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Letter From An American

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 23, 2021 (Friday)

    The big news today is the two-day climate conference of world leaders, which I will write about in the future, but I am still chewing over something from four days ago. Tonight’s post is a combination of history and speculation, so this is a good one to skip if you need a break from politics or you’re not interested in musings.

    If you’re still on board….
     
    On April 19, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who is the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in charge of fundraising to elect Republicans to the Senate, wrote an astonishing op-ed for Fox Business. It lashed out at “Woke Corporate America,” the corporations Scott blames for shunning states that are undermining voting rights in order to try to keep Republicans in power, particularly Major League Baseball. Using language that echoes that of former president Donald Trump, this scathing op-ed accuses business leaders of catering to “the rabble leftist mob” because they are “hoping to buy time to rake in more cash.” It warns, “There is a massive backlash coming. You will rue the day when it hits you. That day is November 8, 2022. That is the day Republicans will take back the Senate and the House. It will be a day of reckoning.”
     
    The man who is in charge of raising money to elect Republicans to the Senate, a businessman whose net worth is estimated to be more than $200 million, with his wife worth another $170–208 million, is turning viciously on the business people who, until now, have provided the financing to keep Republicans in office.
     
    This strikes me as an interesting moment.
     
    The ideological faction that is currently in control of the Republican Party grew out of opposition to the active government both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War II. But since Americans actually liked business regulation, a social safety net, and infrastructure projects, those Movement Conservatives who wanted to take the government back to the 1920s got little traction until 1954, when the Brown v. Board of Education decision enabled them to harness racism to their cause. With federal government efforts to end segregation in the public schools, businessmen who hated government regulation warned voters that their tax dollars were being used to give Black Americans extra benefits. It was socialism, they said, and it would encourage Black people to step out of their place.
     
    This formula worked. Businessmen determined to cut the government bankrolled Movement Conservative candidates, and people determined not to let their tax dollars go to Black or Brown people voted for them. In 1986, Grover Norquist, a former economist for the Chamber of Commerce, brought together business people, evangelicals, and social conservatives. “Traditional Republican business groups can provide the resources,” Norquist explained, “but these groups can provide the votes.”

    These two very different groups have worked together since the Reagan administration, but former president Trump changed the equation. In the past, the racist and sexist language was understated enough that supporters could wink at it and insist that those calling it out were overly sensitive. But Trump put it openly on the table.

    When Trump announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015, suggesting that Mexican immigrants to the U.S. are drug dealers, criminals, and rapists, supporters continued the old pattern of excusing that rhetoric. But in August 2017, when Trump appeared to side with the white supremacist mob that killed Heather Heyer and wounded 19 other counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his claim that there were “very fine people on both sides,” a split seemed to open up in the party. Fed on decades of racist and sexist rhetoric and emboldened by the president, white supremacists stepped into public view in a way that could not be ignored. And party leaders who depended on their votes did not turn away.

    But the calculation for business leaders changed with the January 6 insurrection and the attempts of states like Georgia to restrict the vote, largely to keep Black people from the polls. Consumers and employees are pressing business leaders to take a stand against the white supremacist wing of the party, and many of them are doing so. At the same time, though, small donors are making up for the money that corporations are withholding from Republican candidates. This seems to have inspired Senator Scott—who is in charge of fundraising, after all—to turn viciously on businessmen in order to court Trump loyalists.

    Could it be that after all these years the marriage of business and racist voters is twisting apart?

    If it is, it seems to me there are two logical outcomes to this split. It could be that the people running today’s businesses fall in line behind the white nationalists and let them call the shots, letting them take the lead in the old partnership for a change. If that happens, we can expect any future Republican government formally to throw out our foundational principle of equality before the law, and the vision that the former president and his followers embraced will come to pass.

    But there is another possible outcome. It was, after all, the marriage of these two very different groups that gave Movement Conservatives the power to take over the Republican Party in an attempt to destroy the post–World War II government. If they finally wrench apart, the remnants of the Republican Party would once again have to appeal to ordinary voters who want to keep the active government that provides Social Security and Medicare and roads and clean water but who want a real conversation about what that government should look like.

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
      April 24, 2021 (Saturday)

    Spring has sprung here, and life is starting to pick up again.

    Going to bed to get a jump on it. Will see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland]

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 25, 2021 (Sunday)
     
    On Thursday and Friday of last week, April 22 and 23, President Biden convened a virtual meeting of 40 world leaders to discuss addressing climate change. It is no longer possible to ignore changes in the world’s climate: the last decade was the hottest in recorded history, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached record levels. Arctic ice is melting; last summer’s fires in Australia, California, and Colorado were catastrophic.
     
    In 2015, representatives of more than 190 countries, including the U.S., gathered in Paris and hammered out an agreement on mitigating climate change, adapting to it, and financing those changes. Former president Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. On his first day in office, Biden took the U.S. back into the international agreement.
     
    But Biden seems not simply to be trying to adjust the nation’s energy production. With the Leaders Summit on Climate, Biden is taking what his Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm called “our generation’s moonshot,” a reference to the American determination to reach the moon in the 1960s, a goal that spurred previously unimaginable developments in technology, computers, and science.
     
    In the past, refusal to address the issue of climate change has centered around the idea that cutting back on fossil fuels would take jobs from coal miners and those in related fossil fuel industries. That focus was always about more than jobs: the hardworking white man in a hardhat was a cultural symbol for a certain political stance more than it was about reality. Walmart, for example, employs about 28 times the number of people as does coal, even including executives, office workers, and so on. Still, it’s a trope that worked in 2016: Trump won West Virginia by 42 points.
     
    But a lot has changed in the last four years.
     
    For one thing, the market for coal has slid, illustrating that old blue-collar jobs are not coming back. Trump promised to make coal great again and seemed to think that slashing environmental regulations would do the trick, but even combined with an infusion of up to $1 billion, slashing regulations could not stop Trump’s administration from overseeing the fastest decline of coal-fuel capacity in U.S. history. The U.S. lost 10% of coal-mining jobs—5300 of them—between 2016 and 2020. Low natural gas prices and the rise of wind and solar alternatives pushed coal aside. At the same time, mechanization across blue collar industries means the recovery of old manufacturing jobs is not in the cards.
     
    On April 19, the United Mine Workers of America, the largest coal miners’ union, backed Biden’s plan to move away from coal, so long as miners get government support to transition into similar jobs. In a plan endorsed by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia (who is well known for delivering for his constituents), the union asked for funding to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, clean up mining sites, and train workers for new jobs in new energy technologies.
     
    The sentiments of business leaders have shifted, too, as they recognize that climate change is a financial disruptor. Earlier this month, leaders of more than 400 businesses that collectively employ more than 7 million Americans signed a letter asking Biden to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. “To restore the standing of the U.S. as a global leader, we need to address the climate crisis at the pace and scale it demands,” they wrote. “New investment in clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation can build a strong, more equitable, and more inclusive American economy.” Signatories included Etsy, Facebook, Nike, Microsoft, Verizon, and Walmart.
     
    Biden has already embraced the idea that addressing climate change is not a loss but an opportunity. It will, he insists, bring good jobs to ordinary Americans. “When people talk about climate, I think jobs,” Biden said on Thursday. “Within our climate response lies an extraordinary engine of job creation and economic opportunity ready to be fired up.”
     
    Indeed, Biden’s American Jobs Plan already calls for $16 billion to clean up abandoned mining sites and more for the training in new infrastructure jobs coal miners want. It also addresses job losses in rural areas in an obvious but novel way: by supporting the caregiver economy. Caregiving jobs cannot ever be mechanized, and there are caregivers—and people who need care— in every single community in this country. Supporting those positions will bring money into towns left behind by the loss of jobs like mining.
     
    Biden’s emphasis on new energy jobs is part domestic politics, but it is also a major play for redefining future world power. It was no accident that the overarching political theme of last week’s conference was “America is back.”
     
    As the White House fact sheet on the conference stated: “Over the course of two days and eight sessions, President Biden convened heads of state and government, as well as leaders and representatives from international organizations, businesses, subnational governments, and indigenous communities, to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis, demonstrate the economic opportunities of the future, and affirm the need for unprecedented global cooperation and ambition to meet the moment.”

    America is back, indeed.
     
    But what does that mean, in this context? At the summit, Biden announced that by 2030 the U.S. would reduce emissions by 50–52% from the levels of 2005, more than doubling our commitment under the Paris Agreement. He called for other countries, which make up 85% of emissions, to “step up” to “tackle the climate crisis and support the most vulnerable.” (The U.S., which has 4% of the world’s population, emits 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases). This is all pretty standard for U.S. climate statements. Biden went farther, though, calling for changing the American economy over to renewables, including wind, solar, nuclear, and so on, to make the country carbon-free by 2035.
     
    Still, what jumps out from the rest of the Biden proposal is what sure looks like a major reworking of the world economy and thus its political tensions.
     
    While the U.S. focused on fossil fuels and refused to jump wholeheartedly into research and development of alternative energies, China did. That nation is still dependent on fossil fuels and expects not to reach its highest pollution levels until sometime before 2030, but it has heavily subsidized solar power and now has 8 of the top 10 solar companies in the world. America has one; Europe has none. Chinese dominance of the technology and supply chains for the solar industry threatens to sideline American technology and national security, as even American solar manufacturers depend on Chinese materials.
     
    Dominating the world of alternative energy would give China a powerful geopolitical tool. Remember how hard the supply chain failures in China during the early days of the coronavirus hit the U.S.? Now, think energy. A recent piece by Emerging Markets journalist Kenneth Rapoza in Forbes is titled: “How China’s Solar Industry Is Set Up To Be The New Green OPEC,” a reference to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose oil embargo to the U.S. in 1973 slammed the U.S. economy.

    Countries, especially weaker countries, would need to turn toward China if that’s where they get their energy technology. And even stronger countries would be dependent on China for one of their most vital needs. To forestall that scenario, Biden has stepped in to reclaim leadership on new energy technologies for the United States, enabling other countries to work toward an energy future that is not dominated by China. On April 22, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg signed onto the idea of NATO cooperation on climate change and other security challenges.

    After four years in which our leaders saw the height of American strength as standing alone, our leadership is now focusing on the idea of international teamwork. Biden’s climate plan is about saving the planet, but it also seems to be about saving global alliances, binding countries together with a new climate agreement to retain their power over their own energy in the future.

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 26, 2021 (Monday)

    In his first major speech as Secretary of State, Antony Blinken laid out the principles of the Biden administration in foreign policy, emphasizing that this administration believed foreign and domestic policy to be profoundly linked. Biden’s people would support democracy at home and abroad to combat the authoritarianism rising around the world… including in the U.S.

    “The more we and other democracies can show the world that we can deliver, not only for our people, but also for each other, the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes. It’s on us to prove them wrong,” Blinken said. “So the question isn’t if we will support democracy around the world, but how.” He answered: “We will use the power of our example.  We will encourage others to make key reforms, overturn bad laws, fight corruption, and stop unjust practices. We will incentivize democratic behavior.”

    President Joe Biden has set out a foreign policy that focuses on human rights and reaches out more to foreign peoples than to their governments, heartening protesters in authoritarian countries.

    On Saturday, Biden issued a document declaring that the displacement and slaughter of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 was a “genocide.” The U.S. had previously refused to recognize the ethnic cleansing for what it was because of the strategic importance of Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO (among other things, Turkey holds the straits that control access to the Black Sea, on which Russia and Ukraine, as well as other countries, sit).
     
    Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide is a reflection of the fact that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is increasingly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Taliban, and appears to be abandoning democracy in his own country, giving Biden the room to take a step popular in America but previously too undiplomatic to undertake. (Remember when Erdogan’s security staff beat up protesters in Washington, D.C., in 2017 and prosecutors dropped the charges?)

    Erdogan greeted Biden’s announcement with anger, demanding he retract it, but he also said he expected to discuss all of the disputes between the U.S. and Turkey at the June NATO summit. Geopolitics in Erdogan’s part of the world are changing, as Putin is struggling at home with protests against his treatment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and with the new U.S. sanctions that, by making it hard for him to float government bonds, could weaken his economy further. It is looking more and more likely that Biden and Putin will also have a summit early this summer.
     
    Biden’s emphasis on ordinary people and his attempt to illustrate the power of democracy showed today, too, when the Biden administration announced it would share as many as 60 million doses of our stockpiled AstraZeneca shots with the world once they pass safety reviews.
     
    But the news shows that Biden’s concerns about the rise of authoritarianism at home are well founded. Republican pundits and lawmakers are rallying their supporters to a world that is based not in reality, but rather in what they consider to be fundamental truths: a hallmark of authoritarians.

    The ridiculous idea that Biden’s climate proposals would mean that Biden was banning meat swept through the right-wing echo chamber this weekend. It appears to have originated in an entirely unrelated academic paper from 2020 that explored how changing the American diet might affect greenhouse gas emissions. Still, the Fox News Channel (FNC) claimed that Biden was cutting “90% of red meat from diet,” and restricting people to “one burger per month," and lawmakers joined the chorus.
     
    The right seems increasingly detached from reality, but it is a detachment with a purpose.
     
    Right-wing pundits are fantasizing about being afraid of the left. After the guilty verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he died, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) both implied that the nation’s cities are boarded up and people are cowering in fear from protesters against police brutality. They seem to be saying that imagined excesses of the left justify extreme behavior from the right. That is, in their telling, left-wing protesters are so out of control, their actions justify any sort of a crackdown they bring upon themselves.
     
    On Twitter, lawyer and political writer Teri Kanefield did a deeper dive on the way lies serve the authoritarian government of fascism. Stories like that about meat, or about the inhabitants of the nation’s capital being afraid to go outside, or the idea that the January 6 insurrectionists were Biden supporters are not true, and those who tell them know it. But those lies illuminate what those who tell them see as a higher truth, doing so in a way that ordinary people can understand. People challenging the lie prove they do not accept the higher truth, and thus are enemies.
     
    History suggests we’re in dangerous territory.

    Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the “Combatting Public Disorder Act,” designed, as he said, to “stand for the rule of law and public safety.” Recalling the summer’s protests, he said, “We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence. We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters.”

    The new law lowers a “riot” to three people and dramatically increases punishments for “rioting,” including the loss of the right to vote. It also makes local governments financially liable if they do not respond aggressively enough to “unlawful assembly,” and it protects people who happen to injure or kill a protester during a riot, including by driving a car into them.

    But a study by The Guardian, released earlier this month, suggests that the summer’s mass arrests were an attempt to control crowds, silence protests, and turn observers against the protesters by portraying them as violent and lawbreaking. Law enforcement dropped, dismissed, or never filed the vast majority of citations and charges it issued to Black Lives Matter protesters.

    Guardian reporter Tom Perkins looked at 12 different jurisdictions and found that in most of them, including in Minneapolis where Floyd was killed, at least 90% of the cases were dropped or dismissed. In Dallas and Philadelphia, 95% of the cases were dropped. In San Francisco, 100% of the cases related to peaceful protest were dismissed. In Detroit, most of the tickets were written by officers who were not themselves at the protests.
     
    Tonight, FNC personality Carlson called for his audience to start direct action. He told them to confront people wearing masks, which he says are signs of “political obedience.” He maintained that 64% of white Americans who called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal” “have been diagnosed with an actual mental health condition.” He called them “aggressors” and told supporters, “it’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in.” He said to call the police immediately if they see children wearing masks and keep calling until someone arrives: it is child abuse, he says, and his audience is “morally obligated to prevent it.”

    The chyron under his monologue read: “THIS ISN’T ABOUT SCIENCE. IT’S ABOUT POWER.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 27,590
    mickeyrat said:
     April 26, 2021 (Monday)

    In his first major speech as Secretary of State, Antony Blinken laid out the principles of the Biden administration in foreign policy, emphasizing that this administration believed foreign and domestic policy to be profoundly linked. Biden’s people would support democracy at home and abroad to combat the authoritarianism rising around the world… including in the U.S.

    “The more we and other democracies can show the world that we can deliver, not only for our people, but also for each other, the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes. It’s on us to prove them wrong,” Blinken said. “So the question isn’t if we will support democracy around the world, but how.” He answered: “We will use the power of our example.  We will encourage others to make key reforms, overturn bad laws, fight corruption, and stop unjust practices. We will incentivize democratic behavior.”

    President Joe Biden has set out a foreign policy that focuses on human rights and reaches out more to foreign peoples than to their governments, heartening protesters in authoritarian countries.

    On Saturday, Biden issued a document declaring that the displacement and slaughter of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 was a “genocide.” The U.S. had previously refused to recognize the ethnic cleansing for what it was because of the strategic importance of Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO (among other things, Turkey holds the straits that control access to the Black Sea, on which Russia and Ukraine, as well as other countries, sit).
     
    Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide is a reflection of the fact that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is increasingly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Taliban, and appears to be abandoning democracy in his own country, giving Biden the room to take a step popular in America but previously too undiplomatic to undertake. (Remember when Erdogan’s security staff beat up protesters in Washington, D.C., in 2017 and prosecutors dropped the charges?)

    Erdogan greeted Biden’s announcement with anger, demanding he retract it, but he also said he expected to discuss all of the disputes between the U.S. and Turkey at the June NATO summit. Geopolitics in Erdogan’s part of the world are changing, as Putin is struggling at home with protests against his treatment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and with the new U.S. sanctions that, by making it hard for him to float government bonds, could weaken his economy further. It is looking more and more likely that Biden and Putin will also have a summit early this summer.
     
    Biden’s emphasis on ordinary people and his attempt to illustrate the power of democracy showed today, too, when the Biden administration announced it would share as many as 60 million doses of our stockpiled AstraZeneca shots with the world once they pass safety reviews.
     
    But the news shows that Biden’s concerns about the rise of authoritarianism at home are well founded. Republican pundits and lawmakers are rallying their supporters to a world that is based not in reality, but rather in what they consider to be fundamental truths: a hallmark of authoritarians.

    The ridiculous idea that Biden’s climate proposals would mean that Biden was banning meat swept through the right-wing echo chamber this weekend. It appears to have originated in an entirely unrelated academic paper from 2020 that explored how changing the American diet might affect greenhouse gas emissions. Still, the Fox News Channel (FNC) claimed that Biden was cutting “90% of red meat from diet,” and restricting people to “one burger per month," and lawmakers joined the chorus.
     
    The right seems increasingly detached from reality, but it is a detachment with a purpose.
     
    Right-wing pundits are fantasizing about being afraid of the left. After the guilty verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he died, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) both implied that the nation’s cities are boarded up and people are cowering in fear from protesters against police brutality. They seem to be saying that imagined excesses of the left justify extreme behavior from the right. That is, in their telling, left-wing protesters are so out of control, their actions justify any sort of a crackdown they bring upon themselves.
     
    On Twitter, lawyer and political writer Teri Kanefield did a deeper dive on the way lies serve the authoritarian government of fascism. Stories like that about meat, or about the inhabitants of the nation’s capital being afraid to go outside, or the idea that the January 6 insurrectionists were Biden supporters are not true, and those who tell them know it. But those lies illuminate what those who tell them see as a higher truth, doing so in a way that ordinary people can understand. People challenging the lie prove they do not accept the higher truth, and thus are enemies.
     
    History suggests we’re in dangerous territory.

    Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the “Combatting Public Disorder Act,” designed, as he said, to “stand for the rule of law and public safety.” Recalling the summer’s protests, he said, “We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence. We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters.”

    The new law lowers a “riot” to three people and dramatically increases punishments for “rioting,” including the loss of the right to vote. It also makes local governments financially liable if they do not respond aggressively enough to “unlawful assembly,” and it protects people who happen to injure or kill a protester during a riot, including by driving a car into them.

    But a study by The Guardian, released earlier this month, suggests that the summer’s mass arrests were an attempt to control crowds, silence protests, and turn observers against the protesters by portraying them as violent and lawbreaking. Law enforcement dropped, dismissed, or never filed the vast majority of citations and charges it issued to Black Lives Matter protesters.

    Guardian reporter Tom Perkins looked at 12 different jurisdictions and found that in most of them, including in Minneapolis where Floyd was killed, at least 90% of the cases were dropped or dismissed. In Dallas and Philadelphia, 95% of the cases were dropped. In San Francisco, 100% of the cases related to peaceful protest were dismissed. In Detroit, most of the tickets were written by officers who were not themselves at the protests.
     
    Tonight, FNC personality Carlson called for his audience to start direct action. He told them to confront people wearing masks, which he says are signs of “political obedience.” He maintained that 64% of white Americans who called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal” “have been diagnosed with an actual mental health condition.” He called them “aggressors” and told supporters, “it’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in.” He said to call the police immediately if they see children wearing masks and keep calling until someone arrives: it is child abuse, he says, and his audience is “morally obligated to prevent it.”

    The chyron under his monologue read: “THIS ISN’T ABOUT SCIENCE. IT’S ABOUT POWER.”

    What was that about ‘Murica turning into a Nazi like regime again? It’s early yet but we’re well on our way. Give it another 2-4 years to stew and fester. And just wait until POOTWH’s kids really enter the fray.
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    "If you're looking down on someone, it better be to extend them a hand to lift them up."

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 27, 2021 (Tuesday)
     
    More than 140 military leaders, former national security officials, and elected officials from both parties have asked Congress to establish a commission to figure out what led to the January 6 insurrection, when rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, and how to stop a similar coup attempt in the future.

    Yesterday, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) told reporters that the proposed congressional commission should focus solely on that attack. "What happened on January 6 is unprecedented in our history, and I think that it's very important that the commission be able to focus on that," she said. "It's very important that the January 6 commission focus on what happened on January 6 and what led to that day."
     
    Cheney is staking out turf apart from that of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has said any commission should cover political violence in general, including Black Lives Matter protesters and Antifa protests. And yet, an investigation by The Guardian established that more than 90% of arrests at Black Lives Matter protests never led to charges and were apparently at least in part to feed a narrative that the BLM protesters were violent.
     
    Cheney and McCarthy are parting ways over what they see the future of the Republican Party to be. Cheney voted to convict former president Trump of incitement of insurrection for the events of January 6 and clearly wants to keep herself from the contamination of that crisis.
     
    McCarthy, in contrast, has come back to the Trump fold. Immediately after the January 6 attack, a number of Republicans who had witnessed the events said that McCarthy called Trump to beg him to call off the insurrectionists. Trump had said to him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” to which McCarthy responded: “Who the F—k do you think you’re talking to?”
     
    Nonetheless, later that night, McCarthy joined the majority of the House Republicans to object to the counting of the certified state ballots electing Joe Biden president. Although he later said that the former president “bears responsibility” for the assault, he voted against his impeachment for incitement of insurrection.
     
    What is at stake is the future of the Republican Party. What is also at stake is the future of the country.
     
    McCarthy doesn’t want to alienate Trump or his supporters because he sees them as key to future electoral victories. On Fox News Sunday this week, Chris Wallace asked McCarthy whether the story about his angry phone call with Trump on January 6 was true, but, despite witnesses, McCarthy refused to answer. He would like to keep Trump voters behind Republican candidates and has suggested forcing Cheney out of her leadership position in the party.
     
    The Trump loyalists in the party are trying to take over the party in its entirety. Trump and his supporters have continued to feed the idea that Biden cheated Trump out of his election win until now more than two thirds of Republicans say they believe Biden did not win the election. (He did. This is well established.)
     
    To continue to feed this Big Lie, Republicans in the Arizona state senate have turned to a private company for a vote audit in Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa. The vote has already been audited at least twice, under formal rules, and both audits turned up no fraud. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, a Republican, said there was no need to review the ballots again.

    In contrast to the trained election officials, the company the Republicans tapped is run by a conspiracy theorist who supports the idea that voter fraud stole the election from Trump; he claims Trump actually won by 200,000 votes. When a judge ordered the company, Cyber Ninjas, to explain publicly how it was conducting the audit, company attorneys refused. A reporter who observed the early process by claiming to be a volunteer noted that the volunteers helping with the audit were using pens that could be picked up by the scanners. The ballots are no longer secure, so whatever this so-called audit claims is automatically suspect.
     
    Tying the Republican Party to the Big Lie that caused the January 6 insurrection is a dangerous game. It is still unclear what will come out about the insurrection and the media lies that supported it and continue to support it.

    While officials in the Department of Justice have been quiet about investigations of the insurrection, that does not mean they are ignoring it: it is not appropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation. Indeed, more than four hundred people have already been arrested for their participation in the insurrection, and news broke yesterday that the FBI had at least four informants within the Proud Boys, the right-wing organization that allegedly provided security for Trump adviser Roger Stone in the days around the insurrection. The Department of Justice has announced it expects to charge at least 100 more individuals.

    There are also suggestive insurrection-adjacent stories swirling. A far-right British agitator, Tommy Robinson, who urged Trump supporters to keep fighting after the insurrection and who appeared in right-wing U.S. media, is now affiliating himself with Russia.  

    If Russian disinformation is indeed involved in the Big Lie, it might well be revealed: nine regional military commanders last year asked the intelligence community to declassify information about the ways in which Russia and China are undermining U.S. national security by shaping public opinion. Yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines announced that the administration will establish a new center to coordinate intelligence about foreign interference in U.S. politics. Haines noted that “[E]fforts by U.S. adversaries seek to exacerbate divisions and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions.”

    Lawyers from the Justice Department have been arguing in court lately that Trump’s continued lying about the election, along with the amplification of those lies by right-wing media, remains an ongoing threat.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 28, 2021 (Wednesday)
     
    Earlier today, in anticipation of tonight’s address to Congress, President Joe Biden met with news anchors. The president told them that his many meetings with foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, have convinced him that the story of this moment is whether democracy can survive the challenges of the twenty-first century. As things speed up, is it possible, he asked, to achieve the consensus necessary for democracy in time to compete with autocracy?
     
    He told the anchors that “they’re going to write about this point in history.”
     
    Biden nailed it. The struggle to preserve democracy is precisely what the story of this moment is—although it started long ago in the U.S., at least—and historians are already writing about it that way.
     
    In the United States, the move toward oligarchy had been underway for decades. First, Movement Conservatives, who wanted to destroy the liberal state President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created, increasingly grabbed power through voter suppression, gerrymandering, filling the courts with originalist judges, focusing on the idea of the so-called “unitary executive,” and propaganda. Once they controlled the Republican Party, their techniques left it open to a leader like Trump to gather power to himself alone. Their admiration for oligarchy left them open to autocracy.
     
    And now the Republican Party appears to have embraced Trump over any principles the party once held. Its leaders support the Big Lie that Trump won the election and are exercising their control of certain state legislatures to cement their power in enough states to control the federal government. They are passing laws to restrict voting and outlaw protesting; at the same time they have given up on policy and are relying on such blatant propaganda that just yesterday a writer for the pro-Trump New York Post felt obliged to quit after writing a completely fabricated story.
     
    Biden is calling this move to autocracy like it is, and making a bid to shift the course of the nation.
     
    Today, the Department of Justice executed search warrants on both the Manhattan home and the office of Trump’s ally and former lawyer Rudy Giuliani as part of an investigation into Giuliani’s adventures in Ukraine as he tried to dig up dirt on Biden’s son Hunter. Experts say such a search against a lawyer, and against a president’s former lawyer, to boot, is extraordinary. To get a warrant, investigators had to convince a judge that they believed it would turn up evidence of a crime that they knew had been committed. Political appointees in Trump’s Department of Justice had blocked such a warrant in the past, but Attorney General Merrick Garland lifted the block.
     
    Federal officials also executed a search warrant on Victoria Toensing, a media personality and lawyer associated with Giuliani on his Ukraine work. The details of that search are still murky (but my long-time readers will be pleased to know that Lev Parnas is relevant).
     
    Also today, federal prosecutors have added conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction to the charges against three men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and a jury in New York today convicted a Trump supporter of making a death threat against elected officials for his statements in a video he posted online after the January 6 insurrection calling for the “slaughter” of Democratic senators. The penalty for such a crime is up to ten years in prison.
     
    While authorities seem finally to be exploring the potential lawbreaking of the previous administration, Biden is properly entrusting law enforcement to the branch of government responsible for it, leaving the actions of the previous administration to the Department of Justice and state and local authorities. He is also refusing to engage in the rhetorical brawls the right wing is trying to spark, ignoring, for example, the ridiculous story that he was going to outlaw the consumption of meat, or that the federal government had bought and distributed copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’s children’s book to incoming refugees, both of which then blew up in the faces of those who had pushed them.
     
    Instead, Biden is advancing a vision of an active government that levels the legal, economic, and social playing field for all Americans. While observers tend to associate this vision with FDR, who gave us our modern government, in fact that vision has been shared by all our greatest presidents.
     
    Indeed, it was Republican Abraham Lincoln who first proposed the idea that the country does best when government guarantees equality before the law and works to guarantee equality of resources to all. Under Lincoln, the Republican Party established public colleges, put farmers on land, built railroads, and backed Black equality before the law, paying for those things with our first national taxes, including an income tax.
     
    Republican Theodore Roosevelt took that idea a step further, addressing the extremes of industrialization with a federal government strong enough to regulate business and provide support for labor. Democrat FDR went much further, using the government not just to regulate business but to provide a basic social safety net—Social Security and the Works Progress Administration, for example—and to promote infrastructure through investments like the Tennessee Valley Authority, which brought electricity and flood control to what had been a neglected region, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, which enabled men to recover the landscape from the ravages of the Dust Bowl.   
     
    Biden is in the mold of such predecessors, but his vision is new. He wants the government to support all Americans, beginning not with the ability of a man to support his family but with the idea of protecting children. Since the beginning of his presidency, he has focused on rebuilding the economy by improving the conditions in which children live—famously, reformers credited his American Rescue Plan with reducing by half the number of children living in poverty—and with the plan he announced tonight, he illustrated this reworking of society by investing in our children.

    The American Families Plan calls for investing $1.8 trillion in education, providing free schooling from pre-kindergarten through community college. It calls for funding for childcare and paid family medical leave, and it includes more money for fighting child poverty. Biden plans to pay for this, in part, by enforcing existing tax laws which wealthy people and corporations currently slide by, raising as much as $700 billion. Biden also proposes increasing the top tax rate from 37% to 39.6%, the rate it was under President George W. Bush, and by increasing the capital gains rate.  

    “The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent,” Biden reminded us tonight, in an echo of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. “Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us —created equal in the image of God—have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?  Can our democracy deliver on the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart?”

    The world’s autocrats are betting it can’t, Biden said. But he listed the accomplishments of the past 99 days, when the people of the United States came together to administer 200 million doses of vaccine and create hundreds of thousands of jobs and he pointed out: “It’s never been a good bet to bet against America.”

    “Our Constitution opens with the words, ‘We the People,’” Biden reminded his listeners tonight. And “it’s time we remembered that We the People are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over. It’s us. It’s ‘We the people.’”  

    And if we remember that and come together, he said, “then we will meet the central challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong.” “The autocrats will not win the future….

    America will.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 29, 2021 (Thursday)
     
    Today marks the hundredth day of the Biden-Harris administration. In many ways, the hundred-day mark is arbitrary, a holdover from the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who worked with Congress to pass 76 new laws by the end of his first 100 days, setting a high bar for a consequential presidency. A hundred days is not an entirely useless metric, though, because by that time, a modern president has generally set the tone of the administration. Crucial to the success of that tone is having scored a major win. That, in turn, sets the tone for public reaction to a presidency, which then feeds the administration’s momentum.
     
    When President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office on January 20, 2021, they were facing crises that rivaled the ones faced by FDR and even by President Abraham Lincoln, who took office after a number of southern states had declared they were leaving the United States to form their own confederacy.
     
    Biden and Harris took office after the former president had supported an insurrection to overturn the results of the election and seize power. Trump denied the legitimacy of their election (and continues to deny it) despite more than 60 lawsuit outcomes that upheld it, while 147 members of Congress sided with the former president, challenging at least one of the official state-certified ballots that made Biden president. The actions of the former president were unprecedented, breaking our previous history of peaceful transitions of power, and on January 20, Washington, D.C., was patrolled by troops stationed there to protect the incoming government.
     
    When Biden took office, the novel coronavirus was ravaging the country. More than 24 million of us had been infected with the virus, and more than 400,000 Americans had died of Covid-19, including 2727 deaths the day before Biden was sworn in. New variants were spreading, and while the previous administration had begun vaccinations, reaching about 4% of the population, it had not arranged for distribution of them, planning simply to get them to states and let the states handle the process from there.
     
    The economy was under water. More than ten million people were out of work and another 3.9 million had stopped even looking. Economic growth before the pandemic was modest—2.2%—but the economy contracted during the crisis. Biden also inherited the biggest federal debt since World War II, standing at over $21.6 trillion. That debt was not simply a product of the coronavirus recession: Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, passed without a single Democratic vote, cost almost $230 billion, helping to create a federal deficit of $984 billion even before the pandemic hit.  
     
    The first tweet Biden sent as president made a marked contrast from what Americans had seen for the previous four years. “There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face,” Biden wrote. “That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.”
     
    And he did.
     
    After he was sworn in and the ceremonies were over, Biden went to the Oval Office and began the process of signing more than a dozen executive actions that either addressed the pandemic or rolled back some of the policies of the previous administration.
     
    During the campaign, Biden had promised to hit 100 million vaccine doses delivered in his first 100 days; on January 25, he increased that number to 200 million. By February, the administration had bought enough vaccines to inoculate all Americans and had begun to open mass vaccination sites. By April 22, the United States had met Biden’s goal of 200 million vaccinations, a week ahead of time.
     
    On January 20, Biden announced the American Rescue Plan to rebuild the nation after the ravages of the pandemic. It appropriated $1.9 trillion to expand unemployment benefits, make direct payments to individuals, increase food security, fund housing, move children out of poverty, support small businesses, and fund support for healthcare and Covid vaccines. The plan passed Congress, and Biden signed it into law on March 11, less than two months after he took office, a major win.
     
    The job market is rebounding. For the third straight week, initial jobless claims—which are a way to look at layoffs-- have dropped below 600,000, the lowest they’ve been in a year. At the same time, U.S. employers added more than 900,000 jobs in March, and economists expect to see more than a half a million new jobs a month for the next year. That will not end the economic crisis of the past year—we are still down 8.4 million jobs from the beginning of the pandemic—but numbers are moving in the right direction. In the first quarter of 2021, the economy grew at an annual rate of 6.4%
     
    A problem for the administration that did not show up in the media last January was the budding crisis at our southern border, where numbers of refugees were about to surge both with seasonal migration and with those held at the border by the former administration. The administration adhered to Covid protocols, turning away from admission all but unaccompanied children. This initially created a surge of children in Border Patrol and Health and Human Services facilities, but the administration has worked to get the situation under control. The number of children in the custody of Border Patrol has dropped 82% in the past month, leaving fewer than 1000 still in custody. The problem is not solved—the children still need to be moved out of Health and Human Services facilities—but it seems to be getting into order.
     
    But Biden has done more than address the coronavirus crisis, the economy, or the refugee crisis. He is reclaiming the nation from the policies of the Reagan Revolution, rejecting the idea central to that revolution, that government is bad by nature and that the country works best when we turn it over to individual actors. He is doing so by working around the Republican lawmakers who are determined to obstruct him at every turn, appealing instead to ordinary Republican voters, who actually want many of the same things ordinary Democratic voters do. The American Rescue Plan, for example, was popular with 77% of Americans, although it received not a single Republican vote.
     
    Biden is reasserting the idea that government can address problems that can only be fixed at a national scale—problems like a pandemic and the economy—but he is not resurrecting the idea of using the government to protect the ability of men to support their families, as FDR did. He is adapting the idea of an active government to the civil rights movements after World War II, defending the rights of Americans as individuals, rather than as members of nuclear families. His administration is centering children and those who take care of them, rather than shoring up any particular family structure.

    His revision of the American dream shows in his appointment of the most diverse cabinet in American history: 58% of his political appointees are women while half identify as non-white, 15% were the first in their families to go to college, and 32% are naturalized citizens or first-generation Americans. He chose the first female vice president, the first female Treasury Secretary, the first Indigenous American to lead the Interior Department, and the first Black head of the Pentagon.

    One thing, though, about what sure seems to be a very strong start from the Biden administration…. Never forget that what made the American Rescue Plan possible was the election of Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia. Had the Democrats not held 50 seats in the Senate, enabling them to enact the American Rescue Plan through reconciliation, Biden would be able to maneuver only through executive orders, since Republicans in the Senate would have stopped all legislation.

    Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, traveled today to Plains, Georgia, to visit former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. “We owe a special thanks to the people of Georgia. Because of you, the rest of America was able to get help,” Biden said to reporters while he was there. “If you ever wonder if elections make a difference, just remember what you did here in Georgia.... You changed America.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     April 30, 2021 (Friday)
     
    In a hearing today before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee charged with investigating technology and information warfare, cyber policy and national security expert Dr. Herb Lin of the Hoover Institution told lawmakers that in the modern era we are not formally at war, but we are not at peace either:
     
    “Information warfare threat to the United States is different from past threats, and it has the potential to destroy reason and reality as a basis for societal discourse, replacing them with rage and fantasy. Perpetual civil war, political extremism, waged in the information sphere and egged on by our adversaries is every bit as much of an existential threat to American civilization and democracy as any military threat imaginable.”
     
    His warning comes two days after the power of warfare waged with disinformation once again became a top story in the U.S. On Wednesday, federal officials executed a search warrant on the home and office of Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. To conduct such a search, investigators had to convince a judge that they had good reason to think a crime had been committed.
     
    Investigators appear to be focusing on Giuliani’s successful attempt to get the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, recalled on April 24, 2019. Yovanovitch was one of our very top diplomats. She stood firmly against corruption in Ukraine, earning the fury of oligarchs connected to Russia, especially Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko; the country’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko; and the country’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, who was fired for corruption. They wanted her gone.
     
    On the surface, the case is about whether or not Giuliani was working for Ukrainian oligarchs as well as Trump when he undermined Yovanovitch. But it is really a story about disinformation. Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch out of the way because she refused to enable his attempt to manufacture dirt on the son of then-candidate Joe Biden, an effort designed to make it possible for Trump to win reelection.
     
    A quick recap of the Yovanovitch part of the story: In late 2018, Ukraine-born American businessman Lev Parnas introduced Giuliani to Shokin, who was willing to say that he was fired because he was looking into Burisma, a company on whose board Hunter Biden sat (this was false). In December, Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman attended the annual White House Hanukkah party. Parnas later told people they had a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani, who gave them “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into the Bidens.

    In January 2019, Giuliani tried to get a visa for Shokin to come to the U.S., but Yovanovitch denied it. So Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman interviewed Shokin and Lutsenko where they were.

    For the next three months, Lutsenko and Giuliani sparred over the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, apparently in exchange for the removal of Yovanovitch. Meanwhile, in the U.S., journalist John Solomon, who was in contact with Lutsenko, wrote articles for The Hill attacking both the Bidens and Yovanovitch, and claiming that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

    And then on April 21, Porosheko lost a presidential election to Volodymyr Zelensky.

    On April 23, Giuliani announced on Twitter that Ukraine was investigating Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC for conspiring with “Ukrainians and others to affect 2016 election.” And the next day, Yovanovitch was recalled.

    The rest is history (sorry!): in the infamous phone call of July 25, 2019, Trump asked Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens before the U.S. would release congressional appropriations to enable Ukraine to fight Russian incursions, a whistleblower complained, the Department of Justice tried to hide the complaint, and the Trump presidency began to unravel.

    As the Ukraine scandal worked its way toward the president’s impeachment, Giuliani did not let up on his insistence that Ukraine, not Russia, had tried to undermine the 2016 election, and he continued to push that lie. By late 2019, the FBI warned Giuliani that Russian intelligence was targeting him to circulate lies about Biden. (It also warned One America News.) According to former FBI Special Agent and lawyer Asha Rangappa, officials likely did so both as a warning and to see if he would break away from the disinformation. He did not.

    What is at stake in the recent story of the federal investigation of Giuliani is the role of disinformation in our politics. Crucially, Giuliani and Trump did not want an actual investigation of the Bidens: they just wanted an announcement of an investigation. An announcement would be enough for the media to pick up the story, and the fact it was made up out of whole cloth wouldn’t matter. People would believe there was something fishy with the man whom Trump feared (rightly, as it turned out) as his chief rival for the presidency, and his candidacy would be hobbled.

    It doesn’t matter, Dr. Lin pointed out to the subcommittee today, whether foreign actors are working in concert or in parallel with American actors when they spread disinformation: the destabilizing effect is the same.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     May 1, 2021 (Saturday)

    In honor of this year's Kentucky Derby (won today by Medina Spirit), I'm posting a piece my friend Michael S. Green and I wrote together a number of years ago on Ten Famous American Horses. It has no deep meaning... it's just fun. It remains one of my favorite things I had a hand in writing, and I'm pleased to have an excuse to share it.

    I'll be back on the usual beat tomorrow.

    1) Traveller

    General Robert E. Lee rode Traveller (spelled with two Ls, in the British style) from February 1862 until the general’s death in 1870. Traveller was a grey American Saddlebred of 16 hands. He had great endurance for long marches, and was generally unflappable in battle, although he once broke both of General Lee’s hands when he shied at enemy movements. Lee brought Traveller with him when he assumed the presidency of Washington and Lee University. Traveller died of tetanus in 1871. He is buried on campus, where the safe ride program still uses his name.

    2) Comanche

    Comanche was attached to General Custer’s detachment of the 7th Cavalry when it engaged the Lakota in 1876 at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The troops in the detachment were all killed in the engagement, but soldiers found Comanche, badly wounded, two days later. They nursed him back to health, and he became the 7th Cavalry’s mascot. The commanding officer decreed that the horse would never again be ridden, and that he would always be paraded, draped in black, in all military ceremonies involving the 7th Cavalry. When Comanche died of colic in 1891, he was given a full military funeral (the only other horse so honored was Black Jack, who served in more than a thousand military funerals in the 1950s and 1960s). Comanche’s taxidermied body is preserved in the Natural History Museum at the University Of Kansas.

    3) Beautiful Jim Key

    Beautiful Jim Key was a performing horse trained by formerly enslaved veterinarian Dr. William Key. Key demonstrated how Beautiful Jim could read, write, do math, tell time, spell, sort mail, and recite the Bible. Beautiful Jim performed from 1897 to 1906 and became a legend. An estimated ten million Americans saw him perform, and others collected his memorabilia – buttons, photos, and postcards – or danced the Beautiful Jim Key two-step. Dr. Key insisted that he had taught Beautiful Jim using only kindness, and Beautiful Jim Key’s popularity was important in preventing cruelty to animals in America, with more than 2 million children signing the Jim Key Band of Mercy, in which they pledged: “I promise always to be kind to animals.”

    4) Man o’ War

    Named for his owner, August Belmont, Jr., who was overseas in WWI, Man o’ War is widely regarded as the top Thoroughbred racehorse of all time. He won 20 of his 21 races and almost a quarter of a million dollars in the early twentieth century. His one loss – to “Upset” – came after a bad start. Man o’ War sired many of America’s famous racehorses, including Hard Tack, which in turn sired Seabiscuit, the small horse that came to symbolize hope during the Great Depression.

    5) Trigger

    Entertainer Roy Rogers chose the palomino Trigger from five rented horses to be his mount in a Western film in the 1930s, changing his name from Golden Cloud to Trigger because of his quick mind and feet. Rogers rode Trigger in his 1950s television series, making the horse a household name. When Trigger died, Rogers had his skin draped over a Styrofoam mold and displayed it in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in California. He also had a 24-foot statue of Trigger made from steel and fiberglass. One other copy of that mold was also made: it is “Bucky the Bronco,” which rears above the Denver Broncos stadium south scoreboard.

    6) Sergeant Reckless

    American Marines in Korea bought a mare in October 1952 from a Korean stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister, who had stepped on a land mine. The marines named her Reckless after their unit’s nickname, the Reckless Rifles. They made a pet of her, and trained her to carry supplies and to evacuate wounded. She learned to travel supply routes without a guide: on one notable day she made 51 solo trips. Wounded twice, she was given a battlefield rank of corporal in 1953 and promoted to sergeant after the war, when she was also awarded two Purple Hearts and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

    7) Mr. Ed

    Mr. Ed was a talking palomino in a 1960s television show by the same name. At a time when Westerns dominated American television, Mr. Ed was the anti-Western, with the main human character a klutzy architect and the hero a horse that was fond of his meals and his comfortable life, and spoke with the voice of Allan “Rocky” Lane, who made dozens of “B” westerns. But the show was a five-year hit as it married the past to the future. Mr. Ed offered a gentle homely wisdom that enabled him to straighten out the troubles of the humans around him. The startling special effects that made it appear that the horse was talking melded modern technology with the comforting traditional community depicted in the show.

    8) Black Jack

    Black Jack, named for John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, was the riderless black horse in the funerals of John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, and Douglas MacArthur, as well as more than a thousand other funerals with full military honors. A riderless horse, with boots reversed in the stirrups, symbolized a fallen leader, while Black Jack’s brands – a US brand and an army serial number – recalled the army’s history. Black Jack himself was buried with full military honors; the only other horse honored with a military funeral was Comanche.

    9) Khartoum

    Khartoum was the prize stud horse of Jack Woltz, the fictional Hollywood mogul in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. In one of the film version’s most famous scenes, after Woltz refuses requests from Don Vito Corleone to cast singer Johnny Fontane in a movie, Woltz wakes up to find Khartoum’s head in bed with him…and agrees to use Fontane in the film. In the novel, Fontane wins the Academy Award for his performance. According to old Hollywood rumor, the story referred to real events. The rumor was that mobsters persuaded Columbia Pictures executive Harry Cohn to cast Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity. As Maggio, Sinatra revived his sagging film career and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

    10) Secretariat

    Secretariat was an American Thoroughbred that in 1973 became the first U.S. Triple Crown winner in 25 years. His records in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes still stand. After Secretariat was stricken with a painful infection and euthanized in 1989, an autopsy revealed that he had an unusually big heart. Sportswriter Red Smith once asked his trainer how Secretariat had run one morning; Charlie Hatton replied, “The trees swayed.”

    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 33,989
    mickeyrat said:
     May 1, 2021 (Saturday)

    In honor of this year's Kentucky Derby (won today by Medina Spirit), I'm posting a piece my friend Michael S. Green and I wrote together a number of years ago on Ten Famous American Horses. It has no deep meaning... it's just fun. It remains one of my favorite things I had a hand in writing, and I'm pleased to have an excuse to share it.

    I'll be back on the usual beat tomorrow.

    1) Traveller

    General Robert E. Lee rode Traveller (spelled with two Ls, in the British style) from February 1862 until the general’s death in 1870. Traveller was a grey American Saddlebred of 16 hands. He had great endurance for long marches, and was generally unflappable in battle, although he once broke both of General Lee’s hands when he shied at enemy movements. Lee brought Traveller with him when he assumed the presidency of Washington and Lee University. Traveller died of tetanus in 1871. He is buried on campus, where the safe ride program still uses his name.

    2) Comanche

    Comanche was attached to General Custer’s detachment of the 7th Cavalry when it engaged the Lakota in 1876 at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The troops in the detachment were all killed in the engagement, but soldiers found Comanche, badly wounded, two days later. They nursed him back to health, and he became the 7th Cavalry’s mascot. The commanding officer decreed that the horse would never again be ridden, and that he would always be paraded, draped in black, in all military ceremonies involving the 7th Cavalry. When Comanche died of colic in 1891, he was given a full military funeral (the only other horse so honored was Black Jack, who served in more than a thousand military funerals in the 1950s and 1960s). Comanche’s taxidermied body is preserved in the Natural History Museum at the University Of Kansas.

    3) Beautiful Jim Key

    Beautiful Jim Key was a performing horse trained by formerly enslaved veterinarian Dr. William Key. Key demonstrated how Beautiful Jim could read, write, do math, tell time, spell, sort mail, and recite the Bible. Beautiful Jim performed from 1897 to 1906 and became a legend. An estimated ten million Americans saw him perform, and others collected his memorabilia – buttons, photos, and postcards – or danced the Beautiful Jim Key two-step. Dr. Key insisted that he had taught Beautiful Jim using only kindness, and Beautiful Jim Key’s popularity was important in preventing cruelty to animals in America, with more than 2 million children signing the Jim Key Band of Mercy, in which they pledged: “I promise always to be kind to animals.”

    4) Man o’ War

    Named for his owner, August Belmont, Jr., who was overseas in WWI, Man o’ War is widely regarded as the top Thoroughbred racehorse of all time. He won 20 of his 21 races and almost a quarter of a million dollars in the early twentieth century. His one loss – to “Upset” – came after a bad start. Man o’ War sired many of America’s famous racehorses, including Hard Tack, which in turn sired Seabiscuit, the small horse that came to symbolize hope during the Great Depression.

    5) Trigger

    Entertainer Roy Rogers chose the palomino Trigger from five rented horses to be his mount in a Western film in the 1930s, changing his name from Golden Cloud to Trigger because of his quick mind and feet. Rogers rode Trigger in his 1950s television series, making the horse a household name. When Trigger died, Rogers had his skin draped over a Styrofoam mold and displayed it in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in California. He also had a 24-foot statue of Trigger made from steel and fiberglass. One other copy of that mold was also made: it is “Bucky the Bronco,” which rears above the Denver Broncos stadium south scoreboard.

    6) Sergeant Reckless

    American Marines in Korea bought a mare in October 1952 from a Korean stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister, who had stepped on a land mine. The marines named her Reckless after their unit’s nickname, the Reckless Rifles. They made a pet of her, and trained her to carry supplies and to evacuate wounded. She learned to travel supply routes without a guide: on one notable day she made 51 solo trips. Wounded twice, she was given a battlefield rank of corporal in 1953 and promoted to sergeant after the war, when she was also awarded two Purple Hearts and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

    7) Mr. Ed

    Mr. Ed was a talking palomino in a 1960s television show by the same name. At a time when Westerns dominated American television, Mr. Ed was the anti-Western, with the main human character a klutzy architect and the hero a horse that was fond of his meals and his comfortable life, and spoke with the voice of Allan “Rocky” Lane, who made dozens of “B” westerns. But the show was a five-year hit as it married the past to the future. Mr. Ed offered a gentle homely wisdom that enabled him to straighten out the troubles of the humans around him. The startling special effects that made it appear that the horse was talking melded modern technology with the comforting traditional community depicted in the show.

    8) Black Jack

    Black Jack, named for John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, was the riderless black horse in the funerals of John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, and Douglas MacArthur, as well as more than a thousand other funerals with full military honors. A riderless horse, with boots reversed in the stirrups, symbolized a fallen leader, while Black Jack’s brands – a US brand and an army serial number – recalled the army’s history. Black Jack himself was buried with full military honors; the only other horse honored with a military funeral was Comanche.

    9) Khartoum

    Khartoum was the prize stud horse of Jack Woltz, the fictional Hollywood mogul in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. In one of the film version’s most famous scenes, after Woltz refuses requests from Don Vito Corleone to cast singer Johnny Fontane in a movie, Woltz wakes up to find Khartoum’s head in bed with him…and agrees to use Fontane in the film. In the novel, Fontane wins the Academy Award for his performance. According to old Hollywood rumor, the story referred to real events. The rumor was that mobsters persuaded Columbia Pictures executive Harry Cohn to cast Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity. As Maggio, Sinatra revived his sagging film career and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

    10) Secretariat

    Secretariat was an American Thoroughbred that in 1973 became the first U.S. Triple Crown winner in 25 years. His records in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes still stand. After Secretariat was stricken with a painful infection and euthanized in 1989, an autopsy revealed that he had an unusually big heart. Sportswriter Red Smith once asked his trainer how Secretariat had run one morning; Charlie Hatton replied, “The trees swayed.”

    Something to consider here:


    Behind the romanticized façade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. While spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, horses are running for their lives.

    Forced to Race

    Horses used for racing are forced to sprint—often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric-shocking devices—at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries and even hemorrhage from the lungs.

    Whip use is standard practice in the U.S., with little more than lip service handed out to extreme violators in most states. At a 2008 race, the horse named Appeal to the City hemorrhaged around her eye when jockey Jeremy Rose “engaged in extreme misuse of the whip.” During his Kentucky Derby win, American Pharoah was struck with a whip at least 32 times by jockey Victor Espinoza.

    In 2013, PETA documented that top trainers and jockeys admitted to having used illegal electro-shock devices on horses. Months later, jockey Roman Chapa—who was previously suspended for using a nail on a horse—was charged with a felony for race-fixing after using a shocking device during a race.

    Pushed beyond their limits, most horses are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. Many horses—fittingly called “bleeders” by the racing industry—will bleed from their lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In an attempt to decrease the bleeding, many horses are given a drug called Lasix or Salix, a diuretic with performance-enhancing qualities.

    Not surprisingly, every week, an average of 24 horses experience fatal breakdowns at racetracks across the country, and this number doesn’t even take into account the horses who are discarded by the racing industry when they’re no longer considered profitable. In 2015, in New York alone, more than 250 Thoroughbreds endured injuries or fatal breakdowns during races.

    Treated Like Commodities

    As most owners and trainers have little more than a short-term financial interest in horses, there is little continuity and accountability over Thoroughbreds’ lifetimes, leaving them to suffer terribly.

    Ownership turnover is rampant, and most Thoroughbreds are bought or “claimed” multiple times during their careers. Some races, called claiming races, allow for horses to be purchased and taken away by a new owner immediately after the race, giving previous owners little control over where horses end up. In a two-month period in 2011, over 2,000 horses were callously sold through claiming races. A horse named Who’s Bluffing was claimed 12 times in his career—including three times by the same owner.

    Because no one individual is committed to a horse throughout his or her lifetime, each day brings new uncertainty for these animals. An estimated 10,000 “unprofitable” or simply unwanted Thoroughbreds from the U.S. are trucked to Canada and Mexico and slaughtered each year. And despite these staggering numbers, the racing industry continues to churn out nearly 20,000 Thoroughbred foals annually.







    “In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result.”
    -James Allen










  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
      May 2, 2021
     
    On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 36 Republicans sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona accusing him of trying to advance a “politicized and divisive agenda” in the teaching of American history. This is a full embrace of the latest Republican attempt to turn teaching history into a culture war.
     
    On April 19, the Department of Education called for public comments on two priorities for the American History and Civics Education programs. Those programs work to improve the “quality of American history, civics, and government education by educating students about the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights; and… the quality of the teaching of American history, civics, and government in elementary schools and secondary schools, including the teaching of traditional American history.”
     
    The department is proposing two priorities to reach low-income students and underserved populations. The Republicans object to the one that encourages “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.”
     
    History teaching that reflects our diverse history and the way our diversity supports democracy can help to improve racial equality in society, the document states. It calls out the 1619 Project of the New York Times, as well as the resources of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History, to note how our understanding of diversity is changing. It notes that schools across the country are teaching “anti-racist practices,” which it follows scholar Ibram X. Kendi by identifying as “any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.”
     
    The Education Department invited comments on these priorities. The department does not have much at all to do with local school curricula.
     
    McConnell’s letter in response to this call for comments is disingenuous, implying connections between the teaching of a diverse past, the sorry state of history education, and the fact that “American pride has plummeted to its lowest level in 20 years.” There is, of course, no apparent connection between them.
     
    He complains that Cardona’s “proposal”—it’s a call for comments—would “distort bipartisan legislation that was led by former Senators Lamar Alexander, Ted Kennedy, and Robert Byrd.” That legislation was indeed landmark for the teaching of American history… but its funding was cut in 2012.

    What McConnell’s letter is really designed to do is to throw a bone to Trump Republicans. On Thursday, Trump called for Senate Republicans to replace McConnell with a Trump loyalist, and embracing their conviction that our history is being hijacked by radicals is cheap and easy.

    The prime object of Republican anger is the 1619 Project, called out in McConnell’s letter by name. The project launched in the New York Times Magazine in August 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first landing of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans at the English colony of Virginia. Led by New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project placed race and Black Americans “at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.”
     
    The 1619 Project argued that the landing of the Black slaves marked “the country’s very origin” since it “inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years.” From slavery “and the anti-black racism it required,” the editors claimed, grew “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day.”
     
    Their goal, they said, was “to reframe American history,” replacing 1776 with 1619 as the year of the nation’s birth.  
     
    The most explosive claim the project made was that one of the key reasons that the American colonists broke away from Britain was that they wanted to protect slavery. Scholars immediately pushed back. Northwestern University’s Dr. Leslie M. Harris, a scholar of colonial African American history, wrote: “Although slavery was certainly an issue in the American Revolution, the protection of slavery was not one of the main reasons the 13 Colonies went to war.” The project tempered its language over that issue but stood by its larger argument.

    Trump Republicans conflated this project with so-called “Critical Race Theory,” a related scholarly concept that argues that racism is not simply the actions of a few bad actors, but rather is baked into our legal system, as well as the other institutions that make up our society. This is not a new concept, and it is not limited to Black Americans: historian Angie Debo’s And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes launched this argument in 1940 when it showed how Oklahoma’s legislators had written discrimination against Indigenous people into the law. But the idea that white people have an automatic leg up in our country has taken on modern political teeth as Trump Republicans argue that Black and Brown people, among others, are at the bottom of society not because of discriminatory systems but because they are inferior.

    The former president railed against recent historical work emphasizing race as “a series of polemics grounded in poor scholarship” that has “vilified our Founders and our founding.” Calling them “one-sided and divisive,” he opposed their view of “America as an irredeemably and systemically racist country.” He claimed, without evidence, that “students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains.” He said that “this radicalized view of American history” threatens to “fray and ultimately erase the bonds that knit our country and culture together.”

    On November 2, 2020, just before the election, former president Trump established a hand-picked commission inside the Department of Education to promote “patriotic education” in the nation’s schools, national parks, and museums.
     
    The commission released its report, written not by historians but by right-wing activists and politicians, on Martin Luther King Day, just two days before Trump left office. “The 1776 Report” highlighted the nation’s founding documents from the Revolutionary Era, especially the Declaration of Independence. It said that the principles written in the declaration “show how the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice.” It said “our history is… one of self-sacrifice, courage, and nobility.” No other nation, it said, had worked harder or done more to bring to life “the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent.”

    Then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that multiculturalism [is]... not who America is.” It “distort[s] our glorious founding and what this country is all about.” Hannah-Jones retorted: "When you say that multiculturalism is 'not who America is' and 'distorts our glorious founding' you unwittingly confirm the argument of the 1619 Project: That though we were ... a multiracial nation from our founding, our founders set forth a government of white rule. Cool."

    On his first day in office, President Joe Biden dissolved the 1776 Commission and took its report off the official government website.

    But the fight goes on. The Pulitzer Center, which supports journalism but is not associated with Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prizes, produced a school curriculum based on the 1619 Project; Republican legislators in five states—Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Dakota—filed virtually identical bills to cut funding to any school or college that used the material. Other Republican-led states have proposed funding “patriotic education.” In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves called for a $3 million fund to promote teaching that “educates the next generation in the incredible accomplishments of the American Way” to counter “far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country.” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem proposed a curriculum that explains “why the U.S. is the most special nation in the history of the world.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     May 3, 2021 (Monday)
     
    Since the January 6 insurrection, Democrats have called the Republican adherence to the idea that Biden did not win the 2020 election “the Big Lie.” This term refers to a propaganda technique associated with Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels (although it did not actually originate with him). It refers to a lie told to garner power, a lie that is so big, so monstrous, and so outrageous that people believe it because they cannot imagine someone lying about something so important.
     
    One of the hallmarks of the former president was his ability to turn any accusations against him into an attack on his opponents. True to form, this morning he set out to appropriate the term “the Big Lie” for his own. Rather than meaning his refusal to admit he lost the election, he wants to use the phrase to mean the opposite: that it refers to “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020.”
     
    Trump’s insistence that he was robbed of the 2020 election is pure fantasy, designed at least in part to enable him to continue to raise money (as I’ve written about before), and certainly designed to whip up supporters to believe the Democrats are illegitimate. It has been the driving force behind voter suppression efforts in a number of Republican-dominated states, efforts that, in Florida, were so extreme they had Republican operatives contemplating carving out exceptions for elderly and military voters to make sure those traditionally Republican constituencies will not be hit by the new rules.
     
    The effort to stoke the Big Lie continues to the present day. The Republican-controlled Arizona senate has authorized a private company with deep ties to Trump and his Big Lie to perform yet another recount of the ballots cast in Maricopa County last year. The firm, Cyber Ninjas, has no experience doing such a recount and is running the process without bipartisan observation. The goal appears to be to “prove” that the 45,000 votes Biden won in the county in 2020 were fraudulent, bringing his win of the state into question to “prove” that Biden’s overall win was fraudulent. One of the people performing the recount is Anthony Kern, a former state representative who was part of the January 6 insurrection.
     
    Today’s incarnation of the Big Lie, though, appears to be an attempt of the former president to solidify his power over the remnants of the Republican Party leadership. According to a recent CNN poll, 70% of Republicans do not believe that Biden actually won the election, but a few leading holdouts, including Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), refuse to follow the party line. For her troubles, Cheney is facing a move to push her out of her position as the conference chair of the House Republicans, the third most powerful spot in the House for her party.  
     
    As he has consolidated power over the Republican Party after leaving office, the former president has been less and less tolerant of those Republicans who have called out his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s election for what it is: a dangerous attack on our democracy. But Cheney is not giving in. After Trump’s announcement this morning, she tweeted: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
     
    This fight is a proxy fight over whether Trump will win full control over the Republican Party. His loyalists have vowed to get rid of Cheney from her position in party leadership by the end of the month. An ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Scott Wong and Mike Lillis of The Hill: “She’s a liability, and McCarthy’s as fed up as the rest of us that she is focused on the past rather than winning back the House.”
     
    But Cheney appears to have some key backing, including that of former president George W. Bush, who has recently said that if the party stands for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, then it’s not going to win anything.” Cheney is speaking out and standing firm. In a speech today at the annual retreat for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in Georgia, she said: "We can't embrace the notion the election is stolen. It's a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy…. We can't whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump's big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed."

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
      May 4, 2021 (Tuesday)
     
    In any normal era, the big story right now would be the country’s dramatic economic recovery from the recession sparked by the coronavirus. In the first three months of 2021, the economy grew by 1.6% as economic stimulus measures kicked in and people started to buy things again. Amazon posted profits of $8.1 billion for the first three months of the year; the same months last year brought the company $2.5 billion. Supply chains are still frayed, pushing prices upward, but those problems are expected to ease as the chains heal.
     
    At the beginning of the year, economists predicted just 0.6% growth, because they did not expect vaccinations to go into circulation as quickly as they did, and they expected the recession to linger for months. If the current growth rate holds, it would mean an annual rate of 6.4% (it’s unclear, of course, if it will hold).
     
    For the last three weeks, jobless claims have dropped. Restaurants and service industries are not in as good a shape as consumer goods, but they should recover as more and more people get vaccinated. We are still down about 8.4 million jobs lost during the pandemic, but employment is moving in the right direction.
     
    This economic turnaround is possible because of the administration’s vaccine program. That’s another huge story. Just four months ago, it was unclear how vaccinations would happen, and how long they would take. But Biden clearly considered the vaccination program his top priority, a way to prove that an efficient federal government was indeed vital to the country.
     
    As of Monday, more than 56% of U.S. adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 246 million doses have been administered. Biden is aiming to get 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4 and is trying to make getting vaccines even easier to help persuade everyone to get them. The administration wants pharmacies to give shots to walk-in patients, for example, and is giving more doses to rural areas to cut travel distances. Today, the administration announced that states whose people are refusing the vaccine will be able to decide if they want the vaccines allocated to them as a percentage of their population. If not, they can choose to contribute those they don’t want to a federal pool from which states eager for more could pull.   
     
    Biden appears to be betting that Americans of all parties will pay attention to what he is accomplishing and stop listening to Republican lawmakers, who are living in an entirely different political reality than the Democrats.

    But it’s hard to get airtime for good, solid, progress when Republican leadership is openly feuding, the former president’s advisor Rudy Giuliani is in front of cameras talking about the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s first impeachment, and a federal judge today whacked Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, for misleading her, Congress, and the public about the Mueller investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

    The fight between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) is escalating. To court the Trump base, McCarthy is trying to bring the caucus together behind the former president, but Cheney refuses to overlook the January 6 insurrection. She is adamant that Republicans must push back on the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election, while the Republicans are coming together behind that lie. New York Representative Elise Stefanik, a Trump loyalist, is working to succeed Cheney as the third most powerful Republican in the House. Swapping Stefanik for Cheney will cede the party to Trump once and for all.

    On her side, Cheney has the fact that there are already 400 federal cases against the January 6 insurrectionists, and those cases will be in the news, with videos and evidence, in the coming months, constantly reminding people that the Trump Republicans are defending that insurrection. And she is calm and measured, while the Trump loyalists are represented by provocateurs like Lauren Boebert (R-CO), fond of parading around with her guns; Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA); and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who is currently entangled in a sex-trafficking scandal involving minors. Cheney can do a lot of damage to a Trump party if she wants to.

    Tying the party to Trump and the Big Lie also means that party leaders will have to weather whatever might come of the federal investigation into Giuliani, who is publicly accusing officials at the Department of Justice of trying to get to Trump through him. But the investigation into Giuliani’s work in Ukraine began not under Merrick Garland, the current attorney general, but under William Barr, Trump’s attorney general. And today, federal prosecutors in Manhattan asked U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken to appoint an outside lawyer, known as a “special master,” to review the evidence investigators took from Giuliani’s home and office to avoid accusations of political bias.

    Since the search, legal analysts have been very visible in the media, suggesting that Giuliani is in, as Trump critic George Conway said, “deep s**t.”

    Another story today also grabbed headlines away from Biden and kept the focus on the former president. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a strongly worded opinion ordering the Justice Department to release a 2019 memo connected to whether Trump should have been charged with obstructing justice during the Russia investigation. Jackson accused the DOJ under Barr’s tenure of misleading her, Congress, and the public both about the memo and about the Mueller Report itself.

    The DOJ has until May 17 to decide if it will appeal her ruling or release the memo.

    This weird dichotomy between the things that are going very right in the new administration and the things that are going very wrong has unusually profound implications. Republican lawmakers in the states are doing all they can to skew the mechanics of government so they can regain control of the country no matter how unpopular they are.

    Paying attention to the fireworks on the Republican side of the aisle threatens to drown out the extraordinary things the Biden administration has already accomplished. But ignoring the growing radicalism of the Trump party threatens to downplay just how dangerous it really is.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     May 5, 2021 (Wednesday)
     
    With Trump loyalists consolidating their power over the Republican Party, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) today launched the Republican opposition.
     
    Cheney is currently the House Republican Conference chair, managing committee assignments, media appearances, and certain debates in the House. Her refusal to whitewash the January 6 insurrection and to support the former president has led him to press for her removal from her position as the third most powerful House Republican.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to have caved to that pressure. A vote will likely take place next week, and observers expect Cheney to lose. Trump loyalist Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who voted against counting the electoral votes for Joe Biden on January 6, appears to be the front-runner to replace the Wyoming representative.
     
    Cheney laid the stakes of this political moment out starkly in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post. Trump continues to lie that he won the 2020 election and that Biden is an illegitimate president. That language provoked the violent insurrection of January 6 and, according to judges and prosecutors, still threatens to rally his supporters to attack the government.

    And aye, there’s the rub: Trump has borne no consequences for the January 6 crisis, and there is every reason to believe he will spur his supporters to make similar efforts to install him as president again in the future. “Trump is seeking to unravel… confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law,” Cheney said. “No other American president has ever done this.”
     
    She called for a bipartisan review of the January 6 insurrection by a commission with subpoena power to dig into what happened, and said that no member of Congress currently serving should participate. Instead, she proposed tapping former officials, judges, and other prominent Americans who can be objective. Rejecting calls of Trump loyalists to muddy the waters with a general commission that looks into the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the insurrection, Cheney wrote that a careful examination of the events surrounding January 6 is imperative to stop the “misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media.”
     
    Such a commission would almost certainly want to interview a number of Trump loyalists, including McCarthy, who had a phone exchange with the former president during the insurrection that observers say devolved into a shouting match. It seems unlikely that all of those interviewed would come out looking good. Having thrown in their lot with the former president, Republican leadership is now yoked to the testimony about the insurrection—and the videos—that will come out in the future.
     
    “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” Cheney wrote. “History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process.”
     
    Cheney is no Democrat. She voted with Trump nearly 93% of the time (compared with Stefanik’s nearly 78%). It is impossible to argue that her opposition to Trump is partisan, which makes it all the more powerful. She looks to be trying to reclaim the Republican Party from Trump and his supporters, and she has a decent shot at it.
     
    First of all, she is already getting a lot of airtime, and being tossed out of House leadership for refusing to lie will get her even more. She has the backing of the low-tax, no regulation, military hawk, business side of the party, which also happens to be the side with the most money. Corporations have been dragging their feet at supporting the Trump wing; she will offer Republican policies without the overthrow of the government.
     
    The anger of Republican lawmakers at corporations withholding money from those who backed the insurrection suggests they are keenly aware that they will have to turn entirely to the Trump base for cash. According to Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham brought this up last night when he spoke at the annual fundraiser for the Georgia Republican Party. Informed that corporations had been reluctant to chip in for the event, Graham said: “I don’t know how much money you lost from these corporate sponsors not giving you money but I’m gonna get on Sean Hannity’s show we’re going to raise every penny of it back—and these people can kiss my ass as far as I’m concerned.”

    That quest for money from the grass roots is behind at least part of today’s outpouring of fury from Trump loyalists after Facebook upheld the former president’s ban. Facebook was key to Trump’s power: he used it to gin up his base’s anger and then to get his supporters to send him money. Losing that platform weakens him.

    For his part, the former president today attacked Cheney, and also Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump blamed for refusing to stop Biden’s election. Far from abandoning the Big Lie, Trump doubled down on it, insisting that the 2020 election was fraudulent. If only Pence and McConnell had been stronger, he wrote, “we would have had a far different Presidential result, and our Country would not be turning into a socialist nightmare!” He ended with words that proved right the concern that he will continue to back attacks on our government: “Never give up!” he wrote.

    Pro-Trump Republican leadership is now tied to that mess. Cheney and those who might rally to her side are not.
     
    While today’s drama played out among the Republicans, Biden and his administration kept moving forward. When asked about his support for Cheney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said simply, “One-hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” Asked about McConnell’s comment at today’s press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I guess the contrast for people is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the people and getting the pandemic under control.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 20,852
     May 6, 2021 (Thursday)
     
    Today President Biden traveled to Lake Charles, in the Republican-dominated state of Louisiana, to build bipartisan support for his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. The proposed law is designed to create good jobs while it rebuilds America’s badly neglected infrastructure.

    Biden stood in front of the Calcasieu River Bridge, built in 1952 and twenty years overdue for renovation, in a state hit 30 times in the past ten years by natural disasters that cost up to $50 billion in damage. “I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat road. I just see roads,” Biden said. He called for a once in a lifetime investment in roads, bridges, electrical grids, schools, childcare, job training, broadband, and so on, to make America competitive in the twenty-first century.
     
    Biden has called for funding this investment by raising the corporate tax rate from its current 21% to 28%—still lower than the 35% it was before Trump’s 2017 tax cut—and by making sure corporations can no longer skip out on paying their taxes.
     
    Polls show that the plan is popular with about 56% of Americans, who seem eager to see the federal government invest in ordinary Americans again, particularly after seeing the willingness of Republicans to pass the 2017 tax cut that fueled a projected $1.9 trillion increase in the national debt in its first eleven years and primarily benefited households that made more than $200,000 a year. That bill passed without a single Democratic vote, but Republicans later complained about Democrats’ “irresponsible” refusal to cut spending, saying that “America is driving toward a fiscal cliff….”
     
    Indeed, Republicans seem eager to take credit for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress in March without a single Republican vote. The plan is popular—77% of Americans backed it—and Republicans are touting the help it’s bringing to their constituents without noting that they opposed it. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which supports restaurants hurt by the pandemic, is especially popular.
     
    But while Republican lawmakers are willing to embrace the popular American Rescue Plan now that it’s law, they oppose the American Jobs Plan, saying that higher taxes would hurt the economy. “I’m going to fight them every step of the way,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week. Yesterday, he said, "100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration."
     
    In Louisiana today, Biden said he was willing to talk to opponents. “I’m ready to compromise,” he said. “What I’m not ready to do is, I’m not ready to do nothing. I’m not ready to have another period where America has another Infrastructure Month and it doesn’t change a damn thing.”

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