Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 3, 2023 (Sunday)

    It's been a while since a night off, so let's take one.

    I'm still on the road, but back home, traps are coming up as winter comes into view....

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 4, 2023 (Monday)

    When my friend Joanne Freeman and I were hosting the Now & Then podcast, it became a joke at our weekly planning meetings that I almost always suggested we should focus the following week’s episode on tax policy. Since it appeared that other people have a lower tolerance for tax policy than I do, we usually didn’t end up landing on that topic.

    But I remain fascinated by it. Tax policy shows what a society values.

    Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Moore v. United States. The case illustrates today’s Supreme Court’s tendency to hear cases based on fictional stories in order to shape society to a right-wing ideology.

    As Lisa Needham points out in Public Notice today, the plaintiffs in the case, Charles and Kathleen Moore, have presented themselves as “minority shareholders without any role in” the management of an Indian company that works to provide power tools to small farmers in India. But according to Ann E. Marimow and Julie Zauzmer Weil of the Washington Post, Charles Moore was a director of the company from April 2012 until March 2017, had contributed about $250,000 to the company and been repaid at 12% interest, and in 2019, the year after he filed the lawsuit, sold about 20% of his holdings for close to $300,000.

    The court is supposed to decide cases based only on facts, not fiction, but this court has shown a willingness to overlook fictions that enable actions the majority wants to take. As Needham notes, earlier this year it decided 303 Creative v. Elenis protecting a web designer from having to make a wedding website for a gay couple, even though it turned out that the alleged gay client in the case was actually a man who had been married to a woman for years,  had never asked anyone to design a website for a wedding, and had no idea he had been named in the case.

    Such lies permit these test cases to get before the court, Needham writes, teeing up court decisions to change the United States.

    These cases, based on fictional accounts, dovetail with the fictional history in amicus briefs. These are so-called friend-of-the-court briefs from someone who is not a party in the case to offer analysis of the issues. Yesterday, Heidi Przybyla of Politico showed how right-wing lawyers connected to Leonard Leo, co-chair of the board of the activist right-wing Federalist Society, have filed amicus briefs that invent a past that the right-wing justices then lift into the decisions themselves to shape modern society.

    The Moore v. U.S. case concerns the federal government’s ability to tax wealthy people. The Moores argue that the federal government cannot tax wealth until it has been “realized.” That is, increased value of stock, for example, cannot be taxed until it is realized through that stock’s sale.

    According to Ian Millhiser of Vox, what is really at stake is the ability of the government to tax the wealthy to begin to address the extremes of wealth that have expanded since 1981.

    Forestalling the use of tax policy to address how drastically our laws have redistributed wealth upward fits with Republican lawmakers’ exclusive focus on addressing the nation’s budget deficit by cutting services. At last month’s Republican presidential primary debate, for example, the candidates expressed support for cutting Social Security benefits, with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley telling the audience that “any candidate who tells you that they’re not going to take on entitlements is not being serious.”  

    But it is tax cuts, primarily those of presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, that have been the primary drivers of the budget deficit, so it would seem logical to end them, especially since they have never boosted the economy as promised. And yet, rather than ending them, the Republicans are eager to extend them. They embrace the idea that the best course for the nation is to slash taxes and services and to concentrate wealth at the top of the economy.

    Ironically, it was the early Republican Party that set out the blueprint for rejecting that idea. When the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 created a crisis in the cash-strapped U.S. Treasury, Republicans in Congress invented the nation’s first national income tax.

    Initially, they levied a 3% tax on income over $800; in 1862, concerned that the level of taxation necessary to pay for the war would be too much for most Americans to bear, they created a progressive income tax, taxing income over $600 at 3% and income over $10,000 at 5%. “The weight must be distributed equally,” Representative Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT) said, “not upon each man an equal amount, but a tax proportionate to his ability to pay.” In 1864, Congress revised those numbers upward.

    Morrill claimed that the federal government had a right to “demand” 99% of a man’s property for an urgent necessity. When the nation required it, he said, “the property of the people…belongs to the Government.”

    With their money behind the war effort, Americans became more and more committed to their nation. As the war costs mounted, far from objecting to taxes, Americans concerned about the growing national debt asked their congressmen to raise them. In 1864, Senator John P. Hale (R-NH) said: “The condition of the country is singular…I venture to say it is an anomaly in the history of the world. What do the people of the United States ask of this Congress? To take off taxes? No, sir, they ask you to put them on. The universal cry of this people is to be taxed.”

    The Civil War income tax expired in 1872, and by the 1890s, after money had concentrated at the top of the economy, wealthy industrialists and others thriving in the new economy rejected their earlier understanding of tax policy.

    In 1894, in the midst of a depression that was crushing farmers and workers, Democrats in Congress levied a 2% tax on incomes over $4,000. Immediately, Republicans said the measure was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to the federal government and would force states like New York, which had financial centers, to pay more in taxes than states like Mississippi. “The income tax was born of a mixture of sectionalism, communism, and demagogy,” wrote the Pittsburgh Gazette.

    In 1895 a staunchly pro-business Supreme Court agreed with opponents of the tax, deciding in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Company that the income tax was unconstitutional, giving far too much power to the federal government. In 1909, as Democrats and progressive Republicans continued to call for an income tax to address the concentration of wealth, those hoping to kill the idea once and for all proposed a constitutional amendment for one, thinking it could never be ratified.

    They were wrong. State legislatures backed the Sixteenth Amendment, which became part of the U.S. Constitution in 1913, an important symbol of the Progressive Era.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 5, 2023 (Tuesday)

    A new filing today by Special Counsel Jack Smith in the case United States of America v. Donald J. Trump for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election shows Smith’s office establishing that Trump has a longstanding pattern of refusing to accept election results he dislikes.

    As early as 2012, the filing notes, Trump baselessly alleged that voting machines had switched votes intended for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. In the 2016 campaign he “claimed repeatedly, with no basis, that there was widespread voter fraud,” and publicly refused to commit to accepting the results of that election. This pattern continued in 2020, but in that election he took active steps to seize power.

    The filing introduced information that Trump, an agent, and an unindicted co-conspirator tried to start a riot at the TCF Center in Detroit as vote counting showed Biden taking the lead. As Josh Kovensky of Talking Points Memo points out, this scheme sounds much like the Brooks Brothers Riot of 2000 that stopped vote counting in Miami-Dade County in Florida. Roger Stone was a participant in the Brooks Brothers Riot; in 2020 he was working to keep Trump in office.

    Smith’s team shows how this pattern continued to play out in the 2020 election, with Trump urging supporters like the Proud Boys to back him, falsely asserting that the election had been stolen, and attacking former supporters who denied that the election had been stolen. The pattern has continued until the present, with Trump calling those who were found guilty of offenses related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol “hostages” and claiming they were “treated horribly.”

    Smith recounts these facts to establish Trump’s motive and intent on January 6, but his identification of a longstanding pattern indicates it would be a grave mistake to think Trump has any intention of campaigning fairly or accepting any result in 2024 other than his return to the White House.

    New House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who has endorsed Trump for president and was a key organizer of the congressional effort to keep Trump in office, has promised to release all the surveillance footage from the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Trump supporters insist that the full tapes will reveal that the attack was not as bad as the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol showed. Johnson said that the tapes must be shared publicly for “transparency.”

    Today, Johnson supported Trump’s message about January 6 when he said that he was making sure the faces of rioters are blurred in the surveillance footage. "We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don't want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ [Department of Justice] and to have other, you know, concerns and problems,"  he said. Johnson’s spokesperson quickly walked back the comment, saying Johnson meant to say that faces were blurred to prevent “all forms of retaliation against private citizens from any non-governmental actors.”

    Also today, Kash Patel, who served on Trump’s national security team and is widely expected to return in a second Trump administration, expanded the authoritarian threats Trump people have been making to include the media. On former Trump ally Steve Bannon’s podcast, Patel promised that the Trump team would fill government positions from top to bottom with loyalists and would use the Department of Justice to go after those perceived to be Trump’s enemies.

    “We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government but in the media,” Patel said. “Yes, we’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections—we’re going to come after you. Whether it’s criminally or civilly, we’ll figure that out.”

    Yesterday, former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), who is promoting her new book, Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, called out Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) for his continuing hold on military appointments that kept more than 450 routine promotions from taking effect over the past ten months. Tuberville claimed his refusal to permit the nominees’ confirmations was an attempt to change Pentagon policy of permitting leave for service members in states that ban abortion to obtain abortion care elsewhere. But on NPR yesterday, Cheney wondered: “Why is Tommy Tuberville doing that? Is he holding those positions open so that Donald Trump can fill them?”

    Today, under great pressure from members of his own party who worried the Democrats would change the rules to weaken the power of the Senate minority, Tuberville released his hold on most of the nominees. The Senate promptly confirmed 425 of them.

    Still, Tuberville retained holds on 11 officers of the most senior rank. According to congressional reporter for Punchbowl News Andrew Desiderio, the positions left vacant are commander of Pacific Air Forces, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Air Component Command for the United States Indo-Pacific Command, commander for Air Combat Command, the head of the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program, the head of Northern Command (which defends the United States and coordinates defenses with Canada, Mexico, and the Bahamas), the head of the U.S. Cyber Command, vice chief of staff of the Army, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, vice chief of Space Operations, and vice chief of Naval Operations.

    Last night, Cheney explained to political commentator and television host Rachel Maddow exactly what a second Trump presidency would look like, Cheney said: "He would take those people who are the most radical, the most dangerous, who had the proposals that were the most dangerous, and he will put them in positions of supreme power. That's a risk that we simply cannot take."

    Mark Joyella of Forbes took note of Maddow’s introduction last night, in which the host stressed the importance of protecting democracy. She began by emphasizing how much she and Cheney disagreed about everything in politics, so much so that it was as if they were on different planets at war with each other.

    Maddow made that point, she said, because “in civic terms, in sort of American citizenship terms, I think it's really important how much we disagree. It's important how far apart we are in every policy issue imaginable. It is important that Liz Cheney is infinity and I am negative infinity on the ideological number line. It's important because that tells you how serious and big something has to be to put us, to put me and Liz Cheney, together on the same side of something in American life.”

    The Rachel Maddow Show was the most watched news show on cable television last night, with 3.15 million viewers. The Fox News Channel’s show Hannity, hosted by personality Sean Hannity, had just under 2 million viewers.

    It seems clear Americans are waking up to Trump’s threats to stack the government with loyalists, weaponize the Justice Department and military, deport 10 million people, and prosecute those he perceives to be his enemies in politics and the media. Interviewing Trump tonight, Hannity tried to downplay Trump’s statements about his authoritarian plans for a second term by getting him to commit to staying within the normal bounds of a president should he be elected in 2024. The first time he was asked, Trump sidestepped the question. So Hannity asked again. “Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” he asked.

    “Except for day one,” Trump responded.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 6, 2023 (Wednesday)

    In the Washington Post today, Marianne LeVine, Isaac Arnsdorf, and Josh Dawsey reported that the Trump camp is eager to get people to stop focusing on Trump’s authoritarian talk, noting that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says the presidential candidate was just joking when he said he would be a dictator on the first day of a return to the White House. While the Republican base appears to like Trump’s threats against the people they have come to hate, two Trump advisers told the reporters that “recent stories about his plans for a second term are not viewed as helpful for the general election.”

    Republicans have also moved quickly to cut ties with Florida Republican Party chair Christian Ziegler, who is under police investigation for rape. Ziegler’s wife, Bridget Ziegler, co-founded Moms for Liberty, an organization that has focused on removing from schools books that they find objectionable, generally books by or about racial or ethnic minorities or LGBTQ+ people. Often Moms for Liberty members have implied, or even claimed, that those trying to protect school libraries are sexual predators or “groomers.” Ziegler herself has been active in shaping anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the state.

    But the police and court documents about the case revealed that the Zieglers and the woman Ziegler allegedly raped had participated in a three-way sexual relationship in the past. The rape allegedly occurred after they had set up another encounter that Bridget could not make. The woman then canceled, telling Ziegler “I was mainly in it for her.” He went to her home anyway.

    The story of a key anti-LGBTQ+ activist engaging in same-sex activity as part of a threesome sent Moms for Liberty hurrying to say that Bridget Ziegler was no longer on their board (although both Zieglers were still on their advisory board) and purge her name from their website. And though no charges have yet been filed, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has called on Christian Ziegler to resign from his position at the head of the state Republican Party.

    The Zieglers helped to tie the Republican Party to Moms for Liberty shortly after the organization formed in January 2021, and DeSantis was very much on board, apparently seeing their message of taking the war against “woke” to the schools as a political winner. But, as Amanda Marcotte pointed out in Salon, the 2022 midterms revealed that most voters did not like the extremism of that group and that it was a political liability.

    The fact that DeSantis is dropping his former ally Ziegler so fast suggests that DeSantis is eager to divorce himself from both the story and from the extremism of Moms for Liberty.

    The Trump Republicans took another hit today as well, when a grand jury in the state of Nevada charged six people who falsely posed as electors in 2020 in order to file fake electoral votes for Trump to replace the state’s real votes for now-President Joe Biden. The six Republicans charged with filing false documents include the chair and the vice chair of the Nevada Republican Party. If convicted, they face up to nine years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

    Nevada is the third state to charge the fake electors with crimes. Georgia and Michigan have also done so.

    Ten fake electors in Wisconsin today settled a civil lawsuit over their own participation in Trump’s false-elector scheme. The settlement involved correcting the historical record. The ten agreed to withdraw their paperwork with the false information, explain in writing to the federal offices that the filings had been “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results,” and acknowledge that Biden won the 2020 election. Going forward, they agreed never again to serve as presidential electors in an election in which Trump is running.

    But while there are signs that even leading Republicans recognize that the extremism of the Trump Republicans is unpopular in the country, Trump Republicans are tightening their hold on Congress. Today former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that he will resign from Congress at the end of this month. Far-right MAGA Republicans ousted McCarthy from the speaker’s chair in October.

    Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a McCarthy ally who took over as acting House speaker after McCarthy’s removal, announced yesterday that he had changed his plans from earlier this year and will not run for reelection.    

    While hardly moderates—both refused to work with Democrats either to pass legislation or to elect a speaker—they appear to be ceding ground to the MAGA Republicans.

    Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone reported today that one of those MAGA Republicans, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), spoke freely Tuesday night at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., at a celebration for the National Association of Christian Lawmakers. Although the address was being livestreamed, Johnson apparently believed he was speaking privately. He told the audience that the Lord called him to be “a new Moses.”

    Johnson, an evangelical Christian, told the audience that the U.S. is “engaged in a battle between worldviews” and “a great struggle for the future of the Republic.” He said he believed far-right Christians would prevail.

    The influence of Trump is also evident in the Senate, where there is broad, bipartisan support for supplemental funding for Ukraine, but where Republicans are refusing to pass such a measure without attaching to it an immigration package that overrides current law, replacing it with Trump’s immigration plans. Such plans could not pass on their own, as Democrats would stop them in the Senate. But by attaching them to a bill that is imperative for national security, Republicans hope to force Biden into it.

    Democrats have repeatedly called for new immigration legislation, but their refusal to remake immigration policy as the hard-right wants has made Republicans balk. Now Democrats are still offering to negotiate a reasonable package, but as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said earlier this week: “I think there’s a misunderstanding on the part of Senator Schumer and some of our Democratic friends…. This is not a traditional negotiation, where we expect to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the border. This is a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental.”

    In a speech this afternoon—just a day after Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) finally permitted the Senate to fill 425 senior positions in the U.S. military and while he is still preventing 11 top-level positions from being filled—President Biden called it “stunning that we’ve gotten to this point…. Republicans in Congress…are willing to give [Russian president Vladimir] Putin the greatest gift he could hope for and abandon our global leadership not just to Ukraine, but beyond that.”

    “If Putin takes Ukraine, he won’t stop there,” Biden warned. “It’s important to see the long run here. He’s going to keep going. He’s made that pretty clear. If Putin attacks a NATO Ally—if he keeps going and then he attacks a NATO Ally—well, we’ve committed as a NATO member that we’d defend every inch of NATO territory. Then we’ll have something that we don’t seek and that we don’t have today: American troops fighting Russian troops—American troops fighting Russian troops if he moves into other parts of NATO.

    “Make no mistake: Today’s vote is going to be long remembered.  And history is going to judge harshly those who turn their back on freedom’s cause.”

    “Extreme Republicans are playing chicken with our national security, holding Ukraine’s funding hostage to their extreme partisan border policies,” he said.

    Biden reiterated that he and the Democrats are eager to pass new immigration legislation, but “Republicans think they can get everything they want without any bipartisan compromise.  That’s not the answer.... And now they’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process.” He begged Republicans to get past partisan divisions and step up to “our responsibilities as a leading nation in the world.”

    Hours later, Senate Republicans voted against the supplemental aid package.

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 7, 2023 (Thursday)

    On the sunny Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Messman Doris Miller had served breakfast aboard the USS West Virginia, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and was collecting laundry when the first of nine Japanese torpedoes hit the ship.

    In the deadly confusion, Miller reported to an officer, who told him to help move the ship’s mortally wounded captain off the bridge. Unable to move him far, Miller pulled the captain to shelter. Then another officer ordered Miller to pass ammunition to him as he started up one of the two abandoned anti-aircraft guns in front of the conning tower.

    Miller had not been trained to use the weapons because, as a Black man in the U.S. Navy, he was assigned to serve the white officers. But while the officer was distracted, Miller began to fire one of the guns. He fired it until he ran out of ammunition. Then he helped to move injured sailors to safety before he and the other survivors abandoned the West Virginia, which sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

    That night, the United States declared war on Japan. Japan declared war on America the next day, and four days later, on December 11, 1941, both Italy and Germany declared war on America. “The powers of the steel pact, Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, ever closely linked, participate from today on the side of heroic Japan against the United States of America,” Italian leader Benito Mussolini said. “We shall win.” Of course they would. Mussolini and Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, believed the Americans had been corrupted by Jews and Black Americans and could never conquer their own organized military machine.

    The steel pact, as Mussolini called it, was the vanguard of his new political ideology. That ideology was called fascism, and he and Hitler thought it would destroy democracy once and for all.

    Mussolini had been a socialist as a young man and had grown terribly frustrated at how hard it was to organize people. No matter how hard socialists tried, they seemed unable to convince ordinary people that they must rise up and take over the country’s means of production.

    The efficiency of World War I inspired Mussolini. He gave up on socialism and developed a new political theory that rejected the equality that defined democracy. He came to believe that a few leaders must take a nation toward progress by directing the actions of the rest. These men must organize the people as they had been organized during wartime, ruthlessly suppressing all opposition and directing the economy so that businessmen and politicians worked together. And, logically, that select group of leaders would elevate a single man, who would become an all-powerful dictator. To weld their followers into an efficient machine, they demonized opponents into an “other” that their followers could hate.

    Italy adopted fascism, and Mussolini inspired others, notably Germany's Hitler. Those leaders came to believe that their system was the ideology of the future, and they set out to destroy the messy, inefficient democracy that stood in their way.

    America fought World War II to defend democracy from fascism. And while fascism preserved hierarchies in society, democracy called on all people as equals. Of the more than 16 million Americans who served in the war, more than 1.2 million were African American men and women, 500,000 were Latinos, and more than 550,000 Jews were part of the military. Among the many ethnic groups who fought, Native Americans served at a higher percentage than any other ethnic group—more than a third of able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 joined the service—and among those 25,000 soldiers were the men who developed the famous “Code Talk,” based in tribal languages, that codebreakers never cracked.

    The American president at the time, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, hammered home that the war was about the survival of democracy. Fascists insisted that they were moving their country forward fast and efficiently—claiming the trains ran on time, for example, although in reality they didn’t—but FDR constantly noted that the people in Italy and Germany were begging for food and shelter from the soldiers of democratic countries.

    Ultimately, the struggle between fascism and democracy was the question of equality. Were all men really created equal as the Declaration of Independence said, or were some born to lead the rest, whom they held subservient to their will?

    Democracy, FDR reminded Americans again and again, was the best possible government. Thanks to armies made up of men and women from all races and ethnicities, the Allies won the war against fascism, and it seemed that democracy would dominate the world forever.

    But as the impulse of WWII pushed Americans toward a more just and inclusive society after it, those determined not to share power warned their supporters that including people of color and women as equals in society would threaten their own liberty. Those reactionary leaders rode that fear into control of our government, and gradually they chipped away the laws that protected equality. Now, once again, democracy is under attack by those who believe some people are better than others.

    The once-grand Republican Party has been captured by the right wing. It has lined up behind former president Donald Trump and his cronies, who have vowed to replace the nonpartisan civil service with loyalists and to weaponize the Department of Justice and the military against those they perceive as enemies. They have promised to incarcerate and deport millions of immigrants and children of immigrants, send federal troops into Democratic cities, ban Muslims, silence LGBTQ+ Americans, prosecute journalists, and end abortion across the country. They will put in place an autocracy in which a powerful leader and his chosen loyalists make the rules under which the rest of us must live.

    Will we permit the destruction of American democracy on our watch?

    When America came under attack before, people like Doris Miller refused to let that happen. For all that American democracy still discriminated against him, it gave him room to stand up for the concept of human equality—and he laid down his life for it. Promoted to cook after the Navy sent him on a publicity tour, Miller was assigned to a new ship, the USS Liscome Bay, which was struck by a Japanese torpedo on November 24, 1943. It sank within minutes, taking two thirds of the crew, including Miller, with it.

    I hear a lot these days about how American democracy is doomed and the reactionaries will win. Maybe. But the beauty of our system is that it gives us people like Doris Miller.

    Even better, it makes us people like Doris Miller.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 8, 2023 (Friday)

    You all are in trouble, because I am home tonight from ten weeks on the road and am taking the night for myself, writing about one of the Very Cool Things I learned in my travels. I expect there will be more stories along these lines in the next several weeks.

    Ninety years ago today, on Friday, December 8, 1933, in the first year of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, the Advisory Committee to the Treasury on Fine Arts met for four hours in Washington, D.C., with museum directors from all over the country and leaders from the art world. For the past nine months, the administration had been building a “New Deal” for the American people, using the government to help ordinary Americans in the midst of the Great Depression.

    Together with the Democrats in Congress, the administration had launched the Civilian Conservation Corps that put young men to work planting trees, fighting fires, and maintaining wilderness trails. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration provided work and cash relief for unemployed workers; the Agricultural Adjustment Administration boosted farm prices by reducing agricultural surpluses, while the Farm Credit Act made it easier for farmers to borrow. The Civil Works Administration put more than 4 million unemployed Americans to work building 44,000 miles of new roads, 1,000 miles of new water mains, and building or improving 4,000 schools.

    Now it was time to help artists. Inspired by the 1920s public art movement in Mexico in which young artists were paid to decorate public buildings, FDR’s former classmate George Biddle suggested to the president that artists could be hired to “paint murals depicting the social ideals of the new administration and contemporary life on the walls of public buildings.”

    This idea dovetailed with the goal of the administration to tap into the skills of ordinary Americans in rebuilding the country by making sure people had work. After all, FERA administrator Harry L. Hopkins said, artists needed “to eat just like other people.” He promised $1,039,000 to be disbursed by the Treasury “for the purpose of alleviating the distress of the American artists” while decorating public property with world-class art.

    At the Washington, D.C., meeting, the attendees discussed how to “carry…forward the world of encouraging the fine arts as a function of the Federal Government.” Their first speaker was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who “expressed her sympathy with the idea of the Government’s employing artists,” and all the other speakers followed suit. The following Monday, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) opened its doors, and artists lined up outside government offices to apply. By Saturday, December 16, artists were receiving checks. When the project ended four months later, 3,749 artists had been on the payroll, producing more than 15,000 paintings, sculptures, and public murals.

    The pilot project for the PWAP was Coit Tower in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill neighborhood, located in the city’s Pioneer Park. The 210-foot Art Deco tower of unpainted concrete had been completed and dedicated in honor of volunteer firefighters on October 8, 1933 (perhaps not coincidentally, the date of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871). When the building was finished, it had 3,691 square feet of blank concrete wall space.

    By January 1934, thanks to the PWAP, twenty-six San Francisco artists and nineteen of their assistants were transforming that blank space into frescoes and murals depicting California life. Several of the artists had worked in Mexico with muralist Diego Rivera as part of the socially conscious mural movement of 1920s Mexico and adopted his techniques, creating frescoes in which the colors became part of the wall as they dried. To keep the colors at Coit Tower uniform, one artist-assistant ground the color pigments for all the different frescoes.

    But while they admired Rivera’s art, the New Deal artists, for the most part, focused not on revolution, as he did, but on the possibilities of the country’s new approach to government. Roosevelt was backing artists, and they backed him, painting not about revolution but about restoring healthy social and economic conditions in the United States.

    By the time the PWAP got under way, the exciting artistic experiments of the early twentieth century that had brought Picasso’s cubism, for example, had begun to seem foreign and alienating, and artists had begun to turn toward representational art in a national style. The government’s requirement that the public art be about the “American scene” in American style for American people built on that shift. Artists in the PWAP painted either as “Regionalists,” who painted rural America, or “Social Realists,” who painted the cities. The Regionalists tended to celebrate the nation, while Social Realists—most of whom came from New York City—tended to critique it, but both groups found intelligence, power, and beauty in the ordinary people and the ordinary scenes they painted.

    Coit Tower showed San Francisco’s people: striking workers, farmers, cowboys, travelers reading newspapers, news stenographers, chauffeurs, a rich man being held up at gunpoint, car accidents. People of color and women were underrepresented but not entirely ignored in this celebration of the possibilities of American life under the administration's new policies (one mural had an oil can in a corner to illustrate the government oiling the machinery of the economy for the mechanics in the next panel).  

    The murals in Coit Tower, and the PWAP that supported them, were such a roaring success that the federal government would shortly launch four more projects to fund artists (including writers), most famously under the Works Progress Administration that operated from 1935 to 1942. Although to a modern eye, many of the fine artists’ depictions of Indigenous Americans and racial and gender minorities are eye-poppingly racist, these colorful presentations of the lives and histories of ordinary Americans that decorated libraries, schools, courthouses, bathhouses, and post offices, honoring community and hard work—and, in the edgier paintings, jabbing at stockbrokers, bankers, and industrialists—celebrated a hopeful, new, progressive America.

    For many Americans, who had never had access to fine art and were astonished to see fine art in local buildings, the medium was its own message: they realized their neighbors had talent they had never imagined.

    President Joe Biden has deliberately echoed FDR’s policies of the New Deal in his economic program, promising to build the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, even as Republicans have insisted the only way to build the economy is to concentrate wealth on the “supply side” by cutting taxes. Today, there was more evidence that Biden’s policies are paying off for ordinary Americans. The November jobs report showed the economy added almost 200,000 more jobs in November, making the total since Biden took office more than 14 million, while the unemployment rate has stayed below 4% for 22 months in a row and wage growth is strong.

    As Harvard professor Jason Furman notes, the U.S. is now 2 million jobs and 2 million employed above the pre-pandemic projections of the Congressional Budget Office. Dan Shafer of The Recombobulation Area observed, “If these numbers were happening during a Republican presidency, the usual business community folks would be celebrating in the streets. But when there’s a D next to the president’s name, it’s tumbleweeds.” Today, on the Fox News Channel, personality Maria Bartiromo noted that “the economy is a lot stronger than anyone understands.”

    The president also echoed the New Deal’s promotion of internal improvements today when he announced an investment of $8.2 billion in new funding for ten major passenger rail projects across the country to deliver the nation’s first high-speed rail projects. High-speed rail between California and Nevada, serving more than 11 million people annually; Los Angeles and San Francisco; and the Eastern Corridor, will create tens of thousands of union jobs, build communities, and promote climate-friendly transportation options.

    In a speech in Las Vegas, Nevada, announcing the rail plan, Biden called out his predecessor, who “always talked about infrastructure week. Four years of infrastructure week, but it failed. He failed,” Biden said. “On my watch, instead of having infrastructure week, America is having infrastructure decade.”

    “Trump just talks the talk. We walk the walk,” he said. “Look. He likes to say America is a failing nation. Frankly, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. I see shovels in the ground, cranes in the sky, people hard at work rebuilding America together.”

    [Image of Coit Tower painting of striking workers, taken while I was in San Francisco.]

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 9, 2023 (Saturday)

    Am picking up my knitting by our very own woodstove, and feeling extraordinarily fortunate to be in such a position.

    Turning things over tonight to my friend Nadia with a holiday picture she took in Ukraine... before 2022.

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Picture by Nadia Povalinska.]

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
    edited December 2023
      December 10, 2023 (Sunday)

    Seventy-five years ago today, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly announced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

    At a time when the world was still reeling from the death and destruction of World War II, the Soviet Union was blockading Berlin, Italy and France were convulsed with communist-backed labor agitation, Arabs opposed the new state of Israel, communists and nationalists battled in China, and segregationists in the U.S. were forming their own political party to stop the government from protecting civil rights for Black Americans, the member countries of the United Nations nonetheless came together to adopt a landmark document: a common standard of fundamental rights for all human beings.

    The United Nations itself was only three years old, having been formed in 1945 as a key part of an international order based on rules on which nations agreed, rather than the idea that might makes right, which had twice in just over twenty years brought wars that involved the globe. In early 1946 the United Nations Economic and Social Council organized a nine-person commission on human rights to set up the mission of a permanent Human Rights Commission. Unlike other U.N. commissions, though, the selection of its members would be based not on their national affiliations but on their personal merit.

    President Harry S. Truman had appointed Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and much beloved defender of human rights in the United States, as a delegate to the United Nations. In turn, U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie from Norway put her on the commission to develop a plan for the formal human rights commission. That first commission, in turn, asked Roosevelt to take the chair.

    “[T]he free peoples” and “all of the people liberated from slavery, put in you their confidence and their hope, so that everywhere the authority of these rights, respect of which is the essential condition of the dignity of the person, be respected,” a U.N. official told the commission at its first meeting on April 29, 1946. Their work would establish the United Nations as a centerpiece of the postwar rules-based international order.

    The U.N. official noted that the commission must figure out how to define the violation of human rights not only internationally but also within a nation, and must suggest how to protect “the rights of man all over the world.” If a procedure for identifying and addressing violations “had existed a few years ago,” he said, “the human community would have been able to stop those who started the war at the moment when they were still weak and the world catastrophe would have been avoided.”

    Drafted over the next two years, the final document began with a preamble explaining that a UDHR was necessary because “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” and because “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” Because “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,” the preamble said, “human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

    The thirty articles that followed established that “[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” and regardless “of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs.”

    Those rights included freedom from slavery, torture, degrading punishment, arbitrary arrest, exile, and “arbitrary interference with…privacy, family, home or correspondence, [and] attacks upon…honour and reputation.”

    They included the right to equality before the law and to a fair trial, the right to travel both within a country and outside of it, the right to marry and to establish a family, the right to own property.

    They included the “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” “freedom of opinion and expression,” peaceful assembly, the right to participate in government, either “directly or through freely chosen representatives,” the right of equal access to public service. After all, the UDHR noted, the authority of government rests on the will of the people, “expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage.”

    They included the right to choose how and where to work, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to unionize, and the right to fair pay that ensures “an existence worthy of human dignity.”

    They included “the right to a standard of living adequate for…health and well-being…, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond [one’s] control.”

    They included the right to free education that develops students fully and strengthens “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Education “shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”

    They included the right to participate in art and science.

    They included the right to live in the sort of society in which the rights and freedoms outlined in the UDHR could be realized. And, the document concluded, “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

    Although eight countries abstained from the UDHR—six countries from the Soviet bloc, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia—no country voted against it, making the vote unanimous. The declaration was not a treaty and was not legally binding; it was a declaration of principles.

    Since then, though, the UDHR has become the foundation of international human rights law. More than eighty international treaties and declarations, along with regional human rights conventions, domestic human rights bills, and constitutional provisions, make up a legally binding system to protect human rights. All of the members of the United Nations have ratified at least one of the major international human rights treaties, and four out of five have ratified four or more.

    The UDHR is a vital part of the rules-based order that restrains leaders from human rights abuses, giving victims a language and a set of principles to condemn mistreatment, language and principles that were unimaginable before 1948.  

    But the UDHR remains aspirational. “As we look at the first 75 years of the UDHR,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today, “we recognize what we’ve accomplished in this time, but also know that much work remains. Too often, authorities fail to protect or—worse—trample on human rights and fundamental freedoms, often in the name of security or to maintain their grip on power. Whether arresting and wrongfully detaining journalists and dissidents, restricting an individual’s freedom of religion or belief, or committing atrocities and acts of genocide, violations and abuses of human rights undermine progress made in support of the UDHR. In the face of these actions, we must press for greater human rights protection and promote accountability whenever we see violations or abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    “On its 75th anniversary, the UDHR must continue to be our guiding light as we strive to create the world in which we want to live. Its message is as important today as it was 75 years ago: human rights belong to everyone, everywhere.”

    [Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library & Museum, via Wikipedia Commons]

    Post edited by mickeyrat on
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 11, 2023 (Monday)

    As is sometimes the case in American politics, a bill that many people are likely not paying a great deal of attention to is likely to have enormous impact on the nation’s future.

    That $110.5 billion national security supplemental package was designed to provide additional funding for Ukraine in its war to fight off Russia’s invasion; security assistance to Israel, primarily for missile defense systems; humanitarian assistance to citizens in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine, and elsewhere; funding to replenish U.S. weapon stockpiles; assistance to regional partners in the Indo-Pacific; investments in efforts to stop illegal fentanyl from coming into the U.S. and to dismantle international drug cartels; and investment in U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enhance border security and speed up migrant processing.

    President Joe Biden asked for the supplemental funding in late October. Such a package is broadly popular among lawmakers of both parties who like that Ukraine is holding back Russian expansion that would threaten countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If Russia attacks a NATO country, all NATO members, including the U.S., are required to respond.

    Since supplying Ukraine with weapons to maintain its fight essentially means sending Ukraine outdated weapons while paying U.S. workers to build new ones, creating jobs largely in Republican-dominated states, and since Ukraine is weakening Russia for about 5% of the U.S. defense budget, it would seem to be a program both parties would want to maintain. Today, even Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “If Ukraine loses, the cost to America will be far greater than the aid we have given Ukraine. The least costly way to move forward is to provide Ukraine with the weapons needed to win and end the war.”

    But now that former president Trump has made immigration a leading part of his campaign and a Trump loyalist, Mike Johnson (R-LA), is House speaker, Republican extremists are demanding their own immigration policies be added to the package.

    Those demands amount to a so-called poison pill for the measure. The House Republicans' own immigration bill significantly narrows the right to apply for asylum in the U.S.—which is a right recognized in both domestic and international law—and prevents the federal government from permitting blanket asylum in emergency cases, such as for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. It ends the asylum program that permits people to enter the U.S. with a sponsor, a program that has reduced illegal entry by up to 95%.

    It requires the government to build Trump’s wall and allows the seizure of private land to do it.

    When the House passed its immigration measure in May 2023, the administration responded that it “strongly supports productive efforts to reform the Nation’s immigration system” but opposed this measure, “which makes elements of our immigration system worse.”

    And yet House Republicans are so determined to force the country to accept their extreme anti-immigration policies, they are willing to kill the aid to Ukraine that even their own lawmakers want, leaving that country undersupplied as it goes into the winter.

    When he brought the supplemental bill up last week, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised the Republicans that he would let them make whatever immigration amendments they wanted to the bill to be voted on, if only they would let the bill get to the floor. But all Senate Republicans refused, essentially threatening to use the filibuster to keep the measure from the floor until it includes the House Republicans' demands.

    This unwillingness to fund a crucial partner in its fight against Russia has resurrected concerns that the Trump-supporting MAGA Republicans are working not for the United States but for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who badly needs the U.S. to abandon Ukraine in order to help him win his war.

    Media outlets in Moscow reinforced this sense when they celebrated the Senate vote, gloating that Ukraine is now in “agony” and that it was “difficult to imagine a bigger humiliation.” One analyst said: “The downfall of Ukraine means the downfall of Biden! Two birds with one stone!” Another: “Well done, Republicans! They’re standing firm! That’s good for us.”

    Today, allies of Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán were in Washington, D.C., where they are participating in an effort to derail further military support for Ukraine (an effort that in itself suggests Putin is concerned about how the war is going). Flora Garamvolgyi and David Smith of The Guardian explained that the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, which leads Project 2025—the far-right blueprint for a MAGA administration—and which strongly opposes aid to Ukraine, is hosting a two-day event about the war and about “transatlantic culture wars.”

    This conference appears explicitly to tie the themes of the far right to an attack on Ukraine aid. Orbán has dismantled democracy in his own country, charging that the equality before the law established in democracies weakens a nation both by allowing immigration and by accepting that women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people should have the same rights as heterosexual white men, principles that he maintains undermine Christianity. In Hungary, Orbán has cracked down on immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights while gathering power into his own hands.

    In the U.S. the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and its allies—including former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson and Arizona representative Paul Gosar—openly admire Orbán’s Hungary as a model for the U.S. Indeed, some of the anti-LGBTQ+ laws Florida governor Ron DeSantis has pushed through the Florida legislature appear to have been patterned directly on Hungarian laws.

    Orbán—a close ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who embraces the same “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy” Orbán does—is currently working to stop the European Union from funding Ukraine. Now Orbán’s allies are openly urging their right-wing counterparts in the U.S. to join him in backing Putin. A diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy told Garamvolgyi and Smith: “Orbán is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress. That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well.”

    Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul today noted that even the delay in funding has hurt the U.S. “Delaying a vote on aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan will do great damage to America's reputation as a reliable global leader in a very dangerous world. Delay is a gift to Putin, Xi, and the mullahs in Iran,” he wrote. “The stakes are very high.”

    Republican determination to push their own immigration plan seems in part to be an attempt to come up with an issue to compete with abortion as the central concern of the 2024 election. As soon as he took office, Biden asked for funding to increase border security and process asylum seekers, and he has repeatedly said he wants to modernize the immigration system. To pass the national security supplemental appropriation, he has emphasized that he is willing to compromise on immigration, but the Republicans are insisting instead on a policy that echoes Trump’s extreme policies.

    Immigration, on which Orbán rose to power, has the potential to outweigh abortion, which is hurting Republicans quite badly.

    We’ll see. The story out of Texas, where 31-year-old Kate Cox has been unable to get an abortion despite the fact that the fetus she is carrying has a fatal condition and the pregnancy is endangering her health and her ability to carry another child in the future, illuminates just how dangerous the Republicans’ abortion bans are. Under Texas’s abortion ban, doctors would not perform an abortion, so Cox went to a state court for permission to obtain one.

    The state court ruled in Cox’s favor, but Texas attorney general Ken Paxton immediately threatened any doctor who performed the abortion, and appealed to the Texas Supreme Court to block the lower court’s order, saying that allowing Cox to obtain an abortion would irreparably harm the people of Texas. All nine of the justices on the state supreme court are Republicans.

    Late Friday night the Texas Supreme Court blocked the lower court’s order, pending review, and today, Cox’s lawyers said she had left the state to obtain urgently needed health care. This evening the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Cox, saying she was not entitled to a medical exception from the state’s abortion ban.

    The image of a woman forced by the state to carry a fetus with a fatal condition at the risk of her own health and future fertility until finally she has to flee her state for medical care is one that will not be erased easily.

    Meanwhile, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has disappeared. His lawyer says he was told Navalny was “no longer listed” in the files of the prison where he was being held, and Navalny’s associates have not been able to contact him for six days.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyrat said:
      December 11, 2023 (Monday)

    As is sometimes the case in American politics, a bill that many people are likely not paying a great deal of attention to is likely to have enormous impact on the nation’s future.

    That $110.5 billion national security supplemental package was designed to provide additional funding for Ukraine in its war to fight off Russia’s invasion; security assistance to Israel, primarily for missile defense systems; humanitarian assistance to citizens in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine, and elsewhere; funding to replenish U.S. weapon stockpiles; assistance to regional partners in the Indo-Pacific; investments in efforts to stop illegal fentanyl from coming into the U.S. and to dismantle international drug cartels; and investment in U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enhance border security and speed up migrant processing.

    President Joe Biden asked for the supplemental funding in late October. Such a package is broadly popular among lawmakers of both parties who like that Ukraine is holding back Russian expansion that would threaten countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If Russia attacks a NATO country, all NATO members, including the U.S., are required to respond.

    Since supplying Ukraine with weapons to maintain its fight essentially means sending Ukraine outdated weapons while paying U.S. workers to build new ones, creating jobs largely in Republican-dominated states, and since Ukraine is weakening Russia for about 5% of the U.S. defense budget, it would seem to be a program both parties would want to maintain. Today, even Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “If Ukraine loses, the cost to America will be far greater than the aid we have given Ukraine. The least costly way to move forward is to provide Ukraine with the weapons needed to win and end the war.”

    But now that former president Trump has made immigration a leading part of his campaign and a Trump loyalist, Mike Johnson (R-LA), is House speaker, Republican extremists are demanding their own immigration policies be added to the package.

    Those demands amount to a so-called poison pill for the measure. The House Republicans' own immigration bill significantly narrows the right to apply for asylum in the U.S.—which is a right recognized in both domestic and international law—and prevents the federal government from permitting blanket asylum in emergency cases, such as for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. It ends the asylum program that permits people to enter the U.S. with a sponsor, a program that has reduced illegal entry by up to 95%.

    It requires the government to build Trump’s wall and allows the seizure of private land to do it.

    When the House passed its immigration measure in May 2023, the administration responded that it “strongly supports productive efforts to reform the Nation’s immigration system” but opposed this measure, “which makes elements of our immigration system worse.”

    And yet House Republicans are so determined to force the country to accept their extreme anti-immigration policies, they are willing to kill the aid to Ukraine that even their own lawmakers want, leaving that country undersupplied as it goes into the winter.

    When he brought the supplemental bill up last week, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised the Republicans that he would let them make whatever immigration amendments they wanted to the bill to be voted on, if only they would let the bill get to the floor. But all Senate Republicans refused, essentially threatening to use the filibuster to keep the measure from the floor until it includes the House Republicans' demands.

    This unwillingness to fund a crucial partner in its fight against Russia has resurrected concerns that the Trump-supporting MAGA Republicans are working not for the United States but for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who badly needs the U.S. to abandon Ukraine in order to help him win his war.

    Media outlets in Moscow reinforced this sense when they celebrated the Senate vote, gloating that Ukraine is now in “agony” and that it was “difficult to imagine a bigger humiliation.” One analyst said: “The downfall of Ukraine means the downfall of Biden! Two birds with one stone!” Another: “Well done, Republicans! They’re standing firm! That’s good for us.”

    Today, allies of Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán were in Washington, D.C., where they are participating in an effort to derail further military support for Ukraine (an effort that in itself suggests Putin is concerned about how the war is going). Flora Garamvolgyi and David Smith of The Guardian explained that the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, which leads Project 2025—the far-right blueprint for a MAGA administration—and which strongly opposes aid to Ukraine, is hosting a two-day event about the war and about “transatlantic culture wars.”

    This conference appears explicitly to tie the themes of the far right to an attack on Ukraine aid. Orbán has dismantled democracy in his own country, charging that the equality before the law established in democracies weakens a nation both by allowing immigration and by accepting that women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people should have the same rights as heterosexual white men, principles that he maintains undermine Christianity. In Hungary, Orbán has cracked down on immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights while gathering power into his own hands.

    In the U.S. the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and its allies—including former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson and Arizona representative Paul Gosar—openly admire Orbán’s Hungary as a model for the U.S. Indeed, some of the anti-LGBTQ+ laws Florida governor Ron DeSantis has pushed through the Florida legislature appear to have been patterned directly on Hungarian laws.

    Orbán—a close ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who embraces the same “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy” Orbán does—is currently working to stop the European Union from funding Ukraine. Now Orbán’s allies are openly urging their right-wing counterparts in the U.S. to join him in backing Putin. A diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy told Garamvolgyi and Smith: “Orbán is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress. That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well.”

    Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul today noted that even the delay in funding has hurt the U.S. “Delaying a vote on aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan will do great damage to America's reputation as a reliable global leader in a very dangerous world. Delay is a gift to Putin, Xi, and the mullahs in Iran,” he wrote. “The stakes are very high.”

    Republican determination to push their own immigration plan seems in part to be an attempt to come up with an issue to compete with abortion as the central concern of the 2024 election. As soon as he took office, Biden asked for funding to increase border security and process asylum seekers, and he has repeatedly said he wants to modernize the immigration system. To pass the national security supplemental appropriation, he has emphasized that he is willing to compromise on immigration, but the Republicans are insisting instead on a policy that echoes Trump’s extreme policies.

    Immigration, on which Orbán rose to power, has the potential to outweigh abortion, which is hurting Republicans quite badly.

    We’ll see. The story out of Texas, where 31-year-old Kate Cox has been unable to get an abortion despite the fact that the fetus she is carrying has a fatal condition and the pregnancy is endangering her health and her ability to carry another child in the future, illuminates just how dangerous the Republicans’ abortion bans are. Under Texas’s abortion ban, doctors would not perform an abortion, so Cox went to a state court for permission to obtain one.

    The state court ruled in Cox’s favor, but Texas attorney general Ken Paxton immediately threatened any doctor who performed the abortion, and appealed to the Texas Supreme Court to block the lower court’s order, saying that allowing Cox to obtain an abortion would irreparably harm the people of Texas. All nine of the justices on the state supreme court are Republicans.

    Late Friday night the Texas Supreme Court blocked the lower court’s order, pending review, and today, Cox’s lawyers said she had left the state to obtain urgently needed health care. This evening the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Cox, saying she was not entitled to a medical exception from the state’s abortion ban.

    The image of a woman forced by the state to carry a fetus with a fatal condition at the risk of her own health and future fertility until finally she has to flee her state for medical care is one that will not be erased easily.

    Meanwhile, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has disappeared. His lawyer says he was told Navalny was “no longer listed” in the files of the prison where he was being held, and Navalny’s associates have not been able to contact him for six days.


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    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

    Brilliantati©
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 12, 2023 (Tuesday)

    Last night, Special Counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to decide Trump’s claim that he is immune from any and all criminal prosecution for anything he did while in office. That claim is central to Trump’s defense; he has requested the charges against him be dismissed because of that immunity.

    When Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case in which Trump is charged with trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, dismissed this claim, Trump’s lawyers appealed and asked for the case to be frozen while the appeal worked its way up through the courts. By going straight to the Supreme Court, Smith appears to be trying to stop Trump from delaying the trial until after the 2024 election.  

    The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether it will hear the case. So far, Justice Clarence Thomas refuses to recuse himself, even though his wife Ginni was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. His refusal suggests that the Supreme Court’s new ethics rules are as toothless as their opponents charged.

    In another filing last night, Smith revealed that the government expects to introduce the testimony of three experts who will speak to the use of cell phones by Trump and one other person after the 2020 election, including on January 6, a revelation that Los Angeles Times legal analyst Harry Litman suggested must “have the Trump camp totally freaked out.”

    Inflation slowed again in November, dropping to 0.1% as gasoline prices fell, so that the annual inflation over the past year has dropped to 3.1%.

    Fallout continues from the Texas Supreme Court’s decision that a woman carrying a fetus with a fatal condition cannot abort that fetus even though it threatens her own health and future fertility. President Joe Biden promised today to continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care, saying: “No woman should be forced to go to court or flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs. But that is exactly what happened in Texas thanks to Republican elected officials, and it is simply outrageous. This should never happen in America, period.”

    But for all the importance of these major stories, the outstanding story of the day is that the Republican Party appears to have decided to undermine financial support for Ukraine’s war against Russia’s invasion.

    This is simply an astonishing decision. Majorities in both the House and the Senate want to pass supplemental aid to Ukraine, which both protects North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and provides jobs in the United States, but an extremist minority in Congress is stopping passage of a measure that would provide more weapons to Ukraine.

    There is no doubt previous funding has been effective. A newly declassified intelligence memo shows that Russia had an army of 360,000 before the war and that thanks to the Ukraine resistance it has lost 315,000 troops—87% of its army—forcing it to squeeze more recruits out of its civilian population. It has also lost 2,200 out of 3,500 tanks, forcing it to turn to Soviet-era equipment.

    Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, who was in Washington, D.C., today to try to convince Republicans to pass such a measure, noted that Ukraine has regained half the land Russia seized in the February 2022 invasion, forced Russian warships out of Ukrainian territorial waters, and opened export corridors to get Ukrainian grain to countries that desperately need it. At the same time, he said, Ukraine’s economy is growing at a 5% rate, suggesting it will be less dependent on foreign aid going forward.

    In The Atlantic, David Frum, who has criticized Democrats on immigration policy, pointed out that Biden and the Democrats have made a real effort to negotiate with extremist Republicans but the Republicans are simply refusing to engage. Frum concluded that Republicans do not want to make a deal. Either they want to perform a ritual in which Republicans demand and Democrats comply, or they want to keep the border as a campaign issue, or they actually oppose aid to Ukraine. And yet, Frum reiterates, majorities in both the House and the Senate want the supplemental aid package to pass.  

    Republicans appear to want to keep the issue of immigration front and center in 2024, hoping that people will focus on it rather than on abortion, especially in states like Texas.

    Poland’s newly elected prime minister Donald Tusk today vowed that he would “loudly and decisively demand the full mobilization of the free world, the Western world, to help Ukraine in this war,” but Russia expert Fiona Hill told Politico’s Maura Reynolds that U.S. funding will be key to determining whether Ukraine wins back control of its territory. That decision, she says, is really about our own future.

    Permitting Putin to win in Ukraine, she says, would create a world in which the standing of the U.S. in the world would be diminished, Iran and North Korea would be strengthened, China would dominate the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East would be more unstable, and nuclear weapons would proliferate.

    “Ukraine has become a battlefield now for America and America’s own future—whether we see it or not—for our own defensive posture and preparedness, for our reputation and our leadership,” Hill told Reynolds. “For Putin, Ukraine is a proxy war against the United States, to remove the United States from the world stage.”

    “The problem is that many members of Congress don’t want to see President Biden win on any front,” Hill said. “People are incapable now of separating off ‘giving Biden a win’ from actually allowing Ukraine to win. They are thinking less about U.S. national security, European security, international security and foreign policy, and much more about how they can humiliate Biden. In that regard,” she said, “whether they like it or not, members of Congress are doing exactly the same thing as Vladimir Putin. They hate that. They want to refute that. But Vladimir Putin wants Biden to lose, and they want Biden to be seen to lose as well.”

    Today, Biden noted that Russian media outlets have been cheering on the Republicans. "If you're being celebrated by Russian propagandists, it might be time to rethink what you're doing,” he said. “History will judge harshly those who turned their back on freedom's cause."

    Congress is set to leave for the holiday break on Thursday, returning in the second week of January. Biden urged Congress “to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess—before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

    _____________________________________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

  • 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;

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 13, 2023 (Wednesday)

    In a day that was chock full of political stories in which Republicans were launching attacks on Democrats, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) made a key point. “We have not passed an emergency supplemental, a Farm Bill, or regular Appropriations,” he said. “The story is not what they are doing. The story is what they are not doing.”  

    Schatz was referring to specific, vital measures that are not getting through Congress: the outstanding funding bill for aid to Ukraine and Israel, border security, and humanitarian aid for Gaza; the Farm Bill, which governs the nation’s agricultural and food assistance programs and needs to be renewed every five years; and the regular appropriations bills that Congress must pass and that House extremists tossed out former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over because they wanted deep cuts that he had agreed with President Joe Biden not to make.

    But there is a larger point behind Schatz’s observation. Republicans, especially the extremist wing, have garnered power by promising to stop the government from acting. The extraordinary gerrymandering in Republican-dominated states following Operation REDMAP in 2010 created such safe districts that Republicans did not need to worry about losing elections. That safety meant that their role was not to offer real legislative solutions to problems, but rather to gin up support for the party nationally by pushing party talking points on right-wing media. Those talking points focused on slashing the government, which they claimed was hurting their constituents by defending secular society and providing benefits to undeserving minorities and women.

    Now, though, the Republicans are in charge of the House of Representatives, and they actually need to get work done. But extremist Republicans’ skill set involves pushing talking points to create a false reality that demands gutting the government, not legislating, which requires compromise and deep understanding of issues.

    We appear to be watching Republicans’ fake image crash against reality.

    This morning was the scheduled date for the House Oversight Committee’s closed-door deposition from President Biden’s son Hunter. Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) subpoenaed him in early November, trying to find evidence that the president participated in illegal business deals before he became president. But, in fact, the committee is making its case entirely by innuendo—it has turned up no evidence of any such schemes—and publicly misrepresented the closed-door testimony of Hunter Biden’s former business partner to say the opposite of what it did.

    So Hunter Biden’s lawyers called their bluff, saying the younger Biden would be happy to testify…but only in a public hearing, so that his testimony could not be misrepresented. The committee refused that offer, saying he must appear behind closed doors, a condition that seemed to undercut their claim they want transparency.

    Today, Hunter Biden turned the tables on their habit of giving press statements by showing up himself outside of the Capitol to reiterate that he would answer “any legitimate questions” in a public hearing. “Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry, or hear what I have to say. What are they afraid of?”

    He offered his own statement. “Let me state as clearly as I can,” he said. “[M]y father was not financially involved in my business, not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist,” he said. “There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” he said.

    He portrayed his father as a loving parent who supported him through his addiction struggle, and noted that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had showed naked photos of him in a committee hearing, taking “the light of my dad’s love for me” and presenting it “as darkness.”

    Republicans say they will prosecute Hunter Biden for contempt of Congress because he defied a subpoena. But that, too, is awkward, as a number of Republican representatives—including Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH)—ignored subpoenas from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    Pushing the idea that there is a “Biden crime family” is a transparent effort to create confusion by suggesting that the Bidens are simply the Democratic version of the Trumps, whose family business, the Trump Organization, was found guilty of tax fraud in January 2023. Judge Arthur Engoron also found that company, along with Trump and his two older sons and two other employees, liable for bank fraud in September 2023 and is currently considering fines of at least $250 million and ending the Trumps’ ability to do business in New York. Testimony in that trial concluded today.

    With no comparable Biden Organization, Republicans are trying to invent one.

    Their effort to convince voters that President Biden is corrupt has led to the tail wagging the dog as, after hearing constantly about how lawless Biden is, their supporters have demanded that House Republicans launch an impeachment inquiry into him. Today, House Republicans unanimously voted to open such an inquiry, though the lack of evidence made them caution that such an inquiry did not mean they would ultimately impeach the president.

    When asked what he’s hoping to gain from an impeachment inquiry, Representative Troy Nehls (R-TX) answered: “All I can say is Donald J. Trump 2024, baby.”

    Biden reacted with uncharacteristic anger, calling out Republicans for ignoring the many imperative issues before them in order to “waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.” He listed the nation’s unfinished business: funding for Ukraine and Israel, immigration policy, and funding the government to avoid “self-inflicted economic crises like a government shutdown, which Republicans in Congress are driving us toward in just a few weeks because they won’t act now to fund the government and critical priorities to make life better for the American people.”

    Biden pointed out that having wasted weeks after tossing out their own House speaker and “having to expel their own members”—a reference to George Santos (R-NY), whom the House expelled two weeks ago—Republicans are now “leaving for a month without doing anything to address these pressing challenges.”

    Republicans’ image has met reality today in another way, as well. In 2020, former president Trump insisted that Biden would tank the economy, but in fact, under Biden it has bloomed. Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average, one of the key measures of the stock market, climbed to a new all-time high, topping out at over 37,000. At the same time, unemployment has sat below 4% for months now, and inflation has fallen, showing that “Bidenomics” has been hugely successful.

    Tonight, though, Trump doubled down on Republican talking points, telling an audience in Iowa that unless he is reelected—presumably to reverse Biden’s policies—“we’ll have a depression the likes of which I don’t believe anybody has ever seen.”

    But in an interesting rejection of House talking points in favor of reality, this evening the Senate passed a clean $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which gives a 5.2% pay raise to military personnel, by a vote of 87 to 13. House Republicans had loaded the measure up with a wish list of attacks on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity initiatives, but the Senate stripped them out.

    Tomorrow the measure will go to the House, where extremist Republicans angrily oppose it, but experts expect it will pass nonetheless.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 14, 2023 (Thursday)

    Today is one of those days when the main story is not what’s on the pages, but what the stories say when they are themselves seen as a pattern.

    This morning the Associated Press ran a story by national political reporter Brian Slodysko titled “The Republican leading the probe of Hunter Biden has his own shell company and complicated friends.” It told the story of how Representative James Comer (R-KY), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, has a financial history that looks a great deal like that of which he accuses the Bidens, including a shell company that appears to ethics experts to have problematic connections to a campaign donor.

    Comer is leading the House impeachment effort against President Joe Biden, an effort that Philip Bump of the Washington Post eviscerated today when he took apart Republicans’ accusations point by point. The Associated Press story is interesting not because it tells us something we don’t know—the story of Comer’s shell company is what led him to attack Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) as a “Smurf” last month—but because of how far and wide it spread.

    By this evening, Slodysko’s story had been reprinted by ABC News, the Los Angeles Times, and a number of smaller outlets.

    The strength of that story, after years in which the Republican narrative was largely unchallenged in popular political culture, reminds me of the rise of the so-called muckrakers of the Progressive Era. That is, journalists from the 1870s onward wrote a lot about the shift in power during the Gilded Age toward the very wealthy and the politicians they bought. But it was only in the 1890s that journalists, writing for magazines like the landmark publication McClure’s Magazine, began to gain traction as cultural leaders.

    Key to that shift was the sense that those who had been directing the country for decades were vulnerable, that they might lose their perch on top of the political, social, and economic ladder.

    The vulnerability of the dominance of today’s MAGA Republicans has been exposed in part by the fecklessness of House Republicans, whose lack of interest in governing is evident from their focus on passing bills loaded with extremist demands that signal to their base but are nonstarters for actually passing the Senate and getting the president’s signature. Yesterday those same House Republicans voted unanimously to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden although they are unable to identify any reason for that inquiry.

    The Larry, Moe, and Curly aspect of their leadership seems to have made them appear to be low-hanging fruit for investigative journalists. When Hunter Biden yesterday stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and called House Republicans out for not daring to let him testify in public while they were using their privileged positions to show naked pictures of him in a hearing, he did the same thing McClure’s writers did: he personalized politicians’ abuse of their power.

    That, in turn, makes it easier for people who might not otherwise note the large swings of politics to understand exactly what the Republicans are doing.

    The vulnerability of the MAGA Republicans showed up in another way, today, too. Today is the eleventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a 20-year-old murdered 20 children between the ages of six and seven years old, and six adult staff members. In that wake of that mass shooting, Americans demanded background checks for gun purchases, a policy supported by 90% of Americans. But the measure was killed in the Senate by lawmakers who represented just 38% of the American people.

    Since then, Republicans have blocked legislation to regulate guns and have instead offered thoughts and prayers after each mass shooting.

    That dominant narrative was turned on its head today when Mothers for Democracy/Mothers Against Greg Abbott released a devastating ad in which a young girl falls into a swimming pool and, rather than jumping in to save her, her mother prays for God to save her while observers—including a man who looks like Texas governor Greg Abbott—offer thoughts and prayers as the child drowns. “Thoughts and prayers are meaningless when you can act,” the ad says. “Act Now. Demand gun reform.”

    The vulnerability of MAGA Republicans was also underscored today at the trial of former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has already been found liable for defaming Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, to determine what damages he owes them.

    Giuliani told reporters on Wednesday that he would testify in his own defense, but his lawyer stopped that plan after Giuliani continued to attack the women this week. In his closing statement at the trial, Giuliani’s lawyer could suggest only that the former New York City mayor is “a good man.” “He hasn’t exactly helped himself with some of the things that have happened in the last few days,” the lawyer said, adding, “My client, he’s almost 80 years old.”

    Trump’s insistence that he actually won the 2020 election is part of the MAGA Republicans’ need to portray themselves as invulnerable. They must never be seen to lose. Indeed, on Tuesday, Trump once again went on at great length, claiming he won the 2020 election. He also doubled down on the idea that he will become a dictator, feeding the idea that he is invulnerable. But those who participated in his scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election are admitting that Biden won the election or are cooperating with prosecutors, and his own legal cases are speeding up.

    Meanwhile, MAGA Republicans are holding up a crucial aid package for Ukraine, insisting that immigration reform is such a grave national security issue it must take precedence over Ukraine aid. In their focus on immigration, they are following Trump’s lead: he is telling crowds that countries are dumping people from their “insane asylums” in the U.S., explicitly referring to the serial killer portrayed in the film The Silence of the Lambs.

    And yet, despite that alleged national crisis, the House recessed today for three weeks without addressing it. Several Republicans indicated to Politico’s Playbook that they are not actually interested in a deal, since “polling consistently shows that immigration is the most toxic issue on the campaign trail for Biden. Why take that off the table as an attack on him in 2024?”

    Meanwhile, Ukraine is running out of ammunition.

    The White House is urging Congress to stay in session to deal with the supplemental funding bill and immigration reform, saying Republicans are “actively undermining our national security interests” to “go on vacation.” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has kept the Senate in session, saying it will stay and vote on a package next week. For his part, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) tweeted that “we must secure our own border before we secure another country’s,“ and that while work should continue on the package, “the House will not wait around to receive and debate a rushed product.”

    The House’s holiday recess meant that former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) left Congress today, rather than waiting for the end of his term. MAGA Republicans led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL) made history in October by engineering his ouster from the speaker’s chair and grinding the work of the House to a halt. On his way out, McCarthy suggested that Gaetz has reason to be concerned about an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into his alleged sexual misconduct and misuse of funds.

    In the 1890s, once the dominant narrative cracked, an entire industry rose as journalists  investigated those whose access to power had for decades protected them from scrutiny.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 15, 2023 (Friday)

    CNN reporters today pulled together evidence from a number of sources to explain how “a binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.” The missing collection of documents was ten inches thick and contained 2,700 pages of information from U.S. intelligence and that of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies about Russian efforts to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

    The binder went missing in the last days of the Trump presidency and has not been recovered. Its disappearance has raised “alarms among intelligence officials that some of the most closely guarded national security secrets from the US and its allies could be exposed.”

    Reporters Jeremy Herb, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Evan Perez, and Zachary Cohen have pieced together the story of how in his last days in office, Trump tried to declassify most of the information in the binder in order to distribute copies to Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets. According to an affidavit by reporter John Solomon, who was shown a copy of the binder, the plan was to begin releasing information from it on the morning of January 20, 2021, so that it would hit the news after President Joe Biden had been sworn in.

    But late on January 19, while Solomon was copying the documents, White House lawyers recalled the copies to black out, or redact, sensitive information, worrying that while most of the facts in the binder were apparently already public, the methods of collection and persons involved were not. At some point in that process, an unredacted copy of the binder disappeared.

    A former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol last year that she thought Meadows took the unredacted binder with him.

    Today, in statements that seemed very carefully worded, Meadows’s lawyer, George Terwilliger, told CNN: “Mr. Meadows was keenly aware of and adhered to requirements for the proper handling of classified material, any such material that he handled or was in his possession has been treated accordingly and any suggestion that he is responsible for any missing binder or other classified information is flat wrong.” Terwilliger told the New York Times: “Mark never took any copy of that binder home at any time.”

    The missing binder was not among the material the Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered from Mar-a-Lago last year, and intelligence officials briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee about the missing information (the CNN story does not say that the House Intelligence Committee has been briefed). In April 2021, Trump allegedly offered to let the author of a book about him see the binder, saying “I would let you look at them if you wanted…. It’s a treasure trove…it would be sort of a cool book for you to look at.”

    The story of yet more missing classified information highlights that Judge Aileen Cannon, who was confirmed to her position after Trump lost the 2020 election, has permitted Trump to slow down United States of America v. Donald J. Trump, Waltine Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira, the pending criminal case in which he and two aides are accused of mishandling classified documents under the Espionage Act as well as making false statements and engaging in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

    Perhaps even more strongly, at a time when House Republicans have declined to fund Ukraine’s war against Russia’s 2022 invasion, the story serves as a reminder of the role Russia played in Trump’s 2016 election and how, during Trump’s time in office, he continued to cultivate a relationship with Russia’s authoritarian president Vladimir Putin and to turn his back on America’s traditional democratic allies, including those in NATO. (At one point, he told National Security Advisor John Bolton, “I don’t give a sh*t about NATO.”)

    Indeed, Trump has suggested he would take the U.S. out of NATO if he returns to office, breaking the coalition that held first the Soviet Union and then Russia at bay since World War II. Such a betrayal would weaken all of the security alliances of the United States, according to Eastern European specialist Anne Applebaum, exposing the U.S. as an unreliable ally. As democracies ceased to work together, they would have to work with authoritarian governments, and after American political influence declined, so would the economic influence that has protected our economy. Authoritarian leaders like Putin would be the winners.

    News about the missing binder also highlights just how hard Trump worked to convince his loyalists that that connection was a hoax. Although all U.S. intelligence services and the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee assessed that, in fact, Russia did intervene in the election to get Trump into the White House, many Trump loyalists continue to believe Trump’s lie that such interference did not happen.

    Trump’s determination to convince his followers that “Russia, Russia, Russia” was a hoax was in part an attempt to get out from under the legal implications of working with a foreign country to win an election but also, perhaps more profoundly, an attempt to make his followers believe his lies over reality. If he could make them believe him, rather than the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community and the Senate, they would be his to command.

    Russia, Russia, Russia was an important precursor to the Big Lie that Trump, rather than Joe Biden, won the 2020 presidential election. The Big Lie has failed at every test of evidence, and yet Trump loyalists still say they believe it.

    Today, former Trump ally Rudy Giuliani continued to defend the idea that the 2020 election had been stolen, even after a jury of eight Americans said he must pay the eye-popping sum of $148,169,000 to Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman for defaming them by saying they had participated in election fraud—he made that up—and for emotional distress. Freeman and Moss had asked for $24 million each.

    Of that verdict, $75,000,000 was for punitive damages, illustrating that spreading Trump’s lies so that they hurt individuals comes at a whopper of a cost. Giuliani had refused to cooperate in the case, although he admitted to the truth of the underlying facts, and he had continued to attack Moss and Freeman to reporters during the trial.

    Trump’s election lies that hurt companies are also costly, as the Fox News Corporation found when it settled with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million over the media company’s lies about the 2020 election.

    Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) tried to address Trump’s attack on our democracy when this week they inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act a provision saying that no president can withdraw from NATO without approval from the Senate or from Congress as a whole.

    “NATO has held strong in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine and rising challenges around the world,” Kaine said. He added that the legislation “to prevent any U.S. President from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO reaffirms U.S. support for this crucial alliance that is foundational for our national security. It also sends a strong message to authoritarians around the world that the free world remains united.”

    Rubio added, “The Senate should maintain oversight on whether or not our nation withdraws from NATO. We must ensure we are protecting our national interests and protecting the security of our democratic allies.”

    _____________________________________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
  • mickeyrat said:
      December 15, 2023 (Friday)

    CNN reporters today pulled together evidence from a number of sources to explain how “a binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.” The missing collection of documents was ten inches thick and contained 2,700 pages of information from U.S. intelligence and that of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies about Russian efforts to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

    The binder went missing in the last days of the Trump presidency and has not been recovered. Its disappearance has raised “alarms among intelligence officials that some of the most closely guarded national security secrets from the US and its allies could be exposed.”

    Reporters Jeremy Herb, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Evan Perez, and Zachary Cohen have pieced together the story of how in his last days in office, Trump tried to declassify most of the information in the binder in order to distribute copies to Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets. According to an affidavit by reporter John Solomon, who was shown a copy of the binder, the plan was to begin releasing information from it on the morning of January 20, 2021, so that it would hit the news after President Joe Biden had been sworn in.

    But late on January 19, while Solomon was copying the documents, White House lawyers recalled the copies to black out, or redact, sensitive information, worrying that while most of the facts in the binder were apparently already public, the methods of collection and persons involved were not. At some point in that process, an unredacted copy of the binder disappeared.

    A former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol last year that she thought Meadows took the unredacted binder with him.

    Today, in statements that seemed very carefully worded, Meadows’s lawyer, George Terwilliger, told CNN: “Mr. Meadows was keenly aware of and adhered to requirements for the proper handling of classified material, any such material that he handled or was in his possession has been treated accordingly and any suggestion that he is responsible for any missing binder or other classified information is flat wrong.” Terwilliger told the New York Times: “Mark never took any copy of that binder home at any time.”

    The missing binder was not among the material the Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered from Mar-a-Lago last year, and intelligence officials briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee about the missing information (the CNN story does not say that the House Intelligence Committee has been briefed). In April 2021, Trump allegedly offered to let the author of a book about him see the binder, saying “I would let you look at them if you wanted…. It’s a treasure trove…it would be sort of a cool book for you to look at.”

    The story of yet more missing classified information highlights that Judge Aileen Cannon, who was confirmed to her position after Trump lost the 2020 election, has permitted Trump to slow down United States of America v. Donald J. Trump, Waltine Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira, the pending criminal case in which he and two aides are accused of mishandling classified documents under the Espionage Act as well as making false statements and engaging in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

    Perhaps even more strongly, at a time when House Republicans have declined to fund Ukraine’s war against Russia’s 2022 invasion, the story serves as a reminder of the role Russia played in Trump’s 2016 election and how, during Trump’s time in office, he continued to cultivate a relationship with Russia’s authoritarian president Vladimir Putin and to turn his back on America’s traditional democratic allies, including those in NATO. (At one point, he told National Security Advisor John Bolton, “I don’t give a sh*t about NATO.”)

    Indeed, Trump has suggested he would take the U.S. out of NATO if he returns to office, breaking the coalition that held first the Soviet Union and then Russia at bay since World War II. Such a betrayal would weaken all of the security alliances of the United States, according to Eastern European specialist Anne Applebaum, exposing the U.S. as an unreliable ally. As democracies ceased to work together, they would have to work with authoritarian governments, and after American political influence declined, so would the economic influence that has protected our economy. Authoritarian leaders like Putin would be the winners.

    News about the missing binder also highlights just how hard Trump worked to convince his loyalists that that connection was a hoax. Although all U.S. intelligence services and the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee assessed that, in fact, Russia did intervene in the election to get Trump into the White House, many Trump loyalists continue to believe Trump’s lie that such interference did not happen.

    Trump’s determination to convince his followers that “Russia, Russia, Russia” was a hoax was in part an attempt to get out from under the legal implications of working with a foreign country to win an election but also, perhaps more profoundly, an attempt to make his followers believe his lies over reality. If he could make them believe him, rather than the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community and the Senate, they would be his to command.

    Russia, Russia, Russia was an important precursor to the Big Lie that Trump, rather than Joe Biden, won the 2020 presidential election. The Big Lie has failed at every test of evidence, and yet Trump loyalists still say they believe it.

    Today, former Trump ally Rudy Giuliani continued to defend the idea that the 2020 election had been stolen, even after a jury of eight Americans said he must pay the eye-popping sum of $148,169,000 to Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman for defaming them by saying they had participated in election fraud—he made that up—and for emotional distress. Freeman and Moss had asked for $24 million each.

    Of that verdict, $75,000,000 was for punitive damages, illustrating that spreading Trump’s lies so that they hurt individuals comes at a whopper of a cost. Giuliani had refused to cooperate in the case, although he admitted to the truth of the underlying facts, and he had continued to attack Moss and Freeman to reporters during the trial.

    Trump’s election lies that hurt companies are also costly, as the Fox News Corporation found when it settled with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million over the media company’s lies about the 2020 election.

    Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) tried to address Trump’s attack on our democracy when this week they inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act a provision saying that no president can withdraw from NATO without approval from the Senate or from Congress as a whole.

    “NATO has held strong in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine and rising challenges around the world,” Kaine said. He added that the legislation “to prevent any U.S. President from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO reaffirms U.S. support for this crucial alliance that is foundational for our national security. It also sends a strong message to authoritarians around the world that the free world remains united.”

    Rubio added, “The Senate should maintain oversight on whether or not our nation withdraws from NATO. We must ensure we are protecting our national interests and protecting the security of our democratic allies.”

    Seems POOTWH and his attorney should have a bumpy ride out to Langley, just a little bumpy but not too bumpy, have his attorney wait in the lobby, under guard and without a cell phone, and then an elevator ride down to a sub sub-basement room where he’s made to wait to the sound of echoing doors closing. After 20 or so minutes of reflection, a couple of former special ops/CIA actors who served at GITMO or Afghanistan enter with some wire, a hand crank and side arms. Things get a little rough, shall we say? Maybe asked to stand up and remove his clothes? Maybe cuff his wrist to the table? Maybe explain how things work in “their world?” Maybe start connecting wires while asking questions like, “where’s the binder?” “Who did you give it too?” Why did you do it? Etc. If he’s uncooperative, perhaps it’s time to play with their side arms? Just a little bit? Eject the magazine, pull back the slide, reinsert the mag, behind his head while the other guy asks questions.

    There’s a reason US human intelligence assets disappeared from the field. Sometimes you need to send a message. I know that’s not how we’re supposed to do things but POOTWH is Putin on the ritz’s puppet. And he needs to understand that there’s consequences. Get him to soil himself and then let them go with a message that he and his family are being watched. Closely.
    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;

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 16, 2023 (Saturday)

    Today is the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, when 30 or more men boarded three trading vessels in Boston Harbor. They broke open 342 chests of tea and dumped about 90,000 pounds of the valuable leaves overboard.

    The pointed destruction of a cargo worth about $1.7 million in today’s dollars escalated the ongoing struggle between the British government and thirteen of its North American colonies.

    Trouble had been growing since the end in 1763 of what the colonists knew as the French and Indian War. That conflict dramatically expanded British possessions in North America, but at the cost of badly stretching the Treasury. To raise revenue, the king’s ministers and Parliament placed a number of taxes on the colonists, including the 1765 Stamp Act. This law hit virtually everyone by taxing printed material from newspapers and legal documents to playing cards.

    The Stamp Act shocked colonists. At issue was not just money, but a central political struggle that had been going on in England for more than a century: could the king be checked by the people or were his powers unlimited? Colonists were not directly represented in Parliament and believed they were losing their fundamental right as Englishmen to have a say in their government. They responded to the Stamp Act with widespread protests.

    In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act but claimed for Parliament “full power and authority to make laws and statutes…to bind the colonies and people of America…in all cases whatsoever.” This act echoed the 1719 Irish Declaratory Act, which asserted that Ireland was subordinate to the British king and Parliament. It also imposed new taxes.

    As soon as news of the Declaratory Act and the new taxes reached Boston in 1767, the Massachusetts legislature circulated a letter to the other colonies standing firm on the right to equality in the British empire. Local groups boycotted taxed goods and broke into warehouses whose owners they thought were breaking the boycott. In 1768, British officials sent troops to Boston to restore order.

    Events began to move faster and faster. In March 1770, British soldiers in Boston shot into a crowd of men and boys who were harassing them, killing five and wounding six others. Engraver Paul Revere made an instantly-famous image showing soldiers in red coats smiling as they shot at colonists, including Black man Crispus Attucks. The altercation became known as the Boston Massacre.

    Parliament removed all but one of the new taxes—the tax on tea—but trouble continued to simmer. In 1771 and 1772, an official in New Hampshire ordered a search of sawmills for white pine that bore the mark of the King’s Broad Arrow, three blazes on a tree— one straight up and two making an upside-down V— designating trunks thicker than 12 inches as the property of the king. New Englanders had never liked the law that claimed their valuable forests for Royal Navy masts, and had ignored it when they could.

    But in April 1772, officials charged six sawmill owners with milling trunks that had been marked with the King’s Broad Arrow. One of the owners was arrested and then released with the promise that he would provide bail the next day. Instead, the following morning he and 30 to 40 men, their faces disguised with soot, assaulted the government officials and ran them out of town.

    The so-called Pine Tree Riot suggested that British authority could be defied. Just two months later, a Royal Navy customs schooner, the HMS Gaspee, ran aground in Rhode Island while chasing a packet boat suspected of smuggling. As the captain waited for high tide to float the schooner free, Rhode Island men rowed to the ship, boarded it, and burned it to the waterline.

    Eight of the men who participated in the Pine Tree Riot were later charged with assault, but the local judges who sentenced them let them off so lightly the verdict could easily be seen as support for their actions. The government had even less luck prosecuting the men who burned the Gaspee: it could not identify suspects. But its threat to extradite colonists to England for trial seemed to the colonists to prove the British government intended to strip them of their civil rights.

    Then, in May 1773, Parliament tried to bail out the failing East India Company by giving it a monopoly on tea sales in the colonies. This would make tea cheaper in the colonies than it had been. It seemed to colonists the plan was to convince people to accept the cheaper tea…and thus establish Parliament’s right to govern without colonists’ input.

    Ships carrying the East India tea sailed for the colonies in fall 1773, but mass protests convinced the captains of the ships headed to every city but Boston to return to England. In Boston the royal governor was determined to land the cargo. On December 16, 1773, after attendees at a meeting at Boston’s Old South Meeting House heard that the governor refused to let ships loaded with tea leave the harbor until the tax was paid, a group of colonists hid their faces, some with soot, other with overt symbols of their new identification with North America rather than England: as Indigenous Americans.

    The men boarded three ships moored at a wharf in Boston Harbor, hauled the chests of tea out of the holds with the ships’ block and tackle, broke them open with axes and pry bars, and dumped the tea at an exceptionally low tide, turning the harbor into muck. They were careful to make sure that no other cargo was harmed and that none of the tea was stolen. They were making a political statement.

    Parliament responded by closing the port of Boston, moving the seat of government to Salem, stripping the colony of its charter, requiring colonists to pay for the quartering of soldiers in the town, and demanding payment for the tea.  

    By fall 1774, concern about the government's actions had grown deep enough that delegates from the colonies met for six weeks at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia to figure out how to respond, and also how to work together to advance a constitutional opposition to tyranny, as Boston leader Samuel Adams put it.

    Over the next two years, American politicians would find an answer to the question of whether the king could be checked by the people. They would get rid of monarchs altogether and declare that the people had the right to govern themselves.

    [W. D. Cooper, "Boston Tea Party," The History of North America (London: E. Newberry, 1789); Library of Congress, public domain. Accessed on Wikipedia Commons.]

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 17, 2023 (Sunday)

    It seems that former president Donald Trump is aligning his supporters with a global far-right movement to destroy democracy.

    On Saturday, in Durham, New Hampshire, Trump echoed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s attacks on immigrants, saying they are “poisoning the blood of our country”—although two of his three wives were immigrants—and quoted Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attacks on American democracy. Trump went on to praise North Korean autocratic leader Kim Jong Un and align himself with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, the darling of the American right wing, who has destroyed Hungary’s democracy and replaced it with a dictatorship.

    Trump called Orbán “the man who can save the Western world.”

    Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, a professor of religion and anthropology at Northeastern University, explained in The Conversation what Trump is talking about. Autocrats like Orbán and Putin—and budding autocrats like Trump—are building a global movement by fighting back against the expansion of rights to women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ people.

    Russian leaders have been cracking down on LGBTQ+ rights for a decade with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church, claiming that they are protecting “traditional values.” This vision of heteronormativity rewrites the real history of human sexuality, but it is powerful in this moment. Orbán insists that immigrants ruin the purity of a country, and has undermined women’s rights.

    Riccardi-Swartz explains that this rhetoric appeals to those in far-right movements around the world. In the United States, “family values” became tied to patriotism after World War II, when Chinese and Soviet communists appeared to be erasing traditional gender roles. Those people defined as anti-family—LGBTQ+ people and women who challenged patriarchy—seemed to be undermining society. Now, as dictators like Putin and Orbán promise to take away LGBTQ+ rights, hurt immigrants, and return power to white men, they seem to many to be protecting traditional society.

    In the United States, that undercurrent has created a movement of people who are willing to overthrow democracy if it means reinforcing their traditional vision. Christian nationalists believe that the secular values of democracy are destroying Christianity and traditional values. They want to get rid of LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, immigration, and the public schools they believe teach such values. And if that means handing power to a dictator who promises to restore their vision of a traditional society, they’re in.

    It is an astonishing rejection of everything the United States has always stood for.

    The White House today responded to Trump’s speech. White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said: “Echoing the grotesque rhetoric of fascists and violent white supremacists and threatening to oppress those who disagree with the government are dangerous attacks on the dignity and rights of all Americans, on our democracy, and on public safety…. It’s the opposite of everything we stand for as Americans.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 18, 2023 (Monday)

    Reporters at ProPublica have uncovered yet more news about the right-wing network of wealthy donors who have supported Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. According to Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Alex Mierjeski, and Brett Murphy, in January 2000, on a plane flight home from a conservative conference, Thomas complained to Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) about his salary. He warned that if lawmakers didn’t give Supreme Court justices a pay raise, “one or more justices will leave soon.”

    After the trip, Stearns wrote to Thomas that he agreed “it is worth a lot to Americans to have the constitution properly interpreted.” Stearns immediately set out to pass legislation separating the salaries of Supreme Court justices from the rest of the judiciary, and then raising pay for the Supreme Court justices alone. But the top administrative official of the judiciary, L. Ralph Mecham, in June 2000 wrote to then–chief justice William Rehnquist to suggest that this was the wrong approach for this “delicate matter.”

    “From a tactical point of view,” Mecham wrote, “it will not take the Democrats and liberals in Congress very long to figure out that the prime beneficiaries who might otherwise leave the court presumably are Justices Thomas and Scalia. The Democrats might be perfectly happy to have them leave and would see little incentive to act on separate legislation devoted solely to Supreme Court justices if the apparent purpose is to keep Justices Scalia and Thomas on the Court. Moreover, the fact that Representative Stearns is a conservative Republican may not help dissuade the Democrats and liberals from this view.”

    Mecham distinguished between Republicans he thought of as “liberals,” and those, presumably like himself, Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia, who were pushing “to have the constitution properly interpreted.” By this, he meant those who wanted the concept of “originalism” to undermine the federal government’s regulation of business, provision of a basic social safety net, promotion of infrastructure, and protection of civil rights, principles on which “liberal” Republicans and Democrats agreed.

    Although the extremist faction has now captured the Republican Party, as late as 2000 there were enough “liberals” in the Republican Party that members of the extremist faction worried they could not enact their chosen program. So they must have the Supreme Court. Stearns told the ProPublica reporters that Thomas’s “importance as a conservative [as they called themselves] was paramount…. We wanted to make sure he felt comfortable in his job and was being paid properly.”

    About this time, wealthy Republican donors began to provide Thomas and his wife Ginni with expensive vacations and gifts. Ginni went to work for the Heritage Foundation, making a salary in the low six figures. Yale law school professor George Priest, who has joined Thomas and billionaire donor Harlan Crow on vacation, says that Crow “views Thomas as a Supreme Court justice as having a limited salary. So he provides benefits for him.”

    That is, a Republican billionaire donor “provides benefits” for a Supreme Court justice who voted in favor of—among other things—the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that reversed campaign finance restrictions in place for over 100 years, permitting corporations and outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections, and the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act protecting minority voting rights in the United States.

    The determination of wealthy Republicans to control our political system for their own economic benefit is now matched on the other side of the political equation by religious voters hellbent on overthrowing democracy to impose their religious will on the American majority.  

    After voters in Republican-dominated states have tried to protect the right to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, antiabortion forces are trying to stop voters from having the right to decide the matter. They are trying to prevent voters from signing petitions to put such measures on ballots.

    Steven Aden, the chief legal officer of the antiabortion group Americans United for Life, told Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly of Politico: “Because we believe that abortion is truly about the right to life of human individuals in the womb, we don’t believe those rights should be subjected to majority vote.”

    Breaking faith in democracy has led us to a place where the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is openly praising dictators, trying to join the United States into a rising global authoritarian movement based in the idea that democracy, with its focus on equal rights, is destroying traditional society by getting rid of patriarchy, racial hierarchies, and heteronormative society.  A Fox News poll released over the weekend showed that 3 in 10 Republicans agreed that “things in the U.S. are so far off track that we need a president willing to break some rules and laws to set things right.”

    Today, Pope Francis undermined that argument when he said in a landmark ruling that Roman Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples. While this is not the same as the sacrament of heterosexual marriage, the Vatican’s doctrinal office said this is a sign that God welcomes everyone.

    Pope Francis has tended to ignore the rise of right-wing extremism in the U.S. church but now appears to be defending his message that the church should be tolerant and welcoming in the face of the growing intersection of religion and authoritarianism. Last month, he relieved from duty Bishop Joseph H. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who has vocally supported right-wing politics and openly revolted against the Pope’s positions.

    There is a strong economic reason to reinforce the idea of democracy, as well. After forty years in which a minority worked to push tax cuts and deregulation with the argument that they would promote investment in the economy, the Biden administration quite deliberately has used the government not to prop up the “supply side,” but rather to bolster the “demand side.” Despite the history that showed such a system worked, economists and pundits warned that Biden’s policies would dump the U.S. into a terrible recession.

    The 2023 numbers are in, and they show exactly what the U.S. Treasury under Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen predicted: inflation has dropped significantly, unemployment is at a low 3.7%, the economy grew at an astonishing 4.9% in the last quarter, and the stock and financial markets are at or near all-time highs.

    The economic news is tangible proof that a government that serves the majority, rather than a wealthy few, works.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
     December 19, 2023 (Tuesday)

    This evening, by a vote of 4–3, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that former president Donald Trump is disqualified from holding office and should be removed from the 2024 ballot in the state, citing Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    That section was written in the wake of the Civil War, after former Confederates had reelected to Congress men who had left in 1861 to try to destroy the United States government after voters elected Abraham Lincoln.

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

    Six Colorado Republican and Independent voters challenged Trump’s inclusion on the state’s ballots because of his role in the January 6, 2021, attempt to stop the counting of the nation’s lawful electoral ballots that had elected Democrat Joe Biden president in 2020. Last month, Denver District Court Judge Sarah Wallace ruled that Trump had engaged in insurrection by inciting the riot that led to an attack on the U.S. Capitol but said that Section 3 did not apply to the president.

    Today the Colorado Supreme Court agreed that the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, constituted an “insurrection” and that Trump “engaged in” that insurrection through his personal actions, including his incitement of the crowd that breached the Capitol. But it disagreed that the 14th Amendment did not apply to the president.

    “The sum of these parts is this,” the court wrote. “Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three; because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Secretary to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.”

    “We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the court said. “We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.” Colorado voters preferred Democratic candidates to Trump in 2016 and 2020, so this case is less likely to reflect on Colorado in 2024 than it is to open the door to other challenges in swing states.

    Recognizing that Trump would undoubtedly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court—as his lawyers say he will—the court stayed its ruling until January 4, the day before the deadline for the Colorado secretary of state to certify the presidential primary ballot. Los Angeles Times legal analyst Harry Litman warns that “we are in for a wild and woolly constitutional ride over the next 16 days and perhaps beyond.”

    It is not just this case, but also the question of whether Trump has presidential immunity for his behavior in office that will likely come before the U.S. Supreme Court in the next few weeks. In August a grand jury indicted Trump on four counts for engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the United States when he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

    Trump’s lawyers have argued that “he enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution” for his behavior in office, and that in any case, he cannot now be tried for a crime after being impeached by the House of Representatives for high crimes and misdemeanors for the events of January 6 and then acquitted by the Senate.

    (At the time, Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that although he was voting to acquit, the proper place for Trump to face accountability was in the legal system. "President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen," McConnell said. "He didn't get away with anything. Yet.")  

    As Special Counsel Jack Smith put it: “This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”

    When a district court denied Trump’s immunity claim, Trump appealed, pretty clearly hoping to delay the case from its scheduled March 4 date until after the 2024 election by working it slowly through the courts until it got to the Supreme Court. Special Counsel Smith tried to avoid this delay by going straight to the Supreme Court to ask it to rule speedily on Trump’s argument that all of his behavior, including that which a grand jury said was criminal, was permitted while Trump was president. The court has not agreed to take the case, but it has agreed to consider taking it and has asked Trump’s lawyers to respond with their arguments by tomorrow.

    Trump is trying very hard to appear the inevitable Republican nominee, but these cases pose real problems for him. Polls from last August show that Republicans are reluctant to vote for a convicted felon. Even if he is not convicted, the constant stories about his participation in the events of January 6 will not help him; the hearings of the January 6th committee weakened his support.

    Trump’s determination to appear dominant despite his mounting troubles is helping to crumble the remnants of the Republican Party. Nicole Lafond of Talking Points Memo points out that this summer, Trump demanded that Iowa governor Kim Reynolds endorse him, although the governor of Iowa traditionally stays neutral before the nation’s first caucus unless there is a party incumbent. He was angry enough to pick a fight with her, and she ultimately did break precedent, backing Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

    Now Trump is both attacking her and using old clips of her endorsing him in advertisements, prompting her to demonstrate Republican infighting by urging people to move on to a different candidate. “We need somebody that can win,” she said.

    The Republicans in Congress aren’t helping the party’s image. Although the extremists in the House demanded more than 700 votes this year on things like reducing salaries of officials they dislike to $1, Annie Karni of the New York Times noted today that Congress passed just 27 bills in 2023, making it a historically unproductive Congress. In 2021, when Democrats held the House by the same slim majority the Republicans have now, Congress passed 85 bills that the president signed into law. In two years, the 80th Congress of 1947–1949, famously dubbed the “Do Nothing Congress,” passed 906.

    And former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the first speaker ever thrown out by his own party, today officially resigned his seat.

    Meanwhile, the Senate today confirmed by voice vote the 11 four-star generals that Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) held up for most of the year. Tuberville is still placing a hold on the Pentagon’s civilian nominees.

    And still, more news about January 6 continues to drop. The Inspector General for the Department of the Interior released a new report showing that one of the groups organizing the rally at the Ellipse that day, Women for America First, lied to federal officials in the National Park Service, denying that there were plans for a second rally in front of the Supreme Court. Such a rally would take the protesters right past the U.S. Capitol, and National Park Service officials asked repeatedly about such a plan because on two other occasions, Women for America First had led marches to the Supreme Court that had led to street violence and dozens of arrests.

    Today’s revelation showed text messages between Women for America First official Kylie Kramer and MyPillow chief executive officer Mike Lindell in which Kramer told Lindell: “[W]e are having a second stage at the Supreme Court again after the ellipse. POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol.  It cannot get out about the second stage because people will try and set another up and Sabotage it. It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly’... Only myself and [White House liaison] know full story of what is actually happening….”

    Finally, today, a federal judge ruled that Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) must allow federal prosecutors access to his phone records, including more than 1,600 messages he exchanged with members of the Trump administration, Congress, and outside allies in their effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 20, 2023 (Wednesday)

    (Hey, folks: we are still without power, making laptop time very limited. Please excuse errors and awkward phrasing that didn’t get combed out.)

    On Monday, Republican governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed into law a measure that gives local law enforcement officers the power to arrest migrants, and local judges the power to send them to Mexico. Entering the state illegally would become a state crime, punishable by the state.

    Aside from the deep concerns of Texas’s Hispanic population, which makes up about 40% of the state, about the measure, S.B. 4 attempts to take into state hands the power over immigration the Constitution gives to the federal government. It puts state laws in place of the laws Congress has written and which now govern immigration. Courts have repeatedly reinforced that immigration is the responsibility of federal, not state, government, including in 2012, when the Supreme Court largely struck down a 2010 Arizona law that required legal immigrants to carry their immigration papers at all times and required police to investigate the immigration status of every person they encountered.

    Now, according to Uriel J. García of the Texas Tribune, “some Texas Republicans have said they hope the new law will push the issue back before a U.S. Supreme Court that is more conservative since three appointees of former President Donald Trump joined it.”

    Texas Republicans are eager to exploit the issue of immigration, especially as voters are demonstrably angry over Texas’s extreme antiabortion law that has been in the news since 31-year-old Texas woman Kate Cox was forced to leave the state to obtain abortion care to protect her own health after she learned her fetus had a condition that was not compatible with life.

    Republicans are trying to make immigration as powerful an issue as abortion, insisting, for example, that they will not approve emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine’s war against Russia’s invasion until President Joe Biden and the Democrats agree to their increasingly extremist demands on immigration. And yet, while Biden is so determined to get support for Ukraine that he has signaled he will risk infuriating Democratic progressives by making concessions, House Republicans have left town for the holidays, and Senate Republicans say there will not be a deal before the end of the year.

    It is not at all clear that Republicans actually want to replace the outdated immigration laws that are currently in place, preferring to preserve the issue to hammer Biden in 2024.

    At stake in Texas’s S.B. 4, though, is not just immigration, but also the larger question of the relationship between states and the federal government. Yesterday, civil rights and immigrant groups filed a lawsuit in Austin federal court noting that the law “violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution” and that “the federal government has exclusive power over immigration.”

    Since the 1787 writing of the U.S. Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation, the question of states’ rights and federal power has been central to the history of the United States. Written in the months after the thirteen colonies declared independence from a king they believed was a tyrant, the Articles of Confederation were simply a “firm league of friendship” among the 13 new states, with each retaining almost all of its rights.

    But within a decade it seemed the new confederation of states would break apart. And so, in 1786, leaders called for a new government based not on states, but on the people of the nation represented by a national government. “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union,” the Constitution began. It established a strong executive and gave to Congress power to write all “necessary and proper” laws.

    The Constitution’s framers asserted that the federal government was supreme over the state governments. Article VI declared: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme Law of the Land…, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    Federal supremacy almost immediately ran into trouble as the country’s political leaders split into parties and each began to suspect the other of trying to destroy the country’s democratic government. When the Federalists in power in 1798 tried to criminalize false and malicious statements about the federal government in a series of four laws collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts, James Madison joined his friend Thomas Jefferson in worrying the government was on its way to becoming “an absolute, or at best a mixed monarchy.”

    In what became known as the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, Madison and Jefferson suggested that states, acting together, had the ability to stand between the federal government and its citizens when the federal government was acting in a way that hurt those citizens.

    No other states agreed at the time, but in 1832, South Carolina leaders inserted their economic interests into what for Madison and Jefferson had been a concern about the rights of citizens. After Congress in 1828 passed a federal tariff—essentially a tax on imported goods—southern leaders insisted that such a law unfairly hurt them because they had to import so much more than northerners did. The South Carolina legislature declared the federal law unconstitutional, and thus null and void within the state.

    South Carolina’s leaders had discovered something crucial that would shape American history from then on: it was far easier to dominate a state legislature than the federal government. Rather than work within the federal system, they could simply insist that the states could overrule the federal government. In 1832, what was at stake was not simply the tariff, but also the South’s fundamental system: human enslavement. Recognizing they were becoming a smaller and smaller minority in the country, southern elite enslavers saw that to protect enslavement, they must carve out a power base for themselves that the nation’s majority could not touch: state governments.

    To defuse the crisis, President Andrew Jackson signed into law a lower tariff in 1832, but angry South Carolinians adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, claiming that both the 1828 and the 1832 tariffs were null and void in South Carolina and threatening to leave the Union if the federal government tried to enforce them.

    Jackson called the South Carolinians out for trying to work around the federal system. If states got to determine whether a law was constitutional, he wrote, “every law operating injuriously upon any local interest will be… represented as unconstitutional,” and because the state declared itself the final decider of that status, there could be no appeal. “If this doctrine had been established at an earlier day,” he wrote, “the Union would have been dissolved in its infancy.”

    Such a doctrine was “incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.” He warned the South Carolinians that he would meet their plan to destroy the government with his own oath to execute its laws. Congress passed a law authorizing Jackson to use the military against South Carolina, but also passed a lower tariff, and South Carolinians backed down…for the moment.

    But when voters elected Abraham Lincoln to the White House in 1860, his promise to stop the spread of human enslavement to the West sparked fear among white southerners that a free West would work with the free North to get rid of human enslavement in the South.
     
    So South Carolina leaders asserted the right to dissolve the Union. Their Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union claimed that the federal government had violated the U.S. Constitution by attacking the institution of slavery. Once Lincoln stopped slavery from spreading, they wrote, “slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”

    After four years of war, Congress set out to end the ability of state leaders to undermine the federal government once and for all. In 1868, Americans added to the Constitution the Fourteenth Amendment. Southern state legislatures had tried to push Black Americans back into a form of quasi-enslavement; the amendment put a stop to that. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” it said, “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.” It also gave Congress the power to enforce the amendment.

    But the struggle between federal and state power was not, in fact, resolved. Federal strength faded during Reconstruction as voters turned against the federal protection of Black Americans. States imposed Jim Crow and Juan Crow laws discriminating against minorities. After World War II, federal government power grew again, with the Supreme Court relying on the Fourteenth Amendment to protect civil rights. But that power, too, faded.

    Businessmen who hated federal government regulation and taxes joined with racists and traditionalists who opposed equal rights for minorities and women to oppose federal power. Recognizing they were a political minority, they called for a return to what they called an “original” interpretation of the Constitution: one that focused power, once again, in the states.  

    It feels odd to write about S.B. 4 and the Nullification Crisis together in 2023. But it jumps out that while the attempt of the Republican-dominated Texas legislature to write its own immigration laws is in part a partisan attempt to whip up a political advantage in 2024, it is also a sign of a political minority that recognizes it cannot win control of the national government through democratic means.

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  • Ms. HaikuMs. Haiku Washington DC Posts: 7,234
    I signed up for her newsletters.
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
    Ms. Haiku said:
    I signed up for her newsletters.

    fantastic. follow her on facebook. great following and very smart people engage daily.
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 21, 2023 (Thursday)

    The Washington Post editorial board today wrote that “the battle for democracy will be fought—and won” by “explaining to the world why freedom matters to everyone, every day.” So, on an evening when our power has finally been restored, but too late for me to do a deep dive on anything, let’s see what that might look like from today’s news:

    For years now, the U.S. right wing has admired Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has overturned his nation’s democracy. Orbán claims that democracy weakens a nation because it allows immigration—which he calls “a poison” to a nation and says “poses a public security and terror risk”—and requires equal rights for women and LGBTQ+ individuals. The U.S. right wing claims to admire Orbán for what they see as a defense of traditional society.

    But the logical evolution of Orbán’s “illiberal” society became clear last week, when the Hungarian parliament approved a new law designed to punish Hungarians who oppose the government. A new “sovereignty protection office” will intimidate and punish those who do not share the views of the ruling party, claiming that they are working for western governments and entities. The U.S. ambassador in Budapest, David Pressman, explained: “This new state body has unfettered powers to interrogate Hungarians, demand their private documents, and utilize the services of Hungary’s intelligence apparatus—all without any judicial oversight or judicial recourse for its targets.”

    The U.S. State Department said yesterday: “This new law is inconsistent with our shared values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

    Also today, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who has said that immigration is such a national crisis that House Republicans will not pass a bill providing supplemental funding for Ukraine to help it fight off Russia’s invasion without significant changes to the nation’s border policy, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to make those changes himself through executive action.

    Biden has asked Congress for new legislation to address migration at the border since his first week in office, but Trump and his loyalists have demanded extreme measures that Democrats have, in the past, refused. With Republican refusal to fund Ukraine, Biden has said he is eager enough to get funding to Ukraine that he is willing to negotiate, but Johnson sent the House home until January 9 without a deal.

    Now it seems Republicans don’t want their own names on any such deal, likely recognizing that such an outcome would take away an issue they hope to exploit in 2024. They want Biden’s name alone on any new policies or, failing that, to be able to blame him for not taking unilateral action.

    White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre today reminded reporters that the White House has been negotiating with senators to come up with a bipartisan deal despite the absence of House members, and that Biden has been negotiating with the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to address the border situation.

    In the next few days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall will all travel to Mexico to meet with President López Obrador to discuss border challenges, all in the spirit of the 2022 Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection, an agreement between 21 Caribbean and Latin American nations, including the United States, to strengthen international frameworks to make migration safe, orderly, and humane.

    Also today, Craig Mauger of The Detroit News reported that on November 17, 2020, on a phone call with Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, Trump personally pressured two Republican members of the Wayne County, Michigan, Board of Canvassers not to sign the papers certifying the 2020 presidential election in order to overturn the election’s lawful results.

    Trump told Monica Palmer and William Hartmann that they would look “terrible” if they signed the documents. “We've got to fight for our country,” Trump said. “We can't let these people take our country away from us.” McDaniel, too, urged the pair not to sign and promised, “We will get you attorneys.”

    Palmer and Hartmann did not sign the papers, and the next day they tried to take back their votes in favor of certifying, filing legal affidavits saying “intense bullying and coercion” had led them to vote as they did.

    Lawyer Chris Thomas, Michigan’s elections director for more than 30 years, told Mauger it was unfortunate that Republican leaders offered to give the two legal protection for not doing their jobs. "Offering something of value to a public official to not perform a required duty may raise legal issues for a person doing so," Thomas noted. Legal analyst Joyce White Vance pointed out that “[o]ffering an official something of value (services of a lawyer) in exchange for withholding official action (certifying the Wayne County vote) sounds like a classic case of bribery under Michigan State law.”

    Trump is currently facing four criminal counts for his attempt to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election. His attempts to stop Michigan from certifying Biden’s victory are part of those charges.

    After the story dropped, Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, wrote that for her, “the absolute lowest moment in the post election battle we endured to protect Michigan’s accurate and legitimate election results in 2020 was not when armed protestors stormed my home. It was the night of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting.”

    Benson said the board knew about the pressure not to certify and were prepared to fight in the courts, but also knew that such a delay would “create enough doubt and uncertainty to enable the Trump campaign to push Pennsylvania, which was certifying the next week, to delay as well. And we knew other dominos would fall after that. How could we overcome the pressure of the then–President of the United States on local and state officials? Were the facts and law not enough?”

    “Well,” she wrote, “then something I’ll never forget happened.

    “Hundreds—hundreds (!)—of citizens showed up to the meeting of the Wayne County Canvassing Board to remind them of their duty under the law to ensure their votes counted. Their voices mattered. Their votes mattered.

    “In my view that turned the tide. Citizens and election officials in Wayne County and statewide didn’t flinch, stood firm, and demanded their votes be certified as required under the law.

    “And in the end, the Wayne County Canvassing board fulfilled their legal duty, followed the law and certified the election.

    “What started as the lowest moment of the post election melee became the most inspiring.

    “The voters won. Facts and the rule of law carried the day.

    “Democracy prevailed.”

    Finally, tonight, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has filed for bankruptcy less than a week after a jury awarded election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss more than $145 million for defaming them by accusing them of election fraud as part of his attempt to overthrow the country’s democratic system.

    The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote that “the world’s democracies should create a system to fight back that can speak plainly and consistently about the inherent advantages of democratic systems, while admitting the imperfections, and use creative ways to illuminate the flaws and depredations of authoritarian regimes.”

    To be honest, it doesn’t seem that hard.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
       December 22, 2023 (Friday)

    Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis released today showed inflation continuing to come down. In November the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index was 2.6% over the previous November, down from 2.9% in October. The Federal Reserve aims for 2%. Falling gas prices meant that overall, prices actually dropped in November for the first time since April 2020.

    In a statement, President Joe Biden reminded Americans that “[a] year ago, most forecasters predicted it would require a spike in joblessness and a slowdown to get inflation down. I never believed that. I never gave up on the hard work, grit, and resilience of millions of Americans.” In addition to the falling inflation rate, he noted that “the unemployment rate has stayed below 4 percent for 22 months in a row, and wages, wealth, and the share of working-age Americans with jobs are higher now than they were before the pandemic began.”

    “But,” he said, “our work is far from finished.” To continue to lower prices for hardworking families, he said, he is focused “on lowering costs—from bringing down the price of insulin, prescription drugs, and energy, to addressing hidden junk fees companies use to rip you off, to calling on large corporations to pass savings on to consumers as their costs moderate.”

    The administration is highlighting economic numbers not just because they are good—and they are: real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an astonishing annual rate of 4.9% in the third quarter of 2023; under Trump it was 2.5% before the pandemic knocked the bottom out of everything—but also because they illustrate the administration’s return to an economic theory under which the U.S. government operated from 1933 to 1981.

    In those years the federal government focused on supporting people on the “demand side” of the economy in the belief that what drives economic growth is demand for goods and services. This theory means that the government should work to make sure workers and those at the bottom of the economy have money to afford the goods and services they need. This theory suggests that education and good wages and a basic social safety net are good for the economy because they enable people to have enough disposable income that they can buy things.

    After President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, though, a different economic theory took hold. People in power believed that what drives growth is not the demand side, but rather the “supply side” of the economy: the people who create goods and services. This theory means that the government should work to make sure that producers can concentrate wealth and use it however they wish, because they will invest in the economy, producing more goods more cheaply and thus creating more jobs at better wages. This theory calls for little business regulation or taxation, both of which hurt the accumulation of wealth, and trusts market forces, rather than government policies, to keep the economy fair.

    Neither of these theories is new in the United States, although in every incarnation they have had different elements and emphases. But today the struggle between those who believe in one side or the other is central to politics.

    While Biden and the Democrats are working hard to support the demand side of the economy, Republicans are firmly in the camp of the supply side. On this date in 2017, then-president Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, sometimes referred to as the Trump tax cuts. Passed with Republican votes alone, the law cut tax rates for individuals until 2025 but made cuts in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% permanent.

    Together with the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush and made permanent by lawmakers of both parties in 2013, the Trump tax cuts went primarily to households in the top 1% and to large corporations. In testimony in May 2023 before the Senate Committee on the Budget, tax analyst Samantha Jacoby of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that these tax cuts “ballooned deficits” while there is little evidence that they promoted growth.

    Bobby Kogan from the Center for American Progress, who previously worked in the Biden-Harris White House, noted in March 2023 that Reagan’s tax cuts, which amounted to about $10 trillion, started a bipartisan effort to reduce spending and increase revenues. Those efforts meant that President Bill Clinton left office with budget surpluses. At the time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that even with an aging population and increasing healthcare costs, revenues would keep up with the costs of domestic programs.

    But the massive Bush tax cuts threw that projection off. By the end of fiscal year 2023, those cuts will have cost more than $8 trillion, and most of the savings went to the wealthy. Trump’s tax cuts continued both of those patterns: they will cost about $1.7 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2023 and they, too, benefited primarily the wealthy and corporations. At a cost of almost $10 trillion, these combined tax cuts are central to the budget deficit and growing national debt.

    For all the complaints about American tax rates, the U.S. ranks 32nd out of 38 nations in revenue as a percentage of GDP in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of market-based democracies devoted to “achiev[ing] the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living.” The U.S. is so much below the average ratio that if its ratio were simply average, it would bring in $26 trillion more over 10 years.

    Yet Republicans back making all the Trump tax cuts permanent; Trump and his advisors have called for still deeper tax cuts, possibly cutting the corporate tax rate to 15%; and House Republicans want to cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service that enables it to audit wealthy tax cheats.

    Meanwhile, Republican representative David Schweikert (R-AZ), vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, who is deeply concerned about the budget deficits, believes that what is driving those deficits is that Americans are aging. Like many of his colleagues, including Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, he believes the answer to fixing the budget is cutting Social Security, Medicare, and other services.

    Tax policy and economic news sometimes come across as piecemeal and dull, but they are, at the end of the day, the story of how we think societies prosper and what role governments and markets should play to nurture that prosperity.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 23, 2023 (Saturday)

    On this day in December 1783, General George Washington stood in front of the Confederation Congress, meeting in the senate chamber of the Maryland State House, to resign his wartime commission. Negotiators had signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783, and once the British troops had withdrawn from New York City, Washington believed his job was done.

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

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

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

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

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

    And it hangs there today, representing 240 years of the American republic, as that same man promises that if he is reelected, he will be a dictator only “on day one.”

    [Image: John Trumbull, General George Washington Resigning his Commission, 1824, public domain through Wikimedia Commons.]

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 24, 2023 (Sunday)

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

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

    But it has not always been this way.

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

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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 25, 2023 (Monday)

    In the summer heat of July 1776, revolutionaries in 13 of the British colonies in North America celebrated news that the members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, had adopted the Declaration of Independence. In July, men had cheered the ideas that “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States,” and that, in contrast to the tradition of hereditary monarchy under which the American colonies had been organized, the representatives of the thirteen united states intended to create a nation based on the idea “that all men are created equal” and that governments were legitimate only if those they governed consented to them.
     
    But then the British responded to the colonists’ fervor with military might. They sent reinforcements to Staten Island and Long Island and by September had forced General George Washington to evacuate his troops from New York City. After a series of punishing skirmishes across Manhattan Island, by November the British had pushed the Americans into New Jersey. They chased the colonials all the way across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

    By mid-December the future looked bleak for the Continental Army and the revolutionary government it backed. The 5,000 soldiers with Washington who were still able to fight were demoralized from their repeated losses and retreats, and since the Continental Congress had kept enlistments short so they would not risk a standing army, many of the men would be free to leave the army at the end of the year, weakening it even more.

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

    By December, the fiery passion of July had cooled.
     
    “These are the times that try men’s souls,” read a pamphlet published in Philadelphia on December 19. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

    The author of The American Crisis was Thomas Paine, whose January 1776 pamphlet Common Sense had solidified the colonists’ irritation at the king’s ministers into a rejection of monarchy itself, a rejection not just of King George III, but of all kings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
     December 26, 2023 (Tuesday)

    On December 26, 1991, the New York Times ran a banner headline: “Gorbachev, Last Soviet Leader, Resigns; U.S. Recognizes Republics’ Independence.” On December 25, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned, marking the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, often referred to as the Soviet Union or USSR.

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

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

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

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

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

    ​​At the same time, the oligarchs who rose to power in the former Soviet republics looked to park their illicit money in western democracies, where the rule of law would protect their investments. Once invested in the United States, they favored the Republicans who focused on the protection of wealth rather than social services. For their part, Republican politicians focused on spreading capitalism rather than democracy, arguing that the two went hand in hand.

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

    The United States became one of the money-laundering capitals of the world, with hundreds of billions of dollars laundered in the U.S. every year.

    In 2011 the international movement of illicit money led then–FBI director Robert Mueller to tell the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City that globalization and technology had changed the nature of organized crime. International enterprises, he said, “are running multi-national, multi-billion dollar schemes from start to finish…. They may be former members of nation-state governments, security services, or the military…. These criminal enterprises are making billions of dollars from human trafficking, health care fraud, computer intrusions, and copyright infringement. They are cornering the market on natural gas, oil, and precious metals, and selling to the highest bidder…. These groups may infiltrate our businesses. They may provide logistical support to hostile foreign powers. They may try to manipulate those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, these so-called ‘iron triangles’ of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders pose a significant national security threat.”

    In 2021, Congress addressed this threat by including the Corporate Transparency Act in the National Defense Authorization Act. It undercut shell companies and money laundering by requiring the owners of any company that is not otherwise overseen by the federal government (by filing taxes, for example, or through close regulation) to file with FinCEN a report identifying (by name, birth date, address, and an identifying number) each person associated with the company who either owns 25% or more of it or exercised substantial control over it. The measure also increased penalties for money laundering and streamlined cooperation between banks and foreign law enforcement authorities.

    But that act wouldn’t take effect for another three years.

    Meanwhile, once in office, the Biden administration made fighting corruption a centerpiece of its attempt to shore up democracy both at home and abroad. In June 2021, Biden declared the fight against corruption a core U.S. national security interest. “Corruption threatens United States national security, economic equity, global anti-poverty and development efforts, and democracy itself,” he wrote. “But by effectively preventing and countering corruption and demonstrating the advantages of transparent and accountable governance, we can secure a critical advantage for the United States and other democracies.”

    In March 2023 the Treasury told Congress that “[m]oney laundering perpetrated by the Government of the Russian Federation (GOR), Russian [state-owned enterprises], Russian organized crime, and Russian elites poses a significant threat to the national security of the United States and the integrity of the international financial system,” and it outlined the ways in which it had been trying to combat that corruption. “In light of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine,” it said, “we must redouble our efforts to prevent Russia from abusing the U.S. financial system to sustain its war and counter Russian sanctioned individuals and firms seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in the U.S. financial system.”

    The collapse of the USSR helped to undermine the Cold War democracy that opposed it. In the past 32 years we have torn ourselves apart as politicians adhering to an extreme ideology demonized their opponents. That demonization also helped to justify the deregulation of our economy and then the illicit money from the rising oligarchs it attracted, money that has corrupted our democratic system.

    But there are at least signs that the financial free-for-all might be changing. The three years are up, and the Corporate Transparency Act will take effect on January 1, 2024.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 34,899
      December 27, 2023 (Wednesday)

    Fifty years ago tomorrow, on December 28, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law. Declaring that Congress had determined that “various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation,” the act provided for the protection of endangered species.

    Just over a decade before, in 1962, ecologist Rachel Carson had published Silent Spring, documenting how pesticides designed to eliminate insects were devastating entire ecosystems of linked organisms. The realization that human destruction of the natural world could make the planet uninhabitable spurred Congress in 1970 to create the Environmental Protection Agency. And in 1973, when Nixon called for stronger laws to protect species in danger of extinction, 194 Democrats and 160 Republicans in the House—99% of those voting—voted yes. Only four Republicans in the House voted no.    

    Such strong congressional support for protecting the environment signaled that a new era was at hand. While President Gerald Ford, who succeeded Nixon, tended to dial back environmental protections when he could in order to promote the development of oil and gas resources, President Jimmy Carter pressed the protection of the environment when he took office in 1977.

    In 1978, Carter placed 56 million acres of land in Alaska under federal protection as national monuments, doubling the size of the national park system. “These areas contain resources of unequaled scientific, historic and cultural value, and include some of the most spectacular scenery and wildlife in the world,” he said. In 1979 he had 32 solar panels installed at the White House to help heat the water for the building and demonstrate that it was possible to curb U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Just before he left office, Carter signed into law the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, protecting more than 100 million acres in Alaska, including additional protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    Oil companies, mining companies, timber companies, the cattle industry, and local officials eager for development strongly opposed Carter’s moves to protect the environment. In Alaska, local activists deliberately broke the regulations in the newly protected places, portraying Carter as King George III—against whom the American colonists revolted in 1776—and insisting that the protection of lands violated the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence.

    For the most part, though, opposition to federal protection of the environment showed up as a drive to reform government regulations that, opponents argued, gave far too much power to unelected bureaucrats. In environmental regulations, the federal government’s protection of the public good ran smack into economic development.

    In their 1980 presidential platform, Republicans claimed to be committed to “the conservation and wise management of America’s renewable natural resources” and said the government must protect public health. But they were not convinced that current laws and regulations provided benefits that justified their costs. “Too often,” they said, “current regulations are…rigid and narrow,” and they “strongly affirm[ed] that environmental protection must not become a cover for a ‘no-growth’ policy and a shrinking economy.”
     
    In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan explained that he wanted to see the U.S. produce more energy to fuel “growth and productivity. Large amounts of oil and natural gas lay beneath our land and off our shores, untouched because the present Administration seems to believe the American people would rather see more regulation, taxes and controls than more energy.”

    In his farewell address after voters elected Reagan, Carter urged Americans to “protect the quality of this world within which we live…. There are real and growing dangers to our simple and our most precious possessions: the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land which sustains us,” he warned. “The rapid depletion of irreplaceable minerals, the erosion of topsoil, the destruction of beauty, the blight of pollution, the demands of increasing billions of people, all combine to create problems which are easy to observe and predict, but difficult to resolve. If we do not act, the world of the year 2000 will be much less able to sustain life than it is now.”

    “But,” Carter added, “[a]cknowledging the physical realities of our planet does not mean a dismal future of endless sacrifice. In fact, acknowledging these realities is the first step in dealing with them. We can meet the resource problems of the world—water, food, minerals, farmlands, forests, overpopulation, pollution if we tackle them with courage and foresight.”
     
    Reagan began by appointing pro-industry officials James G. Watt and Anne M. Gorsuch (mother of Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch) as secretary of the interior and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, respectively; they set out to gut government regulation of the environment by slashing budgets and firing staff. But both resigned under scandal in 1983, and their replacements satisfied neither those who wanted to return to the practices of the Carter years nor those who wanted to get rid of those practices altogether.

    Still, with their focus on developing oil and gas, when workers repairing the White House roof removed the solar panels in 1986, Reagan administration officials declined to reinstall them.

    Forty years later, we are reaping the fruits of that shift away from the atmosphere that gave us the Endangered Species Act and toward a focus on developing fossil fuels. On November 30 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an agency of the United Nations, reported that global temperatures in 2023 were at a record highs both on land and in the seas, Antarctic sea ice extent is at a record low, and devastating fires, floods, outbreaks of disease, and searing heat waves have pounded human communities this year.

    The WMO released this provisional report the same day that the U.N. Climate Change negotiations, known as COP28, began in the United Arab Emirates. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged leaders to commit to act to address climate change, while there was still time to avoid “the worst of climate chaos.” After a year in which countries staggered under extreme weather events, climate change is on people’s minds: nearly 80,000 people, including world leaders and celebrities, registered to attend COP28.

    After the convention ended on December 13, Umair Irfan of Vox summarized the agreement hashed out there. For the first time in 27 such conventions, countries explicitly called for the phasing out of fossil fuel…but they didn’t say when or by how much. After taking stock of what countries are doing to address climate change, the meeting concluded that efforts to reduce emissions, invest in technology, adapt to warming, and help suffering countries are all falling short.

    In addition to acknowledging the need to move away from fossil fuels, COP28 agreed to cut methane, boost renewable energy considerably, and help countries that are dealing with the fallout from climate change: island nations, for example. But emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, and the hope of limiting warmer temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius now seems a long shot. Still, renewable energy capacity grew nearly 10% in 2022, led by solar and wind power.

    Today President Joe Biden used the anniversary of the Endangered Species Act to reclaim the spirit of the era in which it was written, urging Americans to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, “honor all the progress we have made toward protecting endangered species,” and to “come together to conserve our planet.” He noted that thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden-Harris administration has been able to invest billions of dollars in forest management, ecosystem restoration, and protection of watersheds, as well as making historic investments in addressing climate change, and that, as  president, he has protected more lands and waters than any president since John F. Kennedy.

    And yet the forces that undermined that spirit are still at work. In the 2022 West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency decision, the Supreme Court claimed that Congress could not delegate “major questions” to executive agencies, thus limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate the emissions that create climate change; and House Republicans this summer held a hearing on “the destructive cost of the Endangered Species Act,” claiming that it “has been misused and misapplied for the past 50 years” with “disastrous effects on local economies and businesses throughout the United States.” Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources Bruce Westerman (R-AR) accused the Biden administration of stifling “everything from forest management to future energy production through burdensome ESA regulations.”

    While in 1980 voters could react to such a contrast between the parties’ environmental visions ideologically, in 2023, reality itself is weighing in. Brady Dennis of the Washington Post noted today that in this era of rising waters and epic storms, North Carolina has become the fourth state, along with South Carolina, New York, and New Jersey, to require home sellers to disclose their home’s flooding history and flood risk to prospective buyers.

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