Discuss: Political Madness All the Time


Wouldn’t you know it, this thread would lapse just before Trump was kicked out of office. I wonder if the new thread will be as lively without the Orange Cheeto around to focus our anger? I think Joe might provide some prompting, at least.

Lynna is your curator. Type furiously!

(Previous thread)

Comments

  1. says

    blf, at comment 499 in the previous chapter of this thread: That’s a well-done cartoon. The penguin saying, “If only there was something we could have done.” [penguin shoulder shrug] Perfect.

  2. says

    Guardian world liveblog (support the Guardian if you can!):

    The WTO’s new director-general has called for more vaccine plants in developing [sic] countries.

    “People are dying in poor countries,” said Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a speech to the WTO’s 164 members at a meeting in her first day in the job.

    “We must focus on working with companies to open up and license more viable manufacturing sites now in emerging markets and developing countries [gah],” she said, adding that technology transfers were also required.

  3. blf says

    Josh Bernstein Brags That He Wants to Make It Harder to Vote in America (RWW edits in {curly braces}):

    [… Radical right-wing commentator Josh] Bernstein agreed with Trump’s recommendations[bellowing for more and more voter suppression measures] but faulted him for not going far enough.

    We cannot have early voting, Bernstein declared. We should have one day to vote, and no, it should not be {a day} off, OK? You either go before work, you either go on your lunch break, or you go after work. That’s it. If you can’t get there in that one day, then it wasn’t important enough for you, and to be quite frank, I don’t want you to vote. If you can’t make it in that one day, stay home.

    Bernstein said that only those in the military or who are sick should be allowed to use mail-in voting, but it should only be available the week before the election. He also called for the Constitution to be amended to outlaw the use of mail-in voting for any other reason.

    Bernstein then insisted that we must raise the voting age to a minimum of 21 and that every voter must provide proof of income at the polling place.

    I want proof of income at the polling stations,[] he said. I want to see that you have skin in the game and that you are not planning on sponging off of the system. … I’m talking about people on welfare and things like that, that have been on the system and have been exploiting the system for many, many, many years. They should not be allowed to vote. You should have skin in the game because you’re probably going to vote for the people that are going to keep you dependent on them, and that’s not good for the country.

    […]

      † On a bit of a tangent, and nothing per se to do with voting (or voter / vote suppression), a Finland-like system of public tax summary could be a useful improvement. Somehow, I suspect this loon would object…

  4. says

    Steve Herman, VOA:

    “What has been declassified appears to be very little indeed and that’s disappointing,” says [UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard] of the @ODNIgov report released on the #KSA sanctioned killing of @JKhashoggi.

    It’s “extremely dangerous” for the US to acknowledge the culpability of the #KSA crown prince in the murder of @jkhashoggi and not take action against him, adds @AgnesCallamard.

    “It is extremely problematic, in my view, if not dangerous, to acknowledge someone’s culpability and then to tell that someone ‘but we won’t do anything, please proceed as if have we have said nothing,'” says @AgnesCallamard.

    (I could be mistaken, but I thought I saw that the WH was making some announcement on this today…)

  5. blf says

    Warren and fellow progressives propose ‘Ultra-Millionaire’ tax:

    Senator Elizabeth Warren and other progressive United States lawmakers proposed the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, which would levy a two percent annual tax on households and trusts valued between $50m and $1bn, and a three percent tax on all net worth over $1bn.

    […]

    “The ultra-rich and powerful have rigged the rules in their favor so much that the top 0.1% pay a lower effective tax rate than the bottom 99%, and billionaire wealth is 40% higher than before the COVID crisis began,” Warren said in a statement. “A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations.”

    […] Democrats are planning to use special budget reconciliation procedures to pass a bill with a simple majority later in the year that will include parts of a massive infrastructure package. At that point, taxes to pay for the build out would be on the table. And under Senate rules, tax increases generally are allowed in budget bills.

    […]

  6. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Global infections rose for first time in 7 weeks in last week of February

    The number of new coronavirus infections globally rose last week for the first time in seven weeks, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

    Reuters reports:

    “We need to have a stern warning for all of us: that this virus will rebound if we let it,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead for Covid-19, told a briefing. “And we cannot let it.”

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the rise in cases was “disappointing but not surprising” and urged countries not to relax measures to fight the disease.

    It was too early for countries to rely solely on vaccination programmes and abandon other measures, he said: “If countries rely solely on vaccines, they are making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response.”

    Tedros noted that Ghana and Ivory Coast became the first countries on Monday to begin vaccinating people with doses supplied by COVAX, the international programme to provide vaccines for poor and middle-income countries.

    But he also criticised rich countries for hoarding vaccine doses, saying that it was in everyone’s interest for vulnerable people to be protected around the world.

    “It’s regrettable that some countries continue to prioritise vaccinating younger healthier adults at lower risk of diseases in their own populations, ahead of health workers and older people elsewhere,” Tedros said.

    Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, said the global fight against the coronavirus was in a better state now than it was 10 weeks ago before the roll-outs of vaccines had begun. But it was too early to say the virus was coming under control.

    “The issue is of us being in control of the virus and the virus being in control of us. And right now the virus is very much in control.”

  7. says

    John Harwood at CNN – “White evangelicals’ dominance of the GOP has turned it into the party of resistance”:

    For obvious reasons, President Joe Biden made the coronavirus pandemic his first legislative priority. Polling shows wide public support for his $1.9 trillion relief plan.

    But that didn’t translate to Republican support for the measure. When the House passed the bill last week, not a single GOP lawmaker voted yes.

    That offered a bookend to developments in state capitals across the nation, where Republicans seek to restrict access to the ballot. After Biden defeated Donald Trump in a presidential election free of large-scale voter fraud, Republican legislators have proposed curbing voting methods used last November in the name of stopping large-scale fraud.

    In both cases, Republicans defied broad signals from the political marketplace. Instead, they heeded the defiant partisan impulse that Trump sounded before leaving office: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

    Those words explain why Trump’s pugnacity continues to grip the GOP despite his electoral defeat, second impeachment and mounting legal woes. They reflect the existential dread motivating the conservative White Christians who form the party’s core constituency and fear 21st century America is drifting away from them.

    “It really is about not giving an inch anymore — this sense of absolute resistance,” says Robert P. Jones, director of the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute and author of “The End of White Christian America.” [This is a decent book. – SC]

    The imperative for resistance over cooperation, even when futile, fueled Trump’s denial of his defeat and the deadly US Capitol insurrection by his supporters that was replete with Christian iconography. In a different context, it produced the reflex among conservative politicians and commentators to blame Democratic energy policies for the recent power-grid crisis in Republican-controlled Texas — as stalwart conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, his constituents suffering, headed to a Mexican beach.

    “For the Republican Party, the sensationalization, nationalization, and demonization of the political system matter far more than any form of governing,” Amanda Carpenter, a former Cruz aide who is now a CNN contributor, wrote in The Bulwark. “Political performance is the point. Both the means and the end. The purpose and the power.”

    White Christians’ hold on the GOP

    For almost all of American history, White Christians have represented a large majority of the US population and controlled the levers of government power. But that majority had shrunk to just 54% by 2008 when Barack Obama won election as the first African American president and personified the nation’s changing demography.

    Trump has personified resistance to that change with his turn-back-the-clock call to “Make America Great Again.” Faith in his singular mission proved so strong that at last summer’s nominating convention Republicans didn’t even offer a governing platform.

    Resistance hasn’t worked. Trump lost his reelection bid, Democrats captured Congress, and the proportion of White Christians in the population has now shrunk to 44%, PRRI research shows.

    But White Christians still hold unchallenged dominance within the GOP. They represent two-thirds of rank-and-file Republicans, Jones said. And they represent more than 90% of Republican senators, House members and governors.

    The most conservative among them — those describing themselves as evangelical or born-again — wield the greatest influence. Last November, that group — comprising 28% of the overall electorate according to exit polls — gave Trump three-fourths of their votes. And their grievances against prevailing national sentiment on issues from gay rights to immigration to racial justice to election integrity echo through GOP stances in Washington and state capitals now.

    Instead of condemning the idea of physical resistance, White evangelical Republicans embrace it, the AEI survey showed. Fully 60% agreed that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”

    Embracing lies

    White evangelical Republicans who accept Trump’s election lies also propel the national GOP push to restrict voting procedures….

    Even on the pandemic that has claimed more than 500,000 American lives, ravaged the economy and upended normal life, Republican lawmakers reflect the emphatic skepticism of White evangelicals.

    Meantime, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fends off questions about intra-party divisions by underscoring a higher priority: what Republicans agree they’re against.

    “I think what you need to focus on,” McConnell told reporters last week, “is how unified we are today in opposition to what the Biden administration is trying to do.”

  8. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    * New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) apologized yesterday for comments to women colleagues that “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.” The Democratic governor, whose third term is up next year, also agreed to refer the matter to the state attorney general’s office.

    * Asked over the weekend about whether Republicans will win the U.S. House majority next year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he’s prepared to bet “my personal house” that his party will succeed.

    * The Nebraska Republican Party decided not to formally censure Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote on Donald Trump’s impeachment, but the state GOP did approve a resolution expressing “deep disappointment and sadness” about the senator’s work on Capitol Hill.

    * With Trump and his allies targeting Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), the Illinois Republican’s allies are launching a new super PAC — called “Americans Keeping Country First” — intended to defend GOP lawmakers who’ve clashed with the former president.

    * At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ric Grenell, a controversial former member of the Trump administration, “strongly hinted” that he intends to run for governor in California. He’s also reportedly begun hiring campaign staff.

    […]

    * And we can apparently add Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to the list of Republicans uncomfortable with their party’s cult of personality. The Louisiana senator told CNN yesterday that his party won’t succeed by “putting one person on a pedestal and making that one person our focal point.” He added, “If we idolize one person, we will lose.”

    Link

  9. says

    Senate continues work on $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by House

    The federal minimum wage has not been increased since July 2009, when it was set at $7.25/hour. The nearly eleven-year delay in increasing it is the longest period Congress has ever allowed in the history of the 80-year-old law. […]

    By all accounts, the White House has ruled out challenging the Senate parliamentarian, who is the arbiter of whether a bill has real or merely incidental effects on the federal budget, on her opinion that the minimum wage increase included in the COVID-19 relief bill that passed in the House last week has to be stripped out of the bill in the Senate.

    […] Senate Democrats, and the White House, seem to be backing off. House progressive Democrats are pushing back […]. Nearly two dozen of them signed on to a letter Monday to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to keep up the fight for $15. […]

    That push became more urgent as Senate Democrats have abandoned their back-up plan to tax big corporations that don’t pay workers $15/hour. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ron Wyden, chairs of the Budget and Finance Committees respectively, had been working on that alternative solution but now have dropped it according to various sources, as a result of “numerous practical and political challenges.” The practical include the amount of time it would take to write and vet the provision, clearing it through the parliamentarian, when the bill needs to be passed as quickly as possible.

    […] The leadership apparently believes that setting up a bulletproof, or accountant-proof, way to make corporate American pay a living wage through taxes isn’t possible in the time allowed.

    There are two tracks to take now to get the long overdue minimum wage increase and both involve Democrats forcing their “moderates,” Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, to get in line. That’s by overruling the parliamentarian now and keep the House’s minimum wage increase or abolishing the filibuster on legislation in an upcoming bill. Republicans will not allow it to happen any other way.

    […] Republicans know they have a losing hand but nonetheless are unified in opposition to the will of the American voting population and the Democrats. Not a single Republican voted with Democrats to pass the bill in the House. In fact, they dragged out the process and engineered the vote to happen in the very early hours Saturday so they could use their old “passed in secrecy in the middle of the night” trope against it. Because that’s all they got. On the Senate side, McConnell retains a tight grip on his members, arguing that the bill is just too big while refusing to work constructively with Democrats to come to agreement on anything. As usual.

    […] We saw polling last week that pegged 60% of Republican voters supporting the bill, with overall support among voters at 76%. It’s not just a hugely popular bill, it’s an essential one. The need is why people want it so badly, and why Democrats need to get the maximum out of it that they can. Now.

  10. says

    ‘If masks and social distancing don’t work, then what the hell happened to the flu?’

    […] I still usually get sick in the winter at least once. […]

    This year? I haven’t had so much as a sniffle, though every throat tickle and minor cough sends a frisson of dread down my spine.

    Turns out I’m not alone. This year’s flu season—long feared as the second head of a twin-headed monster—has been decidedly [small]

    That’s almost certainly because of the coronavirus mitigation efforts that have helped flatten the COVID-19 curve, even as our ex-pr*sident did everything in his power to secure our spot in the record books. […]

    according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one pediatric flu death has been reported in the U.S. as opposed to 92 at this same point last year.

    That’s a nice, comforting ray of sunshine in the midst of a dark, depressing winter. […]

    Associated Press:

    Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.

    Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say. […]

    Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  11. says

    Biden admin will allow families separated under Trump to remain in US

    The Biden administration will allow families separated at the southern border by the Trump administration to reunite and remain in the U.S., the White House announced Monday.

    “We are hoping to reunite the families, either here or in their country of origin. […] And if, in fact they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States, and to address the family needs,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a press briefing.

    “We are acting as restoratively as possible.”

    Mayorkas, head of the family reunification task force established by President Biden, said his administration has thus far reunited 105 families.

    Immigration advocates have argued that the Biden administration needs to not only just reunite families, but also seek to compensate those harmed under the Trump administration.

    “We applaud Secretary Mayorkas’ commitment to remedy the torture and abuse of families who were separated from their children in immigration proceedings. […]”

    “We should have a legislative solution to allow families impacted by zero tolerance to remain in the U.S. They should be offered a path to permanent citizenship given what they’ve been through,” said Jorge Loweree, policy director of the American Immigration Council.

    Such an aspect could be tucked into Biden’s immigration legislation currently working its way through Congress, though the bill has already elicited significant pushback from Republicans.

    […] “Reunification needs to happen as soon as possible but we also need to consider working to address the significant harms that the government has imposed on all the families that were impacted by the policy previously,” Loweree said, adding that “there is long term and enduring damage that many children and parents will have to deal with, possibly for life” as a result of separation.

    Mayorkas also announced Monday that Michelle Brané, who most recently directed the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, would serve as the executive director of the task force.

  12. says

    Deen Freelon:

    Black vax hesitancy makes headlines, but the most reluctant group by far is white Republicans–a much larger group.

    [Graph and Axios link at the link.]

    Note also that unlike the white GOP, Black vax hesitancy is on a downward trend.

    Here’s a headline for you: Black vax hesitancy has dropped by half over the past three months. GOP hesitancy has barely budged.

  13. blf says

    The Onion, Florida GOP Introduces Ballotless Voting In Disenfranchised Communities (quoted in full):

    In an effort to streamline the state’s electoral process, Florida Republicans introduced a new bill to the legislature Thursday that would establish ballotless voting in disenfranchised communities. “We’ve eliminated the complex and insecure process of casting a ballot so that voters from underserved communities don’t have to worry about going to the polls or mailing anything in,” said co-sponsor Rep. Chris Sprowls of the popular proposal, which had already garnered unanimous support among Republicans in the House and Senate. “Come voting day, voters will be able to walk right up to the doors of their polling place, then turn around. No lines, no worry. We’ve listened to your concerns, and are confident that ballotless voting will address them.” At press time, Sprowls added that the bill would also help fight voter fraud by eliminating the likelihood of votes being erroneously counted.

  14. says

    Man shot security guard at high school basketball game during argument over wearing mask

    A police officer working as a security guard for a high school basketball game in New Orleans was shot and killed after trying to stop a man who tried to enter a gymnasium without a mask.

    Tulane University police officer Martinus Mitchum, 38, was working security during a George Washington Carver High School basketball game on Saturday when police say John Shallerhorn attempted to enter the gym midway through the first half […]

    Because Shallerhorn was not wearing a mask, a staffer attempted to stop him. After Shallerhorn allegedly punched the staffer, Mitchum responded to the scene to attempt to break up the altercation.

    Police said Shallerhorn pulled a gun and shot Mitchum, killing him […]

    Shallerhorn was arrested at the scene and has been charged with multiple felonies including first-degree murder […] Police believe Shallerhorn had robbed someone outside of the gymnasium before attempting to enter the indoor arena.

    Shallerhorn admitted to shooting Mitchum, police said.

    […] There have been a number of violent incidents arising from fights over mask mandates used to stop the spread of the coronavirus. [snipped details of other violent confrontations over wearing a mask]

  15. says

    Josh Marshall:

    Even though I wasn’t the one covering it for TPM, I was waiting to hear ex-President Trump’s speech last night because he remains, even after the presidency, a looming presence in our national politics. I watched. I listened to him brag. I listened to his standard barrage of lies about immigration. And then I thought, “Fuck this guy. I don’t need to hear this.” I turned off the feed and went to work on a woodworking project.

    This might be a normal response for some. But it’s not for me. When everyone else was treating Trump as a joke I said it was folly to ignore him. Within weeks of his getting into the race in 2015, I thought he’d win the Republican nomination. […] There is a breed of quaint liberal myopia that says that if we just ‘don’t give oxygen’ to awful people that will somehow make them go away, like a toddler who think covering his eyes means you can’t see him. We’re told we shouldn’t “amplify” the likes of Donald Trump. This is all congenial, well-intentioned nonsense – the sort of head in the sand thinking that [is] how we ended up with Donald Trump being President.

    […] Part of this may be fatigue. I want to be done with this guy. But I don’t think it was mainly that. I’ve wanted to be done with him for years. […] However terrible and absurd he may be, what he says and what he thinks and even his mood really matters because of the awful powers he had acquired by being elected President.

    Many times I’ve analogized the Trump presidency to living in a household with an abuser. Part of that experience is hyper-vigilance and attention to the actions and moods of the abuser. That person has the power. […] Absent that power, though, Trump’s lies and general crap don’t really matter to me as much. Absent that power, he’s just another entitled jerk who wants space in my head.

    His recitation felt like the past rather than the future – like a one-time chart topper belting out the same standards at a tumble down venue for a nostalgia crowd. […]

    Driving Trump from office and securing the thinnest congressional majorities was a critical victory – a necessary but by no means sufficient step to securing democracy in America and a positive future. What is so existential about what Democrats are able to accomplish in 2021 isn’t just about ending the pandemic or restoring the economy or making progress on the numerous challenges we already faced at the beginning of last year. It’s about putting a series of tangible wins on the board that solidify a broad constituency for a democratic future.

    […] watching Trump’s performance yesterday left me more skeptical that a Trumpist future will include Trump himself. He seemed low-energy, flat, like losing power was a gut punch he hasn’t recovered from. I’m also not sure he wants to be back in power or really ‘do’ anything. What I saw was much more consistent with wanting to keep hold of the Republican party as a power base, as a source of money […]

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/just-f-this-guy

  16. says

    California Sen. Alex Padilla’s first bill would protect millions of undocumented essential workers

    Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, California Rep. Ted Lieu, California Sen. Alex Padilla, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have introduced critical legislation that would put undocumented immigrants who have served as essential workers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on a pathway to citizenship. The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act—Padilla’s first piece of legislation since filling the seat vacated by Vice President Kamala Harris—would affect up to 5 million people.

    […] Findings last year showed that nearly 3 in 4 undocumented workers are in essential roles amid the pandemic, from agriculture to health care to sanitation. […]

    Doris Landaverde, a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder from El Salvador and janitor at Harvard University, was among the essential workers who became sick in the first weeks of the pandemic last year. […]

    The bill would protect the parents of Leydy Rangel, who is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and comes from a farm-working family in California. “The grapes, bell peppers, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables that my family makes sure other Americans have to eat can’t be harvested through Zoom,” she said. […]

    “The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act will also include undocumented workers who worked in essential industries but lost employment due to COVID-19,” the fact sheet continued, “including leaving the job due to unsafe working conditions, as well as undocumented relatives of an essential worker who died from COVID-19.” In a series of tweets, Warren noted that essential workers are doing their jobs all the while having the threat of deportation hanging over their heads, because the same Department of Homeland Security that classified them as essential workers also targets them for deportation. […]

  17. blf says

    After the storm: Texas power coop files for bankruptcy:

    […]
    The largest and oldest power cooperative in Texas is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing last month’s winter storm that left millions without power.

    […]

    Brazos said that it received excessively high invoices from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for collateral and for the purported cost of electric service. The invoices were required to be paid within days. As a cooperative, Brazos’s costs are passed through to its members and retail consumers served by its members. Brazos decided that it won’t pass on the ERCOT costs to its members or the consumers.

    “Let me emphasize that this action by Brazos Electric was necessary to protect its member cooperatives and their more than 1.5 million retail members from unaffordable electric bills as we continue to provide electric service throughout the court-supervised process,” Clifton Karnei, executive vice president and general manager of Brazos, said in a prepared statement.

    Brazos said that it will continue to supply power to members as it restructures the cooperative while under bankruptcy protection.

    The bankruptcy filing comes the same day that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that he is suing electricity provider Griddy for passing along massive bills to its customers during February’s winter storm. The lawsuit accuses Griddy of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and seeks refunds for customers.

    […]

    We have always been transparent and customer-centric at every step. We wanted to continue the fight for our members to get relief and that hasn’t changed, Griddy said. [Reminder: Griddy passed on the absurd costs to the customers they are centricallycynically transparent with; Brazos didn’t –blf]

  18. says

    Related to #15 above – MSNBC is reporting that the former guy and his for-now spouse received the vaccine at the WH in January, but without any announcement or public show that it was safe and effective. Because they have to be the biggest assholes possible in every single thing they do.

  19. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Nearly two thirds of Russians are not willing to receive the country’s Sputnik V vaccine, and about the same number believe Covid-19 was created artificially as a biological weapon, an independent pollster [the Levada Center] said on Monday.

  20. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday became the first recipient of a coronavirus vaccine under the global Covax scheme.

    The scheme, designed to ensure poorer countries do not miss out on vaccinations as worries grow that rich nations are hogging the doses, is aiming to deliver at least two billion jabs by the end of the year.

    Akufo-Addo received his AstraZeneca shot live on television along with his wife, while in neighbouring Ivory Coast a presidential spokesman got the country’s first jab, also part of a Covax delivery.

    Ivory Coast received some 504,000 doses from Covax, while Ghana got 600,000 that it will start to roll out this week.

    “It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it, so that everybody in Ghana can feel comfortable about taking this vaccine,”Akufo-Addo said.

    The World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the first Covax shots:

    It’s encouraging to see health workers in lower-income countries starting to be vaccinated, but it’s regrettable that this comes almost three months after some of the wealthiest countries started their vaccination campaigns.

  21. says

    Politico – “Prosecutors fill in details of Proud Boys assault on Capitol”:

    The Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 dressed “incognito” to avoid detection, and then fanned out across the Capitol to prevent law enforcement from identifying them en masse, prosecutors alleged Monday in a legal filing that provides the most detail yet about the group’s actions on the day of the insurrection.

    In one of the most detailed filings describing the violent nationalist group’s activities, prosecutors say the Proud Boys — bereft of their leader Enrique Tarrio, who had been arrested two days earlier — turned to new leaders, including Ethan Nordean, a Seattle-based Proud Boys leader, who helped orchestrate the group’s role in the assault.

    In a filing seeking Nordean’s detention pending trial, prosecutors say he helped hatch a plan to provide Proud Boys with walkie-talkies — a Chinese brand called Baofeng — and communicated privately with individuals willing to fund and provide equipment for the Capitol siege.

    But most notably, Nordean helped hatch the tactics the Proud Boys would use when they split up at the Capitol to avoid detection.

    “Defendant — dressed all in black, wearing a tactical vest — led the Proud Boys through the use of encrypted communications and military-style equipment,” prosecutors allege, “and he led them with the specific plans to: split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results.”

    Prosecutors say the Proud Boys never intended to hear then-President Donald Trump’s speech to supporters that day, when he urged them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” against Congress’ effort to certify the results of the 2020 election, a Trump defeat. Rather, Nordean led his allies “on a march around the Capitol” to position them at thinly guarded entrances.

    The new details provide the most vivid account yet of the government’s effort to piece together the most sophisticated, coordinated efforts by militia groups to overtake the Capitol and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. Numerous members of the Proud Boys have already been charged for their role in the assault that day, including several indicted on Friday on conspiracy charges.

    Nordean’s case, however, is even graver, prosecutors say: “Defendant’s position with the Proud Boys is that of giving instructions, not receiving them.”

    “All of this mayhem plainly envisioned that those carrying out Defendant’s stated vision — the reawakening of 1776 — would at least attempt to destroy federal government property and force their way inside the building,” the government brief said. “There was simply no other way for them to enter the Capitol building.”

    According to the filing, Nordean met his Proud Boy cohorts at the Washington Monument the morning of Jan. 6 and led them — dressed in all black instead of the Proud Boys’ typical colors — while wielding a bullhorn. He was at the front of the lines when the first barricades were breached.

    Prosecutors also sketched out the early evidence of a money trail behind the Proud Boys’ efforts.

    The case represents a leap forward in evidence about the Proud Boys’ role following an increasingly developed case against another militia group, the Oath Keepers, who also had a significant presence at the Capitol that day….

  22. says

    Kurt Bardella oped at USA Today – “The Republican civil war was over 5 years ago. Trump and the winners have a new target: Us”:

    There is no “Civil War” brewing within the Republican Party.

    Sure, there are a few, and I mean a few, folks who happen to still be in the Republican Party, who oppose what Donald Trump has done to the GOP, but let’s be very clear here: They are outliers. They are the fringe. They are the exception, not the rule.

    For all of the talk and headlines about there being some kind of GOP “Civil War” playing out in front of our eyes, the functional reality is that this so-called war was fought and decided five years ago, when Donald Trump insulted his way to the Republican nomination.

    There was no realistic effort to break from Trump. There was no attempt to diminish his power. There was no resistance from the people who were in a position to actually resist. There was no “war.” Just unconditional surrender.

    What’s shocking to me isn’t that it happened, but rather how easy it was for these feckless arsonists to pull it off. All it took was a snake-oil salesman to front the effort, a few white nationalists (Stephen Miller) to write the scripts, some old-fashioned media propaganda (Fox News), and the largest collection of cowards that has ever occupied elected office (Republicans in Congress). The instruments of war used for this takeover weren’t weapons of mass destruction, they were a relentless barrage of tweets. And that’s it. That’s all it took for Donald Trump to complete his occupation of the Republican Party.

    The scary reality is it’s only going to get worse. Trump is not an isolated phenomenon. Disciples of Trump are littering the national landscape….

    Nothing has shaken the Republican Party’s devotion to Donald Trump. Not the events of Jan. 6. Not losing the House majority in 2018. Not losing the presidency in 2020. Not losing the Senate majority in 2021.

    As a matter of fact, Republicans’ love affair with Trump has only intensified. Their collective rhetoric has grown more extreme. His most devout followers feel even more validated. Those who acted on the former president’s words on Jan. 6 surely feel emboldened to try again.

    There is an undercurrent of violence that is escalating in this country. Asian Americans are under siege right now, fueled by Republicans who applaud the use of racist rhetoric like Trump’s “China virus” refrain (a phrase he used three times at CPAC). This thirst for violence will continue to spread and manifest itself in dangerous and deadly ways. What happened Jan. 6 wasn’t the culmination of the Republican Party’s rhetoric, it was just the opening act.

    What I saw this weekend wasn’t a party in the midst of an internal civil war. What I saw was a political party getting ready to instigate a civil war against the rest of us.

  23. says

    SC @23, I’m surprised it took this long for us to find out that Trump and Melania were vaccinated in the White House in January. You would think that someone would have spilled those beans.

    Don’t know if you noticed, but at CPAC Trump did say, “Go get your shot.” Too late to halt all the vaccine disinformation, but better late than never, I guess.

    “We took care of a lot of people — including, I guess, on December 21st, we took care of Joe Biden, because he got his shot, he got his vaccine,” Trump said, before suggesting that Biden’s vaccination shows how few side effects come with the vaccine. “It shows you how unpainful that vaccine shot is.” … “So everybody, go get your shot,” Trump added.

    Commentary:

    […] In context, the former president delivered the comments in the most Trumpian way possible. The Republican went on and on about what he considered the most important detail: giving Trump “100 percent” credit.

    “Never forget that we did it,” Trump told attendees. “Never let them take the credit because they don’t deserve the credit. They just followed, they’re following our plan…. Joe Biden is only implementing the plan that we put in place.”

    None of these comments were true, of course — the Trump administration didn’t develop a vaccine distribution plan — but the former president just kept going.

    “Never let them forget,” he added. “This was us. We did this. And the distribution is moving along, according to our plan.”

    After rambling a bit more, and ironically accusing Biden of not understanding the details of governing, Trump finally concluded his thought by encouraging people to get vaccinated.

    Sure, ideally the former president would be principally concerned with public health, not personal glorification. And sure, it’d be nice if Trump were capable of offering sound advice about vaccinations without lying or taking cheap shots at the president who’s succeeding where he failed. And sure, it’d be great if the former president hadn’t done so much damage to his credibility on this issue.

    But ultimately, what matters most is the public-health consequences in the midst of a deadly pandemic: if Trump’s comments, regardless of his motivations, help encourage conservative vaccine skeptics to get a needle in their shoulder, then everyone will benefit.

    It shouldn’t be necessary, but if members of my family can now go to my Fox News-watching relative and say, “Even Trump says ‘everybody’ should ‘go get your shot,'” I’ll take it

    Link

  24. says

    Over half a million Texans are still under boil water notices.

    From the Daily Beast:

    For nearly two weeks now, tens of thousands of residents of Jackson, Mississippi, have gone without running water in their homes, leaving them with no clean drinking water and unable to bathe, cook, wash clothes, or flush toilets.

    Both Texas and Mississippi are run by Republicans.

  25. says

    New York Times:

    Early last summer, Chinese and Indian troops clashed in a surprise border battle in the remote Galwan Valley, bashing each other to death with rocks and clubs. Four months later and more than 1,500 miles away in Mumbai, India, trains shut down and the stock market closed as the power went out in a city of 20 million people…. Now, a new study lends weight to the idea that those two events may well have been connected.

    Yikes. China and India fighting. Not good.

  26. says

    Wall Street Journal:

    The Supreme Court exempted five California churches from a county health directive intended to stem the coronavirus pandemic by prohibiting indoor gatherings.

  27. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Josh Hawley speaking at CPAC:

    We can have a republic where the people rule or we can have an oligarchy where Big Tech and the liberals rule. That’s the fight of our time: to make the rule of the people an actual thing again, to restore the sovereignty of the American people,

    Now wait just a damn minute. You can’t honestly separate “the people” and “the liberals.”

    “The people” voted Hawley’s darling Dear Leader out of office.

    Chris Hayes:

    [Hawley’s] speaking here not about being a U.S. Senator who is accountable to the voters — all of them — of his state of Missouri. No, he’s saying the Party is what matters here, and the Party is run by its voters and so that is who he is accountable to…. Hawley is making it explicit here that he sees himself fundamentally as a party functionary, not a member of the representative government.

  28. says

    Hyatt Hotels group:

    “We take the concern raised about the prospect of symbols of hate being included in the stage design at CPAC 2021 very seriously as all such symbols are abhorrent and unequivocally counter to our values as a company,” said Hyatt, which had faced pointed criticism for hosting the event.

    Commentary:

    […] The CPAC Stage is an interesting case. The idea any group in the US today would intentionally use Nazi synbolism at an event with Senators and a President speaking is almost too horrible to contemplate. But the past four years have been a daily litany of things too horrible to contemplate:

    Trump campaign cooperation with a foreign adversary.

    Trump calling Nazis “good people.”

    The US having to extract a spy from Russia because our intelligence feared Trump would compromise him/her. (Remember that story? — so far unrefuted.)

    The President speaking and taking actions everyone knew would cause the deaths of thousands from COVID. This is a particular sore point for me. If the media had called Trump’s rallies and White House superspreader events the manslaughter it really was, I doubt Trump would have come so close to winning. […]

    Link

  29. says

    Aaron Rupar:

    Trump called in to Fox News after his CPAC speech and was asked by Steve Hilton about his response to the January 6 insurrection. He tried to shift blame to Pelosi before resorting to Black Lives Matter whataboutism.

    https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1366228113173143554

    Transcript of some of Trump’s lies that were told on-air during that interview (partial transcript by me, created by listening to the video):

    […] The press doesn’t like to talk about it, but the real number of people at the location [rally location on January 6] went all the way back practically to the Washington Monument. It was tremendous numbers of people. Not the capitol, I’m talking about the rally itself. And it was a love fest! This rally is going to be bigger than anyone thinks, because everybody said, “Oh we’re going to be at the rally […] and it had a, I think, the largest crowd that I’ve ever spoken to, and I’ve spoken before very big crowds. Hundreds of thousands of people, and more than that. Hundreds of thousands of people, and I said that I think you should have, ten thousand [pause] I think I gave the number, [slight pause while he refines his lies on the fly], I definitly gave the number of ten thousand national guardsmen. I think you should have ten thousand of the national guard ready. Uh, they took that number, from what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by Pelosi, and I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good. So, you know, that was a big mistake. […] I hate to see it. I think it’s terrible. I hate to see it. I will tell you that’s very interesting however, when you see Washington burning, [pause] and when you see Seattle burning and Portland burning and all these other places burning with Antifa and the radical left, nothing seems to happen. […] It is a double standard […]

    Video is available at the link.

    What Trump also said to Hilton:

    It’s very interesting. My poll numbers are high. I think they are the highest they’ve ever been.

    Hilton cut the rest of the lie off by breaking in and speaking over Trump’s rant about poll numbers.

    Do you miss him yet? Do you miss his tweets? Fucking liar.

  30. blf says

    SC@32, Entirely speculation, but the cut-out mask is perhaps “thought” by the wearer to be some sort of an “ironic” protest: It’s not the usual none, or below the nose / chin, and there is a mask. Freedom for the SARS-COV-2 virus! Don’t oppress the microbes!! Support mass infection!!! Free pass to visit DEATH!!1!

    Or maybe it’s a harness to keep their brains from falling out? (It didn’t work.)

    The large hoop earring(s? (I can only clearly see one)) are presumably just an individual preference. I’m fine with that — provided they are comfortable (both physically and emotionally) and the individual has not been (or feels) coerced into wearing them — so I don’t think they are related to the absurd mask.

  31. blf says

    Mystery at the lair! Today was (outdoor) market day, and at my “usual” Italian stall, the nice person who runs sneaked in a little extra (they often do, I’m one of their frequent customers). I didn’t see what it was at the time, they just dropped it into my rucksack.

    I have no idea what it is. It isn’t making any noise. There’s no label. It’s a misshapen white chunk, slightly waxy in feel and appearance, with almost no discernible smell. Tied around the middle is a “rope” like that used with some soaps. The individual, as far as I know, only sells Italian foodstuffs (including drinks). There’s no wick, so it’s not a candle. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t refrigerated.

    It’s either a hard cheese, a hard salami, or a soap. The smell is not distinct enough to differentiate. There’s no obvious “skin” or casing, so at the moment I leaning towards a soap. The faint smell could be that of a mild peppery hard salami (except there’s no obvious pepper (it’s all whitish)), or a mild cheese, or a soap.

    It could also just be a lump of inert Italian stuff, but who ever head of an inert Italian? (Apologies for the stereotyping!)

    I’m loathe to taste it, and so is, remarkably, the mildly deranged penguin. Normally, she eats just about everything (peas notably excepted), and if she doesn’t like it, ejects it at speed. Being a penguin, she has multiple power ejection options (Penguins’ pooping power scoops Ig Nobel prize (2005)).

    I might try an image similarity search later…

  32. johnson catman says

    re blf @41: Would the shopkeeper be insulted if you asked them what it was?

  33. says

    blf @ #40, I was mostly asking whether the person was wearing what I thought they were, given that the photo is fairly small.

    SC@32, Entirely speculation, but the cut-out mask is perhaps “thought” by the wearer to be some sort of an “ironic” protest:…

    Yes, I assume so.

    The large hoop earring(s? (I can only clearly see one)) are presumably just an individual preference. I’m fine with that — provided they are comfortable (both physically and emotionally) and the individual has not been (or feels) coerced into wearing them

    As a longtime earring wearer, I can confidently say that hoops that size (if that’s what they’re wearing), even if they’re light, are inadvisable in general since they’re prone to catch on any number of things and tear your earlobe, and a bizarre choice for a crowded event. “Hold my hoops” is a sensible meme, and it’s amazing that someone wouldn’t think to remove them prior to storming the Capitol.

    so I don’t think they are related to the absurd “mask”.

    ? Of course not.

    They also do seem to have a tattoo on at least one wrist, which the FBI didn’t zoom in on in the photos, but given that they still haven’t identified #218 I’m not sure how much it would help.

  34. blf says

    @42, No, but I’ll have to wait until next week’s market.
    Plan at the moment is, if I cannot find something on the ‘Net, to cut it open. As far as I can tell, the interior is very Very similar to the surface (which, if correct, suggests soap, but does not rule out cheese, but probably does rule out sausage). In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor mystery — or at least I assume it’s minor — and, in my current opinion, rather funny. Mystery Italian Thing! White Lump of Stuff!! Does One Wash With It, Eat It, or Use It As Tile Grout? Is It a Defense Against Republicansthugs (or, here in France, le penazis) — and if so, how does one use it?

  35. says

    Guardian – “Criminal complaint filed against Mohammed bin Salman in German court”:

    Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and other high-ranking Saudi officials have been accused of committing crimes against humanity in a criminal complaint filed in Germany by Reporters without Borders (RSF), the press freedom group.

    The 500-page complaint, filed with the German public prosecutor in general in the federal court of justice in Karlsruhe, centres on the “widespread and systematic” persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the arbitrary detention of 34 journalists there and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist.

    “These journalists are the victims of unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence and coercion and forced disappearance,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, at a press conference on Tuesday.

    RSF has chosen to file its complaint in Germany because German laws give its courts jurisdiction over international crimes committed abroad, even without a German connection. RSF indicated that it hoped its complaint, which centres on Prince Mohammed and four senior officials, will lead the German prosecutor to open what is known as a “situation analysis”, which could lead to a formal prosecutorial investigation into whether the Saudi officials have committed crimes against humanity by targeting reporters.

    “The official opening of a criminal investigation in Germany into the crimes against humanity in Saudi Arabia would be a world first,” said RSF Germany director Christian Mihr. “We ask the public prosecutor general to open a situation analysis, with a view to formally launching a prosecutorial investigation and issuing arrest warrants.”

    The bid by RSF to try to get German prosecutors to open a case against the Saudi crown prince followed the recent conviction in Germany of a former Syrian secret police officer of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity for his role in the torture of protesters a decade ago. Eyad al-Gharib, a 44-year-old former low-ranking officer in the Syrian intelligence service, carried out orders in one of Bashar al-Assad’s prisons.

    The “suspects” in RSF’s Saudi case are the crown prince, known as “MBS”, his close adviser Saud al-Qahtani, Ahmad Asiri, who has been sanctioned by the US and is alleged to have supervised Khashoggi’s murder, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the consul general in Istanbul at the time of the murder, and Maher Mutreb, an intelligence officer who is accused of leading the torture.

    The Biden administration has been criticised for its decision not to take further actions against Prince Mohammed, even as it publicly acknowledged he was behind the Khashoggi murder….

  36. blf says

    How a five-second social media clip took India, Pakistan by storm:

    Video shot by 19-year-old Dananeer Mobeen in northern Pakistan’s Nathaigali Mountains garners millions of views and hundreds of spin-offs.

    […]

    The short video, shot by Dananeer Mobeen in the Nathaigali Mountains of northern Pakistan and uploaded onto Instagram, shows a group of youngsters enjoying themselves by a roadside.

    Swinging the device she is filming on around to face her, Mobeen gestures behind her and says in Urdu, “This is our car, this is us, and this is our party taking place.”

    Seemly innocuous, she deliberately mispronounced the English word “party” as “pawri” to poke fun at South Asians who adopt Western accents.

    It immediately struck a chord on both sides of the border, sparking top trending hashtags on social media, and garnering millions of views and hundreds of spin-offs in Pakistan and India.

    “It was the most random video. I initially had no intention of uploading it,” Mobeen said, expressing surprise that it went viral and adding that the trend showed the power and reach of social media.

    “Pawri” monologue renditions have since been used by police in India and the Delhi Commission for Women in their social media outreach campaigns.

    [… other examples…]

    “I’m honoured and grateful for all the love across the border,” said Mobeen, expressing her happiness at fostering some rare friendly cross-border dialogue.

    […]

    Since the video went viral, Mobeen said she has been inundated with acting and modelling offers, along with requests for product endorsements. Instead, she says she aspires to join Pakistan’s foreign service.

    Ms Mobeen’s Urdu-language video is at the link.

  37. says

    From the Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    FBI director Christopher Wray to testify over Capitol insurrection

    FBI director Christoper Wray will be up before the Senate judiciary committee at 10am today (1500 GMT) in Washington DC, where the topic of discussion will be “the 6 January insurrection, domestic terrorism, and other threats”. Kevin Johnson at USA Today notes that:

    The last time Christopher Wray testified before a congressional committee, the FBI director offered a now-prescient warning of the threat posed by domestic extremists.

    “Trends may shift, but the underlying drivers for domestic violent extremism – such as perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, sociopolitical conditions, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and reactions to legislative actions – remain constant,” Wray said in a written statement to the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

    Six months later, the director returns to the Senate after the deadly Capitol assault that involved some of the very classes of extremists featured in Wray’s stark warning in September.

    He will be facing a committee that includes those sceptical of the FBI’s performance in countering that threat. Last week the committee’s chairman Sen Richard Durbin said that “Unfortunately, the FBI appears to have taken steps in recent years that minimize the threat of white supremacist and far-right violence.” [I think I get his meaning – if he’s being quoted accurately – but this isn’t worded very well.]

    Johnson writes that “Wray is expected to be pressed by lawmakers on an array of questions, from law enforcement’s response to the 6 January siege and how the bureau shared intelligence before the attack to its capacity to deal with a domestic terror threat that has now outstripped the risk posed by international operatives.”

  38. says

    Also from the Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    The Washington Post this morning is previewing the expectation of a historic collaboration between Merck & Co and Johnson & Johnson to increase supplies of the latter’s one-shot Covid vaccine. Laurie McGinley and Christopher Rowland report:

    President Biden will announce that pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce competitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine.

    Officials told the Washington Post they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had tried and failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

    Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine itself, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, the officials said.

  39. says

    Guardian – “Experts warn Brazil facing darkest days of Covid crisis as deaths hit highest level”:

    Health experts and lawmakers have warned Brazil is steaming into the darkest days of its coronavirus catastrophe, as fatalities soared to new heights and one prominent politician compared the crisis to an atomic bomb.

    Politicians from across the spectrum voiced anger and exasperation at the deteriorating situation on Monday, after Brazil’s weekly average of Covid deaths hit its highest level since the epidemic began last February and hospitals around the country reported being swamped.

    According to the newspaper O Globo, intensive care units in 17 of Brazil’s 26 states were near capacity, while six states and the capital Brasília had run out of intensive care beds altogether.

    “We are living through one of the worst moments in our history,” said Tasso Jereissati, an influential centre-right politician who is among a group of senators demanding a congressional investigation into President Jair Bolsonaro’s globally condemned handling of the pandemic.

    Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was Bolsonaro’s health minister until he was fired last April, told O Globo that Brazil’s failure to launch a rapid vaccination scheme meant the average daily death toll could soon rise to over 2,000.

    “I don’t know where this will end … The country is running the risk of becoming one big Manaus,” Mandetta warned in reference to the Amazonian capital which made international headlines in January after hospitals ran out of oxygen because of a Covid surge.

    Mandetta, who was fired after challenging Bolsonaro over Covid, has claimed that before leaving government he warned the president the death toll could reach 180,000 before a vaccine was found.

    But Bolsonaro, who has trivialized Covid as “a bit of a cold”, ignored those appeals, resisted quarantine measures and, one year into the outbreak, continues to undermine lockdown efforts by disparaging masks and promoting crowded public events.

    In December Bolsonaro falsely claimed his country had reached “the tail end of the pandemic”.

    Last Friday, as Brazil reported its highest daily number of deaths, Bolsonaro travelled to the north-eastern state of Ceará – where the leftwing governor had imposed a Covid curfew – to hold a Trump-style rally at which he railed against such measures before a throng of supporters and claimed people could no longer bear to stay at home.

    That appearance sparked outrage among political opponents and fuelled calls for an inquiry into Bolsonaro’s actions.

    Jereissati, who represents Ceará in the senate, said Bolsonaro’s “reckless” undermining of containment measures “bordered on insanity”.

    “In my opinion, what he did here was a crime against public health,” he said.

    “It was one of the most irresponsible acts that I’ve ever seen from a Brazilian president. We experienced a tough period of military rule here, which I lived through, but I’ve never seen anything so irresponsible and foolish as what happened here in Ceará.”

    Jereissati added: “The president seems to believe that he can behave however he likes without facing any kind of consequences himself. With an inquiry, we hope to show the president that he must be held legally, and even criminally, responsible for his actions … These actions have consequences – and they need to have consequences for him too.”

    Jean Paul Prates, a Workers’ party senator, said an inquiry could prevent the death toll soaring further.

    “There is still time to save lives and to pressure the government into changing its behaviour so it doesn’t keep clinging to certain positions just because of dogmatism or pseudo-ideology,” Prates said.

    Bolsonaro’s political standing was bolstered last month after candidates he had backed were elected to the presidencies of the senate and lower house. Analysts believe that is likely to free Bolsonaro from the threat of impeachment, for now at least.

    However, the far-right populist is facing mounting public anger over the soaring death toll and its spluttering vaccination drive.

    So far just 3.8% of Brazil’s population has been vaccinated with state capitals such as Rio, Salvador, Cuiabá, Porto Alegre and Florianópolis among the cities forced to temporarily suspend immunisation for lack of shots.

    Calls for the impeachment of a man critics call “Bozo” can be seen graffitied on to walls across major cities while propaganda hoardings promoting the far-right populist have been vandalised with red paint. Both left- and rightwing detractors have taken to the streets in protest in recent weeks.

    The outlook appeared bleak in many of Brazil’s states on Monday, as an association of state health secretaries called for an immediate nationwide curfew from 8pm until 6am to curb infections.

    “We are facing our worst moment, with the worst president for this moment,” said Jereissati. “It didn’t need [to be like this] at all – on the contrary.”

  40. blf says

    Liberty Counsel Falsely Claims Equality Act Would Force Religious Schools to Hire Pedophiles and Goat Lovers (RWW edits in {curly braces}):

    Religious-right fearmongering about the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to federal civil rights laws, has been increasingly extreme around Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives, which passed the legislation on a 224–206 vote. Today, an email from Mat Staver of the stridently anti-LGBTQ Liberty Counsel declared that if the Equality Act became law, schools {that} refuse to hire a crossdresser, a pedophile or a goat lover” would be penalized.

    I know this sounds absurd — but, sadly, it’s true, Staver added.

    No, it’s not true. Staver is lying.

    So where does Staver come up with this claim?

    Staver’s email says that the bill imposes LGBTQ into every corner of the school, adding the entirely false claim that the Q in LGBTQ — standing for “queer” — means that pedophilia and other paraphilias like bestiality and necrophilia would become protected categories under federal law.

    In fact, the Equality Act explicitly defines sexual orientation to mean “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.”

    […]

    Staver’s email links to a page that charges people to [allegedly –blf] fax senators — from $5 to fax the Senate leadership to $59 to fax every senator. The fax message does not include Staver’s claim about schools being forced to hire pedophiles or goat lovers, but it does claim that the legislation would effectively criminalize Christianity in America.

    Wild accusations from religious-right groups about the Equality Act criminalizing Christianity echo equally false claims that religious-right leaders made more than a decade ago when they were opposing legislation that would add sexual orientation to federal hate crimes laws. […]

    Mat Staver is the dumbest lawyer in the States not named Larry Klayman or Orly Taitz (paraphrasing the late Ed Brayton).

  41. blf says

    SC@52, The Grauniad also had an alarmist and sadly non-critical “article” (presumably inspired by the same apparent loon?), Falling sperm counts threaten human survival, expert warns. Fortunately, it’s not in the Science section, unfortunately it’s also not in the speculative fiction section. I’ve been sort-of waiting for poopyhead, or possibly Orac (haven’t checked recently), to have a go at it.

  42. says

    Why it matters that Trump kept his COVID vaccination under wraps

    If Trump had just been straight with people, telling the public the truth about his own personal COVID experiences, it could’ve saved lives.

    […] Trump and his team failed to fully disclose the severity of the then-president’s coronavirus illness when he was hospitalized last fall, and as NBC News reported, they also failed to tell the public that Trump and his wife received vaccinations before the Republican’s term ended two months ago.

    Former President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump quietly received the Covid-19 vaccine at the White House in January, a Trump advisor told NBC News on Monday. It is not clear which type of vaccine they received and they were not disclosed at the time by the Trump White House.

    This was a secret that Trump didn’t need to keep.

    On the surface, there’s no obvious reason for the former president to have kept such a thing under wraps. It doesn’t benefit him in any obvious way.

    But just below the surface, the significance of this is even greater. As Rachel explained on the show last night, had Trump and his team disclosed his vaccination, it might very well have had significant public health consequences.

    Remember, Trump politicized the pandemic to such an ugly and gratuitous extent that many Republicans are more skeptical than Democrats and independents about getting the shot(s). That was evident in the latest Civiqs poll, which found Democratic voters more than twice as likely as GOP voters to express interest in getting the vaccine, and it was bolstered by a recent Monmouth University poll, which found very similar results.

    Or put another way, for everyone’s benefit, the United States needs the public to get vaccinated, but Republicans are among the nation’s most stubborn skeptics.

    It is precisely why Trump — who, for reasons I don’t understand, is considered highly trustworthy and reliable among millions of GOP voters — was in a position to change the political calculus. Had he disclosed the extent of his illness in October, it might have helped remind his followers that COVID-19 was (and is) a potentially deadly threat that people need to take seriously, and had he disclosed his vaccination three months later, it might have helped encourage his followers to follow his lead.

    Or put another way, if Trump had just been straight with people, telling the public the truth about his own personal experiences, it could’ve saved lives. […]

  43. blf says

    SC@55, A snippet from Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile (PDF), December-2018:

    The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 115th Congress [sic (House)] was 57.8 years; of Senators, 61.8 years, among the oldest in US history.

    That’s the average ages of the last Congress. The oldest Senator (back then) was Dianne Feinstein (born 1933).

  44. says

    From the Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    Senate judiciary committee chairman Dick Durbin asked FBI Director Christopher Wray whether the bureau believes the Capitol insurrection was carried out by “fake Trump protesters”.

    “We have not seen evidence of that as this stage,” Wray replied.

    The question comes two weeks after Republican Senator Ron Johnson amplified baseless claims that provocateurs and fake Trump protesters carried out the Capitol attack during a separate Senate hearing on the insurrection.

    A number of those facing federal charges for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection have ties to far-right extremist and militia groups….

  45. says

    Blast from the past: Alabama’s Tuberville pushes for school prayer

    “We’ve got to start teaching our young people moral values again,” Tommy Tuberville said. “That starts with putting God and prayer back in schools.”

    […] one of the biggest “culture war” issues of all time is school prayer — that is, policies that mandate public schools encourage and promote worship among children. The issue has been at the center of historic court rulings and proposed constitutional amendments, but in the 21st century, even the most aggressive social conservatives have largely moved on to more contemporary cultural disputes.

    Alabama’s newest senator apparently hopes to relitigate the issue.

    Teaching children moral values by “putting God and prayer back in school,” and giving students opportunities in career tech programs were among the educational priorities Republican Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville cited during his first speech on the Senate floor.

    “We’ve got to start teaching our young people moral values again,” the coach-turned-politician declared in his maiden Senate speech. “That starts with putting God and prayer back in schools.”

    Oh my.

    Right off the bat, it’s worth emphasizing that “God and prayer” were never removed from schools, Tuberville’s declaration notwithstanding. […] students can already pray if they want to. Under current law, they can also form after-school Bible clubs and invite other students to worship services.

    What’s not allowed is governments using public institutions to intervene in matters of faith. Courts have consistently ruled that schools simply must remain neutral on religious issues, which is the sort of framework that should satisfy the left and right equally: it protects civil liberties while limiting the power of government.

    Evidently, however, Tuberville wants to turn back the clock to an era in which public officials intervened in children’s religious upbringing, communities fought over whose religion would be favored, and kids from minority traditions were told to wait in the hall.

    […] Tommy Tuberville was a unique kind of U.S. Senate candidate. The Republican settled on a campaign strategy that Americans generally don’t see among those seeking statewide office: say very little, do very little, and expect to win by maintaining a relatively low public profile.

    During the state’s GOP primaries, for example, Tuberville refused to debate former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the general election, he also refused to debate then-Sen. Doug Jones (D). After struggling to discuss what the Voting Rights Act is, the retired coach seemed to retreat even further from microphones.

    […] None of this seemed to matter too much to voters in Alabama — Tuberville won in a landslide — and as he prepared to take office, [he] raised new doubts about his competence with comments to the Alabama Daily News’ Todd Stacy, arguing that World War II was about “freeing Europe of socialism.” (It wasn’t.)

    In the same interview, Tuberville added, “You know, our government wasn’t set up for one group to have all three of branches of government. It wasn’t set up that way, our three branches, the House, the Senate, and executive.”

    In the United States, the three branches of government are the legislative, the judiciary, and the executive.

    Yesterday, the Alabama Republican appeared confused about the basics on school prayer, too […]

    Tuberville is the guy Rudy Giuliani called while the January 6 attack on the capitol was ongoing to ask Tuberville to slow down the certification of the electoral votes.

  46. says

    While FBI Director Christopher Wray is testifying before Congress, Fox News is carrying this story: “Cancel Culture Goes After Dr, Seuss.”

    Wray told senators that there is no evidence antics played any role in the January 6 insurrection.

  47. says

    blf @ #57, Feinstein’s on this committee and is asking questions right now. So far, she’s doing slightly better than Grassley at reading the questions her staff wrote. I just looked at the members, and fortunately after this next pair there are several younger people (unfortunately, some of them are rightwing kooks).

  48. blf says

    Lynna@61, I presume what the wackos are whining about is Six Dr Seuss books with racist images won’t be published any more:

    […]
    “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press news agency on Tuesday. The statement coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

    […]

    Titles affected are the popular “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” and the lesser-known “McElligot’s Pool”, “On Beyond Zebra!”, “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer”.

    The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company told the AP.

    […]

    He remains popular, earning an estimated $33m before taxes in 2020, up from just $9.5m five years ago, the company said. Forbes listed him number two on its highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020, behind only the late pop star Michael Jackson.

    As adored as Dr Seuss is by millions around the world for the positive values in many of his works, including environmentalism and tolerance, there has been increasing criticism in recent years over the way Black people, Asians and others are drawn in some of his most beloved children’s books, as well as in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations.

    [… assorted additional details…]

    I cannot recall any of those six books.

  49. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Shortly after the sentencing of Nicolas Sarkozy, Donald J. Trump issued a statement claiming that prison time for the ex-President of France sets a “horrible precedent.”

    In the statement, Trump called the corruption case against Sarkozy a “rigged hoax” and claimed that the former French leader was being treated “very unfairly.”

    “This should never be allowed to happen in that country,” he said.

    Trump said that he was currently mulling options to help Sarkozy, including running for President of France himself in order to issue its ex-President a pardon.

    Reacting to the statement, the current French President, Emmanuel Macron, said that the most remarkable thing was that Trump spelled both “President” and “precedent” correctly.

    New Yorker link

  50. says

    Sen. Whitehouse is grilling Wray about questions for the record (save those of political interest to some Republicans under Trump) not being answered. He said of nine hearings in which the FBI was a witness, seven of them resulted in no questions for the record being answered at all.

  51. quotetheunquote says

    In other news, in case anyone is still unaware, the crazy isn’t just in the US of A (I am pretty sure everybody is already aware of this, actually…):
    Here in Canada, a woman has designed, and is selling (was selling? she may have been cut off) a T-shirt with a yellow star on it, which has the words “Covid Caust” superimposed on top of the star. Apparently, according to her, the vaccine is meant to kill people because… because … um, well I’m sure the government has its reasons.

    What a slime.

  52. tomh says

    High Noon For The Future Of The Voting Rights Act At The Supreme Court
    NINA TOTENBERG, NPR
    March 2, 2021

    The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a major voting rights case that could give state legislatures a green light to change voting laws, making it more difficult for some to vote.

    Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 — a law that today is widely viewed as the most successful civil rights law in the nation’s history. But in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted a key provision: no longer would state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination in voting have to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before making changes in voting procedures.

    Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts essentially said that times had changed and that the law, in treating some states differently from others, was unconstitutional.

    Besides, he said, another provision of the law still bars discrimination in voting nationwide. That provision, known as Section 2, would be sufficient to police discriminatory voting procedures, he noted.

    Now, eight years later, Section 2 is in the conservative court’s crosshairs.
    […]

    The potential to render the Voting Rights Act nearly a dead letter

    In fact, 33 states have “introduced, refiled or carried over more than 165 restrictive laws this year,” says Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

    Remember too that Chief Justice Roberts, in striking down the pre-clearance provision of the law eight years ago, highlighted Section 2’s importance as the law’s alternative enforcement mechanism. But Roberts has long been disdainful of the need for the Voting Rights Act, dating back to his youth as an aide in Ronald Reagan’s administration, when he unsuccessfully urged the president not to sign the amended law. Now, decades later, he presides over a 6-to-3 conservative majority on a court that is, at minimum, skeptical about the need for tough voting rights enforcement.

    The Biden administration has withdrawn the Trump Justice Department’s brief, which sided with Arizona Republicans in the case. But the new administration is not siding with Democratic Party arguments either.

    “They’re in an effort at damage control,” says law professor Richard Hasen, a voting rights expert at the University of California, Irvine. “What they’re trying to do is prevent the court from making bad law that will apply to more draconian voting restrictions. So this fight is less about whether the Democratic Party loses but how the Democratic Party loses.”

    … there is every possibility that the high court could make it much more difficult, or practically impossible, to challenge voting rights restrictions in the future.

  53. says

    Video of #65: “Sen. Whitehouse castigates Wray for not cooperating with Democratic senators during the Trump years, while cooperating with GOP senators in their investigation of the Russia investigation. Wray seems a bit taken aback….”

    I got the sense Wray was trying to express that it wasn’t the FBI but Trump’s people in the “interagency process” who blocked the responses, and to imply that now they’ll flow more freely. Wray’s thing during the Trump years seemed to be keeping his head down and carrying on; but Whitehouse (rightfully) expected him to do/say more, especially since information about the Russia investigation investigation was shared with Trumpublicans.

  54. quotetheunquote says

    Oh, yes, and speaking of vaccines, way to go U.S.A! (C.f. SC #25 & #26).
    That puts your rate for the total population vaccinated at about double ours; I’m under 65, so I just might get my first shot by April. Or September. Something like that.
    I’d like to blame our dreadfully hidebound constitutional monarchist system for this (I like to blame everything on the monarchy, if at all possible), but the UK is also way ahead of us (way, waaaaay ahead of us!) so that just won’t fly.

  55. says

    Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    FBI Director Christopher Wray has declined to provide additional details about the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the January 6 insurrection.

    Wray previously said there was an “ongoing investigation” into Sicknick’s death, and he said he did not want to get ahead of that investigation.

    But the FBI director made a point to note that he believed the US Capitol Police had correctly characterized Sicknick’s passing as a line of duty death.

    Some right-wing commentators have tried to raise doubts about whether Sicknick really died as a result of his injuries from the Capitol insurrection, but the USCP has consistently said Sicknick died in the line of duty.

    I hope someone asks him why the FBI isn’t doing regular press briefings to update the public on the investigation.

  56. says

    David Fahrenthold:

    Secret Service just released new docs showing Trump’s first trip to Bedminster as POTUS in 2017 — and the spigot of taxpayer money it opened for his business.

    First trip: 4 days, Trump Org charged the Secret Service $5,343 for a cottage near Trump.

    After that, the Secret Service started renting the cottage every night, just to be ready. Trump Org charged $566.64 per night, every night.

    First bill: $9,689.60.

    That was the start. Over Trump’s presidency, Trump charged taxpayers more than $392,000 for rooms at Bedminster.

  57. says

    Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    Defense Production Act will be invoked to expand vaccine production, White House says

    Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, is now holding her daily briefing with reporters at the White House.

    Psaki previewed Biden’s remarks on the pandemic response this afternoon, when the president is expected to announce a partnership between Merck and Johnson & Johnson to expand production of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine.

    The press secretary noted Biden will be invoking the Defense Production Act to equip Merck facilities with the necessary resources to manufacture the vaccine.

    Psaki also announced that the weekly distribution of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine doses to states is increasing from 14.5 million to 15.2 million.

    White House confirms Russian sanctions in response to Navalny poisoning

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the Biden administration has approved sanctions against seven Russian officials in connection to the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

    Psaki said the department of commerce and the state department would soon release statements detailing the sanctions.

    “The intelligence community assesses with high confidence that officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service used a nerve agent in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny,” Psaki said….

  58. says

    More re #s 66 and 68 above: “Stunning exchange:

    Justice Kagan: A state with 2 weeks of early voting gets rid of Sunday voting. Black voters vote on Sundays 10x as often as white voters. Is that lawful?

    GOP lawyer Michael Carvin: Yes, that’s lawful

    note: Georgia House just passed bill cutting Sunday voting”

  59. tomh says

    @ #77
    More on the Georgia bill cutting out Sunday voting.

    It adds an ID requirement for absentee ballot requests– It requires a copy of other identifying info like a utility bill, if the voter lacks a government ID.

    It limits the number of absentee ballot drop boxes. It also requires drop boxes to be kept indoors, and inaccessible if the building is closed.

    It shortens the absentee voting period

    The bill also makes it a misdemeanor to give food or drink to any voter waiting in a line with 150 feet.

    Republicans frame this bill only as reform.

  60. says

    SPLC – “Alex Jones on Leaked Video: ‘I Wish I Never Met Trump'”:

    Before multimillionaire conspiracy theorist Alex Jones riled up Donald Trump’s fans with lies about a stolen election, he privately expressed revulsion over the 45th president, a video leaked to Hatewatch reveals.

    “It’s the truth and I’m just going to say it. That I wish I never would have fucking met Trump,” Jones said on camera in January 2019, while shooting a documentary in Austin, Texas. “I wish it never would have happened. And it’s not the attacks I’ve been through. I’m so sick of fucking Donald Trump, man. God, I’m fucking sick of him. And I’m not doing this because, like, I’m kissing his fucking ass, you know. It’s, like, I’m sick of it.”

    According to Caolan Robertson, a filmmaker Jones hired to shoot a propaganda film called “You Can’t Watch This” that produced this outtake, the conspiracy theorist’s comments disparaging Trump are emblematic of his cynical business model. The leaked footage contrasts starkly with Jones’ public rhetoric about Trump. Jones’ talk show Infowars promoted and idealized Trump daily, throughout both the 2016 presidential campaign and the former president’s time in office.

    Robertson also shared with Hatewatch a screenshot of text messages he claimed to have exchanged with Jones. In them, the Infowars host appears to ask him to discard comments he made from the final product of the film. Robertson told Hatewatch that the comments Jones made were him expressing his disgust with Trump.

    “Please don’t put me [b—-ing] in the film. I don’t do it a lot. But when I do look out,” Jones writes across three messages, according to the screenshot Robertson shared.

    Robertson, whom far-right figures hired to shoot a number of propaganda films, leaked the footage and messages to Hatewatch to back up his claim that Jones is motivated by a desire to exploit Trump’s fans. Robertson told Hatewatch that during the same shoot, Jones bragged to him off camera about making $60 million in 2018. (Although Jones is a noted fabulist, he testified in court under oath to bringing in $20 million in revenue in 2014.) Robertson told Hatewatch that Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right internet performer Jones hired to produce content, who also appeared in the propaganda film, allegedly told Robertson the Infowars founder paid him $16,000 per month for his work – or a salary of close to $200,000 annually.

    Robertson also told Hatewatch that off camera, Jones took delight in belittling his own audience, suggesting he could sell them “dick pills” and claiming they would “buy anything.”

    “Alex Jones doesn’t care about most of the stuff he professes to,” Robertson told Hatewatch over Skype from his home in London. “It just shows he doesn’t care about anything he talks about. He doesn’t like Trump but then goes on camera talking about how Trump is the savior.”

    Robertson has disavowed the far right and told Hatewatch he is working to undo the damage he did while producing propaganda for extremists such as Jones….

    Jones’ alleged exploitation of Trump’s base extended to boosting the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. In Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, Jones hyped up crowds of Trump supporters before some of them stormed the Capitol building in an unprecedented attack that left five people dead.

    The Washington Post reported on Feb. 20 that the Department of Justice and the FBI had opened a probe to determine the degree to which Jones and Stop the Steal leaders Roger Stone and Ali Alexander may have influenced the insurrection attempt on the Capitol building on Jan. 6. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in February that Jones donated $50,000 to a Jan. 6-related event in exchange for access to a headlining speaking slot to address Trump’s fans.

  61. Akira MacKenzie says

    @80

    Jones has long ago vilified the SPLC as a “globalist” front, so I already know what Jones is going to say in response: “DEEP FAKE!!! COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGES!!! IT DOESN’T EVEN LOOK LIKE ME!!!”

  62. says

    TPM – “Hardcore GOP Position For Defanging VRA Falls Apart Under SCOTUS Questioning”:

    It appears likely that voter advocates will suffer at least some loss in their abilities to bring Voting Rights Act cases with the Arizona lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court Tuesday.

    But the oral arguments produced another seeming loser. Michael Carvin, the high-profile Republican lawyer who was representing the state GOP in the hearing. Carvin backtracked on the sweeping arguments in the GOP’s briefs, prompting skepticism from the court’s left and right wing alike.

    “I want to make sure that I understand your position because it strikes me that it has some contradictions in it,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said in comments suggesting that there was little support on the bench for the GOP’s hardcore approach to defanging the VRA….

    Much more atl.

  63. says

    ABC – “Texas becomes biggest US state to lift COVID-19 mask mandate”:

    Texas is lifting its mask mandate, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday, making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans.

    The Republican governor has faced sharp criticism from his party over the mandate, which was imposed eight months ago, and other COVID-19 restrictions. It was only ever lightly enforced, even during the worst outbreaks of the pandemic.

    Texas will also do away with limits on the number of diners that businesses can serve indoors, said Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. He said the new rules would take effect March 10.

    “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks.

    “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.

    The decision comes as governors across the U.S. have been easing coronavirus restrictions, despite warnings from health experts that the pandemic is far from over. Like the rest of the country, Texas has seen the number of cases and deaths plunge. Hospitalizations are at the lowest levels since October, and the seven-day rolling average of positive tests has dropped to about 7,600 cases, down from more than 10,000 in mid-February.

    Only California and New York have reported more COVID-19 deaths than Texas.

    “The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk,” said Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

    She said the recent deadly winter freeze in Texas that left millions of people without power — forcing families to shelter closely with others who still had heat — could amplify transmission of the virus in the weeks ahead, although it remains too early to tell. Masks, she said, are one of the most effective strategies to curb the spread….

  64. says

    Still enjoying the differences between a Biden presidency and that other awful, Hair-Furor-led administration:

    […] The New York Times noted: “As soon as Mr. Biden touched the ground in Texas, he set a different tone than his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, who more than once threatened to withhold federal funding from states recovering from disasters because he had toxic political relationships with state officials there.”

    It may have been an entirely different kind of story, but Biden’s Texas trip came to mind reading this Associated Press report on the administration’s aid to Ukraine.

    The Pentagon on Monday announced a $125 million military aid package for Ukraine, including two armed patrol boats to help the country defend its territorial waters. The remaining $150 million in military aid approved by Congress for the 2021 budget year will not be provided until the departments of State and Defense are in position to certify to Congress that Ukraine has made “sufficient progress on key defense reforms this year,” the Pentagon said.

    It was nearly two years ago, of course, when Trump was also supposed to extend U.S. security aid to Ukraine, but the Republican instead saw an opportunity: Trump tried to extort the U.S. ally into helping him cheat in his re-election campaign. During a phone meeting with the Ukrainian president, when his counterpart broached the subject of military assistance, Trump famously responded, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”

    But that was then, and this is now. In 2019, aid to Ukraine was a White House opportunity for corruption and an illegal quid pro quo. In 2021, it’s a routine extension of an uncontroversial foreign policy.

    In 2019, a presidential trip to Texas in the wake of a disaster was an opportunity for self-indulgent and tone-deaf photo-ops [at a local hospital, Trump bragged about the size of crowds coming to hear his speak and he also belittled political opponents]. In 2021, Biden’s visit is an act of kindness and compassion.

    […] Biden is restoring norms and repairing what it means to be an American president.

    Link

  65. says

    Nicole Lafond:

    Long gone are the excuses of yesteryear that a Fox News personality’s seemingly partisan appearance was merely a journalist performing his or her journalistic duties.

    […] back in 2018 Fox News’ Sean Hannity stirred up a bit of lame controversy within the journalistic ethics world when the Trump campaign promoted an upcoming rally hyping Hannity’s appearance alongside the President. The event featured appearances from other prominent right-wing media personalities, including the late shock jock Rush Limbaugh. At the time, Hannity defended his appearance at the event, saying he was simply doing his job and “covering” the Trump rally even though he was literally hosting his show at the event and his appearance was used as part of the campaign’s marketing for the affair.

    Fox News backed him up at the time, but it wasn’t always so supportive of Hannity’s partisan-seeming endeavors: he got a slap on the wrist in 2016 for appearing in one of Trump’s campaign videos without telling the network.

    The lines have gotten blurrier still in 2021.

    According to the Daily Beast, not only did one of Fox News’ most prominent voices, host Pete Hegseth, have a full-on speaking gig at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Fox News helped finance the annual conservative festival — which culminated with a low energy speech from ex-President Trump on Sunday. Per the Daily Beast, Fox News — through its Fox Nation streaming service — was also one of CPAC’s top sponsors this year, providing $250,000 in funding.

    It’s not the first time Fox has contributed to the highly partisan event: last year Fox gave $28,000 in sponsorship. […] In 2018, Fox News did say it would discipline Hannity, as well as Judge Jeanine Pirro for participating in the on-stage Trump rallies and made a show of not condoning on-air talent’s participation in campaign events. And according to the Washington Post, in 2019, the network cancelled several Republican events that attempted to booked Pirro, Hegseth and other “Fox and Friends” hosts.

    It appears that adherence to basic tenets of journalism has been put on pause, at least for now.

    Link

  66. says

    Goya Foods CEO is back to his shenanigans after being censured for spreading election lies

    More than a dozen Latino organizations are condemning an anti-democratic lie made by Goya Foods CEO and noted pendejo Robert Unanue at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where he called the former president “the real, the legitimate, and the still actual president.” I can’t believe we still have to repeat this, but the former president in fact lost the 2020 election.

    Unanue was already censured by his company’s board of directors for spreading anti-democratic lies on right-wing television last month. He was reportedly close to being ousted from Goya entirely, but got his ass saved by virtue of his family name. But following his continued shenanigans, 14 Latino groups say that “Mr. Unanue has clearly not learned his lesson.” While they do not outright call for his ouster, they urge “the corporate governance structures at Goya Foods act.”

    […] “The election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris was free, fair, certified by state election authorities, validated by our courts, and affirmed by the House of Representatives and the Senate,” they continued. “Mr. Unanue’s remarks this weekend dangerously perpetuate falsehoods that were at the core of the criminal assault on the nation’s capital on January 6th. They are utterly unacceptable and disqualifying for anyone in a position of leadership and power.” […]

  67. says

    That’s not helpful. New Orleans Catholic Church tells followers to avoid new Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

    As pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson achieves emergency approval for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has warned its parishioners against using the vaccine, saying it is diametrically opposed to the ethics and values of the Catholic Church.

    […] guidance from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The National Catholic Bioethics Center, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is considered “morally compromised” due to the cell line sourced from aborted fetuses that composes the vaccine.

    […] “[…] in no way does the Church’s position diminish the wrongdoing of those who decided to use cell lines from abortions to make vaccines,” the statement reads. […]

    The Vatican then justified its decision by saying that reducing the spread of COVID-19 is an urgent global priority, and for Catholics to be vaccinated against the pathogen will not constitute any cooperation with abortion.

    […] Church officials do note, however, that this permission does not act as a stance of support for abortion. The note also writes that receiving a vaccine dose must be consensual, and those who opt to forgo it for ethical reasons must continue to practice public health protocols.

    The usage of aborted fetus-derived cell lines in vaccine production is a popular talking point among certain religious groups and anti-vaccination communities.

    Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist and associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says she first became aware of the issue in 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic.

    In research and testing new medicines, scientists want to formulate a medication that can interact well with the human body, and using tissue from abortions is one of the most biologically similar environments. This makes medicines more tolerable for the human body.

    Gronvall clarifies that many treatments and vaccines, including the COVID-19 candidates, utilize cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. These cells are decades old, and are immortalized for continued proliferation.

    “The things that make them problematic are some of the things that make them good cell lines,” she said.

  68. says

    Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    US is on track to have vaccines for all Americans by end of May, Biden says

    President Joe Biden is now delivering remarks on the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, after his administration announced Merck would team up with Johnson & Johnson to expand production of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

    The president described the partnership between the two companies as a “major step forward” in expanding vaccine access to every American.

    “This is the type of collaboration we saw between companies during World War II,” Biden said.

    With the planned partnership between Merck and Johnson & Johnson, Biden said the US will now “have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May”.

    Biden had previously said the country would have enough vaccines for all Americans by July, and he credited his administration’s diligent efforts with moving up that timeline.

    Given that the US is always going to be selfish, the fact that we’ll have a vaccine surplus by summer is good news for other countries, too.

    He also said he’s directing states to get K-12 teachers and staff at least one shot by the end of March, and is using federal resources to get pharmacies the doses specially earmarked for them.

  69. says

    FBI Director Christopher Wray:

    We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud, much less that would have affected the outcome in the presidential election.

    […] We are concerned about the QAnon phenomenon, which we view as a sort of loose sort of set of conspiracy theories. Obviously the folks who engaged in this kind of violence draw inspiration from a variety of sources and we’re concerned about any source that stimulates or motivates violent extremism. […]

  70. blf says

    In teh “U”K, this is not from last millennia (I actually saw a No Travellers sign in the late 1980s at a pub in London), but this year, 2020, Secret Pontins blacklist prevented people with Irish surnames from booking (Pontins is a cheap-and-cheerful chain of holiday theme / camping parks):

    […]
    A blacklist circulated by the holiday park operator Pontins telling its staff not to book accommodation for people with Irish surnames has been described as “completely unacceptable” by Downing Street.

    The list of undesirable guests was sent to booking operators, who were told: We do not want these guests on our parks. It said: Please watch out for the following names for ANY future bookings.

    The list, which included names such as Carney, Boylan, McGuinness and O’Mahoney, was an example of “anti-Traveller discrimination”, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said. The document had a picture of a wizard holding up a wand and staff declaring: “You shall not pass.”

    The attached memo said several guests are unwelcome at Pontins, however some of these will still try and book — especially in the school holidays, but the list only provided surnames.

    A whistleblower who approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] with the policy also revealed the firm had been monitoring calls within its contact centre and refusing bookings made by people with an Irish accent or surname and was using its commercial vehicles policy to exclude Gypsies and Travellers.

    […]

    The sweeping blacklist […] was referred to the EHRC in February 2020.

    “It is hard not to draw comparisons with an undesirable guests list and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people,” said Alastair Pringle, the EHRC executive director.

    […]

    The EHRC said Pontins had signed a legally binding agreement to prevent racial discrimination.

    Sarah Mann, the director of Friends, Families and Travellers, a charity that works on behalf of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers said the blacklist was “shameful”.

    […]

    “Our thanks go to the Pontin’s whistleblower for doing the right thing and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for using their powers. We all have a choice when we see discrimination – to stand by or to challenge it.”

    […]

    The Traveller Movement, a community charity, said it was appalled but not surprised at the revelations.

    “We get many calls about stories similar to this one, and we don’t believe this is an isolated incident,” said chief executive Yvonne MacNamara.

    “Gypsies and Travellers experience very high levels of discrimination in this country despite being designated as ethnic groups under the Equality Act.”

  71. says

    Readers of articles on the TPM site posted comments related to Christopher Wray’s testimony before Congress earlier today:

    The elephant in the room is that the FBI was woefully unprepared to deal with the 1/6 insurrection despite having successfully snuffed out and stopped the coup attempt in Michigan.

    How would one not see a potential threat in advance of 1/6 after having uncovered the MI plot and presumably learning a lot about what motivates right wing activity? I think the answer to that is simple: Trump. When it came time to deal with the white nationalist threat to the peaceful transfer of power, the FBI balked at drawing direct connections to Trump and following the leads which emanated from messaging around Trump which were interpreted and acted upon by the far right.

    They were too afraid to make the connection that right wing groups exist AND that Trump is a big driver and motivator of their activity and that he does so for personal political benefit.
    ————————–
    Our focus is on the violence,” Wray said, adding: “Obviously the folks who engaged in this kind of violence draw inspiration from a variety of sources and we’re concerned about any source that stimulates or motivates violent extremism.”

    Correct response. That’s for the prosecutor to decide in a given case based on the totality of its circumstances. He’s right that it’s not his job. He seemed to acknowledge that it’s a conspiracy, concerning and something they’re keeping an eye on…that it can function as inspiration and motivation. Read between those lines and that should be sufficient. They’re not fucking stupid and he wasn’t going to play into the fishing for a soundbite.

  72. says

    Wonkette:

    Kayleigh McEnany, one of the greatest liars to ever lie nonstop from the White House briefing room, has gone home. She was 32.

    She is still 32, because the fucker ain’t dead, she’s just snaked her way into a job lying her stupid face off on Fox News, which is where she belonged in the first place. That’s what we mean by “home.” We assume she is otherwise unemployable, but Fox News will be a good fit, as it is for all the other deplorable Trump morons who end up working there.

    Media Matters has a good roundup of McEnany’s greatest lies. She was an enthusiastic, prodigious asshole when it came to promoting Trump’s fascist Big Lie that he won an election wherein he actually got his loser ass stomped. Personally, we will always remember the time she got hired for her job, promised to never lie to the journalists during the briefings, and made it maaaaaybe 15 minutes without lying. Oh, and the Wisconsin Ditch Ballots! That was a fun series of really stupid lies from McEnany, who on top of her lying has been drawing a paycheck for years to pretend she, a 2016 Harvard law grad, is just jawdropping weapons-grade stupid.

    Fox News asshole Harris Faulkner announced today that McEnany was joining the Fox News “family” (of liars), but didn’t say exactly what she would be doing. Maybe she could do a new segment called “Make It More Bullshit!” Like, a “Fox & Friends” idiot could say a lie about a genderless Potato Head, or Tucker Carlson could go on one of his shriek-y white supremacist sperm rants, and then they could cut in like “Kayleigh, make it more bullshit!” and she would have five seconds to come up with an even more astounding lie than the one the Fox News host just told. She would always deliver the goods.

    Faulkner’s announcement came as she played more of an interview she did with McEnany this week, in which McEnany bellyached about how MEAN the White House Press Corps was to her, as she lied to them day after day. […]

    McEnany also lied and said everybody in the White House was just totally broken up by the terrorist attack her former boss incited on America on January 6. [Video is available at the link.]

    Of course, as some have noted, Kayleigh Mac was already basically a Fox News contributor. Hell, she went on there more than she did actual White House press briefings, which was ostensibly her job. There was all this confusion late last year when she was working for the White House and also somehow for the Trump campaign, but at all times she was on Fox News, spewing her bullshit. “That would be a question more for the White House,” the press secretary said with a straight face in November during a Fox News appearance.

    The news side of Fox News is pissed […]:

    “It’s truly disgusting they fired hard-working journalists who did care about facts and news reporting only to turn around and hire a mini-Goebbels whose incessant lies from the White House helped incite an insurrection on our democracy that got five people killed, including a police officer,” a Fox News insider raged to The Daily Beast. “Post-Trump Fox is quickly becoming a very scary place and quite dangerous for our democracy. It’s not even conservative news anymore. They’ve plunged into an alternate reality where extremist propaganda is the only course on the menu.”

    Here’s a Fox News journalist:

    “It bothers me in that it is basically a slap in the face to the hardworking journalists that value real news and facts. But it also doesn’t surprise me because they have shown that they don’t give a damn about facts and real news.”

    There’s more where that came from.

    Link

  73. says

    Wonkette:

    […] the guy who fed [Trump] all that nonsense about trade wars being easy to win and China paying those stupid tariffs; the guy who’s too crazy even for the National Review, which refers to him as “Trump’s Nutty Professor”; the guy responsible for the US government purchasing millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine to fend off COVID — that guy used his superduper detective skills to sniff out “Anonymous,” the author of a Times op-ed and the bestseller “A Warning” about the shitshow Trump administration.

    And he got it totally wrong. […] Because the author wasn’t National Security Council member Victoria Coates, as [Peter] Navarro suggested in his unsigned dossier. It was Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff Miles Taylor. I.e. not any of the things crack profiler Navarro gleaned from his very deep analysis of the text: like “female with several children” (Taylor is a childless man), working at the National Security Council instead of at an agency (nope!), an “Experienced Writer” (not!), and opposed to the Trump administration’s immigration policies — those same draconian immigration policies Taylor was actively working to implement at DHS. [image of list at the link]

    Politico reporter Danial Lippman got a copy of Navarro’s December 2, 2019, memo and describes the hilarious reception the “forensic analysis” received at the White House. Apparently, when Navarro trotted into White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s office and triumphantly dropped his little profile on the desk, Mulvaney got “irritated” and said “I don’t have time for this.”

    Somehow he failed to see the unimpeachable logic behind the declaration that the author must be female because she “rails at length against the ‘smoldering sexism’ and the ‘misogyny’ of the president, referring to him as the ‘Fred Flintstone of the “Me Too” era.'”

    One telling passage on p. 45 debunks the idea that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley “would help shore up the president’s unpopularity with women” by saying this idea “demonstrates how little this White House understands women in the first place.” […]

    A lengthier passage on p. 80 rails that Trump’s “displays of misogyny are unusual and unsettling to women who at times feel they are given different treatment than their male counterparts.” Again, this points strongly to a female as it presumes to understand what is “unsettling” to females. […]

    The entire document is just amazing gobbledygook, on par with Navarro’s crack analysis last January proving that the election must have been stolen because “no Republican has ever won a presidential election without winning Ohio while only two Democrats have won the presidency without winning Florida,” and Trump was leading in Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan on election night, […]

    But while most of the White House denizens just rolled their eyes at Peter being Peter again, there was one person who entertained the possibility that the economist was right. Unfortunately for Coates, that person was the idiot in charge, and she was transferred out of the White House just a few weeks later.

    “There is no question in my mind that it got Victoria fired,” a source told Politico, while Coates herself, a MAGA loyalist to the end, tut-tutted that the Tsar was cursed with such bad advisors. […]

    What a damn shame these fine civil servants are no longer employed by Uncle Sam. Coates, a former Redstate blogger, was shunted first to the Energy Department and then to Middle East Broadcasting Networks as part of the campaign to ratfuck the Voice of America before Biden was sworn in. [Biden] wasted no time kicking her to the curb within the first week of his tenure. […]

    Link

    The premise of the article is that Peter Navarro was never right about anything. Fact check: seems true.

  74. blf says

    @94, Peter Navarro appears to be able to breathe, albeit it’s unclear if he can walk at the same time, or has even more problems than hair furor drinking water. Ergo, for at least one, admittedly an autonomous biological function, that wannabe-dalek seems to get it mostly correct. (It’s unclear if he breathes through his nose, however, as the mildly deranged penguin points out.)

  75. blf says

    Here in France, former President Sarkoführer is as delusional as hair furor (see @491(previous page) and Lynna@64), Sarkozy says could take corruption appeal to European human rights court:

    […]
    I can’t accept being convicted for something I didn’t do, Sarkozy told the French daily Le Figaro a day after he was found guilty of corruption […].

    […]

    The judgement was riddled with inconsistencies, Sarkozy told Le Figaro. It doesn’t provide any proof, but just a bundle of circumstantial evidence. [Teh election was stolen! Teh media is FAKE! It’s a witch-hunt! … –blf]

    Sarkozy [also a one-term President –blf …] had already said on Monday that the findings were totally unfounded and unjustified and that he would appeal.

    […]

  76. tomh says

    Texas to end all coronavirus restrictions
    Jacob Knutson

    Texas will end its coronavirus restrictions next week with an upcoming executive order, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday during a press conference in Lubbock.

    After Abbott signs the new order, which rescinds previous orders, all businesses can open to 100% capacity and the statewide mask mandate will be over…

  77. says

    One of the new FBI wanted photos (#253 – link @ #32 above) shows a guy spraying the line of police with something. I wonder if he’s the one suspected of killing Officer Sicknick…

  78. says

    MSNBC:

    Thank you to our loyal viewers for making @MSNBC the #1 network in cable for the first time ever….

    The Rachel @Maddow Show is the #1 regularly scheduled show in all of cable for the 2nd straight month in total viewers and is #1 in cable news in A25-54.

    @Morning_Joe again reigns #1 across all of cable in both total viewers and A25-54 for the 3rd straight month, continues to lead FOX News and CNN.

    The following shows were all #1 in total viewers for the month of February:

    @Morning_Joe
    @DeadlineWH
    @TheBeatWithAri
    @thereidout
    @maddow
    @TheLastWord
    @11thHour

    (Little medal emojis they gave the shows not included. :))

  79. KG says

    The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is currently giving evidence under oath to the Scottish Parliament’s enquiry into the botched investigation into claims of sexual harrassment (and worse) by the former First Minister (and her former mentor and friend, now deadly enemy) Alex Salmond. I won’t try to explain the whole insanely tangled affair, but depending on how today goes, Sturgeon could be forced toi resign, if she can’t give a convincoing response to claims she lied to the Scottish Parliament at an earlier stage about what she knew when. Salmond alleges (but gave no convincing evidence for) a conspiracy by people close to Sturgeon to force him out of public life and get him sent to prison. (In my view, that’s exactly where he should be – he was not convicted of any of the criminal charges at his trial last year, but I think he was guilty as hell – and what he admitted to should have been enough to ensure his departure from public life.) But the investigation was undoubtedly badly botched – the person appointed to head it had already talked to two of the women complaining of Salmond’s behaviour, and the name of one of the complainants seems to have been leaked to Salmond’s then Chief of Staff. Sturgeon’s position is further weakened by intra-party disputes over strategy for securing independence, and a strong transphobic faction led by Joanna Cherry, an MP at Westminster, who claims to be a strong supporter of women’s rights but bizarrely, also backs Salmond. Most SNP MSPs and supporters appear to back Sturgeon over Salmond, but the SNP does not have a majority at Holyrood: if all the opposition parties join forces, they could pass a motion of no confidence in her and – presumably – block all legislation until she goes. New elections are due on 6 May, so she is saying the voters should decide whether she remains.

  80. says

    Here’s a link to the March 3 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    Also in the Guardian – “Brazil’s Covid outbreak is global threat that opens door to lethal variants – scientist”:

    Brazil’s rampant coronavirus outbreak has become a global threat that risks spawning new and even more lethal variants, one of the South American country’s top scientists has warned as it suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic.

    Speaking to the Guardian, Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University neuroscientist who is tracking the crisis, urged the international community to challenge the Brazilian government over its failure to contain an epidemic that has killed more than a quarter of a million Brazilians – about 10% of the global total.

    “The world must vehemently speak out over the risks Brazil is posing to the fight against the pandemic,” said Nicolelis, who has spent most of the last year confined to his flat on the westside of São Paulo.

    “What’s the point in sorting the pandemic out in Europe or the United States, if Brazil continues to be a breeding ground for this virus?”

    Nicolelis said the problem was not simply Brazil – whose far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly spurned efforts to combat a disease he calls a “little flu” – being “the worst country in the world in its handling of the pandemic”.

    “It’s that if you allow the virus to proliferate at the levels it is currently proliferating here, you open the door to the occurrence of new mutations and the appearance of even more lethal variants.”

    Already, one particularly worrying variant (P1) has been traced to Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon, which suffered a devastating healthcare breakdown in January after a surge in infections. Six cases of that variant have so far been detected in the UK.

    “Brazil is an open-air laboratory for the virus to proliferate and eventually create more lethal mutations,” warned Nicolelis. “This is about the world. It’s global.”

    The alert came as Brazil hurtled into the most deadly chapter of its year-long Covid crisis, with hospitals around the country collapsing or on the verge of collapse and the average weekly death toll hitting new heights. A record 1,726 fatalities were reported on Tuesday, the highest number since the pandemic began.

    “It’s a battlefield,” a doctor in the southern city of Porto Alegre told local television after his hospital’s intensive care unit and mortuary ran out of space.

    Nicolelis said Bolsonaro’s failure to halt the outbreak and launch an adequate vaccination campaign had created a domestic tragedy from which Latin America’s most populous nation was unlikely to emerge until late 2022.

    “We’ve now gone past 250,000 deaths and my expectation is that if nothing is done we could have lost 500,000 people here in Brazil by next March. It’s a horrifying and tragic prospect but at this point it’s perfectly possible,” he said, predicting a traumatic month as public and private hospitals buckled.

    “My forecast is that if the world was appalled by what happened in Bergamo in Italy and what happened in Manaus a few weeks ago, it’s going to be even more shocked by the rest of Brazil if nothing is done.”

    The scientist, who has been advising state governments on their Covid response, called for the creation of a special Covid commission to fill the leadership vacuum left by Bolsonaro and an immediate 21-day nationwide lockdown. That, however, seems virtually unthinkable given Bolsonaro’s position. On Wednesday the Brazilian president will reportedly deliver an address to the nation in which he is expected to again denounce lockdown measures.

    Nicolelis claimed Brazil’s crisis now posed an international risk, as well as a domestic one and claimed Bolsonaro – who has sabotaged social distancing, promoted unproven remedies such as hydroxychloroquine and belittled masks – had become “the pandemic’s global public enemy No 1”.

    “The policies that he is failing to put into practice jeopardize the fight against the pandemic in the entire planet.”…

  81. says

    Guardian – “‘Facebook has a blind spot’: why Spanish-language misinformation is flourishing”:

    In the last year, Facebook adjusted some of the most fundamental rules about what gets posted on its platform, halting algorithmic recommendations of political groups, banning lies about vaccines and removing a number of high-profile figures for spreading misinformation and hate – including Donald Trump.

    But researchers say the social media platform is not enforcing those policies as effectively when it comes to misinformation in Spanish – a blind spot that may prove deadly as health lies spread through the most vulnerable populations during the global vaccine effort.

    “Prior to the election, Facebook was rolling out new enforcement actions and policy updates week after week,” said Carmen Scurato, a senior policy counsel at the civil rights group Free Press who studies Spanish-language misinformation. “But what we are observing is that those enforcement actions don’t seem to be replicated in Spanish.”

    “Although before the election we saw Facebook make an effort to take down some disinformation, we did not see that same effort on Spanish content,” echoed Jacobo Licona, the disinformation research lead for Equis Labs, a polling firm focused on Latino voters. “It’s disappointing, and could have a negative impact on Spanish-speaking communities.”

    There are more than 59 million Spanish speakers in the US, and the demographic is growing on Facebook. According to Facebook’s own market research data, more than 70% of Latinos who use social media prefer Facebook over other online platforms.

    But Spanish-language content is less often and less quickly moderated for misinformation and violence than English content, research shows. While 70% of misinformation in English on Facebook ends up flagged with warning labels, just 30% of comparable misinformation in Spanish is flagged, according to a study from the human rights non-profit Avaaz.

    “Facebook is leaving out the millions of people who speak Spanish at home by failing to apply its community standards equally,” Scurato said. “If you say you are making efforts on your platform for the safety and health of all of us, that has to also include the Latinx community.”

    The problem is not hopeless, however, said Soria, the Avaaz researcher. His organization and others have called on Facebook to not only devote more resources to the issue, but to address the misinformation problem by correcting falsehoods that have spread on the app, potentially sending notifications to users who were exposed to false information. Studies have shown such corrections work, decreasing belief in disinformation by nearly 50%….

  82. says

    AP – “National security officials to testify on Jan. 6 mistakes”:

    Federal national security officials are set to testify in the second Senate hearing about what went wrong on Jan. 6, facing questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.

    Senators are eager Wednesday to grill the officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations as supporters of then-President Donald Trump talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington and interrupting the electoral count.

    At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed each other as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol itself. Five people died as a result of the rioting.

    So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress….

    In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops.

    Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defense Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations….

    Like yesterday’s hearing, this will be at 10 AM ET.

  83. says

    CNN – “First on CNN: Rep. Ronny Jackson made sexual comments, drank alcohol and took Ambien while working as White House physician, Pentagon watchdog finds”:

    The Department of Defense inspector general has issued a scathing review of Rep. Ronny Jackson during his time serving as the top White House physician, concluding that he made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care.

    The findings outlined in the report, which was obtained by CNN prior to its expected release on Wednesday, stem from a years-long IG investigation into Jackson — who currently represents Texas in the House of Representatives and sits on the House Armed Services subcommittee overseeing military personnel — that was launched in 2018 and examines allegations that date back to his time serving during the Obama and Trump administrations. Members of Congress were briefed on the IG report findings on Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    Jackson claimed the report was politically motivated in a statement to CNN on Tuesday, saying the inspector general “resurrected” old allegations against him because he refused to “turn my back on President (Donald) Trump,” who was a vocal supporter of his 2020 congressional bid. He also told CNN he rejects “any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty.”

    After interviewing 78 witnesses and reviewing a host of White House documents, investigators concluded that Jackson, who achieved the rank of Rear Admiral, failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect, engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol during two incidents and used sleeping medication during an overseas trip that raised concerns about his ability to provide medical care to the President and other top officials, according to the report.

    The report also notes that the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.

    “We determined that the potential chilling effect of their presence would prevent us from receiving accurate testimony,” the report states, adding that fieldwork stopped for about 10 months, between October 11, 2018, and August 22, 2019, as the Department of Defense inspector general and White House counsel determined whether the White House would invoke executive privilege, which they ultimately did not do.

    Still, the conclusions about Jackson’s conduct are striking. Allegations about his explosive temper and creating a hostile work environment are consistent throughout his time in both the Obama and Trump administrations as an “overwhelming majority of witnesses (56) … who worked with RDML Jackson from 2012 through 2018 told us they personally experienced, saw, or heard about him yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates,” the report says.

    “Many of these witnesses described RDML Jackson’s behavior with words and phrases such as ‘meltdowns,’ ‘yells’ for no reason,’ ‘rages,’ ‘tantrums,’ ‘lashes out,’ and ‘aggressive.’ These witnesses also described RDML Jackson’s leadership style with terms such as ‘tyrant,’ ‘dictator,’ ‘control freak,’ ‘hallmarks of fear and intimidation,’ ‘crappy manager,’ and ‘not a leader at all,'” it adds.

    On a presidential trip to Manila from April 22, 2014, to April 29, 2014, four witnesses who traveled with then-President Barack Obama and Jackson said that Jackson became intoxicated and made inappropriate comments about a female medical subordinate.

    A witness interviewed by the IG said that shortly after arriving in Manila, Jackson began drinking in the hotel lobby, then got into a car with a drink in his hand “to go out on the town.” Another witness said he could smell alcohol on Jackson’s breath later that evening. Back at the hotel, one of the witnesses said he saw Jackson “pounding” on the door of his female subordinate’s room. When she opened the door, Jackson said, “I need you,” and, “I need you to come to my room.”

    Witnesses also alleged that Jackson made a comment about a female medical subordinate’s breasts and buttocks during a presidential trip to Asia in April 2014….

    Two years later, in Bariloche, Argentina, two witnesses told the IG they saw Jackson drinking a beer while he was serving as the physician to the President and in charge of providing medical care for a presidential trip, despite regulations prohibiting him from 24 hours before the President’s arrival until two hours after he left…..

    These two allegations of alcohol use both occurred under the Obama administration, but the report details a series of incidents under both Obama and Trump in which Jackson lost his temper, cursing at subordinates.

    Of the 60 witnesses interviewed by the Defense Department IG about the command climate under Jackson, only 13 had positive comments, while 38 spoke about unprofessional behavior, intimidation and poor treatment of subordinates.

    Jackson retired from the Navy in 2019 while the watchdog investigation was still ongoing, but two defense officials have told CNN that he could now face a Navy review of his retirement pay. Officer retirement pay is based on the most senior rank at which a person served honorably. If the report findings validated less than honorable behavior, Jackson could have his retirement pay reduced.

    The IG report recommends that the secretary of the Navy take “appropriate action” regarding Jackson….

  84. snarkrates says

    Lynna: “The governor of Mississippi also lifted his state mask mandate. It’s like they want COVID infections to spread.”

    I may be paranoid, but I don’t rule that out. If the pandemic “miraculously” got better under the competence of the Biden Administration, they would have to admit (or at least deny a lot harder) that their god-emperor had screwed the domestic canine. They’ve shown throughout that they are willing to die for their lie, and they certainly have no qualms about taking the rest of us with them.

  85. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Russia has designated a medical trade union with ties to Alexei Navalny a “foreign agent” – a term with unpatriotic connotations that subjects organisations to increased scrutiny and bureaucracy.

    The Alliance of Doctors has been critical of Moscow’s pandemic response, accusing authorities of failing to protect health workers and downplaying the severity of the outbreak. The trade union raised the alarm over shortfalls of PPE and testing kits for health personnel at the start of the pandemic

    It is headed by Anastasia Vasilyeva, who is Navalny’s personal doctor. The organisation was labelled a “foreign agent,” the justice ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.

    Alongside implications that the union lacks patriotism, the term also requires organisations to label their paperwork and come under intensive scrutiny.

  86. says

    From the prepared statement of the DC National Guard commander:

    On December 31, 2020, the DC National Guard received written requests from District of Columbia Mayor, Muriel Bowser, and her Director of DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Christopher Rodriguez. The requests sought DC National Guard support for traffic control and crowd management for planned demonstrations in DC from January 5th thru the 6th.

    After conducting mission analysis to support the District request, I sent a letter to then Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, dated January 1, requesting approval. I received approval in a letter dated January 5th from Secretary McCarthy granting support of the MPD with 340 total personnel to include 40 personnel assigned to a Quick Reaction Force.

    The DCNG provides support to MPD, the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service and other District and federal law enforcement agencies in response to planned rallies, marches, protests and other large scale first amendment activity on a routine basis.

    A standard component of such support is the stand up of an offsite Quick Reaction Force (QRF), an element of guardsmen held in reserve equipped with civil disturbance response equipment (helmets, shields, batons, etc..) and postured to quickly respond to an urgent and immediate need for assistance by civilian authorities. The Secretary of the Army’s Jan. 5th letter withheld authority for me to employ the Quick Reaction Force. In addition, the Secretary of the Army’s memorandum to me required that a “concept of operation” (CONOP) be submitted to him before any employment of the QRF. I found that requirement to be unusual as was the requirement to seek approval to move Guardsmen supporting MPD to move from one traffic control point to another.

    At 1:49pm I received a frantic call from then Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund,where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster.

    Immediately after the 1:49pm call with Chief Sund, I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request.The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08pm – 3 hours and 19 minutes later. We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20pm (in under 20 minutes) the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol. We helped to re-establish the security perimeter at the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the Joint Session of Congress.

  87. says

    The Secretary of Defense told the DC National Guard commander that he needed his personal approval to get helmets and body armor. Now he’s describing the call with Army leadership and how they didn’t want the Guard at the Capitol, claiming it would be bad optics and incite the crowd (vs. the summer protests when none of this was discussed and he was able to deploy the Guard immediately). He says he spoke with Army leadership, but not the Sec. of the Army, who they said was with the SecDef and not available.

  88. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, on Wednesday announced tough new measures to slow a snowballing coronavirus pandemic in the country with the world’s second highest death toll, Reuters reports.

    It says that, from Saturday, bars and restaurants will only operate via delivery, while malls and non-essential businesses will be shut, citing the governor, João Doria. The measure, which come as Brazil notches record daily deaths, are due to last two weeks, he said.

    New infections are dropping in the United States, Canada and Mexico but vaccinations have hardly begun in Latin America, raising the risk of dangerous new variants emerging, the Pan American Health Organization has said.

    Reuters quotes the organisation’s director Carissa Etienne as saying: “As long as Covid-19 endures in one part of the world, the rest of the world can never be safe.”

  89. says

    Mark Mazzetti:

    The Pentagon’s timetable about Jan 6 riots has always been a mess. Today’s hearing gives even more evidence of that.

    According to original timetable, the Army Secretary ordered deployment of National Guard “immediately” after Miller’s approval at 3:04PM. Today’s testimony directly contradicts that

  90. says

    An excerpt from text quoted by SC in comment 105:

    […] researchers say the social media platform [Facebook] is not enforcing those policies as effectively when it comes to misinformation in Spanish – a blind spot that may prove deadly as health lies spread through the most vulnerable populations during the global vaccine effort.

    That reminds me of the disinformation that was pumped into Spanish-speaking communities in Florida prior to the 2020 election.

    It seems like we are always in too-little-too-late mode when it comes to countering disinformation that is presented in Spanish. Not good.

  91. says

    Also from SC’s comment 105:

    […] called on Facebook to not only devote more resources to the issue, but to address the misinformation problem by correcting falsehoods that have spread on the app, potentially sending notifications to users who were exposed to false information. Studies have shown such corrections work, decreasing belief in disinformation by nearly 50%….

    “Decreasing belief in disinformation by nearly 50%,” is amazing. Compared to other efforts to get people to stop believing in lies, 50% is incredibly good. Wow. That gives me hope. Now if they can just get Facebook to do that.

  92. says

    Several former Trump aides prepare campaigns for public office

    Almost immediately after the 2020 presidential race was called, political appointees throughout the Trump administration realized it was time to update their resumes and look for new opportunities. […] that wasn’t altogether easy.

    The Washington Post’s James Hohmann reported in early December, for example, “Senior executives at a handful of Fortune 500 companies have told me privately over the last year that they would not risk the potential employee blowback that would come from hiring someone closely linked to” Donald Trump.

    A month later, in the wake of Trump inciting a riot and dispatching a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol, these Republicans’ employment prospects got worse. Politico reported in early January that many officials, most notably those working in national security, “have been struggling to find new employment.” The Hill further reported in late January that top U.S. companies were eager to “distance themselves” from members of the former president’s team.

    As it turns out, there is an alternate path to employment: some of Trump’s former aides may be struggling to find a job in the private sector, but it appears a few members of Team Trump hope to get jobs in elected office. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported yesterday, for example, on Max Miller’s new congressional candidacy.

    A former aide to President Donald Trump has announced he will run against Rocky River Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the former president after his supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to stop Congress from tallying votes that declared Joe Biden to be president.

    Around the same time, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran a similar report out of Texas.

    The former chief of staff of the Health and Human Services department under Donald Trump announced his run for the U.S. House seat of the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) on Monday. A special election was scheduled for May after Wright died Feb. 7 after a battle with COVID-19. Brian Harrison, a Republican and Texas native, told the Star-Telegram he will join the race for the Texas 6th Congressional District seat. Harrison was appointed deputy chief of staff of the HHS and promoted to chief of staff in 2019.

    Harrison said he’s running, at least in part, because he wants to “keep the Trump movement alive.”

    Oh, please, no. Don’t “keep the Trump movement alive.” Let it die. As an aside though, all of these diehard Trumpers will give Trump somewhere to spend the Super PAC money he has been raising. What will be fed is Trump’s thirst for revenge.

    […] As The Hill noted, the list of Team Trump members eyeing elected office in 2022 is not short:

    Cliff Sims, the former deputy at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), is eyeing Alabama’s U.S. Senate race. If he runs, he’ll face Lynda Blanchard, another Trump administration official, in a GOP primary.

    Trump’s Navy secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, is eyeing Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, as is Carla Sands, another former Trump administration official.

    Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is already considered a top contender in Arkansas’ gubernatorial race.

    Ric Grenell is gearing up for a gubernatorial campaign in California.

    Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign adviser, expressed an interest in a congressional campaign in Texas.

    I won’t pretend to know what the former president’s electoral plans are, but whether Trump runs again or not, it appears voters will have plenty of opportunities to vote for former members of his team.

  93. says

    Independent report calls for ‘urgent’ action on US infrastructure

    As Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg put it, “A generation of disinvestment is catching up to us.”

    The United States is overdue for a committed and ambitious effort to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Barack Obama unveiled a worthwhile plan during his presidency, but it faced unyielding Republican opposition. Donald Trump expressed some interest in the issue, too, but never followed through with a credible proposal.

    It’s against this backdrop that the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a 170-page report yesterday, painting an ugly picture. Reuters reported:

    The United States faces a $2.59 trillion shortfall in infrastructure needs that requires a massive jump in government spending to address crumbling roads, bridges and other programs, according to an assessment by an engineers group issued on Wednesday…. “We risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses and manufacturers — and our quality of life — if we don’t act urgently,” said ASCE Executive Director Thomas Smith in a statement.

    The quadrennial report includes grades for 17 categories, and not surprisingly, the United States fared better in some areas than others. But in 11 of the 17 categories, the country earned D ratings: “aviation, dams, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, roads, schools, stormwater, transit, and wastewater.”

    According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, a D rating indicates “significant deterioration” with a “strong risk of failure.”

    Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the report card documents “what Americans already know: failure to fully invest in our infrastructure over the years is now catching up to us. Consequences are appearing nationwide, in the form of dangerously degraded roads, bridges, and other assets.”

    […] While much of Congress’ current focus is on the COVID relief package, the White House has also been quietly laying the groundwork (no pun intended) for a major infrastructure initiative, and President Biden is reportedly set to meet with lawmakers tomorrow for a second round of talks about a possible proposal.

    They’ll need to aim big: the American Society of Civil Engineers’ report endorsed a “big and bold” approach, that would cost $5.9 trillion over the next decade.

    Hanging overhead, of course, is an inevitable Senate Republican filibuster, but let’s not forget that when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sat down with Rachel in late January, the New York Democrat pointed to a way around GOP opposition.

    Referring to the budget reconciliation process, Schumer said, “We get two reconciliation motions: one for COVID and then one probably for Build It Back Better.”

    And while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is in a position to derail a variety of key progressive priorities, Congress’ most conservative Democrat appears to be fully on board with “major” investments in infrastructure.

    The longer they wait to replace or repair failing infrastructure, the more expensive it becomes to correct the situation. They haven’t been doing the necessary maintenance for years.

  94. says

    D.C. Guard chief says ‘unusual’ restrictions slowed deployment of backup during Capitol riot.

    Washington Post link

    The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard told lawmakers Wednesday how restrictions the Pentagon placed on him in the run-up to Capitol riot prevented him from more quickly sending forces to help quell the violence.

    Maj. Gen. William J. Walker said he didn’t receive approval to change the D.C. Guard’s mission and send his forces to the Capitol on Jan. 6 until three hours and 19 minutes after he first received an emotional call from the Capitol Police chief requesting urgent backup.

    Walker described the Pentagon’s restrictions as “unusual,” noting that he didn’t have such limitations last June when the D.C. Guard was tasked with responding to local racial justice protests.

    Walker […] told lawmakers that had he not been restricted, he could have sent 155 soldiers to the Capitol hours earlier.

    “I believe that number could have made a difference,” Walker said during Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”

    Walker’s timeline for when he was finally authorized to send forces to the Capitol differed from that of another witness at the hearing, Robert G. Salesses, the Pentagon official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security. Walker said that he didn’t receive the order from senior Army officials to send his forces to the Capitol until 5:08 p.m., but Salesses said the acting defense secretary ordered forces to depart at 4:32 p.m.

    Walker said personnel did not arrive until 5:20 p.m.

    […] Walker, who was added to the slate of witnesses only this week, said top Army generals, Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt and Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the brother of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, expressed concerns about the optics of sending the Guard to the Capitol during a call on the afternoon of the riot.

    “They both said it wouldn’t be in their best military advice to advise the secretary of the army to have uniformed guard members at the capitol during the election confirmation,” Walker said, explaining that he, like officials on the call from the D.C. government and the Capitol Police, was frustrated by those comments.

    The Pentagon shortly thereafter activated the full D.C. Guard in response to the riot, but the leadership at the Defense Department didn’t authorize the D.C. Guard to change its mission and head to the Capitol until hours later.

    Smislova told lawmakers in a written copy of her opening statement that the government did not do enough before the attack, saying, “more should have been done to understand the correlation between that information and the threat of violence, and what actions were warranted as a result.” […]

  95. says

    FFS.

    Pence Uses Post-VP Platform To Boost ‘The Big Lie’ Trump Continues To Push

    Even after his life was endangered during the Capitol insurrection earlier this year that then-President Trump incited, former Vice President Mike Pence has begun boosting the same election falsehoods that incensed the rioters.

    In an op-ed published in The Daily Signal on Wednesday, Pence falsely described the 2020 election as “marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law.”

    […] In his Wednesday op-ed, he said that he had pledged to ensure that all objections raised by GOP members that day [January 6] would be given a full hearing.

    […] “The tragic events of Jan. 6 — the most significant being the loss of life and violence at our nation’s Capitol — also deprived the American people of a substantive discussion in Congress about election integrity in America,” Pence wrote.

    Pence went on to take aim at congressional Democrats by accusing them of “a brazen attempt” to “nationalize elections,” citing the House’s vote this week on the For the People Act that would expand voting access, especially in communities most affected by the voting restrictions being pushed by Republicans in many states.

    […] “Leftists not only want you powerless at the ballot box, they want to silence and censor anyone who would dare to criticize their unconstitutional power grab,” Pence wrote.

    Pence also leaned into the GOP’s new fixation on “cancel culture,” characterizing the For the People Act as a means for the left to engage in a “cancel culture crusade.”

    The former vice president concluded by parroting congressional Republicans’ comical calls for unity after spending months egging on the former president’s bogus claims of widespread election fraud that ultimately led up to the deadly Capitol insurrection. [snipped Pence’s cowardly, lie-based “call for unity”]

    Pence’s op-ed may be part of the former-VP’s effort to get back into Trump’s good graces […]

    Amid the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 certifying then-President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory, Trump blasted out a tweet railing against Pence for lacking the “courage” to illegally overturn the election results. Trump and Pence reportedly did not speak to each other a few days after the-then VP was hurried out of the Senate chamber minutes ahead of the mob.

    “Pence’s op-ed may be part of the former-VP’s effort to get back into Trump’s good graces.” Why? Why would you want to be in Trump’s good graces? The price will be whatever shreds of Pence’s integrity that may be left.

  96. says

    Follow-up to comment 125.

    Comments posted by readers of the TPM article:

    Pence started off as a lickspittle, had a singular moment of integrity (but really had no other choice) on January 6th, and now he is back to being a lickspittle, a Supreme Lickspittle. What a coward! What an asshole!
    ———————
    Aw, that’s cute. Pence really thinks he has a shot at reviving his political career in the Trumpist GOP? I never thought I’d see grown men – goddamn senators and representatives – like Pence, Graham, Jordan and others debase themselves so thoroughly and repeatedly for someone who clearly doesn’t give a shit about them. It’s a mind-sucking cult I simply can’t wrap my head around.
    ——————–
    Just another point of evidence that Republicans have determined that democracy doesn’t work for them. It’s a dangerous time for our nation now, as a party that could win at the ballot box is turning away from voting and towards anti-democratic means of holding power. Between “legal” methods, like the AZ legislature choosing the state electors regardless of the vote, to outright violence, it’s clear that Republicans are willing to forgo their supposed fealty to the Constitution for their own governmental power. A few officials, doing their duty, managed to head off a Trump dictatorship in 2020…2024 really could turn out different as those people will be swept away by Republicans hell bent on forcing the nation to install them as our rulers.

    This is really the end game of the Christian militant movement to create a Christian theocracy in America. It’s going to be a close thing to see if it actually does happen, or if we manage to overcome them and keep the nation free.
    ————————-
    Mother should remind Mikey about the Biblical mandate “Thou Shalt Not Lie.”

  97. says

    Texas racists get really racist about racist thing that people are calling racist

    Emails The Texas Tribune obtained show just how little wealthy alumni donors from the University of Texas at Austin care about Black people, even those that the graduates cheer for routinely on the football field.

    Hundreds of alumni responded with emails to university President Jay Hartzell after they assumed a student effort to have the university part ways with its racist alma mater “The Eyes of Texas” had seeped onto the football field. Then-quarterback for the school Sam Ehlinger was the only member of the team to remain on the field to sing the song after a crushing loss. But although many interpreted his decision as a stance in support of the alma mater, Ehlinger later said he only stayed behind to talk to coaches, The Texas Tribune reported on Monday.

    That didn’t stop alumni from flooding Hartzell’s inbox with threatening emails. “My wife and I have given an endowment in excess of $1 million to athletics. This could very easily be rescinded if things don’t drastically change around here,” one donor wrote. “Has everyone become oblivious of who supports athletics??”

    “The Eyes of Texas” references a common saying of Confederate Army Commander Robert E. Lee and was frequently played at university minstrel shows, in which white actors wore blackface and reinforced racist stereotypes about Black people. “Current students don’t feel pride when singing a song that is meant to bolster school spirit,” organizer Jacey Rosengren wrote in a petition to boycott the song. “It is our responsibility to listen to the voices of students. They are the life and culture of the university.” [video is available at the link. "The eyes of Texas are upon you" is a quote from Robert E. Lee. It calls upon students to uphold white supremacy, according to critics.]

    […] Clinging to a song more than 1,580 people signed a petition to ban as racist is a position no reputable university should hold up as a model. Even before the revealing Texas Tribune article, the president supported the song in a statement last October. [snipped word-salad statement]

    […] “The Eyes of Texas is non-negotiable,” wrote one graduate who bragged about having season tickets since 1990. “If it is not kept and fully embraced, I will not be donating any additional money to athletics or the university or attending any events.” Another wrote: “It is disgraceful to see the lack of unity and our fiercest competitor Sam E[h]linger standing nearly alone. It is symbolic of the disarray of this football program which you inherited. The critical race theory garbage that has been embraced by the football program and the university is doing massive irreparable damage.”

    Although the university redacted the names of many of those who penned emails due to open records laws that shield some donors, that protection didn’t extend to billionaire Bob Rowling, President of the Longhorn Alumni Band Charitable Fund Board of Trustees Kent Kostka, or retired administrative law judge Steven Arnold.

    “UT needs rich donors who love The Eyes of Texas more than they need one crop of irresponsible and uninformed students or faculty who won’t do what they are paid to do,” Arnold reportedly wrote Hartzell.

    Rowling, who owns Omni Hotels and formerly Gold’s Gym, told the university president: “I am not advising you or taking any position regarding this issue right now, other than to say ‘The Eyes’ needs to be our song. I AM wanting you to be aware of the ‘talk about town’ regarding UT. There are a lot of folks on this email chain who love UT and are in positions of influence.”

    And Kostka seemed to be driven to a virtual panic over the potential loss of dollars for the university. “[Alumni] are pulling planned gifts, canceling donations, walking away from causes and programs that have been their passion for years, even decades and turning away in disgust. Last night one texted me at 1:00 am, trying to find a way to revoke a 7-figure donation,” he reportedly wrote administrators. “This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. Real damage is being done every day by the ongoing silence.”

    Welp, silence no more. We all know exactly where the president stands on respecting the generational trauma of his Black students versus earning a dollar. Hint: It’s not with the students.

    Rich bullies using their money to bully institutions and to bully entire groups of other people.

    Note how open the donors are about their bullying ways, “[…] do what they are paid to do.”

  98. says

    Republican governors throwing states off COVID cliff, and counting on President Biden to catch them

    Yep. I don’t think it’s going to work well.

    Three weeks after a closed electricity market that’s designed to turn disasters into windfall profits collapsed in Texas, turning a winter cold snap into a deadly power shortage that still has many Texans dealing with broken pipes and ruined homes, Gov. Greg Abbott is badly in need of a new distraction. Abbott spent days during the cold wave sitting on Fox News explaining how the real culprit was the never-passed Green New Deal, and not the fragile by-energy-billionaires for-energy-billionaires system that Republicans had spent decades assembling in Texas. But then, a lot of Texans didn’t get to see Abbott making excuses about windmills on Fox, because they didn’t have any power.

    Obviously, a distraction was needed. Fortunately for Abbott, he could jump right onto a lemming train of Republican governors all making the same bad decision for pretty similar reasons. So on Tuesday Abbott decided that COVID-19 is over in Texas. He’s lifted the state’s (poorly enforced and incomplete) mask mandate, and he’s telling business they can “fully reopen.” But Abbott’s order does more than just lift any official mandate by the state. Because it also prohibits county and city governments from requiring masks, or from limiting business operation, or doing essentially anything to protect their citizens. […]

    So just like that, Texas is all back to normal. Except for the part where people are still getting sick and dying. See how well that worked? Now no one is talking about how Abbott’s energy policies killed people.

    As the Texas Tribune reports, mayors and county officials in Texas’ largest cities aren’t exactly happy about Abbott’s decision to declare a coronavirus thunderdome. With the state still averaging over 200 COVID-19 deaths a day, and several Texas counties still among the highest in the nation when it comes to total cases or cases by population, Abbott’s order seems almost certain to generate a fresh wave of cases. And deaths.

    […] Abbott’s action plays well, presumably, in the counties where officials have refused to enforce the mask mandate all along.

    And hey, it’s not as if Abbott is routing vaccine away from those cities to give it all to the reddest rural counties, even when it means vaccine is being thrown away. That’s Gov. Mike Parson in Missouri’s trick. As St. Louis public radio reports, “multiple mass vaccination events in rural areas” have ended up with hundreds of leftover doses of vaccine, some of which has ultimately been disposed of. In these areas, local officials have been skipping past the supposed guidelines to offer vaccines to anyone over 18, making a few Missouri counties among the vaccination leaders.

    In rural Putnam County, Missouri—which voted 84% for Donald Trump last November (and 85% for Parson)—2,340 doses of vaccine were provided for a vaccination event in a county whose total population is just 4,696. Only about 700 doses ended up being administered. Another 1,500 went unused, with some 150 of those doses being simply discarded. At the same time, St. Louis and Kansas City have been vaccine starved, with no large vaccination events scheduled. As a result, the percentage of the population vaccinated in many rural counties is over twice that of St. Louis or Kansas City. […]

    […] All of this is ridiculously dangerous. While case counts have fallen since January’s peak, the daily average remains well above the rate that held through the fall of 2020, which was itself already much higher than the first peak that came that spring.

    The decline in cases is a good thing. The rise in vaccinations is a very good thing. With accelerating delivery of vaccines—and some attempt at equitable distribution—the United States is almost certainly just weeks away from the point where this kind of reopening could be done reasonably, with a fair degree of safety … though mask mandates should almost certainly remain in place nationwide for an extended period.

    Republican governors are essentially pushing their states off the cliff and daring Joe Biden to catch them. Biden is trying. But there’s no reason to take this risk now, especially when the possibility of a real “end” to the pandemic—one where case counts are so low that genuine case management and contact tracing can be instituted is actually in sight. […]

  99. says

    Fox News asks Jen Psaki about President Biden’s outrageous disregard for Dr. Seuss

    Not sure where to slot this among the growing list of Fox News pseudo-scandals. Is this glaring omission worse than Barack Obama’s tan suit? That hardly seems possible. The tan suit affair nearly ended us. Our enemies saw our commander in chief arrayed in fine raiments of effete ecru and the gates of hell were flung wide open. Our national credibility was tarnished for all eternity.

    But that was then. After witnessing the stalwart, uber-patriotic leadership of Donald John Trump—who only launched one full-on insurrection attempt during his entire four-year term—we’re forced to endure this disgrace.

    Are you ready?

    Joe Biden didn’t mention Dr. Seuss in his statement on Read Across America Day. […]

    FOX REPORTER KRISTIN FISHER: “It is National Read Across America Day, it’s also Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Both former presidents Obama and Trump mentioned Dr. Seuss in their Read Across America Day proclamations, but President Biden did not. Why not?”

    JEN PSAKI: “Words, words words … [translation: what the fuck is this nitwit talking about, and who the fuck cares?] … words words words.”

    REPORTER: “So does the omission have anything to do with the controversy about the lack of diverse characters in the author’s books?”

    […] In her answer, Jen Psaki noted that the Department of Education actually wrote the statement, […]

    [Aaron Rupar tweeted] “Dr. Seuss is the top story on Fox News today. They’re still talking about it. It’s absolutely insane.”

    Fox has found its new wedge issue. It’s cancel culture! Which is odd, because the guy whose bulbous arse they’ve spent the past four years smooching into oblivion literally tried to cancel democracy, and he’s now trying to cancel numerous members of Congress from his own party.

    Oh, and apparently Mr. Potato Head has been brutally defamed as well. Or something. Honestly, I don’t have the energy to keep up with this much inanity.

    [Quote from Associated Press coverage:]

    In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. If I Ran the Zoo includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.

    Joe Biden also didn’t mention the book of Hitler speeches Donald Trump used to keep in his bedside cabinet. WHY NOT, JEN PSAKI?! Is this part of Joe Biden’s attempt to cancel U.S. history? YOU CAN’T CANCEL OUR HISTORY! We had a Nazi-ish president for four years. […]

    Of course, Fox News and Republicans are blaming “cancel culture” for this outrage, but they really need to look at Seuss’ own family. It was Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which was founded by the Seuss family, that pulled the plug on several of the author’s titles. […]

  100. says

    House Energy and Commerce leaders unveil sweeping climate change legislation

    Senior House Energy and Commerce Democrats unveiled a template of their plan to combat climate change this Congress that would take a sector-by-sector approach to eliminate carbon dioxide and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

    Their 981-page bill — an expanded version of last year’s CLEAN Future Act — calls for a federal clean energy standard that sets an interim goal of 80 percent clean electricity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035. The bill represents a push from Democrats for aggressive action on climate change that’s in line with the goals laid out by President Joe Biden and as part of his Build Back Better agenda.

    “I really believe that the time for slow, marginal change has gone,” Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said Tuesday. “You can’t just watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and home. The cost of inaction is staggering — it already is.” […]

    Pallone also acknowledged that the bill did not call for imposing a price on carbon emissions, since that type of measure lacked political support.

    “We don’t have a carbon tax … I think it’s time to try something new,” he said. “The votes are just not there for a price on carbon.”

    Clean energy standard: Arguably the most consequential title is a clean energy standard, which would create a credit trading system for utilities to meet clean energy goals. Utilities would get at least partial credit if their carbon intensity is lower than 0.82 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of power — including emissions calculated from producing and transporting the energy to the utility — through 2030 but that threshold would drop to 0.4 by 2035.

    That approach would mean that natural gas power plants would not be able get partial credits without implementing carbon capture and sequestration technologies by the mid-2030s […] the standard also includes labor protections for the construction of new generating units.

    New provisions: Overall, the legislation would authorize $565 billion in spending over ten years as the U.S. pursues deep decarbonization efforts. It includes a host of new provisions in areas like environmental justice, energy transition, waste reduction and transportation.

    The bill would create a national green bank, seeded with $100 billion, to leverage public money for investments in new technologies needed to hit emissions reductions goals. The legislation also includes a requirement that 40 percent of funds go toward environmental justice communities that have suffered persistent pollution — a priority for the Biden administration.

    The Democratic bill also would direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to require disclosure from public companies about their climate-related risks. […] It would temporarily pause permitting new or expanded plastics production facilities while EPA enacts new Clean Air Act regulations to limit emissions.

    […] Environmental justice focus: The new environmental justice provisions would notably establish a grant program to finance lead drinking water service line replacements. That effort would prioritize disadvantaged communities and include requirements for U.S.-made raw materials and strong labor protections. […]

  101. says

    Wonkette: “House Dems Push Nutty Idea: LET AMERICANS VOTE, GODDAMMIT”

    The House will be voting this week on HR 1, the “For the People Act,” which would establish fair national standards for voting and ensure that people who are eligible to vote actually get their ballots counted.

    The Brennan Center for Justice calls the bill (and its companion, HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) “the greatest civil rights bill since the civil rights movement itself,” and that’s not the least bit hyperbolic.

    The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Maryland), would put the kibosh on a lot of voter suppression measures that Republicans are very fond of (Hello, Georgia!), so it should be no surprise that Republicans are howling about how unfair it would be. Fairness would keep them from rigging the vote in their favor […]

    Link

  102. says

    Wonkette: “Actual Trump Supporter ‘Disguised’ Himself As Fake Antifa Activist During Capitol Siege”

    Republicans, including the one-term loser, spent most of last year claiming that Joe Biden’s antifa troops were everywhere, spreading violence through cities and even riding in airplanes. When a clearly identifiable MAGA mob stormed the Capitol, certain mentally deficient Republicans insisted that the violent insurrectionists could’ve been antifa. Yesterday, FBI Director Chris Wray confirmed the observable reality that criminals dressed like Donald Trump supporters were in fact Donald Trump supporters.

    However, it turns out that at least one insurrectionist at the January 6 klanbake “disguised” himself as an antifa activist, because he assumed this would permit him to coup freely. William Robert Norwood III from South Carolina revealed his seditious cosplay scheme in a group text. “I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood wrote, according to [a criminal] complaint. “I’ll look just like antifa. I’ll get away with anything.”

    Wearing all-black can make you look like many things — a goth, a mime, or just your average New Yorker. There is no official antifa uniform because antifa isn’t an actual organization. Norwood straight-up resides in an alternate reality when he claims that antifa can “get away with anything.” Sure, most of the people arrested during last year’s racial justice protests were suburbanites with little criminal history, but that doesn’t mean antifa had a riot hall pass. […]

    The day after the Capitol siege, Norwood boasted in a followup text message about how well his “antifa disguise” worked. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for. The cop shot a female Trump supporter. Then allowed “ANTIFA Trump supporters” to assault him. I was one of them. I was there. I took his shit.”

    […] Norwood disarmed a cop and took his helmet and body armor as souvenir trophies. […]

    “I fought 4 cops, they did nothing. When I put my red hat on, they pepper balled me,” Norwood wrote.

    Raising my hand here: I think the cops pepper balled Norwood because he’d just assaulted police officers. This had nothing to do with his Beyoncé-like costume changes, but his whiteness might explain why he’s still alive.

    […]Norwood’s brother, T.D […] “You admitted to going and being something you’re accusing other people of being. And then got mad and blamed others for the same thing you did. What the actual f— is wrong with you?” T.D. texted, according to the documents.

    Norwood, demonstrating how much blue lives matter to him, allegedly replied, “The one cop who deserved it, got it. The cops who acted shitty got exactly what they deserved. The ones who were cool, got help.”

    T.D. and family member J.D. tipped off the FBI and shared Norwood’s incriminating messages. Norwood’s version of events is absurd, like some wino’s UFO abduction story. He admitted entered the Capitol after getting separated from his wife (it’s unclear if she was also dressed like antifa). He wanted to leave but the crowd was too large. He defended cops from the violent criminals who totally weren’t him. Someone else took the police vest and put it on him like James Brown’s cape, which is definitely something random people do. Spontaneous clothes fittings are a big problem at riots.

    […] Norwood is facing charges of “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other counts,” which I assume will cover delivering beat downs to cops.

    It’s astonishing that he was able to just walk away in all the confusion. Yet, in his mind, he doesn’t have it as good as your average antifa. That’s so MAGA.

    Link

  103. says

    Follow-up to comment 124.

    Walker said the restrictions the Army and Pentagon secretaries imposed on him the day before the insurrection were “never really explained to me,” but he didn’t push back against them.

    “I’m a major general. I don’t question the people above me,” the commander said. “The secretary of the Army is the secretary of the Army. Secretary of the Defense is the secretary of Defense.”

    “So all I know was I had restrictions that were unusual to me. I hadn’t had them in the past,” he continued.

    Link

    The Secretary of the Army and the Sec Def were Trump people.

  104. says

    Manu Raju:

    Sen. Rob Portman, ranking GOP member on Senate Homeland Security and Govt Affairs, told me he wants former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller to testify about the failure to deploy the National Guard in a timely manner on Jan. 6.

    Portman expressed concern at today’s hearing they are not hearing from the decision makers about why the call to deploy guardsmen was not made immediately when the request came in. Instead, the DC National Guard waited more than three hours before getting approval on its request

    “Yeah we needed to hear from the people who were there at the time making the decisions,” Portman said. “I think we’ve reached out (to them). I don’t know if they want to come in or not yet.”

  105. tomh says

    WaPo:
    GOP Sen. Ron Johnson to force Senate clerks to read text of $1.9 trillion covid-relief bill, a process that could last 10 hours
    By Colby Itkowitz

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) will force Senate clerks to read aloud the entire $1.9 trillion covid-relief bill, delaying debate on it by about 10 hours.

    “I will make them read their 600-700 page bill,” Johnson said, detailing his plan during an interview on a Milwaukee conservative talk radio show.

    He also said he plans to force votes on a huge number of amendments to prolong the debate by several days…

    … “It’s a Democrat wish list setting things up for an even more socialist society, and it needs to be resisted and I’m going to lead the effort to resist it.”

    …The bill is publicly popular, even among Republicans, but Johnson argued that was because the Democrats tout the $1,400 relief checks in the bill, and not that it was “mortgaging our kids’ future.”

  106. says

    Wonkette:

    Yesterday, Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott decided that, even with rising COVID-19 cases, Texans had “mastered” the skills they need — yes, he said that — to keep from getting the virus, and therefore all mask mandates must be uplifted, for freedom! […]

    About five seconds later, Mississippi GOP Governor Tate “Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater […]” Reeves said Mississippians were also too ready to breathe hot wet viral delta mouthfarts all over each other, in the name of America! Or whatever he said. Point is, he removed all the statewide restrictions.

    […] We were literally thinking last night that we hoped President Joe Biden would be just cold fuckin’ MEAN to those GOP governors who, like the brain wizards they are, have decided that it’s time to fuck up all the progress we’ve made and cancel safety measures in the seventh inning stretch.

    And surprise, he was! He called them Neanderthals.

    OK, to be exact, he called their brain thoughts “Neanderthal thinking,” which by extension makes them “Neanderthal thinkers,” and if it walks like a Neanderthal and it quacks like a Neanderthal and it thinks like a Neanderthal, it’s probably a … ! [Video is available at the link]

    CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said not to get complacent right now. The CDC said if we fuck it up now, we can really fuck it up and set ourselves backward on the wrong path. As Biden reminded us, we will now have enough vaccine for all American adults by May. “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking,” he explained, about Greg Abbott and Tater Tater Tater Tater Tater and any other GOP governors who think they’re getting bright ideas right now. […]

    Advice for President Biden: Next time, just call them “some dumbass motherfuckers.” We know, we know, you are all “genteel” and “civility,” and you are trying to move on from the Trump era of coarse language, WE KNOW.

    Just once, though, it would be fine. It would feel great. Also Fox News would probably stop talking about Mr. Potato Head’s peenwhistle for five seconds so it could rage about your cusses.

    Try it! You’ll like it!

    Link

  107. says

    Two Republicans elected to the House, one from Texas and one from Louisiana, died of COVID before they could take office this session.

    Those sworn in include:

    Marjorie Greene (GA) – insurrectionist, among other issues
    Nancy Mace (SC) – misrepresented what her colleague said about the Capitol attack to smear her as a liar
    Beth Van Duyne (TX) – had a former aide go to her house to kill himself a few weeks ago and multiple staffers quit since
    Madison Cawthorn (NC) – total fraud, serial liar, sexual predator
    Lauren Boebert (CO) – insurrectionist, among other issues
    Ronny Jackson (TX) – subject of a scathing IG report about his horrendous behavior as WH physician

    And that’s not even getting into the usual cast of characters…

  108. says

    Andrew Desiderio:

    Senate Homeland Security chair Peters tells me & @frankthorp he wants former acting SecDef Miller & former acting Army Secretary McCarthy to testify.

    “Certainly they were intimately involved in the decision-making process & it’s very important for us to hear from them directly.”

  109. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    After Joe Biden announced that there would be enough vaccine for all adult Americans by the end of May, leading Republicans accused the President of trying to score political points by ending the pandemic.

    Leading the charge was the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, who called Biden’s anti-pandemic measures “partisan politics at its worst.”

    “So now we learn that the pandemic will be ended by a White House that is a hundred per cent controlled by Democrats,” he said. “Where’s the so-called unity, President Biden?”

    Senator Ted Cruz concurred. “After vowing that there would be enough vaccine in July, Joe Biden broke his promise and is now saying May,” the Texas lawmaker said. “I think the American people will see right through this.”

    Finally, Senator Ron Johnson called Biden’s actions to bring the pandemic to a close “blatant,” adding, “This is just another attempt to undo Donald Trump’s legacy.”

    New Yorker link

  110. says

    New York Times:

    The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University economist, as the chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, making her the first Black leader of C.E.A. in its 75-year history. The final vote was 95 to 4.

  111. says

    One reminder: The main reason that the Pentagon was wary of intervening on 1/6 was because it had already been abused by President Trump last summer. Impossible to separate Trump’s abuse of military resources against Black Lives Matter from its unwillingness to stop 1/6 riots.”

    Hugely important context. Plus there was deep concern (remember the letter from the all the living fmr SecDef?) that Trump would use civil unrest as pretext for some kind of soft martial law. Meanwhile, Mike Flynn was pushing for military to run do-over elections in swing states!”

    Yes. And the Republicans today were trying to push a narrative – with some help from a couple of the witnesses – that the use of the NG in the summer makes the refusal to deploy them in January reasonable. But the opposite conclusion should be drawn:

    The problem, as Walker’s testimony made clear, wasn’t with the NG going rogue or something; it was Trump and his lackeys giving them inappropriate orders (there was a whistleblower who testified before Congress!). So it was in no way a reasonable response to the outcry following this to remove autonomy from the DCNG and give more power to Trump and his lackeys! It was in no way a reasonable response to the outcry to have Flynn’s brother involved in the decision about calling up the NG!

    (And this is setting aside that of course Trump sniffed out the opportunity to exploit the military’s reluctance to get involved in anything deemed political to keep them from protecting the Capitol and the democratic process.)

  112. says

    Here’s a link to the March 4 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Resurgence of cases hits Europe

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is seeing a resurgence of cases in central and eastern Europe, as well as a rise of new cases in several western European countries, Reuters is quoting the head of its European office as saying. Hans Kluge told reporters:

    Continued strain on our hospitals and health workers is being met with acts of medical solidarity between European neighbours. Nonetheless, over a year into the pandemic our health systems should not be in this situation.

  113. says

    Guardian – “How Covid derailed the great hope of the Dutch far right”:

    …The one thing that was constantly said about Covid last year, was that it was a great revealer; it revealed the gap between rich and poor, the employed and the unemployed, the old and the young. Covid has also now revealed what [Thierry] Baudet really is; not just the flamboyant and outspoken intellectual that he wanted people to believe he is, but a conspiracy-mongering antisemitic populist, willing to undermine facts, health care, the free press and even democracy, to remain a focal point in Dutch politics….

  114. says

    From the Guardian US-politics liveblog summary:

    Yesterday House Democrats passed a sweeping expansion of federal voting rights. The For The People act would be the most significant enhancement of federal voting protections in decades.

    They also passed the ambitious George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which would ban chokeholds and qualified immunity for law enforcement.

    The US Capitol Police warned yesterday that it has “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group” today. The House has cleared its voting schedule as a result.

  115. says

    Guardian US-politics liveblog:

    …The Senate is expected to start work on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package later today, kicking off a days-long process to get the bill passed.

    Republican Senator Ron Johnson has said he plans to force Senate clerks to read the bill in its entirety, which will take about 10 hours.

    After the bill has been read, the Senate will begin its “vote-a-rama” on amendments for the bill, and Republicans plan to introduce many amendments to force Democrats to take uncomfortable votes on controversial issues.

    The vote-a-rama could potentially extend into the weekend, but once it’s done, the Senate will vote on final passage of the bill. Assuming it passes, the bill will then go back to the House, so the lower chamber can pass the final version of the package.

    With all that in mind, it seems likely that Joe Biden will be able to sign the bill sometime next week. The president has said he wants the bill on his desk by March 14, when extended unemployment benefits are currently set to expire….

  116. says

    VOA (AP) – “Inspector General Finds Misuse of Office by Elaine Chao at Transportation Dept”:

    The Transportation Department’s watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year after it determined she had misused her office when she was transportation secretary under President Donald Trump but was rebuffed, according to a report released Wednesday.

    The report said the Justice Department’s criminal and public integrity divisions declined in December to take up the case for criminal prosecution following the inspector general’s findings that Chao inappropriately used her staff and office for personal tasks and to promote a shipping business owned by Chao’s father and sisters. That company does extensive business with China.

    “A formal investigation into potential misuses of position was warranted,” deputy inspector general Mitch Behm wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

    Chao, the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, stepped down from her job early this year in the last weeks of the Trump administration, citing her disapproval over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by Trump’s supporters.

    Chao has denied wrongdoing. In the report released Wednesday, she did not specifically respond to allegations, instead providing a September 2020 memo that argued promoting her family was an appropriate part of her official duties at the department.

    “Asian audiences welcome and respond positively to actions by the secretary that include her father in activities when appropriate,” that memo said.

    The watchdog report cited several instances that raised ethical concerns. In one, Chao instructed political appointees in the department to contact the Homeland Security Department to check personally on the status of a work permit application for a student who was a recipient of her family’s philanthropic foundation.

    Chao also made extensive plans for an official trip to China in November 2017 – before she canceled it – that would have included stops at places that had received support from her family’s business, the New York-based Foremost Group. According to department emails, Chao directed her staff to include her relatives in the official events and high-level meetings during the trip.

    “Above all, let’s keep (the Secretary) happy,” one of the department’s employees wrote to another staffer regarding Chao’s father. “If Dr. Chao is happy, then we should be flying with a feather in our hat.”

    The report found that Chao also directed the department’s public affairs staff to assist her father in the marketing of his personal biography and to edit his Wikipedia page, and used staff to check on repairs of an item at a store for her father.

    The IG report said Justice Department officials ultimately declined to take up a criminal review, saying there “may be ethical and/or administrative issues” but no evidence to support possible criminal charges.

    As a result, the inspector general’s office said in the report it was now closing its investigation “based on the lack of prosecutorial interest” from the Justice Department.

    Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the House transportation committee, who requested the investigation, expressed disappointment that the review was not completed and released while Chao was still in office.

    “Public servants, especially those responsible for leading tens of thousands of other public servants, must know that they serve the public and not their family’s private commercial interests,” he said.

    Walter Shaub livetweets his response.

  117. says

    To be super clear the Seuss estate announced they themselves had decided to stop actively publishing certain books.

    The Fox lemmings immediately spun this into government censorship and are now defiantly sending truckfuls of cash to the very company that made the decision.”

  118. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign news:

    * In a bit of a surprise, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) yesterday filed the paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for re-election next year. The Iowa Republican will be 89 years old on Election Day 2022. [I wish he had decided to retire.]

    * With Gina Raimondo joining the White House cabinet this week, Dan McKee (D) was sworn in as Rhode Island’s new governor. He will serve the remainder of Raimondo’s second term, which ends next year, and it’s not yet clear whether McKee will seek a term of his own or whether he’d face Democratic primary rivals.

    * In Wyoming, state Rep. Chuck Gray became the latest Republican to launch a primary campaign against House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). For the record, I’d find it ironic if the congresswoman won re-election because her intra-party rivals diluted the anti-Cheney vote. [:-)]

    * Though Donald Trump has gone after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) with a vengeance, and the former president is reportedly intent on destroying the governor’s career, the Georgia Republican told Fox News yesterday that he would “absolutely” support Trump’s candidacy if he wins the GOP nomination in 2024. [head/desk]

    * In Florida, a new Mason-Dixon poll found incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) leading state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) by nine points and Rep. Charlie Crist (D) by 11 points in hypothetical general-election match-ups.

    * In the state of Washington, local GOP officials are reportedly pushing Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) to resign from Congress because she voted to impeach Donald Trump in January.

    * And in Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens (R) hinted last month that he might take on incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) in a primary next year. This week, Greitens, who was forced to resign in disgrace in 2018, escalated his criticisms of Blunt — he complained that the senator isn’t pro-Trump enough — and said he’s “evaluating” the 2022 U.S. Senate race.

    Link

  119. says

    Why the new revelations about Ronny Jackson are so striking

    Three years ago, Trump said the allegations against Ronny Jackson were “false.” The Pentagon inspector general’s office says otherwise.

    About three years ago, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician at the time, appeared in the briefing room and was overly effusive in gushing about Donald Trump’s health. Describing the then-president’s condition, Jackson used the word “excellent” eight times, before celebrating [Trump’s] “incredibly good genes.”

    […] Almost immediately, Jackson became known as the White House doctor who delivered a cringe-worthy assessment of Trump’s health. As of this week, however, Jackson will probably be known for something far worse.

    Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, engaged in “inappropriate conduct” while serving as the top White House physician, according to a Pentagon inspector general […] The scathing report alleges abusive behavior toward subordinates including sexual harassment.

    NBC News’ report added that the inspector general’s review, first reported by CNN, says Jackson “drank alcohol, made sexual comments to subordinates and took the sedative Ambien while working as White House physician.” The watchdog also found that Jackson mistreated subordinates and “disparaged, belittled, bullied and humiliated them.”

    Jackson, two months into his first term as a Republican member of Congress, denied any wrongdoing.

    If these allegations seem at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. In fact, it’s worth taking a stroll down memory lane.

    Three years ago this month, Trump announced that he wanted Jackson to join his presidential cabinet as the secretary of Veterans Affairs. Jackson was clearly unqualified, but Trump liked the physician personally, appreciated Jackson’s over-the-top praise, and was wholly indifferent as to whether officials on his team were prepared to do the jobs Trump invited them to do.

    The process, however, collapsed a month later. There were multiple public reports about Jackson’s alleged pattern of substance abuse, harassing women, and creating a “toxic” work environment. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — at the time, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee — said with a record of allegations like this, there was simply no way Jackson could be confirmed. Some Republicans reluctantly agreed.

    Trump went a little berserk, lashing out at Tester as a “very dishonest and sick” man who needed to resign from the Senate. (Tester was re-elected later in the year, despite Trump’s personal effort to tear him down.) The then-president, pointing to nothing in particular, insisted that the allegations against Jackson were “proving false.”

    The White House doctor’s nomination nevertheless collapsed, and now, according to the Pentagon inspector general’s office, it appears the allegations weren’t “false” at all.

    In theory, the revelations could do real harm to Jackson’s new career as a politician, but the Texas Republican currently represents the single reddest district in the United States, so the congressman probably isn’t too worried about the electoral fallout.

  120. says

    Giuliani Gets Dunked On For Crying Foul Over ‘Misinformation’ He Peddled

    Conveniently ignoring his history of pushing former President Trump’s falsehoods, Rudy Giuliani took to Twitter Wednesday night to fire off a tone-deaf tweet calling for the end of “misinformation” — which the former Trump personal lawyer is notorious for spreading.

    On Wednesday night, Giuliani got on a pedestal about the dangers of “misinformation” and how it endangers democracy. Giuliani’s months-long jaunt of fruitless legal battles contesting the legitimacy of the election process fed into the Trumpian rhetoric that incited the pro-Trump mob behind the deadly Capitol insurrection earlier this year.

    Misinformation has become a daily occurrence on social media platforms. If continued unaddressed, it will eventually lead to Jefferson’s worst nightmare of a poorly informed citizenry, which he saw as the greatest danger to democracy. [clueless Giuliani tweeted]

    Giuliani’s peddling of Trump’s false election fraud claims have even landed him in hot water with voting technology companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic that have become the center of debunked Trumpworld conspiracies. Both Dominion and Smartmatic allege in their lawsuits against Giuliani that he and Sidney Powell conspired to spread disinformation.

    Twitter users quickly called Giuliani out for, well, unwittingly calling himself out as the purveyor of misinformation.

    [Twitter snippets]

    Four Seasons Total Mindscaping.
    ——————-
    Rudy Giuliani warns of the dangers of misinformation, during keynote speech at global irony summit.
    ———————
    Guess what’s worse than misinformation, the President’s lawyer lying about the outcome of the election and working with foreign adversaries to interfere in the election. Also worse, what you did in the Borat movie. [from Clint Watts]
    ——————–
    When one gaslights one’s self. [from Keith Olbermann]
    ———————–
    Rule #1: find the adamant nut job with the wildest conspiracy theory and present that person in a court of law as an expert witness.
    ————————–
    If only there was a way to figure out the source of the misinformation ….

  121. says

    Dr. Anthony Fauci rebuked Republican governors who have decided to end restrictions put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus in their states:

    “I don’t know why they’re doing it, but it’s certainly from a public health standpoint ill-advised,” Fauci said during a CNN interview on Wednesday night.

    “It’s just inexplicable why you would want to pull back now,” Fauci added.

    “We’ve been to the scene before months and months ago when we tried to open up the country and the economy when certain states did not abide by the guidelines we had rebounds which were very troublesome,” Fauci said. “What we don’t need right now is another surge.”

    “First of all, they’re not arbitrary,” Fauci said of restrictions that have been put in place to curb the spread of the virus. “They’re based on evidence and data from science.”

    “We know that these interventions work. It’s very clear. When you implement them, you see the cases go down. When you pull back, the cases go up,” he added.

    “Now is not the time to pull back,” Fauci warned. “Now’s the time to really crush this by doing both public health measures and accelerating the vaccinations like we’re doing.”

    Yep, Fauci is right. And he stated the dangers clearly.

  122. says

    Far-right misinformation received highest engagement on Facebook

    Content posted from news outlets rated as far-right received the highest levels of engagement on Facebook in the months surrounding the 2020 elections, according to a new study.

    Moreover, researchers found that among far-right outlets, sources identified as spreading misinformation had on average 65 percent more engagement per follower than other far-right pages, according to the study released by New York University’s Cybersecurity for Democracy on Wednesday.

    The study evaluated a total of 8.6 million Facebook and Instagram posts between Aug. 10 and Jan. 11 downloaded from the tool CrowdTangle. Researchers used lists of U.S. news sources and their Facebook pages from two independent data providers that rate the political leaning and quality of media and identified 2,973 news and information sources.

    […] Far-left sources were a distant second in earned engagement, according to the study, even on days where engagement peaked for the more politically “extreme” outlets, such as on Election Day or Jan. 6.

    […] The study also found that far-right sources did not suffer what researchers deemed a “misinformation penalty,” meaning sources of misinformation from far-right outlets outperformed far-right pages that were not identified as sources of misinformation. Researchers define a misinformation penalty as “a measurable decline in engagement for news sources that are unreliable.” […]

  123. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Cuba has begun late stage trials of its most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccine, edging closer to a potential home-grown inoculation campaign.

    The country started this week recruiting around 44,000 volunteers in Havana between the ages of 19 and 80 for its randomised, placebo-controlled trial of the two-shot vaccine in which some will receive a third booster shot with another Cuban vaccine candidate, Reuters reports.

    If the vaccine proves effective, Cuba has said it would inoculate its entire population of 11 million with what would be the first Covid-19 jab developed and produced in Latin America. Cuba said it would also export the vaccine and offer it to tourists.

    While Latin American and Caribbean countries are largely competing with richer nations to access limited vaccine supply produced abroad, Cuba has chosen to bet on its own shots even as it faces its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

    The country’s most advanced experimental vaccine is Soberana, which means sovereignty, 2, reflecting national pride in Cuba’s relative self-reliance in areas like healthcare in spite of the crippling decades-old US trade embargo.

    Neighbouring countries like Mexico, Venezuela and Jamaica have already expressed an interest in acquiring Soberana 2 should it succeed. The large Phase III trial should be complete in November, with final results available in January 2022, according to Cuba’s official registry of clinical trials.

  124. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Why Hawley is now pointing to a 2020 ‘attack on the White House’

    Hawley would have us believe there was a left-wing attack on the White House, comparable to the right-wing attack on the Capitol. That’s ridiculous.

    For many Republicans, the idea that the left was secretly responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol had great appeal. After all, reality — it was pro-Trump forces that engaged in insurrectionist violence — made some right-wing elements right look like dangerous criminals, so it stood to reason that much of the GOP would embrace conspiracy theories about “leftists” being responsible for the riot.

    That line of argument will likely maintain some appeal indefinitely in unhinged circles, but FBI Director Chris Wray helped discredit the idea quite thoroughly in sworn testimony this week.

    And that, in turn, forced some Republicans to consider an alternative: maybe GOP officials can’t blame the left for attacking the Capitol, but they could try to blame the left for attacking the White House.

    Indeed, in apparent reference to social-justice protests held outside the White House last summer, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), reading prewritten remarks, insisted at a committee hearing this week that there was “a three-day siege on the White House,” starting in late May.

    There was no such “siege,” but as MSNBC’s Hayes Brown noted, one of Grassley’s colleagues echoed the sentiment.

    Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., upped the stakes Wednesday during a hearing with the head of the D.C. National Guard and officials from the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security. Bouncing off one witness’s answer, Hawley referred to “the events of the spring, which we’re all familiar with.”

    [Josh Hawley] went on to refer to last summer’s “attack on the White House,” as if it were an event we’d all remember.

    The subtext from Grassley and Hawley was hardly subtle. “Fine, there was a right-wing attack on the Capitol,” they effectively argued, “but there was also a left-wing attack on the White House, so the scales should be seen as even.”

    The problem, of course, is that there was no attack on the White House, at least not since the British set it on fire 207 years ago.

    As a Washington Post analysis explained, “Hawley’s framing is ludicrous. The protesters weren’t seeking to attack the White House, nor did they. In fact, the protesters in Lafayette Square just north of the White House were eventually the target of a violent effort to disperse them by law enforcement at the scene.”

    […] the Post’s analysis concluded, “If there had been an attack on the executive mansion as there was an attack on the legislature, Hawley might better wave away questions about his decision to oppose the counting of electoral votes. But that is not what happened.”

    Postscript: Both Grassley and Hawley emphasized that Trump was taken to a secure bunker during last summer’s protests, which is true. But at no point was the then-president in actual danger — it’s not as if protestors roamed the halls of the White House chanting about “hanging” anyone — making this largely irrelevant.

    Let’s also note for context that Trump brazenly lied about what happened, as then-Attorney General Bill Barr helped prove.

  125. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    After two consecutive days of record Covid-19 deaths in Brazil, the president Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday told Brazilians to stop “whining” and move on, in his latest remarks attacking distancing measures and downplaying the gravity of the pandemic.

    The country has the world’s second-highest death toll over the past year, after the US. While the US outbreak is ebbing, Brazil is facing its worst phase of the epidemic yet, pushing its hospital system to the brink of collapse.

    “Enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?” Bolsonaro told a crowd at an event. “How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it anymore. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”

    Brazil’s surging second wave has triggered new restrictions in its capital, Brasilia, and its largest city, São Paulo. Tourist mecca Rio de Janeiro on Thursday announced a city-wide curfew and early closing time for restaurants.

    Particularly worrying to health authorities is the emergence of a new coronavirus variant from the Amazonas region that appears more contagious and more able to reinfect those who previously had Covid-19.

    “We are experiencing the worst outlook for the pandemic since it started,” said Gonzalo Vecina Neto, a medical doctor and former head of Brazilian health regulator Anvisa. “Mutations are the result of the increased reproduction of the virus. The greater the number of viruses, the faster the transmission, the more mutations we have.”

    State governors and doctors have complained that the federal government has mismanaged the coronavirus crisis, as Bolsonaro has downplayed its severity and opposed lockdowns. The government’s delay in acquiring and distributing vaccines means that less than 3.5% of the population have had at least one shot.

    Nevertheless, Bolsonaro’s popularity has been supported by 322 billion reais ($57.7 billion) in emergency aid payments to poorer Brazilians last year.

    The senate voted on Thursday to renew the aid program at a smaller scale, handing out 250 reais per month for four months, at a cost of up to 44 billion reais. The proposal must still be approved by Brazil’s lower house of Congress.

    France aims to vaccinate at least 10 million people by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and 30 million by the summer, prime minister Jean Castex has said. Castex added that so far 3.2 million people have been vaccinated, including 1.8 million who have received two doses.

  126. says

    Follow-up to SC @150.

    Trump’s Justice Dept failed to prosecute cabinet members (4 times)

    In a normal term, having a cabinet secretary referred to the Justice Department for prosecution would be extraordinary. With Trump, it happened four times.

    First, there was Ryan Zinke. Corruption allegations involving Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued Interior secretary were referred to Justice Department prosecutors, but Trump’s DOJ declined to charge the Montana Republican.

    Then there was Alex Acosta, Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued Labor secretary, who was also referred to Justice Department prosecutors, only to have Trump’s DOJ decline to charge the Florida Republican, too.

    And who can forget Robert Wilkie, Donald Trump’s controversial VA secretary, who was — you guessed it — referred to Justice Department prosecutors, only to have Trump’s DOJ choose not to charge him, either.

    […] this club has a fourth member.

    The Transportation Department’s watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year over concerns that she misused her office when she was transportation secretary […]

    the allegations against Chao are pretty remarkable. Indeed, the list of possible transgressions isn’t short.

    For example, Chao was accused of retaining shares in a company that supplies road-paving materials, despite the fact that she was the secretary of Transportation. She was similarly accused of, among other things, using her position to arrange official travel and official government meetings intended to benefit her family’s business.

    Investigators determined that the corruption allegations against Chao were serious enough to be referred to the Justice Department, […] decided not to pursue the matter.

    […] each of these controversies were largely overlooked by the public because they were eclipsed by even more dramatic scandals involving the sitting president.

    As regular readers may recall, Trump declared with pride in 2019, “There are those that say we have one of the finest cabinets.” In reality, no one ever made such an assessment — and no one ever will.

  127. tomh says

    ‘It Is a Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade’: Arkansas Lawmakers Send Bill Banning All Elective Abortions to Governor’s Desk
    JERRY LAMBE Mar 4th, 2021

    The state of Arkansas is one signature away from enacting the strictest anti-abortion law in the United States. Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to approve Senate Bill 6 (SB6), a measure that would ban all abortions except in cases of a medical emergency where the procedure is required to save the life of the mother.

    The bill, which has already been approved by the Senate, passed the House by a vote of 76-19. It does not allow for any exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
    […]

    …it would immediately face vehement legal challenges—something Arkansas lawmakers are counting on in hopes that the high court’s new conservative majority will upend decades-old reproductive rights decisions.

    “Arkansas is asking and pleading that the U.S. Supreme Court take a look at this and make a decision that once again allows the states to protect human life,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert…

    That sentiment was reiterated Wednesday by another co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mary Bentley.

    “It’s time for this decision to be overturned in the Supreme Court,” Bentley told her colleagues in reference to Roe…It is the will of the people of Arkansas to save the lives of unborn children and to help women in this state…

  128. says

    The delaying tactic employed by Ron Johnson may not buy him as much time as he had hoped:

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) proclaimed on Twitter Wednesday that he’s “going to make the Senate clerk read the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion bill. All several hundred pages of it.”

    Johnson estimated that it’ll take 10 hours to read through the whole COVID-19 relief package. It clocks in at 630 pages.

    Luckily, the clerks who will be forced to carry out that stalling tactic have a plan.

    “We can read two pages a minute,” Mary Anne Clarkson, senior assistant legislative clerk, told TPM matter-of-factly. “It won’t take 10 hours.”

    […] “We all know this will merely delay the inevitable,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor Thursday. “It will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks who work very hard day in day out to help the Senate function. And I want to thank our clerks profoundly for the work they do every day, including the arduous task ahead of them.”

    […] Republicans will draw out the bill stuffed with critical COVID-19 aid as long as possible to try to bolster their complaints that the package is bloated with what they describe as unnecessary measures. Johnson has called it “abuse,” a “boondoggle” for Democrats.

    […] After the vote to proceed with the bill, expected to come this afternoon, there will be some procedural motions and hours of Johnson’s forced bill read. Then there will be 20 hours of debate before the “vote-a-rama,” when the senators will introduce their amendments, many of which will be just for show.

    Senate Republicans are hoping to force their Democratic peers into uncomfortable amendment votes to use on the campaign trail later. While it only takes 51 votes to pass the amendments, Schumer can introduce a final amendment at the end that would strip the bill of any changes.

    “It’s all about TV commercials,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told CNN. “Make people accountable for their votes. There is not much they can do if they are determined to hang together there is nothing we can do to change the outcome. If they really want to do this, they can probably get it done.”

    Democrats are eager to get the package passed as soon possible, especially because of the March 14 cliff when millions of Americans will start losing their federal unemployment benefits.

    Link

  129. says

    DeSantis is giving vaccines meant for Black communities to wealthy white Floridians

    It’s no surprise that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis cares more about the rich than the economically vulnerable. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis has not only downplayed the virus, but prioritized the health and safety of those he can profit from.

    While a majority of Florida’s eldest residents have struggled to not only sign up but receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, almost all wealthy people 65 years and older were vaccinated by mid-January, according to a community newsletter obtained by the Miami Herald. Additionally, those being vaccinated were ensured that despite most of the state being unable to receive their first dose, they would have access to both the first and second dose of the vaccine.

    […] But that’s not all. After prioritizing vaccinating the white and rich, DeSantis’ political committee raised at least $2.7 million in the month of February alone. Records indicate this is the highest amount he has raised in a single month since he first ran for governor in 2018. After the community was vaccinated, former Republican governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner, who is also a resident of Ocean Reef, wrote the DeSantis campaign a check for $250,000.

    While it is unclear where these communities got their vaccine doses from, according to the Florida Division of Elections, the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef, the community that was prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines.

    […] while DeSantis’ office claims that they have been prioritizing vaccinating seniors, data indicates otherwise. The reality is DeSantis has been prioritizing wealthy and white seniors, with vaccinations meant for rural Black communities being given to wealthy white people. State records indicate that while 17% of the state’s population is Black, by the end of February only 5.6% of those vaccinated in the state were Black. Investigations into the racial disparities of vaccinations and DeSantis’ political selection process are being called for.

    But Ocean Reef isn’t the only example in which those vaccinated early in Florida were connected to DeSantis. Last month DeSantis set up a pop-up vaccine clinic for Manatee County residents. However, instead of offering the vaccinations to all those eligible in the county as advertised, the clinic was limited to people living in only two zip codes: 34202 and 34211. Those zip codes represent the most affluent areas in the county, with a majority white community. Additionally, it was noted that one of the communities with access to the vaccines DeSantis provided is home to the family of one of his biggest campaign donors.

    […] He then set up two other pop-up clinics with similar zip code restrictions in Charlotte and Sarasota counties, the Herald-Tribune reported. By selecting communities that get the vaccine, DeSantis not only makes political moves to his benefit but allows these residents to bypass state and local vaccine registration systems.

    […] DeSantis is clearly not only prioritizing the white and rich but profiting off of the craven move. Instead of working to vaccinate all residents in his state, DeSantis is playing political games in efforts to advance his career. Not only is he leaving out people of color and the most vulnerable in his efforts to vaccinate the rich, but DeSantis also refused to vaccinate teachers and educators under 50. As a result, CVS pharmacies in the state are taking matters into their own hands and vaccinating teachers despite age limits on vaccine recipients imposed by the state, the Associated Press reported.

    […] With one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection, Florida still lags behind in its prevention and vaccination efforts. Since the start of the pandemic, DeSantis has actively ignored efforts to stop the spread of the virus and seems to have no intention of changing his motives. His actions need to be investigated and he must be held accountable.

  130. says

    After recklessly lifting restrictions, Texas governor falsely calls asylum-seekers COVID risk

    Just one day after he recklessly lifted novel coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is now trying to blame asylum-seeking parents and children for cases in his state, falsely claiming in a tweet that the “Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities.”

    With all due disrespect to the governor, he’s full of shit. “This is an utter lie, and it is even worse because it comes the day after Abbott ended all statewide precautions for COVID,” tweeted immigration policy expert Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “In total, 108 people who tested positive have been released in Texas since late January. That’s not ‘hundreds.’ It’s not even 4 per day on average!” […]

    Abbott’s Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick similarly pointed his racist finger at asylum-seeking families. Recall that Patrick at the very beginning of the pandemic had suggested that senior citizens would be willing to sacrifice themselves to save Walmart or some shit. It looks like he and Abbott are now ready to kill more Texans, and are setting the stage to blame immigrants for their deadly shenanigans: […] [Video is available at the link.]

    […] Disgraced former speaker and forgotten politician Newt Gingrich also joined in on the racism, falsely claiming that “[t]he greatest threat of a covid surge comes from Biden’s untested illegal immigrants pouring across the border. We have no way of know how many of them are bringing covid with them.” By Thursday, the tweet was gone from his feed, but it was unclear if he deleted it or it was removed by Twitter.

    “The US has more Covid cases THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD,” Jack Herrera tweeted. “And asylum seekers are not at fault.” There was likely no preventing all of our nation’s suffering amid this pandemic, but it did not have to be this bad. Instead, nearly a year ago today, the previous president went onto television to say it would just go away. Half a million dead later, it has not gone away.

    “He knows HIS decision to end the mask mandate will cause COVID spread & death just as his premature opening did last year,” El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar responded. “His deflecting and distracting is bad enough. But his use of xenophobic fear-mongering is vile. He knows it fuels hate crime. Shame on you @GregAbbott_TX.”

  131. says

    Shimon Prokupecz:

    Federal investigators are examining records of communications between members of Congress and the pro-Trump mob that attacked the US Capitol, as the investigation moves closer to exploring whether lawmakers wittingly or unwittingly helped the insurrectionists.

    The data gathered so far includes indications of contact with lawmakers in the days around January 6, as well as communications between alleged rioters discussing their associations with members of Congress, the official said.

  132. says

    Did the Pentagon wait for Trump’s approval before defending the Capitol?

    Washington Post link

    Three hours and 19 minutes.

    That’s how long it took from the first, desperate pleas for help from the Capitol Police to the Trump Pentagon on Jan. 6 until the D.C. National Guard finally received permission to help put down the bloody insurrection.

    During those 199 minutes, the mob sacked the Capitol. People died. Overwhelmed Capitol and D.C. police were beaten. Lawmakers’ lives were jeopardized. And violent extremists defiled the seat of government, temporarily halting the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

    “At 1:49 p.m., I received a frantic call from then-chief of United States Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters,” Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commander of the D.C. Guard, testified Wednesday to a joint Senate committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. “Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol, and he requested the immediate assistance of as many available national guardsmen that I could muster.”

    Walker immediately alerted senior Army leadership — and then waited. And waited. Approval to mobilize the guard wouldn’t be received until 5:08 p.m.

    At best, this was a catastrophic failure of government. At worst, political appointees and Trump loyalists at the Defense Department deliberately prevented the National Guard from defending the Capitol against a seditious mob.

    The man ultimately responsible for the delay, Christopher Miller, had been a White House aide before Donald Trump installed him as acting defense secretary in November, as the president began his attempt to overturn his election defeat. Miller did Trump’s political bidding at another point during his 10-week tenure, forcing the National Security Agency to install a Republican political operative as chief counsel.

    Also involved in the Pentagon delay was Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, brother of disgraced former Trump adviser Michael Flynn, convicted (and pardoned) for lying to the FBI. Michael Flynn had suggested Trump declare martial law, and he helped to rile Trump supporters in Washington the day before the Capitol attack. The Pentagon had falsely denied to Post journalists that Charles Flynn was involved in the pivotal call on Jan. 6.

    Representing the Pentagon on Wednesday fell to Robert Salesses, who haplessly tried to explain the delay. An hour and six minutes of the holdup was because then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy “was asking a lot of questions” about the mission. Another piece of the delay: The 36 minutes between when the Pentagon claims Miller authorized the action and when the D.C. Guard was informed of the decision. “That’s an issue,” Salesses allowed.

    Curiously, the Pentagon claims Miller’s authorization came at 4:32 — 15 minutes after Trump told his “very special” insurrectionists to “go home in peace.” Was Miller waiting for Trump’s blessing before defending the Capitol?

    The Pentagon’s 199-minute delay looks worse in light of a Jan. 4 memo Miller issued saying that without his “personal authorization” the D.C. Guard couldn’t “be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.”

    The Army secretary added more restrictions the next day, saying in a memo that he would “withhold authority” for the D.C. Guard to deploy a “quick reaction force” and that he would “require a concept of operation” before allowing a quick reaction force to react. McCarthy even blocked the D.C. Guard in advance from redeploying to the Capitol guardsmen assigned to help the D.C. police elsewhere in Washington.

    Without such restrictions, Walker, the D.C. Guard commander, could have dispatched nearly 200 guardsmen soon after the Capitol Police mayday call. “That number could have made a difference,” Walker testified.

    Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, was incredulous. “There are three unarmed national guardsmen who are helping with traffic control … and they were not permitted to move a block away without getting permission from the secretary of the Army?”

    “That’s correct,” Walker replied.

    Miller “required the personal approval of the secretary of defense for the National Guard to be issued riot gear?” Portman asked.

    “That’s correct,” Walker replied. “Normally for a safety and force-protection matter, a commander would be able to authorize his guardsmen to protect themselves.”

    […] The Pentagon claims the restrictions were in response to criticism of the heavy-handed deployment of the National Guard in Washington during racial justice protests last summer. Maybe so. But Walker testified that when the police chiefs “passionately pleaded” for the Guard’s help on Jan. 6, senior Army officials on the call said it wouldn’t be “a good optic.” They thought “it could incite the crowd” and advised against it.

    During this moment of crisis — an attempted coup in the Capitol — the defense secretary and the Army secretary were “not available,” Walker testified.

    The nation deserves to know why.

  133. says

    The Senate voted Thursday afternoon to begin debate on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan with the assistance of Vice President Kamala Harris to make the vote 51-50. Yes, Republicans unanimously opposed even moving forward on providing essential aid to the American people to get out of this pandemic.

    Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron “Genius” Johnson became the face of the GOP, surpassing his usual ridiculousness in his opposition to the COVID-19 relief bill that 77% of voters support, including 59% of Republicans […]

    The relief plan will provide more funding to rural hospitals and to expanding broadband—so more for rural states represented by Republicans who are opposing the bill. At least Democrats are looking out for Republican voters. It will also provide more funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for helping the homeless, and changes the formula for state and local aid to give smaller population states more money.

    Once again, Democrats are looking out for Republican voters. Especially those in Alaska, which will see its fisheries and tourist industry get some added boosts, along with the other small state aid. For all that, Lisa Murkowski, the senior Republican senator from Alaska, voted no on the initial procedural vote to bring the bill to the floor. But we’re all in this together, excepting the Republican lawmakers who don’t want any of this to happen.

    Link

  134. says

    TPM – “Cancel Culture: Jordan Cheers Capitol Threat Canceling House Vote And Stalling Dem Agenda”:

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of the fiercest warriors against the “cancel culture” boogeyman widely feared by conservatives, celebrated the House cancelling its session on Thursday due to the threat of another pro-Trump assault on the Capitol.

    “Maybe in a way it’s good, because in the next two weeks think about what the Democrats are going to do,” Jordan told Fox News on Wednesday night, ticking off a doomsday list of ways Democrats will “radically change” election and policing laws.

    “Maybe it’s a good idea that we’re not here,” the Ohio Republican repeated.

    Jordan also cast doubt on the seriousness of the threat.

    “I don’t know that the threat is that critical,” he said, adding that he had not received a briefing on the matter.

    “But my guess is this is probably not that serious,” Jordan asserted. “But I just don’t know for sure.”

    The Capitol Police announced earlier on Wednesday that they had “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group” on March 4, which is the day QAnon conspiracy theorists falsely believe ex-President Donald Trump will be inaugurated.

    Law enforcement has heightened security on Capitol grounds in response to the threat.

  135. says

    SC @176, yes that good news about the increasing rate of vaccines per day.

    No, I still have not been vaccinated. I signed up on the waiting list before my brother did. He has been vaccinated and he has a second dose scheduled for March 16. I’m happy for him, but frustrated for myself. It seems there was some mistake when it came to contacting me. I have checked back three time and I still can’t get a good answer, nor can I get any assurance that I will be given an appointment for vaccination. As far as I can tell, the system here is only sporadically well-run. The rest of the time, incompetence and disorganization rule. Also, the supply of vaccinators does not seem to match the need.

    I am wondering if I have to move to Florida and make a cash donation to Governor Santis’s campaign in order to get vaccinated.

    Good new: so far I am still alive.

  136. says

    The Wasting of the Evangelical Mind

    New Yorker link

    It was among the most jarring scenes of the Capitol invasion, on January 6th. As rioters milled about on the Senate floor, a long-haired man in a red ski cap bellowed, from the dais, “Jesus Christ, we invoke your name!” A man to his right––the so-called QAnon Shaman, wearing a fur hat and bull horns atop his head, and holding an American flag—raised a megaphone and began to pray. Others in the chamber bowed their heads. “Thank you, heavenly Father, for being the inspiration needed to these police officers to allow us into the building, to allow us to exercise our rights, to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the Communists, and the globalists, that this is our nation, not theirs, that we will not allow the America, the American way of the United States of America, to go down,” he said. “Thank you, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent creator God for filling this chamber with your white light and love, your white light of harmony. Thank you for filling this chamber with patriots that love you and love Christ.”

    Falsehoods about a stolen election, retailed by Donald Trump and his allies, drove the Capitol invasion, but distorted visions of Christianity suffused it. One group carried a large wooden cross; there were banners that read “In God We Trust,” “Jesus Is My Savior / Trump Is My President,” and “Make America Godly Again”; some marchers blew shofars, ritual instruments made from ram’s horns that have become popular in certain conservative Christian circles, owing to its resonance with an account in the Book of Joshua in which Israelites sounded their trumpets and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. The intermingling of religious faith, conspiratorial thinking, and misguided nationalism on display at the Capitol offered perhaps the most unequivocal evidence yet of the American church’s role in bringing the country to this dangerous moment.

    […] more than a quarter of white evangelicals believe that Donald Trump has been secretly battling “a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites,” a core tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory. […] nearly three-quarters of white evangelical Republicans believe widespread voter fraud took place in the 2020 election, compared with fifty-four per cent of non-evangelical Republicans; sixty per cent of white evangelical Republicans believe that Antifa, the antifascist group, was mostly responsible for the violence in the Capitol riot, […] white evangelicals are much more skeptical of the covid-19 vaccine and are less likely than other Americans to get it, potentially jeopardizing the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

    How did the church in America––particularly, its white Protestant evangelical manifestation––end up here? […] faith and reason are antipodes––the former necessarily cancels out the latter […] Cultivating the life of the mind, however, has been an important current throughout much of Christianity’s history, a recognition that intellectual pursuits can glorify God. [snipped examples]

    Evangelicalism in America, however, has come to be defined by its anti-intellectualism. The style of the most popular and influential pastors tend to correlate with shallowness: charisma trumps expertise; scientific authority is often viewed with suspicion. […] In 1994, Mark Noll, a historian who was then a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, the preëminent evangelical liberal-arts institution, published “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” In the opening sentence of the book’s first chapter, he writes, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

    […] The English Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock and settled throughout New England had a deep scholarly tradition, which led to the founding of Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. Puritan clergy were expected to be paragons of both learning and piety. American Christianity took a decisive shift, however, toward religious “enthusiasm,” as Hofstadter puts it, during revivals that swept the colonies in the mid-eighteenth century, a period that came to be known as the First Great Awakening. […] Revivalism changed the nature of Protestant Christianity. Religious faith became more individualistic and less tethered to institutional authority; immediate experience took priority over tradition. A marketplace of religion took shape in America […]

    […] The social and intellectual upheaval of the late nineteenth century eventually led to a rupture in Protestantism. Some drifted toward theological liberalism, rejecting historically orthodox beliefs about Jesus’s birth, humanity’s need for salvation, and other supernatural parts of the Bible; others retrenched and formed the fundamentalist movement. Crucially, fundamentalists came to embrace a number of theological innovations that were previously not at all central to Christian orthodoxy, including premillennial dispensationalism––a focus on biblical prophecies as a road map to different epochs in history and, in particular, the coming of the end times––and a simplistic, literal approach to the Bible. […] Fundamentalists also believed that they needed to separate themselves from an increasingly secular society. […] “Evangelicals pushed analysis away from the visible present to the invisible future,” Noll writes. “Under these influences, evangelicals almost totally replaced respect for creation with a contemplation of redemption.”

    […] During the Trump era, it became clear that the wasting of the evangelical mind could even have dire consequences on American democracy. […]

    Recently, some pastors and other evangelical leaders have begun to express alarm at how unmoored some members of their congregations have become. More leaders in the American church need to recognize the emergency, but, in order for evangelicals to rescue the life of the mind in their midst, they need to acknowledge that the church is missing a vital aspect of worshipping God: understanding the world He made.

  137. says

    Lynna, gah, that’s so frustrating. I can’t get over how clunky the network of systems for getting appointments seems to be across so many states. I hope you’re able to get it soon!

  138. says

    USA Today:

    The state’s top health official said Wednesday he did not speak with Greg Abbott before the governor announced Tuesday he would end his mask order and ‘open Texas 100%,’ a decision criticized by public health experts, city and county leaders and President Joe Biden…. Two of the other medical advisers also said they were not consulted before the governor’s decision.

  139. says

    Thanks, SC @179. It’s good to know that someone cares and is wishing me well.

    In other news, Matt Gaetz makes friendly with white nationalists when they invade CPAC gathering in Florida

    Trumpist Republican politicians like Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz appear to be mimicking their role model’s ability to send comforting signals out to white nationalists while managing to keep them at arm’s length for the sake of plausible deniability. He showed how it’s done this past weekend at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual convention in Orlando.

    A cluster of young white nationalists attending the simultaneous America First Political Action Committee convention—organized by notorious “Groyper Army” leader Nicholas Fuentes—invaded the CPAC gathering, where Fuentes has been banned, on Saturday. They managed to find Gaetz, who took photos with one of the group’s leaders [photo is available at the link]—an outspoken neo-Nazi who uses the nom de plume “Speckzo”—and briefly conversed with them, apparently acknowledging his familiarity with Fuentes.

    The video of the interaction shows one of the Groypers asking Gaetz if he was familiar with Fuentes. Gaetz made an indistinct reply while walking away with an aide, pointing a raised index finger in the direction of the young men.

    Gaetz has a history of such dalliances with far-right extremists. In 2018, he invited notorious white nationalist Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union address, giving Johnson one of his tickets to the event. Gaetz claimed disingenuously that Johnson had just happened to drop by his office the day before to discuss their mutual political interests—which Johnson claimed were marijuana, bitcoin, Trump, and animal welfare—and a spare ticket had become available.

    In 2019, Gaetz hired a white nationalist named Darren Beattie to work in his office as a speechwriter. […] Gaetz later ran into trouble with House ethics rules for using taxpayer funds for Beattie’s salary.

    Fuentes himself had attempted to enter the CPAC convention hall on Saturday with a group of fellow “Groypers,” but was turned away by organizer and security. “CPAC sucks. It’s gay,” Fuentes told the people who had gathered to watch the confrontation. “We made our point. Masks don’t work. CPAC is gay. They’re not conservative.”

    […] “Speckzo,” whose identity is currently unknown but who has boasted on social media that he lives in New York and makes $100,000 annually from his online video rants, is noteworthy for openly embracing Nazism, denying the Holocaust, and expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler. He also has said he considers electoral democracy a failure, blaming women’s suffrage and allowing poor people to vote, adding that he considers monarchy the best political system. […]

    “Speckzo” also managed to get a selfie portrait of himself with Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar […]

    Gaetz no doubt will claim he had no idea who he was posing with on Saturday and brush off the association. But the problematic aspect of the selfies he took is less who he associates with, but instead the kind of people who seek out his approval.

  140. says

    Guardian – “India’s top judge tells accused rapist to marry victim to avoid jail”:

    India’s top judge is facing calls to resign after telling an accused rapist to marry his schoolgirl victim to avoid jail.

    More than 5,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the chief justice Sharad Arvind Bobde quit after he told the government technician at a hearing: “If you want to marry [her] we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail.”

    Bobde’s comments sparked a furore and prompted women’s rights activists to circulate an open letter that gained more than 5,200 signatures calling for his resignation.

    According to the letter, the defendant is accused of stalking, tying up, gagging and repeatedly raping the girl and threatening to douse her in petrol, set her alight and have her brother killed.

    “By suggesting that this rapist marry the victim-survivor, you, the chief justice of India, sought to condemn the victim-survivor to a lifetime of rape at the hands of the tormentor who drove her to attempt suicide,” the letter said.

    India’s abysmal record on sexual violence has been a focus of international attention since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus. Victims are regularly subjected to sexist treatment at the hands of police and courts, including being encouraged to marry their attackers in so-called compromise solutions.

    The letter drew attention to another hearing on Monday during which Bobde reportedly questioned whether sex between a married couple could ever be considered rape. “The husband may be a brutal man, but can you call the act of sexual intercourse between a lawfully wedded man and wife as rape?” he said….

  141. says

    Guardian – “A few rightwing ‘super-spreaders’ fueled bulk of election falsehoods, study says”:

    A handful of rightwing “super-spreaders” on social media were responsible for the bulk of election misinformation in the run-up to the Capitol attack, according to a new study that also sheds light on the staggering reach of falsehoods pushed by Donald Trump.

    A report from the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), a group that includes Stanford and the University of Washington, analyzed social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok during several months before and after the 2020 elections.

    It found that “super-spreaders” – responsible for the most frequent and most impactful misinformation campaigns – included Trump and his two elder sons, as well as other members of the Trump administration and the rightwing media.

    The study’s authors and other researchers say the findings underscore the need to disable such accounts to stop the spread of misinformation.

    “If there is a limit to how much content moderators can tackle, have them focus on reducing harm by eliminating the most effective spreaders of misinformation,” said said Lisa Fazio, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University who studies the psychology of fake news but was not involved EIP report. “Rather than trying to enforce the rules equally across all users, focus enforcement on the most powerful accounts.”

    The report analyzed social media posts featuring words like “election” and “voting” to track key misinformation narratives related to the the 2020 election, including claims of mail carriers throwing away ballots, legitimate ballots strategically not being counted, and other false or unproven stories.

    The report studied how these narratives developed and the effect they had. It found during this time period, popular rightwing Twitter accounts “transformed one-off stories, sometimes based on honest voter concerns or genuine misunderstandings, into cohesive narratives of systemic election fraud”.

    Ultimately, the “false claims and narratives coalesced into the meta-narrative of a ‘stolen election’, which later propelled the January 6 insurrection”, the report said.

    “The 2020 election demonstrated that actors – both foreign and domestic – remain committed to weaponizing viral false and misleading narratives to undermine confidence in the US electoral system and erode Americans’ faith in our democracy,” the authors concluded.

    Out of the 21 top offenders, 15 were verified Twitter accounts – which are particularly dangerous when it comes to election misinformation, the study said. The “repeat spreaders” responsible for the most widely spread misinformation included Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and influencers like James O’Keefe, Tim Pool, Elijah Riot, and Sidney Powell. All 21 of the top accounts for misinformation leaned rightwing, the study showed.

    On nearly all the platforms analyzed in the study – including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – Donald Trump played a massive role.

    …Trump had a unique ability to amplify news stories that would have otherwise remained contained in smaller outlets and subgroups, said Matt Gertz of Media Matters for America.

    “Super-spreader” accounts were ultimately very successful in undermining voters’ trust in the democratic system, the report found….

    Researchers said the refusal to take action or establish clear rules for when action should be taken helped to fuel the prevalence of misinformation. For example, only YouTube had a publicly stated “three-strike” system for offenses related to the election. Platforms like Facebook reportedly had three-strike rules as well but did not make the system publicly known.

    Only four of the top 20 Twitter accounts cited as top spreaders were actually removed, the study showed – including Donald Trump’s in January.

    Twitter has maintained that its ban of the former president is permanent. YouTube’s chief executive officer stated this week that Trump would be reinstated on the platform once the “risk of violence” from his posts passes. Facebook’s independent oversight board is now considering whether to allow Trump to return.

    “We have seen that he uses his accounts as a way to weaponize disinformation. It has already led to riots at the US Capitol; I don’t know why you would give him the opportunity to do that again,” Gertz said. “It would be a huge mistake to allow Trump to return.”

  142. says

    Guardian – “China unveils Hong Kong electoral changes as it tightens grip on city”:

    China’s top lawmaking body has formally unveiled plans to ensure only “patriots” can govern Hong Kong, as Beijing tightens its grip on the city with electoral changes including a vetting process for all parliamentary candidates.

    In an annual “work report” delivered on Friday to Beijing’s most important political meeting, Premier Li Keqiang swore to “resolutely guard against and deter” interference by external forces, amid growing international alarm at Beijing’s attacks on pro-democracy voices.

    Li also pledged to “resolutely deter any separatist activity” in Taiwan, and revealed significant economic and population goals for China’s future, including GDP growth above 6%.

    Li delivered his speech to 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on the first day of the rubber-stamping legislative body’s annual week-long meeting, which along with a parallel meeting is part of what is known as the “two sessions”.

    A draft decision was submitted to the NPC on Friday morning, said Wang Chen, the vice-chair of the NPC’s standing committee. The text is not yet public, but Chen flagged major changes to parts of Hong Kong’s mini constitution that govern elections, including a change in the size of the committee that elects the chief executive. The changes would also grant the committee new powers to “directly participate in the nomination of all legislative council members”, and establish “a qualification vetting system for the whole process”.

    “The rioting and turbulence that occurred in the Hong Kong society reveals that the existing electoral system in [Hong Kong] has clear loopholes and deficiencies,” Chen said, according to state media. “Necessary measures must be taken to improve the electoral system and remove existing institutional risks to ensure the administration of Hong Kong by Hong Kong people with patriots as the main body.”

    Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Agence France-Presse that the proposed vetting committee would allow Beijing authorities and Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, to disqualify any candidates deemed not to be fully loyal to the Chinese Communist party and “effectively wipe out any remaining opposition”.

    Hours after the announcement, Beijing’s liaison office, its highest representative in the city, said people “from all walks of life in Hong Kong have voiced their support”.

    “The situation has a solid foundation of the rule of law, political foundation, and public opinion,” the office said.

    The changes to the electoral system further strengthen Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong, after it announced a sweeping new national security law at last year’s NPC meeting….

  143. says

    Here’s a link to the March 5 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    EU says pandemic has disproportionately affected women

    Women in European Union countries have been “disproportionately affected” by the coronavirus pandemic because they make up the vast majority of workers in health and other frontline jobs, according to the EU’s annual report on gender equality.

    The pandemic has also brought a rise in domestic violence against women, the EU’s annual report on gender equality said. Moreover, women have since had more difficulties finding new jobs.

    The report said:

    There is already ample evidence that the hard-won achievements of past years have been ‘rolled back’…progress on women’s rights is hard won but easily lost.

    Women’s overrepresentation in lower paid sectors and occupations, such as hospitality, retail, or personal services, make them particularly vulnerable in the labour markets struck by the COVID-19 crisis.

    In contrast, service sectors that were not as disrupted due to the nature of their activity such as information and communication, finance and insurance, primarily employing men, saw an increase in employment rates.

  144. says

    Politico – “Trump appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot”:

    The FBI on Thursday arrested Federico Klein, a former State Department aide, on charges related to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, marking the first known instance of an appointee of President Donald Trump facing criminal prosecution in connection with the attempt to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

    Klein, 42, was taken into custody in Virginia, said Samantha Shero, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Details on the charges against him were not immediately available.

    Klein worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and was then hired at the State Department. As of last summer, he was listed in a federal directory as serving as a special assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and was designated as a “Schedule C” political appointee.

    Klein worked for a time in the State Department’s Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs before being transferred to the office that handles Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a former colleague who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    On Trump’s 2016 campaign, Klein — also known as Freddie — worked as a “tech analyst,” according to Federal Election Commission records. He earned $15,000 there, according to a financial disclosure he filed when he joined the State Department. He was paid an additional $5,000 by the campaign in 2017, the FEC records show….

  145. says

    Reuters – “Exclusive: U.S. blocked Myanmar junta attempt to empty $1 billion New York Fed account – sources”:

    Myanmar’s military rulers attempted to move about $1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York days after seizing power on Feb. 1, prompting U.S. officials to put a freeze on the funds, according to three people familiar with the matter, including one U.S. government official.

    The transaction on Feb. 4 in the name of the Central Bank of Myanmar was first blocked by Fed safeguards. U.S. government officials then stalled on approving the transfer until an executive order issued by President Joe Biden gave them legal authority to block it indefinitely, the sources said.

    The attempt, which has not been previously reported, came after Myanmar’s military installed a new central bank governor and detained reformist officials during the coup.

    It marked an apparent effort by Myanmar’s generals to limit exposure to international sanctions after they arrested elected officials, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had won a national election in November….

    The United States, Canada, the European Union and Britain have all issued fresh sanctions following the coup and the army’s subsequent deadly crackdown on demonstrators. The United Nations said on Thursday that at least 54 people have been killed since the coup. More than 1,700 people had been arrested, including 29 journalists….

  146. says

    TPM – “An Inside Look At How Trump Scrubbed Obamacare From HHS Websites”:

    There was no better symbol of the Trump administration’s plans for sabotaging the Affordable Care Act than how, soon after the inauguration, its Department of Health and Human Services prioritized erasing mentions of the law on its web page.

    The removals, as blatant as they were petty, quickly caught the attention of health care experts and portended a broader Trump effort to shirk its duties to implement the law, even after it became clear Congress was going to be unable to repeal it.

    But the extent of the erasure effort is only just now becoming clear. New documents recently obtained by TPM give a fresh view into how sweeping and systematic this purge of ACA mentions was, and how, four years later, federal public health websites are still devoid of key references to the law.

    The documents confirm long-held suspicions that the Trump administration ordered federal contractors to conduct an expansive keyword search for any place that the 2010 law was mentioned on the webpages of various HHS offices.

    The search turned up hundreds of examples, and without much apparent debate, many of those mentions were ordered removed. The administration wasn’t taking a scalpel to the Affordable Care Act’s web presence to make it more reflective of Trump’s goals for reworking the law. It was pounding the law off the website with a sledgehammer.

    While there were some carve-outs in the project for certain types of Obamacare references, other allusions to the ACA were scrubbed with seemingly no regard to the public health consequences of obscuring information about the law.

    Providers who might be looking for regulatory information on Obamacare policies no longer see a link to the law on the HHS’ main regulations page, thanks to the 2017 removal job. Women seeking information about contraceptive care had information withheld from them about the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements for those preventative services.

    The documents detailing the way in which mentions of the law were removed from federal websites were obtained by TPM through a 2017 Freedom of Information Act request.

    Indications that the Trump administration was making aggressive efforts to suppress information about the law — going far beyond how a new administration typically may boost or play down its predecessors’ policy initiatives — were picked up on in 2017, as Congress embarked on its repeal effort.

    The administration did not wait to see whether Congress would succeed before it remade the HHS websites as if the law didn’t exist. Nor did it restore the scrubbed mentions once Congress signaled it was moving on from repeal, a review of the newly obtained documents shows….

    Much more atl.

  147. says

    CNN – “House impeachment manager Eric Swalwell sues Trump and close allies over Capitol riot in second major insurrection lawsuit”:

    Former House impeachment manager Eric Swalwell has sued former President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks in a second major lawsuit seeking to hold Trump and his allies accountable for inciting the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6.

    The new lawsuit filed on Friday by Swalwell, a California Democrat who helped to lead impeachment arguments against Trump for inciting insurrection, follows a similar suit filed last month by Rep. Bennie Thompson against Trump, Giuliani and the extremist groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Swalwell’s case makes some of the same claims as Thompson’s — citing a civil rights law meant to counter the Ku Klux Klan’s intimidation of elected officials.

    But it also alleges Trump, Trump Jr., Giuliani and Brooks broke Washington, DC, laws, including an anti-terrorism act, by inciting the riot, and that they aided and abetted violent rioters and inflicted emotional distress on the members of Congress.

    “The Defendants, in short, convinced the mob that something was occurring that — if actually true — might indeed justify violence, and then sent that mob to the Capitol with violence-laced calls for immediate action,” the lawsuit, in Washington, DC’s federal District Court, alleges.

    The lawsuits will unfurl as Trump faces mounting pressures in investigations by House committees that seek his financial records, as well as in criminal probes related to his private business and his post-election actions. He has not been charged with any crime.

    Friday’s suit could bump up against free speech protections for speakers at the rally, as well as immunity Trump could try to claim he had while serving as president. All of the elected officials in the lawsuit, including Trump, are named in their personal capacities in court, meaning they would use private lawyers and not be shielded by their public offices.

    But should either this suit or Thompson’s proceed, it would mean the former President and his allies would be subject to discovery and depositions, potentially exposing details and evidence that weren’t released during the Senate impeachment trial.

    Swalwell, who was locked down in the House chamber during the siege, claims Trump, Trump Jr., Giuliani and Brooks prompted the attack on Congress with their repeated public assertions of voter fraud, their encouragement that supporters come to DC on January 6, and in their speeches that day. Each man had told the crowd that Joe Biden’s electoral certification in Congress could be blocked, and that Trump’s supporters should fight, the lawsuit alleges.

    “Trump directly incited the violence at the Capitol that followed and then watched approvingly as the building was overrun,” the lawsuit said. “The horrific events of January 6 were a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants’ unlawful actions. As such, the Defendants are responsible for the injury and destruction that followed.”

    The new lawsuit and Thompson’s claims are likely to go hand-in-hand in DC’s federal trial court, potentially even before the same judge, Amit Mehta, who was appointed by Barack Obama. They may take months or even years to reach resolutions and proceed as the same federal court hears criminal cases against around 300 alleged rioters and other Trump supporters who came to Washington on January 6.

    Swalwell, in his lawsuit, is seeking an order from the court that forces Trump and his three allies to give at least seven days notice before holding any gathering of more than 50 people in DC or state capitols on important days related to elections, so the House member might have the opportunity to go to court to try to block the gatherings.

    Like Thompson’s lawsuit, the second insurrection lawsuit is also seeking damages but hasn’t named an amount….

  148. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Italy registered more deaths in 2020 than in any other year since World War Two, according to data that suggest the virus caused thousands more fatalities than were officially attributed to it, Reuters reports.

    Total deaths in Italy last year amounted to 746,146, statistics bureau ISTAT said, an increase of 100,525, or 15.6%, compared with the average of the 2015-2019 period.

    Looking at the period from when Italy’s outbreak came to light on 21 February to the end of the year, the “excess deaths” were even higher at 108,178, an increase of 21% over the same period of the last five years.

    The Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Italy’s top health institute, officially attributed 75,891 deaths to the new coronavirus last year, some 70% of this total excess mortality.

    Italy has continued to register hundreds of Covid deaths per day this year. Its updated tally stood at 98,974 on Thursday.

    Officially, Covid accounted for 10% of deaths in Italy last year with marked regional disparities.

    It was the cause of 14.5% of all deaths in the northern regions where the outbreak was first reported in Italy. In central areas it was responsible for 7% of all deaths and in southern ones it accounted for 5%.

    Of the 100,525 excess deaths last year, 76% of the total were among people over the age of 80 and 20% were among those aged between 65 and 79, ISTAT said.

    Also, Canada has approved the J&J vaccine.

  149. says

    Why the debate on the relief bill will be shorter than the GOP hoped

    Senate Republicans forced clerks to read the entire COVID relief bill. The party would’ve been better off, from their own perspective, forgoing the stunt.

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) followed through on his threat last night and forced Senate clerks to read every word of the COVID relief bill out loud. The time-wasting stunt, which served no substantive purpose, had the intended effect: instead of working, the Senate halted for 10 hours and 44 minutes to indulge the Wisconsin Republican’s wishes.

    The Senate wrapped up its work for the day a little after 2 a.m. — though a funny thing happened before all the senators exited the chamber.

    Under the procedural rules, at least one Republican senator had to be on the Senate floor during the bill reading. If not, a Democrat would motion to end the time-wasting stunt and there’d be no objections. As a result, Johnson spent several hours on the floor last night in order to protect his pointless gambit, occasionally being relieved by GOP colleagues.

    Once the reading of the bill was finished, Republicans left, satisfied that the exercise was complete and the hours had ticked by. But a handful of Senate Democrats lingered, and as USA Today noted, they got something they wanted, too.

    The Senate was originally set to begin 20 hours of debate on the bill Friday, but at the end of Thursday’s session, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., motioned for the chamber to reduce the debate time to three hours. With no Republicans left in the chamber shortly after 2 a.m. ET on Friday, Van Hollen succeeded.

    Got that? Once Senate Republicans left. Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen stuck around, asked to shrink the floor debate on the relief package from 20 hours to three. Republicans intended to use as much of the 20 hours as possible, in part to drag this out, and in part to attack the popular legislation.

    But since no GOP senators were there, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who was presiding over the Senate at the time, banged the gavel and that was that.

    Just so we’re all clear, if Ron Johnson hadn’t bothered with the bill reading, the 20 hours of debate would’ve started yesterday. But because of the way Senate Republicans handled the process, they’ll end up wasting less time and having less debate.

    The party would’ve been better off, from their own perspective, forgoing the stunt — and giving the clerks a break.

    As for what to expect after the truncated floor debate, senators are gearing up for something called the “vote-a-rama”: a silly name for an exasperating process in which, thanks to arcane budget rules, senators can push non-binding votes on literally hundreds of politicized amendments.

    Those amendments must be deemed “germane” — which is to say, relevant — to the budgetary process, but Republicans are preparing several hundred attempts. During the last vote-a-rama, held exactly a month ago today, the process took 15 hours.

    The bill still appears to be on track for passage, but probably not until sometime tomorrow.

  150. says

    Cheney Scolds Gosar For Speaking At Conference Organized By White Nationalist

    House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) chided Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who was one of the leaders of the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” cause that led to a violent insurrection, on Thursday for speaking at a conference that was organized by a white nationalist.

    “I think the organization that [Gosar] spoke to is one that has expressed views that are clearly racist,” Cheney told Politico. “This is not the kind of an organization or an event that other members of Congress should be participating in.”

    “I’ve been very clear about the extent to which we have to stand against white supremacists, stand against anti-Semitism,” she continued. […]

    On February 27, the Arizona Republican participated in a panel at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), which was organized by infamous white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

    After Fuentes’ panel ended, Fuentes went onstage to bemoan the notion of the U.S. losing its “White demographic core” and “the influence of European civilization.”

    […] Several days before Gosar’s appearance at AFPAC, Cheney had urged Republicans to “make clear that we aren’t the party of white supremacy.”

    “It’s very important for us to ignore the temptation to look away,” she said.

  151. says

    Josh Hawley was right to worry, because the FBI really is reading his communications with insurgents

    […] New testimony from those present on that day [January 6], video not previously seen by the public, and evidence developed by investigation is revealing a situation that was even more violent, more destructive, and more threatening to the nation than was obvious from the jaw-dropping scenes that appeared on television screens.

    And in addition to evidence of destructive violence, there is also increasing evidence of involvement from Republican officials. That includes both a State Department official now wanted for taking an active role in the violence [see SC’s comment 187], and increasing signs of coordination between those breaking into Congress and the Republican legislators inside.

    […] emails, photos, and other documents collected from those present around the Capitol on January 6 is painting a more complete image of the actions of the pro-Trump insurgents. […]

    Included in this material is the story of a pair of Arlington firefighters who came to the Capitol on Jan. 4, and stuck around to assist the Capitol Police during what was expected to be a large protest. Instead, the two found themselves the only medics on the scene while operating right under the feet—and flagpoles—of an angry mob. Lost in the confusion and hemmed in by thousands of screaming Trumpists, the firefighters attempted to triage dozens of officers who had been injured, but had no way to get them to safety.

    Meanwhile, police were trying to respond to dozens of different threats that seemed to be breaking out everywhere at once. Not only were violent extremists grappling with police and bashing their way into buildings, there were threats of potential snipers in trees, a report that the Proud Boys intended to destroy the local water supply, the pipe bombs at both the RNC and DNC headquarters, and reports of still more armed militia groups incoming. Police were unable to concentrate forces at the Capitol steps, because chaos seemed to be happening everywhere.

    This explosion of violence may have appeared chaotic and overwhelming to the police, but it clearly did not happen without planning. And as CNN reports, some of that planning may have been coordinated by the people who police were literally dying to protect. […] a number of Republicans—most notably senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz—have repeatedly expressed concern about the idea of the FBI looking into phone records of those in Congress. Hawley in particular has fumed about this “violation of privacy” in multiple hearings.

    He may have good reason to be concerned. Because it appears that investigators are, in fact, checking out communications between members of Congress and some of the 300 people who have already been charged with crimes related to the insurgency. Some of this seems to be records showing that criminal insurgents claimed to be working in coordination with members of Congress. […]

    Investigators are not just looking at communications that took place on Jan. 6, but contacts between officials and the attackers over the period leading up to the insurgency. That might finally produce some information about the large tour that Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert gave in the days just before the assault.

    Those investigators might also want to take a look at the 2,000 page report compiled by Rep. Zoe Lofgren that looks at the social media of her Republican colleagues over the weeks leading up to Jan. 6.

    “This review lists public social media posts from Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who were sworn-in to office in January 2021 and who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”

    […] Investigators are also looking into the funding of the extremists who attacked the Capitol. While Republicans frequently make false claims about “antifa busses” and Black protesters being sent to locations by a Jewish billionaire, the truth is that numerous militia groups really did meet up at a series of locations and coordinate their arrival in D.C. And it seems entirely possible that those operations were funded by Republican donors […]

    […] Federico Klein, a former State Department aide appointed by Donald Trump, was arrested Thursday on multiple felony charges. On Jan. 6, Klein joined the insurgents confronting police in a tunnel beneath the Capitol. There he wrenched a riot shield away from one officer and used it to beat others. He also used that shield to hold open a door so that more insurgents could enter the building. At the time, Klein was an active employee at the State Department and enjoyed a Top Secret clearance. His appointment to the State Department followed a paid position in the Trump campaign.

    Ron Johnson will not explain how Klein was actually a member of an antifa sleeper cell.

  152. says

    Weird … and even more weird:

    Jacob Chansley, who has the gall to call himself the QAnon Shaman, wants you to know that he was only doing his civic duty during the insurrection of Jan. 6. In fact, he was there to stop a more serious crime from happening: wanton theft of baked goods.

    More specifically, the howling, shirtless conspiracy theorist with the horns and face paint claims he protected muffins from his fellow violent insurrectionists.As reported by the Daily Beast:

    The notorious “QAnon Shaman” has insisted his actions during the Capitol riot were not an attack on the United States—and that he can prove it because he stopped other rioters from stealing muffins.

    Jacob Chansley, who became arguably the most infamous Capitol rioter due to his furry and be-horned costume, has given a bizarre interview to CBS News in his latest attempt to beg for mercy. The first glimpse of the 60 Minutes interview was broadcast Thursday morning.

    The Daily Beast does a quick reality check:

    While preventing muffin theft is all well and good, the accusations against Chansley are very serious. On top of storming into the Capitol building, Chansley is also accused of leaving an ominous note for Vice President Mike Pence at his desk in the Senate chamber that read: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.” That day, he was also carrying a spear attached to a flagpole, which prosecutors considered to be a weapon.

    [video is available at the link]

    But the interview of Chansley’s mother, Martha, by 60 Minutes’ Laurie Segall is most definitely the pièce de resistance.

    As Segall advises, it’s best to watch the whole clip [video clip is available at the link.]

    When asked if she thought her son did anything wrong, Mother Chansley bent over backward to keep their shared delusion alive.

    “He was escorted into the Senate. So, I don’t know what’s wrong with that,” she said. “I know that he is sorry but again it all comes back to he walked through open doors.” […] [She goes on to say that the election was not won fairly, that it was won fraudulently.]

    Wow. Just wow.

    Link

    https://twitter.com/LaurieSegall/status/1367499159125819398

  153. says

    Ayiyiyi, misogynist much?

    A state GOP lawmaker in Idaho apologized this week for making “misguided” and “sexist” remarks about mothers while coming out against a federal grant going to fund child care and early learning programs.

    State Rep. Charlie Shepherd (R) said he opposed the funds because, he argued, it jeopardized “the family unit” and encouraged mothers to “come out of the home.”

    “I don’t think anybody does a better job than mothers in the home, and any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child, I don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going. … We are really hurting the family unit in the process,” Shepherd said in the Idaho House on Tuesday, the Idaho Press reported.

    The bill, which was struck down in a 36-34 vote, would have allowed child care and early education programs to be funded by a federal grant […]

    […] “My intent was to compliment mothers in every way possible. I stand before you now to admit that I failed miserably. After hearing my remarks played back, I recognize how my remarks sounded derogatory, offensive and even sexist towards the mothers of this state. … Single working mothers are the strongest and most courageous people that I know,” Shepherd said.

    […] Gov. Brad Little (R) supported the bill and said he will “try again” to address the concerns of those opposed to the bill. […]

    Concerns about the legislation included fears that the bill would push a “social justice curriculum” onto kids […]

    “We don’t dictate curriculum,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

    “The whole purpose of it is to ensure that families, child care providers, anyone who’s working and caring for children birth through age 5 has information they need to best prepare their child for school,” Oppenheimer said.

    Link

    Keeping Idaho locked in the 1950s, and preventing early childhood education. Good plan.

  154. says

    Wonkette: COME THE FCK ON AND PASS THIS FCKING THING

    The US Senate is moving forward with the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, AKA the American Rescue Plan, […] despite This One Stupid Republican Trick that was intended to drag out the process forever, but ultimately failed. Let’s look at where the hell we are with this thing, which will probably see a final vote late tonight or possibly over the weekend, depending on how much time Republicans and a few of our favorite Dems devote to delaying help for millions of Americans who are suffering through the pandemic and the resulting economic recession, both of which Republicans have made worse for the last year. […]

    The bill was initially moved forward for debate yesterday on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing her first tie-breaking vote, not that we’re planning on keeping a running tally from here on. Then, rather than actually beginning debate, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-He Comes From Wisconsin) started the delaying tactics […] Johnson deployed a weird little Senate rule that forced the clerks to read the entire 628-page bill aloud, not that Republicans stayed to listen, because that wasn’t the point. The point was delay for delay’s sake.

    The reading took 11 hours in all, and when that was finally finished in the wee hours this morning, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer congratulated the Senate clerks for their endurance, noting “I can’t imagine that’s anyone’s idea of a good time.” However, the delaying tactic actually ended up backfiring for Senate Rs. Since very few Republicans could be arsed to actually hang around until the marathon reading session ended, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) introduced a motion to shorten what would have been 20 hours of debate to just three today, so Johnson’s delaying tactic ultimately moved the clock forward a net six hours.

    […] We’d imagine Senate Republicans may pledge to be a bit more diligent in their fuckery going forward […]

    In the lead-up to today’s three hours of debate, there has been another goddamn “compromise,” apparently driven by the Manchin wing of Senate Dems; this time, instead of the House bill’s plan to increase the emergency federal unemployment benefit to $400 a week through the end of August, the amount the federal government will pay over state benefits will remain at $300 a week, but the payments will extend through the end of September. Not that Republicans will suddenly fall in love with the bill. As with the narrowed eligibility for individual payments, we can only ask the party leaders Why the fuck are you doing this? The Republicans aren’t going to stop their stupid delaying tactics, for fuckssake.

    […] If any Republican signs on as a result, we will let you know, at least if we can be heard over the furious oinking of all the flying pigs.

    The change did come along with one sweetener, at least; the first $10,200 of those emergency unemployment benefits will now be non-taxable, which should head off some unpleasant surprises as people who are unemployed now do their taxes next year.

    Currently, we’re in one more round of vote-a-rama in progress, in which any senator can offer an amendment, and Republicans will bring as many amendments to the bill as they can think of, on everything from abortion to cutting Amtrak funding (you know, to rub it in the face of that train-loving socialist Joe Biden). The entire exercise is pointless, since at the end of the process, Chuck Schumer can introduce his own amendment to strip out any amendments he doesn’t like. Kamala Harris will no doubt be kept very busy breaking ties this afternoon and evening.

    As expected, Bernie Sanders brought up an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025; it was voted down, as expected, although we didn’t really expect eight Democrats to vote against it. Here’s the list of people to be pissed at, for future reference:

    Jon Tester, Montana
    Joe Manchin, West Duh Of Course
    Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona
    Angus King, Maine (Independent, caucuses with Democrats)
    Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
    Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire
    Tom Carper, Delaware
    Chris Coons, Delaware and we thought we liked you […]

    Link

  155. says

    Paul Krugman:

    Relieving yourself in public is illegal in every state. I assume that few readers are surprised to hear this; I also assume that many readers wonder why I feel the need to bring up this distasteful subject. But bear with me: There’s a moral here, and it’s one that has disturbing implications for our nation’s future.

    Although we take these restrictions for granted, they can sometimes be inconvenient, as anyone out and about after having had too many cups of coffee can attest. But the inconvenience is trivial, and the case for such rules is compelling, both in terms of protecting public health and as a way to avoid causing public offense. And as far as I know there aren’t angry political activists, let alone armed protesters, demanding the right to do their business wherever they want.

    Which brings me to my actual subject: face mask requirements in a pandemic.

    Wearing a mask in public, like holding it in for a few minutes, is slightly inconvenient, but hardly a major burden. And the case for imposing that mild burden in a pandemic is overwhelming. The coronavirus variants that cause Covid-19 are spread largely by airborne droplets, and wearing masks drastically reduces the variants’ spread.

    So not wearing a mask is an act of reckless endangerment […] Covering our faces while the pandemic lasts would appear to be simple good citizenship, not to mention an act of basic human decency.

    Yet Texas and Mississippi have just ended their statewide mask requirements.

    […] We’ve made a lot of progress against the pandemic over the past couple of months. But the danger is far from over. There are still substantially more Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 now than there were, say, last June, when many states were rushing to reopen and Mike Pence, the vice president then, was assuring us that there wouldn’t be a second wave. Roughly 400,000 deaths later, we know how that worked out.

    It’s true that there is now a bright light at the end of the tunnel: The development of effective vaccines has been miraculously fast, and the actual pace of vaccinations is rapidly accelerating. But this good news should make us more willing, not less, to endure inconvenience now: […]

    And keeping infections down over the next few months will also help rule out a potential epidemiological nightmare, in which new, vaccine-resistant variants evolve before we get the existing variants under control.

    So what’s motivating the rush to unmask? It’s not economics. As I said, the costs of mask-wearing are trivial. […]

    Furthermore, a resurgent pandemic would do more to damage growth and job creation, in Texas and elsewhere, than almost anything else I can think of.

    Of course, we know what’s actually going on here: politics. Refusing to wear a mask has become a badge of political identity, a barefaced declaration that you reject liberal values like civic responsibility and belief in science. (Those didn’t used to be liberal values, but that’s what they are in America 2021.)

    […] These days conservatives don’t seem to care about anything except identity politics, often expressed over the pettiest of issues. Democrats appear to be on the verge of enacting a huge relief bill that embodies many progressive policy priorities. But the Republican response has been remarkably low energy, and right-wing media are obsessed with the (falsely) alleged plot to make Mr. Potato Head gender-neutral.

    Unfortunately, identity politics can do a lot of harm when it gets in the way of dealing with real problems. I don’t know how many people will die unnecessarily because the governor of Texas has decided that ignoring the science and ending the mask requirement is a good way to own the libs. But the number won’t be zero.

    New York Times link

  156. says

    Why the House police reform bill named for George Floyd matters

    The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a police-reform measure, but it should also be seen as civil-rights legislation.

    […] the police-reform bill matters, too. NBC News reported this week:

    The bill, among other things, would ban neck restraints and “no knock” warrants in drug cases at the federal level. It would also reform qualified immunity, which is a doctrine that makes it difficult to sue officers…. The Biden administration threw its support behind the bill Monday. The White House said trust between law enforcement and communities can’t be rebuilt unless police officers are held accountable for abuses of power.

    The list of major provisions in the bill isn’t short. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act also bans discriminatory profiling at every level of U.S. law enforcement, mandates dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal law enforcement, and establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent “problematic” officers from moving between precincts and jurisdictions.

    Indeed, to describe this as a police-reform bill is accurate, but in some ways, the label is also incomplete: this should also be seen as civil-rights legislation.

    It passed the House on a 220-to-212 vote, which fell largely along party lines […]

    Regardless, the bill now heads to the 50-50 Senate, where Democratic leaders will no doubt try to advance it. We already know, however, that it faces long odds: even if conservative Senate Dems were willing to vote for the reforms, there’s no realistic chance 10 GOP senators would break ranks and end a Republican filibuster.

    But before we give up on the idea of progress altogether, it’s probably worth noting that some Senate Republicans did propose a reform bill last summer, in an apparent attempt to persuade voters that the GOP took the issue seriously in an election year. Sure, the bill was flawed. And sure, Republicans didn’t want to bother with hearings or buy-in from experts and stakeholders. And sure, the bill predictably died, at which point GOP senators quickly moved on in ways suggesting they didn’t really take the issue too seriously.

    But at least the Republican bill existed, and it’s hard not to wonder if the White House might try to reach out to its proponents to see if there’s room for some kind of compromise on the issue.

  157. says

    […] a new CDC report issued on Friday. That report drives home the facts that: “Mandating masks was associated with a decrease in daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates within 20 days of implementation.” States that put mask mandates in place and kept them in place, have been rewarded with lower cases of COVID-19, lower hospitalizations, and a lower rate of deaths. On the other hand: “Allowing on-premises restaurant dining was associated with an increase in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 41–100 days after implementation and an increase in daily death growth rates 61–100 days after implementation.”

    Now, guess which way Republicans have been moving.

    […] It’s been understood from early in the pandemic that in-restaurant dining was one of the activities that was most likely to spread the disease. After all, packing people into close quarters in a situation where opening their mouths much of the time seems like a perfect formula for exchanging a virus in wholesale quantities. It’s understandable that restaurant and bar owners have been upset about the restrictions—especially since owning a restaurant is often a extremely risky proposition in the best of times. But populating restaurants to the level necessary to keep them profitable, and at the same time keeping them safe, may be simply impossible.

    […] Republicans may shout about early statements from Dr. Anthony Fauci, or claim that transmission of the virus through aerosol means masks are ineffective, but … they’re just wrong. Despite “experts” that claim masks don’t stop viruses, but can somehow block transmission of infinitely smaller oxygen molecules, the CDC, World Health Organization, and every serious academic study has demonstrated the effectiveness of masks.

    The new CDC report gives that effectiveness a big fat underline. In states that issued mask mandates, it took less than three weeks to find an associated decrease in daily COVID-19 cases. This same drop could be seen in counties and localities that implemented mask mandates even when the state government refused to take action.

    What is new is the the extended confirmation of just how strong the effect can be from these simple actions. A mask mandate profoundly affected the rate of growth of COVID-19 for the better. Opening restaurants for on-site dining profoundly affected that rate of growth for the worse. [charts available at the link]

    […] The mask mandate charts show that these were, on average, issued at a time when the rate growth of COVID-19 was increasing. In other words, governors put these mandates in place when things were bad and getting worse. Even so, the mask mandate rapidly turned the situation around, cutting the rate of growth to levels well below the point of implementation.

    […] One last time, the conclusion to the report:

    “Community mitigation measures can help reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. In this study, mask mandates were associated with reductions in COVID-19 case and death growth rates within 20 days, whereas allowing on-premises dining at restaurants was associated with increases in COVID-19 case and death growth rates after 40 days.”

    The report also notes that with “the emergence of more transmissible COVID-19 variants” these measures are even more important.

    The effectiveness of the social distancing measures implemented to fight COVID-19 can be seen in another widely repeated statistic. The winter of 2020-2021 has essentially seen no sign of the usual flu season. […]

    Link

    Chris Hayes:

    This stat blew my mind: do public health measures like social distancing, mask wearing and hand-washing really reduce the transmission of viral respiratory illnesses? Uh, yes.

    Hayes’ tweet is accompanied by a graphic showing 174,037 positive flu specimens in week 7 of flue season from 2019 to 2020; and, wow, showing only 1,499 positive flu specimens in 2020-2021.

    https://twitter.com/chrislhayes/status/1367699305411338241

  158. says

    Psaki: ‘We don’t take advice’ from Trump on immigration

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday defended the Biden administration’s immigration agenda as Republicans, including […] Trump, argue that President Biden’s rhetoric and policies have spurred a surge in migration at the southern border.

    Psaki responded directly to Trump during a press briefing after the former president issued a lengthy statement decrying the Biden immigration agenda.

    “We don’t take our advice or counsel from former President Trump on immigration policy, which was not only inhumane but ineffective over the last four years,” Psaki said. “We’re going to chart our own path forward, and that includes treating children with humanity and respect.”

    Trump derided the Biden administration’s immigration agenda, arguing that the reversal of numerous Trump era policies intended to restrict immigration had led to a crisis on the border.

    “The spiraling tsunami at the border is overwhelming local communities, depleting budgets, crowding hospitals, and taking jobs from legal American workers,” Trump said in a statement. “When I left office, we had achieved the most secure border in our country’s history. Under Biden, it will soon be worse, more dangerous, and more out of control than ever before. He has violated his oath of office to uphold our Constitution and enforce our laws.” [bullshit … and it is bullshit obviously not written by Trump, but by one of his more literate lickspittles]

    The Biden administration is grappling with a rapid influx of migrants, with thousands of unaccompanied minors being apprehended in the president’s first several weeks in office.

    […] the [Biden] administration is taking additional steps to try to get a handle on the rising number of migrants at the border, including opening additional facilities to house young migrants.

    “President Biden has asked senior members of his team to travel to the border region in order to provide a full briefing to him on the government response to the influx of unaccompanied minors and an assessment of additional steps that can be taken to ensure the safety and care of these children,” White House assistant press secretary Vedant Patel said in a statement late Thursday.

  159. says

    Cartoon: Texas Drops Precautions

    New Yorker link

    Shows a cowboy wearing one of his boots on his head as he rides bucking bronc. Another cowboy stands at a bar, drinking a glass of bleach. Yet another tries to rope a speeding pickup truck. Nice artwork by Barry Blitt.

  160. says

    Wall Street Journal:

    The Public Utility Commission of Texas on Friday signaled it didn’t intend to reverse $16 billion in electric overcharges that an independent market monitor had flagged as stemming from the state’s weeklong blackouts.

  161. says

    NBC News:

    President Joe Biden called off an airstrike against a second target in Syria last week after a woman and children were spotted in the area, a senior administration official told NBC News.

  162. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Watching the Reid Out on MSNBC. Joy is wearing a shirt/blouse with the message Good Trouble Maker. Clenched tentacle salute!

  163. says

    FBI Uncovers Communication Between Proud Boys Member And Trump Associate Before Riot

    A member of the Proud Boys was in communication with a person associated with the White House in the final days before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the New York Times reported on Friday.

    A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told the Times that location, cellular and call record data revealed a call linking a member of the far-right hate group to the Trump White House.

    The FBI is investigating what was discussed which remains unclear at this point, and the official would not reveal the names of either party, the Times said.

    The connection revealed by the communications data comes as the FBI further examines contacts among far-right extremists, Trump White House associates and conservative members of Congress in the days leading up to the Capitol attack.

    The official said that the data revealed no evidence of communications between the rioters and members of Congress during the deadly insurrection. Records have shown, however, evidence of communications in the days leading up to Jan. 6 between far-right extremists who were planning to appear at the Trump rally and lawmakers, an official told the Times.

    […] The recent developments revealing communications between the Proud Boys and people associated with the White House highlights how extremist groups were given a platform in an administration that appeared at times to willfully defend them.

    […] More than a dozen members of the Proud Boys have been charged with crimes related to the attack, including conspiracy to obstruct the final certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory and to attack law enforcement officers.

    [snipped details of communications between Roger Stone and Oath Keepers].

  164. says

    Congressional Tweets Show ‘Antifa’ Capitol Attack Lie Forming In Real Time

    […] the lie begins to form in the middle of the attack. Check out Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) transition seamlessly from live-tweeting the hearing to sowing seeds of the antifa story.

    .
    @RepGosar OF ARIZONA = Objection sponsor. GOP #7.

    Details massive AZ election fraud compounded by AZ officials refusing to investigate fraud allegations, thus aiding voter fraud & election theft.

    DOORS LOCKED! CAPITOL COMPLEX BREACHED! CHAMBER DOORS LOCKED. SPEAKER LEAVES!

    HOUSE RECESSSED UNTIL ORDER & SAFETY CAN BE ASSURED.

    Rumor: ANTIFA fascists in backwards MAGA hats. Time will tell what truth is.

    Capitol Police Announcement: Capitol breach. Locked down! DO NOT LEAVE CHAMBER!

    That night, Brooks quoted an unnamed “retired Huntsville police officer” who’d been at the Capitol who claimed individuals had asked for his support attacking the police. “States he was ANTIFA,” Brooks wrote of one purported provocateur.

    Of course, the following morning, we get a lesson in responsibility from the congressman. “Please,” he tweeted, “don’t be like #FakeNewsMedia, don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol.”

    Does this mean Brooks will stop spouting his antifa lie? No. The tweet continues: “Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics.”

    His evidence was pathetic: An unnamed congressman warned him Monday of an antifa threat, Brooks said, and Capitol Police had informed the unnamed congressman that antifa would infiltrate the rally dressed like Trump supporters. “Again, time will reveal the truth,” the wise congressman counseled.

    Brooks, like others, cited a Washington Times article that purported to support the theory, and which was later corrected and edited beyond recognition. (Today, the article is titled “CORRECTED: Facial recognition identifies extremists storming the Capitol.”)

    Originally, the post claimed “A retired military officer told The Washington Times that the firm XRVision used its software to do facial recognition of protesters and matched two Philadelphia Antifa members to two men inside the Senate.”

    But the retired military officer was unidentified, and eventually, XRVision itself called the article out: Its software had made no such determination. The article was based on a lie.

    Around the same time Gaetz tweeted the article, a few minutes after 9 p.m., another looming presence on Lofgren’s report — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — shared the same post.

    “We’ve seen what they’ve done all year long,” she wrote.

  165. says

    Now Marjorie Taylor Greene is irritating her own GOP colleagues:

    Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s efforts to delay congressional business by forcing futile procedural votes to adjourn the House each day are disrupting committee hearings and virtual constituent meetings — and ticking off a growing chorus of Republican colleagues.

    Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) had to rush out of a committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on monetary policy. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) had to step out of a video conference with an international conservation group. And Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) had to halt a Zoom meeting with local chambers of commerce from the Great Lakes region.

    “Aggravated,” Wagner replied when asked by The Hill how she felt about having to vote on one of Greene’s motions to adjourn one recent morning.

    […] Greene’s guerilla tactics are also inflicting pain on her GOP colleagues, who have complained that they serve no purpose and interrupt the flow of the workday for lawmakers, particularly meetings that are planned around anticipated vote schedules.

    Some point out the irony: Greene complained that ousting her from committees “stripped my district of their voice” and “stripped my voters of having representation to work for them.” Now, Republicans are turning the tables on Greene, arguing that her obstruction is making them less effective at representing their own constituents. […]

    Link

  166. says

    Follow-up to comment 209.

    The Senate finished its vote. Romney voted “no” on the rescue plan. Senator Murkowski from Alaska also voted “no.” That’s bad. One of Murkowski’s amendments offered on the bill yesterday was approved! That didn’t help.

    Dan Sullivan, also from Alaska, did not vote. He had to return to Alaska for a family emergency.

    It looks like the vote will be 50 “aye” and 49 “no.” The bill will be passed along party lines. Kamala Harris will not be required to come in today to break a tie.

    The good news: passage of this bill marks the beginning of the end for the pandemic. We will eventually get control.

  167. says

    The Senate on Saturday approved a sweeping coronavirus relief bill strictly on a party-line vote after a marathon session, giving Democrats their first legislative victory since reclaiming the majority.

    Democrats cheered the 50-49 vote as it was gaveled closed. […]

    The package provides another round of stimulus checks, aid for state and local government, and more help for small businesses and schools.

    The Senate was in session for more than 24 hours, including all night Friday and well into Saturday, ahead of the final vote as Democrats fended off attempts by GOP senators to make changes to the legislation, which now has to go back to the House before it can be sent to President Biden’s desk.

    The hours-long debate wasn’t without a significant injection of chaos as Democrats tried to navigate their first big legislative battle with a narrow 50-50 majority that required all Democrats to stick together in order to pass the bill.

    Democrats started their first amendment vote at 11:03 a.m., and held it open for nearly 12 hours as they tried to negotiate a deal on the unemployment language. […]

    Link

  168. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    The passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill is a massive political triumph. In the nature of online conversations there’s focus on the negatives. But it is difficult to convey how surprising and remarkable it is they managed to get this bill through all but untouched. This was a very aggressive proposal and almost certainly part of that was an effort to make a high opening bid because the need to get literal unanimity in the 50 senator Democratic caucus would get it whittled down. But they got it through all but untouched.

    But I’ll say this again. A big, consistent and concerted messaging plan is critical to explain to the public just what is in the bill, how those things which are in it will connect to events over the next year and where everyone stood. There’s time. But I see little evidence of that happening so far. And it is critical because – as I keep saying – everything that happens from January 20th on needs to be part of an argument to voters (an explicit and voluble argument) about why they should keep Democrats in power in the 2022 midterm election.

  169. says

    A few more details about the process that led up to passage of the American Rescue plan:

    […] Out of the nearly 600 Republican amendments, only a fraction were brought to the floor and most were defeated. Sen. Susan Collins tried to replace the entire bill with her $650 billion proposal and failed; oddly, Sen. Josh Hawley voted with Democrats on that one. Sen. Marco Rubio tried to tie school funding to reopening for in-person instruction, and failed. An alternative amendment from Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan was adopted, requiring that elementary and secondary schools that receive aid release their plans for a “safe return to in-person instruction” within 30 days of receiving the funds.

    The worst poison came from freshman Republican Tommy Tuberville, an anti-trans effort that would have stripped federal funding to “(s)tates, local educational agencies, and institutions of higher education that permit any student whose biological sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity designed for women or girls.” It required 60 votes, but failed on party lines anyway—with two exceptions: Manchin voted for it, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski against. Another attempt from Sen. Ted Cruz to bar undocumented immigrants from getting survival checks failed, with Democrats holding together against him.

    Those survival checks, by the way, have not been altered from the last agreement Democrats came to: $1,400 one-time payment to everyone, adults and children, including adult dependents; people making up to $75,000/annually, $150,000 for couples filing jointly, receive the full payments, cutting off at $80,000 for single people, $160,000 for couples. That is based on 2019 income for those who have not filed their 2020 returns yet, so if you had a big loss of income in 2020, get your taxes filed.

    The Senate’s bill will have to go back to the House for another vote, as it has been changed pretty substantially from that version.

    Link

  170. says

    America may never reach ‘herd immunity,’ thanks to anti-vax Republicans

    The actions of Republican governors—like Texas’ Greg Abbott or Mississippi’s Tate Reeves—who are outlawing mask mandates and insisting that businesses rush back to full capacity, are an obvious threat to public health […] However, they may not be the worst thing that Republicans are doing to extend the pandemic in the United States and bring a fourth wave of disease and deaths.

    […] When Biden came into office, not enough vaccines had been secured to provide for all American adults. Biden moved quickly to change that, and by the end of February, announced that vaccines would be available by the end of July. Then, after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gained approval, Biden moved again, using the Defense Production Act to secure additional manufacturing from Merck and accelerate other vaccine deliveries. As a result, Biden announced on Tuesday that enough vaccine for all American adults would be available by the end of May; enough vaccine for 75% of adults should be available by April.

    All of that rightly has many Americans feeling the end is in sight. After a seemingly endless year of horrors in which death from COVID-19 has become so common that 2,000 Americans dying each day doesn’t even merit a mention on national news, there seems to be a genuine light at the end of this dark tunnel. But that light could still be an oncoming train, as it’s not just Republican governors doing everything they can to throw a spanner into the works.

    […] For weeks, polling results from Civiqs have shown that there are some groups in America still don’t intend to be vaccinated. When the first polls were taken back in November, that included 65% of Black people, who were either unsure about the vaccine or determined not to take it. Considering the long history of the United States government either treating the Black population like experimental subjects, or failing to collect data on Black patients when conducting medical research, that apprehension was understandable. […]

    But with Biden in office, science clearly back in vogue at the White House, and a regular, reasoned message on COVID-19, the number of Black Americans who intend to take the vaccine has steadily improved. That 65% of unsure/no response in polling back in November dropped to 36% by the end of January. It’s currently at 27%.

    It’s now white Americans who stand in the way of vaccine rollout. Back in November, 27% of white Americans placed themselves in the solidly anti-vax “no” category. That number hasn’t changed in the last four months. The number who are “unsure” has declined, but still stands at 11%. That means that over a third of white American adults have not committed to getting the vaccine. […]

    Before moving on from the racial aspect of this issue, it’s also important to note that, despite having a higher desire for the vaccine than white Americans, when it comes to actually being vaccinated, Black Americans are running well behind. Why? Because vaccine distribution continues to be left to the states, where governors favor white rural areas and suburbs. Vaccine has been handed out as a reward to counties that voted big for Republican governors, and as a favor to big-money donors. Meanwhile, areas with higher Black populations have been shortchanged. That’s before factoring in a system where actually getting that vaccine is often dependent on good internet access.

    […] Fully 41% of Republicans are a solid “no” on the vaccine. Another 15% are unsure. Compare that to Democrats where just 5% are no and 7% are unsure. White Democrats are even more likely that Black Democrats to say “yes” to vaccine.

    […] Just as happened with masks, being vaccinated for COVID-19 has become an issue so politicized, that a majority of Republicans are unwilling to take a basic step to protect themselves from a deadly disease. […]

    The overall result of this is that a quarter of all American adults are currently a “no” on COVID-19 vaccination, and another 11% are unsure. So even as President Biden makes vaccine available to every American adult, it seems entirely possible that a third of those adults will pass. […]

    That’s a formula that makes it almost inevitable that COVID-19 won’t go away. The numbers will certainly drop, but the disease will stick around, rumbling through the remaining population as an endemic infection, coughing up new variants and constantly threating to become evasive of vaccines or capable of reinfecting those who have already suffered through a previous bout. It means that thousands more will die. […]

    Pew Research looked at the same topic this week. Their findings tracked almost exactly with those of Civiqs.

    […] Republican governors stripping away mask mandates and removing social distancing limits is an immediate threat to public health, but the anti-vax sentiment that has settled in among Republican voters may be the greater threat, especially over the long term.

  171. says

    These 22 companies donated to sponsors of voter suppression bills

    With more than 50 bills threatening to further restrict voting rights in Georgia, state Democrats have taken their fight to protect voting rights up a notch and are demanding corporate interests align with Black voters, for once. A consortium of voting and civil rights organizations from the Georgia NAACP to the voter registration nonprofit New Georgia Project kickstarted a campaign this week to “divest support from ALL elected officials” looking to pass bills that enable voter suppression.

    LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of the voter outreach organization Black Voters Matter, tweeted her support for the initiative on Thursday. “Black people spend $106+ Billion in the Georgia economy,” she said in the tweet. “We expect the businesses that we support to SUPPORT us and fight against racist policies that undermine voting rights. […]”

    The campaign took root after the independent journalism site Popular Information reported top corporations in the state that have since 2018 given millions of dollars to Republican lawmakers supporting proposed legislation to restrict voting rights. AT&T donated $99,700; Aetna/CVS/Caremark gave $43,300; and even Lyft gave $6,000, the news site reported.

    It listed Walmart, SunTrust/Truist, UnitedHealth, Publix, General Motors, Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Southern Company, Comcast, and Delta Air Lines as companies that have given more than $20,000 to GOP legislators backing restrictive voting bills. Others on the list include Pfizer, AllState, Anthem/BCBS Georgia, Anheuser-Busch, Verizon, Walgreens, T-Mobile, and Aflac. […]

  172. says

    Wonkette: “Senate Passes COVID Relief Bill Along Party Lines, Because Republicans Don’t Care About Other People.”

    It’s over! Finally! Well, sort of, anyway! The Senate voted this morning to pass the COVID relief bill, bringing relief to the many Americans who are currently struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, as well as to the businesses that rely on those Americans being able to spend money.

    The final vote was 50-49, with all Republicans voting against, except for Dan Sullivan of Alaska, who was not present for the vote. […] The bill will include $1400 checks, funding for vaccine distribution, and money to help schools and colleges open up once our long national nightmare is over. […]

    Mitch McConnell, of course, was a regular Mitch McConnell about it.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., countered that “the Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process.”

    Seems like it was actually pretty darn rigorous. And he should be happy, frankly, because it’s still less than many economists think we need for our economy to recover from the pandemic.

    We all pay taxes […] and the reason that we pay them is so we can survive things like this. It sure would be silly (and counterproductive!) to spend almost a trillion every year on a military supposedly meant to protect us from international bad guys only to let a virus just lay waste to our entire country.

    […] what [the bill] does do is pretty great and will be very helpful to people.

    – Provides most Americans earning up to $75,000 a $1,400 stimulus check.
    – Extends a $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits through August
    – Sends $350 billion to state and local governments whose revenue has declined because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
    – Allocates $130 billion to help fully reopen schools and colleges.
    – Allots $30 billion to help renters and landlords weather economic losses.
    – Devotes $50 billion for small-business assistance.
    – Dedicates $160 billion for vaccine development, distribution and related needs.
    – Expands the child tax credit up to $3,600 per child.

    So that’s nice!

    The bill will now go back to the House, which will likely vote to approve […] the revised bill on Monday. The goal is to get it passed and signed by President Biden by mid-March, before the current unemployment boost expires. Fingers crossed!

  173. says

    Wonkette:

    Let all subjects be advised: Princess Goya von Nepotism will not be speaking about politics today. According to CNN, Ivanka Trump is “so over the political bubble she has told friends and colleagues of late to not utter anything to do with Washington.” Not a word!

    Four years of playing dress-up as a Very Serious DC Professional Person has taken its toll, and now she’s going back to being the feckless heiress she always was. As has Jared, the Boy Wonder, who would prefer not to be associated with the Fat Elvis stage of his father-in-law’s decline.

    “Right now, he’s just checked out of politics,” a friend said of Kushner, who recently packed up his family and moved to Miami.

    Trump is currently holed up at Mar-a-Lago plotting his own ’68 Comeback Tour with what remains of his motley crew, but Kushner has had a lifetime’s worth of breathing in Brad Parscale’s beer farts and watching Jason Miller spritz Binaca in his face every time he sees Hope Hicks coming.

    Even so, Kushner’s pals are shocked to see the recent Tech Guru/Opiate Czar/Middle East Envoy/Trade Deal Negotiator/Chief MBAsplainer on the White House COVID Task Force just cut himself off from politics completely.

    “That’s about as 180 a turn as he could ever make,” a source who worked inside the Trump White House with Kushner told CNN. “This was a guy who for four years did everything on behalf of President Trump. He lived that job.”

    […] Two sources told CNN that Kushner and Trump’s relationship has been “fractured” since November, with the old man blaming his son-in-law for the election loss.

    So Trump is “blaming his son-in-law for the election loss.” Now that’s funny. LOL

    “We know the boss isn’t going to blame himself,” one said. But he will take credit for Republican House pickups and Mitch McConnell’s come from behind victory in … Kentucky.

    Kushner hasn’t shaken DC off entirely, though. Old habits — and delusions! — die hard, and the young prince still fancies himself a GOP power broker.

    “He is trying to be someone you would go to on the Republican side to put a deal together,” a source told CNN. Through gales of laughter, we assume.

    […] “Trump’s advisers have discussed identifying a Black or female running mate for his next run, and three of the people familiar with the matter said Pence likely won’t be on the ticket.”

    Ooooooh, a lady! Well, Princess may have no presidential qualifications, but she does have aspirations! So perhaps she’ll be back at Daddy’s side, with an official residence in a state other than Florida, by 2022.

    If not, she and Jared can always retreat back into their money or their vast carelessness […] Let Bill Stepien and Dan Scavino clean up the mess — isn’t that what the help is for?

    Link

  174. says

    “Biden administration rushes to accommodate border surge, with few signs of plans to contain it.”

    Washington Post link

    As the Biden administration races to find shelter for a fast-growing migration surge along the Mexico border, they are handling the influx primarily as a capacity challenge. The measures they have taken are aimed at accommodating the increase, not to contain it or change the upward trend.

    The administration has quickly turned detention centers into rapid-processing hubs for families with young children, relaxed shelter capacity rules aimed at lessening the spread of the coronavirus, deployed hundreds of backup border agents to the busiest crossings and tried to mobilize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with coronavirus testing and quarantining those who test positive. With bed space filling quickly, officials have drafted plans to put families in hotels in Texas and Arizona.

    On several days this week, U.S. agents took more than 4,000 migrants into custody, nearly double the number in January. Roughly 350 teens and children have been crossing the U.S. border without their parents each day in recent weeks, four times as many as last fall, and many are stuck for days in dour detention cells waiting for shelter openings. While most adult migrants are turned away, unaccompanied minors are allowed to stay, as are some families with young children.

    […] Theresa Cardinal Brown, an immigration analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said the administration is treating the strain as a logistical and operational problem […]

    Minors arriving without their parents are the one group not being returned to Mexico under Biden, and their fast-growing numbers have created the most immediate challenge. One agent in Arizona described grim conditions at a Border Patrol station where dozens of teens have been waiting for as long as six days for space to open up in shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, despite U.S. laws mandating their transfer within 72 hours. Agents brought in soccer balls and sports equipment for the teens to play with in the garage area of the station. “As a parent with kids, it’s tough to see,” said the agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

    […] “I think the end goal is to be able to hear as quickly as possible the asylum claims of all those who need protection,” Isacson said. “But they’re not going to swing the gates open.” […]

  175. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Trump sends cease-and-desist letter to GOP organizations to stop fundraising off his name
    Amy B Wang, March 6, 2021

    Former president Donald Trump has sent a cease-and-desist letter to at least three Republican organizations demanding they stop using his name and likeness to fundraise, two Trump advisers confirmed Saturday.

    The letter, which was first reported by Politico, was sent to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee…

    Now, if they would pay for the privilege, I’m sure something could be worked out.

  176. KG says

    Republican governors stripping away mask mandates and removing social distancing limits is an immediate threat to public health, but the anti-vax sentiment that has settled in among Republican voters may be the greater threat, especially over the long term. – Lynna, OM@215 quoting Mark Sumner@Daily Kos

    Early in the pandemic, I speculated (I don’t recall if I posted the speculations here) on the possibility that the world would become divided into states that had eliminated the virus, those that had completely failed to do so, and those that kept it suppressed at a low level, but couldn’t expunge it entirely – with continued limits on travel from more to less infected countries. Of course at that point, we didn’t know when or even whether vaccines would be developed, whether infection produced immunity, what the long-term sequels of infection might be in survivors, or how the virus itself might evolve; and indeed, there’s still a lot about these factors that remains unknown. In the medium term, it seems likely that only rich countries, and small island states, will be able to maintain or achieve complete elimination, but one thing I never guessed at was that the viral pandemic would be accompanied and intensified by one of anti-science conspiracist idiocy. It’s beginning to look likely that this will be the determining factor in where the virus becomes endemic in the longer term. And those countries that have eliminated it will want to maintain travel restrictions on those where it’s endemic, indefinitely, even after they have vaccinated enough of their population to prevent the known variants setting off a new epidemic – for fear of the entry of an unknown and vaccine-evading one. This whole story is still in its early stages.

  177. tomh says

    NYT:
    Parents urged children to burn masks at a demonstration on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol.
    Anushka Patil

    A group of parents urged their children to burn masks on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol on Saturday, videos show, in a state that has never had a statewide mask mandate.

    “Destroy them! Feed them to the fire! We don’t want them in our world anymore!” young children are heard shouting as they grab handfuls of surgical and cloth masks and toss them into a barrel of flames. Adults in the background cheer them on.
    […]

    The videos, taken by an Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter and a New York Times contributor, Sergio Olmos, show about 100 people on the steps of the state capitol building…Idaho State Police said in a statement that open flames were not allowed on State Capitol grounds and that the incident was under review.
    […]

    The demonstrations were in part organized by Darr Moon, the husband of Dorothy Moon, an Idaho State representative…In a video posted to YouTube on Friday, Ms. Moon, along with another state representative, Heather Scott, called the demonstrations a “grass-roots project that we have become aware of and fully support.”

    Idaho, where the law fully protects parents who decline medical care for their children in favor of faith healing. In the past five years at least 13 children have died because parents prayed over sick children rather than seek medical care. State law ensures there are no consequences for the parents.

  178. says

    https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1368224683624177664

    Aaron Rupar:

    Durbin immediately debunks Cruz’s amendment seeking to ban stimulus money from going to undocumented immigrants — something that’s not happening anyway

    Video is available at the link.

    CRUZ: “This amendment, just like the one we just voted on that Sen. Cassidy and I introduced, this amendment before us today provides that the stimulus checks should not go to illegal aliens in this country. The question for the American people to answer is, should your money, should taxpayer money, be sent, $1,400, to every illegal alien in America. This amendment provides that it should not, that stimulus checks should only go to American citizens or to people lawfully present. Now, the Democrats may say their language allows for that, but they know that the IRS treats someone who is illegally present in the United States for 31 days last year as a resident alien, and so this corrects that and ensures that illegal aliens are not eligible for taxpayer-funded stimulus checks.”

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: “Mr. President, the statement of the senator from Texas is just plain false. False. Let me be clear. Undocumented immigrants do not have Social Security numbers, and they do not qualify for stimulus relief checks, period. And just in case you didn’t notice, they didn’t qualify in December when 92 of us voted for that measure, and they don’t qualify under the American Rescue Plan. Nothing has changed. And for you to stand up there and say the opposite is just to rile people up over something that’s not true.”

    CRUZ: “Will the senator yield for a question?”

    DURBIN: “No, I won’t. It is not true, and we know what’s going on here. They want to be able to give speeches to say the checks go to undocumented people. In the circumstance where there is a parent … receiving the check for the child, that’s it. But no money going to undocumented people under the American Rescue Plan.”

    Commentary:

    […] Let’s scapegoat and demonize some of the most hardworking and vulnerable people in the world a little more, why don’t we? He’s almost worse than Trump, honestly. Trump’s lies were like popcorn farts. Unpleasant, but they were easy enough to wave away. Cruz’s lies leave a viscous ooze behind. They’re not as frequent as the former guy’s (or maybe I just haven’t observed him for long enough), but they somehow seem more gross. Maybe it’s his aristocratic posing.

    […] Naturally, Cruz wanted his little Senate floor soundbite so he could shoehorn it in between his eventual opponents’ voluminous “Cancún Cruz” ads. Hopefully, Texan voters are wise to his nonsense by now. If that cold snap didn’t wake them up, though, I’m not sure what will.

    Link

  179. says

    A year after the frightening beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the world stands on the brink of a fourth wave of infection as nations race to vaccinate their populations and stave off a new surge in hospitalizations and deaths.

    Total reported cases rose across the globe in the last week of February after six weeks of decline, driven in part by new, more virulent variants that transmit between people at startlingly higher rates than the initial strains out of Wuhan, China, and northern Italy.

    […] The United States recorded about 66,000 new cases a day over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), down 73 percent from the apex reached in early January and similar to levels of transmission from October. But the precipitous decline of late January and early February has plateaued in recent days, raising fears that a new wave is just around the corner.

    “We could not have made a more wonderful environment for this virus to take off than we have right now,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention at the University of Minnesota. “We are not driving this tiger, we’re riding it. And the first time we may be able to drive it is with widespread use of the vaccine, and we’re not there yet.”

    […] “You’re seeing a lot of states loosening mask restrictions at a point where they’re having more cases per day than they had over the summer when they put the mask restrictions in place,” said Rich Besser, a former CDC director who now runs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “That just doesn’t make sense.” […]

    Link

  180. says

    Dr. Antony Fauci:

    Historically, if you look back at the different surges we’ve had, when they come down and start to plateau at a very high level… plateauing at a level of [60,000] to 70,000 new cases per day is not an acceptable level, that is really very high.

    Europe is usually a couple of weeks ahead of us in these patterns […] about a 9 percent increase in cases.

    We do want to come back carefully and slowly […] but don’t turn the switch on and off, because it really would be risky to have yet again another surge, which we do not want to happen, because we’re plateauing at quite a high level.

  181. says

    tom @220

    Now, if they would pay for the privilege, I’m sure something could be worked out.

    Ha! Good point.

    In other news, some cultural strangeness:

    Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace did not investigate Prince Andrew’s ties to a convicted sex trafficker and allegations of his own sexual abuse.

    In response to:

    In a highly unusual statement, Buckingham Palace announced it would investigate whether Megan, Duchess of Sussex, bullied her staff https://wapo.st/38a8fUe

    And a bit of good news and celebrating from Jon Ossoff:

    Thanks to Georgia voters, the United States Senate just passed the most generous economic relief package for working and middle class families in American history.

  182. says

    Wonkette:

    […] McCarthy tweeted Friday, “I still like Dr. Seuss, so I decided to read Green Eggs and Ham. RT if you still like him too!” Green Eggs and Ham isn’t one of the six titles that Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided not to publish because of offensive content. Neither is The Cat in the Hat, but as Jake Tapper noted, the National Republican Congressional Committee is sending copies of that book to contributors. Here’s the fundraising appeal:

    “Cancel Culture is TOXIC!”
    Patriots proudly declare.
    “Free Speech must be defended!”
    Dems retort: “Too bad. Don’t care.”
    If you really appreciated Dr. Seuss’ work, you wouldn’t mock his style so pathetically.

    Republicans are lying about the Seuss situation and refusing to publicly read or show images from the actual offensive work. They’re also lying about what actually matters to Americans right now. This is the war they want to fight, not the COVID-19 pandemic or poverty. This is what riles up a Republican electorate with a kink for having their intelligence insulted. They want to live in this alternate reality.

    This brings us to WandaVision.

    I’ve reviewed this series over at AV Club for the past two months, and a commenter offered an interpretation that seems relevant here. SPOILERS, of course:

    Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) finds real life too overwhelming and retreats into a fake world, shaped by nostalgia and her desire for “simpler” times that never actually existed. Because this is Marvel, Wanda’s nervous breakdown manifests in a literal sense: She magically creates a classic sitcom reality for herself, but while her actions aren’t malicious or even intentional at first, they aren’t harmless. She’s trapped an entire town within her delusions. They have no choice but to play along.

    This is what it feels like to live among a significant number of Republican voters these days. It’s impossible to engage with people who are desperate to believe lies. Whenever Wanda was confronted with the truth, she rewrote reality, often defiantly, and even physically banished a Black woman from her pleasant neighborhood.

    McCarthy and other conservative “anti-cancel culture” warriors are appealing to what I call “toxic nostalgia.” Conservatives resent that life is complicated and no longer defined on their terms. They don’t want to reexamine anything they enjoyed from their youth (e.g. Dr. Seuss, The Muppet Show, or Gone With the Wind).They even object to warning labels before offensive programming or discussions about problematic content. New York Times columnist Charles Blow made headlines when he called out the old Pepe Le Pew cartoons for promoting rape culture. The very same “free speech” advocates were incensed that Blow would question their nostalgia for cartoons where a bad French stereotype attempts to sexually assault a cat. They weren’t interested in debate. They wanted to banish Blow from the false reality.

    While Wanda’s version of a 1950s and 1960s sitcom is more racially diverse than the actual shows of that period were, the gender roles are quite regressive. Wanda seemingly enjoys her life as a stay-at-home sitcom mom, but she’s forced that “simplicity” upon the other women in her “perfect world.” We also don’t see any queer couples. This ideal sitcom world is anything but.

    Most conservatives will claim that life was “simpler” before rampant “political correctness” or “wokeness.” This isn’t true, of course. Marginalized groups lacked the power to make their voices heard. The “simple life” actively silenced them. We learn that Wanda’s inadvertent victims suffer internal anguish beneath their smiling exteriors. This hit home. Minorities and women have never liked racist or sexist jokes or images, but it was usually in our best interest not to speak out publicly, especially in the workplace. We were just trying to “fit in” (a theme in an early WandaVision episode) and live as peacefully as the dominant culture would permit.

    Ultimately, only Wanda could reject her false reality and free everyone imprisoned within it. I wish conservatives will have the courage to do likewise, but I’m not optimistic. […]

    Link

  183. says

    Clyburn Warns Manchin, Sinema Against ‘Catastrophic’ Filibuster Denying Voting Rights

    House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) warned Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) against the “catastrophic” move of letting the filibuster stand in the way of passing The For the People Act, known as HR1, that would expand voting access, especially in communities most affected by the voting restrictions being pushed by Republicans in many states.

    “There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights. That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic,” Clyburn said in an interview published in The Guardian […]

    Clyburn went on to call out Manchin and Sinema. Both of the centrist Democratic senators have faced criticism from those in their party over their opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

    “If Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rights,” Clyburn said.

    […] HR1, which includes provisions such as making Election Day a federal holiday and requiring states to provide at least 15 days of early voting, was passed by the House last week. Along with other Republicans, former Vice President Mike Pence decried HR1 as “unconstitutional, reckless, and anti-democratic” while pushing the bogus election fraud claims that former President Trump continues to peddle.

    Although Manchin on Sunday maintained that he won’t change his mind when it comes to his opposition against getting rid of the filibuster, he expressed that he is open to making it “a little bit more painful” to use.

    […] Manchin appeared to float the idea of bringing back something like the “talking filibuster,” where a member of the minority would have to take the Senate floor and speak at length in order to block a vote. Manchin seemed to lean into a framing that some Democratic activists have suggested for centrist Democrats — conveying that reforms to the filibuster are necessary to “save” it, rather than eliminating it.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/clyburn-manchin-sinema-filibuster-hr1

  184. says

    Follow-up to comment 228.

    Comments posted by readers of the TPM article:

    Voting rights favor Democratic Senators from red states. Filibuster support only favors Republicans now and forever, and it ought to be done away with. Manchin and Sinema can earn a few bargaining chips here to make their futures a little bit less painful.
    ——————–
    also like the idea of requiring a 40 person block to even START a filibuster. Zero people have to stand in front of a camera and state they are behind the filibuster. Having one person stop the works is wrong.
    ———————
    Smart people listen to James Clyburn.
    ———————-
    Could be the tipping point. Explicitly linking HR1 to the underlying racial issues it’s addressing.

    Make a lot of Karens who might be on the fence about it generally to come over to the other side.
    ——————–
    The way the filibuster process operates now requires no effort and no penalty from the party that opposes any bill. The anonymous blocking of any legislation must end, preferably with the nihilists forced to stand up and out themselves as such. @rhea I agree. Make it painful for them to deny voting rights, economic relief, and a living wage. In other words, make it painful for them to announce their opposition to popular policies.
    ———————-
    The only way Sinema comes back from her performance vote against the minimum wage is to vote against the filibuster. Otherwise she is a effectively a Republican and should be primaried. Manchin is the Joe Lieberman of this class and I suspect this may be either be his last term or he is thinking he always has the option to switch parties if things get really bad.
    ———————–
    This legislation is more important in my view than any other. It needs to be passed – the need is desperate.

    IF we want to maintain a democracy we have to act
    ———————–
    I am getting fucking tired of these goddamned Republicans using racial hatred to gut this country and its people.

    We need to get some Momentum and turn the American People loose.

    It’s Time

  185. says

    Arrrggghh, Texas. Texas patrons threaten to call ICE on Mexican restaurant for keeping mask mandate.

    Patrons at a Mexican restaurant in Texas threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on employees over their refusal to work maskless, according to the establishment’s owner.

    “This has been ongoing through COVID,” Steven O’Sullivan, an owner of Cantina Barba in Houston, told The Washington Post.

    “We’ve had threats of calling ICE,” O’Sullivan said. “I had one guy just stand there and berate one of my bartenders and tell her, ‘You’re an absolute idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing. If you think these masks are going to save your life, you’re stupid,’ blah, blah, blah. Nobody wants to deal with that stuff.”

    […] The Post chronicled a number of businesses in Texas whose owners say they will require anyone at their establishments to wear face coverings out of safety for their employees and customers.

    Monica Richards, a co-owner of Picos Mexican restaurant, said she and her staff have received harassing messages on social media and at the store via phone.

    “It was just horrific,” Richards told the Post. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during COVID. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

    Several other Texas businesses say they will still require masks despite Abbott’s order.

    Federal health officials have blasted Abbott’s decision on mask mandates and similar moves by governors in states such as Mississippi.

    “I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you’re only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines — particularly when we’re dealing with anywhere from [55,000] to 70,000 infections per day in the United States,” Anthony Fauci said this week.

  186. says

    Follow-up to tom’s comment 2222.

    Wonkette: “That Idaho Mask Burning Was Creepy AF”

    Conservatives are always burning things. Tiki torches, Harry Potter books, Bibles that aren’t the King James Bible, books by Cuban-American author Jennine Capó Cruce after she suggested to Georgia Southern University students that white privilege is a thing that exists, disco records, copies of the Qur’an, more Harry Potter books (ironically, JK Rowlings turn towards the transphobic is the thing that will probably put an end to this), Nike shoes over an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick … crosses.

    Yesterday, a bunch of right-wing freaks decided to burn masks in Idaho.

    Idaho, for the record, does not actually have a mask mandate. So these people were clearly just angry at the idea of keeping people healthy in general. […]

    One of the organizers of the event was Darr Moon, the husband of state Rep. Dorothy Moon. Mr. Moon is an actual member of the actual John Birch Society. Like from olden times. In fact, he is on the National Council of the John Birch Society. Of course, it is probably not too difficult to rise up very high in the JBS, given that probably most of their members are dead.

    Here he is explaining that the mask-burning was a “rally” and not a “protest,” probably because protests are for commies. [Video is available at the link.]

    Text:

    I think people need to realize that we’re standing here today to rein back government, uh, to reestablish our Republican form of government, a government that has balance between the branches, and we’re kind of that belief that we need well-defined government and certain boundaries. And that’s not what we have today. Our governor is appropriating money and pretty much running the show here in Idaho, and I know governors elsewhere.

    Well that was certainly … non-specific.

    To be fair, “We just like burning things!” probably would not have sounded very good. But they did. They did like burning things. Even the little kids got in on it! [More video is available at the link>

    […] Of course, some of these super normal people protesting restrictions that were not even in effect in their own state may end up getting in some trouble, as you’re actually not supposed to burn stuff on state Capitol grounds.

    Via NBC:

    No one was arrested, and organizers had permits, but the rally was under review because a fire was started, Idaho State Police said in a statement.

    “During the event, an open flame was ignited in a barrel,” police said. “Those involved with the event were informed both before and during the event that open flames are not allowed on State Capitol grounds.”

    I guess they’re lucky they’re Republicans or the police might not have been so nice about it while they were doing it.

  187. says

    The U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected the last of Trump’s challenges to state election procedures.

    Trump had appealed lower court rulings that upheld Wisconsin’s handling of mail-in ballots. The Supreme Court refused to take up the lawsuit. It was the last in a string of defeats before the court.

    NBC News

  188. says

    And then there were five: Missouri’s Blunt to retire from Senate

    If Senate Republican leaders are trying to discourage their members from retiring, their pitches are apparently proving unpersuasive.

    As a rule, party leaders on Capitol Hill make every effort to limit incumbent retirements. There’s no great mystery as to why: incumbents tend to have built-in advantages in re-election campaigns; wide-open primaries can get awfully messy; and competitive general elections require the parties to invest scarce resources.

    […] The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this morning:

    In an announcement that instantly shook up Missouri’s political landscape, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt announced Monday morning that he would not run for reelection in 2022…. Blunt’s retirement potentially clears the way for a crowded GOP primary in a state that has increasingly shifted toward Republicans over the last decade.

    For those keeping score, there are now five Senate Republicans retiring in 2022: Missouri’s Blunt, North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Ohio’s Rob Portman, Alabama’s Richard Shelby, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey.

    That list may yet grow: Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson promised voters he’d only serve two terms and he hasn’t yet said whether he intends to break his word, and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley will be 89 years old on Election Day 2022.

    As for Blunt, his retirement announcement comes as something of a surprise. The longtime Missouri politician — a member of the Senate GOP leadership — was very likely to win another term next year. […] Republicans should be seen as the favorites to hold onto this Senate seat. There was a point in the not-too-distant past at which Missouri was seen as a swing state, but those days are largely over. Consider this tidbit: in the 2020 presidential race, Kansas was more competitive than Missouri for the first time in several decades.

    That said, it’s best not to make sweeping assumptions, especially this early in the cycle. Former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was expected to lose in 2012 (right up until Republicans nominated Todd Akin) and Jason Kander was a big underdog in 2016 before losing by only a few points. If, for example, the GOP nominates a disgraced former governor and Democrats settle on a competitive candidate, all while the economy soars thanks to a Democratic economic package that Republicans opposed, a contest like this may yet prove to be interesting.

    Update: In case anyone was curious, McCaskill, who is now an MSNBC political analyst, announced this morning that she’s not running, either. In a tweet, the former Democratic senator said, “…I will never run for office again. Nope. Not gonna happen. Never. I am so happy I feel guilty sometimes.”

  189. says

    McCarthy Shoots The Messenger As Honoré Preps To Brief House On Jan. 6 Failures

    House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Sunday lambasted retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré and his “notorious partisan bias,” a statement he put out a day before Honoré briefs House members on security failures around the Capitol attack.

    “While there may be some worthy recommendations forthcoming, General Honore’s notorious partisan bias calls into question the rationality of appointing him to lead this important security review,” McCarthy said. “It also raises the unacceptable possibility that the Speaker desired a certain result: turning the Capitol into a fortress.”

    […] While McCarthy’s fortress jab is likely a reference to the metal detectors guarding the House floor that are particularly abhorred by Republican members, a dislike of the militarization of the Capitol post-attack has been a unifier between Democrats and Republicans at hearings on the breach so far.

    Honoré, known for his standout job in the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the colorful, gruff leadership style with which he did so, sent out a now-deleted tweet before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tapped him to head the security review which has rankled Republicans.

    “This little peace of shit with his @Yale law degree should be run out of DC and Disbarred ASAP @HawleyMO @tedcruz aaa hats,” it read. “These @Yale and @Harvard law grads is high order white privilege.”

    […] [Republicans] also may have some political motivation to preemptively discredit Honoré and his findings. It’s well-known that many elected Republicans publicly stoked the election fraud conspiracy theory which helped fuel the attack. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office is investigating rioters possibly being giving tours by members before January 6. Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-OH) office confirmed to TPM that related security footage has been turned over as part of the investigation.

    Pelosi has also proposed an independent commission, in the style of the much lauded 9/11 commission, to investigate the attack, though there is already significant partisan disagreement over the composition and scope of the commission. Pelosi’s office told TPM last week that there is no update on when legislation to stand up the commission will come to a vote, leaving the commission’s fate in limbo.

  190. says

    Follow-up to comment 234.

    Responses posted by readers of the TPM article:

    I wonder why this person famous for his brusque honesty would be so unpopular among the Republicans. [LOL]
    ——————
    The party that wears it’s faith as a badge is actually the party of bad faith. Shocking. I’m mostly surprised that they haven’t gone on OAN and called the general “uppity”, although maybe it will happen later today. Asshats.
    —————-
    And he’s frank and honest while being black, too. Quelle horreur!
    ———————
    The Republicans want to make it harder to vote, but the Democrats want to make it harder to overthrow the government with violence.
    ———————
    The statement Partisan Bias coming from any Republican is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black
    ——————–
    It’s almost, as if, he’s afraid of what the report may contain.
    ———————-
    Disparage a highly respected Black military officer. Always a winner.
    ————————
    I guess we have established for all time the principle that nobody can ever be investigated or criticized by anyone who does not fully agree with them politically.
    ———————
    For Republicans, straight talk equals notorious partisan bias.
    ——————–
    If they were interested in regrouping in attempt to hold offices legally there would be different sounds coming from these pieces of shit.
    —————–
    Hey Kevin. Honore’ is retired from the Army. His bias, whatever it is …is legal now.

  191. says

    Biden marks International Women’s Day with orders to roll back some of Trump’s gender-based damage

    Monday is International Women’s Day, and President Joe Biden is taking the opportunity to start rolling back some of the related damage done by Donald Trump and his administration.

    Biden is planning to sign an executive order establishing a White House Gender Policy Council, effectively replacing an Obama-era White House Council on Women and Girls that was eliminated by Trump. The changed name signals a substantive change to include transgender people […]

    The council will consider the intersections of gender and race in a “whole of government approach” to gender equity, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, family caregiving, and structural barriers to women’s workforce participation, both in the U.S. and globally.

    Another key move coming from Biden on International Women’s Day targets a key Betsy DeVos policy on campus sexual assault. DeVos had dramatically expanded protections for accused sexual assailants, including giving them the right to personally cross-examine their alleged victims. The DeVos rules also tightened up the definition of actionable sexual misconduct to include “unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity,” “school employee conditioning education benefits on participation in unwelcome sexual conduct,” or “sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.”

    In short, DeVos instituted a policy under which a victim of sexual harassment or assault could hope for action from a college or university only if she was experiencing something so severe it was guaranteed to scar her for life, and she would then face a process in which the deck was stacked in favor of her assailant or harasser, who would be given the opportunity as part of the official process to revictimize her. Biden is taking the first step toward undoing that, though since DeVos got it written into an official regulation, it will take significant time and effort to fix.

    […] Biden will also address International Women’s Day in remarks from the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris will speak to the European Parliament.

    “As we endure the pandemic, the economic instability, the racial injustice, the threats to democracy, and the effects of climate change, the question before us is simple: How do we build a world that works for women?” she will say, according to prepared remarks. “I believe we must ensure women’s safety at home and in every community,” going on to say that “ this is not just an act of goodwill. This is a show of strength. If we build a world that works for women, our nations will all be safer, stronger, and more prosperous.”

    “DeVos instituted a policy under which a victim of sexual harassment or assault could hope for action from a college or university only if she was experiencing something so severe it was guaranteed to scar her for life, and she would then face a process in which the deck was stacked in favor of her assailant or harasser, who would be given the opportunity as part of the official process to revictimize her.”

    That’s yet another reminder of how much damage Trump and his lickspittles did during their term in office. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have a lot of clean-up to do.

  192. says

    Jury selection on pause for ex-cop charged in Floyd’s death

    Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death.

    The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in the death of George Floyd on Monday paused jury selection for at least a day while an appeal proceeds over the possible reinstatement of a third-degree murder charge.

    As hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse to call for the conviction of Derek Chauvin, Judge Peter Cahill said he does not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the third-degree murder charge should be reinstated against the former officer while the issue is being appealed. But he said prosecutors’ arguments that the whole case would be impacted was “tenuous.”

    Cahill initially ruled that jury selection would begin as scheduled on Monday, but prosecutors filed a request with the Court of Appeals to put the trial on hold until the issue is resolved. The judge then sent the potential jurors home for the day, while prosecutors tried to contact the appellate court. Cahill took a recess to give the Court of Appeals time to respond, but planned to bring attorneys back into the courtroom Monday afternoon to deal with other matters.

    […] Jury selection is expected to take at least three weeks, as prosecutors and defense attorneys try to weed out people who may be biased against them.

    “You don’t want jurors who are completely blank slates, because that would mean they’re not in tune at all with the world,” Susan Gaertner, a former prosecutor, said. “But what you want is jurors who can set aside opinions that have formed prior to walking into the courtroom and give both sides a fair hearing.” […]

  193. says

    Top Democrats urge IRS to extend tax season ahead of passage of relief bill

    Two top House Democrats on Monday urged the IRS to extend the tax-filing season, as President Biden is expected to enact a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in the coming days that has implications for the 2020 tax returns of people who received unemployment benefits last year.

    The relief package, which the House is expected to pass Tuesday and Biden is expected to sign soon after, would waive taxes on up to $10,200 in unemployment compensation for people with income of under $150,000. Unemployment recipients who already filed their 2020 tax returns will need to file amended returns to get the tax break, and recipients who haven’t filed their returns yet may have questions about how to ensure they receive the relief.

    “Once it is signed into law, the American Rescue Plan will change the tax laws applicable to unemployment benefits received in 2020 and reported on returns filed during this filing season,” Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “Taxpayers need more time to file accurate returns and get their questions answered by the IRS.”

    […] “We stand in the midst of the most important tax filing season in recent memory, and taxpayers cannot get the help they need from the IRS,” Neal and Pascrell said.

    The IRS extended last year’s filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 because of the pandemic. Neal and Pascrell said that “many Americans continue to face the same health and economic challenges that necessitated an extension last year.”

    “Facing enormous strain and anxiety, taxpayers need flexibility now,” the lawmakers said. “We demand that the IRS announce an extension as soon as possible.” […]

  194. says

    You’re fully vaccinated? The CDC says you can now have friends and family over for dinner.

    The guidelines still urge caution around meeting up with unvaccinated people at high risk for severe disease. But the new rules are a big step toward normalcy.

    You’ve been fully vaccinated: two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine plus several weeks for your immune system to fully respond. Now what can you do?

    New guidelines from the CDC published Monday, March 8, offer good news: You can see your family or have other vaccinated friends over, indoors, without a mask (with a caveat).

    “If you’ve been fully vaccinated,” the new guidelines read:

    You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.

    You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

    In other words, if you want to have other fully vaccinated friends over for dinner, the CDC says that you should go ahead. The reduced risk of infection and transmission on both sides (yours and theirs) makes this a basically safe activity. [Not 100% safe.]

    If you want to gather indoors with relatives or friends who aren’t fully vaccinated, that also poses much lower risk now that you’re vaccinated — so you can do it. But the risk is not as low as when everyone is vaccinated, so you shouldn’t do it if anyone at increased risk of severe Covid-19 might be affected (including high-risk people who live with those who want to gather). If you have elderly or immunocompromised loved ones who haven’t yet been vaccinated, you should get them vaccinated before you hang out.

    The CDC emphasizes that in order for these rules to apply, you must be fully vaccinated: if you got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you need both doses, and for any vaccine, it should be two weeks since you got your last vaccine dose. “If it has been less than 2 weeks since your shot, or if you still need to get your second dose, you are NOT fully protected. Keep taking all prevention steps until you are fully vaccinated,” the guidelines read.

    They also emphasize that even vaccinated people should keep taking precautions in public spaces shared with crowds of strangers, including masks and social distancing. […]

  195. says

    Wonkette: “Lisa Murkowski Put Good Stuff In COVID Relief Bill, Voted Against It Like Weird Person.”

    Republican senators are very happy they remained united against helping people. They were worried about a potential defection from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, but she ultimately voted against President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package. This means he’s failed at bipartisanship and people can fret over that while cashing their generous stimulus checks and avoiding eviction.

    […] Yes, the bill is partisan because Republicans deliberately withheld support, unlike Democrats who on past stimulus bills voted to keep the lights on in people’s homes, even if it might’ve helped the previous White House squatter. […]

    It’s also annoying when Republicans complain that passing a vital stimulus bill during a pandemic was “rushed” and “hurried.” This isn’t your grandmother shopping at Target. Time is of the essence. Besides, Republicans happily confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a partisan process that was quicker than ordering a vanilla latte in a Starbucks drive-through.

    […] Murkowski did introduce a damn good amendment to the stimulus bill, which she later voted against like a damn Republican. Amendment No. 1233 allocates $800 million of the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund to support “the identification, enrollment, and school participation of children and youth experiencing homelessness.” Murkowski and Joe Manchin introduced the amendment with Kyrsten Sinema, Rob Portman, Susan Collins, and Dan Sullivan.

    […] the CARES Act did not specifically allocate funding to support children experiencing homelessness, one in four homeless children (420,000 homeless children) have gone unidentified and unenrolled in public schools. These students are disproportionately students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities. Without direct funding (not just an allowable use), these children are not being enrolled in school. Homeless children are too easily overlooked among competing demands.

    […] Amendment No. 1233 was so popular it was easily adopted by voice vote. […]

    The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased children and youth homelessness due to high unemployment, unstable living conditions, and job insecurity. […] Research has also found that rural areas – like my home state of West Virginia – lack vital resources for our homeless children and youth, adding to their already heavy burdens.

    […] In the end, Manchin’s Republican colleagues, including Murkowski, prioritized sticking it to Biden over helping at-risk children. What’s scuzzy is that Murkowski, Collins, and Sullivan will probably claim credit for all the positives from Amendment No. 1233 even though the bill to which it’s attached would’ve never passed if they’d had their way.

    Link

  196. says

    Wonkette: “Misogynistic Missouri Pastor”

    Photo of overweight pastor is available at the link. Double standard much? Blatant misogyny and stupidity. Plus worship of Melania Trump. And a bit of anti-lesbianism thrown in for good measure.

    Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark of the First General Baptist Church in Malden, Missouri, has not had the greatest first week of March.

    Last week, he went viral with his disturbingly sexist sermon about how much Jesus haaaates it when women “let themselves go” or gain weight after marriage. Specifically, he told women they should aspire to be trophy wives like Melania Trump — or at least “participation trophy wives,” as he so cleverly quipped.

    He explained:

    Now look, I’m not saying every woman can be the epic, the epic trophy wife of all time, like Melania Trump — I’m not saying that at all. Most women can’t be trophy wives, but, you know, like her — maybe you’re a participation trophy. I don’t know. But all I can say is not everybody looks like that! Amen?! But you don’t need to look like a butch either!

    He seems nice.

    During this sermon, Clark also told the story of how, when he was doing marriage counseling, he saved a marriage simply by encouraging a husband when he called his wife a “fat [B-word].” He told the story of how one of his friends put a “divorce weight” on his wife, which seemed to mean he would divorce her were she to hit that weight. (Perhaps divorce would actually be her best option for getting rid of some dead weight.) He said men like to look at stuff and also like having pretty ladies on their arm. Women, on the other hand, absolutely love to be seen in public with a guy with a full-on serial killer name who goes viral for saying a whole bunch of misogynistic crap.

    Nota bene: I am not saying anything about his looks. These statements would be just as crappy coming from a nominally attractive man.

    Clark also explained that this was not just him saying this, but God, citing 1 Corinthians 7:4, which says “The wife has no longer all rights over her body, but shares them with her husband.”

    Well gee, that does sound fun.

    Prior to this, Clark was set to be a featured moderator at the General Association of General Baptists (really?) conference, but now it seems he is a general pariah. The church issued a statement generally distancing itself from him and his sermon, explaining that women are great and Jesus died for them.

    […] Now local television station KCTV is reporting that Clark is seeking psychological help and is officially on leave. The full sermon has also been deleted from his church’s website.

    The thing is, it seems really unlikely this was the first time this guy said anything like this. This doesn’t just come out of nowhere. […]

    Link

  197. says

    International Women’s Day: Hillary Rodham Clinton

    Washington Post link

    Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the world’s most dedicated champions of women’s rights. As a former secretary of state, U.S. senator, first lady and presidential candidate, Clinton leveled the playing field for women in leadership, and her message of progress and resilience continues to inspire the next generation. Clinton joins Washington Post opinions writer Jonathan Capehart on International Women’s Day, Monday, March 8 at 2:00pm ET.

    Register for the program here.

  198. says

    Where Things Stand: America’s Rivals See A Weapon In Vaccine Hesitancy.

    Russian intelligence [agencies], it appears, are attempting to sow distrust in the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine in order to bolster the sale of its own supply. [WTF!]

    According to a new Wall Street Journal report, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center has identified at least four publications that have been used as Russian intel fronts in the past that are publishing articles questioning the safety of the Pfizer vaccine and other Western vaccine companies.

    The publications reportedly have spread disinformation about the side effects of the Pfizer shot and have suggested the development of the U.S. vaccine was dangerously rushed. Experts at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, part of the German Marshall Fund, identified the disinfo as part of a broader effort to boost the sales of the Russia-produced Sputnik V vaccine.

    […] they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem.

    […] Though Trump recently urged followers to get the vaccine, the message may be another case of too little too late. Trump and former first lady Melania Trump received the vaccine while in office, but chose to do so in private, breaking with a wave of politicians — including Biden — and public figures who were getting the shot in public at the time to combat fear of the new vaccine. As the most loud and respected voice of the Party whose voters are now most likely to be skeptical of the vaccine, it’s just one of Trump’s many misfires with regard to the pandemic.

    Link

  199. says

    DA says Colorado students could face criminal charges over violent mask-less gathering.

    The district attorney of Boulder County, Colo., says some participants of a weekend gathering that turned violent may face criminal charges.

    “I hear people refer to it as a party,” District Attorney Michael Dougherty said Sunday, according to The Washington Post. “I don’t regard people flipping over a car as a party. I don’t regard people throwing bottles and rocks at firefighters and police officers as a party. Those are criminal acts and will be treated as such.”

    Police Chief Maris Herold reportedly said that although the scene was too chaotic for police to make arrests on-site, arrests would be made later based on body-camera footage. [really?]

    […] As many as 800 predominantly unmasked University of Colorado at Boulder students gathered late Saturday afternoon, later firing off fireworks and eventually flipping a car. When police attempted to clear the crowd and threatened arrests and use of tear gas, about 100 people charged officers. […]

    Link

  200. says

    Why It’s ‘Nearly Impossible’ For A Capitol Attack Commission To Operate Like The 9/11 One

    Soon after the January 6 Capitol attack, lawmakers from both parties were eager to endorse establishing a commission to investigate the historic security meltdown.

    “We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” said Sen. Linsey Graham (R-SC) in January.

    But once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) formally proposed the commission, a small step toward nailing down the specifics of composition and scope, partisan bickering broke out. Republicans bristled at Pelosi’s suggestion of Republicans picking four commissioners to Democrats’ seven; some Democrats balked at Republicans getting any seats at all, given that many elected GOPers publicly supported the election conspiracy theory that led to the attack.

    While Pelosi indicated that she’d be flexible on the commissioner split, other central issues, like the scope of the commission’s probe, remain very much unresolved.

    […] A key ingredient of the 9/11 commission was its bipartisanship, which lent its findings credibility. In 2021, an attempt at bipartisanship could have the opposite result, granting Republicans, still largely supportive of former President Trump, ample opportunity to undermine the commission. For one, they could appoint Trump loyalists who would refuse to find fault with the former president or his Republican allies, creating an automatic schism with the Democratic appointees who’d want to hold them accountable. They could also hijack the focus of the commission: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already implied that if Democrats insist on expanding the scope of the investigation to include the lead-up to the attack, he’ll push a focus on supposed violence from left-wing groups.

    If Democrats, seeking to circumvent that sabotage, try to pick the Republican appointees themselves, the legislation to set up the commission might not pass in the Senate, where it can be filibustered.

    […] For the 1/6 commission to be a true fact-finding mission addressing the question of accountability for the attack, congressional leaders McConnell and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would have to be willing to appoint commissioners comfortable enough to put blame on Trump and elected Republicans. To achieve the broad acceptance of the 9/11 report, those people, an endangered species in the Republican party, would somehow also have to have credibility with GOP constituents.

    […] If McConnell and McCarthy instead selected those of the MAGA persuasion, a bipartisan investigation of the events that led up to Jan. 6 would be dead on arrival. […]

    […] “The 9/11 commission basically shelved questions of accountability,” Tama said. “The story itself details the shortcomings of both administrations,” he added, but the recommendations at the end focus much more on systemic failures and needed reforms than whose fault it was.

    […] The accountability problem is already one Republicans are trying to skirt, by suggesting narrowing the probe to the security failures around the Capitol alone. […] Some in the GOP have been trying to establish an equivalence between left-wing protesters in 2020 and the Capitol mob. In reality, antifa is more a philosophy than a cohesive group, and the Black Lives Matter protests were overwhelmingly peaceful.

    If Republicans ultimately conclude that the commission would be a political liability, they could sink it. […]

    If a commission does come together […] the result could end up looking more like the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission of 2009.

    The partisan split on the commission was so bad that it ultimately issued a report and two dissenting statements: the report from the six commissioners appointed by Democrats, one dissent from three of the commissioners appointed by Republicans and yet another dissent from a Republican appointee who split off from the group.

    Among other disputes, the Republicans had refused to use the words “Wall Street,” “shadow banking,” “interconnection” and “deregulation” in the final report. [FFS]

    […]That squabbling blunted the report’s impact at the time.

    Those with memories of kinder times, like the 9/11 Commission’s Roemer, are holding out hope for a sudden return to civility.

    “I’m hopeful, I’m optimistic,” he said. “Maybe my glasses are a little rose-colored these days, but you have to be to be an American.”

  201. says

    Follow-up to comment 246.

    From a reader:

    The 9/11 Commission did NOT include Al-Qaida.

    Why should the GQP be part of the 1/6 Commission?

  202. says

    House bill blocks deportation of military veterans

    House Democratic legislators including the chair of the chamber’s Veterans’ Affairs committee have reintroduced legislation that would block the deportation of noncitizen U.S. military veterans, and allow eligible deported veterans to return home to the U.S. Because federal immigration officials don’t follow even their own policy, it’s unknown exactly how many veterans have been kicked out of the U.S. over the years. Advocates have estimated the number to be around 230.

    […] “Deported veterans are exiled from the country that they call home and that they fought to defend, and they face significant barriers to access the benefits they are entitled to and eligible for under the law. Congress must act and fix this injustice, and passing this comprehensive legislative package can help us achieve that.”

    “Legal permanent residents are allowed to serve in our military, and systemic failures across many levels of our government have led to an unknown number of noncitizen veterans to be deported from the country they risked their lives to defend,” legislators said. “Many deported veterans believed their service automatically conferred citizenship upon them, and often times, the military does not provide immigrant recruits clear information or guidance on the naturalization process. Because of this failure to disseminate information and gaps in the law, many veterans have been deported to a country they do not call home.”

    […] President Joe Biden’s rollback of the previous administration’s immigration policies includes a review of that administration’s deportation of U.S. military service members and family members. Under this new legislation, “the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security would be mandated to conduct a joint study and report on all of the veterans that have been deported in the past two decades.” Legislators note the 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “has not been tracking the number of veterans who have been deported, or been adhering to internal policies regarding potentially removable veterans.” […]

  203. KG says

    The former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has had all his convictions for alleged corruption quashed and his political rights restored. It seems likely he will run against Bolsonaro in 2022. The Guardian article has a rather odd (because unnecessary and uninformative) quote from an obscure (at least to me, and I suspect to anyone not an expert on Brazilian politics) political commentator, one Thomas Traumann, admitting that this is good news for those “absolutely opposed to Bolsonaro” (which should mean any non-fascist, and one would think might even include some fascists given what a bad name Bolsonaro is giving fascism), but adding:

    The problem is that there is a pretty reasonable number of people who don’t want either of them [as president] – and if these people don’t get together and come up with a [third] candidate now, there will be no room for them

    IOW, those “absolutely opposed to Bolsonaro” might unify behind Lula, who has remained popular and would probably win.

  204. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The “Reid In” the worst tonight. Anti-mask protestors.
    Tomorrow I should receive my second vaccine. I can start driving for ElderCARE again, taking seniors to their medical appointments after a couple of weeks to ensure full immunization. I won’t transport somebody who won’t wear a mask over their nose while the car, while I’m double masked…..

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