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Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
      August 14, 2021 (Saturday)

    On this day in 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. While FDR’s New Deal had put in place new measures to regulate business and banking and had provided temporary work relief to combat the Depression, this law permanently changed the nature of the American government.

    The Social Security Act is known for its payments to older Americans, but it did far more than that. It established unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services. It was a sweeping reworking of the relationship of the government to its citizens, using the power of taxation to pool funds to provide a basic social safety net.

    The driving force behind the law was FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins. She was the first woman to hold a position in the U.S. Cabinet and still holds the record for having the longest tenure in that job: she lasted from 1933 to 1945.

    She brought to the position a vision of government very different from that of the Republicans who had run it in the 1920s. While men like President Herbert Hoover had harped on the idea of a “rugged individualism” in which men worked their way up, providing for their families on their own, Perkins recognized that people in communities had always supported each other. The vision of a hardworking man supporting his wife and children was more myth than reality: her own husband suffered from bipolar disorder, making her the family’s primary support.

    As a child, Perkins spent summers with her grandmother, with whom she was very close, in the small town of Newcastle, Maine, where she witnessed a supportive community. In college, at Mount Holyoke, she majored in chemistry and physics, but after a professor required students to tour a factory to observe working conditions, Perkins became committed to improving the lives of those trapped in industrial jobs. After college, Perkins became a social worker and, in 1910, earned a masters degree in economics and sociology from Columbia University. She became the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for the workers who made the products they were buying.

    The next year, in 1911, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in which 146 workers, mostly women and girls, died. They were trapped in the building when the fire broke out because the factory owner had ordered the doors to the stairwells and exits locked to make sure no one slipped outside for a break. Unable to escape the smoke and fire in the factory, the workers—some of them on fire—leaped from the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the building, dying on the pavement.

    The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire turned Perkins away from voluntary organizations to improve workers’ lives and toward using the government to adjust the harsh conditions of industrialization. She began to work with the Democratic politicians at Tammany Hall, who presided over communities in the city that mirrored rural towns and who exercised a form of social welfare for their voters, making sure they had jobs, food, and shelter and that wives and children had a support network if a husband and father died. In that system, the voices of women like Perkins were valuable, for their work in the immigrant wards of the city meant that they were the ones who knew what working families needed to survive.

    The overwhelming unemployment, hunger, and suffering caused by the Great Depression made Perkins realize that state governments alone could not adjust the conditions of the modern world to create a safe, supportive community for ordinary people. She came to believe, as she said: “The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

    Through her Tammany connections Perkins met FDR, and when he asked her to be his Secretary of Labor, she told him that she wanted the federal government to provide unemployment insurance, health insurance, and old-age insurance. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

    Creating federal unemployment insurance became her primary concern. Congressmen had little interest in passing such legislation. They said they worried that unemployment insurance and federal aid to dependent families would undermine a man’s willingness to work. But Perkins recognized that those displaced by the Depression had added new pressure to the idea of old-age insurance.

    In Long Beach, California, Dr. Francis Townsend had looked out of his window one day to see elderly women rooting through garbage cans for food. Appalled, he came up with a plan to help the elderly and stimulate the economy at the same time. Townsend proposed that the government provide every retired person over 60 years old with $200 a month, on the condition that they spend it within 30 days, a condition designed to stimulate the economy.

    Townsend’s plan was wildly popular. More than that, though, it sparked people across the country to start coming up with their own plans for protecting the elderly and the nation’s social fabric, and together, they began to change the public conversation about social welfare policies.

    They spurred Congress to action. Perkins recalled that Townsend “startled the Congress of the United States because the aged have votes. The wandering boys didn't have any votes; the evicted women and their children had very few votes. If the unemployed didn't stay long enough in any one place, they didn't have a vote. But the aged people lived in one place and they had votes, so every Congressman had heard from the Townsend Plan people.”

    FDR put together a committee to come up with a plan to create a basic social safety net, but committee members could not make up their minds how to move forward. Perkins continued to hammer on the idea they must come up with a final plan, and finally locked the members of the committee in a room. As she recalled: “Well, we locked the door and we had a lot of talk. I laid out a couple of bottles of something or other to cheer their lagging spirits. Anyhow, we stayed in session until about 2 a.m. We then voted finally, having taken our solemn oath that this was the end; we were never going to review it again.”

    By the time the bill came to a vote in Congress, it was hugely popular. The vote was 371 to 33 in the House and 77 to 6 in the Senate.

    When asked to describe the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins mused that its roots came from the very beginnings of the nation. When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America in 1835, she noted, he thought Americans were uniquely “so generous, so kind, so charitably disposed.” “Well, I don't know anything about the times in which De Tocqueville visited America,” she said, but “I do know that at the time I came into the field of social work, these feelings were real.”

    With the Social Security Act, Perkins helped to write into our laws a longstanding political impulse in America that stood in dramatic contrast to the 1920s philosophy of rugged individualism. She recognized that the ideas of community values and pooling resources to keep the economic playing field level and take care of everyone are at least as deeply seated in our political philosophy as the idea of every man for himself.

    When she recalled the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins recalled: “Of course, the Act had to be amended, and has been amended, and amended, and amended, and amended, until it has now grown into a large and important project, for which, by the way, I think the people of the United States are deeply thankful. One thing I know: Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.”

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
    brianlux said:
    ^^^ From last night's letter:
    "Because of that very limited intent for this particular information dump, the picture the material gives is a very specific one. The specificity of that information echoes the political history that in the 1920s began to skew our Congress to give rural white voters disproportionate power. It also reinforces a vision of America divided by race: precisely the vision that former president Trump and his supporters want Americans to believe."

    Ironically, that makes my wife and I (both of us are white) part of the problem.  We were randomly picked to be interviewed by the census bureau.  The nice lady that interview us (distanced and masked, thank you very much) said our answers represented 10,000 and that there were only something like 35 interviews for the entire county.  We live in an area that really is more semi-rural than it is rural (and at the rate it is growing, it will soon be a foothills suburb), but nevertheless, it is still referred to as "rural".  So although we are not Trumpers (obviously), we inadvertently contributed to the problems Heather is talking about.  There's definitely something wrong with this system.


    problem how? as a (semi) rural white voter?  this suggests race determines political leanings. its not a hard and fast rule.

    removing the surface ethinicity component, you and your wife help alleviate the problem by helping to balance the vote. so in my view, you guys are part of the solution.
    _____________________________________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
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 35,522
    mickeyrat said:
    brianlux said:
    ^^^ From last night's letter:
    "Because of that very limited intent for this particular information dump, the picture the material gives is a very specific one. The specificity of that information echoes the political history that in the 1920s began to skew our Congress to give rural white voters disproportionate power. It also reinforces a vision of America divided by race: precisely the vision that former president Trump and his supporters want Americans to believe."

    Ironically, that makes my wife and I (both of us are white) part of the problem.  We were randomly picked to be interviewed by the census bureau.  The nice lady that interview us (distanced and masked, thank you very much) said our answers represented 10,000 and that there were only something like 35 interviews for the entire county.  We live in an area that really is more semi-rural than it is rural (and at the rate it is growing, it will soon be a foothills suburb), but nevertheless, it is still referred to as "rural".  So although we are not Trumpers (obviously), we inadvertently contributed to the problems Heather is talking about.  There's definitely something wrong with this system.


    problem how? as a (semi) rural white voter?  this suggests race determines political leanings. its not a hard and fast rule.

    removing the surface ethinicity component, you and your wife help alleviate the problem by helping to balance the vote. so in my view, you guys are part of the solution.

    We definitely help balance the vote in this most very conservative county in California.  (Fish out of water!)
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore











  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 15, 2021 (Sunday)
     
    Today, in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters took over the presidential palace in Kabul, the country’s capital, while the president of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, Ashraf Ghani, fled to Tajikistan. The U.S. and many other countries are rushing to evacuate their diplomatic personnel and allies from the country, although Russia is not, as the Taliban has guaranteed their safety. As of tonight, all U.S. embassy personnel are at the Kabul airport, which is currently being protected by the U.S. military.
     
    Over almost 20 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. has lost 2448 troops and personnel. Another 20,722 Americans have been wounded. The mission has cost more than a trillion dollars.
     
    The U.S. invaded Afghanistan a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—which killed almost 3000 people in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—to go after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who had been behind the attack. The Islamic fundamentalist group that had controlled Afghanistan since 1996, the Taliban, was sheltering him along with other al Qaeda militants. Joined by an international coalition, the U.S. drove the Taliban from power but failed to capture bin Laden, and the War on Terror became a general drive against non-state actors, usually Muslims, who threatened the U.S.
     
    In 2003, President George W. Bush launched another war, this one in Iraq. As the U.S. got bogged down in Iraq, members of the Taliban regrouped in Afghanistan as an insurgent military force that attacked the Afghan government the U.S. had propped up in their place. By 2005, the Taliban had grown powerful enough that officials in the Bush administration worried that the U.S. could fail to undermine them.
     
    President Barack Obama focused again on Afghanistan. In December 2009 he launched a 33,000 troop surge into Afghanistan, bringing the total U.S. deployment there to about 100,000 troops, with an additional 40,000 troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In 2011, U.S. Special Forces found bin Laden living in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed him in a raid. The next month, Obama announced that he would begin bringing troops home and that the U.S. would leave Afghanistan by 2014. Violence immediately increased, and a new joint security agreement between the U.S. and the Afghan government allowed the U.S. to stay and continue to train Afghan soldiers.
     
    By 2018 the Taliban, which is well funded by foreign investors, mining, opium, and a sophisticated tax system operated in the shadow of the official government, had reestablished itself in more than two thirds of Afghanistan. Americans were tired of the seemingly endless war and were eager for it to end.
     
    To end a military commitment that journalist Dexter Filkins dubbed the “forever war,” former president Donald Trump sent officials to negotiate with the Taliban, and in February 2020 the U.S. agreed to withdraw all U.S. troops, along with NATO allies, by May 1, so long as the Taliban stopped attacking U.S. troops and cut ties with terrorists.
     
    The U.S. did not include the Afghan government in the talks that led to the deal, leaving it to negotiate its own terms with the Taliban after the U.S. had already announced it was heading home. Observers at the time were concerned that the U.S. withdrawal would essentially allow the Taliban to retake control of the country, where the previous 20 years had permitted the reestablishment of stability and women’s rights. Indeed, almost immediately, Taliban militants began an assassination campaign against Afghan leaders, although they did not kill any American soldiers after the deal was signed.
     
    Meanwhile, by announcing their intentions, American officials took pressure off the Taliban to negotiate with Afghan leaders. The Pentagon’s inspector general noted in February that “The Taliban intends to stall the negotiations until U.S. and coalition forces withdraw so that it can seek a decisive military victory over the Afghan government.”

    Hoping to win voters with this deal to end the war, the Trump administration celebrated the agreement. In September, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for forever war in the Middle East. A vote for Donald Trump is a vote to finally bring our troops home.” Then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested the U.S. would have “zero” troops left in Afghanistan by spring 2021.
     
    When he was Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden had made it no secret that he was not comfortable with the seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan. By the time he took office as president in January 2021, he was also boxed in by Trump’s agreement. In April, Biden announced that he would honor Trump’s agreement—“an agreement made by the United States government…means something,” Biden said—and he would begin a final withdrawal on May 1, 2021, to be finished before September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

    In July, 73% of Americans agreed that the U.S. should withdraw.
     
    On July 8, Biden announced that the withdrawal was taking place quicker than planned and that the military mission of the U.S. in Afghanistan would end on August 31. He said the U.S. had accomplished what it set out to do in Afghanistan—kill bin Laden and destroy a haven for international terrorists—and had no business continuing to influence the future of the Afghan people. Together with NATO, the U.S. had trained and equipped nearly 300,000 members of the current Afghan military, as well as many more who are no longer serving, with all the tools, training, and equipment of any modern military. While we will continue to support that military, he said, it is time for the Afghan people to “drive toward a future that the Afghan people want and they deserve.”
     
    For those asking that we stay just a little longer, especially in light of the fact the U.S. has lost no personnel since Trump cut the deal with the Taliban, he asked them to recognize that reneging on that deal would start casualties again. And he asked, “Would you send your own son or daughter?”
     
    Biden insisted the U.S. would continue to support the Afghan government and said the U.S. was working to bring to the U.S. Afghan translators whose lives are in danger for working with U.S. forces. He also seemed to acknowledge the extraordinary danger facing Afghan women and girls under the rule of the Taliban as it continues to sweep through the country. And yet, he said, “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”

    Instead of using troops, Biden has focused on cutting off the flow of money to terrorists through financial and economic sanctions. (Today, a U.S. official told CNN that the “vast majority” of the assets of Afghanistan’s central bank are not held in Afghanistan and that the U.S. will freeze whatever assets are in the U.S.)
     
    As the U.S. pulled out of the country, the Afghan military simply melted away. Regional capitals fell to the Taliban with little resistance, and Kabul today fell with similar ease. Just five weeks after Biden’s July speech, the Afghan president has left the country and the Taliban is in power.

    Already, Republicans are trying to blame the Taliban’s success in Afghanistan on Biden, ignoring former president Trump’s insistence that Biden speed up the exit because “getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do.” So eager are Republicans to rewrite history that they are literally erasing it. Tonight, Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel noticed that the Republican National Committee has scrubbed from its website a section celebrating the deal the Trump administration cut with the Taliban and praising Trump for taking “the lead in peace talks as he signed a historic peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, which would end America’s longest war.”   

    Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who served in Afghanistan and who opposed Biden’s plan for withdrawal, has been highlighting the past statements of pro-exit Republicans who are now attacking the president. “Do not let my party preten[d] to be outraged by this,” he tweeted. “Both the [Republicans] and [Democrats] failed here. Time for Americans to put their country over their party.”

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    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
      August 16, 2021 (Monday)

    According to an article by Susannah George in the Washington Post, the lightning speed takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban forces—which captured all 17 of the regional capitals and the national capital of Kabul in about nine days with astonishing ease—was a result of “cease fire” deals, which amounted to bribes, negotiated after former president Trump’s administration came to an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020. When U.S. officials excluded the Afghan government from the deal, soldiers believed that it was only a question of time until they were on their own and cut deals to switch sides. When Biden announced that he would honor Trump’s deal, the process sped up.

    This seems to me to beg the question of how the Biden administration continued to have faith that the Afghan army would at the very least delay the Taliban victory, if not prevent it. Did military and intelligence leaders have no inkling of such a development? In a speech today in which he stood by his decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden explained that the U.S. did not begin evacuating Afghan civilians sooner because some, still hoping they could hold off the Taliban, did not yet want to leave.

    At the same time, Biden said, “the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, ‘a crisis of confidence.’” He explained that he had urged Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman Abdullah Abdullah of the High Council for National Reconciliation to clean up government corruption, unite politically, and seek a political settlement with the Taliban. They “flatly refused” to do so, but “insisted the Afghan forces would fight.”

    Instead, government officials themselves fled the country before the Taliban arrived in Kabul, throwing the capital into chaos.

    Biden argued today that the disintegration of the Afghan military proved that pulling out the few remaining U.S. troops was the right decision. He inherited from former president Donald Trump the deal with the Taliban agreeing that if the Taliban stopped killing U.S. soldiers and refused to protect terrorists, the U.S. would withdraw its forces by May 1, 2021. The Taliban stopped killing soldiers after it negotiated the deal, and Trump dropped the number of soldiers in Afghanistan from about 15,500 to about 2,500.

    Biden had either to reject the deal, pour in more troops, and absorb more U.S. casualties, or honor the plan that was already underway. “I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said today. “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong—incredibly well equipped—a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies…. We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided…close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future.  What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.”

    “It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not. If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down, they would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.”

    Biden added, “I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight…Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?”  

    The president recalled that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan almost 20 years ago to prevent another al Qaeda attack on America by making sure the Taliban government could not continue to protect al Qaeda and by removing Osama bin Laden. After accomplishing those goals, though, the U.S. expanded its mission to turn the country into a unified, centralized democracy, a mission that was not, Biden said, a vital national interest.

    Biden, who is better versed in foreign affairs than any president since President George H. W. Bush, said today that the U.S. should focus not on counterinsurgency or on nation building, but narrowly on counterterrorism, which now reaches far beyond Afghanistan. Terrorism missions do not require a permanent military presence. The U.S. already conducts such missions, and will conduct them in Afghanistan in the future, if necessary, he said.

    Biden claims that human rights are central to his foreign policy, but he wants to accomplish them through diplomacy, economic tools, and rallying others to join us, rather than with “endless military deployments.” He explained that U.S. diplomats are secure at the Kabul airport, and he has authorized 6,000 U.S. troops to go to Afghanistan to help with evacuation.

    Biden accepted responsibility for his decision to leave Afghanistan, and he maintained that it is the right decision for America.

    While a lot of U.S. observers have quite strong opinions about what the future looks like for Afghanistan, it seems to me far too soon to guess how the situation there will play out. There is a lot of power sloshing around in central Asia right now, and I don’t think either that Taliban leaders are the major players or that Afghanistan is the primary stage. Russia has just concluded military exercises with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, both of which border Afghanistan, out of concern about the military takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. At the same time, the area is about to have to deal with large numbers of Afghan refugees, who are already fleeing the country.

    But the attacks on Biden for the withdrawal from Afghanistan do raise the important question of when it is in America’s interest to fight a ground war. Should we limit foreign intervention to questions of the safety of Americans? Should we protect our economic interests? Should we fight to spread democracy? Should we fight to defend human rights? Should we fight to shorten other wars, or prevent genocide?

    These are not easy questions, and reasonable people can, and maybe should, disagree about the answers.

    But none of them is about partisan politics, either; they are about defining our national interest.

    It strikes me that some of the same people currently expressing concern over the fate of Afghanistan’s women and girls work quite happily with Saudi Arabia, which has its own repressive government, and have voted against reauthorizing our own Violence Against Women Act. Some of the same people worrying about the slowness of our evacuation of our Afghan allies voted just last month against providing more visas for them, and others seemed to worry very little about our utter abandonment of our Kurdish allies when we withdrew from northern Syria in 2019. And those worrying about democracy in Afghanistan seem to be largely unconcerned about protecting voting rights here at home.

    Most notably to me, some of the same people who are now focusing on keeping troops in Afghanistan to protect Americans seem uninterested in stopping the spread of a disease that has already killed more than 620,000 of us and that is, once again, raging.

    _____________________________________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: 23,117
     August 17, 2021 (Tuesday)

    The news this week was so important that I wrote through the weekend, and I don't know about you all, but I need a very early bedtime tonight. I also need a reminder that there is something out there that will last longer than the next news cycle.

    To that end, here's one of my favorite images from Buddy's files. As Ecclesiastes puts it: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever."

    I'll 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: 23,117
     August 18, 2021 (Wednesday)

    It is still early days, and the picture of what is happening in Afghanistan now that the Taliban has regained control of the country continues to develop.

    Central to affairs there is money. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with about half its population requiring humanitarian aid this year and about 90% of its people living below the poverty line of making $2 a day.

    The country depends on foreign aid. Under the U.S.-supported Afghan government, the United States and other nations funded about 80% of Afghanistan’s budget. In 2020, foreign aid made up about 43% of Afghanistan’s GDP (the GDP, or gross domestic product, is the monetary value of all the goods and services produced in a country), down from 100% of it in 2009.

    This is a huge problem for the Taliban, because their takeover of the country means that the money the country so desperately needs has dried up. The U.S. has frozen billions of dollars of Afghan government money held here in the U.S. The European Union and Germany have also suspended their financial support for the country, and today the International Monetary Fund blocked Afghanistan’s access to $460 million in currency reserves.

    Adam M. Smith, who served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, told Jeff Stein of the Washington Post that the financial squeeze is potentially “cataclysmic for Afghanistan.” It threatens to spark a humanitarian crisis that, in turn, will create a refugee crisis in central Asia. Already, the fighting in the last eight months has displaced more than half a million Afghans.

    People fleeing from the Taliban threaten to destabilize the region more generally. While Russia was happy to support the Taliban in a war against the U.S., now that its fighters are in charge of the country, Russia needs to keep the Taliban’s extremism from spreading to other countries in the area. So it is tentatively saying supportive things about the Taliban, but it is also stepping up its protection of neighboring countries’ borders with Afghanistan. Other countries are also leery of refugees in the region: large numbers of refugees have, in the past, led countries to turn against immigrants, giving a leg up to right-wing governments.

    Canada and Britain are each taking an additional 20,000 Afghan women leaders, reporters, LGBTQ people, and human rights workers on top of those they have already volunteered to take, but Turkey—which is governed by strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—is building a wall to block refugees, and French President Emmanuel Macron asked officials in Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey to prevent migrants reaching their countries from traveling any further. The European Union has asked its member states to take more Afghan refugees.

    In the U.S., the question of Afghan refugees is splitting the Republican Party, with about 30% of it following the hard anti-immigrant line of former president Donald Trump. Others, though, especially those whose districts include military installations, are saying they welcome our Afghan allies.

    The people fleeing the country also present a problem for those now in control of Afghanistan. The idea that people are terrified of their rule is a foreign relations nightmare, at the same time that those leaving are the ones most likely to have the skills necessary to help govern the country. But leaders can’t really stop the outward flow—at least immediately—because they do not want to antagonize the international community so thoroughly that it continues to withhold the financial aid the country so badly needs. So, while on the streets, Taliban fighters are harassing Afghans who are trying to get away, Taliban leaders are saying they will permit people to evacuate, that they will offer blanket amnesty to those who opposed them, and also that they will defend some rights for women and girls.

    The Biden administration is sending more personnel to help evacuate those who want to leave. The president has promised to evacuate all Americans in the country—as many as 15,000 people—but said only that we would evacuate as many of the estimated 65,000 Afghans who want to leave as possible. The Taliban has put up checkpoints on the roads to the airport and are not permitting everyone to pass. U.S. military leaders say they will be able to evacuate between 5000 and 9000 people a day.

    Today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley tried to explain the frantic rush to evacuate people from Afghanistan to reporters by saying: “There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.” Maybe. But military analyst Jason Dempsey condemned the whole U.S. military project in Afghanistan when he told NPR's Don Gonyea that the collapse of the Afghan government showed that the U.S. had fundamentally misunderstood the people of Afghanistan and had tried to impose a military system that simply made no sense for a society based in patronage networks and family relationships.

    Even with Dempsey’s likely accurate assessment, the statement that U.S. military intelligence missed that a 300,000 person army was going to melt away still seems to me astonishing. Still, foreign policy and national security policy analyst Dr. John Gans of the University of Pennsylvania speculated on Twitter that such a lapse might be more “normal”—his word and quotation marks—than it seems, reflecting the slips possible in government bureaucracy. He points out that the Department of Defense has largely controlled Afghanistan and the way the U.S. involvement there was handled in Washington. But with the end of the military mission, the Defense Department was eager to hand off responsibility to the State Department, which was badly weakened under the previous administration and has not yet rebuilt fully enough to handle what was clearly a complicated handoff. “There have not been many transitions between an American war & an American diplomatic relationship with a sovereign, friendly country,” Gans wrote. “Fewer still when the friendly regime disintegrates so quickly.” When things started to go wrong, they snowballed.

    And yet, the media portrayal of our withdrawal as a catastrophe also seems to me surprising. To date, at least as far as I have seen, there have been no reports of such atrocities as the top American diplomat in Syria reported in the chaos when the U.S. pulled out of northern Syria in 2019. Violence against our Kurdish allies there was widely expected and it indeed occurred. In a memo made public in November of that year, Ambassador William V. Roebuck wrote that “Islamist groups” paid by Turkey were deliberately engaged in ethnic cleansing of Kurds, and were committing “widely publicized, fear-inducing atrocities” even while “our military forces and diplomats were on the ground.” The memo continued: “The Turkey operation damaged our regional and international credibility and has significantly destabilized northeastern Syria.”

    Reports of that ethnic cleansing in the wake of our withdrawal seemed to get very little media attention in 2019, perhaps because the former president’s first impeachment inquiry took up all the oxygen. But it strikes me that the sensibility of Roebuck’s memo is now being read onto our withdrawal from Afghanistan although conditions there are not—yet—like that.

    For now, it seems, the drive to keep the door open for foreign money is reining in Taliban extremism. That caution seems unlikely to last forever, but it might hold for long enough to complete an evacuation.

    Much is still unclear and the situation is changing rapidly, but my guess is that keeping an eye on the money will be crucial for understanding how this plays out.

    Meanwhile, the former president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has surfaced in the United Arab Emirates. He denies early reports that he fled the country with suitcases full of cash.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 19, 2021 (Thursday)

    On Tuesday, Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL) introduced H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. In 1965, a bipartisan majority in Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to protect the right to vote in America. That law was reauthorized on a bipartisan basis as recently as 2006.

    But in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a vital piece of the Voting Rights Act, the piece requiring that the Department of Justice approve proposed changes in election rules in states with a history of racial discrimination before they went into effect. Immediately, states began to restrict access to the ballot. Then in July 2021, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court decided that rules that impacted different populations unequally were not unfair. This decision opened the door wide to different forms of voter suppression.

    What is at stake is that the Republican Party has become so extreme it can win elections only by rigging the system. When the 2020 election showed that Democrats could overcome even that year’s voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the outsized weight of rural states in the Electoral College, 18 Republican-dominated states passed 30 new, extreme voter suppression laws and, in Georgia, cleared the way for partisan appointees to replace nonpartisan election officials.

    If Republican operatives can cement their control over those states despite the will of the voters, they can control the government—likely including the presidency—from their minority position.

    The outrageousness of this reality has been hitting home in the last month as states dominated by Republican governors in the mold of former president Donald Trump are opposing vaccine requirements and mask mandates even as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus burns across the country. Areas where Trump is popular have a much smaller proportion of their population vaccinated than areas dominated by Democrats, mapping a deadly virus along political lines. And those deadly lines are affecting children.

    Governors in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah have all banned mask mandates in schools, despite the safety recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Florida is experiencing its highest levels of infection in the course of the pandemic, and Texas governor Greg Abbott, who himself has had a breakthrough case of Covid-19, has requested 2500 healthcare workers from out of state, but both states continue to oppose mask or vaccine mandates. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold funds from schools that require masks. Abbott has threatened those who require masks with fines. Rather than encourage the use of masks and promote the free, effective vaccine, Florida and Texas officials have instead opened clinics to provide treatment with monoclonal antibodies for those suffering from the effects of Covid-19.

    Republican rejection of masks and vaccines in the midst of a pandemic means that the politicians who are demanding the exposure of their citizens—including children, who are not yet eligible for vaccination—to a deadly virus are quite demonstrably members of the party that is trying to skew the machinery of our government in their favor. And, also quite demonstrably, they do not represent the majority of Americans, who do, in fact, favor vaccines and mask mandates. An Axios/Ipsos poll from two days ago shows that 69% of Americans would like to see mask mandates in public places.

    It doesn’t take a poll to see that public opinion has turned against the anti-maskers.

    Yesterday, the board of the largest school district in Florida and the fourth largest in the country, Miami-Dade County, voted 7–1 in favor of a mask mandate, in defiance of DeSantis's executive order preventing schools from mandating masks in order to "protect parents' freedom to choose whether their children wear masks." Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had vowed to follow the science of the issue. "For the consequences associated with doing the right thing, whatever that right thing is, I will wear proudly as a badge of honor," he said.

    Businesses, too, are lining up behind vaccinations. Amtrak, Microsoft, BlackRock, Delta, Facebook, Google, United Airlines, and Walmart have all announced vaccine mandates, and Uber Eats cut ties with former NFL player Jay Cutler over his anti-mask tweets. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable, generally aligned with the right wing, are all requiring that anyone entering their offices show proof of vaccination.

    Yesterday, Biden directed the Education Department to “use all available tools” to aid local governments trying to work around governors like DeSantis and Abbott. "We're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children," he said.

    Some of the same groups who oppose masks and are attacking their pro-masking neighbors were among those who attacked the country on January 6. In Missouri today, where the death rate from Covid-19 is among the worst in the country, Alabama-based anti-vaxxer Christopher Key told workers at a Walmart pharmacy that they “could be executed” for administering vaccines, a street level violence that mirrors that of the Capitol insurrection. That overlap highlights the growing extremism of the current Republican Party.

    How extreme the party has become was made clear today when a fervent Trump supporter who called for the removal of all Democrats from office, 49-year-old Floyd Ray Roseberry of Grover, North Carolina, threatened to bomb the Capitol. He live-streamed his prospective attack from his truck, reciting a litany of complaints that echoed the right-wing news media. While antigovernment radicals have been a part of our national landscape since 1861, what made this particular attacker stand out was that Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) appeared to defend him.

    “I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism and its threat to liberty, freedom and the very fabric of American society,” Brooks stated. “The way to stop Socialism’s march is for patriotic Americans to fight back in the 2022 and 2024 elections…. Bluntly stated, America’s future is at risk.” Brooks also spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally before the January 6 insurrection.

    In the midst of a growing insurgency of a minority that is illustrating its willingness to sacrifice our children on the altar of ideology, stopping those extremists from manipulating the machinery of elections to seize control of the country has become imperative. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is an attempt to restore a level playing field. It expands federal voting protections to all 50 states, providing oversight of any state or local government that has had repeated election violations. It would also stop more subtle voter suppression rules, as well as stopping courts from changing election rules that disfranchise voters during an election—all methods of shifting an election that tend to suppress minority votes.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi greeted the introduction of H.R. 4 enthusiastically, noting that “Democrats are fighting back against an anti-democratic tide, protecting access to the ballot box for every American.” Sewell added a defense of federal protection of the right to vote in the face of state attempts to take away that right: “Today, old battles have become new again as we face the most pernicious assault on the right to vote in generations,” said Sewell. “It’s clear: federal oversight is urgently needed.”

    The House will take up the bill when it returns from break on August 23, but the fate of the bill will likely be determined in the Senate, where, so far, only one Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is likely to support it. The bill will die there unless Senate Democrats agree to a carve out that enables them to pass it without facing a filibuster, which would enable the Republicans to kill it.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 20, 2021 (Friday)

    On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner, an enslaved American, led about 70 of his enslaved and free Black neighbors in a rebellion to awaken his white neighbors to the inherent brutality of slaveholding and the dangers it presented to their own safety. Turner and his friends traveled from house to house in their neighborhood in Southampton County, Virginia, freeing enslaved people and murdering about 60 of the white men, women, and children they encountered. Their goal, Turner later told an interviewer, was “to carry terror and devastation wherever we went.”

    State militia put down the rebellion in a couple of days, and both the legal system and white vigilantes killed at least 200 Black Virginians, many of whom were not involved in Turner’s bid to end enslavement. Turner himself was captured in October, tried in November, sentenced to death, and hanged.

    But white Virginians, and white folks in neighboring southern states, remained frightened. Turner had been, in their minds, a well-treated, educated enslaved man, who knew his Bible well and seemed the very last sort of person they would have expected to revolt. And so they responded to the rebellion in two ways. They turned against the idea that enslavement was a bad thing, and instead began to argue that human enslavement was a positive good.

    And states across the South passed laws making it a crime to teach enslaved Americans to read and write.

    Denying enslaved Black Americans access to education exiled them from a place in the nation. The Framers had quite explicitly organized the United States not on the principles of religion or tradition, but rather on the principles of the Enlightenment: the idea that, by applying knowledge and reasoning to the natural world, men could figure out the best way to order society. Someone excluded from access to education could not participate in that national project. Instead, that person was read out of society, doomed to be controlled by leaders who marshaled religion and propaganda to defend their dominance.

    In 1858, South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond explained that society needed “a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill.”

    But when they organized in the 1850s to push back against the efforts of elite enslavers like Hammond to take over the national government, members of the fledgling Republican Party recognized the importance of education. In 1859, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln explained that those who adhered to the “mud-sill” theory “assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible…. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous.”

    Lincoln argued that workers were not simply drudges but rather were the heart of the economy. “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.” He tied the political vision of the Framers to this economic vision. In order to prosper, he argued, men needed “book-learning,” and he called for universal education. An educated community, he said, “will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”

    When they were in control of the federal government in the 1860s, Republicans passed the Land Grant College Act, funding public universities so that men without wealthy fathers might have access to higher education. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Republicans also tried to use the federal government to fund public schools for poor Black and white Americans, dividing money up according to illiteracy rates. But President Andrew Johnson vetoed that bill on the grounds that the federal government had no business protecting Black education; that process, he said, belonged to the states—which for the next century denied Black people equal access to schools, excluding them from full participation in American society and condemning them to menial labor.

    Then, in 1954, after decades of pressure from Black and brown Americans for equal access to public schools, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor of California, unanimously agreed that separate schools were inherently unequal, and thus unconstitutional.

    Immediately, white southerners lawmakers launched a campaign of what they called “massive resistance” to integration. Some Virginia counties closed their public schools. Others took funds from integrated public schools and used a grant system to redistribute those funds to segregated private schools. These segregation academies dovetailed neatly with Ronald Reagan’s rise to political power with a message that public employees had gotten too powerful and that public enterprises should be privatized.

    After Reagan’s election, his Secretary of Education commissioned a study of the nation’s public schools, starting with the conviction that there was a "widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system." The resulting report, titled “A Nation at Risk,” announced: “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

    Although a later study commissioned in 1990 by the Secretary of Energy found the data in the original report did not support the report’s conclusions, Reagan nonetheless used it to justify school privatization. He vowed after the report’s release that he would: “continue to work in the months ahead for passage of tuition tax credits, vouchers, educational savings accounts, voluntary school prayer, and abolishing the Department of Education. Our agenda is to restore quality to education by increasing competition and by strengthening parental choice and local control.”

    The drive to push tax dollars from public schools to private academies through a voucher system has remained a top priority for Movement Conservatives eager to dismantle the federal government, although a recent study from Wisconsin shows that vouchers do not actually save tax dollars, and scholars do not believe they help students achieve better outcomes than they would have in public schools.

    Calling education a civil rights issue—as President Barack Obama had done when calling for more funding for schools—former president Trump asked Congress to fund “school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.” (In fact, most of those using vouchers are already enrolled in private schools.) His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was a staunch supporter of school choice and the voucher system; she and her family gave $600,000 to promote school choice ballot laws in the decade before 2017.

    The coronavirus pandemic sped up the push to defund public schools as Trump pushed hard to transfer funds from the closed public schools to private schools. In December 2020, he signed an executive order allowing states to use money from a federal anti-poverty program for vouchers, and as of mid-2021, at least 8 states had launched new voucher programs. A number of Republican governors are using federal funds from the bills designed to address the pandemic to push vouchers.

    In 1831, lawmakers afraid of the equality that lies at the heart of our Declaration of Independence made sure Black Americans could not have equal access to education.

    In 1971, when segregation academies were gaining ground, the achievement gap between white and Black 8th grade students in reading scores was 57 points. In 1988, the year of the nation’s highest level of school integration, that gap had fallen to 18 points. By 1992, it was back up to 30 points, and it has not dropped below 25 points since.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 21, 2021 (Saturday)

    A morning this week that Buddy captured as he left for work and I was going to bed.

    I need an early night tonight.

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
      August 22, 2021 (Sunday)

    A week after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, as the U.S. was withdrawing the forces that have been in the country since 2001, the initial chaos created by the Taliban’s rapid sweep across the country has simmered down into what is at least a temporary pattern.

    We knew there was a good chance that the Taliban would regain control of the country when we left, although that was not a foregone conclusion. The former president, Donald Trump, recognized that the American people were tired of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, which was approaching its 20th year, and in February 2020, his administration negotiated with the Taliban to enable the U.S. to withdraw. In exchange for the release of 5000 Taliban fighters and the promise that the U.S. would withdraw within the next 14 months, the Taliban agreed not to attack U.S. soldiers.

    Trump’s dislike of the war in Afghanistan reflected the unpopularity of the long engagement, which by 2020 was ill defined. The war had begun in 2001, after terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11 of that year. Taliban leaders in control of Afghanistan sheltered al-Qaeda, and after the attacks, the U.S. president, George W. Bush, demanded that Afghanistan hand over the terrorist leader believed to be behind the terrorist attack on the U.S: Osama bin Laden. In October, after Taliban leaders refused, the U.S. launched a bombing campaign.

    That campaign was successful enough that in December 2001 the Taliban offered to surrender. But the U.S. rejected that surrender, determined by then to eradicate the extremist group and fill the vacuum of its collapse with a new, pro-American government. Al-Qaeda leader bin Laden escaped from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and the U.S. project in Afghanistan turned from an anti-terrorism mission into an effort to rebuild the Afghan government into a modern democracy.

    By 2002 the Bush administration was articulating a new doctrine in foreign policy, arguing that the U.S. had a right to strike preemptively against countries that harbor terrorists. In 2003, under this doctrine, the U.S. launched a war on Iraq, which diverted money, troops, and attention from Afghanistan. The Taliban regrouped and began to regain the territory it had lost after the U.S. first began its bombing campaign in 2001.
     
    By 2005, Bush administration officials privately worried the war in Afghanistan could not be won on its current terms, especially with the U.S. focused on Iraq. Then, when he took office in 2009, President Barack Obama turned his attention back to Afghanistan. He threw more troops into that country, bringing their numbers close to 100,000. In 2011, the U.S. military located bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and launched a raid on the compound where he was hiding, killing him. By 2014, Obama had drawn troops in Afghanistan down to about 11,000, and in December of that year, he announced that the mission of the war—weakening the Taliban and capturing bin Laden—had been accomplished, and thus the war was over. The troops would come home.

    But, of course, they didn’t, leaving Trump to develop his own policy. But his administration’s approach to the chaos in that country was different than his predecessor’s. By negotiating with the Taliban and excluding the Afghan government the U.S. had been supporting, the Trump team essentially accepted that the Taliban were the most important party in Afghanistan. The agreement itself reflected the oddity of the negotiations. Each clause referring to the Taliban began: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will….”

    It was immediately clear that the Taliban was not living up to its side of the bargain. Although it did stop attacking U.S. troops, It began to escalate violence in Afghanistan itself, assassinated political opponents, and maintained ties to al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, the Trump administration put pressure on the leaders of the Afghan government to release the 5000 Taliban prisoners, and they eventually did. Before Biden took office, Trump dropped the U.S. troop engagement in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to about 2500.

    When he took office, Biden had to decide whether to follow Trump’s path or to push back on the Taliban on the grounds they were not honoring the agreement Trump’s people had hammered out. Biden himself wanted to get out of the war. At the same time, he recognized that fighting the Taliban again would mean throwing more troops back into Afghanistan, and that the U.S. would again begin to take casualties. He opted to get the troops out, but extended the deadline to September 11, 2021, the twentieth anniversary of the initial attack. (Former president Trump complained that the troops should come out faster.)

    What Biden did not foresee was the speed with which the Taliban would retake control of the country. It swept over the regional capitals and then Kabul in about nine days in mid-August with barely a shot fired, and the head of the Afghan government fled the country, leaving it in chaos.

    That speed left the U.S. flatfooted. Afghans who had been part of the government or who had helped the U.S. and its allies rushed to the airport to try to escape. In the pandemonium of that first day, up to seven people were killed; two people appear to have clung to a U.S. military plane as it took off, falling to their deaths.

    And yet, the Taliban, so far, has promised amnesty for its former opponents and limited rights for women. It has its own problems, as the Afghan government has been supported for the previous 20 years by foreign money, including a large percentage from the U.S. Not only has that money dried up as foreign countries refuse to back the Taliban, but also Biden has put sanctions on Afghanistan and also on some Pakistanis suspected of funding the Taliban. At the same time it appears that no other major sponsor, like Russia or China, has stepped in to fill the vacuum left by U.S. money, leaving the Taliban fishing for whatever goodwill it can find.

    Yesterday, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo flagged tweets showing that members of the Afghan government, including the brother of the president who fled, are in what appear from the photos posted on Twitter to be relaxed talks about forming a new government. Other factions in Afghanistan would like to stop this from happening, and today Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned that ISIS-K, another extremist group, is threatening to attack the airport to destabilize the Taliban.  

    Meanwhile, there are 10,000 people crowded into that airport, and U.S. evacuations continue. The Kabul airport is secure—for now—and the U.S. military has created a larger perimeter around it for protection. The U.S. government has asked Americans in Afghanistan to shelter in place until they can be moved out safely; the Qatari ambassador to Afghanistan has been escorting groups of them to the airport. Evacuations have been slower than hoped because of backlogs at the next stage of the journey, but the government has enlisted the help of 18 commercial airlines to move those passengers forward, leaving room for new evacuees.

    Yesterday, about 7800 evacuees left the Kabul airport. About 28,000 have been evacuated since August 14.

    Interestingly, much of the U.S. media is describing this scenario as a disaster for President Biden. Yet, on CNN this morning, Matthew Dowd, who was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, noted that more than 20,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan without a single loss of an American life, while in the same period of time, 5000 Americans have died from Covid-19 and 500 have died from gunshots.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 23, 2021 (Monday)

    Today, the Food and Drug Administration gave full and final approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which had previously been in use under an emergency authorization. The FDA approved the vaccine for people 16 and older. It has not yet been fully approved for people aged 12 to 15; for them it is still under an emergency authorization.

    The good news about the vaccine’s approval sent the stock market soaring, as investors hoped the approval would lead to a surge in vaccinations, which would, in turn, strengthen the economy.

    While this full authorization may help convince those hesitant about the vaccine to get one, it is more likely to help increase vaccination rates by sparking further vaccine mandates. Today President Joe Biden encouraged private businesses to require their employees to get vaccinated.

    With the FDA’s full approval, the Pentagon will move forward with a requirement that all military personnel get the vaccine. In New York City, mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has announced that all 148,000 public school teachers in the city must have at least one shot of the vaccine by September 27.

    In Florida, the current death rate exceeds its highest number of deaths in any earlier wave of the pandemic. Last week the state had more than 150,000 new coronavirus infections, and this morning about 75 doctors in Palm Beach Gardens staged a symbolic walkout from their hospitals in a direct appeal to the public to get vaccinated. They warned that they are burning out from caring for the sick. "It's the worst it's ever been right now,” Dr. Robin Kass told Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post. “And I just think that nobody realizes that."

    Florida governor Ron DeSantis is standing firm on his refusal to permit mask mandates in schools, but the situation has gotten so bad that six school districts that together enroll more than a million students have passed mask mandates anyway. On Friday, the staunchly Republican Sarasota County joined the five Democratic districts of Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, and Alachua counties to require masks in schools.

    The airlift out of Afghanistan continues, with about 11,000 people flown out today. Since August 14, the U.S. has gotten about 48,000 people out of Afghanistan. While pundits have compared the evacuation from Afghanistan to that from Saigon in 1975 after North Vietnamese forces took the city, in that case the U.S. rescued about 7000 people in only two days, from April 29 to April 30.

    Biden suggested today that the airlift might continue past his self-imposed deadline of August 31, but Pentagon leaders said they would complete the evacuation by that date and Taliban leaders said they would not tolerate an extension. The Taliban faces pressure from ISIS-K, a different extremist group, and cannot afford to appear too weak, especially since it is currently in talks with officials of the former, pro-U.S. Afghan regime to hammer out a government for the country.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 24, 2021 (Tuesday)

    Since August 14, just ten days ago, the U.S. has facilitated the evacuation of 70,700 people from Afghanistan; more than 21,000 flew out in the last day alone. President Biden maintains that the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline.

    The evacuation, which began chaotically as the Afghan army and government crumbled and the Taliban took over the country in less than two weeks, has become far more orderly and efficient. (If there’s one thing the military does exceedingly well, it’s move large numbers of people!)

    The administration has refused to say how many Americans remain in the country— the State Department urged employees to leave the country beginning in April—but its reluctance is likely out of concern about passing that information on to the Taliban. This evening, Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson, said that the department has called every American who has expressed an interest in leaving Afghanistan, identifying them through a repatriation form on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

    News broke today that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William J. Burns, met secretly on Monday in Kabul with a Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, to discuss the continuing evacuation efforts. Regardless of what they discussed, it seems to me a sign that the U.S. feels secure enough about the safety of Kabul to risk sending the country’s top spy there for a parley.

    Another demonstration of that security came today when two Representatives, Peter Meijer (R-MI) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), took it upon themselves to fly to Kabul, unannounced ("to conduct oversight on the mission to evacuate Americans and our allies," Moulton’s office said). The State Department and U.S. military personnel were said to be furious that they had to "divert resources to provide security and information to the lawmakers.” “It’s as moronic as it is selfish,” a senior administration official told the Washington Post. “They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans—while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk—so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.”

    Although no Americans have yet been hurt in the evacuation, that state of affairs is precarious. Threats of an attack on the Kabul airport from ISIS-K, which would like to destabilize the Taliban before it cements its power, continue to loom.

    Meanwhile, Congress is busy at home. The House of Representatives has a number of major bills before it. It has the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill for road, bridges, broadband, and other so-called “hard” infrastructure projects, and its counterpart, the $3.5 trillion list of Democratic priorities for “soft” infrastructure, including child care, housing, funding for measures addressing climate change, education, and so on.

    These bills represent the largest investment in America since at least the 1960s. They are also a signature effort for the Democrats. They reject the Republican policy of replacing government action with private investment spurred by tax cuts, returning the nation to the era before the Reagan Revolution.

    The House is also considering two major voting rights acts. One is the For the People Act, which protects the right to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering; reduces corporate money in elections; and requires new ethics rules for elected officials. The other is the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is more limited than the For the People Act but which has been carefully tailored to address the Supreme Court’s previous reasoning for gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013 and again in July of this year.

    The John Lewis Act would restore the power of the Department of Justice to prevent states from restricting the vote, as Republican-dominated states have been rushing to do since the 2020 election.

    Democrats from different parts of the country and with different constituencies have different priorities. Holding them together, especially on the infrastructure bill, has not been easy. Progressives refused to agree to the bipartisan bill until they were assured it would not replace the larger package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to move the two forward together, and then, on August 12, nine Democrats from moderate districts demanded a vote on the bipartisan bill without waiting for the larger measure.

    Meanwhile, those who see voting rights as the single most important issue for Congress right now have been frustrated as the infrastructure bills have taken up so much of Congress’s time.

    Negotiations led today to a House vote on a rule that folded together these concerns. It approved the start of the process of writing the $3.5 trillion bill, guaranteed a vote on the bipartisan bill by September 27, and called for a vote on the John Lewis voting rights measure. The vote on the rule was 220 to 212 with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no.

    The House then passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act by a vote of 219 to 212. Not a single Republican voted yes. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Republicans plan to kill it with the filibuster.

    Yesterday’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration has, as expected, led to more requirements for proof of vaccination in public spaces. Today, Louisiana State University announced that no one will be admitted to football games without proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. Ohio State University explicitly said that the FDA's full approval of the vaccine meant it would require its staff, students, and faculty to be vaccinated. Biden’s efforts to combat the pandemic seem to be gaining ground again.

    Each of these major news items shows a remarkably effective political party, especially since the Democrats are accomplishing as much as they are while—with the exception of a handful of Republicans willing to sign on to the bipartisan infrastructure package—Republicans are doing all they can simply to stop the Democrats.

    This week, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania announced they are starting hearings on the 2020 election to address their concerns that it was fraudulent. Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature, too, are revisiting the 2020 election. An “audit” of the 2020 election  in Arizona has been plagued with irregularities, errors, and problems: it was supposed to announce its “results” this week—three months behind schedule—but three of the five leaders from the Cyber Ninjas conducting the audit are sick with Covid.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
      August 25, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Today the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol asked eight federal agencies for records. The chair of the committee, Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), gave the agencies two weeks to produce a sweeping range of material that showed the committee is conducting a thorough investigation of the last days of the Trump administration.

    Thompson sent letters to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which keeps the records for the government; the Defense Department; the Department of Homeland Security; the Interior Department; the Department of Justice; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the National Counterterrorism Center; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    While the House had previously asked the National Archives for all the records it had covering the events and federal actors involved in the events of January 6 itself, the select committee is using a much wider lens. It has asked the departments not just for records covering January 6, but also for those reaching back as far as April 1, 2020, to see if the Trump administration had plans to contest and ultimately, should he lose, overturn the election.

    The committee has asked the departments for any records about plans to derail the electoral count, organize violent rallies, declare martial law, or use the government positions to overturn the election results. It has also asked for any “documents and communications” about foreign influence in the 2020 election through social media and misinformation.

    And then there was this tidbit. The last items the committee asked NARA to produce were: “All documents and communications related to the January 3, 2021, letter from 10 former Defense Secretaries warning of use of the military in election disputes.”

    That letter, which was signed by all ten of the living former defense secretaries, warned that “[e]fforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.” The letter reminded then–acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates that they were “each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

    It was an extraordinary letter, and its authors thought it was important enough to write it over the holidays, for publication three days before the January 6 electoral count. The driving force behind the letter was former vice president Dick Cheney.

    Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney (R-WY) sits on the House select committee.

    Trump has threatened to invoke executive privilege to stop the release of the documents.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the committee’s action proved it is not looking for truth but rather is engaging in politics. The committee asked NARA for records of communications between the president and “any Member of Congress or congressional staff.” This will sweep in McCarthy, who had a heated conversation with Trump on the phone as rioters invaded the Capitol. “They come for members of Congress, they are coming for everybody,” he said.

    But, in fact, such a sweep is precisely how scholars actually figure out what has happened in historical events. Limiting research before you know the lay of the land simply obscures the larger picture.

    Just such a limiting view is on the table for the Republicans right now as they are proposing to investigate President Biden’s exit from Afghanistan if they regain control of the House in 2022, saying it “makes Benghazi look like a much smaller issue.”

    The first days of the evacuation after the Afghan army crumbled and the Taliban swept into control of the country in nine days were chaotic, indeed, but since August 14, the U.S. has evacuated more than 82,300 people, bringing out 19,000 people yesterday alone. It has evacuated at least 4500 U.S. citizens and has sent more than 20,000 emails and made more than 45,000 phone calls to Americans who had notified the embassy they were in the country (since Americans do not have to register with the embassy, it is unclear how many citizens are there). A rough estimate says there are probably 500 U.S. citizens who want to leave, while another 1000 are not certain or want to stay.

    Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a press conference pointing out that the evacuation “is one of the largest airlifts in history, a massive military, diplomatic, security, and humanitarian undertaking,” and noted that “[o]nly the United States could organize and execute a mission of this scale and this complexity.”

    Blinken said that the success of the airlift to date has been “a testament both to U.S. leadership and to the strength of our alliances and partnerships.” He reiterated that the Biden administration is not abandoning Afghanistan but is shifting its focus from military power to diplomacy, cybersecurity, and financial pressure. He said that he administration has worked hard to build alliances and that the U.S. will continue to work with allies both in Afghanistan and elsewhere going forward. He pointed out that the Taliban has made both public and private assurances that they will continue to allow people to leave the country, and that 114 countries—more than half of the countries in the world—have warned the Taliban that they must honor that commitment.

    Tonight, it appears the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. Russia, which backed the Taliban in its struggle against the U.S. and which originally said Taliban control would restore stability to Afghanistan, has begun to evacuate its citizens from Kabul. And tonight, the U.S. government warned of security threats and urged U.S. citizens to leave the area around the airport immediately. According to a State Department spokesperson: "This is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground.”

    When asked by a reporter about investigations into the evacuation, Blinken said he and the president accepted responsibility for it. He seemed fine with scrutiny of the last few months but suggested that that period should not be looked at in isolation if we are going to learn from our experience in Afghanistan. “[T]here will be plenty of time to look back at the last six or seven months, to look back at the last 20 years,” he said, “and to look to see what we might have done differently, what we might have done sooner, what we might have done more effectively.  But I have to tell you that right now, my entire focus is on the mission at hand.”

    Today, President Biden signed into law H.R. 3642, the “Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act,” giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the 369th Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service during World War I.

    In that war, the 369th Infantry was made up of 2000 Black men, 70% of whom were from Harlem. Since many white men in Jim Crow America refused to serve with their Black comrades, army leaders assigned the unit to the French Army, where, although they still wore the U.S. uniform, they were outfitted with French weapons.

    Sent into the field, they stayed out for 191 days, the longest combat deployment of any unit in the war. At the Second Battle of the Marne and Meuse-Argonne, the unit had some of the worst casualties of that mangling war, suffering 144 dead and about 1,000 wounded. “My men never retire, they go forward or they die,” said their commander, Colonel William Hayward. Germans called them the “Bloodthirsty Black Men.” The French called them “hell-fighters.” A month after the armistice, the French government awarded the entire 369th the Croix de Guerre.

    And now, in 2021, the unit has, at long last, been awarded a U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

    Sometimes it takes a while, but accurate history has a way of coming out.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 26, 2021 (Thursday)

    In Afghanistan today, two explosions outside the Kabul airport killed at least 60 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. troops. More than 100 Afghans and 15 U.S. service members were wounded.

    ISIS-K, the Islamic State Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the attack. ISIS-K is an extremist offshoot of the Taliban organized in Pakistan about six years ago by younger men who think the older leaders of the Taliban now in control of Afghanistan are too moderate. The ISIS-K leaders want to destabilize the Taliban’s apparent assumption of the country’s leadership after the collapse of the Afghan government.

    The Taliban joined governments around the world in condemning the attack, illustrating their interest in being welcomed into the larger international sphere rather than continuing to be perceived as violent outsiders. Increasingly, it seems their sweep into power surprised them as much as anyone, and they are now faced with pulling together warring factions without the hatred of occupying U.S. troops to glue them together.

    Taliban leaders continue to talk with former leaders of the U.S.-backed Afghan government to figure out how to govern the country. Western aid, on which the country relies, will depend on the Taliban’s acceptance of basic human rights, including the education of its girls, and its refusal to permit terrorists to use the country as a staging ground.

    The attack was horrific but not a surprise. Last night, the U.S. State Department warned of specific security threats and urged U.S. citizens to leave the area around the airport immediately.

    Later in the day, observers reported explosions near the airport. Paul Szoldra, editor-in-chief of Task and Purpose, tweeted that he had heard from a source that the explosions were controlled demolitions as U.S. troops destroyed equipment.

    Tonight, President Joe Biden held a press conference honoring the dead as “part of the bravest, most capable, and the most selfless military on the face of the Earth.” He told the terrorists that “[w]e will hunt you down and make you pay,” but on our terms, not theirs. “I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command,” he said.

    Despite the attacks, the airlift continues. Today, General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of United States Central Command, said that more than 104,000 people have been evacuated from the airport, including 5000 U.S. citizens.

    I confess to being knocked off-keel by the Republican reaction to the Kabul bombing.

    The roots of the U.S. withdrawal from its 20 years in Afghanistan were planted in February 2020, when the Trump administration cut a deal with the Taliban agreeing to release 5000 imprisoned Taliban fighters and to leave the country by May 1, 2021, so long as the Taliban did not kill any more Americans. The negotiations did not include the U.S.-backed Afghan government. By the time Biden took office, the U.S. had withdrawn all but 2500 troops from the country.

    That left Biden with the option either to go back on Trump’s agreement or to follow through. To ignore the agreement would mean the Taliban would again begin attacking U.S. service people, and the U.S. would both have to pour in significant numbers of troops and sustain casualties. And Biden himself wanted out of what had become a meandering, expensive, unpopular war.

    On April 14, 2021, three months after taking office, Biden said he would honor the agreement he had inherited from Trump. “It is perhaps not what I would have negotiated myself,” he said, “but it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something.” He said that the original U.S. mission had been to stop Afghanistan from becoming a staging ground for terrorists and to destroy those who had attacked the United States on 9-11, and both of those goals had been accomplished. Now, he said, “our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly unclear.”

    Biden said he would begin, not end, the troop withdrawal on May 1 (prompting Trump to complain that it should be done sooner), getting everyone out by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks that took us there in the first place. (He later adjusted that to August 31.) He promised to evacuate the country “responsibly, deliberately, and safely” and assured Americans that the U.S. had “trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel” and that “they’ll continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.”

    Instead, the Afghan army crumbled as the U.S began to pull its remaining troops out in July. By mid-August, the Taliban had taken control of the capital, Kabul, after taking all the regional capitals in a little over a week. It turned out that when the Trump administration cut the Afghan government out of negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan soldiers recognized that they would soon be on their own and arranged “cease fire” agreements, enabling the Taliban to take control with very little fighting.  

    Just before the Taliban took Kabul, the leaders of the Afghan government fled the country, abandoning the country to chaos. People rushed to the airport to escape, although the Taliban quickly reassured them that they would give amnesty to all of their former enemies. In those chaotic early hours, seven Afghans died at the airport, either crushed in the crowds or killed when they fell from planes to which they had clung in hopes of getting out.

    Then, though, the Biden administration established order and has conducted the largest airlift in U.S. history, more than 100,000 people, without casualties until today. The State Department says about 1000 Americans remain in Afghanistan. They are primarily Afghan-Americans who are not sure whether they want to leave. The administration is in contact with them and promises it will continue to work to evacuate them after August 31 if they choose to leave.

    In the past, when American troops were targeted by terrorists, Americans came together to condemn those attackers. Apparently, no longer. While world leaders—including even those of the Taliban—condemned the attacks on U.S. troops, Republican leaders instead attacked President Biden.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blamed Biden for the attack and insisted that troops should remain in Afghanistan under congressional control until all Americans are safely out. Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who replaced Liz Cheney (R-WY) as the third-ranking Republican in the House when Cheney refused to line up behind Trump, tweeted: "Joe Biden has blood on his hands.... This horrific national security and humanitarian disaster is solely the result of Joe Biden's weak and incompetent leadership. He is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.”

    The attacks on our soldiers and on Afghan civilians in Kabul today have taken up all the oxygen in the U.S. media, but there is another horrific story: the continuing carnage as the Delta variant of Covid-19 continues to rip through the unvaccinated.

    In Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has forbidden mask or vaccine mandates, 21,000 people a day are being diagnosed with coronavirus—more than twice the rate of the rest of the  country—and almost 230 a day are dying, a rate triple that of the rest of the country. Right now, Florida alone accounts for one fifth of national deaths from Covid.

    Ten major hospitals in Florida are out of space in their morgues and have rented coolers for their dead; those, too, are almost full. Intensive care units in the state are 94% occupied. Sixty-eight hospitals warned yesterday that they had fewer than 48 hours left of the oxygen their Covid patients need, a reflection of the fact that 17,000 people are currently hospitalized in the state.

    Appearing on the Fox News Channel last night, DeSantis blamed Biden for the crisis. “He said he was going to end Covid,” DeSantis said. “He hasn’t done that.”

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 27, 2021 (Friday)

    America is in a watershed moment. Since the 1980s, the country has focused on individualism: the idea that the expansion of the federal government after the Depression in the 1930s created a form of collectivism that we must destroy by cutting taxes and slashing regulation to leave individuals free to do as they wish.

    Domestically, that ideology meant dismantling government regulation, social safety networks, and public infrastructure projects. Internationally, it meant a form of “cowboy diplomacy” in which the U.S. usually acted on its own to rebuild nations in our image.

    Now, President Joe Biden appears to be trying to bring back a focus on the common good.

    For all that Republicans today insist that individualism is the heart of Americanism, in fact the history of federal protection of the common good began in the 1860s with their own ancestors, led by Abraham Lincoln, who wrote: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves---in their separate, and individual capacities.”

    The contrast between these two ideologies has been stark this week.

    On the one hand are those who insist that the government cannot limit an individual’s rights by mandating either masks or vaccines, even in the face of the deadly Delta variant of the coronavirus that is, once again, taking more than 1000 American lives a day.

    In New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has required teachers to be vaccinated, the city’s largest police union has said it will sue if a vaccine is mandated for its members.

    In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued an executive order prohibiting any government office or any private entity receiving government funds from requiring vaccines.

    In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has also forbidden mask mandates, but today Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled that DeSantis’s order is unconstitutional. Cooper pointed out that in 1914 and 1939, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that individual rights take a back seat to public safety: individuals can drink alcohol, for example, but not drive drunk. DeSantis was scathing of the opinion and has vowed to appeal. Meanwhile, NBC News reported this week that information about the coronavirus in Florida, as well as Georgia, is no longer easily available on government websites.

    On the other hand, as predicted, the full approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration has prompted a flood of vaccine mandates.

    The investigation into the events of January 6, when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, also showcases the tension between individualism and community.

    Yesterday, after months in which Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, called for the release of the identity of the officer who shot Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, Capitol Police officer Lieutenant Michael Byrd, the 28-year veteran of the force who shot Babbitt, gave an interview to Lester Holt of NBC News.

    Right-wing activists have called Babbitt a martyr murdered by the government, but Byrd explained that he was responsible for protecting 60 to 80 members of the House and their staffers. As rioters smashed the glass doors leading into the House chamber, Byrd repeatedly called for them to get back. When Ashli Babbitt climbed through the broken door, he shot her in the shoulder. She later died from her injuries. Byrd said he was doing his job to protect our government. “I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd told Holt. “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”

    The conflict between individualism and society also became clear today as the House select committee looking into the attack asked social media giants to turn over “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” they had gathered about disinformation distributed by both foreign and domestic actors, as well as information about “domestic violent extremists” who participated in the attack.

    Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) immediately responded that “Congress has no general power to inquire into private affairs and to compel disclosure….” He urged telecommunications companies and Facebook not to hand over any materials, calling their effort an “authoritarian undertaking.” Banks told Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson that Republicans should punish every lawmaker investigating the January 6 insurrection if they retake control of Congress in 2022.

    Biden’s new turn is especially obvious tonight in international affairs. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a country we entered almost 20 years ago with a clear mission that became muddied almost immediately, has sparked Republican criticism for what many describe as a U.S. defeat.

    Since he took office, Biden has insisted on shifting American foreign policy away from U.S. troops alone on the ground toward multilateral pressure using finances and technology.

    After yesterday’s bombing in Kabul took the lives of 160 Afghans and 13 American military personnel, Biden warned ISIS-K: "We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

    Tonight, a new warning from the State Department warning Americans at the gates of the Kabul airport to “leave immediately” came just before a spokesman for CENTCOM, the United States Central Command in the Defense Department overseeing the Middle East, announced: "U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner. The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties."

    Biden’s strike on ISIS-K demonstrated the nation's over-the-horizon technologies that he hopes will replace troops. Even still, the administration continues to call for international cooperation. In a press conference today, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby responded to a question about U.S. control in Afghanistan by saying: “It’s not about U.S. control in the Indo-Pacific. It’s about protecting our country from threats and challenges that emanate from that part of the world. And it’s about revitalizing our network of alliances and partnerships to help our partners in the international community do the same.“

    Meanwhile, this afternoon, news broke that the Taliban has asked the United States to keep a diplomatic presence in the country even after it ends its military mission. The Taliban continues to hope for international recognition, in part to claw back some of the aid that western countries—especially the U.S.—will no longer provide, as well as to try to get the country’s billions in assets unfrozen.

    A continued diplomatic presence in Afghanistan would make it easier to continue to get allies and U.S. citizens out of the country, but State Department spokesman Ned Price said the idea is a nonstarter unless a future Afghan government protects the rights of its citizens, including its women, and refuses to harbor terrorists. Price also emphasized that the U.S. would not make this decision without consulting allies. “This is not just a discussion the United States will have to decide for itself.… We are coordinating with our international partners, again to share ideas, to ensure that we are sending the appropriate signals and messages to the Taliban,” he said.

    Evacuations from Afghanistan continue. Since August 14, they have topped 110,000, with 12,500 people in the last 24 hours.

    Perhaps the news story that best illustrates the tension today between individualism and using the government to help everyone is about a natural disaster. Hurricane Ida, which formed in the Caribbean yesterday, is barreling toward the U.S. Gulf Coast. When it hit western Cuba today, it was a Category 1 storm, but meteorologists expect it to pick up speed as it crosses the warm gulf, becoming a Category 4 storm by the time it hits the U.S. coastline. The area from Louisiana to Florida is in the storm’s path. New Orleans could see winds of up to 110 miles an hour and a storm surge of as much as 11 feet. Louisiana officials issued evacuation orders today.

    The storm is expected to hit Sunday evening, exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina did. But this time, there is another complication: this is the very part of the country suffering terribly right now from coronavirus. Standing firm on individual rights, only about 40% of Louisiana’s population has been vaccinated, and hospitals are already stretched thin.

    Today, President Biden declared an emergency in Louisiana, ordering federal assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the region ahead of the storm, trying to head off a catastrophe. The federal government will also help to pay the costs of the emergency.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 28, 2021 (Saturday)

    Today, Americans across the country marched for voting rights.

    They recognize that our right to have a say in our government is slipping out of our hands. At a rally in Washington, Martin Luther King III told the crowd, “Our country is backsliding to the unconscionable days of Jim Crow. And some of our senators are saying, ‘Well, we can’t overcome the filibuster,’.... I say to you today: Get rid of the filibuster. That is a monument to white supremacy we must tear down.”

    Since 1986, Republicans have worked to limit access to the polls, recognizing that when more people vote, they lose. Those restrictions took off after 2013 when, in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court gutted the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required the Department of Justice to sign off on changes to voting in states with histories of racial discrimination.

    That decision opened the way to voter restrictions, but voting laws have come especially fast and furious this year. Republicans have refused to accept that the election of Democrat Joe Biden was legitimate and, in Republican-dominated states, have worked to make sure Democrats do not have the power to elect another president in the future. Between January 1 and July 14 of this year, at least 18 states have enacted 30 laws restricting access to the vote.

    Their plan is clearly to make sure those states stay Republican, no matter what the voters actually want.

    This lack of competition destroys Democrats’ chances of winning elections, but it also pushes the Republican Party further and further to the right. With states sewn up for a Republican victory, potential Republican presidential candidates have to worry less about winning a general election than about winning the primaries.

    Because primary voters are always the most energized and partisan voters, and because for the Republicans that currently means staunch Trump supporters, those vying to be Republican front runners are the Trump extremists: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, and even Florida’s Matt Gaetz and Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently have been touring the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire attacking mask requirements and vaccine mandates, critical race theory and the infrastructure bills currently under discussion in Congress.  

    Vote-rigging in Republican-dominated states leads logically to a Republican extremist winning the White House in 2024.

    Congress has before it two voting rights bills that would help to restore a level playing field between the two parties. One, the For the People Act, protects the right to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering, limits corporate money in elections, and requires new ethics rules for elected officials. The House passed the For the People Act in March.

    On Tuesday, August 24, the House passed the second of the two voting rights bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, also known as H.R. 4, which expands the system of preclearance that had been in the 1965 Voting Rights Act before 2013. Under the John Lewis bill, the Department of Justice has to sign off on voting changes not simply in states with a longstanding history of discrimination, but also in states anywhere in the country that have shown a pattern of violations of voting rights.

    Both of these measures are stalled in the Senate, where Republicans, who insist that states, not the federal government, must have the final say in who gets to vote, have vowed to filibuster them. Unless the Democrats can agree to carve out an exception to the filibuster for voting rights, the measures will die.

    And today, Americans across the country marched for voting rights.

    Today is the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was on this day in 1963 that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

    Dr. King anchored the speeches for the day, though: before him spoke the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a young John Lewis. Just 23 years old, he had been one of the thirteen original Freedom Riders, white and black students traveling together from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans to challenge segregation. “It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious,” Lewis later recalled.

    Two years later, as Lewis and 600 marchers hoping to register African American voters in Alabama stopped to pray at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, mounted police troopers charged the marchers, beating them with clubs and bullwhips. They fractured Lewis’s skull.

    The attack in Selma created momentum for voting rights. Just after the attack, President Lyndon Baines Johnson called for Congress to pass a national voting rights bill. It did. On August 6, 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act authorizing federal supervision of voter registration in districts where African Americans were historically underrepresented.

    Today is also the anniversary of the longest filibuster ever conducted by a single senator. ​​On this date in 1957, South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond began his filibuster to kill the Civil Rights Act of 1957, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was designed to protect the right of African Americans to vote, using the federal government to overrule the state laws that limited voter registration and kept Black voters from the polls.
     
    On a day that harks back to both John Lewis’s fight for voting rights and Strom Thurmond’s fight against them, I wonder which man’s principles will shape our future.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
    August 29, 2021 (Sunday)

    Tomorrow the sun rises on a new school year at my university.

    I'm going to take the night off to gather my wits (and get a decent night's sleep).

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]

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    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     August 30, 2021 (Monday)
     
    At 3:29 ET on August 30, 2021—early on the morning of August 31 in Afghanistan—the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan ended. It was the longest war in American history.

    Among the last to come home were the 13 Americans killed in an ISIS-K attack last Thursday. They arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Sunday morning from Germany. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and 8 aides attended the dignified transfer between the plane and a waiting vehicle.
     
    In the last 17 days in Afghanistan, U.S. troops evacuated more than 120,000 people, making up the largest airlift in our history. For comparison, as Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post pointed out, the U.S. evacuated no Americans from the civil war in Yemen in 2015, and only about 167 from Libya in 2011.
     
    While critics have suggested that America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will hurt American credibility abroad, President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have called for combatting terrorism through financial sanctions, bombing, and drone strikes like the one they used to retaliate against ISIS-K for the attack on the Kabul airport that killed more than 160 Afghans and 13 Americans last Friday, and by strengthening democracy at home.
     
    There is plenty of work to do on that last front.
     
    Last week, Peter Wehner, who served in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations, pointed out in The Atlantic that the right wing has moved to such extremism that former president Trump, whose behavior seemed so shocking in 2015 and 2016, is now being sidelined by lawmakers and pundits who are even more extreme.
     
    Yesterday, in an event hosted by the Macon County Republican Party, Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) insisted that the January 6 rioters are “political hostages” and said he wanted to “bust them out.” When someone in the audience asked “When are you going to call us to Washington again?” he said, “We are actively working on that one…. We have a few plans in motion that I can’t make public right now.” He called for removing Biden from office under the 25th Amendment and added, “when Kamala Harris inevitably screws up, we will take them down, one at a time.” He concluded by saying: “The Second Amendment was not written so that we can go hunting or we can shoot sporting clays…. The Second Amendment was written so that we can fight against tyranny.”
     
    Increasingly, right-wing agitators are calling for violent overthrow of the government.
     
    Today in Pennsylvania, Steve Lynch, a candidate for Northampton County executive, said: “Forget going into these school boards with freaking data. You go into these school boards to remove them. I’m going in with 20 strong men and I’m gonna give them an option—they can leave or they can be removed.”
     
    At a protest in Santa Monica yesterday before a vote on a mask mandate, a man held a sign with the names and home addresses of each Los Angeles City Council member and said protesters would go to the homes of anyone who voted for the mandate and, if it passed, “Civil War is coming! Get your guns!”
     
    This sort of street-level violence is known for radicalizing individuals as they get swept up in it and then later embrace the larger political arguments behind it. It also forces more reasonable individuals out of government positions as they conclude that their position on a school board, for example,  is not worth threats against their families and their lives.

    Far from trying to tamp down this violence, right-wing leaders are egging it on. Tonight, on the Fox News Channel, personality Tucker Carlson told his audience that no leader had apologized for “these terrible decisions” in Afghanistan. “This can’t go on,” he said. “When leaders refuse to hold themselves accountable, over time, people revolt…. We need to change course immediately… or else the consequences will be awful.”

    The images on the screen behind Carlson were of President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, Defense Secretary Austin, and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley. Carlson often tries to undermine the current leadership of the military, suggesting that he would welcome its replacement by officers he finds less objectionable.   

    Republican offense may be an attempt at defense.

    Today, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, announced that the committee has demanded that 35 major communications companies preserve their records from April 1, 2020, to January 31, 2021, for people involved in the January 5 and January 6 rallies in Washington, D.C., or “potentially involved with discussions” about stopping the electoral vote count on January 6 or otherwise  “potentially involved with discussions" in planning the January 6 insurrection. According to CNN, the companies affected include cell phone giants Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Sprint. Social media companies covered under the request include Apple, Google, Facebook, Signal, Slack, YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter.

    CNN reports that members of the committee have requested preservation of the records of representatives Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jody Hice (R-GA), and Scott Perry (R-PA). They have also asked the companies to preserve the records of former president Trump; those of his children Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump; and those of his daughter-in-law Lara Trump and Don Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who worked on the campaign.
     
    Those determined to regain control of the country from the Democrats also have to contend with continuing good news from Biden’s policies. A new study from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University shows that the first child tax credit payment kept 3 million children from falling below the poverty line and that the child poverty rate dropped from 15.8% in June to 11.9% in July. Coronavirus relief measures kept another 3 million children from poverty. Families are using the money to buy food and pay off debt.

    The administration is also coordinating aid to the states hit hard by Hurricane Ida, which brought up to 15 inches of rain to parts of Louisiana and knocked out the state’s power grid. The administration deployed more than 3,600 employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, who prepared more than 3.4 million meals, millions of liters of water, more than 35,700 tarps, and roughly 200 generators in the region before the storm hit. They have moved ambulances and search and rescue teams into the area and have opened shelters. The Army Corps of Engineers has mobilized personnel to remove debris and to provide temporary roofing and housing.

    Tomorrow, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will leave for Asia, where he will meet with leaders from Japan and then China to bolster international cooperation on climate change before the meeting of the 2021 U.N Climate Change Conference in early November.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
    edited September 1
     
     August 31, 2021 (Tuesday)

    This afternoon, President Joe Biden explained to the nation why he ended the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. He reminded Americans that the purpose of the attack on Afghanistan in 2001 was to destroy the ability of the Taliban to protect al-Qaeda and to capture or kill the terrorists who had attacked America on September 11, 2001. American bombing immediately weakened the Taliban, and when U.S. troops killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, we met those goals.

    And yet we stayed on in Afghanistan while the terrorist threat spread across the world. Biden wants the country to face that modern threat, rather than the threat of twenty years ago. “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan,” he said.   

    Researchers estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost more than 171,000 lives. It has wounded more than 20,700 U.S. service members and taken the lives of 2461 more. It has cost more than $2 trillion, which adds up to about $300 million a day for twenty years.   

    “After 20 years of war in Afghanistan,” Biden said, “I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.”

    The president made it clear he envisions a different kind of foreign policy than the U.S. has embraced since 2002, when the Bush Doctrine, developed by the neoconservatives under Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, committed the United States to launching preemptive military actions in order to change regimes in countries we perceived as potential sponsors of terrorism—the doctrine that led us into invading Iraq in 2003, which diverted our attention and resources from Afghanistan.

    “[W]e must set missions with clear, achievable goals,” Biden said. “This decision… is not just about Afghanistan.  It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries…. Moving on from that mindset and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home.”  

    Biden has been very clear that he envisions a foreign policy based less in military personnel on the ground than in technology, the “over-the-horizon” weapons that the administration used to strike ISIS-K leaders the day after that group claimed responsibility for an attack at the gates of the Kabul airport that killed more than 160 Afghans and 13 Americans. “We will continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid,” Biden said. “We’ll continue to speak out for basic rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls…. [H]uman rights will be the center of our foreign policy.”  

    Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have explained that they expect to use modern tools to combat terrorism. Today, Biden said that the way to protect human rights “is not through endless military deployments, but through diplomacy, economic tools, and rallying the rest of the world for support.”

    Biden’s new approach to foreign affairs includes finances. As soon as the Afghan government fell, the U.S. and other allies withheld aid to Afghanistan and froze the country’s assets held in western banks. The World Bank stopped funding the country, the International Monetary Fund froze $460 million in emergency reserves, and the U.S. froze about $7 billion of the $9.5 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held in U.S. banks. The European Union, which had promised $1 billion to the country over the next five years, has now said that money will depend on Afghanistan’s human rights record under its new government.

    Russian lawmakers and state media have been gloating that the U.S. left Afghanistan. Now, though, they suddenly find their country with the U.S. gone and an unstable Afghanistan on their doorstep. Yesterday, they called on the U.S. and its allies to unfreeze money and to work to rebuild the country, even as they warned that it would never meet U.S. standards for human rights or democracy.

    Biden’s emphasis includes working with allies to combat the crises facing the globe in the twenty-first century. Today, John Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, left for a four-day trip to Japan and China to advance discussions about the climate crisis, a crisis increasingly obvious in the U.S. as California wildfires have forced the evacuation of the resort town of South Lake Tahoe and the U.S. Forest Service closed all national forests in California until September 17.

    More than 15,000 firefighters are combating dozens of fires in California, but the emergency personnel from Louisiana had to return to their home state to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, which has knocked out electric power for hundreds of thousands.

    Today, President Biden met with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and the heads of two of the largest utilities in the Gulf Coast to discuss restoring and maintaining the power grid in the face of the era’s new extreme weather events. The president also launched a 75-day comment period on how climate change is changing financial markets, focusing initially on insurers, who have $4.7 trillion worth of assets, much of which is invested. The administration is trying to understand how climate change could destabilize the economy.

    Biden and Blinken have also made it clear they think nothing will strengthen America's standing in the world more than strengthening democracy at home.

    Today, the Texas legislature passed SB1, the sweeping voter suppression bill Democrats had tried to stop by walking out of the legislature to deny the Republicans a quorum. The new measure is a microcosm of voter suppression bills across the nation in Republican-dominated states.

    It bans mail ballot drop boxes and gets rid of drive-through voting and extended hours. It criminalizes the distribution of applications for mail-in ballots and permits partisan poll watchers to have “free movement” in polling places, enabling them to intimidate voters. Texas is just 40% white and has 3 million unregistered voters, the vast majority of whom are Black or Latino. The new measure is designed to cut young people of color, whose numbers are growing in Texas and who are overwhelmingly Democrats, out of elections. In debates on the measure, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan asked members not to use the word “racism.”

    Meanwhile, today, House Republicans have been on a media blitz to insist that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has no right to examine the phone records of fellow congresspeople. On Tucker Carlson’s show on the Fox News Channel, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said, “These telecommunication companies, if they go along with this, they will be shut down. That’s a promise.”

    There is no longer any daylight between the radical fringe like Greene and Republican leadership. Today House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who had at least one phone call with former president Trump on January 6, put out a statement warning that attempts to investigate the phone data of congresspeople from the January 6 insurrection would “put every American with a phone or a computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians.” If the companies comply with the committee’s request—which McCarthy mischaracterized as a “Democrat order”—he said, “a Republican majority will not forget.”

    In response, representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted the legal code: 18 U.S. Code § 1505: “Whoever…by any threatening letter or communication…endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede…the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any…investigation is being had by either House…Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned…”

    “I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation,” Biden said today. He called his listeners back to President Abraham Lincoln’s defense of democracy at Gettysburg when he said: “As we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it’s time to look to the future, not the past—to a future that’s safer, to a future that’s more secure, to a future that honors those who served and all those who gave what President Lincoln called their ‘last full measure of devotion.’”

    Post edited by mickeyrat on
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
    $ 275,178,866.26307 per day. ON CREDIT!!!!

    Oct 7 2001 - Aug 31 2021 

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 1, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Last night at midnight, a new law went into effect in Texas. House Bill 1927 permits people to carry handguns without a permit, unless they have been convicted of a felony or domestic violence. This measure was not popular in the state. Fifty-nine percent of Texans—including law enforcement officers—opposed it. But 56% of Republicans supported it. “I don’t know what it’s a solution to,” James McLaughlin, executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, said to Heidi Pérez-Moreno of the Texas Tribune when Republican governor Greg Abbott signed the bill in mid-August. “I don’t know what the problem was to start with.”

    Texas Gun Rights executive director Chris McNutt had a different view. He said in a statement: “Texas is finally a pro-gun state despite years of foot-dragging, roadblocks, and excuses from the spineless political class.”

    The bill had failed in 2019 after McNutt showed up at the home of the Texas House Speaker, Republican Dennis Bonnen, to demand its passage. Bonnen said McNutt’s “overzealous” visit exhibited “insanity.” "Threats and intimidation will never advance your issue. Their issue is dead," he told McNutt. McNutt told the Dallas Morning News: "If politicians like Speaker Dennis Bonnen think they can show up at the doorsteps of Second Amendment supporters and make promises to earn votes in the election season, they shouldn't be surprised when we show up in their neighborhoods to insist they simply keep their promises in the legislative session.”

    That was not the only bill that went into effect at midnight last night in Texas. In May, Governor Abbott signed the strongest anti-abortion law in the country, Senate Bill 8, which went into effect on September 1. It bans abortion after 6 weeks—when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant—thus automatically stopping about 85% of abortions in Texas. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Opponents of the bill had asked the Supreme Court to stop the law from taking effect. It declined to do so.

    The law avoided the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion before fetal viability at about 22 to 24 weeks by leaving the enforcement of the law not up to the state, but rather up to private citizens. This was deliberate. As Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern explained in an article in Slate: “Typically, when a state restricts abortion, providers file a lawsuit in federal court against the state officials responsible for enforcing the new law. Here, however, there are no such officials: The law is enforced by individual anti-abortion activists.” With this law, there’s no one to stop from enforcing it.   

    S.B. 8 puts ordinary people in charge of law enforcement. Anyone—at all—can sue any individual who “aids or abets,” or even intends to abet, an abortion in Texas after six weeks. Women seeking abortion themselves are exempt, but anyone who advises them (including a spouse), gives them a ride, provides counseling, staffs a clinic, and so on, can be sued by any random stranger. If the plaintiff wins, they pocket $10,000 plus court costs, and the clinic that provided the procedure is closed down. If the defendant doesn’t defend themselves, the court must find them guilty. And if the defendant wins, they get…nothing. Not even attorney’s fees.

    So, nuisance lawsuits will ruin abortion providers, along with anyone accused of aiding and abetting—or intending to abet—an abortion. And the enforcers will be ordinary citizens.

    Texas has also just passed new voting restrictions that allow partisan poll watchers to have “free movement” in polling places, enabling them to intimidate voters. Texas governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign that bill in the next few days.

    Taken together with the vigilantism running wild in school board meetings and attacks on election officials, the Texas legislation is a top red flag in the red flag factory. The Republican Party is empowering vigilantes to enforce their beliefs against their neighbors.

    The law, which should keep us all on a level playing field, has been abandoned by our Supreme Court. Last night, it refused to stop the new Texas abortion law from going into effect, and tonight, just before midnight, by a 5–4 vote, it issued an opinion refusing to block the law. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent read: “The court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

    Texas’s law flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents, she points out, but the Supreme Court has looked the other way. ”The State’s gambit worked,” Sotomayor wrote. She continued:  “This is untenable. It cannot be the case that a state can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry."

    The Supreme Court has essentially blessed the efforts of Texas legislators to prevent the enforcement of federal law by using citizen vigilantes to get their way. The court decided the case on its increasingly active “shadow docket,” a series of cases decided without full briefings or oral argument, often in the dead of night, without signed opinions. In the past, such emergency decisions were rare and used to issue uncontroversial decisions or address irreparable immediate harm (like the death penalty). Since the beginning of the Trump administration, they have come to make up the majority of the court’s business.

    Since 2017, the court has used the shadow docket to advance right-wing goals. It has handed down brief, unsigned decisions after a party asks for emergency relief from a lower court order, siding first with Trump, and now with state Republicans, at a high rate. As University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck noted: “In less than three years, [Trump’s] Solicitor General has filed at least twenty-one applications for stays in the Supreme Court (including ten during the October 2018 Term alone).” In comparison, “during the sixteen years of the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations, the Solicitor General filed a total of eight such applications—averaging one every other Term.”

    So, operating without open arguments or opinions, the Supreme Court has shown that it will not enforce federal law, leaving state legislatures to do as they will. This, after all, was the whole point of the “originalism” that Republicans embraced under President Ronald Reagan. Originalists wanted to erase the legal justification of the post–World War II years that used the “due process” and “equal protection” clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states. It was that concept that protected civil rights for people of color and for women, by using the federal government to prohibit states from enforcing discriminatory laws.

    Since the 1980s, Republicans have sought to hamstring federal power and return power to the states, which have neither the power nor the inclination to regulate businesses effectively, and which can discriminate against minorities and get away with it, so long as the federal government doesn’t enforce equal protection.

    Today’s events make that a reality.

    Worse, though, the mechanisms of the Texas law officially turn a discriminatory law over to state-level vigilantes to enforce. The wedge to establish this mechanism is abortion, but the door is now open for extremist state legislatures to turn to private citizens to enforce any law that takes away an individual’s legal right…like, say, the right to vote. And in Texas, now, a vigilante doesn't even have to have a permit to carry the gun that will back up his threats.

    During Reconstruction, vigilantes also carried guns. They enforced state customs that reestablished white supremacy after the federal government had tried to defend equality before the law. It took only a decade for former Confederates who had tried to destroy the government to strip voting rights, and civil rights, from the southern Black men who had defended the United States government during the Civil War. For the next eighty years, the South was a one-party state where enforcement of the laws depended on your skin color, your gender, and whom you knew.

    Opponents have compared those who backed the Texas anti-abortion law to the Taliban, the Islamic extremists in Afghanistan whose harsh interpretation of Islamic Sharia law strips women of virtually all rights. But the impulse behind the Texas law, the drive to replace the federal protection of civil rights with state vigilantes enforcing their will, is homegrown. It is a reflection of the position that Republicans would like women to have in our society, for sure, but it is also written in the laughing faces of Mississippi law enforcement officers Lawrence Rainey and Cecil Ray Price in 1967, certain even as they were arraigned for the 1964 murders of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Henry Schwerner, that the system was so rigged in their favor that they would literally get away with murder.

    When they were killed, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were trying to register Black people to vote.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 2, 2021 (Thursday)

    In the light of day today, the political fallout from Texas’s anti-abortion S.B. 8 law and the Supreme Court’s acceptance of that law continues to become clear.

    By 1:00 this afternoon, the Fox News Channel had mentioned the decision only in a 20-second news brief in the 5 am hour. In political terms, it seems the dog has caught the car.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, most Americans agree on most issues, even the hot button ones like abortion. A Gallup poll from June examining the issue of abortion concluded that only 32% of Americans wanted the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision overturned, while 58% of Americans opposed overturning it.

    "’Overturning Roe v. Wade,’" Lydia Saad of Gallup wrote, “is a shorthand way of saying the Supreme Court could decide abortion is not a constitutional right after all, thus giving control of abortion laws back to the states. This does not sit well with a majority of Americans or even a large subset of Republicans. Not only do Americans oppose overturning Roe in principle, but they oppose laws limiting abortion in early stages of pregnancy that would have the same practical effect.”

    While it is hard to remember today, the modern-day opposition to abortion had its roots not in a moral defense of life but rather in the need for President Richard Nixon to win votes before the 1972 election. Pushing the idea that abortion was a central issue of American life was about rejecting the equal protection of the laws embraced by the Democrats far more than it was ever about using the government to protect fetuses.

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

    To stem this public health crisis, doctors wanted to decriminalize abortion and keep it between a woman and her doctor. In the 1960s, states began to decriminalize abortion on this medical model, and support for abortion rights grew.

    The rising women's movement wanted women to have control over their lives. Its leaders were latecomers to the reproductive rights movement, but they came to see reproductive rights as key to self-determination. In 1969, activist Betty Friedan told a medical abortion meeting: “[M]y only claim to be here, is our belated recognition, if you will, that there is no freedom, no equality, no full human dignity and personhood possible for women until we assert and demand the control over our own bodies, over our own reproductive process….”

    In 1971, even the evangelical Southern Baptist Convention agreed that abortion should be legal in some cases, and vowed to work for modernization. Their convention that year reiterated its “belief that society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life, in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves” but also called on “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

    By 1972, Gallup pollsters reported that 64% of Americans agreed that abortion was between a woman and her doctor. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans, who had always liked family planning, agreed, as did 59% of Democrats.

    In keeping with that sentiment, in 1973, the Supreme Court, under Republican Chief Justice Warren Burger, in a decision written by Republican Harry Blackmun, decided Roe v. Wade, legalizing first-trimester abortion.

    The common story is that Roe sparked a backlash. But legal scholars Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel found something interesting. In a 2011 article in the Yale Law Journal, they showed that opposition to the eventual Roe v. Wade decision began in 1972—the year before the decision—and that it was a deliberate attempt to polarize American politics.

    In 1972, Nixon was up for reelection, and he and his people were paranoid that he would lose. His adviser Pat Buchanan was a Goldwater man who wanted to destroy the popular New Deal state that regulated the economy and protected social welfare and civil rights. To that end, he believed Democrats and traditional Republicans must be kept from power and Nixon must win reelection.

    Catholics, who opposed abortion and believed that "the right of innocent human beings to life is sacred," tended to vote for Democratic candidates. Buchanan, who was a Catholic himself, urged Nixon to woo Catholic Democrats before the 1972 election over the issue of abortion. In 1970, Nixon had directed U.S. military hospitals to perform abortions regardless of state law; in 1971, using Catholic language, he reversed course to split the Democrats, citing his personal belief "in the sanctity of human life—including the life of the yet unborn.”

    Although Nixon and Democratic nominee George McGovern had similar stances on abortion, Nixon and Buchanan defined McGovern as the candidate of "Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion," a radical framing designed to alienate traditionalists.

    As Nixon split the U.S. in two to rally voters, his supporters used abortion to stand in for women's rights in general. Railing against the Equal Rights Amendment, in her first statement on abortion in 1972, activist Phyllis Schlafly did not talk about fetuses; she said: “Women’s lib is a total assault on the role of the American woman as wife and mother and on the family as the basic unit of society. Women’s libbers are trying to make wives and mothers unhappy with their career, make them feel that they are ‘second-class citizens’ and ‘abject slaves.’ Women’s libbers are promoting free sex instead of the ‘slavery’ of marriage. They are promoting Federal ‘day-care centers’ for babies instead of homes. They are promoting abortions instead of families.”

    Traditional Republicans supported an activist government that regulated business and promoted social welfare, but radical right Movement Conservatives wanted to kill the active government. They attacked anyone who supported such a government as immoral. Abortion turned women's rights into murder.

    Movement Conservatives preached traditional roles, and in 1974, the TV show Little House on the Prairie started its 9-year run, contributing, as historian Peggy O’Donnell has explored, to the image of white women as wives and mothers in the West protected by their menfolk. So-called prairie dresses became the rage in the 1970s.

    This image was the female side of the cowboy individualism personified by Ronald Reagan. A man should control his own destiny and take care of his family unencumbered by government. Women should be wives and mothers in a nuclear family. In 1984, sociologist Kristin Luker discovered that "pro-life" activists believed that selfish "pro-choice" women were denigrating the roles of wife and mother. They wanted an active government to give them rights they didn't need or deserve.

    By 1988, Rush Limbaugh, the voice of Movement Conservatism, who was virulently opposed to taxation and active government, demonized women's rights advocates as "Femi-nazis" for whom "the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur." The complicated issue of abortion had become a proxy for a way to denigrate the political opponents of the radicalizing Republican Party.  

    Such threats turned out Republican voters, especially the evangelical base. But support for safe and legal abortion has always been strong, as it remains today. Until yesterday, Republican politicians could pay lip service to opposing the Roe v. Wade decision to get anti-abortion voters to show up at the polls, without facing the political fallout of actually getting rid of the decision.

    Now, though, Texas has effectively destroyed the right to legal abortion.

    The fact that the Fox News Channel is not mentioning what should have been a landmark triumph of its viewers’ ideology suggests Republicans know that ending safe and legal abortion is deeply unpopular. Their base finally, after all these years, got what it wanted. But now the rest of the nation, which had been assured as recently as the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that Roe v. Wade was settled law that would not be overturned, gets a chance to weigh in.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 3, 2021 (Friday)
     
    The new anti-abortion law in Texas is not just about abortion; it is about undermining civil rights decisions made by the Supreme Court during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The Supreme Court declined to stop a state law that violates a constitutional right.

    Since World War II, the Supreme Court has defended civil rights from state laws that threaten them. During the Great Depression, Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to use the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net—this is when we got Social Security—and promote infrastructure. But racist Democrats from the South balked at racial equality under this new government.
     
    After World War II, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Republican appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, and Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Republican appointed by Richard Nixon, the Supreme Court set out to make all Americans equal before the law. They tried to end segregation through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools. They protected the right of married couples to use contraception in 1965. They legalized interracial marriage in 1967. In 1973, with the Roe v. Wade decision, they tried to give women control over their own reproduction by legalizing abortion.
     
    They based their decisions on the due process and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. Congress developed this amendment after legislatures in former Confederate states passed “Black Codes” that severely limited the rights and protections for formerly enslaved people. Congress intended for the powers in the Fourteenth to enable the federal government to guarantee that African Americans had the same rights as white Americans, even in states whose legislatures intended to keep them in a form of quasi-slavery.
     
    Justices in the Warren and Burger courts argued that the Fourteenth Amendment required that the Bill of Rights apply to state governments as well as to the federal government. This is known as the “incorporation doctrine,” but the name matters less than the concept: states cannot abridge an individual’s rights, any more than the federal government can. This doctrine dramatically expanded civil rights.
     
    From the beginning, there was a backlash against the New Deal government by businessmen who objected to the idea of federal regulation and the bureaucracy it would require. As early as 1937, they were demanding an end to the active government and a return to the world of the 1920s, where businessmen could do as they wished, families and churches managed social welfare, and private interests profited from infrastructure projects. They gained little traction. The vast majority of Americans liked the new system.
     
    But the expansion of civil rights under the Warren Court was a whole new kettle of fish. Opponents of the new decisions insisted that the court was engaging in “judicial activism,” taking away from voters the right to make their own decisions about how society should work. That said that justices were “legislating from the bench.” They insisted that the Constitution is limited by the views of its framers and that the government can do nothing that is not explicitly written in that 1787 document.
     
    This is the foundation for today’s “originalists” on the court. They are trying to erase the era of legislation and legal decisions that constructed our modern nation. If the government is as limited as they say, it cannot regulate business. It cannot provide a social safety net or promote infrastructure, both things that cost tax dollars and, in the case of infrastructure, take lucrative opportunities from private businesses.

    It cannot protect the rights of minorities or women.
     
    Their doctrine would send authority for civil rights back to the states to wither or thrive as different legislatures see fit. But it has, in the past, run into the problem that Supreme Court precedent has led the court to overturn unconstitutional state laws that deprive people of their rights (although the recent conservative courts have chipped away at those precedents).

    The new Texas law gets around this problem with a trick. It does not put state officers in charge of enforcing it. Instead, it turns enforcement over to individual citizens. So, when opponents sued to stop the measure from going into effect, state officials argued that they could not be stopped from enforcing the law because they don’t enforce it in the first place. With this workaround, Texas lawmakers have, as Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissent, “delegate[d] to private individuals the power to prevent a woman from…[exercising]...a federal constitutional right.”

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor was more forceful, calling the measure “a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny.” And yet, the Supreme Court permitted that state law to stand simply by refusing to do anything to stop it. As Sotomayor wrote in her dissent: “Last night, the Court silently acquiesced in a State’s enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents.”

    A state has undermined the power of the federal government to protect civil rights. It has given individuals who disagree with one particular right the power to take it away from their neighbors. But make no mistake: there is no reason that this mechanism couldn’t be used to undermine much of the civil rights legislation of the post–World War II years.

    On September 4, 1957, three years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a crowd of angry white people barred nine Black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The white protesters chanted: “Two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate.”

    In 1957, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower used the federal government to protect the constitutional rights of the Little Rock Nine from the white vigilantes who wanted to keep them second-class citizens. In 2021, the Supreme Court has handed power back to the vigilantes.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 4, 2021 (Saturday)

    I went to Boston for ten days and when I came back, the seasons  had turned, just like that.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 5, 2021 (Sunday)

    On March 25, 1911, Frances Perkins was visiting with a friend who lived near Washington Square in New York City when they heard fire engines and people screaming. They rushed out to the street to see what the trouble was. A fire had broken out in a garment factory on the upper floors of a building on Washington Square, and the blaze ripped through the lint in the air. The only way out was down the elevator, which had been abandoned at the base of its shaft, or through an exit to the roof. But the factory owner had locked the roof exit that day because, he later testified, he was worried some of his workers might steal some of the blouses they were making.

    “The people had just begun to jump when we got there,” Perkins later recalled. “They had been holding until that time, standing in the windowsills, being crowded by others behind them, the fire pressing closer and closer, the smoke closer and closer. Finally the men were trying to get out this thing that the firemen carry with them, a net to catch people if they do jump, the[y] were trying to get that out and they couldn’t wait any longer. They began to jump. The… weight of the bodies was so great, at the speed at which they were traveling that they broke through the net. Every one of them was killed, everybody who jumped was killed. It was a horrifying spectacle.”

    By the time the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was out, 147 young people were dead, either from their fall from the factory windows or from smoke inhalation.

    Perkins had few illusions about industrial America: she had worked in a settlement house in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood in Chicago and was the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for workers. But even she was shocked by the scene she witnessed on March 25.

    By the next day, New Yorkers were gathering to talk about what had happened on their watch. “I can't begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere,” Perkins said. “It was as though we had all done something wrong. It shouldn't have been. We were sorry…. We didn't want it that way. We hadn’t intended to have 147 girls and boys killed in a factory. It was a terrible thing for the people of the City of New York and the State of New York to face.”

    The Democratic majority leader in the New York legislature, Al Smith—who would a few years later go on to four terms as New York governor and become the Democratic presidential nominee in 1928—went to visit the families of the dead to express his sympathy and his grief. “It was a human, decent, natural thing to do,” Perkins said, “and it was a sight he never forgot. It burned it into his mind. He also got to the morgue, I remember, at just the time when the survivors were being allowed to sort out the dead and see who was theirs and who could be recognized. He went along with a number of others to the morgue to support and help, you know, the old father or the sorrowing sister, do her terrible picking out.”

    “This was the kind of shock that we all had,” Perkins remembered.

    The next Sunday, concerned New Yorkers met at the Metropolitan Opera House with the conviction that “something must be done. We've got to turn this into some kind of victory, some kind of constructive action….” One man contributed $25,000 to fund citizens’ action to “make sure that this kind of thing can never happen again.”

    The gathering appointed a committee, which asked the legislature to create a bipartisan commission to figure out how to improve fire safety in factories. For four years, Frances Perkins was their chief investigator.

    She later explained that although their mission was to stop factory fires, “we went on and kept expanding the function of the commission 'till it came to be the report on sanitary conditions and to provide for their removal and to report all kinds of unsafe conditions and then to report all kinds of human conditions that were unfavorable to the employees, including long hours, including low wages, including the labor of children, including the overwork of women, including homework put out by the factories to be taken home by the women. It included almost everything you could think of that had been in agitation for years. We were authorized to investigate and report and recommend action on all these subjects.”

    And they did. Al Smith was the speaker of the house when they published their report, and soon would become governor. Much of what the commission recommended became law.

    Perkins later mused that perhaps the new legislation to protect workers had in some way paid the debt society owed to the young people, dead at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. “The extent to which this legislation in New York marked a change in American political attitudes and policies toward social responsibility can scarcely be overrated,” she said. “It was, I am convinced, a turning point.”

    But she was not done. In 1919, over the fervent objections of men, Governor Smith appointed Perkins to the New York State Industrial Commission to help weed out the corruption that was weakening the new laws. She continued to be one of his closest advisers on labor issues. In 1929, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt replaced Smith as New York governor, he appointed Perkins to oversee the state’s labor department as the Depression worsened. When President Herbert Hoover claimed that unemployment was ending, Perkins made national news when she repeatedly called him out with figures proving the opposite and said his “misleading statements” were “cruel and irresponsible.” She began to work with leaders from other states to figure out how to protect workers and promote employment by working together.

    In 1933, after the people had rejected Hoover’s plan to let the Depression burn itself out, President-elect Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve as Secretary of Labor in his administration. She accepted only on the condition that he back her goals: unemployment insurance; health insurance; old-age insurance, a 40-hour work week; a minimum wage; and abolition of child labor. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

    She promised to find out.

    Once in office, Perkins was a driving force behind the administration’s massive investment in public works projects to get people back to work. She urged the government to spend $3.3 billion on schools, roads, housing, and post offices. Those projects employed more than a million people in 1934.

    In 1935, FDR signed the Social Security Act, providing ordinary Americans with unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services.

    In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a minimum wage and maximum hours. It banned child labor.

    Frances Perkins, and all those who worked with her, transformed the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire into the heart of our nation’s basic social safety net.

    “There is always a large horizon…. There is much to be done,” Perkins said. “It is up to you to contribute some small part to a program of human betterment for all time.”

    Happy Labor Day, everyone.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
      September 6, 2021 (Monday)

    This week, lawmakers will begin to construct the details of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package they declared their intention to pass. On August 11, the Senate approved a budget resolution telling committees to hammer out the details of a bill that will deal with the “soft” infrastructure not covered in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that dealt with roads, bridges, broadband, and other “hard” infrastructure needs. The larger bill will focus on child care, education, elder care, health care, and climate change.

    If this measure passes, it will expand the ways in which the government addresses the needs of ordinary Americans. It updates the measures put in place during the New Deal of the 1930s, when Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt shored up nuclear families—usually white nuclear families—by providing unemployment insurance, disability coverage, aid to children, and old age insurance.

    After World War II, people of both parties accepted this new system, believing that it was the job of a modern government to level the economic playing field between ordinary men and those at the top of the economic ladder. Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon expanded government action into civil rights and protection of the environment; Democrats Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter expanded education initiatives, health care, anti-poverty programs, civil rights, and workers’ rights.

    But opponents insisted that such government action was “socialism.” In America, this word comes not from international socialism, in which the government owns the means of production, but rather from the earlier history of Reconstruction, when white opponents of Black voting insisted that the money to pay for programs like schools, which helped ordinary and poorer people, must come from those with wealth, and thus redistributed wealth. They demanded an end to the taxes that supported public programs.  

    They elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980 to reject the post–World War II “liberal consensus” that used the government to level the economic playing field, focusing instead on cutting taxes to return power to individuals to make their own decisions about how to run their own economic lives. Over the past forty years, that ideology has cut the national safety net and moved economic power dramatically upward.

    True to that ideology, opponents of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package are already calling it, as Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said, a “freight train to socialism." But more than 60% of Americans want to invest our money in our people, as lawmakers of both parties did from 1933 to 1981.

    Grover Norquist, a former spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who rose to power by pushing the opposite idea, that economic development depended on consistent and complete tax cuts, told Michael Scherer of the Washington Post, “We are really on this precipice, this knife’s edge, and each party goes, ‘If I just push a little bit harder I can control politics for the next 20 years.’” The conservative activist added, “And it’s true.”

    But what Norquist didn’t spell out was that Democrats are trying to win control by protecting the ability of Americans to have a say in their government, while Republicans are trying to make their ideology the law of the land by skewing the mechanics of our democracy to permit a minority to rule over the majority.

    Scherer laid out what this skewing looks like. Since 1988—the year George H. W. Bush was elected—Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of nine presidential elections. And yet, Republicans have taken the White House through the Electoral College and have appointed 6 of the 9 justices now on the Supreme Court.

    The concentration of Republicans in rural states with smaller populations means that the Senate is also skewed toward the Republican Party. Public policy scholars Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley crunched the numbers to show that today’s 50 Democratic senators represent 26% more people than Republican senators: 202 million compared to 160 million. They go on to say: “A Black American is 16% less represented in the Senate than an American on average; [a] Latinx American 32% less.”

    Ettlinger and Hensley note that, as the Senate has become less representative, Republican senators have relied on arcane rules to let a minority stop popular legislation. “In the current Senate,” they report, “41 Republican senators representing as few as 75 million people can block most legislation from even coming to a vote—thwarting the will of a group of Democratic and Republican senators representing as many as 270 million Americans."

    In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering allows Republicans to hold more seats than their share of the popular vote. In 1996 and 2012, Republicans lost the national vote tally but controlled Congress nonetheless.

    The skew in state legislatures is also large. Scherer points out that the Michigan legislature, for example, has a Republican majority although Democrats have won a majority of the popular vote there for a decade. In North Carolina in 2018, Democrats won 51% of the popular vote but got only 45% of the seats.

    After the 2020 election, Republican-dominated legislatures in states where Democrats likely make up the majority—Georgia, Texas, and Florida, for example—have worked aggressively to restrict voting rights. More than a dozen states have enacted more than 30 new laws to suppress votes. Tonight, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced that tomorrow he will sign another major voter suppression measure in his state.

    Noting “how far the [Republican] party has fallen on fundamental matters of democracy,” the Washington Post editorial board today called on Democrats to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore and expand the Department of Justice’s protection of the right to vote, gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 and 2021.

    The board continued: “They should merge it with other provisions designed to promote fairness at the ballot box, such as universal voter registration, protections for absentee voters, standards to guard against rampant gerrymandering and restrictions on partisan interference with vote counting. They should dare Republicans to vote down a package that unambiguously enhances democracy, with no extraneous measures. If Republicans continue to unify against it, they should consider ways to reform the filibuster rule blocking urgent democracy reform.”

    At stake is whether our government will work for ordinary Americans who make up the majority of our population—including in 2021 women and minorities as well as white men—or whether it will serve an entrenched minority.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 7, 2021 (Tuesday)

    Early in the wake of Trump’s presidency, Republican Party lawmakers facing upcoming elections appear to have made the calculation that radicalized Trump voters were vital to their political futures. They seemed to worry that they needed to protect themselves against primary candidates from the right, since primaries are famous for bringing out the strongest partisans. If they could win their primaries, though, they could rely on tradition, gerrymandering, and voter suppression to keep them in office.

    So Republicans tried to bury the January 6 insurrection and former president Trump’s role in it. Although both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called attention to Trump’s responsibility for the attack immediately after it happened, they voted to acquit him of the charge of “incitement of insurrection” placed by the House of Representatives, and either to echo or not to oppose the accusation that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

    Republican governors like Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida, both of whom appear to have presidential ambitions, along with Kristi Noem in South Dakota, took strong stands against immigrants who they insisted were invading the country, masks that they claimed were stifling children, and now, in Texas (but soon to spread), against abortion. At the same time, Republican-dominated states dramatically restricted the right to vote.

    This calculation is hardly a secret. In Washington state, two Trump-type candidates have recently challenged the popular Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted for the former president’s impeachment. Trump has endorsed one of them, and Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump loyalist, traveled there this weekend to boost that candidate's campaign.

    Republicans in Texas have swung hard right to rally their white base in a state that is now majority minority. The governor recently directed state police to arrest immigrants believed to have come to America illegally. The Republican legislature has passed, and the Republican governor has signed, a draconian abortion law empowering neighbors to collect $10,000 if they win a lawsuit against anyone who “abets” an abortion after six weeks, before most people know they’re pregnant; a strong voter suppression bill; and a law that permits people to carry guns without a permit.

    ​​Democratic state Representative Ron Reynolds, vice chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, told the AP’s Will Weissert and Paul J. Weber: “They have to entertain and they have to appease because these are the people that are excited about voting in Republican primaries.”

    But the Republicans' move right was always a political gamble. The fact that politics is getting so frantic suggests it is a gamble they are afraid they are losing.

    Far from disappearing, the events of January 6 loom larger every day. On September 4, Jacob Chansley, who then called himself “QAnon Shaman” and was seen in the Senate Chamber on January 6, shirtless, painted, wearing a horned helmet, and carrying a flagpole topped with a spear, pleaded guilty to a felony. He could face 41 to 51 months in prison. He is one of 600 charged so far in the insurrection. Like others, he claimed he believed Trump had called him to the Capitol that day.

    Some Republican lawmakers might be looking at Chansley’s four or so years in prison and getting nervous as they might face their own day of reckoning.

    Senate Republicans filibustered the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6, so the House created a select committee instead. McCarthy tried to sabotage the select committee by adding to it two representatives who had already declared their opposition to it; then, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected them, McCarthy withdrew all the Republicans from the committee and refused to participate in it, clearly hoping to discredit its work as a partisan hit job. But Pelosi invited anti-Trump Republican representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to participate in the committee, and they agreed. As of September 2, Cheney is now the committee’s vice-chair.

    The committee has asked a wide variety of sources for a wide variety of records, prompting what certainly looks like concern from lawmakers who worked closely with the former president. When the select committee asked telecommunications companies to preserve the phone records of certain members of Congress, as well as the former president and members of his family, the lawmakers in question strongly opposed the committee’s request.

    McCarthy claimed that any company turning over private information was “in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” although experts say there is no law that stops companies from complying with a subpoena (and, of course, Republicans demanded—and received—Hillary Clinton’s private data in 2016).  McCarthy seemed to issue a threat when he said: “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

    Eleven House Republicans wrote a letter to Yahoo (mistakenly addressing it to a CEO who left the company in 2017) warning that “the undersigned do not consent to the release of confidential call records or data,” claiming that “your company has a legal obligation to protect the data of your subscribers and customers,” and threatening that “[i]f you fail to comply with these obligations, we will pursue all legal remedies.”

    The eleven lawmakers signing the letter were those most closely associated with Trump: Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Scott Perry (R-PA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jodie Hice (R-GA), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Jim Banks (R-IN), who seems to have aims for higher office.

    Greene warned that any company complying with the committee’s request would be “shut down.”

    McCarthy also claimed that the Department of Justice had said Trump did not cause, incite, or provoke the violence on January 6. This prompted select committee chair Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Vice-Chair Cheney to issue a statement “on McCarthy’s January 6th misinformation campaign,” calling “reports of such a conclusion… baseless.”

    The anti-government anti-mask movement also probably seemed like a better idea before the Delta variant hit. Governors like Abbott and DeSantis have doubled down on opposing mask mandates: DeSantis has gone so far as to use the government to prevent private businesses from requiring masks and to block local officials from requiring masks in schools.

    But mask mandates are widely popular, and as hospitalizations and deaths spike among the unvaccinated, popular opinion is turning against anti-maskers. The area around Miami, Florida, has seen the deaths of at least 13 school staff from Covid-19; hospitalizations of children are rising; and north Idaho has begun to ration medical care; Covid hospitalizations on Labor Day 2021 were 61,000 higher than they were a year ago (99,000 versus 38,000), and health care workers are exhausted. Doctors are beginning to push back against the anti-maskers, while school boards in Florida are defying DeSantis’s ban and Texas schools are challenging Abbott’s rule in court.

    While Trump-reflecting lawmakers are demanding Americans put their lives, and their children’s lives, on the line for “freedom,” news broke tonight that Trump and his son Don, Jr., will spend the night of September 11, 2021, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, commenting on a "gamecast" of a boxing match between former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (who stepped in when Oscar De La Hoya tested positive for Covid) and Vitor Belfort at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. "I love great fighters and great fights," Trump said. "You won't want to miss this special event..."—which  can be purchased for $49.99.

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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,117
     September 8, 2021 (Wednesday)

    On this day in 1974, President Gerald Ford granted “a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.” Ford said he was issuing the pardon to keep from roiling the “tranquility” the nation had begun to enjoy since Nixon stepped down. If Nixon were indicted and brought to trial, the trial would “cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.”

    Ford later said that he issued the pardon with the understanding that accepting a pardon was an admission of guilt. But Nixon refused to accept responsibility for the events surrounding the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C.’s fashionable Watergate office building. He continued to maintain that he had done nothing wrong but was hounded from office by a “liberal” media.

    Rather than being chastised by Watergate and the political fallout from it, a faction of Republicans continued to support the idea that Nixon had done nothing wrong when he covered up an attack on the Democrats before the 1972 election. Those Republicans followed Nixon’s strategy of dividing Americans. Part of that polarization was an increasing conviction that Republicans were justified in undercutting Democrats, who were somehow anti-American, even if it meant breaking laws.

    In the 1980s, members of the Reagan administration did just that. They were so determined to provide funds for the Nicaraguan Contras, who were fighting the leftist Sandinista government, that they ignored a law passed by a Democratic Congress against such aid. In a terribly complicated plan, administration officials, led by National Security Adviser John Poindexter and his deputy Oliver North, secretly sold arms to Iran, which was on the U.S. terror list and thus ineligible for such a purchase, to try to put pressure on Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorists who were holding U.S. hostages. The other side of the deal was that they illegally funneled the money from the sales to the Contras.

    Although Poindexter, North, and North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, destroyed crucial documents, enough evidence remained to indict more than a dozen participants, including Poindexter, North, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, and four CIA officials. But when he became president himself, Reagan’s vice president George H.W. Bush, himself a former CIA director and implicated in the scandal, pardoned those convicted or likely to be. He was advised to do so by his attorney general, William Barr (who later became attorney general for President Donald Trump).

    With his attempt to use foreign policy to get himself reelected, Trump took attacks on democracy to a new level. In July 2019, he withheld congressionally appropriated money from Ukraine in order to force the country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce he was opening an investigation into the son of then–Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. That is, Trump used the weight of the U.S. government and its enormous power in foreign affairs to try to hamstring his Democratic opponent. When the story broke, Democrats in the House of Representatives called this attack on our democracy for what it was and impeached him, but Republicans voted to acquit.

    It was a straight line from 2019’s attack to that of the weeks after the 2020 election, when the former president did all he could to stop the certification of the vote for Democrat Joe Biden. By January 6, though, Trump’s disdain for the law had spread to his supporters, who had learned over a generation to believe that Democrats were not legitimate leaders. Urged by Trump and other loyalists, they refused to accept the results of the election and stormed the Capitol to install the leader they wanted.

    The injection of ordinary Americans into the political mix has changed the equation. While Ford recoiled from the prospect of putting a former president on trial, prosecutors today have seen no reason not to charge the people who stormed the Capitol. More than 570 have been charged so far.

    Yesterday, a 67-year-old Idaho man, Duke Edward Wilson, pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers. He faces up to 8 years and a $250,000 fine for assaulting the law enforcement officers. And he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for obstruction of an official proceeding.

    This law was originally put in place in 1871 to stop members of the Ku Klux Klan from crushing state and local governments during Reconstruction.

    If Wilson is facing such a punishment for his foot soldier part in obstructing an official proceeding in January, what will that mean for those higher up the ladder? Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has sued Trump; Donald Trump, Jr.; Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), who wore a bullet-proof vest to his speech at the January 6 rally; and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who also spoke at the rally, for exactly that: obstructing an official proceeding.

    Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) launched a similar lawsuit against Trump, Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers, but withdrew from it when he became chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. Ten other Democratic House members are carrying the lawsuit forward: Representatives Karen R. Bass (CA), Stephen I. Cohen (TN), Veronica Escobar (TX), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Henry C. Johnson, Jr. (GA), Marcia C. Kaptur (OH), Barbara J. Lee (CA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Maxine Waters (CA), and Bonnie M. Watson Coleman (NJ).

    Lawyer and political observer Teri Kanefield writes on Just Security that there is “a considerable amount of publicly available information supporting an allegation that Trump and members of his inner circle intended the rallygoers to impede or delay the counting of electoral votes and certification of the election.” She points out that the rally was timed to spur attendees to go to the Capitol just as the counting of the electoral votes was scheduled to take place, and that in the midst of the attack, Giuliani left a voicemail for a senator asking him to slow down the proceedings into the next day.

    At the end of the Civil War, General U.S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln made a decision similar to Ford’s in 1974. They reasoned that being lenient with former Confederates, rather than punishing any of them for their attempt to destroy American democracy, would make them loyal to the Union and willing to embrace the new conditions of Black freedom. Instead, just as Nixon did, white southerners chose to interpret the government’s leniency as proof that they, the Confederates, had been right. Rather than dying in southern defeat, their conviction that some men were better than others, and that hierarchies should be written into American law, survived.

    By the 1890s, the Confederate soldier had come to symbolize an individual standing firm against a socialist government controlled by workers and minorities; he was the eastern version of the western cowboy. Statues of Confederates began to sprout up around the country, although most of them were in the South. On what would become Monument Avenue, the white people of Richmond, Virginia, erected a statue to General Robert E. Lee in 1890, the same year the Mississippi Constitution officially suppressed the Black vote. Black leaders objected to the statue, but in vain.

    Today, 131 years later, that statue came down.

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  • Halifax2TheMaxHalifax2TheMax Posts: 29,135
    And guess who was a young staffer on the House Impeachment Committee working to impeach Tricky Dick?
    09/15/1998, Mansfield, MA; 08/29/00 08/30/00, Mansfield, MA; 07/02/03, 07/03/03, Mansfield, MA; 09/28/04, 09/29/04, Boston, MA; 09/22/05, Halifax, NS; 05/24/06, 05/25/06, Boston, MA; 07/22/06, 07/23/06, Gorge, WA; 06/29/08, 06/30/08, Mansfield, MA; 08/18/08, O2 London, UK; 10/30/09, 10/31/09, Philadelphia, PA; 05/15/10, Hartford, CT; 05/17/10, Boston, MA; 05/20/10, 05/21/10, NY, NY; 06/22/10, Dublin, IRE; 06/23/10, Northern Ireland; 09/03/11, 09/04/11, Alpine Valley, WI; 09/11/11, 09/12/11, Toronto, Ont; 09/14/11, Ottawa, Ont; 09/15/11, Hamilton, Ont; 07/02/2012, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/04/2012 & 07/05/2012, Berlin, Germany; 07/07/2012, Stockholm, Sweden; 09/30/2012, Missoula, MT; 07/16/2013, London, Ont; 07/19/2013, Chicago, IL; 10/15/2013 & 10/16/2013, Worcester, MA; 10/21/2013 & 10/22/2013, Philadelphia, PA; 10/25/2013, Hartford, CT; 11/29/2013, Portland, OR; 11/30/2013, Spokane, WA; 12/04/2013, Vancouver, BC; 12/06/2013, Seattle, WA; 10/03/2014, St. Louis. MO; 10/22/2014, Denver, CO; 10/26/2015, New York, NY; 04/23/2016, New Orleans, LA; 04/28/2016 & 04/29/2016, Philadelphia, PA; 05/01/2016 & 05/02/2016, New York, NY; 05/08/2016, Ottawa, Ont.; 05/10/2016 & 05/12/2016, Toronto, Ont.; 08/05/2016 & 08/07/2016, Boston, MA; 08/20/2016 & 08/22/2016, Chicago, IL; 07/01/2018, Prague, Czech Republic; 07/03/2018, Krakow, Poland; 07/05/2018, Berlin, Germany; 09/02/2018 & 09/04/2018, Boston, MA;

    "If you're looking down on someone, it better be to extend them a hand to lift them up."

    Libtardaplorable©. And proud of it.

    Brilliantati©
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