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August 31, 2023 Heather Cox Richardson

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The Biden administration emphasized today its whole-of-government response to addressing the damage caused by Hurricane Idalia—which hit Florida yesterday before moving north into Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina—and by the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, which broke out on August 8. Idalia, which made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, brought 125-mile-an-hour winds and intense flooding that have left at least three people dead. The Maui wildfires, at least one of which was apparently started by a downed electric line, have killed at least 115 people and destroyed more than 2,000 buildings.

Biden and Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, D.C., today, and Biden later spoke at the White House, explaining that he had spoken with the governors of all the states affected by the hurricane before the storm hit. He had approved Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s request for an early emergency declaration to free up federal funds to address the expected impacts of the storm, and federal officers surged personnel to Florida and other southeastern states to help people get to safety. 

Biden emphasized that the government was also focused on recovering and rebuilding efforts in Maui, promising to respect and honor Hawaiian traditions and the needs of the local community—a deep concern among those affected by the fires. “We’re not going to turn this into a new land grab,” he said. 

In addition to the $27 million dedicated to the removal of hazardous material and the $400 million dedicated to debris removal in Hawaii, Biden announced that the administration has dedicated $95 million of the funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to harden the electrical grid against climate change by burying cables or installing smart meters to pinpoint where lines are down.

“I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore,” Biden said. “Just look around: historic floods—I mean historic floods; more intense droughts; extreme heat; significant wildfires have caused significant damage like we’ve never seen before. It’s not only throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the United States, but in Canada and other parts of the world.”

“When I took office,” he said, “I directed my team to raise our game in how we lead and coordinate our responses to natural disasters…to ensure we [meet] the people where they are when they need our help the most.” 

At FEMA headquarters, Biden profusely thanked the FEMA employees for their “incredible contribution” to the recovery efforts. He noted that the past few years have kept FEMA going from one emergency to the next, and he thanked them for their sacrifices and the risks emergency personnel take to help our communities when they need it. 

With extremist House Republicans threatening to defund the government unless their demands are met, Biden called on Congress to make sure it provides “the funds to be able to continue to show up and meet the needs of the American people to deal with immediate crises that we’re facing right now, as well as the long-term commitments that we have to make to finish the job in Maui and elsewhere.”

When a reporter asked if he could “assure Americans that the federal government is going to have the emergency funding that they need to get through this hurricane season,” Biden answered, “If I can’t do that, I’m going to point out why…. And so, I’m confident, even though there’s a lot of talk from some of our friends up on the Hill about the cost, we got to do it. This is the United States of America.”

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee, chaired by Republican James Comer of Kentucky, announced this week it will investigate the federal response to the Maui wildfires. Biden said yesterday he welcomes such an investigation, suggesting that House Republicans “should go out and talk to every elected official, from the mayors to the governors to the United States senators” who have praised the government’s response. 

Biden’s use of the government contrasts sharply with former president Trump’s promise to turn the government into an agent of retribution for those he perceives as his enemies. On Tuesday, right-wing radio host Glenn Beck asked him if he would use the presidency to imprison his political opponents if he were reelected. “You said in 2016, you know, ‘lock her up.’ And then when you became president, you said, ‘We don’t do that in America.’ That’s just not the right thing to do. That’s what they’re doing. Do you regret not locking her up? And if you’re president again, will you lock people up?” 

Trump replied: “[T]he answer is you have no choice because they’re doing it to us.”

Trump’s legal troubles have sparked an outpouring of violent talk from him, but it is simply an escalation of the theme he staked out at his first campaign rally in March 2023, held in Waco, Texas, a spot that is a rallying cry for those of his base who believe the government is oppressing them. There, Trump told his supporters: “I am your warrior, I am your justice…. For those who have been wronged and betrayed…I am your retribution.”

Trump promises retribution and power for those MAGA Republicans determined to impose their will on the majority of Americans, like those cheering on Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall, who claimed in a court filing on Monday that Alabama, which has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, can prosecute people who help women travel out of the state to obtain an abortion as part of a “criminal conspiracy.” 

Today’s Republicans have abandoned the Reagan-era Republican plan to gut the federal government and are instead determined to capture it, replacing nonpartisan civil servants with Republican extremists who will carry out the ideals of Trump or any candidate like him who can defeat Biden in 2024. Their nearly-1,000-page plan, called “Project 2025,” calls for politicizing the Department of Justice and law enforcement officers and giving far more power to the president.    

Today, Trump waived his right to appear at his arraignment in Fulton County on racketeering charges for his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and entered a plea of not guilty.

Also today, Supreme Court justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas filed their annual financial disclosure report after receiving an extension from the May deadline. Thomas’s report included three gifts of transportation from megadonor Harlan Crow and two of meals and lodging from Crow when Thomas was his guest. Thomas defended his previous omission of such gifts by saying the omission was inadvertent, as he had used old guidelines that were changed only in March 2023 (in fact, ethics experts say he should have disclosed the previous gifts at the time).

Thomas also suggested he needed to travel on private planes because “the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak” meant that his “security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible.”

Notes:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23932793-clarence-thomas-2022-financial-disclosure

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23932794-justice-alitos-2022-financial-disclosure

https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/31/politics/thomas-alito-supreme-court-disclosures/index.html

https://www.kcra.com/article/hurricane-categories-meanings/44940726#

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hurricane-idalia-damage-see-videos-photos-florida/

https://apnews.com/article/florida-hurricane-idalia-2136985ceea53f5deb600c43aeea1138

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/31/hurricane-idalia-downgraded-to-tropical-storm-kills-three-in-southeast-us

https://apnews.com/article/hawaii-wildfires-maui-electricity-power-utilities-1741e22bbf955b62103db6b60f5c4853

https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/30/weather/florida-hurricane-idalia-wednesday/index.html

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/08/31/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-ongoing-federal-response-efforts-to-hurricane-idalia-and-on-maui-hawaii/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/08/31/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-whole-of-government-response-and-recovery-efforts-in-maui-hawaii-and-the-ongoing-response-to-hurricane-idalia/

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/4179639-biden-says-he-welcomes-potential-gop-probe-into-maui-fire-response/

https://www.mediaite.com/politics/you-have-no-choice-trump-tells-glenn-beck-he-will-absolutely-lock-people-up-if-returned-to-white-house/

https://www.texastribune.org/2023/03/25/donald-trump-waco-rally-retribution-justice/

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2023-08-30/conservative-groups-draw-up-plan-to-dismantle-the-u-s-government-and-replace-it-with-trumps-vision

https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/31/politics/alabama-attorney-general-abortion-prosecute/index.html

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/30/trump-interview-jail-political-opponents-glenn-beck

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Join Me at 6:00p.m. ET Tomorrow For a Q&A on Palestine Chris Hedges

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Join me tomorrow, Friday 6:00pm ET for a live Q&A on Palestine. We will be streaming on my Twitter account and on my YouTube channel.

We will be taking questions both live and from this post on Substack. To comment here, you must be a paid subscriber. Hope to see you there!

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June 19, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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This Company Believes in “Protecting Women’s Sports.” TikTok Banned Its Ad. Julia Steinberg

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Jennifer Sey started an apparel company that believes in “protecting women’s sports and spaces.” Its ad was just banned on TikTok. (XX-XY Athletics)

This piece was first published in our news digest, The Front Page. To get our latest scoops, investigations, and columns in your inbox every morning, Monday through Thursday, become a Free Press subscriber today:

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In March, our friend Jennifer Sey, the former Levi’s exec and Covid-19 lockdown critic, told us she was starting an apparel company for women athletes, and since then she’s done exactly that. Her company XX-XY Athletics has put leggings, t-shirts, tank tops, and hats on the market, with both women’s (XX) and men’s (XY) collections. XX-XY Athletics counts its mission, according to Sey, as “protecting women’s sports and spaces and encouraging others to do the same.” 

“If you want your daughters to have the same opportunities you had, stand up,” a recent XX-XY ad says, adding, “If you don’t think it’s fair or safe to allow men to play women’s sports, stand up.”

It turns out that this is not the sort of thing one is allowed to say on TikTok. The Chinese-owned social media platform quickly banned the ad on the grounds that it “may violate TikTok’s advertising policies by featuring offensive content.” Sey posted on X, “When you run an ad standing up for women and girls’ sports, you get banned for life from @tiktok_us.” 

Sey, who was a champion gymnast herself, told me that the ads were on TikTok for less than a week before they were taken down—and that XX-XY’s account has been suspended from posting any ads on the platform. “They offered no reason for how we violated their policies,” Sey said. “Despite the fact that I find the ad quite uplifting, it’s anodyne.” (Watch it for yourself here.) 

Sey’s team will likely appeal TikTok’s decision, which has become a critically important platform for reaching young people. “Fifty percent of people under 30 are on TikTok,” she said. “You gotta fish where the fish are.” At the very least, Sey wants an explanation of what policy she violated.

Julia Steinberg is an intern at The Free Press. Read her piece on the college dropout who unlocked the secrets of ancient Rome using AI. And follow her on X @Juliaonatroika.

 

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