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People marvel at a refrigerator

First They Came For My Appliances: We Are Here For the Refrigerator Freedom Act

Okay all you naysayers whining shambolic House GOPers aren't doing their job just 'cause they're blocking border solutions, ignoring infrastructure, enabling Ukrainian deaths and barely keeping the government afloat: Listen up. Boldly showcasing their astute priorities, they will fight Monday to liberate your dishwashers, dryers, fridges and other home gizmos from a Marxist "avalanche" of new "Libby Boogyman" rules aimed at keeping the planet from vaporizing into air, and c'mon who cares about that?!

Ever-steadfast in upholding their tradition of chasing fictional ills - Mike 'Election Chicanery' Johnson is now vowing to require proof of citizenship to prevent (brown-skinned) non-citizens from voting even though it's already illegal, also "not a thing" - the GOP-led House Rules Committee meets Monday to discuss six bills to prep them for final votes on the House floor. The six bills are the Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act, the Liberty in Laundry Act, the Affordable Air Conditioning Act, the Clothes Dryer Reliability Act, the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act and the Refrigerator Freedom Act. Yes. They are real. They're in response to a number of Biden regulations or proposals aimed at addressing climate change, part of a $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act that seeks to lower costs, reduce energy use, cut pollutants and move to more green-energy practices.

To Republicans, however, they're aimed at letting tyrants "control everything Americans are able to do on a day-to-day basis," part of an insidious plot to allow "others" to come for their stuff, their choices and their God-given rights, evidently including the right to get a back-alley abortion with a coat hanger. (One sage: "REPUBLICANS: 'Keep gubmint OUT of our toasters and dish washers!' ALSO REPUBLICANS: 'We need surveillance cameras inside every cha-cha so we can keep an eye on what women are doing!'") Thus did Arizona's Rep. Debbie Lesko, declaring she is "proud (to) stand on the side of choice for American consumers," devise the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act to prohibit "federal bureaucrats" from issuing an aforementioned "avalanche" of new energy standards "not technologically feasible and economically justified."

In March, Iowa's Rep.Mariannette Miller-Meeks echoed her, introducing and eventually passing theRefrigerator Freedom Act to prohibit the same offenses - now "not cost-effective or technologically feasible" - because Biden has "done nothing but implement outrageous regulations" that only limit choice, increase prices, disenfranchise toilets and blenders, and move us toward dictatorship. MAGA-ites, of course, applaud these red-meat efforts to rescue heat pumps, gas stoves, washing machines, showers and air fryers from domination. "Finally, following American and not Globalist priorities," said one. "I am sick and tired of the government telling us what we can and cannot buy and use." And after 11 GOP-run states sued over some of the changes, a judge dismissed the rules as "arbitrary and capricious."

That could also apply to a House focused on fighting to be able to buy a $7 toaster even if, okay, so it may burn your house down but FREEDUMB! Of course, confronting issues like national security or infrastructure require actual, unflashy, conciliatory, negotiating, attention-to-detail legislative work, and they're barely able to co-exist with their colleagues, never mind opponents, and anyway it's probably about time for another two-week recess, so let's go with hair dryers and ceiling fans. Along with the petty stupidity is the economic irony: Most appliances are made in China, so they're protecting Chinese companies from U.S. regulations, and for things made here, they're ensuring big business can be left alone to make over-priced, planet-killing, deliberately-soon-obsolete crap. Your tax dollars at work!

Predictably, the cognitive dissonance drew its share of mockery, with Digby noting, "We all know the GOP likes to focus on kitchen table issues, but this is ridiculous." Others argued that, "Insurrectionists are now GOP Congresspersons" and that, thanks in part to such diversionary tomfoolery, "The GOP has Ukrainian blood on their hands." "First they came for my appliances," one intoned. "I was not an appliance, so I said nothing." Another suggested a key addition to the GOP agenda: a "Stop Wasting Our Time on Meaningless Legislation Act." There were also triumphant stories of deliverance born of the GOP's hard and noble work. "In honor of the Refrigerator Freedom Act, I just opened my front door and set my newly liberated Frigidaire free," one reported. "Needless to say, it's running."

Coral bleaching

'Should Be a Global Wake-Up Call': Coral Reefs Suffer Fourth Mass Bleaching Event

Scientists said Monday that the world's coral reefs are facing a fourth global bleaching event as the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency pushes ocean temperatures to record highs, imperiling the critical underwater ecosystems that sustain thousands of species.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)—which NOAA co-chairs—said they documented coral bleaching in the northern and southern hemispheres of every major ocean basin on Earth between February 2023 and April of this year. It could be the worst global bleaching event on record.

"Since early 2023, mass bleaching of coral reefs has been confirmed throughout the tropics including Florida in the U.S.; the Caribbean; Brazil; the eastern Tropical Pacific (including Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia); Australia's Great Barrier Reef; large areas of the South Pacific (including Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Samoas, and French Polynesia); the Red Sea (including the Gulf of Aqaba); the Persian Gulf; and the Gulf of Aden," the organizations said in a statement.

"NOAA has received confirmation of widespread bleaching across other parts of the Indian Ocean basin as well, including in Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Tromelin, Mayotte, and off the western coast of Indonesia," they added.

"More than half the reefs on the planet have basically experienced bleaching-level heat stress in the last year."

Derek Manzello, coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch, said that "as the world's oceans continue to warm, coral bleaching is becoming more frequent."

Excessively warm water causes corals to expel algae from their tissues, causing the organisms to turn white. While they can recover, such bleaching is evidence that corals are under significant stress and at risk of death.

The latest global bleaching event is the second in the last 10 years and "should be a global wake-up call," Manzello toldThe Washington Post.

"More than half the reefs on the planet have basically experienced bleaching-level heat stress in the last year," said Manzello.

NOAA and ICRI's statement comes as scientists around the world are voicing growing alarm over high ocean temperatures. Research released last month showed that global ocean surface temperatures had broken records every day of the year up to that point, underscoring the need to aggressively rein in fossil fuel production and use.

"Temperatures are off the charts," Emily Darling, director of coral reefs at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said Monday. "While many corals are suffering from extreme heat stress and bleaching, some locations and species show different types of natural resilience. Finding and conserving these priority coral reefs are critical to any global strategy to safeguard the planet's oceans and blue economies."

"The announcement of the fourth global bleaching event is an urgent call to do two things: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work together to prioritize resilient coral reefs for conservation," Darling added.

Joe Biden

US Economy Performs Far Better Under Democrats Than Republicans: Study

A study published by the Economic Policy Institute on Tuesday finds that the U.S. economy does better when a Democrat is in the White House than when a Republican is in charge.

The study looked at GDP growth, job growth, inflation-adjusted wage growth, the unemployment rate, and more. It found that Democrats have had an economic advantage since at least 1949.

"This Democratic advantage is across the board in all variables we measure but strongest in private-sector outcomes—notably, business investment, job growth, and the growth of market-based incomes," it says.

The study shows there is a "pronounced Democratic advantage in nearly every measure of macroeconomic performance." Despite this, the study notes that Republicans are typically seen as better at managing the economy in opinion polls.

"It is difficult to tell what respondents to opinion polls have in mind when they are asked about 'the economy.' For example, respondents often rate the Republican party higher as economic managers yet rate the Democratic party more highly on issues related to healthcare," the study says. "But healthcare is, by far, the single largest sector of the U.S. economy, affecting economic outcomes of households, businesses, and governments in significant ways."

The study also found that economic gains are "distributed substantially more equally" when a Democrat is in the White House.

The study notes that not all of the economic figures can be attributed to policy, as some of it is simply luck, but the trend appears to be that the economy does better overall when a Democrat is president.

"One would expect that the large role of chance would (almost by definition) cut uniformly across the partisan composition of presidential administrations. And yet the Democratic advantage in economic performance by partisan control of the presidency is striking," the study says.

code and agency symbol

Amid Spying Fight, House Passes Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act

While applauding the U.S. House of Representatives' bipartisan passage of a bill to ensure that "law enforcement and intelligence agencies can't do an end-run around the Constitution by buying information from data brokers" on Wednesday, privacy advocates highlighted that Congress is trying to extend and expand a long-abused government spying program.

The House voted 219-199 for Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act (FANFSA), which won support from 96 Democrats and 123 Republicans, including the lead sponsor, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). Named for the constitutional amendment that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, H.R. 4639 would close what campaigners call the data broker loophole.

"The privacy violations that flow from law enforcement entities circumventing the Fourth Amendment undermine civil liberties, free expression, and our ability to control what happens to our data," said Free Press Action policy counsel Jenna Ruddock. "These impacts affect everyone who uses digital platforms that extract our personal information any time we open a browser or visit social media and other websites—even when we go to events like demonstrations and other places with our phones revealing our locations."

"We're grateful that the House passed these vital and popular protections," she added. "The bill would prevent flagrant abuses of our privacy by government authorities in league with unscrupulous third-party data brokers. Making this legislation into law with Senate passage too would be a decisive and long-overdue action against government misuse of this clandestine business sector that traffics in our personal data for profit."

Wednesday's vote followed the House sending the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act to the Senate. H.R. 7888 would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows for warrantless spying on noncitizens abroad but also sweeps up Americans' data.

The House notably included an amendment forcing a wide range of individuals and businesses to cooperate with government spying operations but rejected an amendment that would have added a warrant requirement to the bill, which the Senate could vote on as soon as Thursday.

Noting those decisions on the FISA reauthorization legislation, Ruddock stressed that "today's vote is a victory but follows a recent loss and ongoing threat as that Section 702 bill moves to the Senate this week too."

"As FANFSA and the 702 reauthorization move to the Senate, lawmakers in that chamber need to take a stand for the rights of people in the United States," she argued. "That means passing FANFSA and reforming Section 702 authority—and prioritizing everyone's First and Fourth Amendment rights."

Jeramie Scott, senior counsel and director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Project on Surveillance Oversight, also praised the House's FANFSA passage on Wednesday.

"The passage of the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale underscores the extent to which reining in abusive warrantless surveillance is a bipartisan issue," Scott said. "We urge the Senate to take up this measure and close the data broker loophole."

Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at ACLU, similarly said Wednesday that "the bipartisan passage of this bill is a flashing warning sign to the government that if it wants our data, it must get a warrant."

Hamadanchy added that "we hope this vote puts a fire under the Senate to protect their constituents and rein in the government's warrantless surveillance of Americans, once and for all."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a critic of the pending 702 bill and FANFSA's lead sponsor in the upper chamber, called the the House's Wednesday vote "a huge win for privacy" and said that "now it's time for the Senate to follow suit."

Supreme Court protest

Watchdogs' Database Details Right-Wing Efforts to Sway US Supreme Court

A trio of progressive watchdog groups on Thursday unveiled a new database detailing the "troubling connections" between the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing justices, the conservative organizations that have intervened in cases before the court, and the wealthy donors funding them.

Take Back the Court, Revolving Door Project, and True North Research published the database at SupremeTransparency.org, which "shines a spotlight on the complex web connecting justices to powerbrokers and the organizations that those powerbrokers fund, lead, and are otherwise linked to."

The watchdogs found that nearly 1 in 7 amicus briefs filed during the 2023-24 Supreme Court term were lodged by at least one powerbroker-affiliated organization. This affects 32 different cases before the court.

"The current U.S. Supreme Court has gone rogue."

For example, in Moore v. United States—in which the Supreme Court could preemptively ban or limit wealth taxes—half of all amicus briefs were filed by groups affiliated with right-wing powerbrokers.

In Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, groups funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch want to scupper the Chevron deference, a 40-year precedent under which judges defer to the legal interpretations of federal agencies if Congress has not passed any laws on an issue. Powerbroker-affiliated organizations have filed more than one-third of the amicus briefs seeking to overturn the Chevron doctrine.

"Far too often people with insidiously close ties to justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, such as Harlan Crow and Paul Singer, signal their interest in the outcome of cases by funding, leading, or influencing organizations that file amicus briefs," Revolving Door Project executive director Jeff Hauser said in a statement.

"There is just as much of a conflict of interest when a justice hears a case involving a benefactor as a named party and one in which the person who illicitly enabled their luxurious lifestyle is 'merely' similarly situated to one of the parties," Hauser added.

According to SupremeTransparency.org:

The current U.S. Supreme Court has gone rogue. The right-wing justices that make up the court's supermajority frequently toy with precedent and the rule of law to issue opinions that not only defy the will of a majority of Americans, but also rewrite constitutional principles, overturn widely respected legal precedents, and gut longstanding rules that protect the public interest.

In just the 2021 and 2022 Supreme Court terms alone, the court overturned Roe v. Wadeafter 49 years; gutted both the decades-old Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act; overturned a 100+ year old gun safety law; eroded the National Labor Relations Act (adopted as part of New Deal reforms to protect workers); broke with their own procedures regarding standing to sue in order to block student debt relief; and reversed decades of precedent to end the decadeslong practice of race-conscious college admissions policies that promoted diversity and redressed discrimination. But this radically reactionary court and its radically reactionary justices aren't acting alone.

"Supreme corruption demands supreme transparency," said Take Back the Court president Sarah Lipton-Lubet. "It's no secret that the many of the rich benefactors cozying up to the conservative justices are the same people who fund right-wing organizations with business before the court."

"But too often, stories about the Supreme Court don't connect these dots—and as a result, they leave us with an incomplete picture," she continued. "The truth is right-wing powerbrokers are seemingly paying to play; they're funding groups that are weighing in on court cases even as they buy access to the justices who will rule on those cases."

"It's just one of the ways our Supreme Court is deeply, fundamentally broken," Lipton-Lubet added. "And it's a reminder of how urgent and necessary it is that we reform this corrupt court."

Last year, the Supreme Court adopted a Code of Conduct that contained few new rules, no enforcement mechanism, and was widely panned as a toothless public relations stunt. Bolder proposals for reforming the high court include term limits and increasing the number of justices.

Robert A. Wood

'The Opposite of Leadership': US Vetoes Palestine's UN Membership

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday used the country's veto power at the United Nations Security Council to block Palestine's bid to become a full member of the U.N.

While 12 nations voted in favor of Palestinian membership and two abstained, the United States is one of five countries—along with China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—who have veto authority at the Security Council.

Since Israel launched what the International Court of Justice has said is a "plausibly" genocidal assault of the Gaza Strip in response to a Hamas-led October attack, the Biden administration has blocked three cease-fire resolutions at the Security Council. Under mounting global pressure, the U.S. finally abstained last month, allowing a cease-fire measure to pass.

In the lead-up to Thursday's vote, the Biden administration was pressuring other countries to oppose the Palestinian Authority's renewed membership effort so it could possibly avoid a veto, according to leaked cables obtained by The Intercept.

"Take a moment to ponder how isolated Biden has made the U.S.," said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, after the veto. "Biden lobbied Japan, South Korea, and Ecuador HARD to oppose the Palestine resolution so that the U.S. wouldn't have to veto. They refused. So Biden cast his fourth veto in seven months (!!) This is the opposite of leadership."

In addition to the nations Parsi highlighted, Algeria, China, France, Guyana, Malta, Mozambique, Russia, Sierra Leone, and Slovenia voted for giving Palestine full U.N. membership while Switzerland and the United Kingdom abstained.

After the vote, U.N. Newsreported on remarks from Riyad Mansour, a U.N. permanent observer for the state of Palestine:

"We came to the Security Council today as an important historic moment, regionally and internationally, so that we could salvage what can be saved. We place you before a historic responsibility to establish the foundations of a just and comprehensive peace in our region."

Council members were given the opportunity "to revive the hope that has been lost among our people" and to translate their commitment towards a two-state solution into firm action "that cannot be maneuvered or retracted," and the majority of council members "have risen to the level of this historic moment, and they have stood on the side of justice and freedom and hope, in line with the ethical and humanitarian and legal principles that must govern our world and in line with simple logic."

"The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will, and it will not defeat our determination," Mansour added. "We will not stop in our effort. The state of Palestine is inevitable. It is real. Perhaps they see it as far away, but we see it as near, and we are the faithful."

Parsi said that "a Western-friendly senior Global South diplomat" told him of Biden's veto: "Whatever agonizing claim the U.S. had to lead a self-appointed free world has died a very loud public death on the Security Council horseshoe tonight. YOU CAN'T LEAD IF YOU CAN'T LISTEN."

Biden, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, has faced fierce criticism in the United States and around the world for U.S. complicity in Israel's war on Gaza—which Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, has controlled for nearly two decades. In under seven months, Israeli forces have killed 33,970 Palestinians, injured another 76,770, displaced most of the besieged enclave's 2.3 million population, devastated civilian infrastructure, and severely limited the flow of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

Israel—which already got $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid before October 7—continues to receive weapons support from the Biden administration, even as a growing chorus of critics, including some Democrats in Congress, argues that the arms transfers violate U.S. and international law.