Some Things Amazing, Economical, Finally Happening, Legal, and also Yawn About

Interesting national reports as detailed in Letters from an American. At least, I find them interestingto be redundant. Multiple topics passing in review.

June 22, 2023, Letters from an American, Prof. Heather Cox Richardson

Something Amazing for Drivers

“To rebuild I-95 on time, we need 12 hours of dry weather to complete the paving and striping process,” Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor Josh Shapiro tweeted. “With rain in the forecast, we reached out [to Pocono Raceway] for help—and they’re bringing their jet dryer to Philly to help dry this section of I-95 and keep us on schedule.” 

Pocono Raceway replied: “We are honored to be asked to lend a small hand if needed to assist in the reopening of I-95. It is inspiring to see the hard work that has went in by the men and women around the clock here in Philadelphia.”

On Sunday, June 11, an 8,500-gallon tanker truck on an off-ramp in Philadelphia flipped onto its side and crashed into a wall at a curve. The crash ignited the gasoline in the tank; the driver died and a stretch of I-95 over which an average of 160,000 vehicles a day travel collapsed. Two days later, authorities said fixing the road would take “months.”

Yesterday, Shapiro announced that six lanes of road—three in each direction— will reopen this weekend. Crews working around the clock have constructed a temporary road resting on a bed of aggregate made of recycled glass bottles. The fix will stay in place until a full reconstruction is complete. The governor had a camera set up to livestream the construction and has turned it into a source of pride. 

“We haven’t always had a can-do attitude around here that, we can get big things done, and that we can get it done quickly and safely,” Shapiro told reporters Tuesday. “I’m a governor who believes we can get things done again. We’re going to change the attitude of people being surprised to folks expecting excellence from us.”

Some Things Economically Good

Steven Ratner, economic analyst for Morning Joe, today noted that new manufacturing construction is growing fast and is on pace to be close to $190 billion this year. In the entire decade of the 2010s, it was less than $100 billion. This growth comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law), and the CHIPS and Science Act.

Today, the government announced a $9.2 billion loan to Ford Motor Company to support the construction of three battery factories in Kentucky and Tennessee. The factories are already under construction through a collaboration between Ford and a leading South Korean battery company. 

Representing about $200 billion in investments, more than 100 battery and electric-vehicle plants are in planing or already under construction thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act funding such projects in order to attract private investment. That government investment and growth in manufacturing are strongest in Republican-dominated states, notwithstanding that not a single Republican voted for the Inflation Reduction Act that funds such investment, and that Republicans continue to try to gut that law. Republican-dominated states stand to get about $337 billion in investment, while Democratic-dominated states look to get about $183 billion.

Something Finally Happening and About-Time

Tonight the White House is holding its third state dinner, this one for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. State dinners are extravagant affairs. This one will have 400 guests at the White House’s first entirely plant-based state dinner in honor of vegetarian Modi. The dinner is to help smooth differences and cement alliances, and this one is no exception. Along with other allies, the U.S. seeks to weaken China’s dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, and India is a key partner. It is part of the informal Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, made up of Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S., and it is attracting western investment as China’s leaders react to their country’s contracting economy by favoring state-owned industries over foreign companies. 

In their remarks together today, Biden and Modi emphasized their shared commitment to democracy and their collaboration on trade (which has doubled in the past decade to $191 billion), defense, climate solutions, and economic development in the global South.”The core philosophy of all of our collective efforts is to strengthen democracy and democratic values and democratic order,” Modi said. “Two of the world’s largest democracies, India and America, can together make an important contribution to global peace, stability, and prosperity.”

But this is a strategic balancing act for Biden. Modi’s government has rolled back political, press, and religious freedoms, especially against the Muslim minority in India. This week, 75 Democratic lawmakers wrote to Biden, agreeing that they want a “close and friendly” relationship with India but asking him to raise concerns about human rights directly with Modi. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters it is “commonplace” for Biden to raise such concerns, but that was not enough for at least six House Democrats to boycott Modi’s speech to Congress. “We must never sacrifice human rights at the altar of political expediency,” Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), Ilhan Omar D-MN), and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) wrote in a joint statement. 

Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), himself of Indian descent, disagreed. “We need to engage,” he said. India’s leaders are “not going to be open and receptive to something that comes off as the West lecturing.” That appears to be Biden’s approach. 

Some Things Legal

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Georgia’s State Election Board officially cleared election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss of election fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Accused by both Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani of passing USB drives to change vote totals. Moss explained to the House Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, it was a ginger mint. The two women were so harassed by election deniers that Freeman had to flee her home out of concern for her safety. The board concludes that the fraud claims were “unsubstantiated and found to have no merit.” 

Also on Tuesday, disciplinary proceedings began against John Eastman, the law professor who pushed the idea that Trump could steal the 2020 presidential election from winner Joe Biden if loyalists in the states would create alternative slates of electors. Vice President Mike Pence could then claim those states’ votes were contested and refuse to count them. Thus this action would either make Trump president or throw the count to the House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote and the Republican-dominated states would overrule the Democratic ones. 

Eastman’s plan was never legal, and he admitted as much, suggesting that the Trump team should just follow it because courts would decline to get involved out of reluctance to interfere in elections. In California, where Eastman faces disbarment, bar authorities are giving that theory a thorough hearing, and their disdain is clear. One called the plan “baseless, completely unsupported by historic precedent or law and contrary to our values as a nation.”

Eastman will argue that his theories were “tenable.” Claiming he simply wanted to make sure the election was “properly and legally certified and votes were properly counted.”

Last night, Special Counsel Jack Smith began to produce evidence in the case against Trump for retaining secret documents and endangering national security. The list seems thorough, including more than one interview with Trump and grand jury transcripts. 

And it seems to have concerned Trump, who promptly begged in all caps on social media for Congress to “investigate the political witch hunts against me….” 

Something to Yawn About

And yet, a study out today by Media Matters shows that cable news networks are “obsessing over Biden’s age while overwhelmingly ignoring Trump’s.” Biden is only three years older than Trump—80 and 77, respectively—and apparently in significantly better health, but in the week after Biden announced his reelection campaign, CNN, the Fox News Channel, and MSNBC mentioned his age 588 times, suggesting it is a negative attribute rather than a positive reflection on his experience, while mentioning Trump’s only 72 times.