess). Nearly 40 percent of Americans in the 2019 edition of the survey said they either couldn't afford it at all, or would have to borrow money, sell some possessions, or skip paying other bills. (That was still an improvement from 2015, when 50 percent of us would be in difficult straits.)

Following the first round of direct payments and enhanced unemployment benefits in the 2020 CARES Act, the July 2020 survey found that the percentage of folks who'd have trouble covering an emergency expense of $400 had dipped to just 30 percent, although for the full year of 2020 it averaged out to around the same as the 2019 numbers. That's pretty freaking good, considering that at the end of 2020 the economy was still a long way from adding back the jobs lost during the pandemic, and long-term unemployment numbers looked grim.

The various stimulus packages kept American families from disaster. Over the course of the first year of the pandemic, a family of four received $11,400 just in stimulus payments, and that's before the enhanced unemployment benefits, increased food aid, rent help (when it was at least distributed) and other assistance that a lot of people relied on. It cushioned the blow, and that's a hell of a larger positive than the inflation we're seeing now. We should keep raising Keynes for now.

And the absolute last thing we need now is to slash investments in making America work for working families. The government spending that will come from Build Back Better isn't designed to goose the economy like a stimulus bill would; rather, it's aimed at creating stable, steady growth, and should in fact help limit inflationary pressures, according to analysis by Moody's Analytics, hardly a bunch of raving Marxists.

And it's not a moment too soon to pass Build Back Better's continuation of the Child Tax Credit, and its help with child care, community and home care for folks with disabilities and for elders, and other assistance to working families. The New York Times reports that the savings that many people had been able to build up due to the stimulus packages are starting to wane, so this would be a fine time to keep the economy growing. Nobody should be one car repair away from losing their home.

[Stay At Home Macro / Claudia Sahm on Twitter / Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas / Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota]

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Merrick Garland Sues Texas For Bigot Maps

The 2020 Census showed that the state of Texas sure grew a lot in the last 10 years: about 4 million new residents, some 95 percent of them nonwhite. That growth in the nonwhite population was enough to get Texas two new seats in Congress — not that you'd know it from the new electoral map Texas Republicans drew up last month, which gives the two new districts Anglo voting majorities. While the GOP legislators were at it, they also whittled away at existing minority representation in Congress and the Texas lege, as the Texas Tribune details. On top of building in white majorities for the two new districts, the

state's new congressional map also reduces the number of districts with a Hispanic voting majority from eight to seven, while the number of districts with Black residents as the majority of eligible voters drops from one to zero.

Not surprisingly, this hasn't gone over so well with fans of "representative democracy." The Justice Department announced yesterday it would sue Texas for discriminating against minority voters by denying fair electoral representation. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said at a presser that the new voting boundaries showed an "overall disregard for the massive minority population growth" since 2010. The DOJ lawsuit is one of several being brought against Texas over the maps, including one from the voting-rights group headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

The DOJ's complaint notes that reducing minority representation is particularly weird, since white folks now make up less than 40 percent of the state's population. It specifies several changes that it considers discriminatory under what's left of the federal Voting Rights Act:

Although the Texas Congressional delegation expanded from 36 to 38 seats, Texas designed the two new seats to have Anglo voting majorities. Texas also intentionally eliminated a Latino electoral opportunity in Congressional District 23, a West Texas district where courts had identified Voting Rights Act violations during the previous two redistricting cycles. It failed to draw a seat encompassing the growing Latino electorate in Harris County. And it surgically excised minority communities from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW) by attaching them to heavily Anglo rural counties, some more than a hundred miles away.

The new voting map for the DFW area, the suit says, "effectively turns back a decade of rapid Latino population growth and preserves Anglo control of most remaining districts." Bigots on Twitter immediately explained they're pretty sure all that growth was from illegal hordes swarming the border like vermin, so the Texas Lege had no choice.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, also challenges the new maps for the Texas House, arguing that the maps reduced opportunities for Latino representation "through manipulation or outright elimination of districts where Latino communities previously had elected their preferred candidates." There again, the Tribune notes, the number of Latino-majority districts dropped from 33 to 30.

The suit also asks the court to put the new voting maps on hold before Texas holds primary elections in March, and also points out that Texas has a history of trying to pull this crap:

This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens. Decade after decade, Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act.

In enacting its 2021 Congressional and House plans, the State has again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans and continued its refusal to comply with the Voting Rights Act, absent intervention by the Attorney General or the federal courts.

For the first time in almost 50 years, the new districting plan went ahead without any need for the process to be "pre-cleared" by a federal court, thanks to the US Supreme Court's 2013 decision that held it was really unfair to require pre-approval for voting changes in states with a prior history of voting discrimination. Now, the DOJ has to wait until discriminatory laws actually go into effect to sue, which is why the lawsuit is going forward now.

Attorney General Merrick Garland pointed out at yesterday's presser that "Were that pre-clearance tool still in place, we would likely not be here today announcing this complaint," and he also begged Congress to please please pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would bring pre-clearance requirements back in a way that would meet the guidelines laid out in that 2013 decision (not that the 2021 Supreme Court would necessarily respect such ancient history today).

In 2019, the Court decided that even the most blatant partisan gerrymandering was just fine, because it is a "political question." Texas lawmakers insisted their own attorneys said the maps were fair, and as long as the district lines don't explicitly say "No Browns Allowed," courts may even buy the claim that there's no intentional discrimination — it's just that those Black and Latino voters happen to be Democrats, and keeping them in check is fine.

[Texas Tribune / US vs Texas complaint / Associated Press]

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Texas Cops ‘Arrest’ Grinch? We Thought He Got Restorative Justiced!

Police in Hewitt, Texas, spiced up the town's annual Kill a Tree for Christ festivities last night by adding a little Long Arm of the Law to the festivities,"arresting" a guy in a Grinch costume for the crime of attempted Christmas theft. Here's the cheerful video of the beloved Dr. Suess character getting the full "COPS: Whoville" treatment.

Waco TV station KXXV reports that the entire local criminal justice apparatus got into the act, and for that matter, the TV station copy got into the carceral Christmas spirit, too.

In a Facebook post, the Police Department said at approximately 6:30 p.m., officers observed a known wanted suspect, the Grinch.

The Grinch was seen at the Hewitt Christmas tree lighting and officers confirmed the warrant out of Rosebud, Texas.

Officers were able to take the Grinch into custody without incident. An arrest warrant was issued for the Whoville native by the presiding judge for the City of Rosebud, Matthew Wright, on Nov. 22.

The Grinch was accused of Conspiracy Against Christmas Spirit, Domestic Terrorism, Identity Theft, Animal Cruelty, Assault, Robbery and Burglary.

Rosebud, Texas? They couldn't have done a cheery story about sledding?

Yes, there's a link to a story on the warrant, too; The judge was photographed with the local police department's "Blue Santa," who brings gifts to all the good little boys and girls who immediately comply with his jolly cries of "Merry Christmas! Stop resisting!!" Okay, fine, it's a charity program that distributes toys to needy kids, but it's still freakin' weird.

Dopey as the KXXV story was, it was far more tolerable than the rhyming version perpetrated by rival station KWKT, so count your blessings and your cans of Who Hash.

In none of the stories did any of the local outlets point out that the whole point of the Dr. Seuss story and the classic 1966 Chuck Jones TV adaptation is that the Grinch hated Christmas because he was a mean, unempathetic person, but that when he realizes Christmas is actually about love and community and sharing, not material goods, his heart is filled with love, and he saves the day, becoming the guest of honor at the Whos' feast. Like the story of The Christ Child coming to save humanity from sin and error, it's a story of redemption, asshole.

We can only assume the entire skit was the brainchild of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a man whose brain is full of spiders and has garlic in his soul. That man never understands even the simplest morals of Dr. Seuss, and he certainly wouldn't understand the idea that crime is only made worse by throwing people in jail. Heck, even the FBI acknowledges that restorative justice programs for youths are better at reducing recidivism than incarceration.

We hear that in Norway, the justice system is experimenting with making felons' hearts 3 sizes larger and singing fa-voo Doris at them.

So happy Friday you crazy socialists what know how to read; this is not your open thread; that'll be your traditional cocktail post by Matt the Bartender, for National Bartender Day, which is today.


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Georgia Women Sue Gateway Pundit For All The Racist Death Threats Sent By Its Wise, Kind Readers

Two Georgia women are suing rightwing disinformation factory The Gateway Pundit and its founder, Stupidest Man on the Internet Jim Hoft, as well as his twin brother Joe, who also runs the site. The Hofts and their internet filthworks were key players in publicizing baseless accusations of election fraud against the women, Shaye Moss, who works for the Fulton County elections board, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who took a part time job processing ballots during the 2020 election. The women were simply doing their jobs, but the Trump campaign claimed that snippets of surveillance video showed them mishandling votes, a claim that was quickly debunked by Georgia election officials. The Gateway Pundit identified the women on the video, and they quickly became the villains du jour in rightwing media pumping up the Big Lie that evil Democrats stoled the election.

Multiple Gateway Pundit stories accused Moss and Freeman of stealing the election from Donald Trump pretty much all by themselves, and both women were subjected to death threats, racial slurs, and harassment after Trump named them publicly and accused them of doing foul deeds. During Trump's infamous phone call begging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to please "find 11,780 votes" to make Trump win in Georgia, the former "president" mentioned Freeman and her daughter more than 18 times. Now they're suing the Hofts and Gateway Pundit, seeking compensation and punitive damages, "to be determined at trial."

The fuckery got rolling a month after the election, on Dec. 3, 2020, when Trump campaign attorney Jacki Pick gave a presentation to Georgia lawmakers that she claimed would show "shocking" proof of "fraud" in the vote count. Using selected bits of surveillance video from Atlanta's State Farm Arena, Pick claimed that the women could be seen pulling "suitcases" full of fraudulent ballots (of unknown origin!) out from under a table after vote counting had officially ended for the night and Republican poll observers had gone home. In reality, the "suitcases" were standard bins used by the elections bureau, and the ballots were legitimate absentee ballots that election workers had earlier placed in the bins, thinking they'd return to counting them in the morning; that was a miscommunication, and the vote tally continued through the night.

Georgia election officials said that the full video of the vote count showed election workers sealing away the ballots in the bins, which were later reopened by Moss and Freeman. And no matter how many times Trumpworld insisted media and observers had been forced to leave the arena so the dirty tricks could be perpetrated, Georgia's investigation found that nobody had been told to leave and that “there were no mystery ballots that were brought in from an unknown location and hidden under tables.” The tally was observed, Reuters reports, by "an independent monitor and a state investigator, according to state and county officials and a Reuters review of the surveillance video."

Even though everything was aboveboard, the accusations of fraud started spreading; Rudy Giuliani said the women were "crooks" who had "obviously" tabulated fake votes, and the story went all over rightwing media.

The Gateway Pundit's initial contribution to the furor was identifying Moss and her mother, weirdly casting Freeman, who was only working part time, as the chief villain, in typical Gateway Pundit headline breathless style: "What’s Up, Ruby? Crooked Operative Filmed Pulling Out Suitcases of Ballots in Georgia IS IDENTIFIED." The story also identified Freeman's part-time jewelry business, which she was soon forced to close.

Since then, the site has repeated the false claim, along with embellishments like claiming the "fake" ballots were scanned into tabulation machines over and over again to put Joe Biden's total over the victory margin. (You know, because Trump obviously won by a landslide in a heavily Democratic city with very high turnout by African American voters.) The site continued to repeat the lies, even in its story yesterday begging for donations to fight the lawsuit.

"Ruby Freeman and Daughter Sue Gateway Pundit for Posting Video of Her Shoving Ballots Through Voting Machines Numerous Times – PLEASE HELP US Fight This Latest Lawsuit"

Once the women were identified and named as enemies of the Great Man, it was time for the the death threats to get rolling, as Reuters reports.

As the Trump camp spread falsehoods about the two women, Freeman told police her phone wouldn’t stop ringing with menacing messages. By Dec. 4, she had received about “300 emails, 75 text messages, a large amount of phone calls and multiple Facebook posts,” according to a police incident report.

And people kept coming to her house, she told a 911 dispatcher on Dec. 6.

“Somebody was banging on my door, and now somebody is banging on the door again,” she said.

Every time Trump or Giuliani mentioned them, Freeman would get death threats, often involving racial slurs, and a parade of assholes showing up outside their homes, because her phone number and address had been helpfully posted all over social media.

Some Trump supporters publicly called for her and her daughter’s execution or hurled racial and misogynistic slurs at them on Facebook and other online forums.

“The coon c---s should be locked up for voter fraud!!!” wrote a Parler user. “She should be shot,” said a Facebook commenter under a Dec. 7 Gateway Pundit story. “YOU SHOULD BE HUNG OR SHOT FOR YOUR CRIMES,” wrote another Facebook commenter.

Another message, left on the cell phone of Moss's son, then 14, told the kid he "should hang alongside [his] n—-r momma,” according to the complaint. We bet that one was left by Antifa to make Trump supporters look bad.

At a December 10 hearing held by Georgia lawmakers, Giuliani helped spread even more fake claims, saying that beyond the supposed fake ballots, Freeman and Moss had also hacked into Georgia election computers, handing USB thumb drives back and forth

as if they’re vials of heroin and cocaine. I mean it’s obvious to anyone who is a criminal investigator or prosecutor, they’re engaged in surreptitious illegal activity.

Good thing he's not racist or anything. We would like to know more about how criminal investigators can tell that malware is on a thumb drive just by seeing it on surveillance video.

As Wonkette's Liz Dye writes at Above the Law,

As the complaint notes, the Hofts were perfectly well aware of the harassment that would befall these women after being publicly accused of election fraud, and their only concern was that the howler monkeys hit the right target.

“Note: Please do not confuse this with a similar business in Snellville!” they cautioned readers.

The harassment even included a crowd that gathered outside Freeman's home on the day of the January 6 riot, although by then she had fled to a safe location, and didn't come back home for two months.

Moss and Freeman are being represented by the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, which has previously sued the rightwing assholes at Project Veritas on behalf of that postmaster in Pennsylvania whom the group had falsely accused of changing postmark dates on late-arriving absentee ballots. An investigation found nothing of the sort had happened. Not surprisingly, the Gateway Pundit calls Protect Democracy a "large far-left group."

We wish Moss and Freeman and their attorneys all the luck! We know how hard it can be getting Jim Hoft to pay up, fucker.

[NYT / Reuters / Above the Law / Complaint]

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Senate A**hole Caucus Folds, Government Shutdown Averted!

Huzzay! After several days of Republican senators huffing and puffing and threatening to force a government shutdown over Joe Biden's vaccine mandates, the Senate last night passed a bill to temporarily fund the government for 11 weeks, meaning that government won't be furloughing "nonessential" employees or closing down any agency websites tonight at midnight. Heck, with climate change causing weirdly mild temperatures in much of the country, you might could even go camping in some national parks if you want. or at least they won't be shutting down.

The continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels passed easily, on a 69-28 vote, and will give lawmakers until the third week of February to pass the new spending packages needed for the 2022 fiscal year, which started at the beginning of October. If the bills aren't passed by the new deadline, we'd be looking at a shutdown or another stopgap spending bill then.

Instead of shutting down the government in a futile effort to roll back the OSHA vaccine mandates, Senate leadership allowed the pro-coronavirus Republicans to hold a futile vote last night on an amendment to roll back the mandates. The amendment, by Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Roger Marshall of Kansas, would have defunded Biden's policies requiring vaccinations for federal workers and the military, and the OSHA order requiring vaccinations or weekly testing for employees of businesses with 100 or more workers. It failed on a 48-50 vote.

Despite some rumblings yesterday that Sen Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) might join Republicans in voting to repeal the vaccine mandates, he ended up voting with the rest of the Senate Dems to defeat the amendment. The two missing votes came from — or didn't come from — Republicans John Thune of South Dakota and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a floor speech before the vote that he was

glad that in the end cooler heads prevailed. [...] The government will stay open. And I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown.

In addition to keeping the government running, the bill also includes an extra $7 billion in funding for resettlement of Afghan refugees that had been added in the House by Wonkette fave Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut).

Now, Congress still has a very busy December ahead of it, in which it'll have to deal with the stupid-ass debt ceiling, pass the annual Defense Authorization bill, and most important, pass the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, which includes the bulk of Joe Biden's first-term agenda.

Politico points out that the push to get full government funding passed by February could still be a big pain in the ass due to Republicans' ritualistic obstructionism, which goes well past their opposition to the unconstitutional presence of a Democrat in the White House.

There's also the problem of billions of dollars in looming cuts to Medicare and farm aid programs that could take effect next year — which the deal reached Thursday does not address. Those scheduled funding decreases are a consequence of the budget reconciliation process used to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package back in March.

Congress typically avoids such cuts with bipartisan ease, but Republicans haven’t been inclined to help while the majority party pursues big spending plans without GOP support. Democrats have pledged to find another legislative vehicle to address the drastic funding reductions next year. But they will still need assistance from at least 10 Senate Republicans, setting up another possible showdown as the GOP focuses on spending and inflation concerns ahead of the 2022 midterms.

We do feel compelled to point out that "spending and inflation concerns" only matter to Republicans when it's not their guy in the Oval Office.

In conclusion, now that we're past the most ridiculous GOP fuckery aimed at prolonging the pandemic, there's still much more ridiculous fuckery to overcome.


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Did United Do Awesome Thing With Sustainable Jet Fuel? MOSTLY TRUE, Also SEVEN PINOCCHIOS.

United Airlines reached an important milestone in moving the airline industry away from fossil fuels Wednesday, flying a Boeing 737 MAX 8 from Chicago to Washington DC with one of the plane's two engines running entirely on "sustainable aviation fuel" (SAF), a biofuel that contains no petroleum products and emits far fewer greenhouse gases than regular jet fuel. To promote industry awareness of the need to develop less carbon-intensive fuels, United invited "more than 100 partner executives, business leaders, government officials and journalists" to ride along; it wasn't a scheduled commercial flight.

Unfortunately, the airline had to go and over-hype the achievement just a bit, sending out a mass email and a tweet announcing it was set to make "aviation history" by flying on "100% sustainable aviation fuel."

About three hours after that initial tweet, though, United followed up with a clarification that the plane wasn't flying solely on SAF, because Federal Aviation Administration regulations only allow airlines to use a maximum of 50 percent SAF, which is usually mixed with regular jet fuel (and in practice, usually in smaller proportions anyway). The "historic" achievement was that the FAA had given United permission to run one engine only on SAF, while the other used regular jet fuel. It really was a first, and demonstrated that SAF can power a jet engine all on its own, and that, as a United spokesperson explained, "it proves that there is no operational difference when an engine runs on 100 per cent SAF" as compared to regular fuel, or a blend of the two.

Eventually, once the tech has been demonstrated to be reliable after Crom knows how much testing, various formulations of SAF could be used to dramatically cut the greenhouse emissions from commercial aviation by as much as 80 percent compared to conventional jet fuel. That's a heckin' big deal, since aviation is responsible for about 12 percent of CO2 emissions in the transportation sector (or two percent of all human CO2 emissions).

Not surprisingly, the reveal led some folks to accuse United of greenwashing in hyping the test, because in fact, 50 percent sustainable is not 100 percent sustainable, even if that's all the FAA will allow at this point. Aviation journalist John Walton tweeted a terse "oh for fuckssake" about the exaggeration:

We'd also add that United's email to frequent flyers didn't make any effort at all to clarify that just one engine of the flight was running on sustainable fuel, either, and it was sent after the online fuss over the Twitter announcement:

Dear Rebecca:

(It was to Rebecca.)

Yesterday was a big day for United and our planet.

We made aviation history by flying the first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), from Chicago to Washington, D.C. This momentous accomplishment comes nearly a year after we announced our 100% green commitment — reducing 100% of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets.

Sustainable aviation fuel really does look to be a promising way to reduce greenhouse emissions in commercial aviation. As the Independent explains, the SAF used in Wednesday's flight

was supplied by World Energy, which makes fuel from agricultural waste, waste from managed forests, and debris destined for landfill. It is a “drop-in fuel”, meaning it can be added to aircraft with no need for modifications to engine fuel systems or airline infrastructure.

Such biomass-based fuels can also be derived from "algae, crop residues, animal waste, sludge waste, and forestry residue," and municipal solid waste, so hooray, Bartertown pigshit jet fuel here we come!

United is going whole hog — or at least much-hog — on sustainable fuels, Green Biz reports, getting corporations to join something it calls the "Eco-Skies Alliance," which started earlier this year. The idea is to have corporations that do lots of business travel fund purchases of sustainable fuel with United, offsetting some of the costs, demonstrating there's a demand for greener fuels, and allowing them to talk up how their employees are travelling more sustainably, not that anyone would ever state it so cynically. Realistically, it also will give companies that purchase the low-carbon fuels to concretely demonstrate their progress toward their own goals of reaching net-zero emissions in how they do business.

The program, Green Biz notes, really is just getting underway; since Eco-Skies started up in April, the partners have

collectively contributed to the purchase of more than 7 million gallons of SAF by paying a premium for services. That’s less than 1 percent of about 4 billion gallons of fuel that United burns annually, but it’s more than double what the airline projected that corporate buyers would procure when the effort was initially announced. (The SAF purchased so far in 2021 translates into about 460 million passenger miles.)

The goal is to expand the use of green fuels industrywide, eventually getting FAA approval to use up to 100 percent SAF. But even if that were to happen immediately, United's "managing director of global environmental affairs and sustainability," Kathy Riley, acknowledged that the production of sustainable fuel would need to ramp up exponentially, as she told Fast Company:

The amount of the sustainable fuel that United has available is “far less than 0.1% of our fuel supply, and we’re the market leader,” Riley says. “So there’s just not enough right now, and that’s unacceptable.” The airline, among others, is pushing for new federal policy that would give a tax credit for alternative fuels, with the biggest incentive for producers that help reduce emissions most.

Also too, as Simple Flying notes, the current generation of sustainable fuels made from biomass is only the start; down the road (runway?), even cleaner aviation fuels are in the works, combining hydrogen obtained from water through electrolysis, and CO2 captured from the atmosphere. That's clearly a long way off, however, and would depend not only on atmospheric carbon extraction tech that's only in its infancy, but also a huge increase in the generation of renewable electricity to power the electrolysis process. But it's a neato concept at least:

Synthetic Power-to-Liquid fuels hold the promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 99%. If utilizing captured CO2 and green hydrogen, it can even create a carbon-neutral, circular system, picking up and using the CO2 that aviation is responsible for and turning it right back into power for the planes.

Crom only knows how airlines' PR flacks may spin the incremental improvements along the way to that.

[Independent / Simple Flying / Green Biz / Business Insider / Fast Company]

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To Fight COVID Variants, Biden Gonna Boost Grandma, Drive Her To Walgreens

With the the cold weather coming on and people spending more time indoors, the coronavirus is likely to have plenty of vectors to spread among people who haven't been vaccinated, and even to break through among folks who are fully vaccinated. The highly transmissible Delta variant is still very much with us, and the first American case of the Omicron variant has been identified, too, although there's still a lot we don't know about that variant.

To prevent further spread of the virus and keep the economic recovery going — weekly unemployment claims remain low, yay! — the White House is announcing today a number of new efforts to increase vaccination rates, get booster shots in arms, and actually make sure we're ready for winter and whatever Omicron turns out to be.

The multi-part plan aims to promote booster shots for all adults, to increase immunity among the roughly 60 percent of Americans who are fully vaccinated so far. Now that kids aged five to 11 can get the Pfizer vaccine, vaccination will be key to keeping schools open. The plan also has provisions aimed at

  • expanding the availability of free at-home testing,
  • increasing safety protocols for international travel,
  • keeping workplaces open while protecting employee health,
  • creating "rapid response teams" to deal with outbreaks,
  • getting the new COVID treatment pills to patients in time to avoid hospitalizations or death
  • improving global vaccination rates, and
  • making sure we're as ready as possible for whatever comes next.
Let's dive in and look at some of the more important provisions, but we'll say up front that there's a LOT, so if you have questions about something we don't mention here, you might find an answer in the White House fact sheet, too.

Get Yourself A Booster, Buster!

The CDC has issued new guidelines for all adults 18 and older to get a booster shot six months after their second MRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), or two months after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The administration will keep partnering with pharmacies to make free boosters available and easy to access, and will launch new public education campaigns to promote the shots. That campaign will especially focus on seniors, who are still the most vulnerable to the virus; AARP is joining up with Health and Human Services to reach out to seniors, including a special AARP booster hotline at 1-600-232-0233. AARP will also help people make appointments and even get free rides to get their booster shots. A separate outreach program will target Medicare beneficiaries, too.

Vaccinate Your Kiddos, For America

The White House notes that right now, 99 percent of public schools are open for in-person classes, and it would be darn nice for parents and students if they stay that way. To help make that happen the administration will launch family vaccination clinics at schools, pharmacies, and community health centers across the country, to get parents vaxxed or boosted and to get kids their first and second doses, too.

In addition, FEMA will set up family mobile vaccination clinics to hold vaccination events around the country, in partnership with state and local health authorities, expanding an effort already underway to reach individuals in underserved urban and rural areas.

The administration will also help schools improve COVID prevention policies so they can avoid closing altogether in case of local outbreaks, and to improve testing and quarantine practices.

And yes, the FDA is moving along on the approval process for vaccines for kids under five as well; the administration promises to give the agency all the resources it needs to get that done.

Home COVID Tests With No Studying — Or Cost

The administration will require insurance companies to cover the full cost of COVID testing at doctors' offices or pharmacies, and to get free home test kits to people who don't have private insurance. (Yes, private health insurance is a curse other countries don't have and there shouldn't be a for-profit company in the middle, but we aren't a socialist utopia yet.)

Safer International Travel

In addition to the temporary travel ban from southern Africa, which is aimed at slowing the possible spread of Omicron, the FAA is tightening its testing requirements for passengers on international flights, requiring proof of a negative COVID test taken within 24 hours of departure (previously, it had been 72 hours), regardless of the passenger's vaccination status. The requirement for all passengers on domestic flights and on public transportation to wear masks has also been extended through March 18.

Workplace Vaccinations

The administration's OSHA rule mandating that companies with 100 or more employees require workers to be vaccinated (or be tested weekly) is on hold due to a federal court order, so the most the administration can do now is to keep urging companies to voluntarily require vaccines. Companies and local governments have had generally high compliance when they mandate vaccines, so the trend may continue, let's hope.

Rapid Response Teams

The administration will use emergency funding to get federal emergency personnel — both military and civilian — to help staff hospitals in areas that have outbreaks, and to set up monoclonal antibody infusion sites to keep people who test positive out of hospitals. It will also boost volunteer emergency staffing through existing partnerships.

Antiviral Treatment Pills

The FDA yesterday recommended emergency authorization for Merck's antiviral pill, and approval for Pfizer's pill is likely to come soon as well, so the administration plans to secure at least 13 million courses of the treatments, which in clinical trials have been very effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. The White House fact sheet says that's "six times the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations reported throughout this entire year," and the administration will take steps to ensure the pills are available to all, especially in underserved communities.

Global Vaccinations

The best way to prevent future variants is to stop the spread of the existing virus variants, and that means vaccinations, including shipping more doses to developing countries and supporting the UN's Covax vaccination program. The US will also work on ramping up vaccine production to make vaccines available.


While scientists believe existing vaccines and treatments for COVID will also be at least partly effective against Omicron, the administration also pledged support to accelerate research and development of a new MRNA vaccine tailored to fight the new variant, if it's needed. The fact sheet doesn't say so specifically, but we're pretty sure any such effort will not have a cheesy nickname from a science fiction TV show, either.

Stay calm, be prepared, get your boosters and take your kiddos for their shots, and we should get through the winter, folks.

[White House / CNBC / Reuters]

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Local Democrats Only Flip 40-ish Seats In Georgia Elections, Probably Excellent News For John McCain

Georgia held runoff elections for a whole bunch of local offices Tuesday, with some pretty good results for Democrats in the state, so hooray for that! The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that

After a lackluster general Election Night in November, Democratic leaning candidates roared back Tuesday to flip at least seven local races across Georgia Tuesday, and fended off Republican challengers in Brunswick and Forest Park.

Lackluster? Democrats picked up a net 35 local seats statewide in November, so adding another seven is more like on a roll, not "roaring back," you silly local drama-creators! Roaring back from a 30-seat net gain, huh? May we all have such amazing recoveries.

In Warner Robins, in central Georgia, voters chose the city's first ever Black mayor, and also the city's first ever woman mayor, and she's the same person, LaRhonda Patrick. Patrick currently serves as the city attorney in nearby Fort Valley, which we learn from the Source of All Knowledge has a fairly weird name since there has never been a fort in the community. It seems to have gotten the name in a transcription error of "Fox Valley" when the post office was made official, and nobody bothered to fix it.

Ms. Patrick grew up in Warner Robbins (which has its own strange naming story), and at 38, she's also the city's youngest mayor, because why stop with two firsts? Her father is in the Air Force, and since 1994 has been stationed at Robins Air Force Base, which provides much of the city's economic base. She's never held elective office, but has a political science degree from Georgia State, plus her law degree and her time as Fort Valley's city attorney.

Patrick ousted the incumbent mayor, Randy Toms, winning Tuesday's runoff by a bit less than 400 votes. Just two weeks before the election, Warner Robins was hit with an $800,000 IRS tax lien due to problems with the city's tax filings going back to 2015, so that was some terrific timing for Toms, who had to explain just how the hell the city had missed a whole lot of stuff that should have been reported. Ooops! Apparently voters didn't accept his explanation that "the office of the mayor does NOT keep the books for the city," accurate though it may have been.

Toms also claimed that most of the public reaction to the news amounted to unfair attacks by Patrick; she told WXGA-TV, "I've heard Mayor Toms say that I've misinformed and led people astray. So, my question is: Please tell me how I did that."

So now that she's won the mayoral election, Patrick will have a lot of cleaning up to do once she takes office January 1. She seems prepared to handle it!

Also in mayor-elect news, Atlanta native Andre Dickens won the runoff to be Atlanta's next mayor; he'll succeed Keisha Lance Bottoms, who decided not to run for a second term and had endorsed Dickens. Dickens defeated City Council president Felicia Moore, who had actually gotten more votes than he did in November's weirdass multi-candidate general election.

Dickens ran on improving public safety and "restoring the 'soul of Atlanta,'” and he and Moore quickly mended fences following the election, because as Moore put it at her campaign event Tuesday evening, "There’s no division tonight between the Dickens and the Moore camp because we’re all camp Atlanta," which is pretty darn good to hear. And as the New York Times reports, Dickens will need all the support he can get to deal with an impending White Flight mess, because didn't we say "Georgia"?

Both candidates also opposed a controversial effort to allow Buckhead, an upscale, majority-white neighborhood, to secede from Atlanta, taking with it a substantial chunk of the city’s tax base. This potential divorce, which has been fueled by crime concerns, would require approval by the Republican-dominated State Legislature and a subsequent vote by the neighborhood’s residents. To derail the plan, the next mayor will need to deploy the bully pulpit and engage in nimble and strategic lobbying of Republicans who control the Statehouse.

Hmm. We're sure the Republicans in the Georgia Lege will listen to reason and keep Atlanta intact for the good of all; that's what good governing is all about, isn't it? It's not like white Georgians have a thing for secession.

Also winning a runoff Tuesday was Doug Shipman, who'll be the next president of the Atlanta City Council.

This is pretty neat, too:

Liliana Bakhtiari also won an Atlanta city council seat to become the first LGBTQ Muslim elected in Georgia and, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the only non-binary councilmember of a major U.S. city.

That's awesome! And now some dipshits in rightwing media will have a freakout over pronouns and Muslims and Muslims with pronouns, to be quickly forgotten as they find something else to worry about.

Also too, thanks to the Journal-Constitution for this trivia tidbit: "[With] Dickens’ victory, Atlanta has elected three mayors in a row with moms named Sylvia."

With Dickens's victory, his campaign manager, Maria Banjo, will now move on to help state Rep. Bee Nguyen with her campaign to become Georgia secretary of state in 2022. With all the rightwing flapdoodle over voting, is it possible the field will be split and a Democrat will have a shot at the job? That'd be terrific. Nguyen celebrated Banjo's joining her campaign by tweeting that it was a real "Nguyen Nguyen," and that pun won our heart. So much Nguyening!

Finally, as Stephen covers in detail this morning, with the '21 runoffs out of the way, Stacey Abrams declared her candidacy for Georgia governor yesterday, and if that isn't nice we don't know what is. Georgians might really be in a mood to get all those election-messing bastards out finally — here's hoping they're able to actually vote to do it. Go Stacey!


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Think Your Toilet Is Truly Clean? Do This Now! Tabs December 2, 2021

Th 15-year-old who shot up his high school in Oxford, Michigan, killing four students and wounding seven other people, has been charged as an adult on charges of first-degree murder and terrorism, among other things, and we'll just never do anything about guns in my lifetime, will we? [Reuters]

The USA now has its first reported case of the omicron variant, in a vaccinated person who visited South Africa and returned to California. [Associated Press]

You might enjoy these 1970s science fiction movie posters photoshopped to say "The Omicron Variant." (Clockwise, the posters are for The Andromeda Strain, Phase IV, and Colossus: The Forbin Project) The middle one was already circulated by some doofus on Twitter as if it were real. But there was a 1963 Italian sci-fi comedy called Omicron,Omicron, about an alien what takes over an Earthling's brain, but nah, it's not an uncanny foreteilling of a pandemic.

But if you want an eerily accurate foretelling of life during a pandemic, check out Naomi Kritzer's outstanding 2015 short story "So Much Cooking," which imagined a bird flu pandemic and life during lockdown and food shortages. It's beautifully sad and good. Also too, if you have somehow missed the other four million times I have recommended it, read Kritzer's 2016 Hugo and Locus award winning story "Cat Pictures Please" which is hilarious and wonderful and explains why the Internet is made of cats. Kritzer took the central character of the story, an AI that just wants to help and not be evil, and built it into the terrific 2019 YA novel Catfishing on Catnet, which she followed up with a sequel this year, Chaos on Catnet. Heck, you should follow Kritzer on Twitter, too!

Say, speaking of that time a president of the United States went to a debate after he had tested positive for COVID-19, Rebecca reminds us that in March 2020, the US Justice Department advised law enforcement agencies that people who intentionally spread the virus could be charged with terrorism under US bioweapons law. Just a thought. [Politico]

Dozens of people are suing Hertz for allegedly calling police on them and falsely accusing them of stealing rental cars. Why yes, the whole thing is bizarre and Kafkaesque. No word on whether Avis will try harder and accuse its customers of murder. [Yahoo News]

IMPORTANT MEATBALL UPDATE: Remember when Matthew Whitaker was Trump's Attorney General for like five minutes? (Or three months, whatevs.) After he left the administration, Meatball appears to have accepted an assload of cash from a rightwing dark money spigot to lobby for pardons and commutations of various worthy federal convicts, but oops! He forgot to register as a lobbyist. We hate when we do that! [Daily Beast]

Muckraking bidniss writer Christine Alemany has been taking a deep dive into the con game that was Wisconsin's deal with Foxconn, and how it scammed taxpayers but paid off handsomely for all sorts of awful people. Thanks a hell of a lot, Donald Trump and Scott Walker! [Substack]

Here's an idea we can get behind: Bill Maher should stop his fake outrage over "wokeness" or cancel-culture himself. How about both? [Washington Monthly]

As the world finally starts electrifying transportation on a large scale, startups in the US and the EU are looking to cash in on converting beloved classic cars to EVs. Mostly high-end conversions at first, but there's also a market for kits to convert more affordable cars, too. GM has already converted a 1977 K5 Blazer to use a kit motor designed to fit where a small-block Chevy motor would be. The EV crate motor isn't yet on the market, but one of these days, my '73 Chevy, Vlad the Impala, will hum along on battery power. [Reuters / Wards Auto]

That's all! No cat pictures today! Oh, OK, you may have an old one of Thornton sleeping at my old place.

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Democracy Had Good Run, But Trumpy Ratf*kers Now Taking Over Running Local Elections

Rarely is the question asked: Is our Republican electoral ratfuckers learning? At first you might think they aren't, since so many believers of Donald Trump's Big Lie are still insisting on holding Arizona-style "audits" of elections in states where the votes have been tallied and retallied and there's still no proof of fraud. But while Republican ratfuckers may be idiots who are disconnected from reality, they also know that the attempt to throw out the results of the 2020 election was thwarted in part because state and local election officials insisted on doing their jobs and running clean elections, which is why it's so important to harass them until they resign in fear for their lives. The harassers are, in fact, quite proud of what they've done, because it's to save America.

As the Washington Post reports, Republican ratfuck enthusiasts are also working like crazy to take over the machinery of running elections wherever they can. Most noticeably, a lot of committed Trumpers are running for statewide office; WaPo has tallied up "10 running for secretary of state and eight running for attorney general" across the country. Beyond that, Republicans are also working to get Trump loyalists and Big Lie advocates working at the local level in administering elections and counting and certifying the votes.

Citing the need to make elections more secure, Trump allies are also seeking to replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general, according to state and local officials, as well as rally speeches, social media posts and campaign appearances by those seeking the positions.

Now, such jobs have traditionally been seen as nonpartisan, technocratic positions. But that might mean Democrats still win elections by getting more votes, a clearly unfair result, so it's only fair that Republicans balance things out by making sure only legal Republican votes count.

It sort of stands to reason, at least in the way that some Republicans vote twice just to offset a little bit of the vote fraud by Democrats they're convinced is going on. Since Democrats have clearly rigged the elections, it's only fair to rig them for Republicans instead, to Take Their Country Back. It's also the same "logic" that drives a lot of rightwing media: The mainstream press has a liberal bias, so of course news needs to be given a rightward slant, even if it's dishonest. Gotta save America, after all.

But wouldn't you know it, Democrats and even some Republicans who don't understand democracy think it might be a bad idea to have elections run by committed partisans who believe loony conspiracy theories.

“The attacks right now are no longer about 2020,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D). “They’re about 2022 and 2024. It’s about chipping away at confidence and chipping away at the reality of safe and secure elections. And the next time there’s a close election, it will be easier to achieve their goals."

And so you have states like Michigan, where Republicans are dedicated to not allowing any more of that nonpartisan independent crap in vote counting ever again. You've got Matthew DePerno, one of the leaders of the failed lawsuit to overturn the election results in Antrim County (where Trump won) running for attorney general. Another Trumpenloon, Kristina Karamo, who claimed she saw absolutely true but unprovable fraud in the vote count in Detroit, is running for secretary of state. Both have been endorsed by Trump.

But Republicans are also pushing to get loyalists on local canvassing boards, which count and certify the vote. The four-person boards have two Republicans and two Democrats for balance, but a lot of the Republicans aren't the right kind of Republicans for Trumpy types.

William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, the two Republican board members in Wayne County, home of Detroit, received calls directly from Trump, they later said in interviews.

Both initially voted not to certify, then reversed themselves after receiving promises that the vote would be audited. They then tried unsuccessfully to rescind their votes.

Palmer was replaced by Republican Robert Boyd, who told the Post he probably would not have certified the 2020 vote. But don't worry! He's got religion, so he'll do great:

“I am really interested in the integrity of elections, and I am a Christian, so I want to make sure that we do the best job we can and be as transparent as we can . . . so elections can be trusted.”

Gosh, not a bit of buzzwording there, so you know he's trustworthy. The Post notes that Boyd was one of three people the Wayne County GOP considered for the post, and that all three "have expressed support for Trump’s false claims of fraud." Count your blessings, Detroit; they didn't go with the lady who attended the January 6 rally or the other lady who was a "witness" at Rudy Giuliani's bizarre post-election parade of people telling a Michigan state Senate committee they all saw something nasty in the vote shed.

Update: We had initially said that Mr. Hartmann remained on the board, but an Alert Reader points out that today, the poor man died of COVID, so we guess the Wayne County GOP will have another shot at putting a Trumper on the canvassing board. WaPo had noted he was hospitalized, but when the story was published Monday, he had not yet died. Wonkette regrets the error. Yipes!

But wait, there's more!

In Michigan’s third-largest county, Macomb, Republican officials appointed to the canvassing board a former Republican poll challenger, Nancy Tiseo, who tweeted shortly after the 2020 election that Trump should suspend meetings of the electoral college and have “military tribunals” investigate claims about election fraud.

Thank heaven serious people will be doing serious things with the 2022 and 2024 votes.

There's plenty more where that came from, in plenty of other states, too, and you really should read the WaPo story if you have any free articles available, if only to relish how virtually none of the new election folks anywhere would reply to a request for comment. That Wayne County guy seems to have been a rare Boyd indeed.

Fortunately, despite the rather disturbing news that rightwingers are sharing job listings for local election administration positions on social media, at least complete crazies aren't likely to take over some of the more sensitive jobs. For instance, while a Steve Bannon fan shared an opening for an "IT Technical Project Manager” in the Colorado Secretary of State's office on a Let's Audit Everything channel on Telegram, Griswold reassured WaPo that

she was “aware that election conspiracists are encouraging people to apply for jobs in our office.” But she added that safeguards are in place that will screen out such applicants.

“Many of the positions require a high level of expertise or skill that just can’t be falsified,” she said. “Positions are available only to Colorado residents. You have to pass reference checks and background checks.”

So hooray, those jobs will only be available to highly skilled computer users, and what are the chance of them being Trumpist whackaloons?

Everything should be just fine.


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