Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson



  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     November 30, 2022 (Wednesday)

    The Democrats in the House have voted in new leadership. Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and who represents a district that includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens, will replace Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker. A 52-year-old lawyer, Jeffries is known for playing a long game, listening to everyone, focusing on getting laws passed. He will be the first Black party leader in the House or the Senate.

    Members elected Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the number 2 party leader: she will be the party whip, the person who makes sure there are votes to pass certain measures and keeps members behind the party’s program.

    And they elected Representative Pete Aguilar of California as caucus chair, overseeing the weekly meetings of the Democratic caucus to discuss policy, legislation, and other issues.

    The new Democratic leaders will start in the minority in the new Congress, where the Republicans have a slim majority, but are considered a strong team and hope to be in the majority after 2024.

    In a sign that they represent a new era, CNN’s headline for a story about Jeffries’s rise read: “With Hakeem Jeffries’ rise, his members see ‘Democrats in total array.’”

    For decades, it has been a stereotype that Democrats are in disarray, but after two years in which Democrats have managed with just a small House majority to pass an extraordinary slate of major laws, after a midterm election in which Democrats did far better than pundits expected, and now with a strong new team of leaders in place with party members standing behind them, “disarray” now belongs to the Republicans.

    As if to illustrate the deep factions in the Republican Party that have made them unable to agree on much of anything except what—and whom—they hate, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) today, in response to a logical question, offered to Kristin Wilson, Paul LeBlanc, and Clare Foran of CNN something that sure sounded like word salad.

    The House today did as President Joe Biden asked, and passed a bill to impose an agreement on railway corporations and railway employees to avoid a strike that economists say would cost the country $1 billion in its first week. The vote was bipartisan. Seventy-nine Republicans joined all but eight Democrats to pass the bill. McCarthy was one of 129 Republicans who voted no.

    When the CNN reporters asked McCarthy why he voted no, he answered: “First Biden told us that inflation was transitory; it wasn’t. He told us immigration was seasonal and it wasn’t. He told us Afghanistan wouldn’t collapse to the Taliban. Then he told us in September that this deal was all worked out. Now he wants the government to go into this? I just think it’s another—it’s another sign of why the economy is weak under this Biden administration.”

    Numbers released today show that, in fact, the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.9% in the third quarter—between July and September—lower than it has been, but higher than the growth in former president Trump’s first three years, which averaged 2.5%. Unemployment today is at a 50-year low. While inflation is still high, gas prices have dropped to an average of $3.50 a gallon, where they were in February before Russia invaded Ukraine.  

    When the reporters noted that McCarthy’s position would actually have hurt the economy by leading to a strike that tanked it, he responded: “If my position held out, we’d actually have it done by the private sector a long time ago and we’d have efficiency. We wouldn’t have inflation, we’d have a secure border.”
    McCarthy is scrambling to find the votes he needs from the far right to make him House speaker, making him impossible to pin down as he tries to woo those extremists to his side.
    Meanwhile, in the Senate, John Thune (R-SD), the second ranking Republican, has offered a plan, but it is one that is unlikely to make the party more popular. Yesterday, he said that Republicans plan to use the necessary increase in the debt limit to force cuts in the budget, including changes to Social Security and other programs.

    In 2019, 57% of Americans said that Social Security was a “major” source of their income, and 74% of Americans said that Social Security benefits should not be reduced in any way.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • brianluxbrianlux Posts: 38,844
    She must be taking some time off?  Hope all is well.
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
       December 1, 2022 (Thursday)
    Some stories wrapped up today:
    In Atlanta the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said that the district court had no jurisdiction to block the U.S. government from using the records it seized in the criminal investigation of former president Trump. That is, when U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon allowed Trump’s request for a special master to review the documents seized by the FBI in its search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8, she assumed power the district court did not have. Special Master Raymond Dearie will be dismissed, and the criminal investigation of the former president will go forward.
    The panel noted in their decision that they were unwilling to “carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents.” The judges acknowledged that “[i]t is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president,” but “[t]o create a special exception here would defy our Nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.’”
    It continued: “The law is clear.  We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”
    All three judges on the panel were nominated by Republican presidents: Judge William H. Pryor by President George W. Bush; Judges Andrew L. Brasher and Britt C. Grant, by Trump.
    Today, Ye, also known as Kanye West, appeared with right-wing white supremacist Nick Fuentes on Alex Jones’s show InfoWars, and was so vile even Jones began to push back. Eventually, Ye praised Nazis and Adolf Hitler. Then, and only then, did the Twitter account of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee delete their tweet of October 6, 2022, that read: “Kanye. Elon. Trump.”

    Other stories began:

    House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) yesterday sent a letter to the chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol telling the committee to preserve their records in anticipation of an investigation in the committee once the Republicans take control of the House next year. Of course, House rules already require that preservation; the demand is simply a performance to convince the far-right MAGA Republicans that he is on their team. And, in fact, the committee has said it will release “all the evidence” to the public before the end of the year.   

    Republican representative Ralph Norman (R-SC), who opposes electing McCarthy speaker, told right-wing media that those opposing McCarthy have a different candidate for the position. That candidate is not a House member, and Norman said: “It will be apparent in the coming weeks who that person will be. I will tell you, it will be interesting.”

    And still other stories showed their enduring power through centuries:
    Today, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, for the first state visit of Biden’s presidency.
    In a lunch today at the State Department, hosted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Vice President Kamala Harris along with their respective spouses Ms. Evan Ryan and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Blinken emphasized the close ties between France and the United States throughout our shared history. He recalled that France was the first international ally of the United States, recognizing the fledgling nation’s independence from England and providing both military and economic assistance after the two countries contracted a formal alliance in 1778.

    Vice President Harris reminded the audience that the close alliance between France and the United States has continued ever since, with the troops of both countries fighting together, and dying together, on the battlefields of the two world wars, and with ties of culture, art, and science. Harris recalled that her mother, Dr. Shyamala Harris, worked at the Institut Pasteur with the legendary French professor Étienne-Émile Baulieu.

    The leaders reaffirmed that France and the United States have a historic past and emphasized that our shared past is the basis for shaping a joint future in which the old allies work to defend the rules-based international order now under attack from autocrats who hope to dominate their neighbors with force.

    Not only are they defending the rules-based order, but also they are working to make it reflect the realities of the present. In his remarks at the arrival ceremony this morning, Macron explained: “This spirit of fraternity must enable us to build an agenda of ambition and hope, as our two countries share the same faith in freedom, in democratic values, in empowerment through education and work, and in progress through science and knowledge.”

    "The post-Cold War era is over,” Blinken said today, “and we face a global competition to define what comes next.” Macron and Biden, as well as Blinken and Harris, all emphasized that the defense of Ukraine as it resists the attempt of Russian president Vladimir Putin to “redraw the borders of a sovereign, independent nation by force” is key to that definition of the future.

    They emphasized that those defending a rules-based order are “working together to strengthen European security and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific,” “taking urgent steps to save our planet for future generations,” and “making investments in global health to stamp out diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, to build greater capacity to prevent and respond to future health emergencies.”

    Vice President Harris quoted from Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who fought in the American Revolutionary War, who wrote to his wife in 1778 from Valley Forge, where the ragtag Continental Army encamped in the bitter winter of 1777-1778.  “My heart has always been completely convinced that in serving the cause of humanity and America," he wrote, "I was fighting in the interests of France.”

    Macron responded: “And when your soldiers came during the First and the Second World War in our country, they had exactly the same feeling. And we will never forget that a lot of your families lost children on the soils they never knew before just because they were fighting for liberty and for universal values.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • brianluxbrianlux Posts: 38,844
    I forgot that she's more of a night owl than I am.  Good letter as always!
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
    brianlux said:
    I forgot that she's more of a night owl than I am.  Good letter as always!

     It would It went up on Facebook about the same time you posted your question about. Fi think she had something to do down in DC that day and I don't know what her plans were after her event.

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     December 2, 2022 (Friday)

    On the clear, windy morning of December 2, 1859, just before 11:00, the doors of the jail in Charles Town, Virginia, opened, and guards moved John Brown to his funeral procession. Three companies of soldiers escorted the prisoner, who sat on his own coffin in a wagon drawn by two white horses, for the trip to the gallows.

    Once there, Brown mounted the steep steps. The sheriff put a white hood on the prisoner’s head and adjusted a noose around his neck. After a delay of about fifteen minutes while officers arranged the troops that had escorted the wagon, the sheriff swung a hatchet at the rope supporting the trap door below Brown’s feet. The door snapped open and the man who had tried to launch a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry two months before dangled, as one observer said, “between heaven and earth.”

    That same observer, John T. L. Preston of the Virginia Military Institute, went on to explain that the “grand point” of the spectacle was its moral: that it was fatal to take up arms against the government.
    John Brown was the first American to be executed for treason.  

    Before 1859 the punishment for treason in America had not been clear. In the early years of independence, as colonies tried to stamp out loyalty to the King, some colonies had broadened the definition of treason to include “preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, or printing,” and by the time of the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, twelve of the thirteen states had written their own laws against treason.

    The Framers of the Constitution recognized the danger that leaders in the new nation might expand the definition of treason to sweep in political opposition, and after all, they had been “traitors” themselves just eleven years before. So the Framers specified in the Constitution a very limited definition of treason against the United States, saying that only levying war against the United States or “adhering to their enemies” or giving “aid and comfort” to an enemy could be considered treason. But they did not define a penalty for treason, leaving that to be determined by Congress.

    They also voted to leave open the possibility for states to define treason as they wished. In the years after the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, most state constitutional conventions defined treason as a crime in their fundamental state law.
    As men jockeyed for control of the government in the chaotic early years of the Republic, several men ran afoul of the federal and state treason clauses, but they did not pay the ultimate price for their missteps. Two men were convicted of treason against the federal government during the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s; President Washington pardoned them both. In 1838, Joseph Smith and five other Mormon leaders were charged with treason against Missouri for their part in the violent struggle between Mormons and non-Mormons in the state; they escaped before trial. Thomas Wilson Dorr was convicted of treason against Rhode Island for his part in the Dorr Rebellion of the 1840s and was sentenced to hard labor for life, but a popular protest won him amnesty after he had served a year.

    Then, on October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led 18 men to attack the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia—it became West Virginia in 1863—in order to seize guns from the armory, distribute them to local enslaved men, and lead them to freedom and self-government. As they cut the telegraph wires in the town in the dead of night, a free Black man, a baggage handler, stumbled upon them and they shot him. The sound attracted the attention of a local physician, who roused his neighbors. As they started to come awake, Brown’s men took the armory, which was defended by a single watchman who turned over the keys to the raiders.  

    At dawn the next day, a train came through the town, and its operators alerted authorities to the trouble in Harpers Ferry as soon as they got to a working telegraph. Meanwhile, Brown’s people captured Armory employees coming to work, and as news of the hostages spread, local militia converged on the site. As firing from the militia pinned Brown’s men down, they moved to a small brick building near the armory’s door. Intermittent shooting over the course of the day killed a number of Brown’s men as well as local militia before federal troops arrived on the morning of the next day, October 18.

    Officers, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee, promised to spare the lives of Brown and his men if they surrendered, but Brown refused. Within minutes, soldiers had broken down the doors to their shelter and taken prisoner Brown and the seven of his men still alive.
    On October 27 the state of Virginia began the trial of the still-wounded Brown for murder, inciting a slave insurrection, and treason against the state of Virginia. His lawyers argued that he could not have committed treason because he was not a resident of the state and so owed it no allegiance.

    But the Virginia jury deliberated for only 45 minutes before they convicted John Brown of treason, agreeing with the prosecution that one did not have to reside in a state to be guilty of taking up arms against its government. On November 2 the judge sentenced Brown to death by hanging, a sentence that would be carried out after a legally required one-month delay.

    Virginians like Preston applauded the decision. “Law had been violated by actual murder and attempted treason,” Preston wrote to his wife in a letter reprinted in the local newspaper, “and that gibbet was erected by law, and to uphold law was this military force assembled…. So perish all such enemies of Virginia! All such enemies of the Union! All such foes of the human race!”
    The execution of John Brown for treason set a precedent.

    And in just over a year, Virginians themselves would take up arms against the federal government. Men like Preston, who became an aide-de-camp to Stonewall Jackson, had to wonder if the precedent of hanging John Brown for treason might come back to haunt them.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 3, 2022 (Saturday)

    Today, one of former president Trump’s messages on the struggling right-wing social media platform Truth Social went viral.

    In the message, Trump again insisted that the 2020 presidential election had been characterized by “MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION,” and suggested the country should “throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or…have a NEW ELECTION.”

    Then he added: “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

    In other words, Trump is calling for the overthrow of the Constitution that established this nation. He advocates the establishment of a dictator.

    This outrageous statement seems to reflect desperation from the former president as his political star fades and the many legal suits proceeding against him get closer and closer to their end dates.

    The midterm elections, in which the high-profile candidates he backed lost, prompted some members of his party to suggest it’s time to move on to new candidates. At the same time, lawsuits are heating up. The Department of Justice continues to investigate Trump’s role in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, an attempt that led to the events of January 6, 2021.

    Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the Washington, D.C., District Court recently rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege and ordered Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and deputy counsel, Patrick Philbin, to provide additional testimony to a federal grand jury. On Friday, they each testified for several hours. On November 29, Trump advisor Stephen Miller, who worked with Trump on his speech at the Ellipse, also testified before the grand jury,

    The Department of Justice is also investigating Trump’s theft of documents when he left the White House. The December 1 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit declaring that Judge Aileen Cannon had no authority to allow Trump a special master to review the materials the FBI took when they searched Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, had a very clear, concise rundown of what the government has so far recovered from the former president, and the list was damning.

    In the first group of documents Trump returned to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), after significant pressure to do so, included “184 documents marked at varying levels of classification, including twenty-five marked top secret.” After a subpoena, Trump’s lawyers returned another 38 classified documents, seventeen of which were marked top secret. Trump’s team declared that a “diligent search” had turned up only these items, and there were no more left.

    But the FBI learned that there were, in fact, more documents still at Mar-a-Lago and obtained a search warrant. On August 8, FBI agents retrieved about “13,000 documents and a number of other items, totaling more than 22,000 pages of material…. [F]ifteen of the thirty-three seized boxes, containers, or groups of papers contained documents with classification markings, including three such documents found in desks” in Trump’s office. Agents found more than 100 documents marked confidential, secret, or top secret.

    Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to oversee these two investigations after Trump announced an early candidacy for president in 2024. Smith got down to work immediately, sending out a letter on Thanksgiving Day itself. It seems likely there is good reason for Trump to be concerned.

    Meanwhile, Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, and South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ordered Trump’s White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to that grand jury, another reason for the former president to be concerned.

    And the Trump Organization’s trial for tax evasion is reaching a verdict, while the House Ways and Means Committee has finally received six years of Trump’s tax returns after years of attempts by the former president to keep them out of Congress’s hands. At Lawfare, Daniel J. Hemel says that as a matter of law, the committee can make the returns public. He counsels against it for a number of reasons (although he says they should be made public) but notes that the Senate Finance Committee, which will remain in Democratic hands, can now get access to the material easily and will be able to release it. If his attempt to hide his taxes was anything other than principled, there is reason for Trump to be concerned about this as well.

    So, the former president has reason to try to grab headlines with an outrageous statement about overthrowing the Constitution.

    But the real story here is not Trump’s panic about his fading relevance and his legal exposure; it’s that Trump remains the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2024. The leader of the Republican Party has just called for the overthrow of our fundamental law and the installation of a dictator.

    White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement: “The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together—regardless of party—and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights. Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned. You cannot only love America when you win.”

    But Republicans, so far, are silent on Trump’s profound attack on the Constitution, the basis of our democratic government.

    That is the story, and it is earth shattering.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • brianluxbrianlux Posts: 38,844
    ^^^ WOW!
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 4, 2022 (Sunday)

    On Friday, November 25, 2022, just over a week ago, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced, “On the very first day of the new Republican-led Congress, we will “read every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor of the House—something that hasn’t been done in years.”

    Yesterday, on Saturday, December 3, 2022, former president Donald Trump, the presumptive leader of the Republican Party, mischaracterized a Twitter thread to claim that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign had successfully pressured Twitter to suppress the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop—the thread actually said something else entirely—and called for overthrowing the Constitution. Trump wrote:

    “So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential election results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great “Founders” did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

    In case anyone didn’t get the point, Trump followed that post up with another: “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!”

    On Sunday, December 4, all but one Republican lawmaker who expects to stay in office for the next two years stayed resolutely silent about Trump’s open attack on the U.S. Constitution, this nation’s founding document, the basis for our government.

    That one lawmaker was Representative Michael Turner (R-OH), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who this morning on CBS’s “Face the Nation” condemned Trump’s attack on the Constitution. But Turner would not say he would not support Trump if he were the party’s nominee in 2024.

    Even at that, Turner’s was a lone voice. When George Stephanopoulos, host of “This Week” on ABC News, asked Representative David Joyce (R-OH) if he would support Trump in 2024 after the former president had called for “suspending the Constitution” (to be clear, Trump had called for “terminating” it), Joyce tried to avoid the question but finally said, “I’ll support whoever the Republican nominee is." Joyce is the chair of the Republican Governance Group, whose members claim they are the party’s centrists.

    Not all Republicans reacted to Trump’s truly astonishing statement with such easy acceptance. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), who was removed from party leadership for holding Trump responsible for the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and who has lost her seat in Congress to a Trump supporter, responded to Trump’s statement by saying: “Donald Trump believes we should terminate ‘all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution’ to overturn the 2020 election. That was his view on 1/6 and remains his view today. No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution.”

    Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who, like Cheney, took a seat on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and will also be leaving Congress, tweeted: “With the former President calling to throw aside the constitution, not a single conservative can legitimately support him, and not a single supporter can be called a conservative. This is insane. Trump hates the constitution.” Kinzinger tagged McCarthy, third-ranking House Republican Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Jim Jordan (R-OH), who is expected to take over the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues involving the Constitution.

    None of them commented.

    Conservative Bill Kristol made his questioning broader: “The Federalist Society claims to defend the Constitution,” he tweeted. “Donald Trump, the ex-president with whom the Society worked so closely, has just attacked the Constitution in an incendiary way. Do the Federalist Society or its members have a word to say in defense of our Constitution?”


    McCarthy’s statement a week ago that the whole Constitution hadn’t been read on the floor of Congress “in years” was technically true, but it was misleading. It sounded as if McCarthy was promising to do something novel to demonstrate the Republicans’ loyalty to the Constitution.

    In fact, Republicans demanded a reading of the Constitution in the House for the first time in its history in 2011 to try to demonstrate that the government had gone beyond the Framers’ intent, although they also cut out all the parts the Framers wrote that have been amended since the document was written. (That meant they cut out the infamous three-fifths clause counting enslaved African Americans as three fifths of a white person for purposes of representation, leading to accusations that they were cherry-picking the Framers’ words.)

    Since then, the House has read the Constitution at least twice more, in 2015 and 2017, to promote the idea that Republicans, and Republicans alone, are standing on the U.S. Constitution, while Democrats are abusing it.

    The leader of the Republican Party has called for “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” and party leaders are silent.

    Representatives had not taken the time to read the entirety of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House before 2011 because they were presumed to know it. What they did have to say aloud was something far more important for each individual to have on record: their oath of office.

    It reads: “I…do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 5, 2022 (Monday)

    On Friday, December 2, President Joe Biden signed into law House Joint Resolution 100, “which provides for a resolution with respect to the unresolved disputes between certain railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee of the National Railway Labor Conference and certain of their employees.”
    What that long title means is that the U.S. government has overridden the usual union ratification procedures of a tentative agreement to hammer out differences between employers and the 115,000 workers covered by the agreement. Eight of the 12 involved unions had agreed to the deal, which provides 24% wage increases but no sick days, and four had not.

    Their refusal to agree seemed almost certain to lead to a strike in which all the unions would participate, shutting down key supply chains and badly hurting the U.S. economy. Some estimated the costs of a strike would be about $2 billion a day, freezing almost 30% of freight shipments by weight, and causing a crisis in all economic sectors—including retail, just before the holidays. It would also disrupt travel for up to 7 million commuters a day and stop about 6300 carloads of food every day from moving. So the government stepped in.

    Biden asked Congress on Monday, November 28, to act to prevent a rail strike, but there was a long history behind this particular measure, and an even longer one behind the government’s pressure on railroad workers.

    The story behind today’s crisis started in 2017 when former president Trump’s trade war hammered agriculture and manufacturing, leading railroad companies to fire workers—more than 20,000 of them in 2019 alone, dropping the number of railroad workers in the U.S. below 200,000 for the first time since the Department of Labor began to keep track of such statistics in the 1940s. By December 2020, the industry had lost 40,000 jobs, most of them among the people who actually operated the trains.

    Those jobs did not come back even after the economy did, though, as railroad companies implemented a system called precision scheduled railroading, or PSR. “We fundamentally changed the way we operate over the last 2½ years,” Bryan Tucker, vice president of communications at railroad corporation CSX told Heather Long of the Washington Post in January 2020. “It’s a different way of running a railroad.”

    PSR made trains longer and operated them with a skeleton crew that was held to a strict schedule. This dramatically improved on-time delivery rates but sometimes left just two people in charge of a train two to three miles long, with no back-up and no option for sick days, family emergencies, or any of the normal interruptions that life brings, because the staffing was so lean it depended on everyone being in place. Any disruption in schedules brought disciplinary action and possible job loss. Workers got an average of 3 weeks’ vacation and holidays, but the rest of their time, including weekends, was tightly controlled, while smaller crews meant more dangerous working conditions.

    PSR helped the railroad corporations make record profits. In 2021, revenue for the two largest railroad corporations in the U.S., the Union Pacific and BNSF (owned by Warren Buffett), jumped 12% to $21.8 billion and 11.6% to $22.5 billion, respectively.  

    About three years ago, union leaders and railroad management began negotiating new contracts but had little luck. In July, Biden established a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to try to resolve the differences. The PEB’s August report called for significant wage increases but largely kicked down the road the problems associated with PSR. The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents the railroads, called the report “fair and appropriate”; not all of the involved unions did.

    And here is the deeper historical background to this issue: the government has no final power to force railroad owners to meet workers’ demands. In 1952, in the midst of the Korean War, believing that steel companies were being unreasonable in their unwillingness to bargain with workers, President Harry S. Truman seized control of steel production facilities to prevent a strike that would stop the production of steel defense contractors needed. But, in the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer decision, the Supreme Court said that the president could not seize private property unless Congress explicitly authorized it to do so. This means that the government has very little leverage over corporations to force them to meet workers’ demands.

    But, thanks to the 1926 Railway Labor Act, Congress can force railroad workers to stay on the job. The 1926 law was one of the first laws on the books to try to stop strikes by providing a mechanism for negotiations between workers and employers. But if the two sides cannot agree after a long pattern of negotiations and cooling off periods, Congress can impose a deal that both sides have to honor.

    The idea was to force both sides to bargain, but a key player in this policy was the American consumer, who had turned harshly against railroad workers when the two-month 1894 Pullman Strike, after drastic wage cuts, shut down the country. For the most part, Americans turned against the strikers as travel became diabolically difficult and goods stopped moving. Even reformer Jane Addams, who generally sympathized with workers, worried that the economic crisis had made forgiving the strikers “well-nigh impossible.”

    While management generally likes the current system, workers point out that it removes their most effective leverage. Employers can always count on Congress to step in to avoid a railroad strike that would bring the country’s economy to its knees. On November 28, CNN Business reported that more than 400 business groups were asking Congress to enforce the tentative deal in order to prevent a strike. At the same time, the Supreme Court in 1952 took away the main leverage the government had against companies.

    And so the House passed the measure forcing the unions to accept the tentative deal on Wednesday, November 30, by a vote of 290 to 137. Two hundred and eleven (211) Democrats voted yes; 8 voted no. Seventy-nine (79) Republicans voted yes; 129 voted no.  

    But then the House promptly took up a measure, House Concurrent Resolution 119, to correct the bill by providing a minimum of 7 paid sick days for the employees covered by the agreement. That, too, passed, by a vote of 221 to 207, with three Republicans joining all the Democrats to vote yes. Those three Republicans were Don Bacon (R-NE), who has gotten attention lately for trying to carve a space for himself away from the rest of the party as someone concerned about practical matters; Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA); and John Katko (R-NY).

    It was a neat way for Congress to impose its will on the companies under the terms of the Railway Labor Act.

    The Senate approved the bill on Thursday by a vote of 80 to 15, with Rand Paul (R-KY) voting “present” and four others not voting. The 80 yes votes were bipartisan and so were the 15 no votes. Five Democrats—Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—joined ten Republicans to oppose the measure.

    Then the Senate took up the concurrent resolution, which it rejected by a vote of 52 yes votes to 43 no votes, with five not voting. That is, the measure won a majority—52 votes—but because of the current understanding of the filibuster rule, the Senate cannot pass a measure without a supermajority of 60 votes. The yes votes for the sick leave addition were nearly all Democrats, along with six Republicans. The no votes were all Republicans, with the addition of one Democrat: Joe Manchin of West Virginia.  

    Biden maintains he supports paid sick leave for all workers, not just railroad workers, and promises to continue to work for it.

    But the railway struggle was about more than sick leave. It was about a system that has historically made it harder for workers than for employers to get what they want. And it is about consumers, who—in the past at any rate—have blamed strikers rather than management when the trains stopped running.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 6, 2022 (Tuesday)

    Today, President Joe Biden traveled to Arizona to highlight how the CHIPS & Science Act is bringing innovation and jobs to the country. He visited a facility that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is building north of Phoenix, where he met with chief executive officers from several companies and with lawmakers. TSMC has recently committed to investing $40 billion in Arizona to produce advanced semiconductors, the very sort of investment the CHIPS & Science Act was designed to attract.

    Biden noted that this investment will bring more than 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 jobs in high tech, and he emphasized that the Democrats’ investment in the nation’s economy is paying off. The country has added jobs in every month of Biden’s administration—10.5 million of them—and exports are up, helping the economy to grow at 2.9% last quarter. And Walmart’s chief executive officer yesterday said that prices are coming down for toys, clothing, and sports equipment, while the chief executive officer of Kroger says prices for fresh food products are also easing.

    But, Biden said, he is “most excited” about the fact that “people are starting to feel a sense of optimism as they see the impact of the achievements in their own lives. It’s going to accelerate in months ahead, and it’s part of the broad story about the economy we’re building that works for everyone: one…that positions Americans to win the economic competition of the 21st century.”

    ​​“Where is it written that America can’t lead the world once again in manufacturing?” Biden said. “We’re proving it can.”

    Biden has apparently tried to undercut the radical right by ignoring its demands and demonstrating an America in which everyone works together to solve our biggest problems. His trip to Arizona was in keeping with that program, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters that his trip was about “the American manufacturing boom we’re seeing all across the country thanks to, again, his economic policies… [and] in large part thanks to the CHIPS and Science Act the President signed into law—and a historic—let’s not forget—a bipartisan piece of legislation.”

    But reporters immediately asked if President Biden would visit the border in Arizona, bowing to a right-wing talking point. Jean-Pierre responded that Biden would not engage in a political “stunt,” as the Republicans have been doing, and was instead going to Arizona “to talk about an important initiative that’s going to change Americans’ lives, specifically in Arizona.”

    The follow-up? “If the President is not going to make time to visit the border during [this] trip…, will he do it…in the new year?”

    The news from the right-wing faction in the nation often seems to steal the oxygen from the sober, stable politicians trying to address real issues and doing so with more than a little success.

    Today, fewer eyes were on the $40 billion investment in Arizona than were on the verdict in the trial of the Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corporation. Late this afternoon, the jury found the two entities guilty on all counts for a range of crimes surrounding the company’s payments to its senior employees through apartments, school tuition, cars, and so on, to avoid taxes. The company was charged with scheming to defraud, criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, and conspiracy. The key witness was Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud, grand larceny, and conspiracy last August and received a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against the company (but not against former president Trump or members of his family).  

    Trump promptly issued a statement. He blamed everything on Weisselberg and promised to appeal.

    House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told reporters today the committee will make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. Those referrals, a source told Sara Murray, Annie Grayer, and Zachary Cohen of CNN, “will be focused on the main organizers and leaders of the attacks.” The Department of Justice is engaged in its own investigation, of course, but such a referral places a marker from a bipartisan group of lawmakers—many of whom are lawyers—indicating that they believe crimes have been committed.

    Special counsel Jack Smith is now in charge of investigating the events surrounding January 6 as well as Trump’s theft of government documents, and news broke today that on November 22, just two days after he began work, he sent grand-jury subpoenas to officials in Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin, asking for all communications officials had with Trump, his campaign, or many individuals associated with the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.   

    Meanwhile, the Biden-Harris administration continues to govern. Tomorrow, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff will convene a roundtable discussion with leaders from 13 Jewish groups from across the country to discuss the rise in antisemitism. Mr. Emhoff is the first Jewish individual married to a president or a vice president, and he has called out the escalating antisemitism as the former president elevates white supremacists.

    “I do not see this just as a Jewish issue,” Emhoff said. “This is an issue for all of us. Because we’ve seen this before. This is how it started 70 years ago. So I don’t want it to feel normal. I don’t want people to think, ‘Well it’s just words, it’s just Kanye.’ No. This matters.”

    And finally, tonight, as I finished up this letter, the news networks called the Georgia Senate runoff race for Democratic senator Raphael Warnock, giving the Democrats a 51–49 majority in the Senate. This means that the Democrats will have the power to issue subpoenas without getting Republicans to sign on to them. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post pointed out a few weeks ago that Democrats could use this power to demonstrate what actual congressional oversight should look like, compared to House Republicans’ threatened investigation of Hunter Biden, perhaps drowning out the Republicans’ tactic of endless “investigations” to tarnish their opponents.

    After the results came out, Vox senior correspondent Ian Millhiser tweeted: “Huh, so Democrats managed to pick up a Senate seat in a cycle where they should have been crushed. Consider the possibility that Joe Biden is very good at his job.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 7, 2022 (Wednesday)

    In October, prosecutors told a court they did not believe Trump had turned over all the documents with classified markings in his possession, and they were particularly concerned that he carried documents with him on flights between Mar-a-Lago and his properties in New York and New Jersey. On the advice of his lawyers, Trump hired a team to search for more documents, and they have found at least two more items marked classified and have turned them over to the FBI.

    A spokesperson for Trump said in a statement that Trump and his lawyers “continue to be cooperative and transparent, despite the unprecedented, illegal and unwarranted attack against President Trump and his family by the weaponized Department of Justice.”

    Trump’s lawyers are doubling down on the idea that presidential immunity protects Trump from anything he did in office, even “seeking to destroy our constitutional system.” Today, Trump lawyer Jesse Binnall argued before the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the former president cannot be sued by police officers and members of Congress for inciting the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, that he is immune from lawsuits even if he had urged his followers to “burn Congress down.”

    Such an argument is fingernails down a chalkboard to anyone who knows anything at all about how the Framers of our Constitution thought about unchecked power.

    There is, though, ongoing congressional review of the Trump administration. Last night the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Ron Wyden (D-OR), and the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), wrote to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, asking for information in their “ongoing investigations into whether former Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner’s financial conflicts of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade, and national security policies for his own financial gain.”

    The letter outlines the timing of the 2018 financial bailout of the badly leveraged Kushner property at 666 Fifth Avenue (now known as 660 Fifth Avenue) with more than $1 billion paid in advance from Qatar. Qatar had repeatedly refused to invest in the property, but after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed a blockade on Qatar—after Kushner discussed isolating Qatar with them without informing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—Qatar suddenly threw in the necessary cash. Shortly after that, the Saudi and UAE governments lifted the blockade, with Kushner taking credit for brokering the agreement.

    Because of this case, and a number of others covered in the letter, the committees have asked the Defense Department to provide any correspondence it had with the Kushners during the Trump administration, or about the various dealings in which business and government appeared to overlap. They have asked for the information by January 13, 2023.

    The ideas of the Framers on the nature of government was also in the news today thanks to arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of Moore v. Harper, a crucially important case about whether state legislatures have exclusive control of federal elections in their states, or if state courts can override voting laws they believe violate state laws or the state constitution. Conservative judge J. Michael Luttig, who sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in October called Moore v. Harper “the most important case for American democracy in the almost two and a half centuries since America’s founding.”

    The case comes from North Carolina, where the state supreme court in February declared that new congressional and state legislature maps so heavily favored Republicans as to be “unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Republican-dominated legislature says that it alone has the power to determine state districts and cannot be checked by state courts or the state constitution.

    The legislature claims this power thanks to the “independent state legislature” doctrine, a new legal theory based on the election clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads that "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.” Lawyers for the legislatures today claimed this clause means that the legislature alone can determine election laws in a state.

    In October, Luttig published an article in The Atlantic with the unambiguous title: “There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory.” The subtitle explained: “Such a doctrine would be antithetical to the Framers’ intent, and to the text, fundamental design, and architecture of the Constitution.”

    Politicians, voting rights advocates, state attorneys general, senators, former governors, military officers, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Bar Association, and so on, all offered their own briefs to the court sharing Luttig’s position, with historians of the Founding Era agreeing that “[n]othing in the records of the deliberations at Philadelphia or the public debates surrounding ratification” supports the idea that state legislatures have exclusive power to regulate congressional elections. “There is no evidence that anyone at the time expressed [this] view…. [T]he interpretation is also historically implausible in view of the framers’ general fear of unchecked power and their specific distrust of state legislatures. There is no plausible eighteenth-century argument” for the independent state legislature theory, they say.

    The historians also observed that those embracing the theory ignore the ample documentary evidence and rely extensively on a document that scholars proved long ago was written ten years after the actual Constitutional Convention.


    The independent state legislature theory would also permit legislators to choose their presidential electors however they wish. Had such a theory been in place in 2020, Trump’s scheme for throwing out Biden’s electors in favor of his own would have worked, and he would now be in the White House.

    The potential for this case to upend our right to have a say in our government has had democratic advocates deeply concerned, but observers watching the court today seemed to think the right-wing justices would not embrace the theory fully. Perhaps this is in part because they know well that their legitimacy is fraying as they are increasingly perceived as partisan politicians, or perhaps the Supreme Court is wary of undermining the idea of judicial review. In any case, both Marc Elias of Democracy Docket and Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog analyzed the justices’ questions today and guessed they would find a middle ground that preserves some measure of state courts’ oversight of legislatures’ election shenanigans.

    Their analysis is only a guess, of course. Elias suggested the court would likely hand down a decision in the case in June.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 8, 2022 (Thursday)

    “Well, good morning, folks. And it is a good morning,” President Joe Biden said in remarks today at the White House. “Moments ago, standing together with her wife, Cherelle, in the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner. She’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home.”

    A star center for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association, who played in Russia during the off-season, Griner was arrested by Russian officials in an airport near Moscow on February 17, 2022, for drug smuggling after they allegedly found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner had a prescription for medical marijuana from her doctor,  but cannabis is still illegal in Russia. The arrest was just a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, and in the aftermath of that invasion, the administration’s attempts to bring Griner home failed. In August a court sentenced her to 9 years in prison and a fine of a million rubles (about $16,000).

    Today the administration exchanged Griner for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” who was sentenced to 25 years in prison by the U.S. in 2012 after agreeing to provide military weapons to a terrorist organization targeting Americans.

    The negotiations have been long and complicated, involving not only federal officials but also former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and negotiators from the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.

    While Biden and Cherelle Griner celebrated Griner’s release, they emphasized their ongoing concern for Paul Whelan, detained in Russia since December 2018. Russia accuses Whelan of spying and refused to free him together with Griner. Biden promised the Whelan family the administration would not give up and would keep negotiating for his release.

    Whelan’s brother, David, supported the decision to bring Griner home without Whelan. He expressed the family’s disappointment but said: "It is so important to me that it is clear that we do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom. As I have often remarked, Brittney's and Paul's cases were never really intertwined. It has always been a strong possibility that one might be freed without the other."

    It is worth noting that Russian operatives work to sow division in the U.S., and permitting Biden to win the freedom of a Black married lesbian while keeping a white former Marine in prison is the sort of ploy that could turn the repatriation of an American into a cultural flashpoint. Impressively, both the Griner family and the Whelan family avoided that trap and kept a united front.

    Former president Trump, however, played along, complaining bitterly about “a ‘stupid’ and unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA!!!” that had  secured the release of “a basketball player who openly hates our Country” instead of “former Marine Paul Whelan,” who “would have been let out for the asking.” Other MAGA Republicans followed suit.

    In fact, Whelan was taken during Trump’s administration. John Bolton, who was Trump’s national security advisor when Whelan was arrested, said tonight on the CBS News Streaming Network that “the possibility of a Bout for Whelan trade existed back then, and it wasn’t made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout.”

    Bolton called today’s exchange “a huge victory for Moscow over Washington” and warned that such a swap would put Americans in danger around the world as bad actors grab them as bargaining chips.

    Possibly. But the Russia to which Bout is going back in 2022 is not the same as the Russia of 2019, and the Biden administration’s work to bring Griner home had a domestic effect: it demonstrated that the U.S. government cares about all of its citizens.

    The Department of Justice appears to be picking up the pace of its investigations into the events surrounding former president Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as into his theft of documents with classified markings when he left the White House. Both of those investigations are now being directed by special counsel Jack Smith, appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland after Trump declared he is running for president in 2024.

    Officials in the offices of the secretary of state for Michigan and Arizona have confirmed that they received grand jury subpoenas just days after Smith sent grand jury subpoenas to local officials in Michigan, Arizona, and Wisconsin. The secretary of states' offices have not offered details about what the subpoenas request.

    The documents also remain in the news. After yesterday’s revelation that a team hired by Trump found at least two more documents with classified markings, a Trump spokesperson issued a statement that Trump and his lawyers “continue to be cooperative and transparent, despite the unprecedented, illegal and unwarranted attack against President Trump and his family by the weaponized Department of Justice.”

    It felt as if they were trying to get ahead of a story, and it turns out they were.

    According to Spencer S. Hsu, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman of the Washington Post, lawyers for the Department of Justice have recently asked U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt of court. He and his lawyers have not complied with a subpoena from May requiring them to return all documents in his possession with classified markings on them (the subpoena specified documents bearing classified markings, as opposed to classified documents, thus avoiding Trump’s insistence that he declassified things without leaving a record).

    The reporters have sources who tell them that Trump’s lawyers refuse to sign a document saying all the relevant documents have been returned. The lawyers say that requiring them to make such a claim, under oath, is unreasonable, but it is likely they’re remembering lawyer Christina Bobb, who signed such a document in June 2022 only to discover that it was a lie and that Trump continued to hold documents. The reporters’ sources say lawyers don’t want to sign such a document on Trump’s assurances alone, and the Justice Department wants to be certain there are no more documents bearing classified markings in Trump’s possession.

    Los Angeles Times legal correspondent Harry Litman tweeted: “Wow. DOJ wants to hold Trump in contempt for violation of subpoena. A natural outgrowth of the trickling out of documents and failure to comply with subpoena from last May. But quite a strike across the bow.”

    According to the Washington Post reporters, Judge Howell will hold a hearing on the matter tomorrow.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 9, 2022 (Friday)

    On Wednesday, December 7, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III hosted the defense ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom at the Pentagon to discuss the Australia–United Kingdom–United States Security Partnership, called AUKUS.

    AUKUS is a security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was formally introduced on September 15, 2021, and commits the three partners to cooperate on a wide range of security issues, including cybersecurity. Because it focuses on military capabilities, it is separate from the older intelligence-sharing alliance that includes all three of the same countries, as well as New Zealand and Canada.

    That intelligence-focused group is called Five Eyes and has its roots first in secret meetings of U.S. and British code breakers in 1941, and then in the more formal sharing of intelligence to streamline cooperation during World War II. The conviction that democracies needed to share information during the Cold War broadened the alliance to include Australia and New Zealand as countries who could see certain intelligence. The name came from a term used in the classification of secret documents: "AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY" was easier to say as “Five Eyes.”

    The organization of AUKUS is separate from Five Eyes. It is part of the Biden administration’s focus on the Indo-Pacific region, seeking to support a region that is “stable, prosperous, and respectful of sovereignty,” as Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong put it on Tuesday in a different forum. Wong added: “U.S. engagement in the Indo‑Pacific makes an indispensable contribution to such a region…and I want to commend the administration for its significant investments in the Indo‑Pacific” alongside increased efforts on the part of Australia.

    The U.S. focus on the Indo-Pacific is designed to counterbalance the power and influence of China in the region. That focus has included U.S. investment there, as well as high-profile interactions with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—a political and economic alliance that includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, informally known as the Quad, which is a strategic security dialogue including Japan, Australia, India, and the U.S.

    Just today, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan welcomed the first 100 Quad Fellows, 25 from each Quad country, to study in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to promote “innovation and collaboration among our four great democracies and an enthusiasm for building a better tomorrow for the Indo-Pacific and the world.”   

    The organization of AUKUS last year created significant tension between the U.S. and France when Australia abruptly canceled a contract for a number of submarines built by France but powered by technology that reflects France’s limits on nuclear technologies. In place of the French submarines, which were running late and over budget as well, the Australians announced they would buy nuclear-powered submarines built with American technology.  

    Macron had made the Indo-Pacific, where France holds island territories, one of his priorities. He was angry at his country’s exclusion from discussions about the region, blindsided by the loss of the lucrative submarine contracts, and facing an election in which his chief opponent was a staunch nationalist who backs Russian president Vladimir Putin over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    So, in the wake of the AUKUS announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron made a strong statement of outrage, and for the first time in our shared history, France recalled its ambassador to the U.S. for consultations—less serious than a permanent recall, but still a breach. It also recalled its ambassador to Australia for consultations, but in our case, it was an especially significant rebuke because we identify France as our oldest friend and ally because of its significant military aid during the Revolutionary War (although France-allied Morocco recognized American independence the year before French troops arrived).

    It was likely in part to patch up that rift that when Biden finally held a full-scale official state visit, the first leader invited—the one given the pride of place—was Macron. The effusive reaffirmations of friendship between the countries reinforced Macron’s standing both in the U.S. and in Europe. (E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post observed that the two men “competed over who could say the nicest things about the alliance between the two countries—and about democracy, liberty and justice.”)

    But there was plenty of discussion in meetings about French concerns that regulations in the Inflation Reduction Act that require electric vehicle parts to be made in the U.S. will hurt France and Germany. Biden indicated that those restrictions were an attempt to make car batteries in the U.S. rather than depending on batteries from China, and could be tweaked to make sure they did not hurt allies. He said: “We’re going to continue to create manufacturing jobs in America, but not at the expense of Europe.”

    Macron agreed, saying: “We want to succeed together, not against each other.”

    On Tuesday, after that official state visit, Australia and the U.S. announced they were inviting Japan to integrate forces with the two countries, as Japan, too, worries about the power of China. The U.S. also said it would help to increase Australia’s military readiness.

    On Wednesday, the AUKUS defense secretaries said they believed that AUKUS would “make a positive contribution to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region by enhancing deterrence.” They called for increased surveillance technologies in the area and more work with defense and academic communities. They also promised “continued openness and transparency with international partners on AUKUS.”

    Next week, from December 13 to December 15, President Biden will host the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, inviting 49 African heads of state as well as the chair commissioner of the African Union, an organization of 55 African member states launched in 2002 to promote peace on the continent, advocate for the interests of the people of the continent in global affairs, promote sustainable development, and raise standards of living on the continent.

    Today, Yasmeen Abutaleb of the Washington Post reported that the president is expected to announce that the U.S. supports the African Union’s membership in the G-20, an intergovernmental forum that includes most of the world’s largest economies and addresses issues important to the global economy. Those issues include climate change, financial policies, and international trade. Right now, the only country on the continent that is a member of the G-20 is South Africa, and it and other African nations have pushed for the African Union’s inclusion in the G-20, pointing out that African nations often bear the burden of decisions they were not part of making.  

    Judd Devermont, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for African Affairs, said in a statement: “It’s past time Africa has permanent seats at the table in international organizations and initiatives. We need more African voices in international conversations that concern the global economy, democracy and governance, climate change, health, and security.”

    The administration’s determination to include all voices in global affairs is, in the short term, an effort to undermine China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific region and Africa. But in the longer term, it should help our increasingly interconnected world to combat climate change and pandemic threats, while also reinforcing the idea that people have the right to consent to the government under which they live.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 10, 2022 (Saturday)

    After traveling all week, I am just now home in my rocking chair by the woodstove... but not for long. I'm going to call it quits early tonight.

    I'll leave you with this, an image inspired by all the photos you all share from all over the country, and all over the world, every time I post a picture. I look at them throughout the rest of the week and marvel.

    A relative caught this image camping in the Indiana Dunes National Park, and sent it to show me a different shore than the Maine coast I know so well.

    This really is a spectacularly beautiful country.

    I'll see you tomorrow.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     December 11, 2022 (Sunday)

    The Keystone Pipeline ruptured Wednesday night near a creek in northern Kansas, spilling what its operator, TC Energy, says is about 14,000 barrels of oil. This is equivalent to about 588,000 gallons (an Olympic swimming pool holds about 666,000 gallons). TC Energy says the leak is now contained.

    This is the largest land-based crude pipeline spill in the U.S. in nine years. Although the Keystone Pipeline has leaked 22 times before this, this week’s spill is bigger than all the others put together. A spill in July 2010 was more expensive-- costing more than $1 billion-- because it affected the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  

    The leak recalls arguments over the extension of the Keystone Pipeline, known as the XL Pipeline, that right-wing Republicans made a symbol of what they considered an antigrowth attack on U.S. energy production by Democrats.

    A reminder: the Keystone Pipeline runs from oil sand fields in Alberta, Canada, into the United States and to Cushing, Oklahoma. It is fully operational. The XL Pipeline—the one that folks often confuse with the actual Keystone Pipeline—consists of two new additions to the original pipeline. As planned, they would have added up to 1700 new miles. One addition was designed to connect Cushing to oil refineries in Texas, on the Gulf Coast. That section was built and started operating in January 2014.

    The second extension is the one that caused such a fuss. It was supposed to carry crude oil from Alberta to Kansas, traveling through Montana and North Dakota, where it would pick up U.S. crude oil to deliver it to the Gulf Coast of Texas. This leg crossed an international border, and thus the Canadian company building it needed approval from the State Department.

    Frustrated by the U.S. government’s continuing focus on fossil fuels and worried that the Obama administration would approve the XL, climate change activists began to protest at the White House in August 2011. Likely recognizing the political danger of either approving or disapproving the permit, Obama tried to put it off until after the 2012 election, but congressional Republicans passed an order demanding a decision before it. Obama rejected the permit but let the company reapply.

    Then–House speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called Obama’s decision “sickening.” "By rejecting this pipeline, the president is rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. He is rejecting our largest trading partner and energy supplier. He is rejecting the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority of the Congress. If the president wants to spend the rest of his time in office catering to special interests, that's his choice to make. But it's just wrong. In the House, we are going to pursue a bold agenda of growth and opportunity for all."

    The XL was now a political football.

    Climate activists continued to protest the extension of the pipeline, and in 2015, Obama rejected the XL. But, as Jamie Henn of 350 dot org, an organization dedicated to ending reliance on fossil fuels, recalled with irony, that was the same week that Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live on his road to the presidency. One of the first things Trump did in office was to speed up approval of the pipeline, which the State Department did in March 2017.

    In the meantime, tensions were mounting over another pipeline that often got confused with the XL: the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP). The DAP was a 1,172-mile-long pipeline from North Dakota to southern Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa and crossing under the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as under part of a lake near the Standing Rock Reservation of Lakotas, where Sitting Bull lived and was killed at the end of the nineteenth century.

    Construction of the DAP began in June 2016, and at construction sites, protests escalated between workers and Indigenous Americans, especially the Lakotas, who had a long history of abuse at the hands of developers, whose water supplies were downstream from the pipeline, and whose sacred cultural lands were in its way. The pipeline was on private land, but Lakotas pointed to the potential of oil spills to destroy their water supply on the reservation downstream, as well as the destruction of their sacred lands. Calling themselves water protectors, they defended cultural preservation and the protection of the environment on which culture depends.

    Conflicts between the Indigenous protesters and law enforcement officers protecting the construction sites escalated until in September 2016, workers on private land bulldozed an area Lakotas claimed as sacred. Security workers used attack dogs on the protesters who tried to protect the area, prompting the Departments of Justice and Interior to join the Army in issuing a joint statement to defend the right to protest and to ask the pipeline company to stop construction near Standing Rock until environmental impacts were clear.  

    But in October, law enforcement cleared the area. And on November 20, just four days after the other pipeline in the news—the Keystone Pipeline—leaked about 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota, police used water cannons on the protesters in freezing weather. On February 22, 2017, after newly elected president Trump had signed an executive order permitting the construction of both the XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, the National Guard and law enforcement officers cleared the last of the protesters.

    Construction of the DAP was finished in April 2017.

    But despite Trump’s support for the XL, judges slowed the construction of that pipeline, citing the need for more information about its environmental impact. Then, as soon as he took office, Biden revoked the permit for the construction and five months later, TC Energy halted the project. When oil prices skyrocketed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the low oil production in place because of the pandemic, Republicans blamed Biden for killing the construction of the XL extension.

    Now the U.S. has invested heavily in switching the United States to renewable energy with the Inflation Reduction Act, and a major oil spill resurrects concerns about the transportation of oil.

    It is poetic timing. On Friday, as part of their yearlong investigation of the fossil fuel industry, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released documents from executives at major oil companies revealing that they recognize that their products are creating a climate emergency but that they have no real plans for changing course.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 12, 2022 (Monday)

    Today the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) met virtually and reiterated their staunch support for Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression. The G7 is a political organization of the world’s most advanced economies and liberal democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine joined the meeting.

    The leaders issued a statement saying they would continue to back Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” That means continued military support for Ukraine as well as continuing sanctions against Russia, especially Russian oil, and aid to countries, especially those in Africa, suffering from the shortages caused by the war. They condemned Russia’s war crimes, including attacks on critical infrastructure, particularly energy and water facilities. They pledged to help civilians in Ukraine through the winter and promised to set up a donor program to funnel money to rebuild the country quickly.

    But, they noted, Russia will have to pay to repair the damage it has done with its illegal war.

    Also today, the foreign ministers of the European Union met in Brussels and pledged another 2 billion euros to Ukraine’s military support, signaling the E.U.’s continued support for Ukraine.

    After reiterating their support for Ukraine, the G7 leaders reaffirmed their more general commitments to liberal democracy. They promised to take “urgent, ambitious, and inclusive climate action in this decade to limit global warming,” bolster biodiversity, realize gender equality, and improve “our capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to future global health emergencies and to achieve universal health coverage.”

    Taken together, the G7 and its international partners, the statement says, are demonstrating their resolve to work together to address both major systemic challenges and immediate crises. “Our commitments and actions,” they say, “pave the way for progress towards an equitable world…[and] a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future for all.”

    Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin has canceled his traditional end-of-the-year news conference in which reporters can ask him questions on live television. Despite his tight control of the media, it appears he is unwilling to risk questions about the war or the suffering economy in front of an audience.

    Democracy is at risk in the U.S. as well as in Ukraine, of course, and as we wait for the report of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, there have been some revealing developments.

    On Saturday night, at the annual gala of the New York Young Republican Club in New York City, whose attendees included a number of far-right figures, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) deflected accusations that she and Trump ally Stephen Bannon were behind the events of January 6 by saying: “I want to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.”

    White House spokesperson Andrew Bates condemned the statement, saying: “It goes against our fundamental values as a country for a Member of Congress to wish that the carnage of January 6th had been even worse, and to boast that she would have succeeded in an armed insurrection against the United States government.”

    Greene then backed away from her statement, saying it was “sarcasm.”

    We already know that Greene worked hard to get then–Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler on board with the attempt to challenge the legitimate electors for Biden, attended meetings about the challenges, and—according to Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows—asked for a presidential pardon.

    Greene’s downplaying her statement after criticism from the White House suggests she is getting nervous about her role in the attack on the Capitol, or at least trying to distance herself from it.

    She is not the only one. Today, Talking Points Memo began an explosive series covering texts to and from Meadows in the time around the 2020 election and its aftermath. These are texts Meadows voluntarily turned over to the January 6 committee, although we know they are not the entire catalog of communications because he stopped cooperating after an initial period.

    The series, by Hunter Walker, Josh Kovensky, and Emine Yücel, examines texts not previously available to the public as well as some we have already seen. They show that 34 members of Congress wrote to Meadows as part of the attempt to install Trump back in the White House by counting out Biden’s legitimate electors.

    The congress members identified in the texts include the ones we have come to expect to see leading the MAGA Republicans in the effort to steal the election: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), for example, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), whom Trump advisor Jason Miller identified as “the ringleader on the Jan 6th deal.”

    But those implicated either explained away their participation—unconvincingly—or refused to respond to inquiries from the Talking Points Memo reporters.  Representative Brian Babin (R-TX) wrote to Meadows: “Mark, When we lose Trump we lose our Republic. Fight like hell and find a way. We’re with you down here in Texas and refuse to live under a corrupt Marxist dictatorship. Liberty!” Babin did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Representative Ralph Norman (R-SC), who wrote on January 17, three days before Biden’s inauguration: “Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall [sic] Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!”

    MAGA Republicans have hitched their political identity to Trump, and his star is falling after his candidates did so poorly in the 2022 election.

    On Saturday the executive committee of the Texas Republican Party voted 62–0 for a resolution calling for the replacement of Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who has allied closely with Trump.

    The former president is also in trouble as the investigation of the stolen national security documents proceeds. Today, Judge Aileen Cannon formally dismissed the special master she allowed Trump to claim, after the Eleventh Circuit decided she had no jurisdiction to take on the case. Philip Rotner in The Bulwark cut to the chase in the title of an article about the documents: “It’s Time to Indict Donald Trump.”

    And then there is the January 6th investigation. Special counsel Jack Smith has sent a grand jury subpoena to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. Smith took office just before Thanksgiving and has already sent requests for information to five states—all of which were 2020 battlegrounds– asking for any communications officials there had with Trump, his allies, and his campaign.

    And the report of the January 6 committee is scheduled to go to the printer this week.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 13, 2022 (Tuesday)

    This afternoon, in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 people on the South Lawn of the White House, President Joe Biden signed H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, into law. The new law protects same-sex and interracial marriages after the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision brought their safety into question.

    The new law overrides the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which said the federal government could not recognize marriages that were not between a woman and a man. It also requires states to recognize marriages performed in other states. The Supreme Court protected the right to interracial marriage in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia, and the right to same-sex marriage in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges.

    The Loving case came from the marriage of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., to avoid their home state of Virginia’s so-called Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which criminalized interracial marriage. When they returned to Virginia, police raided their home, and when Mrs. Loving showed them their marriage certificate, the officers said it was invalid in Virginia. The Lovings were charged with violating the law and pleaded guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” In 1959 the court sentenced them to a year in prison, suspending it if they left Virginia for at least 25 years. They moved to Washington, D.C.,  where they asked the American Civil Liberties Union to defend their rights.

    The Obergefell case, which was one of the many that made up the Supreme Court’s decision, revealed another danger of states refusing to recognize marriage. James Obergefell and John Arthur married in Maryland, but their home state of Ohio refused to recognize the marriage. Arthur was terminally ill and wanted Obergefell identified as his surviving spouse on his death certificate. In June 2015 a majority of the court decided that states must recognize marriages performed in other states. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito all dissented. Arthur died before the decision was handed down.

    The present Supreme Court, stacked by Trump with three far-right justices, has backed away from permitting the Fourteenth Amendment to protect civil rights. When its radical majority overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, Justice Clarence Thomas indicated he thought the right to same-sex marriage should also be revisited. He did not mention Loving v. Virginia—he himself is in an interracial marriage—but others noted that the court protected it, as well as the other cases, under the same clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    And so, Congress has protected the right to have marriages recognized, although not the right for same-sex couples to marry in states that prohibit it. That limit is due in part to the need for Republican votes to break a filibuster. In the final vote, 39 Republicans in the House supported the new law and 12 Republican Senators joined the Democrats to pass the measure, while 36 Republican Senators opposed it. The willingness of the Republicans to sign on reflects the popularity of same-sex and interracial marriage in the country: a Gallup poll in June 2022 showed support for same-sex marriage at 71%, and a September 2021 poll showed support for interracial marriage at 94%.

    In his remarks about the law, Biden emphasized its bipartisan support, apparently hoping to build consensus on other issues going forward.

    In 2012, Biden got out ahead of the Barack Obama White House when he publicly supported gay marriage. Today he reiterated his sentiments of a decade ago as he signed the bill into law. “Marriage is a simple proposition: Who do you love, and will you be loyal to that person you love?” Biden said in the signing ceremony. “It's not more complicated than that. We all recognize that everyone should have the right to answer those questions for themselves without…government interference.”

    As if right on cue, Trump-appointed Texas judge Matthew Kacsmaryk last week handed down a decision claiming that Title X, a federal program that offers grants to family-planning services, which can treat minors, “violates the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.” If upheld, according to Ian Millhiser of Vox, that decision would undermine a minor’s right to privacy, including the right to contraception. The plaintiff in the case says he is “raising each of his daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality, which requires unmarried children to practice abstinence and refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage,” and while he doesn’t say they’ve used contraceptive services, he doesn’t want them to have that option.

    Still, the mood was upbeat at the White House today. New numbers out this morning show that inflation is slowing faster than expected, hitting 7.1% in November—still high, but lower than the 7.3% economists predicted, and down significantly from October’s 7.7%. The moderation was not just in a single product—like gas, which is selling for less than it was a year ago, before Russia invaded Ukraine—but across the board.

    The worst category is the price of eggs, which is high because of a virulent outbreak of bird flu in the U.S., affecting layers but not birds raised for meat. But everything transported with diesel is also costly, as diesel is still close to $5 a gallon.

    In remarks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Biden noted that this was the fifth month in a row of good news about inflation. “Prices are still too high,” he said, “but things are getting better, headed in the right direction.” He reiterated that his economic plan is working: “We’re just getting started.”

    Finally, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility formally announced the first nuclear fusion reaction that produced more energy than it took to create the reaction. This is a huge deal. If it can be recreated at scale, it would provide limitless, carbon-free energy. While that application is still decades away, today’s announcement is the culmination of decades of work to get to this point. Heartfelt congratulation s* to the scientists.

    So it has been a day that looks to the future. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black person and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the position, opened today’s press briefing by calling this “an extremely historic day, a proud day for me and so many of us here at the White House and so many Americans…across the country.”

    A reporter asked her whether the president had shared with her his reflections on this historic day, or if she had any thoughts. Uncharacteristically, she answered not for him, but for herself.

    “This is a big day for me, but not just me; there are many colleagues that I work with here who are allies, who are also part of the community, who are very incredibly proud…. And the thing that I remember was, 10 years ago…[Biden] said something that, really, no other national elected official was saying at the time: that marriage is a proposition…about…who you love, but also about if you're going to be loyal to that person. And I think that's important.”

    Jean-Pierre continued: “[Biden] has always been an ally. I think I speak for many of us at the White House today that we could not be prouder to be working for this administration, to be working for this particular President, and to working on all the issues that are going to change Americans’ lives….”

    * I separated this word to avoid the annoying balloons.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     December 14, 2022 (Wednesday)

    Today, survivors of the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Club Q is an LGBTQ club in the city of about 500,000 people. The shooter opened fire there on the night of November 19-20, during a dance party. He used an AR-15 style rifle, murdering five people and wounding 19 more. Six others were hurt in the chaos.

    Pointing to Republican anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that calls LGBTQ individuals “groomers” and abusers,” survivors of the mass shooting said that Republican rhetoric was “the direct cause” of the massacre. Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) drew a wider lens: “The attack on Club Q and the LGBTQI community is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader trend of violence and intimidation across our country.”

    James Comer (R-KY), who will likely chair the committee in the upcoming Republican-controlled House, disagreed. Blaming Democratic policies that he claims are soft on crime, he said that “Republicans condemn violence in all forms,” and that the survivors have his “thoughts and prayers.”

    But Comer’s insistence that Republicans do not celebrate guns is not entirely honest. Just last year, four days after a mass shooting at a school in Oxford, Michigan that killed four students and wounded seven other people, Comer’s colleague Thomas Massie (R-KY) posted on Twitter a Christmas photo of him, his wife, and five children holding assault weapons in front of a Christmas tree. The caption read: “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) immediately posted her own family photo with her four sons all posing with firearms.

    In 2020, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, “Republican politicians ran more than 100 ads featuring guns and more than a dozen that featured semiautomatic military-style rifles.”

    Democrats do not do this. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) shot a hole in a climate bill in 2010 but, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, that was the last time a Democrat used a gun in an ad.

    The national free-for-all in which we have 120 guns for every 100 people—the next closest country is Yemen, with about 52 per one hundred people—is deeply tied to the political ideology of today’s Republican Party. It comes from the rise of Movement Conservatism under Ronald Reagan.

    Movement Conservatism was a political movement that rose to combat the business regulations and social welfare programs that both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War II. Movement Conservatives embraced the myth of the American cowboy as a white man standing against the “socialism” of the federal government as it sought to level the social and economic playing field between Black Americans and their white neighbors.

    In the 1960s, leaders like Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater personified the American cowboy, with his cowboy hat and opposition to government regulation, while television Westerns showed good guys putting down bad guys without the interference of the government. They emphasized individualism, the idea that a man should take care of his own family, defending it with weapons, if need be, and fighting off a dangerous government and those who wanted to use the government for “socialism” or “Marxism.”

    In 1972, the Republicans still embraced the idea that the government had a role to play in making the country safer for everyone, and their platform called for gun control to restrict the sale of “cheap handguns.” But in 1975, as he geared up to challenge President Gerald R. Ford for the 1976 presidential nomination, Movement Conservative hero Ronald Reagan took a stand against gun safety. In 1980 the Republican platform opposed the federal registration of firearms.

    In 1980 the National Rifle Association endorsed Reagan. This was the first time it had endorsed a presidential candidate, and showed an abrupt change in what had, until 1977, been a sporting organization that emphasized gun safety and rejected the idea of working with manufacturers of guns and ammunition.

    In the past, NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. Until the mid-1970s, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children; to require all dealers to be licensed; and to require background checks.

    But in the mid-1970s, a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing “gun control.” It formed a political action committee (PAC) in 1975, and two years later it elected an organization president who abandoned sporting culture and focused instead on “gun rights.”
    Until 1959, every single legal article on the Second Amendment concluded that it was not intended to guarantee individuals the right to own a gun. But in the 1970s, legal scholars funded by the NRA began to argue that the Second Amendment did exactly that.

    After a gunman trying to kill Reagan in 1981 paralyzed his press secretary, James Brady, and wounded Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the Brady Bill, to require background checks before gun purchases.

    The NRA paid for lawsuits in nine states to strike the law down, and in 1997, when the Brady Bill cases came before the Supreme Court as Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court declared parts of the measure unconstitutional.

    Now a player in national politics, the NRA PAC was awash in money from gun and ammunition manufacturers, 99% of it going to Republican candidates. By 2000 it was one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. It spent more than $40 million on the 2008 election, and in that year, the landmark Supreme Court decision of District of Columbia v. Heller struck down gun regulations and declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

    The unfettered right to own and carry weapons has come to symbolize the Republican Party’s ideology of individual liberty. Lawmakers and activists have not been able to overcome Republican insistence on gun rights despite the mass shootings that have risen since their new emphasis on guns. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shootings as one in which four people are shot, not including the shooter: in 2021 alone, we had 692 of them.
    While gun ownership has actually declined since the 1970s, there are far more guns in fewer hands: a study in 2017 showed that about half of US guns are owned by about 3% of the population, and that was before Americans launched a new gun-buying spree after 2020.  

    Ten years ago today, a 20-year-old in Newtown, Connecticut, shot and killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven, and six adult staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the wake of those horrific murders, Congress tried to pass a bipartisan bill requiring background checks for gun purchases, but even though 90% of Americans—including nearly 74% of NRA members—supported background checks, and even though 55 senators voted for the measure, it died with a filibuster.

    Dave Cullen, who writes about school shootings, argued yesterday in a New York Times op-ed that there is reason to hope we will finally address our gun problem. The Sandy Hook Massacre galvanized Americans into pushing back to reclaim our safety, as Shannon Watts and congressional representative Gabrielle Giffords—herself a survivor of gun violence–—organized the gun safety movement. That movement, in turn, got a dramatic boost from the activism of the survivors of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old gunman murdered 17 people and injured 17 others.

    This June, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to acknowledge that support for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was “off the charts, overwhelming,” and 15 Republican senators bucked the NRA to vote for basic gun safety legislation.

    But, also in June, the Supreme Court handed down the sweeping New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen decision requiring those trying to place restrictions on gun ownership to prove similar restrictions were in place when the Framers wrote the Constitution. Already, a Texas judge has struck down a rule preventing domestic abusers from possessing firearms on the grounds that domestic violence was permissible in the 1700s.
    The decision is being appealed.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 15, 2022 (Thursday)

    Yesterday, former president Trump took to his Truth Social media platform to announce that he would be making “a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT” today. Since he recently threw his hat in the ring for president in 2024, there was a great deal of speculation about what political move this would be.

    When it came today, it turned out that his announcement was for digital trading cards with images of him as a superhero…available for $99 apiece. Radio personality John Melendez promptly called them “Broke’mon cards.”

    Ron Filipkowski, a former federal prosecutor and Republican who now monitors right-wing extremism, tweeted: “All I can say is that those of us who have lost friends, fought with relatives, resigned positions, been called traitor, left our party, all because we saw very clearly what a con-man, huckster and fraud this man is, have never felt more vindicated.”

    The reduction of the former president to a cartoon grifter seems likely to have political repercussions. Right-wing media personality Baked Alaska, who is facing six months in jail after pleading guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing inside a Capitol building for his participation in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, tweeted: “i can’t believe i’m going to jail for an nft salesman,” with a sad face emoji.

    Meanwhile, three members of the “Wolverine Watchmen” who hatched a plot to kill police and elected officials and to kidnap Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer in summer 2020 as Trump urged his supporters to “LIBERATE” the state from her coronavirus restrictions were sentenced today to a minimum of 7 to 12 years in prison. Kara Berg of The Detroit News recorded their reactions: "I had a lapse in judgment," said one; "I sincerely regret ever allowing myself to have any affiliation with people who had those kinds of ideas,” said another; "I was caught up highly in the moment,” said a third. Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel noted that, “appropriate consequences for illegal acts are necessary to deter criminal behavior.”  

    Trump’s political star is fading, leaving the Republican Party without plan or policy: recall that in 2020, for the first time in its history, the party didn’t write a political platform. Instead, it said that if it had written a platform, it “would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party's strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration.” Going forward, they simply resolved “[t]hat the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President's America-first agenda.”

    Now the former president is increasingly toxic. As the party tries to find someone to blame for its poor 2022 showing, some seem to have concluded the party hasn’t been extremist enough. Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who remade the party to serve Trump, is now in a fight to keep her position, challenged by a woman who has backed election challenges and worked directly as Trump’s lawyer, rather than coming up from within the party.

    The lawmakers Trump helped to usher into Congress are also doubling down on their extremism. In 2022 the Republicans just barely won control of the House—and that with the help of gerrymandered districts—leaving them very little room to argue with each other.

    But while leadership in the Senate is determined by the party in power alone, the speakership of the House is voted on by the whole House. This means that with such a small majority, current House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who intends to become House speaker, can lose only a few votes and yet win.

    The far-right wing of his conference, some of whom were prominent in the newly released texts to and from Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows as they tried to keep Trump in power despite the will of the voters, have said they will not back McCarthy. He appears to have promised them plum committee assignments, investigations, and even impeachments, but so far, they aren’t budging.

    Today, McCarthy put off the choosing of committee leadership slots until after the January 3 election for speaker, which also means the Republican membership of the committees is unclear (in contrast, the Democrats will have made their decisions by next week). This enables McCarthy to use seats as leverage—Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was stripped of her committee assignments in this Congress, has already said she expects a prime spot on the Committee on Oversight and Reform—but it also means that the House cannot organize to start the upcoming session. It can’t even hire staff.

    Republicans who style themselves the “governing wing” of the party are quietly talking about stripping their more extreme members from committees. “From a governing perspective, it’s important that Republicans don’t start January 3 by going face down and not having some clarity as to what we’re going to be able to accomplish,” Representative Steve Womack (R-AR) told Annie Grayer and Melanie Zanona of CNN. “We need to be able to hit the ground running and demonstrate to the American people that the trust and confidence they’ve given to us by giving us a majority, albeit slim, was a good decision.”

    Indeed. And first on that list is keeping the government funded. Yesterday, the House approved a stopgap funding measure to keep the government operating another week while Congress prepares an omnibus bill to fund — until the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2023. The omnibus bill must be bipartisan to get through the Senate, but House Republican leaders urged Republican members to vote against the short-term measure, saying it was an “attempt to buy additional time for a massive lame-duck spending bill in which House Republicans have had no seat at the negotiating table.” Nine Republicans voted for it nonetheless, but at the very least, it seems that negotiations next year will be difficult.

    Meanwhile, over at the White House, President Joe Biden has spent the last three days hosting the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Both Russia and China have invested heavily in Africa in the past, and Biden, who is trying to weaken Chinese and Russian power around the globe, announced that the U.S. is committed “to expanding and deepening our partnership with African countries, institutions, and people.” This week he announced not only that he backs the African Union’s membership in the G-20, the intergovernmental forum of leading economies, but that the U.S. will invest at least $55 billion in the continent over the next three years. The U.S. hopes to work with African nations on issues of security, health, food security—Somalia is facing drought conditions that will affect food supplies, while the Russian invasion of Ukraine has cut down fertilizer shipments to Africa more generally—climate change, corruption, and so on.

    Biden announced that he and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as Dr. Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, and several members of the Cabinet, will travel to the African continent in 2023 to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to African countries and citizens.

    But while the White House this week was all about geopolitics and representation, the person who handles the president’s personal Twitter account apparently couldn’t resist poking a little fun at Trump’s news. “I had some MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENTS the last couple of weeks, too…” the account read:

    “Inflation’s easing
    I just signed the Respect for Marriage Act
    We brought Brittney Griner home
    Gas prices are lower than a year ago
    10,000 new high-paying jobs in Arizona”

    If the Democrats are trying to portray themselves as the competent party, the Republicans seem to be trying to give them a leg up.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     December 16, 2022 (Friday)

    Some interesting developments as we head into the weekend:

    On Monday the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its final public meeting. Today, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of Politico reported that the committee will vote on referring former president Trump to the Justice Department for at least three criminal charges. Those charges include insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

    Such a referral creates no legal obligation on the Department of Justice to act, but it certainly creates political pressure. If a bipartisan congressional committee—and the January 6th committee has two Republicans on it, no matter how often Trump supporters say it is all Democrats—many of whose members are lawyers, tells the Justice Department it thinks crimes have been committed, the Department of Justice will need, at least, to explain why it disagrees.

    In the shorter term, though, Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and 40 colleagues yesterday introduced a bill in which the term “insurrection” matters a lot. The measure bars Trump from holding office under the restrictions imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Written in 1866, after President Andrew Johnson had pardoned most of the Confederate ringleaders and constituents had voted them back into office, Congress wrote:

    “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

    The states ratified that amendment in 1868.

    Also today, at the request of the Department of Justice, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell unsealed an opinion she wrote in June, in which she determined that a number of communications between Representative Scott Perry (R-PA), lawyer John Eastman, and Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who tried to take over the attorney general’s job and use the Justice Department to overthrow the 2020 presidential election, and his aide Ken Klukowski were not privileged.

    It is not clear why the Department of Justice wanted this decision unsealed.

    But the material does show that department lawyers have had access to Clark’s inside account of a couple of key moments: Trump looking at the letter Clark drafted incorrectly telling Georgia legislators the department thought the results of the election were tainted—there is evidence Trump knew this was false—and the key January 3, 2021, meeting in which Trump was stopped from putting Clark in power only when the rest of the Justice Department’s leadership threatened to resign.

    Clark’s information came in the shape of an outline for an autobiography. That he set out to write such a document suggests that those involved in trying to overthrow our government saw themselves as heroes in the making: the reason we have so many diaries from Confederates in the early 1860s is that they imagined they were the Founders of their own new nation.

    The autobiography also appears to reveal a direct connection between the attempt to overthrow the United States government and the toxic individualism of the Movement Conservatives who took over the Republican Party in the 1990s. Movement Conservatives based their ideology in the idea from the Reconstruction years that Black voters would elect leaders who promised them roads and schools and hospitals that could only be paid for with taxes on property owners. In the post–Civil War South, that primarily meant white men. Thus, in this construction, minority voting meant a redistribution of wealth from white men to Black people.

    In the twentieth century, international communism meant government takeover of the means of production. But in the United States, “socialism” and “communism” were defined in the 1870s by those opposed to Black voting, who insisted that letting Black men have a say in their government would create a racial redistribution of wealth that would destroy America.

    This idea melded with the nation’s opposition to international communism after World War II, in which support for communism truly seemed to threaten the nation’s existence, to lead us to where we are today. As minority voting grew after 1965 and women began to vote independently of their husbands after 1980, the American fear of communism expanded to justify the belief that elections won by candidates popular with women and minorities are illegitimate.

    According to the judge’s decision, this idea was important to Clark. In the conclusion to his autobiography, Clark promised that he would continue to work on “Covid litigation and against wokeism” and that he would “resist communism.”

    Finally, the House Ways and Means Committee, which got access to six years of Trump’s tax returns at the end of November after years of litigation, will hold a meeting Tuesday to vote on whether to make them public. Republicans will control the committee in the new Congress, and if the Democrats now in charge don’t vote for their release, it might well not happen.

    That being said, at this point my guess is that there are a number of Republicans standing back and silently cheering on those trying to put a definitive end to Trump’s political career.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 17, 2022 (Saturday)

    One of the cool things about art is that it speaks to you differently depending on what's going on in your own life. When my friend Peter sent me this picture a long time ago as I was running around from one thing to another, I barely noticed it next to some of his more dramatic scenes. Today, after spending a week at home too sick to do much of anything, the great blue heron just chilling on a dory laden with the weight of an unfinished project jumped out at me.

    Peter calls the picture "Abeyance," which means "a temporary state of inactivity or suspension."


    I'm on the upswing now, but going to take an early night. I need it-- we all need it-- because next week looks like it's going to be intense.

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo, "Abeyance," by Peter Ralston.]


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     December 18, 2022 (Sunday)

    As I wrote last night, it looks like this is going to be one heck of a week. Tomorrow afternoon at 1:00, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its last public hearing. It is expected to vote on whether to refer former president Trump to the Department of Justice for criminal charges. Then, on Wednesday, it is scheduled to release its report, which is said to be around 1000 pages.

    These looming events appear to be causing Trump concern. On Truth Social yesterday, he gave his opinion of the whole proceeding: “They say that the Unselect Committee of Democrats, Misfits, and Thugs, without any representation from Republicans in good standing, is getting ready to recommend Criminal Charges to the highly partisan, political, and Corrupt ‘Justice’ Department for the ‘PEACEFULLY & PATRIOTICLY’ speech I made on January 6th. This speech and my actions were mild & loving, especially when compared to Democrats wild spewing of HATE. Why didn’t they investigate massive Election Fraud or send in the Troops? SCAM!” (The quotation is produced here as it appeared.)

    Today he continued to post similar statements.

    Meanwhile, Andrew Solender and Alayna Treene of Axios reported today that the Republicans are planning to issue their own 100-page report, focusing on what they say are security failures, claiming that the January 6th committee has “never dealt with the serious issues.” The committee report is expected to discuss security failures.

    One of the authors of this Republican “shadow” report is Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), himself implicated in the attempt to overturn the election. Another is Representative Jim Banks (R-IN), whom Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) called out in October 2021 for falsely representing himself as the ranking member of the actual January 6th committee.

    House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) warned the January 6th committee to preserve all its materials. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) seemed unimpressed. Not only does the committee have to preserve all its materials by law, but it intends to make its material available to the public. “He’s the public. If he wants access to it, all he has to do is go online and he’ll have it,” he told Solender.

    But that is not all that’s going on this week.

    Congress continues to hammer out a big funding bill to keep the government funded through the end of next September. This is entangled in the Republican Party’s internal chaos. The far-right members of the House caucus don’t want a deal before they take control of the House, expecting that they can exert pressure on the administration to do as they wish by refusing to fund the government. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans recognize the mess that would create and have worked to get a deal finalized. Still, a few Senate Republicans are now backing the House extremists, apparently unwilling to open themselves to the charge of cooperating with Democrats.

    Until last Thursday it appeared that one of the things that would make its way into the funding bill was a deal on immigration reform. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post was following the story closely and noted that by early December, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) appeared to have hammered out a deal that offered to Democrats a path to citizenship for about 2 million “dreamers,” people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents without documentation and have never known any home but this one. It offered protections for migrant rights by providing up to $40 billion for processing those coming to the U.S. to seek asylum; the money will pay for more processing centers, more judges, and more asylum officers.

    To Republicans it offered more resources for removing migrants who don’t qualify for asylum. It offered more funding for officers at the border. And it continued the Title 42 restrictions on migrants until the new processing centers were ready.

    Title 42 is a law that permits the government to keep contagious diseases out of the country, and Trump put it in place in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, not least because it enabled him to stop considering migrants for asylum as required by U.S. and international law (Title 42 had only been used once before, in 1929, to keep ships from China and the Philippines, where there was a meningitis outbreak, from coming into U.S. ports). Extremist Republicans like using Title 42 as a way to stop immigration to this country, although technically it is an emergency rule.

    But while the potential reform package drew support from conservative outlets like the Wall Street Journal editorial board, right-wing extremists opposed it, claiming that the pathway toward citizenship for dreamers would, as anti-immigrant Trump adviser Stephen Miller said, “turn the present tsunami of minor-smuggling into a biblical flood.”

    As of last Thursday, the immigration deal was off the table. Republicans objected to it and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would not let it be attached to the funding bill even if the negotiators could hammer out the last details.  

    So what does this have to do with next week? On Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Title 42 must end on December 21 unless the Supreme Court steps in.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Biden administration tried to end the rule last April, saying public health no longer warranted it. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the policy would end on May 23, permitting those who had been turned away under the policy to apply for asylum. “Let me be clear, Mayorkas said, “those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.” Nonetheless, Stephen Miller promptly said that ending Title 42 “will mean armageddon on the border. This is how nations end.”

    More than 20 Republican-dominated states immediately sued the administration, insisting that Biden was trying to put in place “open border policies” rather than simply ending the pandemic-related policy. In May a Trump-appointed judge in Louisiana blocked the lifting of the rule. In November, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan vacated the rule, saying it was “arbitrary and capricious,” but gave the administration until mid-December to prepare for the change. Now a federal court has decided the rule must end this Wednesday.

    What this change will look like is not clear. It does not magically create “open borders” as Republicans charge; it simply restores the law as it was before March 2020. This will have one immediate consequence: under ordinary immigration law, making an attempt to cross the border after being rejected bears a heavy penalty, which it does not under Title 42. The lack of that penalty under Title 42 meant migrants made repeated attempts, one of the factors that has so inflated the number of immigrant “encounters” in the past two years. So the change is likely to slow down repeated attempts to cross the border.

    The Department of Homeland Security has released a six-point plan for managing what it expects will be an increase in the number of migrants. It will hire about 1000 additional Border Patrol processing coordinators and add another 2500 personnel—both contractors and government workers—to work in ten new “soft-sided” facilities, which will increase capacity by about a third. It will continue increasing transportation for migrants to places farther from the border, to avoid overcrowding.

    But, Secretary Mayorkas says, our system is “fundamentally broken.” It is “outdated” at every level, and “in the absence of congressional action to reform the immigration and asylum systems, a significant increase in migrant encounters will strain our system even further. Addressing this challenge will take time and additional resources, and we need the partnership of Congress, state and local officials, NGOs, and communities to do so.”

    And yet, for the Republicans there is an obvious political payoff to leaving the situation unaddressed.
    Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted today: “With Title 42 ending, our nation is going to be overrun with illegals worse than at just about any other point in history. Remember, this is intentional and all part of Biden’s systematic destruction of America.” Republican extremists are already demanding that the incoming Republican House majority impeach Secretary Mayorkas.

    In a week when a former Republican president seems likely to make history as the first president to be referred to the Justice Department for criminal charges, it seems likely we’ll hear a great deal indeed from Republicans about the end of Title 42.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 19, 2022 (Monday)

    Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public hearing.

    It reviewed the material establishing how former president Donald Trump planned even before the 2020 election to declare he had won even if he actually lost, and how he executed that plan. It then laid out how he maintained he had won even as his own lawyers and campaign advisors repeatedly assured him that the conspiracy theories on which he was relying were false. It showed how he contested Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victories in court—losing 61 times—and then pressured state governments to “find” the votes he needed to win.

    When those attempts to hand him the election all failed, he turned to trying to steal the election through pressuring state officials to create false slates of electors that chose him, rather than Biden, and then pressured the Department of Justice to get states to turn to those electors by alleging—falsely—that the department thought the election was fraudulent (its leaders had said repeatedly, in no uncertain terms, that the election was not fraudulent). When Justice Department leaders refused, he tried to put a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, at the head of the department to do as he wished. He was stopped only when the department leaders threatened to resign as a group.

    That left him with a plan hatched by right-wing lawyer John Eastman. The plan hinged on the outrageous idea that the vice president, in his capacity as the person to oversee the counting of electoral ballots, could decide not to count the legitimate ballots for which Trump loyalists had submitted competing ballots, enabling him single-handedly to throw the election to Trump over the wishes of the American voters.

    Eastman himself admitted this plan was illegal.

    And yet it was Trump’s last hope to look like he was playing by the rules. When Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, refused to participate in the scheme, Trump went to his final card—his trump card, if you’ll forgive me—his base.

    Exactly two years ago today, on December 19, 2020, when it became clear that his campaign lawyers had lost their legal challenges and the real electors had filed their electoral slates, Trump tweeted to his supporters to urge them to come to Washington, D.C., on January 6, the day those electoral votes would be counted and confirm Biden’s election to the White House. Falsely claiming what he knew to be untrue, that it was statistically impossible for him to have lost the election, he told his supporters: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild.”

    The right-wing militias he had courted since the Charlottesville, Virginia, Unite the Right rally of August 2017 heard the message. Immediately, they interpreted his tweet as an order to come to Washington to keep him in office, with violence if necessary, and they planned accordingly. Trump appears to have seen their potential violence as a final way to force Pence to do as he wished. When the vice president continued to refuse, Trump whipped up the crowd against his vice president and sent them toward the Capitol, where both houses of Congress and the vice president were all, in an exceedingly rare occurrence, together.

    For 187 minutes, as his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump watched the chaos on television and did nothing to stop it, communicating only with those continuing to try to stop the counting of the electoral votes. Only when troops had been mobilized and it was clear the insurrection would not succeed did he tell his people that he loved them and they should go home. They promptly did, underscoring that he could have called them off whenever he wished.

    He expressed no concern for those under siege that day, and he did nothing to stop the rioters.

    After outlining the former president’s attempt to stay in power against the wishes of the American people, overturning the very foundation of our democracy, the committee members voted to refer Trump to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution for violating at least four laws:  

    The first law the committee says Trump broke was that he obstructed an official proceeding. Trump tried corruptly to stop the joint session of Congress counting electoral votes in a bunch of different ways, from gathering false electors, to trying to send a letter to state legislators from the Department of Justice lying that the department thought the election was suspect, to spurring on a mob. Under this charge, the committee also referred lawyer John Eastman “and certain other Trump associates.”

    It noted that “multiple Republican Members of Congress, including Representative Scott Perry, likely have material facts regarding President Trump’s plans to overturn the election. For example, many Members of Congress attended a White House meeting on December 21, 2020, in which the plan to have the Vice President affect the outcome of the election was disclosed and discussed. Evidence indicates that certain of those Members unsuccessfully sought Presidential pardons from President Trump after January 6th…revealing their own clear consciousness of guilt.”

    The second law Trump broke was conspiring to defraud the United States, in this case by stealing the election. Other conspirators the committee suggests the department should look at include Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Rudolph Giuliani, and Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.

    The third was conspiracy to make a false statement, which the committee said described the false elector scheme. This conspiracy, too, might involve others, including Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who agreed to help Trump with the project.

    The fourth law the committee says Trump broke was that he “Incited,” “Assisted,” or provided “Aid and Comfort” to an insurrection.

    The committee suggested that this list was not exhaustive and that there might be other laws the former president has broken. Those included obstruction of justice, as the committee revealed that some of its witnesses suggested Trump loyalists had attempted to affect their testimony. The referrals create no legal obligation for the Justice Department to act but, along with the evidence the committee has compiled, will make it important for the department to explain why it disagrees that crimes have been committed if it decides not to charge the former president.

    The committee also referred four members of the House to the House Ethics Committee for ignoring the committee’s subpoenas: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Scott Perry (R-PA), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ). The incoming Republican House will likely ignore this referral, but that will make it hard for its members to enforce subpoenas themselves.

    Along with the hearing, the committee released an introduction to its forthcoming report. At only 104 pages, the report is worth reading: it’s very clear and very fast paced, reading more like a 1940s thriller than a government report. And like an old-time novel, it has in it some eye-popping facts just waiting for more development.

    Trump raised “raised roughly one quarter of a billion dollars…between the election and January 6th” by falsely claiming election fraud. The “Trump Campaign, along with the Republican National Committee, sent millions of emails to their supporters, with messaging claiming that the election was ‘rigged,’ that their donations could stop Democrats from ‘trying to steal the election,’ and that Vice President Biden would be an ‘illegitimate president’ if he took office.” That’s a lot of money raised fraudulently, and the RNC was involved. The RNC shows up again when chair McDaniel agrees to help Trump with the fake elector scheme.

    The committee establishes that Trump fully intended to go with his supporters to the Capitol. This is a very big deal indeed: the president traditionally cannot go to the chambers of Congress without a formal invitation. Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani told Cassidy Hutchinson, top aide to Mark Meadows, that Trump intended to be with the members of Congress and to “look powerful.” A White House security official said, “[W]e were all in a state of shock…we all knew what that implicated and what that meant, that this was no longer a rally, that this was going to move to something else…. I—I don’t know if you want to use the word “insurrection,” “coup,” whatever.”

    The committee generously attributes this plan to be part of Trump’s hope to pressure Pence, but historian of authoritarians Ruth Ben-Ghiat noted that a leader launching a new regime needs to be present at the front of his cheering troops to mark his success.  

    Fittingly, on December 15, the Coup d’État Project of the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Illinois, which maintains the world’s largest registry of coups, attempted coups, and coup conspiracies since World War II, reclassified the events of January 6 as an attempted “auto-coup.” According to its director, Scott Althaus, an auto-coup occurs when“the incumbent chief executive uses illegal or extra-legal means to assume extraordinary powers, seize the power of other branches of government, or render powerless other components of the government such as the legislature or judiciary.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 20, 2022 (Tuesday)

    There is some fallout from yesterday’s hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Yesterday afternoon, after the committee had voted unanimously to refer former president Trump to the Department of Justice for breaking at least four laws, Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, made a statement. "House Democrats and Vicious Never Trumpers, who were run out of Congress by the American people, continue to desperately and unconstitutionally target President Trump & Republicans,” she said.

    Stefanik blew up her reputation as a moderate to ride Trump’s coattails to power and now appears to think she has little choice but to back him to try to keep him from taking everyone down with him.

    Also, sources have identified for CNN reporters Katelyn Polantz, Pamela Brown, Jamie Gangel, and Jeremy Herb the person to whom the committee referred as telling a witness to give misleading testimony. The person giving the advice was apparently Stefan Passantino, the top ethics lawyer for the Trump White House, and the person receiving it was top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson. By the time he was allegedly giving Hutchinson advice to protect Trump, Passantino was funded by Trump’s Save America political action committee.

    Passantino denies the suggestion that he advised Hutchinson to mislead the committee, but he is on leave from the law firm where he was a partner, claiming that leave is because of “the distraction of this matter.” Los Angeles Times legal columnist Harry Litman tweeted that the accusation involving Passantino is “absolutely career ending if it pans out. Virtual instant [disbarment] and lucky if he stays out of jail.”

    Finally, as the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol prepares to release its final report and close up shop, Punchbowl News today reported that the committee is also “extensively cooperating” with the Justice Department’s special counsel overseeing that investigation for the Department of Justice, Jack Smith. Smith requested all the committee’s materials on December 5. The committee began to send over materials last week.

    Other continuing stories include the end of Title 42, the pandemic restriction on migrants’ right to apply for asylum in the U.S. After almost a year of litigation, a federal court ordered the rule lifted tomorrow. At the last minute, Republican attorneys general from 19 states sued to stop the lifting of the rule, and the Supreme Court issued an administrative stay.

    In response, the administration today responded that it is not legitimate to use a health measure in place of immigration rules. It acknowledged that ending Title 42 orders “will likely lead to disruption and a temporary increase in unlawful border crossings,” and it “in no way seeks to minimize the seriousness of that problem.” But, the administration asserts, “[T]he solution to that immigration problem cannot be to extend indefinitely a public-health measure that all now acknowledge has outlived its public-health justification.” Instead, the country needs to rely on the immigration laws Congress has passed.

    The administration has asked the court to deny the applicants’ attempt to keep Title 42 in place, but asks that if it does so that it give the government at least a few days notice, so it can prepare “for a full return” to normal operations.

    Republicans have, of course, just killed a measure to increase funding and personnel at the border, and to extend restrictions until new facilities are built, at least in part because they are unwilling to extend a path to citizenship for “dreamers,” those folks brought to the U.S. by their parents as children. About 70% of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for dreamers.

    In another continuing story, the House Republicans continue to snarl at one another. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is now backing House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and has turned on Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who is siding with Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) against McCarthy. Boebert started things off by tweaking Greene about believing in “Jewish space lasers.” (You know, I started to explain this reference, but…I give up. For once I’m asking you just to take my word for it that it involves Greene.) Greene responded on Twitter, accusing Boebert of being in it for the money. The fight has devolved from there.

    Meanwhile, CNN’s chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, reported today that Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) was unhappy with McCarthy’s threat to block bills from Senate Republicans if they back the omnibus funding bill to keep the government afloat. “Statements like that and statements coming from House Republicans is the very reason that some Senate Republicans feel they probably should spare them from the burden of having to govern.”

    A profile of McCarthy by Jonathan Blitzer in the forthcoming New Yorker clearly lays out the Republicans’ problem. Blitzer quotes Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist, as saying: “The Dems’ extreme people are extreme on progressive policies. The Republicans’ extreme are extreme on the level of the insane taking over the asylum.”

    McCarthy has to cater to those folks to become House speaker because the party’s majority is so small, but party members who actually want to govern don’t want to be held hostage to the far right. Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) says he thinks McCarthy is the only serious candidate for speaker, but if he doesn’t have the votes, Bacon said, ““I’m going to work with like-minded people across the aisle to find someone agreeable” for speaker.”

    And finally, it appears that a story that has continued now since 2015 is approaching a new ending. As a candidate for the U.S. presidency, Trump promised he would release his tax returns, as is common for presidential candidates. In fact, he has fought the release of those returns ever since. Under the leadership of Representative Richard Neal (D-MA), the House Committee on Ways and Means subpoenaed about six years of Trump’s tax returns in May 2019 as part of an attempt to make sure presidents’ taxes were adequately audited, but it was not until last month the committee received the returns.

    Today the committee voted to make those returns public after blacking out personal information such as Social Security numbers, street addresses, and banking information. It will also make public the returns of eight Trump business entities, along with a report by the committee. The vote was 24 to 16, along party lines, with Republican Kevin Brady (R-TX) arguing strongly against the release.

    Already there are questions. The Internal Revenue Service has a policy that the individual tax returns for the president and vice president are “subject to mandatory review,” but it did not audit Trump’s taxes for the first two years he was in office. It did so only after Neal and the Ways and Means committee requested the taxes in 2019. That audit is still not finished.

    Ironically, the discovery that the IRS was not, in fact, doing its job with regard to Trump’s taxes proves what the House Ways and Means Committee argued all along: we need new legislation to ensure that the IRS makes timely examinations of presidential tax returns while disclosing certain information to the public.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
     December 21, 2022 (Wednesday)

    Three hundred days ago, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a new assault into Ukraine, where his troops had been fighting since 2014. Apparently, he expected that a new strike would bring a quick victory that would enable him to break away the eastern regions of Ukraine and annex them to Russia with a puppet government in place, expanding his territory and power.

    Today, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky—whose leadership of the Ukrainians, who have refused to yield and whose resistance has debilitated the Russian military, has made him an international hero—made his first trip outside Ukraine since the invasion began.

    Flying on a U.S. government plane, Zelensky came to the White House to thank President Biden, Congress, and the American people for their support.

    Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were instrumental in convincing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—which former president Trump had quite deliberately weakened—to stand together against Russian aggression. Biden and Blinken pulled together allies around the globe to sanction Russia and Russian individuals and entities, making the Russian economy suffer increasingly as the war went on. And they have urged countries around the world to rush money and supplies to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression.

    From the beginning, Biden and Blinken recognized that if Russia were permitted to crush the sovereignty of Ukraine and take its territory, the concept of an international rules-based order that has protected much of the world since World War II would have been abandoned. They also recognized that involving NATO directly in the war would have given Putin the stature he craved and would have led at the very least to an extensive ground war. The U.S. offered to evacuate Zelensky as Russian troops moved in.

    “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelensky answered.

    For ten months now, the Ukrainians first held their own, and then recovered significant territory from the invaders, even as Putin tried to claim Ukrainian lands as his own. The process of reclaiming their territory has been heartwrenching as it has become clear that Russian soldiers and their leaders engaged in murder, torture, rape, and other war crimes. Now, the Russians are targeting missile strikes at civilian infrastructure, knocking out heat and electricity in the bitter winter cold, hoping to inflict yet more suffering on Ukraine. And yet, the Ukrainians fight on.

    In a time when democracy seemed to be on the ropes and authoritarians like Putin seemed to be gaining the upper hand, the Ukrainians came to stand for the power of democracy. They showed that Putin’s mighty army was hollowed out by corruption and apathy, while the Ukrainians, who were supposed to be weak, dropped their civilian lives to defend their country. They showed that Putin’s claim of moral superiority over secular democracies—which, he said, were a cesspool of decadence—was a sham: his mercenaries committed war crimes and boasted of it. As the western Allies had done during World War II, the Ukrainians demonstrated that democracy, for all its messiness, was far superior to authoritarianism.

    Sadly, it has been a demonstration some Americans were not eager to see as they continue to believe that the willingness of secular democracies to welcome LGBTQI+ individuals and racial minorities as equals to white, straight Christians is undermining society.

    Speaking in English today to make sure Americans got his message directly, Zelensky thanked Congress for the bipartisan support Ukraine has received, and the American people, who have invested significant tax dollars in the Ukrainians’ efforts. He conveyed “thanks from our just ordinary people to your ordinary people, Americans. I really appreciate. I think it’s very difficult to—to understand what does it mean when we say appreciate, but—but you really have—have to feel it. And thank you so much.”

    Zelensky also came to ask for more aid, both military and humanitarian, to support Ukraine’s war effort. Congress has proposed $44 billion in aid in the new omnibus funding package, bringing the U.S. package so far to more than $100 billion in military and humanitarian aid over four spending packages. While a few right-wing Republicans are complaining about this spending, it is worth noting that the U.S. annual defense budget Congress passed earlier this month was $858 billion.

    This evening, Zelensky spoke to a joint meeting of the Congress, where the members greeted him with a standing ovation (with the pointed exception of some right-wing House members). He described Ukraine’s defense as a battle between democracy and authoritarianism across the globe, and assured Americans, “Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

    “We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world,” he said. “We have no fear, nor should anyone in the world have it. Ukrainians gained this victory, and it gives us courage which inspires the entire world.

    “Americans gained this victory, and that’s why you have succeeded in uniting the global community to protect freedom and international law. Europeans gained this victory, and that’s why Europe is now stronger and more independent than ever. The Russian tyranny has lost control over us. And it will never influence our minds again.

    “Yet, we have to do whatever it takes to ensure that countries of the Global South also gain such victory. I know one more, I think very important, thing: The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin in their minds.”

    At the end of his speech, Zelensky presented a signed Ukrainian flag from the recent battleground of Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris, the president of the Senate, who were seated behind him. In a dramatic image, they held it up between them before giving Zelensky a U.S. flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol today to mark his visit in exchange.

    Putin lately seems desperate to make Russia look like a world power. Two days ago he was in Belarus, apparently trying to shore up his armies, and claims he is adding an additional 500,000 soldiers to those he says are already in the ranks. Today he exaggerated outlandishly at a meeting of Russia’s defense chiefs, saying that NATO countries are using their full military capabilities against Russia.

    In contrast to Putin’s boasts and trip to Belarus, Zelensky traveled on a U.S. plane to meet with President Biden at the White House and give a speech to a joint session of Congress. His visit demonstrated that the U.S. will give Ukraine what Biden said is its "unequivocal and unbending support" for “as long as it takes.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
       December 22, 2022 (Thursday)

    Already there are revelations from the documents being released this week.

    Among the transcripts released by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S Capitol is one from Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. In it, Hutchinson tells the interviewers that what she calls “Trump world” set her up with her first attorney, Stefan Passantino. He refused to tell her who was paying the bills—it was Trump’s political action committee—and she worried that “they will ruin my life… if I do anything that they don’t want me to do.”   

    Emphasizing repeated references to “loyalty,” and “Trump world,” Hutchinson told the committee that Passantino urged her not to tell what she knew, prodding her to say she didn’t recall events she clearly did. “If you don’t 100 percent recall something, even if you don’t recall a date or somebody who may or may not have been in the room, that’s an entirely fine answer, and we want you to use that response as much as you deem necessary.”  “Look,” he told her, “the goal with you is to get you in and out. Keep your answers short, sweet, and simple, seven words or less. The less the committee thinks you know, the better, the quicker it’s going to go. It’s going to be painless. And then you’re going to be taken care of.”

    “We just want to focus on protecting the President,” Passantino said. “We’re gonna get you a really good job in Trump world. You don’t need to apply to other places. We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.” Hutchinson told of being scared of what they could do to her. “I’d seen how vicious they can be. And part of that’s politics, but…I think some of it is unique to Trump world, the level they’ll go to to tear somebody else down. And I was scared of that.”

    Mark Meadows, too, sent Hutchinson a message through a mutual friend saying “he knows you’re loyal and he knows…you’re going to protect him and the boss. You know, he knows that we’re all on the same team and we’re a family.” She also received notice that Trump was aware of her testimony.  

    After two interviews with the committee, Hutchinson reached out to a former White House colleague, Alyssa Farah, to become a back channel to the January 6 committee to clear her conscience of testimony she felt was not fully truthful. In a third interview, committee members asked questions that clearly shocked Passantino, who kept asking how they knew what to ask. When, afterward, he insisted on talking both to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and his Trump world law partners against Hutchinson’s wishes, she realized that he was working for Trump, not her. When he suggested she should risk a charge of contempt of Congress, along with jail time, she cut ties with him and began working with new lawyers.

    In her newer, clean testimony to the committee, Hutchinson recounted a number of conversations in which it was clear Trump knew he had lost the election, as well as some conversations that suggested the planning for January 6 was well underway weeks ahead of time. On December 12, for example, when Trump tried to cancel a trip to the Army-Navy game, Meadows told Hutchinson, “He can’t do that. He’s gonna tick off the military, and then he’s gonna be ticked off at me in a few weeks when the military’s ticked off at him….” Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) asked Hutchinson what she thought that exchange meant, and she answered: “Looking back now, I can speculate.”  

    The transcript is not just a damning portrait of the Trump loyalists, it is a window into the struggles of a clearly very bright young woman who was under enormous financial and emotional pressure to please her former boss and yet could not accept the erasure of her moral values. After two sessions with the committee in which she felt she had not been forthcoming, she realized she had to “pass the mirror test.”

    She told the committee: “[Y]ou know, I did feel like it was my obligation and my duty to share [what she knew], because I think that if you’re given a position of public power, it’s also your job, your civic responsibility, to allow the people to make decisions for themselves. And if no one’s going to do that, like, somebody has to do it.”

    There will no doubt be more information from the January 6 committee documents forthcoming. (The committee released its 845-page report a little before 10:00 Eastern time, but I will not have time to read it before posting this letter tonight.)

    Hutchinson’s moral reckoning stands in stark contrast to a court filing yesterday that revealed Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity pushed the idea on air that Trump had won the 2020 election even though, as he said under oath, “I did not believe it for one second.” Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against the Fox News Channel and its parent company, Fox Corporation, for defamation after its frequent declarations that voting systems rigged the election. Testimony like Hannity’s makes a strong case that the outlet knew it was lying when it pushed the story that Trump had won the election.

    Other documents, released from the House Committee on Ways and Means concerning Trump’s taxes, suggest corruption was widespread under Trump. By law, the Internal Revenue Service must audit a president’s tax returns. It audited President Barack Obama’s taxes while he was in office and has audited President Joe Biden’s taxes as well during his term. But it did not audit former president Trump’s taxes for the first two years he was in office and finally began an audit on the same day the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Richard E. Neal (D-MA), asked for information about the returns.

    Charlie Savage and Alan Rappeport of the New York Times reported that the IRS began to audit the tax returns Trump filed during his presidency only after he had already left office, and then assigned only one person to the job. But, Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reported earlier this year, Trump repeatedly talked about using the IRS to investigate his enemies, and the bureau did, in fact, launch invasive audits on former FBI director James B. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, both of whom Trump believed to be his enemies.

    The numbers released show that Trump declared he lost money in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2020, so that he paid no income tax, and that he paid a total of $1500 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

    Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) said there is “no justification for the failure to conduct the required presidential audits until a congressional inquiry was made.” He called for additional funding for the IRS, noting: “These are issues much bigger than Donald Trump. Trump’s returns likely look similar to those of many other wealthy tax cheats—hundreds of partnership interests, highly-questionable deductions, and debts that can be shifted around to wipe out tax liabilities.” He also said: “I have additional questions about the extent to which resource issues or fear of political retaliation from the White House contributed to lapses here.”

    This afternoon the House passed a bill requiring the IRS to conduct annual audits of the president’s tax returns. Five Republicans joined the Democrats to vote in favor of the measure, but 201 Republicans voted against it.

    For its part, the Senate this afternoon passed the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government through next September 30. Among other measures in the bill, the Senate included a reform of the Electoral Count Act to make impossible another attempt to overturn a presidential election the way Trump tried. The bill clarifies that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is purely ceremonial, makes it clear that there is only one slate of electors per state, and increases the number of congress members required to launch an objection to a state’s electoral slate.  

    Today, the Democrats elected Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) as the top Democratic member (the top member of the party out of power is called the “ranking member”) of the House Oversight Committee. This is an enormously significant election because the Republicans have already announced they plan to use their majority to investigate a wish list of targets, and many of those investigations will likely come from the Oversight committee.

    Because Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has decided not to put together committees until after the election for speaker takes place on January 3, it is not clear what Republicans will be on that committee, but Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) currently sits on it, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has said she expects a seat on it. Jordan’s role for the Republicans in Congress is to shout and hector witnesses to establish a narrative (he is famously ineffective at passing legislation), while Greene’s role is to parrot right-wing conspiracies. Clearly, the Republicans plan to use the Oversight Committee largely for propaganda before the 2024 election.

    This makes Raskin’s new position key: Raskin is a brilliant constitutional law professor who is cowed not even a little bit by the likes of Jordan and Greene. He tweeted: "I was recruited to [the Oversight Committee] by Representative Elijah Cummings on my first day in Congress & it is overwhelming to think I will now become one of his successors. I thank my Caucus colleagues for entrusting me with the awesome responsibility of being Oversight Ranking Member.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 23, 2022 (Friday)

    Today, by a vote of 225 to 201, the House passed the 4,155-page omnibus spending bill necessary to fund the government through September 30, 2023. The Senate passed it yesterday by a bipartisan vote of 68–29, and President Joe Biden has said he will sign it as soon as it gets to his desk.

    The measure establishes nondefense discretionary spending at about $773 billion, an increase of about $68 billion, or 6%. It increases defense spending to $858 billion, an increase of about 10%. Defense funding is about $45 billion more than Biden had requested, reflecting the depletion of military stores in Ukraine, where the largest European war since World War II is raging, and the recognition of a military buildup with growing tensions between the U.S. and China.

    Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) hammered out the bill over months of negotiations. Leahy and Shelby are the two most senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and both are retiring at the end of this session. Shelby told the Senate: “We know it’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot of good stuff in it.”

    House Republicans refused to participate in the negotiations, tipping their hand to just how disorganized they are right now. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) insisted that the measure should wait until the Republicans take control of the House in 11 days. This reflects the determination of far-right extremists in the party to hold government funding hostage in order to get concessions from the Democrats.

    But their positions are so extreme that most Republicans wanted to get the deal done before they could gum it up. Indeed, right now they are refusing to back Republican minority leader McCarthy for speaker, forcing him to more and more extreme positions to woo them. Earlier this week, McCarthy publicly claimed that if he becomes House speaker, he will reject any bill proposed by a senator who voted yes on the omnibus bill. After the measure passed the House, McCarthy spoke forcefully against it, prompting Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) to say: “After listening to that, it’s clear he doesn’t have the votes yet.”

    The measure invests in education, childcare, and healthcare, giving boosts to the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and investing in mental health programs. It addresses the opioid crisis and invests in food security programs and in housing and heating assistance programs. It invests in the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service and makes a historic investment in the National Science Foundation. It raises the pay for members of the armed forces, and it invests in state and local law enforcement. It will also provide supplemental funding of about $45 billion for Ukraine aid and $41 billion for disaster relief. It reforms the Electoral Count Act to prevent a plan like that hatched by former president Donald Trump and his cronies to overturn an election, and it funds prosecutions stemming from the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    "A lot of hard work, a lot of compromise," Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) said. "But we funded the government with an aggressive investment in American families, American workers, American national defense.” Schumer called the bill “one of the most significant appropriations packages we've done in a really long time."

    And so, members of Congress are on their way home, in the nation’s severe winter storm, for the winter holiday.

    It is a fitting day for the congress members to go home, some to come back in January, others to leave their seats in Congress to their successors. On this day in December 1783, General George Washington stood in front of the Confederation Congress, meeting at the senate chamber of the Maryland State House, to resign his wartime commission. Negotiators had signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783, and once the British troops had withdrawn from New York City, Washington believed his job was done.

    “The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulation s to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country,” he told the members of Congress.

    “Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence.”

    “Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

    In 1817, given the choice of subjects to paint for the rotunda in the U.S. Capitol, being rebuilt after the British had burned it during the War of 1812, fine artist John Trumbull picked the moment of Washington’s resignation. As they discussed the project, he told President James Madison: “I have thought that one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the world, was that presented by the conduct of the commander-in-chief, in resigning his power and commission as he did, when the army, perhaps, would have been unanimously with him, and few of the people disposed to resist his retaining the power which he had used with such happy success, and such irreproachable moderation.”

    Madison agreed, and the painting of a man voluntarily giving up power hangs today in the U.S. Capitol, in the Rotunda. It hung there over the January 6 rioters as they tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and put in place their candidate, who insisted he should remain in power despite the will of the American people.

    Yesterday’s release of the report of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol reviewed the material the committee has already explained, but it did have a number of revelations.

    One is that former president Trump was not simply the general instigator of the Big Lie that he had won the election, and the person egging on his violent supporters, but also that he was the prime instigator of the attempt to file false slates of electors. This puts him at the heart of the attempt to defraud the U.S. government and to interfere with an official proceeding. On page 346, the report says: “The evidence indicates that by December 7th or 8th, President Trump had decided to pursue the fake elector plan and was driving it.” In that effort, he had the help of Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, even after White House lawyers had called the plan illegal and had backed away from it.

    Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS)’s introduction to the report put Trump’s effort in the larger context of a history that reaches all the way back to the American Revolution. “Our country has come too far to allow a defeated President to turn himself into a successful tyrant by impeding our democratic institutions, fomenting violence, and…opening the door to those in our country whose hatred and bigotry threaten equality and justice for all Americans.”

    “We can never surrender to democracy’s enemies. We can never allow America to be defined by forces of division and hatred. We can never go backward in the progress we have made through the sacrifice and dedication of true patriots. We can never and will never relent in our pursuit of a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all Americans.”


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 24, 2022 (Saturday)

    Happy holidays to you all, however you celebrate... or don't.

    We are some of the lucky ones this year, with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and family and friends close to hand. We are blessed.

    But it has not always been this way.

    For those struggling this holiday season, a reminder, if it helps, that Christmas marks the time when the light starts to come back.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 28,020
      December 25, 2022 (Sunday)

    In the summer heat of July 1776, revolutionaries in 13 of the British colonies in North America celebrated news that the members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, had adopted the Declaration of Independence. In July, men had cheered the ideas that “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States,” and that, in contrast to the tradition of hereditary monarchy under which the American colonies had been organized, the representatives of the thirteen united states intended to create a nation based on the idea “that all men are created equal” and that governments were legitimate only if those they governed consented to them.

    But then the British responded to the colonists’ fervor with military might. They sent reinforcements to Staten Island and Long Island and by September had forced General George Washington to evacuate his troops from New York City. After a series of punishing skirmishes across Manhattan Island, by November the British had pushed the Americans into New Jersey. They chased the colonials all the way across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

    By mid-December the future looked bleak for the Continental Army and the revolutionary government it backed. The 5,000 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, weakening it even more.

    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 had come to doubt 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).

    By December, the fiery passion of July had cooled.
    “These are the times that try men’s souls,” read a pamphlet published in Philadelphia on December 19. “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.”

    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.

    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 the Battle of 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.

    “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” Paine wrote, “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.”


    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
Sign In or Register to comment.