Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) called Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial – set to start on Tuesday – an open-and-shut case against the ex-president.
During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Rep. Jackson Lee laid out Trump’s long line of actions that demonstrated his lack of respect for democracy and the rule of law, particularly when it came to accepting the results of the 2020 election.
“He predicted that he might not allow a peaceful transfer of power,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “He never admitted that he adhered to the law and order of this nation, and he was right.”
“He clearly became an insurrectionist president,” she added.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) calls Trump an “insurrectionist president” who has never respected American democracy. pic.twitter.com/e3x3dm5kB5
I have seen now four impeachment proceedings, including one of a judge. And it was evident as the election proceeded in 2016 that this campaign and this president and this person, Donald J. Trump, had an irreverence … for democracy, for order, for aw and order, for respect, for dignity and he carried that through the campaign right into the United States presidency. That was evidenced by his reckless engagement with Russia, his inviting the Russian ambassador, if you will, to the White House, by leaking classified information, by getting into fights with people of different racial backgrounds, by insulting African American women, Congressional Black Caucus members, as well as other members of Congress. He was just irreverent and he clearly was someone that was not Lincoln-esque, he was not a respecter of democracy and it continued as evidenced by his actions with Ukraine and his blatant discussion with the president of Ukraine of what you can do for me. That led, of course, to his prediction. He predicted that he might not allow a peaceful transfer of power. He was asked several times during the campaign and he was glib but he is never precise, he never admitted that he adhered to the law and order of this nation, and he was right. And he proceeded for months after November to talk about, the election was stolen. He clearly became an insurrectionist president.
Trump is clearly guilty of inciting the Jan. 6 attack
Given how broken the modern Republican Party is, getting enough Senate votes to convict Donald Trump will likely be an uphill climb for the impeachment managers.
But that doesn’t mean the case against Trump isn’t strong. In fact, Trump’s guilt is clear, even if the GOP refuses to acknowledge it with their votes.
For months, Trump constructed a dangerous lie about the election being stolen from him, all because he was and is emotionally incapable of accepting defeat. This lie stirred up his supporters for weeks, until they finally showed up in D.C. and fought back, as the ex-president instructed.
Had Donald Trump simply acknowledged – like an adult – that he lost the election and conceded gracefully to Joe Biden, the events of Jan. 6 would have never happened, and those who died in the attack would still be alive.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.
Rachel Maddow tore into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday night for trying to have it both ways on impeachment by initially arguing that it was too soon to start a trial but now saying it’s too late.
“McConnell refused to recall the Senate so they could start the Senate trial while Trump was still president,” the MSNBC host said. “Once Trump was gone, McConnell voted with all those other Republicans to say this trial really should have started while he was still president, and now it’s too late.”
Though McConnell initially wanted to give off the impression that he was happy with Trump’s impeachment and open to conviction, he is really no different from his Republican colleagues who want to throw out the trial altogether.
McConnell refused to recall the Senate so they could start the Senate trial while Trump was still president. They didn’t start to trial until after Trump was gone. And once Trump was gone, McConnell voted with all those other Republican to say, this trial really should have started while he was still president and now it’s too late. It’s like if your gym teacher made you keep running laps even after the bell went off and then sent you to the principal’s office because you were late to the next class. ‘You were the one who was making me run laps!’ ‘Go to the principal’s office, what did I tell you?’ The Democrats would have happily acceded to Trump being put on trial while he was still president. It was Mitch McConnell who stopped them doing that, and now it is Mitch McConnell saying, ‘Well, it’s too late now.’ He can’t be tried while he’s president, nor can he be tried after he’s president. But Senator McConnell wants everybody to know just how much he wants Donald Trump to be held accountable for what he did.
McConnell is trying to have it both ways
For four years, Mitch McConnell humored Donald Trump and refused to hold him accountable as he abused his office and trampled all over the U.S. Constitution.
All McConnell cared about was ramming through judicial appointments and passing tax cuts for the wealthy.
During Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial, McConnell didn’t even allow witnesses. He and nearly every GOP senator voted to acquit the corrupt and dangerous president.
Had McConnell and his Republican colleagues done their job during Trump’s first impeachment trial, the country wouldn’t have had to live through the tragic events of Jan. 6.
Mitch McConnell is trying to have it both ways on impeachment, but he’ll never be able to escape his role in allowing Donald Trump to bring American democracy to its knees.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.
New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote one of his periodic columns decrying industrial methods of animal husbandry. This time, he focused on chickens and the raising methods that permit Costco to sell a whole rotisserie chicken for only $4.99. From, “The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken:”
Rotisserie chickens selling for just $4.99 each are a Costco hallmark, both delicious and cheap. They are so popular they have their own Facebook page, and the company sells almost 100 million of them a year. But an animal rights group called Mercy for Animals recently sent an investigator under cover to work on a farm in Nebraska that produces millions of these chickens for Costco, and customers might lose their appetite if they saw inside a chicken barn.
“It’s dimly lit, with chicken poop all over,” said the worker, who also secretly shot video there. “It’s like a hot humid cloud of ammonia and poop mixed together.”
I have seen so many lies issued by animal-rights activists about real and supposed abuses, including doctored videos, that I take anything they say with a chunk of salt. But there is no question that with 330 million Americans to feed, industrial methods of raising chickens are not Old McDonald’s Farm.
Kristof does not make an argument based in “animal rights.” That’s good. Animal rights is an ideology that attributes equal moral value between animals and human beings based on the capacity to suffer. As Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s alpha wolf, once infamously put it, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Animal-rights activists believe that humans should not be allowed legally to own any animal.
Animal welfare is a wholly different concept. Animal-welfare advocacy flows directly from human exceptionalism. In this view, we certainly are morally entitled to benefit from the instrumental use of animals; i.e., eat meat, conduct essential medical experiments, ride horses, own pets, etc. But because we are human, we have the duty to treat animals humanely, a concept that will vary from animal to animal and hopefully will improve over time as we gain more knowledge about methods to minimize animal suffering.
In his piece, Kristof focuses on the treatment of the birds. That’s important. But so is the human benefit received from industrial animal agriculture. Because of industrial chicken breeding, a family of 4 can be fed nutritiously for five bucks. That’s a big deal that should not be minimized in the discussion.
So, how much would a Costco chicken cost if industrial methods were outlawed? I don’t know, and Kristof apparently didn’t care enough to do the research required to find out. Indeed, he doesn’t seem much c0ncerned with the question at all.
But we need to think about it. If eliminating industrial methods would not lead to a shortage of chickens for consumption and only raised the price to, say $5.25, most people would probably say go for it. If an incremental improvement led to that price, few would object. I know I wouldn’t.
But what if severe shortages resulted and the price doubled to $9.99? I could afford that, but millions of our fellow Americans could not.
Ditto eggs. I always buy eggs that are labeled as coming from cage-free hens. That costs about $4.99–$5.99 a dozen. But there are also unlabeled eggs in my local store at $1.19 a dozen, which I assume come from hens kept in crates.
It would be easy for me to support a law requiring that all egg-laying hens be kept out of crates. But I can afford the increased price. There are a lot of people who could not.
Follow this pattern over the scope and breadth of bringing meat and dairy products into our homes, and the impact of too-onerous animal-welfare laws on the diets of people of limited means becomes clear.
My point definitely isn’t that we should be indifferent to the treatment of food animals (although I have been accused mendaciously of having that view). To the contrary, I think that animal welfare is an important moral concern.
But there are two sides to that question, both of which must be addressed if we are to find the right balance between requiring improved methods and our ability to feed the multitudes. It seems to me that those who advocate outlawing industrial methods have the burden of not only decrying the treatment of animals, but also of demonstrating that the impact on people would not be unduly severe. Kristof failed that test in his most recent column.
CREW points out Ivanka’s ownership stake in Trump’s Washington, D.C.. hotel, the one that overcharged and housed every pay-to-play player over the past four years. But here the finances begin to get very muddy. Ivanka and Jared’s financial disclosures combine for somewhere between $23,791,645 and $120,676,949in outside income for the 2020-2021 year. They include the amazing move by Ivanka to cut the value of her previous years’ stake in the D.C. hotel from “between $5 and $25 million as reported in her previous disclosures to $100,001 to $250,000.” This coincided with the final year in office and … an emerging pandemic. Stroke of luck, I guess?
These two rich kids have a long history of being exactly as superficial and elitist and mediocre as one could imagine. Whether it was forcing American taxpayers to foot a $3,000-per-month bill because they refused to allow their Secret Service detail to use of even one of their reported six bathrooms, or just blatantly lying about their crapulence as people, Trump and Kushner have shown that we have generations of born rich corruption still ahead of us.
Max Boot is more machine than man. His Washington Post column is a space not for a writer with a distinct or coherent worldview to make arguments about varied political and cultural topics but for a contradictory and single-minded robot to try to make the same point over and over and over again. It’s the journalistic equivalent of “we programmed a bot to write 1,000 columns about how Republicans are bad™ using headlines from the previous two days and disregarding any previous arguments it’s made.” Democrats cancel Abraham Lincoln? Republicans are at fault for pushing back. Trump-skeptical Republican senator announces he’s retiring? Good riddance, he’s worse than Marjorie Taylor Greene. Highly regarded former Republican statesman passes away? Use his memory to bash the GOP.
This last, most recent example makes for the perfect specimen of the Boot Bot at work — the platonic ideal of its remarkable willingness to adapt and improvise in the service of its ultimate aim. The great George Shultz, President Reagan’s second and final secretary of state passed away on Saturday at the age of 100 (do yourself a favor and read National Review’s editors on Shultz’s remarkable life). Naturally, where most of us saw an opportunity to celebrate a uniquely American life, Boot — a sincere adherent of the old “the only good Republican is a dead Republican” adage — saw a hook for his next column.
Most of the piece is Boot’s typical fare: simplistic and incomplete arguments conveyed awkwardly. He includes a throwaway line implying that the worst portion of today’s GOP can trace its roots back to Barry Goldwater, a founding member of the Arizona NAACP. He calls Shultz an advocate for “progressivism.” He even asserts that Shultz and Reagan represented a bulwark against the “far right” because of their willingness to sit at the negotiating table with Mikhail Gorbachev during Reagan’s second term. His evidence is that a single New York Times article from 1988 quoted a conservative activist who accused the president of being “a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda.” That Reagan’s hard line on the “Evil Empire” during his first term, a posture decried by Democrats at the time (Walter Mondale called his support of the Strategic Defense Initiative “madness”), was what brought the USSR to the table goes unmentioned.
His typically superficial treatment of history aside, this column is remarkable because it represents the final evolution of Max Boot from Bush-era, flag-waving, third-wave neoconservative to beliefless machine. In the penultimate paragraph, while lamenting the end of responsible (again, dead) Republicans, Boot writes: “Republicans such as [Dick] Cheney and [Don] Rumsfeld, once seen as sensible conservatives, were radicalized by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and sent the United States blundering into ‘forever wars’ that discredited the Republican elite much as the Vietnam War had discredited the ‘best and brightest’ Democrats.” This comes from the man best known for writing an October 2001 cover story for the late great Weekly Standard called “The Case for American Empire,” in which he argued that “the September 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition” and that “the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation.” More specifically, he submitted that the solution was the “invasion and occupation” of Iraq. Once his wish was granted, Boot became one of the war’s most outspoken defenders, telling anyone who would listen that it was not only justified but necessary. It’s no crime for Boot to have changed his mind, but his (again, simplistic) explanation of how Republicans (not him, though) were “radicalized” by 9/11 is not just uncharitable but dishonest. So too is his dismissal of his previous policy preference as “forever wars,” a buzzword used only by the most unserious of isolationists.
Boot had his reasons for arguing that the United States should wage an ambitious war on terror in the aftermath of the attacks, and I’m not fully convinced he was wrong. It can certainly be defended. Indefensible, though, is his buzzword-quality smear of everyone else who backed it, which included George Shultz, by the way. His use of Shultz’s memory to execute the smear is indefensible, indeed downright ghastly. It’s not the first, and I’d venture to say won’t be the last, time Boot makes moral compromises to fill his quota.
CBS’s Norah O’Donnell asked, “People want to know when things are going to get back to normal. And the road ahead is pretty daunting. To get herd immunity, Dr. Fauci has said you have to have at least 75% of Americans vaccinated. We did the math, and at the current rate of 1.3 million doses a day, it’s going to take almost a year to get there. We can’t wait that long.”
The President answered, “No, we can’t. One of the disappointments was, when we came into office, the circumstance relating to how the administration was handling covid was even more dire than we thought. The Trump administration. We thought it indicated there was a lot more vaccine available, and it didn’t turn out to be the case. So that’s what we have ramped up everywhere we can. I got a call from Commissioner Goodell saying we could have all 32 NFL stadiums available for mass vaccinations.”
When asked if he was going to use the football stadiums for vaccinations, Biden answered, “Absolutely, I told my team they are available and I believe we will use them. Look, it was one thing if we had enough vaccine, which we didn’t. We are pushing as hard as we can to get more.”
O’Donnell asked, “You are the President Of The United States, commander in chief. Can you do something in terms of going to Moderna, Pfizer, saying we need more production?”
The President answered, “Yes, I think because we have already done it. But the idea that this can be done, and we can get to herd immunity much before the end of the summer is very difficult.”
There were no promises that the pandemic will just go away like magic. There were no hopeful lies about the virus disappearing.
President Biden told America the truth that it is going to be a long road back. It will be months before things are back to normal.
Biden’s first Super Bowl interview as president was a refreshing change. America now has a president who looks us in the eye and tells the truth.
Donald Trump got America into this mess, but Joe Biden is making it clear that he is the one who will get the country restored to even better than before.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association
Having read both my colleague Cameron Hilditch’s post and Ryan Anderson’s Wall Street Journalop-ed to which Cameron has responded, I have a few quick thoughts to add.
Of course, Cameron is right to note that it would be difficult to find a Christian “who, when asked why they believe in Jesus Christ, respond by saying, ‘Well, I believe in Jesus Christ because I’m permitted to do so by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.’”
But the point Ryan raises, in my view, has less to do with how individual Christians explain their beliefs and more with how conservatives engage in public debate on controversial social issues. In that arena, I think Ryan is correct to note that too many of us are reluctant to defend our socially conservative views on their merits. Far too often, we retreat to the easy bulwark of the First Amendment as the ultimate guarantor of our right to free exercise.
That right is essential, to be sure. But arguing merely for the right to practice one’s faith is a far weaker strategy than defending religious liberty while also making a substantive case for the way one wishes to practice. Doing so is especially important considering that progressives increasingly attempt to paint religious conservatives as bigots, arguing that religious freedom is merely a “license to discriminate.” Consider two examples.
In the case of the baker Jack Phillips, it is a perfectly legitimate argument that he, as a Christian, should not be compelled by the government to celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony in contradiction to his religious beliefs. But is it not a far stronger argument, especially in an increasingly secular culture, to explain why it’s perfectly legitimate, and not discriminatory, to decline to serve such a wedding ceremony?
In other words, though Phillips found legal success defending his First Amendment rights, social conservatives in the public sphere would have been far better served by defending marriage as being, by its nature, between one man and one woman. Explaining the substantive case for natural marriage, and explaining why Phillips did not discriminate against anyone on the basis of their orientation, would’ve been a better public-relations strategy than relying merely on religious-freedom rights.
A second example, which I wrote about in this context last year. The Health & Human Services contraception mandate has for a decade now required all employers, regardless of religion or conscience objections, to subsidize birth control and emergency contraceptives that can induce abortion.
Conservatives have opposed this mandate mightily both in court and in the media, arguing primarily that religious employers — most notably the Little Sisters of the Poor — have a First Amendment right not to be forced to subsidize products that violate their religious beliefs. Thus far, those efforts have found modest success.
But it isn’t hard to imagine that those efforts, especially outside the courtroom, would’ve been far more successful if social conservatives had explained why religious employers believe they shouldn’t have to subsidize birth control, for more reasons than the Free Exercise clause. A far stronger argument would not only reference the First Amendment but would also refute two false notions: that contraception is health care and that the government has any business forcing employers, of any religion or no religion, to subsidize it.
None of this is to deny the importance of religious-freedom arguments, nor does it require believing that most Christians explain their views primarily in the context of the First Amendment. Rather, it’s a call to those of us involved in public debates to strengthen our case for religious freedom by offering powerful substantive arguments alongside it.
Late Friday evening, the Supreme Court, in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, issued emergency relief suspending California’s broad ban on indoor religious services. The Court ruled that California was “enjoined from enforcing the . . . prohibition on indoor worship services . . . pending disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari.” The order is limited: Relief was “denied with respect to the [25%] percentage capacity limitations” and denied with respect to the prohibition on singing and chanting during indoor services,” although the Court left the door open to hear any “new evidence . . . that the State is not applying the percentage capacity limitations or the prohibition on singing and chanting in a generally applicable manner.” This lifts some of the most stringent restrictions on religious services in the country. Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito wanted to grant broader relief on these fronts; Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh thought the evidentiary record was too unclear.
The Court was yet again divided on these issues, but not entirely along the same lines as in prior cases. Chief Justice Roberts, who dissented when the Court ruled against Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions in November, reiterated his view that courts should defer to elected officials and public-health experts, but thought that California had gone too far this time: “The State’s present determination — that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero — appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake.” Justice Gorsuch argued that California was overgeneralizing the risks of religious services:
California . . . insists that religious worship is so different that it demands especially onerous regulation. The State offers essentially four reasons why: It says that religious exercises involve (1) large numbers of people mixing from different households; (2) in close physical proximity; (3) for extended periods; (4) with singing . . . California errs to the extent it suggests its four factors are always present in worship, or always absent from the other secular activities its regulations allow. Nor has California sought to explain why it cannot address its legitimate concerns with rules short of a total ban . . .
On further inspection, the singing ban may not be what it first appears. It seems California’s powerful entertainment industry has won an exemption. So, once more, we appear to have a State playing favorites during a pandemic, expending considerable effort to protect lucrative industries (casinos in Nevada; movie studios in California) while denying similar largesse to its faithful. . . . Even if a full congregation singing hymns is too risky, California does not explain why even a single masked cantor cannot lead worship behind a mask and a plexiglass shield. Or why even a lone muezzin may not sing the call to prayer from a remote location inside a mosque as worshippers file in.
[California’s] “temporary” ban on indoor worship has been in place since August 2020, and applied routinely since March. California no longer asks its movie studios, malls, and manicurists to wait. And one could be forgiven for doubting its asserted timeline. Government actors have been moving the goalposts on pandemic-related sacrifices for months, adopting new benchmarks that always seem to put restoration of liberty just around the corner. As this crisis enters its second year — and hovers over a second Lent, a second Passover, and a second Ramadan — it is too late for the State to defend extreme measures with claims of temporary exigency, if it ever could. Drafting narrowly tailored regulations can be difficult. But if Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.
Justice Kagan, leading the three liberals in dissent, argued once again that the Court should defer to scientists rather than focus closely on the unequal treatment of religion, and warned of dire public-health consequences:
I fervently hope that the Court’s intervention will not worsen the Nation’s COVID crisis. But if this decision causes suffering, we will not pay. Our marble halls are now closed to the public, and our life tenure forever insulates us from responsibility for our errors. That would seem good reason to avoid disrupting a State’s pandemic response. But the Court forges ahead regardless, insisting that science-based policy yield to judicial edict.
This will likely not be the last of these cases to come to the Court. But for now, the churches, synagogues, and mosques of California may open their doors again, at least a little.
The idea of two Americas has long existed in our political discourse, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s invocation of the phrase in the 1960s to refer to the “daily ugliness” of social inequality to presidential candidate John Edwards’ 2004 focus on the wealth gap in modern society. Those fractures exist to this day, but there’s another fissure in our nation, too.
There are indeed two Americas today: one grounded on the firm foundation of reality and another in the supple quicksand of delusion, led deeper into it by America’s pied piper of lies, Donald J. Trump. There is the America that recognizes that in the midst of a pandemic, we had the most secure and transparent election in American history. And then there is the America that was fed the Big Lie, devouring it with the famished appetite of those who consume Breitbart, Alex Jones, and other substance-free junk “news” sources.
It’s no surprise that there was such an appetite for such a vile claim. After all, what we saw transpire at the Capitol was the culmination of years of a reality show presidency defined by concocting “alternative facts” for political gain. That Donald Trump’s term would end with a QAnon shaman chanting on the Senate floor while men with zip ties hunted down lawmakers is both the most outlandish and most appropriate ending to a presidency vignetted with scenes of the unfathomable.
These are the same people who sandwich diagrams of the “microchip in the Bill Gates vaccine” between photos of smiling grandkids and saccharine Minion memes on Facebook. They were friends and family radicalized in plain sight, with social media companies peeking through a blindfold of blamelessness to check on clicks and ad revenue.
They were the Pennsylvania mother of eight who used a battering ram to break windows and gain entry to the Capitol. The Florida stay-at-home dad of five who smiled and waved at the camera as he paraded off with Speaker Pelosi’s lectern. The Texas realtor who charted a private plane to storm the Capitol and livestreamed herself among the chaos: “We just stormed the Capital [sic]. It was one of the best days of my life!” (She also pitched her realtor services mid-insurrection.) The Beverly Hills salon owner who flew to Washington, “put on her Chanel boots and a Louis Vuitton sweater,” picked up a bullhorn and urged the mob to bring weapons into the building: “We need weapons. We need strong, angry patriots to help our boys …”
Those “boys”—the predominately white, male crowd that led the attack—included the Proud Boys, a group that was labeled a terrorist organization by Canada this week and was advised by Trump three and half months earlier to “stand back and stand by.” Those “boys” and others prowled the halls of Congress, growling for the whereabouts of the vice president and America’s most powerful woman while Pelosi’s own colleague, newly minted QAnon Rep. Lauren Boebert, livetweeted Pelosi’s movements from the House floor.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this dark chapter in American history isn’t just that our nation’s Capitol was breached for the first time since 1812, but that the perpetrators were so effortlessly able to commit that atrocity with impunity. We watched in stunned disbelief as they marauded through the hallowed halls of the Capitol building. Later, they streamed out, cloaked in racial and political privilege, beaming and empowered—validated in a sick belief that their desecration of our nation’s most symbolic spot was somehow a valiant act of honor.
Some arrests were made that day, but privilege and security failures ensured that almost all migrated back to their corners of America—back to big cities and small towns alike—gushing with pride. They gave interviews to local news stations, with many defending their actions, defiant in their sedition and innocently proclaiming that they were simply following Trump’s call for action. And the most audacious aspect of it all is that these insurrectionists who so victimized our democracy have been proclaiming themselves the victims: lamenting one-star Google and Yelp reviews for their businesses, pouting that friends and family are treating them differently now, and lambasting their addition to no-fly lists. How dare the consequences of their own actions cast a shadow upon the brilliant light of their “revolution.”
But the fact remains that out of the thousands who rioted in Washington on Jan. 6 at Trump’s direction, out of the hundreds who actually broke into the Capitol, and out of the dozens who were seriously plotting more violent ends, only a fraction of them will ultimately feel the weight of justice. Some have been arrested. Some have been fired. But for most, life goes on. Insurrectionist one day, neighbor the next.
And for Donald Trump, the chief instigator of it all, an impeachment from the House, yes, but little chance of accountability in the Senate. Almost all Republican senators are sure to vote against convicting Trump on the single article of insurrection. Senators like Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who raised his fist in solidarity with the mob, may not sympathize directly with the insurrectionists, but surely he realizes that those same people who held spear-tipped Trump flags on the Capitol steps hold the key to any future in the Republican Party. “Unity,” they say, precludes accountability.
Most Americans learn of Abraham Lincoln’s “house divided” speech in school, but many do not realize that Lincoln warned not of a breakup of the country but of what happens when an immoral but powerful idea (then slavery) takes hold across the land: “A house divided against itself cannot stand … I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
We cannot let America become encompassed by an ethos that at worst embraces insurrection and at best regards it with a shrug. We cannot accept as a value in our society the rejection of the rule of law, of ethical norms, and of reason. When dangerous fringe ideas are no longer fringe but are so woven into the fabric of acceptability that their adherents are applauded by half of the Republican House caucus with applause echoing to the rafters, that is the nauseating sound and anthem of America’s decline.
Above those rafters atop the Capitol dome is perched a magnificent statue: the Statue of Freedom. She is armed for battle but stands perpetually in a position of peace, wearing a starred helmet and holding a sheathed sword at her side. She stands upon a globe bearing the phrase E Pluribus Unum. A slave, Philip Reid, worked on the masterpiece. Purchased for $1,200, he was finally a free man by the time it was lifted into place in 1863. Surely he could never fathom that the flag of the Confederacy would proudly be flown in her shadow 158 years later.
The statue’s gaze looks east. Below her eyes are the doors of the East gate that were breached in the battle between reason and delusion. Ahead, the rising sun. And a decision point for our country.
Ironic probably is not the word. It would imply some level of smug amusement from the rhetorical debate unfolding one month later over the origins of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. For no observer with a lick of conscience is that the case.
But it is . . . well, familiar. Eerily so. A central question — for the defense mounted by rioters, and for the narrative reconstructed by lawmakers — is whether this attack was spontaneous or planned.
From The Hill, on a brief filed by a defense attorney for one accused rioter arguing he was inspired by Donald Trump:
The raid on the Capitol, she said, “appears to have been spontaneous and sparked by the statements made during the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally” held by Trump and his supporters earlier on Jan. 6.
As Andrew McCarthy explained on the home page yesterday, this distinction matters. For one, prosecutors weighing the tricky option of a RICO prosecution would have to prove “planning, collaboration, and continuous, concrete criminal activity” in order to proceed on that path.
The Capitol siege was a one-day affair that, for many participants, was spontaneous. Nevertheless, it appears that for at least some groups, there is evidence of planning, training, and coordination. That would make for worthy insurrection prosecutions.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) falls decidedly into the “planned” camp. In her widely watched account of the violence, AOC said she started receiving text messages a week prior “that I needed to be careful.”
She explained, “Those text messages came from other members of Congress. They were not threats, but they were other members, saying that they knew and that they were hearing, even from Trump people and Republicans . . . that there was violence expected on Wednesday.”
The federal investigations and court proceedings will try to sort this out. But the conflicting claims sure do recall that ugly debate eight-plus years ago over Benghazi — Susan Rice claiming that savage and overwhelming attack was a “spontaneous reaction” to a protest in Cairo over a video, as opposed to something “premeditated.”
The story never made sense, but only because it wasn’t true. “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Hillary Clinton would eventually fume, at a hearing in month four of a saga that focused on talking points and spin, as opposed to far more consequential matters of missed warnings, security failures, and the timeline of the military response.
Let’s pray the debate over the Electoral College incursion does not become similarly polluted, even if the question bears on the culpability of individual rioters. Of course, it also bears on Donald Trump’s. Those asserting the January 6 riot was a conspiracy, planned in advance, might inadvertently help his impeachment defense, as such a narrative would suggest the rioters had “insurrection” marked on their daybooks with or without the president’s goading that day.
I suspect the reality of “how it happened” will be a murky, complicated picture involving different factions with different motives and yielding an assessment replete with equivocation and exception and uncertainty. Sound familiar?
I am now among the roughly 2% of Americans who have been inoculated against COVID-19, specifically with the Pfizer vaccine, in my case. My own experience getting the vaccine has been informative, in both seeing aspects of supply problems, and how I’ve seen some of the social issues surrounding the vaccine, including among my colleagues in healthcare. The experience, and the reactions I’ve seen to the rollout in general, are connected to a growing loss of trust in institutions and officials in an age where truth and fact are under assault.
As a healthcare worker, I was given priority access to some of the first available doses. The mechanism for obtaining the vaccine here in Memphis was relatively straightforward. We were notified that, as employees of and contracted workers for the major hospital systems in the city, we could register with their online portals and schedule an appointment for the first dose. The vaccination itself was also relatively quick and painless. I spent more time in the mandatory 15-minute post-vaccination observation, where the freshly-inoculated wait for a possible allergic reaction, than I did filling out paperwork and scheduling my second dose. The only side-effect I had was a sore arm, similar to soreness of a flu shot; it was worse on the second dose, to the point of being uncomfortable enough to disturb my sleep for a day or so. Some of my friends and co-workers had slight fevers and swollen lymph nodes, but nothing serious.
Overall, I have no complaints about the experience.
Admittedly, not all of my coworkers can say the same thing. As news of vaccine supply shortages started to make headlines, some of the workers whose responsibilities are moree the administrative side of things were denied the vaccine when they showed up to their appointments. While they were told it was a clerical issue about who counts as a “contracted” worker within the hospital’s system, the grapevine is full of rumors about doctors working that system to get their children vaccinated; one administrator told me a particularly appalling rumor, about a doctor procuring access for the members of their child’s bridal party. Additionally, as reports from other areas of the country have indicated, some hospital systems are offering special access to the vaccine for wealthy donors; here in Memphis, the local CBS affiliate has covered people in long lines at the county health department’s vaccination site—only to be turned away.
People waiting in line at a Memphis COVID-19 vaccination site Tuesday night say they were turned away because they ran out of the vaccine. Our cameras captured the long lines of people waiting in their vehicles at the Pipkin Center. We are told some people were sent home after waiting for hours. The health department responded in a statement, saying: “The Shelby County Health Department is committed to vaccinating as many persons as possible as quickly as possible. Today more people than expected presented at the Pipkin Building to receive vaccine. This resulted in an increase in the number of vaccines delivered. However, there was also an unexpected increase in wait times.
“Additional staff will be scheduled to address the issue,” the department said.
Also, as reflected in early rollout statistics, many of my fellow colleagues of color have expressed everything from apprehension to outright rejection of the vaccine. This mirrors the vaccination participation rates in many states, from Pennsylvania to Florida and Mississippi, where doses given to people of color lags behind those administered to whites. The office administrator of the clinic where I work is a young, amazing, African American woman … who doesn’t “trust” the vaccine enough to take it. Many of the nurses and medical assistants I work with, who are African American or Hispanic, have not been vaccinated. They show no desire to get the vaccine, and state they “may” get the COVID-19 vaccine “some day.”
Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicates about a third of the African American community would probably or definitely not get a coronavirus vaccine. While troubling, this is actually an improvement, since African-American confidence in whether the vaccine will be distributed fairly has doubled from 32% to 62%, when compared to a similar poll last September. About half (48%) of Black adults state they have concerns the vaccine is deficient in addressing the needs of their community and are more likely than whites to cite the “newness” of the vaccine and “side effects” as reasons to refuse it. Also, the KFF surveys suggest that misinformation spread across all media platforms affects this issue.
Importantly, about half of Black adults who say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated cite as major reasons that they are worried they may get COVID-19 from the vaccine (50%) or that they don’t trust vaccines in general (47%), suggesting that messages combatting particular types of misinformation may be especially important for increasing vaccine confidence among this group.
All of this is indicative of what decades, if not centuries, of systemic racism has wrought: An at-risk population distrusts the vaccine for a disease that is killing them in disproportionate numbers. From Tuskegee to maternal death rates, the system offering it has screwed them over too many times; further, that system screws up in every possible way, reinforcing the skepticism.
An article by Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber in Scientific American, detailing racial disparities in vaccine distribution, explained how janitors in a hospital were neglected. It makes one want to just stare at a wall in disgust for hours … or just punch it, if that’s how you roll.
Dr. Taison Bell, a University of Virginia Health System physician who serves on its vaccination distribution committee, stressed that the hesitancy among some Blacks about getting vaccinated is not monolithic. Nurses he spoke with were concerned it could damage their fertility, while a Black co-worker asked him about the safety of the Moderna vaccine since it was the company’s first such product on the market. Some floated conspiracy theories, while other Black co-workers just wanted to talk to someone they trust like Bell, who is also Black.
But access issues persist, even in hospital systems. Bell was horrified to discover that members of environmental services—the janitorial staff—did not have access to hospital email. The vaccine registration information sent out to the hospital staff was not reaching them. “That’s what structural racism looks like,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Those groups were seen and not heard—nobody thought about it.”
In many ways, this crisis is indicative of the enduring cost of the Trump presidency, as well as decades of the conservative culture war on government, science, and truth.
Society is held together by tenuous threads of trust. The very nature of a social contract is dependent upon individuals of common interests believing they can trust each other, and institutions, to do great things and advocate on their behalf. But we’ve spent years being fed “both sides” stories, which paint every politician as a liar. Conservative propaganda has painted the government as “the enemy,” and a decadent system that steals and wastes taxpayer money—all while being a “threat” to freedom. This demagoguery has led to fanatics who claim to love America but hate Americans and their government so much they tried to overthrow it in January.
And therein lies the problem, for those whose trust issues extend beyond Donald Trump into deeper issues within this society. It’s like a relationship where the partner has been unfaithful. Maybe trust can be rebuilt, but it’s never quite the same. People want to believe the best, but then they think about all the times they’ve been disappointed, hurt, and treated like they were nothing and the threads holding it all together snaps. If we want to be a society that builds great things and makes a difference for our people in meaningful ways, there has to be a rebuilding of faith in what it means to be an American and what this country can do.
Joseph Goebbels, of course, famously used the term “enemy of the people” torefer to the Jewish people in Germany, and Adolf Hitler used it to refer to the Lügenpresse—the “lying press.” Even more shockingly, and with no self-awareness, Trump supporters adopted this term.
Once in office, Trump continued attacking the media. He even participated in a cover-up of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by blocking any effort from Congress to hold Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable. Heliterally bragged aboutdoing it.
Rather than reining in Trump’s demonic and anti-American impulses, the GOP machine actively encouraged him. Fox News parroted his remarks constantly without pushback. The network even leaned on “The Knife,” a discredited media company, to “prove” bias in the media’s coverage of Trump. The Knife was created by theNXIVM sex trafficking cult for the sole purpose of defending itself from bad press.
By mid-2020, even The Federalist agreed with Trump that the media was “the enemy of the people.” Republican politicians had no trouble with any of this, as they found it useful to claim “Fake News” when they were being investigated. These right-wing outlets helped Trump radicalize many Americans against the mainstream press.
It’s no wonder that the media was one of the many targets by the Trump mob on Insurrection Day.
It wasn’t until after the insurrection attempt that some right-wing outlets, along with social media companies, corporations, and conservative politicians, finally realized that they had let things go too far.
Since Trump was defeated, I no longer hear as much tolerance on the air for election conspiracy theories, nor attacks against honest journalism as “Fake News.” (Sucks to be Lou Dobbs right now.)I’m sure that will change in a few weeks, but for now, it’s been a nice change of pace. Joe Biden should seize this moment, as we have several opportunities to strengthen one of our nation’s most valuable freedoms. For the protection of the free press, and the journalists who put their lives on the line, I would like to suggest several actions Democrats at all levels need to fight for.
Protections for whistleblowers
Whistleblowers are brave souls who risk everything to disclose wrongdoings that have a direct impact on the public, such as corruption or fraud. When they choose to disclose information to the media, journalists must be able to ensure their sources are protected as they expose the truth. Safe whistleblowing is the key to preserving press freedom; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has been fighting to protect confidential sources since 1970.
Unfortunately, current laws only prevent some federal officials from revealing a whistleblower’s identity, and there are no penalties for violations. TheEnhancing Protections for Whistleblower Anonymity Act, sponsored by Rep. Eric Swalwell in May 2020, would impose criminal penalties on any federal official who knowingly communicates the identity of a whistleblower, or information which would reveal such a person’s identity, except to other government officials where permitted by law. The bill also would let whistleblowers whose identities are illegally disclosed to sue for injunctive relief or monetary damages. Sen. Rand Paul purposefully and illegally named the intelligence official who raised the alarm about Trump’s attempted blackmail of Ukraine; to this day, he has not suffered any consequences for his actions.
Promote local media, and invest in public media
In 2008, President Barack Obama discussed his practice of visiting very small towns in Illinois, where he would be written about in the local papers. The newspaper editors were very conservative, but they would meet with him and treat him fairly. Now, many of those papers are gone, and the vacuum has been filled with sensational misinformation espoused through right-wing radio, Fox News, and the ultra right-wingSinclair Broadcast Group. The Biden administration will have opportunities to implement policies aimed at staunching the bleeding in local news, as well as mitigating much of the hyper-partisanship that corrupts our current information channels.
They are off to a great start, with Kamala Harris giving exclusive interviews to local media outlets in Arizona and West Virginia to promote their big push for COVID relief—and to apply local pressure to two reluctant Democratic Senators. I’m looking forward to Biden appointing an FCC chair who puts the public interest over commercial profit, and increasing financial support for public media.
With a larger government subsidy, public media could play a bigger role in addressing the structural problems with our media system. It’s an investment and a guardrail against the free market’s failure to support local news. There is already overwhelming bipartisan support to save local media, and public media is still very popular. This is one reason the Trump administration was unsuccessful in its efforts to zero out funding for public media, despite attempting to defund it every year with the federal budget.
Fight misinformation online
Many bad actors exploit the open platforms to plant disinformation, manipulate public opinion, drown out critics, and undermine trust in our democracy. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are a lot of good ideas on how to fight back. We need to pressure tech companies to identify the misinformation through algorithms and crowdsourcing, as well as to demonetize the purveyors of these falsehoods.
The Biden administration needs to treat coordinated disinformation attacks from Russia and Iran as what they are: cyberattacks designed to interfere with a free and fair election. Special task forces should be set up in the appropriate government agencies to guard against these attacks. I made the argument last year, after multiple cyberattacks, that we should heed the military’s call for a branch dedicated to fighting the cyber war. Sadly, Trump created the Space Force instead.
There’s a careful balance when crafting such legislation, of course; you never want to create an excuse to censor someone. However, there are common sense laws that could help. One is an advertiser verification requirement for election ads on social media. Another is to require all political campaign advertisers to include “paid for by” disclaimers. Most states require these kinds of disclaimers for TV and radio, but not the internet.
The words “Murder the media” were written on the Capitol doors by Trump’s mob. Members of the media were threatened, assaulted, and their equipment destroyed; a noose was left hanging above the destroyed gear.
I almost threw up watching those clips. This is the nation that, again, specifically enshrined the principle of a free press into the First Amendment of the Constitution. I can’t believe we have to argue with fellow citizens for the importance of an independent media here in U.S.
I strongly support a 2019 bill that proposes a national monument in Washington, D.C. to honor fallen journalists killed in the line of duty. You can see a list of the bipartisan bill’s sponsorshere. Both New Hampshire senators sponsored the bill, noting that New Hampshire resident James Foley was one of the many journalists who deserved to be honored. He bravely reported what was happening in Northern Syria, and became the first American to be kidnapped and beheaded by ISIS.
The Fairness Doctrine was in place for decades. It simply required broadcasters to devote some time to matters of public interest, and to allow contrasting views. There are a lot of misperceptions surrounding the Fairness Doctrine, some of them intentionally cultivated. It never stifled any talk show hosts or viewpoints; it just prohibited stations from broadcasting one single viewpoint every day. Ronald Reagan had it eliminated in 1987, and the effects were instantaneous.
Right-wing extremists like Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes became media titans. There were suddenly entire stations across the U.S. devoted completely to conservative causes. Thousands of hours of right-wing propaganda attacking immigrants, minorities, the LGBTQ community, those fighting against climate change, and the social safety net … with zero competing perspectives. No wonder people got brainwashed.
In 2004, Sinclair Broadcast Group planned to force its 62 stations at the time to air a blatant anti-John Kerry documentary. A massive sponsor boycott reversed their plans in that instance, but Sinclair has since been successful forcing stations to run conservative programs and “must run” speeches espousing right-wing talking points.
Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would require stations to, at some point, give the other side of the story. It’s not a panacea for everything, but restoring it would curb the worst abuses and might help keep people from turning into zombies.
Teach Media Literacy in Schools
As part of an English curriculum in middle school many, many years ago, I remember tests that with multiple headlines. The student’s job was to identify the positive headlines, the negative headlines, and the neutral headlines. For me, this assessment was incredibly easy. Yet I remember some of my classmates struggling with this; I wonder how many of them ended up on Parler before it was shut down.
I cringe when my coworkers tell me that I need to get off mainstream media and follow the “truth.” According to them, that “truth” can only be found at OANN or Newsmax. I always challenge them to find one negative article about Donald Trump on those sites, or one positive article on any Democrat. I try to make a point that they need to recognize agendas. Believe it or not, most of them react positively to this, since their whole belief system is centered around not being “sheep.”
Media Literacy Now is leading the grassroots movement to teach critical thinking skills for students around all types of media. The New York Timesprofiled the organization in a story featuring a fed-up teacher in Atlanta, whose students constantly shared sensational, made-up headlines on social media. Teaching media literacy skills to teenagers and younger students can protect readers and listeners from misinformation, just as teaching good hygiene can reduce disease. A RAND report last year said research showed signs that media literacy increases “resiliency to disinformation.” Media literacy is likely the best tool we have in combating the current crisis.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced a bill last year, calling for $20 million to fund media literacy education. Even without legislation, teachers can incorporate media literacy concepts into existing classes, like my teachers did so long ago. There aremany resources to serve that goal. I never knew, before middle school, that bias even existed in newspapers or T.V. Now it’s painfully obvious. I only wish many of my friends and co-workers had been in that class with me.
Everything I’ve outlined here will require a commitment—from the government, from schools, from tech companies, and yes, from regular citizens. Yet it’s a commitment worth making. There are many powerful people who don’t want a free and fair press; we must be as dedicated to protecting it as they are with destroying it.
When politicians and experts say that they are willing to allow tens of thousands of premature deaths for the sake of population immunity or in the hope of propping up the economy, is that not premeditated and reckless indifference to human life? If policy failures lead to recurrent and mistimed lockdowns, who is responsible for the resulting non-covid excess deaths? When politicians willfully neglect scientific advice, international and historical experience, and their own alarming statistics and modelling because to act goes against their political strategy or ideology, is that lawful?
Is inaction, action? How big an omission is not acting immediately after the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020?
At the very least, covid-19 might be classified as “social murder.”
How would these reprobates be held to account?
A pandemic has implications both for the residents of a country and for the international community, so sovereign governments should arguably be held accountable to the international community for their actions and omissions on covid-19. Crimes against humanity, as adjudicated by the International Criminal Court, do not include public health. But David Scheffer, a former US ambassador for war crimes, suggests that we could broaden the application of public health malpractice “to account for the administration of public health during pandemics.”
The article identifies the villains:
From the United States to India, from the United Kingdom to Brazil, people feel vulnerable and betrayed by the failure of their leaders. The over 400 000 deaths from covid-19 in the US, 250 000 in Brazil, 150 000 each in India and Mexico, and 100 000 in the UK comprise half of the world’s covid death toll—on the hands of only five nations.
Guess which country rates one measly sentence? China, with no calling out of Xi Jinping:
The prospect of accountability in autocracies such as China and Russia is more distant still and relies on strong international institutions and the bravery of citizens.
But China is the one country responsible for releasing this scourge on the world — not Trump, not Johnson, nor the leaders of India and Brazil. China did not let international public health experts into the country early on, jailed whistle-blowing doctors who tried to warn the world, and only now — a year later –finally allowed its Wuhan lab to be inspected. Indeed, if it turns out the virus escaped from a lab as some suspect, China will earn historical infamy.
Here’s the real point of the article:
More than a few countries have failed in their response to the virus; the global missteps are many and well documented by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. Its report calls for comprehensive use of non-pharmaceutical interventions—the means, they say, by which these interventions curb a pandemic are “well known”—and for governments to support equity, reinvent and modernise the global pandemic alert system, take pandemic threats seriously, and cooperate better with other nations and WHO. Acting urgently and collaboratively in these areas will allow the world to be best prepared for any future pandemic.
Make no mistake: “The experts” intend to use the fear of future pandemics as an excuse to increase their own naked power, under the aegis of global governance removed from democratic influence.
Lest you doubt me, none other than Anthony Fauci has written that the UN and WHO should be strengthened toward the end of “rebuilding the infrastructures of human existence.” That gargantuan task will require “reducing crowding at home, work, and in public places as well as minimizing environmental perturbations such as deforestation, intense urbanization, and intensive animal farming.”
To which Fauci and his co-author quickly add, “Equally important are ending global poverty, improving sanitation and hygiene, and reducing unsafe exposure to animals, so that humans and potential human pathogens have limited opportunities for contact.”
Oh, is that all? Imagine the extent of international control and intrusive bureaucracy such a project would require.
Have leaders failed in this crisis? Yes, some more than others. But making criminals of officials who are accused in 20-20 hindsight of not following the (right) scientists is just a backdoor way of advocating that we cede ultimate control of society to “the experts.”
RonK writes—The Daily Bucket: Fungi and Mycelium: Fun, Fine Dining and Life Itself: “Pacific Northwest. Whatcom County, WA. Some Fungi are not only tasty (mushrooms) they are fun to look for and to Identify. They are also essential contributors to much of life on earth. Mycelial fungi form networks found throughout most of the land mass on earth and are symbiotically linked with manytrees, plants and agricultural crops.They range in size from single cell microscopic organisms to enormous subterranean behemoths. One mushroom and its underground network, referred to as the ‘Humongous Fungus’ in Oregon,constitute the largest living organism on earth, estimated to cover 2,400 acres (AKA Honey mushroom, Armillaria ostoyae). Now, taken together, that’s a pretty big deal. (see video of the Humongous fungus here.) Indeed, fungi are such big deals that their full scope, so far as it is known, is far too vast for more than a cursory overview. Being a very amateur mycologist, I will focus here on some of what I have observed and photographed around my neck of the woods and illustrate some of the interesting relationships between fungi and plant life. As there is a vast literature on these topics, I provide a number of reference links and a bibliography at the end for those interested in taking a deeper dive into the fungal labyrinth. Like so many things in the natural world, there are fungi that are harmful to us, to plants and to other animals and there are those that are beneficial, even essential to normal functioning, survival and enjoyment.”
Dan Bacher writes—Fish Need Water– Urge CA State Water Board to Set Flow Standards to Protect the Bay/Delta!“Please join a coalition of environmental, Tribal, fishing and environmental justice groups on Tuesday, Feb. 2 to urge the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt and implement new flow standards. More flow is needed to protect the fish and wildlife in the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the rivers that flow into it—including the salmon runs that support salmon fishing jobs from Morro Bay to Fisherman’s Wharf and into Oregon. The State Board has been paralyzed for years. We need strong public support to get them to do their job.”
CaptBLI writes—The Daily Bucket open thread—Nest foundations: “You can see from the title photo that the Red-winged blackbird nest is made of grasses that are woven around the stems of cattails. Here is the stand of cattails where the picture was taken. Last year there were as many as a dozen nests in this one-acre stand. There were just as many nests of other bird species in the bordering Black Willow trees. Those nest had foundations that incorporated other base materials. I started looking at nest constructions while the leaves are still off the trees and birds have not returned to old sites or selected new ones. Numerous nest were built in layers of durable materials as a base, then lighter materials (leaves, twigs, pine needles) with linings of soft materials (feathers, moss, animal hair, etc). I will focus on the first materials used in nest building of my local feathered friends.”
CaptBLI writes—The Daily Bucket—An Open Thread & The Lake is Low: “Hay seed told me he went out to Sardis Lake (in north central Mississippi) and saw gulls and pelicans; I was compelled to see for myself. The main reason for my visit was his description of how low the lake level was. The corps of engineers purge the lake every year to prepare for the spring rains that swell the Mississippi River. The low water is an unusual sight for me.”
chloris creator writes—Dawn Chorus: a Corvid Cawcus: “I am working onthe Crow Nickels(chronicles), a series of novels about crows working to save birdkind from extinction. My stories are fiction but I’ve read real research on the corvid family. Here’s some of what I havelearned. People are especially impressed with the New Caledonian crows’ tool-building: The construction of novel compound tools through assemblage of otherwise non-functional elements involves anticipation of the affordances of the tools to be built. Except for few observations in captive great apes, compound tool construction is unknown outside humans, and tool innovation appears late in human ontogeny. We report that habitually tool-using New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) can combine objects to construct novel compound tools. We presented 8 naïve crows with combinable elements too short to retrieve food targets. Four crows spontaneously combined elements to make functional tools, and did so conditionally on the position of food. One of them made 3- and 4-piece tools when required.”
Paul Frea writes—Winter Robins – a Poem and Three Observations: “Observation #1: There is a medium-sized deciduous tree without its leaves about 40 feet from a shorter holly tree with green leaves and red berries. In the mornings, I’ve watched a flock of 25 or so robins spend their time flying back and forth between the two trees. One bird will fly in one direction and be replaced by a robin going the opposite direction. On the taller tree, the birds rest on the top branches soaking up the warmth of the sun. On the holly tree, the birds scurry in amongst the leaves, doing small jumps between branches, getting into the best position to grab a holly berry. When it is colder, they ignore me, which allows me to get close enough to watch robins gobble berries, one, two, three and see the berries travel down their gullets.”
funningforrest writes—The Daily Bucket. Open Thread; weather: “The big Sierra Nevada winter storm that came in a few days ago put less than a foot of snow on the ground here in Quincy, CA. We had cloudy days for the past two, then it started raining late last night and is currently raining heavily. Forecast for the rest of today and the next two, in order: rain, snow, sun. Then it’s supposed to be sunny and mostly sunny all the way to next Monday. For Quincy, weather forecasts more than two days out aren’t very reliable. I hope to get out and get around on the sunny days, get some photos so I have something new. Other than that, over to you.”
Pakalolo writes—Breaking: Considered stable, Antarctica’s Larsen D ice shelf, calved two named icebergs: “Nobody has reported on this discouraging news as of yet.The last news I saw on Larsen D was from June of 2020, when satellites revealed cracks on the massive ice shelf. Suitland, MD — The Larsen-D Ice Shelf calved two more icebergs which are large enough to be named. The breakup occurred in mid-December 2020 from the northern part of Larsen-D approximately 150 nautical miles north of the recently named A-70 and A-71 icebergs. Similar to the A-70 and A-71 calving, it had been difficult to confirm whether these were icebergs large enough to be named or extremely old sea ice that had fasted to the ice shelf. Recent imagery showing surface topography typical of icebergs has allowed us to confirm these are indeed icebergs. The new iceberg A-72 is located at 69° 39′ South, 60° 53′ West measures 11 nautical miles on its longest axis and 4 nautical miles on its widest axis. The new iceberg A-73 is located at 69° 47′ South, 60° 38′ West and measures 9 nautical miles on its longest axis and 5 nautical miles on its widest axis.”
ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Ted Cruz Has Had Years To Get These Denial Talking Points Down, And He Still Botched Them: “‘You should be able to choose your life,’ Cruz says, apparently trying to appropriate pro-choice language to jobs extracting climate-warming fossil fuels. But Climate Envoy John Kerry apparently said the word ‘inevitable’ in reference to climate policy, and that was Cruz’s launching point to talk aboutAvengers: Endgame. Specifically, Cruz trots out the well-worn argumentwe saw back in 2018, when the movie was still relevant, about how Thanos supposedly represents environmentalists wanting to kill people to save the planet (as opposed to saving people from the consequences of changing the planet). Cruz then referenced Watchmen, which isn’t actually one of the movies or shows others have pointed to when making Cruz’s point about Hollywood casting environmentalists as villains ina slightly more coherent fashion. That earned him a ‘literally what the fuck are you talking about’ response from the show’s screenwriter, one ofmany delightful tweetsletting the Senator know he’s stupid and his take ‘doesn’t really make much sense.’ If Hollywood writes villains that are motivated by environmentalism, and then the heroes of those movies defeat said villains, wouldn’t that be a rebuke of that point of view? Not an embrace of it? So not only is Ted Cruz dredging up old denial talking points about evil Hollywood liberals, he’s not even doing it right!”
ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Denier Shortlist for Papers To Overthrow Consensus Includes One Published In Predatory Scam Journal: “One of our favorite rituals this time of year is to marvel at the collection of papers Kenneth Richard posts on NoTricksZone, claiming they represent a mortal blow to the consensus that burning fossil fuels causes climate change. This year, it’s ‘over 400’ studies that supposedly ‘support a skeptical position on climate alarm,’ and like every year, that’s a stretch, and even if it weren’t, it’d still be insufficient to call the basics into question. But if you’re unfamiliar with NoTricksZone, and are wondering if perhaps this list of studies is being published by a scientific organization as some sort of literature review, here’s a quick refresher. Past posts from the blog includeScooby-Doo-esqueanti-renewable andalien planetconspiracy theories. It’s the sort of place wherelosing a bet about warmingonly increases your conviction. It’s the sort of place thatclaims the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowndidn’t reduce pollution levels in Europe based on a map of pollution levels … in 2015. It’s also the sort of place where, if you’re Dr. Willie Soon, you canaccuse scientiststalking about 2014 being the hottest year (at the time) of “prostituting science.” Ironic, because just two months later, The New York TimesreportedSoon took a million dollars from the fossil fuel industry in exchange for his talents.”
ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Real Estate & Home Builders Join Fossil Fuels & Utilities To Stymie Climate Action In Mass: “With the Biden administration bringing climate action back to the federal level, the fossil fuel industry is ramping up its efforts to deny, distract, and delay. But all politics is local, so to see how the industry will defend itself, let’s look at a case study: Massachusetts. It’s considered one of the most liberal states, home of notable national progressive figures. So why are advocates in the state running into such staunch opposition on climate policy? Well apparently it’s because Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who recently vetoed a climate bill that’s been amended and is back on his desk, is swayed by gas and utility lobbying and front groups who have been quietly working with the housing industry for a decade to destroy climate action in the commonwealth. The question of why climate legislation is running into fierce opposition is the subject ofa new report from the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. They analyzed over a thousand pieces of testimony and 4,000 lobbying visits related to the 53 key environmental bills introduced in Massachusetts between 2013 and 2018, and found that 90% of the public’s testimony in legislative committees was in favor of the bills. But there was little legislative success. Why?”
Meteor Blades writes—Scientists say $2 trillion investment can decarbonize energy by 2050, paid for with a carbon tax: “Now, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine hasreleased the pre-publication draft of a 209-page study—Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System—which concludes that a net-zero economy is not only achievable by 2050, but would “also build a more competitive economy, increase high-quality jobs, and help address social injustice in the energy system.” The authors sped up the publication of their acceleration study specifically with the idea of influencing the direction of the new administration’s climate action, but without consulting the Biden-Harris team. Stephen Pacala, the Frederick D. Petrie Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University and chair of the committee that wrote the reportsaidin press statement, ‘Because of dramatic decreases in the costs of renewable electricity and batteries, the U.S. can now—during the 2020s—make strides toward achieving a net-zero emitting energy system at a cost lower than investing in reduced air pollution alone. Because the energy system impacts so many aspects of society, a transition to net-zero will have profound implications well beyond climate and energy—and it is paramount that we maintain a strong social contract to ensure this transition benefits all communities.’ That perspective is one climate hawks have expressed for at least two decades even as the technology to make it happen has improved and gotten cheaper, some of it gradually, some of it by leaps and bounds.”
Angmar writes—“The concerted global response to pandemic could be replicated for fight against climate crisis”: “While the pandemic was raging, so was the climate emergency, like two horror films overlapping. We sawrecord-breaking wildfiresengulf the west coast of the US, a record number of powerfulAtlantic storms, theArctic icefailing to freeze in late October and deadly floods hitting countries from Italy to Indonesia. We got a glimpse of a chaotic world battered by multiple crises, each making the other worse, and it was terrifying. Exceptional as the calamities of 2020 may seem, they could be just a taste of what’s to come unless we change direction. Neither the pandemic nor extreme weather are random events. Disease outbreaks are on the rise andabout 70%are the result of viruses crossing the barrier from animals to humans. From rampant deforestation in the Amazon toCOVID-infected mink farmsin Denmark, industrial farming is opening up a viral Pandora’s box that could unleash pandemics even worse than the present one. While scientists were busy developing a vaccine, destructive industries were even busier clearing forests and displacing wildlife,increasing the riskof awakening the next deadly virus. We’re mopping up the floor while making the leak worse.”
CANDIDATES, STATE AND DC ECO-RELATED POLITICS
Lefty Coaster writes—Big Tech goes AWOL on Climate with their political donations: “Big Tech corporations like to crow about how their own operations are getting greener. But their political giving doesn’t match their greenwashing efforts, and has the overall effect of negating them. Are the Technology Giants Deploying Political Capital on Climate Change?• The five Big Tech companies (Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook & Microsoft) account for more than 25% of the value of the S&P500 and 20% of its Q3 2020 profits. They have grown tremendously during the COVID pandemic, with Amazon alone adding almost half a million jobs in a “hiring spree without equal.” With this unprecedented concentration of economic and financial power comes the ability to influence government policy. • This report shows that despite robust top-line climate commitments from Big Tech, they are not strategically deploying their significant influence over government policy in support of much needed climate policy.Furthermore, all remain members of powerful cross-sector groups – including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, BusinessEurope and the Japan Business Federation –all of which continue to lobby against binding measures necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
GALiberal1776 writes—How Pursuing a Climate Change Agenda Will Help Revive the U.S. Economy: “According to the BW Research Partnership, the U.S. clean energy industry has lost 400,000 jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was not helped by the Trump administration’s out-and-out war against this sector. Even before the pandemic, the industry had already been reeling under the 30% tariff imposed on the import of solar panels into the country, which was choking the sector it was meant to save. The complete lack of support of government did not make things better for the clean energy industry, which has been a huge job creator for the U.S. in recent years. In fact, in 2019, the World Resources institute estimates zero-emissions power generation created 544,000 jobs in the country against only 214,000 jobs in fossil fuel generation. Given the significance of this sector, the USD $2 trillion package planned by the Biden administration will have a vital role in reviving both the clean energy industry and the economy. It could do this by building the sustainable, modern infrastructure that America needs. In the short term, this could be one of the levers before the Biden administration to address the country’s deep economic crisis. But in the long term, this could also have dramatic consequences for both the U.S. and the world.”
Mat 4 VA HS05 writes—Energy Platform Part 1: “It is important that we balance energy independence with the environmental and cost impact in order to follow through with affordable and clean energy generation. Having a robust plan that addresses short-term and long-term needs is crucial to understanding what is needed, who is impacted and how we can get there. Del. Suhas Subramanyam put forth a good bill that had a nice write up on his proposal that got passed by the VA House. energynews.us/… However, it doesn’t go far enough and fast enough. Consider some recent stories regarding coal jobs and miners. www.greenbiz.com/… Ann Eisenberg has hit a number of very good points. ‘For communities dependent on fossil fuels, particularly in regions such as Appalachia with few other major industries, today’s job losses are just the latest phase of a long decline.’ Overcoming the resistance to shedding non-metallurgical coal (a grade of coal that can be used to produce good-quality coke which is an essential fuel and reactant in the blast furnace process for primary steelmaking) jobs has been a tough nut to crack. Retraining has been difficult, with a sea of red tape and confusion. This is why a plan needs to be developed for SW Virginia.”
Fffflats writes—California Power: The Utilities Have Been Lying: “Recently I was referred to apresentationby Clean Coalition regarding their investigation into the August 14th & 15th, 2020 rolling blackouts in California. The discussion is lengthy though worthwhile. If you prefer reading the slides,hereyou go. Bottom Line Up Front: Lack of capacity did not cause the blackouts; rather the blackouts resulted from artificial and inappropriate demand placed on the system. By this, I mean “investors” ordered 553% excess over that which the blackouts shed while these exports received priority over California ISO based customers. Had this not happened, no blackouts would have occurred. The demand including the murky exports tripped into emergency funding rates at extortionist prices. The market needs transparency and regulation while the source of market irregularities should be presumed nefarious for investigation so as to permit subpoena power to illuminate the details of actions therein. Nefarious intent can be presumed as reasonable grounds to initiate legal investigation as impact was severe, financial tools were causal, and emergency power rates meant large monetary flows suggesting someone made money.”
FOSSIL FUELS & EMISSIONS CONTROLS
OK Dodo writes—GOP leaders advocate for oil and gas in Houston: “Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, visited the Houston Ship Channel to send a message to the Biden administration. They have stated that oil and gas jobs are important to the economy, and they want the Biden administration to be more favorable towards oil and gas, stating that not doing so would causeirreparable damage to the American economy. The Texas Oil and Gas Association estimatesa loss of 120,000 jobs in Texasas a result of the Biden administration’s energy policies, which favor renewable energy over oil and coal. ‘Biden is launching an attack on our nation’s oil and gas workers, including the hundreds of thousands here in Texas,’ Brady said during a news conference after their roundtable, which was closed to the media. ‘That’s why today, I’m joining my Republican colleagues in Houston to stand up for our workers.’ […] “If President Biden is serious about any unity, come to Houston,” McCarthy said. “Come to middle America. Come look in the faces of those workers who earn $80,000 a year, and tell them why you took their jobs away’.“
DrMarmot writes—Trump Failed Epically on ANWR. Here’s How: “Drilling would clearly be a disaster for the planet; if humans are to mitigate runaway climate disruption, fossil fuels must stayin the ground. Astatementput out by a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations noted that, ‘The Gwich’in and Iñupiat people have been the caretakers of Alaska’s Arctic for millennia — and selling the coastal plain for corporate profit disregards that legacy of stewardship. Indigenous Arctic people are already experiencing the most dramatic climate impacts in a region warming at three times the rest of the planet, and selling out the coastal plain puts our climate and the Arctic’s people, land and wildlife at further risk. Arctic oil drilling will boost carbon emissions even further and harm communities already bearing the brunt of the changing climate.’ As is always the case, environmental quality and human rights remain inseparably intertwined. It was thus with great anticipation that the Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor opened bidding for the ostensibly rich oil parcels. ‘It is my honor to preside over this momentous occasion’ crowed MacGregor. The honor didn’t last long. After a measly 13 bids, which covered only half of the available parcels, MacGregor gaveled the process to a close just 10 minutes after it started. Even thePetroleum Newsconceded that the results were “somewhat disappointing’.”
Alonso del Arte writes—Enbridge defies rule of law to endanger the Great Lakes for profit: “Last weekI wrote aboutEnbridge’s ‘fact sheet’ about their Line 5, which threatens to destroy the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a major source of drinking water, both tap and bottled. But what happens to that drinking water if Line 5 breaks and spills a few million gallons of light crude oil? The company has had newer pipelines rupture under terra firma, creating horrible but localized devastation. But if Line 5 breaks at any point under the Mackinac straits, it will cause a tremendous disaster over such a broad area that it will make the Flint water disaster look like a minor misunderstanding. And just like Flint, a Line 5 spill would be something that should have been prevented before it could happen. I became aware of the ‘fact sheet’ because Enbridge has ads on TV. I took the ‘fact sheet’ at face value, assuming it to omit unfavorable facts but not distort any facts it does present. Well, at least one of the fact sheet ‘facts’ deserves much closer scrutiny than I gave it last week.”
senorjoel writes—Joe Manchin comes through on Green jobs: “The article adds, paraphrasing Manchin, that ‘if the Biden administration is going to be pulled into the direction of a ‘green energy’ policy, he wants to ensure those workers from the coal fields will have a seat at the table.’ That seems only fair. It is fair, and if you ask Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey, who have been promoting the Green New Deal since 2019, restructuring the economy with Green Jobs starts where people have been and will be most impacted by the changeover from fossil fuels to renewables. West Virginia, under that definition, should be Green Jobs Central. Manchin is the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I admit I had my reservations about this; it’s based (on) seniority and Manchin has been in the Senate forever. In that strictly political sense he’s ‘earned’ the chair position, but if he succeeds in creating a mass of Green Jobs in the heart of poor, mostly white America we may owe him a debt of deep gratitude. There may be no surer way to put a halt to trumpist white-grievance politics and bring these people fully on board with the Climate Justice movement.”
Dan Bacher writes—Support Kern County Residents and Oppose Drilling Expansion, February 11: “An ordinance being considered by the Kern County Board of Supervisors would fast track almost 70,000 new oil and gas wells without any meaningful environmental oversight—nearly doubling the number of wells that already exist there, according to an action alert from the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE) and the Sunflower Alliance. The southern Central Valley has some of the worst air pollution in the nation, with oil and gas production a leading cause. Kern County is home to about 80% of California’s oil and gas production, even without the proposed increase. More than 71,000 people already live within 2,500 feet of oil and gas wells. The proposed ordinance promoted by the oil industry would be a disaster for residents’ health, and for California’s climate goals. Here are four ways you can take action.”
Dan Bacher writes—Big Oil spent $10 million lobbying CA officials as new oil production well permits doubled in 2020: “The powerful oil industry lobby in California in 2020 spent less on lobbying in California than it did in 2019, but still managed to defeat legislation it opposed and getting CalGEM, the state’s gas and oil regulatory agency, to double the number of new oil production well permits approved in the state. The top four oil industry lobbyist employers—the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), Chevron, Aera Energy and California Resources Corporation—spent $10,192,047 lobbying the Governor’s Office, Legislature and regulatory agencies to advance Big Oil’s agenda in 2020, according to data posted on the California Secretary of State’s website by Feb. 1. The Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in California, spent a total of $4,267,181, less than half of the$8.8 millionthat it spent in 2019. 2020’s lobbying expenses included $1,084,702 in the fifth quarter, $1,220,986 in the sixth quarter, $1,116,397 in the seventh quarter and $845,096 in the eighth quarter.”
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
6412093 writes—A corrupt Korean company smuggled workers into Georgia to build an electric car battery plant: “Many Progressives are excited about the upcoming prospective “Green New Deal” which is already taking shape, even before formal Green New Deal legislation. Multi-billion dollar manufacturing plants for electrical vehicle batteries, providing 2000 jobs per plant, are already rising in Michigan and Georgia. Fossil fuel pipelines, already partly built like KXL, are being cancelled, at enormous cost. But Trump’s former Georgia allies couldn’t resist piling expenses onto Georgia taxpayers. They deprived Georgians of millions on wages from this construction boom. Part of this drama played out in Hartsfield Airport in Greater Atlanta, one of the busiest airports in the world. The busy Customs agents took notice of the flood of Korean laborers who stated they were going to work at the new SK Battery Plant in Northeast Georgia. Customs busted 33 of the construction workers for phony visas in one sweep of Airport arrivals from Korea. A traffic stop of a cargo van yielded another 13 Korean laborers who were expelled for 10 years. apnews.com/… In contrast to President Biden’s pledge of American workers for American jobs, Trump’s minions had arranged for thousands of Korean construction workers to take $35/hour jobs in the United States from skilled U.S. construction workers.”
eeff writes—Pete Buttigieg was approved on a 86-13 vote as Secretary of Transportation: “CNN Senate confirms Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary. The Senate voted to confirm Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary on Tuesday, making him the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary. Buttigieg’s confirmation elevates the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to a top post in the federal government.The choice vaults a candidate President Joe Biden spoke glowingly of after the primary into a top job in his incoming administration and could earn Buttigieg what many Democrats believe is needed experience should he run for president again. The role of transportation secretary is expected to play a central role in Biden’s push for a bipartisan infrastructure package.”
Christopher Reeves writes—Good news for the environment as auto manufacturers start to see gas as a dead-end: “When Tesla reports profits, one of the big reasons it does so is because many car companies end up payingTesla in regulatory credits. These credits helped make Tesla profitable at the unhappiness of other car manufacturers. The Trump administration was onboard with trying to break this plan by opposing states that held auto manufacturers accountable, like California, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon—11 states in total. When President Biden won the election in November, the hopes of a White House that would press that case went away, and now automakers are seeing that they need to offer something different: like improving their own electric line. Instead, today, GM noted they plan to be carbonneutral by 2040 and end all tailpipe cars by 2035. Ford hasn’t been as forward but is previewing an electric Mustang and their ever-popular F150truck, combined with other vehicles. The Biden presidency is already walking away with a huge win for environmentalists by simply sending the signal that there is a new sheriff in town, and they aren’t interested in dirty air.”
AGRICULTURE, FOOD & GARDENS
MattJ570 writes—Farmers Stare Down the Barrel of Climate Change: “This is an open letter to my neighbors and community members in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania that I wrote for my local paper. I thought I’d share it here. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ is generally good advice we give to the wanting all throughout our lives. Who knew it was going to be so prescient right now? For the last two years our area farmers wished and prayed and begged for mercy in the face of torrential amounts of rain. And then it came this year. And the ‘relief’ from the rain never stopped. After spring rains hydrated the soil, April turned into May and the sun came out and it was dry with almost no rain at all through September. […] It’s time y’all. The National Corn Grower’s Association has a climate task force. The USDA set up climate hubs throughout the US to help farmers make their operations more sustainable. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action released a report in September stating climate goals. My own milk company Danone has set the lofty goal of total carbon neutrality company wide, from its corporate offices, to responsible packaging, to yes even down to me, a milk producer. Ag giants like Tyson and Cargill have teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to help pay farmers to sequester carbon. All the big players in agriculture are working toward new sustainability goals. Sequestering carbon is no longer a project by urban gardeners in liberal cityscapes. It’s time for us in the heartland to step up and do our part. Even while our politicians nit and pick at green new deals and Paris accords, we live with the consequences of our own inaction. It’s time we as farmers started taking climate change seriously.”
CathyM writes—KosAbility: Gardening and Disability: “This is not an exhaustive list by any means; I do things on the cheap, and I believe there are lots of newer adaptations if you can afford them. Also, my yard is lumpy-bumpy with old mole hills, so some of the wheeled gadgets won’t work. (Also, I’m stubbornly foolish in keeping my 4-circuit labyrinth garden, when of course straight rows would be easier). One thing that probably doesn’t need to be said (but maybe): Plant what will bring you most joy, not necessarily what will please the neighbors or be ‘coordinated.’ It took me a while to stop planting veggies that I never ate (‘but maybe this year’) and switch to flowers that give me great joy as I sit out back. I stopped planting out the front because with limited energy I had to choose. I also plant flowers that might not look coordinated, but each one is something I can stare at for hours. […] If you only want a small project, container gardening is great. Only issue is that the pots dry out MUCH faster than yard soil. There are gel-bits that hold water (e.g.,Quench) that you can mix with the soil before you plant—that helps. One quick trick: Put one or more ice cubes in each pot if you’ll be away or if sun is extra hot. It’s cheaper than those drip hoses.”
nailkeg writes—Farming and Carbon Sequestering: “Tom Vilsack, US Agriculture Secretary nominee! From an interview by the Storm Lake Times, ‘US Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack of West Des Moines promised Monday to quickly ramp up efforts to make agriculture an integral tool in battling climate change.’ The article goes on to elaborate, ‘Vilsack envisions creating new markets that pay farmers and foresters to sequester carbon in the soil, … He said he will create demonstration projects that can be incorporated as full programs into the next farm bill in two years. He said USDA will help develop scientific standards for carbon sequestration.’ Addressing past wrongs to Black farmers: ‘The reality is there are inherent, legacy barriers and practices that have prevented Black farmers and socially disadvantaged producers from getting access to programs, and I want to do everything I can to remove those barriers,’ Vilsack said. He goes on to say: ‘ASKED IF THE USDA will be a retread of previous years, Vilsack opened the interview by identifying eight priority areas’ that need significant work or even historic work: • COVID relief • Equity and inclusion • Climate and regenerative agriculture • Rural economic development • Nutrition security and assistance • Open and competitive markets • USDA employee morale, and • Forest Service management in an era of climate-driven wildfires.”
NAT’L FORESTS, PARKS, MONUMENTS & OTHER PUBLIC LANDS
bluewill writes—Fine: President Biden’s 60-day federal land closure mark a new relationship with our public lands: “The Biden Administration is here and the Republican Party is fractured—as I projected in my last column in these pages. Now the issue for the San Juan Basin and the Four Corners around it is the future of land which the national government owns and manages. It collected revenues of nearly $10 billion per year before the Pandemic from oil leases which are worked privately in oil and liquids extraction. All this now is in a 60-day “freeze” as the Biden Administration installs new Interior Department Management. […] The Trump Administration, doubtless, is the final 19th century vision of the West and the use of this Land. It was part of the ‘Manifest Destiny’ and settled through displacement by millions before and after the War Between the States. It is now to be managed consistent with its original people, as a characteristic of the Biden Administration The Navajo Nation’s future has been changed by the pandemic. San Juan County can merge with security and equity in building a Four Corners defense, storage, manufacturing and transportation hub with a changed Window Rock government.”
REGULATIONS & PROTECTION
Michael Brune writes—We Need a Fighter for Environmental Justice to Lead the EPA: “President Biden has already signaled his determination to turn things around at the EPA. His early executive orders and actions direct the agency to review and reverse harmful, anti-environment Trump-era rules, and to prioritize enforcement of existing protections. They’ve also named the need to center environmental justice in fighting the climate crisis as a top priority across his whole administration. Michael Regan brings the values and experience needed to implement this ambitious agenda. I hope to see him swiftly confirmed, and then act quickly to restore, strengthen, and advance key environmental protections. Under his leadership, we expect to see the EPA rebuilt on a foundation of science and justice. We are eager to see the EPA implement strong safeguards under Regan that are a win-win for frontline communities and the climate—like stricter caps on emissions of sulfur dioxide, methane, and mercury; and stronger limits on vehicle pollution and the production of coal ash, ozone, and the regional haze that covers our parks and communities with dirty air. These new rules must go beyond simply reversing Trump’s rollbacks, harmful as they are. Regan must ensure that our environmental protections are robust enough to guarantee every American clean air, clean water, and protection from climate disaster—whether we are Black, white, Brown, newcomer or native.”
Meteor Blades writes—Earth Matters: Tribes reclaim National Bison Range; solar will be cheapest energy source by 2030: “FEDERAL JUDGE AXES TRUMP “SECRET SCIENCE” RULE. Judge Brian Morris, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, on Mondayvacatedthe Trump regime’s rule that restricted which scientific studies theEnvironmental Protection Agency can use when it imposes public health protections and other environmental protections. The rule, put in place just as Donald Trump was exiting the White House, was designed to alter the way the EPA has derived regulations for 50 years. Implemented, it would have required the agency to give less weight to studies that use medical data regarding human subjects without revealing underlying information, including in dose-response studies. Foes of the change said it could undermine use of major health studies that keep some data secret legitimate reasons including patients’ privacy. Morris, an Obama appointee, ruled that the EPA could only make procedural not substantive changes in promulgating the rule, and that the changes approved had been substantive in nature.”
Meteor Blades writes—Earth Matters: Expanding Utah wilderness finally has a chance; gov’t switch to all EVs a tall order: “For 32 years, environmental advocates have sought to designate as wilderness 9 million acres of unspoiled public land in Utah. Even though the concept of the Red Rock Wilderness Act was first introduced as a 1989 bill by a Democratic representative in the state, it got no traction from Utah’s mostly Republican congressional delegation then, or in the decades since, as other lawmakers have introduced versions of the original bill. In the last session of Congress, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and California Rep. Alan Lowenthal proposedestablishing wilderness areasin the Great Basin, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Glen Canyon, Moab-La Sal Canyons, and the San Rafael Swell. Given the Biden-Harris administration’s “30 by 30” pledge to conserve 30% of U.S. land and coastal areas by 2030, the Red Rock legislation would appear to have a chance of passage this time around. The 30 by 30 goal is the creation of The Campaign for Nature, a partnership of the Wyss Campaign for Nature, the National Geographic Society, and a coalition of more than 100 conservation organizations. Reaching the goal means conserving additional areas twice the size of Texas—some 440 million acres—within 10 years. If the Red Rock legislation passes, it would give strong protections to 1.5% of the additional land that must be shielded from exploitation by 2030 to meet the goal. In a recent, exquisitely done advocacy report, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance notes that passing the act would ‘increase landscape connectivity in the region, providing a critical link in the chain of predominantly natural landscapes known as the Western Wildway. Such connectivity is critical to mitigating the climate and extinction/biodiversity crises’.”
Nonlinear writes—Metaphysics, Meteorology, and Ecology. A Cold Morning, a Winter Walk: “We live, each and every one of us, in a web. It is an interlocking web of cycles and feedback loops. Truthfully, as a Natural Historian, I will freely confess there are many thinks about this web we do not understand. Among other things, we don’t know how to exist in that web without damaging it in ways we don’t fully comprehend but can see are very bad for the web. Here is a puzzler for those metaphysically inclined. When I first decided to seriously commit to being a farmer and rancher there were more than 30 derelict or abandoned farms and ranches for sale in this part of Alberta. I only bid on this one. When people asked me why I wanted this land, the worst of all, I said, and boy did I get some funny looks, ‘I hear my ancestors calling.’ That was the truth. Ten years later a backhoe dug up the first artifact that tied my ancestors to this land. It dated from 4,000 years ago. There are three active digs planned here this summer. Why did my ancestors come hundreds of miles across hostile territory to camp here? We have no idea. We just know they did it year after year for hundreds and hundreds of years. Why did it attract me so powerfully? I couldn’t really have heard my ancestors calling, could I?”
I’ve been meaning to briefly lay out why I think Mitt Romney’s new Family Security Act is a good idea and the right direction for family policy. But between them, Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat have made the case I’d make, and made it better and more fully than I could. Read what they’ve written — they’re right.
I would only add that I think it is going to be important for those who have raised objections to the plan out of a concern about its effects on the incentive to work to really lay out their case in some detail. That objection deserves to be heard, and may call for changes to the proposal. But from what I’ve seen of it so far, it seems to me that it underplays the way in which the design of the proposal’s phaseout of benefits avoids creating a familiar set of work disincentives and the way the proposal’s reforms of the EITC do as well.
As far as I can see, Romney’s proposal does a better job of fixing some (unintentional but meaningful) disincentives to marriage in the existing welfare and work-support system than any prior attempt to do so, and it manages that with relatively little disincentive to work. That could be wrong. It’s impossible to quite know without seeing this kind of proposal in action in the real world, of course, but it would be possible to have a better sense of it with some further attempts to model its effects. The proposal’s champions and critics should do that work and see where they land.
That kind of effort should inform how this idea evolves and develops. But this idea should evolve and develop, and it should become the foundation for the next phase of debates about welfare and family policy. Its ends and its means, as well as the way in which it pays for the important support it offers to parents, offer a promising path for the post-Trump right and also for some cross-partisan agreement and bargaining.
Developing and debating ideas like this is how the right should draw meaningful political and policy lessons from the past several years while putting behind it the debased circus and ugly cult of personality that made it impossible to do anything constructive with such lessons. We should hope for more of this kind of translation of the constructive side of populism into policy.
President Biden is trying to defend his $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal from the charge that it is too big. Last week, the president said: “The biggest risk is not going too big, it’s if we go too small.” Biden also said: “We can’t do too much here. We can do too little.”
But of course Congress could pass a stimulus that is too big. And while I agree with the president that the risks to the economy from the next round of stimulus being too small are greater than the risks from it being too large, that statement in and of itself doesn’t mean much. Sure, let’s err on the side of a larger package. But larger than what?
According to my calculations based on CBO forecasts, the 2021 output gap will be around $420 billion. From a macroeconomic, top-down perspective, the President’s proposal would fill the 2021 output gap several times.
It is commonly argued that the risk from spending too little is larger than the risk from spending too much. I agree. But this is not the same as arguing that the size of an additional stimulus package should be untethered to estimates of the underlying economic need. Any assessment of the right size for another stimulus should start with a good estimate of the output gap — and given the uncertainty associated with calculating that gap and the balance of risks, it’s prudent to err on the side of a slightly larger package.
The future paths of gross domestic product (GDP), the output gap, and prices are very uncertain. Congress should recognize the many risks both from spending too much and from spending too little. From this macroeconomic perspective, the President’s $1.9 trillion proposal is clearly too large.
While the proposal contains several important components that Congress should enact, from a bottom-up, microeconomic perspective, many major components of the plan are either unnecessary or would hold the recovery back.
For example, direct checks to households earning six-figure incomes that have not experienced employment loss are an unnecessary and imprudent use of government spending. The proposed $400 federal supplement to standard, state-provided Unemployment Insurance benefits would [prolong] the period of labor market weakness by incentivizing unemployed workers to remain unemployed. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would be devastating to low-wage workers in many states.
As a moral proposition, a bill that would destroy jobs for low-wage workers while handing out checks to employed, upper-middle-class households is problematic.
A bill that was more focused and that did not contain these harmful or unnecessary provisions would also be more aligned with the overall macroeconomic need and would better address our specific economic challenges. A bill that provided adequate funding for vaccine distribution, expanded testing capability, helped to reopen schools, strengthened the social safety net, and provided relief to state and local governments would be reasonable and advisable. It would cost under $750 billion, would be focused on current economic and social needs, and would be better scaled to the size of the output gap.
I wrote in my last story about how the nation is finally going on the offensive against this plague. The vaccines are finally arriving and giving us hope, letting us take the fight to this tiny, virulent enemy. When a friend of mine contacted me and asked if my wife (a critical care RN) and I would help organize volunteers to give vaccine injections for the first drive-thru site in our county, I was thrilled. Anything I could do to combat this disease, I was willing to do. Sign us up!
My wife was even more excited. She immediately started rounding up her nursing colleagues to join the pop-up clinic. You would think that after all of us had been working brutal hours, the last thing we would want to do would be to work more hours, unpaid, in yet another venue that offered long hours on our feet with infectious exposure to high volumes of people at a high rate of speed in a high pressure environment. Not so. Like us, our friends and coworkers had seen the high price this has inflicted on our families, our community, our nation, and ourselves. We would walk on hot coals to get to the far side of this.
We got everyone lined up to volunteer and then we all did vaccine training through the state health department. We had to pass a test on HIPAA (which we can all do asleep and blindfolded) and get up to speed on vaccine protocols. We learned how the clinic would function, what the standing orders are for allergic or anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine, and, of course, how to navigate the reams of paperwork necessary for the various entities involved, from the health department to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Finally, the day arrived that we got to actually open the clinic and start putting shots in arms.
The state and local health departments were there to help with the administrative functions. The emergency management agencies were there to attend to logistics, such as the drive-thru tents, tables and chairs, PPE, and, thank heaven, the heaters—the vaccine site was outdoors and it was flipping cold. The National Guard provided traffic control and crowd management while the police department, sheriff’s deputies, and ambulances were there for emergencies and in case patients had an adverse reaction.
We had a computer glitch to start the day, which took about 45 minutes to resolve, so we started behind time by a good bit. The line of cars already stretched out around the mall and down the street.
We had a workflow: Teams of RNs would go from car to car, screening patients and filling our their paperwork. By the time they arrived at a tent, we would be able to just look over their papers, give them a vaccination, then hand them their vaccine card. We’d give them their post-shot instructions and the National Guard would direct them out to the parking lot for their 15-minute post-shot monitoring.
Finally, it was showtime. My wife and I worked one lane of a tent and our first cars rolled in. We apologized for the long wait, but to our surprise the patients were not only not upset, they were thrilled to be finally getting their shots. Despite the delay, people thanked us profusely for being there and giving back to the community. We really hadn’t expected that.
As the cars passed us, it became more and more kind of surreal … in a good way. In a wonderful way.
We had become so used to the crushing avalanche of patients over the last year, people who were suffering, sick and dying, alone and hurting. This was the total antithesis of that.
We vaccinated hundreds, and we were inundated with love and gratitude. Everyone was so incredibly happy to get their shots. In my last story I talked about my wife crying when I got my vaccine, and then my tears when she gothers. Working a vaccine clinic was like that, but to the 10th power.
We were literally washed in tears of happiness. Adult children who brought their elderly parents to be vaccinated began crying when we jabbed their arms.
A mother and her late-teens child with cystic fibrosis both bawled their eyes out.
At one point, a car pulled up and the window rolled down. I was face to face with, according to her paperwork, a … 22-year-old? She was a beautiful young woman who appeared to be the picture of health. “Why is she here? Who let her in?” I thought in irritation. Then I looked up from the papers; she was wearing a huge smile, but there were tears pouring down her face.
“I have leukemia,” she burst out, “and I have been waiting so long. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t get an appointment.” Then she broke down. Hell, so did I. I could barely see to give her the injection. She got her shot and we made sureshe had her return appointment. She, like so many others, thanked us over and over.
Another patient, a tiny elderly woman in her 90s, told us we were “angels from heaven.” I am assuredly not an angel, but that woman sure made me feel like I was.
That day we injected the elderly, the infirm, the cancer patients, the people with their bodies twisted with cerebral palsy and other horrible wasting diseases. They all thanked us and told us how much we meant to our community.
All the negative, pent-up feelings of the pandemic—the anger from seeing the fools in stores without masks; the big, heedless gatherings of people; the frustration; the depression; the angst and the disgust—it all eased away in a flood of emotions radiating from our patients.
Then it hit me: We weren’t just giving injections of a vaccine. We were giving injections ofhope.
Hope for an end to fear, loneliness, and sickness. Hope for a return to normal life.
All day, I stood on aching feet with a soaring heart. Even better, I was standing with my soulmate sharing an incredible, uplifting experience. All day long my wife and I laughed, joked, and cried as we dispensed hundreds of doses of love and hope. And in return, our patients lifted us up on wings like eagles.
Keep the faith, brothers and sisters. Spirituality, kindness, love, and hopestill exist in this bad old world. You just have to go find them.
As for my wife and me? Until this pandemic ends, that beautiful redheaded Scottish nurse and I will be delivering shots of hope every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in a tent in a mall parking lot.
The International Criminal Court cleared the way for potentially prosecuting Israeli officials for war crimes in a pre-trial decision today. Despite its push to increase U.S. involvement in international organizations, even the Biden administration is pushing back on the ICC, faintly echoing some of the Trump administration’s objections to its actions.
The ICC is charged with prosecuting some of the world’s worst human-rights violations, though the 123 parties to the Rome Statute, its founding treaty, do not include the U.S., Israel, China, Russia, and a number of other global heavyweights. The Palestinians, however, have joined the international agreement — which is the cause of this dispute.
The decision today recognizes that Palestine qualifies as a party to the Rome Statute, “regardless of its status under general international law,” and that it has standing to bring a case before the ICC. Washington has for two decades vociferously rejected the idea that the ICC might someday claim jurisdiction over Americans and officials from countries that have not joined the Rome Statute — but today’s move potentially opens Israelis to ICC prosecution.
Disagreements over the Court’s efforts to investigate U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Israel’s conduct in Gaza and the West Bank came to a head last year, when then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo imposed a series of sanctions targeting the head prosecutor and other officials with visa bans and asset freezes. “This is yet another reminder of what happens when multilateral bodies lack oversight and responsible leadership, and become instead a vehicle for political vendettas,” Pompeo said in a statement following the ICC’s decision in March to open the Afghan war inquiry.
That’s also the line that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took today, alleging that the decision “proves once again the court is a political body and not a legal institution.” But though Israeli officials might be worried that they find themselves at odds with the new administration on the Iran deal, they might have less reason to worry about continued U.S. support in the face of the ICC’s threats.
The Biden administration has “serious concerns” over this ICC effort to exercise jurisdiction over Israeli personnel, a State Department official said today.
“We share the goals of the ICC and promoting accountability for the worst crimes known to humanity,” said Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson on a call with reporters today, but “we’ve always taken the position that the Court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that can consent to it or that are referred to by the U.N. Security Council.”
To be sure, this is quite a bit different from the Trump administration’s blistering responses to decisions taken by the ICC and head prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and Price also declined to indicate whether the Biden administration would keep the Trump administration’s sanctions.
But even if it eventually rolls back the ICC sanctions, and even though it uses more conciliatory language, the Biden administration seems unlikely to challenge the longstanding bipartisan consensus that opposes the Court’s overreach.
This has worked as follows: GOP senators have withheld support regardless of the concessions made to win them over, because they calculate the president’s party will take the political hit for failing to make bipartisan deals.
The paradox here is that using reconciliation — moving to pass something by a simple majority — actually could bolster the conditions for good-faith bipartisanship. GOP senators who might be gettable will no longer have a built-in incentive to oppose a particular bill.
In McConnell’s hands, the filibuster was never used to spur bipartisan cooperation. The filibuster was a tool to grind the Senate to a halt, and then blame Democrats for nothing getting done. McConnell’s scam was to claim a desire for bipartisanship while making a bipartisan legislative process impossible.
Contrary to conservative mythology, Mitch McConnell is not a gifted Senate tactician. McConnell’s greatest strength was his willingness to ignore precedent and make up his own rules.
By using reconciliation and ignoring Sen. McConnell’s bellows, Democrats are not playing into his con. Without the ability to filibuster, Mitch McConnell has little power.
Senate Democrats understand that voters don’t care about how many Senators from each party vote for a bill. People only want results, and by becoming a results based Senate, the Democratic majority is finally solving McConnell’s scam.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association
Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, which never received a cent from the former president, moved an estimated $2.8 million of donor money into the Trump Organization—including at least $81,000 since Trump lost the election.
In addition, one of the campaign’s joint-fundraising committees, which collects money in partnership with the Republican Party, shifted about $4.3 million of donor money into Trump’s business from January 20, 2017, to December 31, 2020—at least $331,000 of which came after the election.
The money covered the cost of rent, airfare, lodging and other expenses.
Trump’s actions demonstrate that for him the presidency was always a for-profit venture. Donald Trump has zero interest in the job of being president. He spent much of his energy during his time in office trying to figure out ways to get taxpayer money into his businesses.
The difference between the nation having a grifter and a commander in chief has been on display in the few weeks that Joe Biden has been in office. By the end of February, Joe Biden will have legislatively achieved more help for the American people than Donald Trump did in four years.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association