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Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 18, 2024 (Sunday)

    On the third Monday in February, the U.S. celebrates Presidents Day, a somewhat vague holiday placed in 1968 near the date of George Washington’s birthday on February 22, 1732, but also traditionally including Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12, 1809. This year, that holiday falls on February 19.

    That the American people in the twenty-first century celebrate Abraham Lincoln as a great president would likely have surprised Lincoln in summer 1864, when every sign suggested he would not be reelected and would go down in history as the man who had permitted a rebellion to dismember the United States.

    The news from the battlefields in 1864 was grim. In May, General U. S. Grant had taken control of the Army of the Potomac and had launched a war of attrition to destroy the Confederacy. In May and June, more than 17,500 Union soldiers were killed or wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, 18,000 at Spotsylvania, and another 12,500 at Cold Harbor. As the casualties mounted, so did criticism of Lincoln.

    Those Republican leaders who thought Lincoln was far too conservative both in his prosecution of the war and in his moves toward abolishing enslavement had plotted with the humorless Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who perennially hankered to run the country, to replace Lincoln with Chase on the 1864 ticket.

    In February they went so far as to circulate a document signed by Senator Samuel Pomeroy of Kansas, a key party leader, saying that “even were the re-election of Lincoln desirable, it is practically impossible against the union of influences which will oppose him.” Even if he could manage to pull off a reelection, the Pomeroy circular said, he was unfit for office: “his manifest tendency towards compromises and temporary expedients of policy” would make the “dignity and honor of the nation…suffer.”

    This was no small challenge: Chase had been in charge of remaking the finances of the United States, and he had both connections and Treasury employees all over the country who owed their jobs to him. In an era in which political patronage meant political victories, he had a formidable machine.

    Lincoln managed to quell the rebellion from the radicals. In June 1864, soon after the party—temporarily renamed the National Union Party to make it easier for former Democrats to feel comfortable voting for Republicans—met to choose a presidential candidate, Chase threatened to resign from the Cabinet, as he had done repeatedly. In the past, Lincoln had appeased him. This time, Lincoln accepted his resignation.  

    But conservatives, too, were in revolt against Lincoln.

    Crucially, Thurlow Weed, New York’s kingmaker, thought Lincoln was far too radical. Weed cared deeply about putting his own people into the well-paying customs positions available in New York City, and he was frequently angry that Lincoln appointed nominees favored by the more radical faction.

    That frustration went hand in hand with anger about policy. Weed was upset that the Republicans were remaking the government for ordinary Americans. The 1862 Homestead Act, which provided western land for a nominal fee to any American willing to settle it, was a thorn in his side. Until Congress passed that law, such land, taken from Indigenous tribes, would be sold to speculators for cash that went directly to the Treasury. Republicans believed that putting farmers on the land would enable them to pay the new national taxes Congress imposed, thus bringing in far more money to the Treasury for far longer than would selling to speculators, but Weed foresaw national bankruptcy.

    Even more than financial policy, though, Weed was unhappy with Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which moved toward an end of human enslavement far too quickly for Weed.

    On August 22, Weed wrote to his protégé Secretary of State William Henry Seward that he had recently “told Mr. Lincoln that his re-election was an impossibility…. [N]obody here doubts it; nor do I see anybody from other states who authorises the slightest hope of success.”

    “The People are wild for Peace,” he wrote, and suggested they were unhappy that “the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be ‘abandoned.’” Weed wrote that Henry Raymond, another protégé who both chaired the Republican National Committee and edited the New York Times, “thinks Commissioners should be immediately sent to Richmond, offering to treat for Peace on the basis of Union.”

    On August 23, 1864, Lincoln asked the members of his Cabinet to sign a memorandum that was pasted closed so they could not read it. Inside were the words:

    “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.  — A. Lincoln”

    But then his fortunes turned.

    Just a week after Weed foretold his electoral doom, the Democrats chose as a presidential candidate General George McClellan, formerly commander of the Army of the Potomac, in a transparent attempt to appeal to soldiers. But to appease the anti-war wing of the party, they also called for an immediate end to the war. They also rejected the new, popular measures the national government had undertaken since 1861—the establishment of state colleges, the transcontinental railroad, the new national money, and the Homestead Act—insisting on “State rights.”
     
    Americans who had poured their lives and fortunes into the war and liked the new government were not willing to abandon both to return to the conditions of three years before.

    Then news spread that Rear Admiral David Farragut had taken control of Mobile Bay, the last port the Confederates held in the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River. On September 2, General William T. Sherman took Atlanta, a city of symbolic as well as real value to the Confederacy, and set off on his March to the Sea, smashing his way through the countryside and carving the eastern half of Confederacy in half again.

    Reelecting Lincoln meant committing to fight on until victory, and voters threw in their lot. In November’s election, Lincoln won about 55% of the popular vote compared to McClellan’s 45%, and 212 electoral votes to McClellan’s 12. Lincoln won 78 percent of the soldiers’ vote.

    After his reelection, Lincoln explained to a crowd come to serenade him why it had been important to hold an election, even though he had expected to lose it:

    “We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”

    Happy Presidents Day

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 19, 2024 (Monday)

    Today is the anniversary of the day in 1942, during World War II, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 enabling military authorities to designate military areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” That order also permitted the secretary of war to provide transportation, food, and shelter “to accomplish the purpose of this order.”

    Four days later a Japanese submarine off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, shelled the Ellwood Oil Field, and the Office of Naval Intelligence warned that the Japanese would attack California in the next ten hours. On February 25 a meteorological balloon near Los Angeles set off a panic, and troops fired 1,400 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition at supposed Japanese attackers.

    On March 2, 1942, General John DeWitt put Executive Order 9066 into effect. He signed Public Proclamation No. 1, dividing the country into military zones and, “as a matter of military necessity,” excluding from certain of those zones “[a]ny Japanese, German, or Italian alien, or any person of Japanese Ancestry.” Under DeWitt’s orders, about 125,000 children, women, and men of Japanese ancestry were forced out of their homes and imprisoned in camps around the country. Two thirds of those incarcerated were U.S. citizens.

    DeWitt’s order did not come from nowhere. After almost a century of shaping laws to discriminate against Asian newcomers, West Coast inhabitants and lawmakers were primed to see their Japanese and Japanese-American neighbors as dangerous.

    Those laws reached back to the 1849 arrival of Chinese miners in California and reached forward into the twentieth century. Indeed, on another February 19—that of 1923—the Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. It said that Thind, an Indian Sikh man who identified himself as Indo-European, could not become a U.S. citizen. Thind claimed the right to United States citizenship under the terms of the Naturalization Act of 1906, which had put the federal government instead of states in charge of who got to be a citizen and had very specific requirements for citizenship that he believed he had met.

    But, the court said, Thind was not a “white person” under U.S. law, and only “free white persons” could become citizens.

    What were they talking about? In the Thind decision, the Supreme Court reached back to the case of Japan-born Takao Ozawa, decided a year before, in 1922. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Ozawa could not become a citizen under the 1906 Naturalization Act because that law had not overridden the 1790 naturalization law limiting citizenship to “free white persons.” The court decided that “white person” meant “persons of the Caucasian Race.” “A Japanese, born in Japan, being clearly not a Caucasian, cannot be made a citizen of the United States,” it said.

    As the 1922 case indicated, Asian Americans could not rely on the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, to permit them to become citizens, because a law from 1790 knocked a hole in that amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment provided that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” But as soon as that amendment went into effect, the new states and territories of the West reached back to the 1790 naturalization law to exclude Asian immigrants from citizenship on the basis of the argument that they were not “free, white persons.”

    That 1790 restriction, based in early lawmakers’ determination to guarantee that enslaved Africans could not claim citizenship, enabled lawmakers after the Civil War to exclude Asian immigrants from citizenship.

    From that exclusion grew laws discriminating against Chinese immigrants, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited Chinese workers from migrating to the United States. Then, when Chinese immigration slowed and Japanese immigration took its place, the U.S. backed the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 under which Japanese officials promised to stop emigration to the United States. The United States, in turn, promised not to restrict the rights of Japanese immigrants already in the United States, although laws prohibiting “aliens” from owning land meant Japanese settlers either lost their land or had to put it in the names of their American-born children, who were citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment.

    After the 1923 Thind decision, the United States stripped the citizenship of about 50 South Asian Americans who had already become American citizens. One of them was Vaishno Das Bagai, an immigrant from what is now Pakistan who came from wealth and who settled in San Francisco in 1915 with his wife and three sons to start a business. Less than three weeks after arriving in the United States, Bagai began the process of naturalization. He became a citizen in 1920.

    The Thind decision took that citizenship away from Bagai, making him fall under California’s alien land laws that said he could not own land. He lost his home and his business. In 1928, explicitly telling the San Francisco Examiner that he was taking his life in protest of racial discrimination, Bagai committed suicide. His widow, Kala Bagai, became a community activist.

    World War II changed U.S. calculations of who could be a citizen as global alliances shifted and Americans of all backgrounds turned out to save democracy. From Japanese-American concentration camps, young men joined the army to fight for the nation. In 1943 the War Department authorized the formation of Japanese-American combat units. One of those units, the 442d Regimental Combat Team, became the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. military history. Their motto was “Go for Broke.”

    Congress overturned the Chinese exclusion laws in 1943 and, in 1946, made natives of India eligible for U.S. citizenship. The last Japanese internment camp closed in March 1946, and Japanese immigrants gained the right to become U.S. citizens in 1952.

    In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially repealed Executive Order 9066 and noted that it was a “setback to fundamental American principles.” “We now know what we should have known then,” he said. “[N]ot only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese Americans were and are loyal Americans…. I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise—that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”

    But now so-called “internment camps” are back in the news.

    Trump has promised his supporters that in a second term he would launch “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.” To deport as many as ten million of what he called “foreign national invaders,” Trump advisor Stephen Miller explained on a November podcast, the administration would federalize National Guard troops from Republican-dominated states and send them around the country to round people up, moving them to “large-scale staging grounds near the border, most likely in Texas,” that would serve as internment camps.

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain. Posts: 40,675
    Heather's letter tonight (which Mickey, no doubt, will faithfully post as always- kudos, sir) does a super good job of wrapped up the events of the last week or so and, man, it is some heavy shit.  I implore you all to read it!
    “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man [or woman] who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
    Variously credited to Mark Twain or Edward Abbey.













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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 20, 2024 (Tuesday)

    Both global and national affairs appeared to shift over the holiday weekend. Events of the past week or so highlighted the global stakes of not stopping the aggression of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. In turn, those global stakes highlighted that Trump’s MAGA Republicans are strengthening Putin’s hand.

    Since October, MAGA Republicans have managed to delay a national security supplemental bill that would provide additional aid to Ukraine. Although a bipartisan majority of Congress supports the measure, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) recessed the House on Thursday without taking it up, just days after former president Trump attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and suggested he would urge Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to U.S. allies if they didn’t meet a guideline of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on their own military forces.

    On Friday, February 16, Russian authorities murdered opposition leader Alexei Navalny in prison, where he was being held on trumped-up charges, and on Saturday, Russian forces advanced into the front-line city of Avdiivka.

    The Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering on international security policy, met this year in the midst of these events, from Friday, February 16, to Sunday, February 18. At Saturday’s lunch, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark made a surprise announcement. Denmark, she said, will donate all its artillery to Ukraine. She suggested other countries, too, could do more than they already have.

    According to Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer of Foreign Policy, Frederiksen’s announcement “left attendees grappling with some existential questions: Are they prepared not just to help Ukraine but also to defend Europe from a possible Russian attack on a NATO country? Are democracies capable of standing up against the threat of territory-grabbing dictatorships like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s?”

    Sweden today announced it will donate about $682 million in equipment and cash to Ukraine, its 15th aid package to Ukraine since the 2022 Russian invasion. The European Union today announced it is committing 83 million euros, or about $89 million, in humanitarian aid for those in Ukraine and Moldova affected by the war. Three weeks ago it approved $54 billion in military aid.

    There is increasing pressure, as well, to transfer Russia’s frozen assets to Ukraine. On Saturday, February 17, the U.S. Justice Department, which is in charge of a task force called “KleptoCapture,” transferred $500,000 in forfeited Russian funds to Estonia for fixing Ukraine’s electrical transmission and distribution systems. Biden promised more sanctions against Russia on Friday and has again called for House Republicans to pass the national security supplemental bill.

    Indeed, the real elephant in the room is the fact that MAGA Republicans in the House are refusing to commit more U.S. aid. The Institute for the Study of War, a nonprofit research organization, assessed on Sunday that “delays in Western security assistance to Ukraine are likely helping Russia launch…offensive operations along several sectors of the frontline in order to place pressure on Ukrainian forces along multiple axes.”

    MAGA Republicans are refusing that aid although it is popular both in Congress and among Americans at large. A Pew study released Friday, before news of Navalny’s murder broke, showed that 74% of Americans believe the war in Ukraine is important to U.S. interests; 59% say it’s important to them personally.

    House speaker Johnson condemned Putin as “a vicious dictator” over the weekend and said he was “likely directly responsible” for Navalny’s death. But on Monday he posted to Twitter a photograph of him standing alongside Trump, apparently at Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club, flashing a smile and a thumbs-up sign. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has vowed to try to throw Johnson out of the speaker’s chair if he even brings Ukraine funding to the floor. Trump himself referred to Navalny’s murder on Sunday simply by calling it a “sudden death” before launching into an attack on the United States.

    On Sunday, former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) came out and said it: the Republican Party has a “Putin wing.” She said: “The issue of this election cycle is making sure the Putin wing of the Republican Party does not take over the West Wing of the White House.” Conservative pundit Bill Kristol agreed, in italics: “The likely nominee of one of our two major political parties is pro–Vladimir Putin. This is an astonishing fact. It is an appalling fact. It has to be a central fact of the 2024 campaign.”

    Russian authorities have cracked down on those expressing sorrow for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and are refusing to hand over his body to his mother and lawyer, who flew to the penal colony north of the Arctic Circle to reclaim it, saying they need to keep the body for “chemical analysis.”

    Meanwhile, a Russian who defected to Ukraine last year has been killed in Spain, and Russian authorities have arrested for “treason” a dual Russia-U.S. citizen who lives in Los Angeles as she traveled in Russia after having participated in pro-Ukraine rallies.

    Putin is facing an election next month, and he may have intended the murder of Navalny to frighten other opponents and intimidate Russian voters. But it is possible it had the opposite effect.
     
    Yesterday, Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, stepped into his place, saying: “Putin didn’t only kill Alexei Navalny as a person. He wanted to kill our hope, our freedom, our future. But the most important thing we can do for Alexei and for ourselves is to go on fighting. I will continue Alexei Navalny’s work. Continue to fight for our country. I call on you to stand alongside me. To share not only the grief and unending pain that has enveloped us and won't let go. I also ask you to share the fury and hate for those who dared to kill our future. I speak to you in the words of Alexei, in which I believe truly: There is no shame in doing little. There is shame in doing nothing. In allowing them to scare you…. By killing Alexei, Putin has killed half of me. Half of my heart and my soul. But I have another half and it tells me that I don’t have the right to give in.”

    Today she urged the European Union not to recognize the results of Russia’s March election, saying that “a president who assassinated his main political opponent cannot be legitimate by definition.”  

    In the U.S., there has not been any apparent move from House Republicans to come back into session to approve the national security package. Indeed, Trump appears to be strengthening his hand over the mechanics of the Republican Party, with the state parties he salted with loyalists lining up behind him, supporters in Congress killing legislation at his demand, and lawmakers who are interested in actually making laws exiting Congress out of fear or frustration.

    But the apparent support of MAGA Republicans for Putin is unlikely to play well in the U.S. Today, Republican candidate for president Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, tricked the Fox News Channel into covering live what she said was a major speech, likely leading producers to think she was withdrawing. Rather than doing so, she came out swinging with an attack on Trump.

    Aaron Rupar of Public Notice recorded her comments, spoken with the backdrop of the past week in everyone’s mind. Americans “deserve a real choice,” she said, “not a Soviet-style election where there's only one candidate and he gets 99 percent of the vote.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 21, 2024 (Wednesday)

    The centerpiece of Republicans’ case for impeaching Democratic president Joe Biden is the allegation that he and his son Hunter each accepted a $5 million bribe from Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma when Biden Sr. was vice president. But in the last week, that accusation has revealed quite a different problem, one that implicates Republicans.

    The accusation that the Bidens accepted bribes broke into public channels on May 3, 2023, when Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray saying they had received “highly credible…whistleblower disclosures” that said the Department of Justice and the FBI appeared to have “valuable, verifiable information that you have failed to disclose to the American people.”

    Grassley and Comer claimed there was “growing concern about the DOJ and the FBI’s track record of allowing political bias to infect their decision-making process,” and so Congress would be conducting its own “independent and objective review of this matter.”

    Comer then issued a subpoena for the document containing the information, a so-called FD-1023, which is the form used by FBI agents to record “raw, unverified” information from confidential informants. In it, informant Alexander Smirnov made a number of allegations about the Bidens, including that they had accepted bribes.

    In July, Grassley and Comer got the document and showed it to others in a secure facility. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) saw it there, took pictures of it, and posted them on social media. She claimed that “Joe Biden is a criminal and is compromised” and that he was backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion because Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky “has proof of more Biden crimes.” “IMPEACH BIDEN,” she wrote.

    Grassley also released it, suggesting that the Justice Department and the FBI were trying to cover up a “criminal bribery scheme” implicating the Bidens. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) jumped in, saying: “Every day, the evidence keeps mounting and the evidence that is coming in is number one, of a widespread bribery scheme of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and the entire Biden family, to extract bribes from foreign nationals.”

    The idea that Biden had accepted bribes was central to the House impeachment effort that then–House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced in September 2023.

    That story fell apart a week ago, on February 14, 2024, when a federal grand jury indicted Smirnov for lying and “creating a false and fictitious record.”

    And the story became even more troubling yesterday, when Trump-appointed Special Counsel David Weiss of the Justice Department filed a document establishing that the informant, Alexander Smirnov, has “extensive and extremely recent” ties with “Russian intelligence agencies.”

    The filing revealed other, more recent, false allegations Smirnov had made, and concluded that “Smirnov’s efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States continues…. What this shows is that the misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November.”

    Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, told reporters today that “the impeachment investigation essentially ended yesterday, in substance if not in form, with the explosive revelation that Mr. Smirnov’s allegations about Ukrainian Burisma payments to Joe Biden were concocted along with Russian intelligence agents. And it appears like the whole thing was not only obviously false and fraudulent but a product of Russian disinformation and propaganda. And that’s been the motor force behind this investigation for more than a year.”

    The Republican release of Smirnov’s allegations in July 2023 did not happen in a vacuum: they came right after the Republican-led House censured Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) for “misleading the American public and for conduct unbecoming of an elected Member of the House of Representatives,” including “spread[ing] false accusations that the [2016] Trump campaign colluded with Russia.”

    But the Mueller Report concluded that “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” and that “the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” The Senate Intelligence Committee Report found that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence…the outcome of the 2016 presidential election” and that Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort worked directly with Konstantin Kilimnik, “a Russian intelligence officer.”  

    That effort continued in 2020, with the U.S. intelligence community assessing in March 2021 that “Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.”

    That foreign countries try to influence elections is far less a surprise than that one of the two major U.S. political parties now appears to be, wittingly or not, working on their behalf.

    That willingness to do anything to win—even working with a foreign dictator—seems a logical outgrowth of the process begun during the administration of President Richard Nixon, when his people deliberately appealed to voters’ emotions with a picture of traditional America under siege by antiwar student activists, people of color, and feminist women.

    To rally voters to their party in the 1970s midterms, Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew engaged in what they called “positive polarization.” Nixon’s speechwriter Pat Buchanan wrote a memo to Nixon warning: “We are in a contest over the soul of the country now and the decision will not be some middle compromise…. It will be their kind of society or ours.”

    The theme that the Republicans' opponents were dangerous socialists out to destroy the country became the centerpiece of Republican rhetoric. From President Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen, who was scamming the system and thus taxpayers, through talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “feminazis,” to Trump’s claim that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” the party has defined itself as “true America” standing against enemies.

    And if you believe you are fighting for the right, it only makes sense to do whatever it takes to win.

    Meanwhile, that belief has now overlapped with the evangelical base that supports what it considers traditional values so that, as Alexander Ward and Heidi Przybyla outlined in Politico yesterday, the party is now advancing plans to impose Christian nationalism on the country. Leaders of the Christian nationalist movement incorrectly believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, so they intend to rest the government and public life on what they consider to be Christian values.

    In December, Trump promised: “Upon taking office, I will create a new federal task force on fighting anti-Christian bias to be led by a fully reformed Department of Justice.”

    What that might look like became clear this week when the Alabama Supreme Court decided in a wrongful death suit resulting from the accidental destruction of embryos that were part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, in which doctors artificially fertilize eggs outside the womb and then transfer them into a person, that fertilized human eggs have the same status as children. Chief Justice Tom Parker declared in a concurring opinion that the people of Alabama have adopted the “theologically based view” that “life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

    About 2% of U.S. births are a product of IVF. Today the largest healthcare system in Alabama has announced it is halting its IVF program out of fear of prosecution.

    Reworking the nation to impose Christian nationalism requires minority rule, which aligns with the ideology of authoritarianism, enabling Trump and those who share his views to praise someone like Vladimir Putin. And, it seems, to accept his help winning elections.

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 22, 2024 (Thursday)

    The Alabama Supreme Court on February 16, 2024, decided that cells awaiting implantation for in vitro fertilization are children and that the accidental destruction of such an embryo falls under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. In an opinion concurring with the ruling, Chief Justice Tom Parker declared that the people of Alabama have adopted the “theologically based view of the sanctity of life” and said that “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

    Payton Armstrong of media watchdog Media Matters for America reported today that on the same day the Alabama decision came down, an interview Parker did on the program of a self-proclaimed “prophet” and Q-Anon conspiracy theorist appeared. In it, Parker claimed that “God created government” and called it “heartbreaking” that “we have let it go into the possession of others.”

    Parker referred to the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theory that appeared in 1975, which claims that Christians must take over the “seven mountains” of U.S. life: religion, family, education, media, entertainment, business…and government. He told his interviewer that “we’ve abandoned those Seven Mountains and they’ve been occupied by the other side.” God “is calling and equipping people to step back into these mountains right now,” he said.

    While Republicans are split on the decision about embryos after a number of hospitals have ended their popular IVF programs out of fear of prosecution, others, like Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley agreed that “embryos, to me, are babies.”

    House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) identifies himself as a Christian, has argued that the United States is a Christian nation, and has called for “biblically sanctioned government.” At a retreat of Republican leaders this weekend, as the country is grappling with both the need to support Ukraine and the need to fund the government, he tried to rally the attendees with what some called a “sermon” arguing that the Republican Party needed to save the country from its lack of morality.

    As Charles Blow of the New York Times put it: “If you don’t think this country is sliding toward theocracy, you’re not paying attention.”

    In the United States, theocracy and authoritarianism go hand in hand.

    The framers of the Constitution quite deliberately excluded religion from the U.S. Constitution. As a young man, James Madison, the key thinker behind the Constitution, had seen his home state of Virginia arrest itinerant preachers for undermining the established church in the state. He came to believe that men had a right to the free exercise of religion.

    In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” he explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants.

    In order to make sure men had the right of conscience, the framers added the First Amendment to the Constitution. It read: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

    Madison was right to link religion and representative government. In the early years of the nation, Americans zealously guarded the wall between the two. They strictly limited the power of the federal government to reflect religion, refusing even to permit the government to stop delivery of the U.S. mails on Sunday out of concern that Jews and Christians did not share the same Sabbath, and the government could not choose one over the other. The Constitution, a congressional report noted, gave Congress no authority “to inquire and determine what part of time, or whether any has been set apart by the Almighty for religious exercises.”   

    But the Civil War marked a change. As early as the 1830s, southern white enslavers relied on religious justification for their hierarchical system that rested on white supremacy. God, they argued, had made Black Americans for enslavement and women for marriage, and society must recognize those facts.

    A character in an 1836 novel written by a Virginia gentleman explained to a younger man that God had given everyone a place in society. Women and Black people were at the bottom, “subordinate” to white men by design. “All women live by marriage,” he said. “It is their only duty.” Trying to make them equal was a cruelty. “For my part,” the older man said, “I am well pleased with the established order of the universe. I see…subordination everywhere. And when I find the subordinate content…and recognizing his place…as that to which he properly belongs, I am content to leave him there.”

    The Confederacy rejected the idea of popular government, maintaining instead that a few Americans should make the rules for the majority. As historian Gaines Foster explained in his 2002 book Moral Reconstruction, which explores the nineteenth-century relationship between government and morality, it was the Confederacy, not the U.S. government, that sought to align the state with God. A nation was more than the “aggregation of individuals,” one Presbyterian minister preached, it was “a sort of person before God,” and the government must purge that nation of sins.

    Confederates not only invoked “the favor and guidance of Almighty God” in their Constitution, they established as their motto “Deo vindice,” or “God will vindicate.”

    The United States, in contrast, was recentering democracy during the war, and it rejected the alignment of the federal government with a religious vision. When reformers in the United States tried to change the preamble of the U.S. Constitution to read, “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the sources of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Ruler among nations, and His revealed will as of supreme authority, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union,” the House Committee on the Judiciary concluded that “the Constitution of the United States does not recognize a Supreme Being.”

    That defense of democracy—the will of the majority—continued to hold religious extremists at bay.

    Reformers continued to try to add a Christian amendment to the Constitution, Foster explains, and in March 1896 once again got so far as the House Committee on the Judiciary. One reformer stressed that turning the Constitution into a Christian document would provide a source of authority for the government that, he implied, it lacked when it simply relied on a voting majority. A religious amendment “asks the Bible to decide moral issues in political life; not all moral questions, but simply those that have become political questions.”

    Opponents recognized this attempt as a revolutionary attack that would dissolve the separation of church and state, and hand power to a religious minority. One reformer said that Congress had no right to enact laws that were not in “harmony with the justice of God” and that the voice of the people should prevail only when it was “right.” Congressmen then asked who would decide what was right, and what would happen if the majority was wrong. Would the Supreme Court turn into an interpreter of the Bible?

    The committee set the proposal aside.

    Now, once again, we are watching a minority trying to impose its will on the majority, with leaders like House speaker Johnson noting that “I try to do every day what my constituents want. But sometimes what your constituents want does not line up with the principles God gave us for government. And you have to have conviction enough to stand [up] to your own people….”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 23, 2024 (Friday)

    Two years ago today, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky made a passionate plea to the people of Russia, begging them to avoid war. He gave the speech in Russian, his own primary language, and, reminding Russians of their shared border and history, told them to “listen to the voice of reason”: Ukrainians want peace.  

    “You’ve been told I'm going to bomb Donbass,” he said. “Bomb what? The Donetsk stadium where the locals and I cheered for our team at Euro 2012? The bar where we drank when they lost? Luhansk, where my best friend's mom lives?” Zelensky tried to make the human cost of this conflict clear. Observers lauded the speech and contrasted its statesmanship with the ramblings in which Putin had recently engaged.

    And yet Zelensky’s speech stood only as a marker. Early the next day, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” involving dozens of missile strikes on Ukrainian cities before dawn. He claimed in a statement that was transparently false that he needed to defend the people in the “new republics” within Ukraine that he had recognized two days before from “persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime.” He called for “demilitarization” of Ukraine, demanding that soldiers lay down their weapons and saying that any bloodshed would be on their hands.

    Putin called for the murder of Ukrainian leaders in the executive branch and parliament and intended to seize or kill those involved in the 2014 Maidan Revolution, which sought to turn the country away from Russia and toward a democratic government within Europe, and which itself prompted a Russian invasion. He planned for his troops to seize Ukraine’s electric, heating, and financial systems so the people would have to do as he wished. The operation was intended to be lightning fast.

    But rather than collapsing, Ukrainians held firm. The day after Russia invaded, Zelensky and his cabinet recorded a video in Kyiv. “We are all here,” he said. “Our  soldiers are here. The citizens are here, and we are here. We will defend our independence…. Glory to Ukraine!” When the United States offered the next day to transport Zelensky outside the country, where he could lead a government in exile, he responded:

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

    That statement echoes powerfully two years later as Ukraine continues to stand against Russia’s invasion but now quite literally needs ammunition, as MAGA Republicans in Congress are refusing to take up a $95 billion national security supplemental measure that would provide aid to Ukraine.

    Instead, Republicans spent the day insisting that they do not oppose in vitro fertilization, the popular reproductive healthcare measure that the Alabama Supreme Court last Friday endangered by deciding that a fertilized human egg was a child—what they called an “extrauterine” child—and that people can be held legally responsible for destroying them. Since the decision, Alabama healthcare centers have halted their IVF programs out of fear of prosecution for their handling of embryos.

    Republicans who oppose abortion have embraced the idea that life begins at conception, an argument that leads naturally to the definition of IVF embryos as children. But this presents an enormous problem for Republicans, whose antiabortion stance is already creating warning signs for 2024. Today a memo from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) noted that 86% of the people they polled support increased, not reduced, access to IVF procedures.

    The good news for the Republicans is that their frantic defense of IVF means that the media has largely stopped talking about the news of just two days ago, the fact that the man whose testimony congressional Republicans relied on to launch an impeachment process against President Joe Biden turned out to be working with Russian operatives. House leaders have quietly deleted from their House Impeachment website the Russian disinformation that previously was central to their case against Biden.

    But today, as Republican House members remain on vacation, President Biden announced new sanctions against Russia, and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was in Ukraine, where he challenged House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to pass the national security supplemental bill. “The weight of history is on his shoulders,” Schumer told reporters in Lviv. “If he turns his back on history, he will regret it in future years.”

    “Two years,” Ukraine president Zelensky wrote today. “We are all here…. Together with representatives of Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Egypt, Estonia, the EU, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Türkiye, the UAE, the United Kingdom, the USA, Viet Nam, as well as international organisations….”

    Slava Ukraini.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 24, 2024 (Saturday)

    It's been a while since we took a break from the news and tonight seems like as good a time as any.

    Enjoy the full moon if you've got a clear view. It's a beauty.

    I'll see you tomorrow.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 25, 2024 (Sunday)

    The last several days have seen a Republican stampede to distance the party from the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision of a week ago, when it ruled that embryos frozen for in vitro fertilization (IVF) should be considered children and that their injury can be treated like injury to a child. That decision has led major healthcare providers in Alabama to stop IVF procedures out of fear of prosecution.

    IVF is very popular—about 2% of babies born in the U.S. are the product of IVF—and Republicans recognize that endangering the procedure has the potential to be a dealbreaker in the upcoming election.

    The fury at the Alabama decision of those who have spent years and tens of thousands of dollars in their quest to be parents was articulated yesterday in a conversation between Abbey Crain and Stephanie McNeal of Glamour, in which Crain recounted her five-year IVF journey and noted that the Alabama justice who wrote the decision, Jay Mitchell, “who,” as she said, “lives five miles down the road from me, goes to a church that people in my circle go to, and has children in schools in my community, has more of a say in whether and when I get to be a mom than me.”

    The Alabama decision is a direct result of the June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, decided thanks to the three religious extremists former president Trump nominated to the Supreme Court. That decision referred to fetuses as “unborn human being[s]” when it overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion. The Alabama decision cited the Dobbs case 15 times, relying on it to establish that “the unborn” are “living persons with rights and interests.”

    Republicans are now denying they intended to halt IVF with their antiabortion stance and their appointment of religious extremists to the courts. But that position doesn’t square with the fact that since the Dobbs decision, they have pressed for so-called personhood laws, laws that give the full rights of a person to an embryo from the time of conception. Since Dobbs, sixteen state legislatures have introduced personhood laws, and four Republican-dominated states—Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, and Arizona, although Arizona’s has been blocked—have passed them.

    In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans introduced a national personhood bill as soon as they took control in January 2023. The bill, titled “Life at Conception Act,” currently has 124 co-sponsors, including House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). On Friday, Johnson claimed to support IVF, raising the question of what exactly that support for IVF means, considering the process requires discarding certain embryos.

    In the U.S. Senate, Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a “Life at Conception Act” on January 28, 2021. It currently has 18 co-sponsors, including Steve Daines (R-MT), who is the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the official campaign organization to elect Republican senators. On Friday the NRSC distributed a memo to candidates telling them to “align with the public’s overwhelming support for IVF and fertility treatments.”

    While it is the IVF story that has garnered the most attention this weekend—likely because it has obvious implications for the 2024 election and Republicans have tried to rush away from it—it is simply a different facet of a larger story: the leaders of the Republican Party are working to overthrow democracy.

    On February 15, news broke that Alexander Smirnov, the informant who had provided the “evidence” that then–vice president Joe Biden and his son had each taken a $5 million bribe from the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma, had been indicted by a federal grand jury for lying and “creating a false and fictitious record.” On February 20, Trump-appointed Special Counsel David Weiss of the Justice Department filed a document concluding that Smirnov has “extensive and extremely recent” ties with “Russian intelligence agencies.”

    The use of Russian disinformation to destabilize democracy in the U.S. looks much like the information warfare Russia has used to establish Ukrainian leaders that worked for the Kremlin. It was the ouster of one of those leaders, Viktor Yanukovych, in the 2014 Maidan Revolution ten years ago that prompted Russian president Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine later that year. Yanukovych won office with the help of American political consultant Paul Manafort, who advised and, briefly, chaired the Trump campaign in 2016, when it weakened the Republican party’s platform plank that supported arming Ukraine against Putin after his 2014 invasion.

    Seeding lies about corruption that came from Russian-linked Ukrainians was central to Trump’s 2019 impeachment: his phone call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky demanding Zelensky announce an investigation into Burisma and Joe Biden’s son Hunter was part of an attempt to create dirt on the Bidens. That call happened after Trump’s advisor Rudy Giuliani went to Ukraine, where he talked to “an active Russian agent,” according to the FBI. FBI agents warned Giuliani that he was a target of Russian disinformation.  

    That poison has now spread from Trump’s rogue team in the White House to the Republican Party itself, which has apparently been carrying water for Putin at the very center of our government.

    Meanwhile, under pressure from Trump loyalists in the House, Speaker Johnson is refusing to take up a measure to aid Ukraine in its resistance to Russia’s 2022 invasion. Such a measure is popular in the U.S., both among the population in general and among lawmakers. While other countries can provide funds, only the U.S. has enough of the required war matériel Ukraine so desperately needs. Already, Russia has managed to retake the key city of Avdiivka because Ukraine’s troops don’t have enough ammunition, and today Jimmy Rushton, a Kyiv-based foreign policy analyst, quoted a Ukrainian officer’s report that they can’t “medivac our guys from the contact line anymore because we don’t have any artillery ammunition to suppress the Russians. We have to leave them to die.”

    The reluctance of House Republicans to support Ukraine has global implications. Putin is trying to tear up the rules-based international order that has protected international boundaries since World War II, while Trump has threatened to destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that holds back Russian aggression. In the Wall Street Journal on Friday, chief foreign affairs correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov noted that European countries are worried that the U.S. will not defend its allies, while Putin has made “a de facto military alliance with the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran while growing closer and closer to authoritarian China.”

    European nations have expanded their own military production and support for Ukraine; Poland and the Baltic states have invested far more in their militaries than NATO’s threshold of 2% of a nation’s gross domestic product. In the Washington Post, Michael Birnbaum reported Friday that some of the nations that border Russia are looking again at land mines, concertina wire, and trenches—the technology of last century’s wars—to protect themselves from a Russian invasion.

    Putin and allies like Viktor Orbán of Hungary have been clear they believe democracy is obsolete. Far-right extremists in the United States agree, insisting that democracy’s demand for equal rights before the law undermines society as immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights challenge “traditional” values. That ideological justification has led many white evangelical Christians to flock to Trump’s strongman persona.

    How religion and authoritarianism have come together in modern America was on display Thursday, when right-wing activist Jack Posobiec opened this weekend’s conference of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, D.C., with the words: “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here.” He held up a cross necklace and continued: “After we burn that swamp to the ground, we will establish the new American republic on its ashes, and our first order of business will be righteous retribution for those who betrayed America.”

    But Saturday’s South Carolina Republican primary suggested that the drive to lay waste to American democracy is not popular. Trump won the state, as expected, by about 60%—lower  than predicted. Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley won 40% of the vote. This means that Trump will have to continue spending money he doesn’t currently have on his campaign.   

    More important than that, even, is that it shows that even in a strongly Republican state, 40% of primary voters—the party’s most loyal voters—prefer someone else. As Mike Allen of Axios wrote today: “If America were dominated by old, white, election-denying Christians who didn’t go to college, former President Trump would win the general election in…a landslide.” But, Allen added, “It’s not.”  

    Which may be precisely why Trump loyalists intend to overthrow democracy.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 26, 2024 (Monday)

    Lots of moving pieces on this Monday, with the biggest stories coming in international affairs.

    The U.S. has appointed a special envoy for Sudan, which is ten months into a civil war that has turned 8 million people into refugees, sending 1.5 million into other countries; closed 80% of the hospitals in the area of the fighting; and prompted torture, rape, and deliberate starvation of civilians, at least 14,600 of whom have been killed. Tom Perriello will, the State Department said, “coordinate the U.S. policy on Sudan and advance our efforts to end the hostilities, secure unhindered humanitarian access, and support the Sudanese people as they seek to fulfill their aspirations for freedom, peace, and justice.”

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is about to expand again. After 19 months of stalling, Hungary’s parliament voted today to approve Sweden as a new member, bringing the number of NATO countries to 32. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has good relations with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, has a history of using his country’s veto power over NATO to extract concessions; in exchange for Hungary’s approval, Sweden has agreed to provide it four fighter jets and for Saab to open an artificial intelligence research center in Hungary.

    There is also a major piece moving in the Middle East. This morning, the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and cabinet offered to resign in order to clear the way for a new government. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignations but asked the government to stay in place as a caretaker until a new government can be formed.

    This is a big deal because it’s part of a larger plan for the Palestinian territories after the war.

    Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, the U.S. government has maintained that Israel has a right and a duty to defend itself against Hamas, but that it must operate within international humanitarian law that limits harm to civilians and that it must have a vision for a postwar political process to establish a Palestinian state next to Israel: the two-state solution.

    On the first condition, Zack Beauchamp of Vox reported last week that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) permitted far higher civilian casualties after October 7 than it had in previous wars. The result has been the dramatic destruction of lives and Gaza’s infrastructure that have so horrified many Americans that yesterday an active-duty U.S. airman set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., dying by suicide in protest of civilian deaths in Gaza.

    The Biden administration has worked to get aid into Gaza but has stood firm against a permanent ceasefire because it maintained that permitting Hamas to rebuild would leave the conditions for further warfare in place. It has also insisted that Hamas must return all the hostages its militants took on October 7. But in the U.S., the devastation in Gaza has fueled angry opposition to the administration by those who insist that Biden is fueling “genocide” and who demand an immediate cease-fire.

    Beauchamp suggests that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has largely ignored the second condition—that Israel must consider a postwar formula—at least in part because of his own legal troubles.

    Netanyahu is facing an ongoing corruption trial and apparently counts on staying in office to keep himself out of prison. To stay in office, he must hold his coalition together, and that means bowing to his far-right partners, who want to rebuild Israeli settlements in Gaza and oppose any Palestinian control there. Any plan for a postwar settlement threatens to break his coalition and lead to new elections that Netanhayu would likely lose. Until last week, Netanyahu vowed only “total victory” over Hamas.

    But while Netanyahu refused to discuss a postwar plan, leaders in Arab states, as well as the U.S. and the European Union, appeared to see the crisis in Gaza as an opportunity to change the longstanding political dysfunction in the Middle East. For months now, they have been developing plans for a postwar settlement that includes a Palestinian state overseen by a revitalized Palestinian Authority along with security guarantees for Israel backed by normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Arab states have offered billions of dollars to rebuild Gaza so long as neither Hamas nor Israel is in charge of the territory.

    As Dennis Ross, U.S. Middle East specialist under both Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, noted, for the first time in the long struggle in the modern Middle East, the Gulf Arab states see normalizing ties with Israel as important to their own security and economies. They have refused to get drawn into the conflict, pointing out to Israel their reliance on diplomacy rather than arms to prove that normalization of relations is key to Israeli security.

    Such a process required remaking the Palestinian Authority, which administers the West Bank and administered Gaza for a year between the time that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas won legislative elections in 2006. In mid-January, according to Barak Ravid of Axios, national security officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority met secretly in Riyadh to figure out how to revitalize the Palestinian Authority to enable it to play its role in governing Gaza.

    At the end of January, Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked officials at the State Department to review procedures for the U.S. and the international community to recognize a Palestinian state, and the Biden administration sent CIA director William Burns to help Egypt and Qatar broker a deal between Hamas and Israel for the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas and a pause in fighting to get humanitarian aid to Gaza.

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu made clear his determination to retain control of Gaza and stood firm against the two-state solution. At his back, he has had Trump and his loyalists, who are staunch supporters of Netanyahu. The news that the State Department was figuring out procedures for recognizing a Palestinian state prompted outrage from Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. He wrote: “I’m hoping this is just unauthorized and false messaging from one of the many at State who despise Israel. But make no mistake—this “recognition” would be even more devastating to Israel than the attacks of October 7!! Not to mention rewarding terrorists for their brutality! Unconscionable!”

    Perhaps with the security of such support behind him, on February 23, Netanhayu released to his cabinet his own plan for a postwar settlement. It said that Israel will keep control over Gaza and that rebuilding the devastated territory will depend on its demilitarization, and rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state. On the same day, the Israeli government announced it would add more than 3,300 new homes to settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after three Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli settler and wounded five more.

    During its time in office, the Trump administration reversed four decades of U.S. policy by saying that such settlements did not violate international law, but following Friday’s announcement, Secretary of State Blinken promptly restored the old rule, saying that settlements are “counter-productive to reaching an enduring peace. They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion and in our judgment this only weakens, it doesn’t strengthen, Israel’s security,” he said.
     
    Meanwhile, Netanhayu said yesterday on CBS’s Face the Nation that Israel plans to continue its assault on Hamas by attacking Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where about 1.4 million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter, something Biden has warned him against doing without a credible plan for protecting civilians. On February 24, Netanyahu said he would convene the Israeli cabinet this week “to approve military plans for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians.”

    Negotiations for a release of the hostages and a pause in fighting continue. On Friday, officials from Israel, Egypt, the U.S., and Qatar, which serves as an intermediary for Hamas, met in Paris. White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said he hoped for a final agreement “in the coming days.” Today, Biden told reporters that he hopes to see a temporary cease-fire by next Monday.

    On February 13, Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer of Foreign Policy referred to the administration’s attempt to pull a two-state solution out of the chaos of the Middle East as Biden’s “grand bargain,” and they point out that “it faces staggering challenges.” A week later, in Foreign Affairs, political scientist Marc Lynch and foreign affairs scholar Shibley Telhami replied that “the idea of a Palestinian state emerging from the rubble of Gaza has no basis in reality.”

    Today’s announcement of a new Palestinian Authority appears to be a shift.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 27, 2024 (Tuesday)

    The House of Representatives will be back in session tomorrow after the February 19 Presidents Day holiday. It is facing a number of crucial issues, but the ongoing problem of the radicalism of the MAGA Republicans has ground—and, apparently, continues to grind—legislation to a halt.  

    The farm bill, which establishes the main agricultural and food policies of the government—agricultural subsidies and food benefits, among other things—and which needs to be reauthorized every five years, expired in September 2023. While Congress extended the 2018 bill as a stopgap until September 2024, the new bill should be passed.

    The farm bill has more breathing room than the appropriations bills to fund the government in fiscal year 2024 (which started on October 1, 2023). Four of the continuing resolutions Congress passed to keep the government running will expire on March 1; the other eight will expire on March 8. Operating on a continuing resolution that maintains 2023 levels of spending means the government cannot shift to the new priorities Congress agreed to in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, along with leaders from the Pentagon and the Senate, warns that the lack of appropriations measures is compromising national defense.

    On an even tighter timeline is the national security supplemental bill to aid Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Ukraine is running out of ammunition, and its war effort is faltering. Every day that passes without the matériel only the U.S. can provide hurts the Ukrainians’ cause.

    All of these measures are stalled because extremist MAGA Republicans in the House are insisting their demands be included in them. Negotiators have been trying to hash out the farm bill for months, and today Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she would rather continue to extend the 2018 law than bow to the House Republicans’ demands for cuts to food assistance programs and funding for climate change.

    Appropriations bills are generally passed “clean,” that is, without the inclusion of unrelated controversial elements. But House Republicans are insisting the appropriations bills include their own demands for much deeper cuts than House leadership agreed to, as well as riders about abortion; gun policy; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives; LGBTQ+ rights; and so on. Those are non-starters for Democrats.

    As for the national security supplemental measure, lawmakers agree on a bipartisan basis that Ukraine’s successful defense against Russia’s invasion is crucial to U.S. national security. The Senate passed the bill on a strong bipartisan vote of 70 to 29, and if brought to the floor of the House, it would be expected to pass there, too.

    But House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) refuses to bring it to the floor. When President Joe Biden first asked for the aid in October, Republicans insisted they could not see their way to protecting our national security overseas without addressing it on the southern border. A bipartisan group of senators spent four months hashing out a border provision for the bill—House Republicans declined to participate—only to have House Republicans scuttle the measure when former president Trump told them to. The Senate promptly passed a bill that didn't have the border component. Rather than take it up, the House recessed.

    Today, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with congressional leaders and urged them to pass the appropriations bills and the national security supplemental. But Biden, Harris, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) all agree on the need to pass these measures immediately. The holdout is House speaker Johnson.

    After the meeting, Schumer said the meeting on Ukraine was “one of the most intense” scenes he had ever seen in the Oval Office. "We said to the speaker, 'Get it done.' I told him this is one of the moments—I said I've been around here a long time. It's maybe four or five times that history is looking over your shoulder, and if you don't do the right thing, whatever the immediate politics are, you will regret it. I told him two years from now and every year after that, because really, it's in his hands."

    For his part, Johnson said that “the House is actively pursuing and investigating all the various options” on the supplemental bill, “but again, the first priority of the country is our border and making sure it’s secure.”

    Johnson appears to be working for Trump, who is strongly opposed to aid for Ukraine and likely intends to use immigration as a campaign issue.

    But Trump is a poor choice to give control over United States security. Yesterday, Special Counsel Jack Smith responded to Trump’s motion to dismiss the charges against him associated with his stealing and hiding classified documents on the grounds that he was being treated differently than President Biden, who had also had classified documents in his possession but was not criminally charged.

    Smith noted that while there have been many government officials who have accidentally or willfully kept classified documents, and even some who briefly resisted attempts to recover them, Trump’s behavior was unique. “He intentionally took possession of a vast trove of some of the nation’s most sensitive documents…and stored them in unsecured locations at his heavily trafficked social club.” Then, when the government tried to recover the documents, Trump “delayed, obfuscated, and dissembled,” finally handing over only “a fraction” of those in his possession. No one, Smith wrote, “has engaged in a remotely similar suite of willful and deceitful criminal conduct and not been prosecuted.”

    Perhaps to distract from Smith’s filing, House Committee on Oversight and Accountability chair James Comer (R-KY) and House Committee on the Judiciary chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) today subpoenaed information from Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation into Biden’s handling of documents. Hur’s report exonerated the president, and showed such contrast between Trump's behavior and Biden's full cooperation with officials that Smith used material from it in his filing.

    Comer and Jordan are likely also eager to find new material against Biden after the man who provided the key evidence in their impeachment attempt turned out to be working with Russian intelligence agents and was recently indicted for lying and creating a false record.

    Since this year is a leap year, Congress has three days to pass the first four of the appropriations measures or to find another workaround before March 1, when parts of the government shut down. As Schumer said, those measures, along with the national security supplemental bill, are now in Speaker Johnson’s hands.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 28, 2024 (Wednesday)

    Behind the horse race–type coverage of the contest for presidential nominations, a major realignment is underway in United States politics. The Republican Party is dying as Trump and his supporters take it over, but there is a larger story behind that crash. This moment looks much like the other times in our history when a formerly stable two-party system has fallen apart and Americans reevaluated what they want out of their government.

    Trump’s takeover of the party has been clear at the state level, where during his term he worked to install loyalists in leadership positions. From there, they have pushed the Big Lie that he won the 2020 election and have continued to advance his claims to power.

    The growing radicalism of the party has also been clear in Congress, where Trump loyalists refuse to permit legislation that does not reflect their demands and where, after they threw House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) out of office—dumping a speaker midterm for the first time in history—Trump lieutenant Jim Jordan (R-OH) threatened holdouts to vote him in as speaker. Jordan failed, but the speaker Republican representatives did choose, Mike Johnson (R-LA), is himself a Trump loyalist, just one who had made fewer enemies than Jordan.

    The radicalization of the House conference has led 21 members of the party who gravitate toward actual lawmaking to announce they are not running for reelection. Many of them are from safe Republican districts, meaning they will almost certainly be replaced by radicals.  

    The Senate has tended to hang back from this radicalization, but in a dramatic illustration of Trump’s takeover of the party, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell today announced he would step down from his leadership position in November. McConnell is the leading symbol of the pre-Trump party, a man whose determination to cut taxes and regulation led him to manipulate the rules of the Senate and silence warnings that Russian disinformation was polluting the 2016 campaign so long as it meant keeping a Democrat out of the White House and Republicans in control of the Senate.

    The extremist House Freedom Caucus promptly tweeted: “Our thoughts are with our Democrat colleagues in the Senate on the retirement of their Co-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ukraine). No need to wait till November…Senate Republicans should IMMEDIATELY elect a *Republican* Minority Leader.”

    Trump has also taken control of the Republican National Committee (RNC) itself. On Monday, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel announced that she is resigning on March 8. Trump picked McDaniel himself in 2016 but has come to blame her both for the party’s continued underperformance since 2016 and for its current lack of money.

    Now Trump has made it clear he wants even closer loyalists at the top of the party, including his own daughter-in-law, Lara Trump. She has suggested she is open to using RNC money exclusively for Trump. This might be what has prompted the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity to pull support from Nikki Haley in order to invest in downballot races.

    But the party that is consolidating around Trump is alienating a majority of Americans. It has abandoned the principles that the party embraced from 1980 until 2016. In that era, Republicans called for a government that cut taxes and regulations with the idea that consolidating wealth at the top of the economy would enable businessmen to invest far more effectively in new development than they could if the government interfered, and the economy would boom. They also embraced global leadership through the expansion of capitalism and a strong military to protect it.

    Under Trump, though, the party has turned away from global leadership to the idea that strong countries can do what they like to their neighbors, and from small government to big government that imposes religious rules. Far from protecting equality before the law, Republican-dominated states have discriminated against LGBTQ+ individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, and women. And, of course, the party is catering to Trump’s authoritarian plans. Neo-nazis attended the Conservative Political Action Conference a week ago.

    But these changes are not popular. Tuesday’s Michigan primary revealed the story we had already seen in the Republican presidential primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Trump won all those contests, but by significantly less than polls had predicted. He has also been dogged by the strength of former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. With Trump essentially running as an incumbent, he should be showing the sort of strength Biden is showing—with challengers garnering only a few percentage points—but even among the fervent Republicans who tend to turn out for primaries, Trump’s support is soft.

    It seems that the same policies that attract Trump’s base are turning other voters against him. Republican leadership, for example, is far out of step with the American people on abortion rights—69% of Americans want the right to abortion put into law—and that gulf has only widened over the Alabama Supreme Court decision endangering in vitro fertilization by saying that embryos have the same rights as children from the moment of conception. That decision created such an outcry that Republicans felt obliged to claim they supported IVF. But push came to shove today when Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) reintroduced a bill to protect IVF that Republicans had previously rejected and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) killed it again.

    The party has also tied itself to a deeply problematic leader. Trump is facing 91 criminal charges in four different cases—two state, two federal—but the recently-decided civil case in which he, the Trump Organization, his older sons, and two associates were found liable for fraud is presenting a more immediate threat to Trump’s political career.

    Trump owes writer E. Jean Carroll $88.3 million; he owes the state of New York $454 million, with interest accruing at more than $100,000 a day. Trump had 30 days from the time the judgments were filed to produce the money or a bond for it. Today he asked the court for permission to post only $100 million rather than the full amount in the New York case, as required by law, because he would have to sell property at fire-sale prices to come up with the money.

    In addition to making it clear to donors that their investment in his campaign now might end up in the hands of lawyers or the victorious plaintiffs, the admission that Trump does not have the money he has claimed punctures the image at the heart of his political success: that of a billionaire businessman.   

    Judge Anil C. Singh rejected Trump’s request but did stay the prohibition on Trump’s getting loans from New York banks, potentially allowing him to get the money he needs.  

    As Trump’s invincible image cracks with this admission, as well as with the increased coverage of his wild statements, others are starting to push back on him and his loyalists. President Biden’s son Hunter Biden testified behind closed doors to members of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees today, after their previous key witness turned out to be working with Russian operatives and got indicted for lying.

    Hunter Biden began the day with a scathing statement saying unequivocally that he had never involved his father in his business dealings and that all the evidence the committee had compiled proved that. In their “partisan political pursuit,” he said, they had “trafficked in innuendo, distortion, and sensationalism—all the while ignoring the clear and convincing evidence staring you in the face. You do not have evidence to support the baseless and MAGA-motivated conspiracies about my father because there isn't any.”

    After an hour, Democratic committee members described to the press what was going on in the hearing room. They reported that the Republicans’ case had fallen apart entirely and that Biden had had a “very understandable, coherent business explanation for every single thing that they asked for.” While former president Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself more than 440 times during a deposition in his fraud trial, Biden did not take the Fifth at all.

    The discrediting of the Republicans continued later. When Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN) tried to recycle the discredited claim that “$20 million flowed through” to then–vice president Biden, CNN host Boris Sanchez fact-checked him and said, “I’m not going to let you say things that aren’t true.”

    That willingness to push back on the Republicans suggests a new political moment in which Americans, as they have done before when one of the two parties devolved into minority rule, wake up to the reality that the system has been hijacked and begin to reclaim their government.

    But can they prevail over the extremists MAGA Republicans have stowed into critical positions in the government? Tonight the Supreme Court, stacked with Trump appointees, announced that rather than let the decision of a lower court stay in place, it would take up the question of whether Trump is immune from criminal prosecution for his actions in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. That decision means a significant delay in Trump’s trial for that attempt.

    “This is a momentous decision, just to hear this case,” conservative judge Michael Luttig told Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC. “There was no reason in this world for the Supreme Court to take this case…. Under the constitutional laws of the United States, there has never been an argument that a former president is immune from prosecution for crimes that he committed while in office.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      February 29, 2024 (Thursday)

    Today’s story is that in the negotiations to fund the government and pass the national supplemental security bill, MAGA Republicans appear to be losing ground. Biden appears to be trying to weaken them further by making it clear it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are preventing new, strict border security legislation.

    The first of two continuing resolutions to fund the government for fiscal year 2024 will expire tomorrow. Fiscal year 2024 began on October 1, 2023, and Congress agreed to a topline budget, but it has been unable to fund the necessary appropriations because MAGA Republicans have insisted on having their extreme demands met in those measures. In this struggle, former president Trump has urged his loyalists not to give way, telling them in September 2023: “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN!”

    But a poll from last September showed that 75% of Americans oppose using brinksmanship over a government shutdown to bargain for partisan gain.

    After kicking the can down the road by passing three previous continuing resolutions, House Republicans a week ago expected a shutdown. But today they backed off. The House passed a short-term continuing resolution that pushes back the dates on which the two continuing resolutions expire, from March 1 and March 8 to March 8 and March 22. The vote was 320 to 99 in the House, with 113 Republicans joining 207 Democrats to pass the measure. Ninety-seven Republicans opposed the bill, as did two Democrats who were protesting the lack of aid to Ukraine.

    Tonight, the Senate approved the continuing resolution by a vote of 77 to 13. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it tomorrow. “What we have done today has overcome the opposition of the MAGA hard right and gives us a formula for completing the appropriations process in a way that does not shut the government down and capitulate to extremists,” Senate majority leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said.

    Trump opposes helping Ukraine in its fight to resist Russia’s invasion, and under his orders, MAGA Republicans have also stalled the national security supplemental bill, which contains Ukrainian aid, as well as aid to Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. The measure passed the Senate on February 13 by a strong bipartisan vote of 70 to 29, and is expected to pass the House if Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) takes it up, but so far, he has refused.

    Today, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) told reporters that “several” House Republicans are willing to sign a discharge petition to force Speaker Johnson to bring a national security supplemental measure to the floor for a vote. A simple majority can force a vote on a bill through a discharge petition, but such a measure is rare because it undermines the House speaker. With Johnson refusing to take up the Senate measure, Fitzpatrick and his colleague Representative Jared Golden (D-ME) have prepared their own pared-down aid measure. Fitzpatrick told CNN’s Jake Tapper Tuesday that “[w]e are trying to add an additional pressure point on something that has to happen.”

    Speakers from the parliaments of 23 nations wrote to Johnson yesterday and urged him to take up the Senate measure, saying that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has “challenged the entire democratic world, jeopardizing the security in the whole European and Euro-Atlantic area,” and that “the world is rapidly moving towards the destruction of the sustainable world order.”  

    On Tuesday, Johnson met with President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate majority leader Schumer, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to discuss the importance of funding the government and passing the national security supplemental bill. There, he was the odd man out as the other five pressed upon him how crucial funding for Ukraine is for U.S. national security.

    Yesterday, Johnson told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that the leaders told him he was “on an island by myself, and it was me versus everyone else in the room.” He went on: “What the liberal media doesn’t understand, Sean, is that if you’re here in Washington and you’re described as a leader that’s on an island by themselves, it probably means you’re standing with the American people.”

    But an AP-NORC poll released today shows that it is not Johnson but the others at that meeting who are standing with the American people: 74% of Americans, including 62% of Republicans, support U.S. aid to Ukraine’s military.

    The struggle between Biden and Trump for control over U.S. politics played out starkly today as both were in Texas to talk about immigration. Both say the influx of migrants at the southern border of the United States needs to be better managed. But Trump blames Biden for what he compares to a war in which an “invasion” of criminal “fighting-age men” are pouring over the border. (NBC News noted that “there is no evidence of a migrant-driven crime wave in the United States” and that, in fact, their review of crime data ”shows overall crime levels dropping in those cities that have received the most migrants.”)

    Trump promises he would solve immigration issues instantly with executive orders, although his orders during his term faced legal challenges.  

    In contrast to Trump’s promise to dictate a solution, Biden emphasized that the government should work for the people. In Texas, he noted that the federal government has rushed emergency personnel and funds to the state to combat the deadly wildfires there that have burned more than a million acres, and he urged Congress to pass a law to address border issues, as he has asked it to since he took office.

    Such a measure is popular, and earlier this month, Trump undermined a bill that was tilted so far to the right that it drew the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the U.S. Border Patrol union. Senators from both parties had spent four months hammering the bill out at the insistence of House Republicans, who then killed it when Trump, apparently hoping to keep the issue open for his campaign, told them to.

    Today, Biden urged Congress to pass the $20.2 billion bipartisan border bill that would, he said, give border patrol officers the resources they need: 1,500 more border agents, 100 cutting-edge machines to detect and stop illegal fentanyl, 100 additional immigration judges to deal with the backlog of cases, 4,300 more asylum officers, more immigrant visas, and emergency authority for the president to shut the border when it becomes overwhelmed.

    Biden spoke directly to Trump: “Instead of playing politics with the issue, instead of telling members of Congress to block this legislation, join me, or I'll join you, in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan border security bill. We can do it together…. Instead of playing politics with the issue, why don't we just get together and get it done. Let’s remember who the heck we work for. We work for the American people, not the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. We work for the American people.”

    Trump may not share that perspective. Last night, Maggie Haberman and Andrew Higgins of the New York Times reported that Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has undermined democracy in Hungary, will visit Trump at Mar-a-Lago next week as Trump scrambles to find the more than half a billion dollars he needs to pay the fines and penalties courts have ordered. “We cannot interfere in other countries’ elections,” Orbán said last week, “but we would very much like to see President Donald Trump return to the White House.”

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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: 35,684
      March 1, 2024 (Friday)

    Today, President Joe Biden signed the continuing resolution that will give lawmakers another week to finalize appropriations bills. Lawmakers will continue to hash out the legislation that will fund the government.

    Republicans have been stalling the appropriations bills for months. In addition to inserting their own extremist cultural demands in the measures, they have demanded budget cuts to address the fact that the government spends far more money than it brings in.

    As soon as Mike Johnson (R-LA) became House speaker, he called for a “debt commission” to address the growing budget deficit. This struck fear into the hearts of those eager to protect Social Security and Medicare, because when Johnson chaired the far-right Republican Study Committee in 2020, it called for cutting those popular programs by raising the age of eligibility, lowering cost-of-living adjustments, and reducing benefits for retirees whose annual income is higher than $85,000. Lawmakers don’t want to take on such unpopular proposals, so setting up a commission might be a workaround.

    Last month, the House Budget Committee advanced legislation that would create such a commission. The chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey C. Arrington (R-TX), told reporters that Speaker Johnson was “100% committed to this commission” and wanted to attach it to the final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2024, the laws currently being hammered out.

    Congress has not yet agreed to this proposed commission, and a recent Data for Progress poll showed that 70% of voters reject the idea of it.

    This week, a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a nonprofit think tank that focuses on tax policy, suggested that the cost of tax cuts should be factored into any discussions about the budget deficit.

    In 2017 the Trump tax cuts slashed the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and reined in taxation for foreign profits. The ITEP report looked at the first five years the law was in effect. It concluded that in that time, most profitable corporations paid “considerably less” than 21% because of loopholes and special breaks the law either left in place or introduced.

    From 2018 through 2022, 342 companies in the study paid an average effective income tax rate of just 14.1%. Nearly a quarter of those companies—87 of them—paid effective tax rates of under 10%. Fifty-five of them (16% of the 342 companies), including T-Mobile, DISH Network, Netflix, General Motors, AT&T, Bank of America, Citigroup, FedEx, Molson Coors, and Nike, paid effective tax rates of less than 5%.

    Twenty-three corporations, all of them profitable, paid no federal tax over the five year period. One hundred and nine corporations paid no federal tax in at least one of the five years.

    The Guardian’s Adam Lowenstein noted yesterday that several corporations that paid the lowest taxes are steered by chief executive officers who are leading advocates of “stakeholder capitalism.” This concept revises the idea that corporations should focus on the best interests of their shareholders to argue that corporations must also take care of the workers, suppliers, consumers, and communities affected by the corporation.

    The idea that corporate leaders should take responsibility for the community rather than paying taxes to the government so the community can take care of itself is eerily reminiscent of the argument of late-nineteenth-century industrialists.

    When Republicans invented national taxation to meet the extraordinary needs of the Civil War, they immediately instituted a progressive federal income tax because, as Representative Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT) said, “The weight [of taxation] must be distributed equally, not upon each man an equal amount, but a tax proportionate to his ability to pay.”

    But the wartime income tax expired in 1872, and the rise of industry made a few men spectacularly wealthy. Quickly, those men came to believe they, rather than the government, should direct the country’s development.

    In June 1889, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie published what became known as the “Gospel of Wealth” in the popular magazine North American Review. Carnegie explained that “great inequality…[and]...the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few” were “not only beneficial, but essential to…future progress.” And, Carnegie asked, “What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon which civilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few?”

    Rather than paying higher wages or contributing to a social safety net—which would “encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy,” Carnegie wrote—the man of fortune should “consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer…in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community—the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.”  

    “[T]his wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if distributed in small sums to the people themselves,” Carnegie wrote. “Even the poorest can be made to see this, and to agree that great sums gathered by some of their fellow-citizens and spent for public purposes, from which the masses reap the principal benefit, are more valuable to them than if scattered among themselves in trifling amounts through the course of many years.”

    Here in the present, Republicans want to extend the Trump tax cuts after their scheduled end in 2025, a plan that would cost $4 trillion over a decade even without the deeper cuts to the corporate tax rate Trump has called for if he is reelected. Biden has called for preserving the 2017 tax cuts only for those who make less than $400,000 a year and permitting the rest to expire. He has also called for higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, which would generate more than $2 trillion.

    Losing the revenue part of the budget equation and focusing only on spending cuts seems to reflect a society like the one the late-nineteenth-century industrialists embraced, in which a few wealthy leaders get to decide how to direct the nation’s wealth.   

    In other news today, Alexei Navalny’s parents held a funeral for the Russian opposition leader and buried him in Moscow. Navalny died two weeks ago at a penal colony in Siberia where Russian president Vladimir Putin had imprisoned him on trumped-up charges after failing to kill him with poison. Navalny fought against Putin’s control of Russia by emphasizing the corruption and illicit fortunes of Putin and his associates.

    Russia specialist Julia Ioffe of Puck News noted that a million Russians have fled the country since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and that many of them were Navalny supporters. Still, many thousands turned out for the funeral and the procession, throwing flowers at the hearse as it made its way to the cemetery.

    A woman at Navalny’s funeral compared Navalny and Putin. “One sacrificed himself to save the country, the other one sacrificed the country to save himself.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 2, 2024 (Saturday)
                                                               
    On February 25, 1901, financier J. P. Morgan’s men filed the paperwork to incorporate a new iron and steel trust, and over the weekend, businessmen waited to see what was coming. Five days later, on March 2, the announcement came: J. P. Morgan was overseeing the combination of companies that produced two thirds of the nation’s steel into the United States Steel Corporation. It was capitalized at $1.4 billion, which at the time was almost three times more than the federal government’s annual budget.  

    While the stock market was abuzz with news of the nation’s first billion-dollar corporation, Vice President–elect Theodore Roosevelt was on his way from New York to Washington, D.C., where he and his family arrived at 5:00 in the evening. The train was an hour behind schedule because the crowds coming to see the upcoming inauguration, scheduled for Monday, March 4, 1901, had slowed travel into Washington.

    Two days later, President William McKinley took the oath of office for the second time, and Roosevelt became vice president.

    McKinley was a champion of big business and believed the role of government was to support industry, dismissing growing demands from workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs for the government to level the economic playing field that had tilted so extraordinarily toward a few industry leaders. McKinley had won the hard-fought election of 1896 handily, but by 1900, Republicans were so concerned about the growing demand for reform that party leaders put Roosevelt, who had won a reputation for standing up to business interests, on the ticket, at least in part because they hoped to silence him there.

    Roosevelt hoped he could promote reform from the vice presidency, but he quickly discovered that he couldn’t accomplish much of anything. His only official duty was to preside over the Senate, which would not convene until December. He was so bored he asked the chief justice of the Supreme Court if it would be unseemly for him to enroll in law school to finish his degree. (Horrified, the justice offered to supervise Roosevelt’s studies himself.)

    But then, in September, an unemployed steelworker assassinated McKinley, and Roosevelt became president. “I told McKinley it was a mistake to nominate that wild man at Philadelphia,” one of McKinley’s aides said. “I told him what would happen if he should die. Now look. That damned cowboy is president of the United States.”

    Two months later, on November 13, J. P. Morgan and railroad magnates brought together the nation’s main railroad interests, which had been warring with each other, into a new conglomerate called the Northern Securities Company. Even the staunchly big business Chicago Tribune was taken aback: “Never have interests so enormous been brought under one management,” it's editor wrote.

    Midwestern governors, whose constituents depended on the railroads to get their crops to market, suggested that their legislatures would find a way to prohibit such a powerful combination. Northern Securities Company officials retorted that they would simply keep all business transactions and operations secret. When Roosevelt gave his first message to Congress in December, industrialists watched to see what the “damned cowboy” would say about their power over the government.

    They were relieved. Roosevelt said the government should start cleaning up factories and limiting the working hours of women and children, and that it should reserve natural resources for everyone rather than allow them to be exploited by greedy businessmen.

    But Roosevelt did not oppose the new huge combinations.  He simply wanted the government to supervise and control corporate combinations, preventing criminality in the business world as it did in the streets. He asked businessmen only for transparency. Once the government actually knew what businesses were up to, he said, it could consider regulation or taxation to protect the public interest.

    Senators and businessmen who had worried that the cowboy president would slash at the trusts breathed a sigh of relief that all he wanted was “transparency.” According to the Chicago Tribune, the “grave and reverend and somewhat plutocratic Senators immediately admitted in the most delighted fashion that the young and supposedly impetuous President had discussed the trust question with rare discrimination.”

    But they were wrong to think Roosevelt did not intend to reduce the power of big business. In early January 1902, Minnesota sued to stop the Northern Securities Company from organizing on the grounds that such a combination violated Minnesota law. While the Supreme Court dithered over whether or not it could rule on the case, the Roosevelt administration put the federal government out in front of the issue. In February, Roosevelt’s attorney general told newspapers that the administration believed the formation of the Northern Securities Company violated the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act and that he would be filing a suit to keep it from organizing.

    Businessmen were aghast, not only because Roosevelt was going after a business combination but also because he had acted without consulting Wall Street. When J. P. Morgan complained that he had not been informed, Roosevelt coolly told him that that was the whole point. “If we have done anything wrong,” said the astonished Morgan, “send your man [the attorney general] to my man [one of his lawyers] and they can fix it up.” The president declined. “We don’t want to fix it up,” explained the attorney general. “We want to stop it.”

    “Criticism of President Roosevelt’s action was heard on every side,” reported the Boston Globe. “Some of the principal financiers said he had dealt a serious blow to the financial securities of the country.” For his part, Roosevelt was unconcerned by the criticism. “If the law has not been violated,” he announced, “no harm can come from the proposed legal action.”  

    In late February, the Supreme Court decided it would not hear the Minnesota case; on March 10, the United States sued to stop the organization of the Northern Securities Company.

    In August 1902, Roosevelt toured New England and the Midwest to rally support for his attack on the Northern Securities Company. He told audiences that he was not trying to destroy corporations but rather wanted to make them act in the public interest. He demanded a “square deal” for everyone. As the Boston Globe put it: “‘Justice for all alike—a square deal for every man, great or small, rich or poor,’ is the Roosevelt ideal to be attained by the framing and the administration of the law. And he would tell you that that means Mr Morgan and Mr Rockefeller [sic] as well as the poor fellow who cannot pay his rent.”

    In 1904 the Supreme Court ruled that the Northern Securities Company was an illegal monopoly and that it must be dissolved, and by 1912, Roosevelt had come to believe that a strong federal government was the only way for citizens to maintain control over corporations, which he saw as the inevitable outcome of the industrial economy. He had no patience for those who hoped to stop such combinations by passing laws against them. Instead, he believed the American people must create a strong federal government that could exert public control over corporations.

    In a famous speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1912, he called for a “new nationalism.” “The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being,” he said. He warned that “[t]here can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains…. We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know…whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public.”

    Roosevelt had come to believe that a strong government must regulate business. “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” he said.

    After all, he said, “[t]he object of government is the welfare of the people.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 3, 2024 (Sunday)

    This week seems likely to be packed with news.

    Today, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the crisis in the Middle East with strong words for both Hamas and Israel, calling for a ceasefire of at least six weeks, the return of hostages, and increased aid to the Palestinians. Such a deal is on the table. According to the U.S., Israel has agreed to it, and negotiators are waiting for a response from Hamas leaders.

    Benny Gantz, a centrist officer in Israel’s war cabinet, is in Washington, D.C., where he will meet tomorrow with Vice President Harris and national security advisor Jake Sullivan, and on Tuesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He did not have authorization from hard-right prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the visit. As growing numbers of Israelis are voicing dislike of Netanyahu, polls show that Gantz could command enough support to become prime minister if a new vote were held immediately.

    This evening the U.S. Supreme Court indicated it will issue an opinion tomorrow. Marc Elias of Democracy Docket commented that it is “[v]ery likely the case involving Donald Trump's disqualification under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.”

    Also today, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley won her first primary, winning 62.9% of the Republican vote in Washington, D.C. Trump won 33.2%. This victory makes Haley the first woman in history to win a Republican primary. It also illustrates that Trump’s support is terribly soft. Over the weekend, Haley picked up the endorsements of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

    Headed into the week, Tuesday, March 5, is so-called Super Tuesday, when voters in fifteen states and one territory will vote for their choice for president. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. In American Samoa, Democrats will vote on Tuesday, Republicans on Friday.

    It seems likely that Super Tuesday will shift so many delegates into Trump’s column that he will have virtually locked up the Republican nomination.

    But that timing poses a real problem for the Republican Party. Trump has to post a bond to cover the $83.3 million he owes writer E. Jean Carroll no later than Friday, March 8. His lawyers have been trying to get out of this requirement, asking for a “substantially reduced bond.” This suggests that he might have trouble covering the amount. And after he comes up with this sum, he still has the $454 million to pay in the civil fraud case against him in New York.

    March 8 is also the day that Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel steps down. The only people running to replace her are Trump loyalist Michael Whatley and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who hope to be co-chairs. Trump’s senior campaign adviser Chris LaCivita is running to be the RNC’s chief operating officer.

    So Trump could clinch the nomination and control of the RNC just as it becomes crystal clear he has devastating financial and legal problems.

    Also this week, far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán is scheduled to meet with Trump at the Trump Organization’s property at Mar-a-Lago.

    And Congress still must pass several appropriations bills. Meanwhile, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has suggested Democrats will protect House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) from a vote to oust him if he will bring up for a vote the national security supplemental bill that provides aid to Ukraine.

    Thursday, President Biden will deliver the State of the Union address.

    I’m already tired just thinking of it all, but this week might well provide some new clarity on a number of major issues.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 4, 2024 (Monday)

    Today the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states cannot remove Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot. Colorado officials, as well as officials from other states, had challenged Trump’s ability to run for the presidency, noting that the third section of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits those who have engaged in insurrection after taking an oath to support the Constitution from holding office. The court concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment leaves the question of enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment up to Congress.

    But the court didn’t stop there. It sidestepped the question of whether the events of January 6, 2021, were an insurrection, declining to reverse Colorado’s finding that Trump was an insurrectionist.

    In those decisions, the court was unanimous.

    But then five of the justices cast themselves off from the other four. Those five went on to “decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this Court and petitioner from future controversy,” as the three dissenting liberal judges put it. The five described what they believed could disqualify from office someone who had participated in an insurrection: a specific type of legislation.

    Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson in one concurrence, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett in another, note that the majority went beyond what was necessary in this expansion of its decision. “By resolving these and other questions, the majority attempts to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office,” Kagan, Sotomayor, and Jackson wrote. Seeming to criticize those three of her colleagues as much as the majority, Barrett wrote: “This is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency…. [W]ritings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

    Conservative judge J. Michael Luttig wrote that “in the course of unnecessarily deciding all of these questions when they were not even presented by the case, the five-Justice majority effectively decided not only that the former president will never be subject to disqualification, but that no person who ever engages in an insurrection against the Constitution of the United States in the future will be disqualified under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Disqualification Clause.”

    Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Ginni, participated in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, notably did not recuse himself from participating in the case.

    There is, perhaps, a larger story behind the majority’s musings on future congressional actions. Its decision to go beyond what was required to decide a specific question and suggest the boundaries of future legislation pushed it from judicial review into the realm of lawmaking.

    For years now, Republicans, especially Republican senators who have turned the previously rarely-used filibuster into a common tool, have stopped Congress from making laws and have instead thrown decision-making to the courts.

    Two days ago, in Slate, legal analyst Mark Joseph Stern noted that when Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was Senate majority leader, he “realized you don’t need to win elections to enact Republican policy. You don’t need to change hearts and minds. You don’t need to push ballot initiatives or win over the views of the people. All you have to do is stack the courts. You only need 51 votes in the Senate to stack the courts with far-right partisan activists…[a]nd they will enact Republican policies under the guise of judicial review, policies that could never pass through the democratic process. And those policies will be bulletproof, because they will be called ‘law.’”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 5, 2024 (Tuesday)

    Possibly the biggest story today in terms of its impact on most Americans’ lives is that as part of its war on junk fees, the Biden administration announced an $8 cap on late fees charged by credit card issuers that have more than a million accounts. These companies hold more than 95% of outstanding credit card debt. Currently, fees average $32, and they fall on more than 45 million people. The White House estimates that late fees currently cost Americans about $25 billion a year. The rule change will save Americans about $10 billion a year.

    The administration also announced a “strike force” to crack down on “unfair and illegal pricing.” Certain corporations raised prices as strained supply chains made it more expensive to make their products. But after supply chains were fixed and their costs dropped, corporations kept consumer prices high and passed on record profits to their shareholders. The strike force will encourage federal agencies to share information to enable them to identify businesses that are breaking the law.

    Banking organizations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out swinging. Executive vice president Neil Bradley said that such regulation “to micromanage how private businesses set prices will have the same result: shortages, fewer choices for consumers, a weaker economy, and less jobs.”

    And in what perhaps illustrates why voters don’t appear to know much about what the administration is doing, these stories have gotten far less attention today than the primaries and caucuses.

    Today is Super Tuesday, when 15 states and one territory choose their primary candidates for president and for the House of Representatives and the Senate (although in Alaska, only Republicans vote today and in American Samoa, only Democrats vote today). About 36% of Republican delegates will be awarded today, and that’s the side people will be watching because on the Democratic side, Biden has a virtually uncontested lead with the exception of candidate Jason Palmer, who won the Democratic caucuses in American Samoa.

    Trump is expected to win today’s Republican contests, but observers are watching to see what percentage of the vote challenger Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, takes from him. As I write this, she appears to have won Vermont and run strongly elsewhere, especially in the suburbs. Three states conducted exit polls and they, too, show warning signs for Trump as 78% of Haley voters in the North Carolina primary, 69% in California, and 68% in Virginia refused to say they would support the party’s nominee no matter who it is.

    It is also notable that polls showed Trump with a much stronger margin over Haley than materialized today. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes, it is not yet clear what that means.

    Trump is on his way to becoming the Republican presidential nominee. On Friday the Republican National Committee (RNC) will meet in Houston to choose a new chair. The only people running are Trump loyalist Michael Whatley and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who hope to become co-chairs. Natalie Allison reported today in Politico that the RNC will not vote on a resolution that would have prohibited the RNC from covering Trump’s legal bills.

    Trump is certainly in need of money. Today, his lawyers demanded a new trial in the second E. Jean Carroll case, complaining that the judge limited what he could say, and asked for a judgment figure significantly lower than the $83.3 million the jurors awarded. By the end of Friday, Trump must post either the money or a bond covering it.

    This morning, Trump told Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends that he was not worried about coming up with the money to pay the $454 million he owes in the New York fraud case, or the interest it is occurring at more than $100,000 a day. “I have a lot of money. I can do what I want to do,” Trump said. “I don't worry about anything. I don't worry about the money. I don't worry about money.”

    Yesterday, Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, admitted he lied under oath during his testimony in that case. He will be sentenced in April.

    Super Tuesday is also the day that the 2024 presidential campaign begins in earnest for those who had not previously been paying much attention, and Taylor Swift today urged her 282 million followers on Instagram “to vote the people who most represent YOU into power. If you haven't already, make a plan to vote today,” she wrote.

    The presidential contest is only one of the many contests on the ballot today, but most of those results are not yet in.

    Although the Arizona primary will not be held until March 19, we did learn today that Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) will not run for reelection. Her exit will leave the Arizona senator’s race to election-denying Trump Republican Kari Lake, who lost the Arizona governorship in 2022 (although she continues to insist she won it), and Arizona Democratic representative Ruben Gallego.

    Just as voters don’t appear to know much about what the administration has done to make their lives better, a recent study from a Democratic pollster suggests that voters don’t seem to know much about Trump’s statements attacking democracy. When informed of them, their opinion of Trump falls.

    Trump has called for mass deportations of immigrants and foreign-born U.S. citizens; on February 29, he said he would use local police as well as federal troops to round people up and move them to camps for deportation. Asked yesterday by a Newsmax host if he would “order mass deportations if you win the White House,” Trump answered: “Oh, day one. We have no choice. And we’ll start with the bad ones. And you know who knows who they are? Local police. Local police have to be given back their authority, and they have to be given back their respect and immunity.”

    On the one hand, caps to credit card late fees and an attempt to address price gouging; on the other hand, local police with immunity rounding up millions of people and putting them in camps, for deportation. And, in between the two, an election.

    People had better start paying attention.

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 36,576
    People had better start paying attention.
    09/15/1998 & 09/16/1998, Mansfield, MA; 08/29/00 08/30/00, Mansfield, MA; 07/02/03, 07/03/03, Mansfield, MA; 09/28/04, 09/29/04, Boston, MA; 09/22/05, Halifax, NS; 05/24/06, 05/25/06, Boston, MA; 07/22/06, 07/23/06, Gorge, WA; 06/27/2008, Hartford; 06/28/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield; 08/18/2009, O2, London, UK; 10/30/09, 10/31/09, Philadelphia, PA; 05/15/10, Hartford, CT; 05/17/10, Boston, MA; 05/20/10, 05/21/10, NY, NY; 06/22/10, Dublin, IRE; 06/23/10, Northern Ireland; 09/03/11, 09/04/11, Alpine Valley, WI; 09/11/11, 09/12/11, Toronto, Ont; 09/14/11, Ottawa, Ont; 09/15/11, Hamilton, Ont; 07/02/2012, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/04/2012 & 07/05/2012, Berlin, Germany; 07/07/2012, Stockholm, Sweden; 09/30/2012, Missoula, MT; 07/16/2013, London, Ont; 07/19/2013, Chicago, IL; 10/15/2013 & 10/16/2013, Worcester, MA; 10/21/2013 & 10/22/2013, Philadelphia, PA; 10/25/2013, Hartford, CT; 11/29/2013, Portland, OR; 11/30/2013, Spokane, WA; 12/04/2013, Vancouver, BC; 12/06/2013, Seattle, WA; 10/03/2014, St. Louis. MO; 10/22/2014, Denver, CO; 10/26/2015, New York, NY; 04/23/2016, New Orleans, LA; 04/28/2016 & 04/29/2016, Philadelphia, PA; 05/01/2016 & 05/02/2016, New York, NY; 05/08/2016, Ottawa, Ont.; 05/10/2016 & 05/12/2016, Toronto, Ont.; 08/05/2016 & 08/07/2016, Boston, MA; 08/20/2016 & 08/22/2016, Chicago, IL; 07/01/2018, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/03/2018, Krakow, Poland; 07/05/2018, Berlin, Germany; 09/02/2018 & 09/04/2018, Boston, MA; 09/08/2022, Toronto, Ont; 09/11/2022, New York, NY; 09/14/2022, Camden, NJ; 09/02/2023, St. Paul, MN;

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    tempo_n_groovetempo_n_groove Posts: 38,975
    I had not heard the CC fee implication.  Thats interesting. I'm surprised the government can actually do that but the student loan debt is still a thing.

    Trump is going to be the next President.  The pendulum shift may be coming this term.  It'll be interesting.

    Also Sherriff Arpajo did the local roundup thing in AZ and went to jail for it so I don't know what Trump thinks he can do?
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 6, 2024 (Wednesday)

    Black Americans outnumbered white Americans among the 29,500 people who lived in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s, but the city’s voting rolls were 99% white. So, in 1963, Black organizers in the Dallas County Voters League launched a drive to get Black voters in Selma registered. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a prominent civil rights organization, joined them.

    In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, but the measure did not adequately address the problem of voter suppression. In Selma a judge had stopped the voter registration protests by issuing an injunction prohibiting public gatherings of more than two people.

    To call attention to the crisis in her city, Amelia Boynton, who was a part of the Dallas County Voters League but who, in this case, was acting with a group of local activists, traveled to Birmingham to invite Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to the city. King had become a household name after the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech, and his presence would bring national attention to Selma’s struggle.

    King and other prominent members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference arrived in January to push the voter registration drive. For seven weeks, Black residents tried to register to vote. County Sheriff James Clark arrested almost 2,000 of them for a variety of charges, including contempt of court and parading without a permit. A federal court ordered Clark not to interfere with orderly registration, so he forced Black applicants to stand in line for hours before taking a “literacy” test. Not a single person passed.  

    Then on February 18, white police officers, including local police, sheriff’s deputies, and Alabama state troopers, beat and shot an unarmed 26-year-old, Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was marching for voting rights at a demonstration in his hometown of Marion, Alabama, about 25 miles northwest of Selma. Jackson had run into a restaurant for shelter along with his mother when the police started rioting, but they chased him and shot him in the restaurant’s kitchen.

    Jackson died eight days later, on February 26.

    The leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Selma decided to defuse the community’s anger by planning a long march—54 miles—from Selma to the state capitol at Montgomery to draw attention to the murder and voter suppression. Expecting violence, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee voted not to participate, but its chair, John Lewis, asked their permission to go along on his own. They agreed.

    On March 7, 1965, the marchers set out. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Confederate brigadier general, Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, and U.S. senator who stood against Black rights, state troopers and other law enforcement officers met the unarmed marchers with billy clubs, bullwhips, and tear gas. They fractured John Lewis’s skull and beat Amelia Boynton unconscious. A newspaper photograph of the 54-year-old Boynton, seemingly dead in the arms of another marcher, illustrated the depravity of those determined to stop Black voting.

    Images of “Bloody Sunday” on the national news mesmerized the nation, and supporters began to converge on Selma. King, who had been in Atlanta when the marchers first set off, returned to the fray.

    Two days later, the marchers set out again. Once again, the troopers and police met them at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but this time, King led the marchers in prayer and then took them back to Selma. That night, a white mob beat to death a Unitarian Universalist minister, James Reeb, who had come from Massachusetts to join the marchers.

    On March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a nationally televised joint session of Congress to ask for the passage of a national voting rights act. “Their cause must be our cause too,” he said. “[A]ll of us…must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.” Two days later, he submitted to Congress proposed voting rights legislation.

    The marchers remained determined to complete their trip to Montgomery, and when Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, refused to protect them, President Johnson stepped in. When the marchers set off for a third time on March 21, 1,900 members of the nationalized Alabama National Guard, FBI agents, and federal marshals protected them. Covering about ten miles a day, they camped in the yards of well-wishers until they arrived at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25. Their ranks had grown as they walked until they numbered about 25,000 people.

    On the steps of the capitol, speaking under a Confederate flag, Dr. King said: “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

    That night, Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old mother of five who had arrived from Michigan to help after Bloody Sunday, was murdered by four Ku Klux Klan members who tailed her as she ferried demonstrators out of the city.

    On August 6, Dr. King and Mrs. Boynton were guests of honor as President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Recalling “the outrage of Selma,” Johnson said: "This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies."

    The Voting Rights Act authorized federal supervision of voter registration in districts where African Americans were historically underrepresented. Johnson promised that the government would strike down “regulations, or laws, or tests to deny the right to vote.” He called the right to vote “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men,” and pledged that “we will not delay, or we will not hesitate, or we will not turn aside until Americans of every race and color and origin in this country have the same right as all others to share in the process of democracy.”

    As recently as 2006, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act by a bipartisan vote. By 2008 there was very little difference in voter participation between white Americans and Americans of color. But then, in 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision got rid of the part of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get approval from the federal government before changing their voting rules. This requirement was known as “preclearance.”

    The Shelby County v. Holder decision opened the door, once again, for voter suppression. Since then, states have made it harder to vote; in 2023, at least 14 states enacted 17 restrictive voting laws. A recent study by the Brennan Center of nearly a billion vote records over 14 years shows that the racial voting gap is growing almost twice as fast in places that used to be covered by the preclearance requirement.

    Democrats have tried since 2021 to pass a voting rights act but have been stymied by Republicans, who oppose such protections. Last September, on National Voter Registration Day, House Democrats reintroduced a voting rights act, now named the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act after the man who went on from his days in the Civil Rights Movement to serve 17 terms as a representative from Georgia, bearing the scars of March 7, 1965, until he died on July 17, 2020.

    On March 1, 2024, 51 Democratic senators introduced the measure in the Senate.

    Speaking in Selma last Sunday at the commemoration of the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris shared that the first thing she sees on walking into her office is a “large framed photograph taken on Bloody Sunday depicting an injured Amelia Boynton receiving care at the foot of [the Edmund Pettus] bridge.”

    “[F]or me,” she said, “it is a daily reminder of the struggle, of the sacrifice, and of how much we owe to those who gave so much before us.”

    “History is a relay race,” she said. “Generations before us carried the baton. And now, they have passed it to us.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    tempo_n_groovetempo_n_groove Posts: 38,975
    Every party that is in power rigs the voting districts in their favor.  I think its a grand idea to try and get an agreement on jurisdictions for both parties.
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 7, 2024 (Thursday)

    The Republican Party now belongs to Trump. On the heels of his wins on Super Tuesday, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, his last serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, suspended her campaign Wednesday morning. That afternoon, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who enabled Trump during his administration but apparently hoped to see him replaced at the top of the party, endorsed him.

    Haley did not endorse former president Trump, suggesting he needed to earn the support of those Republicans who don’t back him. But Trump’s team has dismissed Haley supporters, saying he doesn’t need them.

    In contrast, President Joe Biden continued to broaden the Democrats’ tent. Biden reached out in a statement, saying there was a place for Haley supporters in his campaign. “I know there is a lot we won’t agree on,” he said, “But on the fundamental issues of preserving American democracy, on standing up for the rule of law, on treating each other with decency and dignity and respect, on preserving NATO and standing up to America’s adversaries, I hope and believe we can find common ground.”

    President Biden continued to outline the differences between MAGA Republicans and the rest of the country in tonight’s State of the Union address.

    Biden launched the speech, a draft of which the White House made available in advance, by referring to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s attempt in January 1941, about a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, “to wake up the Congress and alert the American people that…[f]reedom and democracy were under assault in the world.” Biden identified the same crisis in the present. “Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today,” he said.

    Overseas, Russian president Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine and threatens Europe, Biden said, putting “the free world at risk.” He warned that those blocking aid to Ukraine are destroying “our leadership in the world” and blasted Trump for saying he would tell Putin to “do whatever the hell you want.” Biden urged Congress to “stand up to Putin. Send me the Bipartisan National Security Bill” that funds Ukraine.

    Then he turned to the home front. Identifying those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, as “insurrectionists” who “had come to stop the peaceful transfer of power and to overturn the will of the people,” Biden called “January 6th and the lies about the 2020 election, and the plots to steal the election…the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War.”

    That threat remains, he said. He asked Republicans to “speak the truth and bury the lies.” He urged them to “[r]emember your oath of office to defend against all threats foreign and domestic. Respect free and fair elections. Restore trust in our institutions. And make clear—political violence has absolutely no place in America.”

    As Democrats stood to applaud, Republicans remained resolutely in their seats.

    Biden continued his study in contrasts. He urged Republicans to guarantee the right to in vitro fertilization, a popular measure that they killed in the Senate again this week. He called out Republicans for trying to pass a national abortion ban and declared, “If Americans send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you, I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again.”

    He touted the economic successes of his administration—15 million new jobs, unemployment at 50-year lows, 16 million new businesses, 800,000 new manufacturing jobs, more people with health insurance, rising wages, falling inflation—and described a nation with a thriving middle class. He reiterated his support for unions, noting that he was the first president to walk a picket line, and praised United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain, who responded by putting his fist in the air and mouthing, “Thank YOU!”

    Biden then looked ahead to “a future where the days of trickle-down economics are over and the wealthy and biggest corporations no longer get all the breaks.” He promised to continue to fight unfair tax codes, price gouging, shrinkflation, and junk fees.

    Biden called out the Republicans for bowing to Trump’s demand that they kill the bipartisan border bill, which would provide 1,500 more border security officers, 100 more immigration judges, 4,300 more asylum officers, and 100 more high-tech drug detection machines and give the president authority to shut down the border when the number of migrants reaches a certain level. As House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) shook his head in apparent disagreement, Senator James Lankford (R-OK), a staunch conservative who negotiated the bill, nodded, saying, “That’s true.”

    Biden took on the two biggest controversies in his presidency directly. “I know the last five months have been gut-wrenching for so many people, for the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and so many here in America,” he said.

    He recounted the deadly attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, continued to defend Israel’s right “to go after Hamas,” and promised to continue to negotiate for the remaining hostages. He also said that the war “has taken a greater toll on innocent civilians than all previous wars in Gaza combined. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed…. Nearly 2 million more Palestinians under bombardment or displaced. Homes destroyed, neighborhoods in rubble, cities in ruin. Families without food, water, medicine.”

    The U.S. has “been working non-stop to establish an immediate ceasefire that would last for at least six weeks,” Biden said. “It would get the hostages home, ease the intolerable humanitarian crisis, and build toward something more enduring.” The U.S. has “been leading international efforts to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza” and is now building a temporary pier on the Gaza coast to “receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters.”

    Biden addressed Israel’s leaders directly: “As we look to the future, the only real solution is a two-state solution. I say this as a lifelong supporter of Israel and the only American president to visit Israel in wartime. There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and democracy. There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live with peace and dignity. There is no other path that guarantees peace between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. Creating stability in the Middle East also means containing the threat posed by Iran.”  
     
    Biden then took on the issue of his 81 years. Age makes “certain things become clearer than ever before,” he said. “I know the American story.”
     
    “Again and again I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation. Between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America into the future. My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy. A future based on the core values that have defined America. Honesty. Decency. Dignity. Equality. To respect everyone. To give everyone a fair shot. To give hate no safe harbor.  

    “Now some other people my age see a different story,” he said, in a reference to Trump, who will turn 78 in June. “An American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution.”
     
    “[T]he issue facing our nation isn’t how old we are, it’s how old our ideas are,” Biden said. “Hate, anger, revenge, retribution are among the oldest of ideas, but you can’t lead America with…ideas that only take us back. To lead America, the land of possibilities, you need a vision for the future of what America can and should be…. I see a future where we defend democracy, not diminish it. I see a future where we restore the right to choose and protect other freedoms, not take them away. I see a future where the middle class finally has a fair shot and the wealthy finally have to pay their fair share in taxes. I see a future where we save the planet from the climate crisis and our country from gun violence. Above all, I see a future for all Americans…. So let’s build that future together.”

    Biden spoke powerfully for an hour and a half, veering off script to make points stronger or respond to Republican heckling. He seemed to enjoy the scrapping (and might even have set it up), using the back and forth to get Republicans to reject tax cuts just as last year he forced them to reject cutting Social Security.

    The Republicans tapped Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) to give their rebuttal to the speech, evidently hoping to contrast her youth—she’s 42—with Biden’s age. But while her team helpfully distributed talking points to Republican influencers before either Biden or Britt had spoken, suggesting they describe her as “America’s mom” and say that Biden’s speech was “tone deaf” while hers was “the perfect pitch,” the fact that the Republicans had a female senator give what could be the most important speech of her life in a kitchen seemed to tell its own, more powerful, story.

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 8, 2024 (Friday)

    Last night, Republicans and Democrats offered very different visions of the roles and rights of women in American society.

    In the State of the Union address, President Joe Biden thanked Vice President Kamala Harris “for being an incredible leader defending reproductive freedom and so much more.” Biden condemned “state laws banning the freedom to choose, criminalizing doctors, forcing survivors of rape and incest to leave their states to get the treatment they need,” and he called out Republicans “promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom.”

    Biden quoted back to the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, sitting in front of him in the chamber, their words when in June 2022 they overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion.
     
    The justices wrote: “Women are not without electoral or political power.”

    Biden responded: “You’re about to realize just how much you were right about that.” “Clearly, those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women. But they found out. When reproductive freedom was on the ballot, we won in 2022 and 2023. And we’ll win again in 2024.” Biden promised to restore Roe v. Wade if Americans elect a Congress that supports the right to choose.

    Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) gave the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union address. Sitting in a kitchen rather than in a setting that reflected her position in one of the nation’s highest elected offices, Britt conspicuously wore a necklace with a cross and spoke in a breathy, childlike voice as she wavered between smiles and the suggestion she was on the verge of tears.

    “What the hell am I watching right now?” an unnamed Trump advisor asked Nikki McCann Ramirez and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone.

    Britt’s performance was the logical outcome of right-wing demonization of women’s rights advocates since the 1960s. That popular demonization began soon after women calling for “liberation” from the strict gender roles of the post–World War II years protested the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The protesters tossed items related to women’s roles as homemakers and sex symbols—bras, girdles, pots and pans, and Playboy magazines—into a trash can. That act so horrified traditionalists that a journalist likened the women to young men burning their draft cards, starting the myth that the protesting women had burned their bras.

    Two years later, with his popularity dropping before the 1972 election, President Richard Nixon wooed Catholic Democrats by abandoning his support for abortion rights. The following March, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, declaring that “[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” and sent it off to the states for ratification.

    Advocates of traditional gender roles used abortion as a proxy to attack women’s rights in general. Railing against the Equal Rights Amendment in her first statement on abortion in 1972, activist Phyllis Schlafly did not mention fetuses, but instead attacked “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.”

    The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, including women in the ranks of marginalized Americans whose civil rights were protected by the federal government. Since the 1950s, opponents of such federal protection for Black and Brown Americans had tied such federal action to communism because it meant the government used tax dollars for the benefit of specific groups. In their minds, this amounted to a redistribution of wealth from hardworking taxpayers to undeserving special interests.

    The cultural backlash to the idea of women’s equality strengthened. In 1974 the television show Little House on the Prairie, based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, began its nine-year run. It portrayed western women as wives and mothers cared for by menfolk, complementing the image of the cowboy individualist championed by the antigovernment right wing.

    As historian Peggy O’Donnell noted in Jezebel in 2019, prairie dresses, with their image of “traditional” femininity and motherhood, the female version of cowboy clothing, became fashionable, even as the era’s popular televangelists railed against feminists.

    Constantly evoking the image of the western cowboy, Ronald Reagan won the White House. Four years later, sociologist Kristin Luker discovered that "pro-life" activists believed that selfish “pro-choice” women were denigrating the roles of wife and mother and were demanding rights they didn’t need or deserve.

    Increasingly, Republicans portrayed women who demanded equality as a special interest made up of feminist scolds who wanted federal support they did not deserve. In 1984, when Democratic presidential candidate Walter “Fritz” Mondale tapped the very well qualified Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate, opponents circulated fake campaign buttons backing “Fritz and Tits,” and even 60 percent of Democrats thought Ferraro was there only because Mondale was under pressure from women's groups who wanted special legislation.

    Powerful women either fell out of public view or were pilloried for intruding on a man’s world as those opposing women’s equality portrayed women either as wives and mothers, who looked to their husbands for financial security and safety, or as sex objects available for men’s pleasure.

    By 1988, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh had begun to demonize women’s rights advocates as “feminazis” for whom “the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur.” After the 1993 siege of the headquarters of a religious cult near Waco, Texas, that left 76 people dead and inspired the rise of right-wing militias to resist the federal government, Limbaugh emphasized that the attorney general who ordered the operation was the first female attorney general: Janet Reno.

    Such rhetoric turned out Republican voters, especially the white evangelical base, and after it launched in 1996, the Fox News Channel (FNC) reinforced the idea that individualist men should be running society. Most FNC personalities were older men; the network’s female personalities were young, beautiful, and deferential. (FNC chair and chief executive officer Roger Ailes resigned in 2016 after accounts emerged of alleged sexual harassment.)

    By 2016 the competing ideologies concerning the role of women in American society were encapsulated by the contest between Donald Trump and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton was highly educated and extremely well qualified. She advocated protecting the rights of women and minorities and warned that Trump would pack the Supreme Court with extremists who would undermine abortion rights. She provided detailed policy papers.

    Trump, in turn, bragged of sexual assault and called for Clinton to be arrested: “Lock her up!” became the call and response at his rallies. Ending access to abortion had become the rallying cry for the evangelicals who supported Trump, and he promised to end those rights, even flirting with the idea of criminal punishments for women seeking abortions. Far from being disqualifying, Trump’s denigration of women embodied the sort of traditional gender roles fundamentalists embraced.

    Once in office, Trump nominated and the Republican-dominated Senate confirmed three radical Supreme Court justices who in June 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, taking away the recognition of a constitutional right Americans had enjoyed for almost 50 years.

    When Britt delivered the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union from a kitchen, wearing a cross and using a submissive speaking style, she represented the outcome of the longstanding opposition to women’s equal rights in the United States.

    The Democrats’ position last night was a sharp contrast. Biden stood in front of the nation’s first female vice president as he denounced the Republican assault on women’s rights. He warned the country: “America cannot go back.”

    Perfect timing for today’s celebration of International Women’s Day.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 9, 2024 (Saturday)

    It feels like we could use some calm after the pace of the last week.

    I know I could.

    Let's take the night off, and regroup tomorrow.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 10, 2024 (Sunday)
     
    As predicted, last week was an important one for the Republican Party.
     
    The Republicans’ rebuttal to the State of the Union on Thursday stayed in the news throughout the weekend. On Friday, independent journalist Jonathan Katz figured out that a key story in it was false. Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) described a twelve-year-old child sex trafficked by Mexican cartel members, implying that the young girl was trafficked because of President Joe Biden’s border policies.
     
    Katz tracked down the facts. Britt was describing the life of Karla Jacinto, who was indeed trafficked as a child, but not in the present and not in the U.S. and not by cartels. She was trafficked from 2004 to 2008—during the George W. Bush administration—in Mexico, at the hands of a pimp who entrapped vulnerable girls. Jacinto has become an advocate for child victims and has told her story before Congress, and she met Britt at an event for government officials and anti-trafficking advocates.

    Britt’s dramatic delivery of the rebuttal had already invited parody and concern about the religious themes she demonstrated. The news that a central image in it was a lie just made things worse. “Everyone’s f*cking losing it,” a Republican strategist told The New Republic’s Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling. “It’s one of our biggest disasters ever.”
     
    On Friday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted to replace former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who resigned effective Friday, with Trump loyalist Michael Whatley and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. They will co-chair the organization and have made it clear their primary goal is to put Trump back in the White House.
     
    Friday night, on Newsmax, Donald Trump Jr. recorded a video announcing that the old Republican Party “no longer exists outside of the D.C. beltway…. The move that happened today…that’s the final blow. People have to understand that America First, the MAGA movement is the new Republican Party. That is conservatism today.”
     
    Just what that means was crystal clear on Friday night, when Trump hosted Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán at the Trump Organization’s Florida property, Mar-a-Lago. The darling of the radical right, Orbán has spoken at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and hosted former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson, and his policies inspired the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation Florida governor Ron DeSantis has championed.
     
    The right wing’s fondness for Orbán springs from his having rejected democracy and replaced it in Hungary with what he calls an “illiberal state.” Orbán and other far-right leaders working against democracy maintain that the central principle of democracy, equality before the law, undermines society. It permits immigration, which, in their minds, dilutes the “purity” of a people, and it requires that LGBTQ+ individuals and women have the same rights as heterosexual men. Such a world challenges the heteronormative patriarchal world traditionalists crave.
     
    Orbán’s takeover of the press, elimination of rival political parties, partisan gerrymandering, capture of the courts, and control of Hungary’s government are not just ideological, though, but also economic. Corruption and the capture of valuable factories and properties for cronies have allowed Orbán and his allies to amass fortunes.
     
    “There’s nobody that’s better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orbán. He’s fantastic,” Trump said on Friday. Trump said that Orbán simply says, “‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ and that’s the end of it, right? He’s the boss and…he’s a great leader, fantastic leader. In Europe and around the world, they respect him.”

    On Saturday, Republicans in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, censured Senator James Lankford (R-OK) over his work negotiating the border security measure. In January, state Republicans claimed they had passed a resolution “strongly” condemning Lankford; others said the vote for the resolution was “not legitimate and definitely does not represent the voice of all Oklahoma Republicans.”

    Lankford is a far-right senator whom Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tapped to represent the Republicans in the negotiations. House Republicans had demanded the border security measure before they would allow a vote on a national security supplemental bill that funds Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion.
     
    Because the Democrats are desperate to fund Ukraine, they were willing to give up things they had never laid on the table before, including a path to citizenship for those brought to the United States as children, making the bill that emerged from the negotiations strongly favor the Republican position on immigration. The Border Patrol Officers’ union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal all endorsed it.
     
    But the House Republicans’ demand for a border measure appears to have been an attempt to kill the national security supplemental bill altogether. As soon as it became clear that there would be a deal, Trump came out against it. He demanded that Congress kill the measure, and his loyalists agreed.
     
    Lankford, who had helped to produce the strongest border measure in years at the request of the nominal head of the party, has now been censured because he crossed Trump.

    Meanwhile, on Saturday, Biden signed into law one of the consolidated appropriations bills that must be finished to fund the government. The other must be finished by March 22.

    Biden has continued to ride the momentum built by Thursday’s State of the Union speech. His campaign has released a number of advertisements, and today he was in Georgia, where the largest political action committees representing communities of color—the AAPI Victory Fund, the Latino Victory Fund, and The Collective PAC—endorsed him and pledged $30 million to mobilize communities of color to vote in 2024.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 11, 2024 (Monday)

    Authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary visited former president Trump in Florida on Friday, and on Sunday, Orbán assured Hungarian state media that Trump “will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war. Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine can not stand on its own feet.” Russian state media gloated at the news, and that Trump’s MAGA allies in Congress are already helping him end support for Ukraine.

    President Joe Biden and a strong majority of lawmakers in both chambers of Congress, as well as defense officials, support appropriating more aid to Ukraine, believing its defense is crucial to America’s national security. Today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin once again called such aid “critical.”

    The Senate passed a national security supplemental bill early in the morning on February 13, by a strong bipartisan vote of 70 to 29. The bill would be expected to pass the House, but House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), a Trump loyalist, refuses to bring it up for a vote.

    Trump loyalists have been obstructing aid to Ukraine since President Joe Biden asked for it in October 2023. Their insistence that they would not address the national security needs of the U.S. in Ukraine until they were addressed at the border now sure looks like a smokescreen to help Russian president Vladimir Putin take Ukraine, a plan that would explain why Trump urged Republicans to kill the national security supplemental bill even when it included a strong border component that favored Republican positions.

    It appears as though Trump is deliberately undermining the national security of the United States.

    In excerpts from his forthcoming book that appeared on the CNN website today, journalist Jim Sciutto reported conversations with Trump’s second chief of staff, General John Kelly, and Trump’s third national security advisor, John Bolton, in which the men recounted Trump’s fondness for dictators. “He views himself as a big guy,” Bolton told Sciutto. “He likes dealing with other big guys, and big guys like Erdogan in Turkey get to put people in jail and you don’t have to ask anybody’s permission. He kind of likes that.” “He’s not a tough guy by any means, but in fact quite the opposite,” Kelly said. “But that’s how he envisions himself.”

    Kelly noted that Trump praised Hitler and what he thought was the loyalty of Hitler’s generals (some of whom actually tried to assassinate him), but both Kelly and Bolton noted that he “most consistently lavished praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin.” Certainly, Trump prizes loyalty to himself: today Alex Isenstadt of Politico reported a “bloodbath” at the Republican National Committee as the incoming Trump loyalists are pushing out more than 60 RNC officials and staffers to make sure everyone is “aligned” with Trump.

    An exclusive interview today by Katelyn Polantz, Kaitlan Collins, and Jeremy Herb of CNN revealed that Brian Butler, who worked at Mar-a-Lago for twenty years, has come forward to give the public the same information he told to investigators looking into Trump’s theft of classified documents. On June 3, 2022, the day Trump and his family were scheduled to fly to New Jersey for the summer, Trump’s aide Walt Nauta asked Butler if he could borrow a car from the Mar-a-Lago car service, although Butler and his valets usually handled getting the Trump family luggage onto the plane. June 3 was the same day Trump and his lawyer were meeting with officials from the Department of Justice at Mar-a-Lago to arrange for Trump to turn over national security documents.

    Butler loaded a vehicle with the luggage, then met Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira—at the time a close friend of Butler—driving a vehicle loaded with bankers boxes, at the West Palm Beach airport. Butler says he didn’t know the bankers boxes contained anything unusual, and he helped Nauta load the plane with the boxes as well as the luggage. “They were the boxes that were in the indictment, the white bankers boxes. That’s what I remember loading,” Butler added.

    Butler was also present during conversations about hiding evidence from federal authorities.

    While Trump opposes aid to Ukraine, President Joe Biden pushed for it once again when he released his fiscal year 2025 budget today. (There is overlap this year between funding fiscal year 2024 and fiscal year 2025 because House Republicans have been unable to agree to last year’s appropriations bills. Those are supposed to be done before October 1, when the new fiscal year starts.)

    In addition to funding for Ukraine, the president’s $7.3 trillion budget covers Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits, all of which are mandatory, and expands investment in health care, child care, and housing. Biden would pay for all this—and reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next ten years—with higher taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year and on corporations.

    In his defense of the middle class as the engine of economic growth and his declaration that the days of trickle-down economics are over, Biden sounds much like Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt did when he ushered in the New Deal in the 1930s. In that era, Roosevelt and his Democratic allies replaced a government that worked for men of property with one that worked for ordinary Americans.

    There were other echoes of the FDR administration today as Trump’s undermining of aid to Ukraine has become clear. Ukraine stands between an aggressive Russian dictator and a democratic Europe.  

    In the 1930s and 1940s, the U.S. had to decide whether to turn away from those standing against dictators like Hitler, or to stand behind them. There was a strong isolationist impulse in the United States. Some people resented that war industries had made fortunes supplying the devastating weaponry of World War I. Others believed that Hitler’s advance in Europe was a distraction from Asia, where their business interests were entwined. Congress passed laws to keep the U.S. from entanglement in Europe until Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Then Congress allowed other nations to buy munitions from the U.S. so long as they carried them away in their own ships.  

    The following year, FDR promised the American people he would not send troops into “any foreign wars.” But in July 1940, newly-appointed British prime minister Winston Churchill asked the U.S. for direct help after Britain lost eleven destroyers in ten days to the German Navy. Roosevelt exchanged 50 destroyers for 99-year leases on certain British bases, but that would not be enough. He asked Congress to provide military aid.

    On this date in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States.” The new law gave the president wide-ranging authority to sell, give, lease, or lend war supplies to “any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.”
     
    The law defined “war supplies” generously: they ranged from aircraft and boats to guns and tools, to information and technical designs, to food and supplies. The law also gave the president authority to authorize U.S. companies to manufacture such war supplies for other countries whose defense was important to the United States.
     
    This law is the one we know as the Lend-Lease Act, and it was central to the ability of the Allied Powers—those standing against Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito—to fight off the Axis Powers who were trying to take over the globe in the 1940s. By the time the law ended on September 20, 1945, supplies worth more than $50 billion in 1940 dollars—equivalent to more than $770 billion today—had gone to the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, France, China, and other allies.

    Four days after he signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, on March 15, 1941, FDR told journalists at the White House Correspondents’ Association, “The big news story of this week is this: The world has been told that we, as a united Nation, realize the danger that confronts us—and that to meet that danger, our democracy has gone into action."
     
    FDR noted the “superb morale” of the British, who he said were “completely clear in their minds about the one essential fact—that they would rather die…free…than live as slaves.” He continued: “The British people and their Grecian allies need ships. From America, they will get ships. They need planes. From America, they will get planes. From America they need food. From America, they will get food. They need tanks and guns and ammunition and supplies of all kinds. From America, they will get tanks and guns and ammunition and supplies of all kinds….

    “And so our country is going to be what our people have proclaimed it must be—the arsenal of democracy…. Never, in all our history, have Americans faced a job so well worth while.”

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
       March 12, 2024 (Tuesday)

    Today, Democratic voters in Georgia gave President Joe Biden enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president when the Democratic National Convention is held in August. Republican voters in Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Washington gave Trump enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination, although former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race last week, continues to win voters—more than 21% in Washington.

    Also today, Special Counsel Robert Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee about his report on Biden’s handling of classified documents in his possession from his years as vice president. The hearing appeared to show that the Democrats have finally found a way to defang the tactic Republicans have been using since the 1990s. For decades now, under the guise of the important function of congressional oversight, Republicans have weaponized congressional hearings to smear Democrats in the media.

    In this Congress, and especially today, rather than accept the framework the Republicans advance as they try to craft a narrative for right-wing media, Democrats have pushed back with facts and their own story.

    In January 2023, apparently wishing to avoid accusations that the Department of Justice was favoring Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Hur, a partisan Republican whom Trump had appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland, to oversee the investigation into whether Biden had mishandled classified documents.

    In his final report, released last month, Hur concluded that "no criminal charges are warranted in this matter...even if there was no policy against charging a sitting president.” But then Hur went on for more than 300 pages to offer a picture of Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Notably, Hur reported that Biden did not remember the date of his son Beau Biden’s death.

    The media ran with that editorializing rather than the fact that Hur had concluded that criminal charges were not warranted. Stories about Biden’s age swamped the media. Judd Legum of Popular Information found that in the four days after Hur’s report appeared, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal together published 81 articles about Hur’s assessment of Biden’s memory, suggesting that Biden was sliding into dementia and should not be running for reelection.

    Republicans immediately demanded the transcriptions of Biden’s interviews with Hur and his staff, saying they needed more information for their case for impeaching Biden. Republican House leadership issued a statement that “[a] man too incapable of being held accountable for mishandling classified information is certainly unfit for the Oval Office.”

    House Republicans asked Hur to testify before the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Trump loyalist Jim Jordan (R-OH). Hur prepared for his testimony with the help of Trumpworld figures, and he resigned from the Department of Justice effective yesterday, so he appeared before the committee today not as a DOJ employee bound by certain ethical guidelines, but as a private citizen.

    But while Republicans clearly designed their plans for this Congress’s investigations to seed smears of Democrats in the public mind, Democrats have come to hearings exceedingly well prepared to turn the tables back on the Republicans. That strategy was obvious today as it quickly became clear in the hearing that it was not Biden who was on the hot seat.

    Hours before the hearing was about to begin, the Department of Justice released a transcript of Biden’s interviews, held in the two days after Hamas attacked Israel as he rushed to respond to that crisis. The transcripts belied Hur’s portrayal of Biden’s answers; among other things, he clearly knew the exact date Beau died.

    The transcript also revealed a pointed contrast between Trump and Biden, with the president telling investigators he didn’t “own a stock or a bond that I’m aware of…. I never wanted to have any argument…. The thing I valued most my whole life, my reputation and integrity. So I never wanted to have anything that someone said, you bought that stock and it went up because you traded. Never did that.”

    Democrats came to the hearing prepared to turn it into a hearing on Trump. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called out Hur for unprofessional behavior in disparaging the president after finding the matter should be dismissed. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) suggested Hur was angling for an appointment in a second Trump administration and asked him to demonstrate his credibility by pledging that he would not accept such an appointment. Hur declined to do so.

    The hearing was covered live on various television channels, and the Democrats used that media time to show videos of Trump slurring his words, forgetting names, and speaking in word salad, getting their own sound bites to voters. They got Hur to spell out the clear contrast between Trump’s theft of documents and Biden’s cooperation with the government.

    Conservative lawyer George Conway wrote on social media: “I think Biden’s State of the Union address last week and Hur’s immolation today will go down in political history as Reagan’s ‘I am not going to exploit…my opponent’s youth and inexperience’ moment…only on steroids.” Conway was referring to Reagan’s response in a 1984 presidential debate to a question about his own age; Reagan’s opponent, Walter Mondale, later said he knew Reagan’s answer was the moment he had lost not only the debate but probably the election.

    In other news today, pressure on House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to bring up the national security supplemental bill that includes aid for Ukraine continues to increase. Although the administration says it has found an additional $300 million from Pentagon cost savings to supply artillery rounds and munitions for Ukraine, national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters:
     “It is nowhere near enough to meet Ukraine's battlefield needs and it will not prevent Ukraine from running out of ammunition."

    House Democrats are working to get enough signatures on a discharge petition to force Johnson to bring up a vote on a supplemental bill—which is expected to pass if it makes it to a vote—and today, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also added pressure, encouraging Johnson to bring up the measure that passed the Senate in mid-February. “Allow a vote,” he said. “A vote. Let the House speak.”

    Johnson’s control of the House, such as it is, got a little weaker today as Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) announced he is leaving Congress at the end of next week. “It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I’ve been in Congress and having talked to former members, it’s the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress,” Buck told CNN’s Dana Bash. “But I’m leaving because I think there’s a job to do out there…. This place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.”

    The Internal Revenue Service today launched a pilot program in 12 states to enable taxpayers to file their federal tax returns directly, for free. The Treasury Department estimates that about one third of all tax returns are simple enough to use this new system and that about 19 million taxpayers could use it this season.

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
        March 13, 2024 (Wednesday)

    After yesterday’s primary contests, we appear headed toward a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024. But this year’s election is an entirely different kettle of fish than that of 2020.

    In 2020 there were plenty of red flags around Trump’s plans for a second term, but it was not until after it was clear he had lost the election that he gave up all pretense of normal presidential behavior. Beginning the night of the election, he tried to overturn that election and to install himself as president, ignoring the will of the voters, who had chosen Joe Biden. His attack on the fundamental principle of democracy ended the tradition of the peaceful transfer of power established in 1797 when our first president, George Washington, deliberately walked behind his successor, John Adams, after Adams was sworn into office.

    Trump then refused to step aside for his successor as all of his predecessors had done, and has continued to push the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. His loyalists in the states have embraced that lie, undermining faith in our electoral system, although they have never produced any evidence for their claims of voter fraud. (Remember the Cyber Ninjas who handled the election “audit” in Arizona? The company went out of business in 2022.)  

    Then, a year after he left office, news broke that Trump had compromised the country’s national security by retaining highly classified documents and storing them in unsecured boxes at Mar-a-Lago. When the federal government tried to recover them, he hid them from officials. In June 2023 a grand jury in Miami indicted Trump on 37 felony counts related to that theft.

    Trump is not the same as he was in 2020, and in the past three years he has transformed the Republican Party into a vehicle for Christian nationalism.

    In 2016 the Republican Party was still dominated by leaders who promoted supply-side economics. They were determined to use the government to cut taxes and regulations to concentrate money and power among a few individuals, who would, theoretically, use that money and power to invest in the economy far more efficiently than they could if the government intervened. Before 2016 that Reaganesque party had stayed in office thanks to the votes of a base interested in advancing patriarchal, racist, and religious values.

    But Trump flipped the power structure in the party, giving control to the reactionary base. In the years since 2020, the Republican Party has become openly opposed to democracy, embracing the Christian nationalism of leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who maintains that the tenets of democracy weaken a nation by giving immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and women the same rights as heterosexual, native-born white men.

    Rather than calling for a small federal government that stays out of the way of market forces, as Republicans have advocated since 1980, the new Trump Party calls for a strong government that enforces religious rules and bans abortion; books; diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; and so on. In 2022, thanks to the three extremists Trump put on the Supreme Court, the government ceased to recognize a constitutional right that Americans had enjoyed since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: the right to abortion.  

    Last week, Trump formally took over the apparatus of the Republican Party, installing loyalists—including his daughter-in-law—at the head of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and purging the organization of all but his own people. Indicating its priorities, the RNC has hired Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, former correspondent at the right-wing media outlet One American News Network and promoter of the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, as senior counsel for election integrity.

    In Congress, far-right Trump supporters are paralyzing the House of Representatives. The Republicans took power after the midterm elections of 2022 and have run one of the least effective congresses in history. Far-right members have refused to agree to anything that didn’t meet their extremist positions, while first Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and then Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) refused to reach out to Democrats to pass legislation except for must-pass laws like appropriations, when Democrats provide the majority of the votes that keep the government functioning.

    The result has been a Congress that can get virtually nothing done and instead has focused on investigations of administration officials—including the president—which have failed spectacularly. Republican members who actually want to pass laws are either leaving or declining to run for reelection. The conference has become so toxic that fewer than 100 members agreed to attend their annual retreat that began today. "I'd rather sit down with Hannibal Lecter and eat my own liver," a Republican member of Congress told Juliegrace Brufke of Axios.

    Meanwhile, Trump has promised that if he returns to office, he will purge the nonpartisan civil service we have had since 1883, replacing career employees with his own loyalists. He has called for weaponizing the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, and his advisors say he will round up and put into camps 10 million people currently living in the U.S., not just undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers but also those with birthright citizenship, tossing away a right that has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1868.

    Internationally, he has aligned with dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and has threatened to abandon the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a security pact that has protected the U.S. and like-minded nations since 1949.

    If Trump has descended into authoritarianism since 2020, Biden has also changed. For all his many decades of public service, it was unclear in 2020 what he could actually accomplish as president, especially since Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had weaponized the filibuster to stop Congress from passing anything on the Democrats’ wish list. But on January 5, 2021, in a special election, Georgia voters elected Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and the Democrats took control of the Senate as well as of the House.

    In Biden’s first two years—with the help of then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who managed a squeaky-small House majority—Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Democratic majority, and on occasion, a few Republicans set out to demonstrate that the government could work for ordinary Americans. They passed a series of laws that rivaled President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s.

    The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan rebuilt the economy after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic; the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act) is rebuilding the nation’s roads and bridges; the $280 billion Chips and Science Act invests in semiconductor manufacture and scientific research; the $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act enables the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and invests in programs to combat climate change. Projects funded by these measures are so popular that Republicans who voted against them are trying to claim credit.

    Biden, Harris, and the Democrats have diversified the government service, defended abortion rights, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, relieved debt by enforcing the terms of student loans, passed a gun safety law, and reinforced NATO.

    They set out to overturn supply-side economics, restoring the system on which the nation had been based between 1933 and 1981, in which the government regulated business, maintained a basic social safety net, promoted infrastructure, and protected civil rights. The result was the strongest economic recovery from the pandemic of any country in the world.  

    “Now, the general election truly begins, and the contrast could not be clearer,” Harris wrote after Biden secured the nomination. “Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy and our fundamental freedoms. He is proud of his role in overturning Roe, and has talked openly about plans for a nationwide abortion ban. He routinely praises authoritarian leaders and has himself vowed to be a dictator on Day One. Just this week, he said that cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be on the table if he receives a second term. Each of these stances ought to be considered disqualifying by itself; taken together, they reveal the former President to be an existential danger to our country.

    “With his State of the Union speech last week, President Biden passionately presented our alternative vision. We will reduce costs for families, make housing more affordable, and raise the minimum wage. We will restore Roe, protect voting rights, and finally address our gun violence epidemic. The American people overwhelmingly support this agenda over Donald Trump’s extreme ideas, and that will propel our campaign in the months ahead.”

    It appears that Biden and Trump will square off again in 2024 as they did in 2020, but the election is not a replay of four years ago. Both candidates are now known quantities, and they have clearly laid out very different plans for America’s future.
    --
    Reminder: these Letters from an American are available in a free audio version at Substack, Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 35,684
      March 14, 2024 (Thursday)

    This morning, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), one of the highest-ranking Jewish officials in the U.S. government, said Israelis need to call new elections to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, Schumer said, “has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.” Schumer, who is a strong ally of Israel and who also blamed Hamas for the crisis in the Middle East, warned that the deadly toll on civilians in Gaza under the policies of Netanyahu’s government is “pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows. Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah.”

    Netanyahu needs to hold his far-right coalition together to escape the corruption trial in which he is currently at risk, and that coalition wants even more aggressive attacks on Hamas than the government has already launched. Netanyahu has announced that Israel’s forces are planning to invade the city of Rafah, where about 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering, despite President Joe Biden’s warning that such an invasion must have a plan to protect civilians “that was actually planned, prepared and implementable.”

    Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is so bad that the U.S. and other countries are conducting airdrops of essential relief—airdrops are a poor substitute for land-based aid—and Netanyahu’s government has rejected the call of neighboring Arab states, the U.S., and the European Union for a real path to a Palestinian state, instead trying to prevent such a state by pushing more settlements in the West Bank. On a hot mic at the State of the Union address last Tuesday, Biden told Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO): “I told him, Bibi…you and I are going to have a come to Jesus meeting,” slang for a meeting that precipitates a major change.

    Netanyahu’s far-right government is deeply unpopular in Israel. In January, only 15% of Israelis wanted him to keep his job after the war on Hamas ends, and three days ago the U.S. intelligence community assessed in its annual report on the threats facing the United States that “[d]istrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened across the public from its already high levels before the war, and we expect large protests demanding his resignation and new elections.” It concluded: “A different, more moderate government is a possibility.” Centrist political rival Benny Gantz has visited the U.S. and the U.K. recently.

    “As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may,” Schumer said. “But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice.”

    Netanyahu has forged strong ties in the U.S. with Republicans; in 2015 he spoke before Congress at the invitation of Republicans in an attempt to undermine then-president Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran to stop that country’s development of nuclear weapons. Today, Republicans slammed Schumer’s speech. House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said: “We need to be standing with Israel. We need to give our friends and allies our full support.”

    In Hungary today, the U.S. ambassador launched a similar pushback against a far-right leader whose personal interests are driving his country’s policies.

    Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hungary’s joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). U.S. Ambassador David Pressman used the occasion to warn Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán that the United States has lost patience with his embrace of Russian president Vladimir Putin, his undermining of support for Ukraine, and his open advocacy of Trump’s return to the White House.

    Pressman noted that the U.S. and Hungary have long historic ties, reaching all the way back to the American Revolution and the influence of revolutionary leader Lajos Kossuth—who is one of two foreign leaders whose busts are in the U.S. Capitol—on the defense of democracy in the years before the Civil War. “What unites these connections between our two nations is the shared longing of our peoples for liberty and democracy,” Pressman said.

    When Hungary joined NATO in 1999, Pressman noted, Viktor Orbán was prime minister, and he was proud of the country’s democratic future aligned with a transatlantic community of democracies. Now, he said, Hungary’s choices are increasingly isolating it from its friends and allies.

    “We cannot ignore it when the Speaker of Hungary’s National Assembly asserts that Putin’s war in Ukraine is actually ‘led by the United States,’” Pressman said. “We cannot ignore a sitting minister referring to the United States as a corpse whose nails continue to grow. We can neither understand nor accept the Prime Minister identifying the United States as a ‘top adversary’ of our Ally, Hungary. Or his assertion that the United States government is trying to overthrow the Hungarian government—literally, to ‘defeat’ him.”

    “While the Hungarian government’s wild rhetoric in state-controlled media may incite passion, or ignite an electoral base, the choice to issue, on a daily basis, dangerously unhinged anti-American messaging is a policy choice, and it risks changing Hungary’s relationship with America,” Pressman said.    

    The ambassador called out Orbán’s “systematic takeover of independent media,” the use of government power to “provide favorable treatment for companies owned by party leaders or their families, in-laws, or old friends,” and law defending “a single party’s effort to monopolize public discourse.” “[T]his is not something we expect from allies,” Pressman said. The U.S. seeks to engage through dialogue and is willing to speak honestly, he said, but he warned that the U.S. is ready “to act in response to choices the government is making.”

    “Hungary’s allies are warning Hungary of the dangers of its close and expanding relationship with Russia,” Pressman said. “If this is Hungary’s policy choice—and it has become increasingly clear that it is with the Foreign Minister’s sixth trip to Russia since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and with his next trip to Russia scheduled in two weeks, following his engagement with Russia’s Foreign Minister earlier this month, and the Prime Minister’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in China—we will have to decide how best to protect our security interests, which, as Allies, should be our collective security interests.”

    Pressman called out Orbán for his open support for Trump—Orbán visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago last week and has repeatedly expressed his hope that he will be returned to the White House—and his active participation in U.S. partisan political events. Orbán is a darling of the far right and has appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) more than once.  

    “While Hungary attempts to wait out those it disagrees with, whether in the United States or the European Union, the rest of the world is moving forward,” Pressman said. “While the Orbán government may want to wait out the United States Government, the United States will certainly not wait out the Orbán administration. While Hungary waits, we will act,” he said.

    “[W]e want what polls consistently show the vast majority of Hungarians want: a close relationship between the United States and Hungary, rooted in democratic values and shared security and prosperity. Exactly what the Prime Minister said he wanted 25 years ago,” he said. “And that is what we still want today.”    

    The U.S. has pledged to defend member states in the family of democracies, Pressman said, and while Hungary tied itself to those democracies 25 years ago, “this government’s actions and rhetoric make it sound like it does not feel so firmly anchored. The United States would not be acting as your ally if we did not forthrightly express concern about the course Hungary is charting, through rough seas of its own choosing. We anchored together 25 years ago as democratic Allies; it remains our hope that we sail forward together as part of a stronger, and now larger, democratic Alliance—a choice that remains up to Hungary, its government and its people.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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