Friday, January 22, 2021

Unity for me but not for thee

Joan McCarter of Daily Kos reported Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday. That means the nasty guy’s second trial begins Monday (or maybe Tuesday). The House impeachment managers plan to play videos of the Capitol assault to emphasize that this was a mob intent on killing – and on killing the people who now sit in this room. Several GOP senators have changed their tune from what they said the day of the insurrection. For example, Lindsay Graham is now saying, “There’s no way to be a successful Republican Party without having President Trump working with all of us and all of us working with him.” Sure. Since the Senate still hasn’t passed its organizing resolution (because Moscow Mitch is blocking it) committee chairs are still in GOP hands even though Democrats should be. McCarter reported that while that is sorted out with the filibuster in the balance Democrats are working on the COVID relief package. They can bring the package to the Senate floor and avoid the filibuster if they can present the whole thing as a budget bill with each committee declaring how much of a budget increase they want to handle Biden’s request. But they can’t officially do that while committees are still in GOP hands. There are some issues of passing the relief package that way. It is difficult to declare a raise in the minimum wage as a budget item. And the GOP will call that one out. On the GOP side Moscow Mitch’s leadership position is being threatened. McCarter reported the threat is coming from nasty guy loyalists who consider Mitch to be insufficiently loyal. Their evidence is Mitch declaring the insurrection was because of the nasty guy’s lies. So some of us are delighted that Mitch is in a squeeze between some of his members and businesses (and their donations) that want nothing to do with the nasty guy and fellow seditionists. Kos of Kos analyzed the news that the nasty guy wants to start his own political party – the Patriot Party. Kos very much doubts it will ever happen because the nasty guy only does things for the nasty guy (and maybe Ivanka). So unless he can get it to line his pocket, it ain’t gonna happen. In addition, there is no party platform (he and the GOP didn’t have one this year). So all a new party would do is pull votes from the GOP, cementing a bigger Dem majority. The other way to go is for the GOP to excise the nasty guy cancer and take a couple presidential cycles to rebrand and rebuild. They they could be a national party again. It seems this is where Moscow Mitch is headed. It is where the donors are headed. Kos wrote:
For Republicans, it’s an existential question: Do they cut the Trump cancer out, wander in the wilderness for a few cycles, then rebuild in the image of today’s America (more diverse, more educated, more secular), or do they keep going down the same path that cost them the House, the Senate, the White House, and the critical support of key growth demographics (not to mention, Arizona, Georgia, and soon, Texas), while at the same time remaining beholden to the whims of an egotistical madman?
Hunter of Kos discussed that President Joe Biden has been in power for less than 2½ days and already some Republicans are complaining that for a guy who wants unity he’s being terribly divisive. Hunter wrote:
They would like us to know that Joe Biden's speech was divisive, because it called out white supremacists and racists and liars and whoa, talk about rude. They would like us to know that Joe Biden firing the incompetent toadies who have failed catastrophically in responding to the deadly pandemic, the nation's economic crisis, or anything else is divisive, because if this nation is ever going to heal from its current traumas the new administration should clearly keep all of Trump's malevolent and sometimes-criminal conservative D-listers in their current posts rather than divisively have the new president choose new appointees. And it's all very insincere and nonsensical and is most aggressively being shouted by traitors and allies of traitors, so they can all go pound sand, the end. … The purpose of these "unity" demands are to evade consequences, every single one, so that the most prolific enablers of anti-democratic attacks can continue to mount those same attacks without repercussion. But nobody should want "unity" with seditionists. Or with liars. Or with racists. Or with white nationalists. All of those people should face widespread public scorn, everywhere they go, forever. The American fascist version of "unity" demands purges of immigrants, the isolation of LGBT Americans, the widespread curbing of American civil rights, and the nullification of political opposition through fraud or by force. It is a "unity" that demands the nation abide by all their own bigotries, and harm all those Americans who they believe need harming. It will not happen. And "unity" now demands consequences for those who would go so far as to endanger democracy itself, either through fraud or by force, in their attempts to pursue those things.
Bill in Portland, Maine quotes a bit from Molly Ivens every Thursday. Here’s a bit of what he quoted this week from a column she wrote in 2006 (alas, only a few words would need to change to apply to today).
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes. The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
We know who they’re afraid of – their corporate overlords who fund their campaigns. But it isn’t all fear. A great many believe as their overlords do that to make their own lives look better they must make the lower classes suffer. Bill in Portland, Maine also offered up a few opinions from late night commentary.
The Trump presidency officially ended today as Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. And, uh…wow. So that's what it feels like when you're not grinding your teeth. I'd forgotten. And I can see colors again. —Seth Meyers Unsurprisingly, Republicans are 'furious' that Joe Biden chose to divide America by becoming president. And if that weren't divisive enough, he's openly plotting to 'do stuff.' Nice try, Joe, but according to Republicans a real unifier would have handed the office back to Trump, given him a McRib, and happily walked off to prison. —Samantha Bee

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Another 40 to be signed in the next week

As an avid genealogist this resonated with me: Jon Ossof, new senator from Georgia, tweeted (with pictures):
Today, as I was sworn in, I held in my jacket pocket copies of the ships’ manifests recorded at Ellis Island when my Great Grandfather Israel arrived in 1911 and my Great Grandmother Annie arrived in 1913. A century later, their great grandson was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Kerry Eleveld of Daily Kos reported President Biden (I and lots of other people love saying that) signed a stack of Executive Orders yesterday and today. Many of them undoing EOs of the nasty guy. One of them was a sweeping order proclaiming LGBTQ people should have equal treatment under the law in employment, housing, and education. This builds on the Supreme Court ruling from last year that declared the term “sex” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also means sexual orientation and gender identity. This overturns orders from the nasty guy which tried to oppress LGBTQ people every way possible. Mark Sumner of Kos listed seventeen actions – Stop building the wall on the southern border. Rejoin the World Health Organization. Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. End the Muslim travel ban. Defend the “Dreamers” program. Create an executive branch ethics doctrine. And several more. And another 40 to be signed in the next week. Disappointed, though not at all surprised: Sumner reported that in spite of the nasty guy’s claims there were no policy or plans for the vaccine distribution. So the Biden administration is starting from “square one” to create and implement a plan. Fortunately, the Biden team knew that as they took office yesterday. At the start of each new Congress (this is the 117th) the Senate passes an organizing resolution to set the rules on how the Senate will function. Moscow Mitch is being his usual obstructionist self when the Democrats try to do anything. He’s demanding the resolution contain a promise that the Democrats will not end the filibuster. With the filibuster and a thin Dem majority every bit of legislation would need ten GOP votes to end debate. Without it the simple majority (with VP Harris as tiebreaker) can get stuff done. Joan McCarter of Kos reported that several Democratic senators have rather pithy replies to Mitch. McCarter described a way the Democrats could force through ending the filibuster in this organizing resolution if Mitch keeps obstructing. Leah McElrath had a reply to Mitch’s tweet trying to assert minority rights.
Cry harder you traitorous, hypocritical sack of gelatinous lies encased in human skin. (Trying to go forward into 2021 with fewer F bombs, because, you know, unity and all that.)
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas didn’t like that Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement:
By rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, President Biden indicates he’s more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh. This agreement will do little to affect the climate and will harm the livelihoods of Americans.
Greta Thunberg, the one-teen force of climate advocacy, fired back:
So happy that USA has finally rejoined the Pittsburgh Agreement. Welcome back!
Mark Lippman of the Kos community, who included both tweets, added:
Yes, he’s worried about the citizens of Pittsburgh two weeks after he tried to disenfranchise 6.9 million voters in the state of Pennsylvania by throwing out their electoral votes.
After the great success on January 6 the insurrectionists planned a round 2 for Sunday the 17th. David Neiwert of Kos reported on the attendance of the Washington Million Militia March: nobody. They had also proclaimed they would try to storm various statehouses, prompting Michigan and several others to erect fences and board up windows. Neiwert reported on attendance at some of those capitols: Columbus: maybe a dozen (but we have nothing to do with that insurrection in Washington). Lansing: “a smattering.” Salem: protesters outnumbered 3-1 by the media covering them. Olympia: deserted. Trenton: one. Neiwert wrote:
The decidedly low energy for these events is reflective of the disarray that has descended on American radical-right circles ever since the January 6 riots. As Alexander Reid Ross described at Daily Beast, alt-right white supremacists have engaged in extensive bickering over the mess, accusing each other of being federal informants and traitors to the cause, as well as con artists.
Kerry Eleveld reported what’s going on with the QAnon conspiracy folks.
Here's what QAnon-ers expected to happen, according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins: Trump would use the Emergency Broadcasting System to announce the The Storm had arrived; Democrats would be rounded up and arrested; and Trump would be declared president. Q supporters had apparently bought CB radios for the blackout. "I don't think this is supposed to happen?" wrote one follower. "How long does it take the fed to run up the stairs and arrest him?" Apparently, a very very long time—otherwise known as never. No emergency announcement from Trump. No mass arrests. Just the continuation of American democracy as regularly scheduled every four years at 12:01 PM on Jan. 20. ... At the end of the day, a conspiracy theory that was so certain of its ability to predict the future, left its followers deeply disillusioned.
Be sparing with your schadenfreude. This isn’t over yet. Gwen Snyder tweeted (with screen captures):
The terror Nazis are on @telegram literally telling us their strategy to radicalize QAnon and MAGA, now.
Max Berger tweeted:
You ever think about how the last two Republican presidents left office in the midst of a global crisis they didn't prepare for and an economic collapse they did too little to fix? Weird coincidence! … Republicans said they wanted to shrink government until it was "small enough to drown in the bathtub." It worked: that's why our government wasn't prepared to respond to Katrina, the financial crisis of 2007-2008, or the Coronavirus "hoax" that killed 400,000 people.
The reason why Republicans want to shrink government is so it can’t help people. Because then it would help those people. And they can’t have that. Now for some fun stuff. Kai Ryssdal of the NPR program Marketplace reported many times about Janet Yellen when she was chair of the Federal Reserve. She is now nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. Since Alexander Hamilton was the first Sec. of the Treasury and got his own musical, Ryssdal wanted a way to honor the first female Sec. of the Treasury. Not knowing Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote the rap based musical) Ryssdal asked rapper Dessa to come up with something. Ryssdal is delighted with the result. Listen here to Ryssdal’s conversation with Dessa and the rap she came up with. Jimmy Kimmel tweeted a video (under 2 minutes) of the reaction of various federal monuments hearing the news that the nasty guy was gone and Biden is president.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Many blessings

I watched the inauguration today. Yay! We as individuals and the nation together survived the nasty guy years! He’s outta there! I’d be happy to never write about him again (beyond noting his funeral). Alas, there’s still an impeachment trial to get through and write about. I am very aware that 400,000 of us didn’t survive. I’m also aware the danger is not over and we should not be complacent. I appreciated the message Joe Biden gave today. He did a fine mix of remembering those who did not survive, stressing what needs to be done, the importance of doing this together, and trying to urge us to do so. I was quite impressed with poet laureate Amanda Gorman, who presented a wonderful poem for the occasion with an amazing amount of poise for someone so young. A video of her recitation and a few more details about her are here. And Lady Gaga had quite the gown. Others mentioned she turned and gestured to the dome at the words “and the flag was still there” as a reminder that the attack two weeks ago did not succeed. I watched the livestream through NPR (no commercials! though the commentary could be a bit lame). After a break for lunch and at the start of the parade (“President Biden heads to the White House”) I turned NPR back on. They had no commentary and seemed to have found the worst possible camera angles. For a long time they looked up the street to the bands waiting there with a fat traffic pole in the middle of the shot with the pedestrian walk/wait signal. They still looked up the street as the band passed by. So I tried C-SPAN. After the commercial they showed the vehicles of the parade and their stopped position in some drive and not only no commentary, but no sound. Back to NPR. As before bad camera angles (what should I expect from a radio network?), though we could see Biden was walking down the street and not in any of the cars stopped in whatever drive C-SPAN was showing. They got to the White House and repeatedly passed behind big shrubs (from the camera’s view). When the Bidens got to the front door of the White House and turned to the crowd Joe was hidden behind some other network’s cameraman. I wanted the NPR camera person to take a few steps to the right. NPR paused for a while so I went back to C-SPAN. They were showing the nationwide virtual Parade Across America. But again, no sound (yes, I checked my browser settings, and the sound was plenty loud during the commercials). So on to CNN. The bottom quarter of the screen is filled with their banner. Then nattering commentary as I watched Harris walk down the street in front of the White House to her office in the neighboring building. Back to NPR. I think they’re showing the common feed from the virtual parade. The camera work is much better. I enjoyed this Parade Across America, little moments with groups across the country doing their thing. I enjoyed the diversity of people and the diversity of talents they offer. And I enjoyed the hope and enthusiasm they shared. The Parade did a few highlights of heroes. My favorite is the history teacher in Austin. Back in July, when she knew the fall semester would be online, she hit the road. She conducted class from historic sites, explaining why the site was important. For example, she talked about the end of the Revolutionary war by saying it was in the bay right behind her where the French landed to cut off the British. I was back on NPR for most of the evening celebration. Again, this was the common feed. The advantage of NPR was during the commercials the show went to another act, so I saw more of the program than those who watched NBC. Though I usually don’t care for popular music I enjoyed (most) of this one. Most of the songs were about togetherness and hope. I especially liked the lyrics to the song Tug McGraw and friends sang from Nashville. The image of Joe holding (who I’m assuming is) his great grandson was nice to see, as were the fireworks at the end. Though I’m quite aware this evening’s show (and much of the day) was designed to evoke particular feelings, I feel a lot more hopeful tonight than I did in the last four years. Many blessings on Joe and Kamala. I have hope you’ll be able to meet our dire needs. News of the day (and from those still open browser tabs)… Dr. Rachel Levine has been named to be Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her list of accomplishments make her sound like a wonderful choice. There another big plus: She’s transgender. She’ll bring an important LGBTQ voice to discussions on health. But will that cause confirmation problems? A GOP controlled Senate has already confirmed her for three previous jobs. Two years ago the House quickly passed HR 1, a comprehensive package to protect voting rights, shed some light on dark money, and add a few ethics reforms for public servants. When it went to the Senate Moscow Mitch made sure it only gathered dust. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos reported HR 1 is back and with it is S 1. The top name on the bill is Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It will get a vote. It will also force GOP senators to vote for or against democracy. And if too many of those senators still want to vote against it, this could be the issue that ends the filibuster. Kerry Eleveld of Kos reported a likely reason why Moscow Mitch is no longer defending the nasty guy and has been saying his vote for conviction is undecided. The reason is big donors are demanding a break with the nasty guy. Eleveld wrote:
McConnell, who has never really liked Trump, may be legitimately angry over the violent mob Trump sicced on congressional lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike. But he's also sure gotten some monetary help in getting there. And given the choice between continuing to endear himself to Trump and securing the cash to help him win back the Senate majority? Sorry Trump, you lose.
While I’m pleased with this extra pressure for the nasty guy’s accountability, it was this donor cash that got the nasty guy installed. Mark Sumner of Kos discussed virus mutations and does a pretty good job of explaining how they happen. I’ve already heard of a new strain from Britain that is more infectious, though maybe not more deadly. I’ve already heard that strain has shown up in Michigan, one county to the west of me. There is yet another variant ravaging Manaus, Brazil, already a COVID hotspot. And this one is a bigger concern. That’s because the variation is a difference in the spike protein. This protein is what allows the virus to enter a cell and subvert it to making more copies of it. This is also the protein the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines mimic to prompt the body to produce antibodies that can disable the real virus if it ever shows up. But if this variant is different enough that antibodies don’t fit the new spike protein, the vaccine no longer works. A virus that has time to mutate is a consequence of not getting it under control. If America, Brazil, and a few other countries had taken care that their citizens didn’t spread the virus it wouldn’t have time to mutate and perhaps make the vaccine useless in the time it took to develop and test it.