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May 5, 2021 (Wednesday)
With Trump loyalists consolidating their power over the Republican Party, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) today launched the Republican opposition.
Cheney is currently the House Republican Conference chair, managing committee assignments, media appearances, and certain debates in the House. Her refusal to whitewash the January 6 insurrection and to support the former president has led him to press for her removal from her position as the third most powerful House Republican.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to have caved to that pressure. A vote will likely take place next week, and observers expect Cheney to lose. Trump loyalist Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who voted against counting the electoral votes for Joe Biden on January 6, appears to be the front-runner to replace the Wyoming representative.
Cheney laid the stakes of this political moment out starkly in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post. Trump continues to lie that he won the 2020 election and that Biden is an illegitimate president. That language provoked the violent insurrection of January 6 and, according to judges and prosecutors, still threatens to rally his supporters to attack the government.
And aye, there’s the rub: Trump has borne no consequences for the January 6 crisis, and there is every reason to believe he will spur his supporters to make similar efforts to install him as president again in the future. “Trump is seeking to unravel… confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law,” Cheney said. “No other American president has ever done this.”
She called for a bipartisan review of the January 6 insurrection by a commission with subpoena power to dig into what happened, and said that no member of Congress currently serving should participate. Instead, she proposed tapping former officials, judges, and other prominent Americans who can be objective. Rejecting calls of Trump loyalists to muddy the waters with a general commission that looks into the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the insurrection, Cheney wrote that a careful examination of the events surrounding January 6 is imperative to stop the “misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media.”
Such a commission would almost certainly want to interview a number of Trump loyalists, including McCarthy, who had a phone exchange with the former president during the insurrection that observers say devolved into a shouting match. It seems unlikely that all of those interviewed would come out looking good. Having thrown in their lot with the former president, Republican leadership is now yoked to the testimony about the insurrection—and the videos—that will come out in the future.
“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” Cheney wrote. “History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process.”
Cheney is no Democrat. She voted with Trump nearly 93% of the time (compared with Stefanik’s nearly 78%). It is impossible to argue that her opposition to Trump is partisan, which makes it all the more powerful. She looks to be trying to reclaim the Republican Party from Trump and his supporters, and she has a decent shot at it.
First of all, she is already getting a lot of airtime, and being tossed out of House leadership for refusing to lie will get her even more. She has the backing of the low-tax, no regulation, military hawk, business side of the party, which also happens to be the side with the most money. Corporations have been dragging their feet at supporting the Trump wing; she will offer Republican policies without the overthrow of the government.
The anger of Republican lawmakers at corporations withholding money from those who backed the insurrection suggests they are keenly aware that they will have to turn entirely to the Trump base for cash. According to Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham brought this up last night when he spoke at the annual fundraiser for the Georgia Republican Party. Informed that corporations had been reluctant to chip in for the event, Graham said: “I don’t know how much money you lost from these corporate sponsors not giving you money but I’m gonna get on Sean Hannity’s show we’re going to raise every penny of it back—and these people can kiss my ass as far as I’m concerned.”
That quest for money from the grass roots is behind at least part of today’s outpouring of fury from Trump loyalists after Facebook upheld the former president’s ban. Facebook was key to Trump’s power: he used it to gin up his base’s anger and then to get his supporters to send him money. Losing that platform weakens him.
For his part, the former president today attacked Cheney, and also Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump blamed for refusing to stop Biden’s election. Far from abandoning the Big Lie, Trump doubled down on it, insisting that the 2020 election was fraudulent. If only Pence and McConnell had been stronger, he wrote, “we would have had a far different Presidential result, and our Country would not be turning into a socialist nightmare!” He ended with words that proved right the concern that he will continue to back attacks on our government: “Never give up!” he wrote.
Pro-Trump Republican leadership is now tied to that mess. Cheney and those who might rally to her side are not.
While today’s drama played out among the Republicans, Biden and his administration kept moving forward. When asked about his support for Cheney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said simply, “One-hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” Asked about McConnell’s comment at today’s press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I guess the contrast for people is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the people and getting the pandemic under control.”
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6 hours ago, Bus Driver said:

When asked about his support for Cheney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said simply, “One-hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” Asked about McConnell’s comment at today’s press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I guess the contrast for people is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the people and getting the pandemic under control.”

McConnell said the quiet part out loud. "Fuck the people, we want control and we don't care if it hurts the country!"

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May 6, 2021 (Thursday)
Today President Biden traveled to Lake Charles, in the Republican-dominated state of Louisiana, to build bipartisan support for his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. The proposed law is designed to create good jobs while it rebuilds America’s badly neglected infrastructure.
Biden stood in front of the Calcasieu River Bridge, built in 1952 and twenty years overdue for renovation, in a state hit 30 times in the past ten years by natural disasters that cost up to $50 billion in damage. “I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat road. I just see roads,” Biden said. He called for a once in a lifetime investment in roads, bridges, electrical grids, schools, childcare, job training, broadband, and so on, to make America competitive in the twenty-first century.
Biden has called for funding this investment by raising the corporate tax rate from its current 21% to 28%—still lower than the 35% it was before Trump’s 2017 tax cut—and by making sure corporations can no longer skip out on paying their taxes.
Polls show that the plan is popular with about 56% of Americans, who seem eager to see the federal government invest in ordinary Americans again, particularly after seeing the willingness of Republicans to pass the 2017 tax cut that fueled a projected $1.9 trillion increase in the national debt in its first eleven years and primarily benefited households that made more than $200,000 a year. That bill passed without a single Democratic vote, but Republicans later complained about Democrats’ “irresponsible” refusal to cut spending, saying that “America is driving toward a fiscal cliff….”
Indeed, Republicans seem eager to take credit for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress in March without a single Republican vote. The plan is popular—77% of Americans backed it—and Republicans are touting the help it’s bringing to their constituents without noting that they opposed it. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which supports restaurants hurt by the pandemic, is especially popular.
But while Republican lawmakers are willing to embrace the popular American Rescue Plan now that it’s law, they oppose the American Jobs Plan, saying that higher taxes would hurt the economy. “I’m going to fight them every step of the way,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week. Yesterday, he said, "100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration."
In Louisiana today, Biden said he was willing to talk to opponents. “I’m ready to compromise,” he said. “What I’m not ready to do is, I’m not ready to do nothing. I’m not ready to have another period where America has another Infrastructure Month and it doesn’t change a damn thing.”
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May 7, 2021 (Friday)
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo articulated today what many have been reluctant to say: What is at stake in the Big Lie and all the Republican efforts to keep it in play—the shenanigans in the secret Maricopa County, Arizona, recount; the censuring of Republicans who voted to impeach the former president; the expected removal of Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from a leadership role in the party; and so on—is not the past election of 2020, but the upcoming election of 2024.
The Republican Party has demonstrated that it intends to control the government in the future, no matter what most Americans want. Iowa, Georgia, Montana, and Florida have already passed voter suppression laws, while other states are considering them. (Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s bill yesterday live on the Fox News Channel.)
As Marshall points out, though, making sure that states return only Republicans to Congress is also about controlling the White House. Republican lawmakers are purging from state election machinery members of their own party who refused to change the outcome of the 2020 election and give a victory to Trump. The former president has fed speculation that he still hopes to overturn the 2020 election, but Marshall looks forward: Is it really possible to think that in 2024, members of the new Trump party will protect the sanctity of any election that gives a victory to a Democratic candidate? If Republicans capture the House in 2022, will they agree to certify electoral votes for a Democrat? In 2020, even before the current remaking of the party in Trump’s image, 139 House Republicans contested them.
Trump is systematically going after leading members of the Republican Party, determined to remake it into his own organization. Several former senior White House officials told Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post that “[t]he defeated ex-president is propelled primarily by a thirst for retribution, an insatiable quest for the spotlight and a desire to establish and maintain total dominance and control over the Republican base.” Republican strategist Brendan Buck noted that Trump seems to relish fighting, rather than victory to achieve an end. “Usually,” Buck said, “a fight is the means to an end, but in this case fighting is the end.”
The Republicans are consolidating their control over the machinery of government in a way that indicates they intend to control the country regardless of what Americans actually want, putting Trump and his organization back in charge. Democrats have proposed the For the People Act (H.R. 1 and S. 1), which would start to restore a level playing field between the parties. The For the People Act would sideline the new voter suppression bills and make it easier to vote. It would end partisan gerrymandering and stop the flow of big money into elections permitted after the 2010 Citizens United decision.
But Republicans are determined to stop this measure. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is especially engaged in its obstruction. He has called it a “partisan takeover” that would “give Washington Democrats unprecedented control over 50 states’ election laws.” He recognizes that restoring a level electoral playing field would hamstring the Republicans’ ability to win elections. Defeating the act is McConnell’s top priority.
The story of how Republican leaders embraced voter suppression and gerrymandering starts back in the 1980s, though the mechanics of overturning a presidential election are new to 2020. Still, their undermining of our democratic system begs the question: Why are leading Republicans surrendering their party, and our nation, to a budding autocrat?
Two days ago, when asked if he is concerned about the direction of his party, McConnell told reporters that he is not paying attention to it because the Democrats are trying “to turn American into a socialist country,” and that “[o]ne-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”
In his April 28 address before a joint session of Congress, President Biden indicated he intended to reverse the course the government has been on since the Reagan years. “My fellow Americans,” Biden said, “trickle-down… economics has never worked, and it's time to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”
Republicans have tied themselves to the idea that, as Reagan said, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” (although in 1981 he prefaced that statement with the words: “In this present crisis”). Since the 1990s, they have focused on tax cuts and deregulation as the key to building a strong economy, even though that program has moved wealth dramatically upward.
Today, Republicans interpreted a jobs report that showed job growth slowing in April as a sign that Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which pumped $1.9 trillion into the country to help it heal from the coronavirus recession, has failed. Rather than speeding up growth, they say, it is slowing it down. Biden pointed out that the nation has added 1.5 million jobs since he took office and that the recession will not end overnight, but Republicans insist that the federal $300 weekly unemployment checks included in the law are keeping people from going back to work.
The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, issued a statement saying: “This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas.”
Citing help wanted ads, Republican governors in South Carolina, Montana, and Arkansas are ending the unemployment benefit in their own states to get people back to work. Other Republican-led states are suing the administration to force it to let them use the money provided in the American Rescue Plan not to offer help to workers, but to subsidize tax cuts. Meanwhile, still others at home are touting the benefits of the American Rescue Plan to their constituents without mentioning that they voted against it.
Americans appear to like the new direction of the country. Seventy-seven percent liked the American Rescue Plan and 56% like Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan for infrastructure, while 65% want to tax people making more than $400,000 a year to pay for it. At the same time, a new Pew poll suggests that the divisiveness of the Trump years is easing and that young people in particular are not interested in the culture wars.
Faced with the prospect of voters rejecting their economic policies, Republican leaders are undermining democracy.
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If Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema don't want to get on board to stop the Republicans from trashing American democracy, they may as well just move over to the R party and get it over with.

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5 hours ago, Ishmael said:

If Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema don't want to get on board to stop the Republicans from trashing American democracy, they may as well just move over to the R party and get it over with.

Manchin probably thinks it over, ever day.

West Virginia has a large majority of backward-looking, mean-spirited, racist, dumbfucks. Anybody who isn't a stubbornly regressive hillbilly has left the state.

I don't see them giving up the Trumplove any time soon. And Manchin is up for reelection in 2024.... although he might retire.

- DSK

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A different tone.  If you still have your Mom/Mother, give her a call.  Better yet, give her a hug.

 

May 8, 2021 (Saturday)
Those of us who are truly lucky have more than one mother. They are the cool aunts, the elderly ladies, the family friends, even the mentors who whip us into shape. By my count, I've had at least eight mothers. One of the most important was Sally Adams Bascom Augenstern.
Mrs. A., a widow who had played cutthroat bridge with my grandmother in the 1950s, lived near my family in Maine in the summer. I began vacuuming and weeding and painting for her when I was about 12, but it wasn't long before my time at her house stopped being a job. She was bossy, demanding, sharp as a tack... and funny and thoughtful, and she remembered most of the century. She would sit in her rocking chair by the sunny window in the kitchen, shelling peas and telling me stories while I washed the floor with a hand sponge to spin out the time.
Sally (not Sarah) Bascom was born on December 25, 1903. (For folks in Maine keeping score, that made her almost a full year older than Millard Robinson, a fact she loathed.) She was the oldest of six children and spent her youth taking care of the younger ones. When I once asked her what was the most important historical event in her lifetime, this woman who had lived through the Depression and both world wars answered without hesitation: "the washing machine." It had freed her and her mother from constant laundry. She could finally have some leisure time, which she spent listening to the radio and driving in cars with boys. Because her mother always needed her at home, it was not she, but all her younger siblings, who went to college. By the time Mrs. A. was an adult, she was certain she wanted no part of motherhood.
Mrs. A. never forgave her sister for driving her Model T through a field. She saved aluminum foil not because of WWII, but because of WWI. She supported herself and refused to marry until she met an older man who offered to take her traveling; they had a quickie wedding and set off for Banff, where they looked at mountains and watched the bears pilfer trash.
She destroyed her knees playing tennis, so she would weed the garden by staggering to a lawn chair set up there. She loved snapdragons and nicotiana, veronica and irises and wild roses. After Mr. Augenstern died, she drove herself to and from Florida once a year in a giant old Cadillac with "Arrive Alive" on the license plate holder; she drove like a bat out of hell. She played bridge with terrifying intensity. And she always refused to be seen in public unless she was in a dress with her hair pinned up and her pearls on.
Mrs. A. laughed at me when I fell in love with history and tried to tell her that people changed the world because of their beliefs. "Follow the money, Heather," said the woman whose income depended on her knowledge of the stock market. "Don't pay attention to what they say; pay attention to who's getting the money." I listened. And then I learned as I watched her lose my grandmother's generation and then work to make friends with my mother's generation. And when they, too, died, she set out, in her eighties, to make friends with my generation. Every day was a new day.
Mrs. A. left me her linens, her gardening coat, and this photo of her and her siblings: Frances (who died young), Phyllis, Carlton, Guy, and Nathan. She also left me ideas about how to approach both history and life. I've never met a woman more determined never to be a mother, but I'm pretty sure that plan was one of the few things at which she failed.
Thinking of her, and all the wonderful women like her who mother without the title, on this Mother's Day.

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May 10, 2021

A poll today by the Associated Press (AP) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) shows that President Joe Biden’s administration is gaining positive traction. Sixty-three percent of Americans approve of how he is handling his job as president. Seventy-one percent approve of how he is handling the coronavirus pandemic; 62% percent approve of how he is handling health care. Fifty-seven percent approve of how he is handling the economy; 54% approve of how he is handling foreign affairs.

Fifty-four percent of Americans think the country is going in the right direction. This is the highest number since 2017, but it is split by party: 84% of Democrats like the country’s direction, while only 20% of Republicans do.

Biden’s weak spots are in immigration, where 43% approve and 54% disapprove, and gun policy, where 48% approve and 49% disapprove.

And yet, Biden’s people have been working to address the influx of migrant children; White House Secretary Jen Psaki noted last week that “At the end of March, there were more than 5,000 children in Customs and Border Protection Patrol stations. Today, that number is approximately 600…. The amount of time children spend in CBP facilities is down by 75 percent — from 131 hours at the end of March to under 30 hours now.”

The administration has backed that short-term work with a long-term initiative. Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris met virtually with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leader of the left of center populist nationalist coalition party MORENA, to talk about finding ways to promote economic development to address the root causes prompting the flight of refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and southern Mexico. They also talked about working together to protect human rights and dismantle the criminal networks that smuggle migrants. She will travel to Guatemala and Mexico in June, where she will meet with their leaders.

Disapproval of Biden’s gun policies might well reflect a desire for a stronger stance. In April, a Morning Consult/Politico poll showed that 64% of registered voters supported stricter gun control laws. We have had an average of ten mass shootings a week in 2021, 194 in all. (A mass shooting is one in which four people are killed or wounded.)

This week, Biden will be meeting with bipartisan groups of leaders, including Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to begin to hammer out an infrastructure measure based on his American Jobs Plan. He will also meet with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who have proposed their own $568 billion proposal without corporate tax hikes.

As the good news from the administration is starting to filter into the media, bad news from the Trump wing of the Republican Party is also starting to get traction. On Saturday, we learned that at retreats in March and April, staff for the National Republican Congressional Committee refused to tell lawmakers how badly Trump is polling in core battleground districts, where 54% see Biden favorably while only 41% still favor Trump. Vice President Kamala Harris, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan are all more popular in those districts than the former president.

Indeed, it is more than a little odd that party leaders are bending over backward to tie their party to a former president who, after all, never broke 50% favorability ratings—the first time in polling history that had happened—and who lost both the White House and Congress.

Another set of data from Catalist, a voter database company in Washington, D.C., shows that the 2020 election was the most diverse ever, with Latino and Asian voters turning out in bigger numbers than ever before. Black voting increased substantially, while Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters had a decisive increase in turnout. The electorate was 72% white, down 2% from 2016 and 5% from 2008. Thirty-nine percent of Biden-Harris voters were people of color (61% were white); only 15% of Trump-Pence voters were POC (85% were white).

This demographic trend is behind the new voter suppression bills in Republican states. But the racial breakdown of the 2020 vote is not the only problem for the current Republican Party. The biggest turnout gains in 2020 were among young voters, 18 to 40 years old, who now make up 31% of voters, while those over 55 have dropped to only 44% of the electorate. Younger voters skew heavily toward the Democrats. Also notable was that women break heavily toward Democrats by a 10 point gap—79% of women of color support Democrats; 58% of white women voted for Biden-Harris—and women make up 54% of the electorate overall.

News out of the private “recount” in Arizona by Cyber Ninjas, a company without experience in election recounts and whose owner has already gone on record as believing that rigged voting machines in Arizona cost Trump victory, continues to be embarrassing as well. Although the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which has a Republican majority, said the count was fair and opposed a recount, sixteen Republicans in the state senate voted to give the ballots for Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, to the company for a private recount. The count has been plagued by conspiracy theories—one observer claimed they are examining the ballots for signs of bamboo in the paper to show that tens of thousands of ballots were flown in from Asia—and it turned out that one of the people recounting the ballots had been at the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Now the “recount” is running so far behind it appears it won’t be done until August, rather than May 14 as the company promised.

State senator Paul Boyer, who voted for the “audit,” told New York Times reporter Michael Wines: “It makes us look like idiots…. Looking back, I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”

And then, this morning, the Washington Post dropped a long, investigative story by reporters Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine, and Josh Dawsey revealing that the arguments former president Trump has grabbed to “prove” the election was stolen from him were part of a long conspiracy theory hatched in 2018 by Russell J. Ramsland, Jr., “a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.” The story follows how Ramsland’s theories, which were debunked as “bat-s**t insane” by White House lawyers, got pumped into the media by Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, among others, and how Trump came to embrace them.

While Republican leaders are still standing behind those theories, and the former president, opponents of the party’s direction are pushing back not just against Trump but also against those leaders supporting him. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) tweeted this morning: “A few days before Jan 6, our GOP members had a conference call. I told Kevin [McCarthy] that his words and our party’s actions would lead to violence on January 6th. Kevin dismissively responded with ‘ok Adam, operator next question.’ And we got violence.”

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) has narrated a video distributed by the Republican Accountability Project recalling the violence of January 6, blaming Trump for spreading lies about the election, and reminding viewers that more than 60 lawsuits disproved his claims that the election was stolen. The video says “we are the party of Lincoln. We are not the party of QAnon” (showing an image of Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman,” who wore a horned headdress during the Capitol insurrection) “or white supremacy” (showing an image of Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson). “We cannot embrace insurrection” (showing a picture of Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene). “President Trump provoked an attack on the United States Capitol which resulted in five people dying. That is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward.” The video features an image of McCarthy standing with Trump. Cheney made it clear she was not about to shut up.

This afternoon, McCarthy released a statement calling for Cheney’s ouster as conference chair, featuring the line: “[u]nlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.” (References to George Orwell, who famously wrote about how fascists used language to rewrite history, were all over Twitter.) McCarthy and other Trump loyalists have suggested that Cheney needs to go because she keeps talking about the past, but Allan Smith of NBC News points out that Trump himself seems to be the one who cannot stop talking about the past.

 

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May 11, 2021

Tonight, in a speech that claimed every piece of the Republican landscape since 1980, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney launched a broadside against the Republican leaders who have shackled the party to the former president.

“Today we face a threat America has never seen before,” Cheney said. “A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”

Cheney recalled the determination of those in Kenya, Russia, and Poland to risk their lives to vote for freedom, and talked of how the dream of American democracy had inspired them. She touched on religion, assuring listeners that God has favored America. She invoked Reagan, claiming that his Republican Party won the Cold War and saying that America is now on the cusp of another cold war with communist China.

This impending struggle highlighted the importance of today’s domestic struggle: “Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure. We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.”

Cheney went on to claim that she stood on conservative principles Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has abandoned. The fundamental conservative principle is the rule of law, she reminded listeners, and those backing Trump’s Big Lie are denying that rule and undermining our democracy. The election is over, she said, and “Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.” It is imperative, she said, to act to prevent “the unraveling of our democracy.”

"This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar."

Tomorrow, House Republicans will vote on whether to keep Cheney at the number three spot in the party in the House—she is expected to be removed—and Trump’s own former deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, will tell the House Oversight Committee that after the election, the Justice Department “had been presented with no evidence of widespread voter fraud at a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.”

On Thursday, over 100 former Republican leaders will drop a letter saying that if party leadership does not separate itself from former president Trump, they will start a third party. They are calling themselves the “rationals” against the “radicals,” and they include former governors and representatives, as well as Republican officeholders.

This revolt against the Trump loyalists in the Republican Party signals that, no matter what leadership is saying, many Republicans—including Republican lawmakers—are not, in fact, united behind the former president. After all, he never broke 50% approval when he was president, and he lost the White House and Congress for the party. And, now that he is locked out of Twitter and Facebook, it appears he can no longer command the audience he used to. In the week since he launched a new blog, it has attracted a little over 212,000 likes, shares, and comments. The top post got just 16,000 engagements.

Meanwhile, 63% of Americans approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing.

What’s at stake in the fight over Cheney’s position in the Republican Party—admit it, did you ever think you would care about who was the third most important House Republican?—is not some obscure struggle for political seniority. It’s a fight over whether the Republican Party will wed itself to the Big Lie that a Democratic president is illegitimate, despite all evidence to the contrary. Cheney is not a Democrat by a long shot, and she is correctly calling out the danger of the Big Lie for what it is: a dagger pointed at the heart of our democracy.

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May 12, 2021 (Wednesday)
As expected, this morning the House Republicans removed Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from her position as conference chair after she refused to stop speaking out against the former president for instigating the January 6 attack on our Capitol and the counting of electoral votes for President Joe Biden. The Republicans ousted her by voice vote, which meant that no one had to go on the record for or against Cheney, and the Republicans kept the split in the party from being measurable. It also ensured that she would lose; she has survived a secret ballot vote before.
Before the vote, Cheney allegedly told her Republican colleagues: “If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person; you have plenty of others to choose from.” After the vote, she went in front of the cameras to say that she would lead the fight to reclaim the party from Trump, and said: “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again goes anywhere near the Oval Office.”
After her ouster, Trump Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn (NC) tweeted ““Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney.” The former president echoed Cawthorn: “Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being. I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country.”
After convincing his caucus to dump Cheney and embrace Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters: “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.”
This was a breathtaking statement. McCarthy himself challenged the certification of Biden’s win, and just last week, Trump made a big announcement in which he called the election of 2020 “fraudulent.” The Big Lie animating the Republicans today is that Trump, not Biden, really won the 2020 election.
But McCarthy is not alone in his gaslighting. Yesterday, in the Senate Rules Committee markup of S1, the For the People Act protecting the vote, ending gerrymandering, and pushing big money out of our elections, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “I don’t think anyone on our side has been arguing that [voter fraud] has been pervasive all over the country.”
The false claim of widespread voter fraud is, of course, exactly what Trump Republicans have stood on since the 2020 election. It is the justification for their voter suppression measures in Republican states, including Texas, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and, as of yesterday afternoon, Arizona.
In today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 insurrection, Republican lawmakers in general tried to gaslight Americans, as they tried to paint that unprecedented attack on our democracy as nothing terribly important. Although 140 law enforcement officers were injured, five people were killed, more than 400 people have been charged with crimes, and rioters did more than $30 million worth of damage, Republican representatives downplayed the events of the day, insisting that they were not really out of the ordinary. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) said that calling the attack on the Capitol an insurrection is a “bald-faced lie” and that “if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit…."
CNN later called Clyde’s remarks “absolute nonsense.” Even the definition of insurrection Clyde quoted—“an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country usually by violence”—showed the attack of January 6 to be an insurrection. And, as lawyer and CNN analyst Asha Rangappa noted tonight on Twitter, at his second impeachment trial even Trump’s own lawyers did not dispute that the events of January 6 were a violent insurrection. The record is clear.
Republican lawmakers like Clyde did, though, echo the former president’s interview on the Fox News Channel in March when he said that when his supporters went into the Capitol they posed “zero threat” and were “hugging and kissing the police and the guards…. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out.”
The former president appears to be continuing to exercise control over his underlings. Former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller provided testimony at the House Oversight Committee hearing, and what they would not say was revealing. Rosen refused to answer questions about whether Trump asked him to try to overturn the 2020 election. Miller’s prepared remarks had included a sentence that said “I stand by my prior observation that I personally believe his comments encouraged the protesters that day.” In his testimony, he omitted that line, and later tried to walk it back, trying to draw a line between people who marched on the Capitol and those who broke into it.
But with Cheney and her supporters now in open revolt, and with news about the Capitol attack dropping, and even with more information coming about the ties between the former president and Russia, will Republican Party leaders manage to sweep everything under the rug?
Today, at a hearing on domestic extremism today before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas both testified that the most serious domestic national security threat in the U.S. right now is that of white supremacist gangs. “I think it's fair to say that in my career as a judge, and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. “There was an attempt to interfere with the fundamental passing of an element of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. And if there has to be a hierarchy of things that we prioritize, this would be the one we'd prioritize. It is the most dangerous threat to our democracy. That does not mean that we don't focus on other threats.”
For his part, President Biden is refusing to get sucked into the Republican drama, instead focusing on the country. Today an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12, and the CDC signed off on the recommendation, making it easier to reopen schools in the fall.
Today Biden met at the White House with Republicans McCarthy and McConnell, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to try to hash out an infrastructure plan, although the Republicans have said they will absolutely not consider raising the corporate tax rates from where Trump’s 2017 tax cut dropped them. It was the first time McCarthy and McConnell had visited the West Wing since Biden was elected.
It was in the context of visiting the president that McCarthy tried to say that there was no Republican questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election (although, of course, more than two thirds of Republicans currently believe in the Big Lie). “We’re sitting here with the president today,” he told reporters.
Will today’s gesture be enough to make swing voters forget the party’s wholehearted embrace of the former president? Shortly after House Republicans removed Cheney from her leadership position, nine out of 14 voters in an Axios focus group said they would be willing to vote for a Republican in next year’s congressional races. But of those, 8 said they would not back any Republican who supports Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election.
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May 13, 2021 (Thursday)
Today, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus can stop wearing masks, both outdoors and indoors, except on public transportation and in crowded indoor venues. The new guidelines come as cases are dropping and as the U.S. is now vaccinating children ages 12 and up. They are intended, at least in part, to encourage people to get the vaccine. The CDC guidelines do not override federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial laws, or regulations put in place by businesses and workplaces. Still, they are a big step toward emerging from the pandemic.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic," Walensky said. President Joe Biden, who made vaccines the centerpiece of his early administration, spoke to reporters without a mask. “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” he said.
On morning television, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) hammered her point that the former president continues to endanger our nation. She also insisted that the U.S. must have a January 6 commission, as it has had an investigative commission for every similar threat, but said that fellow Republicans opposed such a commission because it threatened those “who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing.”
Those who were playing a role they should not have been playing today turned out to include an active-duty Marine Corps officer, Major Christopher Warnagiris, who was arrested for assaulting the Capitol on January 6.
And there are others associated with the administration who may have been playing a role they should not have been, aside from the events of January 6.
For weeks now, rumors have swirled about Trump loyalist Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his friend Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida, who is under indictment for sex trafficking of a minor and 32 other counts. Papers filed today suggest that Greenberg has made a deal with prosecutors. The terms of the deal are not public, but they might not bode well for Gaetz.
At the New York Times, Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti wrote today that Project Veritas (that right-wing group always trying to catch people on video doing something illegal) was part of an effort during the Trump years to discredit both FBI agents and H.R. McMaster, the former three-star general who was at the time Trump’s national security advisor. Project leaders hoped to get the agents and McMaster, who was perceived as being insufficiently loyal to the former president, to say something damning about the president so they could be removed. One of the participants in the project was Barbara Ledeen, a staff member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was, at the time, led by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).
But the real blockbuster political story of the day came in the form of a video obtained by Mother Jones and written about in a detailed article there by Ari Berman and Nick Surgey. The leaked video shows Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank—explaining to big-money donors that Heritage Action has worked closely with Republican state legislators to enact voter suppression laws. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”
The story is not entirely new. Heritage (as it is known) published a report last February outlining “best practices” for voting, many of which are in the new bills coming out of Republican-dominated state legislatures. And in a March article for the New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein outlined the role of Heritage Action in Georgia’s and Arizona’s voting restrictions, noting that at least 23 of the proposed state bills that dealt with voting had language that looked like that of Heritage. They also wrote that Heritage plans to spend $24 million to change voting laws in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin before the 2022 election, and that the person behind the Heritage voting policies is Hans von Spakovsky, who mainstreamed the idea of voter fraud in the Republican Party, although experts agree it is vanishingly rare.
What is new and dramatic about the video is seeing Anderson make her pitch to donors for a coordinated right-wing effort to take the vote away from their opponents. She talks of working with similar groups: “We literally give marching orders for the week ahead,” Anderson said. “All so we’re singing from the same song sheet of the goals for that week and where the state bills are across the country.”
Heritage Action is fighting hard against the Democrats’ For the People Act, which would protect the right to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, and limit money in politics. Heritage summarized the bill, which it called the “Corrupt Politicians Act,” in a short sheet for lawmakers. Anderson explained: “We’ve made sure that every single member of Congress knows just how bad the bill is…. Then we’ve made sure there’s an echo chamber of support around these senators driven by your Heritage Action activists and sentinels across the country where we’ve driven hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, place[d] letters to the editor, hosted events, and run television and digital ads.”
Democrats cannot pass the For the People Act through the Senate without buy-in from all 50 of their senators, and Surgey noted that in March, Heritage Action and similar groups bussed protesters to West Virginia from other states for a big rally at the capitol to pressure Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
The “grassroots” protest against “voter fraud” is, in fact, conceived, funded, and organized by one of the most powerful elite political organizations in the country.
Manchin has suggested he will not support the For the People Act without Republican support, so yesterday, he suggested a different way to address the recent voter suppression measures. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, states and local governments that had a history of racist election laws had to get clearance from federal officials before they put new election rules in place. The Supreme Court gutted that rule in 2013 with the Shelby County v. Holder decision (which is why all these new laws are going into the books). Manchin called for restoring the old system of preclearance, but applying it to all states and territories, not just the nine to which it had previously applied, thus taking away the Supreme Court’s objection that it singled out certain states.
Manchin’s workaround wouldn’t deal with gerrymandering or big money, but it would certainly be a start toward leveling the electoral playing field, and historically, support for the Voting Rights Act was bipartisan. No longer. Almost immediately, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) shot Manchin’s plan down.
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May 14, 2021 (Friday)
This morning, as expected, the House Republicans elected Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Trump’s choice for conference chair, to replace Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY). This means that the four top House Republican leaders—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik, and Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)—all voted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Stefanik thanked “President Trump for his support,” saying “he is a critical part of our Republican team.” She went on to say that "House Republicans are united in our fight to save our country from the radical Socialist Democrat agenda of President Biden and Nancy Pelosi."
Today’s vote confirmed that the leaders of the current Republican Party are willing to abandon democracy in order to save the country from what they call “socialism.”
But what Republicans mean when they say “socialism” is not the political system most countries recognize when they use that word: one in which the people, through their government, own the means of production. What Republicans mean comes from America’s peculiar history after the Civil War, when new national taxation coincided with the expansion of voting to include Black men.
In the years just after the firing stopped, white southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls. But in 1870, Congress created the Department of Justice, and President U.S. Grant’s attorney general set out to destroy the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1871, southern leaders changed their tactics. The same men who had vowed that Black people would never be equal to whites began to say that their objection to Black voting was not based on race. No, they said, their objection was that Black people were poor and uneducated and would elect lawmakers who promised to give them things—hospitals, and roads, and schools—that could be paid for only through tax levies on people with property: white men. In this formulation, voting was not a means to ensuring equality; it was a redistribution of wealth from hardworking white men to African Americans who wanted a handout. Black voting meant “socialism,” and it would destroy America.
With this argument, northerners who had fought alongside Black colleagues and insisted they must be equal before the law on racial grounds were willing to see Black men kept from the polls. Black voting, which northerners had recognized as key to African Americans being able to protect their interests—and, for that matter, to defend the national government from the former Confederates who still wanted to destroy it—slowed. And then it stopped.
The South became a one-party state ruled by a small elite class, defined by white supremacy, and mired in poverty. For its part, the North also turned on workers, undermining the labor movement and focusing on protecting the new industrial factories whose owners claimed they were the ones driving the economy.
In the 1930s, the Great Depression changed this equation. When the bottom fell out of the economy, Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt transformed the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure. As early as 1937, Republican businessmen and southern Democrats began to talk of coming together to stop what they considered socialism. But most Americans liked this New Deal, and its opponents had little hope of attracting enough voters to stop its expansion.
That equation changed after World War II, when Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower began to use the government to advance racial equality. Truman’s 1948 desegregation of the military prompted southern Democrats to form their own short-lived segregationist party. The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional enabled opponents of the new government system to tie racism to their cause. They warned that the expanded government meant the expensive protection of Black rights, which cost tax dollars. They argued it was simply a redistribution of wealth, just as their counterparts had done in the Reconstruction South.
With the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that argument increasingly fed the idea that Black and Brown people were lazy and wanted to receive government handouts rather than work. Businessmen and social traditionalists eager to get rid of the popular New Deal government told voters that government programs to help ordinary Americans were “socialism,” redistributing money from hardworking white people to lazy people of color. They talked of “makers” and “takers.”
To purge the nation of socialism, then, and return it to the pre–New Deal government, they set out to limit voting. In 1980, Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation that has designed much of the legislation currently being passed in Republican-dominated states, said “I don’t want everybody to vote….our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
By 1986, Republicans were talking about cutting down on Black voters through “ballot integrity” drives. As Democrats sought to expand voting, most notably with the 1993 Motor Voter Act, Republicans began to charge that they were losing elections only because of voter fraud, although experts agree that voter fraud is exceedingly rare and does not change election outcomes. Since then, arguing that they are simply protecting the vote, Republicans have become dependent on ID laws and other voter suppression measures.
But by 2020, it was clear that the Republicans’ drive to slash the government back to its 1920 form, along with the racism and sexism that had become central to the party to pull voters to their standard, had become so unpopular that it was unlikely they could continue to win elections. And so, Republicans began to say that the United States is “not a democracy,” as Utah Senator Mike Lee tweeted in October. “Democracy isn’t the objective,” he continued, “liberty, peace, and prospe[r]ity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”
With the election of Democrat Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with a Democratic Congress, the leadership of the Republican Party has taken the next step. They are rejecting the legitimacy of the election, doubling down on Trump’s Big Lie that he won. Claiming to want to combat “voter fraud,” they are backing bills across the country to suppress Democratic voting, making sure that no one but a Republican can win an election.
Just as white southerners argued after the Civil War, Republican leaders claim to be acting in the best interests of the nation. They are standing firm against “the radical Socialist Democrat agenda,” making sure that no wealthy person’s tax dollars go to schools or roads or social programs.
They are “saving” America, just as white supremacists “saved” the Jim Crow South.
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55 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:
May 14, 2021 (Friday)
This morning, as expected, the House Republicans elected Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Trump’s choice for conference chair, to replace Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY). This means that the four top House Republican leaders—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik, and Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)—all voted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Stefanik thanked “President Trump for his support,” saying “he is a critical part of our Republican team.” She went on to say that "House Republicans are united in our fight to save our country from the radical Socialist Democrat agenda of President Biden and Nancy Pelosi."
Today’s vote confirmed that the leaders of the current Republican Party are willing to abandon democracy in order to save the country from what they call “socialism.”
But what Republicans mean when they say “socialism” is not the political system most countries recognize when they use that word: one in which the people, through their government, own the means of production. What Republicans mean comes from America’s peculiar history after the Civil War, when new national taxation coincided with the expansion of voting to include Black men.
In the years just after the firing stopped, white southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls. But in 1870, Congress created the Department of Justice, and President U.S. Grant’s attorney general set out to destroy the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1871, southern leaders changed their tactics. The same men who had vowed that Black people would never be equal to whites began to say that their objection to Black voting was not based on race. No, they said, their objection was that Black people were poor and uneducated and would elect lawmakers who promised to give them things—hospitals, and roads, and schools—that could be paid for only through tax levies on people with property: white men. In this formulation, voting was not a means to ensuring equality; it was a redistribution of wealth from hardworking white men to African Americans who wanted a handout. Black voting meant “socialism,” and it would destroy America.
With this argument, northerners who had fought alongside Black colleagues and insisted they must be equal before the law on racial grounds were willing to see Black men kept from the polls. Black voting, which northerners had recognized as key to African Americans being able to protect their interests—and, for that matter, to defend the national government from the former Confederates who still wanted to destroy it—slowed. And then it stopped.
The South became a one-party state ruled by a small elite class, defined by white supremacy, and mired in poverty. For its part, the North also turned on workers, undermining the labor movement and focusing on protecting the new industrial factories whose owners claimed they were the ones driving the economy.
In the 1930s, the Great Depression changed this equation. When the bottom fell out of the economy, Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt transformed the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure. As early as 1937, Republican businessmen and southern Democrats began to talk of coming together to stop what they considered socialism. But most Americans liked this New Deal, and its opponents had little hope of attracting enough voters to stop its expansion.
That equation changed after World War II, when Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower began to use the government to advance racial equality. Truman’s 1948 desegregation of the military prompted southern Democrats to form their own short-lived segregationist party. The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional enabled opponents of the new government system to tie racism to their cause. They warned that the expanded government meant the expensive protection of Black rights, which cost tax dollars. They argued it was simply a redistribution of wealth, just as their counterparts had done in the Reconstruction South.
With the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that argument increasingly fed the idea that Black and Brown people were lazy and wanted to receive government handouts rather than work. Businessmen and social traditionalists eager to get rid of the popular New Deal government told voters that government programs to help ordinary Americans were “socialism,” redistributing money from hardworking white people to lazy people of color. They talked of “makers” and “takers.”
To purge the nation of socialism, then, and return it to the pre–New Deal government, they set out to limit voting. In 1980, Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation that has designed much of the legislation currently being passed in Republican-dominated states, said “I don’t want everybody to vote….our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
By 1986, Republicans were talking about cutting down on Black voters through “ballot integrity” drives. As Democrats sought to expand voting, most notably with the 1993 Motor Voter Act, Republicans began to charge that they were losing elections only because of voter fraud, although experts agree that voter fraud is exceedingly rare and does not change election outcomes. Since then, arguing that they are simply protecting the vote, Republicans have become dependent on ID laws and other voter suppression measures.
But by 2020, it was clear that the Republicans’ drive to slash the government back to its 1920 form, along with the racism and sexism that had become central to the party to pull voters to their standard, had become so unpopular that it was unlikely they could continue to win elections. And so, Republicans began to say that the United States is “not a democracy,” as Utah Senator Mike Lee tweeted in October. “Democracy isn’t the objective,” he continued, “liberty, peace, and prospe[r]ity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”
With the election of Democrat Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with a Democratic Congress, the leadership of the Republican Party has taken the next step. They are rejecting the legitimacy of the election, doubling down on Trump’s Big Lie that he won. Claiming to want to combat “voter fraud,” they are backing bills across the country to suppress Democratic voting, making sure that no one but a Republican can win an election.
Just as white southerners argued after the Civil War, Republican leaders claim to be acting in the best interests of the nation. They are standing firm against “the radical Socialist Democrat agenda,” making sure that no wealthy person’s tax dollars go to schools or roads or social programs.
They are “saving” America, just as white supremacists “saved” the Jim Crow South.

Anybody who brings up the scary "socialism" needs to be referred to this bit of history.

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5 minutes ago, Nice! said:

Anybody who brings up the scary "socialism" needs to be referred to this bit of history.

That would require reading something longer than a Tweet and opening up their mind.

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10 minutes ago, Nice! said:

Anybody who brings up the scary "socialism" needs to be referred to this bit of history.

Remember what is truly the American Dream.... keeping up with the Joneses.... can be done effectively by hammering the Joneses down. Every time it strikes, how solidly anti-American the Republicans seem to me, I try to remember this.

- DSK

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1 minute ago, Steam Flyer said:

Remember what is truly the American Dream.... keeping up with the Joneses.... can be done effectively by hammering the Joneses down. Every time it strikes, how solidly anti-American the Republicans seem to me, I try to remember this.

- DSK

That's an excellent explanation of how many are attempting to do so.  May need to borrow that.

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May 16, 2021 (Sunday)
Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), whom the Republican House conference dumped as chair last week after she refused to kowtow to former president Trump, said some interesting things to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this morning. She reiterated that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has information about conversations with Trump surrounding the events of January 6 and should be subpoenaed if he will not talk about those things voluntarily (and, by implication, under oath).
Cheney is bringing back into the media cycle a number of things we heard between the election and January 6, but she has said that McCarthy should be subpoenaed enough times that it’s hard to believe she is talking generally.
On ABC’s This Week, Cheney also repeated the information she gave last week: that Republicans were afraid to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial because they were frightened for their lives. You may recall that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA) said something similar in his closing remarks in January 2020 at Trump’s first impeachment trial, and Republicans claimed to be outraged. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters: “That’s insulting and demeaning to everyone to say that we somehow live in fear and that the president has threatened all of us.”
And yet, sixteen months later, here we are.
Cheney is not the only Republican who is turning on the former president and his loyalists. Last night, Trump posted a statement claiming that “the entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona”—where the bizarre “audit” is underway—“has been DELETED!” The statement goes on to make sweeping claims about “this unbelievable Election crime,” and so on.
But, in real time, the Republican recorder of Maricopa County wrote on Twitter in response to Trump’s statement: “Wow. this is unhinged,” Stephen Richer wrote. “I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now.” He went on: “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5. If we don’t call this out….”
And Maricopa County did call it out. In a remarkable Twitter thread, the Maricopa County official account destroyed the effort by the private company Cyber Ninjas to recount the 2020 votes in that county. “The 2020 elections were run w/ integrity, the results certified by the county & state were accurate, & the 2 independent audits conducted by the County are the true final word on the subject,” the account said. “We know auditing. The Senate Cyber Ninja audit is not a real audit.” The account went on to list all the many ways in which this audit is simply a propaganda effort to shore up the Big Lie that the election was stolen.
This weekend we also learned that Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida, will plead guilty to six charges in federal court tomorrow. Greenberg is the man Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump loyalist, used to call his “wingman,” and Greenberg has worked his way down from the 33 original charges against him by promising to cooperate with prosecutors, presumably to offer information about people above him in the food chain, possibly including Gaetz. On Friday, media reported that witnesses could place Gaetz at a party with Greenberg, as well as lots of cocaine and sex workers, one of whom ended up with a “no-show” government job.
Gaetz has compared the accusations that he has been “falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors” with congressional earmarks.
I’m afraid I have no idea what point Gaetz is trying to make, but I’m flagging all three of these stories because they illustrate an important point: that a one-party state is bad even for the party that holds a monopoly and that, together, these stories reveal that the Republican Party is nearing the end of its dominant run in our democracy.
One of the key functions of a strong opposition party in a functioning democracy is oversight. Human nature being what it is, there are going to be bad eggs in every organization, including governments. It is in everyone’s best interest to expose the Joel Greenbergs of a party long before they hit 33 federal indictments and threaten to torpedo a highly visible lawmaker. But by marginalizing the Democrats through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and media attacks, the Republicans undermined that oversight and grew some terribly outsized scandals.
Manipulating the system to gain power without oversight, a party can close ranks even to the point that its members are afraid to speak out. The contrast between the fury unleashed when Schiff said lawmakers were afraid for their lives and Cheney’s acknowledgement of that fear illustrates what a closed circuit the Republican Party became under Trump. It could be, of course, that their fear is entirely new, but it seems more likely that they rejected the oversight that would have helped them throw off Trump before it got to the point that party members were afraid to speak out for fear of their own safety.
This sort of political domination might seem like a great victory, but it is actually suicidal in the long run. The party becomes so extreme that it finally alienates even its own members, like the Maricopa elections officials or Representative Cheney. They turn on the party leadership. And if they join with the party’s opposition, they can empower the regime’s opponents, enabling them to restore voting rights, end gerrymandering, and make the playing field level again. This restoration of fairness swings the pendulum away from the dominant party pretty dramatically.
The fear that the American people will end the Republican Party’s dominance, of course, explains why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has declared that his primary goal in this Congress is to make sure the Democrats cannot pass the For the People Act to make voting easier, end partisan gerrymandering, and end the influence of big money in politics. McConnell and the Republicans want to protect Trump’s corporate tax cuts, and to do that, it is imperative that they regain control of Congress. And for that, they need the tools they have developed over the past generation, tools the For the People Act would take away.
It’s a Catch-22. To win, the Republicans need to hamstring the opposition. But as they did that over the last generation, they undercut the oversight that would have kept the party healthy. Now the Republican Party runs the risk of alienating voters it desperately needs as it faces a scandal of sex and drugs, a profoundly troubled election “audit,” accusations that party members are afraid to speak out because they fear for their lives, and suggestions from the former third-ranking official in the House Republican conference that the first official in the conference should be subpoenaed.
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May 17, 2021 (Monday)
I’m wiped out from grading, but I wanted to note that on this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. A unanimous court decided that segregation denied Black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. Brown v. Board was a turning point in establishing the principle of racial equality in modern America.
Since the 1860s, we have recognized that equality depends upon ensuring that all Americans have a right to protect their own interests by having a say in their government.
Today, that principle is under attack.
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act to “help rid the Nation of racial discrimination in every aspect of the electoral process and thereby insure the right of all to vote.” And yet, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted that law, and in the wake of the 2020 election in which voters gave Democrats control of the government, Republican-dominated states across the country are passing voter suppression laws.
Today, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) begged their colleagues to reinstate the Voting Rights Act. In 2006 a routine reauthorization of the law got through the Senate with a vote of 98-0; now it is not clear it can get even the ten Republican votes it will need to get through the Senate, so long as the filibuster remains intact.
But here’s the thing: Once you give up the principle of equality before the law, you have given up the whole game. You have admitted the principle that people are unequal, and that some people are better than others. Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have granted your approval to the idea of rulers and servants. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in one of the lesser groups.
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Senate, warned that arguments limiting American equality to white men and excluding black Americans were the same arguments “that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world…. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent.” Either people—men, in his day—were equal, or they were not.
Lincoln went on, “I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it… where will it stop?”
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May 18, 2021 (Tuesday)
Today President Joe Biden traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, to sell his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. Visiting Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, he tested an electric version of the classic F-150 pickup and urged Americans to use the race to dominate the market in electric vehicles as a way to create jobs. The American Jobs Plan provides $174 billion to switch the nation’s car industry away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, and Ford’s electric F-150 could help sell the idea.
Union leaders support the idea of constructing the nation’s new electric fleet despite their concern that the new vehicles need less human labor than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. (Ford says that building the new electric truck—the Lightning—will add jobs.) But Republican lawmakers, especially those whose states produce oil, remain skeptical.
Biden is quietly and deliberately trying to rebuild the American economy, which has been gutted in the years since 1981. Yesterday, he announced that the Treasury would deposit the benefits of the child tax credit, expanded in the American Rescue Plan Congress passed in March shortly after Biden took office, directly into people’s bank accounts on the 15th of every month, beginning in July. The child tax credit will amount to at least $250 per child every month, up to an annual amount of up to a maximum of $3600 per child. About 90% of all families with kids—about 39 million of them—will receive the money; the program is expected to cut child poverty in half. It is a tax cut, but one that benefits ordinary Americans.
Biden appears to be gambling that restoring the economy and rebuilding the middle class will weaken Trump’s hold on the dispossessed voters who cling to his racist nationalism out of anger at being left behind in today’s economy. He gives the impression of a president who is above the fray, simply trying to do what’s best for the nation.
But it seems hard for him to get media attention as the Republicans continue to make more dramatic news.
Today’s headlines were dominated by the fight in Congress over a commission to investigate the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Last week, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and John Katko (R-NY), the top Republican on the committee, hammered out a deal to create an independent commission patterned on the one that investigated the 9/11 attack. Katko was one of the ten Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection.
According to Politico, McCarthy authorized Katko to negotiate and gave him a list of demands, including equal representation for Republicans and Democrats on the committee, power for both parties to subpoena witnesses, and a final report before the end of the year so it wouldn’t still be active before the 2022 election.
Thompson conceded these three big points to the Republicans. And then, this morning, McCarthy came out against the deal. “Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” he said.
Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) has repeatedly called for McCarthy to be subpoenaed to testify about his contact with Trump around the time of the insurrection, and Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) says that McCarthy dismissed him when Kinzinger warned before January 6 that the party’s rhetoric would cause violence.
“McCarthy won’t take yes for an answer,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. “He made three requests—every single one was granted by Democrats, yet he still says no.” A senior Republican House aide told Politico: “I think Kevin was hoping that the Democrats would never agree to our requests—that way the commission would be partisan and we can all vote no and say it’s a sham operation.... Because he knows Trump is going to lose his mind” over the commission.
Indeed Trump later weighed in, saying the deal was a “Democrat trap.” This afternoon, in yet another illustration of how determined House leadership is to protect the former president, it began “whipping” House Republicans—that is, trying to get them to hold the party line— to oppose the creation of the commission. Nonetheless, Politico reported tonight that dozens of Republicans are considering supporting the commission despite how much it would infuriate Trump, because it would provide them political cover in 2022.
The measure will come to the floor of the House on Wednesday and should pass. The real question will be how it fares in the Senate, where seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection in January. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), who voted to acquit the former president, told Sahil Kapur of NPR News that he wanted a bipartisan commission that would focus on January 6. “We clearly had an insurrection on that particular day, and I don’t want it to be swept under any rug,” he said.
While Republicans try to avoid a reckoning over January 6, there are signs that the hold of Trump loyalists is weakening. Yesterday, the Maricopa County, Arizona, Board of Supervisors sent a spectacular letter to Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona Senate that authorized the “audit” of the ballots cast in Maricopa County by the private company Cyber Ninjas. The 14-page letter tore apart the entire project, pointing out that the Cyber Ninjas are utterly ignorant of election procedures.
It is a devastating take down, saying, for example: “You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect.” It concludes by begging Fann “to recognize the obvious truth: your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads. They do not have the experience necessary to conduct an audit of an election. They do not know the laws, nor the procedures, nor the best practices. It is inevitable that they will arrive at questionable conclusions. It is time to end this. For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans.”
Perhaps sensing blood in the water, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie this morning hinted he was considering a presidential run in 2024. He said he would make that decision without deferring to “anyone.” Still, his repeated claim that the party must stop being “reckless” seemed aimed specifically at the former president, whose refusal to acknowledge the danger of Covid-19 led to Christie’s own hospitalization with the disease.
Tonight offered more bad news for the former president. A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James said: “We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA.” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., has been conducting a criminal investigation of the former president and his family for more than a year, focusing on finances. Now the New York attorney general’s office will be collaborating.
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The Republicans don't want to investigate the nincomcoup because it's their team, part of their game plan.

America, this should be a very clear signal and a warning.

- DSK

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3 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

The Republicans don't want to investigate the nincomcoup because it's their team, part of their game plan.

America, this should be a very clear signal and a warning.

- DSK

For McCarthy to send someone to negotiate then refuse to even consider the deal that person made is a sign of his real character: scum. Total subjugation to TFG is the New Republican Party, and I hope Turnip takes it down the sewer with him.

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17 minutes ago, Ishmael said:

For McCarthy to send someone to negotiate then refuse to even consider the deal that person made is a sign of his real character: scum. Total subjugation to TFG is the New Republican Party, and I hope Turnip takes it down the sewer with him.

I agree with what Ms. Richardson wrote - that Rep. McCarthy was banking on the Dems saying "No" to his demands.  When they agreed, he had to refuse.  No way can he appear to be in favor of this.  The Former Guy has something on him.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find The Former Guy has spent years digging up dirt on politicians to hold over them and force their acquiescence.

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9 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:

I agree with what Ms. Richardson wrote - that Rep. McCarthy was banking on the Dems saying "No" to his demands.  When they agreed, he had to refuse.  No way can he appear to be in favor of this.  The Former Guy has something on him.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find The Former Guy has spent years digging up dirt on politicians to hold over them and force their acquiescence.

In between Putin, Barr's DOJ, and The National Enquirer, I'm sure TFG has quite the book on many R's. It's the only way to explain their total acquiescence to him. 

32881336088_ebd9324ef7_o-e1607381074491-

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^ this ^

Trump didn't do shit. He's too dumb and lazy to succeed even as a blackmailer. He started getting help from Putin early on, and then got more from others who see hims as a useful tool

And those people do not want anything good to happen for the USA, for the America  we knew and loved from 1776 to 2016

- DSK

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4 hours ago, Bus Driver said:

I agree with what Ms. Richardson wrote - that Rep. McCarthy was banking on the Dems saying "No" to his demands.  When they agreed, he had to refuse.  No way can he appear to be in favor of this.  The Former Guy has something on him.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find The Former Guy has spent years digging up dirt on politicians to hold over them and force their acquiescence.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find The Former Guy has spent years digging up dirt on politicians to hold over them and force their acquiescence.

 

That is what the nat enquirer is for.  

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2 hours ago, shaggy said:

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find The Former Guy has spent years digging up dirt on politicians to hold over them and force their acquiescence.

 

That is what the nat enquirer is for.  

Funny you would mention the National Enquirer.

Publisher of National Enquirer admits paying hush money to help Trump ahead of 2016 election

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May 19, 2021 (Wednesday)
The news grabbing the headlines today is the congressional fight over the creation of a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made demands of the Democrats that he evidently expected Democrats to refuse, enabling him to object to the commission by claiming it was partisan. But the Democrats agreed to his conditions, forcing him to object in such a way that it was clear he is simply covering for the former president and, likely, for himself, because he does not want to have to testify to what he observed or participated in in the days around that event (including, for example, the hostile phone call with Trump when McCarthy was inside the besieged Capitol).
McCarthy and the Republican whip, Steven Scalise (R-LA), whose job is to get Republican members to vote along the lines leadership requires, set out to get Republican representatives to oppose the creation of the commission. But when the House voted on the bill this afternoon, 35 Republicans broke ranks to join the Democrats and vote to create the commission. The defections were a sign that McCarthy and the Trump caucus do not entirely own the House Republicans yet; 35 Republicans would like to know what the heck happened on January 6. One hundred and seventy-five Republicans want to sweep the whole event under the rug. The final vote on the bill to create the commission was 252-175.
Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) spoke for those of us who are gobsmacked that anyone could say we do not need to investigate the most profound attack on our democracy in our history. He thanked the Republicans supporting the creation of the independent commission and then turned on the rest. “Benghazi. You guys chased the former secretary of state all over the country, spent millions of dollars. We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship. What else has to happen in this country? Cops: this is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States. If we’re going to take on China, if we’re going to rebuild the country, if we’re going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality—and you ain’t one of them.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced he will not support it. After Trump’s second impeachment trial, McConnell said that he hadn’t voted to convict Trump because the former president would face punishment later. Now he has attacked the bipartisan commission as partisan and said, "It's not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” implying that there has been an investigation already—there has not—and that the fact we don’t know what such a commission would uncover means we have no need to uncover it.
All of this matters because the January 6 insurrection was an attack on our democracy, and the Republican Party has concluded that they do not want us to know what happened. A number of Republicans have said they believe that “Antifa” was behind the riot; if they really thought that were the case, wouldn’t they want an investigation?
The only logical conclusion is that they are afraid of what an investigation will uncover. And, in fact, that’s precisely what Republican senators are saying: they do not want an investigation to color the 2020 election. Today Senate Republican whip John Thune (R-SD) said that the findings of any investigation “could be weaponized politically and drug into next year” (although the bipartisan agreement requires the investigation to be over by the end of 2021). After years of weaponizing investigations—Benghazi, Secretary of State Clinton’s emails, Hunter Biden—the Republicans are facing an investigation, based in reality, that likely will reflect badly on them. They want no part of it.
But it is going to be very difficult to stuff back into the bottle the genie of interest in what the heck went on during the Trump administration. Yesterday’s announcement by New York Attorney General Letitia James that her office’s investigation into the Trump Organization has become a criminal investigation sparked fireworks from the former president. Today he issued a long, rambling statement that rehashed all his complaints about, well, everything, but the centerpiece was James’s announcement. It was weird and unhinged, even for him, and suggested that he is very worried that there will be criminal charges forthcoming.
And today a filing from the Department of Justice showed that, under Biden, the department has found the parents of 54 more children, from whom they were separated at our southern border by the Trump administration in an attempt to stop refugees from entering the country. The previous administration separated at least 2800 children from their parents. Shortly after he took office, Biden created a task force in the Department of Homeland Security to reunite families. The parents of 391 migrant children have still not been found.
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Placing those kids back with their families is good work. I don't think it will undo the damage, it's still heartbreaking to think of the kids who will never see their families again, but this is a step in the right direction

Investigation? Why would Trumpublicans want to investigate their own team mates? That would be like actually counting actual votes, fuck that

- DSK

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1 minute ago, Steam Flyer said:

Placing those kids back with their families is good work. I don't think it will undo the damage, it's still heartbreaking to think of the kids who will never see their families again, but this is a step in the right direction

Investigation? Why would Trumpublicans want to investigate their own team mates? That would be like actually counting actual votes, fuck that

- DSK

I think it goes deeper than that.  Some of them were involved.

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29 minutes ago, Bus Driver said:
31 minutes ago, Steam Flyer said:

Investigation? Why would Trumpublicans want to investigate their own team mates? That would be like actually counting actual votes, fuck that

I think it goes deeper than that.  Some of them were involved.

I think so too, and I also think that various LEOs will get involved (or are already involved). But let's make sure. Serious accusations require serious proof.

I also think that ultimately, this struggle is up to The People. When a bunch of fascists and white supremacists make a (nother) real attempt to shove authoritarian rule down America's throat, how is America going to respond? They're betting that the vast majority will shrug and keep right on playing Kandy Krush or whatever

- DSK

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May 20, 2021 (Thursday)
President Joe Biden is trying to model a normal presidency as he stabilizes the nation after the drama of the past four years, rebuilds from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, and deals with crises around the world.
Today, Biden signed into law a bill to combat hate crimes, especially against Asian Americans, sparked by Covid-19. After former president Trump began blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic—calling the virus the “kung flu” for example—hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders spiked to more than 6600 between March 2020 and March 2021. “Hate has no place in America,” Biden tweeted.
Vaccine rates are up: more than 48% of the population has gotten at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and in 19 states, more than half the population is fully vaccinated. This week, for the first time since March of last year, the seven-day average of deaths from Covid-19 has fallen below 500.
The economy is healing. Fresh claims for unemployment insurance fell again last week, by 34,000, showing an improving job market. Now at 444,000, they are still higher than they were before the pandemic. Nonetheless, more than 20 states have announced they are rejecting the $300 a week boost in federal unemployment benefits, insisting that the extra money is keeping people from going to work.
Biden is also dealing with foreign policy crises, to which he brings a longstanding interest in foreign affairs, including 34 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 8 years in the vice presidency, dealing with foreign countries. He is the president most experienced in foreign affairs since at least George H. W. Bush, who had been U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In managing foreign affairs, Biden appears to favor private pressure over public statements, leaving room for other governments to change direction without losing face domestically by backing down to the United States in public, a tendency he showed when he declined to sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, instead increasing pressure on MBS by imposing penalties on 76 of the people around him.
Private pressure over public statements appears to have been Biden’s approach to the recent crisis between Palestinians and Israeli military that broke out on May 10, killing at least 230 Palestinians in Gaza (the 25-mile-long, 4- to 8-mile-wide strip on the Mediterranean side of Israel) including 63 children, leaving tens of thousands homeless, and badly damaging hospitals, schools, roads, and water and electrical systems. Twelve Israelis, including two children, have also been killed.
Biden has pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end Israel’s bombing campaign against Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza. Through allies, especially those in Egypt, which borders Gaza, the administration has told Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. Today Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Egypt. It is not clear if the cease-fire will hold: after similar hostilities in 2014, it ultimately took 9 truces to end the fighting.
But while there is a normal—and largely successful—presidency underway, politics in America is not at all business as usual. The Republican Party is radicalizing into a pro-Trump force that is throwing the country under the bus to defend their leader.
Dramatically, Republicans have come out this week against an investigation into the January 6 insurrection. This is a transparent attempt to protect former president Trump, as well, perhaps, as some of their own members; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) today refused to say whether he thought members of his caucus had communicated with the January 6 rioters.
This objection to an investigation of an attack of such magnitude is breathtaking. We have always had investigations of attacks on our country; Republicans themselves held 7 congressional investigations and 33 hearings about the 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed 4 Americans.
Today, journalist David Freedlander reminded us that in January, a number of Republican lawmakers, including McCarthy, argued against impeaching then-president Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection because, they said, a “fact-finding commission” was important. “I believe impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” said McCarthy. “No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held….”
And yet, McCarthy and the Republican leadership are now opposing the creation of a bipartisan commission, although the Democrats gave them all their demands: equal representation on the commission, the power to subpoena witnesses, and a final report before the end of the year.
The story is the same in the Senate. On February 13, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), tweeted: “The 1/6 attack on the Capitol was horrific & appalling. Those who planned & participated in the violence that day should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I agree w/Speaker Pelosi—a 911-type investigation is called for to help prevent this from happening again.”
And yet, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), whom Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman intercepted and led away from the mob on January 6, today told journalist Manu Raju that he wasn’t sure whether he will block debate on the commission bill. This indicates there will not be enough Senate votes to break a filibuster on the bill.
Today, Senator Angus King, Jr. (I-ME) came out and said it: “We need answers on the 1/6 insurrection—but many of my [Republican] colleagues are indicating they will vote against an independent investigation. When people start moving heaven and earth to block an investigation, I have to wonder if there is something to hide.”
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So, President Trump harangue s a mob for over an hour, telling them to "fight like hell."

Trump already had put in place military commanders who stated policy of not interfering with violence at the Capitol.

Trump staff and other Republicans had meetings with Proud Boy leaders and other nincomcoupers beforehand.

The nincomcoupers stated the intention of murdering VP Pence and other members of the government. They killed one of the Capitol police.

Is this too complicated for USAnians to understand?

DSK

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4 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

So, President Trump harangue s a mob for over an hour, telling them to "fight like hell."

Trump already had put in place military commanders who stated policy of not interfering with violence at the Capitol.

Trump staff and other Republicans had meetings with Proud Boy leaders and other nincomcoupers beforehand.

The nincomcoupers stated the intention of murdering VP Pence and other members of the government. They killed one of the Capitol police.

Is this too complicated for USAnians to understand?

DSK

Apparently. USAnians who watch Faux News and their elk have trouble figuring it out.

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May 21, 2021 (Friday)
Tonight, in Fulton County, Georgia, a judge allowed 9 Georgia voters and their experts to inspect copies of the 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in that county to make sure that officials did not accept counterfeit ballots. Georgia officials have already done three separate audits of the ballots from the 2020 vote, including a hand recount, and found no widespread fraud. But supporters of former president Trump insist that he actually won the 2020 election and that it was stolen from him by fraud.
It is this same belief that led to the private “audit” of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, where Republican state senators made election officials give both ballots and election equipment to a private company, Cyber Ninjas, to recount and examine. The Cyber Ninjas had no experience doing such an audit and the process has been widely discredited, but they accused election officials of deleting databases, accusations picked up by Trump loyalists like Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
Today, attorneys for Maricopa County and those election officials warned the Republican Arizona Senators to preserve all evidence surrounding this “audit” for future lawsuits.
Despite the Arizona debacle, Trump supporters all over the country are demanding recounts like the one in Maricopa County. They say their only goal is to make sure that machines are accurate and the count is fair, but they are echoing Trump, who continues to insist he won the 2020 election.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes,” he said recently at Mar-a-Lago. “So we’re going to watch that very closely. And after that, you’ll watch Pennsylvania and you’ll watch Georgia and you’re going to watch Michigan and Wisconsin. You’re watching New Hampshire. Because this was a rigged election. Everybody knows it.”
It was not a rigged election. Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won by more than 7 million votes with more than 51% of the popular vote to Trump and Mike Pence’s 46.8%. The Democrats won in the Electoral College by a vote of 306 to 232. Trump lost more than 60 lawsuits over the election, and recounts turned up no evidence of widespread fraud.
Observers call Trump’s insistence that he won the 2020 election the Big Lie.
It was this lie that led to the January 6 insurrection, when rioters stormed the Capitol to stop the counting of the electoral votes that would make Biden president. In case after case, the insurrectionists’ lawyers have claimed their clients believed that Trump won and the election was stolen from him. The lawyers have blamed the “propaganda” coming from the Fox News Channel and the former president for their clients’ actions.
According to “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley, his lawyer wrote, if not “for the actions and the words of the President, he would not have appeared in Washington, DC to support the President and, but for the specific words of the then-President during his January 6, 2021 speech, the Defendant would not have walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and would not have gone into the U.S. Capitol Building.”
In an interview with Matt Shuham of Talking Points Memo, the lawyer added: “These aren’t bad people; they don’t have a prior criminal history. F**k, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f**king Hitler.”
But here’s the rub: Last week, when they removed Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) from party leadership, Republicans indicated they have now tied themselves to Trump, along with his eagerness to overturn elections unless he gets his way.
We are on a very dangerous path.
Republican lawmakers are downplaying the January 6 insurrection, rewriting our history to suggest that the assault on the heart of our democratic process was no big deal. Last week, Representative Andrew S. Clyde (R-GA) said the event was like a “normal tourist visit”—photos show him that day screaming and frantically barricading the doors to the House gallery—and Representative Ralph Norman (R-SC) questioned whether the rioters were Trump supporters, despite their Trump flags and MAGA hats, and the fact the former president told them he loved them. On the Fox News Channel this week, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) claimed the insurrection was largely a “peaceful protest.”
On Wednesday, the House passed a bill to set up a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the events of January 6. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had set out conditions for the commission, apparently with the idea that Democrats would reject them, but in fact the Democrats agreed to his demands, leaving McCarthy scrambling to find a reason to oppose the commission. For oppose it he does, along with all but 35 Republicans (whom Trump promptly called “ineffective and weak”). Four fifths of the Republicans in the House oppose creating a bipartisan independent commission to figure out what happened on that hideous day.
They are opposed in part because they do not want voters to be reminded of their leader’s complicity in the event, driven as it was by the Big Lie, and also because a number of them would be witnesses, called to testify under oath. Cheney has repeatedly suggested that McCarthy himself, who had a heated telephone conversation with the former president during the riot, should testify voluntarily or, if necessary, under subpoena.
Yesterday, McCarthy pointedly refused to answer whether he was sure no members of his caucus had spoken with any of the rioters, bringing to mind the January 13 letter from 34 members of the House, including those with military training and former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), to request an immediate investigation into tours of the Capitol given on January 5. The letter reported that the number and nature of the tours were so concerning that members reported them to the Sergeant at Arms that day.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to oppose it, calling it “slanted and unbalanced” in what seems to be a shout out to Fox News Channel viewers by playing on “fair and balanced.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will bring the bill to the floor, where Republicans are expected to filibuster it, meaning it will take 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of 51, to pass it. They are likely to block even a debate on it.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has maintained he can work with the Republicans, commented: “So disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country…. I’m still praying we’ve still got 10 good solid patriots within that conference.”
It seems to me that ship has sailed. Six months after the 2020 election, supporters of the former president are challenging vote counts all over the country as he continues to insist he won. His supporters stormed the Capitol to overturn our electoral process. And now our Republican lawmakers, who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, are trying to protect their leader from accountability for inciting that insurrection.
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May 23, 2021 (Sunday)
Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography three times, but to protect the people who helped him run away from enslavement, he did not explain how he had managed to get away until the last version.
Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1838. In his twenty years of life, he had had a series of masters, some kind, some harsh, and one who almost killed him. But by 1838, he was a skilled worker in the local shipyards, earning good money for his master and enjoying a measure of freedom, as well as protection. He had good friends in the area and had fallen in love with the woman who would become his wife.
It was enslavement, but within that existence, it was a pretty good position. His peers in the cotton fields of the Deep South were beaten like animals, their deaths by violence unremarkable. Douglass himself had come close to being "sold down the river"—a term that referred to the slave convoys that traveled down the Mississippi River from older, worn out lands in the East to fresh, raw lands in Mississippi and Louisiana—and he knew that being forced to labor on a plantation in the Deep South would kill him.
His relatively safe position would have been enough for a lot of people. They would have thanked God for their blessings and stayed put. In 1838, Frederick Douglass was no different than they were: an unknown slave, hoping to get through each day. Like them, he might have accepted his conditions and disappeared into the past, leaving the status quo unchanged.
But he refused.
His scheme for escaping to freedom was ridiculously easy. In the days of slavery, free black sailors carried documents with them to prove to southern authorities that they were free, so they could move from northern and foreign ports to southern ports without being detained. These were the days before photos, so officials described the man listed on the free papers as they saw him: his color, distinguishing marks, scars. Douglass worked in shipyards, and had met a sailor whose free papers might cover Douglass... if the white official who looked at them didn't look too closely. Risking his own freedom, that sailor lent Douglass his papers.
To escape from slavery, all Douglass had to do was board a train. That's it: he just had to step on a train. If he were lucky, and the railroad conductor didn't catch him, and no one recognized him and called him out, he could be free. But if he were caught, he would be sold down river, almost certainly to his death.
To me, Douglass's decision to step aboard that train is everything. How many of us would have taken that risk, especially knowing that even in the best case, success would mean trying to build a new life, far away from everyone we had ever known? Douglass's step was such a little one, such an easy one... except that it meant the difference between life and death, the difference between a forgotten, enslaved shipyard worker and the great Frederick Douglass, who went on to become a powerful voice for American liberty.
Tomorrow, my students will graduate, and every year, students ask me if I have any advice for them as they leave college or university, advice I wish I had had at their age. The answer is yes, after all these years of living and of studying history, I have one piece of advice:
When the day comes that you have to choose between what is just good enough and what is right... find the courage to step on the train.
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May 24, 2021

On Sunday, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus forced a commercial airliner, operated by Ryanair, flying from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, out of the sky as it passed through the airspace over Belarus. A MiG-29 fighter jet diverted the plane to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, after ground support warned its pilots (falsely) there was a bomb on board.

There wasn’t a bomb on the plane; there was an opposition journalist, 26-year-old Roman Protasevich (also spelled Raman Pratasevich), who was traveling with his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who is a law student and a Russian citizen. Once the plane was on the ground, security forces took the two of them away. Pratasevich told another passenger: “I am facing the death penalty.” Three other passengers also stayed in Minsk; Lithuanian authorities are trying to figure out who they were.

Lukashenko, who has been called “Europe’s Last Dictator,” has been president of Belarus since 1994 and claimed to be reelected on August 9, 2020, with 80% of the vote, although before the election the president’s security forces threw journalists, political opponents, activists, and human rights defenders in jail. After the election, security forces arrested almost 7000 people in four days, denying many food and water and torturing hundreds of them. By mid-November, the number arrested had climbed to more than 25,000 people.

The European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom did not recognize Lukashenko’s claim of an election victory. They called for an end to the political prosecutions and a new election.

In Belarus, which has a population of about 9.5 million, hundreds of thousands of protesters were more direct. They took to the streets, calling for new elections and Lukashenko’s resignation. Protasevich was not in the country. He had begun protesting Lukashenko as a teenager; he was arrested and beaten in 2012 when he was 17 for running opposition groups on social media. He fled Belarus in 2019 and, from exile, was one of the journalists who operated a communications channel to provide information about the democratic movement during the demonstrations. The government declared him a “terrorist” in absentia. Terrorism carries the death penalty in Belarus.

To capture Protasevich, Lukashenko has committed an act of state-sponsored piracy against two European Union countries, a European-registered airline, and passengers who are mostly European Union citizens. This is an astonishing move that likely has something to do with Lukashenko’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian officials praised the hijacking, calling it a “brilliant special operation.”

Russia and Belarus loosely agreed to form a unified state in 1996 and made the agreement tighter in 1999, but Lukashenko has not been eager to give up control of his country. As his grip on his people has weakened, though, Lukashenko has turned to Russia, which gave Belarus a loan of $1 billion in December 2020. Lukasheko and Putin are scheduled to meet this week.

Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic, an authoritative scholar of authoritarianism, notes that autocrats are watching to see how the West reacts, since they, too, would like to be able to control their dissident communities in exile, showing them: “You are not safe. You are never safe. Not even if you live in a democracy; not even if you have political asylum; not even if you are sitting on a commercial plane, thousands of feet above the ground.”

Immediately after the hijacking, Western leaders, including the secretary-general of NATO, the president of the European Commission, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, condemned it. Today, European leaders imposed sanctions on Belarus and prohibited airplanes from the European Union from flying over Belarus. As the U.S. lets Europe take the lead on the response, it is demonstrating definitively that the U.S. and European countries are united and that the divisions fostered under the former president are gone. 

This afternoon, Belarus released a 29-second video of Pratasevich that appeared to be a forced confession. Tonight, President Biden issued a statement saying "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms both the diversion of the plane and the subsequent removal and arrest of Mr. Pratasevich…. This outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press."

The National Security Council then shared a readout of a call between NSC adviser Jake Sullivan and the Belarus opposition leader who likely won the 2020 election, indicating American support for “the demands of the Belarusian people for democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.”

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, new documents unsealed in the Paul Manafort case today show that the Trump campaign chair did, indeed, collude with his partner Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian operative, before the 2016 election. The documents come from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case arguing that Manafort had not delivered his side of the plea bargain he had made. They show that Manafort—whom Trump later pardoned—repeatedly lied to federal investigators during their interviews. He lied about his contact with Kilimnik and about discussing a peace plan between Ukraine and Russia that would create an autonomous eastern Ukraine—that is the region Russia wants—and about sharing internal polling data with Kilimnick.

In separate news, we also learned that a security unit in the Commerce Department turned into a rogue counterintelligence operation over the past few years, collecting information on hundreds of people suspected of talking critically about the 2020 U.S. census or of having ties to China. John Costello, who was a deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security in the department during the Trump administration, told Washington Post reporter Shawn Boburg that the office “has been allowed to operate far outside the bounds of federal law enforcement norms and has created an environment of paranoia and retaliation.” The unit seems to have become a tool to target employees of Chinese descent.

When they took over, Biden officials ordered the unit to stop all activities until further review.

A new Gallup poll today finds that 53% of Republicans think that Trump won the 2020 election. But only 26% of Americans identify as Republicans. Journalist Richard Hine crunched the numbers and notes that those percentages boil down to about 14% of Americans who think Trump is still president. They are a minority, but they believe the former president, who continues to insist that he won the 2020 election despite all evidence to the contrary.

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May 25, 2021 (Tuesday)
A year ago today, 46-year-old George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis as then–police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. As bystanders begged Chauvin to get up, a teenage girl walking by had the presence of mind to video what was happening. Thanks to that girl, Darnella Frazier, we all could hear Floyd telling Chauvin, “I can’t breathe.”
Floyd’s murder sparked more than 4700 protests across the nation that popularized both the idea that policing must be reformed and the concept that American systems, starting with law enforcement and moving to include housing, healthcare, education, and so on, are racially biased. In the past fourteen months, support for the Black Lives Matter movement among white people has jumped 5%, fueled mostly by younger people.
And yet, the rate of deaths at the hands of law enforcement officials has not changed, and Black people are three times more likely than white people to die at the hands of law enforcement even though they are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed.
In April, a jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He will be sentenced in June.
After the jury convicted Chauvin, President Joe Biden promised Floyd’s family that he would deliver a police reform bill. Today he and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Floyd’s family privately in the Oval Office for more than an hour, but the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has not become law. The act bars the use of chokeholds and makes it easier to prosecute police officers, but lawmakers have been unable to compromise over so-called “qualified immunity,” a federal doctrine established in 1967 by the Supreme Court that protects officials—including law enforcement officers—from personal liability for much of their behavior while they execute their professional duties. Members of both parties, though, say a deal on the measure is in sight.
Today we learned that the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., has recently called together a special grand jury to hear a number of cases, including whether to indict former President Trump, other people in charge of running his company, or the Trump Organization itself. That a grand jury is considering whether a former president committed a crime is unprecedented.
It also suggests that Vance believes there is evidence of a crime. There appears to be a focus on whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of real estate to make it seem more valuable when trying to get loans against it, and less valuable when listing it for tax valuations. Investigators are also looking at compensation for Trump Organization executives.
Vance began to investigate in 2018 after Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to making hush-money payments for Trump and to lying to Congress.
The former president also responded today to a lawsuit filed by Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who in March filed a lawsuit against Trump; Donald Trump, Jr.; Alabama Representative Mo Brooks; and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani for inciting the insurrection of January 6. Trump’s lawyers asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the president has “absolute immunity conveyed on the President by the Constitution as a key principle of separation of powers." The memo is the usual political attack we have come to expect from Trump, but it’s interesting: his claim that he enjoys absolute immunity leaves the rest of the defendants out in the cold.
On January 22, just two days after President Biden took office, Lincoln Project founder George Conway published a piece in the Washington Post noting that Trump’s frantic efforts to stay in office might well have been “a desperate fear of criminal indictment.” Trump needed the protection of the presidency to avoid the fallout from his connections with Russia; the Ukraine scandal; and bank, insurance, and tax fraud. Conway noted that refusing to prosecute ex-presidents would undermine the rule of law because it would place them above the law: they could do whatever they wished as president—including trying to overthrow our democracy—knowing they would never answer for it.
Trump, of course, has refused to admit he lost the 2020 election. Today, he issued a statement suggesting that all potential prosecution of him would be political, saying that he was “far in the lead for the Republican Presidential Primary and the General Election in 2024.”
Trump’s memo also suggested he had a First Amendment right to say whatever he wished about the 2020 election, but in January, criminal law professor Joseph Kennedy of the University of North Carolina School of Law pointed out that while Trump’s speech might have been protected, he had a legal duty to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, a duty that meant he should have immediately told his supporters to stop what they were doing on January 6. His supporters breached the Capitol shortly after 2:00 p.m., and he did not ask them to leave until 4:17, in a video that was itself incendiary.
Meanwhile, the “audit” of 2020 ballots in Maricopa County hit another pothole when the Pennsylvania-based technology company in charge of running the recount refused to renew its contract, which expired on May 14, the day the process was supposed to be done. Wake Technology Services Inc. was subcontracting under Cyber Ninjas. A different technology company has taken over from Wake TSI.
The Nevada Republican Party has its own troubles. It recently censured Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, charging that she had failed “to investigate election fraud” in the 2020 election. Recently, one of the people who claimed to have voted for that censure said on a podcast that he is a member of the far-right Proud Boys. He said he and about 30 of his friends had been urged by state Republican leaders to step into the political fray on the side of the former president and were, he claimed, the deciding votes on the censure. Republicans in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and in Washoe County, which includes Reno, are now trying to clean the Proud Boys and their ilk out of the party, while Trump loyalists are now trying to purge the party of anti-Trump people.
As of today, 50% of adult Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and on May 24th, the seven-day average of new cases was the lowest it has been at any point since last June. But those numbers are driven by the vaccinated part of the population. Among those who are unvaccinated, the rate of disease and death is estimated to be as high as it was in late January.
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May 26, 2021 (Wednesday)
Today, President Joe Biden asked the intelligence community to increase its efforts to figure out where the coronavirus started. At stake is not only isolating the origins of a deadly pandemic to make sure the same mistakes are not made again, but also a new U.S. approach to China by the Biden administration.
First, what this is not: a continuation of the Trump administration’s attempt to blame China for a bioweapon launched against the world as a way to deflect attention from the former president’s botched handling of the pandemic that has, at this point, left at least 592,000 Americans dead. Trump initially praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his handling of the coronavirus, but at the time the coronavirus first started to make its presence felt in the U.S.,Trump was celebrating a deal with China to purchase American agricultural products, a sale Trump believed would help him with farmers in the 2020 election after his tariffs had hamstrung the U.S. agricultural sector.
Once the pandemic really hit and it became clear the administration had no real plan to handle it, Trump began to try to deflect blame onto China for hiding the origins of the coronavirus, and then onto the World Health Organization for deferring to China as it tried to respond to the crisis. As he called the novel coronavirus the “China virus”—drawn out like a schoolyard insult—attacks on Asian Americans skyrocketed. Trump supporters, like Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), implied that the Chinese had released the virus as a bioweapon.
Now, as scientists revisit the question of whether the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, Cotton is suggesting he was right all along. But, in fact, Biden’s demand for a fact-based investigation is not an attempt to scapegoat China and Americans of Chinese descent for political points at home—after all, he just signed a bill to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans—rather, it appears to be an attempt to advance a new China policy based on clear-eyed competition as opposed to the attempts at cooperation that have characterized U.S. policy since Nixon.
At the same time, this policy stands a good chance of undercutting the support Trump garnered among workers who resented losing their jobs to China, without adopting Trump’s isolationism. (Trump’s own merchandise was made overseas, including in China.)
Biden has been very clear that he sees the nation’s foreign policy as key to his attempt to rebuild America. His National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has emphasized that the Biden administration has called for a “foreign policy for the middle class” that prioritizes protecting the American worker from foreign competition and making sure that American industry stays strong and provides good jobs. Repairing the economy and democracy at home is a way to keep the nation strong and safe from international aggression, Biden officials say.
And China is the country to which Biden is looking. In his address to Congress on April 28, Biden said: “America is moving—moving forward—but we can’t stop now. We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century. We’re at a great inflection point in history.” He vowed to make “sure every nation plays by the same rules in the global economy, including China,” and said the U.S. would “stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies...to state-owned… enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property.”
Today, Kurt Campbell, the Biden administration’s top official for Asia, said that the era of cooperation with China has come to an end and the two countries are entering a period of competition. The U.S. intends to address that competition by strengthening our traditional alliances. Meanwhile, the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are using the need to compete with China as an incentive to rebuild our domestic economy. In his April 28 address to Congress, Biden said he told President Xi, “We welcome the competition. We’re not looking for conflict.”
Like President Biden, Blinken insists the shift in the nation’s stance toward China is not antagonistic, as the previous administration’s was, but realistic. In an interview with Financial Times, Blinken said, "This is not about initiating a Cold War. This is all about doing our part to make sure that democracy is strong, resilient, and meeting the needs of its people." He continued: "You know what we've seen over the last 15 years is unfortunately something of a democratic recession around the world: countries falling back on the basic metrics of democracy. The United States has had its own challenges visible for the world to see when it comes to democracy."
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May 27, 2021 (Thursday)
Today the focus is on the Senate and whether it will pass the bill the House passed last week to establish an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. Thirty-five Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to create the commission.
Today, four former leaders of the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement urging the Senate to pass the bill. Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, who served in the Barack Obama administration, joined Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge, who served under George W. Bush, to tell the Senate, “We must understand how the violent insurrection at the Capitol came together to ensure the peaceful transfer of power in our country is never so threatened again.” They called for senators to “put politics aside and create a bipartisan, independent 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposes the commission, as does former president Trump, who called it a “Democrat trap.” It will take ten Republicans voting with the Democrats to overcome a Republican filibuster of the bill, and such a bipartisan effort is unlikely. So far only Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT), both of whom have their own power bases outside of the national Republican Party, have indicated they will vote for the commission.
Democrats can put together their own committee to figure out what happened on January 6, but Republicans will undoubtedly accuse them of partisanship and dismiss whatever they uncover. Democrats would prefer to have an independent, bipartisan investigation.
Today, the mother and partner of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the January 6 insurrection, were in Washington, D.C., pleading with Republican senators to support the creation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. Joining them were D.C. Police officer Michael Fanone and U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, both of whom protected congress people during the riot, in which 140 police officers were injured.
Murkowski told Gladys Sicknick, “I’m heartsick that you feel you need to advocate to members of Congress that we stand up and say the truth is hard but the truth is necessary.”
After their visit, McConnell pressured Republican senators to filibuster the bill as “a personal favor” to him. Murkowski commented: "To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on Jan. 6, I think we need to look at that critically. Is that really what this is about, one election cycle after another?"
Republicans are saying that they don’t want the commission because they’re afraid it will hurt them in the 2022 midterm elections. The tactic of using investigations to taint elections, of course, has been the Republicans’ go-to specialty since the mid-1990s, when Republicans “investigated” suspected cases of election wins through so-called “voter fraud” to convince Americans that voter fraud—which is statistically insignificant in the U.S.—is a problem.
That use of investigations continued until it became a key factor in the 2016 election, when investigations into the 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, along with accusations that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had misused an email server, helped to sway the election’s outcome. Tellingly, using an investigation to taint an election was the goal behind the scandal that led to former president Trump’s first impeachment, after he tried to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter—not to launch an investigation, but only to announce one—to weaken Biden before the 2020 election.
In this case, though, the House bill, which adopted all the key Republican demands, requires that the commission issue its final report by the end of 2021.
McConnell doesn’t want the publicity associated with the insurrectionists, but also likely doesn’t want to run the risk of losing any Republican senators who might turn out to be associated with the rioters. The Senate is precariously balanced at 50-50, and the organizing resolution the senators adopted on February 3, 2021, is based on that even split. McConnell filibustered that resolution until he got a Democratic commitment to preserve the filibuster.
So, an independent investigation of the insurrection has the potential to affect not only individual senators, but also the balance of the Senate and the power the Republicans continue to hold in it, sharing power with the Democrats despite the fact they represent 40.5 million fewer people than the 50 Democrats do.
Thus the fight to establish an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6 has become a key test for the Senate filibuster and the power it enables Republicans to exert over our government. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is one of the two holdouts on the Democratic side to preserve the filibuster, says “there is no excuse for any Republican to vote against” the bill but maintains that “ten good people” in the Republican Party will come around to vote in favor.
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May 28, 2021 (Friday)
This afternoon, Republicans in the Senate killed the bill to establish a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. The vote was 54 to 35, and yet the thirty-five “no” votes won because of the current shape of the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to break, even if the minority doesn’t show up to vote.
For their part, having killed the bipartisan, independent commission, Republicans are now complaining that the Democrats might set up a committee on their own. Maine Senator Susan Collins told Politico, “The most likely outcome, sadly, is probably the Democratic leaders will appoint a select committee. We’ll have a partisan investigation. It won’t have credibility with people like me, but the press will cover it because that’s what’s going on.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could indeed set up such a House committee, although she has been clear that she preferred the bipartisan approach. Such a select committee could issue subpoenas and hold hearings to investigate the people involved in the attack. Republicans, who likely fear some of their own would be implicated, are already claiming such a committee would be partisan. President Biden could also set up a commission, which he could then staff in a bipartisan fashion, but without congressional support it could not issue subpoenas.
On Thursday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) continued to hope Republicans would vote for the commission, saying, "...the Democrats have basically given everything they've asked for, any impediment that would have been there, and there's no reason not to now unless you just don't want to hear the truth." Today, after the vote, he said, “I never thought I’d see it up close and personal that politics could trump our country. I’m going to fight to save this country.”
Indeed, by refusing to investigate what is arguably the most dangerous attack on our democracy in our history, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has brought out into the open just how radical the Republican Party has become.
As if in illustration of the party’s increasingly antidemocratic radicalism, in Georgia last night, Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) continued to stoke the same Big Lie that drove the insurrectionists, claiming (falsely) that former president Trump won the 2020 election. The two representatives are on a tour of rallies, possibly to distract from the scandals in which they’re embroiled. Last night, Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for sex trafficking, told attendees that the nation’s founders wrote the Second Amendment to enable citizens to rise up against the government. “It’s not about hunting, it’s not about recreation, it’s not about sports,” he said. “The Second Amendment is about maintaining, within the citizenry, the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.”
As the audience cheered, Gaetz continued: “I hope it never does, but it sure is important to recognize the founding principles of this nation and to make sure that they are fully understood.”
For his part, President Biden appears to be trying to undercut the increasingly radical Republicans by trying to improve conditions across the country, especially for those hurting economically as the nation’s factories automate and as their jobs move overseas.
When he took office, his first order of business was to get the coronavirus under control, demonstrating that the federal government could, indeed, do good for the people. That has been a roaring success, with about 62% of American adults currently having received at least one vaccine. Biden is now aiming to have 70% of American adults vaccinated by July 4. New cases are plunging as the vaccines take effect, and the country is reopening rapidly.
Biden also turned quickly to repairing the economy, with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which expanded unemployment benefits and the child tax credit. That credit will start to show up in people’s bank accounts in mid-July and is expected to cut child poverty in half.
So far, Biden’s approach to turning the mood of the country seems to be working: while his predecessor is polling at 39% approval and 57% disapproval, Biden is currently enjoying a 63% job approval rating.
We’ll see how these two themes play out. Today, Biden released a proposed $6.01 trillion budget, tying together three plans he’s already proposed—the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, and $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending—and adding more to invest in education, health, science, and infrastructure. The proposal increases defense spending by 1.7% and nondefense spending by 16%. Overall, it increases federal spending to levels like those of WWII. By 2031, it would peg spending at $8.2 trillion. Deficits would run higher than $1.3 trillion for the next ten years but then would begin to decrease.
The president proposes to pay for the additional spending by increasing revenue by $4.17 trillion through taxes on individuals who have an annual income of more than $1 million and by revising the top capital gains rate to 39.6%, plus a 3.8% Medicare surtax, bringing the rate to 43.4%. (The current rate is 20% plus the Medicare surtax, making it 23.8%). The White House figures the capital gains tax reform should raise about $322 billion over the next decade.
The budget shows Biden aiming to rebuild the middle class and make America globally competitive again. Acting director of Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young said that the administration had earlier called for such investment because, “The country had been weakened by decades of underinvestment in these areas.” The 2022 budget would, she said, “grow the economy, create jobs, and do so responsibly by requiring the wealthiest Americans and big corporations to pay their fair share.”
Doubling down on the 2017 Trump tax cuts, which funneled money upward even as corporate tax revenues fell 31%, Republicans have vowed to oppose all tax increases and want no part of Biden’s proposed spending.
Today, McConnell responded to the budget proposal with words that were somewhat unfortunate coming, as they did, on the same day the Republicans refused to create a bipartisan commission to investigate an attack on our government. “If Washington Democrats can move beyond the socialist daydreams and the go-it-alone partisanship,” he said, “we could get a lot of important work done for our country.”
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What is increasingly clear-

Republicans don't care if the USA becomes a shithole 3rd-World country, as long as their buddies are the richest and most powerful and never have to suffer consequences. In fact, they're OK with attacking the USA and tearing it down

- DSK

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May 30, 2021 (Sunday)
I wrote the following last year for a dear friend who had recently passed. She was the middle sister in this story, and as we grew up, she told us stories of Beau so that he came alive, although he died 19 years before I was born. Maybe it’s because I am a historian, but for the life of me I cannot think of those who died in our wars without thinking of the terrible holes their deaths tore in the fabric of our lives. This year, as I thought of what I might want to say about Memorial Day, it kept coming back to this: who would men like Beau have become, and what has the world lost by never knowing their children?
In the end, I decided just to rerun last year’s post from Memorial Day, because right now, anyway, I have nothing more to add:
Floyston Bryant, whose nickname was “Beau,” had always stepped in as a father to his three younger sisters when their own father fell short.
In September 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He became a Staff Sergeant in the 322nd Bomber Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, nicknamed "Wray's Ragged Irregulars" after their commander Col. Stanley T. Wray. By the time Beau joined, the squadron was training with new B-17s at Dow Army Airfield near Bangor, Maine, and he hitchhiked three hours home before deploying to England so he could see his family once more.
It would be the last time. The 91st Bomb group was a pioneer bomb group, figuring out tactics for air cover. By May 1943, it was experienced enough to lead the Eighth Air Force as it sought to establish air superiority over Europe. But the 91st did not have adequate fighter support until 1944. It had the greatest casualty rate of any of the heavy bomb squadrons.
Beau was one of the casualties. On August 12, 1943, while he was on a mission, enemy flak cut his oxygen line and he died before the plane could make it back to base. He was buried in Cambridge, England, at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, the military cemetery for Americans killed in action during WWII. He was twenty years old.
I grew up with Beau’s nephews and nieces, and we made decades of havoc and memories. But Beau's children weren't there, and neither he nor they are part of the memories.
His sisters are all gone now, along with almost all of their friends. We are all getting older, and soon no one will be left who even remembers his name.
When Beau was a teenager, he once spent a week’s paycheck on a dress for his middle sister, so she could go to a dance.
I wish you all a meaningful Memorial Day.

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May 31, 2021 (Monday)
President Joe Biden spoke at Arlington National Cemetery today to remember those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” to the United States, dying in our service. His speech was a full-throated defense of the cause for which those soldiers gave their lives: democracy.
“Democracy is more than a form of government,” Biden said. “It’s a way of being; it’s a way of seeing the world. Democracy means the rule of the people—the rule of the people. Not the rule of monarchs, not the rule of the moneyed, not the rule of the mighty—literally, the rule of the people.”
Democracy, he said, is in peril as authoritarians around the world try to destroy it. But while our democracy is imperfect, Americans “of all backgrounds, races, creeds, gender identities, sexual orientations, have long spilled their blood to defend our democracy… because they understand the truth that lives in every American heart: that liberation, opportunity, justice are far more likely to come to pass in a democracy than an autocracy.”
Biden called today’s Americans to repay their sacrifice by making America live up to the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence. “We owe them the work of our hands and our hearts, to make real the promise of a nation founded on the proposition that all of us—all of us—all of us are created equal and deserve to be treated that way throughout our lives.”
Biden’s impassioned defense of democracy is not a rhetorical device.
Just last week, the refusal of Republican leaders to back the creation of a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection illustrated that the party is now wedded to former president Trump and his ongoing determination to overturn the 2020 election. Thomas Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who headed the 9/11 Commission, told David Smith of The Guardian that the failure to create a 9/11-type commission for the events of January 6 was “a mistake and it’s a country’s loss and a democracy’s loss.” “[T]here was no real, public reason for turning it down,” he said. “I guess some people were scared of what they’d find out.”
This weekend, a QAnon conference in Dallas, Texas, featured Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Trump’s former lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood as keynote speakers. Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas and Texas Republican Party chair Allen West were also featured. They continue to insist, against all evidence, that Trump won the 2020 election.
Powell suggested that Trump could “simply be reinstated” as president, although she said she could not be sure Trump would get credit for time lost when Biden was in the White House.
After he left office, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak—Trump pardoned him—and has fallen more and more deeply into QAnon conspiracy theories. For months, QAnon supporters have been praising the February military coup in Myanmar that overturned a democratically elected government and calling for such a coup here. During Flynn’s speech, an audience member asked why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here. The crowd cheered and Flynn replied: “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.” When the video clip of the exchange went viral, Flynn’s verified Parler account called the idea he had called for a coup “a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting.”
The Big Lie rhetoric is behind the voter suppression bills in Republican-dominated states, where legislators insist they must combat the alleged “voter fraud” that they blame for Biden’s victory. In Texas in the middle of Sunday night, House Republicans rushed to pass a sweeping election reform bill that would make it harder to vote and easier for judges to overturn an election, although Texas had just one potential case of voter fraud in 2020, out of 11 million ballots cast.
Texas Democrats thwarted the passage of the bill by leaving the chamber until there were too few people left to make up a quorum, which is the number of people required to be there in order to hold a vote. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, vowed to veto funding for the legislature in retaliation. “No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities,” he tweeted. He demanded the legislature take the “must-pass” measure up again in a special session.
The approximately 60 Texas Democratic lawmakers were forced to walk away from bills they had hoped to pass, but they felt they had to send a message. State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer said, “Breaking quorum is about the equivalent of crawling on our knees begging the president and the United States Congress to give us the For the People Act and give us the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”
The For the People Act would, among other things, make it easier to vote, stop partisan gerrymandering, and limit the use of money in elections. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is more limited: it would restore the parts of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, thereby returning protections to people of color voting in state with a history of racial discrimination.
In a letter to Senate Democrats on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thanked them for a productive May session that included confirming Biden’s nominations; advancing the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) to invest in science, technology, and manufacturing; rolling back Trump-era rules that hurt the environment, consumers, and workers; and passing the Hate Crimes Act that will help protect Asian Americans from attacks.
Senate Democrats “are doing everything we can to move legislation in a bipartisan way when and where the opportunity exists,” he said. “But we will not wait for months and months to pass meaningful legislation that delivers real results for the American people.” Schumer committed to bringing to vote in the last week of the June work period the For the People Act, “legislation that is essential to defending our democracy, reducing the influence of dark money and powerful special interests, and stopping the wave of Republican voter suppression happening in the states across the country in service of President Trump’s Big Lie.”
At Arlington National Cemetery, President Biden warned us that we are fighting for “the soul of America itself.” “Folks, you all know it,” he said. “Democracy thrives when the infrastructure of democracy is strong; when people have the right to vote freely and fairly and conveniently; when a free and independent press pursues the truth, founded on facts, not propaganda; when the rule of law applies equally and fairly to every citizen, regardless of where they come from or what they look like.”
“[T]he right to vote, the right to rise in a world as far as your talent can take you, unlimited by unfair barriers of privilege and power—such are the principles of democracy.”
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June 1, 2021 (Tuesday)
Today, more than 100 scholars who study democracy issued a letter warning that “our entire democracy is now at risk.” The letter explains that the new election laws in Republican-led states, passed with the justification that they will make elections safer, in fact are turning “several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”
If we permit the breakdown of democracy, it will be a very long time before we can reverse the damage. As a nation spirals downward, the political scientists, sociologists, and government scholars explain, “violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.”
The scholars called for federal action to protect equal access to voting and to guarantee free and fair elections. Voting rights should not depend on which party runs the state legislature, and votes must be cast and counted equally, regardless of where a citizen lives. They back the reforms in the For the People Act, which protects the right to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering, and curbs the flood of money into elections.
They urged Congress “to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake.”
“History,” they wrote, “will judge what we do at this moment.”
But in Tulsa, Oklahoma, today, President Joe Biden noted that the events that transpired in the Greenwood district of that city 100 years ago today were written out of most histories. The Tulsa Massacre destroyed 35 blocks of the prosperous Greenwood neighborhood, wiping out 1100 homes and businesses and taking hundreds of Black lives, robbing Black families of generational wealth and the opportunities that come with it.
Biden pointed out that he was the first president to go to Tulsa to acknowledge what happened there on May 31 and June 1, 1921. But, he said, “We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened or doesn’t impact us today, because it does.” He drew a direct line from the terrorism at Greenwood to the terrorism in August 2017 at Charlottesville, Virginia, to the January 6 insurrection. Citing the intelligence community, he reminded listeners that “terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not Isis. Not al-Qaeda. White supremacists.”
Victims’ trauma endures, too, and it eventually demands a reckoning when “what many people hadn’t seen before, or simply refused to see, cannot be ignored any longer.” Today, Americans are recognizing “that for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester, the view that America is a zero-sum game, where there’s only one winner. If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine. And maybe worst of all, if I hold you down, I lift myself up. Instead of if you do well, we all do well.” Biden promised to invest in Black communities extensively to unlock creativity and innovation.
Then the president took on the elephant in the room: voting. On Saturday, Biden took a stand against the state voter suppression laws being passed in Republican-dominated legislatures that, as he said, attack “the sacred right to vote.” They are “part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year—and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.” They are “wrong and un-American.”
Biden called on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the voting protections the Supreme Court stripped out of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. He called on “all Americans, of every party and persuasion, to stand up for our democracy and to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections.
In Tulsa today, Biden called the Republican efforts to restrict voting a “truly unprecedented assault on our democracy.” He urged voting rights groups to redouble their efforts to register and educate voters, and then he put pressure on Democratic senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), who continue to say they will not challenge the Republican use of the filibuster to stop passage of voting rights bills. Biden promised to fight “like heck with every tool in my disposal” to get the For the People and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act passed.
He has asked Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the effort. Today, she released a statement placing today’s fight for voting rights in the context of our history. “[M]any have worked—and many have died—to ensure that all Americans can cast a ballot and have their vote counted,” she said. “Today, that hard-won progress is under assault.” She promised to work with voting rights organizations, community organizations, the private sector, and Congress to strengthen voting rights.
“The work ahead of us is to make voting accessible to all American voters, and to make sure every vote is counted through a free, fair, and transparent process,” she said. “This is the work of democracy.”
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I really am quite afraid that the USA will turn into a failed state if the R's are not stomped on by any means possible. This means kicking Manchin and Sinema in the balls if necessary to get them on board.

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June 2, 2021 (Wednesday)
The big story today is that in Israel, a coalition of eight very different parties has come together to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 years. Netanyahu, who was a close ally of former president Trump, is currently on trial for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust while in office. For the first time, the coalition that will replace him includes a party that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel. According to the deal, hardliner Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years before turning the office over to center-left leader Yair Lapid, who hammered out the arrangement. The deal has to be accepted by the Israeli parliament, which is expected to do so.
As soon as the coalition announced it was approaching agreement, Republican senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee flew to Israel to offer support to Netanyahu and to call President Biden weak. Cruz released a video that he claimed was of a home destroyed by a Hamas rocket that killed “an elderly woman’s caretaker.” Considering that Cruz left Texas to go to Cancun in the midst of the deadly freeze in that state that killed at least 111 people, it seems likely that his concern for the 12 Israelis killed in the 11 recent days of fighting was related less to humanitarianism than to wooing U.S. pro-Israel voters.
Other stories from today are the kind that advance bigger stories, nothing that stands alone as a game changer.
Like Cruz, Fox News Channel personalities seem to have forgotten the old saying that politics stops at the water’s edge, an expression meaning that Americans don’t criticize the government to other nations. FNC personality Sean Hannity has been cheering on Russian President Vladimir Putin while calling President Biden “weak and... a cognitive mess,” telling the president he shouldn’t go to the scheduled summit on June 16, and not to forget “your warm milky and your sippy cup.”
Today, we learned that, during the Trump administration, the Department of Justice secretly seized phone records from four New York Times reporters. We already knew it had seized records from reporters affiliated with CNN and the Washington Post. The department appeared to be trying to figure out the source of leaks from the FBI.
Early reviews suggest that the policy of trying to help people in crisis has been a success. A study from the University of Michigan reveals that the December 2020 Covid-19 relief bill and the March 2021 American Rescue Plan dramatically improved American lives. Food insufficiency fell by more than 40%, financial instability fell by 45%, and adverse mental health symptoms fell by 20%. The study suggests that “the speed, breadth, and flexibility” of the programs, especially the use of cash transfers, was key to easing material hardship.
Opponents of the programs argue that hardship would have improved anyway, since tax credits arrived in April. Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute told New York Times reporter Jason DeParle, “It’s not sustainable to just give people enough cash to eliminate poverty…. And in the long run it can have negative consequences by reducing the incentives to work and marry.”
Today, in order to reach his goal of having 70% of U.S. adults vaccinated by July 4, Biden announced that certain child care chains and YMCAs would provide free child care while parents and caregivers get their shots, and that certain pharmacies will be open all night for vaccinations. The administration has enlisted barbershops and hair cutting salons in Black communities to hold vaccine clinics—these locations are important community centers that were key to organizing during the Civil Rights Movement—and Anheuser-Busch, the beer corporation, has announced it will buy a beer for the first 200,000 applicants over the age of 21 if the U.S. meets Biden’s goal.
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June 3, 2021 (Thursday)
Ten days after he was taken from a plane diverted to Minsk by autocrat Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, 26-year-old opposition journalist Roman Protasevich appeared on state television. Visibly injured, Protasevich praised Lukashenko and parroted his government’s story that protests are backed by the West. He disavowed his past opposition and confessed to organizing “mass unrest.”
By the end of the interview, he was crying. “I never want to get into politics again. I want to hope that I can correct myself and live an ordinary peaceful life, to have a family, children, stop running away from something.”
Protasevich faces the death penalty.
In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to stay in power. As Josh Marshall writes at Talking Points Memo, Netanyahu’s supporters are threatening the incoming prime minister, Naftali Bennett—himself a hard-liner—and his supporters. A Netanyahu ally in the Israeli legislature—the Knesset—says he is simply going to refuse to hold the vote that’s necessary to recognize the new government. It’s not clear how long he can do that, but every day increases the pressure on members of Bennett’s party to break away from the new coalition. That would keep Netanyahu in power.
The coalition that is trying to oust Netanyahu is a coming together of left and right out of fear that Netanyahu is destroying the rule of law and setting up one-man rule. Marshall notes that “[w]hen you lose an election, you’re supposed to leave. Netanyahu’s not leaving.” The situation is volatile.
In the U.S., Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review confirmed the scoop by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times on Tuesday that former president Trump believes he will be “reinstated by August.” He believes that the so-called “audits” of the 2020 election results from Arizona, Georgia, and possibly other states will put him, and former senators David Perdue of Georgia and Martha McSally of Arizona, back into office.
This is a fantasy. Aside from the fact there is no evidence of any irregularity in the 2020 votes, we have no mechanism for such a “reinstatement” in our system. But by telling his supporters that he will be president again in August, he is setting up a scenario where they will be angry enough to fight for that to happen, always with the idea that they are defending American democracy, not attacking it, just as they did on January 6 when they tried to “Stop the Steal.”
The “audit” now underway in Arizona by the private company Cyber Ninjas has been widely discredited as a partisan hack job by “auditors” who have no idea what they’re doing, but Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania have now called for a similar “audit” in their state. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, opposes the plan, and says, “what is going on in Arizona is not an audit. It is funded by partisan political benefactors, it is directed by partisan political operatives to reach a partisan political conclusion, which is… not an audit.”
One of the Pennsylvania Republicans pushing the “audit” in his state is Doug Mastriano, who called for the Republican state legislature to appoint its own delegates to the Electoral College rather than following the actual results of the vote, and then helped to organize busses to go to Washington, D.C., for the January 6 insurrection, at which he was present. Mastriano has recently met with Trump; they talked about launching an “audit” in Pennsylvania.
In Georgia, a state judge has permitted a reexamination of 147,000 mail-in ballots from Democratic Fulton County, and in Wisconsin, the speaker of the state assembly, Representative Robin Vos, had said he is hiring retired police officers to investigate the 2020 election.
These “audits” don’t have to find anything; the fact that they exist at all is enough to do what they are designed to do: undermine voters’ faith in the system at the same time they indicate that no election result that elects a Democrat is legitimate.
This week Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Rob Portman (R-OH) traveled to Eastern Europe, where they met with Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, to illustrate their support for democracy. “The U.S. stands in bipartisan solidarity with the people of Belarus in their pleas for an accountable government,” said Shaheen.
The senators went on to Ukraine and Georgia, where they reiterated their support for democracy there and called for a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Murphy said: “[W]e know that the best defense against Russian interference is a strong, resilient democracy….”
Shaheen added, “This bipartisan trip sends a clear message that the United States is committed to rebuilding our transatlantic relations and reasserting U.S. global leadership to promote democratic values.”
The first National Security Study Memorandum of Biden’s presidency, issued today, formally establishes the fight against corruption as a core U.S. National Security Interest. It begins by noting that corruption “provides authoritarian leaders a means to undermine democracies worldwide.” To combat that corruption, Biden vows to combat “all forms of illicit finance” in the U.S. and internationally. He will “robustly” implement the law that requires all shell companies to disclose who owns them, a rule in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Congress passed over Trump’s veto on January 1, 2021. (Remember I wrote then that this piece of the law would end up being important?)
The memorandum promises to “hold accountable corrupt individuals, transnational criminal organizations, and their facilitators,” including by seizing stolen assets. The U.S. government will work with international partners to stop the strategic corruption that enabled bad actors to interfere in U.S. elections—a shot across Russia’s bow—and work across offices, agencies, and departments—State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, Energy, and so on—to develop government-wide policies that will root out corruption.
“[B]y effectively preventing and countering corruption and demonstrating the advantages of transparent and accountable governance, we can secure a critical advantage for the United States and other democracies,” the memorandum reads.
The Biden administration announced today that it plans to distribute at least 80 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June. Biden said: "We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions. We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values.”
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June 4, 2021

Today, Facebook officials announced that they would continue former president Trump’s suspension for at least two years from his February 7 suspension, when he continued to praise the mob in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. After two years, the company will reassess his ban, deciding “whether the risk to public safety has receded.” Facebook promised that it would begin holding political figures to common standards for hate speech, rather than giving them a pass on the grounds their actions are noteworthy. If, in their opinion, noteworthiness requires an exception, they will explain why.

In their announcement of new standards for the platform, Facebook seemed to accept that bad actors have used it to swing political events. It listed the tens of thousands of accounts it has banned, and promised to continue to stay on top of them, although it blamed the events of January 6 on “the insurrectionists and those who encouraged them.” The new policies are a new development in the world of social media, as a major platform tries to show politicians concerned about the spread of disinformation on the platform that it can police itself.

Former president Trump reacted angrily to this ongoing suspension. His campaign’s use of social media, especially Facebook, was instrumental in his 2016 win. 

Now without access to Twitter, where he had tens of millions of followers (although not all were real), or Facebook, where he had millions, he is having trouble staying relevant. He tried to move his followers to a webpage where he posted his statements on current affairs, but this Wednesday his team abandoned the page after it failed to gain much of a following.  

We learned today that a New York state special grand jury in Manhattan has heard testimony from Jeffrey McConney, a senior finance executive at the Trump Organization who has been with the company for 34 years. McConney cannot be charged for anything he reveals on the subject of his testimony, but neither can he refuse to answer questions. (Because he cannot incriminate himself, he cannot use the Fifth Amendment). He can, though, be prosecuted for perjury if he lies. 

Rumblings suggest that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is hoping to flip Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. Information from McConney could help that process. 

Tomorrow night, the former president will address the North Carolina Republican Party, a lead-in to the old campaign-style rallies he plans to start holding next month in Ohio, Alabama, and Florida. Republican officials are begging him to talk about policy and the 2022 election, but he appears to be focused on his conviction that he won in 2020, believing that the so-called “audit” in Arizona and other states will prove he won. He has been telling people he will be “reinstated” in August. 

Having tied the party tightly to the former president because of his ability to reach and rile up voters, Republican leaders now have to deal with the fact that he no longer can reach them effectively, and that his own troubles are, at the very least, distracting. 

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June 5, 2021

Today, Katie Benner of the New York Times broke the story that former president Trump tried to use the Department of Justice to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Five emails provided to Congress show Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, asking the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, in December, to investigate rumors of voter fraud. One of the fantastical stories Meadows wanted investigated was the story that “people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States and switch votes for Mr. Trump to votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

The Department of Justice is not the president’s to command. It is supposed to enforce the laws of the United States and administer justice. The office of the president has its own lawyer—the White House counsel—and the president can also have their own personal representation. That Trump tried to use our own Department of Justice to overturn the will of the American voters is eye-popping.

But that was not the only news of the day. We also learned that the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, told Trump advisor Steven Bannon on a public show that had he not been able to block a great deal of mail-in voting in 2020, Biden would have won Texas.

We also learned that Oregon Representative Mike Nearman, who was already in trouble for opening the doors of the Oregon Capitol to anti–coronavirus restriction rioters on December 21, held a meeting beforehand, on December 16, to plot the event. An attendee filmed the talk, which set up “Operation Hall Pass.” That operation ultimately opened the Oregon capitol building to far-right rioters, who endangered the entire legislature. The video, which shows Nearman winking and nodding at setting up the invasion, has raised questions about whether other Republicans worked with insurrectionists in other settings.

It is an odd day for these stories to come to light. 

Seventy-seven years ago today, on June 5, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was preparing to send Allied troops, who fought for democracy, across the English Channel to France. There, he hoped, they would push the German troops, who fought for an authoritarian fascist state, back across Europe, securing a victory for democracy over authoritarianism. 

More than 5,000 ships waited to transport more than 150,000 soldiers to France before daybreak the following morning. The fighting to take Normandy would not be easy. The beaches the men would assault were tangled in barbed wire, booby trapped, and defended by German soldiers in concrete bunkers.

On the afternoon of June 5, as the Allied soldiers, their faces darkened with soot and cocoa, milled around waiting to board the ships, Eisenhower went to see the men he was almost certainly sending to their deaths. He joked with the troops, as apparently upbeat as his orders to them had been when he told them Operation Overlord had launched. “The tide has turned!” his letter read. “The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!”

But after cheering his men on, he went back to his headquarters and wrote another letter. Designed to blame himself alone if Operation Overlord failed, it read:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

The letter was, of course, never delivered. Operation Overlord was a success, launching the final assault in which western democracy, defended by ordinary men and women, would destroy European fascism.

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June 6, 2021 (Sunday)
Saturday evening, just in time for the anniversary of D-Day today, President Joe Biden published an op-ed in the Washington Post explaining that his upcoming trip to Europe is part of a larger defense of democracy.
This week, Biden will be meeting with the Group of Seven—also known as the G7—an informal organization of wealthy democracies including Canada, Japan, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. He will meet with leaders of the European Union and with allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a 30-nation military alliance begun in 1949 "to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of the peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law."
“In this moment of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic,” Biden wrote, “this trip is about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.”
Identifying the need for unified effort to end the coronavirus pandemic and to push back against the governments of China and Russia, Biden called for America once again to lead the world from a position of strength. He pointed to America’s rebounding economy, thanks to the vaccine distribution program and the American Rescue Plan, as an indication that the U.S. is recovering, and noted that “we will be stronger and more capable when we are flanked by nations that share our values and our vision for the future—by other democracies.”
Biden called attention to the fact that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pulled off a major deal on Saturday when she led the G7 finance ministers to reverse forty years of corporate tax cuts and agree to a global minimum tax of at least 15% on multinational corporations. After the deal, Spain, which is not part of the G7, endorsed the plan. Negotiators hope to expand the deal to the G20—twenty countries whose economies make up around 80% of world trade—this fall.
This agreement is a huge deal. If accepted, it would stop countries from trying to attract multinational businesses by cutting taxes on them, a so-called “race to the bottom” that reduces the amount of tax money available for public investment while pumping money into the largest multinational corporations. In 1980, the average global corporate tax rate was about 40%. By 2020, it was about 23%. By 2017, multinational firms had about $700 billion stashed in tax havens.
Yellen’s plan would help pay for Biden’s domestic agenda by making a domestic tax increase on corporations more acceptable to Republicans. Trump’s 2017 tax cut, passed by a strict partisan vote, slashed domestic corporate taxes from 35 to 21 percent. Trump promised that the cuts would help everyone by supercharging the economy and would pay for themselves. But in fact, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 60% of the benefits of the tax cuts went to those in the top 20% of the economy, and corporate tax revenues fell 31% in the first year after congress passed the tax cut. In that year—which was before the coronavirus pandemic—our deficit exploded to $984 billion, unheard of in a time without a recession or a war. The cuts did not produce economic growth, either: the economy grew at 2.9%, the same as it did in 2015.
Biden wants to take the domestic corporate tax rate back to 28%, hoping to raise $3 billion to pay for infrastructure and education. This plan is popular with 65% of registered voters, while only 21% oppose it, but it faces huge headwinds among Republican lawmakers, who have said that higher domestic corporate taxes would simply send businesses overseas. An international tax floor helps to defang that fear. In addition, some U.S. companies are willing to exchange slightly higher taxes for certainty in international tax rules.
Countries have talked about international cooperation on taxes for many years, and Yellen’s fast victory in finding common ground has economic experts calling it “impressive,” although much more work will be necessary to get the plan accepted by national governments both overseas and at home. International treaties require a two-thirds majority in the Senate to pass, and Republicans, who have vowed to oppose any tax increases, are unlikely to approve.
Nonetheless, Biden is continuing to press forward. His op-ed makes the case for clean energy and infrastructure investment to enable democracies both to compete with China and to protect their people against unforeseen threats. He plans to reiterate U.S. support for our allies “who see the world through the same lens as the United States” before he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
Biden’s administration has broken the recent U.S. policy of seeing Russia as a monolith. He has pressured Putin over human rights, election interference, and cybersecurity, but has indicated he is willing to work with him on arms control and international stability. He promises to stand firm on the issue of human rights as a defining feature of his foreign policy.
Biden recognizes that we are at a defining moment in world history. In his op-ed, he asks: “Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world? Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries?”
Autocratic leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin, have said that democracy is obsolete and autocracy is the form of government that will dominate the future. Biden is dedicating his presidency to the defense of democracy. Can democracy stand firm in the modern day?
Says Biden: “I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.”
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June 7, 2021 (Monday)
Complaining that “the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized,” Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) published an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail yesterday saying that he would vote against S1, the For the People Act, arguing that protecting the right to vote should “never be done in a partisan manner.” Because Republicans do not support federal voting rights, he says, passing such a measure would “all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.”
Critics immediately jumped on this declaration, noting that the For the People Act would address state laws enacted by Republicans alone to restrict voting and gerrymander states in a partisan fashion. Voting rights scholar Ari Berman tweeted: “I don’t recall Republicans asking for bipartisan support before they introduced 400 voter suppression bills & enacted 22 new voter suppression laws in 14 states so far this year.”
Essentially, Manchin appears to be blaming the person calling the fire department, rather than the arsonist, and then saying the firefighters need to work with the guys holding the gasoline cans and matches.
There are currently two election reform bills before the Senate. The For the People Act covers a wide range of reforms. It sets standards for federal voting in each state, including online and same day voter registration, early voting, and mail-in ballots. It also would end the ability to invest “dark money” in politics, the system by which nonprofits, which do not have to disclose their donors, give money to political causes (this is not small change: in 2020, more than $1 billion—with a “B”—went into the election, most of it helping Democrats). It would end partisan gerrymandering—something some Democrats also oppose—and would strengthen rules about lobbying.
And here’s a twist to this story: according to political consulting firm Lake Research Partners, 68% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support the For the People Act. In a March 2021 article in the New Yorker, Jane Mayer, who is simply a crackerjack investigative reporter, broke the story that Republicans were privately dismayed at how overwhelmingly popular the For the People Act is.
In a private conference call on January 8, 2021, between one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) policy advisers and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups, the speakers “expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors.” They concluded it wasn’t worth trying to convince voters to oppose the bill. Instead, they decided to kill it in the Senate, through strategies like the filibuster. “When it comes to donor privacy, I can’t stress enough how quickly things could get out of hand,” McConnell’s policy adviser Steve Donaldson said.
The other major piece of election reform legislation before the Senate is the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the pieces of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gutted in 2013 by the Supreme Court in the Shelby County v. Holder decision. In 2006, the Senate renewed the Voting Rights Act by a vote of 98-0. Today, 70% of Americans support the John Lewis Act.
In his op-ed, Manchin advocated the John Lewis Act and noted that Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has joined him in calling for passing the bill through the regular order. But while the Senate renewed the Voting Rights Act unanimously in 2006, it is not clear that even ten Republicans will vote to support it in 2021. Although several of the Republicans who voted for the Voting Rights Act in 2006 are still in the Senate, they now oppose the John Lewis Act. Today, Murkowski, who is the only Republican on record for the new measure, admitted it would be hard to find ten yes votes.
Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post points out that if there ever were a reason to come together, it was on the bill for the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection, and only six Republicans joined that effort, enabling their party to kill the measure. So the idea that there will be ten votes for the voting rights bill seems optimistic.
But there is a weird twist in all these gyrations over protecting the fundamental right of citizens to vote. In his op-ed, Manchin also said he will not agree to eliminate the filibuster, which is the Senate rule that enables the minority to block legislation simply by saying they will not permit a vote on it. People have pointed out that protecting a Senate rule rather than democracy is, well, odd…but the story might well be more complicated.
Manchin has indicated his willingness to reform the filibuster, either taking it back to the traditional form of the talking filibuster, or perhaps excluding election bills in the same way that financial bills and judicial nominees are currently not covered by the filibuster. One of the things at stake here might be that, as a Democrat in a strongly Republican state, Manchin likes that the filibuster protects him from having to vote on Democratic bills that Republicans hate. But might he be willing to do a carve out to protect voting?
Well, McConnell today said that Democrats were teeing up votes this month on paycheck fairness, gun control, and voting that are “designed to fail” in order to convince lawmakers to gut the filibuster. But what’s interesting about that declaration is that those measures are all actually popular among voters. At the same time, McConnell appeared to win the filibuster over the January 6 commission only by appealing to his caucus to vote against it as a personal favor to him. Even so, lots of senators chose to be absent on that day. It is not clear to me that McConnell is confident he can hold the filibuster wall as he was able to in the past, and having continually to defend filibusters of popular measures can only hurt the Republicans.
This afternoon, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) tweeted that she would continue to fight to get voting, ethics reform, and campaign finance reform passed through the Senate, suggesting that there is wheeling and dealing to be done.
While the fight over voting and the filibuster is taking up a lot of oxygen, there are a few other big stories breaking today. A newly released recording of a call between Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July 2019 shows Giuliani quite clearly trying to trade an investigation into Hunter Biden for the U.S. aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, and Vice President Kamala Harris is in Guatemala, where she warned migrants not to try to come to the United States without following formal procedures.
Also… the U.S. has recovered several million dollars paid to cyberhackers who held an East Coast oil pipeline hostage last month. At the time, the company, Colonial Pipeline, told reporters they had paid the ransom to get their operations back up and running quickly, but they had actually turned quickly to the FBI, which apparently asked them to pay the ransom so its officials could follow the money trail. The hackers apparently operated out of Russia, although they were not affiliated with the Russian government.
Later today, news broke that major global crime networks have been broken open as criminals were communicating on an encrypted network broken into by the Australian Federal Police and then run by the FBI. The operation involved the cooperation of 16 different countries, and it targeted some of the world’s leading criminals. Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, called it the “most sophisticated effort to date to disrupt the activities of criminals operating from all four corners of the world.”
Guessing this particular story has quite long legs….
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"the right to vote is itself politicized"

??

WTF does that even mean? Dumbassery for dumbasses.

A politician who is against citizens voting ought to be ejected on the spot.

- DSK

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3 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

"the right to vote is itself politicized"

??

WTF does that even mean? Dumbassery for dumbasses.

A politician who is against citizens voting ought to be ejected on the spot.

- DSK

I really have no idea what the hell Manchin thinks he is doing. If he lets the R's fuck up voting he's out of a job, unless he has an "agreement" with them.

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18 minutes ago, Ishmael said:

I really have no idea what the hell Manchin thinks he is doing. If he lets the R's fuck up voting he's out of a job, unless he has an "agreement" with them.

True of all the Repubs who support Trump's attmpts to make himself a dictator... castrating themselves

Many of them will be the first to be purged, which would serve them right

- DSK

 

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You folks need to go all the way and ban political donations from corporations and unions, and scrap superpacs while you're at it.  It has made a world of difference here in Canada.

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By definition, elected officials represent voting individuals, not companies, unions or other special interests.  Individuals can vote, companies and unions cannot. A candidate for office should not be allowed to accept campaign funding from anyone who is not eligible to vote for the candidate. Accepting money from a company or union is bribery.

 

 

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June 8, 2021 (Tuesday)
After Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced this weekend that he would not support either the For the People voting act or an attempt to break the filibuster for a voting measure, but would work to get bipartisan agreement on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, today Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the rug out from under him.
McConnell said today that restoring the provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that protect minority voting would give too much power to the federal government and that such protection was unnecessary anyway. “The Supreme Court concluded that conditions that existed in 1965 no longer existed,” McConnell said. “So there’s no threat to the voting rights law. It’s against the law to discriminate in voting on the basis of race already. And so I think it’s unnecessary.”
To say there is no threat to the voting rights law is delusional. The reality is that In 2013, within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision ending the Justice Department’s oversight of certain states’ voting requirements, Texas enacted a strict voter ID law. Other states quickly followed suit. And now, in the wake of the 2020 election, Republican-dominated state legislatures across the country are drastically curtailing voting access.
Today, more than 300 “advocacy, civic, faith and labor groups representing nearly 2.5 million Americans from 43 states and the District of Columbia” asked the president and vice president to fight for the For the People Act. “[F]air representation and voter access in America are under direct attack,” the letter read. “We are extremely worried about the very survival of our democracy. We ask that you place the urgent passage of this bill at the top of your administration's agenda.”
This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that the Senate will still vote on the For the People Act, as scheduled, in late June. He says he is open to changes to the measure if they will help get Manchin on board. But he is going to force senators to go on record for or against voting rights.
Gone are the days when McConnell could protect his caucus from unpopular votes simply by refusing to bring anything to a vote. Republicans have had to vote on the bipartisan, independent January 6 commission, which was popular, and voted to go before the country as a party protecting insurrection. Now they will have to take a stand on other popular measures like voting rights and, if the Senate breaks up the bill, getting big money out of politics, which is even more popular, and so on.
Today, Republicans filibustered a measure designed to prohibit discrimination in pay based on sex. The bill would have limited pay differentials to things like education, training, and experience, and would have prohibited employers from retaliating against workers who compared their salaries. Blaming the Democrats for advancing what he calls “partisan” bills, McConnell pointed to the equal pay act as a sign that the "era of bipartisanship is over.”
In fact, we had an illustration of what “bipartisanship” means in today’s Senate when the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees that investigated the January 6 insurrection today produced a bipartisan report on the events of that day. Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chair Gary Peters (D-MI) told reporters: “There were significant, widespread and unacceptable breakdowns in the intelligence gathering. . . . The failure to adequately assess the threat of violence on that day contributed significantly to the breach of the Capitol… The attack was, quite frankly, planned in plain sight.”
To gain bipartisan support, the report focused on communications failures. It did not explore the roles of government officials, including former president Trump, in the January 6 crisis, and it did not use the word “insurrection” apart from quotations of witness testimony. The result was a curiously sanitized rendition of the events of January. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) commented: "January 6th didn't happen because there were security failures, it happened because there was a violent mob that attacked the Capitol, and we need to know why that happened."
McConnell’s comment about the end of bipartisanship was a sweeping declaration that he would lead Republicans in opposing the Democratic program, and that includes the American Jobs Act, the extensive infrastructure bill that President Biden initially pegged at $2.3 trillion. Biden has been negotiating with Republicans, led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, on the measure, but today called it quits after they refused to raise their offer more than $150 billion despite his offer to cut more than $1 trillion off his initial ask. Republicans blamed Biden for ending the talks.
Biden has not, in fact, ended the talks, though: he has handed them to a different group of lawmakers who have shown a willingness to work across the aisle. That group includes Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), who might be persuaded to be more reliable Democratic votes if they have a bigger hand in the infrastructure bill. If this group does manage to hammer out a bipartisan infrastructure package, a vote on it could undercut McConnell’s ability to hold his caucus in opposition to the Democrats.
The biggest sticking point in negotiations is that Democrats want to fund much of the American Jobs Act by increasing corporate taxes from the lows of the 2017 tax cuts (although not to the level they were before those cuts), while Republicans are adamant they will not sign on to any such increases.
The Republican position took a hit this morning, when ProPublica published an investigation based on leaked tax documents. It revealed that America’s 25 richest people—some with more than $100 billion in wealth—pay remarkably little in federal income taxes…sometimes nothing. They can avoid taxes through various accounting methods, while ordinary Americans pay full fare.
Also this morning, Biden tweeted: “I’m working hard to find common ground with Republicans when it comes to the American Jobs Plan, but I refuse to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year to pay for it. It’s long past time for the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.”
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9 minutes ago, AJ Oliver said:

Just picked up a copy of Heather's book . . 

I'll let you know what I think. 

52048467

Lost the war, won the peace.

A big part of it is simply a different background culture. In the bland whitebread version of US history, the part of the North American continent that became the USA was colonized by people who had egalitarian culture. This is not true. Much of America, particularly the South, was settled by colonists who came here with a very aristocrat-centric culture, with authoritarian values and an extremely rigid heirarchical society. The Pilgrims tried to force this kind of society on New England and the backlash wiped out Pilgrims other than as a whitewashed idealized cartoon we drag out for Thanksgiving.

Read this a couple years ago: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11140803-american-nations

Goes into considerably more detail and outlines some of the political struggles of today from this viewpoint.

The US South and much of the Midwest do not particularly value the concept of equality of people. In fact, it offends many of them. Their world view is very heirarchical and authoritarian; the strongest absolute that they will defend is the social ladder of some being higher/better than others, as a birthright.

It strikes me as profoundly un-American but there it's very real.

- DSK

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June 9, 2021 (Wednesday)
Today, President and Dr. Biden left for their first trip abroad since he took office. In the next eight days, President Biden will meet with U.S. allies in Europe before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16. “We’re going to make it clear that the United States is back,” Biden said. “And democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and the issues that matter most to our future.”
Biden is the most experienced president in foreign affairs since President George H. W. Bush and has longstanding relationships with a number of the leaders with whom he will meet. He has made it clear that he understands the global stakes of this current political moment. He intends to shore up democracies around the world as they face off with autocracies. Biden has announced that the U.S. will try to enforce international law and human rights not with military force but through sanctions and soft power, but that he is willing to work with other countries within those parameters.
At a meeting of the G7, an informal organization of wealthy democracies including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, Biden is expected to announce that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and donate them to other countries in a bid to help vaccinate the world against the coronavirus. Currently, wealthier countries are far more likely to have access to vaccines than poorer countries. In Africa, fewer than 2% of people have received any doses.
In addition to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, the G7 is expected to focus on the climate change crisis and the rise of China as a world power. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. wants to be sure “that democracies and not anyone else, not China or other autocracies, are writing the rules for trade and technology for the 21st century."
After reinforcing traditional U.S. alliances at the G7, Biden will meet on Monday with allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance formed in the wake of World War II and from which former president Trump threatened to withdraw. NATO allies were taken aback by Biden’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Monday meeting will address that withdrawal, among other issues.
But the visit is mainly a show of solidarity. "This summit will be a strong demonstration of trans-Atlantic unity, of Europe and North America standing together in NATO," said Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg. "Because we are stronger, we are safer together in a more unpredictable world."
Riding on a week of meetings that illustrate the strong ties between the U.S. and its traditional allies, Biden will confer with Putin. Biden has taken a stand against Russia’s cyberhacking and violations of human rights but has offered to negotiate on nuclear weapons as well as other areas of mutual interest.
But he has been firm in his determination to hold Putin responsible for attacking our elections. In a speech to U.S. troops and their families when he arrived in England, Biden was greeted with loud applause when he said: "I'm meeting with Putin to let him know what I want him to know…. The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities. That there are consequences for violating the sanctity of democracy."
For his part, Putin today demonstrated his faith in autocracy when a Moscow court announced after a secret hearing that those who work with opposition leader Alexei Navalny to expose Russian government corruption in any of his three organizations are “extremists.” After being poisoned last summer, Navalry returned to Russia in January, only to be tried and sentenced to prison. Now, those continuing his work, donating to it, or sharing the anti-corruption videos that have made Navalny so popular face prison sentences. The ruling will help to quell opposition to Putin before Russia’s September elections.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned the move. “With this action, Russia has effectively criminalized one of the country’s few remaining independent political movements,” he said in a statement. “The Russian people, like all people, have the right to speak freely, form peaceful associations to common ends, exercise religious freedom, and have their voices heard through free and fair elections.”
Biden is trying to reinforce democracy even while it is under threat at home. For the first time in our history, the office of the presidency did not change hands peacefully, and former president Trump continues to rally his supporters by insisting—falsely—that he won the 2020 election. Rather than reinforcing the rules of our democracy, the leaders of his party have chosen to throw their weight behind the former president.
Biden’s message about the strength of the world’s democracies is a hopeful one, but it is not necessarily one on which European allies can rely.
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June 10, 2021 (Thursday)
You might have noticed that I wrote through the weekend rather than posting a photo on Saturday, thinking that I was sort of banking time and I would take a break during the week. Well, today was my day. Lots of ongoing stories but nothing big. Went to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law (going to be their 40th this year!) and thought to call it an early night.
You know where this is going, right?
Came home and opened Twitter.
Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt, and Adam Goldman of the New York Times broke a major story tonight:
Under former president Trump, the Department of Justice secretly investigated key Democratic lawmakers.
In February 2018, the House Intelligence Committee was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the president became obsessed with figuring out who was apparently leaking information to the press about contacts between his people and Russia.
Under then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice subpoenaed from Apple the records of the communications of California Democrats Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, and—we learned at about 11:00 tonight—Eric Swalwell, both of whom were key critics of Trump. The department also investigated members of their families, including one child. The government seized the records of at least a dozen people.
“[G]ood God,” journalist Jennifer Rubin tweeted. “They were running a police state.” For the Department of Justice to subpoena records from congressional lawmakers is extraordinary. For it to investigate their families, as well, is mind boggling.
Department officials did not find anything, and the investigations slowed down.
Remember back in May 2019, when the Senate was interviewing William Barr, who replaced Sessions as attorney general, after his delayed release of the Mueller Report, and then-Senator Kamala Harris asked him if then-president Trump or anyone else in the White House had ever asked him to open an investigation into anyone? Barr danced around the question and then refused to answer it.
It turns out that when Barr became attorney general in February 2019, he revived the languishing investigations, moving personnel around to ramp up the inquiry. Even after the Trump administration itself declassified some of the information that had been leaked, undercutting the argument for continuing an investigation, Barr insisted on keeping it going.
The Justice Department did not find that the Democrats they were investigating were connected with the leaks.
The DOJ also subpoenaed the records of journalists from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and CNN to try to find leakers, a serious threat to freedom of the press.
Meanwhile, of course, as journalist Chris Hayes pointed out on Twitter, at the same time the White House and its operatives at the Department of Justice were secretly subpoenaing the records of members of Congress, they were refusing to answer congressional subpoenas of White House personnel.
In a statement tonight, Schiff said: “The politicization of the department and the attacks on the rule of law are among the most dangerous assaults on our democracy carried out by the former president.” On CNN, he said: “While I can’t go into who received these subpoenas … I can say that this was extraordinarily broad – people having nothing to do with the intelligence matters that are at least being reported on. It just shows what a broad fishing expedition it was.” Schiff has called for the department’s inspector general to “investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president."
Swalwell’s statement was less restrained: “Like many of the world’s most despicable dictators, former President Trump showed an utter disdain for our democracy and the rule of law.”
While there are many layers to this story, it increases the political tension in the country. When Republican leaders tied themselves to Trump after he lost the 2020 election, they tied themselves to whatever came out about his actions. They have tried to explain away the January 6 insurrection and recently refused to investigate what happened on and around that day. Will they now say that it is okay for a president to use the Department of Justice secretly to investigate members of Congress who belong to the opposing party?
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The way it's supposed to work

Republicanz hate-hate-HATE the dadgum gubbermint, and they want to take it out and drown it in a bathtub; but first they are allowed to use it's secular branches to kill off political opponents.

Democrats are goddam Socialists and enemies of The People (who smear shit in the Capitol), they deserve what they get from Republicanz

It says so right in the Constitution!

- DSK

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On 6/11/2021 at 6:59 AM, Steam Flyer said:

The way it's supposed to work

Republicanz hate-hate-HATE the dadgum gubbermint, and they want to take it out and drown it in a bathtub; but first they are allowed to use it's secular branches to kill off political opponents.

Democrats are goddam Socialists and enemies of The People (who smear shit in the Capitol), they deserve what they get from Republicanz

It says so right in the Constitution!

- DSK

Hell no, they aren't just Socialists, they are goddam Commies.  It says so on the front page of Gab almost every day.  

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June 12, 2021

Yesterday, David Ignatius had a piece in the Washington Post that uncovered the attempt of the Trump administration to reorder the Middle East along an axis anchored by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudia Arabia (more popularly known as MBS), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and Jared Kushner of the U.S.

To make the deal, the leaders involved apparently wanted to muscle Jordan out of its role as the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, a role carved out in the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan that was hammered out under President Bill Clinton. The new dealmakers apparently wanted to scuttle the U.S.-backed accords and replace them with economic deals that would reorder the region.

This story has huge implications for the Middle East, for American government, for religion, for culture, and so on, but something else jumps out to me here: this story is a great illustration of the principles behind Critical Race Theory, which is currently tearing up the Fox News Channel. Together, the attempt to bypass Jordan and the obsession with Critical Race Theory seem to make a larger statement about the current sea change in the U.S. as people increasingly reject the individualist ideology of the Reagan era.

When Kushner set out to construct a Middle East peace plan, he famously told Aaron David Miller, who had negotiated peace agreements with other administrations, that he didn’t want to know about how things had worked in the past. “He said flat out, don’t talk to me about history,” Miller told Chris McGreal of The Guardian, “He said, I told the Israelis and the Palestinians not to talk to me about history too.”

Kushner apparently thought he could create a brand new Middle East with a brand new set of alliances that would begin with changing long standing geopolitics in Jerusalem, the city three major world religions consider holy. It is eye-popping to imagine what would have happened if we had torn up decades of agreements and tried to graft onto a troubled area an entirely new way of interacting, based not on treaties but on the interests of this new axis. Apparently, the hope was that throwing enough money at the region would have made the change palatable. But most experts think that weakening Jordan, long a key U.S. ally in the region, and removing its oversight of the holy sites, would have ushered in violence.

The heart of the American contribution to the idea of reworking the Middle East along a new axis with contracts, rather than treaties, seems to have been that enough will and enough money can create new realities.

The idea that will and money could create success was at the heart of the Reagan Revolution. Its adherents championed the idea that any individual could prosper in America, so long as the government stayed out of his (it was almost always his) business.

Critical Race Theory challenges this individualist ideology. CRT emerged in the late 1970s in legal scholarship written by people who recognized that legal protections for individuals did not, in fact, level the playing field in America. They noted that racial biases are embedded in our legal system. From that, other scholars noted that racial, ethnic, gender, class, and other biases are embedded in the other systems that make up our society.

Historians began to cover this ground long ago. Oklahoma historian Angie Debo established such biases in the construction of American law in her book, And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes back in 1940. Since then, historians have explored the biases in our housing policies, policing, medical care, and so on, and there are very few who would suggest that our systems are truly neutral.

So why is Critical Race Theory such a flashpoint in today’s political world? Perhaps in part because it rejects the Republican insistence that an individual can create a prosperous life by will alone. It says that, no matter how talented someone might be, or how eager and dedicated, they cannot always contend against the societal forces stacked against them. It argues for the important weight of systems, established through time, rather than the idea that anyone can create a new reality.

It acknowledges the importance of history.

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