GOP being crushed in Wisconsin as state 'shifts leftward': report

Democratic strategists once regarded Wisconsin as a reliably blue state. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis lost California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Maine and Florida to Republican George H.W. Bush in 1988's presidential election, but he carried Wisconsin.

During the Barack Obama years, however, Democrats lost a lot of ground in the state. Republican Gov. Scott Walker won in 2010 and 2014; Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won in 2010 and 2016; and Donald Trump carried Wisconsin in 2016's presidential election.

Moreover, Republicans took over the Wisconsin State Legislature and cemented their gains with severe gerrymandering.

But in a report published on May 30, Politico's David Siders stresses that recent Democratic victories in Wisconsin have been "jarring" for "a state that, post-Barack Obama, had seemingly been shifting to the right."

"For more than a decade," Siders observes. "Republicans have used aggressive redistricting and other heavy-handed tactics in the (Wisconsin) State Legislature to press a narrow advantage into a seemingly permanent upper hand over Democrats. …. But Joe Biden won the state in 2020. And in the April election, liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz beat conservative former State Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly by a whopping 11 percentage points, flipping the ideological majority of the Court."

Siders cites abortion as a major reason why Wisconsin has "shifted leftward." Protasiewicz prioritized abortion rights during her campaign and hammered Kelly relentlessly on the issue.

Republican Rohn W. Bishop, mayor of Waupun, Wisconsin and former chair of the Fond du Lac County GOP, told Politico, "We got our butts kicked. What the Republican base demands and what independent voters will accept are growing further apart."

Walker was voted out of office in 2018, and his Democratic successor, Tony Evers, was reelected in 2022. As Walker sees it, his two gubernatorial victories and Johnson's three U.S. Senate wins were the exception instead of the rule for Wisconsin.

Walker told Politico, "Wisconsin has historically — and I think largely continues to be — a blue state."

'Polarizing' Kari Lake could be a major headache for GOP strategists in 2024: conservative

Like her political mentor Donald Trump, far-right Republican Kari Lake has been an incredibly divisive figure in U.S. politics.

The conspiracy theorist and former television reporter, who Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs defeated in 2022, is popular with Trump's hardcore MAGA base. But a combination of liberals, progressives, Democrats and Never Trump conservatives view her as a dangerous extremist. When Lake lost Arizona's gubernatorial race last year, former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) and activist Meghan McCain were among the well-known conservatives who were glad to see her defeated.

Never Trumper and Washington Post opinion writer Henry Olsen, in his May 31 column, lays out some reasons why Lake could be a major headache for GOP strategists in 2024.

"Many Republicans are concerned that the charismatic — and polarizing — Kari Lake will run for Arizona's Senate seat, thereby making it harder for the GOP to pick up a seat that could determine Senate control," Olsen observes. "Even more concerning for the party? That she might also be angling to become former President Donald Trump's vice-presidential nominee."

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Olsen continues, "Lake has made her interest in running for the Senate clear by doing what any normal candidate would do: She regularly criticizes independent incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and her Democratic challenger, Rep. Ruben Gallego, on Twitter and in news releases…. Speculation that she's also interested in the vice presidency comes from the things she's done that most Senate candidates do not: She's maintained a heavy national speaking schedule, including two trips to Iowa and a lead speaking role at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference."

Lake is reportedly on Trump's short list for a running mate if he wins the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, which is looking like a strong possibility. Despite all his legal woes — or perhaps even because of them — Trump has been way ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in many polls. Lake has been calling for the GOP to cancel its presidential primary and rally around Trump, and she urged DeSantis not to run —which obviously didn't stop him from entering the race in late May.

Olsen argues that if Lake is serious about running for the U.S. Senate, she needs to forget about being Trump's possible running mate.

"The complications — both for her and the GOP — come from what happens if she runs for the Senate without rejecting the possibility that she might accept a chance to run for vice president," Olsen explains. "Winning a competitive U.S. Senate seat requires complete dedication…. Given the opportunity to run for both Senate and vice president, Republicans and her fans should hope she chooses just one — for her benefit and theirs."

Why Paul Gosar has become a 'sort of hero' to neo-Nazis and other extremists: report

In Arizona, far-right Rep. Paul Gosar is a polarizing figure even among fellow Republicans. Traditional McCain and Reagan conservatives have been highly critical of him, but MAGA Republicans who admire far-right figures like Kari Lake, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tend to be Gosar admirers as well.

In an article published by Talking Points Memo on May 30, journalist Haley Orion stresses that Gosar is so far to the right that some white nationalists and Neo-Nazis look up to him.

Orion notes that in an earlier article, TPM reported that Wade Searle, Gosar's digital director, appeared to be "involved with an interlinked group of social media profiles that were deeply enmeshed with white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes' viciously antisemitic Groyper movement."

Orion explains, "While the revelations in the story were significant, they weren't necessarily surprising. The Groypers are deeply hateful and grotesque, but Gosar has never been shy in his flirtation with various factions of the fascist far-right, including the Groypers' leader, Fuentes. Or, as Gosar himself has bragged in the past: 'I’m considered the most dangerous man in Congress.' A large swath of the far-right has, in turn, taken notice, with Gosar becoming a sort of hero in some corners."

In 2021, Gosar set off a major controversy when he posted a video that depicted violence against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). Gosar's defenders claimed she was overreaching, but his critics responding that depicting violence against a member of Congress is never acceptable.

Orion stresses that Gosar isn't afraid to associate with extremists.

"Gosar has lent his support to a broad coalition of far-right bigots and Christian supremacists: from the s***posting Groyper neo-Nazis to the camo-clad LARPers and hate groups to the suit-wearing, ultranationalist political elites at home and abroad," Orion notes. "He'll rile up the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers, telling them that the United States is already in a Civil War, 'we just haven't started shooting yet,' then repeat the same line in an interview with a well-documented neo-Nazi. He'll even associate with the conspiratorial, and often ridiculous, QAnon movement, tweeting out references to Q-drops — Gosar later said the tweet was sarcastic, though the tweet remains up to this day — and appearing at Q-friendly rallies."

No president in US history 'abused the pardon power' more 'brazenly' than Trump: author

Former President Donald Trump has promised to pardon a "large portion" of the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 if he wins the 2024 presidential election. It's a promise he would likely make good on; during his four years in the White House, Trump granted presidential pardons to a long list of cronies who were convicted of or pled guilty to federal crimes — from GOP operative Roger Stone to Paul Manafort (Trump's former 2016 campaign manager) to Michael Flynn (Trump's former national security adviser).

In an article published by The Bulwark on May 30, author Gabriel Schoenfeld stresses that America's Founding Fathers had good reasons for giving presidents the pardon power. But Trump, Schoenfeld laments, repeatedly "abused" that power — and will surely abuse it "on an even greater scale" if he returns to the White House in January 2025.

Schoenfeld explains, "The pardon power has deep roots in British law, with a precedent at least as far back as the statutory rolls of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs in the 7th and 8th Centuries…. As for the scope of the power, the Framers believed it should be exceptionally broad.… The pardon power granted to the president by the Constitution is nearly absolute."

But Trump, Schoenfeld adds, used "the pardon power in unprecedented fashion."

"The man who abused the pardon power in this brazen way is now once again the frontrunner in the Republican primary contest for the presidency," Schoenfeld warns. "Given President Joe Biden's age, given the fact that in 2020, Trump missed tying Biden in the Electoral College by a mere 45,000 votes, and given the fact that Trump actually succeeded in winning the presidency in 2016, there is an all-too-real possibility that he will be returned to the White House in 2024. During this month's CNN townhall, Trump said that if reelected, he would be 'inclined to pardon many' people convicted for their involvement in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol."

Schoenfeld continues, "Of course, one cannot know in advance, but this well might include those convicted of sedition — members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — like Oath Keeper leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, sentenced last week to serve 18 years in prison. If Trump were to pardon Rhodes and his co-conspirators, along with many of the other roughly 1000 January 6th defendants, Trump will be in a position to forge what amounts to a personal militia, whose members, grateful and loyal to him, will have license to work his will outside of the law, secure in the knowledge that they will be pardoned, including for felonies as serious as sedition."

How 'the decline of independent grocers' jacked up food prices: columnist

MAGA Republicans and right-wing media outlets have had a lot to say about inflation, often claiming that President Joe Biden's economic policies are to blame.

But inflation is a problem all around the world; many other developed countries have higher inflation rates than the United States. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has cited corporate price-gouging and the COVID-19 pandemic as key causes of inflation.

In an op-ed/essay published by the New York Times on May 29, Stacy Mitchell — executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance — focuses on the ever-rising cost of groceries. And she points to a "lack of competition" as a major cause.

"To understand why grocery prices are way up," Mitchell explains, "we need to look past the headlines about inflation and reconsider long-held ideas about the benefits of corporate bigness…. Major grocery suppliers, including Kraft Heinz, General Mills and Clorox, rely on Walmart for more than 20 percent of their sales. So when Walmart demands special deals, suppliers can't say no."

Mitchell continues, "And as suppliers cut special deals for Walmart and other large chains, they make up for the lost revenue by charging smaller retailers even more — something economists refer to as the waterbed effect. This isn't competition. It's big retailers exploiting their financial control over suppliers to hobble smaller competitors."

Liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has repeatedly stressed that corporate mega-mergers and inadequate competition are terrible for consumers. And she has called for breaking up everything from banks to tech companies.

Similarly, Mitchell argues that failing to enforce antitrust policies has made groceries increasingly unaffordable.

"From 1954 to 1965," Mitchell points out, "the (Federal Trade Commission) issued 81 cease-and-desist orders to stop suppliers of milk, tea, oatmeal, candy and other foods from giving preferential prices to the largest grocery chains. As a result, the grocery retailing sector was enviable by today's standards. Independent grocery stores flourished, accounting for more than half of food sales in 1958."

But in 2023, Mitchell laments, Walmart "captures one in four dollars Americans spend on groceries."

"As a system dominated by a few retailers lifts prices across the board — even at Walmart — consumers head to those retailers because of their ability to wrest relatively lower prices or simply because they're the only options left," according to Mitchell. "Walmart's share of grocery sales swelled last year as more people flocked to its stores. Meanwhile, the decline of independent grocers, which disproportionately serve rural small towns and Black and Latino neighborhoods, has left debilitating gaps in our food system."

'See you in the Hague': Lindsey Graham trolls Russia over arrest warrant

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has responded to the warrant issued for his arrest on Monday by the Russian Interior Ministry which the Kremlin claims was in response to comments that Graham made in a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last Friday.

"Russians are dying," said Graham. He added that the United States' materiel support of Ukraine's defense against Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion is the "best money we've ever spent."

Multiple news agencies have noted that Graham's remarks were taken out of context.

Graham's reaction, however, was unambiguous.

"I will wear the arrest warrant issued by Putin's corrupt and immoral government as a Badge of Honor," Graham tweeted.

"To know that my commitment to Ukraine has drawn the ire of Putin's regime brings me immense joy. I will continue to stand with and for Ukraine's freedom until every Russian soldier is expelled from Ukrainian territory," Graham continued.

"Finally," Graham concluded, "here's an offer to my Russian 'friends' who want to arrest and try me for calling out the Putin regime as being war criminals: I will submit to jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court if you do. Come and make your best case. See you in The Hague!"

How Ron DeSantis is 'trying to out-Trump Trump' on climate: report

Scientists have been warning that as climate change accelerates, Florida will be hit especially hard — from hurricanes and floods to rising sea levels. Increasing insurance rates are a symptom of Florida's climate woes; WUSF-FM (a National Public Radio affiliate in Tampa) reported that Florida homeowners can expect their property insurance rates to increase by 40 percent in 2023 even though they are already paying almost three times the national average.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, is as much of a climate change denier as his main competitor in the primary: former President Donald Trump.

Oliver Milman, in a report published by The Guardian on May 28, notes that DeSantis has dismissed climate science as "the politicization of the weather" and "left-wing stuff"; denies that climate change had anything to do with Hurricane Ian's severity, and is a strident promoter of fossil fuels. DeSantis often mocks green energy as "woke."

Pete Maysmith, the League of Conservation Voters' senior vice-president of campaigns, told The Guardian, "The cost of taking his anti-climate record to the national stage as president would be catastrophic. DeSantis has already made clear he would unleash his war on climate science, clean energy jobs, and strong pollution safeguards against clean air and clean water."

But not all conservatives are climate change deniers. Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) believes that DeSantis is missing a golden opportunity by failing to tackle climate change from the right.

The former GOP congressman told The Guardian, "He could've been the post-Trump successful governor, the solver of problems. But instead, he's choosing to be more of the anti-woke warrior than Trump. He's slugging it out in the Trump lane, which is really a terrible mistake…. He could've said, 'Hey, we are dealing with this climate issue in Florida. Let's lead the world on this.' Instead, he's trying to out-Trump Trump."

Paul Krugman lays out 3 possible ways to prevent Republicans from causing a financial 'disaster'

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen continues to sound the alarm about the United States' debt ceiling crisis, warning that the U.S. could begin to default on its debt obligations as soon as Wednesday, June 1 — which is less than a week away.

A default, according to Yellen, would be an "economic and financial catastrophe." And she is urging President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to work out some type of agreement before a default occurs.

Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in a May 25 column for the New York Times, is vehemently critical of House Republicans' handling of budget negotiations.

"As disaster looms," Krugman argues, "it's important to keep in mind that Republicans are the villains here: They're the ones engaged in extortion."

In addition to slamming Republicans, the economist offers three possible ways to avoid a U.S. debt default.

"The first possible strategy is simply to ignore the debt limit, declaring it unconstitutional," Krugman writes. "The 14th Amendment, which says that the validity of U.S. debt 'shall not be questioned,' has been getting a lot of attention…. A second strategy would be to exploit a peculiar legal provision that allows the Treasury to mint platinum coins of any value it chooses…. A third option would be to issue perpetual bonds — bonds that pay interest forever but no principal, and hence have no face value."

Krugman continues, "Since the ceiling is defined in terms of the face value of U.S. debt, not its fluctuating market value, it's hard to see how the ceiling can apply.… I hope someone inside the Treasury is quietly preparing to do whatever it takes. If not, God help us all."

The case against a DC police lieutenant accused of helping Proud Boys is growing increasingly 'terrifying'

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced earlier this month that District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Lt. Shane Lamond had been indicted on four federal criminal charges: one for obstruction of justice, three for making false statements. DOJ prosecutors allege that Lamond shared police information with Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and tipped him off about a case against him: the one in which he was arrested for his part in burning a Black Lives Matter sign that had been stolen from an African-American church in late 2020.

Lamond's arrest follows Tarrio's conviction in a separate case. Tarrio, along with three other members of the Proud Boys, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.

In an article published on May 26, Politico's Michael Schaffer emphasizes that the allegations against Lamond are especially troubling in light of his position in the MPD.

"The indicted officer is not some random beat cop," Schaffer notes. "A 24-year veteran of the department, Lamond led the Intelligence Branch of the department’s Homeland Security unit until last year, when he was suspended after coming under investigation. That investigation culminated in a May 19 obstruction of justice indictment for allegedly lying to investigators who were looking into the relationship with Tarrio…. According to prosecutors, Lamond and Tarrio communicated 500 times beginning in 2019, often via chummy exchanges."

Michael Fanone, a former MPD officer who was violently attacked by Donald Trump supporters inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, has been sounding the alarm about far-right extremists working for police departments.

Fanone, now a CNN contributor, told Politico, "I think that most law enforcement agencies in this country are scrambling to maintain the officers they have and recruit new ones to replace the hundreds that they've lost. The last thing that they're worried about is coming up with a comprehensive screening process for domestic extremism.”

Schaffer warns that "the idea of even a small number of domestic extremists" being on the MPD "ought to be terrifying."

Civil rights attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard told Politico, "You'd be hard-pressed to think of a city where this is a more critical issue than Washington, D.C. What happens the next time we go on the January 6 path, which we all know could happen? What happens if there's this festering group within the MPD that haven't been weeded out? It's very dangerous.”

TX AG’s wife may help decide his fate on 20 impeachment articles — including one tied to an alleged affair

Despite all his legal woes, far-right State Attorney General Ken Paxton has been a resilient figure in Texas politics. Paxton was indicted on criminal fraud charges in 2015 (the case still hasn't gone to trial) and has been investigated by the FBI, yet he was elected to a third term in 2022.

But Paxton's luck may be running out now that he is facing impeachment in the Texas State Legislature. And his own wife, State Sen. Angela Paxton, may be among the fellow Republicans who helps decide his fate.

The GOP-controlled Texas House of Representatives has passed 20 articles of impeachment against him. Paxton, the Associated Press notes, "is accused of impeachable offenses, including bribery tied to helping a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair get a job through Austin real estate investor Nate Paul."

If enough members of the Texas State Senate agree that the allegations against him are correct, AG Paxton could be removed from his position.

Whether or not State Sen. Paxton votes on his impeachment remains to be seen.

Cal Jillson, who teaches at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told AP, "The first option would be for her to recuse herself. The second would be for the Senate to make that judgment on whether they believe going forward with a sitting senator being a spouse of a person on trial is a look you would like to have."

The impeachment underscores the considerable tensions between AG Paxton and members of his own party, including conservative Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan. On May 23, Phelan announced that the Texas House General Investigating Committee had spent months investigating AG Paxton for "alleged illegal conduct."

The Texas AG has been railing against both Democrats and fellow Republicans, accusing the latter of being RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

AP notes, "Five of the articles (of impeachment) deal with ways that Paxton disregarded his official duty to help Paul, including by intervening in a civil suit against Paul, issuing legal opinions favorable to him and using office resources to counter-investigate the federal authorities and Paul's business adversaries. The FBI had been looking into Paul's business dealings, and Paul had insisted they acted improperly in their investigation of him and violated his civil rights. He's argued as much in an ongoing lawsuit."

Listen: Recording of Lauren Boebert's son's 911 plea for help released

On May 16, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) announced that she had filed for divorce from her husband, Jayson Boebert, citing "irreconcilable differences." The Boeberts, according to numerous reports, had a deeply troubled and unstable marriage; that dysfunction is underscored by a 911 call of December 11, 2022 in which one of their sons alleged that he was being physically abused by Jayson Boebert. And Rep. Boebert herself later told a dispatcher that her son didn't "need help."

KRDO-TV (an ABC affiliate in Colorado Springs) published a recording of the call in which the son is heard weeping as he asks for help. A woman the station says sounds like his mother then comes on the line.

In the recording, the son is obviously distraught and is heard telling a Garfield County dispatcher, "He's just like throwing me around the house. I don't know why he got mad. He just started yelling at me, and he started throwing me…. He threw me out of the house, and he's yelling at me to get away."

But the son was calmer in a subsequent 911 call, telling a dispatcher, "All I wanted to say is me and my dad were starting to yell at each other. He didn't really get physical with me; I was just overwhelmed."

Rep. Boebert spoke to the dispatcher as well during that call and said, "Hi, I'm the mom. OK, so there was an argument over dinner. I understand you guys got to come and talk to them. I'm down at our second location."

Salon's Amanda Marcotte, in an article published on May 18, didn't mince words when discussing the Boeberts' marital problems — and the larger issues that they raise.

Marcotte wrote, "This story is tasty gossip. But it's also a window into an aspect of red state life that hasn't been much discussed, one which is likely fueling the ugly surge in misogynist rhetoric and policy being pushed by Republicans, especially the men. The dark little secret of red state life is there's a lot of Lauren Boeberts out there: conservative women who disavow feminism, but, when given a shot at more independence for themselves, gladly use hard-won rights like divorce and abortion."

Marcotte added, "Republican men are getting increasingly angry about even this minor loss of control over women."

Listen to the recording at this link.

'Not picture perfect back home': Opponents plan to use Florida against DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' 2024 presidential campaign got off to a rocky start on Wednesday, May 24 when a Twitter broadcast — which DeSantis and Twitter CEO Elon Musk used to announce the campaign's official launch — was plagued with technical problems. Never Trump conservative Matt Lewis, in a Daily Beast opinion column published the following day, argues that "the big threat for DeSantis is that this becomes a sort of metaphor" for a troubled campaign.

Of course, presidential campaigns can turn around. Joe Biden was, at first, criticized for lackluster debate performances after he entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, but those performances later became much more focused and aggressive. And Biden ended up not only winning the primary, but also, defeating former President Donald Trump by more than 7 million in the general election.

A big part of DeSantis' presidential pitch will be using Florida as an economic "blueprint" for all 50 states. But Politico reporters Gary Fineout and Sally Goldenberg, in an article published the day of DeSantis' announcement, emphasize that Florida has some economic problems that the governor's opponents will "use against him."

"As DeSantis sells his 'Florida blueprint' as a reason for conservatives and Republicans to back him for president," Fineout and Goldenberg explain, "everything is not picture-perfect back home…. Florida, where unemployment remains at 2.6 percent and jobs are relatively plentiful, is also dealing with a persistent affordability crisis that keeps driving up cost-of-living expenses, especially when it comes to housing and insurance."

The journalists add, "It's just one example of how DeSantis' record on those kitchen-table issues, coupled with his stance on national flashpoints like abortion and gun safety, is providing his Democratic foes and even some conservatives fodder for a well-funded opposition campaign launching in tandem with his presidential race."

Fineout and Goldenberg note that in the months ahead, DeSantis can expect to see his economic record attacked by everyone from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to former President Donald Trump.

DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison, in an official statement on DeSantis' campaign launch, argued, "Now, as Floridians suffer under some of the highest housing and health care costs in the nation, DeSantis has tripled down on a MAGA agenda — including banning abortion, making it easier for criminals to carry guns, signing laws that allowed book bans, parroting (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's talking points, and bailing out huge corporations while Florida families foot the bill."

Tensions between Republican Texas House speaker and state's attorney general reach boiling point

Over the years, far-right Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has not only made enemies among Democrats, but also, among fellow Republicans. Paxton's years in Texas' state government have been tumultuous; nonetheless, he was elected to a third term in 2022, defeating Democratic challenger Rochelle Mercedes Garza by around 10 percent.

Paxton's third term is seeing considerable tensions between him and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a conservative Republican.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that on Tuesday, May 23, Phelan announced that the Texas House General Investigating Committee has, for months, been probing "alleged illegal conduct" by Paxton. Conversely, Paxton called for Phelan's resignation after a video emerged of Phelan drunkenly addressing lawmakers.

Phelan has flatly denied Paxton's accusation, attacking it as "a last-ditch effort to save face."

Paxton was under investigation long before Phelan made his May 23 announcement. In 2015, a Texas grand jury indicted Paxton on criminal fraud charges, but his trial was delayed multiple times.

The bitter exchanges between Paxton and Phelan, according to AP reporter Jake Bleiberg, have "jolted" Texas "near the frantic end of a legislative session that has again laid bare the raw divisions between Republicans who control every level of power in the state government."

"At stake for Paxton in the final days of the session is whether lawmakers will approve using $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by the attorney general's accusers," Bleiberg explains. "Paxton, who also separately remains indicted on securities fraud charges from 2015, has denied wrongdoing."

Paxton is controversial for a variety of reasons, including his efforts to overturn the election results in four states that President Joe Biden won in 2020: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Paxton, making false claims of widespread voter fraud, filed a lawsuit in the hope of getting the electoral votes for Biden thrown out in those states and given to former President Donald Trump. But the case was dismissed on December 11, 2020.

Democratic Texas State Rep. Chris Turner told the New York Times that Paxton is "the last person" who should be calling for Phelan or anyone else to resign.

Turner argued, "This is someone who is under multiple indictments, under an FBI investigation, tried to overturn a presidential election. So, Ken Paxton ought to tend to his own affairs."

Prosecutors fear this Jan. 6 conspiracy theorist will turn his trial 'into a circus'

In late April, far-right conspiracy theorist Alan Hostetter — who formerly served as police chief of La Habra, California but now works as a yoga instructor — pleaded "not guilty" to federal conspiracy charges he is facing in connection with the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors don't believe that Hostetter actually entered the U.S. Capitol Building that day, but allege that he was part of the overall conspiracy to prevent Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

Russell Taylor, one of Hostetter's co-defendants in the case, has pled guilty and is looking at four to seven years in federal prison. The other co-defendants, all Southern California residents, are alleged militia members Felipe Antonio Martinez, Erik Scott Warner, Ronald Mele and Derek Kinnison.

While Taylor has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, Hostetter maintains that he did nothing wrong on January 6, 2021 and plans to act as his own attorney in court. Hostetter has been promoting conspiracy theories in his motions. And federal prosecutors, according to the Orange County Register, fear that Hostetter will "make the trial into a circus" and create "the type of sideshow the United States is seeking to prevent."

Hostetter, the Register reports, has waived his right to a trial by jury but plans to plead his case in front of a federal judge.

Prosecutors said of Hostetter, "It is a disorganized and purposeless journey through the history of 20th- and 21st-Century conspiracy theories." A federal judge told Hostetter, "I strongly urge you not to try to represent yourself" in court, but the former La Habra police chief insists on doing it anyway.

La Habra is in northern Orange County south of Los Angeles. These days, California is heavily Democratic, but during the 1970s and 1980s, it was still a red state. And Orange County was known for being a bastion of conservative GOP politics.

Hostetter became La Habra police chief in 2009, but he retired after less than a year because of spinal problems.

Summer blackouts during heatwaves could cause 'immense loss of life and illness' in major US cities: study

Climate change can be a vicious cycle during the summer months.

Hotter temperatures inspire people to use their air conditioning more. But using more power, according to scientists, aggravates the very thing that is fueling the need for more AC: climate change.

In an article published by the New York Times on May 23, journalist Michael Levenson examines the effects that summer blackouts can have in major cities like Phoenix and Atlanta — effects that include more "deaths and illnesses."

Drawing on a study published by the journal Environmental Science and Technology on Tuesday, May 22, Levenson explains, "If a multi-day blackout in Phoenix coincided with a heat wave, nearly half the population would require emergency department care for heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses, a new study suggests…. Since 2015, the number of major blackouts nationwide has more than doubled. At the same time, climate change is helping make heatwaves worse and increasing instances of extreme weather around the world."

Climate change deniers typically point out that Phoenix has always had hot summers — it's in the Arizona desert, after all — just as Miami has always had hurricanes and Buffalo has always been known for heavy winter snowfall. But the point that such arguments miss is that climate change intensifies and increases everything. That means even hotter summers in Phoenix, even more droughts in California, even more hurricanes in Miami and even heavier snowfall in Buffalo. Tornadoes have been common in Oklahoma, Kansas and North Texas — the area known as Tornado Alley — but climate change will make them even more common.

"This summer, two-thirds of North America, including the Southwest, could experience shortfalls in the electrical grid, particularly during periods of extreme heat when demand for air-conditioning spikes, straining resources, according to an analysis released this month," Levenson warns. "Phoenix's mayor, Kate Gallego, has urged the federal government to add extreme heat to the list of disasters like floods and hurricanes that could prompt a federal disaster declaration."

The reporter adds, "The new analysis found that Phoenix, which is heavily reliant on air conditioning to keep residents cool in the desert heat, would experience immense loss of life and illness if a citywide blackout during a heatwave lasted for two days, with power gradually restored over the next three days. Under that scenario, an estimated 789,600 people would require emergency department care for heat-related illnesses, overwhelming the city’s hospital system, which has only 3000 emergency department beds, the study said."

Read the New York Times' full article at this link (subscription needed) and the Environmental Science and Technology report here.