…it’s a tricky line to try to walk…they don’t want a general election…& giving the choice of prime minister to their wider party membership went about as badly as anyone could imagine…so ideally they’d get together as a bunch of MPs & try to settle on a replacement PM without the nuisance of having to give anyone a choice in the matter…except…they don’t seem to really have any consensus on who would be a good pick…so instead…they decided on…well…apparently the guy riding to the rescue is an advert for the idea of rhyming nominative determinism…so you can probably imagine?
It was a very British coup. So polite that you could almost have missed it. So restrained that Liz Truss actually had to mastermind her own dismissal. If Librium Liz can be said to mastermind anything. It was like asking a death row inmate to administer their own lethal injection.
Cut to Jeremy Hunt, draped in his own flags. The same Jeremy Hunt who had been a disaster as culture secretary. The same Jeremy Hunt who had taken the NHS to the brink while health secretary. The same Jeremy Hunt who had twice campaigned to be Tory party leader and had twice been rejected, most recently in the summer, when he had finished eighth out eight with only 18 Conservative MPs thinking he was worth voting for.
Hunt looked straight at the camera. You have to hand it to him. He has the style. The blag. He sounds plausible. Then, right now it’s hard not to. A child of 10 could make a decent fist of being chancellor at the moment. All you have to do is the opposite of everything Kamikwasi and Librium Liz did in their mini-budget three weeks ago.
…so that’s pretty much what he said would happen…& if you don’t think it’s the prelude to carving life-threatening chunks out of public spending in order to come back around to pretty much the same kind of well-they-should-know-better-than-to-be-poor approach a little down the line…then I have a bridge you might be interested in buying at a very reasonable rate
Normally, when a government can’t get its budget through parliament, it calls a general election. Hunt had other ideas. It was a measured act of stability. He didn’t care to say why the economy had crashed in the first place. What everyone needed to do was take a deep breath and wait for the cuts in public services. They’d seem like light relief compared with the chaos of the past few weeks. At least, that was the hope. Up was down. Night was day.
It had been a hugely courageous thing Truss had done to sack one of her best friends, Mordaunt insisted, just about keeping a straight face. It had been a far, far better thing Librium Liz had done that she had laid down a friend’s life for her own.
…to say the press are having a bit of a field day is probably a similar level of understatement to hunt’s suggestion that he & his party would be making “decisions of eye-watering difficulty”…while studiously avoiding saying exactly who’d be left crying when they make them
…see…they said what they were going to do & the markets shit the bed…so now they say they won’t be doing that stuff…so it’d only be polite of the markets to be delighted at returning to a status quo that was bad enough the bad idea struck the government as a good one…that’s just logic, right?
But how fair is this? Are governments really the ones in control anyway? That depends on what you mean by control. In a country like Britain, being an economic policymaker is more akin to sailing a boat than driving a car. A government can tack and trim with a greater or lesser degree of skill, but in the final analysis it cannot change the direction of the wind. Sometimes politicians get lucky and other times they do not. Sometimes they don’t just mess up the setting of their sails but needlessly put a hole in the hull.
Like so many of the early actions of the New Labour government, granting independence to the Bank of England was very much in keeping with the economic orthodoxy of the time, and having an independent inflation-targeting central bank has become the norm globally. The theory behind this apparently anti-democratic setup is essentially that politicians cannot be trusted to run the economy well. They will, so the argument runs, be tempted to lower interest rates before an election in order to curry favour with voters, and may combine this with cutting taxes or increasing spending. When difficult decisions have to be taken, such as raising borrowing costs in order to lower inflation, they will duck them or delay. By contrast, technocrats not subject to political pressure should be able to take decisions that may cause some immediate pain but help smooth the path in the long run. What’s more, the very fact that firms, investors and wage bargainers believe a central bank is prepared to hike interest rates in order to bring inflation down can be enough to decrease it without the need for higher interest rates.
Even the Bank of England’s freedom to set interest rates is limited, though. Britain is a relatively small, open economy. It may be the fifth or sixth largest in the world – depending on how you measure it – but it is still a mere fraction of total global GDP. If other central banks – such as the US Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank – are raising rates, then the Bank often has little choice but to follow. Failure to do so would make the pound less attractive to international investors, causing its value to fall and the price of imported goods such as energy and food to rise. There is a vein of commentary in the US that bemoans the dollar being the linchpin of the international financial system. That fact tends to keep its value high and has almost certainly cost the country manufacturing jobs over the last few decades. But the one thing worse than having the world’s primary reserve currency is not having it – and being a monetary follower rather than a leader.
And then there are the voters. They might, in principle, like the idea of faster growth but they have a habit of opposing the practical steps that would make it possible – for example, liberalising immigration, building more houses and breaking the ground on big infrastructure projects.
The real lesson of economic history is that governments tend to overestimate how much they can change a country’s economy in the short run, but underestimate their potential impact over the longer term. Any budget, even two or three of them, can only achieve so much. But a parliament or two of gradual changes in skills policy, in infrastructure investment, in planning reform and in incentives around research and development – that can shunt the economy down a parallel and improving path. Unfortunately for those in power, this will often only show up in the data a decade or so later. That is grounds for optimism about the future – but is probably cold comfort for politicians looking to the next election.
…that’s the thing about complex systems with inconvenient variables…they tend to impose their own realities
Operating enough carbon capture to keep the climate crisis in check would double humanity’s water use, according to University of California, Berkeley researchers. Regardless of the method being used – on a power plant or capturing carbon directly from the air – more power and more water will be needed.
“These technologies to mitigate climate change have unintended environmental impacts, like water use and water scarcity,” said Lorenzo Rosa, a principal investigator at Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford. Carbon capture and sequestration increases water withdrawals at power plants between 25% and 200%, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that cites Rosa’s work.
The industry says retrofitting certain fossil fuel-burning power plants is cheaper than shutting down the facilities and building renewable energy. To offset the cost of the technology, companies can use the carbon to force more oil out of ageing oilfields.
Adding the technology to power plants is expensive. Wyoming, which produces 40% of the nation’s coal, passed a law requiring electric utilities to produce some of their power from coal-burning power plants with carbon capture. So far, that’s proved unfeasible as power companies have warned the technology would probably increase water use and could increase residential electricity bills by as much as $100 a month. A study by Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology found coal plants retrofitted with carbon capture technology were three times more expensive than wind power and twice as expensive as solar.
The need for additional water for carbon capture would strain drier regions of the country. But even in Louisiana, which gets more rain on average than any other of the 48 contiguous states, additional water use could be problematic. It doesn’t have a statewide water management plan and in some areas, groundwater is being sucked up faster than it can be replenished. Power generation is by far the biggest freshwater user.
…some places need more water…or just some water…preferably clean
Residents in Mississippi’s capital — who are currently without safe drinking water from the tap and in some neighborhoods lack enough water pressure to flush toilets — had good reason to hope that last year’s ambitious $1 trillion federal infrastructure deal would help.
Even if the state gave Jackson all of the funds Mississippi is set to receive, it wouldn’t be enough. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a Democrat, has said the price tag to overhaul the city’s water infrastructure could balloon into the billions. That far exceeds the money allocated under the infrastructure law.
There is one mechanism for repair funding that could reach Jackson sooner. This year, the Mississippi Legislature created a $450 million water infrastructure funding program with money the state received through the Congressional Covid relief package that passed in 2021. But the plan requires cities and counties to put up matching dollars, and Jackson only has about $25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to commit, according to state Sen. John Horhn. Applications for the program opened on Thursday, and some of that money could be awarded by the end of the year.
The infrastructure in Mississippi’s capital has been likened to “peanut brittle,” prone to water main breaks, perennial service disruptions and sewage spills onto residential streets. Some pipes in the system were installed before the Great Depression. There’s also a history of deferred maintenance, which has culminated in repair costs eclipsing the city’s entire budget.
Attempts to fix the problems have been marred by insufficient revenue at the city level in the wake of decades of population loss. There’s also been a lack of aggressive investment by the state Legislature that to many Black Jacksonians is a painful modern-day reflection of Mississippi’s long-troubled history with race: Jackson is a majority-Black city with Democratic leadership, while the statehouse that is located there has been dominated in recent sessions by primarily white male Republican leadership. And despite Mississippi having the largest percentage of Black residents in the country, all the state’s statewide elected officials are white.
As the process of disbursing federal funds inches forward, residents continue to wait in water distribution lines stretching more than a mile for a basic necessity. A definitive date for service restoration has not been given.
Sam Mozee, director of the Mississippi Urban Research Center at Jackson State University, says his team is tracking what happens with funding going forward. His colleagues know firsthand how crucial the money will be — the campus shifted to virtual classes due to the outage.
“Health, safety, economic vitality — water affects everything,” Mozee said. “The whole system, everything is at stake.”
…some places could do with less of the stuff inundating their home turf
Global heating caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil, gas and coal is the main factor contributing to increasingly severe storms and flooding affecting the American east coast over the past four decades. Rapid intensification has led to storms gathering strength so quickly it has become increasingly difficult to provide timely warnings and evacuation orders to residents.
The warming planet is poised to bring hurricanes that intensify quicker and, with them, a heightened risk of flooding to east coast communities which modeling suggests will get even worse without radical action to curb greenhouse gases, according to the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Analysing storm activity and the conditions that shaped them, the researchers found that the rates at which hurricanes gathered speed near the US Atlantic coast increased significantly between 1979 and 2018.
For a storm to explode in strength or undergo rapid intensification it requires near-perfect environmental conditions that do not happen often. But the ingredients needed for this perfect storm recipe – warm ocean surface, high humidity, low wind shear and the spinning motion of air (vorticity) – have become increasingly common as greenhouse gas emissions have built up, researchers found.
Projections using several climate models suggest that the destructive trend looks set to continue unless fossil fuels are phased out. Balaguru said: “What we have seen is likely related to climate change. Natural variability does play a role, but to a lesser degree.”
…a proportionate response to that sort of thing does seem to be a matter of…diverse opinion, let’s say…& I’d admit that I’m not altogether clear quite how lobbing soup at a painting done by a dude who famously mutilated himself is supposed to get anybody any closer to making things less fucked up…but for all that they seem to have made their point badly I’d argue those people had a better argument about where the problem lies than…well…this sort of thing
Home Secretary Suella Braverman this weekend touted a new Public Order Bill, which aims to curb activists by increasing police powers and creating new criminal offenses punishable with jail time and unlimited fines — though critics called the bill an attack on free speech that could risk over-policing in a democratic society.
She unveiled details of the proposed legislation in a series of tweets and an article in the Daily Mail newspaper on Saturday, calling the activists “thugs and vandals” who were engaged in “guerrilla tactics.”
…if both sides do things that seem counter-productive…is that somehow supposed to result in progress?
Giving the police broader powers to clamp down on protesters has long been a controversial topic in Britain.
In March of 2021, thousands of protesters gathered in Bristol to denounce the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would have allowed authorities to impose start and finish times and set noise thresholds at protests, with fines of up to $3,400 for noncompliance. The protest later turned violent, leaving several police officers injured and buildings vandalized.
That bill passed this year, though Braverman said it does not go far enough, calling it “watered down.”
Critics of the new bill say it has no place in a democratic society. More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to be dropped.
“The proposals strike at the very heart of protest and could potentially criminalise anyone who takes to the streets for a cause they believe in,” petition organizers said.
…which isn’t to say legislation can’t be a good idea
“Since it was passed in 1973, the Environmental Species Act has served as an inspiration and model for conservation policy,” said Erich Eberhard, a doctoral student at Columbia University and an author of the research. “Our analysis suggests its strength is being undercut by listing too late with too small populations and too little funding.”
Decisions on whether species should be listed are supposed to take two years, according to Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. But the study found that they typically exceed that timeline no matter which political party is in charge.
“If you wait until species are critically endangered, it’s that much harder to recover them, and it makes recovery less likely and makes the choices that much harder,” Greenwald said. “Species are slipping through the cracks.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for comment about the new study. Although few species have fully recovered and been delisted, it’s important to remember that the Endangered Species Act has been instrumental in preventing extinction, Greenwald said.
“99% of species protected under the Endangered Species Act still survive, which is highly significant,” he said. “In a lot of ways it is working. That’s despite underfunding, despite political interference and despite what I would consider an inept agency in charge of implementing it.”
…maybe it’s unrealistic…but I guess I’d be a fan of aiming higher than “they aren’t actually extinct”…& I’m not loving the current state of humanity’s scorecard
Earth’s wildlife populations have plunged by an average of 69% in just under 50 years, according to a leading scientific assessment, as humans continue to clear forests, consume beyond the limits of the planet and pollute on an industrial scale.
From the open ocean to tropical rainforests, the abundance of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles is in freefall, declining on average by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 2018, according to the WWF and Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) biennial Living Planet Report. Two years ago, the figure stood at 68%, four years ago, it was at 60%.
Many scientists believe we are living through the sixth mass extinction – the largest loss of life on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs – and that it is being driven by humans. The report’s 89 authors are urging world leaders to reach an ambitious agreement at the Cop15 biodiversity summit in Canada this December and to slash carbon emissions to limit global heating to below 1.5C this decade to halt the rampant destruction of nature.
Latin America and the Caribbean region – including the Amazon – has seen the steepest decline in average wildlife population size, with a 94% drop in 48 years. Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF-UK, said: “This report tells us that the worst declines are in the Latin America region, home to the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon. Deforestation rates there are accelerating, stripping this unique ecosystem not just of trees but of the wildlife that depends on them and of the Amazon’s ability to act as one of our greatest allies in the fight against climate change.”
Africa had the second largest fall at 66%, followed by Asia and the Pacific with 55% and North America at 20%. Europe and Central Asia experienced an 18% fall. The total loss is akin to the human population of Europe, the Americas, Africa, Oceania and China disappearing, according to the report.
The report points out that not all countries have the same starting points with nature decline and that the UK has only 50% of its biodiversity richness compared with historical levels, according to the biodiversity intactness index, making it one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
Land use change is still the most important driver of biodiversity loss across the planet, according to the report. Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF-UK, said: “At a global level, primarily the declines we are seeing are driven by the loss and fragmentation of habitat driven by the global agricultural system and its expansion into intact habitat converting it to produce food.”
…& I could stand to have more confidence in the people marking that homework
With the upcoming climate summit in Egypt, Arefin tells me, “The usual calculus has changed. The balance has tipped.” In addition to the carbon and the cost, the host government – who will get the chance to preen green before the world – is not your standard double-talking liberal democracy. “It is,” he says, “the most repressive regime in the history of the modern Egyptian state.” Led by Gen Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who seized power in a military coup in 2013 (and has held on to it through sham elections ever since), the regime is, according to human rights organisations, one of the most brutal and repressive in the world. Since taking power less than a decade ago, it has built more than two dozen new prisons.
Of course, you’d never know it from the way Egypt is marketing itself ahead of the summit. A promotional video on the Cop27 official website welcomes delegates to the “green city” of Sharm el-Sheik and shows young actors – including men with scruffy beards and necklaces clearly meant to look like environmental activists – enjoying non-plastic straws and biodegradable food containers as they take selfies on the beach, enjoy outdoor showers and drive electric vehicles to the desert to ride camels.
While I was watching the video, it struck me that Sisi has decided to use the summit to stage a new kind of reality show, one in which actors “play” activists who look remarkably like the actual activists who are suffering under torture in his rapidly expanding archipelago of prisons. This summit is going far beyond greenwashing a polluting state – it’s greenwashing a police state.
International delegates can’t even read up much on current pollution and environmental despoliation in Egypt in academic or NGO reports because of a draconian 2019 law that requires researchers to get government permission before releasing information considered “political”. (The whole country is gagged, and hundreds of websites are blocked, including the indispensable and perennially harassed Mada Masr.) Human Rights Watch reports that groups have been forced to rein in and scale back their research under these new constraints, and “one prominent Egyptian environmental group disbanded its research unit because it became impossible to work in the field”. Tellingly, not a single one of the environmentalists who spoke to Human Rights Watch about censorship and repression was willing to use their real name because reprisals are so severe.
So, unlike every other climate summit in recent memory, this one will have no authentic local partners. There will be some Egyptians at the summit claiming to represent “civil society”. And some of them do. The trouble is that, however well-intentioned, they too are bit players in Sisi’s beachside reality show; in a departure of usual UN rules, almost all have been vetted and approved by the government. That same Human Rights Watch report, published last month, explains that these groups have been invited to speak only on “welcome” topics.
What, for the regime, is welcome? “Trash collection, recycling, renewable energy, food security, and climate finance”. What topics are unwelcome? “Those that point out the government’s failure to protect people’s rights against damage caused by corporate interests, including issues relating to water security, industrial pollution, and environmental harm from real estate, tourism development, and agribusiness,” according to the report. Also unwelcome: “The environmental impact[s] of Egypt’s vast and opaque military business activity … are particularly sensitive, as are ‘national’ infrastructure projects such as a new administrative capital, many of which are associated with the president’s office or the military.” And definitely don’t talk about Coca-Cola’s plastic pollution and water use – because Coke is one of the summit’s proud official sponsors.
In short, if you want to put up solar panels or pick up litter, you can probably get a badge to come to Sharm el-Sheikh. But if you want to talk about the health and climate impacts of Egypt’s coal-powered cement plants, or the paving over of some of the last green spaces in Cairo, you are more likely to get a visit from the secret police – or from the Ministry of Social Solidarity. And if, as an Egyptian, you question Sisi’s credibility to speak on behalf of Africa’s poor and climate-vulnerable populations, given the deepening hunger and desperation of his own people, you had better do it from outside the country.
The international injections of green cash are flowing just in time for Sisi’s troubled regime. Facing a tsunami of global crises (inflation, pandemic, food shortages, increased fuel prices, drought, debt) on top of its systemic mismanagement and corruption, Egypt is on the edge of defaulting on its foreign debt – a volatile situation that could well destabilise Sisi’s rule. In this context, the climate summit is not merely a PR opportunity – it is a lifeline.
Though reluctant to give up on the process, most serious climate activists readily concede that these summits produce little by way of science-based climate action. Year after year since they began, emissions keep going up. What, then, is the good of supporting this year’s summit when the one thing it is set to absolutely accomplish is the further entrenchment and enrichment of a regime that, by any ethical standard, deserves pariah status?
The clear implication has been that the summit is too serious and too important to be sidetracked by the supposedly small matter of the host country’s human rights record. But is Cop27 really going to champion climate justice? Is it going to bring green energy and clean transit and food sovereignty to the poor? Will the summit truly confront climate debt and reparations, as many are claiming? If only.
In short, despite the talk in climate circles of this being the “implementation” Cop, Egypt’s summit will probably achieve as little by way of real climate action as all the others before. But that does not mean it won’t achieve anything: when it comes to propping up a torture regime, showering it with cash and image-cleansing photo ops, Cop27 is already a lavish gift.
…& while I still don’t see how throwing a bit of paint (or soup) around or gluing yourself to a road constitutes getting anything much done about anything…I guess I’d be in voltaire’s camp about the “defend your right to” thing?
Where human rights are under attack, so too is the natural world. After all, the communities and organisations facing the most severe state repression and violence around the world – whether they live in the Philippines or Canada or Brazil or the US – are overwhelmingly made up of Indigenous peoples trying to protect their territories from polluting extractive projects, many of which are also driving the climate crisis. Defending human rights, wherever we live, is therefore inextricable from defending a liveable planet.
One thing is certain: we will not win the kind of change that the climate crisis demands without the freedom to demonstrate, sit in, shame political leaders and tell the truth in public. If demonstrations are banned and inconvenient facts are criminalised as “false news”, as they are in Sisi’s Egypt, then it’s game over. Without the strikes, the protests and the investigative research, we would be in far worse shape than we are. And any one of those activities would be enough to land an Egyptian activist or journalist in a dark cell next to Abd El-Fattah’s.
A decade ago, young Egyptians didn’t have a state-sanctioned pavilion. They had a revolution. They flooded Tahrir Square demanding a different kind of country, one without the ever-present shadow of fear, one where teenagers didn’t disappear into police dungeons and reappear dead, their faces swollen and bloodied. That revolution overthrew a dictator who had ruled since before they were born. But then their dreams were crushed by political betrayals and violence. In one of his recent letters, Abd El-Fattah wrote of how painful it is to share his cell with teenagers who were arrested when they were children: “They were underage when they were put in prison and are fighting to get out before they reach legal adulthood.”
…so…I get how it “makes sense” that, say, the figurehead of the alleged administration dubbed the guy in charge of egypt “my favorite dicatator“…because why wouldn’t a wannabe despot with a penchant for bigotry have a ranked list of preferences about dicatators…the same it way it “makes sense” to find something that’s a half-hour read or more under the heading “The Problem of Marjorie Taylor Greene”
Though the 48-year-old self-described “Christian nationalist” possesses a flair for extreme bombast equal to that of her political role model Trump, Greene’s assessment of her current standing within the Republican Party — owing to the devotion accorded her by the party’s MAGA base — would seem to be entirely accurate.
Over the past two years, Greene has gone from the far-right fringe of the G.O.P. ever closer to its establishment center without changing any of her own beliefs; if anything, she has continued to find more extreme ways to express them. When she entered electoral politics in 2019, she had spent much of her adult life as a co-owner, with her husband, of her family’s construction company. (Her husband, Perry Greene, recently filed for divorce.)
Greene’s metamorphosis over the past year and a half from pariah to a position of undeniable influence presents a case study in G.O.P. politics in the Trump era. The first time I saw Greene in person was on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021. She was barreling down a crowded corridor of the Longworth House Office Building, conspicuously unmasked at a time when masks were still mandated by U.S. Capitol rules. Her all-male retinue of staff members striding briskly beside her were also maskless. In the late hours after that day’s insurrection — one that the Georgia freshman arguably had egged on with her innumerable claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen and her assertion to a Newsmax interviewer that Jan. 6 would be “our 1776 moment” — Greene stood on the House floor and objected to the Michigan election results, a move that was promptly dismissed by the presiding officer, Vice President Mike Pence, because the congresswoman had no U.S. senator to join her in the motion as the rules prescribed.
The day after the insurrection, Greene sat in a corner of her office in the Longworth building, being interviewed for a right-wing YouTube show by Katie Hopkins, a British white nationalist who had been banished from most social media outlets for her Islamophobic and racist comments (the channel that carried her show has since been taken down by YouTube). The Georgia freshman reflected somberly on the events of the previous day: “Last night and into the early-morning hours was probably one of the saddest days of my life. Scariest and loneliest days of my life. On the third day on the job as a new member of Congress, um, just having our Capitol attacked, being blamed on the president that I love, and I know it’s not his fault; and then having it blamed on all the people that support him, 75 million people — 75-plus million people that have supported President Trump and have truly appreciated all his hard work and America First policies and everything about Make America Great Again.” (Trump received 74.2 million votes in 2020.) “It was extremely lonely in there, watching, basically, the certification of the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, even though we know the election was stolen, and the Democrats were working so hard on it, but Republicans too, there were Republicans also.”
Hopkins listened attentively, her face knotted with anguish, and observed, “It’s almost as if you’re one of them — you’re almost like one of those who could’ve been at the rally.”
“I am one of those people,” Greene said emphatically. “That’s exactly who I am.”
Throughout this 18-month span of reporting, Greene’s messaging machine achieved a kind of wall-of-sound inescapability. Her daily litany of often-vicious taunts, factual contortions and outright falsehoods on social media and behind any available lectern depicted a great nation undone by Biden’s Democrats, with allusions to undocumented immigrants as rapists, transgender individuals as predators, Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists, abortion providers as murderers and her political opponents as godless pedophilia-coddling Communists. The Trumpian media ecosystem where these phantasms originated saw Greene as their most able exponent, while Trump himself, in a news release earlier this year, proclaimed her “a warrior in Congress,” adding, “She doesn’t back down, she doesn’t give up, and she has ALWAYS been with ‘Trump.’” The latter distinction mattered. By they end of 2021, the House G.O.P.’s most powerful female member, the conference chairwoman Liz Cheney, had been booted out of her leadership position and demonized by the base for condemning Trump. Two months into 2022 — barely over a year into her career as an elected official — Greene told me that she and the former president had already discussed the possibility of her being his running mate in 2024.
What has received far less discussion than the outrageousness of her daily utterances is what the sum total of them portends for America under a Republican majority with Greene in the vanguard. In recent months, she has continued to insist that Trump won the 2020 election. She maintains that America should have a Christian government and that open prayer should return to classrooms. She has called for the impeachment of not just Biden but also Attorney General Merrick Garland and the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas; for the defunding of the F.B.I., after the agency searched Mar-a-Lago to retrieve secret government documents that Trump took from the White House; for the expulsion from Congress of those she claimed were Communists (and among those she has referred to as Communists are the progressive icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and the Jan. 6 Committee member Jamie Raskin of Maryland); and for a congressional investigation into the business activities of Biden’s son Hunter. She has introduced legislation to suspend all immigration into the United States for the next four years, as well as a bill that would impose up to 10-to-25-year prison sentences on medical specialists who provide hormone treatment or surgery to transgender youth under 18.
Greene believes that abortion should be banned and that gun-control laws should be overturned. She favors eliminating any and all regulations that were intended to address climate change because, in her view, “The climate has always changed, and no amount of taxes and no government can do anything to stop climate change.” In late September, and hardly for the first time, she excoriated a number of her Republican colleagues, suggesting they were abettors to a globalist conspiracy in tweeting “21 Republican Senators just voted with the woke climate agenda” by ratifying an international agreement to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbon pollutants in coolant systems.
But Greene’s comments about what she deserves and how she feels she has been treated reveal a deeply personal grievance against her fellow Republicans that abides to this day, despite the party’s accommodations to her. It extends back to when she was denied an audience with Republican senators as a visitor to the Capitol in 2019; then to her being shunned by the G.O.P. establishment during her 2020 campaign; and finally to what she views as a less-than-fulsome defense of her a month into her congressional tenure, when House Democrats along with 11 Republicans voted to strip her of her committee assignments. This event, a rarity in the history of Congress, was prompted by the surfacing, late that January, of more of her previous social media posts. They included her outlandish suggestions that the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., was staged, and that a wildfire in California that same year was ignited by a laser beam shot from space by a prominent Jewish family, the Rothschilds, the subjects of many antisemitic conspiracy theories. Such delusions were commonly embraced in the community of QAnon followers.
Here, more precisely, is what she did: By the summer of 2017, Greene had made contact online with a counselor in the New York public school system who shared her affinities for both President Donald Trump and dark conspiracy theories. That July, she began writing for the counselor’s online publication, American Truth Seekers, under her great-grandmother’s name, Elizabeth Camp.
Greene’s argument was that the “Russian collusion conspiracy lies” had created a kind of permission structure in her mind. As she would say on the House floor, “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.”
In this passive-voice explanation, Greene was “allowed to believe” that a Democratic staff member named Seth Rich had been murdered by Hillary Clinton’s top adviser, John Podesta, in order to cover up the fact that it was Rich, not Russia, who had leaked Democratic emails to WikiLeaks. (Later, Greene would modify this conspiracy theory: It was the Latino gang MS-13, “the henchmen of the Obama administration,” who had murdered Seth Rich.) Greene was “allowed to believe” that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, was actually quietly working to bring down the Clintons. And that “many in our government are actively worshiping Satan.” And that Trump was single-handedly battling evil — that, as she reposted from the website MAGAPILL, “thousands of Pedophiles and Child Traffickers have been arrested since Trump was sworn in.” This “Global Evil,” she was allowed to believe, was all being funded by the Saudi royals in concert with Jewish billionaires: George Soros and the Rothschild family.
Greene’s political operation is committed to the goal of reflexively demonizing nearly anyone and anything she opposes, regardless of what it costs her. Twitter has permanently suspended her personal account for repeatedly spreading untruths about Covid vaccines. Her refusal to wear a mask on the House floor during the pandemic resulted in Greene’s being fined more than $100,000. Her appearance onstage in February with the avowed white supremacist Nick Fuentes caused Bannon to cancel a public appearance with her in Georgia. (Bannon has since brought Greene back on his podcast.) Earlier this year, she traveled with a bodyguard (which, as The Times reported, Greene paid for with campaign funds) because of threats that she says have been made against her. In August, according to the local police, her house in Rome, Ga., was repeatedly “swatted” — someone claimed to a 911 operator that a violent crime was taking place in Greene’s household, compelling a SWAT team to enter her home — apparently by someone who objected to her anti-transgender rhetoric, according to a report she obtained from the police and released.
But the attention economy manifestly rewards her performative combativeness, both in online donations and in social media ubiquity. That this was not just some happy coincidence, but in fact an assiduously strategized core of Greene’s political machine, became evident more than a year ago, when I met two of her seniormost advisers (who, as a precondition for our conversation, requested anonymity so that they could speak freely about their boss) at a restaurant in the Atlanta suburbs.
That Greene honestly believes America has now fallen prey to a Communist regime seems unlikely. (When I asked her about a claim she had made that Jamie Raskin is a Communist, Greene responded: “Yes! Have you read about his father?” Marcus Raskin was a longtime progressive government staff member and never a member of the Communist Party.) It has therefore been tempting for her detractors, and for that matter many Washington journalists, to regard her as pernicious but ultimately unserious — and, like her political godfather, Trump, as someone who appears more attuned to what works as an applause line than what fits her core beliefs. I tended toward this view in my early appraisal of Greene, particularly after she accosted Ocasio-Cortez on the House floor and challenged her to a debate in April 2021, promoting the hashtag #MTGvsAOC and a month later chasing the Democrat down a corridor of the Capitol, yelling in full view of reporters: “Alexandria! Alexandria! Why won’t you debate me?”
But enough time spent in her orbit revealed that Greene’s ceaseless quest for attention did not prove or disprove anything about her right-wing fervor. Her commitment to the MAGA agenda equals if not surpasses Trump’s. More significant, she has every intention of enacting what her Republican colleagues failed to ratify of Trump’s agenda.
Among the questions facing Greene is whether the pugnacity she displays toward her fellow Republicans is politically sustainable. “When you ask yourself how things could end up for her,” Brendan Buck, who served as counselor and chief communications adviser to the former speaker Paul Ryan, said to me, “one likely possibility is that it ends when you start becoming a problem for your colleagues. Steve King became a problem for his colleagues, and so did Madison Cawthorn.” Buck was referring, respectively, to the former Iowa congressman who was marginalized by the House G.O.P. for expressing white-supremacist views, and to the freshman from North Carolina who was defeated by a Republican primary challenger after a series of incidents that included claiming that fellow Republicans had invited him to cocaine-fueled orgies. Buck continued: “It’s very easy to see her becoming a problem as well, whether it’s continually claiming they’re not conservative enough or them continually having to respond to her craziness. That’s the quickest way to see yourself out of the chamber.”
Even without alienating her Republican colleagues, Buck said, Greene faced an additional conundrum. “The driving dynamic among members like her has been the battle for relevance,” he told me. “Everything revolves around making your voice matter and making your voice heard in the conservative media ecosystem writ large. Turning the party in the direction you want requires your viewpoint being echoed hundreds of thousands of times.”
…but…call me crazy…given the context…that a problem like empty is up there on the list of pressing concerns…well…it’s a niche definition of “sense”?