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Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 7, 2023 (Friday)

    This Friday night’s news dump is a biggie: Texas judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an antiabortion Trump appointee, has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug mifepristone in 2000 was flawed and must be suspended. In the 23 years since its approval, the drug has been widely proved to be safe, and this is the first time a court has ordered the FDA to remove a drug from the market.

    Mifepristone is used to induce abortions as well as for other medical applications. Although the Supreme Court argued last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, that getting rid of Roe would enable states to make their own decisions about abortion, Kacsmaryk’s decision would remove mifepristone across the entire United States. Mifepristone accounts for about 53% of medically induced abortions.

    Vice President Kamala Harris, who has led the administration's policy on reproductive rights, noted that Kacsmaryk’s decision does not simply impact abortion: it opens the door to politicizing chemotherapy drugs, asthma medicine, blood pressure pills, insulin, and so on.

    Kacsmaryk also said that mailing mifepristone across state lines is illegal based on the Comstock Act, which Congress passed in 1873, making it illegal to send contraceptive materials through the mail. He went further than that, though, going far beyond the Dobbs decision to embrace the concept that a fertilized egg is an “unborn human” from the time of conception.

    He stayed the ruling for a week to give the government time to respond.

    President Joe Biden vowed to fight the ruling. He noted that the Department of Justice has already filed an appeal and will seek an immediate stay. “But let’s be clear,” he wrote, “the only way to stop those who are committed to taking away women’s rights and freedoms in every state is to elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring Roe versus Wade.  Vice President Harris and I will continue to lead the fight to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, and to make her own decisions about her own health.  That is our commitment.”

    Less than an hour after Kacsmaryk's ruling, federal judge Thomas O. Rice in Washington state issued an injunction prohibiting the FDA from pulling mifepristone from the market.

    With two opposing rulings in place, the case will go quickly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    But the Supreme Court has its own issues right now. Today, Justice Clarence Thomas released a statement saying that he did not disclose the lavish gifts he received from right-wing megadonor Harlan Crow on the advice of “colleagues and others in the judiciary,” but he did not say who those individuals were. He says he will comply with new regulations in the future.

    Thomas said that he and his wife Ginni had been dear friends of the Crows for over 25 years, but he joined the court over 30 years ago, making more than one commenter note that the friendship certainly seemed to be based on Crow’s access to the Supreme Court through Thomas. In 2011, Ian Millhiser, then of ThinkProgress, noted that Thomas sided with the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for the Community Interest, both of which were affiliated with Crow, in every case concerning them that had come before the Supreme Court.  

    A couple of other stories before I call it quits tonight:

    The Internal Revenue Service yesterday explained how it intends to use the $80 billion appropriated for it by the Inflation Reduction Act. After a decade of budget cuts, audit and enforcement rates on taxpayers earning $1 million or more annually had dropped significantly, from 7.2% in 2011 to just 0.7% in 2019. The IRS will focus on restoring those audits.

    It will also look at allowing taxpayers to file directly with the government system for free, as taxpayers in other countries do. This plan has the lobbyists who work for tax preparers fighting back out of fear such a free system will cripple their businesses. They are joining with Republicans to complain that such a system will give the government too much information about individual taxpayers.

    Today’s jobs report for March showed continuing job growth as unemployment fell to 3.5% and the economy added another 236,000 jobs. Unemployment among Black Americans is at a historic low of 5%. While jobs are still being added, they are increasing at a slower rate than they have been. Wage increases are also slowing, which reinforces the idea that inflation will continue to ease and perhaps lead the Federal Reserve to slow down on the interest rate hikes that cool the economy.

    In a statement, President Joe Biden noted the good jobs news and reminded people that the government is investing in infrastructure, innovation, and clean energy to build the economy for the long term. But, he warned, “[e]xtreme MAGA Republicans in Congress…are threatening to wreak havoc on our economy with debt limit brinkmanship. Their extreme agenda would send the unprecedented investments we’ve made here in America—along with the jobs that come with it—overseas. And it’s all to pay for even more giveaways to the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations.” He promised to stop them from moving the country backward.

    Today, Vice President Harris traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, where she met with the state Democratic caucus and with the two young Black legislators, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, whose colleagues expelled them from the state legislature yesterday. While in Nashville, she spoke at historically Black Fisk University to call for gun safety legislation and condemn the expulsion of the Democratic lawmakers.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 8, 2023 (Saturday)

    On April 8, 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant was having a hard night.

    His army had been harrying Confederate General Robert E. Lee's for days, and Grant knew it was only a question of time before Lee had to surrender. The people in the Virginia countryside were starving, and Lee's army was melting away. Just that morning a Confederate colonel had thrown himself on Grant's mercy after realizing that he was the only man in his entire regiment who had not already abandoned the cause. But while Grant had twice asked Lee to surrender, Lee still insisted his men could fight on.

    So, on the night of April 8, Grant retired to bed in a Virginia farmhouse, dirty, tired, and miserable with a migraine. He spent the night "bathing my feet in hot water and mustard, and putting mustard plasters on my wrists and the back part of my neck, hoping to be cured by morning." It didn't work. When morning came, Grant pulled on his clothes from the day before and rode out to the head of his column with his head throbbing.

    As he rode, an escort arrived with a note from Lee requesting an interview for the purpose of surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia. "When the officer reached me I was still suffering with the sick headache," Grant recalled, "but the instant I saw the contents of the note I was cured."

    The two men met in the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Lee had dressed grandly for the occasion in a brand new general's uniform carrying a dress sword; Grant wore simply the "rough garb" of a private with the shoulder straps of a lieutenant general.

    But the images of the wealthy, noble South and the humble North hid a very different reality. As soon as the papers were signed, Lee told Grant his men were starving and asked if the Union general could provide the Confederates with rations. Grant didn't hesitate. "Certainly," he responded, before asking how many men needed food. He took Lee's answer—"about twenty-five thousand"—in stride, telling the general that "he could have...all the provisions wanted."

    By spring 1865, the Confederates who had ridden off to war four years before boasting that their wealthy aristocrats would beat the North's moneygrubbing shopkeepers in a single battle were broken and starving, while, backed by a booming industrial economy, the Union army could provide rations for twenty-five thousand men on a moment's notice.

    The Civil War was won not by the dashing sons of wealthy planters, but by men like Grant, who dragged himself out of his blankets and pulled a dirty soldier's uniform over his pounding head on an April morning because he knew he had to get up and get to work.

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 9, 2023 (Sunday)

    On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant of the United States Army at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Lee’s surrender did not end the war—there were still two major armies in the field—but everyone knew the surrender signaled that the American Civil War was coming to a close.

    Soldiers and sailors of the United States had defeated the armies and the navy of the Confederate States of America across the country and the seas, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and almost $6 billion. To the northerners celebrating in the streets, it certainly looked like the South’s ideology had been thoroughly discredited.

    Southern politicians had led their poorer neighbors to war to advance the idea that some people were better than others and had the right—and the duty—to rule. The Founders of the United States had made a terrible mistake when they declared, “All men are created equal,” southern leaders said. In place of that “fundamentally wrong” idea, they proposed “the great truth” that white men were a “superior race.” And within that superior race, some men were better than others.

    Those leaders were the ones who should rule the majority, southern leaders explained. “We do not agree with the authors of the Declaration of Independence, that governments ‘derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,’” enslaver George Fitzhugh of Virginia wrote in 1857. “All governments must originate in force, and be continued by force.” There were 18,000 people in his county and only 1,200 could vote, he said, “But  we twelve hundred . . . never asked and never intend to ask the consent of the sixteen thousand eight hundred whom we govern.”

    But the majority of Americans recognized that if it were permitted to take hold, this ideology would destroy democracy. They fought to defeat the enslavers’ radical new definition of the United States. By the end of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dated the birth of the nation not to the Constitution, whose protection of property underpinned southern enslavers’ insistence that enslavement was a foundational principle, but to the Declaration of Independence.

    “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

    The events of April 9 reassured Americans that they had, in fact, saved “the last best hope of earth”: democracy. Writing from Washington, D.C., poet Walt Whitman mused that the very heavens were rejoicing at the triumph of the U.S. military and the return to peace its victory heralded. “Nor earth nor sky ever knew spectacles of superber beauty than some of the nights lately here,” he wrote in Specimen Days. “The western star, Venus, in the earlier hours of evening, has never been so large, so clear; it seems as if it told something, as if it held rapport indulgent with humanity, with us Americans.”

    So confident was General Grant in the justice of his people’s cause that he asked only that Lee and his men give their word that they would never again fight against the United States and that they turn over their military arms and artillery. The men could keep their sidearms and their horses because Grant wanted them “to be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter.”

    Their victory on the battlefields made northerners think they had made sure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    But their conviction that generosity would bring white southerners around to accepting the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence backfired. After Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee took over the presidency and worked hard to restore white supremacy without the old legal structure of enslavement, while white settlers in the West brought their hierarchical ideas with them and imposed them on Indigenous Americans, on Mexicans and Mexican Americans, and on Asians and Pacific Islanders.

    With no penalty for their attempt to overthrow democracy, those who thought that white men were better than others began to insist that their cause was just and that they had lost the war only because they had been overpowered. They continued to work to make their ideology the law of the land. That idea inspired the Jim Crow and Juan Crow laws of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as the policies that crowded Indigenous Americans onto reservations where disease and malnutrition killed many of them and lack of opportunity pushed the rest into poverty.

    In the 1930s, Nazi leaders, lawyers, and judges turned to America’s Jim Crow laws and Indian reservations for inspiration on how to create legal hierarchies that would, at the very least, wall certain populations off from white society. More Americans than we like to believe embraced fascism here, too: in February 1939, more than 20,000 people showed up for a “true Americanism” rally held by Nazis at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The event featured a huge portrait of George Washington in his Continental Army uniform flanked by swastikas.

    The decision of government officials 158 years ago to trust in the goodwill of former Confederates rather than focus on justice for everyone else seemed at the time to be the honorable and best course for healing the divided nation. But it ended up protecting the Confederates’ ideology and disheartening those who had fought for the United States. “When the Union men of those States who have suffered every kind of outrage, who have been fined, mobbed, imprisoned, and have seen their Union neighbors hunted and tortured and hung for their fidelity to the Government, see… a conspicuous, leading traitor hastily pardoned by the President that he may become Governor,” wrote Harper’s Weekly a little more than a year after Lee surrendered,

    “When they see members of the Cabinet deliberately annulling the law of the land in order to appoint late rebels to national offices, while the most noted and tried Union men in the insurgent States ask in vain for such recognition of their fidelity, how can such men help bitterly feeling the contemptuous scorn with which the triumphant rebels regard them? How can they help asking why they might not as well have been rebels? How can they help the conviction that the policy of the Executive is conciliation of rebels and not recognition of Union men, or avoid asking with intense incredulity whether this is the way in which treason is to be made odious?”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 10, 2023 (Monday)

    “Justin Jones is reentering the chamber at the Tennessee State Legislature to tremendous applause.”

    So said an MSNBC commentator today, after the Nashville Metro Council voted to return Democratic state representative Justin J. Jones to the Tennessee General Assembly. Last week, Republicans expelled Jones and his colleague Justin Pearson, who represents parts of Memphis, for breaches of decorum after they joined with protesters to call for gun safety legislation in the wake of a school shooting last week that left six people, including three 9-years-olds, dead. The colleague who protested with them, Gloria Johnson, survived a motion to expel her, too, by a single vote.

    The vote to reinstate Jones to the legislature in an interim seat, until a new election can be held, was 36 to 0.

    After the vote, Jones led a march of thousands of people—mostly young people, from the look of the video—back to the Tennessee Capitol building where he was sworn back into office on the Capitol steps.

    Once sworn back into office, Jones reentered the legislative chamber arm in arm with Representative Johnson. To great applause, he walked through the chamber, fist held high, past Republican representatives who sat silent and pretended not to see him, as the galleries cheered.

    The Shelby County Commission will vote on a replacement for Representative Justin J. Pearson on Wednesday. It can, if it chooses, return Pearson to his former seat until a special election can be held.

    In a statement yesterday, Chair Mickell Lowery of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, a Democrat, said, “The protests at the State Capitol by citizens recently impacted by the senseless deaths of three 9-year-old children and three adults entrusted with their care at their school was understandable given the fact that the gun laws in the State of Tennessee are becoming nearly non-existent. It is equally understandable that the leadership of the State House of Representatives felt a strong message had to be sent to those who transgressed the rules.” Lowery went on to say: “However, I believe the expulsion of State Representative Justin Pearson was conducted in a hasty manner without consideration of other corrective action methods.“

    Mickell noted that he was one of the more than 68,000 citizens stripped of their state representation by the state legislature and said he was “certain that the leaders in the State Capitol understand the importance of this action on behalf of the affected citizens here in Shelby County, Tennessee, and that we stand ready to work in concert with them to assist with only positive outcomes going forward."

    Yesterday, representatives Jones and Johnson flew from Nashville to Newark, and it happened that Joan Baez, the folk music legend, was on the same airplane. In the Newark airport, Jones asked Baez to sing with him. As Johnson filmed them, together they sang two spiritual-based freedom songs that became anthems in the Civil Rights Era: “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” and “We Shall Overcome.”

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 11, 2023 (Tuesday)

    The dramatic events in Nashville last week, when Republican legislators expelled state representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two young Black men, for speaking out of turn when they joined protesters calling for gun safety, highlighted a demographic problem facing the Republican Party.

    Members of Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2012, grew up doing active shooter drills in their schools, and they want gun safety legislation. And yet, Republicans are so wedded to the gun industry and guns as part of party members’ identity that today, one day after five people died in a mass shooting in Louisville, Kentucky—including a close friend of Kentucky governor Andrew Beshear—the Indiana Senate Republicans passed a resolution honoring the National Rifle Association (NRA).

    Later this week, Republican leaders will speak at the NRA’s annual convention in Indianapolis, where firearms, as well as backpacks, glass containers, signs, and umbrellas, are prohibited. Those speakers will include former president Trump and former vice president Mike Pence.  

    The resolution and the speeches at the NRA convention seem an unfortunate juxtaposition to the recent mass shootings.

    Abortion rights are also a place where the Republican Party is out of step with the majority of Americans and especially with people of childbearing age. Last Tuesday, Janet Protasiewicz, who promised to protect reproductive rights, won the election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court by an astonishing 11 points in a state where elections are often decided by less than a point. Victor Shi of Voters of Tomorrow reported that the youth turnout of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, increased 240% since the last spring general election in 2019. Youth turnout at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, increased 232%. Almost 90% of those young people voted for Protasiewicz.

    And yet the party needs to grapple with last Friday’s ruling by Trump-appointed Texas federal judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk that the Food and Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone, a drug used for more than 50% of medically induced abortions, and that it must be removed from the market. The party also must grapple with a new Idaho law that makes it illegal for minors to leave the state to get an abortion without the consent of their parents.

    In New York today, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg pushed back against Republican overreach of a different sort when he filed a lawsuit in federal court against Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) in his official role as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the committee itself, and Mark Pomerantz, whom the committee recently subpoenaed, in response to a “brazen and unconstitutional attack by members of Congress on an ongoing New York State criminal prosecution and investigation of former President Donald J. Trump.”

    The lawsuit accuses Jordan of engaging in “a transparent campaign to intimidate and attack District Attorney Bragg” and to use congressional powers to intervene improperly in a state criminal prosecution. Like any defendant, the lawsuit says, Trump had every right to challenge his indictment in court. But rather than let that process play out, Jordan and the Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee “are participating in a campaign of intimidation, retaliation, and obstruction” that has led to multiple death threats against Bragg. Bragg’s office "has received more than 1,000 calls and emails from Mr. Trump's supporters,“ the complaint reads, “many of which are threatening and racially charged."

    “Members of Congress are not free to invade New York’s sovereign authority for their or Mr. Trump’s political aims,” the document says. “Congress has no authority to ‘conduct oversight’ into District Attorney Bragg’s exercise of his duties under New York Law in a single case involving a single defendant.”

    While Jordan and the Republicans defend Trump, there is a mounting crisis in the West, where two decades of drought have brought water levels in the region’s rivers to dangerously low levels. According to Benji Jones of Vox, who interviewed the former director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico, John Fleck, last year about the crisis, the problem has deep roots.

    One hundred years ago, government officials significantly overestimated the water available in the Colorado River System when they divided it among Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through the Colorado River Compact of 1922. The compact provided a formula for dividing up the water in the 1450 miles of the Colorado River. It was designed to stop the states from fighting over the resource, although an Arizona challenge to the system was not resolved until the 1960s. On the basis of the compact, the region filled with people—40 million—and with farms that grow much of the country’s supply of winter vegetables.

    Now, after decades of drought exacerbated by the overuse permitted by the Colorado River Compact and by climate change, Lake Powell and Lake Mead have fallen to critical levels. Something must be done before the river water disappears not only from the U.S., but also from Mexico, which in 1944 was also guaranteed a cut of the water from the Colorado River. The seven states in the compact have been unable to reach an agreement about cutting water use.

    Today the Interior Department released an environmental review of the situation that offered three possible solutions. One is to continue to follow established water rights, which would prioritize the California farmland that produces food. This would largely shut off water to Phoenix and Los Angeles. Another option is to cut water distribution evenly across Arizona, California, and Nevada. The third option, doing nothing, risks destroying the water supply entirely, as well as cutting the hydropower produced by the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams.

    There is a 45-day period for public comment on the plans, and it appears that the threat of the federal government to impose a solution may light a fire under the states to come up with their own agreement, but it is unlikely they will worry much about Mexico’s share of the water. Historically, states have been unable to agree on how to divide a precious resource, and the federal government has had to step in to create a fair agreement.

    Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, the fallout from last week’s events continues. Judd Legum has reported in Popular Information that Tennessee House speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, doesn’t live in his district as state law requires. And Tennessee investigative reporter Phil Williams of News Channel 5 reports that state representative Paul Sherrell, “who recently suggested bringing back lynching as a form of capital punishment, has been removed from the House Criminal Justice Committee.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 12, 2023 (Wednesday)

    Justin J. Pearson, along with Representatives Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson—the Tennessee Three—joined supporters this morning at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, before a scheduled special meeting of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners to decide whether to reappoint Pearson to the Tennessee legislature after it expelled him last week. Republicans expelled Pearson and Jones from that body after they and Johnson engaged in a protest for gun safety without being recognized by the chair. The Nashville Metropolitan Council reinstated Jones on Monday.

    Meeting at the Lorraine Motel conjured up the history of an earlier era. The motel had been built during segregation in 1925, when it was a white-only business, but after World War II it was Black owned and became one of the few establishments in Memphis that would accept Black patrons. Thus it was that Reverends Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. were staying there in April 1968 during the Poor People’s Campaign, designed to achieve economic justice for poor Americans. They were in Memphis to support a strike of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers, whose work was dangerous and pay was low.

    And it was there, at the Lorraine Motel, that white supremacist James Earl Ray assassinated Reverend King on April 4, 1968, as he stood on a balcony.

    This morning, Pearson called out the people at the rally. "This is the democracy that changes the status quo," he said. “But we’ve got news—the status quo needs changing and the status quo needs you, so today we march and we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep pushing, because we believe that this is what democracy looks like.”

    “I wasn’t elected to be pushed to the back of the room and silenced,” Pearson wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times today. “We who were elected to represent all Tennesseans—Black, white, brown, immigrant, female, male, poor, young, transgender and queer—are routinely silenced when we try to speak on their behalf. Last week, the world was allowed to see it in broad daylight.”

    “Republican-led statehouses across the country are proposing and passing staggering numbers of bills that serve a fringe, white evangelical agenda that abrogates the rights and freedoms of the rest of us,” he continued. “[W]e have a nation in pain and peril.”

    The crowd marched together from the Lorraine Motel to the Shelby County Commissioners’ meeting, where spectators there cheered when Pearson arrived. The commissioners voted unanimously to reinstate Pearson until a special election can be held. The Republicans on the commission didn’t show up to vote.

    The echoes of another historical moment also reverberated today. On April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers fired on Ft. Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Southern leaders had convinced their followers that they must separate from the United States government because it threatened their way of life.

    Their economy depended on crops grown by enslaved Black people; their society depended on a racial and patriarchal hierarchy dominated by white men. Southern leaders had taken over first the Democratic Party, then the White House and Senate and Supreme Court, to protect their system and spread it into the West, but the majority of Americans wanted to bottle the system of slavery up in the South.

    When that majority put Abraham Lincoln into the White House in 1860, southern leaders concluded that they must start their own country where wealthy white men could rule their states, running things as they saw fit without the interference of the federal government.

    The firing on Ft. Sumter was a key early blow in their attempt to replace American democracy with a new system, based on the idea that some men were better than others. It was no accident that on January 6, 2021, one of the men who attacked the United States Capitol carried a Confederate battle flag. Like his predecessors in the Old South, he rejected the outcome of a presidential election and sought to overturn it to create a nation based on white supremacy.

    That modern story was in the news today as Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis sanctioned the Fox News Channel and the Fox Corporation for withholding evidence in the defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems has launched against them over their lies about the 2020 election. The information that FNC had withheld evidence came from Abby Grossberg, former producer of Tucker Carlson’s show, who is suing FNC for trying to set her up to take the fall for hosts’ systemic lies about the 2020 election.

    Grossberg recorded Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and others saying they didn’t have evidence for their accusations of fraud. A Trump advisor also emphasized that January 6 was the “backstop” for determining who won the election. Grossberg’s lawyers say they gave the recordings to FNC, but FNC did not produce them during discovery for the Dominion lawsuit. "This is a problem," Judge Davis said. "I need to feel comfortable when you represent something to me that is the truth."

    Not a great note for the FNC to have hit before the trial later this month.

    Meanwhile, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Jacqueline Alemany of the Washington Post broke the story that special counsel Jack Smith’s office appears to be looking into whether Trump raised money off his election lies. Laws against wire fraud make it illegal to ask for money over email using lies. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised more than $250 million between the election and January 6 by claiming the election had been “rigged.” They urged people to send money to an “election defense fund” that didn’t exist.

    For his part, Trump appears to be trying to distract from his own legal troubles by inflicting legal trouble on others. Today he sued his former fixer Michael Cohen for more than $500 million for violating attorney-client privilege and “spreading falsehoods.” Many pundits have noted that these two charges are incompatible.

    Trump has also asked Judge Lewis Kaplan to delay the trial for E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him for a month, complaining that the intense media coverage surrounding Trump’s recent indictment—a media circus Trump fed, of course—might have tainted the jury pool.

    In an interview with host Tucker Carlson on the Fox News Channel last night, Trump once again revealed the tight relationship between the modern Republicans and the destruction of democracy in favor of a strongman. In the interview, Trump indicated his support for Russian president Vladimir Putin and suggested Putin would at some point gain control over all of Ukraine. The International Criminal Court has, of course, indicted Putin for war crimes as his regime has kidnapped children from Ukraine. Today, a horrific video circulated on social media showing what purported to be a Russian soldier beheading a Ukrainian captive.

    Aside from the criminality of this action, scholars of war suggest it shows that in the absence of loyalty or patriotism, the Russian army is trying to create cohesion among disaffected troops through war crimes.

    In contrast to today’s Russian troops and those supporting them, patriotism was on full display today in Memphis. "You can't expel hope. You can't expel justice,” Justin J. Pearson said. “You can't expel our voice. And you sure can't expel our fight. We look forward to continuing to fight. Continuing to advocate. Until justice rolls down like water,” he said, echoing the Reverend Dr. King, “[a]nd righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

    “Let's get back to work."

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 13, 2023 (Thursday)

    “Today the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information.”

    In a press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland made the announcement that the FBI had arrested Teixeira, a 21-year-old employee of the United States Air Force National Guard. Teixeira allegedly is the source of more than 100 classified U.S. documents that surfaced on social media gaming channels and then spread across the internet over the past several months.

    Friends who spoke anonymously to reporters say Teixeira showed them the documents to impress them. They described him as a Christian libertarian who is worried about the direction the country is going. Materials from Teixeira online also reveal racist and antisemitic behavior.

    Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) immediately took to Twitter to defend Teixeira. He is “white, male, christian [sic], and antiwar. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime,” she wrote. She went on to attack U.S. support for Ukraine.

    But there is likely more here than her usual attacks on the Biden administration and support for Russia. Removing, retaining, and transmitting classified national defense information sounds an awful lot like what it appears former president Trump did (recent reports suggest that federal investigators seem to be building a case that he showed at least one document to people, although removing and retaining documents are crimes by themselves). Now a young man has been arrested for that behavior, unceremoniously arrested by armed FBI agents with an armored vehicle as a news helicopter caught the arrest on film.

    It makes sense that Trump supporters who are concerned about the former president’s similar behavior will do their best to downplay Teixeira’s case. As the media begins to talk about just how serious espionage is and makes people aware of its legal perils, they will want to disparage the charges against Teixeira in case the former president ends up with the same problem.

    And speaking of problems, it turns out that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas neglected to disclose not only the “hospitality” he enjoyed at the hands of Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, but also a real estate deal. Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, and Alex Mierjeski of ProPublica—which broke the initial story about Thomas’s involvement with Crow—revealed today that Crow paid Thomas more than $100,000 for a house in which his mother was living and for two vacant lots.

    The reporters note that, by law, justices are required to disclose real estate sales of more than $1,000. Thomas did not report the sale, thus obscuring the flow of money—not just hospitality—to him from Crow. Further, Crow then made significant improvements to the home, where Thomas’s 94-year-old mother still lives, and bought and tore down the house next door.

    Calls for at least an investigation of Thomas are growing louder. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is a leader of the effort to clean up the courts, said: “It would be best for the Chief Justice to commence a proper investigation, but after a week of silence from the Court and the latest disturbing reporting, I’m urging the Judicial Conference to step in and refer Justice Thomas to the Attorney General for investigation” for possibly breaking government ethics laws.

    The Judicial Conference meets twice a year to examine policy and administration of the federal court system and to recommend new laws to make it function better. It is made up primarily of leading circuit judges and led by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, in this case John Roberts.

    The speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, which recently expelled two young Black lawmakers who have since been returned to office, is also in trouble. Judd Legum of Popular Information first chased down that speaker Cameron Sexton is living in Nashville rather than the district he represents.

    With more digging, Legum has turned up that Sexton apparently bought a $600,000 home in Nashville and hid that purchase, keeping his name off the documents and keeping his wife’s signature obscure. He has argued that he could legally continue to represent Crossville, his alleged place of residence, because so long as he has a “definite intention of returning,” Tennessee law okays lawmakers living elsewhere. But the purchase of a $600,000 home in Nashville seems like a pretty permanent abandonment of Crossville.

    Legum also notes that Sexton has been drawing $313 a day to commute back to his district while he is not, in fact, commuting back to his district. Since 2021, he has claimed $92,071 in expenses, likely enough to cover his mortgage.

    The Republican lawmakers in Tennessee may come to regret the attention they’ve drawn to themselves and their habits of governance.

    Florida governor Ron DeSantis is also in trouble, although his trouble is political.

    Today the Republican-dominated Florida legislature passed a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many people even know they’re pregnant. The measure is popular with the Republican base, whose support DeSantis will need for a presidential bid, should he decide to make one. But abortion restrictions are hugely unpopular across the country, giving Democrats a big leg up in every election that has come since the Supreme Court last summer overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

    DeSantis signed into law a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks last April, before the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe. In that case, he held a midday press conference and made a speech. But Dobbs has created a powerful backlash. This time around, for this even stricter measure, DeSantis signed the bill late tonight and released a picture of the signing after 11:00 p.m., when few people would see it. He appears to be trying to appeal to the base while also keeping his actions quiet enough to slide them under the radar screens of non-MAGA voters.

    DeSantis’s secret signing stands in marked contrast to the scene in Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed into law two new gun safety measures, one requiring guns to be locked away rather than left loose in a home with a minor child, and one requiring background checks for gun show and private purchases. A mass shooting at Michigan State University two months ago killed three students and badly wounded five others.

    Whitmer signed the bills during the day, before a crowd at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium. Although Republicans oppose the new laws and have already sued to stop them from going into effect as scheduled next year, Whitmer said, “All of these initiatives are supported by a majority of Michiganders…. I've gotten letters from all across our state asking for us to get this done.”

    _____________________________________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
  • Options
    Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 37,085
    edited April 2023
    mickeyrat said:
      April 13, 2023 (Thursday)

    “Today the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information.”

    In a press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland made the announcement that the FBI had arrested Teixeira, a 21-year-old employee of the United States Air Force National Guard. Teixeira allegedly is the source of more than 100 classified U.S. documents that surfaced on social media gaming channels and then spread across the internet over the past several months.

    Friends who spoke anonymously to reporters say Teixeira showed them the documents to impress them. They described him as a Christian libertarian who is worried about the direction the country is going. Materials from Teixeira online also reveal racist and antisemitic behavior.

    Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) immediately took to Twitter to defend Teixeira. He is “white, male, christian [sic], and antiwar. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime,” she wrote. She went on to attack U.S. support for Ukraine.

    But there is likely more here than her usual attacks on the Biden administration and support for Russia. Removing, retaining, and transmitting classified national defense information sounds an awful lot like what it appears former president Trump did (recent reports suggest that federal investigators seem to be building a case that he showed at least one document to people, although removing and retaining documents are crimes by themselves). Now a young man has been arrested for that behavior, unceremoniously arrested by armed FBI agents with an armored vehicle as a news helicopter caught the arrest on film.

    It makes sense that Trump supporters who are concerned about the former president’s similar behavior will do their best to downplay Teixeira’s case. As the media begins to talk about just how serious espionage is and makes people aware of its legal perils, they will want to disparage the charges against Teixeira in case the former president ends up with the same problem.

    And speaking of problems, it turns out that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas neglected to disclose not only the “hospitality” he enjoyed at the hands of Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, but also a real estate deal. Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, and Alex Mierjeski of ProPublica—which broke the initial story about Thomas’s involvement with Crow—revealed today that Crow paid Thomas more than $100,000 for a house in which his mother was living and for two vacant lots.

    The reporters note that, by law, justices are required to disclose real estate sales of more than $1,000. Thomas did not report the sale, thus obscuring the flow of money—not just hospitality—to him from Crow. Further, Crow then made significant improvements to the home, where Thomas’s 94-year-old mother still lives, and bought and tore down the house next door.

    Calls for at least an investigation of Thomas are growing louder. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is a leader of the effort to clean up the courts, said: “It would be best for the Chief Justice to commence a proper investigation, but after a week of silence from the Court and the latest disturbing reporting, I’m urging the Judicial Conference to step in and refer Justice Thomas to the Attorney General for investigation” for possibly breaking government ethics laws.

    The Judicial Conference meets twice a year to examine policy and administration of the federal court system and to recommend new laws to make it function better. It is made up primarily of leading circuit judges and led by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, in this case John Roberts.

    The speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, which recently expelled two young Black lawmakers who have since been returned to office, is also in trouble. Judd Legum of Popular Information first chased down that speaker Cameron Sexton is living in Nashville rather than the district he represents.

    With more digging, Legum has turned up that Sexton apparently bought a $600,000 home in Nashville and hid that purchase, keeping his name off the documents and keeping his wife’s signature obscure. He has argued that he could legally continue to represent Crossville, his alleged place of residence, because so long as he has a “definite intention of returning,” Tennessee law okays lawmakers living elsewhere. But the purchase of a $600,000 home in Nashville seems like a pretty permanent abandonment of Crossville.

    Legum also notes that Sexton has been drawing $313 a day to commute back to his district while he is not, in fact, commuting back to his district. Since 2021, he has claimed $92,071 in expenses, likely enough to cover his mortgage.

    The Republican lawmakers in Tennessee may come to regret the attention they’ve drawn to themselves and their habits of governance.

    Florida governor Ron DeSantis is also in trouble, although his trouble is political.

    Today the Republican-dominated Florida legislature passed a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many people even know they’re pregnant. The measure is popular with the Republican base, whose support DeSantis will need for a presidential bid, should he decide to make one. But abortion restrictions are hugely unpopular across the country, giving Democrats a big leg up in every election that has come since the Supreme Court last summer overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

    DeSantis signed into law a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks last April, before the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe. In that case, he held a midday press conference and made a speech. But Dobbs has created a powerful backlash. This time around, for this even stricter measure, DeSantis signed the bill late tonight and released a picture of the signing after 11:00 p.m., when few people would see it. He appears to be trying to appeal to the base while also keeping his actions quiet enough to slide them under the radar screens of non-MAGA voters.

    DeSantis’s secret signing stands in marked contrast to the scene in Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed into law two new gun safety measures, one requiring guns to be locked away rather than left loose in a home with a minor child, and one requiring background checks for gun show and private purchases. A mass shooting at Michigan State University two months ago killed three students and badly wounded five others.

    Whitmer signed the bills during the day, before a crowd at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium. Although Republicans oppose the new laws and have already sued to stop them from going into effect as scheduled next year, Whitmer said, “All of these initiatives are supported by a majority of Michiganders…. I've gotten letters from all across our state asking for us to get this done.”

    It’s like the whole repub party has taken a page from POOTWH’s playbook. Or their voters are that easily played? Suckers.

    Buh, buh, buh HUNTER’S LAPTOP!
    09/15/1998 & 09/16/1998, 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; 06/27/2008, Hartford; 06/28/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield; 08/18/2009, 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; 09/08/2022, Toronto, Ont; 09/11/2022, New York, NY; 09/14/2022, Camden, NJ; 09/02/2023, St. Paul, MN; 05/04/2024 & 05/06/2024, Vancouver, BC; 05/10/2024, Portland, OR;

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

    Brilliantati©
  • Options
    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
       April 14, 2023 (Friday)

    The Biden administration today announced a series of actions it has taken and will continue to take to disrupt the production and distribution of illegal street fentanyl around the world. The efforts involve the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the State Department; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the Treasury Department.

    On a press call today, various administration officials gave an overview of the crisis. Calling street fentanyl “the deadliest drug threat that our country has ever faced,” an official from the DEA explained that all of the street fentanyl in the U.S. comes from Mexico at the hands of two cartels: the Sinaloa and the Jalisco.

    Most of the street fentanyl in the U.S. is distributed by the Sinaloa cartel, which operates in every U.S. state and in 47 countries. This cartel used to be led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who began serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison in 2019 after Mexican authorities arrested him and extradited him to the U.S. Now four of his sons run it: Ovidio, Iván, Joaquín, and Alfredo, who are known as the “Chapitos.” DEA administrator Anne Milgram said they took their father’s “global drug trafficking empire” and “made it more ruthless, more violent, more deadly—and they used it to spread a new poison, fentanyl.”

    According to the DEA official, the Chapitos started the manufacture and trafficking of street fentanyl and are behind the flood of it into the U.S. in the past 8 years. It is a global business. While illicit drugs used to be plant-based, newer ones like street fentanyl are made with synthetic chemicals. The cartels import the chemicals necessary to make fentanyl from China into Mexico and Guatemala. Then they manufacture the drug, distribute it in the U.S., and launder the money, much of it through cryptocurrency.

    They have hundreds of employees and are equipped with military-grade weapons. The Department of Justice added that they “allegedly used cargo aircraft, private aircraft, submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, supply vessels, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, automobiles, and private and commercial interstate and foreign carriers to transport their drugs and precursor chemicals. They allegedly maintained a network of couriers, tunnels, and stash houses throughout Mexico and the United States to further their drug-trafficking activities…to import the drugs into the United States,” where they kill as many as 200 people a day.

    Rather than simply targeting individual traffickers, which would leave the operation intact, the DEA mapped the cartel’s networks in 10 countries and 28 U.S. cities. Its officers identified the cartel’s supply chain and all its leaders, including the people in China and Guatemala supplying them with chemicals to make the illegal fentanyl, the production managers, the enforcers around the world, the trafficker leaders who moved both drugs and guns, and the money launderers.

    That information has enabled the Department of Justice to bring new charges against 28 of the cartel’s key figures (some were already facing charges) for fentanyl trafficking, narcotics, firearms, and money laundering. Seven of them were arrested in Colombia, Greece, and Guatemala several weeks ago and are in extradition proceedings. Mexican authorities arrested Ovidio even before that.

    At the same time, the State Department increased the reward money offered for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of drug traffickers operating in other countries, and said it is working with partners to disrupt the supply chain for the drug’s manufacture, by which it appears to mean the precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment coming from China. The White House also released a joint statement from Canada, Mexico, and the United States vowing to work together to stop the inflow of chemicals and manufacturing equipment to Mexico from China, a vow that somewhat gives Mexico a way to deflect blame for the crisis away from the factories in its own country to the supply chains based in China.

    The Department of Homeland Security noted today that seizures of illegal fentanyl by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are up 400% since September 2019 and continue to increase. DHS has seized more fentanyl and arrested more traffickers in the past two years than it did in the previous five.This increased interception comes from new inspection equipment to find the drug in vehicles, and also from a focus on finding those incoming chemicals in plane and ship cargoes. It has also focused on catching equipment—pill presses, for example—whose loss stops production.

    In March the Department of Homeland Security announced Operation Blue Lotus, which in its first month of operation seized more than 2,400 pounds of illegal fentanyl at U.S. ports of entry—as well as more than 3,500 pounds of methamphetamines and nearly 1,000 pounds of cocaine—and arrested 156 people. CBP has captured another 800 pounds of fentanyl. To build on these operations, the Department of Homeland Security has stationed labs at ports of entry to test substances instantly.

    Notably, the Treasury Department added its own weight to this effort. It announced sanctions against two companies in China and five people in China and Guatemala who, they allege, provide the Mexican cartels with the chemicals to make fentanyl. Acknowledging that it’s been hard for U.S. officials to talk to their counterparts in China, administration officials say U.S. diplomats have been working with friends and partners to pressure China to stop the export of the chemicals that make drugs not only because it hurts the U.S., but because it is hurting the world.

    Asking for support against drug trafficking on moral grounds is fair enough, but the sanctions against the chemical producers and the money launderers will bite. All properties the sanctioned companies and people have in the U.S. are blocked; their owners cannot do business with anyone in the U.S.  

    For all that the effort to neutralize the scourge of illegal fentanyl is vital to our country, what jumped out at me about this story was the power of the Treasury Department to disrupt what drug trafficking is really about: money. At the end of the day, for all their violence and deadliness, the Chapitos are businessmen, and the U.S. can cut them off at the knees through our financial power.

    But that power is not guaranteed. Today, Sarah Ferris and Jordain Carney of Politico reported that House speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans continue to insist they will refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless they get massive spending cuts and policy changes. These are not normal budget negotiations, which Biden and the Democrats welcome, but a threat to let the U.S. default on its debt. Their willingness to hold the Treasury hostage until they get their way threatens to rip the foundation out from our global financial power.

    As I read about the U.S. Treasury sanctions on fentanyl supply chains today and then thought about how Treasury sanctions against Russia have hamstrung that nation without a single shot from U.S. military personnel, I wondered if people really understand how much is at stake in the Republicans’ attack on our financial system.

    _____________________________________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
  • Options
    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
     April 15, 2023 (Saturday)

    After all the action of the past several weeks and in anticipation of more action still to come, it seems to me tonight is definitely a night for a breather.

    Last week, Buddy and I ran away up the coast to see Campobello, just over the Maine border in Canada, where FDR had a summer home. The house was cool to see (and freezing cold to visit that day!) and so was the hiking we did along the Maine coast.

    I am not a painter, but I have always imagined that one of the reasons Maine has sported so many artists is the extraordinary light. On one of our evening hikes, just about every shot I took looked like this.

    Going to take the night off. I'll see you tomorrow.

    _____________________________________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
  • Options
    Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 37,085
    mickeyrat said:
       April 14, 2023 (Friday)

    The Biden administration today announced a series of actions it has taken and will continue to take to disrupt the production and distribution of illegal street fentanyl around the world. The efforts involve the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the State Department; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the Treasury Department.

    On a press call today, various administration officials gave an overview of the crisis. Calling street fentanyl “the deadliest drug threat that our country has ever faced,” an official from the DEA explained that all of the street fentanyl in the U.S. comes from Mexico at the hands of two cartels: the Sinaloa and the Jalisco.

    Most of the street fentanyl in the U.S. is distributed by the Sinaloa cartel, which operates in every U.S. state and in 47 countries. This cartel used to be led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who began serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison in 2019 after Mexican authorities arrested him and extradited him to the U.S. Now four of his sons run it: Ovidio, Iván, Joaquín, and Alfredo, who are known as the “Chapitos.” DEA administrator Anne Milgram said they took their father’s “global drug trafficking empire” and “made it more ruthless, more violent, more deadly—and they used it to spread a new poison, fentanyl.”

    According to the DEA official, the Chapitos started the manufacture and trafficking of street fentanyl and are behind the flood of it into the U.S. in the past 8 years. It is a global business. While illicit drugs used to be plant-based, newer ones like street fentanyl are made with synthetic chemicals. The cartels import the chemicals necessary to make fentanyl from China into Mexico and Guatemala. Then they manufacture the drug, distribute it in the U.S., and launder the money, much of it through cryptocurrency.

    They have hundreds of employees and are equipped with military-grade weapons. The Department of Justice added that they “allegedly used cargo aircraft, private aircraft, submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, supply vessels, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, automobiles, and private and commercial interstate and foreign carriers to transport their drugs and precursor chemicals. They allegedly maintained a network of couriers, tunnels, and stash houses throughout Mexico and the United States to further their drug-trafficking activities…to import the drugs into the United States,” where they kill as many as 200 people a day.

    Rather than simply targeting individual traffickers, which would leave the operation intact, the DEA mapped the cartel’s networks in 10 countries and 28 U.S. cities. Its officers identified the cartel’s supply chain and all its leaders, including the people in China and Guatemala supplying them with chemicals to make the illegal fentanyl, the production managers, the enforcers around the world, the trafficker leaders who moved both drugs and guns, and the money launderers.

    That information has enabled the Department of Justice to bring new charges against 28 of the cartel’s key figures (some were already facing charges) for fentanyl trafficking, narcotics, firearms, and money laundering. Seven of them were arrested in Colombia, Greece, and Guatemala several weeks ago and are in extradition proceedings. Mexican authorities arrested Ovidio even before that.

    At the same time, the State Department increased the reward money offered for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of drug traffickers operating in other countries, and said it is working with partners to disrupt the supply chain for the drug’s manufacture, by which it appears to mean the precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment coming from China. The White House also released a joint statement from Canada, Mexico, and the United States vowing to work together to stop the inflow of chemicals and manufacturing equipment to Mexico from China, a vow that somewhat gives Mexico a way to deflect blame for the crisis away from the factories in its own country to the supply chains based in China.

    The Department of Homeland Security noted today that seizures of illegal fentanyl by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are up 400% since September 2019 and continue to increase. DHS has seized more fentanyl and arrested more traffickers in the past two years than it did in the previous five.This increased interception comes from new inspection equipment to find the drug in vehicles, and also from a focus on finding those incoming chemicals in plane and ship cargoes. It has also focused on catching equipment—pill presses, for example—whose loss stops production.

    In March the Department of Homeland Security announced Operation Blue Lotus, which in its first month of operation seized more than 2,400 pounds of illegal fentanyl at U.S. ports of entry—as well as more than 3,500 pounds of methamphetamines and nearly 1,000 pounds of cocaine—and arrested 156 people. CBP has captured another 800 pounds of fentanyl. To build on these operations, the Department of Homeland Security has stationed labs at ports of entry to test substances instantly.

    Notably, the Treasury Department added its own weight to this effort. It announced sanctions against two companies in China and five people in China and Guatemala who, they allege, provide the Mexican cartels with the chemicals to make fentanyl. Acknowledging that it’s been hard for U.S. officials to talk to their counterparts in China, administration officials say U.S. diplomats have been working with friends and partners to pressure China to stop the export of the chemicals that make drugs not only because it hurts the U.S., but because it is hurting the world.

    Asking for support against drug trafficking on moral grounds is fair enough, but the sanctions against the chemical producers and the money launderers will bite. All properties the sanctioned companies and people have in the U.S. are blocked; their owners cannot do business with anyone in the U.S.  

    For all that the effort to neutralize the scourge of illegal fentanyl is vital to our country, what jumped out at me about this story was the power of the Treasury Department to disrupt what drug trafficking is really about: money. At the end of the day, for all their violence and deadliness, the Chapitos are businessmen, and the U.S. can cut them off at the knees through our financial power.

    But that power is not guaranteed. Today, Sarah Ferris and Jordain Carney of Politico reported that House speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans continue to insist they will refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless they get massive spending cuts and policy changes. These are not normal budget negotiations, which Biden and the Democrats welcome, but a threat to let the U.S. default on its debt. Their willingness to hold the Treasury hostage until they get their way threatens to rip the foundation out from our global financial power.

    As I read about the U.S. Treasury sanctions on fentanyl supply chains today and then thought about how Treasury sanctions against Russia have hamstrung that nation without a single shot from U.S. military personnel, I wondered if people really understand how much is at stake in the Republicans’ attack on our financial system.

    Damn you Brandon! Damn you for being so “smart!”
    09/15/1998 & 09/16/1998, 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; 06/27/2008, Hartford; 06/28/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield; 08/18/2009, 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; 09/08/2022, Toronto, Ont; 09/11/2022, New York, NY; 09/14/2022, Camden, NJ; 09/02/2023, St. Paul, MN; 05/04/2024 & 05/06/2024, Vancouver, BC; 05/10/2024, Portland, OR;

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

    Brilliantati©
  • Options
    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
       April 16, 2023 (Sunday)

    A few quick notes tonight about some ongoing stories:

    There is more news about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his misreporting of his financial connections. This morning, Shawn Boburg and Emma Brown of the Washington Post reported that for twenty years, Thomas has reported rental income totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a real estate firm that was shut down in 2006.

    The misstatement might be dismissed as a problem with paperwork, the authors note. “But it is among a series of errors and omissions that Thomas has made on required annual financial disclosure forms over the past several decades, a review of those records shows. Together, they have raised questions about how seriously Thomas views his responsibility to accurately report details about his finances to the public.”

    The cascade of stories about Thomas threatens to continue to undermine the legitimacy of this Supreme Court.

    Last night, the nation suffered one mass shooting in Dadeville, Alabama, that killed four people and wounded twenty-eight others, and another in Louisville, Kentucky, that killed two and wounded four. On Friday, Republican hopefuls for the 2024 presidential nomination courted members of the National Rifle Association, the NRA, at the organization's 2023 annual convention, promising looser gun laws.

    South Dakota governor Kristi Noem complained about liberals who “want to take our guns,” and boasted that her granddaughter, who is not yet two, has a shotgun and a rifle.

    Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to focus on rebalancing the Indo-Pacific to counter China. Just two weeks after the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and nearly thirty years after the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1995, the U.S. has broken ground on a new $1.2 billion embassy compound in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh yesterday and vowed to “broaden and deepen” relations between the two countries.

    Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power, and members of Congress have all visited Vietnam recently as part of a long-term strategy to help area friends and allies counterbalance China in the Indo-Pacific region.

    Yesterday, Blinken emphasized how the U.S. and Vietnam, working together, “can advance a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that is at peace and grounded in respect for the rules-based international order.” But, as Vietnam has a one-party communist government, he explained, “When we talk about ‘free and open,’ we mean countries being free to choose their own path and their own partners and that problems will be dealt with openly; rules will be reached transparently and applied fairly; and goods, ideas, and people will flow freely across land, the seas, the skies, and cyberspace.”

    Vice President Harris spoke yesterday at a march for reproductive rights in Los Angeles, where she emphasized how deeply our international standing depends on our commitment to freedom at home. “I’ve been traveling around the world as your Vice President,” she said. “When we, as Americans, walk in those rooms around the world, we have traditionally walked in those rooms, shoulders back, chin up, having some authority to talk about the importance of rule of law, human rights.
     
    “But here’s the thing we all know about what it means to be a role model: People watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. So let us understand that what is happening in our nation right now, by extension, can impact people around the world who dare to say, ‘I want my country to be like the United States and protect rights.’ And those autocrats and those dictators might look at those folks and say, ‘What are you pointing to as the example?’”

    “We are seeing, around the country, in a myriad of ways, those who would dare to attack fundamental rights and, by extension, attack our democracy,” Harris said. “Around our country, supposed so-called extremist leaders…dare to silence the voices of the people.”
     
    “A United States Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, that took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America.
     
    “We have seen attacks on voting rights; attacks on fundamental rights to love and marry the people that you love; attacks on the ability of people to be themselves and be proud of who they are.
     
    “And so, this is a moment that history will show required each of us, based on our collective love of our country, to stand up and fight for and protect our ideals…. [W]e have been called upon to be the next generation of the people who will help lead and fight in this movement for freedom and liberty based on our love of our country…. [W]e stand for our democracy. And we stand for foundational and fundamental principles that have everything to do with freedom, liberty, and equality for all people.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 17, 2023 (Monday)

    House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was in New York City today, trying to calm jitters among investors by explaining to members of the New York Stock Exchange that the Republicans will not allow the government to default on its debts even as he insisted that the Republican Party must use the debt ceiling to enact legislative policies it can’t win through normal political negotiations.

    The debt ceiling is an artificial limit to how much the Treasury can borrow to pay existing obligations to which Congress has already committed. It has nothing to do with future spending, which is hammered out in budget negotiations.

    But McCarthy has not offered a budget proposal because the Republican conference cannot agree on one. Yesterday, for example, McCarthy floated the idea of cuts to food assistance for millions of low-income Americans, which Senate Republicans want no part of. Unlike House members, many of whom represent such gerrymandered districts they feel insulated from any backlash to extreme proposals, Senators run at-large. For them, cutting food support while backing tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations would be politically dangerous.

    Instead, McCarthy is trying to use the threat of national default to extract the cuts extremist members of his conference want. The Biden administration has made it clear that it will not negotiate over paying the nation’s bills, especially since about a quarter of the debt was accumulated under former president Trump, $2 trillion of it thanks to tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. In those years, Congress raised the debt ceiling three times. Biden presented his own long, detailed budget, full of his own priorities, as a start to negotiations in March, and he says he is eager to sit down and hammer out the budget once McCarthy produces his own plan. McCarthy is trying to deflect from his inability to do that but is confusing the issue, suggesting that he has the right to negotiate instead over whether or not to pay our bills.

    Since defaulting, or even approaching default, would devastate both the U.S. and the global economy, not even all Republicans back McCarthy’s threats. When Sara Eisen of CNBC asked McCarthy if he had the support of his party for what he is proposing, McCarthy answered, “I think I have the support of America,” and that he would “get the party behind it.”

    Meanwhile, when asked about a potential default, Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told Tony Romm of the Washington Post, “It will be financial chaos…. Our fiscal problems will be meaningfully worse.… Our geopolitical standing in the world will be undermined.”

    Today, McCarthy offered to kick the can down the road by a year, raising the debt ceiling so long as the Democrats agree to cuts that he described only vaguely. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) rejected this idea out of hand, saying: “If Speaker McCarthy continues in this direction, we are headed to default.” Schumer reiterated that the Democrats will be happy to negotiate with McCarthy over the budget when he can produce a detailed plan that can get the 218 votes it needs to pass the House. He noted that McCarthy’s vague proposals are “a recycled pile of the same things he’s been saying for months, none of which has moved the ball forward an inch.”

    In part, McCarthy’s problem is that many of the members of his conference are in the majority for the first time. They are discovering that it is much easier to say no when opponents are in charge than it is to hammer coalitions together to advance realistic legislation. In the New York Times today, editorial board member Michelle Cottle called many of the current House Republicans “chaos monkeys” but noted that it is McCarthy’s fault that he gave them so much power by promising things he can’t deliver—like refusing to hike the debt ceiling without cuts—and by putting them at the head of important committees.

    Ohio representative Jim Jordan, for example, sits at the head of the Judiciary Committee, as well as the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and his investigations so far have not produced the results he promised the Republican base. As Jesse Watters of the Fox News Channel put it last month: “Make me feel better, guys. Tell me this is going somewhere. Can I throw someone in prison? Can someone go to jail? Can someone get fined?”

    Instead, Democrats on the committees have met Jordan’s wild rapid-fire accusations with facts that show the difference between unchallenged myth-making on right-wing media and actual governance. Today, at Jordan’s insistence, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing in New York City, a venue Jordan suggested was chosen to highlight how the policies of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg had exacerbated violent crime, although in reality, Jordan’s attacks on Bragg for investigating former president Trump started even before Trump’s indictment in that jurisdiction.  

    Jordan set out to argue that Bragg was neglecting violent crime in New York City only to have Democrats point out that New York City is “not only safer than most large cities in America, it is safer than most cities of any size, and on a per capita basis, New York City is safer than most of the states of the members sitting...on the majority side,” as Jim Kessler, the co-founder and senior vice president for policy for Third Way, explained. Indeed, in 2020, Ohio's murder rate was higher than the rate in New York City. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) asked Jordan if the hearing could be moved to Ohio.

    If one part of McCarthy’s problem is his extremist colleagues, another is that his argument is out of date. In what Catie Edmondson and Jim Tankersley of the New York Times called “a speech that was sprinkled with misleading statements and erroneous assertions,” McCarthy told the Wall Street executives, “We’re seeing in real time the effects of reckless government spending: record inflation and the hardship it causes….”

    In reality, the inflation that plagued the U.S. as it reopened from the worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed dramatically, making it clear that the policies of the Biden administration are working. As Jennifer Rubin noted yesterday in the Washington Post, the annual inflation rate for producers is 2.7%—the lowest rate in more than two years—while consumer price increases are at their lowest point since May 2021: 5%. Gasoline prices have dropped 17.4% since the high prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The overall declines mark nine months of slowing inflation.

    At the same time, labor force participation is at record high levels and unemployment is at a 50-year low of 3.5%. Black unemployment, which stands at 5%, has never been lower.  Real incomes—that is, incomes after inflation is factored in—have risen 7% for those making $35,000 a year or less and 1.3% across the whole economy. Meanwhile, the deficit has dropped more than $1.7 trillion in two years.  

    The successes of Biden’s policies would seem worth considering in negotiations, but as Sarah Longwell noted in Bulwark+ today, the Republican Party has abandoned normal democratic politics. She notes that it is a mistake to look at the Trump years as a wild period from which the party will return to normality. Instead, she notes, “You have to think of Trump’s election as year zero” because “Republican voters say they don’t want any part of a Republican party that looks anything like it did before 2016.”

    Trump’s administration was a culmination of forty years of Republican attempts to get rid of taxes and regulations by insisting that anyone calling for business regulation and a basic social safety net was a socialist who wanted to redistribute tax dollars from hardworking white men to minorities and women. But the racism, sexism, and religion in that formula used to be the quieter undertones of the call for small government. Now, though, the party is openly embracing the replacement of democracy with a strong government that would make white Christian nationalism the law of the land.  

    In illustration of that position, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has used the government to impose a Christian agenda on his state, today continued his crusade against the Walt Disney Company. A year ago, angry that then–chief executive officer Bob Chapek opposed his measure limiting discussion of gender identity in public school classrooms, DeSantis tried to take control of the company’s special self-governing district through a new board. Shortly before the takeover, Disney CEO Bob Iger outfoxed DeSantis by legally changing the terms of the agreement under which it has operated for decades, limiting the power of the board in perpetuity.

    After Trump officials mocked him for being beaten by Mickey Mouse, DeSantis today suggested he is determined to use the power of the government to force Disney, a private company, to bend to his authority. He threatened to build a rival amusement park or a state prison on land next to Disney’s Florida park.

    Disney promptly responded by advertising a “first-ever Disneyland After Dark” LGBTQIA+ themed event night at its California Disneyland resort, and former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele tweeted: ”When families stop visiting & Disney's $75.2B economic impact & $5.8B tax revenues drop; its 75K employees face layoffs & 463K jobs are also imperiled what would your analytics say caused that to happen? WTF, Dumbo.”

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    Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 37,085
    “Chaos monkeys.”
    09/15/1998 & 09/16/1998, 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; 06/27/2008, Hartford; 06/28/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield; 08/18/2009, 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; 09/08/2022, Toronto, Ont; 09/11/2022, New York, NY; 09/14/2022, Camden, NJ; 09/02/2023, St. Paul, MN; 05/04/2024 & 05/06/2024, Vancouver, BC; 05/10/2024, Portland, OR;

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 18, 2023 (Tuesday)

    “I love Northern Ireland. I love the people. I love the place. They’ve been extraordinarily generous and hospitable to me and my wife, my family,” former senator George Mitchell of Maine told Jill Lawless of the Associated Press today at Queen’s University, located in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.

    Mitchell, who is 89 years old and is being treated for leukemia, has avoided public events for three years, but he traveled to Belfast this week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that he helped to hammer out in 1998.

    This anniversary is no small thing.

    In April 1998, after 30 years of violence that became known as “the Troubles,” Mitchell helped to broker a peace between the British government, the Irish government, and eight political parties from Northern Ireland. It was not an easy negotiation. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom when the rest of Ireland became an independent state in 1921. From the 1960s until the 1990s, Northern Ireland was torn between those who wanted it to stay part of the United Kingdom-—mostly Protestants—and those who wanted it to join the rest of Ireland, who were mostly Catholics.

    The conflict between the two looked much like a civil war, and more than 3,500 people, mostly civilians, died in the violence.

    In 1995, Mitchell had just retired from his position as Democratic Senate majority leader when then-president Bill Clinton asked him to become a special envoy to Northern Ireland. For the next five years, Mitchell would chair three separate sets of peace talks. “It seemed like 50 years at the time,” he told Lawless. “But we persevered and prevailed.”

    By spring 1996, Mitchell had gotten most sides to agree on six principles, including renouncing violence, and then talks began. From the start, Mitchell told the participants that neither the U.S. president nor the British prime minister could impose peace: it would have to come from the leaders in Northern Ireland themselves.

    “Mostly, it was listening on my part,” Mitchell told Paul Kane of the Washington Post. The different sides called him to vent about the other sides, and Mitchell listened. Taking counsel from his brief time as a federal judge, he would not socialize with any of the different participants to avoid looking as if he were playing favorites. Occasionally, he would issue “rulings” to the opposing sides about their positions, as if he were a judge.

    After two years, in early 1998, one leader called to say he was ready to move forward. After his years as a Senate leader, Mitchell recognized that “when you get the votes, you should hold the vote,” he recalled in his interview with Kane. He told the 10 different parties that they had until Good Friday to agree to a settlement.

    “I had no authority to impose it,” he told Kane. But two years of listening had paid off: all the different sides trusted him. “He listened us to agreement,” one of the political leaders said.

    The Good Friday Agreement set up a new government for Northern Ireland, with a parliament that represented both those who wanted to stay in the U.K. and those who wanted to join Ireland. Much of the day-to-day responsibility for Northern Ireland fell on this new parliament rather than coming from the U.K. government. The new lawmakers set out to show the world how to heal a deeply divided society.

    Boston College professor Robert Savage, who specializes in Irish History, told me that Mitchell, with Clinton’s support, “chaired talks that dragged on and on but led to compromises by unionists and nationalists that ended the conflict. In many ways the stars were aligned. Tony Blair, the Labour prime minister, had been elected with a huge majority in Parliament. And the Irish prime minister or Taoiseach was also willing to take chances for peace.”

    “Northern Ireland is still challenged by all sorts of tensions,” Savage wrote. “But the shooting and bombing that left over 3,500 dead and many more [wounded] both physically and emotionally has ended. The Good Friday Agreement is now 25 years old and what it delivered was not perfect but it greatly moved a peace process forward.”

    The tensions lie in the reality that for many of the poor on both sides, the peace did not bring the social services, education, or health care they had hoped it would. Still, schools and sports teams have reached across the old lines to create communities, and international immigrants have brought new diversity.

    The Good Friday Agreement “remains a remarkable achievement,” Savage wrote. Clinton “has earned the respect of the Irish people and many in Britain for his role in cajoling all sides to engage in a difficult dialogue that produced an agreement that ended 30 years of bloodshed.”

    Last week, President Biden spoke at Ulster University in Belfast. “It’s good to see Belfast, a city that’s alive with commerce, art—and, I’d argue, inspiration,” he said. “The dividends of peace are all around us.” He continued: “Twenty-five years ago this week, the landmark Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed. And it wasn’t easy…. [T]here were no guarantees that the deal on paper would hold. No guarantees that it would be able to deliver the progress we celebrate today. And it took long, hard years of work to get to this place. It took a people willing to come together in good faith and to risk boldly for the future…. At the time, it seemed so distant.

    “I think sometimes, especially [with] the distance of history, we forget just how hard-earned, how astounding that peace was at the moment. It shifted the political gravity in our world…. In 1998, it was the longest-running conflict in Europe since the end of World War Two. Thousands of families had been affected by the Troubles. The losses were real. The pain was personal…. Peace was not inevitable…. As George Mitchell often said, the negotiations had…‘Seven hundred days of failure and one day of success.’ But they kept going because George and all the many others never stopped believing that success was possible.”

    In the 25 years since the agreement was signed, Biden noted, Northern Ireland’s gross domestic product has doubled, and Northern Ireland “is a churn of creativity, art, poetry, theater.” And, he added, “All the immense progress we see around us was built through conversation and compromise, discussion and debate, voting and inclusion. It’s an incredible attestation to the power of democracy to deliver the needs for all the people.”

    “And now I know better than most how hard democracy can be at times,” Biden noted. “We in the United States have firsthand experience how fragile even longstanding democratic institutions can be. You saw what happened on January the 6th in my country.”

    “We learn anew with every generation that democracy needs champions.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
       April 19, 2023 (Wednesday)

    The debt ceiling crisis has brought the difference between Biden Democrats and the modern Republican Party into sharp relief.

    The debt ceiling is not about future spending; future spending is debated when Congress takes up the budget. The debt ceiling is a curious holdover from the past, when Congress actually wanted to enable the government to be flexible in its borrowing rather than holding the financial reins too tightly. In the era of World War I, when the country needed to raise a lot of money fast, Congress stopped passing specific revenue measures and instead set a cap on how much money the government could borrow through all of the different instruments it used.

    Beginning in the 1980s, though, Republicans began to use the debt ceiling as a political cudgel because if it is not raised when Congress spends more than it has the ability to repay, the country will default on its debts. Republicans focused on cutting taxes, initially promising that tax cuts would not require any cuts to services because they would nurture the economy so effectively that tax revenues would increase despite the cuts. Immediately, though, both deficits—the difference between what the government spends and what it takes in—and the debt, which is the total sum that the government owes, ballooned.

    That skyrocketing debt means that Congress repeatedly has to increase the amount that the Treasury borrows to pay the country’s bills. That is, it must lift the debt ceiling. Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times since it first went into effect, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan as well as 3 times under former president Donald Trump.

    The United States has never defaulted on its debt. When Republicans threatened to push a debt crisis in late 2021, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that a default “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices, and other financial turmoil. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.” It would jeopardize the status of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency. Financial services firm Moody's Analytics warned that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth.
     
    Now House Republicans under speaker Kevin McCarthy are insisting they will force the country into default unless Biden and the Democrats abandon their legislative program and do what the Republicans want. And what they want is to enact a drastic version of the Republican platform of the past 40 years. Today, McCarthy introduced a 320-page measure that would address the deficit and growing debt by drastic cuts to government programs across the board.

    It is largely a wish list of right-wing demands such as a repeal of key measures of the Inflation Reduction Act, including those addressing climate change and funding the Internal Revenue Service; additional requirements to qualify for benefit programs; and getting rid of the program to forgive certain student debt. It would lift the debt ceiling only for a year, meaning the government would be right back to negotiating over it almost immediately.

    There are two things at work behind this demand. The first is that the Republicans are in such extraordinary disarray that they are unable to put forward a budget—which is part of the normal process of funding the government—because they are unable to agree on one that can get enough votes to pass the House. Different factions in the party want cuts that, even if they could get through the House, would never pass the Senate, and the farthest-right group of lawmakers have indicated they won’t agree to anything. With this grab-bag measure, McCarthy is trying to cover all his bases, but already some of his conference is torn that it goes too far…or not far enough.

    That inability to get their way through normal political channels illustrates the larger story behind the Republicans' position: they want to destroy the government as it has existed since 1933, but since that government is actually quite popular, they cannot get the cuts they want by going through normal legislative procedures. Instead, they are trying to get their demands by holding the rest of us hostage. It is notable that while the Republicans are willing to slash education, food safety, and so on, they want to preserve the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that cost the Treasury $2 trillion. Their stated concern for financial responsibility is also undermined by the reality that repealing the funding for the woefully understaffed IRS is expected to cost the Treasury $124 billion as wealthy tax cheats continue to avoid enforcement.

    McCarthy is doubling down on his debt ceiling demands in part because the Republican base is wedded to Trump, which means the Republican Party is now wedded to Trump, and Trump insists that Republicans must use the debt ceiling to get what they want. Early hopes that they could run a Trump-like candidate without the Trump baggage—someone like Florida governor Ron DeSantis—are starting to fade. Today, Matt Dixon of NBC News reported that although the DeSantis team asked him to hold off on an endorsement, the co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, Vern Buchanan, has endorsed Trump.  

    Buchanan said that Trump will “get our economy back on track,” including lowering taxes and “promoting America-first trade deals.” A former chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Buchanan is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. He clearly continues to believe that the key to boosting the economy is more tax cuts and is willing to accept all the other pieces of another Trump presidency—Trump has recently called for vengeance against his enemies, replacing civil servants with his own loyalists, and attacking Mexico—so long as the United States government embraces the supply side economics the Republicans have advanced since 1981.

    President Joe Biden contrasted his own vision for the United States to that of the Republicans when he spoke today at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 77 in Accokeek, Maryland, in a corrugated-steel garage. His own vision, he reiterated, calls for building the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not from the top down. He outlined how the Democrats’ many investments in infrastructure and manufacturing have benefitted working- and middle-class Americans, while Republicans have sought to cut those investments and cut taxes for the wealthy.

    McCarthy is trying to spin the crisis in his own conference as Biden “playing partisan games,” and Republicans say they hope that passing their measure will force Biden to negotiate over the debt ceiling. But Biden has steadfastly refused to negotiate over the credit of the government, although says he is quite happy to negotiate over the budget, which is part of the normal legislative process. House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries backed up Biden, saying: “The United States of America must always pay bills already incurred without gamesmanship, brinksmanship, or partisanship. House Democrats will oppose any effort to hold the economy hostage as part of any scheme by Extreme MAGA Republicans to jam its right-wing agenda down the throats of the American people.”

    Their refusal to negotiate over the nation’s finances puts them in good company. We have seen a scenario just like this one before. In 1879, when the positions of the parties were reversed, Democratic former Confederates won control of Congress for the first time since the Civil War. Once in power, they 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, stop protecting Black voters by refusing to fund the government until he caved.

    Southern Democrats told newspapers they had blundered when they fought on the battlefields: far better to control the country from within Congress. Extremist newspapers threatened violence as they called for Congress members to “drive or starve Mr. Hayes into signing a bill that sweeps these obnoxious laws out of existence.” House minority leader James Garfield (R-OH) noted: “They will let the government perish for want of supplies.” “If this is not revolution, which if persisted in will destroy the government, [then] I am wholly wrong in my conception of both the word and the thing.” A Civil War veteran who had seen battle at Shiloh and Chickamauga, Garfield understood revolution.

    Hayes stood firm, recognizing that allowing a radical 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 up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 20, 2023 (Thursday)

    There were a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated stories in the news that all seem to point to an important theme:

    Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner of the Washington Post reported that lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who was deeply involved in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, this weekend told Republican donors that the party must restrict access to the vote for young voters. Gen Z voters were the key element in providing the extraordinary 11-point victory for pro-choice Wisconsin supreme court candidate Janet Protasiewicz, and they are central to the movement to enact gun safety legislation.

    Far from being ostracized for her attempt to overthrow our democratic system, Mitchell is advising the Republican National Committee. In her presentation she declared: “Our constitutional republic’s survival is at stake.”

    Dawsey and Gardner appear to have gotten their information from someone who was there.

    In Georgia, the fake electors who prepared a false set of electoral votes for Donald Trump in 2020 have begun to turn on each other while also accusing the lawyer who represented ten of them of failing to inform them of immunity offers.

    An arbitration panel ordered My Pillow chief executive officer Mike Lindell, who was also deeply involved in Trump’s crusade to overturn the election, to hand over a $5 million payment to an expert who took him up on his challenge to prove that his data did not reflect the 2020 election. According to Lindell’s deposition in the case, he offered the money simply to draw attention to his accusations, and he did not expect anyone to meet his criteria.

    Robert Zeidman, a software developer, did. He sued for the money and won, saying that he is a “conservative Republican” but wanted to call out election lies.

    The vice-chair of the Republican caucus in the Tennessee House of Representatives resigned today, “effective immediately,” after a NewsChannel 5 investigation confronted him with the story that a secret ethics subcommittee had found him guilty of sexually harassing at least one intern, and likely two. Thirty-nine year old Scotty Campbell, who voted to expel Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson for protesting the body’s refusal to take up gun safety legislation, had not previously borne any penalties for his actions, although taxpayers have: they funded the relocation of one of the interns to put distance between her and Campbell.

    For his part, Campbell said: “I had consensual, adult conversations with two adults off property.”

    Meanwhile, Judd Legum’s discovery that Tennessee House speaker Cameron Sexton appears to live in Nashville although he represents a district two hours away has raised questions about whether Sexton is legally in office.

    News has also broken that federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who recently tried to unwind the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the drug mifepristone, which is used for medical abortions among other things, misled senators during his confirmation process. He did not disclose that he had removed his own name from a law journal article criticizing protections for abortion and transgender people, and he did not disclose that he had given at least two interviews with Christian talk radio about his right-wing opinions about abortion, gay rights, divorce, and the sexual revolution, although he was required to.

    Kacsmaryk said he did not recall the recordings, but Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said: “You want to talk about the ultimate bait and switch? I feel like I got duped. I feel like I voted for somebody based on what had been presented to me. And you do this? That is totally, totally wrong.”

    On Tuesday, David French of the New York Times reports, Dominion Voting Systems won a substantial victory over the Fox Corporation that supports the Fox News Channel. Dominion sued Fox for defamation after its hosts lied about Dominion as part of their support for Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the runup to the settlement, Dominion appeared already to have proven that Fox News Channel hosts had lied, but Dominion’s claims for more than $1 billion in damages in future earnings were weak, French argued, since Dominion had earned just $118.3 million between 2017 and 2019. A $787.5 million settlement was a major victory.

    Meanwhile, the process of discovery badly damaged any credibility the Fox News Channel claimed, as its hosts privately disparaged the claims they made on air. And Fox is still on the hook for that discrepancy. Another voting machine company, Smartmatic, is suing Fox News, Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, former Fox host Lou Dobbs, and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, for $2.7 billion.

    Finally, a devastating piece today by Jay Kirk in the New York Times told the story of the crime-scene investigators who documented the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, where a gunman killed twenty first graders, the principal, the school psychologist, and four teachers. It recounted the trauma the investigators endured as they cataloged the massacre. That story, along with the details of the lives and deaths of the victims, shed light on the reality of gun deaths that has usually been obscured in an attempt to protect the victims’ families.  

    It hit me as I read through all this news that a key theme seems to be a new shift toward transparency and accountability. It jumps out at me that people are talking to lawyers and to the press about illegalities, irregularities, and, in the Sandy Hook case, horrors that in the past they have kept quiet.

    Whether it comes from disgust at the excesses of those who are attacking our democracy or from fear of the law, that transparency reminds me of the pivotal importance of McClure’s Magazine in the early twentieth century. Reformers had expressed philosophical concerns about the concentration of wealth and power at the top of American society for decades, but those concerns could be ignored until the investigative journalists working for McClure’s began to explore the specifics of political corruption and its cost to ordinary Americans. Dismissed as “muckrakers” by politicians, those journalists nonetheless helped to shift the weight of social value from keeping secrets to spilling them.

    When that shift happened, the walls protecting the country’s entrenched leaders crumbled fast.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 21, 2023 (Friday)

    Tomorrow is Earth Day, celebrated for the first time in 1970. Coming the same week that House Republicans demanded that Congress rescind the money Democrats appropriated in the Inflation Reduction Act to address climate change, Earth Day in 2023 is a poignant reminder of an earlier era, one in which Americans recognized a crisis that transcended partisanship and came together to fix it.

    The spark for the first Earth Day was the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. A marine biologist and best-selling author, Carson showed the devastating effects of people on nature by documenting the effect of modern pesticides on the natural world. She focused on the popular pesticide DDT, which had been developed in 1939 and used to clear islands in the South Pacific of malaria-carrying mosquitoes during World War II. Deployed as an insect killer in the U.S. after the war, DDT was poisoning the natural food chain in American waters.

    DDT sprayed on vegetation washed into the oceans. It concentrated in fish, which were then eaten by birds of prey, especially ospreys. The DDT caused the birds to lay eggs with abnormally thin eggshells, so thin the eggs cracked in the nest when the parent birds tried to incubate them. And so the birds began to die off.

    Carson was unable to interest any publishing company in the story of DDT. Finally, frustrated at the popular lack of interest in the reasons for the devastation of birds, she decided to write the story anyway, turning out a highly readable book with 55 pages of footnotes to make her case.

    When The New Yorker began to serialize Carson’s book in June 1962, chemical company leaders were scathing. “If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson," an executive of the American Cyanamid Company said, "we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth." Officers of Monsanto questioned Carson's sanity.

    But her portrait of the dangerous overuse of chemicals and their effect on living organisms caught readers’ attention. They were willing to listen. Carson’s book sold more than half a million copies in 24 countries.

    Democratic president John F. Kennedy asked the President’s Science Advisory Committee to look into Carson’s argument, and the committee vindicated her. Before she died of breast cancer in 1964, Carson noted: "Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself? [We are] challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."  

    Meanwhile, a number of scientists followed up on Carson’s argument and in 1967 organized  the Environmental Defense Fund to protect the environment by lobbying for a ban on DDT. As they worked, Americans began to pay closer attention to human effects on the environment, especially after three crucial moments: First, on December 24, 1968, William Anders took a color picture of the Earth rising over the horizon of the moon from outer space during the Apollo 8 mission, powerfully illustrating the beauty and isolation of the globe on which we all live.

    Then, over 10 days in January–February 1969, a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, poured between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific, fouling 35 miles of California beaches and killing seabirds, dolphins, sea lions, and elephant seals. Public outrage ran so high that President Nixon himself, a Republican, went to Santa Barbara in March to see the cleanup efforts, telling the American public that “the Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people.”

    And then, in June 1969, the chemical contaminants that had been dumped into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. A dumping ground for local heavy industry, the river had actually burned more than ten times in the previous century, but with increased focus on environmental damage, this time the burning river garnered national attention.

    In February 1970, President Richard M. Nixon sent to Congress a special message “on environmental quality.” “[W]e…have too casually and too long abused our natural environment,” he wrote. “The time has come when we can wait no longer to repair the damage already done, and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future.”

    “The tasks that need doing require money, resolve and ingenuity,” Nixon said, “and they are too big to be done by government alone. They call for fundamentally new philosophies of land, air and water use, for stricter regulation, for expanded government action, for greater citizen involvement, and for new programs to ensure that government, industry and individuals all are called on to do their share of the job and to pay their share of the cost.”

    Nixon called for a 37-point program with 23 legislative proposals and 14 new administrative measures to control water and air pollution, manage solid waste, protect parklands and public recreation, and organize for action. “As we deepen our understanding of complex ecological processes, as we improve our technologies and institutions and learn from experience, much more will be possible,” he said. “But these 37 measures represent actions we can take now, and that can move us dramatically forward toward what has become an urgent common goal of all Americans: the rescue of our natural habitat as a place both habitable and hospitable to man.”

    Meanwhile, Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, visited the Santa Barbara oil spill and hoped to turn the same sort of enthusiasm people were bringing to protests against the Vietnam War to efforts to protect the environment. He announced a teach-in on college campuses, which soon grew into a wider movement across the country. Their “Earth Day,” held on April 22, 1970, brought more than 20 million Americans—10% of the total population of the country at the time—to call for the nation to address the damage caused by 150 years of unregulated industrial development. The movement included members of all political parties, rich Americans and their poorer neighbors, people who lived in the city and those in the country, labor leaders and their employers. It is still one of the largest protests in American history.

    In July, at the advice of a council convened to figure out how to consolidate government programs to combat pollution, Nixon proposed to Congress a new agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, which Congress created in 1970. This new agency assumed responsibility for the federal regulation of pesticides, and after the Environmental Defense Fund filed suit, in June 1972 the EPA banned DDT. Four months later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, establishing protections for water quality and regulating pollutant discharges into waters of the United States.

    Today, even as Republicans are attacking the EPA by suggesting that Congress cannot delegate major regulatory powers to it, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to promote environmental justice. In the past generation we have come to understand that pollution hits minority and poor populations far harder than it does wealthy white communities: the government and private companies target Indigenous reservations for the storage of nuclear waste, for example, because the reservations are not covered by the same environmental and health standards as the rest of the country.

    Today, Biden said, “To fulfill our Nation’s promises of justice, liberty, and equality, every person must have clean air to breathe; clean water to drink; safe and healthy foods to eat; and an environment that is healthy, sustainable, climate-resilient, and free from harmful pollution and chemical exposure. Restoring and protecting a healthy environment—wherever people live, play, work, learn, grow, and worship—is a matter of justice and a fundamental duty that the Federal Government must uphold on behalf of all people.”

    Amen.

    Happy Earth Day 2023.

    [photo: Earthrise, taken on December 24, 1968, by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, NASA, Public Domain, gathered from Wikipedia.]

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
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    Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 37,085
    Anyone get Rodger Dodger Stoned’s thoughts? Anyone?

    Fuckin aye, anyone hear from the entwhistle? Like an enema? You know, the loo?
    09/15/1998 & 09/16/1998, 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; 06/27/2008, Hartford; 06/28/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield; 08/18/2009, 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; 09/08/2022, Toronto, Ont; 09/11/2022, New York, NY; 09/14/2022, Camden, NJ; 09/02/2023, St. Paul, MN; 05/04/2024 & 05/06/2024, Vancouver, BC; 05/10/2024, Portland, OR;

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
       April 22, 2023 (Saturday)

    I have taken the day off entirely, checking the news only for global catastrophes. Since we seem to have mostly avoided them, I am going to finish off a relaxing day by going to bed early.

    I'm posting one of Buddy's photos for tonight both because it is lovely and because there is a bit of a cool story behind it. It is an image from Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, where we hiked a couple of weeks ago. The pond is beautiful and well-known, but I had never been there before.

    When I was a child, I loved a painting my mother had of a scene also captured in a framed photograph she owned, faded by then into grays. The painting was not great art, but it was made up of the blues and browns and greens I have always loved, and the water and mountains spoke to me. Mother always told me the picture was painted by a friend of her father's— he died when I was a baby— and it was an image of one of their favorite fishing spots, although she had no idea where it was.

    Mother gave that painting to me, and I have always had it up in one place or another, so Buddy knows it, too.

    A few weekends ago when we stood at this spot at the end of Jordan Pond, we said almost at the same time: "It's that painting."

    Very cool to stand in the same spot my grandfather's friend painted in what can't have been later than the 1930s, and see the same thing he saw. The past is really not that far away.

    But what really struck me seeing this view was the inverse of that observation. For my grandfather's nameless and long-gone fishing buddy, who certainly never knew that the painting he made for his friend would continue to speak to someone a hundred years later, the future wasn't that far away either.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland]

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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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    Merkin BallerMerkin Baller Posts: 10,689
    Tonight’s was great. 
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
    edited April 2023
      This note is not part of the Letters from an American series. It is instead an announcement— which comes from a bit of a place of surprise, to be honest— and a thank you to everyone who reads here.

    The announcement is that it appears my new book is a real thing.

    It has a cover now (which is what has prompted this note) and will come out in mid-September. It is 30 short chapters in three sections for a total of 250 pages of text, and I think it is… not bad, which is about as far as any writer will— or should— go on a new book.

    The book is called Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America, and it tries to explain how we got to this political moment… and how we get out. There is a lot of material in it you all will recognize— on the Trump years, for example, and how we got to them and how we got through them— but there is a lot that is new, too, reflecting how the last several years have made me reconceive the way I think about the meaning of history. In the end, this book makes an argument for a new understanding of U.S. history as an explicitly democratic history, kept alive primarily by marginalized Americans who have worked to expand our rights and bring the principles of the Declaration of Independence to life.

    Writing the book was a very odd experience. Because I was writing so much else, I could never focus on the book exclusively as I have for previous books. I would write in the mornings, but every afternoon I would have to pack up whatever was in front of me and start working on the nightly letter. When one chapter was done, I would throw it aside and ignore it while working on the next. It was almost as if I was seeing the project only in my peripheral vision while looking intently at what was in front of me.

    Then stuff happened (there was a wedding in there! :) ) so I took a break from the manuscript before picking it up for the second draft.

    When I did turn back to it, I discovered something curious: it was almost as if the chapters had been chatting together while I ignored them, and they demanded an entire reworking. That reworking meant I rewrote close to 80% of the manuscript, and developed a much different thesis than I had set out to write two years ago. It was rather as if I had seen things more clearly out of the corner of my eye than if I had been looking directly at it.

    The manuscript turned into a voyage of discovery for me, and it ended up feeling very much like I didn’t have a lot of control over it: I was just bringing a definitive shape to the questions, comments, concerns, and hopes of so many people who have been part of the crazy journey of the past three and a half years.

    And that’s where the thank you comes in. This really is your book as much as it ever was mine.

    I hope you like it.

    Post edited by mickeyrat on
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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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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
       April 23, 2023 (Sunday)

    An article by Matthew Lee, Tara Copp, and Aamer Madhani of the Associated Press gave a good overview of today’s evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. About 100 U.S. troops used three helicopters to evacuate about 70 U.S. personnel from the embassy, getting them out of Sudan to Ethiopia without major incident. Such a military evacuation is unusual, but the fight between two rival Sudanese leaders has closed the main international airport and given armed fighters control of the roads leading out of the country, making it impossible for U.S. personnel to leave by civilian routes.

    Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia helped to get the Americans to safety. There were no major incidents associated with the evacuation. Other nations have also evacuated their embassies, and the United Nations staffers left by road on a 19-hour trip.

    U.S. officials said it would be too dangerous to evacuate the approximately 16,000 private U.S. citizens remaining in the country, whose great size contributes to the difficulty of getting them out. (Significantly larger than Alaska, Sudan is the third largest country in Africa and has more than 45 million people.) According to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), most of the remaining U.S. civilians there are dual-nationality Sudanese Americans or aid workers. They have been advised to shelter in place while the U.S. government works with other countries to get them out safely.

    Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson for the State Department, noted in a press briefing on April 21 that since August 2021 the department has listed Sudan as under a Level 4 travel advisory, meaning that the U.S. government warned people not to travel there and that the U.S. might have “very limited ability” to aid travelers in a crisis. Since then, he said, “we have communicated to American citizens in the country about safety and security measures and precautions that they can take…. We have not parsed our words or been ignorant or naïve about the delicate and fragile security situation in Sudan.”

    The fight in the eastern African country that erupted on April 15 grew from Sudan’s 2019 revolution. In that year, opponents of the ruling government threw out President Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power since 1989 and who had been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape in his attempt to get rid of rebels in the western region of Sudan, known as Darfur.

    Leading that revolt were women, known as “Kandakat” after powerful Nubian queens. In the wake of the revolution, the Sudanese people attempted a transition to democracy. But in 2021, two military leaders, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, who leads the armed forces, and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (known by the nickname Hemedti), who leads a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces that grew out of the Janjaweed militias that terrorized Darfur, launched a military coup and took power.

    In the wake of the coup, foreign aid was halted, the economy collapsed, and the United Nations and international negotiators pressured the two generals to turn power back over to civilians this month. But talks dragged on, tensions rose, and now the two men are at war with each other for control of the country. Experts say if the crisis is not solved, and solved fast, Sudan could descend into a civil war. More than 400 people have already died, mostly in Khartoum.

    The fighting in Sudan has repercussions around the world. There are signs that Russia’s Wagner group is supporting Hemedti, which would be in keeping with the statement Wagner’s founder, Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, made after his group’s recent losses in Ukraine, saying he planned to concentrate on Africa, where his forces have been propping up authoritarian governments now for a while. They have been in Sudan since 2017, and in addition to the interest of Wagner-linked companies in gold mining there, Russia has long wanted to build a naval base on the Red Sea at Port Sudan, which is currently under the control of the government forces led by Burhan.

    The Nile River runs through Sudan, tying Sudan to Egypt and Ethiopia, as well as to eight other African countries. Other international powers are also interested in Sudan’s resources, and in making sure the conflict doesn’t spill over into other countries. Overall, as Patel noted, the violence destabilizes not just Sudan but the  region as a whole, hurting civilians and jeopardizing “the will, the aspirations, and the progress that the Sudanese people are hoping to see through some kind of transition to democracy.”

    In the New York Times today, Jacqueline Burns, a former advisor to the U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, suggested that the conflict in Sudan had a much broader lesson for the international community.

    Since 2005, Burns wrote, international negotiators have focused on splitting power between armed groups rather than civilians. Women and others who were not part of armed military groups were almost entirely excluded, she wrote. “Armed groups and dictatorial regimes know that as long as they are participating in a peace process, international pressures will eventually—often quickly—ebb. If they are pressed into signing an agreement, there are typically very few effective mechanisms to hold them to it.” And while they are pretending to engage in peace processes, armed groups are actually consolidating their political and military power.

    This pattern was especially problematic in Sudan, she wrote, where the women who had led the uprising that got rid of al-Bashir were largely excluded from the government that followed; armed groups were at the table instead.

    Burns warned the international community that if we are going to stop the “continued cycle of violence and human suffering,” negotiators must stop prioritizing the voices of “the armed and corrupt” over those actually interested in real political reform.

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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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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 24, 2023 (Monday)

    Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement announcing that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), each trying to wrest control of Sudan from the other, have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire starting at midnight tonight, local time. During the cease-fire, the statement says, the U.S. will work with regional partners, international partners, and Sudanese civilians to create a committee to negotiate and implement a permanent cease-fire and return Sudan to a path toward democracy.

    Meanwhile, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan today said that the U.S. is working to get U.S. civilians out of Sudan by protecting a land evacuation route from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where Americans can get transportation out of the region on naval ships from various countries including the U.S. While Sullivan said the administration will look at “every conceivable option” to get Americans out of Sudan, it will not send troops inside the country.

    Meanwhile, Rachel Chason in the Washington Post reported the concern of U.S. intelligence officials evident in leaked documents that the African country of Chad is at risk from Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group, which is trying to recruit Chadian rebels to destabilize the country and overthrow the government. The leaked documents suggest that Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is trying to build a “unified ‘confederation’ of African states” across the continent in the Sahel region, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Sudan. Chad is an important U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, and the attempt to keep it stable and moving toward democracy has raised concerns that the U.S. is overlooking the Chadian government’s own crackdowns on dissenters.

    In other concerns about national security, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton published an op-ed in the New York Times today warning that the threat from House speaker Kevin McCarthy to hold the nation’s finances hostage until the president agrees to the wish list McCarthy presented last week has “significant national security implications.” With all the global threats looming, from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, to rising tensions with China, to future pandemics and climate change, “the world is looking to the United States for strong, steady leadership. Congressional brinkmanship on the debt ceiling sends the opposite message to our allies and our adversaries: that America is divided, distracted and can’t be counted on.”

    Drawing on her own experience as secretary of state during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, Clinton recalled meeting “nervous businessmen” from across Asia at an event in Hong Kong. They worried that the “regional and global stability that America had guaranteed for decades,” “the foundation on which they had built companies and fortunes,” was at risk. If the U.S. walked away from the table, they feared that China would fill the void.

    Clinton reassured them that Americans would eventually do the right thing and then, she recalled, “I crossed my fingers and hoped it was true.” In 2011 it was, but now, she writes, the risks are even higher.

    "[T]the competition between democracies and autocracies has grown more intense,” she wrote. “And by undermining America’s credibility and the pre-eminence of the dollar, the fight over the debt ceiling plays right into the hands of Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia.” That the U.S. dollar is the world’s central currency enables the U.S. to use its financial power around the world, imposing sanctions, for example, and undermining that power will significantly weaken the U.S.

    Grabbing headlines today at home was the unexpected news that Tucker Carlson is out at the Fox News Channel. The decision was so quick he was not permitted a final show, making Friday’s goodbye his last. There is not yet a clear story about what drove him out, but there are several things that likely contributed.

    First is lawsuits: the Fox Corporation’s recent $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems; the looming lawsuit against the Fox Corporation by another voting systems company, Smartmatic; and another lawsuit from former Carlson producer Abby Grossberg accusing Carlson and other executives of creating “a work environment that subjugates women based on vile sexist stereotypes.” That lawsuit will likely bring up the many appallingly sexist things Carlson has said over the years, including a discussion with a radio shock jock in which he seemed to defend statutory rape and child marriage.

    There is the potential for yet another lawsuit, this one from Ray Epps, a Trump supporter who was at the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and around whom Carlson built a conspiracy theory that led to death threats and forced him and his wife into hiding. On Sunday, Epps told 60 Minutes that Carlson was “going to any means possible to destroy my life.” “He's obsessed with me,” Epps said.

    Insurers on the hook for large settlements are likely to demand that Fox clean up its act, especially with Trump running for office again and likely back in the media lineup.

    Second is Carlson’s attacks on his colleagues and private dismissal of Fox News Channel programming, revealed in the discovery process of the Dominion lawsuit, which made it quite clear the channel was lying to its audience.

    There is also the possibility that FNC head Rupert Murdoch recognizes that the right wing has moved so far right that it is better to cut the extremists loose than to try to keep them from moving toward other far-right platforms, especially as the FNC is trying to renegotiate its cable fees. In a sign that the party might be splitting elsewhere, as well, Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced today that he will not attend the Georgia Republican convention this summer, choosing instead to rally supporters in his own new organization.

    Bad news is likely to continue to mount for the far right.

    Today, Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis said that she would announce charging decisions in the investigation of the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia sometime during the fourth term of the state Superior Court, which begins July 11 and ends September 1. Tipping her hand that there will be at least some charges, she said she was announcing the timeline to allow the Sheriff’s Office and local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to prepare. “Open-source intelligence has indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke significant public reaction,” Willis wrote.

    Tomorrow, the civil rape trial of former president Trump will begin, in which writer E. Jean Carroll alleges that Trump raped her sometime between fall 1995 and spring 1996. No matter what happens at the trial’s conclusion, the information that will come out will almost certainly not make Trump look good to the suburban women he needs to win an election.

    In contrast to the circus of the rape trial tomorrow, President Joe Biden is apparently set to announce his reelection campaign, exactly four years after he announced in 2019, when he warned that the soul of the nation was at stake in the upcoming presidential election.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 25, 2023 (Tuesday)

    Exactly four years after he announced he would challenge then-president Donald Trump for the leadership of the United States, President Joe Biden today announced his reelection campaign, along with running mate Vice President Kamala Harris.

    The contrast between the 2019 announcement video and the one released today shows how both the country and Biden have changed over the past four years. The earlier video featured former vice president and presidential hopeful Biden alone. It began by focusing on Charlottesville, Virginia, and the promise of the Declaration of Independence, written by Charlottesville’s famous resident Thomas Jefferson, that all men are created equal. Biden claimed that while we haven’t always lived up to those ideas, we have never walked away from them. They are the foundation of who we are.

    In the video, Biden contrasted the ideals in the Declaration of Independence with the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis came out into the open and were met by “a courageous group of Americans.” The resulting clash took the life of counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer. Trump answered the horror over the riot by saying there were “some very fine people on both sides.”

    “With those words,” Biden said, “the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment,” he continued, “I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime.” We were in “a battle for the soul of this nation.” He urged us to remember who we are.

    Biden’s 2019 campaign video was a rallying cry to defend American values from those who were trying to destroy them. Now, four years later, after winning the 2020 election by more than 7 million votes and working with Democrats and some Republicans to pass a raft of legislation to shore up the position of working- and middle-class Americans that rivals that of the New Deal, Biden’s message is different.

    Like the previous video, today’s message begins with footage of an attack on the United States, but this time it is the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to overturn our democracy and keep voters from putting Biden into the White House. But Biden is not the centerpiece of this video; the American people are. The video is a montage of Americans from all races and all walks of life, interspersed with images of President Biden, Vice President Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff talking to people, laughing with them, hugging them, supporting them. It is a picture of community.

    Over the image, Biden says that fighting for democracy has been the work of his first term. “This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue,” he says. He has fought “to protect our rights, to make sure that everyone in this country is treated equally, and that everyone is given a fair shot at making it.”

    In contrast, the video says, MAGA extremists are threatening our “bedrock freedoms.” They have taken aim at Social Security while cutting taxes on the rich, dictated healthcare decisions for women, banned books, and attacked gay marriage, all while undermining voting rights. We are still in a battle for the soul of the nation, Biden says. The question is whether in the years ahead, “we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer.”

    The video switches to upbeat music and faster energy as Biden says, “I know America. I know we’re good and decent people. I know we’re still a country that believes in honesty and respect, and treating each other with dignity. That we’re a nation where we give hate no safe harbor. We believe that everyone is equal, that everyone should be given a fair shot to succeed in this country.”

    “Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they have to defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedom. Stand up for the right to vote, and our civil rights. And this is our moment,” Biden says, as the music changes and the video shows images of Americans coming together, laughing and working together. “We the people will not be silenced,” Biden says.  

    “Let’s finish this job; I know we can,” the video ends. “Because this is the United States of America. And there’s nothing, simply nothing, we cannot do if we do it together.”

    “Let’s finish the job,” says writing across the screen.

    It is a revealing moment. If Biden announced a presidential run in 2019 to recall the United States to its principles, he is running in 2023 on an extraordinary record of legislation and the idea that he has restored competence to Washington. And unlike Republicans eager for their party’s nomination, he appears to revel in highlighting the people around him rather than hogging the spotlight, while he touts the work the government has done for ordinary Americans.

    Politico’s Eli Stokols observed that some major media outlets treated the president’s announcement as a less important story than a new revelation that yet another right-wing Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, didn't disclose that he sold real estate to a wealthy man with business before the Supreme Court, or information coming out about the ongoing lawsuits against the former president. Stokols suggested the Biden campaign was quite happy to let the Republicans tear themselves apart in public while the president stays in the background, permitting Americans to forget the federal government is there—as they were able to in the past—because it is operating competently and without drama.

    As if to honor that theme, Biden announced that Julie Chávez Rodríguez will serve as his campaign manager. The former director of the White House office of intergovernmental affairs, focused on working with state, local, and tribal officials, she has been described  by a colleague as “a get-sh*t-done staffer.” Rodríguez is the granddaughter of union activist César Chávez.

    Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who had left open the possibility that he would run as a progressive candidate, promptly threw his weight behind Biden and announced that he would support the incumbent president, suggesting the Democrats are unified behind Biden's reelection.

    The Republican National Committee responded to Biden’s announcement with an entirely computer generated video warning of what the world would look like if Biden were to be reelected: a dystopian future full of international and domestic crises (including an economic crash, which promptly led Twitter users to speculate that House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s threat to force a crisis over the debt ceiling was part of a larger plot to destroy Biden’s booming economy before the election). In keeping with the party's construction of false narratives, the “news reports” in the ad are fake; the images are computer generated.

    MSNBC’s Steve Benen notes that the ad “accidentally makes an important point.” Unable to find anything horrific about Biden’s actual record, “the RNC found it necessary to peddle literally fake, made-up images referring to events that have not occurred.”

    Bloomberg columnist Matt Yglesias tweeted: I feel like if you have to use fake [images] of hypothetical future bad things that might happen if the *incumbent president* stays in office, that itself tells you something.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 26, 2023 (Wednesday)

    [Warning: the third and fourth paragraphs of this piece refer to the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit.]

    Well, the Republicans did it. After middle-of-the-night negotiations to include more of the far right’s wish list, House Republicans passed a bill agreeing to a short-term raising of the debt ceiling, so long as it is accompanied by massive spending cuts and a rollback of Biden’s major accomplishments. The bill squeaked through by a vote of 217 to 215, mostly along party lines. Four extremist Republicans voted no because they believed the measure didn’t go far enough to slash spending.

    The administration reiterated that it would not negotiate over paying the nation’s bills. “In our history, we have never defaulted on our debt or failed to pay our bills,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “Congressional Republicans must act immediately and without conditions to avoid default and ensure that the full faith and credit of the United States is not put at risk. That is their job. Economists have warned that default could spark a dangerous financial crisis, lead to a recession costing millions of Americans their jobs, endanger hard-working Americans’ retirement savings, and increase long-term federal borrowing costs, adding to deficits and debt. We are not a deadbeat nation.”

    “I am here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” E. Jean Carroll said in court today for the former president’s civil trial for rape. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I am here to try to get my life back.” Carroll offered a detailed account of what she says was Trump’s attack nearly 30 years ago, an attack that warped her life.

    While she testified, Trump attacked Carroll on social media. The judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, warned Trump’s lawyer that his client’s statement was “entirely inappropriate,” saying he was trying to influence the jury. Any more commentary might open up “a new source of potential liability,” Kaplan said. The lawyer said he would do the best he could to silence Trump, but later in the day, Trump posted another attack and his son Eric Trump followed suit.

    “I wanted to address my senators, Cruz and Cornyn,” Amanda Zurawski told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary today at a hearing on reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. Zurawski’s water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy, making it impossible for her fetus to survive. Because of the vague and extreme antiabortion bill Texas lawmakers had passed, her health care providers refused to treat her so long as the fetus had a heartbeat, denying her an abortion. Zurawski developed deadly sepsis and, after giving birth to a stillborn daughter, spent three days in intensive care as doctors worked to save her life.

    Zurawski said she wanted the two Texas Republican senators to know “that what happened to me I think most people in this room would agree was horrific. But it’s a direct result of the policies they support. I nearly died on their watch, and…I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future. And it’s because of the policies that they support.”

    Neither Cruz nor Cornyn showed up to hear her. Cornyn later said Zurawski should consider suing her doctors for misinterpreting the law. Zurawski responded: “[M]y physician and my team of health care professionals that I saw over the course of three days, while I was repeatedly turned away from health care access, made the decision to not provide an abortion because that’s what they felt they had to do under Texas’ law…. And that will continue to happen and it is continuing to happen, and it’s not a result of misinterpretation. It’s the result of confusion, and the confusion is because [of] the way the law is written.”

    Today, the Walt Disney Company sued Florida governor Ron DeSantis over his “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” and attack free speech. Disney’s former chief executive officer last year spoke out against the governor’s law prohibiting teachers from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity.

    “For more than half a century,” the lawsuit reads,” Disney has made an immeasurable impact on Florida and its economy, establishing Central Florida as a top global tourist destination and attracting tens of millions of visitors to the State each year. People and families from every corner of the globe have traveled to Walt Disney World,” but that relationship is now in jeopardy, the lawsuit warns. “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

    Meanwhile, DeSantis is overseas on what has been billed as a trade mission.

    Tonight, the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals denied Trump’s last-ditch attempt to prevent former vice president Mike Pence from testifying before the grand jury investigating Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. The grand jury has issued a subpoena for Pence; Trump tried to argue that Pence’s testimony was barred because of executive privilege. The court of appeals disagreed.

    Today, two associates of former Trump ally Steve Bannon were sentenced to four years and three years in prison for soliciting donations for their “We Build the Wall” charity and then pocketing the money. Bannon was also charged in the case, but Trump pardoned him for his involvement in it before he left office.

    Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., today, President Joe Biden and President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea reaffirmed what Biden called the “ironclad” alliance between the two countries. They announced a new agreement, the so-called Washington Declaration, to increase cooperation in order to strengthen the message of nuclear deterrence conveyed to North Korea. This deterrence will include military training and exercises, the establishment of a joint nuclear consultative group, and the visit of a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea. “We’re not going to be stationing nuclear weapons on the peninsula, but we will have visits to ports, visits of nuclear submarines and things like that,” Biden said.

    “A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” he added, a public reassurance Yoon was hoping to receive when he arrived in Washington. Nervous about North Korean development of nuclear weapons, a majority of South Koreans want to develop their own nuclear weapons, a stance the U.S. strongly opposes.

    This official state visit, the second of the Biden presidency, reinforced the changing political landscape in the Indo-Pacific, where the United States seeks to support Japan and South Korea to counter the growing power of China. Since 2021, Korean businesses have invested more than $100 billion in the U.S., an investment that the White House says will create more than 40,000 new jobs here, while the U.S., in turn, is investing in South Korea. The presidents vowed to continue to work together to secure supply chains, develop clean energy, and cooperate on cybersecurity and emerging technologies.

    Biden and Yoon have met four times before, and the mood at the White House after the announcement was friendly and celebratory. At tonight’s dinner in President Yoon’s honor, the attendees gave the South Korean leader a standing ovation when he sang the first verse of Don McLean’s 1971 rock ballad “American Pie.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 27, 2023 (Thursday)

    Catie Edmondson and Carl Hulse in the New York Times yesterday noted that House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) cannot bring his conference together behind a budget plan. He wanted to pass a bill demanding major concessions from President Biden before the Republicans would agree to raise the debt ceiling, both to prove that he could get his colleagues behind a bill and to put pressure on the Biden administration to restore the old Republican idea that the only way to make the economy work is to slash taxes, business regulation, and government spending.

    McCarthy was pleased to have passed his measure with not a single vote to spare, but it appears he got the vote because everyone knew it was dead on arrival at the Senate. According to Edmonson and Hulse, McCarthy got the bill through only by begging his colleagues to ignore the provisions of the measure because it would never become law. He urged them to focus on the symbolic victory of showing Biden they could unite behind cuts.

    But today at the Brookings Institution, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan outlined a very different vision of the global economy and American economic leadership. First of all, just the fact this happened is significant: Sullivan is a national security advisor, and he was talking about economics. He outlined how Biden’s “core commitment,” “his daily direction” is “to integrate domestic policy and foreign policy.”

    Sullivan argued for a new economic approach to the challenges of the twenty-first century. The Biden administration is trying to establish “a fairer, more durable global economic order, for the benefit of ourselves and for people everywhere.”

    The U.S. faces economic challenges, he noted, many of which have been created by the economic ideology that has shaped U.S. policy for the past 40 years. The idea that markets would spread capital to where it was most needed to create an efficient and effective economy has been proven wrong, Sullivan said. The U.S. cut taxes and slashed business regulations, privatized public projects, and pushed free trade on principle with the understanding that all growth was good growth and that if we lost infrastructure and manufacturing, we could make up those losses in finance, for example.

    As countries lowered their economic barriers and became more closely integrated with each other, they would also become more open and peaceful.

    But that’s not how it played out. Privileging finance over fundamental economic growth was a mistake. The U.S. lost supply chains and entire industries as jobs moved overseas, while countries like China discarded markets in favor of artificially subsidizing their economies. Rather than ushering in world peace, the market-based system saw an aggressive China and Russia both expanding their international power. At the same time, climate change accelerated without countries making much effort to address it. And, most of all, the unequal growth of the older system has undermined democracy.

    Biden has attempted to counter the weaknesses of the previous economic system by focusing on building capacity to produce and innovate, resilience to withstand natural disasters and geopolitical shocks, and inclusiveness to rebuild the American middle class and greater opportunity for working people around the world.

    After two years, the results have been “remarkable.”

    Large-scale investment in semiconductor and clean energy production has jumped 20-fold since 2019, with private money following government seed money to mean about $3.5 trillion in public and private investment will flow into the economy in the next decade. Building domestic capacity will bring supply chains home and create jobs.

    But this vision is not about isolating the United States from other countries. Indeed, much of the speech reinforced U.S. support for the positions of the European Union.

    Instead, the U.S. is encouraging our allies—including developing nations—to build similarly to increase our united economic strengths and to enable the world to address climate change together, a field that offers huge potential for economic growth. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with 13 Indo-Pacific nations is designed to create international economic cooperation in that region, and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, which includes Barbados, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay, is designed to do the same here in the Americas. The U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technology Council and our trilateral coordination with Japan and Korea are part of the same economic program.

    With this economic approach, the U.S. does not seek to cut ties to China, but rather aims to cut the risks associated with supply chains based in China by investing in our own capacities, and to push for a level playing field for our workers and companies. The U.S. has “a very substantial trade and investment relationship” with China that set a new record last year, and the U.S. is looking not to create conflict but to “manage competition responsibly” and “work together on global challenges like climate, like macroeconomic stability, health security, and food security.” “But,” he said, “China has to be willing to play its part.”

    In today’s world, Sullivan said, trade policy is not just about the tariff deals that business leaders have criticized the administration for neglecting. It is about a larger economic strategy both at home and abroad to build economies that offer rising standards of living for working people.

    The administration is now focusing on labor rights, climate change, and banking security in this larger picture. Through organizations like the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment the administration hopes to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars in financing in the next seven years to build infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries and to relieve debt there.

    “The world needs an international economic system that works for our wage-earners, works for our industries, works for our climate, works for our national security, and works for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries,” Sullivan said. That means replacing the idea of free markets alone with “targeted and necessary investments in places that private markets are ill-suited to address on their own.” Rather than simply adjusting tariff rates, it means international cooperation.

    And, Sullivan said, “it means returning to the core belief we first championed 80 years ago: that America should be at the heart of a vibrant, international financial system that enables partners around the world to reduce poverty and enhance shared prosperity. And that a functioning social safety net for the world’s most vulnerable countries is essential to our own core interests.”

    This strategy, he said, “is the surest path to restoring the middle class, to producing a just and effective clean-energy transition, to securing critical supply chains, and, through all of this, to repairing faith in democracy itself.” He called for bipartisan support for this approach to the global economy.

    Sullivan noted that the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” came from President John F. Kennedy, not from later supply-side ideologues who used it to defend their tax cuts and business deregulation. “President Kennedy wasn’t saying what’s good for the wealthy is good for the working class,” Sullivan said, “He was saying we’re all in this together.”

    Sullivan quoted Kennedy further: “If one section of the country is standing still, then sooner or later a dropping tide drops all the boats. That’s true for our country. That’s true for our world. [And] economically, over time, we’re going to rise—or fall—together.”

    “And that goes for the strength of our democracies as well as for the strength of our economies.”

    Foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen noted that David Wessel of Brookings asked Sullivan for a quick summary of this new economic vision. Sullivan answered: “We’re at a moment now where we need to build capacity to build the goods & invent the technologies of [the] future & we’re going to make the investments to do that—us, +everyone who wants to be in on [the] deal. & then we’re going to build the resilience we need…so that no natural disaster or geopolitical shock can stop us from getting things we need when we need them….”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
       April 28, 2023 (Friday)
     
    According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, legislatures in at least ten states have set out to weaken federal child labor laws. In the first three months of 2023, legislators in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota introduced bills to weaken the regulations that protect children in the workplace, and in March, Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law repealing restrictions for workers younger than 16.

    Those in favor of the new policies argue that fewer restrictions on child labor will protect parents’ rights, but in fact the new labor measures have been written by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a Florida-based right-wing think tank. FGA is working to dismantle the federal government to get rid of business regulations. It has focused on advancing its ideology through the states for a while now, but the argument that its legislation protects parental rights has recently enabled them to wedge open a door to attack regulations more broadly.  
     
    FGA is part of a larger story about Republicans’ attempt to undermine federal power in order to enact a radical agenda through their control of the states.
     
    That goal has been part of the Republican agenda since the 1980s, as leaders who hated federal regulation of business, provision of a social safety net, and protection of civil rights recognized that a strong majority of Americans actually quite liked those things and getting Congress to repeal them would be a terribly hard sell. Instead, Republicans used their control of federal courts to weaken the power of the federal government and send power back to the states.

    Historically, states have been far easier than the much larger, more diverse federal government for a few wealthy men to dominate. After 1986, Republicans began to restrict voting in the states they controlled, giving themselves an advantage, and after 2010 they focused on taking over the states through gerrymandering. This has enabled them to stop Congress from enacting popular legislation and has created quite radical state legislatures. Currently, in 29 of them, Republicans have supermajorities, permitting them to legislate however they wish.

    The process of taking control of the states by choosing who can vote got stronger today when the North Carolina Supreme Court, now controlled by Republicans, revisited an earlier ruling concerning partisan gerrymandering. Overruling the previous decision, the court green-lighted partisan gerrymandering, opening the door for even more extreme gerrymanders in the future. The court also okayed voter restrictions that primarily affect Black people.

    Gutting the federal government and throwing power to the states makes it easier for business leaders to cozy up to legislators and slash business regulations. It also enables a radical minority to enact its own worldview despite the wishes of the state. This dynamic is very clear over abortion rights and gun safety.

    Last June, quite dramatically, the Supreme Court overturned federal protection of the right to an abortion guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision the right-wing court said that decisions about abortion rights belonged to voters at the state level.

    But as the last ten months have made clear, the right wing does not really intend to let the voters of the states make decisions that contradict right-wing ideology.

    After the Dobbs decision, Republican-dominated legislatures immediately began to restrict the right to abortion, although it remains popular in the country and voters have rejected extreme abortion restrictions in every special election held since the decision. Now Republican legislators in Ohio are trying to head off an abortion rights amendment scheduled for a popular vote in November by requiring 60% of voters, rather than 50%, to amend the state constitution.

    Gun safety shows the same pattern. A new Fox News poll out yesterday shows that 87% of voters favor background checks for gun purchases, 81% favor making 21 the minimum age to buy a gun, 80% want mental health care checks on all gun buyers, 80% want flags for people who are dangerous to themselves or others, 77% want a 30-day waiting period to buy a gun, and 61% want an assault weapons ban.

    And yet, Republican majorities in state legislatures are rapidly rolling back gun laws. Republican lawmakers in the Tennessee legislature went so far recently as to expel two young Black representatives when they encouraged protesters after the majority quashed their attempts to introduce gun safety measures after a mass shooting in Nashville. But they were not alone. Last week, when the Nebraska senate passed a  permitless concealed carry law, Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, shouted “Shame!” multiple times. She has since been “barred and banned” from the Nebraska statehouse.

    The attempt of a radical minority to enforce their will on the rest of us, who constitute a majority, by stealing control of the states and then, through them, control of the federal government is precisely what the Confederates tried to do before the Civil War: it is no accident that one of the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, carried a replica of a Confederate battle flag.

    And yet, in the wake of the Civil War, when former Confederates tried to dominate their Black neighbors despite the defeat of their ideology on the battlefields, Congress tried to make it impossible to pervert our democracy by capturing the states. It passed and in 1868 the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, putting into our fundamental laws the principle that the federal government trumps state power.

    It reads, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” and it gives Congress the “power to enforce…the provisions of this article.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 29, 2023 (Saturday)

    A self-portrait from our trip up the coast a few weeks ago. Perfect commentary on the solution to a very long week.

    I’ll see you tomorrow.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 36,568
      April 30, 2023 (Sunday)
     
    Thanks to Heather Timmons, White House editor for Reuters, whom I met a lifetime ago in summer 2016 as we tried to figure out what on earth was going on in the Republican Party, I got to hear President Biden’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in person last night. Speaking in the giant hall in the Washington Hilton where the event was held, the president was relaxed and funny, poking fun at himself, entrepreneur Elon Musk, former Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson, and House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Finally, he embraced the Dark Brandon meme that suggests he has a laser-eyed alter-ego who ingeniously defeats his opponents.
     
    Biden also joked about his age, most memorably when he said he believes in the First Amendment that protects freedom of the press, and “ not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it.”
     
    But right now, the First Amendment itself is no joke. A member of the U.S. press corps is in prison in Russia on trumped-up charges of “espionage.” Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was covering Russia’s mercenary military organization the Wagner Group when Russian officials arrested him on March 29. The U.S. State Department has called him “wrongfully detained,” which means the government sees him as a political hostage.
     
    In contrast, around 2,600 people showed up last night to witness humorist Roy Wood Jr. make fun of the president and vice president to their faces. It was theater, but theater that demonstrates an important principle: our government has no right to silence our criticism of it.
     
    The Framers of our government enshrined the right to freedom of the press in our Constitution along with the right to gather together, to practice any religion we want (including none at all), the right to say what we want, and the right to ask our government to do (or not to do) things. After writing a new constitution that created a far stronger national government than existed under the Articles of Confederation, which had created the government since 1777 (although the Articles were not ratified until 1781), the Framers designed the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights to hold back government power.

    The power to control what citizens can publish about the government would give leaders the power to destroy democracy. A free press is imperative to keep people informed about what leaders are doing. Lose it, and those in power can do whatever they wish without accountability.

    From the beginning of the American republic, though, the press was openly partisan. This meant the president worked quite closely with newspaper reporters from his own party, while ignoring, or sometimes even trying to silence, his opponents. By the 1880s the country had begun to turn against the partisan press and to “independent” newspapers, and the number of papers took off.

    No longer advocates for a party position and eager to attract readers, reporters began to look for new, exciting stories. And not much was more exciting in 1886 than a marriage in the White House. On June 2 of that year, 49-year-old President Grover Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom, who had been his unofficial ward, in the Blue Room.

    Reporters had dogged their courtship (many thought he was interested in her more age-appropriate mother), and they flocked after the newlyweds, finally prompting the irritated president to ask his personal secretary to keep them away. But while the president was angry at the scrutiny, editors recognized a good story, and by the end of Cleveland’s first term, a reporter had figured out he could just stay at the White House and write columns based on interviews with people coming from meetings with the president. Other papers immediately stationed their own people at the White House.

    In Cleveland’s second term, which started in 1893, his private secretary worked directly with the press. Through the next few presidencies, the role of press secretary began to take shape. Theodore Roosevelt relished attention from reporters. When his shy successor William Howard Taft shunned them, they complained he was hiding things.

    So, shortly after he took office in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson held the nation’s first press conference, only to complain both that reporters were quoting statements he considered off the record, and that the conferences were a free-for-all in which anyone could shout out questions, often ones Wilson found Irritating (like his opinion about Groundhog Day).

    In 1914, rumors circulated that Congress might begin to choose which reporters would be allowed at Wilson’s press conferences. In alarm, eleven White House reporters organized the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA). In 1921, as part of their annual election of officers, fifty members of the growing WHCA held a dinner. With former newspaperman Warren G. Harding in the White House, they were in a celebratory mood, despite Prohibition (which they ignored). Taking their cue from the famous Gridiron Club, which held dinners where they roasted politicians, WHCA members poked fun at the administration and Congress.

    While at first the reporters simply wanted access to the president, as the WHCA became an established force it came to work for transparency more generally, recognizing that journalists are the main eyes and voice of the people. It now protects press passes for journalists who regularly cover the White House and assigns seats in the briefing room. It also funds scholarships for aspiring journalists and gives journalism awards; the annual dinner is their main fundraising event.

    In the modern era there is plenty of criticism over the glitzy dinner and what seems too much chumminess between journalists and lawmakers. But the demonstration that the government cannot censor the press is valuable. For the four years of the past administration, the president refused to attend the dinner and barred his staff and other officials from attending.

    The same president called the press the “enemy of the people,” encouraging his supporters to attack reporters. Angry at negative stories about him from Voice of America, Trump replaced the independent editor of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA, with Michael Pack, a close ally of Trump strategist Steve Bannon. Pack set out to turn the channel into a pro-Trump mouthpiece. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell later concluded that Pack’s firing, disciplining, and investigating of journalists who didn’t toe the line violated the First Amendment.  

    The dance between the government and the press is intricate and full of missteps, but last night, at an event where journalists wore pins that read, “I Stand With Evan,” this historian found the public reminder that the president must answer to journalists, with grace if at all possible, oddly moving.

    _____________________________________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
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