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Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,196
    brianlux said:
    mickeyrat said:
    I fucking give up

    Why, M?  Because of a little thing like the end of Democracy?
    Yeah, I get it.  What we are living through is hard to fathom, even harder to deal with.  Throwing one's hands up is mighty tempting.  It might even be a good thing to do now and then.  Just say, "Fuck it", and step back a while and not let it overwhelm and consume you.
    You can always re-engage when ready.

    phone issues.....
    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    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
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 35,585
    mickeyrat said:
    brianlux said:
    mickeyrat said:
    I fucking give up

    Why, M?  Because of a little thing like the end of Democracy?
    Yeah, I get it.  What we are living through is hard to fathom, even harder to deal with.  Throwing one's hands up is mighty tempting.  It might even be a good thing to do now and then.  Just say, "Fuck it", and step back a while and not let it overwhelm and consume you.
    You can always re-engage when ready.

    phone issues.....

    Bummer!  Need me to post the letter until it's fixed?  Can do if you'd like.
    "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: 23,196
      November 23, 2021 (Tuesday)

    On this date in 1876, William “Boss” Tweed, who had stolen between $25 and $200 million in his corrupt years at the head of New York City’s government and then fled to Spain to escape prison, was delivered up to authorities and sent back to jail.

    One hundred and forty-five years later, the law is in the news again.

    In Virginia today, a jury decided that the leaders of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 violated state law by conspiring before the event “to intimidate, harass or harm.” The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, five women and four men, including four people injured when James Fields rammed his car into protesters and killed 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer.

    The plaintiffs sued five white nationalist organizations and 12 individual defendants, including prominent white supremacists Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, and Christopher Cantwell, (known as the “Crying Nazi),” for engaging in a conspiracy to harm others. Over three weeks, the plaintiffs produced evidence that the defendants had talked of hitting protesters with cars at a party in Spencer’s apartment—known as the “Fash Loft” (short for fascist)—before the riot.

    In their brief defense—their lawyers rested after a day and a half—the defendants tried to blame the deadly outcome of the riot on Fields alone and claimed their pre-event planning was just chatter amongst people who did not even know each other. Their talk of killing was just, as Spencer testified, “very juvenile and silly.” They said that they were simply exercising their First Amendment rights, that they acted in self defense, that the police should have kept the protesters apart, and that none of them knew Fields.

    But the judge explained to the jury that a conspiracy did not require that the defendants committed violence themselves or even knew each other. It required only that they had the same goal and could foresee that violence would occur. Since it was a civil and not a criminal trial, they needed only to find “a preponderance of the evidence,” rather than guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” as in criminal trials.

    The jury awarded the plaintiffs $26 million in damages. As Dahlia Lithwick noted in an article in Slate.com, this is no small thing, even though the defendants are unlikely to be able to pay. Fields is in prison for life for killing Heyer; Cantwell is serving a prison term for threatening to rape a man’s wife in front of their children unless the man gave Cantwell information he wanted about someone else. Spencer is also broke; his wife accused him of violent abuse before she left him. As Lithwick put it: “This isn’t about squeezing blood from a stone. It’s about widespread agreement that the stone sucks.”

    Conspiracy is on other minds today as the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas for three groups and associated individuals who were involved in the violence of that day. Proud Boy International, LLC, and its chair Henry “Enrique” Tarrio; the Oath Keepers and their president Elmer Stewart Rhodes; and 1st Amendment Praetorian, along with the organization chair Robert Patrick Lewis, all got subpoenas.

    Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said: “The Select Committee is seeking information from individuals and organizations reportedly involved with planning the attack, with the violent mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th, or with efforts to overturn the results of the election. We believe the individuals and organizations we subpoenaed today have relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack.”

    Roger Stone, whom the committee subpoenaed yesterday, is already fundraising off the demand, and Alex Jones, also subpoenaed, today said that he will plead the Fifth—the constitutional amendment that protects an American citizen from being “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”—because he “doesn’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison.”

    Today Texas Senator Ted Cruz tried to turn the horrific killings in Waukesha, Wisconsin, into political points. On Sunday, a man fleeing another crime scene plowed his SUV into a Christmas parade, injuring at least 48 people and killing six, so far. With reference to the fact that suspect Darrell Brooks was out of custody on bail, Cruz tweeted: “Across the country, radical Leftists are releasing violent criminals from jail—with little or no bail—only to see them commit yet more violent crimes…. This horrific mass murder is the latest example. And it was fully preventable.”

    Cruz’s tweet recalls the Willie Horton ad of 1988, when the George H. W. Bush campaign pinned on then–Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis responsibility for the weekend furlough of a murderer who raped a woman and assaulted a man while on furlough, despite the fact that the parole law had been passed by Dukakis’s Republican predecessor.

    Today, as civil rights lawyer Scott Hechinger said: “There is no ‘bail reform’ in Wisconsin. There has been no significant change to bail laws in Wisconsin in a decade. Bail was set in this case. Yet still, prosecutors, police, & right wing politicians are convincing everyone ‘bail reform’ is to blame. And media amplifies the lie.”

    In another piece of legal news, yesterday Attorney General Merrick Garland swore into office a new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the office that oversees Manhattan and all the many financial transactions therein. The new U.S. attorney is Damian Williams. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Williams was educated at Harvard for college, the University of Cambridge for a master’s degree, and Yale Law School for law school. He is the first Black American to run the SDNY.

    Williams clerked for Garland when the attorney general was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Garland presided at Williams’s investiture yesterday. He used the opportunity to remind the attorneys and staff of the SDNY that the Department of Justice keeps our country safe from enemies both foreign and domestic and protects civil rights as it was chartered to do in 1879.

    Above all, the Justice Department upholds the rule of law. It must treat everyone alike, Garland said. There must not be “one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans; one rule for friends and another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; one rule for the rich, another for the poor; or different rules, depending upon one's race or ethnicity.”

    In the two years that Tweed ran the city of New York unchallenged, he bought off opponents, extorted rivals, and pocketed millions from public contracts. He operated with impunity until members of his own party joined with reformers to replace his cronies and cut off Tweed’s access to funds. Voters turned against his gang, many of whom fled the country.

    In November 1873, Tweed was found guilty of larceny and forgery, fined the equivalent of almost $300,000 in today’s money, and sentenced to a year in prison. Upon his release, the state sued him in civil court to recover $6 million he had embezzled. Unable to raise bail, Tweed escaped the country. Returned to the U.S on a warship in 1876, he died of pneumonia two years later in prison.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    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
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 35,585
    You did it, good job.  Good letter, as usual as well. 
    "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: 23,196
      November 24, 2021 (Wednesday)
     
    The Biden administration has announced it will convene the first of two virtual “Summits for Democracy” on December 9 and 10, 2021. The gatherings will bring together leaders from 110 countries who work in government, civil society, and the private sector, to come up with an agenda to renew democratic government and work together to keep the ideals of democracy strong.  

    Authoritarianism is growing around the world, including in America, and the administration is hoping to create practical ideas and strong alliances to defend against authoritarianism, fight corruption, and promote human rights, all values central to democracy.
     
    That this announcement comes at Thanksgiving is fitting, since Thanksgiving is rooted in a defense of democracy during the Civil War.

    The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest celebration together at Plymouth in fall 1621, but that moment got forgotten almost immediately, overwritten by the long history of the settlers’ attacks on their Indigenous neighbors.

    In 1841, a book that reprinted the early diaries and letters from the Plymouth colony recovered the story of that three-day celebration in which ninety Indigenous Americans and the English settlers shared fowl and deer. This story of peace and goodwill among men who by the 1840s were more often enemies than not inspired Sarah Josepha Hale, who edited the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady's Book, to think that a national celebration could ease similar tensions building between the slave-holding South and the free North. She lobbied for legislation to establish a day of national thanksgiving.

    And then, on April 12, 1861, southern soldiers fired on Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor, and the meaning of a holiday for giving thanks changed.

    Southern leaders wanted to destroy the United States of America and create their own country, based not in the traditional American idea that “all men are created equal,” but rather in its opposite: that some men were better than others and had the right to enslave their neighbors. In the 1850s, convinced that society worked best if a few wealthy men ran it, southern leaders had bent the laws of the United States to their benefit, using it to protect enslavement above all.
     
    In 1860, northerners elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency to stop rich southern enslavers from taking over the government and using it to cement their own wealth and power. As soon as he was elected, southern leaders pulled their states out of the Union to set up their own country. After the firing on Fort Sumter, Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party set out to end the slaveholders’ rebellion.
     
    The early years of the war did not go well for the U.S. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering and to keep Americans loyal to the cause. In November and December, seventeen state governors declared state thanksgiving holidays.
     
    New York Governor Edwin Morgan’s widely reprinted proclamation about the holiday reflected that the previous year “is numbered among the dark periods of history, and its sorrowful records are graven on many hearthstones.” But this was nonetheless a time for giving thanks, he wrote, because “the precious blood shed in the cause of our country will hallow and strengthen our love and our reverence for it and its institutions…. Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value.”
     
    The next year Lincoln got ahead of the state proclamations. On July 15, he declared a national day of Thanksgiving, and the relief in his proclamation was almost palpable. After two years of disasters, the Union army was finally winning. Bloody, yes; battered, yes; but winning. At Gettysburg in early July, Union troops had sent Confederates reeling back southward. Then, on July 4, Vicksburg had finally fallen to U. S. Grant’s army. The military tide was turning.
     
    President Lincoln set Thursday, August 6, 1863, for the national day of Thanksgiving. On that day, ministers across the country listed the signal victories of the U.S. Army and Navy in the past year and reassured their congregations that it was only a matter of time until the United States government put down the southern rebellion. Their predictions acknowledged the dead and reinforced the idea that their sacrifice had not been in vain.
     
    In October 1863, President Lincoln declared a second national day of Thanksgiving. In the past year, he declared, the nation had been blessed.
     
    In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, he wrote, Americans had maintained their laws and their institutions and had kept foreign countries from meddling with their nation. They had paid for the war as they went, refusing to permit the destruction to cripple the economy. Instead, as they funded the war, they had also advanced farming, industry, mining, and shipping. Immigrants had poured into the country to replace men lost on the battlefield, and the economy was booming. And Lincoln had recently promised that the government would end slavery once and for all. The country, he predicted, “with a large increase of freedom,” would survive, stronger and more prosperous than ever. The president invited Americans “in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands” to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving.

    In 1863, November’s last Thursday fell on the 26th. On November 19, Lincoln delivered an address at the dedication of a national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He reached back to the Declaration of Independence for the principles on which he called for Americans to rebuild the severed nation:

    ​​”Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    Lincoln urged the crowd to take up the torch those who fought at Gettysburg had laid down. He called for them to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”
     
    In 1861, Americans went to war to keep a cabal from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the battlefields even as they continued to work on the home front for a government that defended democracy and equality before the law.
     
    And they won.

    My best to you all for Thanksgiving 2021.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    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: 23,196
      November 25, 2021 (Thursday)

    I started these letters completely inadvertently on September 15, 2019, after I happened to see House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff's (D-CA) angry letter to then–acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on September 13, noting that the committee knew a whistleblower had made a complaint and demanding that Maguire produce that complaint as required by law. As a political historian, I saw that for what it was: an accusation from a member of the legislative branch that someone in the executive branch had very clearly broken a specific law. That was huge, way different than the general complaints around at the time that, for example, then-president Trump must be violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, an accusation that was vague enough that it was terribly hard to address.

    Two days later, on September 15, a yellow jacket sting made me cancel my afternoon plans, and as I sat waiting to make sure I didn’t react badly to the sting, I used the time to write on my Facebook page where I had been posting once a week or so for years. I wrote about the history of the previous month and mentioned the issue of the missing whistleblower’s complaint. That post got swamped with people asking so many questions that I wrote another, and then another.

    And so the Letters from an American were born.

    Over the past two years, this has become a team project. While I do the legwork of explaining the politics of these crisis times, my heroic editors keep my writing clean and factual, Facebook moderators keep our online space respectful, and folks with a great sense of humor award medals in the commenting game.

    But this project really belongs to you who read it. It was your voice that created the project, you who inspire me when I am so dead tired I fall asleep sitting up, and you who bring in related material and ask questions and correct my stupid errors. Above all, it is you who are helping to model what we so desperately need in America: a respectful community based in facts, rather than in anger and partisanship, a community that can defend our democracy and carry it into a new era.

    I am honored to be walking this road alongside all of you. You are smart, funny, kind, talented, insightful, creative, and principled.

    And I am so very proud of what we are building together.

    Thank you, for all of it.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    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: 23,196
      November 26, 2021 (Friday)

    On Wednesday, November 24, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, a jury found Gregory McMichael (65), his son Travis McMichael (35), and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan (52) guilty on 23 counts in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, near Brunswick, in Glynn County, Georgia.

    Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, 25, was a former high school football player who ran every day. On February 23, he was running through a primarily white neighborhood about two miles from his mother’s house when the McMichaels saw him go by. Gregory McMichael had retired from the Glynn County police force and had been an investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s office. He picked up a .357 Magnum revolver, Travis grabbed a shotgun, and they hopped into a pickup truck and followed Arbery. Bryan followed the McMichaels and recorded what happened next on his cellphone.

    The video shows Arbery jogging toward a white truck with Gregory McMichael standing in the truck bed on a quiet, flat, somewhat rural looking street. Arbery moves to go to the right of the truck, and when he reaches the front, just out of sight, a shot fires. Arbery comes back into view on the left side of the truck and moves toward the left side of the road, where he begins to struggle with Travis McMichael, who is holding a shotgun. Two more shots and Arbery staggers to the middle of the road in front of the truck before falling forward.

    Police responded to the scene after a call saying there were “shots fired and a male on the ground ‘bleeding out.’” Mr. Arbery died at 1:08.

    Law enforcement officers arrived minutes later and found the McMichaels standing over Arbery’s body. Bryan was in his vehicle. The officers took the McMichaels in for questioning and called the office of the Brunswick district attorney, Jackie Johnson, to ask for legal advice. Assistants there told the officers that the McMichaels should not be arrested.

    The police report of the incident, taken largely from an account by Gregory McMichael, said that Arbery had “violently attack[ed]” Travis McMichael and had been shot when the two men fought over a shotgun.

    The assistants in Johnson’s office had also told the police officers that the office had a conflict of interest in the case and would need to bring in another prosecutor. Before he retired in 2019, Gregory McMichael had worked as an investigator in her office for more than 30 years. Phone records show he called Johnson shortly after the shooting.

    When she heard of what had happened, Johnson immediately contacted George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit. Barnhill watched Bryan’s video and, the next morning, told Glynn County police that Georgia’s citizens arrest law enabled the men to chase Arbery and that they had shot him in self-defense. Glynn County commissioners blame Barnhill’s early advice to the police for delaying the case.  

    On February 27, Johnson officially recused herself from the case, and the next day, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr appointed Barnhill to prosecute the case. Carr did not know Barnhill had already reviewed evidence.

    Arbery’s family protested Barnhill’s appointment, since Barnhill’s son works as an assistant district attorney in Johnson’s office.

    By April 2, Barnhill acknowledged he had a conflict of interest in the case, and yet on April 3 he issued a letter to the Captain of the Glynn County Police Department saying that the McMichaels were within their rights to chase Arbery under Georgia’s law permitting citizen’s arrests, that they were legally allowed to carry guns, and that Travis McDaniel had fired the shotgun out of self defense. “We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties,” he wrote.

    Barnhill officially recused himself on April 7. Carr said he should never have agreed to prosecute the case in the first place, and he began an investigation into Johnson, who had recommended Barnhill without disclosing that she had already had him talk to police about the case.

    ​​On April 13, Carr appointed Tom Durden, the district attorney for Liberty County, one county over from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, to prosecute the case. “We don’t know anything about the case,” Durden told reporters. “We don’t have any preconceived idea about it.”

    And there, things might have rested, much as they have so often rested in our nation’s long history when white men have killed Black men.

    But in the weeks since the shooting, the community had become increasingly insistent on hearing answers. A local journalist for the daily Brunswick News named Larry Hobbs noted right away that police were not forthcoming about what had happened. He stayed on the story.

    Arbery’s family and friends kept up pressure on the Glynn police department, which was already under investigation for corruption on a different matter, and on the prosecutors.

    Their outrage went national on April 26, when the New York Times reported on the murder, noting that there had been no arrests.

    Finally, on May 5, the case broke open. Apparently thinking that since Barnhill had found Bryan’s video exonerating, everyone else would, too, Gregory McMichael worked with lawyer Alan Tucker to take the video to a local radio station, which uploaded it for public viewing.

    The station took it down two hours later, but not before a public outcry. Carr promptly asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. Two days later, on May 7, 74 days after Arbery was killed, GBI officers arrested the McMichaels.

    On May 11, the case was reassigned to Joyette M. Holmes at the Cobb County District Attorney’s office and transferred to Atlanta, about 270 miles away from Brunswick.

    On May 21, 2020, Bryan was arrested.

    And on Wednesday, November 24, after a 13-day trial, a jury with only one Black person found Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. In February, they will face federal charges of committing hate crimes.

    Also on Wednesday, Johnson turned herself in to officials after a grand jury indicted her for violating her oath of office and obstructing police, saying she used her position to discourage law enforcement officers from arresting the McMichaels.

    Today, Cobb District Attorney Flynn D. Broady Jr. issued a statement claiming that the jury’s verdict “reflects a new direction for our communities, this State, and the nation, to denounce hate, division and intolerance and promote unity.” We must never forget our past, he said, but instead “understand our prior shortcomings and work to the goal enumerated in our founding documents, ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ and may we add Justice. In order to do that it takes strength and courage, to demand the rights entitled to us by our Constitution and laws.”

    Broady called out Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery, for their courage in insisting on justice for their son, and claimed “the citizens of this state and this nation stood with Wanda and Marcus and their family.”

    That local Georgians refused to let Arbery’s case go, and that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation brought charges immediately as soon as they were brought into the case, and that an overwhelmingly white jury found the three men guilty all lend credence to Broady’s statement.

    But there is one sticking point: if Gregory McMichael had not produced that video, it’s entirely possible that the crime and its coverup would never have been prosecuted.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    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: 23,196
     November 27, 2021 (Saturday)

    Today, Nate Cohn noted in the New York Times that the policies President Joe Biden and the Democrats are putting in place are hugely popular, and yet Biden’s own popularity numbers have dropped into the low 40s. It’s a weird disconnect that Cohn explains by suggesting that, above all, voters want “normalcy.”

    Heaven knows that Biden, who took office in the midst of a pandemic that had crashed the economy and has had to deal with an unprecedented insurgency led by his predecessor, has not been able to provide normalcy.

    In her own piece, journalist Magdi Semrau suggests that the media bears at least some of the responsibility for this disconnect, since it has given people a sense of the cost of Biden’s signature measures without specifying what’s in them, focused on negative information (negotiations are portrayed as “disarray,” for example), and ignored that Republicans have refused to participate in any lawmaking, choosing instead simply to be obstructionist. As Semrau puts it: "Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don’t. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them."

    To this I would add that Republican attacks on Democrats, which are simple and emotional, get far more traction and thus far more coverage in the mainstream press than the slow and successful navigation of our complicated world.

    In illustration of the unequal weight between emotion and policymaking, Biden’s poll numbers took a major hit between mid-August and mid-September, dropping six points. That month saw the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was widely portrayed as a disaster at Biden’s hands that had badly hurt U.S. credibility. In fact, Biden inherited Trump’s deal with the Taliban under which the U.S. promised to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, so long as the Taliban met several requirements, including that it stop killing U.S. soldiers.

    When Biden took office, there were only 3500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a high of 100,000 during the Obama administration. Biden had made no secret of his dislike of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and, faced with the problem of whether to honor Trump’s agreement or send troops back into the country, committed to complete the withdrawal, although he pushed back the date to September.

    What he did not know, in part because Trump’s drawdown had taken so many intelligence officers out of the country, was that as soon as Trump’s administration cut the deal with the Taliban, Afghan troops began to make their own agreements to lay down their arms. The Biden administration appears to have been surprised by the sudden collapse of the Afghan government on August 15. As the Taliban took the capital city of Kabul, Afghans terrified by the Taliban takeover rushed to the Kabul airport, where an attack killed 13 U.S. military personnel who were trying to manage the crowd.

    Republicans reacted to the mid-August chaos by calling for Biden’s impeachment, and the press compared the moment to the 1975 fall of Saigon. That coverage overshadowed the extraordinary fact that the U.S. airlifted more than 124,000 people, including about 6000 U.S. citizens, out of Afghanistan in the six weeks before the U.S. officially left. This is the largest airlift in U.S. history—the U.S. evacuated about 7000 out of Saigon—and evacuations have continued since, largely on chartered flights.

    By comparison, in October 2019 under Trump, the U.S. simply left Northern Syria without helping former allies; the senior American diplomat in Syria, William V. Roebuck, later said the U.S. had “stood by and watched” an “intention-laced effort at ethnic cleansing.” And yet, that lack of evacuation received almost no coverage.

    Complicating matters further, rather than agreeing that the withdrawal was a foreign policy disaster, many experts say that it helped U.S. credibility rather than hurt it. According to Graham Allison, the former dean of Harvard Kennedy School, “The anomaly was that we were there, not that we left.”

    And yet, in mid-September, while 66% of the people in the U.S. supported leaving Afghanistan, 48% thought Biden “seriously mishandled” the situation.

    Aside from getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan, is it true that Biden has not accomplished much?

    Biden set out to prove that democracies could deliver for their people, and that the U.S. could, once again, lead the world. He promptly reentered the international agreements Trump had left, including the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, and renewed those Trump had weakened, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Biden set out to lead the world in coronavirus vaccinations, making the U.S. the world’s largest donor of vaccines globally, although U.S. vaccinations, which started out fast, slowed significantly after Republicans began to turn supporters against them.

    Under Biden, the U.S. has recovered economically from the pandemic faster than other nations that did not invest as heavily in stimulus. In March 2021, the Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package to rebuild the economy, and it has worked spectacularly. Real gross domestic product growth this quarter is expected to be 5%, and the stock market has hit new highs, as did Black Friday sales yesterday. Two thirds of Americans are content with their household’s financial situation.

    The pandemic tangled supply chains both because of shortages and because Americans have shifted spending away from restaurants and services and toward consumer goods. The Biden administration mobilized workers, industry leaders, and port managers to clear the freight piled on wharves. In the past three weeks, the number of containers sitting on docks is down 33%—and shipping prices are down 25%. Major retailers Walmart, Target, and Home Depot all say they have plenty of inventory on hand for the holiday season.  

    With more than 5.5 million new jobs created in ten months, unemployment claims are the lowest they have been since 1969, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office to tweet, “Armstrong Walks the Moon!... Wait, sorry! That’s a headline from the last year unemployment claims were this low.” Workers’ pay has jumped as much as 13% in certain industries, and there are openings across the labor market.

    The American Rescue Plan started the reorientation of our government to address the needs of ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy who have dominated our policymaking since 1981. It provided more than $5 billion in rental assistance, for example, and expanded the Child Tax Credit, so that by the end of October, $66 billion had gone to more than 36 million households, cutting the child poverty rate in half.

    Over the course of the summer, Biden negotiated an extraordinarily complicated infrastructure package, winning a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill that will repair roads and bridges and provide broadband across the country, and getting the larger, $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill through the House. Now before the Senate, the bill calls for universal pre-kindergarten, funding for child care and elder care, a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and protection against climate change.

    Has the Biden administration accomplished anything? It has created a sea change in our country, rebuilding its strength by orienting the government away from the supply-side economics that led lawmakers to protect the interests of the wealthy, and toward the far more traditional focus on building the economy by supporting regular Americans.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,196
      November 28, 2021 (Sunday)

    And, just like that, we are already in the last quiet days of fall.

    And since the news was relatively quiet as well, I'll see you tomorrow.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,196
     November 29, 2021 (Monday)

    Today’s news hit like a firehose, which is to be expected after the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, though, that normal firehose is intensified by the news of the new Omicron COVID variant that the World Health Organization has labeled a “variant of concern.”

    Epidemiologists in South Africa first identified Omicron on Wednesday, November 24, but the variant did not necessarily originate there: South African doctors were simply the first to identify it. The variant has since been detected in at least 14 countries, including Canada, where doctors have already found five cases.

    Former Food and Drug Administration head Dr. Scott Gottlieb told "Face the Nation" Sunday that Omicron is "almost definitely" already in the United States. President Joe Biden today urged Americans not to panic about the variant as scientists work to figure out how threatening it is, but absolutely to get vaccinated and to get booster shots. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, today urged everyone over 18 to get a booster shot. The Biden administration has restricted flights from 8 countries in southern Africa to buy time for more Americans to get vaccinated. It will not call for a return to lockdowns.

    Upon announcement of Omicron, Representative Ronny Jackson (R-TX), former White House physician for Trump, tweeted that the news was manufactured by Democrats to enable them to “push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election—but we're not going to let them!” he concluded.

    There were no COVID-related deaths yesterday in New York City, where the vaccination rate is 90%. For adult Democrats the vaccination rate is about 90%, while the vaccination rate for adult Republicans hovers around 60%. Counties that went strongly for Trump have a death rate three times that of counties that voted heavily for Biden.  

    The Senate was back in session today after the Thanksgiving break. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is currently focused on several revenue measures. First, Congress needs to fund the government, which will run out of money on Friday after an earlier agreement with Republicans that extended funding to then and no further.

    Second—and crucially important—Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling to pay for measures already passed. Although raising the debt ceiling will cover only measures for which Congress has already appropriated the money and not new ones, and although Republicans added $7.8 trillion to the debt during Trump’s term, Republicans now say they will not help to raise the ceiling and that the Democrats must do it on their own. If the ceiling is not raised, the country will default on its debt for the first time in history, which will do profound damage to the economy and our international standing.

    Third, Congress needs to pass a defense authorization bill to fund the military. So far, this has always passed—although Trump tried to kill it last year—meaning that sometimes it can carry through other measures piggybacking on it.

    Fourth is the Build Back Better Act that the House has already passed in tandem with the bipartisan infrastructure measure signed into law on November 15. Schumer told reporters that he wants to pass Biden’s popular social spending package by Christmas, expecting that it will ease inflation.

    Congress’s focus on imperative fiscal measures means that the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are not on the table this week.

    This is problematic. Federal protection of our voting rights underpins everything else. On November 22, more than 150 political scientists signed an open letter to Congress warning that the opportunity to save our democracy is closing, and imploring it to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.

    “If Congress fails to pass the Freedom to Vote Act,” the scholars wrote, “American democracy will be at critical risk. Not only could this failure undermine the minimum condition for electoral democracy—free and fair elections—but it would in turn likely result in an extended period of minority rule, which a majority of the country would reject as undemocratic and illegitimate. This would have grave consequences not only for our democracy, but for political order, economic prosperity, and the national security of the United States as well.”

    The Freedom to Vote Act would standardize elections and make it easier to register and vote, and it would overturn the laws passed since January 2020 by Republican-dominated legislatures to replace nonpartisan election officials with partisans. It would also end partisan gerrymandering, stopping the extraordinary maps Republican-dominated states are creating to give themselves commanding majorities of their states’ legislatures and Congressional delegations regardless of what the voters want.

    Protection of our elections is imperative as Trump and the Republican radicals in Republican-dominated states are cementing their hold on election systems, making it virtually impossible for Democrats to win.

    In Michigan, for example, where courts, election officials, and the state senate all confirmed Biden’s 2020 win, Trump has endorsed candidates for attorney general and secretary of state—both of whom are crucial to election counting—as well as two congressional candidates and seven candidates for seats in the legislature. All of them have called for investigations into the 2020 election and changes to election laws; one has said that anyone engaged in “election fraud” should face a firing squad. “Michigan needs a new legislature,” Trump said. “The cowards there now are too spineless to investigate Election Fraud.”

    In April 2021, Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight noted that “Of the 293 Republicans who were serving in the Senate or House on Jan. 20, 2017—the day of Trump’s inauguration—a full 132 (45 percent) are no longer in Congress or have announced their retirement or resignation.” Under pressure from the former president, the party continues to radicalize, with firebrands like Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Gosar gaining influence.

    Republican leadership has refused to call out Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) for recent Islamophobic statements aimed at Boebert’s colleague Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) suggesting she was a terrorist. This, coming on top of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) support for Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) after he released a video illustrating himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and slashing at the president, indicates either that McCarthy has lost control of his caucus or is afraid of it, or both.

    Recently, Salon columnist Chauncey DeVega conducted an interview with Miles Taylor, the chief of staff to Trump’s Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who published a New York Times op-ed in 2018 as “Anonymous" claiming that he was part of a resistance movement in the Trump White House. Taylor told DeVega that Republican congresspeople are worried they will be attacked if they cross Trump. “I'm talking about former Cabinet secretaries, sitting members of Congress and others who personally confessed to me, ‘I don't think I can join you in rising up against this guy because I've got to worry about my family's safety.’” Taylor said. “I didn't anticipate how much I was going to hear that as a response. They would say to me, “Look, I’ve got kids and this is too crazy right now.”

    But if Trump is permitted to hand over control over the machinery of our elections to his loyalists, today’s “crazy” is going to look quaint.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,196
     November 30, 2021 (Tuesday)

    The U.S. economy is booming.

    Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified today before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, saying that although the rise in COVID cases due to the Delta variant had slowed recovery, the gross domestic product is still on track to grow about 5% in 2021. According to Christine Romans, CNN’s chief business correspondent, the last time we had that kind of growth was under the Reagan administration forty years ago.

    Unemployment is also down. The economy added 531,000 jobs in October, dropping the unemployment rate to 4.6 percent, the lowest rate since November 1969. The recovery is not even, though, with jobs harder to find for Black and Brown Americans than for White Americans.

    Meanwhile, the American Rescue Plan is restoring the nation’s basic social safety net. According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, food insecurity dropped 24% for families as a result of Biden’s Child Tax Credit, creating “a profound economic and moral victory for the country.”

    Powell also noted that inflation is up, from the 2% level for which administrations aim to about 5%. He predicted that inflation will ease as supply chains smooth out and as the administration takes measures at its disposal.

    In illustration of what sort of measures those might be, Biden released 50 million barrels of the nation’s oil reserves to combat the rising gas prices that have grabbed headlines. Other nations, including India, the United Kingdom, and China, released some of theirs as well, and the price of WTI Crude has dropped back to what it was in early September. That fix may very well be temporary as economic growth puts pressure on oil supplies.

    The success of the Democrats’ measures illustrates the effectiveness of the “liberal consensus” of the years between World War II and the Reagan Revolution, when members of both parties believed the government should promote economic growth by supporting those at the demand side of the economy. That meant giving those just starting out access to resources which they would, in turn, reinvest in the economy, helping all to rise.

    The Reagan years reversed this popular understanding as lawmakers claimed instead that the best way to nurture the economy was to focus on the “supply side”—those wealthy people who, officials argued, would invest their money in the economy and create jobs. To free up capital for those people, Republicans focused on cutting taxes.

    But while that system never worked as promised, Republicans have come to believe that tax cuts are the most important way to expand the economy. With the American Rescue Plan helping the U.S. to recover from the economic crunch of the pandemic faster than other nations, and with the extraordinary numbers we’re now seeing, Biden’s plan has once again illustrated the power of supporting ordinary Americans.

    And such legislation is popular, so popular that, right on cue, Republicans who voted against the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill are advertising its benefits to their constituents as if they were responsible for it. Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) has a new ad out boasting that “Congressman Rob Wittman is Bringing Broadband to the Northern Neck.” “It’s the future,” the ad reads, and Wittman “has helped bring broadband to thousands of homes and businesses. And he will not stop until every Virginian is given an equal opportunity to connect to the future.”

    Wittman voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

    The headline-grabbing news today, though, came from investigations into the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection.

    Early this morning, Hugo Lowell of The Guardian reported that multiple sources told him that Trump had called the “war room” at the Willard Hotel several times on January 5 to talk about how they could stop Congress from counting the certified ballots that would make Joe Biden president. The team at the Willard was led by lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Boris Epshteyn and Trump loyalist Steve Bannon. Trump called the lawyers separately from the others, trying to keep from jeopardizing claims of attorney-client privilege.

    Although those at the war room have maintained that they were acting only on the wishes of state legislators who worried about voter fraud, reports of phone calls from the president challenge that position. Lowell wrote: “Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.”

    After the story came out, Trump’s spokesperson said, “This is totally false,” but offered no more information.
     
    The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is looking into the Willard meetings. Today, though, it interviewed Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, the man who recorded a phone call with Trump as the then-president tried to get him to overturn the results of the election. Raffensperger testified for five hours.

    Also today, Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, dropped his refusal to answer the January 6th committee’s subpoena and has begun to cooperate, providing records and agreeing to be interviewed. Meadows had refused to participate in the process, citing Trump’s order that he stay silent. But after a grand jury found Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and as the House considers charging former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who came up with a scheme to overturn the election and who has also refused to answer a subpoena, with criminal contempt of Congress, Meadows has apparently reconsidered his position.

    Former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Renato Mariotti notes that this is a good move on Meadows’s part because it means that any future refusals will go to court, not criminal prosecution. Meadows is the highest-ranking official to testify before the committee and has made it clear he continues to expect to keep mum about what he considers sensitive material. Still, his participation will indicate to others that they should tell their stories before someone else’s testimony makes their information worthless as a bargaining chip.

    The House committee today voted to hold Clark in contempt of Congress and passed the resolution on to the full House. The committee wrote: “The Select Committee believes that Mr. Clark had conversations with others in the Federal Government, including Members of Congress, regarding efforts to delegitimize, disrupt, or overturn the election results in the weeks leading up to January 6th,” and it expects him to comply with the subpoena. It rejects Clark’s contention that his conversations with Trump were a “sacred trust” and wrote that Trump had not, in fact, tried to assert executive privilege over Clark’s testimony. The committee noted that “the willful refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to 1 year.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,196
      December 1, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Today The Guardian broke the news that former president Donald Trump tested positive for COVID on September 26, 2020, days earlier than the White House admitted. A forthcoming book from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has the story. Despite the positive test, Trump went forward with his public schedule, unmasked. He exposed the guests at a Rose Garden ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee for the Supreme Court; it became a superspreader event that infected Chris Christie, Kellyanne Conway, and Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mike Lee (R-UT). That night, Trump held a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

    The next day, Trump met with Gold Star families who lost a loved one in the military, posing for photographs. He later suggested he might have contracted the virus from the families, although he knew he had been infected at the time, and risked infecting others.

    On September 28, Trump spoke in the Rose Garden from a lectern 10 feet away from everyone else, prompting Philip Bump of the Washington Post to ask a week later whether Trump had known then that he might have COVID.

    On September 29, Trump went to his scheduled debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden, arriving too late for testing. Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel, who was the moderator at the debate, later said the event was relying on the “honor system.” Trump railed and snarled at Biden, who was close enough to him to have been in danger. Trump’s contingent refused to wear masks despite rules at the venue to do so. At least 11 people tested positive after the debate.

    Trump continued to hold his normal schedule until 1 a.m. on October 2, when the White House announced he was sick.

    As soon as today’s story broke, Trump’s spokesperson called it “Fake News.” Tonight on the strongly pro-Trump network Newsmax, Meadows echoed Trump and agreed the story was “fake news” and said that the positive test was “a false positive.”

    Trump’s arrogance and disregard for others—and perhaps of his desire to infect Biden with a deadly virus— struck a blow at the principle that “all men are created equal.” The men who broke England’s North American colonies away from the monarchy insisted that no man had an inherent right to rule. They embraced a theory of government that says men are equal, that they have inherent rights, and that government is legitimate only if those it governs consent to it. Their vision excluded women and men of color, but their theory of a government based on equality is very different from the idea that some people have more rights than others.

    The idea of a country based on equality means that no person should be able to disregard others’ interests in order to serve their own. It also means that the law must treat everyone equally and that lawmakers must govern in such a way that they win the support of a majority of those they govern.

    By risking others’ lives without their knowledge or consent, Trump claimed the right to dominate them.

    But now that Trump is no longer at the head of the government, the rule of law appears to be bearing down. Yesterday, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit appeared to reject Trump’s argument for blocking access of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol to official documents from his presidency.

    The committee has already found Trump advisor Stephen K. Bannon in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena; today it held former Department of Justice lawyer Jeffrey Clark in contempt for his refusal to testify but said it may reconsider if he shows up on Saturday.

    Desperate to stay in the news and keep supporters angry, Trump on Sunday night called for a public debate of his long-debunked arguments that the election was stolen from him.

    Today, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s vice chair, responded with what sure sounds like a warning that Trump might soon be on the receiving end of a subpoena. She said: “[Trump] has recently suggested that he wants to debate members of this committee.” The committee’s investigation “is not a game,” Cheney said. “Any communications Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath and if he persists in lying then, he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation, and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks.”

    Equality was also at stake today before the Supreme Court as it held hearings over a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This law directly attacks the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion. In the hearings, the right-wing justices on the court, especially Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, appear to be willing to uphold the Mississippi law.

    Roe v. Wade was part of the dramatic expansion of civil rights after World War II, in which Republican-led Supreme Courts used the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to enable the federal government to overrule discriminatory state laws and protect individuals’ civil rights. It was on these grounds that the court protected Black and Brown rights, interracial marriage, access to birth control, religious freedom, gay rights, and so on.

    Those who objected to such expanded equality insisted the court was indulging in “judicial activism” by overruling the state laws that preserved the power of white men. They worked to stack the court with “originalists” who would defer to the states. Now, finally, thanks to Trump’s three Supreme Court picks, the era of using the federal government to protect equality appears to be under deadly threat, although the laws that protect civil rights are popular: 58% of Americans want Roe v. Wade to stay in place, for example, while only 32% want it overturned.

    Make no mistake: it is not just reproductive rights that are under siege. If the Supreme Court returns power to the states to legislate as they wish, any right currently protected by the federal government is at risk. Justice Sonya Sotomayor made the connection to the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom today when she was questioning a lawyer during the oral arguments: “The issue of when life begins… it’s still debated in religions. So when you say this is the only right that takes away a life, that’s a religious view, isn’t it?”

    After 19 Republican-dominated states have passed election laws suppressing the vote and gerrymandering districts, a reactionary minority controls them. Although Biden won Wisconsin, for example, the state supreme court today left in place districts that likely will enable Republicans to control 60% of the legislative seats in the state (and 75% of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives). Ending federal protections for civil rights means handing to these reactionaries power over the majority of us.

    In 1858, Abraham Lincoln deplored the state laws discriminating against Black Americans, as well as immigrants in the North and West. He challenged Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who said that discriminatory state laws—including laws that protected human enslavement—were just fine so long as those few men allowed to vote liked them.

    “I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal, upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop?” Lincoln said. “If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute-book in which we find it and tear it out….”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    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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