Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson



  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 9, 2021 (Thursday)

    After weeks of pleading with Americans to get vaccinated as Republican governors opposed mask mandates, ICUs filled up, and people died, today President Joe Biden went on the offensive.

    Saying, “My job as President is to protect all Americans,” he announced that he was imposing new vaccination or testing requirements on the unvaccinated. The U.S. government will require all federal employees, as well as any federal contractors, to be vaccinated. The government already requires that all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid have to be vaccinated; Biden is expanding that to cover hospital workers, home healthcare aides, and those who work in other medical facilities. “If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated.”

    Using the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Biden will also make employers with 100 or more employees require that their employees either be vaccinated or show a negative coronavirus test at least once a week. He pointed out that big companies already are doing this, including United Airlines, Disney… and the Fox News Channel.

    Together, the new vaccine requirements will affect about 100 million Americans, making up two thirds of all U.S. workers.

    Biden also urged those who run large entertainment venues to require vaccines or show a recent negative test for entry. He has already required teachers at the schools run by the Defense Department to get vaccinated, and today he announced that the government will require teachers in the Head Start program, which is federally funded, to be vaccinated. He called on governors to require that all teachers and staff be vaccinated for coronavirus, as their states already require a wide range of vaccinations for other diseases.

    Calling out those like Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has taken a stand against mask mandates and is threatening to withhold the salaries of school officials who defy him, Biden said that “if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way.”

    He is using the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests and has worked with major retailers to sell those tests at cost for the next three months. The government has also expanded free testing at 10,000 pharmacies and will spend $2 billion to distribute nearly 300 million rapid tests to community health centers, food banks, and schools. He has ordered the Transportation Safety Administration to double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.

    After deploying nearly 1000 healthcare workers to address this summer’s surges in 18 states, the president is now sending in military health teams from the Defense Department. Meanwhile, he said, the U.S. continues to donate vaccines to the rest of the world, “nearly 140 million vaccines over 90 countries so far, more than all other countries combined, including Europe, China, and Russia.... That’s American leadership on a global stage, and that’s just the beginning.” The U.S. is now shipping 500 million more Pfizer vaccines to 100 lower-income countries.

    “Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free,” Biden said. More than 175 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and for the past three months we have created 700,000 new jobs a month. But while nearly three quarters of those eligible have gotten at least one shot, the highly contagious Delta variant has ripped through the unvaccinated, who are overcrowding our hospitals, threatening the health of our children, and weakening our economic recovery.

    “[D]espite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot…. And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19,” Biden said. “Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities. This is totally unacceptable.”

    “[W]e have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans—supported by a distinct minority of elected officials—are keeping us from turning the corner…. We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal.”

    “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us,” he said. “So, please, do the right thing.”

    The Biden administration is pushing back, too, on Texas’s Senate Bill 8, which prohibits abortion after 6 weeks and thus outlaws 85% of abortions in the state. Today, the United States of America sued the state of Texas for acting “in open defiance of the Constitution” when it passed S. B. 8 and deprived “individuals of their constitutional rights.” The United States has a “profound sovereign interest” in making sure that individuals’ constitutional rights can be protected by the federal government, the lawsuit declares. "The act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

    What is at stake in this case is the ability of the federal government to defend Americans’ constitutional rights against local vigilantes, a power Americans gave to the federal government in 1868 by ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution after white former Confederates in southern states refused to accept the idea that their Black neighbors should have rights.

    Since the 1950s, the Supreme Court has used federal power to protect the rights of minorities and women when state laws discriminated against them. S. B. 8 would strip the government of that power, leaving individuals at the mercy of their neighbors’ prejudices. The government has asked the U.S. district court for the western district of Texas to declare the law “invalid, null, and void,” and to stop the state from enforcing it.

    This issue of federal supremacy is not limited to Texas. Glenn Thrush of the New York Times today called out that in June, Missouri governor Mike Parson signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which declares federal laws—including taxes—that govern the use of firearms “invalid in this state.” Like the Texas abortion law, the Second Amendment Preservation Act allows individuals to sue state officials who work with federal officials to deprive Missourians of what they consider to be their Second Amendment rights. “Obviously, it’s about far more than simply gun rights,” one of the chief proponents of the bill, far-right activist Aaron Dorr, said to Thrush about his involvement.

    There were other wins today for the Biden administration. Today was the deadline for federal agencies to produce a wide range of records surrounding the events of January 6 to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, and according to the committee’s Twitter feed, those records have, in fact, been forthcoming.

    And Taliban officials did allow a plane carrying about 115 Americans and other nationals to leave Afghanistan.

    Biden’s new approach to the pandemic is, as Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo points out, good politics as well as good for public health. About 65% of the voting age population is already vaccinated, and older people are both more likely to be vaccinated and more likely to vote. With most Americans vaccinated and increasingly frustrated with those who refuse, there is little political risk to requiring vaccines, while Republicans standing in the way of public health measures are increasingly unpopular. Florida, where deaths from coronavirus soared to more than 300 a day in late August, has begun to limit the information about deaths it releases.

    If Biden’s new vaccine requirements slow or halt the spread of the coronavirus, the economic recovery that had been taking off before the Delta variant hit will resume its speed, strengthening his popularity. Those Republican lawmakers furious at the new vaccine requirements are possibly less worried that they won’t work than that they will.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 10, 2021 (Friday)

    When the Senate returns to business on September 14, voting rights are going to be on the table.

    In the midst of the efforts of Republican-dominated states to suppress voting, Joe Manchin (D-WV), who stood alone in his party against the sweeping For the People Act, has continued to lead a group of senators trying to craft a voting rights bill that will gain the support of at least ten Republicans so it can pass without changing the rules of the filibuster.

    The group includes Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Angus King (I-ME).

    After rejecting the For the People Act, Manchin released a list of the voting items he could support. That list is apparently the basis for the new bill.

    Once it is written, Manchin will shop it around to Republicans in order to find the ten votes needed to get anything through the Senate (since Senate rules currently require 60 votes to break a filibuster, Democrats in the evenly divided chamber need support from at least 10 Republicans to pass the bill). Manchin maintains he can find those votes, although many are skeptical and there has so far been no sign that today’s Republicans will rally to a voting rights bill.

    If Manchin cannot find the ten votes he needs to make the measure filibuster-proof, the central question is whether he will agree to a carve-out for the filibuster like the one the Senate now has for high-level judicial appointments.

    If so, the federal government will enforce the right of individual citizens to vote, overriding state laws restricting that vote. If not, the restrictive state measures put in place by Republican-dominated legislatures will stand, and the nation seems likely to become a one-party state.

    This measure is tied up with the huge infrastructure package currently before Congress: the infrastructure bill creates room to negotiate with those who might need some incentive to vote for a voting rights bill. The measure also offers members a chance to vote for it and go down in history as saving American democracy… or as destroying American democracy by voting no.

    And one other piece of news before I fall into bed: Today another civilian flight left Kabul, Afghanistan, carrying 158 passengers, including 21 Americans.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 11, 2021 (Saturday)
    On the twentieth anniversary of the day terrorists from the al-Qaeda network used four civilian airplanes as weapons against the United States, the weather was eerily similar to the bright, clear blue sky of what has come to be known as 9/11. George W. Bush, who was president on that horrific day, spoke in Pennsylvania at a memorial for the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who, on September 11, 2001, stormed the cockpit and brought their airplane down in a field, killing everyone on board but denying the terrorists a fourth American trophy.  
    Former president Bush said: “Twenty years ago, terrorists chose a random group of Americans, on a routine flight, to be collateral damage in a spectacular act of terror. The 33 passengers and 7 crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all.” And, Bush continued, “The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people. Facing an impossible circumstance, they comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action, and defeated the designs of evil.”
    Recalling his experience that day, Bush talked of “the America I know.”
    “On America's day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor's hand and rally to the cause of one another…. At a time when religious bigotry might have flowed freely, I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith…. At a time when nativism could have stirred hatred and violence against people perceived as outsiders, I saw Americans reaffirm their welcome to immigrants and refugees…. At a time when some viewed the rising generation as individualistic and decadent, I saw young people embrace an ethic of service and rise to selfless action.”
    Today’s commemorations of that tragic day almost a generation ago seemed to celebrate exactly what Bush did: the selfless heroism and care for others shown by those like Welles Crowther, the man in the red bandana, who helped others out of danger before succumbing himself; the airplane passengers who called their loved ones to say goodbye; neighbors; firefighters; law enforcement officers; the men and women who volunteered for military service after the attack.
    That day, and our memories of it, show American democracy at its best: ordinary Americans putting in the work, even at its dirtiest and most dangerous, to take care of each other.
    It is this America we commemorate today.

    But even in 2001, that America was under siege by those who distrusted the same democracy today’s events commemorated. Those people, concentrated in the Republican Party, worried that permitting all Americans to have a say in their government would lead to “socialism”: minorities and women would demand government programs paid for with tax dollars collected from hardworking people—usually, white men. They wanted to slash taxes and government regulations, giving individuals the “freedom” to do as they wished.

    In 1986, they had begun to talk about purifying the vote; when the Democrats in 1993 passed the so-called Motor Voter law permitting people to register to vote at certain government offices, they claimed that Democrats were buying votes. The next year, Republicans began to claim that Democrats won elections through fraud, and in 1998, the Florida legislature passed a voter ID law that led to a purge of as many as 100,000 voters from the system before the election of 2000, resulting in what the United States Commission on Civil Rights called “an extraordinarily high and inexcusable level of disenfranchisement,” particularly of African American voters.

    It was that election that put George W. Bush in the White House, despite his losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore by more than a half a million votes.

    Bush had run on the promise he would be “a uniter, not a divider,” but as soon as he took office, he advanced the worldview of those who distrusted democracy. He slashed government programs and in June pushed a $1.3 trillion cut through Congress. These measures increased the deficit without spurring the economy, and voters were beginning to sour on a presidency that had been precarious since its controversial beginnings.
    On the morning of September 11, 2001, hours before the planes hit the Twin Towers, a New York Times editorial announced: “There is a whiff of panic in the air.”

    And then the planes hit.

    “In our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment,” Bush said. America had seemed to drift since the Cold War had ended twelve years before, but now the country was in a new death struggle, against an even more implacable foe. To defeat the nation’s enemies, America must defend free enterprise and Christianity at all costs.

    In the wake of the attacks, Bush’s popularity soared to 90 percent. He and his advisers saw that popularity as a mandate to change America, and the world, according to their own ideology. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” he announced.

    Immediately, the administration focused on strengthening business. It shored up the airline industry and, at the advice of oil industry executives, deregulated the oil industry and increased drilling. By the end of the year, Congress had appropriated more than $350 billion for the military and homeland security, but that money would not go to established state and local organizations; it would go to new federal programs run by administration loyalists. Bush’s proposed $2.13 billion 2003 budget increased military spending by $48 billion while slashing highway funding, environmental initiatives, job training, and other domestic spending. It would throw the budget $401 billion in the red. Republicans attacked any opposition as an attack on “the homeland.”

    The military response to the attacks also turned ideological quickly. As soon as he heard about the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked his aides to see if there was enough evidence to “hit” Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as well as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In fact, Saddam had not been involved in the attack on America: the al-Qaeda terrorists of 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

    Rumsfeld was trying to fit the events of 911 into the worldview of the so-called neocons who had come together in 1997 to complain that President Bill Clinton’s foreign policy was “incoherent” and to demand that the U.S. take international preeminence in the wake of the Cold War. They demanded significantly increased defense spending and American-backed “regime change” in countries that did not have “political and economic freedom.” They wanted to see a world order “friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.”  

    After 9/11, Bush launched rocket attacks on the Taliban government of Afghanistan that had provided a safe haven for al-Qaeda, successfully overthrowing it before the end of the year. But then the administration undertook to reorder the Middle East in America's image. In 2002, it announced that the U.S. would no longer simply try to contain our enemies as President Harry S. Truman had planned, or to fund their opponents as President Ronald Reagan had done, but to strike nations suspected of planning attacks on the U.S. preemptively: the so-called Bush Doctrine. In 2003, after setting up a pro-American government in Afghanistan, the administration invaded Iraq.

    By 2004, the administration was so deeply entrenched in its own ideology that a senior adviser to Bush told journalist Ron Suskind that people like him—Suskind—were in “the reality-based community”: they believed people could find solutions based on their observations and careful study of discernible reality. But, the aide continued, such a worldview was obsolete. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.… We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    The 9/11 attacks enabled Republicans to tar those who questioned the administration's economic or foreign policies as un-American: either socialists or traitors making the nation vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Surely, such people should not have a voice at the polls. Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression began to shut Democratic voices out of our government, aided by a series of Supreme Court decisions. In 2010, the court opened the floodgates of corporate money into our elections to sway voters; in 2013, it gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act; in 2021, it said that election laws that affected different groups of voters unevenly were not unconstitutional.

    And now we grapple with the logical extension of that argument as a former Republican president claims he won the 2020 election because, all evidence to the contrary, Democratic votes were fraudulent.

    Today, former president Bush called out the similarities between today’s domestic terrorists who attacked our Capitol to overthrow our government on January 6 and the terrorists of 9/11. “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home, “he said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

    In doing so, we can take guidance from the passengers on Flight 93, who demonstrated as profoundly as it is possible to do what confronting such an ideology means. While we cannot know for certain what happened on that plane on that fateful day, investigators believe that before the passengers of Flight 93 stormed the cockpit, throwing themselves between the terrorists and our government, and downed the plane, they all took a vote.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 12, 2021 (Sunday)

    It's been a very long week indeed, but the sun will come up again tomorrow, and we will tackle it all again then.

    [Photo "Breakwater Dawn" by Peter Ralston.]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 13, 2021 (Monday)

    As the coronavirus continues to burn across the United States, Republicans are maintaining their opposition to President Joe Biden’s new requirement that certain groups, including those who work at companies that employ more than 100 people, should either be vaccinated or be tested frequently for the virus. They insist that vaccination should be voluntary, but have no solution to the new spike in coronavirus infections and deaths.

    In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to sue cities that impose vaccine requirements, saying such mandates will hurt the economy by threatening jobs. More than 11,215 Florida residents are currently hospitalized with Covid-19.

    More than 243,000 children tested positive for the virus last week, the second highest number of pediatric cases since the pandemic started. About 2200 are currently hospitalized.

    Democrats continue to develop the infrastructure measure they expect to pass through reconciliation, thus being able to steer the bill through the Senate without facing a filibuster (budget reconciliation bills can’t be filibustered). A recent poll conducted for CNN by the independent research firm SSRS found that 93% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents think it is important to the party’s identity to believe that the federal government should do more to help people.

    The price tag on the new measure is currently around $3.5 trillion. As E. J. Dionne points out in the Washington Post, that number covers 10 years of spending, a period of time in which the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), which measures the value of production, is expected to be $288 trillion. So that $3.5 trillion makes up around just 1.2 percent of the economy. It’s a big number, but not a large percentage for an investment in childcare, elder care, education, and addressing climate change.

    The Democrats propose to fund the bill not with deficit spending alone, as so many of our investments have been funded of late, but by cutting spending elsewhere and by raising revenue by restoring some of the taxes Republicans cut in 2017. The Democrats also propose raising taxes on individuals who make more than $400,000 a year, or couples who make more than $450,000 a year. There is a growing impulse to level the economic playing field in this country as growing inequality makes the news more frequently. As Dr. Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, told Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein, the wealth of the top 400 people in the U.S. has increased by $1.4 trillion since 2019.

    While the moderate Democrats and the progressive wing of the party are sparking breathless news stories as they hash out their differences, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that Republicans refuse to participate in this process at all.

    Perhaps the biggest breaking news today, although it, too, is a continuation of a longer theme, is that, in California’s recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom, the campaign website of challenger Republican Larry Elder, a right-wing talk show host, is already claiming he lost the election because of fraud. “Statistical analyses used to detect fraud in elections held in 3rd-world nations (such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran) have detected fraud in California resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor,” the website says. "The primary analytical tool used was Benford’s Law and can be readily reproduced."

    But the election isn’t until tomorrow.

    The theme that Democrats win elections only by cheating became popular in Republican circles after the 1993 Motor Voter Act, which made it easier for poor people to vote. Republicans said Democrats, who passed the measure, were simply packing elections with their own voters. There was not then, and there is not now, evidence of widespread fraud in American elections.

    Former president Donald Trump harped on the idea that Democrats cheated in the 2016 election—he insisted he would have won the popular vote as well as the vote in the Electoral College if it hadn’t been for fraudulent Democratic votes—and that idea is, of course, at the heart of his complaint about Biden’s election in 2020. There is no evidence for these accusations; they are lies. And yet, that recent CNN/SSRS poll found that 59% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents think believing that Trump won the 2020 election is important to their identity as Republicans.

    California has about half as many registered Republicans as it does registered Democrats, and Newsom won in 2018 by almost 24 percentage points, so if Newsom wins tomorrow's election it will hardly be an upset. But Elder is already claiming fraud and refusing to say he will accept the results of the election—the same playbook Trump used in 2016 and 2020. Tonight, a pastor at a rally for Elder prayed: “We don’t even look at the polls because we are looking to you, Lord. Lord, we pray that you would take down the current government…. We ask this state will be set free, and you would start with Larry Elder.”

    If losers in a democracy refuse to accept the legitimacy of elections, the system falls apart.

    The growing radicalism of the Republican Party is putting pressure on Democrats to pass a voting rights act to counteract the vote-suppressing measures that Republican-dominated states are enacting. Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he hopes to bring a voting rights bill backed by West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin to the floor for a vote as early as next week.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 14, 2021 (Tuesday)

    This morning, the team of Democratic senators working on a voting rights measure that could meet the demands of conservative Democratic West Virginia senator Joe Manchin released their bill. The 592-page document is described as a bill “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box and reduce the influence of big money in politics, and for other purposes.” Led by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the senators have called their effort the “Freedom to Vote Act.”

    This new measure is a pared-down version of the For the People Act passed by the House earlier this year before being blocked by Republicans in the Senate. It makes it easier to vote, allowing for automatic voter registration and mail-in voting. It protects the voting rights of minorities and establishes what forms of identification can be required for voter IDs. It makes Election Day a federal holiday and protects election workers from partisan pressure. The bill also tries to slow the flood of “dark money” from undisclosed sources into campaigns and bans partisan gerrymandering.

    Senate Democrats could not pass the measure without significant changes to make it acceptable to Manchin, and he has worked to craft this new measure that he has argued—without public evidence—will attract Republican votes. His hope is to pass the bill with the ten Republican votes necessary to override a filibuster. If those votes are not forthcoming, he and the rest of the Democrats will have to confront the reality that they must preserve either the right of Americans to vote—the centerpiece of our democracy—or the filibuster.

    After the bill was released, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promptly announced that Republicans would not support It. He says there’s no reason for the federal government to be “taking over how we conduct elections in this country.” This prompted Princeton historian Kevin Kruse to note that the Senate renewed the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2006 by a vote of 98–0, and to suggest that Republicans have significantly revised their definition of federal overreach in the last 15 years.

    The protection of voting rights seems more vital than ever today, as excerpts from a new book by veteran journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa revealed just how precarious the last days of the Trump presidency were. The portrait they reveal is of a man so desperate to retain his hold on the presidency that those around him thought he was mentally unhinged, while they also tried to do what he wanted so they wouldn’t upset him.

    Trump tried hard to convince then–Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the electoral college votes from the states. Pence tried to oblige him, eventually turning to former Vice President Dan Quayle, who had served in the George H. W. Bush administration, to see if there was any way he could do what Trump asked. According to Woodward and Costa, Pence repeatedly asked Quayle if there was anything he could do. Quayle answered: “Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”

    But Trump didn’t want to take no for an answer. When Pence refused, Trump allegedly told him: “I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.” He later told the vice president: “You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing.”

    The account casts Pence’s role in the January 6 insurrection in a new light.

    The book also says that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, was so worried that Trump’s mental state around the time of the election would lead him to attack China that twice Milley called his Chinese counterpart Li Zuocheng secretly to assure him that the U.S. would not launch a surprise attack. Milley was not the only one worried about the president: when Trump refused to concede the election, CIA Director Gina Haspel allegedly told Milley, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum.” Haspel worried Trump might attack Iran.

    Milley also allegedly told top military commanders that they should involve him if then-president Trump ordered a nuclear strike. That conversation was in part a reaction to a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), two days after the assault on the Capitol, in which the Speaker demanded to know: “What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?”

    When Milley tried to reassure her, she continued: "What I'm saying to you is that if they couldn't even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do? And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?"

    “He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy,” Pelosi said, according to a transcript of the call Woodward and Costa saw. “He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness.” Milley replied to the House Speaker: “I agree with you on everything.”

    The picture the book excerpts paint of Trump is of an unhinged man screaming obscenities at his advisers, unwilling to accept limits to his power. The book also highlights the role of Steve Bannon, who urged Trump to fight the January 6 counting of the ballots.

    We also learned today that Trump’s own senior advisers were warning as early as February 2020 that the nation was dangerously unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, even as Trump was publicly saying the administration’s response to the crisis had been “pretty amazing.” A House committee is discovering information about that response from messages retrieved from the personal email accounts the advisers used.  

    The revelations about the former president, along with the efforts of administration and military leaders to either support or thwart him, highlight just how close the nation came to a disaster, and that the danger continues. But preventing that danger was never Milley’s responsibility alone. The Constitution provides two safeguards against an unstable leader who might, for example, launch a war simply to keep himself in power. One is the 25th Amendment, which provides an emergency mechanism for removing a dangerous president, but while there was talk of using that amendment to remove Trump after January 6, the amendment’s reliance on presidential appointees to trigger it meant that this particular president would not be threatened with removal in that way.

    The other safeguard is the power of impeachment and removal from office upon conviction. Democrats did try to impeach and remove Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in early 2020 over the Ukraine scandal, only to have Senate Republicans stand firmly behind their president and vote to acquit.

    The party’s association with Trump and his ilk did not help it in today’s recall election in California. As of 11:00 pm California time, voters rejected the recall of Democratic governor Gavin Newsom by more than 66%. In thanking his supporters, Newsom claimed his victory showed that voters said yes to science, vaccines, “ending this pandemic,” “people’s right to vote without fear,” a woman’s “fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body”; yes to diversity, inclusion, pluralism, economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice. Californians—and Americans, Newsom said—are making choices.

    Newsom’s Republican challenger has already claimed his loss was due to voter fraud.

    That claim highlights the crucial difference between voter fraud and election fraud. Republicans are using the claim of voter fraud—the idea of individual corrupt voters—to launch election fraud, the overturning of a free and fair election. While voter fraud is vanishingly rare, the voter suppression measures passed by Republican-dominated states mean that election fraud is looming and likely... unless Congress passes the Freedom to Vote Act.


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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • so as most already knew, Pence would have sold out america had he could to appease the orange one. 

    I wonder if he calls Trump "Father". 
    ISO: band signed poster from:

    Fargo 2003
    Winnipeg 2005
    Winnipeg 2011
    St Paul 2014

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 15, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Today’s news can wait for tomorrow. Tonight, a thank-you.

    Exactly two years ago today, after about a six-week hiatus during the summer, I wrote a Facebook post that started: “Many thanks to all of you who have reached out to see if I'm okay. I am, indeed (aside from having been on the losing end of an encounter with a yellow jacket this afternoon!). I've been moving, setting up house, and finishing the new book. Am back and ready to write, but now everything seems like such a dumpster fire it's very hard to know where to start. So how about a general overview of how things at the White House look to me, today....”

    I went on to explain that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), had written a letter to then–acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, on Friday, September 13, telling Maguire he knew that a whistleblower had filed a complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community, who had deemed the complaint “credible” and "urgent.” This meant that the complaint was supposed to be sent on to the House Intelligence Committee. But, rather than sending it to the House as the law required, Maguire had withheld it. Schiff’s letter told Maguire that he knew about the complaint and that Maguire had better hand it over. Schiff speculated that Maguire was covering up evidence of crimes by the president or his closest advisors.

    Readers swamped me with questions. So I wrote another post answering them and explaining the news, which began breaking at a breathtaking pace.

    And so, these Letters from an American were born.

    In the two years since then, we have lived through the Ukraine scandal—the secret behind the whistleblower complaint in Schiff’s letter—which revealed that then-president Trump was secretly running his own foreign policy team to strong-arm Ukraine into helping the president’s reelection campaign.

    We lived through the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria in early October 2019, leaving our former Kurdish allies to be murdered by Turkish troops. ISIS freed compatriots from jails and launched new attacks, and Russian troops moved into the positions we had held in the region.

    We lived through the impeachment hearings, the trial of former president Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, then the president’s acquittal on those charges and his subsequent purge of career government officials and their replacement with Trump loyalists.

    Then, on February 7, just two days after Senate Republicans acquitted him, Trump picked up the phone and called veteran journalist Bob Woodward to tell him there was a deadly new virus spreading around the world. It was airborne, he explained, and was five times “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” “This is deadly stuff,” he said. He would not share that information with other Americans, though, continuing to play down the virus in hopes of protecting the economy.

    The pandemic, more than 660,000 of us—1 American in 500—have not lived through.

    We have, though, lived through the attempts of the former president to rig the 2020 election, the determination of American voters to make their voices heard, the Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd, the election of Democrat Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and the subsequent refusal of Trump and his loyalists to accept Biden’s win.

    And we have lived through the unthinkable: an attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob determined to overrule the results of an election and install their own candidate in the White House. For the first time in our history, the peaceful transfer of power was broken.

    Rather than disappearing after the inauguration of President Biden, the reactionary authoritarianism of the former president’s supporters has grown stronger. Senate Republicans acquitted Trump for a second time in his second impeachment trial-- this time for incitement of insurrection-- and in Republican-dominated states across the country, legislatures have passed laws to suppress Democratic voting and to put the counting of votes into partisan hands.

    We have seen the attempts of Biden and the Democratic-controlled Congress to move America past this dark moment by making coronavirus vaccines widely available and passing the American Rescue Plan to rebuild the economy. We have watched the U.S. withdraw from the longest war in our history, losing 13 military personnel in the exit from Afghanistan that brought out more than 130,000 evacuees.

    And we are, today, watching the fight over the survival of our democracy.

    If you are tired, you have earned the right to be.

    And yet, you are still here, reading.

    I write these letters because I love America. I am staunchly committed to the principle of human self-determination for people of all races, genders, abilities, and ethnicities, and I believe that American democracy could be the form of government that comes closest to bringing that principle to reality. And I know that achieving that equality depends on a government shaped by fact-based debate rather than by extremist ideology and false narratives.

    And so I write.

    But I have come to understand that I am simply the translator for the sentiments shared by hundreds of thousands of people who are finding each other and giving voice to the principles of democracy. Your steadfast interest, curiosity, critical thinking, and especially your kindness—to me and to one another—illustrates that we have not only the power, but also the passion, to reinvent our nation.

    To those who read these letters, send tips, proofread, criticize, comment, argue, worry, cheer, award medals (!), and support me and one another: I thank you all for taking me along on this wild, unexpected, exhausting, and exhilarating journey.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 16, 2021 (Thursday)

    Disgraced retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn is endorsing candidates for office.

    Flynn advised former president Trump’s 2016 campaign and was Trump’s first national security adviser. He served for just 22 days before having to resign after news broke that he had lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

    Flynn pleaded guilty to "willfully and knowingly" lying to the FBI but withdrew the plea two weeks before sentencing. Then–attorney general William Barr directed the Department of Justice to drop all charges against Flynn before former president Donald Trump pardoned him on November 25, 2020.

    Just days later, Flynn retweeted a news release from a right-wing Ohio group called “We the People Convention.” That release contained a petition asking Trump to declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, silence the media, and have the military “oversee a national re-vote” of the 2020 election. The petition ended by calling on Trump “to boldly act to save our nation…. We will also have no other choice but to take matters into our own hands, and defend our rights on our own, if you do not act within your powers to defend us.”
    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley immediately opposed Flynn’s suggestion. He distanced the military from talk of a coup. “Our military is very very capable… we are determined to defend the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “No one should doubt that.” A defense official told Military Times that the idea of Trump declaring martial law and having the military redo the election is “insane in a year that we didn’t think could get anymore insane.”
    But Trump did not back down. On December 2, he released a video he said was “maybe the most important speech I’ve ever made.” It was a 46-minute rant insisting that, despite all evidence to the contrary, he won the 2020 election. While he lost virtually every court challenge he mounted and his own attorney general, William Barr, said there was no evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election, Trump insisted that there was “massive” voter fraud and called on the Supreme Court to “do what’s right for our country,” including throwing out hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes so “I very easily win in all states.”

    Flynn had been an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy, taking an oath to it on July 4, 2020. On January 8, 2021, Twitter permanently banned Flynn, along with others who were promoting the views of the QAnon conspiracy that Trump actually won the 2020 election.  

    But, far from disappearing, Flynn has continued to speak to pro-Trump groups and to rebuild his brand, going so far in May as to call for a coup in the U.S. like that happening in Myanmar, where in February the military seized power from the democratically elected government.

    Flynn appears to be regaining ground among Trump loyalists. Yesterday, in Michigan, he endorsed a Republican candidate for secretary of state, the official in charge of elections. The candidate, Kristina Karamo, tweeted that she was honored to receive the endorsement of Flynn, whom she called “a victim of political persecution” who “continues to fight fearlessly for [America]. His selflessness, wisdom, and kindness encourages us all.”

    Today, Flynn endorsed Eric Greitens for a Missouri senate seat. Greitens resigned from the Missouri governorship in 2018, after accusations that he had threatened and assaulted an affair partner and suggestions that he had used an email list from a nonprofit for his political campaign. Greitens resigned in disgrace but is trying to relaunch his political career as a Trump supporter, running for the Senate seat of retiring Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. Greitens has picked up the endorsements of a number of Trump loyalists, although he has not yet received the endorsement of Trump, despite courting it quite eagerly.

    In his announcement of support for Greitens, Flynn made a play for the leadership of the MAGA movement by attacking the Republicans who refused to get on board with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

    His announcement played off Tuesday’s news that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who had opposed his talk of a military coup to keep Trump in office, had reassured his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not attack without provocation and notice despite the former president’s erratic and dangerous behavior during the last weeks of his term. Trump Republicans are demanding Milley’s resignation, but their determination to undermine Milley by portraying him as a tool of what they are calling the “radical left” has been evident for a while. In the spring, Republican lawmakers complained that, as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn [the military] into pansies.” Milley defended the idea that it is important “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read” and said, “I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it.” Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson called him “a pig” and “stupid.”

    In his message endorsing Greitens, Flynn brought these themes together and seemed to be trying to advance his own future in the government in place of Trump: “America needs fighters,” he said. “Worse than the radical leftists, the corrupt Deep State, the mainstream media, and Big Tech are the feckless and spineless Republicans who have utterly surrendered…. [T]hose who betrayed President Trump the most were not the leftists but the cowardly Republicans in Name Only…. We don’t need any more insiders or career politicians in Washington, especially not those with ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” an apparent reference to Milley’s calls with his counterpart in China. Flynn applauded Greitens’ suggestion that the 2020 election was stolen, and then said he was proud to stand with Greitens “in our shared mission to revive our Republic.”

    Flynn seems to be trying to pick up Trump's falling mantle as the former president himself appears to be losing relevance.

    In Tuesday’s recall election in California, Democrats framed the choice as one between Governor Gavin Newsom and his Trump-like chief rival, and voters resoundingly rejected the Republican. Even among Trump’s usual base, his appeal seems to be fading. According to sportswriter Dan Rafael, who specializes in boxing, sources have told him that the September 11 fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort—the fight Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., commented on—garnered only about 150,000 pay-per-view buys, which means it grossed about $7.5 million. This is, Rafael says “a massive $ loser…not remotely close to covering even the purses, not to mention rest of expenses.”

    Flynn’s attempt to reinsert himself into American politics is a story that I’m watching, but the bigger news today is coming out of China, where the country’s second-largest property developer, China Evergrande Group, is tottering. Evergrande has assets of $355 billion; it employs 200,000 staff members and hires about 3.8 million people a year for its different projects.

    The slowing property markets in China and a government crackdown on reckless borrowing have weakened the huge entity. Its collapse would destabilize Chinese banks. People worried about the safety of their investments, and vendors worrying they will not be paid have begun to protest outside the company’s main headquarters; they have been removed by security. Observers expect the Chinese government will help to manage any forthcoming collapse, but the ripples from such a failure will likely be felt around the world.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 17, 2021 (Friday)

    One hundred and fifty nine years ago this week, in 1862, 75,000 United States troops and about 38,000 Confederate troops massed along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

    After a successful summer of fighting, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had crossed the Potomac River into Maryland to bring the Civil War to the North. He hoped to swing the slave state of Maryland into rebellion and to weaken Lincoln’s war policies in the upcoming 1862 elections. For his part, Union general George McClellan hoped to finish off the southern Army of Northern Virginia that had snaked away from him all summer.

    The armies clashed as the sun rose about 5:30 on the clear fall morning of September 17, 159 years ago today. For twelve hours the men slashed at each other. Amid the smoke and fire, soldiers fell. Twelve hours later, more than 2000 U.S. soldiers lay dead and more than 10,000 of their comrades were wounded or missing. Fifteen hundred Confederates had fallen in the battle, and another 9000 or so were wounded or captured. The United States had lost 25% of its fighting force; the Confederates, 31%. The First Texas Infantry lost 82% of its men.

    That slaughter was brought home to northern families in a novel way after the battle. Photographer Alexander Gardner, working for the great photographer Matthew Brady, brought his camera to Antietam two days after the guns fell silent. Until Gardner’s field experiment, photography had been limited almost entirely to studios. People sent formal photos home and recorded family images for posterity, as if photographs were portraits.

    Taking his camera outside, Gardner recorded seventy images of Antietam for people back home. His stark images showed bridges and famous generals, but they also showed rows of bodies, twisted and bloating in the sun as they awaited burial. By any standards these war photos were horrific, but to a people who had never seen anything like it before, they were earth-shattering.

    White southern men had marched off to war in 1861 expecting that they would fight and win a heroic battle or two and that their easy victories over the northerners they dismissed as emasculated shopkeepers would enable them to create a new nation based in white supremacy. In the 1850s, pro-slavery lawmakers had taken over the United States government, but white southerners were a minority and they knew it. When the election of 1860 put into power lawmakers and a president who rejected their worldview, they decided to destroy the nation.

    Eager to gain power in the rebellion, pro-secession politicians raced to extremes, assuring their constituencies that they were defending the true nature of a strong new country and that those defending the old version of the United States would never fight effectively.

    On March 21, 1861, the future vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, laid out the world he thought white southerners should fight for. He explained that the Founders were wrong to base the government on the principle that humans were inherently equal, and that northerners were behind the times with their adherence to the outdated idea that “the negro is equal, and…entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man.” Confederate leaders had corrected the Founders’ error. They had rested the Confederacy on the “great truth” that “the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

    White southern leaders talked easily about a coming war, assuring prospective soldiers that defeating the United States Army would be a matter of a fight or, perhaps, two. South Carolina Senator James Chesnut Jr. assured his neighbors that there would be so few casualties he would be happy to drink all the blood shed in a fight between the South and the North. And so, poorer white southerners marched to war.

    The July 1861 Battle of Bull Run put the conceit of an easy victory to rest. Although the Confederates ultimately routed the U.S. soldiers, the southern men were shocked at what they experienced. “Never have I conceived of such a continuous, rushing hailstorm of shot, shell, and musketry as fell around and among us for hours together,” one wrote home. “We who escaped are constantly wondering how we could possibly have come out of the action alive.”

    Northerners, too, had initially thought the war against the blustering southerners would be quick and easy, so quick and easy that some congressmen brought picnics to Bull Run to watch the fighting, only to get caught in the rout as soldiers ditched their rucksacks and guns and ran back toward the capital. Those at home, though, could continue to imagine the war as a heroic contest.
    They could elevate the carnage, that is, until Matthew Brady exhibited Gardner’s images of Antietam at his studio in New York City. People who saw the placard announcing “The Dead of Antietam” and climbed the stairs up to Brady’s rooms to see the images found that their ideas about war were changed forever.

    “The dead of the battle-field come up to us very rarely, even in dreams,” one reporter mused. “We see the list in the morning paper at breakfast, but dismiss its recollection with the coffee. There is a confused mass of names, but they are all strangers; we forget the horrible significance that dwells amid the jumble of type.” But Gardner’s photographs erased the distance between the battlefield and the home front. They brought home the fact that every name on a casualty list “represents a bleeding, mangled corpse.” “If [Gardner] has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it,” the shocked reporter commented.

    The horrific images of Antietam showed to those on the home front the real cost of war they had entered with bluster and flippant assurances that it would be bloodless and easy. Southern politicians had promised that white rebels fighting to create a nation whose legal system enshrined white supremacy would easily overcome a mongrel army defending the principle of human equality.  

    The dead at Antietam’s Bloody Lane and Dunker Church proved they were wrong. The Battle of Antietam was enough of a Union victory to allow President Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary emancipation proclamation, warning southern states that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State,” where people still fought against the United States, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the…government of the United States…will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons....”

    Lincoln’s proclamation meant that anti-slavery England would not formally enter the war on the side of the Confederates, dashing their hopes of foreign intervention, and in November 1863, Lincoln redefined the war as one not simply to restore the Union, but to protect a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    To that principle, northerners and Black southerners rallied, despite the grinding horror of the battlefields, and in 1865, they defeated the Confederates.

    But they did not defeat the idea the Confederates fought, killed, and died for: a nation in which the law distinguishes among people according to the color of their skin. Today, once again, politicians are telling their followers that such a hierarchy is the best way forward for America, and today, once again, those same politicians are urging supporters to violence against a government that defends the equality before the law for which the men at Antietam—and at Gettysburg and Cold Harbor, and at four years worth of battlefields across the country—gave their lives.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 18, 2021 (Saturday)

    Going to go for an early night tonight.

    I'll leave you with a picture I look from my kayak in yesterday morning's flat calm, and will catch you all tomorrow.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 19, 2021 (Sunday)

    Last Friday, Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie of U.S. Central Command admitted that the August 29 drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that the U.S. had claimed hit ISIS-K fighters had instead killed 10 civilians, including seven children. This “tragic mistake,” as he called it, at the very end of the country’s 20-year engagement in Afghanistan, opens up the larger question of the growing U.S. use of unmanned aerial systems—drones—in warfare.

    Drones are a relatively new technology, and we have not yet had a national discussion about what it means to use them.

    The U.S. began to develop armed drones in the early 21st century and has used them against terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. President George W. Bush used them experimentally, launching 9 drone strikes between 2004 and 2007. In 2008, he launched 34 strikes, illustrating an increasing reliance on the unmanned weapons that spared U.S. lives while disrupting terrorist camps.

    When he took office, President Barack Obama followed the trend toward drone strikes, dramatically increasing their use in the war on terror. S. E. Cupp of the Chicago Sun-Times notes that compiling numbers of drone strikes is difficult but that in 2018, The Daily Beast attributed 186 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia to Obama in his first two years and that the Associated Press and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism counted 154 strikes in Yemen during the eight years of Obama’s tenure. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based think tank, noted 1,878 drone strikes during the eight years of Obama's presidency.

    Obama did add bureaucratic restraints to the use of drones, permitting strikes only against terrorist targets that pose a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.” His administration also provided that “[a]bsent extraordinary circumstances, direct action against an identified high-value terrorist (HVT) will be taken only when there is near certainty that the individual being targeted is in fact the lawful target and located at the place where the action will occur. Also absent extraordinary circumstances, direct action will be taken only if there is near certainty that the action can be taken without injuring or killing non-combatants.” In 2016, under pressure for more transparency on his use of drones, the Obama administration began to publish the number of civilian casualties associated with drone strikes.

    Once Trump took office, his administration wrote new rules for drones, permitting strikes without a threat standard against any person deemed to be a terrorist and allowing military commanders themselves to make strike decisions. It significantly increased the use of drones and revoked the Obama administration’s rule about reporting the number of civilians killed by drone strikes, calling that rule “superfluous.” According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Trump launched 2,243 drone strikes in the first two years of his presidency, a significant jump from the 1,878 launched in Obama's eight years.

    Famously, Trump launched a drone strike against top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020, killing him and nine other people. The UN's expert on extrajudicial killings at the time, Agnès Callamard, said the attack violated international law because the U.S. had not provided evidence that Soleimani presented an imminent threat to justify the attack. The administration responded that she was “giving a pass to terrorists.”

    On his first day in office, President Biden suspended Trump’s rules and began to review how the policies of both Obama and Trump had worked. On July 21, Foreign Policy reported that in its plan to end “forever wars,” the Biden administration had brought drone use to an all-time low.  But his move away from drones got little attention compared to the August 29 drone strike on Biden’s watch that killed 10 civilians.

    American presidents turned to the use of drones because they enabled the U.S. to attack terrorists without risking the same numbers of U.S. soldiers ground operations would require. But scholars note a significant downside to the use of drones. First of all, on occasion, they fall into enemy hands, transferring new technologies that could lead to military proliferation. Second, they lower the bar for military engagement, enabling the U.S. to insert itself into other countries at a much lower cost than in the past, opening the way for permanent hostilities around the world.

    And, third, they kill civilians.

    It is not clear what the ratio of military deaths to civilian deaths actually is: estimates of the civilian casualties from drone strikes range from 30% to 98%. But we do know that the U.S. admitted to killing dozens of civilians at an Afghan wedding in 2008 and more than 100 civilians in a strike on Afghanistan in 2009.

    What seems to be different about the August 29 killing of civilians in Afghanistan is that the U.S. government has admitted the killings, taken responsibility for them, called them “a tragic mistake,” and offered “profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed.”  In the wake of the strike, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered an inquiry into “the degree to which strike authorities, procedures and processes need to be altered in the future.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      September 20, 2021 (Monday)

    So many stories landed today that some will have to wait. Tonight’s news, though, boils down to Republican attempts to retake control of the government in the 2022 elections…and, if Trump has his way, even earlier.

    This morning, CNN revealed another bombshell story from the forthcoming book by veteran reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa: a six-point memo from pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman laying out a plan for then–vice president Mike Pence to steal the 2020 election for Trump.

    The memo started by falsely claiming that seven states had sent competing slates of electors to the President of the Senate; in fact, Trump loyalists demanded their own electors, but each state had certified one official slate of electors. If Pence—or, if Pence recused himself, the then–Senate president pro tempore, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley—rejected the ballots from those seven states, Eastman claimed, Trump would have ten more electoral votes than Biden and would win the election.

    When Democrats howled, Pence could instead assert that neither candidate had a majority and throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state would get a single vote. Since 26 of the 50 states were dominated by Republicans, Trump would win there, too.

    “The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter,” Eastman wrote. “We should take all of our actions with that in mind.”

    Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to convince Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to back the scheme; someone also ran the idea past Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah. Both dismissed it. But, notably, neither revealed this extraordinary attempt to destroy our democracy.

    When Pence ultimately refused to go along, Trump turned on him and told attendees at the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that “if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” He explained that “the number one, or certainly one of the top, Constitutional lawyers in our country,” had offered a plan, and that “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us….”

    Aside from the obvious, Eastman’s memo raises three interesting points. First, it refers to the idea that Pence might hand over the count to Grassley, a plan that needs more investigation. Second, it relies on the work of emeritus Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe, who tweeted that it took snippets of his work out of context to create “a totally fake web of ‘law’ that no halfway decent lawyer would take seriously…. Ludicrous but scary as hell. Think 2024. Those guys mean business....” And, third, it debunks the current right-wing talking point that Trump wanted only to question the results of the election. Clearly, he wanted to be declared the winner.

    Even after President Joe Biden was sworn in, Trump supporters continued to insist that the election had been fraudulent. Famously, the Arizona state senate hired a company called Cyber Ninjas to reexamine the votes from Maricopa County, although the county board of supervisors, a majority of whom were Republicans, had already audited the ballots and the machines and found no problems. The county board strongly opposed the new “audit.”

    The Cyber Ninjas examined ballots for bamboo to see if China had hacked the election, used insecure practices, rejected observers, and finally sent voting information to Montana for analysis. Documents released by the state senate under a court order in late August revealed that groups backed by pro-Trump loyalists Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and two correspondents from the One America News Network paid for the Arizona investigation.

    Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state senate and the Cyber Ninjas had to release the records concerning their activities. Cyber Ninjas is refusing to do so, offering as a reason—among others—that it is busy writing its report (which is already four months late) and document production will take time away from that effort. Its lawyer says it will “produce documents out of goodwill and its commitment to transparency” when it has time, but does not recognize any legal obligation to do so.

    Seeking an Arizona-type “audit” in Pennsylvania, Republicans in that state’s legislature last Wednesday voted to issue subpoenas for personal information of about 6.9 million state voters, including names, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. Republicans say a private company needs that information to fix issues in election procedures uncovered in 2020, but the Republican leader of the investigation has declined to say how the information will be used.

    Democrats sued Friday to stop the release of the voter information, and two Democratic representatives to Congress have asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether the subpoenas could violate federal laws by leading to voter intimidation.

    A new story sheds more light on the election reform Republicans are talking about. On May 6, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis raised eyebrows when he signed a new election law in front of television cameras for the Fox News Channel, excluding all other media. While Republicans insisted they wrote new election laws to prevent voter fraud—despite the lack of evidence of any such widespread fraud—internal emails and text messages from Florida Republicans revealed today by Politico show that their concerns were actually about gaining advantage in the 2022 elections.

    Joe Gruters, the state senator who chairs the Florida Republican Party, repeatedly said in public that the new bill would “make it as easy as possible to vote, and hard as possible to cheat.” But in private text exchanges with state representative Blaise Ingoglia, the former chair of the Florida party, Gruters called for getting rid of existing mail-in ballot requests, saying that keeping them would be “devastating,” since Democrats used them more frequently than Republicans. “We cannot make up ground,” Gruters wrote. “Trump campaign spent 10 million. Could not cut down lead….” Ingoglia told Politico: “This was a policy decision all along and had nothing to do with partisan reasons.”

    Finally, tonight, the immigration issue is back in the news. Republicans have tried to make immigration their key issue for 2022, but the terrible surge in coronavirus in Republican-dominated states like Texas has captured the news cycle. For the past few days, though, the rise in Haitian refugees on the U.S. southern border has reclaimed headlines. Haitians have long come to the southern border for admission to the U.S., but the recent earthquake in Haiti, along with the assassination of the country’s president and hopes that the Biden administration will be welcoming, has brought 12,000–15,000 Haitians in the past few weeks.

    The situation there remains much as it has always been under Biden: the administration kept the public health guidelines established during the pandemic under former president Trump, and it is turning away most adult immigrants and refugees. It has been returning Haitians to Haiti by plane, with seven flights daily set to begin on Wednesday.

    But right-wing media is, once again, insisting that Biden is allowing a flood of immigrants to overrun the U.S. At the same time, images of white border patrol agents on horseback riding down Haitian migrants, with their reins swinging, has horrified those who see in them the history of southern slave patrols hunting enslaved Americans. The Biden administration will have to thread a very thin political needle: disavowing the actions of the border patrol agents without opening itself to Republican attacks that it is “soft” on immigration. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has launched an inquiry into the agents’ behavior.

    For his part, Trump does not want to wait until 2022 for a change in government. On Friday, he wrote to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger charging that 43,000 Georgia ballots were “invalid.” He called for Raffensperger to decertify the 2020 election “and announce the true winner,” warning that the nation “is being systematically destroyed by an illegitimate president and his administration.”

    Trump is under criminal investigation in Georgia for his previous attempts to overturn the state’s election results.


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  • brianluxbrianlux Posts: 38,844
    Re. last nights post, seriously, ya gotta see this!  Intense movie and very telling!
    Good Kill 2014 - IMDb

    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 21, 2021 (Tuesday)
    Tonight, the House of Representatives passed a funding bill that would both keep the government from shutting down and prevent a default on the U.S. debt. The vote was 220 to 211, with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against.

    There are two financial deadlines looming. One is the need for Congress to fund the government. In late December 2020, Congress passed a huge bill that, among other things, funded the government through September 30. The new fiscal year starts on October 1, and if the government is not funded, it will have to shut down, ending all federal activities that are not considered imperative. This year, such activities would include a wide range of programs enacted to combat the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The second deadline is lifting the debt ceiling. That’s the amount of money Congress authorizes the government to borrow. Beginning in 1939, rather than approving individual issues of debt, Congress gave the government more flexibility in borrowing by simply agreeing to an upper limit that included all the different financial instruments the government uses. The debt ceiling is not connected directly to any individual bill, and it is not an appropriation for any specific program. It enables the government to borrow money to pay for programs in bills already passed. If the debt ceiling is not raised when necessary, the government will default on its debts, creating a financial catastrophe.

    There is a long history behind our national funding systems. Until now, the U.S. has always protected its debt. After the Civil War, Democrats were determined to destroy the strong federal government the Republicans had built to fight the Confederacy. They tried to change the terms under which people had invested in wartime national bonds. Horrified at what would undermine confidence in the survival of the Union, the Republicans protected the debt in the Fourteenth Amendment.

    The fourth section of that amendment reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

    Former Confederates challenged the nation through financing once again, in 1879. In that year, in control of Congress for the first time since the Civil War, Democrats refused to pass appropriations bills unless those bills included their own policy priorities, especially the removal of the federal troops still in the South to protect black voting (it is a myth that federal troops left the South in 1877).

    Republican leader and Union veteran James A. Garfield had fought the Confederates on the battlefields and recognized that destroying the government by starving it was no different from destroying it through arms. He urged President Rutherford B. Hayes to veto the Democrats’ appropriations bills, and Hayes did, five times. Democrats backed down, but not before voters turned against them. The next year, voters put Garfield into the White House.

    In the modern era, shutdowns emerged as a policy tool after the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act moved control over budgeting from the executive branch to Congress. Disagreements over funding in President Jimmy Carter’s term had little effect on the country, since government systems continued during them under the assumption that funding would eventually materialize. That changed in the early 1980s, when legal opinions said it was illegal to spend money that hadn’t been appropriated.

    Beginning in the 1980s, government shutdowns became a tool of Republicans determined to cut taxes and dismantle the active government in place since 1933. In November 1981, President Ronald Reagan furloughed more than 240,000 federal workers in a fight with Congress over budget cuts, but full-fledged government shutdowns began in earnest after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 1995 for the first time since 1954.

    Demanding steep budget cuts in Medicare, public health, the environment, and education, House Speaker Newt Gingrich refused to compromise with Democratic president Bill Clinton, who opposed the cuts. Without funding, the federal government shut down all non-essential activity for a total of 28 days between November 1995 and January 1996: National parks shut down, government contracts ceased to operate, applications for visas and passports went unanswered. The crisis pushed Clinton’s poll numbers higher than they had been since his election.

    In 2013, the government shut down again from October 1 to October 17 as Republicans tried to defund the Affordable Care Act. It shut down yet again for its longest stretch in 2019, after then-president Donald Trump demanded $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall from a Congress controlled by his own party.

    To avoid shutdowns, Congress can pass a funding bill or a continuing resolution to give themselves more time to pass such a funding bill. That is part of what is in the bill the House passed this evening: funding until December 3.

    The other part of the House bill is a suspension of the debt ceiling until December 2022, after the midterm elections. Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times since it first went into effect: 18 times under Reagan, and most recently in 2019 under former president Trump, when Democrats joined Republicans in suspending the limit until 2021. In that time, Republicans added about $6.5 trillion to the debt through coronavirus spending and tax cuts.

    Now, though, Senate Republicans are refusing to support an increase in the debt ceiling, trying to force Democrats to separate the continuing resolution that funds the government from the higher debt ceiling.

    What is at stake is the nature of the American government. Republican lawmakers begrudgingly passed social welfare legislation to address the pandemic in the months before the 2020 election, but they are still keen on dismantling a government that regulates business, provides a social safety net, and promotes infrastructure. Creating debt to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans fits their belief that the economy and society are most efficient when successful men are able to run them as they see fit.   

    Biden and the Democrats are trying to counter that worldview with their own belief that the country will work best when the government guarantees everyone equal access to resources and equality before the law. After forty years of the Republicans’ austerity, achieving that equality, including rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, will cost money. At the same time, Democrats do not want to assume full responsibility for increasing the debt ceiling when much of the debt it covers was created by Republicans during the Trump administration.

    Right now, neither side is indicating it will back down. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has voted to raise or suspend the debt ceiling 32 times in his career, including 3 times under Trump (who contributed about $7.8 trillion to today’s $28 trillion national debt), says he will not vote to suspend the debt ceiling and will try to hold his caucus against it. He says it’s the Democrats’ problem.
    A default on the nation’s financial obligations has never happened before and would create an economic crisis echoing the destruction of the nation Garfield talked about in 1879. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says it “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.” Financial services firm Moody's Analytics warned that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9% and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth.

    That Republicans are willing to risk yet another step that will make America look like a failed state is stunning.

    But even if that’s not their ultimate goal, posturing and negotiations over finances are running out the congressional clock while the Democrats’ very popular signature issues—infrastructure and voting rights—languish.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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  • Go Cons, Go! Show them Libs! Own ‘em hard! During the Scamdemic! Go Cons, go!

    Failed State is right, ‘Murica.
    09/15/1998, Mansfield, MA; 08/29/00 08/30/00, Mansfield, MA; 07/02/03, 07/03/03, Mansfield, MA; 09/28/04, 09/29/04, Boston, MA; 09/22/05, Halifax, NS; 05/24/06, 05/25/06, Boston, MA; 07/22/06, 07/23/06, Gorge, WA; 06/29/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield, MA; 08/18/08, O2 London, UK; 10/30/09, 10/31/09, Philadelphia, PA; 05/15/10, Hartford, CT; 05/17/10, Boston, MA; 05/20/10, 05/21/10, NY, NY; 06/22/10, Dublin, IRE; 06/23/10, Northern Ireland; 09/03/11, 09/04/11, Alpine Valley, WI; 09/11/11, 09/12/11, Toronto, Ont; 09/14/11, Ottawa, Ont; 09/15/11, Hamilton, Ont; 07/02/2012, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/04/2012 & 07/05/2012, Berlin, Germany; 07/07/2012, Stockholm, Sweden; 09/30/2012, Missoula, MT; 07/16/2013, London, Ont; 07/19/2013, Chicago, IL; 10/15/2013 & 10/16/2013, Worcester, MA; 10/21/2013 & 10/22/2013, Philadelphia, PA; 10/25/2013, Hartford, CT; 11/29/2013, Portland, OR; 11/30/2013, Spokane, WA; 12/04/2013, Vancouver, BC; 12/06/2013, Seattle, WA; 10/03/2014, St. Louis. MO; 10/22/2014, Denver, CO; 10/26/2015, New York, NY; 04/23/2016, New Orleans, LA; 04/28/2016 & 04/29/2016, Philadelphia, PA; 05/01/2016 & 05/02/2016, New York, NY; 05/08/2016, Ottawa, Ont.; 05/10/2016 & 05/12/2016, Toronto, Ont.; 08/05/2016 & 08/07/2016, Boston, MA; 08/20/2016 & 08/22/2016, Chicago, IL; 07/01/2018, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/03/2018, Krakow, Poland; 07/05/2018, Berlin, Germany; 09/02/2018 & 09/04/2018, Boston, MA;

    "If you're looking down on someone, it better be to extend them a hand to lift them up."

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 22, 2021 (Wednesday)

    CNN’s bombshell revelation of Trump loyalist lawyer John Eastman’s six-point memo of instructions for overturning the 2020 election—discussed in the new book by veteran journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa—seems to be sparking a reckoning with how dangerous the Trump loyalists are to the survival of American democracy.

    Eastman responded to the story by saying the released memo was only a draft and then giving CNN the final version, which was longer but no less damning—just how damning was indicated by two separate things.

    First, J. Michael Luttig, the former United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit whom Pence had asked for advice about whether he could overturn the election results, quickly took to Twitter to distance himself from the story, saying: “I was honored to advise Vice President Pence that he had no choice on January 6, 2021, but to accept and count the Electoral College votes as they had been cast and properly certified by the states…. I believe(d) that Professor Eastman was incorrect at every turn of the analysis in his January 2 memorandum.” Eastman had been Luttig’s law clerk.

    Second, former president Trump promptly sued his niece Dr. Mary L. Trump, the New York Times, and three New York Times reporters, claiming they were part of an “insidious plot” to obtain and publish his tax records “to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall and were further intended to advance their political agenda.” Although the articles accused Trump of tax fraud, the former president did not claim libel or defamation in the suit. Legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Joyce Alene White Vance noted that to win on that point, he would have to prove that the reporting about his finances wasn't true, and he was all but conceding he could not do that.

    Trump used a lawyer that he has not used before to launch the suit, which Mary Trump, whose doctorate is in psychology, dismissed as the work of a desperate “loser” who was “going to throw anything against the wall he can.”

    Eastman was no fly-by-night; he is a senior member of the Federalist Society and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (as well as for Judge Luttig). Eastman’s standing in the so-called conservative movement makes it all the more astonishing that, to my knowledge, no leading Republican lawmaker has commented on the revelations of just how close we came to the installation of Trump instead of the duly elected presidential candidate, Joe Biden, in January.

    Instead, Republican lawmakers are making headlines by refusing even to negotiate over the debt ceiling, simply saying the Democrats are on their own. They appear to be trying to replace one crisis with another, trying to turn public attention away from Trump’s attempted coup to the idea that Democrats are wild spendthrifts (although the Trump administration added about $7.8 trillion of today’s $28 trillion debt, and during his term, Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling three times).

    It is impossible to overstate just how momentous are both an attempted coup and an attempt to force the U.S. to default on its debts.

    Other news about the Trump administration and the January 6 Capitol insurrection is surfacing, as well.

    On Monday, a federal court in Washington, D.C. unsealed an indictment alleging that, with the help of conservative author Doug Wead, Jesse Benton, a political operative from Kentucky closely allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), illegally directed foreign money from a Russian businessman to the 2016 Trump campaign. That the Department of Justice sat on the case for close to five years, even while the question of connections between the Trump campaign and Russians was white hot, suggests political interference with that department.

    On Tuesday, the New York Times broke the story that in November 2020, when leaders from the Trump campaign began insisting before television cameras that the election of two weeks before had been stolen by George Soros and Venezuelans using Dominion voting systems, they had already circulated an internal memo debunking that entire conspiracy theory.

    It seems they knew what they were alleging was false. The document surfaced in a lawsuit: Dominion has sued Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani for defamation. This memo will not help their case.

    Today, Hugo Lowell, congressional reporter for The Guardian, reported that the House select committee investigating the 6 January attack on the U.S. Capitol is considering issuing non-negotiable subpoenas this week for Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and his deputy chief Dan Scavino, as well as Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale.

    A far right Republican from North Carolina, Meadows helped to found the Freedom Caucus and was one of Trump’s closest supporters in Congress before taking the chief of staff job. Scavino ran Trump’s social media accounts—including Twitter—and was one of the former president’s closest confidants. Parscale was the Trump campaign’s digital manager after being replaced as campaign manager in July 2020. Subpoenas for the phone records or testimony of these three men would help the committee members figure out what was happening inside the Oval Office on January 6.  

    Tonight on MSNBC, committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA), a former federal prosecutor who is chair of the House Intelligence Committee and was lead manager for Trump’s first impeachment trial, told anchor Nicolle Wallace that the committee is investigating the activities surrounding January 6 as “a conspiracy to commit a coup.”

    Schiff warned that while Trump loyalists tried to undermine democracy on January 6, mounting evidence suggests that through voter suppression and the replacement of nonpartisan election officials with boards of Trump loyalists, Republican lawmakers are continuing that effort today.

    "We're going to follow the facts," said Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s vice chair. "What happened in the run-up to January 6, what happened on the 6th. What happened after the 6th."


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 23, 2021 (Thursday)

    This evening, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to four key figures in the Trump White House who either were working with or had communications with the White House in the days surrounding the January 6 insurrection: former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Daniel Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel, and former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon.

    The committee’s press release on the subpoenas explains that it is responding to reports that Meadows talked to state officials and people at the Department of Justice to try to overturn the 2020 election and that he talked to individuals organizing the January 6 rally.

    The committee reports that Scavino, who managed the former president’s social media presence, was with Trump on January 5th to figure out how to convince lawmakers not to certify the election for the president-elect, Democrat Joe Biden. The committee continues: “Prior to the January 6th March for Trump, Mr. Scavino promoted the event on Twitter, encouraging people to ‘be a part of history.’ And records indicate that Mr. Scavino was tweeting messages from the White House on January 6, 2021.”

    Kashyap Patel is the interesting name in these subpoenas because he was a Trump loyalist who worked in intelligence and on January 6 was working in the Pentagon. After the election, on November 9, Trump raised eyebrows by installing a new acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller, and the next day he appointed Patel to be Miller’s chief of staff. There, Patel prevented Pentagon officials from talking to the Biden team during the transition, keeping it from receiving intelligence briefings for the weeks before January 6. Patel talked to senior Pentagon officials prior to and on January 6, 2021, about security at the Capitol, and Patel said he and Meadows talked “nonstop” on the day itself.

    Stephen Bannon was a key Trump advisor, urging the former president to stop the count on January 6. On January 5, Bannon met with Trump loyalists at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he urged attendees to “kill the Biden presidency in the crib” and later said that “[a]ll Hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

    The committee has demanded the four witnesses produce documents by October 7 and appear for testimony the following week.

    A different House committee today subpoenaed documents from a different Trump advisor: the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis requires Dr. Steven Hatfill, an advisor to former White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy director Peter Navarro, to produce documents that he has not provided after the committee requested them in April. The committee has emails and documents indicating that the Trump administration ignored the pandemic in order to concentrate on challenging the election. Hatfill must meet the same October 7 deadline as the other White House officials.

    All of these subpoenas focus on Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection. They are a significant ratcheting up of the investigation.

    Trump announced tonight he would fight the subpoenas on the grounds of executive privilege, but that decision is Biden’s, and the White House has said it is not inclined to assert executive privilege over communications involving the insurrection.

    Also tonight, the report from Cyber Ninjas, the company conducting the “audit” into the votes in Arizona’s Maricopa County, was released to news outlets. The report remains a mess and continues to insist that Arizona election processes are flawed, but it says that Biden did indeed win Maricopa County, and thus Arizona…by a higher margin than previously counted.

    Immediately, the office of the Texas secretary of state announced that it has started to conduct a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Harris, and Tarrant. This is interesting timing, especially since there has been no accusation about fraud in that election in those counties. Indeed, Trump loyalist Greg Abbott, Texas’s governor, has called the election in his state “smooth and secure.” But, earlier today, Trump had demanded in a public letter that Abbott must conduct an “audit” of the election because of “fraud” in the count, which Trump won.

    The former president cannot permit the Big Lie to die, especially as the investigation into it heats up. And so Texas is obliging him, not because there is doubt about the election, but because he needs to keep his supporters convinced that our elections are fraudulent. That conviction will come in handy in 2022, but I wonder if the former president isn’t stoking it for a more immediate reason.

    The memo released on Monday, in which Trump loyalist John Eastman laid out the steps the Trump administration was taking to overturn the 2020 election, was written proof that the former president and key members of his inner circle were trying to destroy American democracy.

    If Trump holds true to form, as the damning evidence of that conspiracy mounts, he will egg on his loyalists to back his bid to regain power based on the Big Lie that he has convinced them to believe. According to a new poll by NORC at the University of Chicago, 26% of Americans now believe that “[t]he 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president,” and 8% believe that "[u]se of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency."


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 24, 2021 (Friday)

    On Monday, we learned that after last year’s election, John Eastman, a well-connected lawyer advising former president Donald Trump, outlined a six-point plan to overturn the outcome of the election and install Trump as America’s leader. They planned to cut the voters’ actual choice, Democrat Joe Biden, out of power: as Trump advisor Steve Bannon put it, they planned to “kill the Biden presidency in the crib.” This appears to have been the plan that Trump and his loyalists tried to execute on January 6.

    That is, we now have written proof of an attempt to destroy our democracy and replace it with an autocracy.

    This was not some crazy plot of some obscure dude in a shack in the mountains; this was a plan of the president of the United States of America, and it came perilously close to succeeding. The president of the United States tried to overturn the results of an election—the centerpiece of our democracy—and install himself into power illegitimately.

    If this is not a hair-on-fire, screaming emergency, what is?

    And yet, Republican lawmakers, with the notable exceptions of Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), have largely remained silent about the fact that the head of their party tried to destroy our democracy.

    The best spin on their silence is that in refusing to defend the former president while also keeping quiet enough that they do not antagonize the voters in his base, they are choosing their own power over the protection of our country.

    The other option is that the leaders of the Republican Party have embraced authoritarianism, and their once-grand party—the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party that saved the United States in the 1860s, the party that removed racial enslavement from our fundamental law—has become an existential threat to our nation.

    Democracy requires at least two healthy parties capable of running a government in order to provide oversight for those currently in control of the government and to channel opposition into peaceful attempts to change the country’s path rather than into revolution. But Republicans appear to believe that any Democratic government is illegitimate, insisting that Democrats’ calls for business regulation, a basic social safety net, and infrastructure investment are “socialism” that will destroy the country.

    With Democrats in charge of the federal government, Republicans are cementing their power in the states to support a future coup like the one Eastman described. Using “audits” of the 2020 elections, notably in Arizona but now also in Pennsylvania and Texas, Trump loyalists have convinced their supporters to distrust elections, softening the ground to overturn them in the future. According to a new poll by NORC at the University of Chicago, 26% of Americans now believe that “[t]he 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president,” and 8% believe that "[u]se of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency."

    Arguing that they have to stop the voter fraud they have falsely claimed threw the election to Biden, Republican lawmakers in 18 states have passed more than 30 laws to cut down Democratic voting and cement their own rule. Trump supporters have threatened election workers, prompting them to quit, and have harassed school board members and local officials, driving them from office.

    Although attorneys general are charged with nonpartisan enforcement of the law, we learned earlier this month that in September 2020, 32 staff members of Republican attorneys general met in Atlanta, where they participated in “war games” to figure out what to do should Trump not be reelected. The summit was organized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, the fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which sent out robocalls on January 5 urging recipients to march to the Capitol the following day “to stop the steal.” In May, RAGA elevated the man responsible for those robocalls to the position of executive director, prompting others to leave.

    In states where Republicans have rigged election mechanics, party members need to worry about primary challengers from the right, rather than Democratic opponents. So they are purging from the party all but Trump loyalists, especially as the former president is backing challengers against those who voted in favor of his impeachment in the House in January 2021. Last week, one of those people, Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), announced he was retiring, in part because of right-wing threats against his family.

    Trump loyalists are openly embracing the language of authoritarianism. In Texas, Abbott is now facing a primary challenger who today tweeted: “Texans deserve a strong and robust leader committed to fighting with them against the radical Left. They deserve a leader like Brazil has in Jair Bolsonaro…..” Bolsonaro, a right-wing leader whose approval rating in late August was 23%, is threatening to stay in power in Brazil against the wishes of its people. He claims that the country’s elections are fraudulent and that “[e]ither we’ll have clean elections, or we won’t have elections.”

    Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) today used language fascists have used in the past to stoke hatred of their political opponents, tweeting that “ALL House Democrats are evil and will kill unborn babies all the way up to birth and then celebrate.” Yesterday, the leader of Turning Points U.S.A., Charlie Kirk, brought the movement’s white nationalism into the open when he told a YouTube audience that Democrats were backing “an invasion of the country” to bring in “voters that they want and that they like” and to work toward “diminishing and decreasing white demographics in America.” He called for listeners to “[d]eputize a citizen force, put them on the border, give them handcuffs, get it done.”

    Today, we learned that the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will be held in Budapest, Hungary, where leader Viktor Orbán, whom Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson has openly admired, is dismantling democracy and eroding civil rights. When former vice president Mike Pence spoke in Budapest earlier this week at a forum denouncing immigration and urging traditional social values, he told the audience he hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon outlaw abortion thanks to the three justices Trump put on the court.

    Establishment Republicans who are now out of power are not on board the Trump train. They are quietly backing anti-Trumpers like Representative Cheney. Former House speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, former Florida governor Jeb Bush—who was widely expected to win the Republican nomination in 2016, only to be shut out of it by Trump—and former president George W. Bush's former adviser Karl Rove have all donated money to Cheney to help her stave off a challenge from a Trump loyalist in the 2022 election. Next month, former president Bush himself will hold a fundraiser for Cheney in Texas.

    Other establishment Republicans currently in power might be staying quiet about the party’s slide toward authoritarianism because they are simply hoping that the Trump fire will burn itself out. The former president is no longer commanding the crowds he once did, and his increasing legal woes as well as the investigation into the insurrection will almost certainly take up his time and energy. The mounting coronavirus deaths among his unvaccinated supporters also stand to weaken support for his faction.

    But the fact that Republican lawmakers have ignored the Eastman memo, which outlines the destruction of our democracy, suggests that the party, which organized in the 1850s to protect the nation against those who would destroy it, has come full circle.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 25, 2021 (Saturday)

    For weeks now, I have vowed that I would finish these letters early and get to bed before midnight, and for weeks now, I have finally finished around three in the morning. That was not the case two years ago, when I started writing these at the start of the Ukraine crisis: it was rare enough for me to be writing until midnight that I vividly remember the first time it happened.

    I got to thinking today about why things seem more demanding today than they did two years ago, and it strikes me that what makes the writing more time consuming these days is that we have two all-consuming stories running in parallel, and together they illuminate the grand struggle we are in for the survival of American democracy.

    On the one hand we have the former president and the attempts by him and his loyalists to seize control of our country regardless of the will of the majority of voters, while Republican Party leaders are refusing to speak out in the hopes that they can retain power to continue advancing their agenda.

    Since the 1980s, this branch of the Republican Party has tried to dismantle the government in place since the 1930s that tries to protect equality in America, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure. Members of this faction of the Republican Party—the faction that is now in control of it—want to take the government back to the 1920s, when businessmen controlled the government, operating it to try to create a booming economy without regard for social or environmental consequences.

    Although initially unhappy at Donald Trump’s elevation to the White House, that faction embraced him as he advanced the tax cuts, deregulation, and destruction of government offices they believed were central to freeing businessmen to advance the economy. Believing that Democrats’ determination to use the government to level the playing field among Americans would destroy the individualism that supports the economy, they had come to believe that Democrats could not legitimately govern the country. And so, members of this Republican faction did not back away when Trump refused to accept the election of a Democratic president in 2020.

    Almost a year later, the leadership of the Republican Party, composed now as it is of Trump loyalists, is undermining our democracy. It has fallen in line behind Trump’s Big Lie that he and not Biden won the 2020 election, and that the Democratic Party engaged in voter fraud to install their candidate. This is a lie, but Republicans at the state level are using that lie to justify new election laws that suppress Democratic votes and put control of state elections into their own hands. If those laws are allowed to stand, we will be a democracy in name only. We will likely still have elections, but, just as in Russia or Hungary now, the mechanics of the system will mean that only the president’s party can win.

    This attack on our democracy is unprecedented, and it cannot be ignored. Tonight, for example, Trump held a “rally” in Perry, Georgia, where, to cheers, he straight up lied that the recent “audit” in Arizona proved he won the 2020 election. And yet, to overemphasize the antics of the former president and his supporters enables them to grow to larger proportions than they deserve, feeding their power. Tonight, for example, Newsmax and OAN covered Trump’s rally live, but the Fox News Channel did not, and the audience appeared bored.  

    On the other hand, in contrast to the former president's party, President Joe Biden and the Democrats are trying to demonstrate that democracy actually works. Rather than simply fighting the Republicans, which would permit the Republicans to define the terms under which they govern, they are defending the active government the Republicans have set out to destroy. Biden has been clear since he took office that he intends to strengthen democracy abroad, where it is under pressure from rising autocratic governments, by strengthening it at home.

    To that end, he and the Democrats in Congress have aggressively worked to pass legislation that benefits ordinary Americans. The wait for such legislation to appear can be frustrating, but that is in part because the Democrats are actually doing the kind of work that used to be commonplace in Congress: hammering out compromises, finding votes, arguing, amending legislation.

    Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a letter she sent to her caucus, telling members they must vote this week to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government, as well as the two major infrastructure bills on which they have been working for months: the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. While news stories have often turned the negotiations over these bills into a fight between moderate and progressive Democrats, it is important to remember that while a handful of Republicans were willing to agree to rebuild roads and bridges and to bring broadband to rural areas, most of them are simply not negotiating at all. They reject the idea that the government should invest in infrastructure, especially that kind outlined in the Build Back Better measure: infrastructure involving childcare, elder care, and climate change. And if they can run out the clock and convince voters that government can’t get anything done, so much the better.

    Democrats disagree about the details of their measures—exactly as one would expect from a big-tent party—but they all accept the principle that the government should actively help ordinary Americans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) might disagree on the size of the infrastructure package they want, but they both agree that the government should support infrastructure.

    Republicans reject that idea, standing instead on the principle that the government should simply stay out of the way of businessmen, who are better equipped to manage the country than bureaucrats. The Charles Koch–backed Americans for Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business are all pouring money into defeating the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill, warning: “A government takeover of our economy is a fundamental departure from the spirit of entrepreneurialism we’ve relied on for generations to drive prosperity, and there’s only one outcome—unmitigated economic disaster that will be difficult to reverse.”  

    The profound disagreement between the Republicans and the Democrats over the role of government has led to a profound crisis in our democracy. Democrats’ argument that the government should work for ordinary Americans is popular, so popular that Republicans have apparently given up convincing voters their way is better. Through voter suppression, gerrymandering, the filibuster, and the Electoral College, and now with new election laws in 18 states, they have guaranteed that they will retain control no matter what voters actually want. Their determination to keep Democrats from power has made them abandon democracy.

    For their part, Democrats are trying to protect the voting rights at the heart of our democracy, believing that if all eligible Americans can vote, they will back a government that works for the people.

    And so, the task of writing these letters has gotten more complicated of late. I try to detail the growing threat that the Republicans will succeed in destroying our democracy while also explaining the ways in which the Biden administration is trying to move beyond the current crisis to demonstrate the vitality of American democracy.

    And, always, I try to keep front and center that these fights are not academic. They are, fundamentally, a fight to determine whether a nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...can long endure.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 26, 2021 (Sunday)

    All signs suggest that this coming week, politics are going to be hopping. It's a good time to take a breath and rest up for what's on the horizon.

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 27, 2021 (Monday)

    Today, the Senate considered a bill to fund the government until December and to raise the debt ceiling. The Republicans joined together to filibuster it.

    Such a move is extraordinary. Not only did the Republicans vote against a measure that would keep the government operating and keep it from defaulting on its debt—debt incurred before Biden took office—but they actually filibustered it, meaning it could not pass with a simple majority vote. The Republicans will demand 60 votes to pass the measure in the hope of forcing Democrats to pass it themselves, alone, under the system of budget reconciliation.

    This is an astonishing position. The Republicans are taking the country hostage to undercut the Democrats. If Congress does not fund the government by Thursday, the government will shut down. And if the country goes into default sometime in mid-October, the results will be catastrophic.

    We are in this position now because Congress last December funded the government through this September 30 as part of a huge bill. The new fiscal year starts on October 1, and if the government is not funded, it will have to shut down, ending all federal activities that are not considered imperative. This year, such activities would include a wide range of programs enacted to combat the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Republicans have said they are willing to pass a stand-alone funding bill. That is, they are willing to continue to spend money going forward, even though to do so at the rate they want means raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, Senators Bill Cassidy, (R-LA), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Richard Shelby (R-AL) joined McConnell today to try to pass a new funding bill that would provide disaster relief to Louisiana and Alabama in the wake of Hurricane Ida and fund the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). They complained that “disaster assistance is long overdue” and that “it’s critical” to extend flood insurance “so homeowners are covered come the next storm.”

    But while willing to add to the debt, they refuse either to raise taxes or to raise or suspend the debt ceiling that would enable the government to pay for it.

    The debt ceiling is the amount of money Congress authorizes the government to borrow. Congress started authorizing a general amount of debt during World War I to give the government more flexibility in borrowing by simply agreeing to an upper limit rather than by specifying different issues of debt, as it had always done before. That debt limit is not connected directly to any individual bill, and it is not an appropriation for any specific program. Nowadays, it simply enables the government to borrow money to pay for programs in laws already passed. If the debt ceiling is not raised when necessary, the government will default on its debts, creating a financial catastrophe.

    So, while a measure to fund the government is forward looking, enabling the government to spend money, a measure to raise the debt ceiling is backward looking. It enables the government to pay the bills it has already run up.

    Not funding the government means it will have to shut down; not paying our debts means catastrophe. Both of these measures will hobble the economic recovery underway; refusing to manage the debt ceiling will collapse the economy altogether and crash our international standing just as President Biden is trying to reassert the strength of democracy on the world stage.

    Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republicans are trying to tie the debt ceiling to the idea that Democrats are big spenders. They are determined to stop the passage of Biden’s signature infrastructure packages, both on the table this week: a smaller bipartisan package that funds road and bridge repair as well as the spread of broadband into rural areas, and a larger package that funds child care and elder care infrastructure, as well as measures to combat climate change, over the next ten years.

    Both infrastructure measures are popular, and if they become laws, they will reverse the process of dismantling the active New Deal government in which Republicans have engaged since 1981. The Republicans are determined to prevent at least Biden’s larger package from passing. Killing it will keep in place their efforts to whittle the government down even further, while it will also destroy Biden’s signature legislative effort.

    But the Republican link of the debt ceiling to Biden’s infrastructure package is disingenuous.

    Raising the debt ceiling will enable the government to pay for debts it has already incurred. The Republicans themselves voted three times during Trump’s presidency to raise that ceiling, while they added $7.8 trillion to the national debt, bringing it to its current level of $28 trillion. Further, Biden has vowed to pay for his new package in part by restoring some—not all—of the corporate taxes and taxes on our wealthiest citizens that the Republicans slashed in 2017.

    This, Republicans utterly reject.

    McConnell maintains that he does not want the U.S. to default on its debt; he just wants to force the Democrats to shoulder the responsibility for handling it, enabling Republicans to paint them as spendthrifts.

    It is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility, driving the U.S. toward a disastrous fiscal cliff in order to gain partisan advantage. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warns that a default “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.” Financial services firm Moody's Analytics warned that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth.

    The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. Today Senate Republicans voted to make that happen.

    In 1866, the year after the Civil War ended, Congress dealt with a similar challenge to the national debt. Democrats eager to undermine the United States wanted to protect the debt the Confederates had run up to rebel against the government, while demanding that the debt the United States had incurred to fight that war be renegotiated. Recognizing the ultimate power of financing to determine the fate of the nation, the Republicans in charge of the federal government settled the issue of the debts assumed by the two sides by writing their terms into the Fourteenth Amendment.

    To pull the financial rug out from under former Confederates so they could not raise money to go back to war, the Republicans wrote in the fourth section of the amendment that “all…debts, obligations, and claims” of the former Confederacy “shall be held illegal and void.”

    And, to keep the Democrats from destroying the government, the Republicans wrote into the Fourteenth Amendment that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…, shall not be questioned.”

    The Democrats will likely split today’s measure in two so they can fund the government ahead of Thursday’s deadline and focus on the infrastructure bills also on the table this week. They will deal with the debt ceiling themselves, later.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 28, 2021 (Tuesday)

    Today, the fight over the debt ceiling continued. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that breaching the debt ceiling would delay Social Security payments and military paychecks, as well as jeopardizing the status of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered Senate Republicans “a way out” from having to participate in raising the ceiling, despite the fact that the Republicans had added $7.8 trillion to the now-$28 trillion debt during Trump’s term. Schumer asked for unanimous consent to pass a debt ceiling increase with a simple majority that the Democrats could provide alone.

    Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked the effort. “There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy, so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible,” he said.

    It is hard to escape the conclusion that McConnell is deliberately running out Congress’s clock, and it is hard to ignore that the big item on the Senate’s agenda is the Freedom to Vote Act, which Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Angus King (I-ME) have worked to hammer out in place of the voting rights bills passed by the House.

    The Freedom to Vote Act protects the right to vote. It also bans partisan gerrymandering.

    States have already begun to carve up districts based on the 2020 census numbers. The Texas legislature, for one, has gerrymandered its state—one that is imperative for the Republicans to hold for the 2024 presidential election—to protect Republicans and underrepresent Black and Latino voters, who tend to vote Democratic. (Growth in the Latino population is what gave the state two new representatives.) If Texas redistricting is completed by November 15, the candidate filing period will end on December 13. At that point, after candidates have filed according to established district lines, it will be significantly harder for courts to overturn those lines before the 2022 election.

    So if McConnell can tie up Democrats over the absolutely must-pass debt ceiling increase and can stave off a voting rights bill, Republican gerrymandering might well survive for the 2022 election.

    Indeed, the political news out of Washington must all be read with an eye to the 2022 election, including the other big story from today: the testimony of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and General Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Before his testimony, Milley submitted a statement that was quietly remarkable. A highly decorated career soldier, Milley was appointed by former president Trump and, after making the mistake of walking with Trump across Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square in June 2020 for the former president’s ill-received photo-op with a Bible, has become a principled and outspoken advocate for the military’s defense of the United States Constitution, even, when necessary, against domestic enemies.

    In his statement, Milley laid out the course of the war in Afghanistan. He noted that in 20 years there, more than 800,000 U.S. military personnel served; 2,461 were killed in action, 20,698 were wounded, and countless others came home with internal scars. Milley expressed his opinion that their service in Afghanistan prevented another attack on America from terrorists based there.  

    Then Milley talked of our exit from the country, emphasizing that it is a mistake to focus only on our rushed exit in August. In 2011, we began a long-term drawdown of troops from their peak of 97,000 U.S. troops and 41,000 NATO troops. On February 29, 2020, when the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban, there were 12,600 U.S. troops, 8,000 NATO troops, and 10,500 contractors in Afghanistan. With that agreement, known as the Doha Agreement, we agreed to withdraw if the Taliban met seven conditions that would lead to a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, while we agreed to eight conditions.   

    Milley wrote that the Taliban honored only one of its seven required conditions: it did not attack U.S. personnel. It did not cut ties to al Qaeda, and it significantly increased, rather than decreased, its attacks on Afghan civilians. Nonetheless, in the 8 months after the agreement, “we reduced US military forces from 12,600 to 6,800, NATO forces from 8,000 to 5,400 and US contractors from 9,700 to 7,900….”

    On November 9, 2020, six days after the presidential election, Milley and then–Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recommended stopping the withdrawal until the Taliban met the required conditions. Two days later, on November 11, then-president Trump ordered the military to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan by January 15, 2021. Blindsided, military officers were able to talk Trump out of that rushed timetable, but on November 17, Trump ordered Milley to reduce troop levels to 2,500 no later than January 15.

    So, when President Biden took office, only about 3,500 U.S. troops, 5,400 NATO troops, and 6,300 contractors were still in Afghanistan, leaving him with the problem that he would have either to leave altogether or to put in more troops in anticipation of resumed hostilities with the Taliban. Biden ordered a review of the situation and ultimately decided to withdraw from the country altogether.

    Milley went on to explain some of the issues that have preoccupied pundits. He said he saw no predictions that the Afghan Army would melt away in 11 days. “The speed, scale and scope of the collapse was a surprise.” He said that holding the Bagram air base would have required 5,000–6,000 additional troops and that staying on after the August 31 deadline would have required 15,000–20,000 more troops, who would have faced significant risks, including the likelihood of casualties. “While it was militarily feasible,” he wrote, “we assessed the cost to be extraordinarily high…. Therefore, we unanimously recommended that the military mission be transitioned on 31 August to a diplomatic mission in order to get out the remaining American citizens.” In response to a question from Senator King, Milley put it more clearly: “On the first of September, we were going to go to war again with the Taliban. Of that there was no doubt.”

    In short, Milley’s statement was a clear explanation of the last year and a half of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and it placed the blame for the messy withdrawal largely on Trump, rather than Biden, despite Milley's own advice to Biden that the new president keep in place the troops remaining there when he took office.

    But that did not reflect the questioning of the Republicans on the committee. They focused not on finding out about the failures—or successes—of our time in Afghanistan, but on attacking Milley himself. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted that the Republicans “assassinated his character and impugned his patriotism, accusing him of aiding the enemy and of placing his own vanity before the lives of the men and women serving under him.” Milley explained that recent reports of his having communicated with his Chinese counterpart to assure him the U.S. would not attack in the last day's of Trump's term were incomplete: he was authorized to do so by law, did so with the knowledge and advice of Esper and other administration officials, and made the calls with a significant number of people in the room.

    Nonetheless, Republicans berated him, often not permitting him to respond. They seemed to be following the pattern established at hearings during the Trump administration of creating sound bites for later right-wing media stories. In this case, though, there is a deeper story: they are continuing the right-wing media’s undermining of the military officers who defended our Constitution.

    The Republicans accused Milley of working with “the Chinese Communist Party” and leaking “private conversations with the president.” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) suggested that Milley was personally responsible for the deaths of the 13 personnel killed in the last days of the Afghanistan evacuation and told him: “General, I think you should resign.”

    It’s hard to miss the mechanics and narratives being set up for 2022.

    “I have served this Nation for 42 years,” Milley wrote in his statement. “I’ve spent years in combat and buried a lot of my troops who died while defending this country. My loyalty to this Nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn’t changed and will never change as long as I have a breath to give. My loyalty is absolute.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 29, 2021 (Wednesday)

    We are coming down to the wire for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.

    This bill was hammered out earlier in September by a group of senators trying to find common ground with conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who objected to the sweeping For the People Act passed by the House. The Freedom to Vote Act pared down that larger bill but retained its most important pieces. It creates a national standard for voting rules and tries to stop voter suppression, modernizes voter registration, and replaces old, paperless voting machines with new ones that have a voter-verified paper trail. It slows the flood of money into our elections and ends partisan gerrymandering. It establishes strict rules for post-election audits.

    This defense of voting is popular. A Data for Progress poll found that 70% of likely voters support the act. That number includes 85% of self-identified Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 54% of Republicans.

    Manchin maintains that he can find 10 Republican senators to join the Democrats to get 60 votes, enabling the measure to overcome a Republican filibuster. But there is, so far, no sign that those votes are materializing, and every day that goes by brings us closer to having gerrymandered district lines hardened into place before the 2022 election. Indeed, the stonewalling by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of Democratic attempts to lift the debt ceiling is wasting time that otherwise would be given to the voting rights bill.

    If Manchin cannot find ten Republican votes, the measure will die unless the Senate agrees to block a filibuster on it, as it has done for judicial appointments. A simple majority cannot pass it, even though the 50 Democratic senators (who would make a majority of 51 if Vice President Kamala Harris were called in to break a tie) represent about 40.5 million more Americans than the 50 Republican senators. (The U.S. has about 328 million people.)

    It is imperative that this bill become law. Without it, the Republicans will almost certainly regain control of Congress, and with new voter suppression and election-counting laws in place in 18 Republican-dominated states, they will likely command the Electoral College as well. Once installed in power, will this particular incarnation of the Republican Party ever again permit a Democratic victory?

    Congress today illustrated the importance of making sure all Americans have the right to choose their lawmakers.

    The media focused on the intraparty fighting of the Democrats over a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that is supposed to be linked to the $1 trillion bipartisan package, but it is important to remember that the only reason anyone is even discussing an infrastructure package is because voting rights activist Stacey Abrams helped so many Georgians register to vote in 2020 that they were able to overcome Republican roadblocks and elect two Democratic senators. Without Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff, the two men who gave the Democrats 50 seats in the Senate to shift the majority from the Republicans, we would not be having this discussion at all.

    Both infrastructure bills are popular. Americans support the bipartisan bill by 51% to 19% (with 30% unsure). About 62% of Americans like the larger package, despite a price tag that seems larger than it really is, since it spreads out funding for ten years. Even among Republicans, more like it than dislike it, at 47% to 44%.

    But it took months of negotiations to secure the ten Republican votes necessary on the smaller package to get it past a filibuster of the other Republican senators, and the Republicans are united in their opposition to the larger bill.

    Our right to vote was also on the table as our most effective tool for stopping the Republican Party’s current fall into authoritarianism.

    After yesterday’s hearing in the Senate, Senator Angus King (I-ME) told reporters that the Senate Armed Services Committee had had only one hearing all last year when the Republicans were in control of the Senate. Washington reporter Laura Rozen recounted the conversation on Twitter. Since the Democrats retook control of the Senate, King said, they have held five hearings. But he pointed out that senators in yesterday’s hearing spent a great deal of time asking questions about the decisions to withdraw from Afghanistan, a decision made by former president Trump and unquestioned either as he made it or as he quickly began withdrawing troops. King noted that those questions should have been asked a year ago.

    In today’s hearings before the House Armed Services Committee, Republicans defended the former president and attacked the man who helped to stop his takeover of the U.S. government, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley.

    They insisted that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was “an extraordinary disaster” that “will go down in history as one of the greatest failures of American leadership,” although it was former president Trump who set the terms of the withdrawal and tried to make it happen in the dead of winter, which would almost certainly not have permitted the successful airlift of 130,000 Americans and allies that the military ultimately pulled off. (Interestingly, Milley also explained that U.S. commanders missed that the Afghan army and government would crumble because the withdrawal of tactical advisers over the past few years hurt U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities.)

    Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Ronny Jackson (R-TX) did not simply defend Trump, though. They demanded that Milley resign. Gaetz repeatedly interrupted and berated the general, who has served the United States in uniform for more than 40 years—two years longer than Gaetz has been alive.

    The attacks on Milley were not simply partisanship. They are part of a longer crusade of the pro-Trump forces against the man who stood against Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. For months now, right-wing media has attacked Milley and called for his ouster, complaining that his support for minority rights and desire to understand white rage has weakened the military.

    Finally, the importance of our right to choose our lawmakers showed up in today’s fight over funding the government before the end of the day tomorrow, when funding passed as part of a huge package in December 2020 ends.

    Democrats tried earlier to pass a funding bill that also addressed the debt ceiling, only to have Senate Republicans filibuster it, falsely claiming that raising the debt ceiling was a free pass for Democrats to spend on their infrastructure bill (in fact, lifting the ceiling permits the government to pay debts already incurred, and the Democrats want to pay for their infrastructure bill by clawing back some of the tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy the Republicans passed in 2017). But if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill, the government will have to shut down, likely hobbling the economic recovery.

    So, tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced he will bring a bill to the Senate floor tomorrow for a vote. From there, it will go to the House and should be in front of President Joe Biden for his signature before midnight. The bill is “clean,” as Republicans demanded, in that it doesn’t include the debt ceiling issue. But Republicans did secure the right to offer amendments. According to Washington Post reporter Tony Romm, Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) plans to try to add to the bill a provision to stop the government from enforcing Biden’s vaccine mandate on companies with more than 100 workers.

    House Democrats passed a bill raising the debt ceiling today, but Republican senators are expected to kill it. The clock will continue to tick down toward a U.S. default on its debt…and on Congress’s ability to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     September 30, 2021 (Thursday)

    Tonight, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that extends funding for the government until December 3, 2021. The government won’t shut down tomorrow.

    In the Senate, Republican Tom Cotton (R-AR) tried to amend the measure to stop aid for Afghan refugees who were evacuated to the United States. That amendment reflected the demands of former president Donald Trump, who insisted that Republicans should oppose the bill, calling it “a major immigration rewrite that allows Biden to bring anyone he wants from Afghanistan for the next year—no vetting, no screening, no security—and fly them to your community with free welfare and government-issued IDs.” Trump suggested they would bring “horrible assaults and sex crimes” that would be “just be the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming if this isn’t shut down.”

    For all their talk of concern about taking care of our Afghan allies during the evacuation of Afghanistan, all 50 Republican senators voted for Cotton’s measure. Democrats killed it on a strict party line vote.

    Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) also tried to amend the bill. He wanted to prohibit the use of federal funds to implement vaccine requirements for the coronavirus. This failed, too, but only after all Republicans voted for it.

    The Senate went on today to confirm Rohit Chopra to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for a five-year term. Chopra worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to establish the CFPB after the financial crisis of 2008, and in its first five years it recovered about $11.7 billion for some 27 million consumers. Former president Trump appointed former South Carolina representative Mick Mulvaney to head the bureau while he was also the director of the Office of Management and Budget; when he was in Congress, Mulvaney had introduced legislation to abolish the bureau. At its head, Mulvaney zeroed out the bureau’s budget and set about dismantling it.

    When he took office, Biden began to rebuild the bureau and, in mid-February, appointed Chopra to head it, but Republicans objected to him. Now, more than seven months later, with Republicans insisting he would be anti-business, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote to confirm his appointment.

    The rest of the congressional day was consumed with Democrats trying to hash out a final version of the Build Back Better infrastructure bill. While the Republicans largely sat the debate out—they oppose the Build Back Better plan altogether—conservative Democrats want to pass a smaller $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure before taking up the larger $3.5 trillion measure currently under discussion. That smaller measure focuses on repairing roads and bridges and extending broadband, and lobbyists for construction industries are very keen indeed on getting it into law.

    But progressive Democrats cut a deal months ago that the smaller measure would go forward together with the larger one, and they are refusing to allow conservatives to change the terms of that deal now. The Build Back Better bill appropriates $3.5 trillion over ten years to expand child care and elder care, expand Medicare, cut prescription drug prices, provide two years of community college, extend the child tax credit, and combat climate change.

    Aside from the measure itself, there are two issues at stake in the debate over it.

    The first is about how the Democrats should interpret their victory in 2020. Conservative Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) appear to think the Democrats should limit the scope of their legislation to try to pick up moderate Republican votes in the future. More progressive Democrats, led by Pramila Jayapal (WA), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, believe the Democrats were elected to pass laws that help ordinary Americans who have felt unrepresented by Republicans.

    The other fight behind the Build Back Better measure is over how Americans choose to spend their tax dollars. Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats like Manchin, believe that spending $3.5 trillion on human infrastructure is a waste of money and that the new programs will create an “entitlement mentality.”

    In contrast, though, Congress spends very little time discussing the defense budget, which, at its current rate, would cost $7.78 trillion over the next ten years. That amount is significantly higher than the defense spending of any other nation in the world. In 2020, the U.S. spent $778 billion on defense, making up 39% of our overall spending. China, the country with the next highest defense budget, spent 13% of its overall spending on defense at $252 billion, India spent 3.7% at $72.9 billion, Russia spent 3.1% at $61.7 billion, and the United Kingdom spent 3% at $59.2 billion.

    At the heart of the question of how we spend our tax dollars, of course, is who pays those tax dollars. The Biden administration wants to fund the Build Back Better plan not by borrowing, but by closing tax loopholes and clawing back some of the 2017 cuts to corporate taxes and income taxes on the nation’s highest earners. At Rolling Stone today, reporters Andy Kroll and Geoff Dembicki wrote that political groups funded by the network of right-wing libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, who is deeply invested in fossil fuels, are pouring money and effort into killing the Build Back Better plan.

    Meanwhile, the Senate still has not taken up either of the two voting rights acts passed by the House or the Freedom to Vote Act hammered out this month by Democratic senators led by Manchin.

    Yesterday, the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab released a report that noted the new voter suppression laws in place in 18 Republican-dominated states but focused instead on 17 new election subversion laws in 11 of those same states. Those new laws put into place the policies former president Trump’s campaign demanded in 2020. They threaten election officials with prosecution if they send out mail-in ballots to anyone who has not requested one, require legislatures to agree to changes in election rules, transfer control of elections or reporting results from nonpartisan officials to political operatives, and allow candidates to demand recounts at will.

    A new law in Arizona, for example, “shifts control of election litigation from the secretary of state (currently a Democrat) to the attorney general (currently a Republican). The provision is designed to sunset on January 2, 2023, when a new attorney general potentially takes office.”

    “When Voting Rights Lab launched a few years ago, we knew we’d be busy tracking many disturbing, and oftentimes veiled efforts to suppress the vote of historically excluded Americans,” the report concludes. “What we couldn’t have anticipated at that time was that current officeholders would warp the election process itself….”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      October 1, 2021 (Friday)

    For those of you exhausted by this week’s news, you can take a break tonight. Lots of moving pieces are in play, but nothing that would hold a historian to her desk a hundred years from now, so skip this letter with a clean conscience.

    For those of you who do want some reflections, I am struck today by the media’s breathless recounting of how the ongoing negotiations over the two infrastructure bills shows that the Democrats are in disarray and President Joe Biden’s agenda is crashing and burning. The New York Times called a delay in the vote on the measures “a humiliating blow to Mr. Biden and Democrats” and wondered if “Biden’s economic agenda could be revived.”

    Exactly a year ago, the news reported that Trump adviser Hope Hicks had coronavirus and that she had recently traveled with White House personnel on Air Force One. The stock market dropped 400 points on the news. The previous day had been the infamous presidential debate when Trump yelled and snarled at Biden, while his entourage, including Hicks, refused to wear masks despite a mandate that they must do so. We did not know who else might be infected.

    Hours later, we learned that the president and First Lady were both sick, and within hours the president would be hospitalized.

    The rest of the news provided a snapshot of the Trump presidency:

    •A study of more than 38 million English-language articles about the pandemic between January 1 and May 26 showed that Trump was “likely the largest driver of…Covid-19 misinformation.”

    •Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster, told MSNBC that Trump was “aiding and abetting Putin’s efforts” to disrupt the November election.

    •We learned that Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, had not disclosed that in 2006, she signed an anti-abortion ad in the South Bend Tribune. It appeared near another ad from the same organization that called for putting “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children.”

    •A tape leaked of Melania Trump complaining about having to decorate the White House for Christmas—“I’m working… my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?”—and then said of criticism that she was not involved with the children separated from their parents at the southern border: “Give me a f****** break.”

    •News broke that Donald Trump, Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, had left the Fox News Channel after an employee complained of sexual harassment, saying she required the employee to work at her apartment, where she would sometimes be naked, and where she would share inappropriate photos of men and discuss her sexual activities with them. She denied any misconduct, but FNC settled the case against her for $4 million.

    •The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief measure. No Republicans voted for it.

    •Right-wing conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged with four felonies in Michigan for intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election laws, and using a computer to commit a crime.

    •Claiming he wanted to prevent “voter fraud,” Republican governor Greg Abbott of Texas limited the number of locations for dropping off mail-in ballots to one site per county. While Republican counties tended to have just one location already, Democratic Harris County, the third largest county in the country, with a population of more than 4.7 million and an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, had previously used 12. Democratic Travis County, which includes Austin, previously had four.

    That was one single day in the Trump presidency.

    In contrast, today, the Democrats are trying to pass an extremely complicated package, consisting of two major infrastructure bills, backed by different constituencies, that will alter the direction of our country by investing in ordinary Americans and revising the tax code to claw back some of the 2017 tax cuts the Republican Congress gave to corporations and the very wealthy. Although there is no guarantee they will pass, the bills are currently still on track, and all the relevant parties are still at work discussing them, exactly as one would expect.

    What is the unusual piece in this process is that the other major American political party—the Republicans—is refusing to participate in the crafting of a major bill that is extremely popular.

    This infrastructure package is huge, but it is hardly the only item in Biden’s agenda. In March 2021, the Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package that has helped the administration produce more jobs in its first six months than any other administration in American history.

    Not a single Republican voted for that bill; it passed while they were focusing on the ungendered Potato Head kin and the decision of the Dr. Seuss estate to stop the publication of some of Theodor Geisel’s less popular books.

    The economy has recovered in large part because of the Biden administration’s enormous success at distributing the coronavirus vaccines to every American who wanted one.

    Republican lawmakers have worked against this process, and today we crossed the unthinkable line of 700,000 officially counted deaths from Covid-19.

    Now, the administration has begun to put vaccine mandates into effect, and they are working. Those who insisted they would never get vaccines changed their minds when employers and public venues required them. Today, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state will require coronavirus vaccines for school children, along with the ten others it already requires, as soon as the Food and Drug Administration fully approves them for use in children.

    Meanwhile, Republican-dominated state legislatures are following through on the voter suppression noted a year ago, passing measures to cut down Democratic voting and install Republican operatives in key election posts before the 2022 election.

    As political scientist and foreign relations expert David Rothkopf tweeted: “Are the Dems the ones in disarray when they are crafting specific programs while the GOP offers up only cynical Tweets & obstruction? The only GOP agenda items are voter suppression, defending the worst president in history & when they have power, pushing tax cuts for the rich.”

    For my part, I’m not sure what is driving the stories that seem to paint Biden’s work as a lost cause: The recent position that Democrats are hapless? That it’s safer to be negative than positive? That our news cycle demands drama?

    Whatever it is, I continue to maintain that the issue right now is not Democrats’ negotiations over the infrastructure bills—regardless of how they turn out—but that Republican lawmakers are actively working to undermine our democracy.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      October 2, 2021 (Saturday)

    The light in Maine in the fall is unparalleled, and sunsets from the kayak... well, see for yourself.

    I had hoped to write tonight about Thurgood Marshall, who was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on this day in 1967, but I'm going to admit defeat, throw in the towel, and take an early night.

    I'll see you tomorrow.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     October 3, 2021 (Sunday)

    Yesterday, people rallied at more than 600 marches across the country to demonstrate their opposition to Texas’s new restrictions on abortion rights.

    Today, the Washington Post broke the story that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained more than 11.9 million financial records including emails, spreadsheets, contracts, and so on, that reveal a vast international network of financial schemes to hide money from taxation, investigators, creditors, and citizens. The trove is named the Pandora Papers, after the Greek myth of Pandora, who opened a container and released a host of evils upon the world.

    The two stories are not unrelated.

    Today’s Republican Party would like to end government oversight of wealthy individuals, but such oversight is actually popular. So, to win elections, officials have turned to ginning up their voting base.

    That base is fired up by causes they have been taught to see as imperative to make America a free, virtuous country, as it was in their imagined past and as they want it to be again. Since 1972, when President Richard Nixon threw the issue of abortion on the table to attract Catholic Democrats to his standard after the 1970 Kent State shooting cut into his support, Republican politicians have called for an end to the constitutional right to reproductive rights.

    Decades of gerrymandering and voter suppression mean that today’s Republicans are less worried about winning moderates to their standard than they are about firing up their base. So today’s Republicans are becoming more and more extreme. The recent Texas abortion bill, the so-called “heartbeat bill,” bans abortion six weeks into a pregnancy—before many women even know they’re pregnant—and it makes no exception for rape or incest.

    To make it hard to challenge the new law, the Texas legislature left its enforcement up to individual citizens, leaving no state entity for opponents to sue. The law went into effect on September 1, after the Supreme Court declined to stop it.

    But while extremists who back the current Republican Party applaud what is essentially the outlawing of abortion, most Americans don’t like it. According to a new Monmouth poll, only 11% of Americans think abortion should always be illegal. Sixty-two percent want the Roe v. Wade decision to stand; only 29% want it overturned. The Texas law is especially unpopular. Seventy percent of Americans oppose turning the enforcement of the act over to vigilantes, and 81%, including 67% of Republicans, oppose the bill’s provision awarding $10,000 to anyone who wins a suit against someone helping a woman obtain an abortion.

    Crucially, Democrats (77%) and Independents (61%) say they have heard a lot about the new Texas law, while only 47% of Republicans say they have.

    Republicans have fired up their base, but at the cost of alienating women and their allies who did not truly think that abortion rights were in danger. Those people were in the streets yesterday, illustrating their determination to reclaim a government that listens to what the majority wants.

    And that’s where the second story comes in.

    A government that answered to a majority rather than an extremist minority would crack down on the growing global elite uncovered by the journalists who pored over the Pandora Papers, an elite that has managed to hide its wealth in offshore accounts (meaning any accounts away from their country of citizenship) thanks to deregulation and lack of oversight.

    The internet and a global economy have permitted the rise of a global elite that, as the Pandora Papers reveal, often overlaps with criminality. In January 2011, when he was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III gave a landmark speech in which he explained how globalization and technology had created “iron triangles” of “organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders” who were “motivated by money, not ideology.”  

    The United States government has the power and the ability to take on this anti-democratic global elite. Since he took office, Biden and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, have made it clear that they consider our foreign policy and our democracy to go hand in hand.

    In a speech to the State Department on February 4, Biden said that he would put “America’s most cherished democratic values” back at the center of American diplomacy, “defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.”

    Domestic policy, Biden said, was central to foreign policy.  “We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home,” he said. “When we…rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back…authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.”

    Those marching yesterday for women’s lives and their constitutional right to abortion were not commenting on the secret web of global finance that lets autocrats hide the enormous wealth they have taken from their people. But they were indeed commenting on governance, in particular whether a majority of the people, or a minority kept in power by passionate extremists, should run our country.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     October 4, 2021 (Monday)

    “hello literally everyone,” the official account of Twitter tweeted this afternoon, after Facebook and its affiliated platforms Instagram and WhatsApp went dark at about 11:40 this morning. The Facebook outage lasted for more than six hours and appears to have been caused by an internal error. But the void caused by the absence of the internet giant illustrated its power at a time when the use of that power has come under scrutiny.

    In mid-September, the Wall Street Journal began to publish a series of investigative stories based on documents provided by a whistle-blower.

    The “Facebook Files” explore how the company has “whitelisted” high-profile users, exempting them from the rules that put limits on ordinary users. Another article reveals that researchers showed Facebook executives evidence that Instagram damages teenage girls by pushing an ideal body image and that they flagged the increasing use of the site by drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals; their discoveries went unaddressed.

    Concerned about declining engagement with their material, Facebook allegedly privileged polarizing material that engaged people by preying on their emotions. It appeared to have encouraged the extremism that led to the January 6 insurrection, lowering restrictions against disinformation quickly after the 2020 election.

    Last night, on CBS’s 60 Minutes, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealed herself to be the source of the documents. She is concerned, she says, that Facebook consistently looks to maximize profits even if it means ignoring disinformation. Her lawyers have filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees companies and financial markets. Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said it was “ludicrous” to blame Facebook for the events of January 6. Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have not commented.

    Lawmakers have repeatedly asked Facebook to produce documents for their scrutiny and to testify about the social media platform’s public safeguards. Tomorrow, Haugen will testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security about the effects of social media on teenagers. Her lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, told Cat Zakrzewski and Cristiano Lima of the Washington Post that Haugen’s information is important because “Big Tech is at an inflection point…. It touches every aspect of our lives—whether it’s individuals personally or democratic institutions globally. With such far-reaching consequences, transparency is critical to oversight, and lawful whistleblowing is a critical component of oversight and holding companies accountable.”

    Amidst the outrage over the Facebook revelations, technology reporter Kevin Roose at the New York Times suggested that the company’s aggressive attempts to court engagement reveal weakness, rather than strength, as younger users have fled to TikTok and other sites and Facebook has become the domain of older Americans. He notes that Facebook’s researchers foresee a drop of 45% in daily use in the next two years, suggesting that the company is desperate either to retain users or to create new ones.

    While the technology Facebook represents is new, the concerns it raises echo public discussion of late nineteenth century industrialization, which was also the product of new technologies. At stake then was whether the concentration of economic power in a few hands would destroy our democracy by giving some rich men far more power than the other men in the country. How could the nation both preserve the right of individuals to build industries and preserve the concept of the common good in the face of technology that permitted unprecedented accumulations of wealth?

    While money is certainly at stake in the issue of Facebook’s power today, the more pressing issue for our country is whether social media giants will destroy our democracy through their ability to spread disinformation that sows division and turns us against one another.

    When we began to grapple with the excesses of industrialism, lots of people thought the whole system needed to be taken apart—by violence if necessary—while others hoped to save the benefits the technology brought without letting it destroy the country. Americans eventually solved the problems that industrialization raised for democracy by reining in the Wild West mentality of the early industrialists, protecting the basic rights of workers, and regulating business practices.

    The leaked Facebook documents suggest there are places where the disinformation at Facebook could be reined in as the overreaches of industrialization were. When Zuckerberg tried to promote coronavirus vaccines on the site, anti-vaxxers undermined his efforts. But one document showed that “out of nearly 150,000 posters in Facebook Groups disabled for Covid misinformation, 5% were producing half of all posts, and around 1,400 users were responsible for inviting half the groups’ new members.” Researchers concluded: “We found, like many problems at FB, this is a head-heavy problem with a relatively few number of actors creating a large percentage of the content and growth.”

    “I don’t hate Facebook,” Haugen wrote in a final message to her colleagues at the company. “I love Facebook. I want to save it.”

    While most Americans were busy watching Facebook crash—the falling stock took between $5 billion and $7 billion of Zuckerberg’s net worth—drama in Washington, D.C., was an even bigger deal.

    Los Angeles Times reporter Sarah D. Wire noted that the rioters who broke into the Capitol on January 6 ran more than 100 feet past 15 reinforced windows, “making a beeline” to four windows that had been left unreinforced in a renovation of the building between 2017 and 2019. They found the four windows, located in a recessed part of the building, Wire wrote, “by sheer luck, real-time trial and error, or advance knowledge by rioters.”

    The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will likely look into this oddity.

    The committee has begun to take testimony from cooperative witnesses. Observers expect fireworks on Thursday when former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, longtime Trump aide Dan Scavino, Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump appointee Kash Patel must hand over documents. Trump has vowed to fight the release of any information to the committee. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) says the committee will make criminal referrals for anyone ignoring a subpoena.

    Finally, today, the debt ceiling fight got even hotter. While Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through December 3, the issue of the debt ceiling, which stops the government from borrowing money Congress has already spent, remains unresolved. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the government will be unable to pay its obligations after October 18, and warns that a default, which has never before happened, would be catastrophic.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insists the Democrats must raise the debt ceiling themselves, although the Republicans raised it three times under former president Trump and added $7.8 trillion to the debt, which now stands at $28 trillion. But when Democrats tried to pass a measure to raise the ceiling, Republicans filibustered it. As Greg Sargent points out in the Washington Post, McConnell is trying to force the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. Since they get only one chance to pass such a bill this year, this would force them to dump their infrastructure bill.

    McConnell is holding the nation hostage to keep the Democrats from passing a very popular bill, and today, Biden called him on it. McConnell complained that congressional Democrats were “sleepwalking toward significant and avoidable danger,” prompting Biden to demand that Republicans “stop playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy.... Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, but threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job—saving the economy from a catastrophic event—I think, quite frankly, is hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful. Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows absolutely no bounds.”

    When asked if he could guarantee we would not default on our debts, Biden said, “No, I can’t…. That’s up to Mitch McConnell.” If McConnell doesn’t blink and the Republicans continue to filibuster Democrats’ attempts to save the economy, there will be enormous pressure on the Democrats to break the filibuster.

    Meanwhile, every day this drags on, Congress does not pass the Freedom to Vote Act.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      October 5, 2021 (Tuesday)

    Today, Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security. Haugen noted that Facebook co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg controls about 58% of Facebook’s voting shares, meaning he sets the terms of the company’s behavior. Her documents, illustrating that Facebook addressed only about 1% of hate violent speech and that its own algorithms pushed disinformation, supported her general observations about the need for government regulation of the social media giant.

    While Haugen was testifying, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone reinforced that message when he texted the ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, to note that Haugen had not worked directly on issues of child safety or Instagram at Facebook, facts Haugen had already established.

    Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch issued a statement attacking Haugen as untrustworthy but saying, “we agree…it’s time to begin to create standard rules for the internet…. [I]t is time for Congress to act.”

    Tonight Zuckerberg responded in a Facebook post of his own. He echoed Pietsch’s call for government regulation.He called the recent coverage of the company a “false picture,” with claims that “don’t make any sense” because the company has “established an industry-leading standard for transparency.” He wrote that “[w]e care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health.” He says it is “just not true” that “we prioritize profit over safety and well-being,” and that it is “deeply illogical” that they “deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit.” “It’s very important” to him, he says, “that everything we build is safe and good for kids.”

    While information about Facebook has demonstrated the dangers the social media giant poses for our democracy, the congressional fight over the debt ceiling has brought into relief a different struggle for the same cause.

    The Republican Party has now swung almost entirely behind former president Trump—one heck of a gamble as his legal jeopardy continues to mount. Today, a New York state court said Trump must give a deposition in the defamation case brought against him by Summer Zervos, the former "Apprentice" contestant who said he sexually assaulted her and sued him for defamation after he called her a liar. And as the January 6 committee continues to take evidence, bipartisan groups of lawyers have asked legal organizations to investigate and possibly disbar the lawyers who backed Trump’s attempted coup, John Eastman and Jeffrey Bossert Clark.

    Nonetheless, right-wing insurgents are tripping over each other to move to extreme positions behind the positions of the former president.

    In Idaho today, for example, as soon as the state’s governor, Republican Brad Little, left the state for Texas to meet with nine other Republican governors about President Biden’s approach to securing the border, Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, who is challenging Little for governor next year, flexed her muscles over the state. She issued an executive order declaring she had “fixed” Little’s executive order prohibiting the government from requiring proof of vaccines to access services by extending the prohibition to schools, saying “I will continue to fight for your individual Liberty!” Then she enquired about activating the Idaho National Guard to go to the southern border.

    Little promptly responded to her declarations with his own statement calling her actions “political grandstanding,” noting that he had not authorized her to act on his behalf, and saying he would be "rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return." In the midst of all this posturing, Idaho is suffering a spike in coronavirus cases, with death rates at nearly three times the national average.

    But while Republican leaders have encouraged the rush to the right because it fires up the party’s base voters, it may now have painted them into a corner from which they’re hoping the Democrats will rescue them.

    The fight over the debt ceiling suggests that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is no longer in control of his caucus.

    The debt ceiling is a cap on how much the Treasury can borrow to meet its obligations. We are now in trouble because under former president Trump, Congress created $7.8 trillion of debt, and now the Treasury cannot borrow to pay back that money. Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, have said they want the ceiling lifted, but they want Democrats to do it on their own.

    But Republicans do not want the ceiling lifted by a simple vote, which the Democrats tried and the Republicans filibustered. They want to force the Democrats to raise the ceiling under the process of reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. This would prevent the Democrats from using the reconciliation process for their infrastructure package that would support human infrastructure like child care and elder care, and address climate change.

    Yesterday, Democrats called Republicans out on this manipulation, and today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set up a vote on the debt ceiling for Wednesday. Democrats today suggested that McConnell and the Republicans are not simply trying to stop the Democrats’ infrastructure plans, but want to sow chaos by crashing the economy. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wondered on Twitter whether the billionaires “who prop up McConnell actually want a default” so “out of ashes they can build their new oligarchy.”

    But tonight Adam Jentleson, an expert on the Senate whose knowledge of the institution is unparalleled among scholars, pointed out that McConnell seems unable to agree to let the Democrats save the country by a simple vote because five or six Republican senators will refuse. So, unable to control them, he seems to be forcing Democrats into a position in which they have no choice but to break the filibuster. Jentleson suggests McConnell knows that his own caucus might obstruct even reconciliation, so he is trying to open a door to make sure Democrats can keep the nation from defaulting and crashing the U.S. economy.

    The fall of the Republican Party into the hands of extremists who are willing to destroy it recently prompted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare, “I'm astonished that more people don't see, or can't face, America's existential crisis.”

    Restoring sanity to the country will require free and fair elections, which, after years of Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression, will require federal legislation. The time for that to be most effective is running out, as Republican-dominated states are currently in the process of redistricting, which will determine their congressional districts for the next decade.

    Today, in the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This measure would restore the parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court gutted in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder and the 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decisions. Of the three voting acts currently in play, the John Lewis Act seems like the easiest to pass, since Congress has repeatedly reauthorized the 1965 Voting Rights Act, most recently in 2006 by a vote of 98–0 in the Senate and 390–33 in the House of Representatives.

    And yet, even this measure will be a hard sell for today’s extremist Republicans. When House Democrats brought the John Lewis bill up for a vote in August, not a single Republican voted for it.


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