Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      December 28, 2023 (Thursday)

    On the clear, cold morning of December 29, 1890, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, three U.S. soldiers tried to wrench a valuable Winchester away from a young Lakota man. He refused to give up his hunting weapon. It was the only thing standing between his family and starvation, and he had no faith it would be returned to him as the officer promised: he had watched as soldiers had marked other confiscated valuable weapons for themselves.

    As the men struggled, the gun fired into the sky.

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

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

    A dozen years ago, I wrote a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, and what I learned still keeps me up at night. But it is not December 29 that haunts me.

    What haunts me is the night of December 28.

    On December 28 there was still time to avert the massacre.

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

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

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

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

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

    And the soldiers celebrated, for they saw themselves as heroes of a great war, and it had been bloodless, and now, with the Lakotas’ surrender, they would be demobilized back to their home bases before the South Dakota winter closed in. As they celebrated, more and more troops poured in. It had been a long hunt across South Dakota for Sitanka and his band, and officers were determined the group would not escape them again.

    In came the Seventh Cavalry, whose men had not forgotten that their former leader George Armstrong Custer had been killed by a band of Lakota in 1876. In came three mountain guns, which the soldiers trained on the Indian encampment from a slight rise above the camp.

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

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

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

    But it is never too late to change the future.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      December 29, 2023 (Friday)

    When asked at a town hall on Wednesday to identify the cause of the United States Civil War, presidential candidate and former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley answered that the cause “was basically how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn’t do…. I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are…. And I will always stand by the fact that, I think, government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people.”
     
    Haley has correctly been lambasted for her rewriting of history. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens of Georgia, was quite clear about the cause of the Civil War. Stephens explicitly rejected the idea embraced by U.S. politicians from the revolutionary period onward that human enslavement was “wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.” Instead, he declared: “Our new government is founded upon…the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”

    President Joe Biden put the cause of the Civil War even more succinctly: “It was about slavery.”

    Haley has been backpedaling ever since—as well as suggesting that the question was somehow a “gotcha” question from a Democrat, as if it was a difficult question to answer—but her answer was not simply bad history or an unwillingness to offend potential voters, as some have suggested. It was the death knell of the Republican Party.

    That party formed in the 1850s to stand against what was known as the Slave Power, a small group of elite enslavers who had come to dominate first the Democratic Party and then, through it, the presidency, Supreme Court, and Senate. When northern Democrats in the House of Representatives caved to pressure to allow enslavement into western lands from which it had been prohibited since 1820, northerners of all political stripes recognized that it was only a question of time until elite enslavers took over the West, joined with lawmakers from southern slave states, overwhelmed the northern free states in the House of Representatives, and made enslavement national.

    So in 1854, after Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that allowed the spread of enslavement into previously protected western lands, northerners abandoned their old parties and came together first as “anti-Nebraska” coalitions and then, by 1856, as the Republican Party.

    At first their only goal was to stop the Slave Power, but in 1859, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln articulated an ideology for the new party. In contrast to southern Democrats, who insisted that a successful society required leaders to dominate workers and that the government must limit itself to defending those leaders because its only domestic role was the protection of property, Lincoln envisioned a new kind of government, based on a new economy.

    Lincoln saw a society that moved forward thanks not to rich people, but to the innovation of men just starting out. Such men produced more than they and their families could consume, and their accumulated capital would employ shoemakers and storekeepers. Those businessmen, in turn, would support a few industrialists, who would begin the cycle again by hiring other men just starting out. Rather than remaining small and simply protecting property, Lincoln and his fellow Republicans argued, the government should clear the way for those at the bottom of the economy, making sure they had access to resources, education, and the internal improvements that would enable them to reach markets.

    When the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to start their own nation based in their own hierarchical society, the Republicans in charge of the United States government were free to put their theory into practice. For a nominal fee, they sold farmers land that the government in the past would have sold to speculators; created state colleges, railroads, national money, and income taxes; and promoted immigration.

    Finally, with the Civil War over and the Union restored on their terms, in 1865 they ended the institution of human enslavement except as punishment for crime (an important exception) and in 1868 they added the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to make clear that the federal government had power to override state laws that enforced inequality among different Americans. In 1870 they created the Department of Justice to ensure that all American citizens enjoyed the equal protection of the laws.

    In the years after the Civil War, the Republican vision of a harmony of economic interest among all Americans quickly swung toward the idea of protecting those at the top of society, with the argument that industrial leaders were the ones who created jobs for urban workers. Ever since, the party has alternated  between Lincoln’s theory that the government must work for those at the bottom and the theory of the so-called robber barons, who echoed the elite enslavers’ idea that the government must protect the wealthy.

    During the Progressive Era, Theodore Roosevelt reclaimed Lincoln’s philosophy and argued for a strong government to rein in the industrialists and financiers who dominated society; a half-century later, Dwight Eisenhower followed the lead of Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and used the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, promote infrastructure, and protect civil rights.

    After each progressive president, the party swung toward protecting property. In the modern era the swing begun under Richard Nixon gained momentum with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Since then the party has focused on deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, and taking power away from the federal government and turning it back over to the states, while maintaining that market forces, rather than government policies, should drive society.

    But those ideas were not generally popular, so to win elections, the party welcomed white evangelical Christians into a coalition, promising them legislation that would restore traditional society, relegating women and people of color back to the subservience the law enforced before the 1950s. But it seems they never really intended for that party base to gain control.

    The small-government idea was the party’s philosophy when Donald Trump came down the escalator in June 2015 to announce he was running for president, and his 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy indicated he would follow in that vein. But his presidency quickly turned the Republican base into a right-wing movement loyal to Trump himself, and he was both eager to get away from legal trouble and impeachments and determined to exact revenge on those who did not do his bidding. The power in the party shifted from those trying to protect wealthy Americans to Trump, who increasingly aligned with foreign autocrats.

    That realignment has taken off since Trump left office in 2021 and his base wrested power from the party’s former leaders. Leaders in Trump’s right-wing movement have increasingly embraced the concept of “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy” as articulated by Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin or Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has demolished Hungary’s democracy and replaced it with a dictatorship. On the campaign trail lately, Trump has taken to echoing Putin and Orbán directly.

    Those leaders insist that the equality at the heart of democracy destroys a nation by welcoming immigrants, which undermines national purity, and by treating women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ people as equal to white, heteronormative men. Their focus on what they call “traditional values” has won staunch supporters among the right-wing white evangelical community in the U.S.

    Ironically, MAGA Republicans, whose name comes from Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again,” want the United States of America, one of the world’s great superpowers, to sign onto the program of a landlocked country of fewer than 10 million people in central Europe.

    MAGA’s determination to impose white Christian nationalism on the United States of America is a rejection of the ideology of the Republican Party in all its phases. Rather than either an active government that defends equal rights and opportunity or a small government that protects property and relies on market forces, which Republicans stood for as recently as eight years ago, today’s Republicans advocate a strong government that imposes religious rules on society.

    They back strict abortion bans, book bans, and attacks on minorities and LGBTQ+ people. Last year, Florida governor Ron DeSantis directly used the state government to threaten Disney into complying with his anti-LGBTQ+ stance rather than reacting to popular support for LGBTQ+ rights. Missouri attorney general Andrew Bailey early this month used the government to go after political opposition, launching an investigation into Media Matters for America after the watchdog organization reported that the social media platform X was placing advertising next to antisemitic content. “I’m fighting to ensure progressive tyrants masquerading as news outlets cannot manipulate the marketplace in order to wipe out free speech,” Bailey said.

    Domestically, the new ideology of MAGA means forcing the majority to live under the rules of a small minority; internationally, it means support for a global authoritarian movement. MAGA Republicans’ current refusal to fund Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression until the administration agrees to draconian immigration laws—which they are also refusing to participate in crafting—is not only a gift to Putin. It also suggests to any foreign government that U.S. foreign policy is changeable so long as a foreign government succeeds in influencing U.S. lawmakers. Under this system, American global leadership will no longer be viable.

    When Nikki Haley said the cause of the Civil War “was how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn’t do,” she did more than avoid the word “slavery” to pander to MAGA Republicans who refuse to recognize the role of race in shaping our history. She rejected the long and once grand history of the Republican Party and announced its death to the world.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      December 30, 2023 (Saturday)

    One day short of his first 100 days in the White House, on April 28, 2021, President Joe Biden spoke to a joint session of Congress, where he outlined an ambitious vision for the nation. In a time of rising autocrats who believed democracy was failing, he asked, could the United States demonstrate that democracy is still vital?

    “Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility? Can our democracy deliver…to the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate, and fears that have pulled us apart?”

    America’s adversaries were betting that the U.S. was so full of anger and division that it could not. “But they are wrong,” Biden said. “You know it; I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.”

    “We have to prove democracy still works—that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.”

    In that speech, Biden outlined a plan to begin investing in the nation again as well as to rebuild the country’s neglected infrastructure. “Throughout our history,” he noted, “public investment and infrastructure has literally transformed America—our attitudes, as well as our opportunities.”

    In the first two years of his administration, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, lawmakers set out to do what Biden asked. They passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help restart the nation’s economy after the pandemic-induced crash; the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (better known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) to repair roads, bridges, and waterlines, extend broadband, and build infrastructure for electric vehicles; the roughly $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act to promote scientific research and manufacturing of semiconductors; and the Inflation Reduction Act, which sought to curb inflation by lowering prescription drug prices, promoting domestic renewable energy production, and investing in measures to combat climate change.

    This was a dramatic shift from the previous 40 years of U.S. policy, when lawmakers maintained that slashing the government would stimulate economic growth, and pundits widely predicted that the Democrats’ policies would create a recession.

    But in 2023, with the results of the investment in the United States falling into place, it is clear that those policies justified Biden’s faith in them. The U.S. economy is stronger than that of any other country in the Group of Seven (G7)—a political and economic forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the European Union—with higher growth and faster drops in inflation than any other G7 country over the past three years.

    Heather Long of the Washington Post said yesterday there was only one word for the U.S. economy in 2023, and that word is “miracle.”

    Rather than cooling over the course of the year, growth accelerated to an astonishing 4.9% annualized rate in the third quarter of the year while inflation cooled from 6.4% to 3.1% and the economy added more than 2.5 million jobs. The S&P 500, which is a stock market index of 500 of the largest companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges, ended this year up 24%. The Nasdaq composite index, which focuses on technology stocks, gained more than 40%. Noah Berlatsky, writing for Public Notice yesterday, pointed out that new businesses are starting up at a near-record pace, and that holiday sales this year were up 3.1%.

    Unemployment has remained below 4% for 22 months in a row for the first time since the late 1960s. That low unemployment has enabled labor to make significant gains, with unionized workers in the automobile industry, UPS, Hollywood, railroads, and service industries winning higher wages and other benefits. Real wages have risen faster than inflation, especially for those at the bottom of the economy, whose wages have risen by 4.5% after inflation between 2020 and 2023.

    Meanwhile, perhaps as a reflection of better economic conditions in the wake of the pandemic, the nation has had a record drop in homicides and other categories of violent crime. The only crime that has risen in 2023 is vehicle theft.  

    While Biden has focused on making the economy deliver for ordinary Americans, Vice President Kamala Harris has emphasized protecting the right of all Americans to be treated equally before the law.

    In April 2023, when the Republican-dominated Tennessee legislature expelled two young Black legislators, Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, for participating in a call for gun safety legislation after a mass shooting at a school in Nashville, Harris traveled to Nashville’s historically Black Fisk University to support them and their cause.

    In the wake of the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Supreme Court decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, Harris became the administration’s most vocal advocate for abortion rights. “How dare they?” she demanded. “How dare they tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body?... How dare they try to stop her from determining her own future? How dare they try to deny women their rights and their freedoms?” She brought together civil rights leaders and reproductive rights advocates to work together to defend Americans’ civil and human rights.

    In fall 2023, Harris traveled around the nation’s colleges to urge students to unite behind issues that disproportionately affect younger Americans: “reproductive freedom, common sense gun safety laws, climate action, voting rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and teaching America’s full history.”

    “Opening doors of opportunity, guaranteeing some more fairness and justice—that’s the essence of America,” Biden said when he spoke to Congress in April 2021. “That’s democracy in action.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      December 31, 2023 (Sunday)

    Since I began to write these letters in September 2019, my time has been swallowed up almost entirely by trying first to make sense of the news every day and then to write coherently about how that news fits into U.S. history. When we added writing a book on top of that, it meant that most other things got ignored.

    One of the things that got left behind was making any effort to keep copies of the letters. I wrote them every night and then let them float away, vaguely hoping that someday, if we needed to, we could recreate the record from the various places they washed up.

    And then, early in the month, this arrived.

    David Link of Richland, Washington, has been collecting the letters since the beginning, and he got together with graphic designer Dani Smart and fine artist Rochelle Walden—all part of this growing community—to produce a copy of the full run of Letters from an American for my shelves. The volumes with the black labels are the letters with notes; the red volumes are the letters without them.

    The set with the notes is twelve volumes, and David tells me another one is already in press.

    I am blown away, both by how much of my life is contained in these volumes and by the community we have built as you have asked questions, corrected errors, made friendships, and cheered this project on for more than four years. If these volumes contain four years of my life, they also contain four years of the life of this community and this nation.

    I’m beyond grateful to all of you for helping to create such a vital body of work, and to David, Dani, Rochelle for collecting it into such a beautiful set of volumes.

    It’s quite a record, and I expect that over the course of the next twelve months, that record will become even more important.

    Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s do this!

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 1, 2024 (Monday)

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

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

    Historian Richard Hofstadter famously complained that the Emancipation Proclamation had “all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading,” but its legalistic tone reflected that Lincoln was committed to achieving change not by dictating it, which he recognized would destroy our democracy, but by working within the nation's democratic system.

    Although Lincoln personally opposed human enslavement, he did not believe the federal government had the power to end it in the states. With that limitation, his goal, and that of the fledgling Republican Party he led, was only to keep it from spreading into the western territories where, until the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Congress had the power to exclude human enslavement. The spread of enslaved labor would enable wealthy enslavers to dominate the region quickly, they thought, limiting opportunities for poorer white men and gradually turning the entire country over to enslavers.

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

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

    In August 1861, shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run left the Union army battered and bleeding, Congress struck a blow at enslavement by passing a law that forfeited the right of any enslaver to a person whom he had consented to be used “in aid of this rebellion, in digging ditches or intrenchments, or in any other way.”

    When northern Democrats charged that Republicans were subverting the Constitution and planning to emancipate all southern enslaved people, Republicans agreed with the old principle that Congress had no right to “interfere with slavery in any slaveholding state,” but stood firmly on a new argument: the war powers the Constitution assigned to Congress enabled it to pass laws that would help the war effort. That included attacking enslavement.

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

    At the same time, Republicans came to see Black people as crucially important in the North as well, as they worked in military camps and, later, in cotton fields in areas captured by the U.S. military. While Democrats continued to harp on what they saw as Black people’s inability to support themselves, Republicans countered that “[n]o better class of laborers could be found…in all the population of the United States,” and Republican newspapers pushed back on the Democratic idea that Black families were unwelcome in the North.

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

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

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

    Voters had spoken, and Lincoln responded by offering to give Democrats exactly what they said they wanted. In his message to Congress on December 1, 1862, he called for it to consider amendments to the Constitution that would put off emancipation until January 1, 1900, and pay enslavers for those enslaved people who became free. Slavery was going to end one way or another, he made it clear, and if Democrats wanted to do it their way, he was willing to let them lead. The ball was in Congress’s court if congressmen wanted to play.

    But Democrats had won the election on grievance; no lawmaker really wanted to try to persuade his constituents to pay rich enslavers to end their barbaric system. Northerners recoiled from the plan. One newspaper correspondent noted that compensated emancipation would almost certainly cost more than a billion dollars, and while he seemed willing to stomach that financial hit, others were not. Another correspondent to the New York Times said that enslavers, who were at that very moment attacking the U.S. government, were already making up lists of the value of the people enslaved on their lands to get their U.S. government payouts.

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

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

    In less than two years, the nation had gone from protecting enslavement to ending it, completely reworking the foundations of our government. But while the victory was moral, Lincoln and the Republicans had achieved it within the confines of a system that allowed the vote only to white men, a significant number of whom opposed ending enslavement altogether. Thanks to pressure from Black Americans and public opinion, they were able to thread a narrow political needle, preserving democratic norms while achieving revolutionary ends.

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

    The sausage-making of the Emancipation Proclamation had long-term repercussions. The redefinition of Black Americans as superhuman workers undercut later attempts to support formerly enslaved people as they transitioned to a free economy, and the road to equality was not at all as smooth as the Republicans hoped. But that such a foundational change in our history emerged from such messy give and take, necessary in order to preserve our democratic system, seems a useful thing to remember in 2024.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 2, 2024 (Tuesday)

    The new year has hit with news flying in from a number of quarters.

    At home, minimum wage increased in nearly half of U.S. states; it has been 14 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, the longest stretch since 1938 according to the AFL-CIO. NPR correspondent David Gura quoted Goldman Sachs’s chief equity strategist to note, ​​”The S&P 500 index returned 26% including dividends in 2023, more than 2x the average annual return of 12% since 1986.”

    Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH) today submitted his resignation, effective January 21, to become the president of Youngstown State University. This shaves the Republican majority in the House of Representatives even thinner. With the recent expulsion of George Santos (R-NY) and resignation of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republicans will control just 219 seats, permitting them a margin of only two seats to pass legislation when the House returns on January 9.

    The Republican House has been one of the least effective in history, and it has its work cut out for it in the new year. The first phase of the continuing resolution Congress passed in November to fund the government expires on January 19, ending funding for transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, and veterans’ affairs. The second phase expires on February 2. Much of the 2018 Farm Bill that covers food and farm aid expired in 2023. As of yesterday, January 1, the items usually covered in farm bills fall under a hodge-podge of fixes, with some old provisions from the 1930s and 1940s going back into force.

    Also outstanding is the measure to provide supplemental funding for Israel, Ukraine, and the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico, as well as providing humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

    House Republicans refused to pass that measure unless it included their own extreme anti-immigration measures, but they have refused to participate in efforts to hash out legislation, clearly preferring to keep the issue hot to use against the Democrats in 2024. Since President Joe Biden took office, he and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have asked Congress for additional funding for Customs and Border Patrol officers and additional immigration courts, but despite Republicans’ own demand for such legislation, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) wrote to Biden in December demanding that he impose stricter immigration rules and build a border wall through executive action. Today, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) echoed the idea that Biden, not Congress, should deal with the border.

    Meanwhile, Emily Brooks and Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill reported today that about 60 House Republicans are planning to visit the border in Texas to emphasize the issue. They are also preparing to impeach Mayorkas on the grounds that he has failed to meet the requirements of the Secure Fence Act, “which defines operational control of the border as a status in which not a single person or piece of contraband improperly enters the country.” As Brooks and Beitsch point out, “not a single secretary of Homeland Security has met that standard of perfection.” House Republicans plan to hold hearings on impeaching Mayorkas, but Homeland Security Committee chair Mark Green (R-TN) has suggested to the Fox News Channel that the articles of impeachment are already written.

    At the intersection of domestic and foreign affairs, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), whom federal prosecutors have already indicted for using his office to work for Egypt, was charged again today with using his political influence to work for the government of Qatar. This is a big deal: at the time, Menendez was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a key position in the U.S. government. Two Republican operatives are pleading guilty to evading lobbying laws in their own work for Qatar; their activities appear to have been much more limited than Menendez’s.

    The turn of the new year has also produced lots of news in foreign affairs.

    On February 4, 2021, just after Secretary of State Antony Blinken took office, Biden spoke at the State Department and said “the message I want the world to hear today” is that “America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.” In a New York Times article from December 31, Peter Baker, Edward Wong, Julian E. Barnes, and Isabel Kershner emphasize that Biden and his team have been engaged constantly in diplomacy with Israel, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. Since the October 7, 2023, attack by Iran-backed Hamas on Israel, Biden has spoken with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu 14 times and visited Israel; Blinken has traveled to the region three times and visited Israel five times.

    On December 22, in the Christian Science Monitor, Arab political journalist Taylor Luck and correspondent Fatima AbdulKarim reported that Arab Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, the U.S., and the European Union have created “[a] massive postwar reconstruction plan…for the besieged Gaza Strip.” The plan is to “rebuild the coastal strip, unite and overhaul Palestinian governance, and create a Palestinian security force in Gaza to ensure Palestinian and Israeli security.”

    Arab diplomats insist the reconstruction of southern Gaza, including alleviating suffering, rebuilding housing and infrastructure, and restoring jobs, must be “rapid”; Gulf states have set $3 billion a year for ten years as the first budget. The plan calls for a “revamped and revitalized” Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza and the West Bank with current president Mahmoud Abbas as a figurehead and an apolitical unity government running affairs.

    The plan is still developing, but already the main obstacles are Israel’s governing coalition, led by Netanyahu, who refuses the ideas of a two-state solution and of a Palestinian Authority in charge of Gaza, and Hamas, which Gulf states as well as the U.S. reject as a participant in the future governance of Gaza. Other Iran-backed militias also oppose such a solution.

    From the beginning of the Hamas-Israel war, the Biden administration has been very clear that its first goal was to make sure the conflict didn’t spread, with Lebanon’s Iran-allied Hezbollah and other proxy militias joining in fully. Biden immediately sent two carrier groups to the region and promised “to move in additional assets as needed.” On October 10 he warned: “Let me say again—to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t. Don’t.”

    The New York Times piece by Baker, Wong, Barnes, and Kershner revealed that Biden and his national security team, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan, also warned Netanyahu against launching a preemptive strike on Hezbollah. Israel and Hezbollah have been attacking each other with drones, missiles, and air strikes along the countries’ border.

    Meanwhile, Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen have attacked ships in the Red Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, handling about 12% of global trade and about 8.2 million barrels of crude oil and oil products every day. On December 31, four small boats attacked the Hangzhou, a container ship from the Danish shipping giant Maersk sailing under a Singapore flag, and then fired on the U.S. Navy helicopters that responded to the Hangzhou’s distress call. The helicopter crews sank three of the boats, killing their crews; the fourth fled.

    Today, Iran sent a naval frigate to the Red Sea, and Maersk announced it would stop using the Red Sea route until further notice. Hezbollah media said that an Israeli drone strike in Beirut, Lebanon, killed Saleh Arouri, the deputy political head of Hamas and a founder of its military wing. Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate.

    Also today, in response to calls from Israeli cabinet members for the resettlement of Palestinians outside Gaza, the U.S. State Department issued a “rejection” of both the language and the idea. “We have been clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel. That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region, and the world.”

    And in today’s Washington Post, Lebanon’s former prime minister Fouad Siniora and former Lebanese lawmaker Basem Shabb noted that “[d]espite the ferocity of the bombing and the great loss of innocent civilian lives in Gaza, the conflict remains largely contained to an Israeli-Palestinian confrontation—and more specifically, is broadly understood in the Arab world to be a conflict with Hamas, a non-state actor,” but warned the conflict must not spread. They noted that in November, “[i]n a first, 57 Arab and Islamic countries…called for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on a two-state solution,” the same concept embraced by the Biden administration.    

    “In response to Israel’s atrocities in Gaza, the Arab world responded with denunciation—but, more importantly, with diplomacy. No military threats were issued by any of the Arab states toward Israel,” the Lebanese lawmakers pointed out. They urged Israel to embrace the two-state solution “and, in doing so, usher in a new era in the Middle East.”

    Lots of pieces moving around the board on this second day of January 2024.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 3, 2024 (Wednesday)

    If yesterday was a news storm, today was a lot of follow-up.

    Tensions in the Middle East continue to tighten with the explosion of two bombs at a ceremony today honoring prominent Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on the fourth anniversary of his death from a U.S. drone strike in Iraq. At least 95 people were killed. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. Iran-backed militias, including Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, are aligned against Israel.

    Meanwhile, today the U.S. and twelve allies warned the Houthis to stop attacking ships in the Red Sea or face military action. Since December 19, Houthi rebels have hit more than 23 ships in the crucial passage. ​​“Let our message now be clear: we call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews,” the countries said. “The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”

    The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell today said that the world must “impose” a solution to the Middle East war before it expands.

    At home, at least eight U.S. state houses had to evacuate today. According to Andy Rose of CNN, an emailed bomb threat was sent to state officers in 23 states. Law enforcement officers found no explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has called the threats a hoax. It is not clear who was behind the threats.

    Aside from today’s threats, the dramatic rise of violence in our politics since former president Trump entered political life is reshaping the country. In Vox yesterday, Zach Beauchamp noted that mayors, federal judges, public health officials, election workers, and even school board members, officials who previously had gone about their business without much attention, are facing unprecedented threats. Before 2020, threats against election workers were virtually nonexistent, Beauchamp notes; now they are so frequent that 11% of election workers surveyed by the Brennan Center for Justice are “very or somewhat likely” to  leave their jobs before the 2024 election.

    While attacks on election workers and political officials show Trump’s attempt to erode faith in our electoral system, Beauchamp notes that another key aspect of today’s violence has been to threaten Republicans to fall in line behind Trump. The fear of physical violence from Trump supporters kept certain Republicans from voting to convict him after his impeachments. MAGA Republican threats against other Republicans insufficiently supportive of Trump have led party members to swing publicly behind a leader that many of them privately oppose.

    That pressure has reduced the formerly grand old Republican Party to a vehicle for promoting Trump.  

    Today, Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN), whose bid for the House speakership Trump torpedoed just weeks ago, became the latest to endorse Trump for president as party leadership lines up behind him.

    The decision of the right-wing Fifth Circuit today illustrated what the Trump leadership of the MAGA party means for the majority of the country. Three Republican judges, two appointed by Trump, ruled that hospital emergency rooms don’t have to perform life-saving abortions in states that have passed antiabortion laws.

    After the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion, Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services reminded hospitals that accept Medicare money that under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), they had to provide care to stabilize patients in a medical emergency, including abortion care, regardless of state law.

    Texas sued, and the Fifth Circuit has agreed, saying that the EMTALA does not preempt Texas law.

    Today’s news also highlighted the MAGA plan for immigration. House leaders have refused to pass legislation providing additional funds to help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion until the measure also contains their own immigration policies, patterned on Trump’s. Although President Biden has asked for additional funding for the border since he took office and has said he will offer significant concessions in negotiations even though those concessions will anger progressive Democrats, House Republicans say they will reject any compromise and will insist on their own policies.

    Those measures include significantly narrowing asylum programs or even ending them altogether, outlawing the electronic application system the Biden administration put in place to require appointments to apply for asylum, ending parole programs for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, and taking private property to build a border wall. Their plan has no provision for creating a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, those brought to the U.S. as children, although a strong majority of Americans support such a pathway.

    Now House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) says the House conference does not want and will not accept a compromise, such as the one senators are working on; they want a complete change of policy. That is, the Republicans in the House, who have a majority of two, are bowing to their far-right members and insisting that until that faction’s policies are put in place over those of the Senate and the president, they will refuse to fund Ukraine, whose defense from Russian aggression is key to our own national security.

    It’s a wild power grab. And it is apparently being done with an eye to 2024. Representative Troy Nehls (R-TX) said to Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona, and Lauren Fox of CNN, “Let me tell you, I’m not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden’s approval rating.”

    As CNN anchor and chief national security analyst Jim Sciutto noted, “This would leave Ukraine—currently under its worst bombardment since the start of the Russian invasion—very much out in the cold.”

    Finally, today is the 65th anniversary of Alaska’s joining the Union as the 49th state. In order to convince Congress and the president to make their territory a state, Alaskans had to overcome concerns on the part of President Dwight D. Eisenhower that, because the territory bordered the Soviet Union, its admission as a state might compromise national security.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 4, 2024 (Thursday)

    The Democrats on the House Oversight Committee today released a 156-page report showing that when he was in the presidency, Trump received at least $7.8 million from 20 different governments, including those of China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Malaysia, through businesses he owned.

    The Democrats brought receipts.

    According to the report—and the documents from Trump’s former accounting firm Mazars that are attached to it—the People’s Republic of China and companies substantially controlled by the PRC government paid at least $5,572,548 to Trump-owned properties while Trump was in office; Saudi Arabia paid at least $615,422; Qatar paid at least $465,744; Kuwait paid at least $300,000; India paid at least $282,764; Malaysia paid at least $248,962; Afghanistan paid at least $154,750; the Philippines paid at least $74,810; the United Arab Emirates paid at least $65,225. The list went on and on.

    The committee Democrats explained that these payments were likely only a fraction of the actual money exchanged, since they cover only four of more than 500 entities Trump owned at the time. When the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January 2023, Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) stopped the investigation before Mazars had produced the documents the committee had asked for when Democrats were in charge of it. Those records included documents relating to Russia, South Korea, South Africa, and Brazil.

    Trump fought hard against the production of these documents, dragging out the court fight until September 2022. The committee worked on them for just four months before voters put Republicans in charge of the House and the investigation stopped.

    These are the first hard numbers that show how foreign governments funneled money to the president while policies involving their countries were in front of him. The report notes, for example, that Trump refused to impose sanctions on Chinese banks that were helping the North Korean government; one of those banks was paying him close to $2 million in rent annually for commercial office space in Trump Tower.

    The first article of the U.S. Constitution reads: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument [that is, salary, fee, or profit], Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

    The report also contrasted powerfully with the attempt of Republicans on the Oversight Committee, led by Comer, to argue that Democratic Joe Biden has corruptly profited from the presidency.

    In the Washington Post on December 26, 2023, Philip Bump noted that just after voters elected a Republican majority, Comer told the Washington Post that as soon as he was in charge of the Oversight Committee, he would use his power to “determine if this president and this White House are compromised because of the millions of dollars that his family has received from our adversaries in China, Russia and Ukraine.”

    For the past year, while he and the committee have made a number of highly misleading statements to make it sound as if there are Biden family businesses involving the president (there are not) and the president was involved in them (he was not), their claims were never backed by any evidence. Bump noted in a piece on December 14, 2023, for example, that Comer told Fox News Channel personality Maria Bartiromo that “the Bidens” have “taken in” more than $24 million. In fact, Bump explained, Biden’s son Hunter and his business partners did receive such payments, but most of the money went to the business partners. About $7.5 million of it went to Hunter Biden. There is no evidence that any of it went to Joe Biden.

    All of the committee’s claims have similar reality checks. Jonathan Yerushalmy of The Guardian wrote that after nearly 40,000 pages of bank records and dozens of hours of testimony, “no evidence has emerged that Biden acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current or previous role.”

    Still, the constant hyping of their claims on right-wing media led then–House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to authorize an impeachment inquiry in mid-September, and in mid-December, Republicans in the House formalized the inquiry.

    There is more behind the attack on Biden than simply trying to even the score between him and Trump—who remains angry at his impeachments and has demanded Republicans retaliate—or to smear Biden through an “investigation,” which has been a standard technique of the Republicans since the mid-1990s.

    Claiming that Biden is as corrupt as Trump undermines faith in our democracy. After all, if everyone is a crook, why does it matter which one is in office? And what makes American democracy any different from the authoritarian systems of Russia or Hungary or Venezuela, where leaders grab what they can for themselves and their followers?

    Democracies are different from authoritarian governments because they have laws to prevent the corruption in which it appears Trump engaged. The fact that Republicans refuse to hold their own party members accountable to those laws while smearing their opponents says far more about them than it does about the nature of democracy.

    It does, though, highlight that our democracy is in danger.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
     January 5, 2024 (Friday)

    President Joe Biden launched his reelection campaign today with a speech at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. He spoke after a visit to nearby Valley Forge, where General George Washington quartered his troops from December 1777 to June 1778 during the Revolutionary War in which the former colonies sought to establish their independence from Great Britain.

    Biden began the speech by outlining what the soldiers in the Continental Army quartered at Valley Forge had fought for. “America made a vow,” Biden said. “Never again would we bow down to a king.”

    A “ragtag army made up of ordinary people” fought for what Washington called “a sacred cause,” he said: “Freedom, liberty, democracy. American democracy.” Valley Forge, he said, “tells the story of the pain and the suffering and the true patriotism it took to make America.”

    Three years ago, he said, when insurrectionists tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, 2021, “we nearly…lost it all.”

    “Today, we’re here to answer the most important of questions,” Biden said. “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?... This is not rhetorical, academic or hypothetical. Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time.”

    “And it’s what the 2024 election is all about.”

    Biden described Trump’s attack on American democracy and warned that “Donald Trump’s campaign is about him, not America, not you.” Biden remembered the “smashing windows, shattering doors, attacking the police” of January 6. He recalled the rioters erecting a gallows while the crowd chanted, “Hang Mike Pence,” hunting for then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and injuring more than 140 police officers.

    Like the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Biden emphasized that while the whole world was watching the attack in horror and disbelief, and even as staff, family members, and Republican leaders pleaded with Trump to do something, the former president watched events unfold on the television in a little room off the Oval Office and “did nothing.”

    Biden repeated the condemnation of former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) when he called that refusal to act “among the worst derelictions of duty by a president in American history.”

    The president went on to explain how Trump continued to lie that he had won the 2020 presidential election despite losing recounts and 60 court cases. For those lies, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was ordered last month to pay $148 million to election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss for defamation, and the Fox News Corporation agreed to pay $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems for lying that their machines had switched votes from Trump to Biden.

    Then, when he had exhausted all his legal options, Trump urged his supporters to assault the Capitol. Since then, more than 1,200 people have been charged with crimes related to the events of that day; nearly 900 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted.

    Trump has called those insurrectionists “patriots” and has promised to pardon them if he is returned to office. But normalizing violence as part of our political system destroys the reasonable debate and peaceful transition of power that is at the heart of democracy. Biden identified this danger, warning: “Political violence is never, ever acceptable in the United States political system—never, never, never. It has no place in a democracy. None. You can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American.”

    Biden noted that Trump has promised to continue to assault democracy, threatening “a full-scale campaign of ‘revenge’ and ‘retribution’...for some years to come.” Trump has said he “would be a dictator on day one,” called for the “termination of all the rules, regulation, and articles, even those found in the U.S. Constitution,” and echoed the language used in Nazi Germany by calling those who oppose him “vermin” and talking about the blood of Americans being poisoned by immigrants.

    “There’s no confusion about who Trump is and what he intends to do,” Biden said.

    Immediately after January 6, 2021, “even Republican members of Congress and Fox News commentators publicly and privately condemned the attack,” he said. “But now…those same people have changed their tune…. [P]olitics, fear, money, all have intervened. And now these MAGA voices who know the truth about Trump on January 6th have abandoned the truth and abandoned democracy.”

    “They made their choice,” Biden said. “Now the rest of us—Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans—we have to make our choice. I know mine. And I believe I know America’s. We will defend the truth, not give in to the Big Lie. We’ll embrace the Constitution and the Declaration, not abandon it. We’ll honor the sacred cause of democracy, not walk away from it.”

    “Today, I make this sacred pledge to you,” he said. “The defense, protection, and preservation of American democracy will remain, as it has been, the central cause of my presidency.”

    “America, as we begin this election year, we must be clear,” Biden said. “Democracy is on the ballot. Your freedom is on the ballot.” “The alternative to democracy is dictatorship—the rule of one, not the rule of ‘We the People.’”  

    “Together, we can keep proving that America is still a country that believes in decency, dignity, honesty, honor, truth,” he said. “We still believe that no one, not even the President, is above the law…. [T]he vast majority of us still believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at making it. We’re still a nation that gives hate no safe harbor…. We still believe in ‘We the People,’ and that includes all of us, not some of us.”

    In “that cold winter of 1777,” Biden said, referring back to the soldiers at Valley Forge, “George Washington and his American troops…waged a battle on behalf of a revolutionary idea that everyday people—like where I come from and the vast majority of you—…that everyday people can govern themselves without a king or a dictator.”

    Americans “take charge of our destiny,” Biden said. “We get our job done with…the help of the people we find in America, who find their place in the changing world and dream and build a future that not only they but all people deserve a shot at.”

    “This is the first national election since [the] January 6th insurrection placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy,” Biden said. “We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is: Who are we? That’s what’s at stake. Who are we?”

    And then he answered his own question, concluding with his characteristic faith in the American people. “After all we’ve been through in our history, from independence to Civil War to two world wars to a pandemic to insurrection,” he said, “I refuse to believe that, in 2024, we Americans will choose to walk away from what’s made us the greatest nation in the history of the world: freedom, liberty.”

    “Democracy,” he said, “is still a sacred cause.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 6, 2024 (Saturday)

    Today, three years to the day after the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the counting of the electoral ballots that would make Democrat Joe Biden president, officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested three fugitives wanted in connection with that attack.

    Siblings Jonathan and Olivia Pollock, whose family owns Rapture Guns and Knives, described on its Facebook page as a “christian owned Gun and Knife store” in Lakeland, Florida, and Joseph Hutchinson III, who once worked there, are suspected of some of the worst violence of January 6. The FBI had offered a $30,000 reward for “Jonny” Pollock, while the other two had been arrested but removed their ankle bracelets in March 2023 and fled.

    Family members of the fugitives and of other Lakeland residents arrested for their involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol insist their relatives are innocent, framed by a government eager to undermine their way of life. The Pollock family has gone so far as to erect a monument “in honor of the ones who lost their lives on January 6, 2021.”

    But it does not honor the law enforcement officers who were killed or injured. It honors the insurrectionists: Ashli Babbitt, shot by a law enforcement officer as she tried to break into the House Chamber through a smashed window (her family today sued the government for $30 million for wrongful death), and three others, one who died of a stroke; one of a heart attack, and one of an amphetamine overdose.

    The monument in Lakeland, Florida, is a stark contrast to the one President Biden visited yesterday in Pennsylvania. Valley Forge National Park is the site of the six-month winter encampment of the Continental Army in the hard winter of 1777–1778. After the British army captured the city of Philadelphia in September 1777, General George Washington settled 12,000 people of his army about 18 miles to the northwest.

    There the army almost fell apart. Supply chains were broken as the British captured food or it spoiled in transit to the soldiers, and wartime inflation meant the Continental Congress did not appropriate enough money for food and clothing. Hunger and disease stalked the camp, but even worse was the lack of clothing. More than 1,000 soldiers died, and about eight or ten deserted every day. Washington warned the president of the Continental Congress that the men were close to mutiny.

    Even if they didn’t quit, they weren’t very well organized for an army charged with resisting one of the greatest military forces on the globe. The different units had been trained with different field manuals, making it hard to coordinate movements, and a group of army officers were working with congressmen to replace Washington, complaining about how he was prosecuting the war.  

    By February 1778, though, things were falling into place. A delegation from the Continental Congress had visited Valley Forge and understood that the lack of supplies made the army, and thus the country, truly vulnerable, and they set out to reform the supply department. Then a newly arrived Prussian officer, Baron Friedrich von Steuben, drilled the soldiers into unity and better morale. And then, in May, the soldiers learned that France had signed a treaty with the American states in February, lending money, matériel, and men to the cause of American independence. When the soldiers broke camp in June, they marched out ready to take on the British at the Battle of Monmouth, where their new training paid off as they held their own against the British soldiers.

    The January 6 insurrectionists were fond of claiming they were echoing these American revolutionaries who created the new nation in the 1770s. The right-wing Proud Boys’ strategic plan for taking over buildings in the Capitol complex on January 6 was titled: “1776 Returns,” and even more famously, newly elected representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) wrote on January 5, 2021: “Remember these next 48 hours. These are some of the most important days in American history.” On January 6, she wrote: “Today is 1776.”

    Trump has repeatedly called those January 6 insurrectionists “patriots.”

    Biden yesterday called Trump out for “trying to steal history the same way he tried to steal the election.”  

    Indeed. The insurrectionists at the Capitol were not patriots. They were trying to overthrow the government in order to take away the right at the center of American democracy: our right to determine our own destiny. Commemorating them as heroes is the 21st century’s version of erecting Confederate statues.

    The January 6th insurrectionists were nothing like the community at Valley Forge, made up of people who had offered up their lives to support a government pledged, however imperfectly in that era, to expanding that right. When faced with hunger, disease, and discord, that community—which was made up not just of a remarkably diverse set of soldiers from all 13 colonies, including Black and Indigenous men, but also of their families and the workers, enslaved and free, who came with them—worked together to build a force that could establish a nation based in the idea of freedom.  

    The people at the Capitol on January 6 who followed in the footsteps of those who were living in the Valley Forge encampment 246 years ago were not the rioters. They were the people who defended our right to live under a government in which we have a say: those like the staffers who delayed their evacuation of the Capitol to save the endangered electoral ballots, and like U.S. Capitol Police officers Eugene Goodman, Harry Dunn, Caroline Edwards, and Aquilino Gonell and Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, along with the more than 140 officers injured that day.

    Fanone, whom rioters beat and tasered, giving him a traumatic brain injury and a heart attack, yesterday told Emily Ngo, Jeff Coltin, and Nick Reisman of Politico: “I think it’s important that every institution in this country, every American, take the responsibility of upholding democracy seriously. And everyone needs to be doing everything that they can to ensure that a.) Donald Trump does not succeed and b.) the MAGA movement is extinguished.”

    Unlike the violence of the January 6th insurrectionists, the experience of the people at Valley Forge is etched deep into our national identity as a symbol of the sacrifice and struggle Americans have made to preserve and renew democracy. It is so central to who we are that we have commemorated it in myths and monuments and have projected into the future that its meaning will always remain at the heart of America. According to The Star Trek Encyclopedia, the Federation Excelsior-class starship USS Valley Forge will still be fighting in the 24th century… against the Dominion empire.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 7, 2024 (Sunday)

    Going to take tonight off, as Buddy’s season has ended and he is on vacation so we have been off gallivanting. I need to catch up on some sleep.

    One of the good things about hitting the road with a man who is accustomed to getting up at 4:00 is that he tiptoes out in the morning to see the sights while I sleep in, and then comes back to the hotel with coffee and a bagel or pastry.

    He also comes back with photos of where he's been.

    It’s a surefire bet I’ll never see the White House just before dawn with my own eyes, but this is a pretty good alternative.

    I’ll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 8, 2024 (Monday)

    With President Joe Biden’s speech today at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, coming after his speech in Pennsylvania on January 5, the election year of 2024 is in full swing. The first Republican caucus will be held on January 15 in Iowa; the first Democratic primary will be held on February 3. (A caucus is held by a political party and can have public voting, by a show of hands or gathering behind a candidate’s team; a primary election is run by the government and uses secret ballots.)

    Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are laying out the difference between their vision for America and that of the current Republican frontrunner, former president Trump. In Pennsylvania, after a visit to Valley Forge, where General George Washington’s troops camped during the hard winter of 1777–1778, Biden laid out Trump’s assault on American democracy by trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, normalizing violence, and threatening to become a dictator.

    On January 6, the day after Biden’s speech, Harris spoke at the annual retreat of the Women’s Missionary Society of the 7th Episcopal District of the AME Church at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she emphasized the relationship between voting and governance. “In 2020, at the height of an historic pandemic, in the midst of so much loss and uncertainty, you showed up to vote,” Harris told the audience. “And you organized your friends and family members and neighbors to do the same. And it is because of you that Joe Biden is President of the United States and I am the first Black woman to be Vice President of the United States.”

    That administration, she said, has meant access to high-speed internet for rural communities, lead-free water, investments in historically Black colleges and universities, the expansion of Medicaid coverage for postpartum care, and more Black women judges appointed than under any other administration in history, “including the first Black woman to ever sit on the highest court in…our land.” “Elections matter; leadership matters; and it makes a difference in the lives of people who, for the most part, many of us may never meet, who, for the most part, may never know our names.”

    Democracy, Harris said, “is extremely strong in terms of what it does and the strength that it gives its people in the protection and preservation of individual rights, freedoms, and liberty.  Incredibly strong…. And it is, on the other hand, extremely fragile. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.”  

    In South Carolina today, in a historic Black church, Biden visited the site of the 2015 murders of nine church members at Bible study by a white supremacist. Biden condemned white supremacy and warned that some Americans are trying to “steal history” by rewriting it to claim the insurrectionists of January 6, 2021, were “a peaceful protest.” That lie is part of a broader attack on the truth, Biden said, in which Trump loyalists try “to erase history and your future: banning books; denying your right to vote and have it counted; destroying diversity, equality, inclusion all across America; harboring hate and replacing hope with anger and resentment and a dangerous view of America.”

    “That narrow view of America,” he said, is “a zero-sum view…that says, ‘If you win, I lose. If you succeed, it must be I failed. If you get ahead, I fall behind.’ And maybe worst of all, ‘If I hold you down, I lift myself up.’ But democracy is not a zero-sum game, he said. He called for “lifting up a bigger and broader view of America that holds that ‘If you do well, I do well. We all do well.’”

    This year, for the first time, South Carolina will host the Democrats’ first presidential primary, in recognition that Iowa and New Hampshire, the states that previously were first, do not represent either the Democrats’ voter base or the country. South Carolina’s 2020 primary was a major boost for Biden’s candidacy that year, as Representative Jim Clyburn and Black voters got behind him rather than candidates perceived to be less centrist. Biden is expected to win the South Carolina primary this year but would like a strong showing in the Black community that makes up a strong share of the party’s base.

    Trump is also gearing up for the Iowa caucus, the first Republican nomination event of the season, on January 15. In Talking Points Memo today, Barbara A. Trish noted that his campaign is far more organized than it was in 2016 (he did not need to fight for the nomination in 2020), looking much more like a traditional political organization.

    But Trump is in deep trouble. He is embroiled in many legal cases, his loyalists have run state Republican parties into the ground, and his opponent Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, is building steam in her quest for the nomination.

    In the face of such headwinds, Trump is working to cement his evangelical base. Over the weekend, he shared a video titled “God Made Trump” that utterly misrepresented his behavior and portrayed him as a divinely inspired leader.

    In the New York Times today, Ruth Graham and Charles Homans explored the self-declared evangelical voters for Trump and reported that their support for Trump is less about religion than it is about “a cultural and political identity: one in which Christians are considered a persecuted minority, traditional institutions are viewed skeptically and Mr. Trump looms large.” They are not churchgoers and are looking for what they see as retribution against those they believe are destroying traditional values, those who defend a secular society in which everyone is treated equally before the law.

    Trump and his people appear to be trying to intimidate opponents into either support or silence. After losing two pretrial motions in the upcoming January 16 trial for damages associated with his defamation of E. Jean Carroll, the writer who said Trump raped her in the 1990s, Trump flooded social media with attacks on Carroll.

    Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating Trump’s mishandling of classified documents and his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, and Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, have been harassed with swatting attempts, a dangerous hoax in which someone gets law enforcement officers to rush to a home with claims that a violent crime is underway there.

    Trump suggested today that unless he is guaranteed immunity for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, if he is reelected he will use the Department of Justice to make sure Biden is also indicted for his own actions as president. “If I don’t get Immunity, then Crooked Joe Biden doesn’t get Immunity,” he wrote on social media.

    Behind Trump’s behavior is a willingness to destroy democracy, as the New York Times editorial board noted on January 6, 2024, when it wrote that Trump “confronts America with a…choice: between the continuance of the United States as a nation dedicated to ‘the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity’ and a man who has proudly shown open disdain for the law and the protections and ideals of the Constitution.”

    Trump has made it clear that he does not consider himself bound by the country’s electoral system. On Saturday, Dave McKinney of WBEZ Chicago noted that Trump refused to sign an Illinois pledge, traditionally signed by all candidates, that he would not “advocate the overthrow of the government.” In 2016 and 2020, like other candidates, Trump signed it.

    On Sunday, Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, told Kristen Welker of NBC’s Meet the Press that she would not commit to respecting the results of the 2024 election. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) called out the comment, saying: “They are promising to steal the election…. Everyone knows they mean it. Be freaked out.”

    Indeed, part of lawyer John Eastman’s plan for overturning the 2020 election was to challenge the electoral votes of enough states to deny Biden a majority in the electoral college, thus throwing the election into the House of Representatives as outlined by the Twelfth Amendment. There, each state would have a single vote, and since there were more Republican-dominated states than Democratic ones, Trump would become president.

    In Myrtle Beach on Sunday, Vice President Harris told the audience, “[A]t this moment in history, I say: Let us not throw up our hands when it’s time to roll up our sleeves. Because we were born for a time such as this.” Today, in Charleston, President Biden made the stakes clear: “[T]his is a time of choosing,” he said, “so let us choose the truth. Let us choose America.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 9, 2024 (Tuesday)

    On the docket today in front of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was the question of whether former presidents can be prosecuted for things they did while in office. The issue at hand is whether Trump can be tried for his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, but Trump has also been charged in three other criminal cases: a national case over his mishandling of national security documents, a state case in Georgia for interfering with the 2020 election there, and a state case in New York for paying hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. He is also facing a number of civil cases.

    A federal grand jury working under Special Counsel Jack Smith brought four criminal charges against the former president on August 1. Trump’s lawyers have argued not that he didn’t do what he is accused of, but that his position as president at the time gives him immunity from prosecution for breaking laws. In this case, they are arguing that he cannot be tried now because he has already been impeached and acquitted for his actions. They argue that a president can be charged criminally only if he has been impeached and convicted.

    A quick reminder: Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. A president could be impeached simply for watching TV all day, which is not a crime but which would make it impossible to do the job. Another reminder: as NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard documented today, in Trump’s second impeachment trial, his own lawyer Bruce Castor assured the Senate that “the text of the Constitution…makes very clear that a former President is subject to criminal sanction after his presidency for any illegal acts he commits.”

    A number of Republican Senators—including then Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—agreed, saying they would acquit Trump but expected him to answer to the law rather than the political system. “We have a criminal justice system in this country,” McConnell said. “We have civil litigation. And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”

    Interestingly, Trump’s argument that he cannot now be charged with crimes makes the Republican senators who voted to acquit him complicit. It’s an acknowledgement of what was clear all along: they could have stopped him at any point, but they repeatedly chose not to. Now he is explicitly suggesting that their behavior shields him from answering to the law.

    Today, Trump’s lawyer D. John Sauer told the court that so long as he was not impeached and convicted for his actions, a president could do virtually anything. "Could a president order SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival?" Judge Florence Pan asked. "That's an official act: an order to SEAL Team Six.” Sauer answered that Congress would have to impeach and convict that president before he could be charged with a crime. "But if he weren't, there would be no criminal prosecution, no criminal liability for that?" Pan asked. Sauer again emphasized that Congress would have to act before any indictment could take place. “So your answer is no,” Pan said.

    In his brief to the court opposing Trump’s claim, Special Counsel Smith pointed out that there is nothing in history to support Trump’s argument and that Nixon’s accepting a pardon “reflects the consensus view that a former President is subject to prosecution after leaving office.”

    Trump’s approach, Smith wrote in a hard-hitting paragraph, “would grant immunity from criminal prosecution to a President who accepts a bribe in exchange for directing a lucrative government contract to the payer; a President who instructs the FBI Director to plant incriminating evidence on a political enemy; a President who orders the National Guard to murder his most prominent critics; or a President who sells nuclear secrets to a foreign adversary, because in each of these scenarios, the President could assert that he was simply executing the laws; or communicating with the Department of Justice; or discharging his powers as Commander-in-Chief; or engaging in foreign diplomacy. Under the defendant’s framework, the Nation would have no recourse to deter a President from inciting his supporters during a State of the Union address to kill opposing lawmakers—thereby hamstringing any impeachment proceeding—to ensure that he remains in office unlawfully.”

    While presidential immunity is a crucially important question, it seems unlikely that any court will conclude that a U.S. president can act however they wish without any accountability before the law. Certainly the framers of the Constitution never intended such a thing (if you listen closely, you can hear them spinning in their graves). More recently, in 1974, the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon could not use claims of executive privilege to withhold evidence from a criminal prosecution. Even more recently, on December 29, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Trump does not have absolute immunity from civil lawsuits.

    But the more pressing immediate question is when the court can resume progress on the case, which is stalled during appeals. The case is scheduled for trial on March 4, and Trump has been trying to drag it out—as he has all his trials—with the evident hope that it can be delayed until after the election. When Trump appealed the decision of the district court that he was not immune, Special Counsel Smith tried to move things along by taking the case directly to the Supreme Court, but the court declined to take it at that point. The case will almost certainly end up there again, at which time the justices could let the appeals court decision stand or agree to take it up. If they take it up, they could decide it quickly or delay it until after the election.

    Today, in The Bulwark, nineteen former Republican members of Congress called on the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to move the case forward as quickly as possible. Calling out “Trump’s gambit to escape accountability altogether: assert an unprecedented claim of absolute presidential immunity from criminal prosecution and use the appellate process to delay the trial until after the November election,” they defended the public’s right to have “critical information they need before they cast their ballots in November.”

    Noting that as former members of Congress, they were “not persuaded that the argument [for presidential immunity] has any basis in law or history,” they said that whatever the courts decide, they should do it quickly. “Permitting delay would…undermine the rule of law [and] the integrity of the 2024 election,” they wrote.

    Although it is unusual for a defendant to attend such a hearing, Trump was at court today, clearly intending to use the case as part of his campaign. Perry Stein of the Washington Post noted that Trump recently lied to supporters that President Joe Biden was “forcing me into a courtroom in our nation’s capital” to weaken his campaign.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 10, 2024 (Wednesday)

    The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives was back in session for business today. The day’s events did not bode well for the House’s managing to accomplish more in 2024 than it did in 2023.

    Top on the list of things that must get done, and done fast, is funding the government. The continuing resolution currently in place to fund the government expires in two phases: one on January 19 and the other on February 2. The far-right Freedom Caucus Republicans have refused to agree to funding measures without far deeper cuts than former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) agreed to in a long-ago deal with President Joe Biden as part of a package to raise the debt ceiling until 2025. They also want to attach far-right cultural demands to the measures, although traditionally appropriations are kept clean.

    On Sunday, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced they had reached a $1.66 trillion agreement to fund the government in 2024. Appropriations break down with about $886.3 billion for defense and about $772.7 billion for nondefense. The measure includes cuts of $20.2 billion to funding the Internal Revenue Service, which Republicans have demanded since Democrats put money for the IRS into the Inflation Reduction Act, and cuts to emergency spending accounts.

    Aidan Quigley of Roll Call calculates that “the framework allows for a very slight overall increase in nondefense funding, about 0.2 percent above the previous year or a little more than $1 billion,” while “[d]efense and security-related spending would rise by nearly $28 billion, or more than 3 percent.” It is essentially the deal McCarthy agreed to last year and that the far right used to throw him out of the speaker’s chair (he has since resigned from Congress).

    Members of the Freedom Caucus immediately panned the agreement, putting Johnson in the same pinch McCarthy found himself in last fall. If he relies on Democrats to pass the deal, he runs the risk of a challenge to his speakership, while he cannot get the Freedom Caucus on board without significant concessions in the form of poison pills that would dictate their hard-right policy positions, concessions that would kill the measure in the Senate. In addition, in the Senate, members of both parties wanted more, not less, spending.

    Juliegrace Brufke of Axios reported this afternoon that in a meeting today, Johnson asked his Republican colleagues to “stop criticizing him and his budget negotiations on social media.” But as Nicole LaFond of Talking Points Memo notes, Johnson has indicated he is worried about his standing with the extremists and has tried to shore up that standing by appealing to Trump. On a right-wing radio show this morning, Johnson told listeners that he was planning to call former president Trump to get him behind the deal.

    This afternoon the extremist Republicans made their anger clear when 12 of them opposed the procedural steps required to begin the process of considering three other bills, signaling that they were willing to stop House business to get their way. Further House votes were canceled for the day, but so far, at least, there does not seem to be momentum for removing Johnson from office, at least in part because there is no one else to take his place. “I’m kind of sick of the chaos,” said Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a key extremist and firebrand who opposes the funding deal. “I came here to be serious about solving problems, not to produce clickbait.”

    Both the House Oversight and Accountability Committee and the House Judiciary Committee voted today on whether President Biden’s 53-year-old son Hunter should be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to sit for a private deposition in the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Biden. It did not go well for the Republicans leading the committees. The Democrats came prepared and ready to push back on Republican lawmakers, who seemed more accustomed to appearing on right-wing media channels, where their assertions are not challenged, than to debating colleagues.

    Democrats on the committees called out Republicans’ hypocrisy over Biden’s subpoena by noting that various Republicans in Congress had entirely ignored subpoenas themselves. In the Judiciary Committee, Eric Swalwell (D-CA) noted that committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) had been out of compliance for his own House subpoena for 608 days.

    In the Oversight Committee, Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) entered into the record the House subpoenas for Republicans Jordan, McCarthy, Scott Perry (R-PA), Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ). Moskowitz told the Republicans on the committee: “You vote to add those names and show the American people that we apply the law equally, not just when it’s Democrats…. It’s a crime when it’s Democrats, but when it’s Trump and the Republicans it’s just fine? No, show that you’re serious and that everyone’s not above the law. Vote for that amendment and I’ll vote for the Hunter Biden contempt.”

    Hunter Biden has offered to testify publicly but does not want to testify behind closed doors after Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) misrepresented in public what Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer said in private. The Oversight Committee meeting took a dramatic turn when, while the committee was discussing holding him in contempt for not answering the subpoena, Hunter Biden showed up in person. Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) promptly attacked him, saying: “[Y]ou are the epitome of white privilege. Coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a Congressional subpoena to be deposed. What are you afraid of? You have no balls to come up here.” CNN’s chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju noted that Mace’s attack on Biden prompted Biggs to tell his colleagues to “not act like a bunch of nimrods.”

    Biden walked out when Greene, who showed naked pictures of him in a previous committee meeting, began to speak. The television cameras followed him rather than recording her speech. Former talk show host Geraldo Rivera posted on social media: “Hunter walks out after hazing. It’s a sh*t show that reveals the Committee is (as [former] President Trump is fond of saying) a witch hunt.”

    Astonishingly, that was not the end of congressional Republicans’ performance today. The House Homeland Security Committee today held its first impeachment hearing on Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas as Republicans try to turn immigration into their central election issue.

    Only one Cabinet secretary has ever been impeached in U.S. history—Secretary of War William Belknap, in 1876, in the midst of a searing financial scandal—but Republicans maintain that Mayorkas’s adherence to Biden’s border policies is reason to remove him. And yet, despite their focus on the border, House Republicans have rejected Senate negotiations over increased funding. At first they said they would accept only their own policy, put forward in an extreme border measure passed last year that Senate Democrats and President Biden rejected, and then they said they would not pass legislation at all and that the border issue must be solved by the president.

    Meanwhile, today former New Jersey governor Chris Christie dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, digging at his colleagues for refusing to denounce Trump, and Trump backers in Wisconsin filed a petition to recall Assembly speaker Robin Vos from office for not adequately supporting Trump and not impeaching the state’s top elections official, a nonpartisan officer who conspiracy theorists insist was part of a plan to rig the 2020 presidential vote in Wisconsin, and who will oversee the 2024 election.

    And news broke today that thanks to the efforts of Biden and the Democrats, a record 20 million Americans enrolled for health care through the Affordable Care Act for this year.

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  • mck90mck90 Pittsburgh Posts: 9
    Thanks for posting HCR’s Daily letters here. It’s a great additional resource, especially if I am avoiding FB! 😃
    "and I listen to the voice inside my head..."
    1994-Cleveland, 1998-Pittsburgh, 2000-Pittsburgh, 2006-Pittsburgh, 2013 Pittsburgh, 2013-Buffalo, 2013-Charlottesville, 2016-Wrigley 1, 2018-Seattle 2, 2022-Nashville, 2022-St. Louis, 2023-St. Paul 2, 2023-Chicago 1
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
    mck90 said:
    Thanks for posting HCR’s Daily letters here. It’s a great additional resource, especially if I am avoiding FB! 😃

    welcome. you can find her on substack and sign up to receive these in an email daily.....
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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 11, 2024 (Thursday)

    “Today, at my direction,” President Joe Biden said this evening, “U.S. military forces—together with the United Kingdom and with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands—successfully conducted strikes against a number of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels to endanger freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most vital waterways.”

    The strikes came after the Iran-backed Houthi militia launched 27 attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, including merchant shipping vessels that carry about 12% of the world’s oil, 8% of its grain, and 8% of liquefied natural gas, as well as other commodities.

    While the Houthis claim their attacks are designed to support the Palestinians in Gaza, they are also apparently angling to continue and spread the Hamas-Israel war into a wider conflict. Hamas, the Houthis, and Hezbollah, all nonstate actors backed by Iran, would like very much to extend and enlarge the war to enhance their own power and win adherents to their ideologies.

    The Arab states do not want the conflict to spread. Neither does the U.S. government, and Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have worked hard to make sure it doesn’t, sending two carrier groups to the region, for example, to deter enthusiasm for such an extension.

    On October 19, shortly after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Houthis launched cruise missiles and drones designed by Iran at Israel, but when the USS Carney and Saudi Arabia shot the weapons down, they turned to attacking shipping. Fifty or so ships use the Red Sea waterway every day.

    On November 19, Houthis seized a Japanese-registered vessel, the Galaxy Leader, along with its 25-member international crew, prompting the United Nations Security Council to condemn “in the strongest terms” the “recent Houthi attacks” and “demanded that all such attacks and action cease immediately.” The Security Council “underlined the importance of…international law.”

    On December 3, Houthis struck another three ships.   

    On December 19, the U.S., the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and a group representing 44 allies and partner nations condemned the Houthi attacks, noting that such attacks threatened international commerce, endangering supply chains and affecting the global economy. Also on December 19, the U.S. and partners announced a naval protection group for maritime shipping in the waterway, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian.

    When the attacks continued, the governments of the U.S., Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom warned the Houthis on January 3, 2024, that their attacks were “illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing,” delaying the delivery of goods and “jeopardizing the movement of critical food, fuel, and humanitarian assistance throughout the world.” They called for an end to the attacks and the release of the detained vessels and crew members, and they warned that the Houthis would bear responsibility for the “consequences” if the attacks continued.

    “We remain committed to the international rules-based order and are determined to hold malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks,” the statement said.

    Administration officials told the press the U.S. would strike the Houthis militarily if the attacks didn’t stop, although Biden has not wanted to destabilize Yemen further than it already is after a decade of civil war. “The president has made clear the U.S. does not seek conflict with any nation or actor in the Middle East,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said. “But neither will we shrink from the task of defending ourselves, our interests, our partners or the free flow of international commerce.” An administration official said: “I would not anticipate another warning.”

    On Tuesday, January 9, the Houthis launched 21 drones and missiles in the most significant attack yet—one that directly targeted U.S. ships—and on January 10 the U.N. Security Council passed UNSCR 2722, a resolution condemning the attacks “in the strongest terms.” Eleven members voted in favor and none opposed it. Four countries—China, Russia, Algeria, and Mozambique—abstained, but neither China nor Russia, both of which have veto power, would veto the resolution.

    Today the U.S. and the U.K., with coalition support, responded. Military strikes came from the air, ocean, and underwater, according to a defense official, and they hit weapons storage areas and sites from which the Houthis have been launching drones and cruise missiles.

    The governments of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, the U.K, and the U.S. announced the “precision strikes,” saying they were “in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, consistent with the UN Charter” and “were intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of international mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways.”

    “Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea,” the statement read, “but let our message be clear: we will not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.” Biden’s statement sounded much the same but added: “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”

    As the January 3 statement from the governments of the U.S., Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the U.K. made clear, one of the key things at stake in standing against the Houthi attacks is the international rules-based order, that is, the system of international laws and organizations developed after World War II to prevent global conflicts by providing forums to resolve differences peacefully. A key element of this international system of agreements is freedom of the seas.

    Also central to that rules-based international order is partnerships and allies. Two days ago, one of Europe’s leading politicians revealed that in 2020, former president Trump told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen: “You need to understand that if Europe is under attack, we will never come to help you and to support you.” According to the politician, Trump added that “NATO is dead, and we will leave, we will quit NATO,” a threat he has made elsewhere, too.

    In contrast, as soon as he took office, President Biden set out to support and extend U.S. alliances and partnerships. While that principle shows in the international support for today’s strike on the Houthis, it has also been central in the administration’s response to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, managing migration, supporting African development, building the Indo-Pacific, and reacting to the Middle East crisis in general.

    Today, Secretary of State Blinken finished a week-long trip to Türkiye, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, Bahrain, and Egypt, where he met with leaders and reaffirmed “the U.S. commitment to working with partners to set the conditions necessary for peace in the Middle East, which includes comprehensive, tangible steps toward the realization of a future Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with both living in peace and security.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    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: 35,022
    edited January 13
      January 12, 2024 (Friday)

    Last week, after President Joe Biden went to Valley Forge and then spoke in Pennsylvania, I got a chance to sit down with him to ask a few questions.

    What I wanted to hear from him illustrates the difference between journalists and historians.

    Journalists are trained to find breaking stories and to explain them clearly so that their audience is better informed about what is happening in the world. What they do is vitally important to a democracy, and it is hard work. One of the reasons I always try to call out the names of journalists whose articles I’m describing is to highlight that there are real people working hard to dig out the stories we all need to know and that we are all part of a community trying together to figure out what’s happening in this country.

    Historians do something different than journalists. We study how and why societies change. We are trained to see larger patterns in the facts we find in documents, speeches, letters, and photographs…and in the work of journalists. Some historians believe that mass movements change society, and so they focus on such movements; others believe that great figures change society, and they focus on biographies. Still others focus on economic change. And so on.

    In my case, I am fascinated by the way ideas change society, and I am especially interested in the gap between what people believe and what is actually happening in the real world. That interest means that I always want to know how people think and especially how their worldview informs the way they act. Then I compare that worldview to the real-world policies they are putting into place. I sometimes think of what I study as the place where the rubber of ideas meets the road of the real world.

    I have twice now been able to interview President Biden. (And let me tell you, it is an odd experience to have your historical subject be able to talk back to you!) The opportunity to ask a historical figure how he thinks, after I have spent years studying his policies, is mind-blowing.

    To that end, I wanted to know why he chose to go to Valley Forge, where General George Washington quartered his Continental Army troops for six months in the hard winter of 1777–1778, to start his 2024 presidential campaign. Valley Forge looms huge in American mythology, but most people probably can’t say why. So what did it mean to him to launch his 2024 presidential campaign from there?

    I also was deeply interested in what he means when he says he has great faith in the American people—something he says all the time but usually without much context. So what exactly is it about the American people that gives him such faith?

    The answers are important, I think, and I found at least one of them surprising.

    As I say, it is an odd thing to have a historical subject who can talk back to you, but in all the right ways: it forces you to adjust your understanding of our historical moment. That’s the sort of information that will make the historical record clearer and that, when today’s society has itself become history, will help historians in the future better understand how and why it changed.

    https://www.facebook.com/share/v/7PunETKUHuHX8b5Z/?mibextid=4p3i6U


    Post edited by mickeyrat on
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 13, 2024 (Saturday)

    Last night a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande that marks the border between the U.S. and Mexico near Eagle Pass, Texas.

    U.S. Border Patrol agents knew that a group of six migrants were in distress in the river but could not try to save them, as they normally would, because troops from the Texas National Guard and the Texas Military Department prevented the Border Patrol agents from entering the area where they were struggling: Shelby Park, a 47-acre public park that offers access to a frequently traveled part of the river and is a place where Border Patrol agents often encounter migrants crossing the border illegally.

    They could not enter because two days ago, on Thursday, Texas governor Greg Abbott sent armed Texas National Guard soldiers and soldiers from the Texas Military Department to take control of Shelby Park. Rolando Salinas, the mayor of Eagle Pass, posted a video on Facebook showing the troops and saying that a state official had told him that state troops were taking “full control” over Shelby Park “indefinitely.” Salinas made it clear that “[t]his is not something that we wanted. This is not something that we asked for as a city.”

    The Texas forces have denied United States Border Patrol officials entry into the park to perform their duties, asserting that Texas officials have power over U.S. officials.

    On December 18, Abbott signed into law S.B. 4, a measure that attempts to take into state hands the power over immigration the Constitution gives to the federal government. Courts have repeatedly reinforced that immigration is the responsibility of federal, not state, government, but 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.”

    On January 3 the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the new law, saying: “Texas cannot run its own immigration system. Its efforts, through S.B. 4, intrude on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate the entry and removal of noncitizens, frustrate the United States’ immigration operations and proceedings, and interfere with U.S. foreign relations.”

    Abbott and MAGA Republicans are teeing up the issue of immigration as a key line of attack on President Joe Biden in 2024, but while they are insisting the issue is so important they will not agree to fund Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s 2022 invasion until it is solved, they are also unwilling to participate in discussions to fund more border officers or immigration courts. Today, once again, Biden reminded reporters that he has asked Congress to pass new border measures since he took office, but rather than pass new laws, Republicans appear to be doubling down on pushing the idea that migrants threaten American society and that an individual state—Texas, in this case—can override federal authority.

    Abbott has spent more than $100 million of Texas tax dollars to send migrants to cities led by Democrats. These migrants have applied for asylum and are waiting for a hearing; they are in the U.S. legally. In September 2023, Texas stopped coordinating with nonprofits in those cities that prepared for migrant arrivals.

    Yesterday, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker wrote to Abbott, calling him out for choosing “to sow chaos in an attempt to score political points.” Pritzker noted that Abbott is “sending asylum seekers from Texas to the Upper Midwest in the middle of winter—many without coats, without shoes to protect them from the snow—to a city whose shelters are already overfilled with migrants you sent here.” Chicago’s temperatures are set to drop below zero this weekend, Pritzker wrote, and he “strongly urge[d]” Abbott to stop sending people to Illinois in these conditions. “You are dropping off asylum seekers without alerting us to their arrivals, at improper locations at all hours of the night.”

    Pritzker wrote that he supports bipartisan immigration reform but “[w]hile action is pending at the federal level, I plead with you for mercy for the thousands of people who are powerless to speak for themselves. Please, while winter is threatening vulnerable people’s lives, suspend your transports and do not send more people to our state. We are asking you to help prevent additional deaths. We should be able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to urge Congress to act. But right now, we are talking about human beings and their survival. I hope we can at least agree on saving lives right now.”

    Speaking on the right-wing Dana Loesch Show last week, Abbott said, “The only thing that we’re not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because of course the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

    On January 13, 1833, President Andrew Jackson wrote to Vice President–elect Martin van Buren to explain his position on South Carolina’s recent assertion that sovereign states could overrule federal laws. “Was this to be permitted the government would lose the confidence of its citizens and it would induce disunion everywhere. No my friend, the crisis must be now met with firmness, our citizens protected, and the modern doctrine of nullification and secession put down forever…. [N]othing must be permitted to weaken our government at home or abroad,” he wrote.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 14, 2024 (Sunday)

    You hear sometimes, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, that America has no heroes left.

    When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s regular, flawed human beings choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.

    It means sitting down the night before D-Day and writing a letter praising the troops and taking all the blame for the next day’s failure upon yourself, in case things went wrong, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.

    It means writing in your diary that you “still believe that people are really good at heart,” even while you are hiding in an attic from the men who are soon going to kill you, as Anne Frank did.

    It means signing your name to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence in bold print, even though you know you are signing your own death warrant should the British capture you, as John Hancock did.

    It means defending your people’s right to practice a religion you don’t share, even though you know you are becoming a dangerously visible target, as Sitting Bull did.

    Sometimes it just means sitting down, even when you are told to stand up, as Rosa Parks did.

    None of those people woke up one morning and said to themselves that they were about to do something heroic. It’s just that, when they had to, they did what was right.

    On April 3, 1968, the night before the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist, he gave a speech in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1966, King had tried to broaden the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality into a larger movement for economic justice. He joined the sanitation workers in Memphis, who were on strike after years of bad pay and such dangerous conditions that two men had been crushed to death in garbage compactors.

    After his friend Ralph Abernathy introduced him to the crowd, King had something to say about heroes: “As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about.”

    Dr. King told the audience that, if God had let him choose any era in which to live, he would have chosen the one in which he had landed. “Now, that’s a strange statement to make,” King went on, “because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” Dr. King said that he felt blessed to live in an era when people had finally woken up and were working together for freedom and economic justice.

    He knew he was in danger as he worked for a racially and economically just America. “I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter…because I've been to the mountaintop…. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

    People are wrong to say that we have no heroes left.

    Just as they have always been, they are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what.

    Wishing you all a day of peace for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2024.

    [Image of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., by Buddy Poland.]

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain. Posts: 40,402
    mickeyrat said:
      January 14, 2024 (Sunday)

    You hear sometimes, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, that America has no heroes left.

    When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s regular, flawed human beings choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.

    It means sitting down the night before D-Day and writing a letter praising the troops and taking all the blame for the next day’s failure upon yourself, in case things went wrong, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.

    It means writing in your diary that you “still believe that people are really good at heart,” even while you are hiding in an attic from the men who are soon going to kill you, as Anne Frank did.

    It means signing your name to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence in bold print, even though you know you are signing your own death warrant should the British capture you, as John Hancock did.

    It means defending your people’s right to practice a religion you don’t share, even though you know you are becoming a dangerously visible target, as Sitting Bull did.

    Sometimes it just means sitting down, even when you are told to stand up, as Rosa Parks did.

    None of those people woke up one morning and said to themselves that they were about to do something heroic. It’s just that, when they had to, they did what was right.

    On April 3, 1968, the night before the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist, he gave a speech in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1966, King had tried to broaden the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality into a larger movement for economic justice. He joined the sanitation workers in Memphis, who were on strike after years of bad pay and such dangerous conditions that two men had been crushed to death in garbage compactors.

    After his friend Ralph Abernathy introduced him to the crowd, King had something to say about heroes: “As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about.”

    Dr. King told the audience that, if God had let him choose any era in which to live, he would have chosen the one in which he had landed. “Now, that’s a strange statement to make,” King went on, “because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” Dr. King said that he felt blessed to live in an era when people had finally woken up and were working together for freedom and economic justice.

    He knew he was in danger as he worked for a racially and economically just America. “I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter…because I've been to the mountaintop…. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

    People are wrong to say that we have no heroes left.

    Just as they have always been, they are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what.

    Wishing you all a day of peace for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2024.

    [Image of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., by Buddy Poland.]


    Oh man, Heather's letter this time really got to me.  Definitely one of her best.
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore











  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
     January 15, 2024 (Monday)

    Last night, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) announced they have agreed to another continuing resolution that will fund the government until March 1 and March 8. Schumer said he will begin the process of passing the continuing resolution when the Senate reconvenes tomorrow.

    The first part of the current continuing resolution that funds the government will run out Friday, and Schumer warned that “[t]o avoid a shutdown, it will take bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and the House to quickly pass the CR and send it to the President's desk before Friday's funding deadline.”

    Schumer is sending a message to the House, since far-right Republican extremists there threw former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) out of the speakership for adhering to the budget spending agreement he made with President Joe Biden in June 2023. Now Johnson has agreed to what is essentially the same deal.

    It is unclear what actions the funding measure will prompt in the House. According to Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell in the Washington Post yesterday, extremist Republicans remain angry enough at their inability to dictate terms to the government that they are, once again, threatening to halt the House’s business in protest, to challenge Johnson’s speakership, and/or to shut down the government. At the same time, other Republicans are angry that Johnson appears to be caving to the extremists, who have made the House a bit of a laughingstock as they made it almost impossible last year for the House to get anything done. More obstruction, another speakership fight, or a government shutdown would hurt the Republicans’ image even more.

    Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News reported that Johnson told the House conference that with Kentucky representative Hal Rogers hospitalized after a car accident on Wednesday, and Louisiana representative Steve Scalise out of Congress until February for a stem cell transplant to treat his blood cancer, the Republican majority is so slim there isn’t time for anything other than a continuing resolution.

    Perhaps to appease the extremists, on the same call, Sherman reported, Johnson told the conference that the bipartisan immigration measure being negotiated in the Senate was “DOA in House.” House Republicans have insisted they will not pass additional funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan without a measure addressing the border. At the same time, they have also refused Biden’s offer to negotiate, clearly trying to preserve the immigration issue to whip up voters before the 2024 election. Johnson told his conference that Congress “can’t solve [the] border until Trump is elected or a Republican is back in the White House.” In Iowa, Trump promised: “As soon as I take the oath of office, I’ll…begin the largest deportation operation in American history.”

    We got a taste of what those policies will look like over the weekend when on Friday a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande and two other migrants were in distress after Texas soldiers prevented Border Patrol officers from entering Shelby Park, the area where the migrants were crossing. A lawyer for the Department of Health and Human Services wrote to Texas attorney general Ken Paxton on Sunday, demanding that Texas stop blocking Border Patrol officers.

    Meanwhile, the image of the migrant woman and children drowning is so damaging that Texas troops claim they didn’t see any distressed migrants and Texas governor Greg Abbott today insisted that the migrants were already dead when his troops stopped the Border Patrol from helping, although that claim does not address the fact that the Texas troops had blocked the Border Patrol’s normal surveillance of the river and had assumed responsibility for it. Abbott tried to argue that the deaths were not his fault but rather Biden’s because, he said, Biden’s policies encouraged migrants to attempt the crossing.   

    For their part, Senate Republican negotiators pushed back on the news that Johnson was preemptively tanking the immigration measure, saying that rumors about what’s in it are inaccurate and that Republicans should withhold judgment until they see it. Members of the Senate are eager to pass aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

    Today, Nahal Toosi explored in Politico how the domestic political infighting in the United States is undermining faith in American democracy around the world. Toosi explained that current and former diplomats pointed to concerns that U.S. foreign policy will change based on the demands of a radical base, and they pointed to Trump’s abrupt exit in 2018 from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more popularly known as the Iran nuclear agreement, that significantly restricted Iran’s nuclear development. In the wake of that withdrawal, Iran resumed the previously prohibited uranium enrichment.

    “Foreign relations is very much based on trust, and when you know that the person that is in front of you may not be there or might be followed by somebody that feels exactly the opposite way, what is your incentive to do long-term deals?” a former Latin American diplomat asked of Toosi. A former Mexican ambassador told Toosi that if a Republican takes the White House in 2024, countries will not be able to trust the U.S. as a partner but will instead operate transactionally.

    “The world does not have time for the U.S. to rebound back,” a former Asian ambassador told Toosi. “We’ve gone from a unipolar world that we’re familiar with from the 1990s into a multipolar world, but the key pole is still the United States. And if that key pole is not playing the role that we want the U.S. to do, you’ll see alternative forces coming up.” Toosi noted that Russian diplomats were “among those delighting in the U.S. chaos (and fanning it).”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 16, 2024 (Tuesday)

    [Warning: paragraphs 6-8 talk about rape.]

    In yesterday’s Iowa caucus, 51% of Republican caucusgoers chose former president Donald Trump as their preferred candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Twenty-one percent of Republican caucusgoers chose Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Nineteen percent chose former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. Seven percent chose technology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. These results mean that 20 of Iowa’s 40 delegates will go to Trump; 8 to DeSantis; 7 to Haley; and three to Ramaswamy. An apparent Trump surrogate in the primary debates, Ramaswamy suspended his campaign after the caucus and endorsed Trump.  

    Turnout was much lower than expected, with only about 110,000 people voting. That’s about 15% of Iowa’s three quarters of a million registered Republicans out of a population of just over 3 million people.

    On Friday, January 12, in Des Moines, DeSantis blamed right-wing media for Trump’s continued popularity. “He’s got basically a Praetorian Guard of the conservative media—Fox News, the websites, all this stuff,” DeSantis said, referring to the elite unit of the Roman army that protected the emperor both physically and through intelligence collecting. “They just don’t hold him accountable, because they’re worried about losing viewers and they don’t want to have the ratings go down. And that’s just the reality.”

    For his part, true to form, Trump has shared a story that Haley is not eligible to be president because her parents were not citizens when she was born in the U.S. in 1972. This reflects both his “birther” history and his promise to end the birthright citizenship established in 1868 by the Fourteenth Amendment. Also true to form, he made no accusations of voter fraud or rigged voting last night as he has done in the past when he lost elections; indeed, he told supporters this was his third win in Iowa. The truth is that in 2016 he lost Iowa’s caucus vote to Texas senator Ted Cruz.

    The Iowa results pretty much told us what we already knew. Trump remains the dominant leader of the hard-right older Republicans who turn out for caucuses, but is so generally unpopular that 49% of Iowa caucusgoers—the party’s most dedicated supporters in a deeply Republican state—chose someone else. The Trump base is older—entry polls showed that only 27% of yesterday’s voters were under the age of 50—and Trump won most handily in the rural, white counties that look least like the rest of the country. His greatest increase in support since 2016 came among white evangelicals.

    That support from those who claim fervent religious beliefs seems an odd fit with the candidate, who was in a federal courtroom in New York City today for the start of a trial to determine the additional damages he owes writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she said he raped her in the 1990s, claiming she was lying to sell books. Carroll sued him in 2019, but the case has been delayed as Trump argued that he had presidential immunity for his comments.

    While it was delayed, in May 2023 a jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse in a second civil trial known as Carroll II. The jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million. When Trump’s team countersued Carroll for defamation, saying the jury had found him liable not for rape, but for sexual abuse, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Carroll’s words were “substantially true.” Kaplan made it clear that New York law defines rape very narrowly. He said “the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact…‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape.’” “The jury,” he wrote, “found that Mr. Trump forcibly penetrated her vagina.”

    Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied Trump’s claim of presidential immunity for his defamation of Carroll and dismissed his argument that his comments weren’t defamatory.

    Carroll II established guidelines for the previous case as it finally moved forward. In a pretrial judgment, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan determined that Trump is liable for defamation for his ridicule of Carroll. Trump remains undeterred. As he arrived at the courthouse this morning, Alex Woodward noted in The Independent, his social media account released a flood of “potentially defamatory statements” attacking Carroll.  

    In Politico, Erica Orden noted that today’s trial is just down the street from the Trump trial for civil fraud that ended last Thursday. In that case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump committed business fraud. The trial was over fines, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and the Trump Organization’s continuing ability to do business in New York. Trump’s outburst at the end of the trial attacking the judge and New York attorney general Letitia James suggests that he has little faith that he is going to win that case and is instead turning it into a political pulpit as part of his attempt to undermine the American justice system. On Thursday morning, law enforcement officers showed up at Judge Engoron’s house in a “swatting” incident after someone falsely told police a violent crime was being committed there.  

    Attorney Joe Tacopina filed papers to withdraw himself and his two partners from Trump’s defense team yesterday.

    White evangelicals heartily endorse a crook and a rapist apparently because they expect that he will put in place the world they envision, one controlled by white, patriarchal evangelical Christians.

    But as even the Iowa caucuses indicated, the idea of replacing American democracy with an authoritarian who will enact Christian nationalism is not generally popular. In the Washington Post on January 11, Philip Bump explored a new poll by YouGov showing that when U.S. adult citizens are presented with 30 of Trump’s declared policies, majorities oppose 22 of them. A majority approved only four of them, and those were the ones the right wing has been hammering: banning hormonal or surgical treatment for transgender minors (57%), legally limiting recognized genders (53%), requiring immigrants to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are being processed (56%), and—by a narrow majority of 51%—deporting immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

    Some of Trump’s signature policies are deeply unpopular. Only 21% of Americans support getting rid of the nonpartisan civil service; only 18% support giving the president control over regulatory agencies like the Federal Communications Commission. Only 31% support sending U.S. troops into U.S. cities to enforce order; only 33% support sending troops into Mexico to fight drug cartels. Only 23% support further cuts to taxes on corporations. Only 29% want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (which has seen a record 20.5 million Americans enroll so far in the current enrollment period); only 28% support withdrawing from the World Health Organization. Only 38% want to end birthright citizenship, the same percentage as those who want to end U.S. aid to Ukraine.

    The YouGov study shows that only 30% of Americans support withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, and a December 2023 CNN poll showed that 73% want the government to do more to address climate change. And yet, today, Scott Waldman of Politico previewed the Trump team’s preparation for ending all efforts to address climate change. Complaining that the people in Trump’s first administration were “weak,” Trump advisor Steve Milloy told Waldman that  “The approach is to go back to all-out fossil fuel production and sit on the EPA.”

    “We are writing a battle plan, and we are marshaling our forces,” Paul Dans, director of Project 2025 at the Heritage Foundation, said last year. “Never before has the whole conservative movement banded together to systematically prepare to take power Day 1 and deconstruct the administrative state.”

    Meanwhile, Politico’s roundup of Washington, D.C., news shows that President Joe Biden has invited top congressional leaders of both parties—Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)—and relevant committee chairs to a meeting at the White House tomorrow to discuss the stalled aid package to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the U.S. border. Also today, the Senate is considering the continuing resolution to fund the government before the current continuing resolution ends on Friday.

    Speaker Johnson has pushed off House votes until Wednesday out of apparent concern about the snow in Washington today.

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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: 35,022
      January 17, 2024 (Wednesday)

    Texas attorney general Ken Paxton responded this evening to the federal government’s demand that state troops give U.S. Border Patrol agents access to Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, the site where three migrants died last week as they tried to cross the Rio Grande.

    Aarón Torres and Joseph Morton of The Dallas Morning News reported that Paxton’s letter acknowledged that by law the federal government’s Border Patrol officers are allowed  “warrantless access to land within 25 miles of the border, but only ‘for the purpose of patrolling the border to prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States.’” Paxton claimed that this law doesn’t apply because the current administration’s policies—the law, after all, is written by Congress—are not intended to stop undocumented immigration. “There is not even a pretense that you are trying to prevent the illegal entry of aliens,” he wrote.

    Torres and Morton note that, in fact, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported more than 142,000 migrants in 2023 and that Paxton presented no evidence for his claims.

    Two weeks ago, House Homeland Security Committee chair Mark Green (R-TN) demanded that Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testify as part of the House’s impeachment proceedings against him. As Rebecca Beitsch points out in The Hill, testimony from a cabinet secretary is usually arranged several weeks or even months in advance, and Mayorkas said he could not make the date because he will be discussing immigration with a delegation from Mexico at that time but he asked to arrange another time. Mayorkas has testified before the House panel twice in the past year and before Congress 27 times since he took office.

    In a letter obtained by Punchbowl News, Green wrote: “Since you continue to decline to come in person, I invite you to submit written testimony for the January 18th hearing record, so that our Committee Members may hear from you directly.”

    This evening, an inadvertently circulated internal Republican memo obtained by Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill shows that Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee likely have switched their demand for live testimony to a demand for written answers because they have already committed to impeachment on a tight timeline and cannot wait for the live hearing to be rescheduled.

    Green had previously suggested on the Fox News Channel that an impeachment document had already been written even though there had been no impeachment hearings. The memo appears to corroborate that suggestion, saying: “We have scheduled the markup for impeachment articles at 10:00 AM ET on Wednesday, January 31, 2024.”

    Republicans argue that Mayorkas lied to Congress because he said the government has operational control over the border. They dispute this characterization because the Secure Fence Act defines operational control as one in which not a single person or object enters the country improperly. This perfect standard has never been met, and yet they apparently decided to impeach over it before even holding hearings.  

    Republicans are clearly hoping to use the issue of immigration against President Joe Biden and the Democrats in the upcoming election. After insisting in November that immigration was in such a crisis that there could be no more aid to Ukraine, Israel, or Taiwan without it, Republicans in December rejected the idea of new legislation and said Biden must handle the issue himself. Then, in early January, 64 Republicans traveled to the border to demonstrate the importance of the issue.

    But now that the Senate appears to have hammered out a bipartisan immigration reform measure, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said this morning: “It’s a complex issue. I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, because we know how complicated that is.” After a meeting at the White House today with President Biden, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, and committee heads, Johnson still refused to put the proposed deal up for a vote in the House.

    In today’s meeting, Biden emphasized the danger of leaving Ukraine’s defense unfunded. “He was clear,” the White House said, “Congress’s continued failure to act endangers the United States’ national security, the NATO Alliance, and the rest of the free world.”

    Johnson is caught between U.S. national security and Trump. On the Fox News Channel tonight, Laura Ingraham told Johnson she had just gotten off a phone call with Trump and Trump had told her that he was against the immigration deal and had urged Johnson to oppose it. “He…was extremely adamant about it,” she said. Johnson agreed and said that he and Trump had been “talking about this pretty frequently.”   

    Trump needs the issue of immigration to whip up his base for the 2024 election.

    Today the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, chaired by James Comer (R-KY) held a hearing titled “The Biden Administration’s Regulatory and Policymaking Efforts to Undermine U.S. Immigration Law.” The administration has asked for additional funding for border patrol officers, immigration courts, and so on, but Comer said in his opening statement that the problem is not a lack of resources but rather an unwillingness to enforce the law.

    Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) replied: “You know we have failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform up here for decades.” He noted that one of his colleagues had provided statistics showing that President Barack Obama deported more people in each term than Trump did, so “if the border wasn’t a problem until President Biden was elected, then how are we deporting all of these people in administrations before Trump was elected? It’s because this situation has been going on for decades. So stop lying to the American people that none of this happened until President Biden was elected.”

    Comer has also used the House Oversight Committee to spread the idea that President Biden is corrupt, but while he has made many allegations on right-wing media channels, the committee has not, in fact, turned up any evidence linking the president to illegal activity. Instead, the investigations there appear to be a continuation of the technique Republicans have used since  the 1990s to insinuate that a Democrat has engaged in wrongdoing simply by holding investigations.

    Trump employed this technique effectively in 2016 in his constant refrain that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, had illegally deleted emails, and less effectively in 2019 when he tried to strong-arm Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden. It was central to the plan of convincing state legislatures that they could recast their 2020 electoral votes: lawyer Jeffrey Clark wanted to tell them (falsely) that there were voting irregularities that the Department of Justice was investigating.

    But this technique has backfired so far in this Congress. After a year of hearing that Biden is corrupt, MAGA Republicans have expected to see him impeached. But Democrats have come to hearings exceedingly well prepared and have pushed back on MAGA talking points, turning the tables on the Republicans so thoroughly that Comer recently was forced to back down, saying, “My job was never to impeach.”

    Creating a false reality to trick voters is central to undermining democracy, and it is no secret that autocratic states like Russia, Iran, and China are spreading disinformation in the U.S. But I have always wondered what would happen when the American people finally pushed back against suggestions and innuendo and instead demanded actual evidence and policies designed to address problems, as they did before American politics turned into entertainment.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 18, 2024 (Thursday)

    This afternoon, Congress passed a new continuing resolution necessary to fund the government past the upcoming deadlines in the previous continuing resolution. Those deadlines were tomorrow (January 19) and February 2. The deadlines in the new measure are March 1 and March 8. This is the third continuing resolution passed in four months as extremist Republicans have refused to fund the government unless they get a wish list of concessions to their ideology.

    Today’s vote was no exception. Eighteen Republican senators voted against the measure, while five Republicans did not vote (at least one, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, is ill). All the Democrats voted in favor. The final tally was 77 to 18, with five not voting.

    In the House the vote was 314 to 108, with 11 not voting. Republicans were evenly split between supporting government funding and voting against it, threatening to shut down the government. They split 107 to 106. All but two Democrats voted in favor of government funding. (In the past, Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and MIke Quigley of Illinois have voted no on a continuing resolution to fund the government in protest that the measure did not include funding for Ukraine.)

    This means that, like his predecessor Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) had to turn to Democrats to keep the government operating. The chair of the extremist House Freedom Caucus, Bob Good (R-VA), told reporters that before the House vote, Freedom Caucus members had tried to get Johnson to add to the measure the terms of their extremist border security bill. Such an addition would have tanked the bill, forcing a government shutdown, and Johnson refused.

    “I always tell people back home beware of bipartisanship," Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH) said on the House floor during the debate. “The most bipartisan thing in Washington, D.C., is bankrupting our country, if not financially, morally…. It’s not just the spending, it’s all the terrible policies that are attached to the spending.”

    Republican extremists in Congress are also doing the bidding of former president Donald Trump, blocking further aid to Ukraine in its struggle to fight off Russian aggression and standing in the way of a bipartisan immigration reform measure. Aid to Ukraine is widely popular both among the American people and among lawmakers. Immigration reform, which Republicans have demanded but are now opposing, would take away one of Trump’s only talking points before the 2024 election.

    A piece today in the Washington Post by European affairs columnist Lee Hockstadter about the difficulties of reestablishing democracy in Poland after eight years under a right-wing leader illuminates this moment in the U.S. Hockstadter’s description of the party of former Polish leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski sounds familiar: the party “jury-rigged systems, rules and institutions to its own partisan advantage, seeding its allies in the courts, prosecutors’ offices, state-owned media and central bank. Kaczynski’s administration erected an intricate legal obstacle course designed to leave the party with a stranglehold on key levers of power even if it were ousted in elections.”

    Although voters in Poland last fall reelected former prime minister Donald Tusk to reestablish democracy, his ability to rebuild the democratic and judicial norms torched by his predecessor have been hamstrung by his opponents, who make up an “irreconcilable opposition” and are trying to retain control over Poland through their seizure of key levers of government.

    The U.S. was in a similar situation during Reconstruction, when in 1879, former Confederates in the Democratic Party tried to end the government protection of Black rights altogether by refusing to fund the government until the president, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, withdrew all the U.S. troops from the South (it’s a myth that they left in 1877) and stopped trying to protect Black voting.

    At the time, the president and House minority leader James A. Garfield refused to bow to the former Confederates. Five times, Hayes vetoed funding measures that carried the riders former Confederates wanted, writing that the Confederates’ policy was “radical, dangerous, and unconstitutional,” for it would allow a “bare majority” in the House to dictate its terms to the Senate and the President, thus destroying the balance of power in the American government.

    In 1879, well aware of the stakes in the fight, newspapers made the case that the government was under assault. American voters listened, the former Confederates backed down, and Garfield somewhat unexpectedly was elected president in 1880 as a man who would champion the idea of the protection of Black rights and the country itself from those who wanted to establish that states were more powerful than the federal government.

    Chastened, the leaders of the Democratic Party marginalized former Confederates and turned to northern cities to reestablish the party, beginning the transition to the party that would, fifty years later, usher in the New Deal.

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    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: 35,022
      January 19, 2024 (Friday)

    President Joe Biden today signed the continuing resolution that will keep the government operating into March.

    Meanwhile, the stock market roared as two of the three major indexes hit new record highs. The S&P 500, which measures the value of 500 of the largest companies in the country, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which does the same for 30 companies considered to be industry leaders, both rose to all-time highs. The third major index, the Nasdaq Composite, which is weighted toward technology stocks, did not hit a record high, although its 1.7% jump was higher than that of the S&P 500 (1.2%) or the Dow (1.1%).

    Investors appear to be buoyed by the fact the rate of inflation has come down in the U.S. and by news that consumers are feeling better about the economy. A report out today by Goldman Sachs Economics Research noted that consumer spending is strong and predicted that “job gains, positive real wage growth, will lead to around 3% real disposable income growth” and that “household balance sheets have strengthened.” It also noted that “[t]he US has led the way on disinflation,” and it predicted further drops in 2024. That will likely mean the sort of interest rate cuts the stock market likes.

    The economic policies of the Biden-Harris administration have also benefited workers. The unemployment rate has been under 4% for more than two years, and wages have risen higher than inflation in that same period. Production is up as well, to 4.9% in the third quarter of 2023 (the U.S. growth rate under Trump even before the pandemic was 2.5%).

    The administration has worked to end some of the most obvious financial inequities in the U.S., such as the unexpected “junk fees” tacked on to airline or concert tickets, or to car or apartment rentals. On Wednesday the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a proposed rule for bank overdraft fees at banks that have more than $10 billion in assets.

    While banks now can charge what they wish if a customer’s balance falls below zero, the proposed rule would allow them to charge no more than what it cost them to break even on providing overdraft services or, alternatively, an industry-wide fee that reflects the amount it costs to deal with overdrafts: $3, $6, $7, or $14. The amount will be established after a public hearing period.

    Ken Sweet and Cora Lewis of the Associated Press note that while the average overdraft is $26.61, some banks charge as much as $39 per overdraft. The CFPB estimates that in the past 20 years, banks have collected more than $280 billion in overdraft fees. (One bank’s chief executive officer named his boat “Overdraft.”) Over the past two years, pressure has made banks cut back on their fees and they now take in about $8 billion a year from those overdraft fees.

    Bankers say regulation is unnecessary and will force them to end the overdraft service, pushing people out of the banking system. Biden said that the rule would save U.S. families $3.5 billion annually.

    The administration has also addressed the student loan crisis by reexamining the loan histories of student borrowers. An NPR investigation led by Cory Turner revealed that banks mismanaged loans, denying borrowers the terms under which they had signed on to them. Rather than honoring the government’s promise that so long as a borrower paid what the government thought was reasonable on a loan for 20 or 25 years (undergrad or graduate), the debt would be forgiven, banks urged borrowers to put the loan into “forbearance,” under which payments paused but the debt continued to accrue interest, making the amount balloon.

    The Education Department has been reexamining all those old loans to find this sort of mismanagement as well as other problems, like borrowers not getting credit for payments to count toward their 20 years of payments, or borrowers who chose public service not receiving the debt relief they were promised.

    Today the administration announced $4.9 billion of student debt cancellation for almost 74,000 borrowers. That brings the total of borrowers whose debt has been canceled to 3.7 million Americans, with an erasure of $136.6 billion. Nearly 30,000 of today’s relieved borrowers had been in repayment for at least 20 years but never got the relief they should have; nearly 44,000 had earned debt forgiveness after 10 years of public service as teachers, nurses, and firefighters.

    Biden has been traveling the country recently, touting how the economic policies of the Biden-Harris administration have benefited ordinary Americans. In Emmaus, Pennsylvania, last Friday he visited a bicycle shop, a running shoe store, and a coffee shop to emphasize how small businesses are booming under his administration: in the three years since he took office, there have been 16 million applications to start new businesses, the highest number on record.

    Biden was in Raleigh, North Carolina, yesterday to announce another $82 million in support for broadband access, bringing the total of government infrastructure funding in North Carolina during the Biden administration to $3 billion.  

    On social media, the administration compared its investments in the American people to those of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, which were enormously popular.

    They were popular, that is, until those opposed to business regulation convinced white voters that the government’s protection of civil rights, which came along with its protection of ordinary Americans through regulation of business, provision of a basic social safety net, and promotion of infrastructure, meant redistribution of white tax dollars to undeserving Black people.

    The same effort to make sure that ordinary Americans don’t work together to restore basic fairness in the economy and rights in society is visible now in the attempt to attribute a recent Boeing airplane malfunction, in which a door panel blew off mid-flight, to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Tesnim Zekeria at Popular Information yesterday chronicled how that accusation spread across the right-wing ecosystem and onto the Fox News Channel, where Fox Business host Sean Duffy warned: “This is a dangerous business when you’re focused on DEI and maybe less focused on engineering and safety.”

    As Zekeria explains, “this narrative has no basis in fact.” Neither Boeing nor its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, is particularly diverse, either at the workforce level, where minorities make up 35% of Boeing employees and 26% of those at Spirit AeroSystems, or on the corporate ladder, where the overwhelming majority of executives are white men. Zekeria notes that right-wing media figures have also erroneously blamed last year’s train derailment in Ohio and the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank on DEI initiatives.

    The real culprit at Boeing, Zekeria suggests, was the weakened regulations on Boeing and Spirit thanks to more than $65 million in lobbying efforts.

    Perhaps an even more transparent attempt to keep ordinary Americans from working together is the attacks former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson has launched against Vice President Kamala Harris, calling her “a member of the new master race” who “must be shown maximum respect at all times, no matter what she says or does.” Philip Bump of the Washington Post noted yesterday that this construction suggests that Harris, who identifies as both Black and Indian, represents all nonwhite Americans as a united force opposed to white Americans.

    But Harris’s actions actually represent something else altogether. She has crossed the country since June 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, talking about the right of all Americans to bodily autonomy. That the Supreme Court felt able to take away a constitutional right has worried many Americans about what they might do next, and people all over the country have been coming together in opposition to the small minority that appears to have taken over the levers of our democracy.

    Driving the wedge of racism into that majority coalition seems to be a desperate attempt to stop ordinary Americans from taking back control of the country.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 20, 2024 (Saturday)

    Last night at a rally in New Hampshire, former president Trump repeatedly confused former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who is running against him for the Republican presidential nomination, with Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the former speaker of the House.

    “By the way, they never report the crowd on January 6th,” Trump told the audience. “You know, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, you know they, do you know they destroyed all of the information, all of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it because of lots of things, like Nikki Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people. Soldiers, National Guards, whatever they want. They turned it down.”

    Observers have been saying for a while now that once Trump had to start appearing in public, his apparent cognitive decline would surprise those who haven’t been paying attention.

    That certainly seemed to be true on Wednesday, January 17, when he told a New Hampshire audience: “We’re…going to place strong protections to stop banks and regulators from trying to debank you from your—you know, your political beliefs, what they do. They want to debank you, and we’re going to debank—think of this. They want to take away your rights. They want to take away your country. The things they’re doing. All electric cars.”

    His statement looks like word salad if you’re not steeped in MAGA world, but there are two stories behind Trump’s torrent of words. The first is that Trump always blurts out whatever is uppermost in his mind, suggesting he is worried by the fact that large banks will no longer lend to him. The Trump Organization’s auditor said during a fraud trial in 2022 that the past 10 years of the company’s financial statements could not be relied on, and Trump was forced to turn to smaller banks, likely on much worse terms. Now the legal case currently underway in Manhattan will likely make that financial problem larger. The judge has already decided that the Trump Organization, Trump, his two older sons, and two employees committed fraud, for which the judge is currently deciding appropriate penalties.

    The second story behind his statement, though, is much larger than Trump.

    Since 2023, right-wing organizations, backed by Republican state attorneys general, have argued that banks are discriminating against them on religious and political grounds. In March 2023, JPMorgan Chase closed an account opened by the National Committee for Religious Freedom after the organization did not provide information the bank needed to comply with regulatory requirements. Immediately, Republican officials claimed religious discrimination and demanded the bank explain its position on issues important to the right wing. JPMorgan Chase denied discrimination, noting that it serves 50,000 accounts with religious affiliations and saying, “We have never and would never exit a client relationship due to their political or religious affiliation.”  

    But the attack on banks stuck among MAGA Republicans, especially as other financial platforms like PayPal, Venmo, and GoFundMe have declined to accept business from right-wing figures who spout hate speech, thus cutting off their ability to raise money from their followers.

    The attempt to create distrust of large financial institutions is part of a larger attempt to destabilize the institutions of democracy. Trump is the figurehead for that attempt, but it is larger than him, and it will outlast him.

    The news media is often called the fourth branch of government because it provides the transparency and oversight that hold leaders accountable. But as soon as he began to campaign for office in 2015, Trump responded to the negative press about him by attacking the press, calling it the “fake news” media. In 2016, 70% of Republicans said they trusted national news media; by 2021 that number was 35%.

    Once elected, Trump and MAGA Republicans started to undermine faith in the rule of law that underpins our democracy. Less than four months after he took office, Trump fired the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, for investigating the connections between his 2016 campaign and Russian operatives, and his attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice under which the FBI operates have been relentless ever since.

    Those attacks now involve the entire judicial system, which Trump and his loyalists attack whenever judges or juries oppose him, while judges like Aileen Cannon, who appears to be protecting Trump from the federal criminal case against him for mishandling classified documents, have escaped his wrath.

    Trump and his supporters have also challenged the U.S. military, insisting that it is weak because it is “woke.” He has called its leaders “some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

    But it is not just the banking,  justice, and military systems MAGA Republicans are undermining. They are sowing distrust of our educational system, claiming that it is not educating students but, rather, indoctrinating them to embrace left-wing ideology. Public education is central to democracy because, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, it enables a voter to “understand his duties to his neighbours, & country,…[t]o know his rights…[a]nd, in general, to observe with intelligence & faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.”

    Extremists in Congress are undermining even that body, the centerpiece of our democratic system. They have ground business there to a halt, weakening the idea of Congress as a deliberative body that can pass legislation to represent the wishes of the American people.

    In addition, they are now trying, quite deliberately, to end the country’s traditional system of foreign policy that protects the nation’s national security. Instead, they are trying to politicize foreign policy, standing against further aid to Ukraine although it has strong bipartisan support, thus tipping the scales in favor of Russia’s authoritarian leader in opposition to U.S. national security.

    Over all, of course, is the Big Lie that undermines the nation’s electoral system by insisting that the 2020 presidential vote was “rigged” against Trump. Although there has never been any evidence of such a thing, 30% of Americans think Biden won the presidency only through “voter fraud.”  

    This weakening of our institutions threatens the survival of democracy.

    Tearing apart the fabric of democracy invites an authoritarian to convince his followers that democracy is weak and that only a strongman can govern.

    Three years ago today, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office, vowing to restore faith in our democratic institutions.

    “This is a time of testing,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities.

    “Now we must step up. All of us. It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do. And, this is certain. We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?”

    “Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our nation,” Biden said. “If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: They gave their best. They did their duty. They healed a broken land.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 21, 2024 (Sunday)

    On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision. By a 7–2 vote, the Supreme Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right of privacy under its “concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action.” This right to privacy, the court said, guarantees a pregnant woman the right to obtain an abortion without restriction in the first trimester of a pregnancy. After that point, the state can regulate abortion, it said, “except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”  

    The right to privacy is a “fundamental right,” the court said, and could only be regulated by the state under a “compelling state interest.”

    Abortion had always been a part of American life, but states began to criminalize the practice in the 1870s. By 1960, an observer estimated, there were between 200,000 and 1.2 million illegal U.S. abortions a year, endangering women, primarily poor ones who could not afford a workaround.

    To stem this public health crisis, doctors wanted to decriminalize abortion and keep it between a woman and her doctor. In the 1960s, states began to decriminalize abortion on this medical model, and support for abortion rights grew. The rising women's movement wanted women to have control over their lives. Its leaders were latecomers to the reproductive rights movement, but they came to see reproductive rights as key to self-determination.

    By 1971, even the evangelical Southern Baptist Convention agreed that abortion should be legal in some cases, and by 1972, Gallup pollsters reported that 64% of Americans agreed that abortion should be between a woman and her doctor. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans, who had always liked family planning, agreed, as did 59% of Democrats.

    In keeping with that sentiment, the Supreme Court, under Republican Chief Justice Warren Burger, in a decision written by Republican Harry Blackmun, overrode state antiabortion legislation by recognizing the constitutional right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment.  

    The common story is that Roe sparked a backlash. But legal scholars Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel showed that opposition to the eventual Roe v. Wade decision began before the 1972 election in a deliberate attempt to polarize American politics. President Richard Nixon was up for reelection in that year, and with his popularity dropping, his advisor Pat Buchanan urged Nixon to woo Catholic Democrats over the issue of abortion. In 1970, Nixon had directed U.S. military hospitals to perform abortions regardless of state law, but in 1971, using Catholic language, he reversed course to split the Democrats, citing his personal belief "in the sanctity of human life—including the life of the yet unborn.”

    As Nixon split the U.S. in two to rally voters, his supporters used abortion to stand in for women's rights in general. Railing against the Equal Rights Amendment, in her first statement on abortion in 1972, activist Phyllis Schlafly did not talk about fetuses but instead spoke about “women’s lib”—the women’s liberation movement—which she claimed was “a total assault on the role of the American woman as wife and mother, and on the family as the basic unit of society.”

    A dozen years later, sociologist Kristin Luker discovered that "pro-life" activists believed that selfish "pro-choice" women were denigrating the roles of wife and mother. They wanted the government to give them rights they didn't need or deserve.

    By 1988, radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh demonized women's rights advocates as "feminazis" for whom "the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur." The issue of abortion had become a way to denigrate the political opponents of the radicalizing Republican Party.  

    Such threats turned out Republican voters, especially the white evangelical base, and Supreme Court justices nominated by Republicans began to chip away at Roe v. Wade.

    But support for safe and legal abortion has always been strong, and Republican leaders almost certainly did not expect the decision to fall entirely. Then, to the surprise of party leaders, the evangelical base in 2016 elected Donald Trump to the White House. To please that base, he nominated to the Supreme Court three extremists, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The three promised in their confirmation hearings to respect settled law, which senators chose to interpret as a promise to leave Roe v. Wade largely intact.

    Even so, Trump’s right-wing nominees could not win confirmation to the Supreme Court until then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2017 ended the filibuster for Supreme Court justices, reducing the votes necessary for confirmation from 60 to as low as 50. Fifty-four senators confirmed Gorsuch; 50 confirmed Kavanaugh; 52 confirmed Barrett.

    On June 24, 2022, by a vote of 6 to 3, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Five of the justices said: “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.”

    For the first time in American history, rather than expanding the nation’s recognition of constitutional rights, the Supreme Court took away the recognition of a constitutional right that had been honored for almost 50 years. Republican-dominated states immediately either passed antiabortion legislation or let stand the antiabortion measures already on the books that had been overruled by Roe v. Wade.

    But the majority of Americans didn’t support either the attack on abortion rights or the end of a constitutional right. Support for abortion rights had consistently been over 60% even during the time Roe was under attack, but the Dobbs decision sent support for abortion as Roe v. Wade established it to 69%. Only 13% want it illegal in all circumstances. Since Dobbs, in every election where abortion was on the ballot, those protecting abortion rights won handily, including last week, when Tom Keen won a special election in Florida, flipping a seat in the state House from Republican to Democrat.

    But I wonder if there is more behind the fury over the Dobbs decision than just access to abortion, huge though that is.

    In the 1850s, elite southern enslavers quietly took over first the Democratic Party, and then the Senate, the White House, and then the Supreme Court. Northerners didn’t pay much attention to the fact that their democracy was slipping away until suddenly, in 1854, Democrats in the House of Representatives caved to pressure from the party’s southern wing and passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. That law overturned the Missouri Compromise, which had kept enslavement out of much of the West, and had stood since 1820, so long that northerners thought it would stand forever.

    With the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, human enslavement would become the law of the land, and the elite southern enslavers, with their concentration of wealth and power, would rule everyone else. It appeared that American democracy would die, replaced by an oligarchy.

    But when the Kansas-Nebraska bill passed, northerners of all parties came together to stand against those trying to destroy American democracy. As Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln put it: “We rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach—a scythe—a pitchfork—a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver,” to fight against the minority trying to impose its will on the majority. Within a decade, they had rededicated themselves to guaranteeing “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    I wonder if Dobbs, with its announcement that the government under Republicans will no longer recognize an established constitutional right, is today’s version of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

    By making it crystal clear that the right wing feels no obligation to honor decisions of the past that are based in our right to personal liberty without oversight by the government, the Dobbs decision is a siren warning to everyone who wants to preserve democracy that now is the moment to reach for the tools at hand.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    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: 35,022
      January 22, 2024 (Monday)

    Last night, Florida governor Ron DeSantis dropped out of the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and promptly endorsed former president Trump. DeSantis had tried to present himself as the alternative to Trump, but he put so little daylight between himself and the former president that he could never get traction.

    DeSantis appeared to use his power as the governor of Florida to push measures he thought would boost his candidacy, many of which followed the pattern of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who has used his government to destroy democracy and assume autocratic powers. DeSantis pushed anti-LGBTQ+ laws, book bans, and the idea that businesses like Disney must answer to the moral positions of the government rather than market forces, and he flew migrants who were in the U.S. legally to Martha’s Vineyard in an apparent attempt to stand out as an anti-immigrant crusader.

    But DeSantis never broke free of Trump’s orbit.

    The Miami Herald editorial board noted that while DeSantis’s presidential bid had ended, “the damage of the laws he has pushed through in Florida, as he landed more appearances on Fox News, will live on. Without his political ambitions, there likely wouldn’t be ‘Don’t say gay,’ woke wars and the waste of state resources to fight meaningless battles against drag queen bars. These were efforts to appeal to Trump’s base but his supporters refused to leave the former president, especially after he was indicted.”

    The New Hampshire primary is tomorrow, with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley squaring off against Trump. It is not at all clear what daylight exists between the two of them, either, although Haley is perceived as the representative of the pre-Trump corporate Republican Party. Still, the contest is revealing the future in at least one way: today, New Hampshire voters are reporting that they have received robocalls with a deepfake of President Joe Biden’s voice telling them not to vote.  

    Republican party officials worry that while Trump is taking up tons of oxygen, the party itself has nothing to run on. Since taking control of the House in 2023, Republicans have very little to show for it except a lot of infighting. The last congressional session was “historically unproductive,” as Sahil Kapur of NBC News put it today. House Republicans’ investigations of President Joe Biden, hyped before the media, have fizzled, and now, after insisting that they would not pass funding for Ukraine, Israel, or Taiwan until the “crisis” at the border was addressed, they have backed off and now say they will not pass border legislation.

    Meanwhile, radicals appear to be manufacturing a crisis on the border. On January 11, Michael Scherer and Dylan Wells of the Washington Post reported that political ads had used the word “border” 1,319 times since the start of the year, more than any other word including “approve” and “message,” standard disclaimer terms for political ads.

    On Wednesday, January 17, state authorities began to arrest migrants at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to take control of immigration away from the federal government. When the government told Texas to stop blocking federal officials from the stretch of the Rio Grande where three migrants died last week, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton’s office responded: “Texas will not surrender.”

    Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the federal government is authorized to remove the razor wire Texas has installed across the U.S.-Mexico border, although considering the federal government’s authority over border security is very well established, the fact that the vote was 5–4 is surprising. Far-right lawmakers were outraged nonetheless. Representative Chip Roy of Texas urged his House colleagues to defund the Department of Homeland Security, and Louisiana representative Clay Higgins said on social media that the federal government was “staging a civil war” and that “Texas should stand their ground.”

    Meanwhile, on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena to follow up on migration discussions the two countries had in meetings on December 27, 2023, in Mexico. In September 2023, Mexico eclipsed China as the largest trading partner of the U.S., and in the December meeting, Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, U.S. ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar, and National Security Council Coordinator for the Los Angeles Declaration Katie Tobin discussed cooperation to manage the border safely and humanely while also combating the drug smuggling and conditions that have been driving migration.

    On January 8, Julia Ainsley of NBC News explained that the Biden administration has been pressuring Mexico to increase enforcement on its own southern border with Guatemala, deport more migrants from within Mexico, and take in more non-Mexican migrants back across the U.S. southern border. In exchange, Ainsley says, Mexico’s president—who is on the defensive at home because of corruption charges—has proposed that the U.S. invest more money in Latin America and Caribbean countries, suspend its blockade of Cuba, ease sanctions against Venezuela, and make it easier for migrants to work legally in the U.S.

    On Friday, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. said that the coordinated efforts were having a positive effect on migration as officials have cracked down on smuggling networks, trains, and bus routes. “Migration is a hemispheric challenge,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said. “The United States is committed to work hand in hand with Mexico and countries across the region to address the root causes of migration and advance economic opportunities in the spirit of Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection,” a landmark 2022 agreement in which the heads of twenty of the countries in the Americas agreed to embrace a regional approach to managing migration.

    Today, on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion, Vice President Kamala Harris, who has made protecting reproductive rights key to her portfolio, and President Joe Biden noted that thanks to the “extreme decision” of today’s Supreme Court to overturn that decision has left tens of millions of American women “in states with extreme and dangerous abortion bans.”

    “Because of Republican elected officials,” Biden said in a statement, “women’s health and lives are at risk….  Even as Americans…have resoundingly rejected attempts to limit reproductive freedom, Republican elected officials continue to push for a national ban and devastating new restrictions across the country.” He and Vice President Harris “are fighting to protect women’s reproductive freedom against Republicans officials’ dangerous, extreme, and out-of-touch agenda,” he said. “We stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose, and continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe in federal law once and for all.”

    This is a position embraced by 69% of Americans, and the Biden campaign has run videos with Trump bragging that he overturned Roe v. Wade and suggesting that women who obtain abortions should be punished.

    Recently, the campaign released an ad in which a Texas woman who is herself an OBGYN talks about being unable to obtain an abortion for a planned pregnancy after a routine ultrasound revealed that the fetus could not survive. “Because of Donald Trump overturning Roe v. Wade,” she says, Texas “completely” took her choice away and put her life in danger. “It’s every woman’s worst nightmare and it was absolutely unbearable. We need leaders that will protect our rights and not take them away,” she says.

    Finally, today, a historical moment: the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an average of the value of 30 leading companies, passed 38,000 for the first time.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,022
      January 23, 2024 (Tuesday)

    Trump won the New Hampshire primary, as expected, but former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was a close enough second that Trump is now melting down on social media.

    At least in part because of that hot mess, I’m sick of politics tonight, and thought I’d wash my hands of it all and take a breather. Guessing I’m not the only one who could use a break.

    As I was skimming through Buddy’s photos to see what I could post, I found this, a photo Buddy posted to Facebook shortly after we met but long before we were a couple, when the world seemed to be a calmer and simpler place, years before anyone could imagine where we would be today. This image jumped out at me then for its layers and colors in the bleakness of a Maine winter, and it remains one of my favorites of all the photos he’s taken.

    I hope it gives you all the same sense of peace it gave me, all those years ago. And, come to think of it, still does.

    I’ll see you tomorrow.  

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


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