Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      January 22, 2023 (Sunday)

    We need to put on the record another public mass shooting over the weekend. It happened in Monterey Park, California, last night, when a gunman killed ten people and wounded ten others.

    This morning, a shooter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, injured twelve people in what appears to have been a targeted attack at a nightclub, and this afternoon, in another targeted attack, a gunman wounded eight people in Shreveport, Louisiana.

    This was not the picture I intended to post tonight, but it seems appropriate.

    Again.

    [Photo, “Peace,” by Peter Ralston]

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
     January 23, 2023 (Monday)

    Today a jury found three members of the Oath Keepers gang, along with a fourth defendant associated with them, guilty of seditious conspiracy for their actions surrounding the January 6th insurrection in 2021. In October a different jury also found the founder of the Oath Keepers, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, as well as their Florida leader, Kelly Meggs, guilty of seditious conspiracy. Five members of another extremist gang, the Proud Boys, are currently on trial on that charge and others.

    Today’s defendants, Joseph Hackett, 52; Roberto Minuta, 38; David Moerschel, 45; and Edward Vallejo, 64, were found guilty of a rack of other charges, too, but the seditious conspiracy charges are the biggies. Such indictments are rare and indicate a careful plot against our democracy. They are hard to prove. These six convictions—so far—are a big win for Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department.

    At Talking Points Memo, Nicole Lafond notes that defense attorneys for the Oath Keepers argued that the fault for January 6th was not that of their clients. “Responsibility really rests at our politicians’ feet,” attorney Scott Weinberg said. “The president and Stewart Rhodes were claiming that the world is coming to an end even before the election.”

    The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol recommended that the Department of Justice consider criminal charges against former president Trump, the man behind the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. It also called a number of his associates co-conspirators.

    So far, those charges have not materialized, and Trump is running for president in 2024.

    That campaign is off to a rocky start. Trump is supposed to kick it off next week in Columbia, South Carolina, but Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post report that he’s having trouble lining up politicians to show up. They’re not willing to indicate support for him yet.

    Scherer and Dawsey note that South Carolina has two homegrown candidates, former governor Nikki Haley and current senator Tim Scott, who might want to run. In addition, Trump has recently alienated evangelicals—his formerly rock-solid base—by blaming them for his 2020 loss. It is also possible that his many legal troubles will catch fire, burning up his presidential chances. His secretary of state Mike Pompeo and national security advisor John Bolton are apparently testing the waters themselves, publicly needling each other. Bolton recently said Trump’s support is in “terminal decline,” and after Trump called former cabinet members considering a campaign “disloyal,” Pompeo told Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade, “I never said I wouldn’t run.”

    Another issue dropped today, huge in itself and at least tangentially related to the former president.

    On Saturday, authorities from the Department of Justice arrested Charles McGonigal, 54, at JFK Airport as he returned from a trip to Sri Lanka. McGonigal worked for the FBI from 1996 to 2018.

    On October 4, 2016, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey named McGonigal the head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York field office. As the special agent in charge, McGonigal supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs. Before that, he was the section chief of the Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    Charges against McGonigal—who is one of the highest ranking FBI members ever charged with a crime—stem from his connection to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. The United States sanctioned Deripaska in 2018 for working for the Russian state to destabilize Ukraine. Deripaska was also a close associate of political operative Paul Manafort, who ran Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Manafort was convicted in 2018 of a number of crimes associated with his ties to Russia. Trump pardoned him.

    McGonigal, along with Sergey Shestakov, a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who has worked as an interpreter for U.S. courts, is charged with violating sanctions by taking money from Deripaska to investigate one of his rivals, and with money laundering. In a separate indictment, McGonigal is accused of hiding multiple cash payments from a foreign intelligence official and of trying to get the sanctions on Deripaska removed.

    As Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel points out, the Department of Justice is pursuing this case so far as about public corruption, not about national security. But it is surely significant that the man who was supposed to be in charge of protecting the U.S. from Russian oligarchs went to work for one as soon as he left the FBI, and perhaps sooner. And that oligarch was connected to Trump’s 2016 campaign manager.

    While there is a lot we still don’t know, we do know that in 2018, Comey told Congress he worried that officials in the FBI’s New York field office had given Trump ally Rudy Giuliani sensitive information in the last days of the 2016 election, after Giuliani had said so in front of television cameras. Giuliani made that claim in October, after McGonigal took over that office.

    We know that Comey told investigators that he released news of the reopened investigation of Clinton’s emails—against Department of Justice policy, right before the election with voting already underway—out of concern that “people in New York” would leak that information. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates was clearer. She told the inspector general that Comey and other FBI officials “felt confident that the New York Field Office would leak it and that it would come out regardless of whether he advised Congress or not.”

    We also know that after McGonigal left the FBI, he went to work for Brookfield Properties, the multibillion-dollar real-estate company in New York that handled the bailout of Jared Kushner’s 666 Fifth Avenue by a $1.1 billion, 99-year lease—all paid up front—thanks to the Qatar Investment Authority.

    None of those things is currently on the table in the indictments, and they might not turn out to be significant. But my guess is that this case will continue to develop.

    Prosecutors for the Southern District of New York told Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave that they had agreed with McGonigal’s attorney for him to be released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond, co-signed by two other people.

    Another prominent legal case touching on the Trump years wrapped up today when it took a jury only two hours to find another January 6 defendant guilty of all charges for which he was on trial. Richard “Bigo” Barnett, 62, of Gravette, Arkansas, who was photographed with his feet on then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, was found guilty of civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, carrying a dangerous weapon into a restricted building—he was the one with a stun gun in a walking stick—and five other counts. Barnett said he ended up in the speaker’s office by accident while he was looking for a bathroom.  

    And legal commentator Joyce White Vance of Civil Discourse points out that tomorrow, a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, will hold a hearing to decide whether to release the report of the grand jury that investigated Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

    You can see why Republicans are nervous about leaping aboard the Trump train for 2024.


    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      January 24, 2023 (Tuesday)

    The fact that former vice president Mike Pence’s lawyer disclosed on January 18, 2023, that Pence also had documents with classified markings at his Indiana home should tell us a couple of things.

    First, the discovery suggests that it is apparently not uncommon for officials to find such documents among their papers, although the level of classification clearly matters. There have been complaints for a long time that people overuse classification in general at the lower levels. We do not know the level of classification of the documents found at the Biden and Pence residences, but it is possible to imagine lower-level documents slipped in among their papers when they were packed up to move from one office to another.

    Indeed, former National Security Agency top lawyer Glenn Gerstell told Dustin Volz and Warren P. Strobel of the Wall Street Journal that problems arise when officials move in and out of office. “At the end of an administration there is obviously a desire, and a requirement, by the outgoing administration to remain active until the last minute,” he said. “You’re almost asking for trouble.”

    Second, it highlights the difference between officials like Biden and Pence who inadvertently find such documents among their other papers and alert the National Archives and Research Administration (NARA), and those who stonewall NARA and the FBI, as Trump did. This distinction is really the crux of the difference between Biden and Pence, on the one hand, and Trump, on the other.

    On January 18, Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob wrote to the acting director of NARA that ”a small number of documents bearing classified markings…were inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former Vice President at the end of the last Administration. Vice President Pence was unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence…and stands ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate inquiry.”

    The letter says that, after hearing about the discovery of documents marked classified in Biden’s possession, Pence, “out of an abundance of caution,” hired lawyers with experience in handling classified documents to look through records stored in his home. When they turned up such documents, they locked them up “pending further direction on proper handling from the National Archives.”

    The letter ended: “Vice President Pence has directed his representatives to work with the National Archives to ensure their prompt and secure return. Vice President Pence appreciates the good work of the staff at the National Archives and trusts they will provide proper counsel in response to this letter.”

    Law professor and legal commentator Ryan Goodman tweeted: “This is how you keep your client out of jail.” He added: “Like the known facts in Biden case, the strong contrast with Trump's conduct shows why Trump is in so much legal jeopardy and stands to be indicted.”

    Today, Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the grand jury investigating Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential vote in Georgia, heard arguments about whether to release the grand jury’s report. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis urged McBurney not to release the report, for which many media outlets have been clamoring. “In this case, the state understands the media’s inquiry and the world’s interest. But we have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights,” Willis said. She went on to say that decisions about charging individuals in that case are “imminent.”

    That is, Willis signaled that her office is likely to indict certain people, and she worries that releasing the report will taint the trials.

    Also today, Representative George Santos (R-NY) revised his financial reports to say that a $500,000 loan to his campaign did not, in fact, come from his personal funds. Nor did a $125,000 loan that had also previously been attributed to him, according to the new filings. But while that new paperwork said Santos did not, in fact, put up the money, it didn’t say where the funds did come from.

    Santos’s troubles are pulling in Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the powerful lawmaker who backed Santos during the campaign. Donors told Pamela Brown and Gregory Krieg of CNN that they supported the unknown Santos because of Stefanik’s endorsement and now feel betrayed. Santos’s extraordinary lies taint the Republicans as a whole in New York, while the conference’s determination to stand behind him to keep his vote in House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s weak majority ties the party to power rather than principle.

    That drive for power is behind the so-called weaponization committee, put together by McCarthy to fulfill a promise to the right-wing extremists whose votes he needed to become speaker. This committee is the new House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, placed with the Judiciary Committee, and Jim Jordan (R-OH) will chair it. Yesterday in The Bulwark, Jill Lawrence explained that the true goal of the committee is “shoveling paranoia and distortion into the news stream” to make right-wing voters distrust the government even more than they already do. David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida who left the party in 2018, told Lawrence: “It’s a drug they’re going to put out on the street for conservative media and conservative voters.”

    McCarthy released the names of the Republican committee members today. There was such interest from Republicans in participating that McCarthy has expanded the original fifteen members of the committee. So far, he has named 12 Republicans. Led by Jordan, they are dominated by extremists and seem likely to try mostly to get airtime on right-wing media, just as Lawrence and Jolly say.

    McCarthy fulfilled another promise to the extremists today when he refused to seat Democratic representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, saying that he appreciated the loyalty of House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to his colleagues and continuing, “But I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security, and I cannot simply recognize years of service as the sole criteria for membership on this essential committee. Integrity matters more.”

    Because the Intelligence Committee is a select committee, McCarthy has the power to reject members. But this is a breach indeed. He wrote to Jeffries that, in his opinion, the use of the Intelligence Committee in the previous two congresses had made the nation “less safe.”

    Under Schiff, who was chair in those congresses, the committee exposed that then-president Trump had withheld aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Trump to undermine then-candidate Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential run. Schiff then led the House’s impeachment case in the Senate trial.

    During those impeachment hearings, Republicans tried to get Swalwell kicked off the committee after news broke that an accused foreign agent had raised money for his campaign in 2014 and put an intern in his House office. She had targeted a number of rising politicians but did not, apparently, do anything illegal or gain access to any classified information.

    When informed by the FBI of concerns about the agent, Swalwell immediately cut ties with her and worked with the FBI. An FBI official said Swalwell was “completely cooperative” and “under no suspicion of wrongdoing.” To justify getting rid of Swalwell, McCarthy fell back on what he said was classified information the FBI had shared in a briefing, although other Republican colleagues who had been briefed at the time expressed no concerns then or later, and McCarthy did not express concerns about the other politicians the agent had targeted.

    McCarthy apparently promised to go after Schiff and Swalwell as payback for the removal from all committee assignments—by bipartisan votes—of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) after it turned out she had endorsed violence against Democratic leaders, and of Paul Gosar (R-AZ) after he published an animated video showing himself attacking Biden and killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

    Finally, another mass shooting on Monday took seven more lives. So far, 2023 is at an all-time high for mass shootings at this point in the calendar. California has been particularly hard hit in the past weeks, and today its governor, Gavin Newsom, called out Republicans for standing in the way of gun safety.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      January 25, 2023 (Wednesday)

    Democrats are generally staying out of the way and letting Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the House Republicans make a spectacle of themselves. In order to get the votes to become speaker, McCarthy had to give power to extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and now has openly brought her on board as a close advisor, making the extremists the face of the new MAGA Republican Party. If McCarthy appears to have abandoned principle for power by catering to the far right, Representative George Santos (R-NY) hasn’t helped: stories of his lies have mounted, and financial filings yesterday suggest quite serious financial improprieties.

    Even the Senate Republicans seem to be keeping their heads down while the House Republicans perform for their base. Demanding big cuts in spending before they agree to raise the debt ceiling has put the House Republicans in a difficult spot. They have been clear that they intend to slash Social Security and Medicare, only to have Trump, who was the one who originally insisted on using the debt ceiling to get concessions out of Democrats, recognize that such cuts are enormously unpopular and say they should not touch Medicare and Social Security. Senate Republicans have said they will stay out of debt ceiling negotiations until the House Republicans come up with a viable plan.

    While the House Republicans take up oxygen, the Democrats are highlighting for the American people how, over the past two years, they have carefully and methodically changed U.S. policy to stop the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few.

    In July 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to promote competition in the economy. Since the 1980s, he said, when right-wing legal theorist Robert Bork masterminded a pro-corporate legal revolution against antitrust laws, the government had stopped enforcing laws to prevent giant corporations from concentrating their power. The result had been less growth, weakened investment, fewer small businesses, less bargaining power for workers, and higher prices for consumers.

    “[T]he experiment failed,” he said.

    Biden vowed to change the direction of the government’s role in the economy, bringing back competition for small businesses, workers, and consumers. Very deliberately, he reclaimed the country’s long tradition of opposing economic consolidation. Calling out both presidents Roosevelt—Republican Theodore, who oversaw part of the Progressive Era, and Democrat Franklin, who oversaw the New Deal—Biden celebrated their attempt to rein in the power of big business, first by focusing on the abuses of those businesses and then by championing competition.

    The administration put together a whole-of-government approach to restore competition based on the 72 separate actions outlined in Biden’s executive order. A terrific piece today by David Dayen in The American Prospect suggests that the effort has worked. Overall, Dayen concludes, the executive order of July 9, 2021, was “one of the most sweeping changes to domestic policy since FDR.”

    While administrations since Reagan have judged whether consolidation is harmful solely by its effect on consumer prices, the Biden approach also factors in the welfare of workers, including their ability to negotiate higher wages. It has also taken on the sharing of medical patents that have raised costs of drugs and equipment like hearing aids by preventing others from entering the market. It has taken on large businesses’ strangling of start-up competitors simply by buying them out before they take off. And, crucially, it has claimed the ability to review previous mergers that it now deems in violation of antitrust laws, citing the 1911 breakup of Standard Oil.

    Dayen notes that one of the causes for a sharp drop in mergers and acquisitions in the second half of 2022 is that government agencies are willing to enforce antitrust laws. “Just about everything on competition has been hard-fought,” he writes, “[b]ut there’s plenty of evidence of real movement.”

    Not only government agencies, but also the Democratic Congress—along with some Republicans—passed a number of laws that have shifted the economic policy of the nation. Biden is fond of saying that he doesn’t believe in trickle-down economics and that he intends to build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. New numbers suggest the policies of the past two years are doing just that.

    The December jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that job growth continues strong. The country added 223,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate went down slightly to 3.5 percent. The last two years of job growth are the strongest on record, and the country has recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic. According to the White House, 10.7 million jobs were created and a record 10.5 million small businesses’ applications were filed in the past two years.

    On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that median weekly earnings rose 7.4% last year, slightly faster than inflation. For Black Americans employed full time, the median rise was 11.3% over 2021. A median Hispanic or Latino worker’s income saw a 4.8% raise, to $837 a week. Young workers, between 16 and 24, saw their weekly income rise more than 10%. Also seeing close to a 10% weekly rise were those in the bottom tenth of wage earners, those making about $570 a week. The day after the Wall Street Journal’s roundup, Walmart, which employs 1.7 million people in the U.S., announced it would raise its minimum wage to $14 an hour, up from $12.

    Democrats promised that the CHIPS and Science Act would bring “good paying” jobs to those without college degrees by investing in high-tech manufacturing. A study by the Brookings Institution out yesterday notes that the act has already attracted multibillion-dollar private investments in New York, Indiana, and Ohio and that two thirds of the jobs they will produce are accessible to those without college degrees. Those jobs do, in fact, pay better than most of those available for those without college degrees, although Brookings urged better investment in training programs to make workers ready for those jobs.

    The Inflation Reduction Act gave Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and capped the cost of insulin for those on Medicare at $35 a month (Republicans blocked an attempt to make that cap available for those not on Medicare). It made hearing aids available over the counter, making them dramatically cheaper, and it also expanded subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. Today the Department of Health and Human Services announced that a record number of Americans enrolled in the ACA in the last open enrollment period: 16.3 million people.

    Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes that much of the investment from these laws is going to Republican-dominated states even though their Republican lawmakers opposed the laws and voted against them. The clean energy investments of the Inflation Reduction Act are going largely to those states, bringing with them additional private investment. A solar panel factory is expanding into Greene’s own district despite her vocal opposition both to alternative energy and to the Inflation Reduction Act.

    For 40 years the Republican Party offered a vision of America as a land of hyperindividualism, in which any government intervention in the economy was seen hampering the accumulation of wealth and thus as an attack on individual liberty. The government stopped working for ordinary Americans, and perhaps not surprisingly, many of them have stopped supporting it. Biden refused to engage with the Republicans on the terms of their cultural wars and has instead reclaimed the idea that government can actually work for the good of all by keeping the economic playing field level for everyone.

    Biden and members of his administration are taking to the road to tout their successes to the country, especially to those places most skeptical of the government. If they can bring the Republican base around to support their economic policies, they will have realigned the nation as profoundly as did FDR and Theodore Roosevelt before them.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 32,674
    mickeyrat said:
      January 25, 2023 (Wednesday)

    Democrats are generally staying out of the way and letting Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the House Republicans make a spectacle of themselves. In order to get the votes to become speaker, McCarthy had to give power to extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and now has openly brought her on board as a close advisor, making the extremists the face of the new MAGA Republican Party. If McCarthy appears to have abandoned principle for power by catering to the far right, Representative George Santos (R-NY) hasn’t helped: stories of his lies have mounted, and financial filings yesterday suggest quite serious financial improprieties.

    Even the Senate Republicans seem to be keeping their heads down while the House Republicans perform for their base. Demanding big cuts in spending before they agree to raise the debt ceiling has put the House Republicans in a difficult spot. They have been clear that they intend to slash Social Security and Medicare, only to have Trump, who was the one who originally insisted on using the debt ceiling to get concessions out of Democrats, recognize that such cuts are enormously unpopular and say they should not touch Medicare and Social Security. Senate Republicans have said they will stay out of debt ceiling negotiations until the House Republicans come up with a viable plan.

    While the House Republicans take up oxygen, the Democrats are highlighting for the American people how, over the past two years, they have carefully and methodically changed U.S. policy to stop the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few.

    In July 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to promote competition in the economy. Since the 1980s, he said, when right-wing legal theorist Robert Bork masterminded a pro-corporate legal revolution against antitrust laws, the government had stopped enforcing laws to prevent giant corporations from concentrating their power. The result had been less growth, weakened investment, fewer small businesses, less bargaining power for workers, and higher prices for consumers.

    “[T]he experiment failed,” he said.

    Biden vowed to change the direction of the government’s role in the economy, bringing back competition for small businesses, workers, and consumers. Very deliberately, he reclaimed the country’s long tradition of opposing economic consolidation. Calling out both presidents Roosevelt—Republican Theodore, who oversaw part of the Progressive Era, and Democrat Franklin, who oversaw the New Deal—Biden celebrated their attempt to rein in the power of big business, first by focusing on the abuses of those businesses and then by championing competition.

    The administration put together a whole-of-government approach to restore competition based on the 72 separate actions outlined in Biden’s executive order. A terrific piece today by David Dayen in The American Prospect suggests that the effort has worked. Overall, Dayen concludes, the executive order of July 9, 2021, was “one of the most sweeping changes to domestic policy since FDR.”

    While administrations since Reagan have judged whether consolidation is harmful solely by its effect on consumer prices, the Biden approach also factors in the welfare of workers, including their ability to negotiate higher wages. It has also taken on the sharing of medical patents that have raised costs of drugs and equipment like hearing aids by preventing others from entering the market. It has taken on large businesses’ strangling of start-up competitors simply by buying them out before they take off. And, crucially, it has claimed the ability to review previous mergers that it now deems in violation of antitrust laws, citing the 1911 breakup of Standard Oil.

    Dayen notes that one of the causes for a sharp drop in mergers and acquisitions in the second half of 2022 is that government agencies are willing to enforce antitrust laws. “Just about everything on competition has been hard-fought,” he writes, “[b]ut there’s plenty of evidence of real movement.”

    Not only government agencies, but also the Democratic Congress—along with some Republicans—passed a number of laws that have shifted the economic policy of the nation. Biden is fond of saying that he doesn’t believe in trickle-down economics and that he intends to build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. New numbers suggest the policies of the past two years are doing just that.

    The December jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that job growth continues strong. The country added 223,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate went down slightly to 3.5 percent. The last two years of job growth are the strongest on record, and the country has recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic. According to the White House, 10.7 million jobs were created and a record 10.5 million small businesses’ applications were filed in the past two years.

    On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that median weekly earnings rose 7.4% last year, slightly faster than inflation. For Black Americans employed full time, the median rise was 11.3% over 2021. A median Hispanic or Latino worker’s income saw a 4.8% raise, to $837 a week. Young workers, between 16 and 24, saw their weekly income rise more than 10%. Also seeing close to a 10% weekly rise were those in the bottom tenth of wage earners, those making about $570 a week. The day after the Wall Street Journal’s roundup, Walmart, which employs 1.7 million people in the U.S., announced it would raise its minimum wage to $14 an hour, up from $12.

    Democrats promised that the CHIPS and Science Act would bring “good paying” jobs to those without college degrees by investing in high-tech manufacturing. A study by the Brookings Institution out yesterday notes that the act has already attracted multibillion-dollar private investments in New York, Indiana, and Ohio and that two thirds of the jobs they will produce are accessible to those without college degrees. Those jobs do, in fact, pay better than most of those available for those without college degrees, although Brookings urged better investment in training programs to make workers ready for those jobs.

    The Inflation Reduction Act gave Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and capped the cost of insulin for those on Medicare at $35 a month (Republicans blocked an attempt to make that cap available for those not on Medicare). It made hearing aids available over the counter, making them dramatically cheaper, and it also expanded subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. Today the Department of Health and Human Services announced that a record number of Americans enrolled in the ACA in the last open enrollment period: 16.3 million people.

    Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes that much of the investment from these laws is going to Republican-dominated states even though their Republican lawmakers opposed the laws and voted against them. The clean energy investments of the Inflation Reduction Act are going largely to those states, bringing with them additional private investment. A solar panel factory is expanding into Greene’s own district despite her vocal opposition both to alternative energy and to the Inflation Reduction Act.

    For 40 years the Republican Party offered a vision of America as a land of hyperindividualism, in which any government intervention in the economy was seen hampering the accumulation of wealth and thus as an attack on individual liberty. The government stopped working for ordinary Americans, and perhaps not surprisingly, many of them have stopped supporting it. Biden refused to engage with the Republicans on the terms of their cultural wars and has instead reclaimed the idea that government can actually work for the good of all by keeping the economic playing field level for everyone.

    Biden and members of his administration are taking to the road to tout their successes to the country, especially to those places most skeptical of the government. If they can bring the Republican base around to support their economic policies, they will have realigned the nation as profoundly as did FDR and Theodore Roosevelt before them.

    Damn you Brandon!
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  • Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 32,674
    And Obamacare gets a mention! Remember that, Obamacare? Sure you do. It was going to be replaced by something better, grander, less expensive. Well, it’s what we were told 13 years ago. I’m still waiting.
    09/15/1998, Mansfield, MA; 08/29/00 08/30/00, Mansfield, MA; 07/02/03, 07/03/03, Mansfield, MA; 09/28/04, 09/29/04, Boston, MA; 09/22/05, Halifax, NS; 05/24/06, 05/25/06, Boston, MA; 07/22/06, 07/23/06, Gorge, WA; 06/29/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield, MA; 08/18/08, O2 London, UK; 10/30/09, 10/31/09, Philadelphia, PA; 05/15/10, Hartford, CT; 05/17/10, Boston, MA; 05/20/10, 05/21/10, NY, NY; 06/22/10, Dublin, IRE; 06/23/10, Northern Ireland; 09/03/11, 09/04/11, Alpine Valley, WI; 09/11/11, 09/12/11, Toronto, Ont; 09/14/11, Ottawa, Ont; 09/15/11, Hamilton, Ont; 07/02/2012, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/04/2012 & 07/05/2012, Berlin, Germany; 07/07/2012, Stockholm, Sweden; 09/30/2012, Missoula, MT; 07/16/2013, London, Ont; 07/19/2013, Chicago, IL; 10/15/2013 & 10/16/2013, Worcester, MA; 10/21/2013 & 10/22/2013, Philadelphia, PA; 10/25/2013, Hartford, CT; 11/29/2013, Portland, OR; 11/30/2013, Spokane, WA; 12/04/2013, Vancouver, BC; 12/06/2013, Seattle, WA; 10/03/2014, St. Louis. MO; 10/22/2014, Denver, CO; 10/26/2015, New York, NY; 04/23/2016, New Orleans, LA; 04/28/2016 & 04/29/2016, Philadelphia, PA; 05/01/2016 & 05/02/2016, New York, NY; 05/08/2016, Ottawa, Ont.; 05/10/2016 & 05/12/2016, Toronto, Ont.; 08/05/2016 & 08/07/2016, Boston, MA; 08/20/2016 & 08/22/2016, Chicago, IL; 07/01/2018, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/03/2018, Krakow, Poland; 07/05/2018, Berlin, Germany; 09/02/2018 & 09/04/2018, Boston, MA;

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

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

    Brilliantati©
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      January 26, 2023 (Thursday)

    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today asked six former presidents and their vice presidents to look to see if they have any presidential records, including documents marked classified, in their possession. It sent the letters to representatives for former presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan and former vice presidents Mike Pence, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Dan Quayle. It did not make a similar request to former president Jimmy Carter because although he was the one who signed the Presidential Records Act into law, it did not go into effect until he left office.

    This request illuminates the crucial importance in our society of disinformation: deliberate lies or misdirection to convince people of things that are not true.

    At this point, documents bearing classification markings have turned up in the possession of Trump, Biden, and Pence. The NARA request suggests the possibility that other high-ranking officials also have documents that they are unaware they hold. Trump and his allies insist that the special counsel investigating him for potential criminal behavior means that he is being treated differently than the others, with the implication that he is being treated unfairly.

    But the issue has never been about the documents themselves, although it is a problem that any of the former officials have documents marked classified. The issue was that NARA repeatedly asked Trump to produce documents it knew he had, and that he repeatedly refused even after being subpoenaed. Finally, the Department of Justice felt obliged to get a court order to search his property, and even now his lawyers refuse to sign off on paperwork saying he has turned in all the documents he stole. In contrast, Biden and Pence apparently did not know they had any documents with classified markings, alerted NARA as soon as they realized it, and have cooperated with authorities.

    The cases are not the same.

    For a long time now, the right wing has muddied the political waters by creating such confusion over things that should be clear—flooding the zone with sh*t, as Trump advisor Stephen Bannon put it—that people can’t figure out what is really going on.

    An attempt to continue that strategy is what’s behind the House Republicans’ establishment of a select subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government, positioned under the Committee on the Judiciary. The representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has put on that committee are grandstanders, and they have indicated they plan to argue that the Biden administration has politicized the government. Considering the representatives involved, we can expect lots of yelling and sound bites for right-wing media, designed to build the narrative they want their voters to believe.

    But the truth is that it was the Trump administration that sought to weaponize the government against their perceived enemies. News broke today that Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, deliberately tried to use the Department of Justice to undermine the officials who had—according to the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz—launched the Russia investigation properly and with good reason.  

    The story, by Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner in the New York Times, also told us more. After the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailing contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives came out, Barr consistently spun the information inaccurately to make the best possible case for Trump. He convinced many Americans to think that there was nothing between the Trump campaign and Russia, although in fact Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report that came out afterward concluded the opposite.

    Barr undermined not only the Mueller report but also the inspector general’s report, ignoring its findings and telling the press—inaccurately—that the FBI had opened the Russia investigation on the “thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient,” or “without any basis.” (In fact, the FBI opened the inquiry when an Australian diplomat warned that a member of the Trump campaign had boasted that Russian operatives had “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Australia and the United States, along with Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, are part of an intelligence alliance known informally as Five Eyes. It was this information that Horowitz found compelling enough to open an investigation.)

    After the Mueller report’s release, Barr appointed a special counsel, John Durham, to investigate the investigators. Durham used the very tactics of which the Republicans’ accused the Democrats, using bad information to try to get information on a private citizen. But no matter how hard he tried, he did not, in fact, turn up information indicating the investigators had conducted themselves improperly.

    What Durham did find, though, were accusations from Italian officials that Trump himself might have engaged in financial crimes. The accusations were too serious for him and Barr to ignore. Barr authorized Durham’s inquiry to become a criminal inquiry, but here’s the kicker: when news of that new phase became public, Barr sat back as media spun the new criminal inquiry as proof of misbehavior on the part of those who had conducted the Russia inquiry. Trump even told followers that the criminals were former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden, and leading FBI and intelligence officials. The actual target of the criminal investigation was Trump himself.

    In the end, Durham never found anything to contradict Inspector General Horowitz’s report saying the Russia investigation was begun properly, and the only cases he brought failed. But the cozy relationship between him and Barr violated department policy for special counsels, according to legal analyst Lisa Rubin, as they allegedly discussed the case frequently, including occasionally over drinks. A special counsel is supposed to be independent.

    The New York Times article details how the Trump administration worked overtime to use the apparatus of government to convince the American people that there was nothing to the Russia investigation, although repeated reports said otherwise.

    This story seems especially relevant in light of the arrest this week of Charles McGonigal, who was the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York Field Office from 2016 to 2018 and, before that, was the section chief of the Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. McGonigal supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs. McGonigal is charged with working for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was also a close associate of political operative Paul Manafort, who ran Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    In a powerful Twitter thread today, scholar of authoritarianism Timothy Snyder noted that authorities, as well as the American people, have not taken the threat of Russian influence in our politics seriously enough. He pointed out that in 2016, McCarthy himself i said he thought Putin was paying Trump, and now, just after the McGonigal story broke, McCarthy threw Adam Schiff—who was key in chasing down Trump’s machinations over Ukraine—off the House intelligence committee. “Schiff is [an] expert on Russian influence operations,” Snyder wrote. “It exhibits carelessness about national security to exclude him. It is downright suspicious to exclude him now.”

    Meanwhile, newly elected House Republican Cory Mills of Florida, endorsed by Trump, handed out defused grenades today on the floor of the House. Mills is an election denier who boasted on his website that he sold tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters. Mills accompanied the grenades with a note suggesting he was sending them because McCarthy has put him on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

    But, as with most of the performances coming out of the right wing these days, that explanation seems intended to be misdirection. It’s impossible to ignore the threat wrapped up in handing a colleague a grenade.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 32,674
    mickeyrat said:
      January 26, 2023 (Thursday)

    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today asked six former presidents and their vice presidents to look to see if they have any presidential records, including documents marked classified, in their possession. It sent the letters to representatives for former presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan and former vice presidents Mike Pence, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Dan Quayle. It did not make a similar request to former president Jimmy Carter because although he was the one who signed the Presidential Records Act into law, it did not go into effect until he left office.

    This request illuminates the crucial importance in our society of disinformation: deliberate lies or misdirection to convince people of things that are not true.

    At this point, documents bearing classification markings have turned up in the possession of Trump, Biden, and Pence. The NARA request suggests the possibility that other high-ranking officials also have documents that they are unaware they hold. Trump and his allies insist that the special counsel investigating him for potential criminal behavior means that he is being treated differently than the others, with the implication that he is being treated unfairly.

    But the issue has never been about the documents themselves, although it is a problem that any of the former officials have documents marked classified. The issue was that NARA repeatedly asked Trump to produce documents it knew he had, and that he repeatedly refused even after being subpoenaed. Finally, the Department of Justice felt obliged to get a court order to search his property, and even now his lawyers refuse to sign off on paperwork saying he has turned in all the documents he stole. In contrast, Biden and Pence apparently did not know they had any documents with classified markings, alerted NARA as soon as they realized it, and have cooperated with authorities.

    The cases are not the same.

    For a long time now, the right wing has muddied the political waters by creating such confusion over things that should be clear—flooding the zone with sh*t, as Trump advisor Stephen Bannon put it—that people can’t figure out what is really going on.

    An attempt to continue that strategy is what’s behind the House Republicans’ establishment of a select subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government, positioned under the Committee on the Judiciary. The representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has put on that committee are grandstanders, and they have indicated they plan to argue that the Biden administration has politicized the government. Considering the representatives involved, we can expect lots of yelling and sound bites for right-wing media, designed to build the narrative they want their voters to believe.

    But the truth is that it was the Trump administration that sought to weaponize the government against their perceived enemies. News broke today that Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, deliberately tried to use the Department of Justice to undermine the officials who had—according to the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz—launched the Russia investigation properly and with good reason.  

    The story, by Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner in the New York Times, also told us more. After the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailing contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives came out, Barr consistently spun the information inaccurately to make the best possible case for Trump. He convinced many Americans to think that there was nothing between the Trump campaign and Russia, although in fact Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report that came out afterward concluded the opposite.

    Barr undermined not only the Mueller report but also the inspector general’s report, ignoring its findings and telling the press—inaccurately—that the FBI had opened the Russia investigation on the “thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient,” or “without any basis.” (In fact, the FBI opened the inquiry when an Australian diplomat warned that a member of the Trump campaign had boasted that Russian operatives had “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Australia and the United States, along with Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, are part of an intelligence alliance known informally as Five Eyes. It was this information that Horowitz found compelling enough to open an investigation.)

    After the Mueller report’s release, Barr appointed a special counsel, John Durham, to investigate the investigators. Durham used the very tactics of which the Republicans’ accused the Democrats, using bad information to try to get information on a private citizen. But no matter how hard he tried, he did not, in fact, turn up information indicating the investigators had conducted themselves improperly.

    What Durham did find, though, were accusations from Italian officials that Trump himself might have engaged in financial crimes. The accusations were too serious for him and Barr to ignore. Barr authorized Durham’s inquiry to become a criminal inquiry, but here’s the kicker: when news of that new phase became public, Barr sat back as media spun the new criminal inquiry as proof of misbehavior on the part of those who had conducted the Russia inquiry. Trump even told followers that the criminals were former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden, and leading FBI and intelligence officials. The actual target of the criminal investigation was Trump himself.

    In the end, Durham never found anything to contradict Inspector General Horowitz’s report saying the Russia investigation was begun properly, and the only cases he brought failed. But the cozy relationship between him and Barr violated department policy for special counsels, according to legal analyst Lisa Rubin, as they allegedly discussed the case frequently, including occasionally over drinks. A special counsel is supposed to be independent.

    The New York Times article details how the Trump administration worked overtime to use the apparatus of government to convince the American people that there was nothing to the Russia investigation, although repeated reports said otherwise.

    This story seems especially relevant in light of the arrest this week of Charles McGonigal, who was the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York Field Office from 2016 to 2018 and, before that, was the section chief of the Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. McGonigal supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs. McGonigal is charged with working for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was also a close associate of political operative Paul Manafort, who ran Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    In a powerful Twitter thread today, scholar of authoritarianism Timothy Snyder noted that authorities, as well as the American people, have not taken the threat of Russian influence in our politics seriously enough. He pointed out that in 2016, McCarthy himself i said he thought Putin was paying Trump, and now, just after the McGonigal story broke, McCarthy threw Adam Schiff—who was key in chasing down Trump’s machinations over Ukraine—off the House intelligence committee. “Schiff is [an] expert on Russian influence operations,” Snyder wrote. “It exhibits carelessness about national security to exclude him. It is downright suspicious to exclude him now.”

    Meanwhile, newly elected House Republican Cory Mills of Florida, endorsed by Trump, handed out defused grenades today on the floor of the House. Mills is an election denier who boasted on his website that he sold tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters. Mills accompanied the grenades with a note suggesting he was sending them because McCarthy has put him on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

    But, as with most of the performances coming out of the right wing these days, that explanation seems intended to be misdirection. It’s impossible to ignore the threat wrapped up in handing a colleague a grenade.

    Bought and paid for. Follow the money, from Russia with Love and a PTape. The layers of this onion run deep. Hey, but Hunter's laptop, right?
    09/15/1998, Mansfield, MA; 08/29/00 08/30/00, Mansfield, MA; 07/02/03, 07/03/03, Mansfield, MA; 09/28/04, 09/29/04, Boston, MA; 09/22/05, Halifax, NS; 05/24/06, 05/25/06, Boston, MA; 07/22/06, 07/23/06, Gorge, WA; 06/29/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield, MA; 08/18/08, O2 London, UK; 10/30/09, 10/31/09, Philadelphia, PA; 05/15/10, Hartford, CT; 05/17/10, Boston, MA; 05/20/10, 05/21/10, NY, NY; 06/22/10, Dublin, IRE; 06/23/10, Northern Ireland; 09/03/11, 09/04/11, Alpine Valley, WI; 09/11/11, 09/12/11, Toronto, Ont; 09/14/11, Ottawa, Ont; 09/15/11, Hamilton, Ont; 07/02/2012, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/04/2012 & 07/05/2012, Berlin, Germany; 07/07/2012, Stockholm, Sweden; 09/30/2012, Missoula, MT; 07/16/2013, London, Ont; 07/19/2013, Chicago, IL; 10/15/2013 & 10/16/2013, Worcester, MA; 10/21/2013 & 10/22/2013, Philadelphia, PA; 10/25/2013, Hartford, CT; 11/29/2013, Portland, OR; 11/30/2013, Spokane, WA; 12/04/2013, Vancouver, BC; 12/06/2013, Seattle, WA; 10/03/2014, St. Louis. MO; 10/22/2014, Denver, CO; 10/26/2015, New York, NY; 04/23/2016, New Orleans, LA; 04/28/2016 & 04/29/2016, Philadelphia, PA; 05/01/2016 & 05/02/2016, New York, NY; 05/08/2016, Ottawa, Ont.; 05/10/2016 & 05/12/2016, Toronto, Ont.; 08/05/2016 & 08/07/2016, Boston, MA; 08/20/2016 & 08/22/2016, Chicago, IL; 07/01/2018, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/03/2018, Krakow, Poland; 07/05/2018, Berlin, Germany; 09/02/2018 & 09/04/2018, Boston, MA;

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

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

    Brilliantati©
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
    edited January 28

      January 27, 2023 (Friday)

    Tonight’s news dump is horrific: video footage of five Memphis, Tennessee, police officers kicking and beating 29-year-old FedEx worker and photographer Tyre Nichols, a Black man, after what appears to have been a routine traffic stop on the night of January 7. He died in the hospital three days later.

    At least some of the five officers, all of whom are Black, were members of a special unit created in 2021 called SCORPION, for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. It was supposed to address violent crime.

    Last week the five men, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith, were fired from the police force. Yesterday they were charged with a number of crimes, including second-degree murder.

    There is a great deal to say here, but everything I write seems to flatten Mr. Nichols’s life into the few minutes of brutal beating that led to his death.

    It seems to me that I should stand aside tonight and let Mr. Nichols represent himself.

    His photography is here:





    Post edited by mickeyrat on
    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
     January 28, 2023 (Saturday)

    Two relatively small things happened this week that strike me as being important, and I am worried that they, and the larger story they tell, might get lost in the midst of this week’s terrible news. So ignore this at will, and I will put down a marker.

    At a press conference on Thursday, Representatives Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Daniel Goldman (D-NY), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Colin Allred (D-TX), Mike Levin (D-CA), Josh Harder (D-CA), and Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Senator Rob Menendez (D-NJ),  announced they have formed the Congressional Dads Caucus.

    Ironically, the push to create the caucus came from the Republicans’ long fight over electing a House speaker, as Gomez and Castro, for example, were photographed taking care of their small children for days as they waited to vote. That illustration of men having to adjust to a rapidly changing work environment while caring for their kids “brought visibility to the role of working dads across the country, but it also shined a light on the double standard that exists,” Gomez said. "Why am I, a father, getting praised for doing what mothers do every single day, which is care for their children?"

    He explained that caucus “is rooted in a simple idea: Dads need to do our part advancing policies that will make a difference in the lives of so many parents across the country. We’re fighting for a national paid family and medical leave program, affordable and high-quality childcare, and the expanded Child Tax Credit that cut child poverty by nearly half. This is how we set an equitable path forward for the next generation and build a brighter future for our children.”

    The new Dads Caucus will work with an already existing caucus of mothers, represented on Thursday by Tlaib.

    Two days before, on Tuesday, January 24, the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor released its initial findings from the new National Database of Childcare Prices. The brief “shows that childcare expenses are untenable for families throughout the country and highlights the urgent need for greater federal investments.”

    The findings note that higher childcare costs have a direct impact on maternal employment that continues even after children leave home, and that the U.S. spends significantly less than other high-wage countries on early childcare and education. We rank 35th out of 37 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) made up of high-wage democracies, with the government spending only about 0.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the OECD average of 0.7%.

    These two stories coming at almost the same time struck me as perhaps an important signal. The “Moms in the House” caucus formed in 2019 after a record number of women were elected to Congress, but in the midst of the Trump years they had little opportunity to shift public discussion. This moment, though, feels like a marker in a much larger pattern in the expansion of the role of the government in protecting individuals.

    When the Framers wrote the U.S. Constitution, they had come around to the idea of a centralized government after the weak Articles of Confederation had almost caused the country to crash and burn, but many of them were still concerned that a strong state would crush individuals. So they amended the Constitution immediately with the Bill of Rights, ten amendments that restricted what the government could do. It could not force people to practice a certain religion, restrict what newspapers wrote or people said, stop people from congregating peacefully, and so on. And that was the opening gambit in the attempt to use the United States government to protect individuals.

    But by the middle of the nineteenth century, it seemed clear that a government that did nothing but keep its hands to itself had almost failed. It had allowed a small minority to take over the country, threatening to crush individuals entirely by monopolizing the country’s wealth. So, under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, Americans expanded their understanding of what the government should do. Believing it must guarantee all men equal rights before the law and equal access to resources, they added to the Constitution the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, all of which expanded, rather than restricted, government action.

    The crisis of industrialization at the turn of the twentieth century made Americans expand the role of the government yet again. Just making sure that the government protected legal rights and access to resources clearly couldn’t protect individual rights in the United States when the owners of giant corporations had no limits on either their wealth or their treatment of workers. It seemed the government must rein in industrialists, regulating the ways in which they did business, to hold the economic playing field level. Protecting individuals now required an active government, not the small, inactive one the Framers imagined.

    In the 1930s, Americans expanded the job of the government once again. Regulating business had not been enough to protect the American people from economic catastrophe, so to combat the Depression, Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to use the government to provide a basic social safety net.

    Although the reality of these expansions has rarely lived up to expectations, the protection of equal rights, a level economic playing field, and a social safety net have become, for most of us, accepted roles for the federal government.

    But all of those changes in the government’s role focused on men who were imagined to be the head of a household, responsible for the women and children in those households. That is, in all the stages of its expansion, the government rested on the expectation that society would continue to be patriarchal.

    The successful pieces of Biden’s legislation have echoed that history, building on the pattern that FDR laid down.

    But, in the second half of his Build Back Better plan—the “soft” infrastructure plan that Congress did not pass—Biden also suggested a major shift in our understanding of the role of government. He called for significant investment in childcare and eldercare, early education, training for caregivers, and so on. Investing in these areas puts children and caregivers, rather than male heads of households, at the center of the government’s responsibility.

    Calls for the government to address issues of childcare reach back at least to World War II. But Congress, dominated by men, has usually seen childcare not as a societal issue so much as a women’s issue, and as such, has not seen it as an imperative national need. That congressional fathers are adding their voices to the mix suggests a shift in that perception and that another reworking of the role of the government might be underway.

    This particular effort might well not result in anything in the short term—caucuses form at the start of every Congress, and many disappear without a trace—but that some of Congress’s men for the first time ever are organizing to fight for parental needs just as the Department of Labor says childcare costs are “untenable” strikes me as a conjunction worth noting.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
     January 29, 2023 (Sunday)

    Seeing a little more of the world this weekend... and taking the night off.

    Will be back at it tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland]

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
     January 30, 2023 (Monday)

    The news today illustrates a dramatic difference between governing and garnering votes.

    President Joe Biden was at the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, today to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law, passed in November 2021, that is investing about $1.2 trillion in fixing our highways, bridges, internet access, and so on. In Maryland it will devote about $4 billion to fixing and expanding the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel, which has become a bottleneck for the 9 million commuters who pass through it as they travel the vital link between Philadelphia and Washington.

    The law is formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Biden noted that fixing the tunnel is expected to create 20,000 jobs over the next ten years. He also announced that it, along with all the Amtrak developments on the Northeast Corridor, would be built by union labor.

    Tomorrow, Biden will speak at the West Side Rail Yard in New York City to talk about how funding for the Hudson Tunnel Project from the bipartisan infrastructure law will improve reliability for the 200,000 passengers a day who travel through it on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

    The passage of the measure in late 2021 took months of careful negotiations even as former president Trump—whose own inability to pass an infrastructure measure became a running joke—tried to scuttle the talks. Biden’s victory lap is not undeserved.

    The administration today also called attention to the effects of its new border enforcement measures providing migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a legal path to obtain a two-year visa so long as they have a U.S. sponsor and a thorough background check. The new system will admit up to 30,000 migrants a month.

    New data shows that the number of migrants from those four countries has dropped 97% since the program went into effect. Overall, migrant encounters at the border have dropped by half, although migration from Ecuador and Peru, which are growing unstable, has increased. The administration has asked Congress repeatedly to fix our outdated immigration system, but Republicans derailed the effort in the previous Congress when they objected to a path to citizenship for so-called dreamers: people brought to this country as children. Now almost twenty states led by Republicans say the administration’s new program violates the law, and they are suing to stop it.

    In charge of the House, Republicans plan to hold hearings on what they call Biden’s border crisis. Today the White House called out “some elected officials” for “trying to block the Administration’s effective measures because they would rather keep immigration an issue to campaign on than one to solve. If those elected officials succeed,” the press office said, “their actions will lead to more illegal immigration."

    Actually governing is a lot harder than talking about it. On December 30, House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) promised that the House Republicans would “hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more.” He outlined eleven bills the party would bring to the floor in the first two weeks of the new Congress. Half have indeed been voted on by now—the fifth week of Congress—but they were only for show. They will never pass the Senate, and no one is trying to negotiate to pass them. The other half aren’t on the calendar.

    Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted today that the Republicans have turned to investigations, abortion, threatening the national debt, and trying to defund the Internal Revenue Service rather than dealing with the issues they insisted were vital in 2022: crime and inflation. She also noted that at the very time the Republicans were hyping those issues, both crime rates and inflation were actually falling.

    More demonstrations for the extremist base appear to be coming. As Amy B. Wang noted today in the Washington Post, the Republican National Committee is urging lawmakers to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle” on antiabortion measures, although since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have made it clear they want abortion rights protected.

    Nonetheless, as party leaders have done repeatedly when voters reject their increasingly extremist stands, the RNC suggests that the party did poorly in 2022 not because their stand was too strong but because it was too weak. Candidates were not clear enough about their opposition to abortion. The RNC wants them to demonstrate their conviction by passing strict laws that outlaw abortion at six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant.

    House speaker Kevin McCarthy has, however, backed off on Republican suggestions that they will not agree to raise the debt ceiling without cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On Face the Nation yesterday, he said the party was committed to “strengthening” the programs. In fact, the only proposal on the table right now to strengthen the programs is from the far-right House Republican Study Committee, which calls for strengthening Social Security and Medicare by, among other things, raising the age at which people become eligible for them.

    I’d love to hear McCarthy explain how that plan is not a cut in the programs.

    Finally, today, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month U.S. tourist visa. Bolsonaro entered the United States when he was still president, two days before his successor took office and a little more than a week before his supporters attacked the government and tried to reinstate him. That timing means he came to the U.S. on an A-1 visa restricted to heads of state, which had to be replaced as soon as he was no longer president.

    Bolsonaro’s lawyer told Reuters reporter Daphne Psaledakis that Bolsonaro wants "to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be.” In fact, the right-wing leader has made it clear he is afraid of the many investigations underway in Brazil for fraud and now for inciting the attack on the government that might end up putting him behind bars.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      January 31, 2023 (Tuesday)

    House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is having to grapple with the difference between the rhetoric that fires up the Republican base and the reality of governance. Since Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became speaker in 2019, Republican lawmakers have been able to complain and demand without actually having to participate in legislation. Now, though, it is up to McCarthy to bring the party’s rhetoric into the reality of laws, and so far it’s not going particularly well.  

    McCarthy won the votes to become speaker by promising the far-right members of the Republican conference a number of things, including that he would not agree to raising the debt ceiling without demanding cuts in federal spending. It was a plan that sounded good to those interested in cutting the government: it would essentially hold the government hostage until they got what they wanted.

    But this argument mixed together two separate things: the debt ceiling, which must be lifted to enable the government to pay for money already appropriated, and the budget, which is a plan for spending money in the future. Raising the debt ceiling is about protecting the country’s financial health, and refusing to lift it would throw the country—and possibly the world—into economic chaos. Negotiating over the budget is…normal.

    McCarthy is continuing to try to tumble these two things together, demanding cuts to federal spending before he will agree to raise the debt ceiling.

    This is awkward for the Republicans for two reasons. First, about $7.8 trillion of the $31.4 trillion debt that now must be paid came from the Trump years, and much of it came from the 2017 Trump tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy. During the Trump years, Congress raised the debt ceiling three times.

    The second reason the Republicans’ demands for cuts are awkward is that they will not actually say what cuts they want. Before the 2020 election, party leaders, including Florida senator Rick Scott, then chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in charge of getting Republicans elected to the Senate, called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Those take up a big portion of the annual budget: Social Security alone takes about 21%. Throughout January, Republicans have echoed calls to cut the programs, only to face a backlash.

    So they have now backed off on demanding those cuts. On January 20, Trump, who in 2021 pumped up the idea of using the debt ceiling to get their way, warned Republicans not to cut “a single penny” from Social Security and Medicare. On Sunday, McCarthy said that such cuts were “off the table” (although he also insisted that the Republicans simply want to “strengthen” the programs, and Republican proposals that include that language call for raising the age for eligibility, so who knows?).

    For their part, President Joe Biden and the Democrats have said that they will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. It is vital to pay the nation’s debts—debts already incurred, many of them under Trump—and the security of that debt must not be questioned.

    But they have made it clear they are happy to negotiate the budget, which is, as I say, a normal part of doing business.

    McCarthy, in contrast, is caught between the rhetoric of the party for the past several years and the reality of the debt issue. He has to deal with the fact that a few of the farthest right members say they won’t lift the debt ceiling under any circumstances. He also has to appease a number of far-right Republicans who say they will not agree to raising the debt ceiling without negotiating a plan for significant cuts to federal spending going forward. But here’s the kicker: even if the Democrats were willing to let them hold the government hostage to get their way—something the Democrats utterly reject—with Social Security and Medicare apparently off the table, the Republicans cannot agree on any places to cut.  

    On Wednesday, Biden and McCarthy will meet in person. Yesterday, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Office of Management Budget Director Shalanda Young sent a memo to the Republicans pointing out that protecting the security of the national debt has always been a bipartisan commitment. This is actually not true, but the debt fights of 1866 and 1879 are not widely known, and in any case, their next point accurately reflects the outcome of both of those fights: “[T]he United States must never default on its financial obligations,” they said. “Raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation; it is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos.”

    Deese and Young insisted that McCarthy “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations.”

    They then turned to the budget issue, asking when McCarthy and the House Republicans would release a “detailed, comprehensive” budget. Biden’s will come out on March 9, and normally the two sides would negotiate over the different proposals. But the Republicans won’t say what they’re planning to do.

    Deese and Young pressed McCarthy, writing that it is essential for the Republicans to tell the American people their plans so they can see how the Republicans are planning to reduce the deficit, “whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education, and public safety—as well as how much their Budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations,” which their first bill—to make cuts to the Internal Revenue Service—would have done.

    McCarthy's empty response—on Twitter—made clear just what an impossible position he’s in, especially since he had to agree to a rules change in the House that would let a single member launch a challenge to his speakership. “Mr. President,” he wrote, “I received your staff’s memo. I’m not interested in political games. I’m coming to negotiate for the American people.”

    Senate Republicans, who are in the minority in their chamber, have made it clear that this is McCarthy’s fight, and they are staying out of it.

    At a Democratic National Committee fundraiser today, Biden mourned the loss of the mainstream Republicans of the past and lamented McCarthy’s willingness to cater to extremists for power. He called McCarthy “a decent man,” but noted that it was vital to know “what’s more important than having the job” and to stand firm on those issues.

    “I don't know what's gone haywire here with this Republican Party,” he said. Looking forward to the 2024 election, he concluded, the Democrats need to be very clear about “what we stand for, what we did, and what we need to do more of, and what we’re unwilling to do under any circumstances.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      February 1, 2023 (Wednesday)

    On February 1, 1862, in the early days of the Civil War, the Atlantic Monthly published Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic,” summing up the cause of freedom for which the United States troops would soon be fighting. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” it began.

    “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
    His truth is marching on.”

    Howe had written the poem on a visit to Washington with her husband. Approaching the city, she had reflected sadly that there was little she could do for the United States. She couldn’t send her menfolk: her husband was too old to fight, her sons too young. And with a toddler, she didn’t even have enough time to volunteer to pack stores for the field hospitals. “I thought of the women of my acquaintance whose sons or husbands were fighting our great battle; the women themselves serving in the hospitals, or busying themselves with the work of the Sanitary Commission,” and felt there was nothing she could give to the cause.

    One day she and her husband toured the troops surrounding the city and, mingling with troops on the way home, sang a popular song: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave; his soul is marching on.” A friend challenged Howe to write more uplifting words for the marching song.

    That night, Howe slept soundly. She woke before dawn and, lying in bed, began thinking about the tune she had heard the soldiers singing the day before. She recalled: "[A]s I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind.... With a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen... I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper."

    Howe's hymn captured the tension of Washington, D.C., during the war as soldiers protected the government from invasion, strung in camps around the city to keep invaders from the U.S. Capitol.
    “I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
    They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
    I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
    His day is marching on.”

    Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic went on define the Civil War as a holy war for human freedom:

    “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.”

    The Battle Hymn became the anthem of the Union during the Civil War, and exactly three years after it appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, on February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Joint Resolution of Congress passing the Thirteenth Amendment and sending it off to the states for ratification. The amendment provided that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." It gave Congress power to enforce that amendment. This was the first amendment that gave power to the federal government rather than taking it away. Three quarters of the states had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment by December 6, 1865.

    When the measure had passed the House the day before, the lawmakers and spectators had gone wild. “The members on the floor huzzaed in chorus with deafening and equally emphatic cheers of the throng in the galleries,” the New York Times reported. “The ladies in the dense assemblage waved their handkerchiefs, and again and again the applause was repeated, intermingled with clapping of hands and exclamations of ‘Hurrah for freedom,’ ‘Glory enough for one day,’ &c. The audience were wildly excited, and the friends of the measure were jubilant.” Indiana congressman George Julian later recalled, “It seemed to me I had been born into a new life, and that the world was overflowing with beauty and joy, while I was inexpressibly thankful for the privilege of recording my name on so glorious a page of the nation’s history.”

    But the hopes of that moment had crumbled within a decade. Almost a century later, on February 1, 1960, David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell A. Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil set out to bring them back to life when they sat down on stools at the F.W. Woolworth Company department store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The men were first-year students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who wanted to find a way to combat the segregation under which Black Americans had lived since the 1880s.

    Woolworth’s would sell products to Black students but would not serve them food. So the men forced the issue by sitting down and ordering coffee and doughnuts. They sat quietly as the white waitress refused to serve them and the store manager ignored them. They came back the next day with a larger group. This time, television cameras covered the story. By February 3 there were 60 men and women sitting. By February 5 there were 50 white male counterprotesters.

    By March the sit-in movement had spread across the South, to bus routes, museums, art galleries, and swimming pools. In July, after profits had dropped dramatically, the store manager of the Greensboro Woolworth’s asked four Black employees to put on street clothes and order food at the counter. They did, and they were served. Desegregation in public spaces had begun.

    Exactly 63 years later, on February 1, 2023, Tyre Nichols’s family laid their 29-year-old son to rest in Memphis, Tennessee. He was so severely beaten by police officers on January 7, allegedly for a traffic violation, that he died three days later.

    Also today, the College Board released the official curriculum for a new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies. In January, right-wing Florida governor Ron DeSantis complained that the draft course was “indoctrination” and “lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law,” and said he would ban it. The version released today has been stripped of information about Black feminism, the queer experience, incarceration, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Mine eyes have seen the glory.

    Rest in power, Mr. Nichols.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
     February 2, 2023 (Thursday)

    Today the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted along party lines to remove Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from her seat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Republicans voting to remove her justified their action by pointing to language she used that they say was antisemitic. She has apologized for that language.

    Earlier, House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) used his own discretion to remove Democratic California representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

    While these removals are often portrayed simply as a quest for revenge after Democrats removed Representatives Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committees when they were in charge, there is a crucial difference between the cases. The Democrats removed Gosar and Greene—both members of the far-right group—after they threatened violence against their Democratic colleagues. Republicans removed Schiff and Swalwell over make-believe dangers and now have removed Omar allegedly over policy differences. At the same time, McCarthy reinstated Gosar and Greene to prime committee assignments.

    The Republicans have accepted violence among Congress members.

    Today’s vote is a window into a larger story. It appears the Republican Party has split, and the far-right wing is making a play to become what amounts to a third party. Its members demanded the removal of Schiff and Swalwell from the intelligence committee and Omar from foreign affairs: Schiff and Swalwell apparently because they have gone after former president Donald Trump, and Omar because she is Muslim and a woman of color.

    Removing Schiff and Swalwell was relatively easy, since the speaker can determine the make-up of select committees himself. Removing Omar was dicier, since it required a vote of the House. Today, McCarthy gave the far right what they wanted, getting rid of Omar.

    In order to justify it on grounds other than racism, though, he had to pretend the issue was antisemitic words. It’s a hard sell to convince people that the Republican Party cares much about antisemitism when it has embraced the openly antisemitic Ye, also known as Kanye West, and when Trump recently warned Jews that they must “get their act together…before it is too late.” Kevin McCarthy himself in November 2022 indulged in antisemitic tropes when he tweeted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican….”

    McCarthy catered to far-right members in order to get the votes to become speaker; now he is giving those members what they want in order to keep them from ousting him and to get them on board for imperative legislation like a bill to raise the debt ceiling.

    The power the far-right representatives are getting is making them a force distinct from the rest of the Republican Party. They demanded, and got, extraordinary representation on committees apart from the normal party apparatus, power over the Speaker and the introduction of bills, and now have normalized violent rhetoric within the party.

    Their rise is a logical outcome of the history of the Republican Party. Back in the 1980s, those Republicans determined to get rid of government regulation of business and social programs did two things.

    First, they insisted that any government regulation of business or provision of a basic social safety net was “socialism” because, they claimed, the tax dollars that such government action cost would come from those with money—who they implied would be white people—and thus would redistribute wealth from hardworking white men to those who benefited from such programs. This idea has nothing to do with the modern definition of socialism, which means government ownership of the means of production. Instead, it is a holdover from the Reconstruction years in the United States, when white supremacists insisted that Black voting would mean a redistribution of wealth as formerly enslaved people voted for lawmakers who promised to fix roads, and build schools and hospitals.

    Second, Republicans in the 1980s made a deliberate decision to court voters with religion, racism, and sexism in order to hold onto power. Antitax crusader Grover Norquist brought business leaders, evangelicals, and social conservatives into a coalition to win elections in 1985. “Traditional Republican business groups can provide the resources,” he said, “but these groups can provide the votes.” Over the decades their focus on religion, race, and sex ramped up until it took on a power of its own, stronger than the pro-business ideology of those who fed it.

    Now, a generation later, that rhetoric has led to its logical conclusion: the Republicans have created a group of voters and their representatives who are openly white supremacists and who believe that any attempt to use the government to hold the economic playing field level is socialism. They are overwhelmingly evangelicals. They back former president Trump or someone like him and are eager to break the power of the current government even if it means defaulting on our debt. They threaten violence.

    With the Republican Party just barely in control of the House, that group now wields enough power that it divides the House into three groups: the Democrats, the Republicans who want to cut taxes and gut regulation, and the Republicans who want to destroy the “socialist” government, want to keep white people in charge, support Trump or someone similar, are fervently Christian, and openly court violence.

    Today, the House voted to condemn socialism—another attempt to appease that far right—while Republicans then chided those Democrats who refused to vote in favor of that condemnation because they said they thought it was a setup to cut Social Security and Medicare as socialism. (They are not socialism.)

    Also today, former president Trump “retruthed” the words of a person who warned that he and “80,000,000” were willing to fight for Trump and were “Locked and LOADED.” In the House, some of the far-right group are wearing AR-15 pins, but when Emine Yücel of Talking Points Memo asked Representative Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) why she was wearing one, her office answered that it was “about sponsoring a gun bill and has nothing to do with whatever blueanon conspiracy theories are being floated on Capitol Hill,” a reference to the idea that Democrats-- rather than the Republicans like Greene who were QAnon adherents-- are embracing conspiracy theories. The members wearing the pins have not, so far, introduced any gun bills.

    This is alarming, but it is not the first time an extremist minority in Congress has organized, determined to control the country. In 1879, for example, before the parties switched into their current arrangement, Democratic former Confederates banded together, demanded the leadership of key committees—which the exceedingly weak speaker gave them—and set out to make the Republican president, Rutherford B. Hayes, get rid of key Republican policies by refusing to fund the government until he caved.

    With the support of House minority leader James A. Garfield, Hayes stood firm, recognizing that allowing a minority of the opposition party to dictate to the elected government by holding it hostage would undermine the system set up in the Constitution. The parties fought it out for months until, in the end, the American people turned against the Democrats, who backed down. In the next presidential election, which had been supposed to be a romp for the Democrats, voters put Garfield, the Republican who had stood against the former Confederates, into the White House.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      February 3, 2023 (Friday)

    Last night, former vice president Mike Pence came out and said it: “I think the day could come when we could replace the New Deal with a better deal.”

    Pence was talking about Social Security—a centerpiece of the New Deal—saying: “Literally give younger Americans the ability to take a portion of their Social Security withholdings and put that into a private savings account.”

    Privatizing Social Security is his plan to address the growing national debt by cutting expenditures, at least in domestic spending. “It’s absolutely essential that we generate leadership in this country that will be straight with the American people, that will take us off this trajectory of massive debt that we’re piling on the backs of those grandchildren,” Pence said at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors summit in Washington, D.C.

    Another way to reduce the debt would be to raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, even to where they were before the massive tax cuts Republicans passed in 2017, but current-day Republicans oppose taxes, claiming they redistribute wealth from hardworking people to those who want a handout. They believe that cutting taxes to enable those at the top to accumulate wealth will enable them to invest their money in businesses, creating more jobs. Wealth will trickle down, and everyone will do better.

    Republicans like Pence believe the federal government should stay out of economic affairs, letting individuals make their own decisions in free markets (although the concept of a “free market” has always been more theoretical than real). Any federal attempts to regulate business or provide a social safety net are “socialism,” they claim, although they have largely forgotten how that argument was established in the United States.

    This argument is what gives us the story Kayode Crown reported yesterday for the Mississippi Free Press: thirty-eight of Mississippi’s rural hospitals, more than half of them, are in danger of collapsing because Governor Tate Reeves refuses to allow the state to accept an expansion of Medicaid. The hospitals are required to treat all patients who need care, but since many patients are uninsured, without the expansion of Medicaid the hospitals don’t get paid.

    On Monday, Reeves warned Republican lawmakers not to “cave under the pressure of Democrats and their allies in the media who are pushing for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare, and socialized medicine.” “Instead, seek innovative free-market solutions that disrupt traditional health-care delivery models, increase competition, and lead to better health outcomes for Mississippians.” Last month, in a poll from Mississippi Today/Siena College, about 80% of Mississippi voters wanted Medicaid expansion.  

    This theory also says that the government should also stay out of the business of protecting civil rights, because state governments are the centerpiece of American democracy. That’s the idea behind yesterday’s decision by a panel of three judges of the right-wing Fifth Circuit. They ruled that a federal law prohibiting people who are under a domestic restraining order from owning a gun is unconstitutional.

    In the 2022 New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, the Supreme Court said that the government must prove that any gun regulation is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” and because the Constitution’s Framers didn’t stop domestic abusers from possessing guns, we can’t either. As Ian Millhiser points out in Vox, it was not until 1871 that a state court determined that “a husband has no right” to beat his wife.

    Slate’s legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern notes, “There is no real doubt that the 5th Circuit's decision is going to lead to more abusers murdering their wives and girlfriends. It will also increase mass shootings. Domestic abuse[rs] are vastly more likely to commit heinous acts of gun violence.” Millhiser says it is very likely the Supreme Court will take up the case.

    Under the Republicans’ theory, the country has seen wealth move upward dramatically, hollowing out the middle class and leaving it vulnerable to leaders who have attracted voters by telling them that minorities and women who want “socialism” are to blame for their loss of power.

    Today an audio file from November 5, 2020, just after the presidential election, was leaked that shows members of Trump’s campaign staff in Wisconsin acknowledging Trump’s defeat before Andrew Iverson, who led the Wisconsin team, said, “Here’s the deal: Comms is going to continue to fan the flame and get the word out about Democrats trying to steal this election. We’ll do whatever they need. Just be on standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull.”

    Iverson now runs operations in the Midwest region for the Republican National Committee.

    In contrast to the Republican theory, President Joe Biden and the Democrats have revived the theory embraced by members of both parties between 1933 and 1981. That theory says that the federal government has a role to play in the economy, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, investing in infrastructure, and protecting civil rights. Rather than freeing capital for those at the top, Democrats want to invest in ordinary Americans who will, they believe, spend their paychecks, thus building the economy as they move money directly into the hands of their neighbors.

    Today at a Democratic National Committee finance event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Biden explained that “when we build from the bottom up and the middle out, poor folks get a shot, the middle class does well, and the wealthy still do very well.” We have to invest in ourselves again, he said. “How…can you be the most successful, powerful nation in the world and have third-rate infrastructure?...  How can you attract business and commerce and keep things moving?”

    “[W]e used to invest 2 percent of our G[ross] D[omestic] P[roduct] in research and development…. But about 25 years ago we stopped.” Investment dropped to 0.7 percent of GDP, he said, but now the CHIPS and Science Act will jump-start that research and development again. The administration is also bringing supply chains home and rebuilding foreign alliances. And Biden told the wealthiest people in the room today that they were paying an average of 3% in taxes and needed to pay their fair share. “I don’t want you to pay 90% again”—the top marginal income bracket in the Eisenhower years—but at least 15%, he said.

    From the White House, Biden noted that the “strikingly good” new jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning proved that his vision of society works. It showed an astonishing 517,000 new jobs added in January, the twenty-fifth straight month of job growth. Unemployment fell slightly to 3.4%, a low last seen in May 1969 (not a typo).

    Between 1933 and 1981, Americans of both parties shared the idea of using the federal government to level the social, economic, and political playing fields. The current Republicans are rejecting that vision, reclaiming that of the business-oriented Republicans in the 1920s. Under Biden, the Democrats are trying to rebuild that shared vision, returning the parties to fights over the kinds and limits of government policies, rather than fights over whether they should exist at all.

    Biden told his audience that “once every three, four, or five generations, there’s a fundamental shift in world politics and national politics” and that we are in such a shift now.
     
    “What will happen [in] the next three or four years [is] going to determine what this country looks like for the next four or five decades…. We’re laying down a foundation, because the world is changing—dramatically changing. And we have a choice.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      February 4, 2023 (Saturday)

    Today, about 6 miles off the South Carolina coast, a pilot flying a U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet fired a missile to shoot down what appears to have been a Chinese spy balloon that has flown above the U.S. for the last four days. Such intelligence balloons are not unusual—there were at least three during the Trump administration and one before in the Biden administration, but they were not visible to the public—and U.S. defense officials are accustomed to dealing with them. They “took immediate steps to protect against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information, mitigating its intelligence value.”

    Biden proposed shooting it down on Wednesday, but the equipment on it weighed more than 1,000 pounds and was the size of three buses, and bringing it down over the continent risked dropping debris on the people below the balloon’s path. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area, due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload.”

    Defense officials believe the U.S. Navy can recover the equipment from the shallow waters—the depth is only about 47 feet—where it fell.

    It seems logical that assessing what information the balloon was trying to gather would tell our intelligence services a great deal about what the Chinese feel unable to gather in less visible ways. This afternoon, senior defense officials seemed to confirm that observation. CNN national security reporter Natasha Bertrand wrote that such officials told reporters: "The surveillance balloon's overflight of US territory was of intelligence value to us... we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable."

    Republicans have used the balloon fiasco to score political points, flooding media with statements about Chinese spying on the U.S. and complaints that no one would have tried such a thing under former president Trump. On Thursday, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said, “Biden should shoot down the Chinese spy balloon immediately…. President Trump would have never tolerated this. President Trump would have never tolerated many things happening to America.” (In fact, Trump tolerated at least three similar events, and as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, Greene should know this.) Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) complained that “[t]he administration failed to protect our border and now has failed to protect our skies.”

    It’s Saturday night, so I will be a bit snarky: they need to get a grip. A key aspect of any country’s national security is spying, and of course China and the U.S. are spying on each other. Shooting the balloon down as soon as it was spotted would have endangered Americans and made learning anything from it more difficult.

    That being said, it’s not at all clear to me what this balloon was designed to accomplish politically. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his planned visit to Beijing over it, giving the U.S. a reason to back out of a visit that certainly seemed likely to bolster President Xi Jinping’s government. Scholar of international relations Daniel Drezner notes in his Drezner’s World it appears to have been a screw-up at a level below that of President Xi. China has been trying to cool tensions with America, not heat them up.

    That being said, the visible spy balloon predictably sparked Republican attacks on President Biden, so the incident has the potential to weaken the administration’s strong steps to counter the growing power of China.

    Biden and Blinken have worked to build Indo-Pacific cooperation that balances the power of China in the region, reinforced U.S. support for Taiwan, established export controls on technology that have hamstrung the Chinese semiconductor industry, and enhanced security cooperation with South Korea and Japan. But the media attention to the balloon has offered Biden’s opponents an opportunity to say he is not countering China strongly enough.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

    A deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey late tonight has caused damage in Syria, and was felt in Lebanon, and Israel, as well. It has collapsed buildings, sparked fires in ruptured gas lines, and prompted Italian authorities to warn of potential tsunami waves. Aftershocks, including one of 6.7 magnitude and another of 5.6, have continued to hit in the wake of the first quake.

    Millions of refugees from Syria’s civil war and internally displaced persons live in the region of the epicenter, in tents and other temporary housing.

    It is winter there.

    National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement saying, “The United States is profoundly concerned by the reports of today’s destructive earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. We stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance. President Biden has directed USAID [the U.S. Agency for International Development, responsible for administering civilian foreign aid] and other federal government partners to assess U.S. response options to help those most affected. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the Government of Türkiye.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 27,377
      February 6, 2023 (Monday)

    The Chinese spy balloon shot down off South Carolina on Saturday after spending four days in U.S. airspace will almost certainly make the history books but not because, by itself, it is a hugely significant factor in the changing relationship between the U.S. and China under President Joe Biden. The reason the balloon will be remembered in the future is that the Republican response to it has been so completely unrelated to reality, and has been so magnified by the media, that it has provided a window into the dysfunction of modern politics.

    The facts are these: On Saturday, January 28, a Chinese airship entered U.S. airspace north of the Aleutian Islands, then crossed Alaska. It left U.S. airspace, then reentered over northern Idaho on Tuesday, January 31. On February 1 it was over Montana. On February 3 it was near St. Louis, Missouri. On Saturday, February 4, the pilot of an Air Force F-22 shot the airship down in shallow water off the coast of South Carolina, where the wreckage could be recovered.

    The Trump administration had an inconsistent relationship with China. Trump attacked China in a trade war early in his presidency, placing tariffs on a range of products (which induced China to retaliate, prompting Trump to pump $28 billion into the U.S. farming sector to compensate for lost revenue). But by 2019, according to Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, Trump “pleaded” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him get reelected in 2020, and inked a deal for China to buy significant amounts of the farm products it had turned to other countries to provide after the tariffs (that was why Trump downplayed China’s role in hiding Covid in the early months of 2020). According to former representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Trump also asked congressional leaders to “lay off” Xi, because Trump didn’t want to disappoint Xi.

    In contrast, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have worked to counter China by building Indo-Pacific cooperation, reinforced U.S. support for Taiwan, established export controls on technology that have hamstrung the Chinese semiconductor industry, worked to counter Chinese investment in Africa, and enhanced security cooperation with South Korea and Japan.

    But the balloon sparked a frenzy from Republicans insisting that Biden had been weak on China or even was working for China: right-wing talk show host Mark Levin said Biden is “bought and paid for by the Communist Chinese government,” and former president Trump said that Biden “has surrendered American airspace to Communist China.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said China was showing “that the United States is once-great superpower that’s hollowed out, it’s in decline.” South Carolina Republican representative Joe Wilson—the man who shouted “You lie” at President Obama—said that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris should resign from office because of the balloon.

    In fact, U.S. standing in the world has strengthened considerably since Biden took office, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Trump tried to scuttle, is strong enough that Sweden and Finland want to join.

    It also turns out that at least three similar balloons crossed into U.S. airspace while Trump was president. Today, General Glen D. VanHerck, who oversees the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, told reporters today that this weekend’s balloon was at least the fifth that had come into U.S. airspace, including at least three during Trump’s presidency, but that NORAD didn’t know about that until the intelligence community—under Biden—notified them.

    As for the fact that Biden waited to shoot the thing down until it flew over the water, the administration says it did not want to take the risk of downing it over the American people. VanHerck estimated it weighed about 2,000 pounds, carried equipment the size of a regional jet, and was about 200 feet tall. As terrorism expert Malcolm Nance wrote on Twitter: “WHY let spy balloon in our space? 1) It was 18.5 miles up, almost in space. 2) it sends data link to PRC. We can intercept that & learn what China knows. We can jam it so they see nothing new. 3) The collection system is ours & can reconstruct it. They lose asset & we win spy game[.]” Indeed, U.S. officials say they blocked the instruments from gathering intelligence, and turned the tables to gather intelligence from the equipment itself.

    You would think this balloon marks terrible U.S. weakness and is the most important thing to happen in years. But, in fact, the U.S. is stronger internationally than it has been in a while, and the balloon is just one more piece of a larger story about the changing relationship between China and the United States.

    The breathless attention paid to the balloon starved a story that mattered far more in the long term: the economy under Biden has shown extraordinary job growth—another 517,000 jobs added in January—and the unemployment rate is at a low that has not been seen since 1969 (not a typo). Inflation is dropping. Today, Carly Wanna at Bloomberg noted that since the Inflation Reduction Act became law, more than 100,000 clean energy jobs have been created in the U.S. After months of reports that we are on the brink of a recession, today Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the chances of a recession are low. “You don’t have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years,” she said.

    This economic news is not a blip; it is proof that Biden’s revival of the traditional understanding of how the economy works, shared by both parties before the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, works.

    Biden has rejected the trickle-down economics of the Republicans, which is based in the idea that moving capital upward will prompt investment in the economy and help everyone. In its place he has revived the older idea that investing in ordinary Americans and infrastructure creates widespread prosperity. His plan is a reversal of 40 years of economic policy, and we need to pay attention to it.

    Biden has been crystal clear about the meaning behind his policies and has challenged House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to lay out for the American people his own policies in a proposed annual budget. Instead, McCarthy is obfuscating, mixing together the debt ceiling, on which Biden refuses to negotiate because it is about funding obligations already incurred—in large part under Trump—and the budget, on which Biden has said he’s quite happy to negotiate.

    McCarthy can’t produce a budget because his conference cannot agree on the cuts they insist are imperative. Instead, Republicans are threatening to refuse to lift the debt ceiling, although they lifted it three times under Trump. That refusal would tank the economy just before the 2024 election.

    A poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, written up today in the Washington Post, shows that 62% of Americans think Biden has not accomplished much in his two years in office. In fact, his administration ranks as one of the most consequential since the New Deal in the 1930s. Whether you love what he’s done or hate it, to think nothing has happened suggests a terrible disconnect between image and reality. Today at a press briefing, reporters peppered White House Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese with questions about why that disconnect exists. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin later tweeted, “Ummm. Heal thyself!”

    Two other stories that are in the news today will likely also be remembered. Neo-Nazi leader Brandon Russell, 27, and Sarah Clendaniel, 34, were charged with plotting to bring down the electric power grid in Maryland, hoping to “destroy” Baltimore. In September, Ilana Krill and Bennett Clifford of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University warned that violent extremist white supremacists were focusing on attacking critical infrastructure “in the hopes that it will trigger a cataclysmic confrontation in American society and collapse the country from within.” And attacks on power stations have, indeed, been rising.

    Finally, thousands are dead from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and its strong aftershocks in Turkey and Syria last night. Biden has spoken to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and pledged to support our NATO ally. U.S. teams will help search and rescue teams, as well as coordinate other assistance.

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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