May 2023

31 May:

The House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on a Bill that would settle the nation’s debt limit until Jan 1, 2025. But following the deal between the GOP and the White House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy will inevitably be more vulnerable to performative attacks from his right.

Donald Trump heads to Iowa today, after his rival for the GOP nomination Ron DeSantis’s visit to the party’s first primary state appeared to resonate with some Republicans looking for an alternative to the former President. But DeSantis remains well behind in polling.

And it’s probably as well for Trump that his lead seems – for now – so solid. The former President may have other things to worry about.

Meanwhile, for whatever it’s worth…

And there’s the small measure of more expert warnings of human extinction as a result of AI, yet somehow that story takes up the same bandwidth among news consumers as the previous one…


30 May:

Drone strikes hit inside Moscow, apparently three miles from Putin’s home, in what’s thought to be the first attack on a residential area of the Russian capital since the war began. It comes after a series of Russian missile bombardments of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

The debt ceiling agreement is tonight one step closer to a legislative reality; but it’s not a done deal just yet. And even if it gets done, the underlying problem remains.


29 May:

Amid Memorial Day observances, the prospects for a proposed debt ceiling deal continue to be analysed. But the picture can change this coming week as the respective sides head towards making the agreement a legislative reality.

Overseas, Turkish president Erdogan was, as expected, returned to power in Sunday’s run-off election, while there are some worrying, confused noises surrounding Belarus.


27 May:

The White House and GOP appear to have reached a deal on the debt ceiling. Now the ball is firmly in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s court to sell it to his whackjob wing. They won’t go quietly. No doubt some on the Democratic side will also welcome the chance to go on TV and say that giving up *anything* was too much, but Janet Yellen’s slightly extended deadline should smooth the legislative path away from the edge of an economic cliff.


26 May:

As Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, begins his 18-year prison sentence for seditious conspiracy – the longest term of any defendant so far for a role in the Jan 6 2021 insurrection – new GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis hinted at possible pardons.

Other prominent Oath Keepers were also sentenced to lengthy terms today.

Perhaps more worrying than the two Republican front-runners arm-wrestling to out-do each other in undermining the rule of law; the deep influence and motivation of such extreme groups shows little sign of going away.


25 May:

Likely surprising no-one, Ron DeSantis’s glitch-ridden entry to the GOP presidential field on Twitter didn’t go well. It remains to be seen whether it will matter.

Whether DeSantis might be doomed before he even starts is a fair discussion to have. But for a campaign that will revolve around a culture war, the GOP mood in some early primary states will certainly keep those issues – both the symbolic and the very real – on the front burner. But again, it remains to be seen if DeSantis will still be a factor by the time South Carolina votes on Feb 20th.

It perhaps came as some relief to the Florida Governor’s campaign team that at the same time as their “launch” news was breaking of the passing of a musical legend and cultural icon.

Meanwhile, the debt limit mess drags on…



24 May:

Today is the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers lost their lives.

Click here to read the States of Play summary from May 2022


With gun violence set to be a centrepiece of the 2024 campaign cycle, the GOP presidential field is set to grow still further today. After Sen Tim Scott’s campaign launch on Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis intends to announce his candidacy tonight in a Twitter “conversation” with Elon Musk. That makes perfect sense.

Update: It did not go well.

Polls show both DeSantis and Scott – as well as the other already declared and potential GOP candidates – trailing former President Donald Trump by at least 30 points.

The first GOP primary is in Iowa on Feb 1st next year. New Hampshire follows eight days later, then South Carolina on 20 Feb and Nevada on 23rd.


23 May:

A man was arrested last night after apparently intentionally ramming a truck into a barrier near the White House. The man was subsequently charged with “threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on the president, vice president or a family member.”

Sure enough, because this is what happens now, some people believe it was a “false flag” aimed at shifting the narrative. The actual flag in question, though, is quite different…

There’s still no apparent progress on the debt ceiling, but then you probably wouldn’t expect there to be just yet, since the Republicans have little to lose right now by dragging it out.

We seem to have reached a point where one side, if not both, are thinking primarily of the political fallout for them of potential default options, rather than – first and foremost – of the impact on the economy. Having said that, though…

In Michigan, Gov Whitmer’s move to introduce a ‘red flag’ law covering access to weapons looks set to face legal challenges.

I recently talked about Michigan politics and the issue of gun control with Rose Jacobs, who’s back in her childhood home of East Lansing for this academic year.

Finally, former President Donald Trump is appeared virtually in front of a New York judge today in the case related to his business practices. It’s not, of course, the only legal issue he has going on…


22 May:

After President Biden returned from the G7 meeting last night, Washington’s focus turns back to the debt ceiling. With signs that small businesses are starting to panic over a possible government default, “negotiations” between Biden and House Speaker McCarthy are set to resume in person later Monday.

In Georgia, Fulton County DA Fani Willis signalled that charges following the investigation into interference with the 2020 election could be filed in August. With court schedules being cleared for three weeks that month, the expectation appears to be that multiple charges will be filed against multiple individuals.

And talking of the former President, he has apparently sent Vladimir Putin another list of people he’s annoyed with. Along with some more obvious “enemies” Russia’s latest sanctions list includes Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers.


20 May:

As President Zelenskyy arrived at the G7 meeting in Japan – the farthest foreign trip he has taken since the war began – Russia’s defence ministry claimed their forces and Wagner troops had taken control of Bakhmut. With confusion on the ground, Zelenskyy denied that the nine-month battle for the city was over.

In Washington, “discussions” over the debt ceiling are back under way...

Meanwhile in Trump legal world…


19 May:

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is expected to arrive at the G7 meeting this weekend to appeal for more weapons and financial assistance in his nation’s war against Russia. Meanwhile President Biden told the G7 that the US would support training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 aircraft.

Today, Zelenskyy is in Saudi Arabia to address the Arab League.

Meanwhile in the US, hoping to steal a march on next week’s expected declaration by Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, another Republican jumps into the race.

With the Supreme Court’s credibility plunging, it rules on key sensitive issues affecting tech companies.


18 May:

President Biden is in Japan for a meeting of the G7, a trip that was cut to three days so he can return to Washington for what should be – hopefully – the conclusion of debt ceiling “negotiations”.

As polls, for whatever they’re worth at this stage, show Biden continuing to hold a small national lead over Donald Trump – larger among independents – Democratic strategists continue to scratch their heads over how best to frame his record. Just last week, Biden’s approval rating hit an historic low for this point in a first presidency.

Christiane Amanpour became the first high-profile CNN personality to publicly criticise last week’s Trump ‘Town Hall’ broadcast, as the network’s problems continue.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, who chose yesterday – the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia – to sign a flurry of anti-LGBT measures, is apparently set to declare his presidential candidacy next week.

How he plays outside the cozy confines of Florida and its compliant, culture-war hungry legislature is shaping up to be the most important story of the Republican primary.

Montana became the first state to attempt to completely ban TikTok; with other states watching how such a step might be enforced and how the company might challenge it. The law would come into effect on Jan 1st next year.


17 May:

North Carolina is set to impose a ban on most abortions past twelve weeks, after Republicans on the state legislature were last night able to overturn a previous veto on the measure by Gov Roy Cooper. The law is now due to take effect on July 1.

The circumstances by which the GOP obtained their veto-proof supermajority make for a fascinating dynamic in the state, with one legislator changing party allegiance last month despite previously campaigning against further abortion restrictions.

Abortion will be a central issue in the upcoming election cycle, with splits even among pro-life advocates within Republican voters. Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, who is yet to formally declare his candidacy, has sought to distance himself – further to the right – from front-runner Donald Trump by enacting a six-week ban in his state. Trump responded by calling into Newsmax to again insist – as he had during the recent CNN Town Hall – “I was the one who got rid of Roe v Wade”.

There were a number of important elections in some key states yesterday. In Kentucky, a Trump-endorsed candidate will challenge incumbent Gov Andy Beshear in November, in what is set to be a closely-watched election, after Attorney-General Daniel Cameron won last night’s GOP primary. Meanwhile, the state’s GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams fought off a challenge from election deniers to win his primary.

In Florida – whose Gov Ron DeSantis went 0-for-2 in endorsements – a Democrat surprisingly won the election for Mayor of Jacksonville.

Special Counsel John Durham ended his investigation into the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2020 election, saying that the agency “acted hastily” but failing to reveal any information to support former President Trump’s claim of the “crime of the century”. For some Republicans, that wasn’t enough…


16 May:

Negotiations between the Biden administration and the GOP over the debt ceiling apparently continue to be fraught as time ticks by, with the President set to cut short a foreign trip this week.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is set to meet with bank CEOs on Thursday.

And it’s anything but “normal” that the nation goes through this on a regular basis.

The head of OpenAI, Sam Altman, testified before Congress on the need for regulation of Artificial Intelligence applications, saying the development had the potential to “cause significant harm to the world”.


14 May:

After a chaotic first round of voting, Turkey’s leadership election will go to a May 28 runoff after incumbent President Erdogan failed to secure a definitive majority this weekend, despite a better than expected showing.

In the US, the two leading potential candidates for the GOP presidential nomination were both due to come to Iowa this weekend. One did, the other cancelled, claiming bad weather.

And with Trump apparently tightening his grip on the GOP primary even as he slips in national general election polling, there might yet be another twist in the tale…

While another actual declared candidate does the party bidding by putting a radical, fundamentally anti-democratic – idea into the debate…

And, yeah, there’s this…


12 May:

With the Title 42 restrictions due to the Covid emergency ending at midnight on Thursday, there has been widespread uncertainty and hyperbole over how the coming days might unfold at southern border crossings.

Elsewhere, a meeting set for today between the White House and GOP congressional leaders to discuss the debt ceiling was postponed, apparently until next week, when President Biden is set to travel to Japan for a G7 meeting. Negotiations between staffers are understood to be continuing.


10 May:

CNN‘s “Town Hall” with the former president went pretty much as everyone was expecting.

Trump got his televised rally and Chris Licht got his ratings. Arguably the reputational damage to the network was done when they decided to air it in the first place, and the hour turned out exactly as a lot of observers feared: autocracy as carnival show.

Regardless of what “CNN insiders” might say in retrospect, though, the worst part was probably their post-show panel trying to normalise the whole thing and spin it out to a second hour. And let’s just see how many CNN staffers walk as a result of it, if they’re so concerned.

Since all past is prologue, seems like we’re just back to the “Les Moonves” stage of the 2016 campaign.

“Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” Moonves went on. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

And CNN doubled down the next morning…

Maybe the biggest losers on the night were the people of New Hampshire, who surely can’t all be like the audience members selected to take part.

This piece by former Capitol police officer Michael Fanone, who was injured during the Jan 6th insurrection is worth a read:

As for the Biden team’s response, clearly they feel confident with the idea of going up against their previous opponent again.

But there are challenging days immediately ahead for the Biden administration, with the debt ceiling fight ongoing and Title 42 border restrictions set to expire today.

Meanwhile, charges are brought against another of the GOP’s leading fabulists.


9 May:

A jury found the former President liable for sexual abuse and defamation in the E Jean Carroll case, with a $5million financial penalty.

Meanwhile, Rep George Santos has been charged as part of a federal criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, meanwhile… Tucker Carlson announced that he was to continue his “show” on Twitter at the same time as he accused Fox News of fraud and breach of contract.


8 May:

Russia launched a series of missile and drone strikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities overnight, after Ukraine used a US Patriot missile system to shoot down a Russian hypersonic missile. Meanwhile, evacuations appear to be under way at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, following warnings from the UN.


7 May:

As more details emerge of yesterday’s mass shooting at a mall in Texas, there’s also what passes for “analysis”…

Amid another fatal attack in Brownsville, TX, where seven people including migrants were killed when a man drove his car into them, concerns in Texas and other border states are growing ahead of Thursday’s expiration of Title 42 regulating border entry, which was part of the US government’s Covid response. With the end of the health emergency, the measure is set to expire.

Meanwhile, it’s not like we only have one at a time.

In baseball, it hasn’t been a good week for the Oakland Athletics.


(incidentally, when Vida Blue won the AL Cy Young in 1971, the NL winner was Fergie Jenkins – the first time two Black pitchers had won both awards. Jenkins was also the first Cubs pitcher, and the first Canadian, to win).


6 May:

Yet another mass shooting – the 199th in the US this year – this time at a mall in Texas where at least eight people, including children, were killed. The district where the massacre took place has a permitless carry policy in place.

Read also these previous posts. There have just been too many shooting incidents to respond to each one:


5 May:

Scrutiny intensifies into the activities of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – and now, his wife Ginni – over their financial entanglements with Conservative judicial activists and their approach to ethics and transparency.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, big developments in the “fake electors” case…


4 May:

The leader and three other members of the extremist group the Proud Boys were convicted of seditious conspiracy related to the January 6th insurrection. The trial created an unusual legal situation where the prosecutors and defense lawyers both blamed the same person for the outcome – former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Florida just keeps getting more cruel.


3 May:

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy denied that his forces were behind an apparent drone attack on the Kremlin early on Wednesday morning. Amid speculation that what happened might be a ‘false flag’ operation, Russian media claimed the incident was an assassination attempt against Vladimir Putin and later launched another wave of missile attacks against Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin continues to insist that their May 9 ‘Victory Day’ parade will go ahead as planned, despite parades being cancelled in other cities.


And as jockeying for position ahead of the 2024 election cycle intensifies, Republican calls grow for the investigation / impeachment of President Biden, but it remains unclear for exactly what…

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of chaos to shake out before things really get going.


2 May:

An AI expert set alarm bells ringing with warnings as to a possible future for the technology he helped create.

And, since you couldn’t make this stuff up, the Hollywood writers went on strike.


1 May:

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned  congressional leaders they have only until June 1 to pass legislation raising the nation’s debt ceiling and that beyond that point the US may no longer be able to pay all of its outstanding obligations.

Thousands of protesters fought with police on the streets of Paris tonight – May Day – angered by President Macron’s plans to raise the French retirement age from 62 to 64.

Well, that should be interesting…


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