Nel's New Day

February 7, 2023

SOTU Summary from Heather Cox Richardson

Filed under: Joe Biden — trp2011 @ 11:56 PM
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Heather Cox Richard had a great summary of Biden’s State of the Union speech in her February 7, 2023 “Letters from an American”:  

And then there was President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address.

This is the annual event in our politics that gets the most viewers. Last year, 38.2 million people watched it on television and streaming services.

What viewers saw tonight was a president repeatedly offering to work across the aisle as he outlined a moderate plan for the nation with a wide range of popular programs. He sounded calm, reasonable, and upbeat, while Republicans refused to clap for his successes—800,000 new manufacturing jobs, 20,000 new infrastructure projects, lower drug prices—or his call to strengthen the middle class.

And then, when he began to talk about future areas of potential cooperation, Republicans went feral. They heckled, catcalled, and booed, ignoring House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) attempts to shush them. At the State of the Union, in the U.S. Capitol, our lawmakers repeatedly interrupted the president with insults, yelling “liar” and “bullsh*t.” And cameras caught it all.

Extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), her hands cupping her wide open mouth to scream at the president, became the face of the Republican Party.

Biden began with gracious remarks toward a number of Republicans as well as Democrats, then emphasized how Republicans and Democrats came together over the past two years to pass consequential legislation. Speaker McCarthy had asked him to take this tone, and he urged Republicans to continue to work along bipartisan lines, noting that the American people have made it clear they disapprove of “fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict.”

For the next hour the president laid out a promise to continue to rebuild the middle class, hollowed out by 40 years of policies based on the idea that cutting taxes and concentrating wealth among the “job creators” would feed the economy and create widespread prosperity. He listed the accomplishments of his administration so far: unemployment at a 50-year low, 800,000 good manufacturing jobs, lower inflation, 10 million new small businesses, the return of the chip industry to the United States, more than $300 billion in private investment in manufacturing, more than 20,000 new infrastructure projects, lower health care costs, Medicare negotiations over drug prices, investment in new technologies to combat climate change. He promised to continue to invest in the places and people who have been forgotten.

Biden described a national vision that includes everyone. It is a modernized version of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and he very clearly invited non-MAGA Republicans to embrace it. He thanked those Republicans who voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, then tweaked those who had voted against it but claimed credit for funding. He told them not to worry: “I promised to be the president for all Americans. We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking.”

But then he hit the key point for Republicans: taxes. To pay for this investment in the future, Biden called for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. He noted that “in 2020, 55 of the biggest companies in America made $40 billion in profits and paid zero in federal income taxes.” “That’s simply not fair,” he said. He signed into law the requirement that billion-dollar companies have to pay a minimum of 15%—less than a nurse pays, he pointed out—and he called for a billionaire minimum tax. While he reiterated his promise that no one making less than $400,000 a year would pay additional taxes, he said “no billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter.” He also called for quadrupling the tax on corporate stock buybacks.

Republicans consider these proposals nonstarters because their whole vision is based on the idea of cutting taxes to free up capital. By committing to higher taxes on the wealthy, Biden was laying out a vision that is very much like that from the time before Reagan. It is a rejection of his policies and instead a full-throated defense of the idea that the government should work for ordinary Americans, rather than the rich.

And then he got into the specifics of legislation going forward, and Republicans lost it. The minority party has occasionally been vocal about its dislike of the State of the Union since Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You lie!” at President Obama in 2009 (Obama was telling the truth); a Democrat yelled “That’s not true” at Trump in 2018 as he, in fact, lied about immigration policy. But tonight was a whole new kind of performance.

Biden noted that he has cut the deficit by more than $1.7 trillion (in part because pandemic programs are expiring) and that Trump increased the deficit every year of his presidency, even before the pandemic hit. And yet, Congress responded to the rising debt under Trump by raising the debt limit, cleanly, three times.

Biden asked Congress to “commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned.” This, of course, is an issue that has bitterly divided Republicans, many of whom want to hold the country hostage until they get what they want. But they can’t agree on what they want, so they are now trying to insist that Biden is refusing to negotiate the budget when, in fact, he has simply said he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. Budget negotiations are a normal part of legislating, and he has said he welcomes such talks. Tonight, once again, he asked the Republicans to tell the American people what, exactly, they propose.

And then Biden did something astonishing. He tricked the Republicans into a public declaration of support for protecting Social Security and Medicare. He noted that a number of Republicans have called for cutting, or even getting rid of, Social Security and Medicare. This is simply a fact—it is in Senator Rick Scott’s (R-FL) pre-election plan; the Republican Study Committee’s budget; statements by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Ron Johnson (R-WI); and so on—but Republicans booed Biden and called him a liar for suggesting they would make those cuts, and they did so in public.

Seeming to enjoy himself, Biden jumped on their assertion, forcing them to agree that there would be no cuts to Social Security or Medicare. It was budget negotiation in real time, and it left Biden holding all the cards.

From then on, Republican heckling got worse, especially as Biden talked about banning assault weapons. Biden led the fight to get them banned in 1994, but when Republicans refused to reauthorize that law, it expired and mass shootings tripled. Gun safety is popular in the U.S., and Republicans, many of whom have been wearing AR-15 pins on their lapels, booed him. When he talked about more work to stop fentanyl production, one of the Republican lawmakers yelled, “It’s your fault.”

In the midst of the heckling, Biden praised Republican president George W. Bush’s bipartisan $100 billion investment in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

And then, in this atmosphere, Biden talked about protecting democracy. “For the last few years our democracy has been threatened, attacked, and put at risk,” he said. “Put to the test here, in this very room, on January 6th.”

With lawmakers demonstrating the dangerous behavior he was warning against, he said: “We must all speak out. There is no place for political violence in America. In America, we must protect the right to vote, not suppress that fundamental right. We honor the results of our elections, not subvert the will of the people. We must uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy. And we must give hate and extremism in any form no safe harbor.”

“Democracy must not be a partisan issue. It must be an American issue.”

With Republicans scoffing at him, he ended with a vision of the nation as one of possibility, hope, and goodness. “We must be the nation we have always been at our best. Optimistic. Hopeful. Forward-looking. A nation that embraces light over darkness, hope over fear, unity over division. Stability over chaos.”

“We must see each other not as enemies, but as fellow Americans. We are a good people.”

Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the Republican rebuttal. Full of references to the culture wars and scathing of Biden, she reinforced the Republican stance during the speech. “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left,” she said. “The choice is between normal or crazy.”

She is probably not the only one who is thinking along those lines after tonight’s events, but many are likely drawing a different conclusion than she intended.



SOTU: Obnoxious GOP in 2023, Biden’s Achievement Since 2022

A new poll shows that only 36 percent of respondents think President Joe Biden accomplished much during his first two years. Seven percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats believe that Biden has achieved either a great deal or a good amount with 32 percent of independents. Fox, the sole source of reporting for many Republicans, and the bragging GOP politicians themselves give the impression of little or no productivity. Analysts, however, who followed Biden’s progress in the past two years consider his achievements the most during any first two years in a presidency for 90 years, the first two years of Franklin D. Roosevelt. These include the $1.7 billion Covid relief package, a $1 trillion infrastructure package, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) with prescription drug reform and clean energy programs.  

Biden delivered his goals in his second State of the Union (SOTU) speech on February 7.  Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) tried to make a name for herself by calling out “liar” as Joe Wilson did at Barack Obama in 2009. Biden said some of the GOP congressional members wanting to get rid of Social Security and Medicare—not a lie. When he talked about the tragedy of fentanyl, Greeme shouted, “Close the border. It’s coming from China,” and another legislator yelled, “It’s your fault.” Biden stayed in control, and hecklers emphasized Biden’s points instead of letting Biden’s statements just disappear.

For much of the speech, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who had told his caucus to not engage the president during the speech, went from looking stoned and attempting to covertly signal them to be silent. He failed to quiet Republicans, and, according to Lawrence O’Donnell, Biden, in the most confrontational SOTU in modern times, negotiated the budget during his speech.  

A survey found that 65 percent of Americans think the issues of debt payment and federal spending should be handled separately while only 26 percent said Congress should raise the debt ceiling only if Congress agrees to cut spending. 

The networks didn’t report any false statements by Biden; some of them just reported “lacks context”—in a 72-minute speech covering a multitude of topics. Very different from the hundreds of lies in the SOTUs by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT).  

Outcomes of Biden’s 2022 SOTU:  

Biden: “My top priority is getting prices under control.” Last March when Biden gave his SOTU speech, inflation was 8.5 percent; forecasters project a slowing of 5.9 in the fourth 2022 quarter to 2.9 percent in 2023, close to the target of 2 percent.

Biden: “Let’s make sure corporations and the wealthiest Americans start paying their fair share.” Republicans blocked any possibility of the wealthy and big businesses paying fair taxes. Biden did get a 15 percent minimum tax on corporate book income for corporations with average annual adjusted financial statement income exceeding $1 billion for any three consecutive prior tax years. The Tax Foundation estimated an increase of $153 billion over a decade, less if companies figure out how to avoid it.

Biden: “While we’re at it, let Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, like the VA already does.” George W. Bush signed a law blocking the government from negotiating or setting drug prices in Medicare Part D. IRA gave the HHS secretary the power to negotiate prices for selected drugs starting in 2026.

Biden: “We’ll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations.” Biden’s infrastructure bill includes $5 billion for states to build a national charging network and another $2.5 billion for a competitive grant program for communities. All 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have submitted plans for the charging network.  In August, the administration announced that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had submitted plans to tap the money for the charging network with the goal of 500,000 charging stations by 2030. Under DDT, infrastructure was a job; under Biden, it’s a reality.

Biden: “Cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combating climate change.” The savings did not come into being.

Biden: “My plan will not only lower costs to give families a fair shot, it will lower the deficit …. By the end of this year, the deficit will be down to less than half what it was before I took office.” Extra Covid relief funds and other new policies added about $500 billion more than originally projected. In Biden’s first full year, the deficit of$1.38 trillion was a $1.40 trillion decrease from the previous year.

Promises Biden kept:

“A dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs [and taking their] illgotten gains.”

“Our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.”

“Begin to replace poisonous lead pipes, so every child—and every American—has clean water to drink at home and at school.”

“Provide affordable high-speed internet for every American—urban, suburban, rural and tribal communities.”

“When we use taxpayers’ dollars to rebuild America, we’re going to do it by buying American. Buy American products. Support American jobs.”

“It is so important to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act sitting in Congress that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing.” (The bill became the CHIPS and Science Act.)

“Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it.” (But only for those 65 and older on Medicare because Republicans blocked it for everyone else.)

“The American Rescue Plan is helping millions of families on Affordable Care Act plans save $2,400 a year on their health care premiums. Let’s close the coverage gap and make those savings permanent.” (At least through 2025)

“Under my plan, nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in new taxes.”

“Confirm my nominees to the Federal Reserve, which plays a critical role in fighting inflation.”

“A crackdown [ocean carriers] overcharging American businesses and consumers.”

“Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and expect.”

“Let’s increase Pell Grants and increase our historic support of HBCUs.”

“We’ll strengthen the Violence Against Women Act that I first wrote three decades ago.”

 It is important for us to show the nation that we can come together and do big things.”

“Pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve.”

“I call on Congress to fund ARPA-H, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.”

And the 94 clean energy projects in 31 states announced since Democrats passed Biden’s IRA will create over 100,000 green jobs.

Biden didn’t achieve all his goals, but the above is impressive for his second year.

Republicans are frantically trying to spin the Chinese balloon situation into a display of Biden’s weakness, but these are some of his foreign policy wins over China:

The semiconductor embargo on China with the backing of two important semiconductor equipment exporters, Japan and the Netherlands.

Defense and technology partnerships from quantum computing to conventional weapons such as jet engines and artillery that reduce India’s reliance on Russian armaments.

Expansion of military sites from five to nine in the Philippines.

Reinforcement of U.S. global leadership through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank while Chinese loans to emerging nations may end in debt crises in those countries from bad economic conditions while the U.S. saves them from disaster.

The GOP-chosen respondent to the SOTU was Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The new governor of Arkansas, daughter of former governor who lost two presidential contests, says she wants her “kids to grow up in the same one I did.” MAGA supporters want a return to the fantasy wonderland that they imagine existed in the past. For Sanders, it would not be growing up in poverty and prejudice that so many others in her state did and do. Sanders’ state is almost at the bottom of economic, educational, and health measures. A look at the state governed by a rising GOP star:

The University of Arkansas is 87th in public universities and 187th among all schools. Arkansas State University is 317th. High school graduation is 41st, and the state is 48th in college graduation, 49th in residents with an advance degree.

In both GDP and income per capita, Arkansas is 48th.

Arkansans die earlier; the state is 44th in life expectancy. Average life expectance there is 73.8 years, five years fewer than the average person in the U.S. and the same as a citizen of Kazakhstan, a month more than a Bangladeshi.

The state is 48th in obesity although “only” 39th in childhood obesity.

Sanders talked about her “faith,” and Arkansas is the 5th most religious state but 11th in STD rate with its abstinence-only sex ed approach.

Despite the 70 percent of Arkansans being “deeply religious,” the state has the 5th highest crime rate, 4th highest murder rate, and 2nd highest rape rate.

Arkansas leads the nation in its divorce rate.

Thus far, Sanders has focused on canceling drag queens, banning the official use of “Latinx,” and protecting everyone from anything “woke.”

In a two-minute video taped before the speech, DDT rebutted Biden’s SOTU. 

Unlike the gloom and doom of Republicans, Biden’s speech was upbeat and inspirational. And he said about his new infrastructure legislation:

“And we’re just getting started. I sincerely thank my Republican friends who voted for the law. And to my Republican friends who voted against it but still ask to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry. I promised to be the president for all Americans. We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking.” 

“The State of the Union is strong.”




September 5, 2022

DDT’s ‘Special Master,’ Biden’s Wins on Labor Day 2022

The Florida judge appointed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has ruled in favor of appointing a third party attorney “special master” from outside the government to review his documents, an act that DDT’s former AG Bill Barr called a “crock of s**t.” Her rulings:

  • The FBI must stop examining the documents until after the review or another court order.
  • The classification review and intelligence assessments conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence may continue.
  • Both sides have until September 9 to nominate candidates and duties.
  • The review is reviewing “seized property for … claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege.”
  • DDT hasn’t proved his “constitutional rights” were disregarded.
  • The FBI had obtained DDT’s medical and tax information.

DDT responded to the court ruling by writing that the FBI and DOJ should “change the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.” Heather Cox Richardson has an excellent analysis of the flaws in the judicial decision.

On to the good news for Labor Day 2022, “a celebration of workers and of their dignity,” according to Eugene Robinson. We’ve come a long way in the past decade since Paul Ryan, then House Majority Leader and vice-presidential candidate, gave a speech on how Labor Day celebrated business management and CEOs because business owners were the only Americans working hard and taking risks to make “this country grow.” He went on to lose, become House Speaker, and  turn into a professional board member for several companies, including Fox.

Union organizers at a Staten Island warehouse defeated Amazon in its attempt to overturn the employee vote at a federal labor board hearing. Employees’ decisive vote last April created the first unionized Amazon facility in the U.S. Amazon claimed fraud by organizers and the agency overseeing the election. The company even failed to make the hearing secret. It will appeal with September 16 the deadline to file exceptions. Amazon will likely take the case into federal court, a practice to thwart labor victories.

At Google, a 300,000-member union of hotel and food service workers has helped unionize 90 percent of food service workers in 23 of the company’s cafeterias proving free food for programmers and product managers. Last week, workers moved into Atlanta where workers presented managers at Sodexo with plans to unionize and gained an agreement that a majority vote would rule. Tens of thousands more workers voted to join unions in the first half 2022 than the same time period in 2021. For the first time, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s and the recreation equipment maker REI have unionized from concerns about safety and low wages along with 230 Starbucks locations and Apple Store.

Google in North Carolina may have the next union after workers protest the company dropping their salaries. With $257.6 billion in revenue during 2021, Google’s profits rose 41 percent from 2020. Google said it’s move to the South was for diversity, but that area has the lowest salaries in the nation.

Unions won more representation elections in 2022 than they have in nearly 20 years, going from a slightly above 50 percent win rate in 2000 to 76.6 percent thus far this year. [visual – union win rate]

Republicans won’t admit that Biden’s economy has rapidly recovered from the COVID devastation, regaining all net private sector jobs lost from the pandemic since his inauguration. Yet the 9 million jobs he added in his first 17 months was the highest number for any president in that time. Without Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) the unemployment would have been seven percent in summer 2021 and stay higher after that instead of sliding to 5.4 percent and then shrinking to 3.5 percent a year later.

Despite GOP spreading fears of a recession, the International Monetary Fund predicts the U.S. can “narrowly avoid a recession” in 2022 and 2023, and net domestic investment is at an all-time high. New manufacturing facilities construction is up 116 percent over last year as more companies move supply chains back to the U.S. from foreign countries. June 2022 manufacturing jobs exceeded those in February 2020.

To combat inflation, gas prices have dropped about 25 percent from a high of $5 in some places. Freight shipping costs have decreased along with shipping container costs reducing by half and transit times by 35 percent. The past month have seen prices for raw materials such as wheat, corn, and copper trending downward.

August gained 315,000 jobs, totaling 3.5 million new jobs for the year; the unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent because 786,000 new people entered the workforce. Last month, the share of adults in the workforce jumped from 62.1 percent in July to 62.4 percent, and the 82.8 percent of people aged 25-54 in the workforce was slightly below pre-pandemic levels. Average wages were up 5.2 percent from a year ago.

ARPA assistance with the expanded child tax credit in 2021 took 3.7 million children out of poverty. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) blocked its continuance in the Inflation Reduction Act, but another possibility for tax credits at the end of the year during negotiations for extensions on expiring business tax breaks. The overturn of Roe v. Wade has also encouraged more relief for family benefits with three Republican senators introducing a proposal for credit although it has a work requirement for parents.  In addition, 29 states have programs to compensate for the lack of federal child credits with an additional three next year.

While the attention was largely focused on DDT since Joe Biden was inaugurated, the new president has been on a roll. He came into the presidency with three major goals—investing in the U.S. unraveling infrastructure, taking action against climate change, and expanding the social safety net.

For the past few months, Biden has had other successes—helping average people instead of the GOP focus on special interests. He took out the top al-Qaeda leader, put the first Black female justice on the Supreme Court, expanded NATO by unifying European support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion, and passed the first gun reform law in almost 30 years.

During his first 17 months, Biden’s accomplishments echo themes and priorities from the major initiatives of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan. He signed the Inflation Reduction Act, the American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure law, the gun law, the Chips law, the PACT burn pits act, and the anti-Asian hate crimes as well as updating and reauthorizing the Violence against Women Act. In addition, Biden addressed climate change, offshore wind projects, and mitigation funds for drought, wildfire, and flooding. And he reduced the federal budget deficit, required publicly traded corporations to pay a modest one-percent excise tax on stock buy-backs, required corporations with over $1 billion in earnings to pay a minimum 15 percent income tax, and greatly eased student loan debt

Biden came into the presidency with three major goals—investing in the U.S. unraveling infrastructure, taking action against climate change, and expanding the social safety net. Republicans minimized Biden’s November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) but took credit for it with their constituents after they voted against it. The joke during the term of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was “it’s infrastructure week,” every week, but DDT failed to accomplish in that area. Biden ‘s bill invests $1.2 trillion into U.S. infrastructure: surface transportation, public transit and rail, water, and broadband internet infrastructure. It also invests in renewable energy and electric vehicles. And supports over 770,000 jobs in during the next decade.  

Two Democratic senators blocked another major bill for several months and reduced its amount, but Congress passed the $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act last month. It reduces energy, health care, and prescription drug costs for American families; invests $370 billion over a decade for clean energy and climate programs; and allows Medicare to negotiate lower prices and reduce Medicare out-of-pocket costs for drugs. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, once Sen Manchin (D-WV) renamed it and gained a few personal perks. U.S. production of crude oil during Biden’s first year was higher than in DDT’s first year, and he issued more drilling permits on federal land than DDT did in his first three years.

The Economic Policy Institute also has a detailed view of Biden’s work for low- and middle-income families in his work to address equity and racial justice through over 90 agencies, a director of racial equity, and $738 million to minority-owned businesses. He also rescinded DDT’s punitive orders against equity. The article also lists how Biden rescinded DDT’s punitive orders to block achievements for anyone except wealthy white people. Xenophobic policies in the workplace during DDT’s term allowed employees to cheat workers out of wages and force them into sub-standard work conditions. Biden also strengthened protections for collective bargaining, due process, and labor representatives that DDT had weakened. 

Biden’s wins are almost as long as crimes by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) whose only domestic policy change was a tax cut for the wealthy and big business that increased the national debt, skyrocketing by $7.8 trillion during DDTD’s four years. Republicans complain about inflation, but they have blocked ways to block it and support corporations raising prices sky high to make profits. Congressional GOP members voted against negotiating drug prices, putting a $35 a month cap on insulin cost, investigating high gas prices while the industry makes huge profits, etc. 

And on Labor Day 2022, unions are coming back.

September 3, 2022

GOP Uses Biden’s Speech as a Shiny Object to Deflect Attention

[Correction in paragraph 3: “military has no allegiance …”]

MAGA and other conservative supporters of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) came out with amazing vitriol and petty bitterness against President Joe Biden’s call for democracy in the United States in his speech on September 1. One complaint was the visual of two Marines standing behind Biden in front of Independence Hall, where the Constitution was signed, produced massive qualities of GOP bile.

It was not a “break with White House traditions,” as Republicans claim: several previous presidents used the presence of troops as a backdrop during notable speeches. And DDT dragged out his Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to walk with him across Lafayette Square when he drove out legally peaceful protesters for a photo-op in front of a church. At one time, Republicans would not have seen the presence of two Marines and the playing of the Marine band as a menace. No more.

The White House stated the Marines showed “respect” for service members. A line from his speech is that democracy must be defended and protected. Top military officials were vital in stopping DDT’s insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2022 as well as maneuvering a peaceful transfer of power while DDT tried to incite violence with lies about election fraud. DDT wanted his control of the military to destabilize democracy, protecting MAGA protesters, and Biden pointed out that the military has no allegiance to a political party of the commander in chief.

Mark Thiessen, arguably the most conservative Washington Post, claimed that prime-time presidential speeches should focus only on explanations of a military action, a national tragedy, or a major policy initiative. He did try to cover DDT’s prime-time acceptance speech at the GOP from the White House at the GOP convention by calling it “controversial but stuck to his “rule” about presidential speeches.

Some MAGAs went far more overboard by claiming Biden’s red backlighting proves his being part of a satanic cabal of elites who are trafficking children around the world. Former DDT lawyer Jenna Ellis boosted images of Biden with #PedoHitler. Fox’s Tucker Carlson described the visuals as “a blood-red Nazi background,” and another network host and former DDT administration official, Monica Crowley, described the imagery as “almost satanic with the blood red lighting.” Red and blue lights, the colors of the U.S. flag, lighted Independence Hall.

The title of Dana Milbank’s column, “Dear Insurrectionists and Fascists: I’m Sorry I Offended You,” aptly describes the reaction from the “strongmen [who] were so fragile.” Milbank wrote:

“The insurrectionists of Jan. 6 busted into the Capitol, hit police with fire extinguishers, flagpoles, bats, stun guns and pepper spray; they threatened to kill the vice president and tried to overthrow the 2020 election. And now, they want an apology.

“MAGA Republican leaders have fomented violence, attacked the rule of law and deceived tens of millions of people into rejecting the outcome of free and fair elections. And now, they, too, want an apology.”

Milbank continues with sarcastic apologies for the insurrectionists causing themselves pain in their attacks of striking police officers with flagpoles on January 6 and “gouging their eyes.” To others, Milbank wrote he was “sorry you don’t like it when the Justice Department enforces the law and protects national security” and “regret[s] that you’ve taken away women’s rights…, banning books, and censoring history lessons [while] shunning science, expertise, and the truth.”

On the same day that Biden spoke from the Philadelphia location where Founding Fathers signed the U.S. Constitution, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) promised to provide “full pardons with an apology for many” to those convicted for the assault on U.S. democracy on January 6. He also bragged about meeting with insurrectionists and “financially supporting” some of those to defend them from “sick” prosecutors and “nasty” judges. DDT’s latest excuse for the search warrant last month was that the FBI was “looking for Hillary Clinton emails.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)’s pre-rebuttal to Biden’s speech attacked Democrats for destroying democracy and demanded an apology for those in the U.S. he slandered as “fascists.” (Biden never used that term in this speech.) McCarthy was one of 139 House Republicans trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election—and democracy—on January 6. RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who accused Biden of “disgust and hostility towards half the country,” said the RNC position of supporting fake electors sending false electoral certification to Congress is “legitimate political discourse.”

Anyone who watched the speech would note the difference between Biden and DDT in protesters’ interruptions. When a crowd shouted expletives about Biden and set off sirens, Biden pointed out that democracy permitted they were entitled “to be outrageous.” In contrast, DDT told his security staff to beat up anyone interrupting his speech and throw them out of the venue. Journalist Aaron Rupar used them to prove Biden’s premise about “unhinged and dangerous MAGAs.”

Satirist Alexandra Petri continued Milbank’s sarcasm in her column, “The Non-polarizing Speech President Biden Should Have Given,” directed at MAGA folk furious because they want Biden to “unify” the nation. Snippets:

“My fellow Americans. I am the president of the United States … maybe!…

“To those of you who say that violence is never the answer, and to those of you who say that violence is the answer right now, I say, Yup!

“This is a nation, after all, that honors the Constitution. Or doesn’t, if it doesn’t feel like it! Who am I to say who’s wrong and who is right? Maybe the president, but maybe just some guy!…

“I was told that [if I told people to accept the election it] would alienate a lot of people, so, instead, I want to take that time to just stare intensely out at the audience for a solid minute…

“We have had a democracy for a while, which I personally would like to keep, but some people seem to want us to try something new, and that could be … fine! Maybe 235 years is a good stopping point.”

Journalist John Harwood delivered his last commentary on DDT before he resigned from his position at CNN:

“The core point Biden made in that political speech about a threat to democracy is true. Now, that’s something that’s not easy for us, as journalists, to say. We’re brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them. But that’s not what we’re talking about. These are not honest disagreements. The Republican Party right now is led by a dishonest demagogue. Many, many Republicans are rallying behind his lies about the 2020 election and other things as well. And a significant portion—or a sufficient portion—of the constituency that they’re leading attacked the Capitol on January 6th. Violently. By offering pardons or suggesting pardons for those people who violently attacked the Capitol, which you’ve been pointing out numerous times this morning, Donald Trump made Joe Biden’s point for him.”

Although Harwood technically resigned, Dan Froomkin reported in Press Watch that he had been told last month the day of the commentary was his last day in the midst of Harwood’s multi-year contract. Last month, CNN fired CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter and canceled his show, Reliable Sources. News sources are predicting more purging at the network after orders from DDT-supporter John Malone, a member of the board owning CNN, who wants to make the network support Republicans.

Using his theme for his speech, an existential battle for the “soul of nation,” from an op-ed he wrote for the Atlantic six years ago, Biden continued his condemnation of the philosophy expressed by DDT and his followers, first expressed after the GOP support of white supremacist rioters in Charlottesville (VA). Throughout the speech, Biden clearly stated he was not addressing Republicans as a whole but the violent extremists determined “to take this country backwards … to an America where there is no right to choose no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”

Republicans are trying to deflect attention from all their recent problems regarding the insurrection, DDT’s theft of official documents, and Biden’s recent successes. The GOP have not only lost two high-profile special elections in the past few weeks but also has watched Biden’s approval ratings go up at the same time, jumping six points to 44 percent after his legislative wins. This rating is higher than several other elected presidents at the same point in their terms in the last half century: DDT, 41 percent; Barack Obama, 43 percent; Bill Clinton, 39 percent; Jimmy Carter, 43 percent; and Ronald Reagan, 41 percent. Wars raised approval for George W. Bush (65 percent) and George H.W. Bush (74 percent).

The GOP is getting desperate about taking back Congress in November and will likely continue to follow the advice from their megadonor Steve Wynn: lie about Democratic tax policies. Republicans don’t stop with taxes; they lie about everything.

Two days after Biden’s speech, DDT followed him to Pennsylvania when he ranted against the FBI, again claimed the 2020 election was stolen, pushed his Truth Social platform, praised leaders of Russia and China, and polished off the evening with a rousing chorus of “lock her up” about Clinton. Just lie.

March 2, 2022

SOTU Makes History

President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., look on. (Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

For the first time in the history of the United States, two women flanked the president of the country—Joe Biden—when he gave his first State of the Union speech. SOTU was unique in other ways. In the midst of multiple crises—impending war across Europe, the continuing pandemic, and inflation from corporate greed and supply chain problems—the president’s State of the Union speech had much more meaning this year than usual. On The Late Show, Steven Colbert aptly described it “a roller-coaster ride of rip-roaring reasonableness.” Gone were the fictional accounts and personal attacks by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), his rampant lies, and his dark “obsession with white supremacy.” Instead, President Joe Biden presented a realistic but upbeat view of the union in a 62-minute speech beginning with 12 minutes on the problems in Ukraine before moving to the domestic policies in the U.S.

Most Republican lawmakers attended the speech although a few of them skipped it with various excuses such as not enough time to take the mandatory COVID test. Despite being vaccinated, four Democrats tested positive for COVID. The GOP members grouped themselves together although Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), an obstructionist to Biden’s policies sat with Republicans between Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Roger Wicker (R-LA). Five of the Supreme Court justices were in attendance; missing were Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. Only four attended DDT’s last two SOTUs.

Biden promised to make Russian President Vladimir Putin “pay” for his preemptive invasion of Ukraine and honored Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, with a standing ovation. Refuting GOP criticism that he had been following allies in their opposition to Russia, Biden said, “I spent countless hours unifying our European allies” and praised Ukrainians for their “fearlessness … courage … and determination” in resisting Russian troops.

On the home front, he called for prescription-drug price cuts, elder care, expanded child care, prekindergarten education, and climate change initiatives as well as access to abortion, voting rights, immigration, background checks for gun ownership, and corporate taxation—all policies largely supported by the U.S. population. In his message on unity, he pointed out that easing mask guidelines and providing vaccinations has brought people “finally together again”:

“Tonight, we meet as Democrats, Republicans and Independents. But most importantly as Americans. With a duty to one another, to the American people, to the Constitution. And with an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”

People should “stop seeing each other as enemies, and start seeing each other for who we really are: fellow Americans,” he said.

Listing accomplishments in the past year, Biden cited the $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan fighting COVID, comparing it favorably with failed “trickle-down” economics. In rebuilding the economy, he talked about new manufacturing plants and the over 6.5 million new jobs since his inauguration, the most in one year throughout the nation’s history. He also said he was “the only president ever to cut the deficit by more than 1 trillion dollars in a single year.” During Biden’s first year, the 5.7 percent growth in the economy was the best in 40 years. Biden said that 40 years of tax cuts, caused by the faulty GOP belief that the wealthy would increase the economy with efficient investment have actually led to “weaker economic growth, lower wages, bigger deficits, and the widest gap between those at the top and everyone else in nearly a century.”

According to Biden, inflation is his top priority although the president can’t do much about the issue. His answers are relieving supply chain problems, reducing costs for families, increasing domestic production, and promoting competition. Without regulations and Federal Reserve decisions, Biden lacks control for pricing.

Unlike DDT’s last speech in 2020, the antagonistic Republican lawmakers gave approval to some of Biden’s statements. Biden brought a standing ovation from both sides when he challenged Republicans who claimed he and all the Democrats want to defund the police:

“We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police,” he said. “Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training, resources and training they need to protect their communities.”

Biden also asked for unity, calling on Congress to fight the opioid crisis, help people defeat mental illness, support veterans, and end cancer.

A fact-check found only seven “suspect” statements, but the checker only complained about “context” instead of falsehoods. Tweets show the faulty factchecking by The New York Times. 

According to a CBS News poll, most people in the U.S. who watched Biden’s first SOTU—78 percent—approved, and many said it made them feel proud and optimistic. Both Democrats and unaffiliated voters had majorities in this category.  Seventy-one percent of respondents agreed that Biden’s policies will effectively deal with Russia. Biden’s policies were also positively received. More people thought these would address inflation after the speech than before they heard the SOTU. Only 17 percent of watchers through Biden’s policies would hurt them economically. Older people were a little more likely to say the speech made them feel COVID would be around for a while. Democrats comprised 49 percent of those watching the speech because members of the speaker’s party have a greater tendency to tune in. Only 21 percent were Republicans.  CNN polling gave Biden similar grades.  

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds gave the pro-forma response to the SOTU which Jason Easley called “one of the worst responses … in history.” He summarized Reynolds statements:

“The Reynolds response had one theme. America is a hell hole, and it all Joe Biden’s fault, ‘Instead of moving America forward, it feels like President Biden and his party have sent us back in time to the late ’70s and early ’80s when runaway inflation was hammering families, a violent crime wave was crashing on our cities, and the Soviet army was trying to redraw the world map.’”

Reynolds also complained:

“They’re tired of politicians who tell parents they should sit down, be silent, and let government control their kids’ education and future. Frankly, they are tired of the theater. Where politicians do one thing when the cameras are rolling, and another when they believe you can’t see them. Where governors and mayors and forced mandates that don’t follow them. Where elected leaders tell their citizens to stay home while they sneak off to Florida for sun and fun. Where they demand that your child wear a mask, but they go mask-less.“

Oddly enough, it was Cruz, a member of her own party, who tried to sneak off to Cancun while his constituents had no heat in the horrendous cold wave of 2020. Like everything else Republicans say, Reynolds’ speech had no hope, no policies, and no vision. Unlike Biden’s speech, a factcheck of Reynolds’ speech showed several faulty statements

The far-right highly-hyped truck convoy to block the SOTU brought 12 protesters instead of the 3,000 promised participants. Press and police massively outnumbered those at the “Stage of Freedom” event near the Washington Monument. The speech from the rally organizer, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kyle Sefcik, rambled among many subjects, including his wondering where the convoy intended to disrupt the Beltway area was. He also complained about how he “lost money” on the protest. Others at the protest using only first names employed confusing metaphors about cows, fences, and the need to understand God. Intending to embarrass Biden on the night of his speech, Sefcik concluded early by saying that “turnout” for the protest wasn’t important.

Trying for publicity, the classic “mean girls” of the U.S. House, Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), further proved they don’t deserve to be in Congress when they entertained themselves at the SOTU heckling Biden during the speech. One of the worst moments was during Biden’s description of battlefield conditions contributing to veterans’ developing cancers “that would put them in a flag-draped coffin.” He said one of them was his son, Beau Biden, and Boebert shouted “13 of them” in reference to the U.S. service members dying in an Afghanistan attack in the U.S. withdrawal. 

January 18, 2022

President Biden’s First Year

Thursday is the first anniversary of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, and the media have preached doom and gloom for his prospects since Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) turned against the voting act and Build Back Better jobs bill months ago. His average polling at this time is 42 percent, and COVID’s variant Omicron has sent the number of infections and even deaths sky high after Republicans decided they wouldn’t get vaccinated. A higher-than-usual inflation rate, blamed on Biden, also comes from price gouging by big businesses while they pay far less or no taxes than before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Hurt by storms, lack of manufacturing, and a shortage of labor from the pandemic also attacked the supply chain. Biden was blamed for its problems but given no credit for improvement. 

History, however, shows that serious problems in a president’s first year doesn’t predict defeat. Two-term Ronald Reagan spent his first year in a serious economic recession after disastrous anti-inflationary policies of Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and the two political parties were fighting about Reagan’s shredding the social safety net. Reagan’s approval fell to 41 percent within 18 months in a far less politically polarized time with no pandemic and no sniping from a former president. His standing improved with his taking credit for a better economy, and he won in 1984 by standing up against the Soviet Union.

Bill Clinton, also two terms, won his second election in 1996 despite problems with the recovering recession during the first year of his first term and a population angered by his health plan. Fifteen months after his first inauguration, his approval rating dropped to 37 percent, and the GOP took over Congress in 1994, shutting down the government in both 1995 and 1996. Voters put the blame on House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the other Republican for the legislative dysfunction. Clinton also received praise for his toughness after the April 1995’s bombing by an extremist in Oklahoma City, and he ended his second term with an approval rating of 66 percent despite his GOP impeachment.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, the country was in dire economic circumstances from George W. Bush’s wars, tax cuts, and deregulated housing. Conservatives bitterly fought Obama for his Affordable Care Act, worrying people on the left. His approval rating dropped from 68 percent at inauguration to 46 percent 21 months later, and, as is customary, the midterm elections gave House control to Republicans. As usual under Democrats, the economy rebounded even when Republicans threatened catastrophe by fighting an increase in the debt ceiling.  

Republican Jennifer Rubin describes the media’s destructive tendencies toward Biden in her column, “Dear Media, Stop Giving Republicans the Benefit of the Doubt.” In the media’s efforts “to make the authoritarian and often blatantly racist party seem ‘normal,’” it depicted Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, as distancing himself from DDT, according to Rubin. “The coverage rarely scrutinized his positions, such as his potentially disastrous proposed tax cuts or his aversion to mask mandates, a critical part of Virginia’s school reopening.” His first day on the job, Youngkin catered to white supremacists by banning critical race theory, not taught in the schools, from the curriculum as well as blocking mask mandates. Rubin continues with more examples and explains:

“This refusal by the media to render judgment on the GOP’s cult leaders has gone on for more than six years. Despite replete evidence of Trump’s inability to distinguish truth from fiction, his self-image of grandiosity and his fixation on conspiracy theories, the mainstream media failed to characterize Trump’s conduct as abnormal.”

In DDT’s Arizona rally last weekend, he insisted on this lie:

“The left is now rationing lifesaving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating, just denigrating, White people to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re White, you don’t get the vaccine, or if you’re White, you don’t get therapeutics.”

DDT’s referred to violent insurrectionists on January 6 as “political prisoners”; 200 of them already pled guilty to crimes. Then he bragged about the size of his crowd that day as “the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before.” Politico covered the crowd cheered “as [DDT] aired complaints about the election and made swipes at the Biden administration.” Rubin asked if he was “airing complaints” or “making positively ludicrous claims.” She concludes:

“Anodyne descriptions that slot Trump’s antics into “politics as usual” mislead news consumers. To make matters worse, interviewers avoid asking Republicans how they can pledge loyalty to someone so bonkers.

“Certainly, the media should avoid rendering a psychiatric evaluation for Trump. But they routinely refuse to convey the abnormality on display before them. This is “the emperor has no clothes” on steroids.

“Unflinching, brutally honest coverage would describe Trump’s behavior accurately, including his syntax and preposterous lies. It would concede this conduct would be disqualifying for any business executive or even a small-town mayor. The media are compelled to level with voters: The two parties are not equivalent, in part because one treats its crackpot leader like a messiah. Unfortunately, there are no signs the media are ready for such candor.”

In a demonstration of Rubin’s criticism of the media, Politico’s daily West Wing Playbook, a summary of the Biden administration, began with “Even JENNIFER RUBIN thinks JOE BIDEN is in trouble,” citing her column, “Biden needs a reset. Here’s how he can do it.” It ignored her commentary on the media. 

A year ago, Biden identified four major issues: COVID, climate, economy, and racial justice. Since then, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin made Ukraine another one, and Republicans added the loss of democracy in the United States.

COVID: Vaccinations went well until Republicans refused them, helping cause first the Delta variant and then the Omicron. His plan to provide free testing, however, took off a day early with federal mailings of tests or insurance companies paying for tests.

Climate: Senate Republicans plus Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema delayed many of his plans, including the Build Back Better bill, although he issued several executive orders to fight global warming. Biden has made several appointments prioritizing climate change, reversed DDT’s anti-environmental policies, and rejoined the Paris climate accords.

Economy: Jobless claims are at a 50-year low, the stock market has hit records, and the nation’s economy is the fastest-growing in the world with 6.4 million jobs added, the most for any first-year president, and unemployment dropped from 6.3 percent to 3.9 percent in a year, the lowest for the pandemic. The GDP grew by seven percent in the last quarter of 2021, and wages rose by 4.7 percent in the past year. With almost no media on these improvement, most people notice only the seven-percent inflation for the year, the most in 40 years from struggles in the supply chain, Middle East oil prices, and unfettered free enterprise allowing businesses to profit by trillions of dollars. 

Racial justice: Biden’s infrastructure law has provided $5 billion for Black farmers, and he named an historically diverse administration. He is still pushing for a voting rights law despite opposition from Republicans and the two Democratic senators.

Russia: Standing firm against Putin’s attempt to take over Ukraine, Biden makes a huge contrast to DDT.

Democracy: In Georgia, Biden made his strongest speech thus far, indicating that he understands he cannot persuade the Republicans to support democracy and instead must fight for it. He has always supported bipartisanship, but by the end of his first year, he understands that the only unity with the majority of the GOP legislature would be to cave in to everything they want. This majority believes their only solution is to follow DDT’s “big lie” of a stolen election, one that supports white supremacy. In the upcoming year, the House January 6 investigation committee will be one of the leading tools to support democracy for the United States.

Journalist Dan Froomkin decries the lack of coverage regarding the erosion of democracy as conservatives promote authoritarianism and fascism. In December, columnist Dana Milbank wrote:

“The country is in an existential struggle between self-governance and an authoritarian alternative. And we in the news media, collectively, have given equal, if not slightly more favorable, treatment to the authoritarians.”

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen told CNN’s Brian Stelter:

“News organizations have to come out and say, we are pro-democracy, pro-truth, pro-science, pro- evidence, pro-voting. Then they have to figure out for each of those new pros, what practices are we going to retire because they don’t meet that standard, and what are we going to start to do routinely that we didn’t do before?”

Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein called on journalists to “cover democracy like it matters.” And columnist Margaret Sullivan despaired that “news organizations are not making democracy-under-siege a central focus of the work they present to the public.” The Columbia Journalism Review gave more journalistic failings regarding a support for democracy in the press. The Fourth Estate needs to consider democracy in the second year of Biden’s term. 

In addition to fighting the massive far-right media, Biden must push against a selfish criminal who, like many of his supporters, believes himself the legal president of the U.S., and the “mainstream” media, owned by conservatives, searching for excitement, not accuracy. Conservatives view Biden’s politeness as weakness and dementia, and opposition from a political party determined to win at any costs is considered lack of unity. Yet he’s brought the nation a long way in just 365 days.

November 30, 2021

Biden’s Successes, December Tribulations

In 2016, the mainstream media managed to get Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) into the White House, and it now seems to be pushing GOP candidate wins for the next two election cycles. Most of the news focuses on inflation, COVID, and the problems with Build Back Better, President Joe Biden’s proposed jobs/infrastructure bill. Missing is any focus on Biden’s successes such as the following.

Biden has signed bipartisan legislation examining disparities in VA disability ratings and benefits, provide military personnel jobs at federal facilities, promote tuition equality for military family survivors, and give a wide range of programs and benefits to mothers. Before Biden, DDT denigrated veterans, attempted to privatize the VA, and removed DDT benefits. He frequently lied he was responsible for Veterans’ Choice which President Obama signed in 2014. 

According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Amazon must permit their Alabama workers a second chance to form a union because the company illegally interfered  has directed that Amazon workers in Alabama get a second chance at forming a union after finding that the company illegally interfered with an earlier union election. Amazon spent millions for anti-union consultants and police to intimidate workers the union supporters and installed a mailbox at the warehouse for workers to mail their ballots. The company likely surveilled the mailbox. Amazon is already lobbying against the union with its statement that workers have a choice but unions are not “the best answer for our employees.”

After a five-month break, world powers began talks to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The reward for the Iranians is liberation from hundreds of western economic sanctions if they stop building their nuclear program, started after DDT took the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018. Talks are among Iran, Russia, China, the UK, France, Germany, and the EU, but Iran doesn’t allow the U.S. delegation to be directly involved. Iran has new demands including financial compensation from the U.S. for previous sanctions and a guarantee that the U.S. will not again leave the new agreement. Time is of he essence: Iran may be only four to six weeks away from its amassing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapons.

The agreement was easier to effect the first time in 2015 because Iran now has a much more conservative government than now. Without an agreement, Iranians promise to “further escalate its nuclear program.” Iran is already enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, beyond the levels permitted by the earlier agreement, and now taking steps to increase the process to 90 percent. The deal was working until DDT pulled out despite advice from all top members of his national security team. At that point, Iran became much more dangerous, and the situation continues to be more serious with DDT’s failed policy.

Although Biden isn’t yet stopped drilling on public lands and waters, he recommends increased charges for oil and gas companies. The Interior Department report also wants no leasing in areas conflicting with wildlife or conservation and prioritizing leasing areas with resource potential.

Biden is proposing a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and its ten-mile radius, a sacred tribal site. The Bureau of Land Management will set aside the land for two years to conduct an environmental analysis and gather public comment. Existing leases and drilling rights will not be affected. The government also will prioritize improving public safety for Native Americans who have sought assistance for 2,700 unsolved killings and 1,500 missing persons cases in their jurisdictions.

Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate potential illegalities in high gas costs. He wrote that “the price of unfinished gasoline is down more than 5 percent while gas prices at the pump are up 3 percent in [the past month]. This unexplained large gap between the price of unfinished gasoline and the average price at the pump is well above the pre-pandemic average.” U.S. oil and gas companies have amassed significant profits with two of the biggest ones nearly doubling their net income since 2019, according to Biden. “They have announced plans to engage in billions of dollars of stock buybacks and dividends this year or next.” Biden has no control over gas prices, but he has released 50 million barrels of oil from reserves.  

Five other countries—China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the UK—are taking similar actions. Both Democratic and GOP presidents have taken oil from reserves about 20 times since they were created in 1975. In an attempt to make himself look good, DDT lied about how the “reserves are meant to be used for serious emergencies, like war, and nothing else.” He also lied about the Reserves being empty when he took over—they weren’t—and that how he “filled them up three years ago, right to the top”—he didn’t because they are far less full when he left. DDT also claimed he had bought the oil, but the government gets the oil in royalties for drilling leases. Thanks to unfettered capitalism, the oil industry is making enormous profits.

Most coastlines along continental U.S. may have offshore windfarms from lease auctions for up to seven new areas. Federal approval for the first U.S. commercial-scale offshore wind farm in May. The first leases will be on the East Coast because the Pacific waters are deeper close to shore than on the East Coast, causing difficulty in attaching turbines to the seafloor. Turbines in the Gulf of Mexico must have to cope with hurricanes and soft soils.

For months, GOP senators have blocked Biden’s diplomatic appointments, and top Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) wants his colleagues to stop stalling the 60 pending foreign-policy nominations on the Senate floor. The most constant obstructionists, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), have accepted only four U.S. ambassador nominations, either former senators or their widows. The rest are being held up because Biden lifted sanctions on the Russia-backed company behind its gas pipeline to Germany, Nord Stream 2. 

Obsessed with the one-month increase of inflation in the U.S. to a 6.2 percent annual rate, the media ignored its rise around the world. In 46 countries, 39 are higher than the 2019 third quarter with 16 of them over 2 percent higher. The U.S. has the eighth-highest annual inflation rate among these countries. The pattern is largely the same: inflation stayed flat during the worst of the pandemic and rose when countries worked their way back to something like normal.

The economy, however, has good markers in consumer spending data and job creation. In October, retail sales rose 1.7 percent, and new jobs reported large increases in August and September revisions. For June through September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported underestimated job growth by 626,000 jobs, the largest underestimate of any other comparable period back to 1979. Job revisions don’t get the same media attention as initial monthly figures, thus fewer people are aware of these successes. The job growth reports have been vastly underreported since Biden was inaugurated. The inaccurate, pro-DDT numbers come from DDT-appointed William Beach, the head of Bureau of Labor Statistics who had previously worked for the Heritage Foundation and a Charles Koch research center. Beach is also responible for the Consumer Price Index, recently claiming massive price increases. 

Last week, Reuters reported the 71,000 drop of weekly jobless claims to 199,000, a 52-year low, and a reduction of 60,000 to continuing claims. With 531,000 new jobs in October, unemployment dropped to 4.6 percent, not seen since November 1969. The third-quarter GDP growth was revised up to 2.1 percent with the possibility of 8.6 percent for the last quarter. The goods trade deficit also sharply narrowed last months with surging exports.

GOP congressional stalling has led to a December time crunch. If both chambers don’t agree on funding the government by December 3, the government closes down. In September, Congress passed a continuing resolution with the December deadline; it could pass another CR until February or March to finalize the 2022 appropriations bill. In this omnibus bill, the House has passed ten of 12 smaller spending measures, but the Senate has been successful for only three of them.

The debt ceiling must be raised by December 15 so that the government can pay its bills. The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt, which would be catastrophic, but many unprecedented events have ocurred in the past five years. No matter how destructive to the U.S., Republicans don’t want to vote for raising the debt ceiling despite the way they and DDT increased it by $7.9 trillion during DDT’s time in the White House.

In addition, Democrats in the Senate want to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill, Build Back Better, which requires dealing with Democratic senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Krysten Sinema (AZ). And there’s more—the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual must-pass bill. The NDAA has passed Congress every year for six decades despite the need one year to override DDT’s veto. One glitch is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) attempt to connect it to the U.S. Innovation and Competition ACT (USICA) for $250 billion to oppose China’s technological and defense gains. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also wants to remove military sex crimes prosecution from the chain of command and include women in the draft. The NDAA has 1,000 amendments, including repealing the 1991 Gulf War and 2002 Iraq War authorizations.

December 1 opens more opposition from the Republicans to anything helping the country.

October 9, 2021

Reversing DDT’s Policies

Today in Iowa, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) ranted about his lost election, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who condemned DDT less than a year ago, stood beside him, hoping to be re-elected next year at the age of 89. Meanwhile, the U.S. is quashing DDT’s push to destroy protections for U.S. residents.

Twenty state attorneys general have filed a joint complaint against DDT’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for his new crippling rules to delay mail delivery including elimination of working hours, slower first-class mail delivery, and removal of equipment, delaying delivery of prescriptions, bills, Social Security checks, rent payments, etc. DeJoy’s 10-year plan to use trucks for hauling mail instead of airplanes would be accompanied by changing post office locations and increase postal rates. Thirty percent of standard mail delivery would drop from a 3-day maximum to five days, increase the cost of every piece of mail an addition three percent to nine percent, and not reduce the USPS budget deficit. AGs maintain the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), providing independent oversight of the USPS, permitted the new harmful plans to go into effect without appropriate review. The independent postal services is the only federal agency required to be self-sustaining.

DeJoy is making money off a $120 million contract between XPO Logistics, which he led, and USPS. Former White House chief ethics lawyer testified to Congress that DeJoy probably violated federal conflict of interest rules “unless he has recused from so many matters at the USPS that he is not fully functioning as Postmaster General.” DeJoy also bought stocks in Amazon at a lower price with options, another conflict of interest because of the company’s shipping arrangement for the USPS. The FBI is also investigating DeJoy for potentially pressuring his former employees at XPO Logistics to donate to GOP candidates before using his company funds to reimburse them.

Wisconsin is heading into a fake “audit” of the 2020 presidential election ballots with no evidence of any fraud. No Cyber Ninjas this time—instead GOP legislators picked former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, a “Stop the Steal” activist, to oversee the probe. Gableman went not only to Arizona to look at the event but also to South Dakota to attend the “symposium” run by conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, My Pillow’s CEO. At the same time Gableman is subpoenaing mayors and elections for readily available information, he announced he has no “understanding” of how elections should run. The subpoenas are for “all documents contained in your files and/or in your custody, possession,” millions of pages from the state and its five biggest cities. Wisconsin taxpayers are $680,000 for ignorance and failure for Gableman’s “audit.”

Lindell also caused the audit of three Idaho counties which he claimed had fraudulent votes. Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck is billing Lindell for the $6,500 cost. Lindell accused all 44 Idaho counties of “electronic manipulation,” but at least seven counties don’t use this method. He also declared votes in every county in Idaho, which supported DDT by 31 percent, and every county in the nation was off by 8.4. The audit found a 0.1 percent of margin of error in all three counties. Alabama dismissed a Lindell’s claim that the state had 100,000 votes switched from DDT to President Joe Biden.

The Education Department will relax rules retroactively for its Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan, allowing student loans for 22,000 people to be automatically erased. Another 27,000 borrowers could have debts erased if they prove they worked in public service when making payments previously declared ineligible. In the past, loan payments were disqualified for either being received late or slightly different from the required amount, even by a few cents. Different payment plans will also count toward forgiveness because of misleading information from the federal government and loan companies. Over 550,000 borrowers may now fast-forward their path to loan forgiveness.

After a Senate hearing, the Department of Justice is reviewing two former FBI agents accused of mishandling the sexual abuse investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar against at least 330 girls and women. Four famous female gymnasts testified to the FBI’s lack of accountability and inaction. It is highly unusual for the DOJ to consider reopening a case without charges, but the department’s Inspector General found major missteps by the FBI in 2015 which permitted Nassar to victimize scores more patients before state authorities arrested him the next year. According to the report, Supervisory Special Agent Michael Langement, fired a month ago, lied to the inspector officer’s officer in interviews during 2020 and 2021. W. Jay Abbott, the head of the FBI’s Indianapolis office, also talked to Stephen Penny, the president of the USA Gymnastics, about getting a job with the Olympic Committee during the Nassar allegations in late 2015. Later Abbott lied to the inspector general about seeking the job, and Penny resigned from his job and was charged with evidence-tampering regarding sex abuse. The FBI also failed to alert state authorities about Nassar’s possible sex crimes against children. Nassar, 58, was sentence to 40 to 175 years in prison.  

DDT kept trying to drop salaries for federal employees, but Biden plans to raise wages an average of 2.7 percent on January 1 and signed an executive order directing federal contractors to pay employees a minimum wage of $15 by March 30, 2022.

Changes by the Federal Emergency Management Agent (FEMA) will ease the method for verifying ownership for disaster relief applicants who lack certain legal documents for inherited property. The former system discriminated against Blacks in the Deep South who need help to rebuild after catastrophic storms such as Hurricane Ida. Many Blacks informally inherited property without written wills, a process known as heirs’ property, previously denied under FEMA rules. FEMA will now send inspectors to people without the documentation for property ownership. In majority-Black counties, FEMA’s denial rate regarding “title issues” is twice the national average. Other people suffering from FEMA’s former rules include Native Americans, people in Appalachia, and those in communities near the U.S.-Mexico border.

By the end of the year, the Commerce Department will shut down its 15-year-old security unit illegally making criminal investigations and collecting information on hundreds of its employees and other citizens. With no oversight, the 13-person Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) opened cases against people who simply wrote innocuous letters to the department’s top official. Because almost no case was closed, people in almost 2,000 cases continued to be classified as still under scrutiny. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) called the ITMS a “rogue, unaccountable police force” that “opened frivolous investigations on a variety of employees without evidence suggesting wrongdoing.” The unit covertly searched offices at night, ran broad key word searches on emails, and examined social media accounts for critical comments about the census.

A federal judge tossed DDT’s rule scaling back protections for streams, marshes, and wetlands, saying that it could lead to “serious environmental harm.” The ruling from the District of Arizona applies nationwide and protects drinking water for millions of people and thousands of wildlife species depending on U.S. wetland acreage. Since a 1972 law prohibited the pollution of “waters of the United States” without a permit, courts and agencies have debated which waterways. Agencies will now return to water protections of the 1980s, less restrictive than those of President Obama but far more expansive than DDT’s guidelines. The judge’s ruling requires a permit for strip-mining for titanium in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.  

Four years ago DDT reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase in half, the biggest reversal of U.S. land monument protections in history. Biden restored Bears Ears to 1.36 million acres and Grand Staircase to 1.87 million acres, both areas having cultural and religious importance for Native American tribes. A lawsuit by environmental and tribal leaders against DDT has been on hold since Biden issued an executive order in January to examine the matter. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, threatens to sue Biden for his action.

Biden has also announced his plan to restore climate change protections to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and return the requirement for federal agencies to “evaluate all the relevant environmental impacts of the decisions they are making” for projects such as highways, mines, gas pipelines and water infrastructure. DDT’s removal of these mandates caused confusion and litigation.

In another reversed DDT rule, Biden will no longer prevent clinics receiving Title X family planning aid from advising people about terminating their pregnancies starting November 8. Under DDT’s rule preventing information about abortions, Title X grants served 2.4 fewer patients. The Hyde Amendment blocks federal money from directly paying for abortions, but DDT stopped clinics from sending patients where they can receive abortions. Biden also lifted the “Mexico City Policy” preventing worldwide nonprofit organizations from receiving any U.S. global family aid if they perform or promote abortions. DDT had expanded the ban to all U.S. international aid.

The Bureau of Land Management is returning to Washington, D.C. DDT’s decision to move the agency’s headquarters to Grand Junction (CO), causing almost 90 percent of the 328 former headquarters staff to retire, quit, or leave for other jobs. Ultimately, only three people relocated to the West, leaving 80 vacancies.  

The Washington, D.C. District Court ordered the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to take action by the end of the month on complaints against the NRA for its shell companies coordinating campaign spending with federal candidates. In the past, Republican FEC board members blocked the commission from asking the FBI to look into the NRA laundering Russian money into DDT’s campaign.

July 18, 2021

Biden Quietly Moves Ahead for Six Months

President Joe Biden continues his accomplishments:

Throughout the U.S., 88 percent of families have received the first direct deposit for their children, $300 per child under the age of six and $250 for each child from 6 through 17. Previous tax credits excluded the poorest third of children because parents didn’t pay income taxes, but families making $400,000 would receive full payments. Now the poorest families receive the money, but the top limit is $150,000 for families. If everyone deserving the checks receives them, child poverty can be reduced by 40 percent—even more with stimulus checks. More details here.

Protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest include a ban on large-scale old-growth logging and road development on over nine million acres. Part of one of the world’s remaining relatively intact temperate rainforests has been the only national forest with industrial old-growth logging.

To eliminate a huge backlog of asylum cases, AG Merrick Garland reversed DDT’s immigration policy preventing immigration judges from closing low-priority cases and removing them from their dockets. Because of DDT, 1.3 million immigration cases wait to be heard in the U.S.

Garland also temporarily blocked executions of federal inmates, because of exonerations after death sentences and discrimination against minorities. He has directed a review of recent policy changes. After almost 20 years of no federal executions, DDT’s AG Bill Barr executed 13 people, more than in all 50 states combined.

The DOJ eliminated former AG Jeff Sessions’ decision to allow asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence in their home countries. Garland also vacated a decision during DDT’s term refusing asylum to a Mexican man targeted by cartel La Familia Michoacana because the man’s father refused to sell the cartel’s drugs in his store.

Biden plans to increase the U.S. annual refugee admissions cap of 62,500 for the current fiscal year to 125,000 next year.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will provide gender-confirmation surgery through its health-care coverage by reversing a 2013 ban. According to the VA, fewer than 4,000 veterans would have this surgery although it is estimated that about 134,000 veterans are transgender. The VA is also changing the name from LGBT health program to LGBTQ+ Health Program for inclusiveness.

The Antiviral Program for Pandemics will provide $3.2 billion for clinical trials of antiviral medication treating COVID-19 and other potential epidemic viruses. Treatments, called protease inhibitors which inhibit an enzyme needed to replicate the virus in human cells, could be distributed by the end of 2021. Protease inhibitors are already used for HIV and hepatitis C.

Federal loans will be cancelled for 18,000 ITT Technical Institute students defrauded by the for-profit chain, shut down in 2016. During DDT’s term, 34,000 former students petitioned to cancel their debt under the “borrower defense to repayment” but were refused. ITT Tech consistently lied to students about their ability to transfer credit to other schools as well as about employment and earnings prospects after graduation.

Biden’s new executive order limits noncompete clauses designed to keep low wages by blocking tens of millions of private-sector employees from moving to better-paying jobs for any reason. These clauses, originally to keep employees from passing along corporate secrets, are now for even low-wage services with no justification. Another part of the sweeping order to open up “fair competition” tries to lower prescription drug prices and cracks down on internet service providers by promoting competition. Biden said:

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation. Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans that means accepting a bad deal for things you can’t go without.”

Biden called for the return of net neutrality rules to block broadband companies from selectively blocking, slowing, or speeding up websites. He also called for greater scrutiny of mergers, including those already completed and “killer acquisitions,” the takeover of competitors showing potential.

Another Biden order permits independent repairs on devices and equipment, including electronics, and removes repair monopolies. It also directs federal agencies to create consumer- and worker-protecting rules across the broadband, agricultural, transportation, and technology industries. More than half the states have considered right-to-repair legislation, protecting rights for people to fix their own possessions.

Three million adults will not be removed from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and one million children will continue to have free school lunches. A judge had ruled against DDT’s changes, and ARPA expanded Snap benefits by 15 percent through September 2021.

Biden dropped DDT’s ban on apps TikTok and WeChat to conduct a review of apps tied to foreign adversaries.

The Defense Production Act Loan Program must guarantee its funds can be used only for direct Covid-19 response and medical-related supply chain projects after DDT used it as a military slush fund.

DDT’s war on so-called “sanctuary cities” is over after Biden repealed the former policy preventing federal funds from those areas.

At the end of DDT’s term, his Energy Department changed the limits on water flow so he could wash his “beautiful head of hair.” Biden reversed DDT’s rule, allowing the same limits established by the industry in 2013.

Last week, Senate Democrats announced an agreement on the $3.5 trillion budget during the next ten years. Federal resources will go into helping climate change, healthcare, and family-service programs. Assistance goes to the U.S. drought and fire crises, individuals, and the economy, ravaged by the pandemic, moving toward long-term growth. Part of the budget expands vision, hearing, and dental benefits for Medicare recipients.

Last week, Biden’s nominee for the Census Bureau, Robert Santos, testified before the Senate that has still not confirmed over 200 of Biden’s appointments. The abrupt departure of Steven Dillingham in January after complaints about his attempt to rush out an incomplete data report on noncitizens has left the position vacant since then. The bureau will release data by August 16 despite Alabama’s federal lawsuit about the bureau’s privacy protection plans which has been blocked by the court.

Biden can replace the chief of the Federal Housing Finance Agency overseeing mortgagers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mark Calabria, appointed by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), has been replaced by a deputy agency director Sandra Thompson as acting director. Calabria wanted to privatize the government agency that helps people to buy their homes and keeps mortgages low.

Biden also removed Rodney Scott, head of the U.S. Border Patrol. Earlier this year, Scott, a supporter of DDT who appointed him in all his policies including building the wall, refused to comply with Biden’s administration directive to stop using the term “illegal aliens” for undocumented immigrants. He claimed the Border Patrol would lose public trust if agents were forced to use terms “inconsistent with law.”

DDT’s Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul is also gone. DDT’s anti-union pick to curb benefits, 74-year-old Saul, was fired after he refused to resign. His DDT-appointed deputy, David Black, resigned upon request.  Saul delayed stimulus checks for millions of disabled people by trying to make them reestablish their eligibility for benefits. A former women’s apparel executive and current GOP donor, he served on a conservative think tank calling for Social Security cuts. Saul declared Biden couldn’t make him leave, but last year the Supreme Court ruled that the president can remove directors, for example that of the consumer Financial Protection bureau. When Saul wouldn’t leave, his access to agency computers was cut off in his Katonah (NY) home where he worked for 17 months. Saul’s acting replacement, Kilolo Kijakazi, is undoing Saul’s policies and planning the safe reopening of the department’s 1,200 field offices.

Biden has two infrastructure bills, a bipartisan agreement with enough GOP support to pass investing $579 billion in new spending for domestic needs and another one for “human infrastructure” from healthcare to housing to be passed through the reconciliation process like the ARPA Act last March. Originally, the former plan would be partially financed by enforcing IRS debts by the wealthy, but Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said the GOP doesn’t want to make rich people pay their owed income taxes, up to $1 trillion for the past year, according to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.    

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told his Senate GOP comrades to walk out and deny a quorum for the reconciliation bill. His tactic requires all 50 GOP senators to leave, and the departure of any one of them reduces the number necessary for a majority of the vote.

DDT’s White evangelical base is rapidly shrinking, according to the 2020 Census of American Religions, dropping from 23 percent in 2006 to 14.5 percent last year.

People are far more optimistic and happier now, according to a new Gallup poll: 59.2 percent say they’re thriving, and 73 percent said they experienced enjoyment for much of the previous day. The first is the highest since the poll began 13 years earlier, and the second is the highest since the beginning of the pandemic almost 18 months ago.

June 6, 2021

Some Political News of Cheer

Filed under: Joe Biden — trp2011 @ 10:50 PM
Tags: ,

Yesterday Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) gave his first major speech since February. Looking for attention, he was sure to be disappointed after no major news networks, including Fox, broadcast his low-energy, whining 85 minutes. Only the right-wing networks Newsmax and One America News aired the event. DDT did gain attention from wearing pants with no front zipper, producing claims that he might have put them on backwards. About DDT’s hopes to be instated to the White House in August, his former campaign manager Corey Landowski told Fox network earlier in the day that DDT “lost the election.”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is obviously the president. On Memorial Day, he commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in person, the first of 18 presidents to take part in this remembrance. Rejecting the long-time descriptor of attacks by Whites that decimated the upper-middle class community of Blacks as a “race riot,” he said, “This was not a riot; this was a massacre.” One-hundred years ago, a violent white supremacist mob destroyed 1,100 Black homes and businesses in under 24 hours. Insurance refused claims, and officials refused to prosecute anyone. At Biden’s speech and earlier testifying at a House hearing were three survivors: Viola Fletcher, 107; Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106; and Hughes Van Ellis, 100. In his speech, Biden said:

“Terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today,” he said. “Not ISIS, not al Qaeda. White supremacy.”

More Biden actions:

Signing an anti-corruption national security memo, directing federal agencies and departments to report, within 30 days, best ways to fight global corruption. Biden’s memo lists problems fostered by the former administration: erosion of public trust, the chance for authoritarian leaders to flourish and subvert democracy, an increase in security concerns, and economic damage.

Ending DDT’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, forcing possible asylum seekers to remain in danger outside the U.S. to await the resolution of their immigration cases.

Reversing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain by suspending nine leases issued the few days before DDT left the White House. Biden will conduct a new environmental review of the program to determine the 10-year leases’ status. No major oil companies bid on the leases, and seven of them went to a state-owned agency.

Reviewing and revising DDT’s regulations to roll back protections for endangered and threatened species. DDT’s rules would have allowed more oil and gas drilling as well as limited considerations of climate crisis impacts.

Complying with a March court ruling that found DDT acted unlawfully in 2019 by eliminating limits on pork plant line speeds and ignoring injury risks to workers. Plant owners have until the end of the month to reduce speeds to the legal limit of 18 hogs per minute. High speeds are correlated with musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, and amputations. DDT allowed eight large plants to increase speeds as much as they wanted and replaced USDA inspectors on slaughter lines with their own employees. The court did not rule on the latter problem.

Expanding access to legal representation and the courts. Biden’s memorandum requires a plan from the attorney general, within 120 days, to submit a plan increasing the DOJ’s “access to justice work.” The memorandum also re-establishes the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable to prioritize civil legal aid and expand access to federal programs, established in 2015 and eliminated in the last administration. Its purpose is to “raise federal agencies’ awareness of how civil legal aid could increase employment, family stability, housing security, consumer protection, and public safety.”

Signing a hate crimes law after rising attacks on Asian Americans. Overwhelming support in the Congress passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, making the reporting of hate crimes more accessible at local and state levels, by boosting public outreach, and ensuring multiple languages online for reporting resources. A point person will expedite review of hate crimes related to COVID-19, and the law authorizes grants to state and local governments for crime-reduction programs preventing and responding to hate crimes. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the only senator in opposition, and 62 House Republicans voted against the bill.

Encouraging more COVID vaccinations by moving the process to barbershops and hair salons, known as hubs of the Black communities, during “a national month of action.” Biden’s goal is to have 70 percent of adult people in the U.S. have at least one shot by the Fourth of July. Other perks include free food delivery, baseball tickets, Xboxes, and lotteries for cruise tickets, groceries for a year, and airline flights. Over 63 percent of adults have been vaccinated.

Removing four members on Commission on Fine Arts appointed by DDT on January 12. The seven-member Commission, all DDT-appointed, was part of DDT’s executive order mandating classical architecture for all new federal buildings to create his preferred national style. Leader of the push on the Commission for classical style, Justin Shubow, refused to resign, saying he had been appointed for four years. Biden told him he could leave voluntarily or be terminated the same day. Biden plans a wider range of aesthetic viewpoints including an architect who worked on the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

More progress:

After Europeans persecuted Native Americans in America for over four centuries, Supreme Court justices unanimously affirmed the sovereign power of American Indian tribes to temporarily detain and search non-Indians on public rights-of-way through Indian lands. Although local governments in the U.S. can investigate and prosecute both misdemeanors and felonies, tribal governments lost their ability to prosecute non-Indians for crimes in Indian country through a 1978 Supreme Court decision. Instead, tribes had to rely on state and federal governments for this prosecution, and most non-Indians committed crimes on Indian land with impunity. The new ruling permits tribal police, usually first responders, to search non-Indians suspected of state or federal crimes on Indian land and detain them until delivering them to the appropriate authorities.

DDT-supporters are so fixated on removing any information about Blacks in the United States that the leaders of the American Legion post in Hudson (OH) cut off retired Army Lt. Col Barnard Kemter’s microphone on Memorial Day when he spoke about the earlier commemoration being organized by Black people. The chair of the Memorial Day parade committee had asked Kempter, a veteran of 30 years service, to omit this information. When he didn’t, she and the American Legion post officer/president cut his sound. The audio engineer told Kempter that event organizers tampered with the volume. Kempter’s speech told how Blacks honored Union soldiers who died as prisoners of war by properly burying them, decorating their graves, and organizing a parade for them. The president resigned, and the post’s charter is suspended “pending permanent closure.”  

The FBI is investigating a scheme to illegally finance Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-ME) 2020 re-election: a Hawaii defense contractor may have funneled $150,000 to the pro-Collins super PAC. She helped the contractor obtain an $8 million Navy contract before the transactions. CEO of the contracting company, Martin Kao, was indicted last year for allegedly cheating the federal government of millions in coronavirus relief loans. Bank records show an illegal “straw” donation because the company reimbursed some of Kao’s colleagues for their contributions and Kao illegally reimbursed family members who donated to the PAC. Collins’ spokesperson said Collins knew nothing about the donations. Government contractors cannot legally donate to federal political committees.

The 182-year-old Virginia Military Institute (VMI) has a “racist and sexist culture,” according to an independent investigation. It has a fierce resistance to change and a fear of retaliation among anyone wishing to report bigotry or sexual misconduct. “Institutional racism and sexism are present, tolerated, and left unaddressed at VMI,” according to the report that recommends a sweeping reform plan with quarterly reports to the state.

Half the Black students “strongly or somewhat agree,” whereas only ten percent of White students do. Some White cadets insist the problem at VMI is racism against Whites. Those surveyed said the military academy’s gender equity issues are worse than the racial ones. Fourteen percent of female cadets reported they had been sexually assaulted, and 63 percent of female cadets said another cadet had told them about being sexually assaulted. Female students said, “Male cadets treat [campus sexual assault training] as a joke and an opportunity for misogynistic humor, without consequence.”

The report also criticized the school for not cooperating with the investigation and denying any serious problems on campus. Despite stalling in the beginning months of the probe at VMI, however, change has started. The longtime superintendent resigned and been replaced by the first Black superintendent in the school’s history. He determined VMI will stop publicly shaming expelled students from violating the honor code by announcing their names in middle-of-the-night “drum out” ceremonies. The school also removed the statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, slave owner and VMI professor, after years of students objecting to its presence.

A Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut carbon emissions 45 percent by 2030 compared with 2019 levels. This ruling may set climate litigation into motion.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the turning point against the Nazis in World War II. May the U.S.—and the world—defeat the authoritarianism of the past few years.

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