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The shadow race is on to succeed Feinstein

Politico -

Sen. Dianne Feinstein hasn’t said if she intends to seek another term in 2024 — but the competition to succeed the oldest member of Congress is escalating.

Reps. Ro Khanna and Katie Porter are fielding entreaties to jump into the race, and Rep. Adam Schiff has publicly declared he is exploring a run. Rep. Barbara Lee is spending the holidays mulling her next move. Three hopefuls have contacted former Sen. Barbara Boxer to seek her advice, marking the incipient stages of a fierce fight between California Democrats for a seat that has not been open for a generation.

“They’re starting to call me to get ready for what is a massive campaign – truly, massively expensive and hard-fought,” Boxer said. “It will be a very crowded field.”

Schiff fired the first salvo last month by openly admitting his long-known interest in the seat, telling a Los Angeles television station that, after his House leadership bid fizzled, he would “consider running for the Senate if Senator Feinstein decides not to run for reelection.” Schiff also met with Feinstein to inform her of his intentions, according to two people familiar with the exchange.

Feinstein’s plans remain a wildcard. The 89-year-old senator’s standing has eroded as California Democrats sour on her centrism and the San Francisco Chronicle detailed her perceived cognitive decline in an explosive piece this spring","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/dianne-feinstein-senate-17079487.php","_id":"00000184-dd6b-d952-adae-df6bbef20000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000184-dd6b-d952-adae-df6bbef20001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">in an explosive piece this spring that bolstered previous reporting by POLITICO about Feinstein’s capacity to serve.

But while it is widely believed that the California senator will not seek another term in 2024, she has not said anything explicit about her intentions — a Feinstein spokesperson contacted about the story said he had “no updates” — and people who know her say she bridles at being backed into a corner. Californians eyeing Feinstein’s seat have been careful to show respect","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/23/california-democrats-eyeing-feinsteins-seat-00026722","_id":"00000184-dd6b-d952-adae-df6bbef20002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000184-dd6b-d952-adae-df6bbef20003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">have been careful to show respect for the longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history and have, for the most part, avoided overt positioning.

But the détente is unlikely to hold for much longer.

“Just by virtue of the calendar and her age, the playbook is getting to a climax here,” said a prominent California Democratic bundler who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive campaign matter. “People who have interest have been talking to people about their interest.”

Schiff is one of multiple California House Democrats who could seek the seat. Porter, fresh off beating back a Republican challenger in one of the state’s most competitive races, is “absolutely considering a 2024 Senate campaign” as she hears from admirers around the state, according to a person close to Porter.

And Khanna is being urged to run by progressives aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose presidential campaign Khanna co-chaired. Lee plans to spend the holidays discussing her plans with her family, according to a source familiar with her intentions.

All of those possible candidates would bring assets to the race. And under California’s top-two primary system, it’s likely a U.S. Senate race would yield two Democrats squaring off in the general election, as happened when Harris defeated then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez in 2016.

Both Schiff and Porter are formidable fundraisers, although Porter’s competitive House contest drained much of her resources. Schiff achieved national stature as a fierce antagonist of former President Donald Trump and for his role in impeachment proceedings. Porter quickly became a star for her acerbic and whiteboard-assisted grilling of executives.

Lee has long been seen as a top contender to win an appointment if Feinstein resigns. California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetted Lee when he was seeking a replacement for former California Sen. Kamala Harris, who is Black and Asian American, and later committed to choosing a Black woman if he gets to make another Senate appointment. The longtime Oakland congresswoman is widely respected in the Bay Area and could marshal deep Black support.

And Khanna is beloved by progressives and could divert rivers of money from his affluent Silicon Valley district.

The next few months could determine the field. Contenders will be working to secure endorsements and fundraising commitments — and to freeze out their foes in the process.

“Anyone who is sophisticated enough to think about running for one of California’s two seats in the U.S. Senate is fully aware of the dynamics, and dynamics include the option of getting out early, staking your claim, and discouraging challengers,” said Darry Sragow, a Democratic former political consultant and publisher of the election analyst California Target Book.

But it’s unlikely that anyone will have the field to themselves. California’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate makes a U.S. Senate seat close to a lifetime position. Even if the race doesn’t affect the balance of power in the Senate, it’s certain to be a multimillion-dollar melee.

“This isn’t something you do at the last minute. It takes tremendous preparation, and tremendous organization and messaging and money and all of those things,” Boxer said. “Anyone who's interested in this, with full respect to Sen. Feinstein, should start securing the support they need.”

Liquor, Capitalism, and the Real Victory of Prohibition

Politico -

Was prohibition really the policy failure it is made out to be?

The obvious answer is yes — of course, it was a failure. Prohibition bred corruption, organized crime, gangland violence and a general disrespect for law by a thirsty but otherwise law-abiding population, while the moral and economic rejuvenation touted by temperance proponents never materialized. For these reasons, it was easy to write an entire book on prohibition as the quintessential “bad idea.” After all, good ideas don’t need to be repealed.

A more contrarian argument suggests prohibition was actually a success — pointing at dramatic reductions in alcohol consumption during and after the Prohibition Era, alongside declines in alcohol-related mortality and crime.

In fact, the success or failure of prohibition should be judged against its original intent, which neither camp has even remotely addressed.

Doing so can shed new light on the true meaning of “Repeal Day,” which takes place every Dec. 5. That’s the day that marks the final ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933 and the end of America’s “noble experiment” with alcohol prohibition. Commemorated with beer and good cheer, Repeal Day is something of a quasi-holiday, especially in conservative and libertarian circles, where the death of prohibition is Exhibit A proving that government can do no good, no matter how benevolent its aims.

In reality, the key to understanding prohibition is to recognize that temperance advocates of a century ago were not fighting against alcohol — the liquid in a bottle — per se. Instead, they hoped to destroy “the liquor traffic:” the predatory booze manufacturers and unregulated saloons that made money hand over fist from the drunken misery, addiction and pauperism of their customers. As historian K. Austin Kerr noted, the most important prohibitionist group was called “the Anti-Saloon League, not the Anti-Liquor or Anti-Beer League.” It was the unregulated, profit-maximizing trade that was the problem, not the booze itself.

This isn’t semantic sleight-of-hand or coy revisionism — prohibitionists were very clear about their goals. In introducing a prohibition amendment to the Constitution in 1914, Texas Sen. Morris Sheppard plainly said: “I am fighting the liquor traffic. I am against the saloon, I am not in any sense aiming to prevent the personal use of drink.” This is the reason why the 18th Amendment doesn’t forbid consuming alcohol, but rather “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” — the focus was the traffic.

So judging prohibition by personal-consumption statistics misses the point. A more reasonable comparison would be between the “liquor traffic” before and after prohibition — and it was objectively awful before prohibition.

Nowadays, the word “saloon” evokes nostalgic Wild West motifs: cowboys, spittoons and swinging doors. But in reality, the saloon was the scourge of the local community. The saloonkeeper was not your friend, he was there to make as much money off you as possible. A drunkard sent home was profit lost. Better to keep an addict all night until his last penny was spent, and then sell him more on credit, barter or pawn, so that he remains in your debt. Many saloonkeepers also trafficked prostitutes upstairs and ran illegal gambling dens in back, while his pickpockets and grifters fleeced the drunks at the rail — and all with the corrupt acquiescence of police and politicians. The saloon wasn’t like Cheers and the saloonkeeper was no Sam Malone.

This is why the oft-parroted claim that prohibition caused organized crime and political corruption — while wagging a finger at Al Capone — is shortsighted to say the least. In the 19th century, every community large and small had their own Tammany Hall-style corrupt political machines, and everywhere the liquor traffic was at its core. Ironically, prohibition was envisioned as a way to purge liquor-traffic corruption from American governance, when what it did was just push it further underground.

For instance, when an aspiring young police commissioner named Theodore Roosevelt took on the corrupt New York liquor machine in 1894 — a generation before Capone — it was well-known that saloonkeepers could pay a bribe of $5 per month to sell booze illegally on Sundays, $25 to pimp out prostitutes and another $25 to run a gambling den. These tributes were collected by Tammany Hall gangsters, ward heelers and skull-crackers to be spread among the politicians. Every saloon contributed another $6.50 monthly to the Retail Liquor Dealer’s Association to buy off the local cops. Everyone was on the take. Everyone knew the game, especially since it was the saloonkeepers who got those politicians elected in the first place, by getting the men drunk to the hilt and marching them off to the polls to select the “correct” candidate, often multiple times over.

Or take The Jungle — Upton Sinclair’s classic muckraking novel of poverty and corruption in Chicago’s stockyards that prompted Roosevelt’s administration to sign both the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906). Sinclair describes how on Election Day, hundreds of gangsters and ward heelers would go out from the saloons to deliver the required votes, “all with big wads of money in their pockets and free drinks at every saloon in the district. That was another thing, the men said — all the saloon-keepers had to . . . put up on demand, otherwise they could not do business on Sundays, nor have any gambling at all.” Sinclair was clear: In Chicago as in New York and American cities big and small, saloons were pure nests of political corruption.

What was true of the corruption of local politics was replicated at the state and national levels. A 1904 grand jury investigation found that the New York State Liquor Dealer’s Association wielded a sizable slush fund to keep state legislators “in good humor.” An exposé in The Nation explained:

“Through affiliations, now with Tammany, now with the rural Democracy, and now with the Republican machine, the liquor dealers have managed to secure at each election the control of a considerable number of Senators and Assemblymen. … In this dirty business, partisan lines have largely been obliterated; for when the pinch has come, Republicans have vied with Democrats in subserviency to the traffic in drink.”

Prohibitionist Ernest Cherrington was more forceful in his condemnation: “State legislatures were submissive to the supreme authority of this monster liquor machine, with its undisputed ability to make or unmake politicians. And the federal government itself, hushed by the cold bribe of a one hundred and eighty million dollar annual federal tax, had grown deaf and dumb on all questions affecting this institution... In short, the saloon controlled politics. It dictated political appointments. It selected the officers who were to regulate and control its operations. It had its hand on the throat of legitimate business. It defiantly vaunted itself in the face of the church. It ridiculed morality and temperance. It reigned supreme.”

Corruption by liquor traffickers was a blight on American politics at all levels, and even industry wasn’t shocked by the backlash. When a wave of state-level prohibition statutes swept the American south in 1907 (still more than a decade before the 18th Amendment), Beverages — the mouthpiece of the National Liquor League — admitted: “We dislike to acknowledge it, but we really believe the entire business all over has overstayed the opportunity to protect itself against the onward march of prohibition. Five years ago a united industry might have kept back the situation that now confronts it, but to-day it is too late... Might as well try to keep out the Hudson River with a whisk-broom.”

Indeed, the history of prohibition might better be told not as the onward march of temperance “fanatics,” but rather the corruption, decay and collapse of a truly odious business model.

By contrast, when nationwide prohibition was finally repealed on Dec. 5, 1933, control over the liquor traffic reverted back to the states. And while the states varied in how they regulated the liquor traffic — through excise taxation, state-run liquor dispensaries or continuing on as “dry” prohibition states — there was general consensus that regulation was a necessity, lest the corrupt liquor-machine politics return.

Today, the saloons of old are gone, and bars, restaurants and retail stores face strict scrutiny across the United States. Restrictions include minimum ages for purchase and consumption of alcohol, strictly-regulated opening and closing hours of operation, and civil and criminal punishments both for illegal purchasers and sellers. Add to that the restrictions on drunken driving, liquor advertising and even alcohol content, and the booze market is among the most heavily regulated in the country.

Those who don’t understand the logic of some of these restrictions — like forbidding booze sales on election days — simply lay bare their ignorance of how nefarious and corrupting an institution the liquor business was in the days before prohibition.

For their part, the post-repeal brewers, distillers and retailers presented a new image as trustworthy, responsible and, above all, law-abiding corporate citizens — completely at odds with their saloon-era predecessors. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the reintroduction of a well-regulated alcohol industry promised thousands of good-paying jobs in industry and hospitality, millions of dollars annually in badly needed revenues to federal, state and local treasuries, and a promise not to be a blight on their local communities. And while abuses and improprieties occasionally occur, the modern American alcohol market is night and day different from the systemic economic exploitation, societal parasitism and political corruption of the liquor machine of old.

Ultimately, when it comes to the goal of expelling liquor-traffic corruption from American politics and minimizing its predations against the American people, the Prohibition Era might fairly be considered a success.

So if you want to raise a toast to the history of Repeal Day, exercise your right to do so. But also recognize that repeal was no victory of unbridled capitalism over tyrannical government. Instead, Repeal Day should rightfully be celebrated as the triumph of sensible government regulation to rein in the excesses of unregulated capitalism. We should all drink to that.

Antisemitic celebrities stoke fears of normalizing hate

Politico -

A surge of anti-Jewish vitriol, spread by a world-famous rapper, an NBA star and other prominent people, is stoking fears that public figures are normalizing hate and ramping up the risk of violence in a country already experiencing a sharp increase in antisemitism.

Leaders of the Jewish community in the U.S. and extremism experts have been alarmed to see celebrities with massive followings spew antisemitic tropes in a way that has been taboo for decades. Some said it harkens back to a darker time in America when powerful people routinely spread conspiracy theories about Jews with impunity.

Former President Donald Trump hosted a Holocaust-denying white supremacist at Mar-a-Lago. The rapper Ye expressed love for Adolf Hitler in an interview. Basketball star Kyrie Irving appeared to promote an antisemitic film on social media. Neo-Nazi trolls are clamoring to return to Twitter as new CEO Elon Musk grants “amnesty” to suspended accounts.

“These are not fringe outliers sending emails from their parents garage or idiots no one has ever heard of. When influential mainstream cultural, political and even sports icons normalize hate speech, everyone needs to be very concerned,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a leader in South Florida’s Jewish community.

Northwestern University history professor Peter Hayes, who specializes in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, said normalizing antisemitism is a “real possibility” when there is a “public discussion of things that used to be beneath contempt.”

“I’m very concerned about it,” Hayes said. “It’s one of the many ways in which America has to get a grip and stop toying with concepts and ideas that are potentially murderous.”

Trump hosted Ye — the rapper formerly known as Kanye West — and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes for dinner at his Florida home on Nov. 22.

Fuentes was a Boston University student when he attended a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted in violence in 2017. He became an internet personality who used his platform to spread white supremacist and antisemitic views. Fuentes leads a far-right extremist movement called “America First,” with supporters known as “Groypers.”

On Thursday, Fuentes joined Ye in appearing on the Infowars show hosted by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Ye praised Hitler during the interview, ratcheting up the rhetoric that already cost him a lucrative business deal with Adidas.

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said it is astonishing and alarming that two of the nation’s leading purveyors of antisemitism were “breaking bread with the erstwhile head of the GOP.”

“I would characterize this as the normalization of antisemitism. It has now become part of the political process in a way we hadn’t seen before,” Greenblatt said. “And that is not unique to Republicans. It is not just a Republican problem. It is a societal problem.”

Most Americans knew it was “beyond the pale” when torch-toting white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia’s campus on the eve of the 2017 rally, said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, a group that backed a lawsuit against organizers of the Charlottesville rally.

“What’s even more dangerous than Nazis with torches chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us,’ is when we have political leaders and others espousing those same conspiracy theories in increasingly normalized ways,” she said.

Spitalnick said the virulent hatred that Ye has been spewing can make diluted expressions of antisemitism seem more normal in contrast.

“It’s crucial that we hold Kanye and Irving and these other public figures accountable for their antisemitism. But it means nothing if we’re not also recognizing and holding accountable the ways in which this antisemitism and extremism has seeped into the mainstream of one of our major political parties and become commonplace in our political discourse,” she said.

Trump’s critics and even some of his allies condemned the former president for hosting Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago. Trump claimed that he knew nothing about Fuentes before the dinner and defended his decision to host Ye at his club.

Twitter suspended Ye’s account this week after he tweeted a picture of a swastika merged with the Star of David. Musk tweeted that Ye had violated a rule against inciting violence.

Musk announced last week that his “amnesty” plan applied to accounts that haven’t “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” Online safety experts predict that the move will lead to a rise in harassment and hate speech.

Groups that monitor Twitter for racist and antisemitic content say toxic speech already has been on the rise in the month since Musk took over the platform and fired thousands of employees. Content moderators were among those who lost their jobs.

Watchdogs also have rebuked Musk for some of his own tweets, including posting a meme featuring Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that was hijacked by far-right extremists.

In April, the Anti-Defamation League announced that its annual tally of antisemitic incidents reached a record high last year. The organization counted 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism in 2021, a 34% increase over the previous year and the highest number since the ADL began tracking the events in 1979.

Generations ago, famous Americans including Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh unapologetically expressed antisemitic sentiments in a way that would have shocked Americans in more recent decades. Now, the internet and social media make it easy for world-famous celebrities to normalize anti-Jewish hate.

For somebody of Ye’s status to praise Nazis and Hitler is “escalating from ugliness to a kind of incitement,” Greenblatt said. He noted that Jewish institutions already have to beef up security to protect against attacks such as the one in which a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

“Our community still has to brace for the consequences of those ideas going mainstream,” Greenblatt said.

Defense bill could roll back Covid vaccine policy, top Dem says

Politico -

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Final defense legislation set to be unveiled next week could undo the Pentagon’s policy of kicking out troops for not taking the Covid vaccine, the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee said Saturday.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said a rollback of the policy is on the table for a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, but hasn’t been decided yet.

"We haven't resolved it, but it is very fair to say that it's in discussion,” Smith told POLITICO on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum. He noted that the mandate may not be logical anymore.

“I was a very strong supporter of the vaccine mandate when we did it, a very strong supporter of the Covid restrictions put in place by DoD and others,” he added. “But at this point in time, does it make sense to have that policy from August 2021? That is a discussion that I am open to and that we’re having.”

The defense bill is set to be unveiled Monday and House leaders plan to hold a vote on the $847 billion policy measure sometime next week. Negotiators had hoped to file the legislation on Friday, but congressional leaders were still ironing out several outstanding issues, apparently including the vaccine policy.

Undoing the policy — a measure that neither the House nor Senate included in their versions of the defense bill — would be a win for Republicans who argue forcing troops to get the shot or leave the military is exacerbating a recruiting and retention crisis. Thousands of troops have been kicked out for refusing the vaccine.

GOP leaders are planning to focus on the policy when they take control of the House, if it isn’t rolled back before then.

Republican lawmakers and governors have pressed hard to undo the mandate in recent days. A group of 13 Republican senators, led by Rand Paul of Kentucky, have promised to try to block the bill unless they’re granted a vote on an amendment to bar kicking out military personnel solely for refusing a Covid-19 vaccine and reinstate separated troops with back pay.

And Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has pushed legislation to suspend the policy when the military isn’t meeting its target levels for personnel.

While negotiators are willing to entertain the possibility of undoing the policy, Smith said GOP calls to reinstate or grant back pay to troops who refused the shot amounted to a red line. He called the push "a horrible idea."

"The one thing that I was adamant about — so were others — is there's going to be no reinstatement or back pay for the people who refused to obey the order to get the vaccine,” Smith said. “Orders are not optional in the military.”

“Now what the policy should be from this point forward? That's a question we were willing to ask about,” he said.

Smith all but endorsed the idea that the need for mandating the armed forces receive a Covid vaccine has passed.

He said the “pandemic has winded down,” noting that most law enforcement and health officials in his home state of Washington are no longer required to be vaccinated.

“We were very, very aggressive in Washington state on a wide variety of Covid policies,” he said. “Vaccine mandates have been lifted by a wide variety of agencies — police departments, fire departments, health departments — because of where we’re at right now and the effect of the vaccine and the effect of people who caught the disease.”

He also noted that the current Pentagon policy does not require booster shots for the coronavirus.

“At this point, let’s say you got those two shots or that one shot in March of 2021,” Smith said. “Those people can serve, but someone who hasn’t gotten anything can’t?”

Ukraine aid and stealth bombers: Pentagon lays out consequences if Congress can’t pass a budget deal

Politico -

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Defense Department officials have compiled a list of dire consequences if the military is forced to operate under a one-year stopgap funding bill for the first time in history — from aid to Ukraine to procurement of the new B-21 stealth bomber.

The warnings, along with a recent letter from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Congress, reflect increasing alarm in the top ranks of the Pentagon as congressional leaders face the prospect of missing critical deadlines to fund the government through next year.

A yearlong continuing resolution, or CR, would slash funding for DoD by $29 billion, or 3.7 percent, compared to President Joe Biden’s request for fiscal 2023, according to conversations with senior DoD officials and internal documents exclusively obtained by POLITICO.

Operating under a short-term spending bill is nothing new to the Pentagon, which has seen CRs 13 out of the last 14 years. Every year, DoD leaders warn that the stopgap measure — which limits funding to the previous year’s levels and bars the department from starting most new programs — erodes military readiness and puts key programs at risk. It’s a common tactic to pressure lawmakers to come to an agreement before any significant damage is done, and it’s typically successful.

But this year is different, officials said: A longer, one-year CR would be a major crisis for DoD.

“I still have trouble believing that a full-year CR would be doable for us. It’s a great threat, great threat,” DoD Comptroller Michael McCord said on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday. “It would be a bad reality.”

The messaging mirrors Austin’s letter sent to congressional leaders and appropriators on Sunday, in a rare rebuke.

“We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our back three, four, five or six months of every fiscal year,” he said in the letter, which was first reported by POLITICO.

Congress faces a Dec. 16 deadline to strike a deal on full-year funding but is widely expected to pass a short-term funding patch to continue negotiations. After the short-term patch runs out, a yearlong CR is a possibility if appropriators can’t agree on a long-term spending bill. This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a full-year continuing resolution is possible, calling it a “last resort”.

McCord said he is “somewhat optimistic” that lawmakers can get an omnibus bill done by the end of the year, but he is concerned about the possibility of a yearlong CR because he has not heard that appropriators have reached a framework agreement yet.

Top Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have said they want to finalize a package to fund the federal government in the final weeks of the congressional session this month rather than punt it to next year, when a divided Congress might not be able to forge an agreement.

Bipartisan defense policy legislation set for a vote in the House next week endorses a $45 billion increase to Biden’s Pentagon budget — meaning that under a long-term CR, DoD loses that increase in addition to the $29 billion shortfall.

In the event of a yearlong CR, McCord said he would try to get relief by asking Congress for “very substantial, possibly unprecedented ability to move money around.” More likely, DoD will submit a list of “anomalies” — critical programs that would be exempted from the CR.

In that case, McCord said his top priorities would be the nuclear triad, particularly the B-21, hypersonic programs, and potentially a multiyear contract for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. In addition, DoD would have to “look hard” at industrial base concerns for munitions needed for the Ukraine conflict and a possible Indo-Pacific contingency, he said.

The list of warnings

A full-year CR would deny nearly $5 billion in funding to modernize the nuclear triad, the documents say, at a time when China is racing to expand its own arsenal.

It would halt procurement of the new B-21 Raider just as the Pentagon is scheduled to move from the research and development stage to procurement. The Air Force’s fiscal 2023 budget request calls for spending $1.8 billion on B-21 procurement; under a year-long CR, that funding would be limited to just $108 million, preventing the shift to the next stage.

To much fanfare, Austin unveiled the B-21 in a ceremony at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., plant on Friday, and the plane is expected to start flying next year.

A yearlong CR would also halt two construction products that will support the new bomber, including support and maintenance facilities at the B-21’s main operating center at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Meanwhile, funding cuts to advance purchases for the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine would delay construction for three planned boats — SSBNs 827 through 830 — forcing the Navy to miss its deadline to begin operations in fiscal 2031. The Columbia class requires $2.4 billion by Jan. 16, 2023, but under a CR funds stay at the fiscal 2022 level of $1.8 billion.

Missing this deadline would create a gap between when the Ohio-class submarines retire and the new submarines come online because “there is no schedule margin left,” according to the documents.

Senior DoD officials are also concerned that a yearlong CR could halt military aid to Ukraine that comes from the department’s base budget, including replacing munitions expended in the fight. The bulk of the funding for Ukraine has been through supplemental funding bills, which could be attached to a CR. But if lawmakers can’t get a deal on a funding bill or a Ukraine supplemental, DoD will run out of money for Kyiv in the spring, McCord said.

“Ukraine is in a kinetic fight, and we are their No. 1 helper,” McCord said. “If they run out of ammo, they're in a bad place.”

A yearlong CR could also delay industrial base improvements for several key systems, including the Abrams tank and the M777 towed howitzer, which is among the weapons the U.S. military is donating to Ukraine.

A yearlong CR would also reduce funding for the Navy’s shipbuilding projects by $1.4 billion, causing delays, cost increases and work stoppages for the new carrier, the Enterprise. The cut would delay the start of construction on the new Virginia-class submarine and the nuclear refueling of the USS Harry S. Truman, which is necessary for it to complete its 50-year service life.

Since CRs also prohibit the start of new multiyear procurement contracts, the scenario would prevent the Navy from awarding such a contract for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The largest shortfall would be in military personnel ($6.8 billion), operation and maintenance ($13.8 billion), and research, development, test and evaluation ($10.7 billion). Family housing will be cut by $86 million, or 7.6 percent. Military members and DoD civilians would be denied a promised 4.6 percent pay raise and an increase to basic housing allowances. There could also be a risk of civilian furloughs.

Military construction accounts would be funded at higher levels than requested, because the administration’s fiscal 2022 budget request for that account was higher than the one for fiscal 2023. But that excess $3.2 billion would not be usable because of the CR restrictions to new projects.

A full-year CR would also prevent the military from beginning 97 major construction and housing projects, including the Army Child Development Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana.

In order to stay within funding levels required by the CR, the military would have to take actions that would significantly impede readiness, the list says. For example, the Pentagon would need to stop offering new enlistment and reenlistment bonuses at a time when recruiting is at an all-time low, resulting in fewer people coming to boot camp and higher recruiting and training costs.

Finally, a yearlong CR would derail plans to build certain new weapons systems, including limiting production increases for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, Long Range Anti-Ship Missile and Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range. It also impedes the development of new hypersonic weapons, including the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon.

Altogether, a yearlong CR would halt 192 new efforts and 49 procurement rate increases.

Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

White House to Trump: ‘You cannot only love America when you win’

Politico -

The White House on Saturday responded to Donald Trump calling for the suspension of the Constitution to overturn the 2020 election, saying in a statement, “You cannot only love America when you win.”

“The Constitution brings the American people together – regardless of party – and elected leaders swear to uphold it,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said. “Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned.”

Earlier, in a post on his Truth Social network, the former president had called for the “termination” of constitutional laws, while citing conspiracy theories about the presidential election he lost.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

Trump’s post came hours after Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk revealed sensitive deliberations at the social media company around Hunter Biden’s personal computer files in the fall of 2020.

The internal company discussions offered insight on the internal confusion at Twitter as it responded to the New York Post’s reporting on then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son in the closing weeks of the last presidential campaign.

POLITICO has not independently verified the communications, which were given to Substack writer Matt Taibbi and posted Friday night. Musk late Friday suggested that another batch of revelations would land Saturday. As of this writing, another batch has not been released.

Musk on Saturday afternoon defended his release of the files, though admitted there may be a "legal risk" in the action.

"We’re just going to put all the information out there try to get a clean slate," Musk said in a Twitter Spaces live chat. Any legal risk is "less of a concern than just clearing the air and making sure that people know what really happened," Musk said.

On the promised release of another batch of files, Musk said he was "somewhat leaving this up to Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss." He indicated it would focus on events after the election, including "government influence" on the platform.

Candidly, he admitted he'd "read hardly any" of the files."

Asked whether any DNC or Biden campaign requests to take down content related to Hunter Biden would be released, Musk replied, “The intent is to release all the files.”

In response to Trump's call to suspend Constitutional laws, the DNC said in a statement: “Donald Trump lost by 7 million votes in 2020 and his calls to undermine our democracy cost his party key races in 2022. The continued silence by Republican leaders, including his potential primary competitors, shows a MAGA party that is beholden to Trumpism, his divisive rhetoric, and his extreme positions.”

Trump, who has declared his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, preceded his Truth Social post with several posts focused on Big Tech’s role in policing misinformation in the runup to the 2020 election.

He followed up with a post later Saturday saying, “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!”

Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

'I've never been hiding': Walker defends campaign ahead of Tuesday's runoff

Politico -

ATLANTA, Ga. — Herschel Walker defended his campaign strategy less than four days before the Georgia Senate runoff and denied that he has been avoiding questions from voters and mainstream news organizations, telling POLITICO in an exclusive interview that “I’ve been talking to as many [voters] as I can. ... I’ve never been hiding.”

"We’re in this runoff here and we’re going to win this thing,” Walker said.

Walker traveled to meet voters on his home turf on Saturday, holding a tailgate-style meet and greet before his alma mater, the University of Georgia, prepared to play in the SEC championships outside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The event, which was not listed on his public schedule, was one of at least two the Republican Senate candidate scheduled in the final weekend before Election Day on Tuesday.

Walker was known for his jam-packed schedule throughout the primary season but in the last two weeks, he’s had fewer public events than his opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Walker recently picked up the pace with an “Evict Warnock” bus tour.

He has also avoided taking questions from reporters except for interviews with Fox News, often with a surrogate such as GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham at his side.

In a short conversation with POLITICO on his campaign bus, Walker denied that his campaign team was hiding him too much from voters and the press, saying, “Nope, they haven’t.”

Walker, as he does at most events, received a long line of potential Georgia voters for photos, handshakes and short greetings. At the UGA tailgate event, he first started meeting voters one by one inside his bus because of the rain before moving outside under a tent.

Walker is challenging Warnock in what is Georgia’s third Senate runoff election in less than two years. Unlike the 2020 runoff, however, control of the Senate is already decided. Both parties have worried that this could decrease motivation to turn out to vote, and both have launched an all-hands-on-deck effort to turn out voters using outside organizing groups and fly-in visits from national figures.

Walker said he hasn’t seen any lack of enthusiasm from voters.

“They’re not [less motivated] because they know right now that the House will be even so they don’t want to understand what is happening right now. You get the House, you get the committees. You get all the committees even, they just stall things within there. So if we keep a check on Joe Biden, we just going to keep a check on him,” Walker said.

The House will be controlled by a narrow Republican majority next year and will not be evenly split between both parties.

In a final question in the short interview, POLITICO asked why in what was expected to be a wave year for Republicans, Walker ended up in a runoff.

“We’re in a runoff because they spend a lot of money,” Walker said of Warnock, who has raised more money than any other Senate candidate this year. “I think everybody saw that. They spend a lot of money but yet they never talk about issues. They never talked about policy, they never talked about any of the policies. They just spend money."

Lawmakers lament as U.S. exits soccer World Cup

Politico -

Lawmakers put on their brave faces and paid tribute to the United States men's national soccer team after they lost to the Netherlands, 3-1, in the first match of the knockout round of the World Cup.

Saturday's matchup was the United States' seventh appearance in the knockout round and marks the end of the team's first World Cup tournament since 2014.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) took to Twitter and said he was excited for what the future holds for a team that is "young, super talented and just entering their prime."

"The U.S. had chances to finish. We didn't. The Dutch had chances to finish. They did," Murphy said on Twitter.

"Congrats to @USMNTon a good run! Played hard and never gave up. Good luck to Netherlands as they continue on," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said on Twitter.

".@USMNT: what a good run. You all can be so proud of leaving it all on the field and representing our country on the world stage. #OnlyForward," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also expressed optimism for the team's future.

"So proud to see New Jersey natives Matt Turner, Brenden Aaronson, and Coach Gregg Berhalter and all the players lead the USA back to the World Cup this year," Booker said on Twitter. "Excited for the team’s future, and especially for the World Cup to return to Jersey in 2026."

"So proud of @USMNTin the World Cup. Thanks for inspiring my kids and our nation," Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) said on Twitter.

"Nice job @USMNTCan’t wait to see what the future holds! #USA," Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) tweeted.

The Netherlands will face the winner of Argentina and Australia in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Armed Services chair rips calls for stepped up oversight of Ukraine aid

Politico -

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — House Armed Service Chair Adam Smith on Saturday harshly criticized arguments that there isn't enough oversight of U.S. assistance to Ukraine.

Speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, Smith said the assertion that tens of billions in Ukraine aid isn't overseen properly "makes me a little crazy." The Washington state Democrat also argued that those assertions are part of Russian disinformation.

"Number one, the focus on that is part of Russian propaganda. All these stories about how the money isn't being spent wisely," Smith said during a panel.

"Second, Ukraine is spending the money really well," Smith said. "That's why they're winning."

The argument could be a preview of how some national security Democrats respond to potential efforts to put Ukraine aid under more of a microscope than it already is. Republicans will take over the House in January, and Smith will revert to ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

Some far-right lawmakers want to see assistance to Ukraine curtailed, but many top Republicans have insisted that the party will continue backing Kyiv in its fight against Russia, while also boosting oversight. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued Congress should look to speed up weapons to Ukraine while insisting the money is spent properly.

Smith was responding to another panelist, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who argued, "We need more oversight of the spending for Ukraine."

"I think, yes, we need oversight, but we don't need that as an excuse to not fund what we're doing in Ukraine," Smith said.

The inspectors general for the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have said they're coordinating their oversight work on Ukraine.

Congress has poured roughly $66 billion into the response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. That includes emergency funding for military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine as well as money for the Pentagon to replenish stocks of weapons that have been sent into the fight. Congress is also weighing another $38 billion request from President Joe Biden for Ukraine as part of year-end funding talks.

The U.S. has also transferred billions worth of weapons and equipment directly from military inventories to Ukraine.

The massive influx of cash and military hardware in less than 10 months has stoked concerns about whether the money can be spent efficiently and if the weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and others delayed a $40 billion supplemental package in the spring over a push to empower a special inspector general for Ukraine aid. That package requires the Pentagon inspector general to review the department's execution of its share of the money.

Even some Democrats have raised the prospect that ineffective oversight could impact political support for more money. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said following the passage of the supplemental that a full accounting of the already-allocated cash is "critically important for both past and future funding requests."

Inside NATO’s efforts to plan for a future cyberwar

Politico -

TALLINN, Estonia — Some 150 NATO cybersecurity experts assembled in an unimposing beige building in the heart of Estonia’s snow-covered capital this week to prepare for a cyberwar.

It’s a scenario that has become all too real for NATO member states and their allies since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The conflict has forced Ukraine to defend against both missile attacks and constant efforts by Russian hackers intent on turning off the lights and making life more difficult for their besieged neighbors.

“There is a level of seriousness added; it’s not anymore so fictitious. It has become quite obvious those things are happening in reality,” Col. Bernd Hansen, branch head for Cyberspace at NATO Allied Command Transformation, said of the impact of the conflict in Ukraine.

NATO’s cyber forces have been watching the war in Ukraine closely, both to find ways to help Ukraine and to figure out how to make it harder for Russia and other adversaries to hack into infrastructure in NATO member states and their allies.

The conflict has added urgency to NATO’s annual Cyber Coalition exercise, in which more than 40 member states, allies and other organizations work together to respond to, and recover from, simulated cyberattacks on critical infrastructures like power grids and ships. The exercise spanned the globe, with nearly 1,000 cyber professionals participating remotely from their home countries.

The world has never experienced an all-out cyberwar in which cyberattacks are used to the same devastating effect as physical strikes — such as shutting off critical services like power and water and preventing their restoration. The situation in Ukraine, however, is teetering on the brink.

And NATO has been intentionally ambiguous about what level of cyberattack it would take for members to respond with either force or devastating cyber strikes of their own.

This year, cybersecurity officials and technical experts came to Tallinn from Europe, the United States and as far away as Japan to respond to cyberattacks against the fictional island of Icebergen, located somewhere between Iceland and Norway. On Nov. 28, hackers launched a digital assault on the fictional island in an attempt to steal intelligence and intellectual property, disrupt government services, and bring down the power grid.

The U.S. led air command and control in the exercise, while Romania led on developing the storyline, the United Kingdom took control on the ground, and Poland was in charge of special operations forces.

The results were a closely guarded secret by NATO officials due to security and intelligence concerns, but U.S. Navy Col. Charles Elliott, the director of the exercise, told reporters that no one failed the exercise. He declined to give more specifics about what weaknesses were found.

Almost 150 personnel were on-site for the event, double the amount who made the journey last year. U.S. Cyber Command and U.S. European Command had about 50 people participating in person or remotely.

Elliott said that “it’s certainly possible” that the conflict in Ukraine had something to do with the spike in attendees, but declined to attribute it directly to that. While Ukraine has participated in previous years, it didn’t this year because officials there are too busy defending their networks from a barrage of Russian attacks — including on major power substations.

The war in Ukraine has injected new urgency into questions about how NATO would respond to a cyberattack on a member state large enough to invoke Article 5, which labels an attack against any member state as an attack against all. The government of Albania considered requesting its use earlier this year following a widespread attack on the country’s networks by Iran.

Complicating matters further is how vulnerable critical networks in NATO states are to cyberattacks. Those can run from sophisticated operations to plant malware on software updates to more common ransomware attacks — in which hackers trick a user into clicking on a link and then shut down a network to extract a payment. In a sign of how increasingly intertwined cyberstrikes are becoming with traditional warfare, Russia has coordinated missile strikes in Ukraine with cyberattacks to intensify the misery of civilians on the ground.

The difficulty of keeping hackers out makes it even more important to practice how to respond once they’ve infiltrated networks, officials say.

“Cyber generally still is an area that I judge favors the attacker more than the defender, and I hope we are able to change the dynamic, but we’re not quite there yet,” David Cattler, NATO assistant secretary general for Intelligence and Security, told reporters in a briefing during the exercise.

Officials said they incorporated scenarios and lessons from the cyber attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure this year, including on power grids.

“It has made it much more live, it's reality,” Maj. Tobias Malm, from Swedish Armed Forces headquarters, said of the war in Ukraine. “It’s the real world, you sit in the middle of it, and it's a daily struggle to address these issues.”

The exercise was held at NATO’s Cyber Range, a building designed and opened in 2021 to serve as a center to train NATO cybersecurity experts on how to coordinate and respond to attacks like those faced on the ground in Ukraine. The building gives cyber professionals a secure location with self-contained computer networks that can simulate cyber doomsdays. The building has both unclassified and classified spaces, and rarely opens its doors to the press in an effort to keep operations secure. Participants were banned from bringing any personal devices into the simulation area.

“They are constantly building up and tearing down these networks, so essentially this entire building is a blank slate; you can reconfigure it however you like,” Elliott said.

Part of the exercise incorporated experimentation of new technologies, including adapting the use of artificial intelligence technologies to help counter cyber threats.

“NATO’s committed to maintaining its technological edge,” David van Weel, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, told reporters during a virtual briefing on Friday.

The intensified pressure on cyber professionals within NATO countries and allied nations has made the ability to coordinate and test communication protocols all the more essential. Finland, alongside Sweden, is currently being considered for NATO membership, but has long been a strong cyber partner to NATO, and both were included in the exercise.

Maj. Markus Riihoven, a member of the Finnish Defense Forces, said that the exercise was essential to develop a “network of trust” that can easily be called upon during a real-world cyberattack.

To build trust, participants mingled during frequent coffee breaks and catered lunches in a fairly relaxed environment outside the rooms where the exercise continued. They were kept on track by announcements from leadership about the schedule accompanied by songs including, at the conclusion of the exercise, ABBA’s “Waterloo'' pumped over the loudspeakers.

Hovering over the camaraderie, however, was an awareness that this trial run could very quickly become a real-world scenario. Not to mention the looming question of whether military defense alone will ever be enough to fend off a large-scale cyberattack.

NATO’s Bernd said they need to move beyond government and the military to fight back against cyberattacks — a reference to the role the private sector might have to play in getting systems back online.

“What this exercise showed,” he said, “is that enlarging the cyber family that is tackling cyberattacks beyond the military framework — that is something that we need to train on how to collaborate.”

Russia coordinating Ukraine hacks with missiles, could increasingly target European allies, Microsoft warns

Politico -

The Russian government is coordinating cyberattacks on Ukrainian critical infrastructure with missile and other physical strikes as Russian troops retreat from formerly occupied areas of Ukraine, Microsoft said in a report published on Saturday.

And the Kremlin could seek to expand cyberattacks against Ukraine’s supportive neighbors in an attempt to disrupt military and humanitarian supply chains and weaken European populations’ support for Kyiv, according to the report.

Bleak outlook: Microsoft’s report comes after nearly 10 months of brutal war in Ukraine, which has seen Russia hacking Ukrainian satellite systems, energy companies and other critical infrastructure, galvanizing international worries about how Moscow will next deploy its sophisticated cyber capabilities.

Expanding battlefield: In November, Microsoft blamed Russia for October ransomware attacks on infrastructure companies in Ukraine and Poland aimed at attacking companies involved in providing military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Now, the tech giant says that campaign could be “a harbinger of Russia further extending cyberattacks beyond the borders of Ukraine,” with a focus on “countries and companies that are providing Ukraine with vital supply chains of aid and weaponry this winter.”

The October attacks had limited success — Microsoft said local defenders and its own experts “helped contain the attack’s impact to less than 20 percent of one targeted organization’s network” — but Microsoft assesses that Russian hackers “almost certainly collected intelligence on supply routes and logistics operations that could facilitate future attacks.”

Splintering the alliance: Russia is likely to expand its use of influence operations to “reduce support for Ukraine’s defense” by exploiting tensions in Europe over energy prices and shortages, according to the report, which cited Russian propaganda outlets’ steady promotion of European protests over issues such as inflation. Russia could also seek to stoke anti-migrant resentment as more people flee Ukraine amid power outages.

Missiles and malware: Microsoft has observed Russian cyberattacks targeting the same sectors as Moscow’s recent missile barrages retaliating against Ukrainian territorial gains.

In addition, the report says that destructive cyberattacks spiked in October after two relatively quiet months, with wiper malware attacks — meant to erase hard drives and make recovery more difficult — on energy, water and transportation infrastructure paralleling Ukraine’s ground counteroffensive.

Fifty-five percent of the roughly 50 organizations hit by Russian wiper attacks since February are critical infrastructure companies, Microsoft said.

Allies on alert: Microsoft is not alone in tracking these threats. NATO has also been keeping a close eye on developments in Ukraine, and the alliance has also seen evidence of Russia coordinating physical strikes with cyberattacks.

"We’ve seen cyber being used before the actual attack started, for example through defacing government websites and spreading disinformation to try to scare the population,” David van Weel, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, told reporters during a virtual briefing on Friday. He said that NATO has tracked the use of deepfakes as well, including doctored videos of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling troops to surrender.

“We’ve seen cyber being used in conjunction with kinetic attacks, so whilst the military infrastructure was hit physically, it was also hit by cyberattacks,” van Weel noted.

Rep. Jeffries Taking a Big Step

Real Clear Politics -

US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries' election to be the first Black minority leader in American history reflects the potential, possibility and power of multiracial democracy. The 52-year-old congressman representing New York's 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens, reflects both a generational and cultural shift from retiring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose legendary tenure made her a trailblazing feminist icon and an impeccably dressed breaker of glass ceilings, unafraid of tussling in public with former President Donald Trump.


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