PORTER HAS BECOME A DEMOCRATIC MEDIA SENSATION over the past few years, beloved for her takedowns of corporate CEOs in hearings and her general no-bullshit attitude. What’s more, she did it as a frontliner, Washington’s name for House Democrats in swing seats whose electoral outcomes typically determine which party controls the chamber. Where frontliners often aim for the most inoffensive, bland position possible on any issue, pandering either to an imagined fussy median voter or to the donor class, Porter’s more unyielding stances are what she believes gives her broad buy-in with a divided electorate.
After redistricting, about 70 percent of voters in California’s 47th Congressional District will see Porter’s name on the ballot for the first time.
“I didn’t run as a typical politician,” she said. “And I think I’ve delivered on not being a typical politician.”
This fall, Porter faces Scott Baugh, a state assemblyman in the 1990s and the former chair of the Orange County Republican Party. The fact that Baugh paid fines for multiple state campaign finance violations while in the legislature, and became a lobbyist for the county after his terms in the assembly, plays into Porter’s narrative about taking on special interests.
“I think there’s a pretty clear contrast between someone who is one of the dozen members of Congress who doesn’t take lobbyist money, and someone who’s been a professional lobbyist,” she said. “I ran on good governance, and on standing up to special-interest money, and he has been involved in projects that corrupt our political system.”
Porter’s popularity has given her an insurmountable fundraising lead, with an incredible $19.8 million in cash on hand as of the end of June. Baugh had about $1.1 million in the bank at that point. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the leading House Republican PAC, has spent a nominal sum of about $800,000 on the race.
Still, Porter has never won more than 53.5 percent of the vote in her two House victories, and Republicans are loaded for bear against her. First, they highlighted a discounted home she purchased in University Hills, on the UC Irvine campus, as part of a program the university uses to attract professors who would otherwise be priced out of a city where the median home price exceeds $1 million. Because she is currently on leave from the school, some have questioned whether Porter should still be eligible for that discount, or whether under the rules of the arrangement she should have to pay off the mortgage entirely.
Fingers crossed her substantial war chest gives her the advantage she needs in November. (See her campaign web site here.)
Meanwhile, the video below is from her greatest hits of holding the rich and powerful to account in ways most elected officials can only dream about.
THE CEO OF Iron Mountain Inc. told Wall Street analysts at a September 20 investor event that the high levels of inflation of the past several years had helped the company increase its margins — and that for that reason he had long been “doing my inflation dance praying for inflation.”
The comment is an unusually candid admission of a dirty secret in the business world: corporations use inflation as a pretext to hike prices. “Corporations are using those increasing costs – of materials, components and labor – as excuses to increase their prices even higher, resulting in bigger profits,” Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under Clinton, recently argued. Corporate profits are now at their highest level since 1950.
There has been so much evidence that this has been happening that it’s sort of ridiculous to make a big deal out of another CEO being stupid and greedy enough to say it out loud.
But it’s worth repeating, if only to counter the right-wing narrative that Democrats and Biden are to blame for inflation despite the fact that we know — and evidence for it continues to pile up — that American industry has been raking in record profits despite alleged problems with supply chains and employees demanding increased wages.
A lawsuit seeking to block President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt claims the policy is not only illegal but could inflict harm on borrowers in some states who would be forced to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Tuesday, is the first significant legal action seeking to invalidate Biden’s policy before it takes effect.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative public interest law firm in California that is backing the lawsuit, asserts that the executive branch lacks the authority to create a new forgiveness policy and is usurping Congress’s power to make law. The suit was filed on behalf of Frank Garrison, an attorney who works for the foundation and lives in Indiana.
In its lawsuit, the foundation may have the one thing legal experts said was needed to make a legitimate case: a client with the standing to sue.
Garrison said he has been working toward having his federal student loans canceled through a program that erases the debt of public servants after 10 years of payments and service. Participants in that Public Service Loan Forgiveness program do not have to pay federal or state taxes.
However, Biden’s plan could result in borrowers in several states, including Indiana, being required to pay local tax bills, although they would not be subject to federal taxes.
Since Biden’s plan would take effect before Garrison’s debt is forgiven through the public service program, Garrison said he expects to pay more than $1,000 in state income taxes for the $20,000 of forgiven debt that he would be eligible for.
But what you will not learn from either story is that the Pacific Legal Foundation receives extensive funding from right-wing billionaires. And this “public interest law firm” has a record of filing lawsuits that advance its donors’ economic and ideological interests.
Among the PLF”s major donors are entities controlled by right-wing billionaire Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries. A Popular Information review of tax filings from 2019 and 2020, the latest available, found that the Charles Koch Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute donated $2,331,550 to PLF in those two years.
In 2021, PLF filed suit “to strike down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium, which [was] designed to protect millions of Americans from being thrown out of their homes during the pandemic.” From the outset of the pandemic, Koch Industries began “plowing money into real estate.” The Wall Street Journal reported in March 2021 that Koch “is emerging as a major real-estate investor during the pandemic, using its robust cash reserves to buy properties at beaten-down prices.” The Guardian noted that Koch Industries, “real estate spending spree has coincided with Koch-funded conservative groups mounting lawsuits against the federal eviction ban.”
In this case, PLF’s suit to block student loan forgiveness aligns with Koch’s economic and political interests. Economically, the less money that the government collects from people making under $125,000, the more it may ultimately require from billionaires (like Charles Koch) and profitable corporations (like Koch Industries). Politically, people who attend college tend to be more liberal than the general population. Providing meaningful student loan relief could increase their participation in future elections, potentially damaging the Republican candidates that Koch favors and spends millions to support.
This lawsuit is part of a larger effort in the right-wing universe to stoke resentment among some Americans against other Americans around student loan forgiveness. Because the more time the rest of us spend fighting with one another over our shrinking piece of the economic pie, the less time we can spend concentrating our energies on billionaires and trillionaires who steal from the rest of us so they can have yachts so large the ships have their own helipads and interior spaces to park their smaller yachts within their megayachts.
Pollsters know they have a problem. But they aren’t sure they’ve fixed it in time for the November election.
Since Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory, pre-election polls have consistently understated support for Republican candidates, compared to the votes ultimately cast.
Once again, polls over the past two months are showing Democrats running stronger than once expected in a number of critical midterm races. It’s left some wondering whether the rosy results are setting the stage for another potential polling failure that dashes Democratic hopes of retaining control of Congress— and vindicates the GOP’s assertion that the polls are unfairly biased against them.
It’s not that pollsters haven’t tried to fix the issues that plagued them in recent elections. Whether they’re public firms conducting surveys for the media and academic instructions or private campaign consultants, they have spent the past two years tweaking their methods to avoid a 2020 repeat.
But most of the changes they have made are small. Some pollsters are hoping that since Trump isn’t running in the midterms, the problems of underestimating Republicans’ vote share will disappear with him. But others worry that Trump’s ongoing dominance of the news cycle — from the FBI seizure of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago to litigation against his businesses in New York — effectively is making him the central political figure going into Election Day.
“There’s no question that the polling errors in 16 and 20 worry the polling profession, worry me as a pollster,” said Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll in Milwaukee and a longtime survey-taker in the battleground state of Wisconsin. “The troubling part is how much of that is unique to when Donald Trump is on the ballot, versus midterms when he is not on the ballot.”
The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing,” Hillary Clinton said to an Italian journalist at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this month. She was speaking of Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, who could make history if the Brothers of Italy party does as well as expected in Sunday’s elections.
That would be one sort of break with the past. But Meloni would also represent continuity with Italy’s darkest episode: the interwar dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. As Clinton would surely concede, this is not such a good thing.
If Meloni comes to power at the end of this month, it will be as head of a coalition whose other members—Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia—were each once the main force on Italy’s populist right. Brothers of Italy, which was polling at 23 percent earlier this month, has overtaken these more established parties and would represent the bloc’s largest component.
Brothers of Italy, which Meloni has led since 2014, has an underlying and sinister familiarity. The party formed a decade ago to carry forth the spirit and legacy of the extreme right in Italy, which dates back to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party that formed in place of the National Fascist Party, which was banned after World War II. Now, just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome—the October 1922 event that put Mussolini in power—Italy may have a former MSI activist for its prime minister and a government rooted in fascism. In the words of Ignazio La Russa, Meloni’s predecessor as the head of the Brothers of Italy: “We are all heirs of Il Duce.”
Putting Sec’y Clinton’s tone deaf assessment aside, this move to the right is happening in places on the continent that we might never thought could happen given what happened during World War II.
Italy’s not the biggest shock of them, at least from my personal experience. I have two close friends from Italy who now live in the U.S.
Both of these men are educated and progressive. But, in late-night meandering conversations with them — after a few strong drinks — the tenor of their politics changes from progressive to vaguely fascist, especially when the subject of immigrants is broached.
These shifts are happening as Europe enters another precarious moment: a war on the continent that is increasingly unpredictable, and an inflation and energy crisis that will deepen as winter approaches.
The politics of Sweden, in northern Europe, and Italy, in the south, are very different, and the historical origins and reasons for the far right’s recent successes in each of those countries are unique. But, the far right shares certain trends across Europe — and, really, the globe. What is happening in Sweden, and Italy, is not all that different from what is happening in Brazil, or India, or the United States of America.
Pietro Castelli Gattinara, associate professor of political communication at Université Libre de Bruxelles and Marie Curie Fellow at Sciences Po, said that the far right is a global movement and a global ideology, even though one of the core tenets of these parties is a kind of nativism. That translates into a rejection of migration, but also of the social and cultural changes taking place within societies. The “woke” culture wars may look different in the US or Italy, but they are a feature of the modern far-right.
“New ideas coming from abroad are considered a danger to the nation-state,” Castelli Gattinara said. “We see that quite strongly when it comes to civil rights and, in particular, gender equality.”
Her entire interview with Gattinara is instructive and worrisome.
I get the impression that most of the people I know, including well-informed progressives here in the U.S., cannot be bothered to care much about what is going on in Europe right now. They think that fascist gains are temporary blips on the political radar in well-established liberal democracies. Or they think, even if fascism gains in Europe, it will not affect us here.
Which are the exact same things everyone thought in Europe and the U.S. in the 1930s.
We fight not to get rid of fascist political movements, as they will always be there lurking beneath the surface, ready to move into any voids created by economic or social turmoil. We fight to keep them from taking over while the rest of us are looking the other way, preoccupied with seemingly more pressing concerns.
Amazon.com has rapidly built a sprawling network to move merchandise around the nation’s highways. Many of the trucking companies it hired for all that driving are more dangerous than their peers, sometimes fatally so.
They include one company whose driver was found with a crack pipe after running an Amazon trailer into a Minnesota ditch. He was convicted of driving while high. Another driver hauling Amazon freight was involved in a fatal accident in Kansas after losing control while braking—two months after his employer ignored a police order to fix the truck’s brakes, police reports show.
A third driver at another company had two crashes during a single trip between Amazon warehouses, ultimately careening across a Wyoming highway into an oncoming truck, killing its driver.
All three companies received unsafe driving scores that raised red flags at the U.S. Transportation Department, a Wall Street Journal analysis of government data found. Between February 2020 and early August 2022, more than 1,300 Amazon trucking contractors received scores worse than the level at which DOT officials typically take action, the Journal found. DOT scores are a widely used industry standard for assessing trucker safety.
Trucking contractors that worked frequently for Amazon were more than twice as likely as all other similar companies to receive bad unsafe driving scores, the Journal analysis found. About 39% of the frequent Amazon contractors in the Journal’s analysis received scores at that level.
Trucking companies hauling freight for Amazon have been involved in crashes that killed more than 75 people since 2015, according to the Journal’s review.
Amazon said its contractors had a rate of fatalities per vehicle mile about 7% lower than the industry average in 2020. It said it offers condolences to families of people killed in crashes that involve its contractors.
There are reasons that Amazon’s product reaches you so much faster than other retailers. and some of those reasons have to do with Amazon putting the lives of its workers and the public at risk.
I’m an Amazon Prime member and I’ve stopped doing overnight delivery on items I don’t need right away. Which is almost everything I buy from Amazon. Why do I need paper towels on next-day delivery?It’s ridiculous.
It is a different world out there, and even an up-and-coming winning NBA coach isn’t above the rules that say you should not be going within your organization for romance, especially if the people whom you go after work under you in any way. For a coach, that means you basically cannot be involved with anyone at work.
The Boston Celtics late Thursday suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for what the team called “violations of team policies,” rocking one of the preseason NBA title favorites a month before the new season begins.
The team did not specify the violations. Reports by ESPN and The Athletic said that Udoka was facing disciplinary action over a consensual relationship with a female colleague. The Celtics statement did not elaborate on the circumstances.
The team appeared to leave open the possibility that Udoka had coached his last game with the Celtics.
“A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,” the 46-word team statement read.
The Celtics did not name an immediate replacement for Udoka.
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said in a statement reported by ESPN. “I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment.”
The suspension jolted the league and shook a Celtics team coming off an unexpected appearance in the NBA Finals in Udoka’s first season as their coach. The expectations for Udoka’s team have been high for the season that begins next month: The Celtics were the betting favorites to win the championship as of Thursday morning.
Considering how long society ignored, or even celebrated, workplace lotharios, it is good that people can now lose their jobs over these issues, no matter how powerful those people might be.
Adults under the age of 65 should be screened for anxiety disorders and all adults should be checked for depression, a government-backed panel said, as many Americans report symptoms of these mental-health conditions following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The draft guidance released Tuesday marks the first time that the United States Preventive Services Task Force has made a recommendation on screening adults for anxiety disorders. The move comes months after the task force issued similar draft guidance for children and adolescents.
“This is a really important step forward,” said Arthur C. Evans, chief executive at the American Psychological Association. “Screening for mental-health conditions is critical to our ability to help people at the earliest possible moment.”
The task force said that there wasn’t enough evidence on whether or not screening all adults without signs or symptoms ultimately helps prevent suicide. The group didn’t recommend for or against screening for suicide risk, but called for more research in the area.
The task force, a panel of 16 independent volunteer experts, issues guidance on preventive-care measures. Health insurers are often required to cover services recommended by the task force under a provision in the Affordable Care Act.
More than 30% of adults reported having symptoms of an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder this summer, according to estimates from the federal Household Pulse Survey. The percentage of U.S. adults who received mental-health treatment within the past 12 months increased to 22% in 2021, up from 19% in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mental-health screening often occurs in doctor’s offices, where patients fill out questionnaires during routine checkups or other appointments. The goal is to spot at-risk people who might not be showing obvious signs, so that the person can get the correct diagnosis and potentially get connected to care before they reach a crisis point.
As for people over 65, the article notes that “some anxiety-disorder screening questionnaires emphasize issues with sleep, pain and fatigue, which also often increase with age.” So screening older adults for those risk factors might turn up a lot of older people who are, you know, just regular old, tired and creaky.
It does strike me that they ought to come up with different a different screening regimen for older people, rather than just deciding to not issue screening recommendations as all.
In World War II terms, most of us have probably concluded the obvious: Middle Earth is the land of the Allies, full of a hodge-podge of residents who are mostly good-willed, if imperfect and bickering in ways which prevented them from seeing the coming horror until it was too late. The Axis is the world of orcs and other evil armies, ready to commit whatever atrocities it takes in service to Hitler (Sauron).
But, as this article in today’s New York Times illustrates, modern fascist movements, particularly the one about to come into power in Italy, nurse fantasies and grievances based on a sort of Bizarro Middle Earth, where it’s always Opposite Day and the good guys are bad, and the bad guys are good:
Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right leader who is likely to be the next prime minister of Italy, used to dress up as a hobbit.
As a youth activist in the post-Fascist Italian Social Movement, she and her fellowship of militants, with nicknames like Frodo and Hobbit, revered “The Lord of the Rings” and other works by the British writer J.R.R. Tolkien. They visited schools in character. They gathered at the “sounding of the horn of Boromir” for cultural chats. She attended “Hobbit Camp” and sang along with the extremist folk band Compagnia dell’Anello, or Fellowship of the Ring.
All of that might seem some youthful infatuation with a work usually associated with fantasy-fiction and big-budget epics rather than political militancy. But in Italy, “The Lord of the Rings” has for a half-century been a central pillar upon which descendants of post-Fascism reconstructed a hard-right identity, looking to a traditionalist mythic age for symbols, heroes and creation myths free of Fascist taboos.
“I think that Tolkien could say better than us what conservatives believe in,” said Ms. Meloni, 45. More than just her favorite book series, “The Lord of the Rings” was also a sacred text. “I don’t consider ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fantasy,” she said.
Tolkien’s agrarian universe, full of virtuous good guys defending their idyllic, wooded kingdoms from hordes of dark and violent orcs, has for decades prompted scholarly, and convention center, debate over the author’s racial and ideological biases, his view of modernity and globalization. More recently, his works have also provided a fertile shire for nationalists who see themselves in his heroic archetypes.
But in Italy, the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the maps of Mordor have informed generations of post-Fascist youths, including Ms. Meloni, who, the latest polls strongly suggest, will emerge from the election on Sunday as Italy’s first female prime minister — and the first descended from post-Fascist roots.
And that’s not all:
After [World War II] many of those Fascists flocked to the Italian Social Movement, but the party’s efforts to reintegrate into Italy’s institutions eventually hit a wall. Its younger members, feeling excluded from civil society, seized on an Italian edition of “The Lord of the Rings,” prefaced by Elémire Zolla, a philosopher who was a point of reference on the hard right and who argued that Tolkien was “talking about everything we confront every day.”
That resonated with a small group of the party’s Youth Front, already bristling at the cultural dominance of the left. They saw themselves, as one of their leaders, Generoso Simeone, put it, as “inhabitants of the mythical Middle-earth, also struggling with dragons, orcs, and other creatures.” Seeking a more palatable alternative to quoting Mussolini’s speeches and spray-painting Swastikas, which, Mr. Croppi pointed out, “was easy to reproduce on walls,” in 1977, they created the first Camp Hobbit festival.
“The idea to call it Camp Hobbit came from a real strategy,” said Mr. Croppi, one of the founders. The thinking was to move beyond the old symbols and to capitalize on the party’s isolation, smallness and victimization by violent leftist enemies to make their hero “not the warrior Aragorn, but the little hobbit — we wanted to get out of this militarist, heroic idea.”
The party’s old guard was perplexed. But, with the support of hard-liners, Camp Hobbit festivals emerged as formative touchstones for the young activists. Celtic cross flags that meshed perfectly with the Tolkien aesthetic waved. The band Fellowship of the Ring played songs about European identity, including what became the anthem of the party’s Youth Front, “Tomorrow Belongs to Us.”
The song echoed a ballad “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” sung by a member of the Hitler Youth in a chilling scene in the movie “Cabaret.” Mr. Croppi acknowledged that the camps had their fair share of Fascist salutes, but argued they were “ironic.”
Ms. Meloni attended a new iteration of Camp Hobbit in 1993, which she called a “political laboratory” and where she sang along with Fellowship of the Ring and discussed culture and books.
In a way, some of this makes sense.
We already knew that right-wing forces in America, particularly the believers of QAnon fantasies, are populated in what some might once have considered surprising numbers of New Age-y health nuts and people who believe in horoscopes and Tarot cards. (Witness how many health club owners were arrested during the Jan. 6 insurrection.)
As it turns out, if you are an easy mark for charlatans who try to sell you crystals to give you strength and any number of unscientific fads for good health, you are also an easy mark for Donald Trump and Q.
(I have a friend, a successful, well-educated attorney of progressive note, who stages Tarot readings at his house. He does it mainly for entertainment purposes, but he also doesn’t completely discount mystical thinking. So I don’t want to paint people who believe in such things with too broad of strokes.)
All fascist movements have been built on fantasies and lies. It remains to be seen how powerful and enduring those lies become when you pair them with J.R.R. Tolkien.
The important takeaway for me is how the new fascist Right has been using these fantasies as ways to attract young people who are facing futures that are bleak compared to the optimistic, “the future always gets better,” world of their parents and grandparents. Even a college education — if young people can afford to go into debt for much of their adult lives — is not the guaranteed ticket to the middle class it used to be.
Progressives need to offer young people something more than “we’re not Donald Trump” to get and keep their loyalty. Student loan forgiveness was a start. But just a start.
As the nation faced a rail strike last week, the Biden administration sprang into action. It had many reasons to do so. First, a rail strike could break already stressed supply chains. The economic impact might lead to much higher prices at a moment when the media desperately wants to report on inflation in a way that compares Joe Biden to Jimmy Carter, which for a certain generation of reporter and Beltway hack is what a Democrat always is. Second, a rail strike could make the administration look weak, flailing in the face of a few workers holding the nation’s economy hostage. That they have legitimate complaints would likely disappear in media coverage of the strike, which would again just blame it on the White House.
But Biden also engaged with this labor situation because he really believes in labor unions. Biden’s political career has shifted significantly over the years. He’s always been a middle-of-the-party kind of guy. When the party has moved right, he’s moved right, and now that the party has moved back to the left, he’s moved left too. That’s fine, I guess; it’s a politician for you.
However, Biden does have deep-seated values and they include the value of a labor union. Despite governing over a deeply divided nation and, on issues like unions, no small amount of division within his party, Biden has used a significant amount of political capital supporting unions. This is remarkable. No other president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has ever used that much capital in supporting organized labor. Moreover, the only reason FDR could do this is because he had enormous majorities in both the House and Senate that allowed for legislation to get through the usual alliance of Republicans and Dixiecrats that would forestall anything to help working Americans. Biden doesn’t have that, and yet he is doing whatever he can to help unions.
There is absolutely incontrovertible proof in verifiable statistics that in states and cities where unions are strong, wages and benefits far surpass those of states that are actively anti-union. Not only that, but even non-union people benefit from unions because even non-union wages and benefits average out higher in heavily unionized areas because non-union companies have to offer better deals to the employees to keep up.