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Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     December 10, 2021 (Friday)

    Today, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, the Supreme Court undermined the federal protection of civil rights that has shaped our world since the 1950s.

    The case asked whether opponents of Texas’s S.B. 8, the so-called Heartbeat Bill, could bring a federal case to block the law, which gets around normal challenges by putting private individuals, rather than the state itself, in charge of enforcing it. By a vote of 5 to 4, the court said they could sue, but it limited that ability so severely that the law itself will remain largely intact.

    The state law, which went into effect on September 1, prohibits abortion after six weeks of a pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. And yet, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court affirmed that women have the constitutional right to abortion without undue restrictions, primarily in the first trimester of a pregnancy.

    This case is about far more than abortion. It is about the federal protection of civil rights in the face of discriminatory state laws. That federal protection has been the key factor in advancing equal rights in America since the 1950s.

    When the Framers wrote the Constitution in 1787, shortly after the American Revolution against a king colonists had come to believe was a tyrant, many leading Americans were still worried about concentrating too much power in the hands of a chief executive and a central government. In order to convince people to ratify the Constitution, leaders called for explicit limits to what the new national government could do to citizens. In 1791 the nation added ten amendments to the Constitution to protect individual freedom and rights, including, for example, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a speedy trial, and so on.

    These limits applied to the federal government alone.

    States could still enact fiercely repressive laws, including, before the Civil War, laws throwing Indigenous Americans off their lands, denying rights to women (including access to their children in the rare instance of divorce), and enslaving Black Americans. In the wake of the war, legislatures in former Confederate states tried to reassert white control through “Black Codes” that severely limited the rights and protections for formerly enslaved people.

    Congressmen recognized the need to use the power of the federal government to override state laws in order to protect equality. In 1866, it passed and sent off to the states for ratification another amendment to the Constitution: the Fourteenth.

    The Fourteenth Amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The amendment gave Congress the power to enforce the amendment “by appropriate legislation.”

    Congress intended for the Fourteenth to enable the federal government to guarantee that Black Americans had the same rights as white Americans, even in states whose legislatures wanted to keep them in a form of quasi-slavery. The states ratified it and it became part of the Constitution in 1868.

    In 1870, as white supremacists organized as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized their Black neighbors, Congress passed a law establishing the Department of Justice, which promptly set out to prosecute Klan members, eventually driving the organization underground.

    But federal protection of civil rights was both limited and short lived. State legislatures kept or passed wide-ranging discriminatory laws, against Black Americans, for sure, and also against other minorities—Asian immigrants were explicitly prohibited from owning land, for example—and all women. By the early twentieth century, there were state laws against mixed-race marriages, against contraception, against integrated schools and housing, against abortion.

    World War II changed the equation. Lawmakers had both to adjust to the demands of the minorities and women who had fought in the war and had kept the factories and fields operating, and to counter communists’ charges that American “democracy” sure didn’t look as equal as communism. To address discriminatory state laws, they turned to the federal government.

    After World War II, under Chief Justice Earl Warren and Chief Justice Warren Burger (both appointed by Republicans), the Supreme Court set out to make all Americans equal before the law. They tried to end segregation through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools. In 1965, they protected the right of married couples to use contraception. In 1967, they legalized interracial marriage. In 1973, with the Roe v. Wade decision, they tried to give women control over their own reproduction by legalizing abortion.

    Justices in the Warren and Burger courts protected these civil rights by arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment required the Bill of Rights to apply to state governments as well as to the federal government. This is known as the “incorporation doctrine,” but the name matters less than the concept: it said that states cannot abridge an individual’s rights, any more than the federal government can. This doctrine dramatically expanded civil rights.

    But opponents of the new decisions insisted that the court was engaging in “judicial activism,” taking away from voters the right to make their own decisions about how society should work. That said that justices were “legislating from the bench.” They insisted that the Constitution is limited by the views of its Framers and that the government can do nothing that is not explicitly written in that 1787 document. They wanted to replace the court’s interpretation of the Constitution with a view that preserved its “original” intent.

    The 1987 fight over President Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court, originalist Robert Bork, was the first salvo in the attempt to roll back the court’s expansion of civil rights. Bork was extreme for his day—famously saying that the Constitution did not protect the right for married people to use birth control, for example—and six Republicans joined the Democrats to oppose him. But the swing toward originalism was underway.

    Now, finally, thanks to the three Supreme Court justices nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed thanks to then–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s breaking of the filibuster, the Republicans have cemented an originalist view of the Constitution on the Supreme Court. Their doctrine will send authority for civil rights back to the states to wither or thrive as different legislatures see fit.

    In Texas the legislature has taken away from its citizens a right guaranteed by the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has declined to assert federal power to stop it.  

    In a partial dissent from today’s decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “the clear purpose and actual effect of S.B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings,” and quoted an 1809 decision that said, “[i]f the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery.” Roberts warned his colleagues that “the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system…is at stake.”

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor was blunter. Texas has launched “a brazen challenge to our federal structure,” she said, one that “echoes the philosophy of John C. Calhoun, a virulent defender of the slaveholding South who insisted that States had the right to ‘veto' or 'nullif[y]’ any federal law with which they disagreed.”

    Under this old system, what civil rights will be off-limits?

    The court’s “choice to shrink from Texas’ challenge to federal supremacy will have far-reaching repercussions,” Sotomayor wrote. “I doubt the Court, let alone the country, is prepared for them.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 11, 2021 (Saturday)

    The picture of what was happening at the White House in the days before the January 6 insurrection is becoming clearer. (While we also have a decent idea of what was happening at the Department of Justice, what was happening at the Pentagon remains unclear.)

    Shortly after Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows announced on Tuesday that he would no longer cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter noting that Meadows had already shared material—thus indicating he did not consider it privileged—that he is now saying he won’t discuss. Thompson identified some of that material.

    He said Meadows had provided the committee with an “email regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled ‘Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN’ that was to be provided ‘on the hill’; and, among others, a January 5, 2021 email about having the National Guard on standby.”

    Journalists immediately began looking for that PowerPoint. Slides began to surface, and then a whole slide deck appeared on the internet. The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell verified it on Friday. The fact that members of the president’s inner circle actually prepared a presentation for an audience about how to overturn an election crystallized just how close the nation came to a successful coup on January 6.

    The PowerPoint presented three ways for then–Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Biden’s election and hand the presidency back to Trump. Pence could simply seat the slates of electors Trump supporters had organized to replace the official slates certified by the states. Pence could insist on rejecting all electronic ballots. Or Pence could delay the counting of the ballots long enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote. Since there were more Republican-dominated states than Democratic-dominated states, Trump would be reelected.

    Then, also on Friday, news dropped that Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis had produced two memos—one previously unknown—outlining far-fetched legal arguments to justify Pence throwing the election to Trump. One, dated December 31, said he could simply refuse to open the envelopes containing the electoral votes of states whose results Trump contested.

    A second, dated January 5, made a more complicated argument claiming for Pence more authority to determine the outcome of the election than the vice president has exercised since the 1887 Electoral Count Act.

    Today, Robert Costa, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the book Peril with veteran journalist Bob Woodward about the fraught weeks surrounding the January 6 insurrection, laid out the timeline for early January in the White House.

    In December, right-wing lawyer John Eastman began drafting the Eastman Memo calling for Pence to refuse to count electors from states Biden won and laying out a number of ways Pence could throw the election to Trump. (Trump’s own loyal attorney general, William Barr, and his deputy Jeffrey Rosen, who replaced Barr when he resigned on December 23, 2020, had already concluded the election was not fraudulent.) The plan, as Costa and Woodward put it in Peril, was: “Either have Pence declare Trump the winner, or make sure it is thrown to the House where Trump is guaranteed to win.”

    The White House had the memo by January 1. Meadows was working with the Trump team to push the ideas in it. Someone in the White House gave it to Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and others on January 2. Meadows met with both Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Meadows’s office on January 2 to brief Graham, who was then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on what they claimed was voter fraud. Graham demanded proof.

    On January 3, Pence conferred with the Senate parliamentarian, who told him he was simply there to count the votes. It was clear he was not on board with Trump’s plan.

    On January 4, Trump called Pence to the Oval Office to pressure him. Eastman presented his case to Pence; Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short; and Pence’s legal counsel, Greg Jacob. On that day, someone presented the PowerPoint to a number of Republican senators and members of the House.

    Apparently, none of the people briefed called the attention of the FBI to the coming attempt to overturn the election.

    On the evening of January 5, Trump called Pence to a meeting as his supporters were gathering on Freedom Plaza near the White House. The people in the streets were cheering and waving “Make America Great Again” flags. Trump asked Pence to throw the election to the House of Representatives; Pence again said he did not have authority to do anything other than count the certified electoral votes.

    And then, according to Costa and Woodward in Peril, Trump asked: “Well, what if these people say you do?” gesturing to the crowds outside. “If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?”  
     
    Pence, who would have been the face of the insurrection if he had done as he was asked, still said no.

    That night, Trump called his people in the so-called “war room” at the Willard Hotel, where loyalists had been trying to figure out a way to delay certification if Pence didn’t cave. He called the lawyers and the non-lawyers separately, since Giuliani wanted to preserve attorney-client privilege. “He’s arrogant,” Trump told his lieutenant Stephen Bannon.

    They appear to have settled on a plan to get Republican lawmakers to raise enough objections that it would delay the counting long enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives. (This squares with the voicemail Giuliani left for newly elected Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in the midst of the insurrection, saying: “The only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.”)

    Since his memo became public, John Eastman has said it “was not being provided to Trump or Pence as my advice.... The memo was designed to outline every single possible scenario that had been floated, so that we could talk about it.” When subpoenaed by the January 6 committee, Eastman declined to appear, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  

    Since journalist Lowell broke the story of Trump’s calls to the Willard the night of January 5, Trump’s spokesperson has said that the account “is totally false” but provided no more information.

    Since the story of the PowerPoint dropped, retired U.S. Army colonel Phil Waldron, who was working with the Trump team to challenge the election results, claimed authorship of it. Waldron told the Washington Post that he met with Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times” and was the one who briefed several members of Congress about the information in his presentation on January 5.

    Since Politico dropped the story about her memos, Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis said: “At no time did I advocate for overturning the election or that Mike Pence had the authority to do so…. As part of my role as a campaign lawyer and counsel for President Trump, I explored legal options that might be available within the context of the U.S. Constitution and statutory law.”

    Yesterday, the January 6 committee subpoenaed six more people who had been involved in planning the rallies in Washington on January 5 and January 6. Some of them communicated with Trump directly; one communicated with Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). Subpoenas went to Bryan Lewis, Ed Martin, Kimberly Fletcher, Robert “Bobby” Peede Jr., Max Miller, and Brian Jack.

    On Monday, December 6, we learned that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, has been cooperating with the January 6 committee.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     December 12, 2021 (Sunday)

    Tonight the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol released a report urging Congress to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he has refused to honor a congressional subpoena.

    It’s quite a document.

    First of all, it pieces together a wide range of material from a number of different sources to lay out very clearly Meadows’s actions in the White House leading up to January 6. Anyone out there who is concerned that they have not heard much from the January 6 Committee will take heart from this comprehensive document, concerning, as it does, only one witness. The committee must have an astonishing amount of material and a number of talented personnel to produce such a report.

    More specifically, though, the report places Meadows at key junctures in the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection and on January 6 itself. It places him with Trump on January 6.

    But what jumps off the page in the report is the discussion of the National Guard’s response to the riot. The report says that “Mr. Meadows reportedly spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then the chief of staff to former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘nonstop’ throughout the day of January 6. And, among other things, Mr. Meadows apparently knows if and when Mr. Trump was engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard’s response to the Capitol riot.”

    The committee also wrote that “Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.”

    Why it took more than three hours for the D.C. National Guard to deploy on January 6 remains a central question about what happened that day. Then–U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund began calling for help at 1:49 p.m., but the National Guard, whose chain of command had been reordered on January 5 to require Miller to approve mobilizing the guard, didn’t deploy until 5:08 p.m.

    Army officials have said they moved as quickly as possible; National Guard officials have said they were held back by army leaders who complained about the “optics” of deploying the National Guard to the Capitol. As the title of Amanda Carpenter’s December 10 article in The Bulwark notes: “Someone is lying about why it took so long for the National Guard to deploy on January 6.”

    The news that Meadows was on the phone "nonstop" to Miller’s chief of staff on January 6, and that he told someone that “the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby,” adds more information to that muddled timeline, although still not enough to figure out what was actually going on.

    Did the Trump team expect a counter-protest that day that would enable Trump to declare a state of emergency, as it appears all the living defense secretaries feared when they wrote an open letter on January 3 insisting that the military must stay out of the transition? “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants—are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly,” the ten living former defense secretaries wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on January 3. “They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

    If counter-protesters had shown up, muddying the story of what was happening, the day might have played out very differently.
     
    The report from the January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows apparently used an encrypted phone and that he communicated frequently with members of Congress about challenging the election.

    The report demolishes Meadows’s argument that he cannot testify because of executive privilege. It notes that President Joe Biden has not asserted executive privilege over the matters about which Meadows would testify, and neither has former president Donald Trump. It appears Meadows is basing his refusal to testify on a letter from “former-President Trump’s counsel, Justin Clark, to Mr. Meadows’s then-counsel, Mr. Gast, expressing former-President Trump’s apparent belief that ‘Mr. Meadows is immune from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to his official responsibilities.’’’ The letter told Meadows not to testify or produce documents.

    Such a letter does not officially assert privilege, even if Trump had the authority to do so, which it seems likely he does not (since it is the current president who asserts privilege to protect the office, and Biden has declined to do so).

    The January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows is refusing to talk about material that he, himself, produced for the committee, and which he has discussed in his new book, thereby waiving any claims to privilege.

    Lawyer Teri Kanefield today put together the timeline for Meadows’s production of documents and then abrupt refusal to testify. She notes that Meadows cooperated with the January 6 Committee over materials from his official work accounts. But then he discovered that the committee had subpoenaed the records from his private cell phone from Verizon, records that he had not transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration, as required by law. He stopped cooperating and sued to have the subpoena to Verizon blocked.

    Considering how bad the materials Meadows gave to the committee are—both a PowerPoint outlining how to overturn the election and emails about the National Guard protecting pro-Trump protesters, as well as texts with members of Congress about undermining the election results—one can only wonder what’s in the material he is trying so desperately to protect.

    The committee will vote tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. whether to hold Meadows in contempt based on the report; the matter will go to the House on Tuesday.

    Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has also refused to comply with a subpoena, this one from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for documents concerning the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus. Navarro, who warned the White House in January 2020 that the coronavirus could become “a full-blown pandemic,” said Trump had given him "a direct order that I should not comply with the subpoena." Navarro’s letter called the chair of the coronavirus committee, Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), “Representative Rayburn.” (The committee works out of the Rayburn House Office Building.)

    Trump confirmed his opposition to the subpoena, saying, “The Communist Democrats are engaging in yet another Witch Hunt, this time going after my Administration's unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response…. The Witch Hunts must end!"

    Finally, Fox News Channel reporter Chris Wallace announced tonight that he was leaving FNC to join CNN+, a streaming service launching in 2022. An actual journalist on the channel whose terms of service explicitly announce it is “for your personal enjoyment and entertainment,” rather than news, Wallace lent legitimacy to the channel’s opinion personalities, who have increasingly slid toward right-wing propaganda.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 13, 2021 (Monday)

    Tonight, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held a televised hearing to vote on whether to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena. Their answer was yes, unanimously, by a vote of 9–0. More, even than that, though, was that in order to justify their votes they dropped some details about what happened on January 6.

    What they revealed was eye-popping.

    All members of the committee spoke tonight, underscoring the importance of the moment.

    Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) grabbed the headlines, though, as she read text messages Meadows received on January 6. They included texts from lawmakers to Meadows begging Trump to call off the rioters, making it crystal clear that those closest to him understood that those attacking the Capitol would respond to his orders. Dozens of texts urged the president to act to stop the protesters: “Someone is going to get killed.” “POTUS needs to calm this sh*t down.”

    Those writing the texts to Meadows about the president also included his son Donald Trump, Jr. (why was he communicating with his father through Meadows?), and Fox News Channel personalities Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, revealing how dangerously intertwined the right-wing media system is with Republican lawmakers. “This is hurting all of us,” Ingraham wrote to Meadows during the insurrection.

    Cheney said: “These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway."

    And yet, Trump remained unmoved for 187 minutes while our Capitol was under attack and lawmakers hid from the mob. As Cheney said: “Hours passed without necessary action by the president. These non privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes.”

    Cheney took the fight directly to Trump with her accusation of “dereliction of duty.” The Capitol was under attack, and the one person who everyone believed could stop the attack, the commander-in-chief, refused to. A number of lawmakers tossed the term “dereliction of duty” around immediately after the insurrection, but it has faded from conversation as Republicans have lined up again behind the former president. It is, though, an offense under the U.S. military code, and therefore is something that people understand is serious.

    Cheney was more specific in another accusation of criminal behavior. After establishing that many lawmakers and media personalities begged then-president Trump to call off the rioters, she asked: "Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s proceedings?"

    What Cheney did tonight was courageous. She put herself on the line in the struggle to hold Trump and his loyalists accountable. As other lawmakers claim to be afraid to stand up to Trump out of fear for their safety, she has made herself a key target of the Trump loyalists in order to defend our democracy.  

    But that was not all that happened in the hearing.

    To underscore that the material Meadows handed over was not privileged, Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) explained that Meadows conducted business on a personal cell phone and over personal email accounts, as well as over Signal, a secure messaging system that encrypts messages so they cannot be unlocked by anyone but the receiver.

    The committee members also increased pressure on those continuing to protect the former president.

    Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) revealed other messages, from unnamed lawmakers, expressing sympathy for the insurrection. One lawmaker texted Meadows: “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.” A message from a lawmaker the next day read. “Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”

    This evening, Thompson told reporters that “the information we received has been quite revealing about members of Congress involved in the activities of January 6th as well as staff.” He said the names of the lawmakers involved in the events of that day will come out. One of those involved is almost certainly Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has been evasive about when and how many times he talked to Trump on January 6, although says with certainty he did.

    Rolling Stone reported tonight that two people who helped to organize the January 6 rally at the Ellipse are saying they will cooperate with the committee fully. Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, who have both been subpoenaed by the committee, are longtime activists who tended to operate on the margins of established politics.

    CNN business journalist Brian Stelter noted that right-wing media channels—including the Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and One America News—did not cover the January 6 committee hearing at all tonight. Hannity, though, did interview Meadows, opening his show by telling viewers: "The hyperpartisan predetermined-outcome anti-Trump January 6 committee just voted 9 to 0 to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with their orders." He went on to ask Meadows why Congress is not investigating what Hannity painted as the terrible riots in the summer of 2020.

    Their discomfort might reflect, in part, that they, too, were implicated in the events of January 6. After begging Trump to call off his supporters during the insurrection, the same personalities went in front of their audiences on camera and lied that Trump had nothing to do with the insurrection. Ingraham, for example, blamed Antifa for the attack on the Capitol, suggested the riot was staged by provocateurs, and suggested there were just three dozen people.

    The suggestion that Antifa was the real culprit on January 6 might or might not have been related to the plan suggested yesterday that Trump had expected counter-protesters and had been prepared to use the ensuing violence as a pretext to declare martial law. At 5:25 p.m. on January 5, Trump tweeted: “Antifa is a Terrorist Organization, stay out of Washington. Law enforcement is watching you very closely!”

    Just three days ago, on Friday, December 10, Ingraham interviewed Trump, who told her he wasn’t involved in the rioting on January 6 and that his words that day “were extremely calming.”

    The resolution to hold Meadows in contempt will go to the full House tomorrow.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 36,174
    Attached to the letter was this (thank goodness for Liz Cheney!):


    "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: 23,864
    brianlux said:
    Attached to the letter was this (thank goodness for Liz Cheney!):



    I pul from her adbook page,  she didn't  attach this there. thanks.
    _____________________________________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: 23,864
      December 14, 2021 (Tuesday)

    The big story today continues to be the insurrection and the many people now seemingly swept up in the investigation of it.

    The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol took to the House Rules Committee its resolution to hold Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. This afternoon, the House Rules Committee voted along party lines by a vote of 8 to 4 to advance the contempt resolution to the House itself.

    In the full House, where Republican leadership urged members to vote against the contempt charge, debate continued into the night. Shortly after 11:00, the House voted to refer Meadows to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt of Congress. The vote was 222 to 208, with only two Republicans—Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois—voting with the Democrats. Both Cheney and Kinzinger sit on the January 6 committee.

    In the course of the debate, to make their case that Meadows’s testimony is vital to understand what happened on January 6, members of the committee continued to reveal pieces of the material they received from Meadows before he decided to stop cooperating.

    One text in particular jumped out. A Republican member of the House texted Meadows on November 4, the day after the election, saying: “HERE’S an AGRESSIVE [sic] STRATEGY: Why can t [sic] the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS[?]"

    That is, a Republican member of Congress wanted Republican-dominated state legislatures not even to wait to see who had won the election—none of those states had been called by November 4—but simply to ignore the will of the voters, choose their own electors, and hope that the Supreme Court would hand the election to Trump as he had been saying for weeks it would.

    Since the election, with the help and urging of some of Trump’s former lawyers, 19 of those Republican-dominated legislatures have passed laws making it harder for Democrats to vote and, in some cases, gotten rid of the nonpartisan election mechanisms to count votes and replaced them with partisan operatives. They have put in place a system that looks much like what this text called for.

    In Georgia, for example, Republicans in the legislature changed the law to enable them to purge Black voters from county election boards, arguing that such reforms are necessary to restore faith in the system after the 2020 election. And today, a handful of lawmakers from Georgia’s legislature launched the Georgia Freedom Caucus with the goal of moving Georgia’s Republican Party further to the right.

    Our democracy is at stake. In the Declaration of Independence, this nation’s Founders declared it “self-evident” that governments are legitimate only if those they govern consent to them. If lawmakers take it upon themselves to ignore the will of the voters and themselves decide who will hold power, we will have lost the ability to consent to our government. And that government will be far more extremist than polls suggest the vast majority of us want.

    A number of voting rights bills have passed the House and are waiting for Senate action. But Republicans there do not want to pass them, and Democrats cannot do it with their razor-thin majority because the Senate filibuster means that Republicans can demand 60 votes even to take up a bill.

    So right now, Democrats like Georgia’s Senator Raphael Warnock are pressing the Senate to reform the filibuster in order to pass voting rights protections with a simple majority. Democrats like Warnock are determined to pass voting rights legislation not least because they know that before the 1965 Voting Rights Act there were majority-Black counties in the South in which not a single Black person voted. In 1946, for example, 14,394 white people and 38,970 Black people lived in Leflore County, Mississippi. Of those folks, 4,345 white people were registered to vote, and they carried elections, since the 26 Black people registered to vote did not risk their safety by casting a ballot.

    It is highly unlikely the Senate will agree to get rid of the filibuster altogether, but the argument for creating a carve-out for voting rights is an easy one to make, especially since the Senate voted today to approve a higher debt ceiling increase to $2.5 trillion on a simple majority vote of 50 to 49.

    The torrent of news from the January 6 committee might give at least a few Republican lawmakers pause about continuing to shore up those who set out to undermine democracy, if not for their own principles, then for the reality that this will not play well during televised hearings next year. "We are all watching what is unfolding on the House side,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said today, “and it will be interesting to reveal all of the participants that were involved."

    Meanwhile, Meadows continues to talk to friendly media while saying he cannot talk to the January 6 committee, and after a day of ignoring the story about their texts altogether, tonight the Fox News Channel personalities identified yesterday in texts defended those texts, although they sounded nervous.  

    They are apparently not the only ones with reason to be nervous. In a lawsuit parallel to that of Meadows, lawyer John Eastman, author of the Eastman memo outlining a strategy for overturning the election, today sued members of the January 6 committee, the committee itself, and Verizon to try to keep his records secret.

    Also today, a federal judge ruled that the House Ways and Means Committee has a legitimate reason to review Trump’s tax returns and that he must hand them over. Congress has been trying to get them since 2019. Federal law says that when the congressional committees that oversee taxation ask for an individual’s tax return, the Treasury Department and the IRS must turn it over, but Trump has fought the law on the grounds that the committee has no legitimate reason to look at his taxes and is only seeking to embarrass him. The judge gave Trump 14 days to appeal.

    And finally, Karl A. Racine, the attorney general for the District of Columbia, today sued the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, as well as many of their leaders, for their roles in the January 6 insurrection. The suit charges that the defendants kept U.S. officials from doing their duties surrounding an election—in violation of a law written to stop the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction—and seeks monetary damages to bankrupt the organizations.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 15, 2021 (Wednesday)

    A year ago today, Trump retweeted pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood’s declaration that Georgia governor Brian Kemp and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger would “soon be going to jail” because they would not overturn the election results in Georgia.

    Today the House of Representatives sent its contempt resolution concerning Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to the Department of Justice.

    The Federalist, a pro-Republican media outlet, exposed Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) as the author of the text to Meadows proposing that “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

    In an attempt to defend Jordan, the author of an article in The Federalist claimed that Adam Schiff (D-CA) a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, “misrepresent[ed]” and “doctored” the text message. The original, the author’s article explained, was actually Jordan forwarding a legal article that made this argument. While it’s not clear that forwarding the article is significantly less troubling than writing original words, The Federalist was also the first to identify Jordan as the sender.

    Jordan’s office confirmed his authorship of the text but claimed the text was only him forwarding a legal theory by Joseph Schmitz, a Federalist Society lawyer who was President George W. Bush’s inspector general for the Defense Department; an executive officer with Erik Prince’s private military company, Blackwater Worldwide; and a foreign policy advisor for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    This, of course, raises other questions.

    Hugo Lowell of The Guardian reported that a deposition scheduled tomorrow before the January 6 committee for Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department lawyer who fed Trump’s attack on the 2020 election results, has been postponed for the second time because of Clark’s medical condition.

    Today, before Clark revealed his ongoing illness, Clark’s former deputy, Kenneth Klukowski, testified before the committee.

    The vice chair of the committee, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), continues to push the idea that Trump acted criminally. She emphasized today that Fox News Channel personalities Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham “are standing by the texts they sent to Meadows on January 6 urging that President Trump take immediate action to stop the violence.”

    “...[F]or multiple hours, President Trump chose not to take the specific and immediate action many urged - as the violent mob besieged & invaded the Capitol, attacked & injured scores of Capitol Police, & obstructed Congress’s count of electoral votes,” she reiterated. “This was a supreme dereliction of the President’s duty….”

    The texts showing lawmakers, as well as journalists, media personalities, and even the president’s own son, begging Trump to call off the rioters while he refused to do so for more than three hours add teeth to the question of whether Trump criminally obstructed an official proceeding of Congress. The committee is clearly contemplating this question.

    Members of the committee say they are following the trail wherever it leads, and a piece today by New York Times reporters Katie Benner, Catie Edmondson, Luke Broadwater, and Alan Feuer identifies six members of the House Freedom Caucus, which Meadows co-founded when he entered Congress in 2015, whom they might find on that trail.

    Representatives Jim Jordan, Scott Perry (R-PA), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Mo Brooks (R-AL), who wore a bullet-proof vest to give his speech at the Ellipse on January 6, were all actively involved in the attempt to stop Biden’s election.

    The Fox News Channel is also under pressure for its role in the insurrection. It’s dealing with the news that three of its own personalities texted Meadows frantically on January 6 begging Trump to call off the rioters, then went on television that night and claimed those attacking the Capitol were left-wing activists.

    It is also facing a demand from voting technology companies Dominion and Smartmatic to see emails from FNC’s top executives Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, to prove either that the men knew the accusations on-air personalities were making against the technology companies were lies, or that they made no effort to determine whether they were real before airing them. The tech companies are suing FNC for defamation and are asking for billions in damages from FNC and Trump loyalists who pushed the Big Lie.

    The Democrats continue to try to legislate in the midst of the storm of insurrection news. But they are bogged down in their attempts to pass the large infrastructure package known as the Build Back Better bill or the reconciliation package through the Senate, attempts that have dragged on for months. This was the bill that was supposed to move in tandem with the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill for traditional infrastructure measures like repairs to roads and bridges and the extension of broadband across the country.

    With Republicans united in their opposition to the larger infrastructure package, progressive Democrats agreed to back the bipartisan measure in exchange for moderate Democrats’ support for a larger package that includes funding for child care and elder care, education, and measures to address climate change.

    Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on November 15, but now Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia refuses to back the second measure unless it comes in under $1.75 trillion over the next ten years, significantly smaller than progressives wanted or than the $3.5 trillion Biden initially proposed. Manchin told CNN reporter Manu Raju that he objects to the bill’s inclusion of a one-year extension of the child tax credit because he believes it will likely be extended further and thus is far more expensive than projected. He says his limit is $1.75 trillion, and the Democrats must cut to reach that number, one way or another.

    While Manchin is framing his objection as one about the budget, it is also a statement about the nation’s priorities. The monthly distribution of the child tax credit, included in Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed in March, by July had kept 3 million children out of poverty. It dropped the child poverty rate by almost 4% with the first payment alone.

    In West Virginia, that translated to 170,000 children who became eligible for payments. Those payments dramatically lowered the food insecurity rate in households with children, which in July dropped from 11.6 percent to 8.4 percent. By September, 86 percent of West Virginians with children felt the payments had made a “huge difference.”

    And yet, despite Republican and conservative Democratic concern about the deficit, today by a vote of 88 to 11 the Senate passed a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the Pentagon $25 billion more than Biden’s budget asked for in a measure that funds the military for only a single year. Progressives in the House tried to hold the bill down to the amount Biden requested but were overruled. It passed the House by a vote of 316 to 113.

    The measure focuses on a growing threat from Russia and China, and seeks to bring the country’s military up to speed on emerging technologies, but lawmakers were also reluctant to let go of older technologies built by their constituents. The measure also includes funding for an investigation of the country’s 20-year war in Afghanistan and takes sexual assault prosecutions out of the chain of command of those accused, a practice that has been associated with whitewashing sexual assault.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 16, 2021 (Thursday)

    As Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress, Trump was famous for never texting, never using email, and never actually saying he wanted criminal actions taken; rather, he would suggest a course of action that others carried out. As Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany of the Washington Post pointed out today, this puts Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in a tight spot, since he was the one standing between his boss and the world, the one people would call and text with messages for the president, whose fingerprints stayed off damning material.

    For his part, Trump is not returning Meadows’s loyalty. He has called Meadows—and presumably his initial willingness to turn over documents to the the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol—“f**king stupid.”

    Today, the January 6th committee subpoenaed retired army colonel Phil Waldron, who wrote the PowerPoint explaining how Republican members of Congress could throw the election to Trump by refusing to recognize Biden’s electors. Waldron claimed he met with Meadows six to eight times. He must turn over all relevant documents by January 10 and appear for a deposition on January 17.

    Democrats have shelved the Build Back Better Act for the moment, although in a statement today President Biden committed to working out a way forward with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who insists on keeping the plan at or below $1.75 trillion and who believes the year-long extension of the child tax credit should actually be scored for a longer period, since he believes it will be so popular it will be extended further.

    Biden highlighted in his statement the piece that is often missing in discussions of the bill: Republicans are united against it, despite the fact its components are very popular. “Build Back Better is urgently needed to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health care, child care, and elder care,” Biden said. “Notwithstanding the unrelenting Republican obstruction—not a single Republican is willing to move forward on the bill—I am determined to see this bill enacted into law, to give America’s families the breathing room they deserve. We also need urgent action on climate change and other priorities in the Build Back Better plan…. We will—we must—get Build Back Better passed, even in the face of Republican opposition.”

    “At the same time,” he said, “we must also press forward on voting rights legislation, and make progress on this as quickly as possible…. Our democracy is at stake.”

    With Build Back Better on the back burner, Democrats are pushing hard on voting rights. After all, the ability to vote, and to have our votes counted by nonpartisan officials, is the whole game.

    Nineteen Republican-dominated states have changed their election laws since the 2020 election to hamstring the Democrats in a power grab that echoes that of Democrat-dominated states after the Civil War, which created an anti-democratic one-party political system for three generations.

    A system that is rigged for the Republicans is rigged for Donald Trump, since the Republican National Committee (RNC) is now working for him. Washington Post reporters Josh Dawsey and David A. Fahrenthold underscored this reality yesterday when they broke the story that the RNC is covering up to $1.6 million of Trump’s private legal bills incurred as he fights investigations of his business practices in New York.

    The Republicans’ executive committee voted “overwhelmingly” to approve the payments last summer. Finance experts say it is legal for them to choose to spend donors’ money this way, but it is “highly unusual,” according to observers (including a historian of the Republican Party), because, as the article’s authors say, “the spending has nothing to do with promoting the GOP’s policy agenda or political priorities, dealing with ongoing party business, or campaigning—and relates to investigations that are not about Trump’s time as president or his work in the White House.”

    Restoring the normal operation of our voting machinery is vital to our democracy. NBC News congressional reporter Frank Thorp V tweeted today that President Biden and Vice President Harris met with a number of senators this morning over Zoom to discuss voting rights. Those participating included Senators Manchin, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

    According to Kaine, Biden was pressing the “urgency of getting something done, & asking us the progress that we're making.”

    Today, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), who is up for reelection in 2022 in a swing state and has stayed quiet about the filibuster, came out in favor of changing the rule in order to pass laws protecting voting rights. “Without free, fair, and impartially-administered elections, the United States of America as we know it would cease to exist. But right now, our right to vote is under attack,” she said. “We must change the rules, to allow a simple majority of this body, as our Founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.”

    Tonight, Klobuchar took the floor of an almost-empty Senate to urge her colleagues not to go home for the holidays until they protect voting rights. Speaking for the Freedom to Vote Act, the compromise bill hammered out this summer with Manchin and a team of collaborators, she called for changes to the filibuster that would enable the Senate actually to do the work the American people want it to do, rather than having debate as well as legislation stifled by Republican filibusters.

    She warned that voting, the “fundamental right that is the very foundation of our system of government[,] is under attack. Since the 2020 election, we have seen a persistent and coordinated assault on the freedom to vote in states across the country.”  “Our nation was founded on the ideals of democracy,” she said, “and we’ve seen for ourselves in this building how we can’t afford to take it for granted…. We must stand up for the salvation of our democracy, and each day that we delay, it gets harder and harder to undo what is being done.”  

    In the midst of Republican obstruction of laws to protect our democracy, the Senate unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. This measure prohibits all imports from the Xinjiang region in the far west of China “unless U.S. Customs and Border Protection certifies by clear and convincing evidence that goods were not produced with forced labor.” This is the first major pushback against the Chinese government's human rights abuses.

    Since 2014, the Chinese government has forced 1 million Uyghurs, members of a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang, into internment camps for “reeducation,” a process that has included forced sterilization and forced labor. The Biden administration has called China’s treatment of ­the Uyghurs a genocide. China’s government has called the system “vocational training programs.”

    The measure will impact U.S. supply chains, including the polysilicon used to make solar panels. The region produces nearly half of the world's supply of it.

    Also today, the Treasury Department barred U.S. investment in eight Chinese companies that are developing technologies to spy on and track Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities using biological data. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy said the ban was “groundless” and that “China’s development of biotechnology has always been for the well-being of mankind.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
       December 17, 2021 (Friday)

    Tonight CNN broke the story that members of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol think they know who wrote one of the eye-popping texts to Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

    The text was the one sent the day after the election, before all the states had called the election, suggesting that Republicans should not wait for results in three states but should simply appoint their own electors. Then the whole mess would be thrown to the Supreme Court. Trump had frequently said that the Supreme Court, to which he had named three justices—including one at the very end of October, when the election was already underway—would decide in favor of him in the case of a contested election.

    The text suggested that the Republicans should throw out the foundation of our democracy—the principle that we have a say in our government—and should simply decide on their own who had been elected.

    CNN has confirmed from a number of sources that the phone number on that text belonged to former Texas governor and Trump energy secretary Rick Perry. Perry’s spokesperson says Perry denies that he wrote the text. The spokesperson could not explain why that phone number was registered to Perry’s name and email address.

    The momentum behind the January 6th committee appears to be picking up. This morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Spectrum News that the attack on the Capitol on January 6 “was a horrendous event and I think that what they’re seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”

    McConnell arranged Trump’s second impeachment to guarantee an acquittal, and he tried to scuttle an investigation of the insurrection. His wife, Elaine Chao, was transportation secretary in the Trump administration and resigned her position on January 7, 2021, saying that she “simply cannot set aside” how troubled she was “as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed.”

    The committee has been effective, interviewing hundreds of witnesses without leaks, issuing a broad range of subpoenas, and referring uncooperative witnesses to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress. That efficiency is possible because the committee is not constantly fighting the sort of grandstanding and construction of false counternarratives we saw Republicans engaging in during the impeachment hearings.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to keep that sort of disinformation in play by putting far-right Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN) on the committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected them and put Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) on the committee instead.

    Now it turns out that Jordan was part of the insurrection McCarthy wanted him to investigate: Jordan texted Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on November 5, offering a plan for how Vice President Mike Pence could toss out Biden’s electors and throw the election to Trump.

    Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone appeared today before the January 6th committee but invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for every question. Today, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia filed a status report informing the court that four defendants who pleaded guilty in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case concerning the January 6 insurrection are still cooperating with the investigation. The Oath Keepers provided security for Stone in Washington at the time of the insurrection. Stone has asked supporters for donations to his “legal defense fund.”

    In other news from January 6, today a judge sentenced Robert Palmer of Florida, who threw a fire extinguisher at police on January 6 in the worst of the fighting at the U.S. Capitol, to more than five years in prison, the longest sentence handed down so far. Palmer blamed Trump for lying to supporters that the election was stolen and calling on them to “stand up to tyranny.” More than 700 people have been charged in that attack.

    It was a year ago this week that Sandra Lindsay received the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, and yet, the politicization of the vaccine means that Republicans, especially, are unvaccinated and vulnerable, and we are once again in a surge of the disease that, as of this week, has already killed more than 800,000 Americans by the official count. That’s more people than live in Atlanta and Pittsburgh combined.

    Today, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report detailing the Trump administration's decision to abandon the idea of stopping the spread of Covid and instead embrace the idea of letting it spread freely until the U.S. achieved “herd immunity.” That idea was the pet theory of Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the White House on August 10, 2020, after Trump saw him on the Fox News Channel.

    The committee released an email from Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator in 2020 and 2021 and who opposed the new policy. She wrote to refuse to participate in a “Medical Experts Roundtable” that would recommend herd immunity.

    “I can’t be part of this with these people who believe in herd immunity and believe we are fine with only protecting the 1.5 [million] Americans in [long-term care facilities] and not the 80 [million] + with co-morbidities in the populations includ[ing] the unacceptable death toll among Native Americans, Hispanics and Blacks,” she wrote. “With our current mitigation scenario we end up near 300K by Christmas and 500K by the time we have [a] vaccine—close to the 600K live[s] lost with [the] 1918 Flu…. Without masks and social distancing in public and homes we end up with twice as many deaths—we are a very unhealthy nation with a lot of obesity etc.” She called those urging herd immunity “a fringe group without grounding in epidemics, public health or on the ground common sense experience.”

    She offered to leave town rather than participate in the roundtable.

    The committee also discovered evidence that the Trump administration had interfered with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), removing references to face coverings and suggestions to suspend choirs, for example, in order to avoid offending faith communities.

    This afternoon, anchor Martha MacCallum of the Fox News Channel asked Dr. Robert Redfield, who directed the CDC when the coronavirus crisis broke out and continued to direct it until President Biden took office, to respond to the report. He essentially confirmed it and deflected his own responsibility for permitting the tampering with public health information onto the White House. He said that the agency was replaced by the White House coronavirus task force, which “limited the CDC’s ability to communicate effectively to the American public,” and said, “I was very disappointed in that.”

    President Biden has fought an uphill battle to contain the pandemic in the face of right-wing opposition to public health measures: more than 90% of adult Democrats have gotten the vaccine, while only 60% of adult Republicans have. Conservative courts have blocked the Biden administration’s attempts to mandate coronavirus vaccines or frequent testing for federal contractors, health care workers, and companies that employ more than 100 people.

    Today the Biden administration won a significant victory when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision blocking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from requiring vaccines or frequent testing for companies with more than 100 employees. For now, the requirement will stand, but its opponents say they will take their challenge to the Supreme Court.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     December 18, 2021 (Saturday)

    I'd say I'm going to take tonight off, but I already did-- I've been asleep on the couch for hours (all the way through Bullitt!) and am just over here to post a picture so you all know I'm alive, and then I'm falling into bed.

    Semester ended this week. Can you tell?

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland. Mornings lately have been spectacular.]

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 19, 2021 (Sunday)

    “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

    These were the first lines in a pamphlet called The American Crisis that appeared in Philadelphia on December 19, 1776, at a time when the fortunes of the American patriots seemed at an all-time low. Just five months before, the members of the Second Continental Congress had adopted the Declaration of Independence, explaining to the world that “the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled…do…solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.”

    The nation’s founders went on to explain why it was necessary for them “​​to dissolve the political bands” which had connected them to the British crown.

    They explained that their vision of human government was different from that of Great Britain. In contrast to the tradition of hereditary monarchy under which the American colonies had been organized, the representatives of the united states on the North American continent believed in a government organized according to the principles of natural law.

    Such a government rested on the “self-evident” concept “that 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.” Governments were created to protect those rights and, rather than deserving loyalty because of tradition, religion, or heritage, they were legitimate only if those they governed consented to them. And the American colonists no longer consented to be governed by the British monarchy.  

    This new vision of human government was an exciting thing to declare in the heat of a Philadelphia summer after a year of skirmishing between the colonial army and British regulars, but by December 1776, enthusiasm for this daring new experiment was ebbing. Shortly after colonials had cheered news of independence in July as local leaders read copies of the Continental Congress’s declaration in meetinghouses and taverns in cities and small towns throughout the colonies, the British moved on General George Washington and the troops in New York City.

    By September, the British had forced Washington and his soldiers to retreat from the city, and after a series of punishing skirmishes across Manhattan Island, by November the Redcoats had pushed the Americans into New Jersey. They chased the colonials all the way across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

    By mid-December, it looked bleak for the Continental Army and the revolutionary government it backed. The 5000 soldiers with Washington who were still able to fight were demoralized from their repeated losses and retreats, and since the Continental Congress had kept enlistments short so they would not risk a standing army, many of the men would be free to leave the army at the end of the year, further weakening it.

    As the British troops had taken over New York City and the Continental soldiers had retreated, many of the newly minted Americans outside the army were also having doubts about the whole enterprise of creating a new, independent nation based on the idea that all men were created equal. Then, things got worse: as the American soldiers crossed into Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia on December 12 out of fear of a British invasion, regrouping in Baltimore (which they complained was dirty and expensive).

    “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

    The author of The American Crisis was Thomas Paine, whose January 1776 pamphlet Common Sense had solidified the colonists’ irritation at the king’s ministers into a rejection of monarchy itself, a rejection not just of King George III, but of all kings. In early 1776, Paine had told the fledgling Americans, many of whom still prayed for a return to the comfortable neglect they had enjoyed from the British government before 1763, that the colonies must form their own independent government.

    Now, he urged them to see the experiment through. He explained that he had been with the troops as they retreated across New Jersey and, describing the march for his readers, told them “that both officers and men, though greatly harassed and fatigued, frequently without rest, covering, or provision, the inevitable consequences of a long retreat, bore it with a manly and martial spirit. All their wishes centred in one, which was, that the country would turn out and help them to drive the enemy back.”

    For that was the crux of it. Paine had no doubt that patriots would create a new nation, eventually, because the cause of human self-determination was just. But how long it took to establish that new nation would depend on how much effort people put into success. “I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake,” Paine wrote. “Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it.”

    In mid-December, British commander General William Howe had sent most of his soldiers back to New York to spend the winter, leaving garrisons across the river in New Jersey to guard against Washington advancing.

    On Christmas night, having heard that the garrison at Trenton was made up of Hessian auxiliaries who were exhausted and unprepared for an attack, Washington crossed back over the icy Delaware River with 2400 soldiers in a winter storm. They marched nine miles to attack the garrison, the underdressed soldiers suffering from the cold and freezing rain. Reaching Trenton, they surprised the outnumbered Hessians, who fought briefly in the streets before they surrendered.

    The victory at Trenton restored the colonials’ confidence in their cause. Soldiers reenlisted, and in early January, they surprised the British at Princeton, New Jersey, driving them back. The British abandoned their posts in central New Jersey, and by March, the Continental Congress moved back to Philadelphia. Historians credit the Battles of Trenton and Princeton with saving the Revolutionary cause.

    There is no hard proof that Washington had officers read The American Crisis to his troops when it came out six days before the march to Trenton, as some writers have said, but there is little doubt they heard it one way or another. So, too, did those wavering loyalists.

    “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” Paine wrote in that fraught moment, “yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     December 20, 2021 (Monday)

    On Fox News Sunday yesterday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he could not support the Build Back Better infrastructure bill, a measure that is central to President Joe Biden’s vision for America.

    Negotiators have been working on the measure for months. At the end of March, Biden called for the American Jobs Plan, a $2.3 trillion bill designed to support well-paid American jobs by investing in a wide range of projects, both taking care of long-deferred maintenance on roads, bridges, pipes, and our electrical grid, for example, and also investing in education, elder care, and alternative energy to help address the climate crisis.

    Republicans refused to get behind such a sweeping package, so to get Republican buy-in to a measure that would spend federal money, rather than cutting taxes, negotiators broke Biden’s initial measure into two bills. One was a $1.2 trillion package that focused on hard infrastructure like rebuilding roads and bridges, and bringing broadband to communities that still don’t have it. About $550 billion of that money comes from new appropriations, and the rest is regular spending that Congress moved into the measure. Some Republicans were willing to support this bill, but it was too small to win the full support of progressive Democrats, who wanted a much bigger package. This bill is now commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (although its name is actually the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act).

    The other measure is the Build Back Better bill, which focuses on human infrastructure like childcare, eldercare, lower drug prices, universal preschool, the Child Tax Credit, and measures to address the effects of climate change. This bill began at $3.5 trillion. Republicans said no across the board to this one. Conservative Democrats Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) also said they could not support it without significant cuts, and so negotiators whittled it down to $1.75 trillion.

    To get both measures through required a delicate balance. On the one hand, progressive Democrats refused to agree to the bipartisan bill unless conservative Democrats agreed to pass the larger bill. On the other hand, Republicans refused to have anything at all to do with the larger bill but would not give enough votes to the bipartisan bill to pass it without the help of the progressive Democrats.

    So Democratic leadership made a deal that the two bills would move forward together, but then conservative Democrats wanted to move forward with the bipartisan bill and to wait for a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to see how much the larger bill would cost. Finally, in November, the Democratic leaders got a firm promise from the conservative Democrats that they would pass a version of the larger bill. On that promise, the progressive Democrats agreed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which they did, and Biden signed it on November 15.  

    So when Manchin announced on the Fox News Channel that he would no longer support the Build Back Better bill in any form, the wrath of the betrayed fell on him. Manchin cited concerns about the cost of the bill, but he used the CBO analysis of what the bill would cost if its provisions were all renewed for the next decade, an analysis requested by Senate Republicans, rather than what is actually in the current bill. While long-term concerns are not necessarily illegitimate, concerns about extensions not yet voted into law contrast strikingly with a lack of concern over the 2017 Republican corporate tax cut and 2018 budget, which were projected to cost $5.5 trillion if all aspects were extended for ten years, and which passed nonetheless.  

    Those who had relied on Manchin’s promise, including the White House, were furious. “If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

    The death of the Build Back Better bill would have huge repercussions. First of all, infrastructure spending is popular in general, both because of the projects it would accomplish and because of the jobs it would provide. Second, without the extension provided in the Build Back Better bill, the child tax credit that has lifted so many children out of poverty will expire, and the child tax credit is very popular (not least in West Virginia, where 181,000 families with 305,000 children benefited from the payments).

    The president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, Josh Sword, asked Manchin to get back to the bargaining table, pointing out that the Build Back Better bill would not only lower the cost of health care and child care, but also shore up the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides benefits to thousands of coal miners. It also protects workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively, creates jobs for home care workers, expands care for seniors and those disabled, and invests $4 billion in coal communities “to attract manufacturing companies that will provide good-paying, union jobs.”

    Tonight, Manchin appears to have put negotiations back on the table, tweeting: “President Biden's framework is the product of months of negotiations and input from all members of the Democratic Party who share a common goal to deliver for the American people…. As we work through the text of the legislation I would hope all of us will continue to deal in good faith and do what is right for the future of the American people.”

    The reason all this matters so much is that Biden and the Democrats are trying to restructure the nation around ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy. Since 1981, when Ronald Reagan took office after telling Americans, “[i]n this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem,” the prevailing pressure on the American government has been to cut taxes and slash government regulations and investment in order to free up private capital to invest in a growing economy.

    But while those who pushed so-called supply-side economics promised it would create widespread prosperity, their system never delivered. Instead, the rate of economic growth did not increase dramatically, while, as the country cut taxes again and again, wealth moved upward. Meanwhile, as deficits and the national debt mounted, Congress cut social welfare programs and investment in infrastructure, and the country has fallen behind other nations.

    Republicans insist that investing in the country is socialism that will destroy the economy, but in fact, Congress’s investment in the economic recovery through the American Rescue Plan, passed by the Democrats in March without a single Republican vote, has created the fastest rate of economic growth the country has seen in decades. Growth in the first two quarters of the year, before the Delta variant started to spread, was over 6%. That investment has created more than 6 million jobs since January, the highest rate in history, and new unemployment claims are the lowest they’ve been in more than 50 years.

    When Manchin said he would stop this investment by killing the Build Back Better bill, Goldman Sachs immediately predicted 1% less growth in the economy, saying that failure to pass the bill had “negative growth implications.” The bank cited the end of the child tax credit, along with the loss of other spending, as central to its analysis.

    The Build Back Better bill, along with the other initiatives of the Biden administration, is not simply the pre-1981 government resurrected. It reworks the old New Deal government that focused on good jobs for men who headed households into a modern vision centered on children and families and the communities that support them.

    It is no wonder that the Republicans have refused to deal with the measure at all, and that the Democrats have had to—and likely will continue to have to—devote a lot of time and energy to pass it into law.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 21, 2021 (Tuesday)

    Summarizing U.S. political news these days sometimes feels like following two entirely different threads. On the one hand, there is the story about what’s happening in the White House and among the Democrats in Congress, who are trying to pass laws that are really quite popular—like the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Build Back Better bill—and to shore up the democratic alliances that have been central to our place in the world since World War II.

    On the other hand is the story of the January 6 insurrection and the ongoing attempt of the Trump Republicans to undermine our government and seize power.

    Yesterday, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol asked Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) to appear before it voluntarily to explain his role in the attempt to install Department of Justice attorney Jeffrey Clark as attorney general. The committee was deferential, recognizing the sensitivity of asking a fellow representative to appear before it. The committee also asked Perry to produce documents.

    The plan to replace acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen—who took office when Attorney General William Barr resigned on December 23—was an attempt to use the Justice Department to overthrow the election. Clark wanted the department to tell the public the election was fraudulent, thus giving credence to Trump’s lie that the election was stolen.

    Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told Perry that “multiple witnesses,” including Rosen and his deputy attorney general, said Perry had played “an important role.” Thompson also said that the committee knows that Perry texted and otherwise communicated with Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about installing Clark, including communications on the encrypted Signal app.  

    Perry also asked the Justice Department to look into “things going on in Pennsylvania” in support of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election results there.

    Today, Perry tweeted that he would not cooperate, calling the committee “illegitimate” and an attempt of “the radical Left” to distract from its failures. Trump made a similar argument in his attempt to block the subpoena requiring the National Archives and Records Administration to hand over the White House records for a period around January 6. When the U.S. District Court for D.C. rejected Trump’s request on December 9, it concluded the committee is legitimate: “[T]here would seem to be few, if any, more imperative interests squarely within Congress’s wheelhouse than ensuring the safe and uninterrupted conduct of its constitutionally assigned business.”

    The committee says it will use “other tools” to get the information it seeks from the Pennsylvania congress member.

    Perry is not the only one trying to avoid testifying. The committee has also subpoenaed Clark, who says he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. John Eastman, a lawyer who wrote a memo outlining how Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the election, has also taken refuge behind the Fifth Amendment, as has political operative Roger Stone. So, too, has conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who participated in the January 6 rally.
     
    Trump ally Stephen Bannon ignored the committee’s subpoena; Congress voted to hold him in contempt of Congress, and a grand jury indicted him. Congress voted to hold Meadows in contempt as well when he declined to testify; his case is now in front of prosecutors.

    This morning, former national security advisor Michael Flynn filed a request for a restraining order in Tampa, Florida, against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a temporary injunction against the committee’s subpoena, claiming it violates his right to free speech. In November, the committee issued a subpoena to Flynn along with other key figures in the attempt to overturn the election. Flynn, it said, attended a meeting in the Oval Office on December 18 that reports at the time said descended into a shouting match as participants discussed seizing voting machines and Flynn advocated that Trump declare martial law.  

    It appears that the circle closest to Trump is not going to try to deny involvement in the attempt to overturn the election, but rather is challenging Congress’s authority to ask about their actions. This is an extraordinary position to take: they are declaring that they are not bound by our laws (although they are apparently eager to try to use them to reduce their exposure).   

    At the same time, there is a rush among Trump supporters in Congress to avoid association with the January 6 insurrection. Representatives Perry, Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) all are denying their involvement.

    But there is a noticeable uptick in the culture warrior language and violent rhetoric embraced by those associated with the pro-Trump right, suggesting the need to rally their supporters around them. Last night, a political conference organized by the right-wing college campus organization Turning Points USA featured Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who killed two men and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in summer 2020 when he attended a protest against police brutality; in November he was cleared of all charges. “You’re a hero to millions,” Turning Points USA leader Charlie Kirk told him in front of an audience that gave Rittenhouse a standing ovation. Rittenhouse told the crowd he might sue the media for the way it covered his trial.

    Fox News Channel personality Jesse Watters used violent language to urge attendees to ambush infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci to silence him. Watters urged them to use a “kill shot,” for example, although he was ostensibly talking about ambushing him with questions.

    Representative Boebert said: “I am tired of having Godless people who hate America run this country! You and I are going to take this country back!” Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) told the audience of college students that they should drop out of school. “I think you should home school. I was home schooled all the way through. I am proudly a college dropout. Unless you are becoming a doctor or lawyer or engineer, I highly encourage you to drop out.”

    Today Boebert posted a video of lawmakers calling her out for her Islamophobia; the video ended with her winking as a gunshot rings out.

    A piece by The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell yesterday reported that Trump “appears deeply unnerved” as the committee’s work brings it closer and closer to him. More than 300 witnesses have talked voluntarily and the committee has more than 30,000 documents to examine. He is complaining about Meadows’s having given the committee documents; he is unhappy that his aides are taking the Fifth rather than simply ignoring the committee’s subpoenas. As his legal challenges falter, he has taken to issuing statements attacking the committee as "highly partisan political hacks.”

    Meanwhile, the Republican Party is purging those who don’t support Trump. Senators have been more likely to hold the line against the extremism in the House, but five senators from the “governing wing” of the party—Richard C. Shelby (R-AL), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA)—have all announced their retirement. Senator John Thune (R-SD), the number 2 Senate Republican, has indicated he is thinking of retiring (at 60). And Republican-dominated state legislatures are preparing a new wave of voting restrictions before the 2022 midterm elections.

    Last night we got the story of the Build Back Better bill, which is stalled in the Senate despite its popularity because Republicans, who represent 40.5 million fewer Americans than the 50 Democrats do, refuse to consider it. Tonight we have the story of the attempts of Trump loyalists to overturn a legitimate election and their refusal to answer to Congress, which represents the American people, to explain what they did. And Republican legislatures intend to cement those loyalists into power.

    For all that I don’t have the space to follow both these threads every night, they are really two parts of the same story: who should have a say in our democracy?

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  • A piece by The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell yesterday reported that Trump “appears deeply unnerved” as the committee’s work brings it closer and closer to him. More than 300 witnesses have talked voluntarily and the committee has more than 30,000 documents to examine. He is complaining about Meadows’s having given the committee documents; he is unhappy that his aides are taking the Fifth rather than simply ignoring the committee’s subpoenas. As his legal challenges falter, he has taken to issuing statements attacking the committee as ‘highly partisan political hacks.”

    ”Only the guilty plea the fifth.”
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 22, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Year-end accounts of the U.S. economy are very strong indeed. According to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal—which are certainly not giddy media outlets—U.S. economic output has jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades. China’s growth in the same period will be 4%, and the eurozone (which is made up of  the member countries of the European Union that use the euro) will grow at 2%.

    The U.S. is “outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century,” wrote Matthew A. Winkler in Bloomberg, “and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years….”

    In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; today it has dropped to 4.2%. This means the Biden administration has created 4.1 million jobs, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined. Wages in America are growing at about 4% a year, compared with less than 1% a year in the eurozone, as worker shortages and strikes at places like Deere & Co. (which makes John Deere products) and Kellogg’s are pushing wages up and as states increase minimum wages.

    The American Rescue Plan, passed by Democrats in March without a single Republican vote, cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. More than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured have gotten healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million. When Biden took office, about 46% of schools were open; currently the rate is 99%. In November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it.  

    Support for consumers has bolstered U.S. companies, which are showing profit margins higher than they have been since 1950, at 15%. Companies have reduced their debt, which has translated to a strong stock market.

    The American economy is the strongest it’s been in decades, with the U.S. leading the world in economic growth…so why on earth do 54% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy (according to a CNN/SSRS poll released yesterday)?

    That disapproval comes partly from inflation, which in November was at 6.8%, the highest in 39 years, but inflation is high around the world as we adjust to post-pandemic reopening. Gas prices, which created an outcry a few weeks ago, have come down significantly. Patrick De Haan, an oil and refined products analyst at GasBuddy, an app to find cheap gas prices, tweeted today that average gas prices have fallen under $3 a gallon in 12 states and that in 36 U.S. cities, prices have fallen by more than $0.25 a gallon in the past 30 days. Falling prices reflect skyrocketing gasoline inventories.

    Respondents also said they were upset by disruptions in the supply chain. But in fact, the much-hyped fear that supply chain crunches would keep packages from being delivered on time for the holidays has proved to be misguided: 99% of packages are arriving on time. This is a significant improvement over 2020, and even over 2019. It reflects that companies have built more warehouse space and expanded delivery hours, that people have shopped early this year, and that buyers are venturing back into stores rather than relying on online shopping.

    What it does not reflect is a weakened retail market. Major ports in the U.S. will process almost one-fifth more containers in terms of volume than they did in 2019. Container traffic at European ports has stayed flat or declined. Consumer goods are flying off the shelves at a rate about 45% higher than they did in 2018: it looks like Americans will spend about 11.5% more in this holiday season than they did in 2020. Indeed, according to Tom Fairless in the Wall Street Journal, American consumer demand was the key factor in the global supply chain bottlenecks in the first place.

    And yet 63% of the poll’s respondents to the CNN/SSRS poll said that the nation's economy is in poor shape. And here’s why: 57% of them say that the economic news they've heard lately has been mostly bad. Only 19% say they are hearing mostly good news about the economy.

    How people think about the country depends on the stories they hear about it.

    Those maintaining the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election know that principle very well.

    Yesterday, former national security advisor Michael Flynn filed a request for a restraining order against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a temporary injunction against a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    Today, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven of Tampa denied Flynn’s request, noting that his lawyers had not followed correct procedure. On Twitter today, legal analyst Teri Kanefield pointed out that, like so many others launched by Trump loyalists, Flynn’s lawsuit was not an actual legal argument but part of the false narrative that Trump and his loyalists are being persecuted by Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who stole the election.

    That was the strategy behind the sixty or more lawsuits over the election—Trump won only a single minor one—and behind the continuing demands of Trump loyalists to relitigate the 2020 election. They have produced no evidence of the rampant fraud they allege, but the constant demand that election officials defend the results sows increasing distrust of our democratic system.

    Douglas Frank, an associate of Trump loyalist and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, has pressed claims across the country and told the staff of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, that he was launching lawsuits across the country and that LaRose’s office had better cooperate.

    “I’m warning you that I’ve been going around the country. We’re starting lawsuits everywhere,” Frank said, according to a recording reported on by the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, Emma Brown, and Josh Dawsey. “And I want you guys to be allies, not opponents. I want to be on your team, and I’m warning you.” Frank has called for “firing squads” for anyone found guilty of “treason,” by turning “a blind eye to the massive election fraud that took place in 2020.”

    And yet, we continue to learn about the reality of the effort to overturn the election. Today the January 6 committee asked Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) to provide information about his conversations with Trump on January 6—a topic that has made Jordan noticeably uncomfortable whenever it comes up—as well as any other discussions the two men had about overturning the election results, and whether Trump talked about offering pardons to those involved in the insurrection. In October, Jordan said he would be happy to talk to the committee.

    Also today, Proud Boy Matthew Greene pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to obstruct law enforcement on January 6 and has agreed to cooperate with law enforcement. His guilty plea and testimony that he helped to program handheld radios for the Proud Boys on January 5 establishes that there was a shared plan and preparation to attack the Capitol.

    There are signs that some Republicans might want to get out from under whatever might be coming. Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) today said he regrets voting against counting the electoral votes of two states that voted for Biden, although he continued to say there were problems with the election. “In retrospect I should have voted to certify,” Rice told Olivia Beavers of Politico. “Because President Trump was responsible for the attack on the Capitol.”

    And in a new interview, quite casually, when talking about his border wall rather than about the election itself, Trump himself undercut the Big Lie altogether: “We built almost five hundred miles of wall,” he said, “and had we won the election it would…be completed by now.”

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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • CHRISTMAS IS CANCELED!
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
    edited December 2021
    well now, looks like the Committee recognizes Festivus....


    December 23, 2021 (Thursday)

    Tonight the Washington Post reported that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is weighing possible criminal referral for former president Trump, focusing on the 187 minutes between Trump’s urging his supporters to march on the Capitol and the video he finally released telling them to stop.

    During that period, Trump was inundated with text messages and phone calls begging him to call off his supporters. Famously, when then–House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urged Trump to stop the violence, then-president Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."  

    Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told Washington Post reporters Tom Hamburger, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky that the committee is interested in why the president delayed more than three hours before intervening. He reiterated that the committee wants to know if Trump was derelict in his duty and whether he criminally obstructed Congress from counting the certified ballots: interfering with an official proceeding is a crime.

    The House can make a referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, but that referral has no legal effect and is generally intended to inform the Justice Department of something it doesn’t know. The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a statement after the House’s referral of Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, for criminal contempt of Congress: “As with all criminal referrals, we will evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law, and the Principles of Federal Prosecution.”

    Thompson said the committee is especially interested in the multiple videos Trump recorded before he finally got one his team felt it could release. The earlier ones were unacceptable because he would not say what was needed to calm the rioting, and the committee wants to hear what is in them.

    It seems to me there is also something very odd about that video, in that it appears to have been shot outside the White House at a time when the Capitol was under attack and the next three people in the line of succession to the presidency were all inside the besieged building. The fact that Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were all in the same building was unusual by itself, and that they were under attack together was unprecedented. Even aside from normal procedures, with the line of succession in such danger, why wasn’t the president himself in a secure location, rather than outside the White House recording multiple takes of a video?

    It seems so odd to me, I feel like I must be missing something obvious.  

    The multiple videos are among the materials the January 6th committee has subpoenaed from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Trump has sued to block NARA from complying with the subpoena, saying it violates executive privilege, although it’s the actual president, not a former president, who can invoke executive privilege and President Joe Biden has refused to in this case. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan denied Trump’s request for a preliminary injunction, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld that decision on December 9.

    This morning, Trump appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, continuing to assert that he has the right to invoke executive privilege over the materials in order to protect the office of the president. Later in the day, Thompson asked the court to move quickly on Trump’s request, suggesting it should decide by January 14.

    Trump’s video of 4:17 p.m. on January 6 is under consideration for another reason, too.

    One of the big questions about January 6 is why it took the National Guard more than three hours to get to the Capitol after the Capitol Police had called for help. On Tuesday, Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix of Just Security published a deeply researched article suggesting that the Pentagon was concerned that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which gives the president the power to use the military, including National Guard troops, to stop civil disorder or insurrection. Goodman and Hendrix suggest that military leaders worried Trump would use troops deployed to the Capitol in order to hold onto power, and they note that the Pentagon did not let the National Guard deploy until after Trump released the video telling supporters to go home.

    While observers have attributed the Pentagon’s reluctance to let the guard help either to bureaucratic inefficiency or to a deliberate effort to help Trump, the idea that Pentagon leaders were concerned about Trump trying to use the military to keep him in office lines up with other things we know about that period.

    Military leaders spoke out against the actions of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley on June 1, 2020, when they walked next to Trump to St. John’s Episcopal Church after soldiers had cleared protesters from Lafayette Square. Both Esper and Milley apologized publicly, with Milley saying: “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

    The concern that Trump had plans for using the military to keep himself in power only grew after we learned that on June 1, Trump’s aides had drafted an order to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy thousands of troops in Washington, D.C. Then–attorney general William Barr, Esper, and Milley objected and talked him out of it, and from then on, military leaders were vocal about their loyalty to the Constitution rather than to any particular leader.  

    Immediately after losing the election, Trump fired Esper (by tweet), and Barr resigned on December 23, 2020, so they were no longer there to object should he try again to invoke the Insurrection Act. He and his supporters, including Alex Jones of InfoWars and one-time national security advisor Michael Flynn—both of whom have been subpoenaed by the January 6th committee—repeatedly suggested he could declare martial law to hold a new election or to stop Biden from taking office.

    On January 3, all ten living defense secretaries were concerned enough that they published a joint op-ed in the Washington Post, reminding Americans that “[e]fforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”

    On January 5, Trump asked acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller to have 10,000 National Guard troops ready for the January 6 rally, and Meadows wrote in an email that the National Guard would “protect pro Trump people.”

    Goodman and Hendrix make a strong case that Trump and his loyalists were at least considering using the excuse of chaos at the Capitol—as we know, they expected counter-protesters to show up, and appear to have expected violence—to invoke the Insurrection Act and prevent the counting of the certified ballots by force.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 24, 2021 (Friday)

    Happy holidays, from my home to yours.

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    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: 23,864
      December 25, 2021 (Saturday)

    Aside from a few peeks at the news to make sure nothing was happening that could not wait, I have let the world turn without me today. It's been as good a rest as a vacation, and I will continue to take the night off, go to bed early, and take up my pen (or pixels, I guess) again tomorrow.

    I hope you all enjoy a peaceful evening.

    _____________________________________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: 23,864
     December 26, 2021 (Sunday)

    Thirty years ago, on December 26, 1991, the headline of the New York Times read: “Gorbachev, Last Soviet Leader, Resigns; U.S. Recognizes Republics’ Independence.” On December 25, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned, marking the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR.

    Former Soviet republics had begun declaring their independence in March 1990, the Warsaw Pact linking the USSR’s Eastern European satellites into a defense treaty dissolved by July 1991, and by December 1991 the movement had gathered enough power that Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine joined together in a “union treaty” as their leaders announced they were creating a new Commonwealth of Independent States. When almost all the other Soviet republics announced on December 21 that they were joining the new alliance, Gorbachev could either try to hold the USSR together by force or step down. He chose to step down, handing power to the president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin.

    The dissolution of the USSR meant the end of the Cold War, and those Americans who had come to define the world as a fight between the dark forces of communism and the good forces of capitalism believed their ideology had triumphed. Now 90, Gorbachev said Friday that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, "They grew arrogant and self-confident. They declared victory in the Cold War."

    While Gorbachev was echoing the language of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who insists that NATO is crowding Russia by supporting Ukraine’s independence, his observation about arrogance and self-confidence hits another mark.

    In fact, the collapse of the USSR gave the branch of the Republican Party that wanted to destroy the New Deal confidence that their ideology was right. Believing that their ideology of radical individualism had destroyed the USSR, these so-called Movement Conservatives very deliberately set out to destroy what they saw as Soviet-like socialist ideology at home. As anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “For 40 years conservatives fought a two-front battle against statism, against the Soviet empire abroad and the American left at home. Now the Soviet Union is gone and conservatives can redeploy. And this time, the other team doesn't have nuclear weapons.”

    In the 1990s, they turned their firepower on those they considered insufficiently committed to free enterprise, including traditional Republicans who agreed with Democrats that the government should regulate the economy, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure. Movement Conservatives called these traditional Republicans “Republicans in Name Only” or RINOs and said that, along with Democrats, such RINOs were bringing “socialism” to America.

    With the “evil empire,” as President Ronald Reagan had dubbed the Soviet Union, no longer a viable enemy, Movement Conservatives, aided by new talk radio hosts, increasingly demonized their domestic political opponents. As they strengthened their hold on the Republican Party, Movement Conservatives cut taxes, slashed the social safety net, and deregulated the economy.

    In the 1990s, as well-connected businessmen began to gather wealth and power in the former Soviet republics, that deregulation made the US and the UK attractive places for these oligarchs to place their illicit money. According to a fascinating new study from Chatham House about the UK, that investment ultimately weakened the rule of law. The study concerns the UK alone, but since the UK and US are by far the world’s top exporters of financial services, many of the report’s findings are suggestive for the US as well.

    The report explores how rising oligarchs accumulated illicit money in the former Soviet republics, then set out to launder it—and their reputations—in the UK. As oligarchs cleaned and then parked their ill-gotten money, they laundered their reputations by contributing to universities and other established institutions. They also began to contribute to those politicians who pushed policies that would benefit the oligarchs. Their influence weakened the rule of law.

    While this study focused on the UK, it offers a useful model to frame how the deregulation of our financial industries and the consequent flood of illicit money into this country has helped to undermine American democracy.

    The financial deregulation that made the US a good bet for oligarchs to launder money got a boost when, after the September 11 attacks on the US, Congress in 2001 passed the PATRIOT Act to address the threat of terrorism. The law took on money laundering and the illicit funding of terrorism, requiring financial institutions to inspect large sums of money passing through them. But the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) exempted many real estate deals from the new regulations.

    In the years since, the United States has become one of the money-laundering capitals of the world. Experts say that hundreds of billions of dollars are laundered in the US every year. As Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) noted last year, “[I]t’s illegal for foreigners to contribute to our campaigns, but if you launder your money through a front company with anonymous ownership there is very little we can do to stop you.”

    About a year ago, Congress took on this threat by including the Corporate Transparency Act in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. It undercut shell companies and money laundering by requiring the owners of any company that is not otherwise overseen by the federal government (by filing taxes, for example, or through close regulation) to file a report that identifies each person associated with the company who either owns 25% or more of it or exercises substantial control over it. That report, including name, birthdate, address, and an identifying number, goes to FinCEN. The measure also increases penalties for money laundering and streamlines cooperation between banks and foreign law enforcement authorities.

    Now, of course, the Biden administration has made addressing corruption a centerpiece of its attempt to shore up democracy both at home and abroad. In June, Biden declared the fight against corruption a core US national security interest. “Corruption threatens United States national security, economic equity, global anti-poverty and development efforts, and democracy itself,” he wrote. “But by effectively preventing and countering corruption and demonstrating the advantages of transparent and accountable governance, we can secure a critical advantage for the United States and other democracies.”

    In early December, two days before the Biden administration hosted the Summit for Democracy, a gathering of 110 countries to consider ways to strengthen democracy, it announced a comprehensive strategy for countering corruption. The plan pulls together the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce, along with the US Agency for International Development, to expose global financial shenanigans, hold corrupt actors to account, and protect journalists who dig into stories of corruption.

    In some ways, the collapse of the USSR thirty years ago helped to undermine the Cold War democracy that opposed it. In the past thirty years, we have torn ourselves apart as  politicians adhering to an extreme ideology demonized their opponents. That demonization is escalating now as Republican radicals who were born after the collapse of the USSR and who therefore see their primary enemies as Democrats, are moving the Republican Party even further to the right. North Carolina representative Madison Cawthorn, for example, was born in 1995.

    That demonization has also helped to justify the deregulation of our economy and then the illicit money from the rising oligarchs it attracted, money that has corrupted our democratic system. It appears the Biden administration is trying to cut off the flow of that poison. Removing it, and thus the finger it puts on the scales for certain politicians, might also help to address the extreme polarization that has come to characterize our politics and society in the years since Gorbachev resigned.

    _____________________________________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: 23,864
      December 27, 2021 (Monday)

    After interviewing more than 300 people, issuing more than 50 subpoenas, and reviewing more than 35,000 pages of documents, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is circling closer to former president Trump and his allies. They, in turn, appear to be trying to stop the committee from getting the information it wants.

    Today, The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reported that the committee is interested in the phone calls Trump made late on the night of January 5 to the so-called “war rooms” at the Willard Hotel, one containing lawyers and the other non-lawyers. (According to Lowell, the reason the two groups were separated seems to be that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was hoping to preserve the idea of attorney-client privilege to keep Trump’s conversations with the lawyers secret, although lawyers say there are limits to attorney-client privilege—most notably that it does not cover a situation in which attorneys plan illegal actions with their client.)

    Last month, sources told Lowell that on at least one of the calls Trump made in the hours before January 6, he tried to press his allies into a scheme to replace Biden’s certified electors with uncertified electors pledged to him. Today, Lowell reported that January 6 committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told him that the committee was interested in the “content” of those calls. Thompson told CNN’s Jim Acosta, "The 'war room' at the Willard Hotel and the individuals in it is a key part of the Select Committee’s investigation. This includes ANYONE who communicated by telephone." The capitalization was Thompson’s.

    At least some of that content should be archived at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), from which the committee has already subpoenaed documents.

    On December 23, Trump asked the Supreme Court to block the committee’s subpoena for NARA material, although he had lost decisively in the lower courts. Even if the Supreme Court upholds Trump’s position, though, the researcher in me notes that there are clearly people who know what happened that night, and they are talking. How else would Lowell have gotten his scoop about the calls in the first place?

    Those who worked with Trump and his allies in the days before the January 6 insurrection must also know that people are talking, but they don’t know what’s been said. The committee is taking advantage of this uncertainty to pressure people to cooperate. Just before the Christmas holiday, it expanded its reach to ask two members of Congress—Scott Perry (R-PA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH)—about their contacts with Trump in those crucial days. It asked Perry to meet with the committee as early as December 28, and Jordan to meet with the committee on January 3 or 4.

    In their letters, the committee members bent over backward to make it sound like they were deferring to the congressmen—even offering to come to their home districts to interview them—but they also indicated they already have significant information about what happened on January 6, without showing just how much they know.

    In the letters, they cited “evidence from multiple witnesses,” and “documents on file with the Select Committee” as sources for their statements that Perry used an encrypted texting app, that “the president was watching television coverage of the attack from his private dining room adjoining the Oval Office during this time period,” and that “[e]ven after the crowd ultimately dispersed late in the day, then-President Trump, through his legal team, continued to seek to delay or otherwise impede the electoral count.”

    Perry immediately refused to meet voluntarily with the committee, saying that it was illegitimate and that he would “continue to fight the failures of the radical Left.”

    When it wrote to Jordan, the committee reminded him that he had publicly indicated he would be willing to be interviewed. “When you were asked during a Rules Committee hearing on October 20, 2021, whether you would be willing to share with the Select Committee the information you have regarding January 6th and the events leading up to that day, you responded, ‘I’ve said all along, “I have nothing to hide.” I’ve been straightforward all along.’”

    Jordan has not yet responded to the committee’s request.

    The committee has also clearly not left its information-gathering process to the mercy of those potentially involved in the insurrection. Late Friday, Taylor Budowich, Trump’s spokesperson and a senior advisor to Trump’s 2020 campaign, sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the January 6 committee, and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank to block a subpoena from the committee for Budowich’s financial information in the weeks before the insurrection. In his lawsuit, Budowich revealed that he testified for about four hours and produced more than 1700 pages of documents—enough, he says, “to identify all account transactions” connected to the “Stop the Steal” rally in which the committee was interested. In its letter explaining its subpoena to him, the committee said it had reason to believe he had moved $200,000 from an undisclosed organization into advertising for the rally.

    Budowich was apparently shocked to get a letter from his bank indicating it would respond to a subpoena for his bank records, and that neither the bank nor the committee would give him a copy of the subpoena to see what was in it. This, he says, shows “a lack of good faith” on the part of the committee.

    Budowich joins a number of Trump loyalists now suing the committee to stop subpoenas. Their arguments echo the Big Lie in their attempt to undermine our government. Budowich maintains that the January 6 committee is illegitimate because of the way Pelosi organized it, that it has no legitimate legislative purpose, that subpoenaing his bank records is a violation of his First Amendment right to associate with whom he wishes, and that asking for his bank records breaks a specific banking law.

    Courts have already dismissed all of these arguments when presented by other Trump loyalists, but you can see developing the myth of an illegitimate Democratic crusade to persecute Trump and those who were, in this telling, simply trying to protect the country. “Democracy is under attack,” Budowich said on Twitter after he filed the lawsuit. “However, not by the people who illegally entered the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, but instead by a committee whose members walk freely in its halls every day…. I will not allow some politicians to intimidate me for my support of President Donald J. Trump.”

    In the new year, the January 6 committee is planning to hold public hearings to explain what it has learned about the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. “We want to tell it from start to finish over a series of weeks, where we can bring out the best witnesses in a way that makes the most sense,” a senior committee aide told Washington Post reporters Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger. “Our legacy piece and final product will be the select committee’s report.”

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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
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
    fucking shameful..  


     December 28, 2021 (Tuesday)

    On the clear, cold morning of December 29, 1890, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, three U.S. soldiers tried to wrench a valuable Winchester away from a young Lakota man. He refused to give up his hunting weapon; it was the only thing standing between his family and starvation. As the men struggled, the gun fired into the sky.

    Before the echoes died, troops fired a volley that brought down half of the Lakota men and boys the soldiers had captured the night before, as well as a number of soldiers surrounding the Lakotas. The uninjured Lakota men attacked the soldiers with knives, guns they snatched from wounded soldiers, and their fists.

    As the men fought hand-to-hand, the Lakota women who had been hitching their horses to wagons for the day’s travel tried to flee along the nearby road or up a dry ravine behind the camp. The soldiers on a slight rise above the camp turned rapid-fire mountain guns on them. Then, over the next two hours, troops on horseback hunted down and slaughtered all the Lakotas they could find: about 250 men, women, and children.

    But it is not December 29 that haunts me. It is the night of December 28, the night before the killing.

    On December 28, there was still time to avert the Wounded Knee Massacre.

    In the early afternoon, the Lakota leader Big Foot—Sitanka—had urged his people to surrender to the soldiers looking for them. Sitanka was desperately ill with pneumonia, and the people in his band were hungry, underdressed, and exhausted. They were making their way south across South Dakota from their own reservation in the northern part of the state to the Pine Ridge Reservation. There, they planned to take shelter with another famous Lakota chief, Red Cloud. His people had done as Sitanka asked, and the soldiers escorted the Lakotas to a camp on South Dakota's Wounded Knee Creek, inside the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

    For the soldiers, the surrender of Sitanka's band marked the end of the Ghost Dance Uprising. It had been a tense month. Troops had pushed into the South Dakota reservations in November, prompting a band of terrified men who had embraced the Ghost Dance religion to gather their wives and children and ride out to the Badlands. But, at long last, army officers and negotiators had convinced those Ghost Dancers to go back to Pine Ridge and turn themselves in to authorities before winter hit in earnest.

    Sitanka’s people were not part of the Badlands group and, for the most part, were not Ghost Dancers. They had fled from their own northern reservation two weeks before when they learned that officers had murdered the great leader Sitting Bull in his own home. Army officers were anxious to find and corral Sitanka’s missing Lakotas before they carried the news that Sitting Bull had been killed to those who had taken refuge in the Badlands. Army leaders were certain the information would spook the Ghost Dancers and send them flying back to the Badlands. They were determined to make sure the two bands did not meet.

    But South Dakota is a big state, and it was not until late in the afternoon of December 28 that the soldiers finally made contact with Sitanka's band, and it didn’t go quite as the officers planned: a group of soldiers were watering their horses in a stream when some of the traveling Lakotas surprised them. The Lakotas let the soldiers go, and the men promptly reported to their officers, who marched on the Lakotas as if they were going to war. Sitanka, who had always gotten along well with army officers, assured the commander that his band was on its way to Pine Ridge anyway, and asked his men to surrender unconditionally. They did.

    By this time, Sitanka was so ill he couldn't sit up and his nose was dripping blood. Soldiers lifted him into an army ambulance—an old wagon—for the trip to the Wounded Knee camp. His ragtag band followed behind. Once there, the soldiers gave the Lakotas an evening ration, and lent army tents to those who wanted them. Then the soldiers settled into guarding the camp.

    And they celebrated, for they were heroes of a great war, and it had been bloodless, and now, with the Lakotas' surrender, they would be demobilized back to their home bases before the South Dakota winter closed in. As they celebrated, more and more troops poured in. It had been a long hunt across South Dakota for Sitanka and his band, and officers were determined the group would not escape them again. In came the Seventh Cavalry, whose men had not forgotten that their former leader George Armstrong Custer had been killed by a band of Lakota in 1876. In came three mountain guns, which the soldiers trained on the Lakota encampment from a slight rise above the camp.

    For their part, the Lakotas were frightened. If their surrender was welcome and they were going to go with the soldiers to Red Cloud at Pine Ridge, as they had planned all along, why were there so many soldiers, with so many guns?

    On this day and hour in 1890, in the cold and dark of a South Dakota December night, there were soldiers drinking, singing and visiting with each other, and anxious Lakotas either talking to each other in low voices or trying to sleep. No one knew what the next day would bring, but no one expected what was going to happen.

    One of the curses of history is that we cannot go back and change the course leading to disasters, no matter how much we might wish to. The past has its own terrible inevitability.

    But it is never too late to change the future.

    _____________________________________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: 23,864
      December 29, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Yesterday, Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo reported that the Trump allies who organized the rally at the Ellipse at 9:00 a.m. on January 6 also planned a second rally that day on the steps of the Supreme Court. To get from one to the other, rally-goers would have to walk past the Capitol building down Constitution Avenue, although neither had a permit for a march.

    The rally at the Supreme Court fell apart as rally-goers stormed the Capitol.

    Trump’s team appeared to be trying to keep pressure on Congress during the counting of the certified electoral votes from the states, perhaps with the intent of slowing down the count enough to throw it into the House of Representatives or to the Supreme Court. In either of those cases, Trump expected to win because in a presidential election that takes place in the House, each state gets one vote, and there were more Republican-dominated states than Democratic-dominated states. Thanks to then–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) removal of the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments, Trump had been able to put three justices on the Supreme Court, and he had said publicly that he expected they would rule in his favor if the election went in front of the court.

    This story is an important backdrop of another story that is getting oxygen: Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro’s claim that he, Trump, and Trump loyalist Steve Bannon had a peaceful plan to overturn the election and that the three of them were “the last three people on God’s good Earth who wanted to see violence erupt on Capitol Hill.”

    According to these stories, their plan—which Navarro dubs the Green Bay Sweep—was to get more than 100 senators and representatives to object to the counting of the certified ballots. They hoped this would pressure Vice President Mike Pence to send certified votes back to the six contested states, where Republicans in the state legislatures could send in new counts for Trump. There was, he insists, no plan for violence; indeed, the riot interrupted the plan by making congress members determined to certify the ballots.

    Their plan, he writes, was to force journalists to cover the Trump team’s insistence that the election had been characterized by fraud, accusations that had been repeatedly debunked by state election officials and courts of law. The plan “was designed to get us 24 hours of televised hearings…. But we thought we could bypass the corporate media by getting this stuff televised.” Televised hearings in which Trump Republicans lied about election fraud would cement that idea in the public mind.

    Maybe. It is notable that the only evidence for this entire story so far is Navarro’s own book, and there’s an awful lot about this that doesn’t add up (not least that if Trump deplored the violence, why did it take him more than three hours to tell his supporters to go home?). What does add up, though, in this version of events is that there is a long-standing feud between Bannon and Trump advisor Roger Stone, who recently blamed Bannon for the violence at the Capitol. This story exonerates Trump and Bannon and throws responsibility for the violence to others, notably Stone.

    Although Navarro’s story is iffy, it does identify an important pattern. Since the 1990s, Republicans have used violence and the news coverage it gets to gain through pressure what they could not gain through votes.

    Stone engineered a crucial moment for that dynamic when he helped to drive the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot that shut down the recounting of ballots in Miami-Dade County, Florida, during the 2000 election. That recount would decide whether Florida’s electoral votes would go to Democrat Al Gore or Republican George W. Bush. As the recount showed the count swinging to Gore, Republican operatives stormed the station where the recount was taking place, insisting that the Democrats were trying to steal the election.

    “The idea we were putting out there was that this was a left-wing power grab by Gore, the same way Fidel Castro did it in Cuba,” Stone later told legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "We were very explicitly drawing that analogy.” “It had to be a three-legged stool. We had to fight in the courts, in the recount centers and in the streets—in public opinion,” Bush campaign operative Brad Blakeman said.

    As the media covered the riot, the canvassing board voted to shut down the recount because of the public perception that the recount was not transparent, and because the interference meant the recount could not be completed before the deadline the court had established. “We scared the crap out of them when we descended on them,” Blakeman later told Michael E. Miller of the Washington Post. The chair of the county’s Democratic Party noted, “Violence, fear and physical intimidation affected the outcome of a lawful elections process.” Blakeman’s response? “We got some blowback afterwards, but so what? We won.”

    That Stone and other Republican operatives would have fallen back on a violent mob to slow down an election proceeding twenty years after it had worked so well is not a stretch.

    Still, Navarro seems eager to distance himself, Trump, and Bannon from any such plan. That eagerness might reflect a hope of shielding themselves from the idea they were part of a conspiracy to interfere with an official government proceeding. Such interference is a federal offense, thanks to a law passed initially during Reconstruction after the Civil War, when members of the Ku Klux Klan were preventing Black legislators and their white Republican allies from holding office or discharging their official duties once elected.

    Prosecutors have charged a number of January 6 defendants with committing such interference, and judges—including judges appointed by Trump—have rejected defendants’ arguments that they were simply exercising their right to free speech when they attacked the Capitol. Investigators are exploring the connections among the rioters before January 6 and on that day itself, establishing that the attack was not a group of individual protesters who randomly attacked at the same time, but rather was coordinated.

    The vice-chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Liz Cheney (R-WY), has said that the committee is looking to see if Trump was part of that coordination and seeking to determine: “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceedings to count electoral votes?”

    Meanwhile, the former president continues to try to hamper that investigation. Today, Trump’s lawyers added a supplemental brief to his executive privilege case before the Supreme Court. The brief claims that since the committee is looking at making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, it is not engaged in the process of writing new legislation, and thus it is exceeding its powers and has no legitimate reason to see the documents Trump is trying to shield.

    But also today, a group of former Department of Justice and executive branch lawyers, including ones who worked for presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to deny Trump’s request that the court block the committee’s subpoena for Trump’s records from the National Archives and Records Administration. The brief’s authors established that administrations have often allowed Congress to see executive branch documents during investigations and that there is clearly a need for legislation to make sure another attack on our democratic process never happens again.

    The committee must see the materials, they wrote, because “[i]t is difficult to imagine a more compelling interest than the House’s interest in determining what legislation might be necessary to respond to the most significant attack on the Capitol in 200 years and the effort to undermine our basic form of government that that attack represented.”

    _____________________________________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: 23,864
     December 30, 2021 (Thursday)

    On January 6, insurrectionists trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election stormed the U.S. Capitol and sent our lawmakers into hiding. Since President Joe Biden took office on January 20, just two weeks after the attack, we have been engaged in a great struggle between those trying to restore our democracy and those determined to undermine it.

    Biden committed to restoring our democracy after the strains it had endured. When he took office, we were in the midst of a global pandemic whose official death toll in the U.S. was at 407,000. Our economy was in tatters, our foreign alliances weakened, and our government under siege by insurrectionists, some of whom were lawmakers themselves.

    In his inaugural address, Biden implored Americans to come together to face these crises. He recalled the Civil War, the Great Depression, the World Wars, and the attacks of 9/11, noting that “[i]n each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.” “It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do,” he said. He asked Americans to “write an American story of hope, not fear… [a] story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history…. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”

    Later that day, he headed to the Oval Office. "I thought there's no time to wait. Get to work immediately," he said.

    Rather than permitting the Trump Republicans who were still insisting Trump had won the election to frame the national conversation, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as the Democrats in Congress, ignored them and set out to prove that our government can work for ordinary Americans.

    Biden vowed to overcome Covid, trying to rally Republicans to join Democrats behind a “war” on the global ​​pandemic. The Trump team had refused to confer during the transition period with the Biden team, who discovered that the previous administration had never had a plan for federal delivery of covid vaccines, simply planning to give them to the states and then let the cash-strapped states figure out how to get them into arms. "What we're inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined," Biden's coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said to reporters on January 21.

    Biden immediately invoked the Defense Production Act, bought more vaccines, worked with states to establish vaccine sites and transportation to them, and established vaccine centers in pharmacies across the country. As vaccination rates climbed, he vowed to make sure that 70% of the U.S. adult population would have one vaccine shot and 160 million U.S. adults would be fully vaccinated by July 4th.   

    At the same time, the Democrats undertook to repair the economy, badly damaged by the pandemic. In March, without a single Republican vote, they passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to jump-start the economy by putting money into the pockets of ordinary Americans. It worked. The new law cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. It expanded access to the Affordable Care Act, enabling more than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured to get healthcare coverage, bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million.

    As vaccinated people started to venture out again, this support for consumers bolstered U.S. companies, which by the end of the year were showing profit margins higher than they have been since 1950, at 15%. Companies reduced their debt, which translated to a strong stock market. In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; by December it had dropped to 4.2%. This means that 4.1 million jobs were created in the Biden administration’s first year, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined.
     
    In November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it, and negotiations continue on a larger infrastructure package that will support child care and elder care, as well as education and measures to address climate change.

    Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report that U.S. economic output has jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades. China’s growth in the same period will be 4%, and the eurozone (the member countries of the European Union that use the euro) will grow at 2%. The U.S. is “outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century,” wrote Matthew A. Winkler in Bloomberg, “and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years….”
     
    With more experience in foreign affairs than any president since George H. W. Bush, Biden set out to rebuild our strained alliances and modernize the war on terror. On January 20, he took steps to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, which his predecessor had rejected. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that Biden’s leadership team believed foreign and domestic policy to be profoundly linked. They promised to support democracy at home and abroad to combat the authoritarianism rising around the world.

    “The more we and other democracies can show the world that we can deliver, not only for our people, but also for each other, the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes. It’s on us to prove them wrong,” Blinken said.
     
    Biden and Blinken increased the use of sanctions against those suspected of funding terrorism. Declaring it vital to national security to stop corruption in order to prevent illicit money from undermining democracies, Biden convened a Summit for Democracy, where leaders from more than 110 countries discussed how best to combat authoritarianism and corruption, and to protect human rights.

    Biden began to shift American foreign policy most noticeably by withdrawing from the nation’s twenty-year war in Afghanistan. He inherited the previous president's February 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, so long as the Taliban did not kill any more Americans. By the time Biden took office, the U.S. had withdrawn all but 2500 troops from the country.

    He could either go back on Trump’s agreement—meaning the Taliban would again begin attacking U.S. service people, forcing the U.S. to pour in troops and sustain casualties—or get out of what had become a meandering, expensive, unpopular war, one that Biden himself had wanted to leave since the Obama administration.

    In April, Biden said he would honor the agreement he had inherited from Trump, beginning, not ending, the troop withdrawal on May 1. He said he would have everyone out by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks that took us there in the first place. (He later adjusted that to August 31.) He promised to evacuate the country “responsibly, deliberately, and safely” and assured Americans that the U.S. had “trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel” who would “continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.”

    Instead, the Afghan army crumbled as the U.S began to pull its remaining troops out in July. By mid-August, the Taliban had taken control of the capital, Kabul, and the leaders of the Afghan government fled, abandoning the country to chaos. People rushed to the airport to escape and seven Afghans died, either crushed in the crowds or killed when they fell from planes to which they had clung in hopes of getting out. Then, on August 26, two explosions outside the Kabul airport killed at least 60 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. troops. More than 100 Afghans and 15 U.S. service members were wounded.

    In the aftermath, the U.S. military conducted the largest human airlift in U.S. history, moving more than 100,000 people without further casualties, and on August 30, Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, boarded a cargo plane at Kabul airport, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan was over. (Evacuations have continued on planes chartered by other countries.)

    With the end of that war, Biden has focused on using financial pressure and alliances rather than military might to achieve foreign policy goals. He has worked with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to counter increasing aggression from Russian president Vladimir Putin, strengthening NATO, while suggesting publicly that further Russian incursions into Ukraine will have serious financial repercussions.

    In any ordinary time, Biden’s demonstration that democracy can work for ordinary people in three major areas would have been an astonishing success.
     
    But these are not ordinary times.

    Biden and the Democrats have had to face an opposition that is working to undermine the government. Even after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, 147 Republican members of Congress voted to challenge at least one of the certified state electoral votes, propping up the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Many of them continue to plug that lie, convincing 68% of Republicans that Biden is an illegitimate president.

    This lie has justified the passage in 19 Republican-dominated states of 33 new laws to suppress voting or to take the counting of votes out of the hands of non-partisan officials altogether and turn that process over to Republicans.

    Republicans have stoked opposition to the Democrats by feeding the culture wars, skipping negotiations on the American Rescue Plan, for example, to complain that the toymaker Hasbro was introducing a gender-neutral Potato Head toy, and that the estate of Dr. Seuss was ceasing publication of some of his lesser-known books that bore racist pictures or themes. They created a firestorm over Critical Race Theory, an advanced legal theory, insisting that it, and the teaching of issues of race in the schools, was teaching white children to hate themselves.

    Most notably, though, as Biden’s coronavirus vaccination program appeared to be meeting his ambitious goals, Republicans suggested that government vaccine outreach was overreach, pushing the government into people’s lives. Vaccination rates began to drop off, and Biden’s July 4 goal went unmet just as the more contagious Delta variant began to rage across the country.

    In July, Biden required federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated; in November, the administration said that workers at businesses with more than 100 employees and health care workers must be vaccinated or frequently tested.

    Rejecting the vaccine became a badge of opposition to the Biden administration. By early December, fewer than 10% of adult Democrats were unvaccinated, compared with 40% of Republicans. This means that Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to die of Covid, and as the new Omicron variant rages across the country, Republicans are blaming Biden for not stopping the pandemic. Covid has now killed more than 800,000 Americans.

    While Biden and the Democrats have made many missteps this year—missing that the Afghan government would collapse, hitting an Afghan family in a drone strike, underplaying Covid testing, prioritizing infrastructure over voting rights—the Democrats’ biggest miscalculation might well be refusing to address the disinformation of the Republicans directly in order to promote bipartisanship and move the country forward together.
     
    With the lies of Trump Republicans largely unchallenged by Democratic lawmakers or the media, Republicans have swung almost entirely into the Trump camp. The former president has worked to purge from the state and national party anyone he considers insufficiently loyal to him, and his closest supporters have become so extreme that they are openly supporting authoritarianism and talking of Democrats as “vermin.”

    Some are talking about a “national divorce,” which observers have interpreted as a call for secession, like the Confederates tried in 1860. But in fact, Trump Republicans do not want to form their own country. Rather, they want to cement minority rule in this one, keeping themselves in power over the will of the majority.

    It seems that in some ways we are ending 2021 as we began it. Although Biden and the Democrats have indeed demonstrated that our government, properly run, can work for the people to combat a deadly pandemic, create a booming economy, and stop unpopular wars, that same authoritarian minority that tried to overturn the 2020 election on January 6 is more deeply entrenched than it was a year ago.

    And yet, as we move into 2022, the ground is shifting. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is starting to show what it has learned from the testimony of more than 300 witnesses and a review of more than 35,000 documents. The fact that those closest to Trump are refusing to testify suggests that the hearings in the new year will be compelling and will help people to understand just how close we came to an authoritarian takeover last January.

    And then, as soon as the Senate resumes work in the new year, it will take up measures to restore the voting rights and election integrity Republican legislatures have stripped away, giving back to the people the power to guard against such an authoritarian coup happening again.
     
    It looks like 2022 is going to be a choppy ride, but its outcome is in our hands. As Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten almost to death in his quest to protect the right to vote, wrote to us when he passed: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      December 31, 2021 (Friday)

    As the sun sets on 2021, I want to thank you all.

    It is a wonderful thing to watch this community develop. Your interest, enthusiasm, and concern for this country are what keep me in this chair night after night, figuring out who did what and why. 

    Your interests shape what I write, and your suggestions, corrections, and the time you give to this demanding project keep me working to stay at the top of my game. Your observations, your art, your wit, and-- above all-- your friendship have kept me engaged and on an even keel in this unsettled time.

    This is definitely a team effort, and I am honored to be a part of what appears to be a growing movement to reclaim America.

    I wrote a round-up of 2021 last night so that we could start the new year off fresh, giving us a pristine page to write a new, better, future. 

    So, here we go....

    [Photo from my kayak, in the Fall.]
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 1, 2022 (Saturday)

    On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed his name to the Emancipation Proclamation. “I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right,” he said, “than I do in signing this paper. If my name goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”

    The Emancipation Proclamation provided that as of January 1, all people “held as slaves” anywhere that was still controlled by the Confederate government would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

    Historian Richard Hofstadter famously complained that the Emancipation Proclamation had “all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading,” but its legalistic tone reflected the circumstances that made it possible in the first place.

    Although Lincoln personally opposed human enslavement, he did not believe the federal government had the power to end it in the states. His goal, and that of the fledgling Republican Party he led, was only to keep it from spreading into the western territories where, they thought, enslaved labor would enable wealthy enslavers to dominate the region quickly, limiting opportunities for poorer white men.

    When the war broke out in 1861, the newly elected Lincoln urged southern leaders to reconsider leaving the Union, reassuring them that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” When Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, the federal fort at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, Lincoln called not for a war on slavery, but for “all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid [an] effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union.”

    From the earliest days of the war, though, Black Americans recognized that the war must address enslavement. Immediately, they began to escape across Union military lines. At first, hoping to appease border state residents, Union officers returned these people to their enslavers. But by the end of May, as it became clear that enslaved people were being pressed into service for the Confederate military, Union officers refused to return them and instead hoped that welcoming them to the Union lines would make them want to work for the U.S.

    In August 1861, shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run left the Union army battered and bleeding, Congress passed a law forfeiting the right of any enslaver to a person whom he had consented to be used “in aid of this rebellion, in digging ditches or intrenchments, or in any other way.” When northern Democrats charged that Republicans were subverting the Constitution and planning to emancipate all southern enslaved people, Republicans agreed that Congress had no right to “interfere with slavery in any slaveholding state,” but stood firmly on the war powers the Constitution assigned to Congress to enable it to pass laws that would help the war effort.

    As Confederate armies racked up victories, Republicans increasingly emphasized the importance of Black workers to the South’s war effort. “[I]t has long been the boast of the South…that its whole white population could be made available for the war, for the reason that all its industries were carried on by the slaves,” the New York Times wrote. Northerners who before the war had complained that Black workers were inefficient found themselves reconsidering. The Chicago Tribune thought Black workers were so productive that “[F]our millions of slaves off-set at least eight millions of Northern whites.”

    At the same time, Republicans came to see Black workers as crucially important in the North as well, as they worked in military camps and, later, in cotton fields in areas captured by the U.S. military. While Democrats continued to harp on what they saw as Black people’s inability to support themselves, Republicans countered that “No better class of laborers could be found…in all the population of the United States.”

    By July 1862, as Union armies continued to falter, Lincoln decided to issue a document that would free enslaved southerners who remained in areas controlled by the Confederacy. His secretary of state, William Henry Seward, urged him to wait until after a Union victory to make the announcement so it would not look as if it were prompted by desperation.

    When U.S. troops halted the advance of Confederate troops into Maryland at the September 17 Battle of Antietam, Lincoln thought it was time. On Monday, September 22, he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation under the war power of the executive, stating that in 100 days, on January 1, 1863, enslaved persons held in territories still controlled by the Confederacy would be free. He said to a visiting judge: “It is my last trump card…. If that don’t do, we must give up.”

    The plan did not sit well with Lincoln’s political opponents, though. In the 1862 midterm election, held a little over a month after the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln and the Republicans got shellacked. They lost more than 25 seats in the House of Representatives and lost control of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. Democrats did not win control of Wisconsin and Michigan, but they made impressive gains. Voters were undoubtedly unhappy with the lackluster prosecution of the war and concerned about its mounting costs, but Democrats were not wrong to claim their victory was a repudiation of emancipation.

    Lincoln responded by offering to give Democrats what they had asked for. In his message to Congress on December 1, 1862, he called for it to consider amendments to the Constitution that would put off emancipation until January 1, 1900, and pay enslavers for those enslaved people who became free. The ball was in Congress’s court if congressmen wanted to play.

    But they really didn’t want to. Northerners recoiled from the plan. One newspaper correspondent noted that compensated emancipation would almost certainly cost more than a billion dollars, and while he seemed willing to stomach that financial hit, others were not. Another correspondent to the New York Times said that enslavers, who were at that very moment attacking the U.S. government, were already making up lists of the value of the people enslaved on their lands to get their U.S. government payouts.

    On December 31, 1862, newspapers received word that the president would issue the Emancipation Proclamation he had promised. Black congregations gathered that afternoon and into the night in their churches to pray for the end of enslavement and the realization of the principle of human equality, promised in the Declaration of Independence.

    And the following day, after the traditional White House New Year’s Day reception, Lincoln kept his word. Because his justification for the Emancipation Proclamation was to weaken the war effort, the areas affected by the proclamation had to be those still held by the Confederacy, but the larger meaning of the document was clear: the U.S. would no longer defend the racial enslavement that had been part of its birth. Lincoln welcomed Black men into the service of the U.S. Army—traditionally a route to citizenship—and urged Black Americans to “labor faithfully for reasonable wages.”

    Lincoln concluded: “[U]pon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 2, 2022 (Sunday)

    A quick review to get us up to speed for what promises to be a fraught week, launching a fraught year.

    The big story of the new year is what we will learn from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, whose members have announced they will hold public hearings early in 2022. As the New York Times editorial board put it in the paper’s January 1, 2022, edition, “Every Day Is January 6 Now.”

    The New York Times editorial board—which consists of opinion journalists who weigh in on important issues—warned that the attack on democracy we witnessed so traumatically on January 6 has not ended. It persists in ongoing threats to election officials, threats to murder opponents, and new state laws skewing elections toward Republicans.

    “In short,” they wrote, “the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends.”

    The board called for Republicans to be honest with their voters and to fight their party’s extremists. It called for Democrats to end the filibuster for voting rights legislation, at least. And it called for “Americans of all stripes who value their self-government” to “mobilize at every level…to win elections and help protect the basic functions of democracy.”

    There were two stories that dropped late on Friday, December 31, New Year’s Eve, that reflect on the ongoing story of the attempt to undermine our democracy.

    First, former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik, a high-school dropout who began a meteoric rise to prominence after working as Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani’s chauffeur and bodyguard, delivered documents to the committee. Convicted in 2010 of tax fraud, ethics violations, and making false statements to loan officers and the federal government when being investigated for government positions, Kerik has been fiercely loyal to Trump, who granted him a full pardon in February 2020.

    The documents Kerik’s lawyer delivered on Friday included a 22-page document titled "STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN—GIULIANI PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL DEFENSE TEAM.” Its subtitle was “We Have 10 Days To Execute This Plan & Certify President Trump!”

    The document laid out a pressure campaign directed at “SWING STATE REPUBLICAN SENATORS—AZ, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI,”  “REPULBICAN [sic] MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE, and “REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF THE SENATE.”  It laid out the false argument that the election had been stolen, offered messaging to push these false claims, and provided a list of outlets and influencers to use, including the House “Freedom Caucus” members. It called for protests around the country, including at “weak Members’ homes.”

    Kerik’s lawyer also delivered a list of documents Kerik is withholding on the grounds that they are “attorney work product.” Although Kerik is not himself an attorney, the list indicates that the documents he is withholding were reviewed or written by an attorney.

    The documents Kerik is withholding included a three-page letter with an eye-popping title: “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.” Drafted on December 17, the letter might well refer to the plan advanced by Trump’s disgraced national security advisor Michael Flynn and then-attorney Sidney Powell in mid-December 2020 that Trump should declare martial law, seize voting machines, and “rerun” the 2020 election.

    Meanwhile, the Big Lie behind this document—that our election system is hopelessly corrupt and Trump was cheated—continues to be proved false. Also on Friday, the first piece of the audit of the 2020 election in Texas, launched in September after former president Trump demanded that Texas governor Greg Abbott investigate the election in the state, came out. Friday’s report said the investigators found nothing out of the ordinary.

    Today, members of the January 6 committee revealed some of what they have learned. On ABC’s This Week, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told host George Stephanopoulos that “we have uncovered some things that cause us real concern,” and that “[i]t appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election.”

    On the same program and on CBS’s Face The Nation, committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) painted a picture of Trump watching the attack on the Capitol from the private dining room in the White House, refusing to call off the rioters despite the pleas of his staff, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and even his own daughter Ivanka.

    His refusal to act, Cheney continues to emphasize, was a “supreme dereliction of duty.” He was the only person who could have stopped the rioters—many of whom have since told courts that they were there because they believed he had called them to be—and he refused to act. Instead, he tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence was a coward, and made at least one phone call to a senator demanding a delay in counting the electoral votes. When he finally did release a video telling the rioters to leave, more than three hours after the attack started, Trump acknowledged that he did, in fact, know that he commanded them.

    We’ll see where this goes, but to this historian and non-lawyer (!) it does seem like he’s coming perilously close to being called out for leading a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.  

    Aside from the story of what Trump was doing—or not doing—in those crucial hours, Cheney’s interviews this morning revealed that the committee has gathered testimony from those who had access to Trump during the course of January 6. She said they had “first-hand testimony” that Trump was watching television in his private dining room, as well as that Ivanka asked him to call his supporters off. The information that the committee has a window into the White House that day has got to make certain people uncomfortable.  

    Cheney was talking not just about the past, but also about the future. She wants “the American people to understand how dangerous Donald Trump was.” He “went to war with the rule of law.” “Any man…who would provoke a violent assault on the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States is clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.”

    Cheney had a very clear message for her colleagues: The Republican Party “can either be loyal to Donald Trump or we can be loyal to the Constitution, but we cannot be both.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 3, 2022 (Monday)

    The lines between democracy and authoritarianism are becoming clearer.

    This morning, former president Donald Trump began the new year by endorsing Hungarian authoritarian Viktor Orbán for reelection. Rising to power by attacking immigration, Orbán has systematically undermined democracy in Hungary, silencing his opponents, forcing businesses to sell out to him or his cronies, rewriting election laws, suppressing the press, packing the courts, and rewriting his country’s constitution. The country still holds elections, but they are no longer meaningful.

    Trump said that Orbán “has done a powerful and wonderful job.”

    Also today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called out the new election laws passed by Republican legislatures as “anti-democratic,” designed to “unwind the progress of our Union, restrict access to the ballot, silence the voices of millions of voters, and undermine free and fair elections.”

    He insisted that Congress must take action to stop this anti-democratic march. In June, August, October, and November, Republican senators blocked discussion of “common-sense solutions to defend our democracy.” It is unacceptable for a minority of senators to be able to require that the majority command a supermajority in order to pass legislation, Schumer wrote: the Framers of the Constitution explicitly rejected such a requirement to pass laws.

    “We must ask ourselves,” he wrote, “if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?”

    If Senate Republicans continue to obstruct election laws, Schumer wrote, “the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.” That is, Democratic Senators will consider changing the filibuster, either reforming it so it can’t be abused or omitting election bills from the topics a filibuster can stop. This is big news.

    The Biden administration is also trying to shore up democracy abroad. Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Bucharest Nine, an organization formed in 2015 after Russia pushed into Ukraine in 2014. The member nations of the Bucharest Nine are all former satellite states of the USSR and are now members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was organized in 1949 to stand against aggression by the USSR and is now standing against aggression by Russia. Blinken spoke with foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia to reiterate the unity of NATO and the need for collective defense against threats.  

    The Russian build-up of troops on the border of Ukraine, along with the forcing of migrants over the border of Poland by Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko appears to have done the opposite of destabilizing NATO, as Putin had hoped.

    On January 1, the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, told his people that Russian aggression is “in conflict with the European security order,” and that all states should rest on the basic principles of independence and equality. He suggested that Finland might decide to join NATO in order to protect its own national security and self-determination, clearly a suggestion that another invasion of Ukraine would drive independent countries toward NATO.

    Today, Russian cybersecurity expert Vladislav Klyushin appeared in a U.S. court (over Zoom) to face charges of securities fraud. Klyushin was arrested in March 2021 in Switzerland, where he was skiing, and has been extradited to the U.S. He is allegedly connected to Russian cyberattacks against the U.S. and our allies, including the interference in the 2016 election. According to Christopher Krebs, the former head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, if Klyushin flips, he might be able to tell the intelligence community a lot about that election. Even if he doesn’t flip, though, his arrest and possible conviction sends “a strong signal to others like him that they don’t have a lot of freedom of movement outside Russia,” evidence of the isolation Putin’s rule is creating.

    The growing pressure seems to be working to make Putin back off. Russia, China, Britain, France, and the U.S. today reassured the world that their differences would not lead to nuclear war. The five nations announced today in a joint statement that they wanted to stop an increase in nuclear weapons and avoid a nuclear war. The five nations pledged to continue talks about nuclear disarmament.

    In an issue of the rule of law closer to home, documents filed in New York today revealed that New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on December 1, asking for testimony and documents about discrepancies in the way the Trump Organization valued properties (apparently, the organization valued them high when applying for loans, and low when paying taxes). This case is a civil investigation, and James has already spoken to Eric Trump, and has subpoenaed Trump Sr., asking him to testify on January 7.

    Ivanka and Don have said they would refuse to comply with the subpoenas, accusing James of trying to entrap the Trumps through a civil suit while her office is cooperating with an ongoing criminal investigation overseen by the Manhattan district attorney.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 4, 2022 (Tuesday)

    Late this afternoon, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol asked Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity voluntarily to answer questions about his communications with former president Donald Trump and Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days around the January 6 insurrection.

    In their letter requesting the conversation, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) revealed evidence that Hannity was deeply involved with White House matters, acting not as a member of the press but as an advisor. In fairness, by his own account Hannity has always been a political operative. In August 2016, he told Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he said, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”

    Treading carefully to reassure Americans that the members of the committee are not interested in undermining the independence of the press, the January 6th committee asked Hannity to comment on “a specific and narrow range of factual questions.” The committee made it clear that “our goal is not to seek information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views or commentary.” They reiterated their desire only to understand the facts at issue, and they appealed to Hannity’s love of country and respect for our Constitution to ask him to “step forward and serve the interests of your country.”

    The committee’s letter specified that they had seen a number of Hannity’s texts, all of which were eye-popping and which revealed that Hannity was acting as an inside member of Trump’s team. On December 31, 2020, he texted Meadows: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. [sic] He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl[orida] and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”

    On January 5, the night before the insurrection, Hannity “sent and received a stream of texts,” including the message: “Im very worried about the next 48 hours.” The committee noted that the counting of the certified ballots was scheduled for 1:00 on January 6, so why was Hannity worried about the next 48 hours?

    Hannity appears to have talked with Trump on January 10 and was concerned with what he heard. He texted Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), saying, “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”

    The texts reveal that Hannity saw his role not as a news reader, but rather as a member of the White House team, protecting the president, and Hannity’s participation in the conversations means that none of them can be considered privileged.

    Hannity is apparently being represented in this matter by Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on Trump’s legal team, rather than lawyers from the Fox News Channel. While Sekulow has indicated he will object to the committee’s invitation on First Amendment grounds, the fact that the Fox News Channel seems to be standing back suggests that the corporation does not see the committee’s invitation as a First Amendment case involving freedom of the press and in fact might well be concerned that one of its lead personalities is connected to an event that should have been reported to the FBI.

    Blaming the “total bias and dishonesty” of the select committee, Trump today canceled his press conference planned for January 6.

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
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