Monday Reads: Biden/Harris Administration gives voice to Women in Leadership Positions

Symone Sanders will be the chief spokesperson and advisor for VP Harris

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Women Economists may finally be coming into our own with our own.  I spent decades being the only American woman in the classroom and the boardroom and was frequently the CEO’s brain much to the chagrin of several Marketing Departments.

It’s just amazing to see Janet Yellen shatter a glass ceiling yet again. You may recall that I live blogged a speech of hers in Denver for the FMA meetings here awhile back before she was promoted as the first women to serve as Fed Chair.   She’s one of the most competent, cool headed leaders I’ve ever met.  She was key to the last economic recovery and I’m certain she’ll handle this one with aplomb.

Biden also announced some amazing women to run the White House Communications and to key National Security Positions.  I’m going to highlight a few in the news today.

This is from the AP link above.

 President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced his senior economic team, including his plans to nominate the first woman to head the Treasury Department as well as several liberal economists and policy specialists who established their credentials during the previous two Democratic administrations.

In a statement, Biden said he would nominate Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, to lead the Treasury Department, and former Clinton and Obama adviser Neera Tanden to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He also named Wally Adeyemo, a former Obama administration official and the first CEO of the former president’s nonprofit foundation, as his nominee for deputy treasury secretary. He also unveiled his White House economic team, consisting of economists Cecilia Rouse, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.

Biden, who has placed a premium on diversity in his selection of Cabinet nominees and key advisers, is looking to notch a few firsts with his economic team selections. Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department and Adeyemo the first Black deputy secretary. Tanden would be the first woman of color to lead OMB and Rouse the first woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.

I about fell over today when I saw this tweet:

Neera Tanden speaking at the University of Michigan in 2018

The Trumpists are after Ms Tanden like flies diving a glass of fine wine.  They’re joined by the gnats of the “progressive” left also which has been the alignment of things since Hillary ran for office.  So, Republicans think she a liberal activist and way too socialist while the socialist wannabes on left think she’s a capitalist potted plant.  Republicans intend to fight the nomination but it sounds like it’s because she hurt their little fee fees while she was running the Center for American Progress.  Sheesh, these Republican old Men are such wimps!

A spokesperson for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Sunday that President-elect Joe Biden’s reported pick to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has “no chance” of being confirmed by the Senate should Republicans remain in control next year.

In a tweet, Cornyn spokesman Drew Brandewie said that Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden’s past history of “disparaging comments about the Republican Senators’ whose votes she’ll need” made her confirmation highly unlikely. Tanden would need 51 votes in the Senate to become head of the OMB; Democrats currently control 48 seats in the Senate, though they are hoping to pick up two more in Georgia as the state’s Senate elections head to runoffs in January.

You can read the bios of both women and others here at Build Back Better Government.  There’s a section on each of the areas where appointments have been announced. Including, that of my fellow Omahan Symone Sanders pictured above and her colleagues in the White House Communications area.

Yellen may fare better in confirmation hearings.

Dr. Cecilia Elena Rouse soon to be Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors

Biden and Harris will receive their first official briefing to day according to the Hill.

The briefing is a collection of high-level intelligence information and other materials pertinent to issues of national security prepared for the president by senior officials and advisers.

A president-elect typically begins receiving the briefings in the weeks before they are inaugurated to ensure a smooth transition process and protect the nation’s interests at home and abroad. The White House reportedly signed off on the briefings for Biden last week.

Since he was projected as the winner of the presidential election earlier this month, Biden has spent the last several weeks meeting with members of his transition team and rolling out Cabinet picks.

Last week, Biden announced the following key Cabinet nominations: Antony Blinken to be secretary of State, Avril Haines to be director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas as head of Homeland Security.

Trump still refuses to conceded and even today, they’re still rolling out Election conspiracy stuff.  Here’s Amanda Marcotte’s take via Slate.

On Sunday morning, Donald Trump let loose with what may be his most unhinged performance yet — which is really saying something — of his extended effort to pretend the election was stolen from him by President-elect Joe Biden. In a 45-minute interview on Fox News with host Maria Bartiromo, which was more like an uninterrupted dramatic monologue, Trump unloaded an absolute truckload of lies. He lied about ballots and voting machines, claiming that millions of fake votes were recorded. He suggested the FBI was “involved” in the imaginary conspiracy against him. He even said he “came up” with the coronavirus vaccines, a claim that is utterly ludicrous but will be swallowed without complaint by all the people who still mock Al Gore for claiming to have “invented” the internet — which Gore never actually said.

What’s especially weird about this whole situation is that Trump is doubling down on these false claims in the face of an epic failure to get his attempted coup off the ground. The recount that Trump demanded in Wisconsin — although his campaign only paid for a recount in two overwhelmingly Democratic counties — not only affirmed Biden’s win in that state, but increased the president-elect’s total by 87 votes. Meanwhile, Trump’s losing streak in the courts only got worse over the weekend, with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissing one Trump lawsuit with prejudice (meaning he can’t sue again regarding this matter) and another suit failing in the Third Circuit federal appeals court.

“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president,” federal judge Stephanos Bibas — a Trump appointee! — wrote in deciding the latter case.

And yet, Trump continues to invite more humiliation. He continued to rant on Twitter, promising, “We have some big things happening in our various litigations on the Election Hoax.” (Whoever he means by “we,” they do not.)

Worse yet, Trump has an army of liars at his disposal: The right-wing punditry, spread out across radio, TV and the internet, is largely bolstering these utterly false claims that the election was “rigged” and that Trump will somehow prevail in his efforts to steal the White House.

There are multiple reasons for this. Trump’s black hole of an ego makes it impossible for him to admit he lost the election, first of all. Most right-wing pundits are increasingly consumed by an authoritarian ideology that’s opposed to democracy, and they view these lies as a good way to undermine public trust. Republican politicians are eager to delegitimize Biden’s presidency, and also to lay the groundwork for more voter suppression tactics. By falsely accusing Democrats of cheating, in other words, Republicans create cover for their real-life cheating.

But as is usually the case with right-wing politics in the 21st century, a lot of this is about money. Trump’s voting base is a sea of suckers. He and the various grifters who make up most of the right-wing media are eager to drain those suckers dry. Stoking anger over the lost election and feeding people’s fantasies about stealing it is, by all appearances, a cash bonanza.

Rudy is currently going bonkers in Arizona and yes, the dead body of Hugo Chavez is once again in play.  He’s been resurrected more times than Jesus, I swear.

 

So, we’ve got like 50 days of the shit to endure.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: Not Funny

Happy Sunday…

This is no joke:

Peace out!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Cat playing, Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe

Cat playing, by Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe

Good Afternoon!!

With just 53 more days until the inauguration, Trump is dreaming up ways to make things more difficult for Joe Biden and for the American people by undermining U.S. foreign policy, hurting the military, damaging the environment and public health, hurting federal employees, and making sure the coronavirus pandemic kills as many people as possible. He even plans to troll Biden’s inauguration.

It’s not clear what Trump had to do with the murder of an Iranian nuclear scientist, but he isn’t objecting to it. Pompeo was traveling around the Middle East shortly before it happened.

The Guardian: Iran scientist’s assassination appears intended to undermine nuclear deal.

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may not much have impact on the Iranian nuclear programme he helped build, but it will certainly make it harder to salvage the deal intended to restrict that programme, and that is – so far – the most plausible motive.

Israel is widely agreed to be the most likely perpetrator. Mossad is reported to have been behind a string of assassinations of other Iranian nuclear scientists – reports Israeli officials have occasionally hinted were true.

Photo by  Walker Evans

Photo by Walker Evans

According to former officials, the Obama administration leaned on Israel to discontinue those assassinations in 2013, as it started talks with Tehran that led two years later to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), by which Iran accepted constraints on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

It would be a fair guess that Joe Biden would also oppose such assassinations when he takes office on 20 January and tries to reconstitute the JCPOA – which has been left wounded but just about alive in the wake of Donald Trump’s withdrawal in 2018.

If Mossad was indeed behind the assassination, Israel had a closing window of opportunity in which to carry it out with a green light from an American president, and there seems little doubt that Trump, seeking to play a spoiler role in his last weeks in office, would have given approval, if not active assistance. He is reported to have asked for military options in Iran, in the aftermath of his election defeat.

“I think they would have had to get a green light from Washington. I don’t think they would do it without,” Dina Esfandiary, a fellow at the Century Foundation, said. “In terms of motive, I think it’s just pushing Iran to do something stupid to ensure that the Biden administration’s hands are tied when they come in to pursue negotiations and de-escalation.’

CNN: Iran’s supreme leader vows revenge after top nuclear scientist apparently assassinated.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has vowed revenge and to continue the country’s “scientific” activities after the killing of the country’s chief nuclear scientist, as top Iranian officials pile blame on Israel over the killing.

A-Feline-Family-Agnes-Augusta-Talboys-private-collection

A Feline Family, by Agnes Augusta Talboys

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who became the face of Iran’s controversial nuclear program, was killed in a district east of Tehran on Friday, in what Iranian officials are calling an assassination.

“There are two matters that people in charge should put in their to do list: 1- To follow up the atrocity and retaliate against those who were responsible for it. 2- To follow up Martyr Fakhrizadeh’s scientific and technical activities in all fields in which he was active,” Khamenei wrote Saturday in a tweet from an account often attributed to him, making a veiled reference to the country’s nuclear activities.

He added: “Our distinguished nuclear scientist in the defense of our country, Mr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by the oppressive enemies. This rare scientific mind lost his life for his everlasting great scientific work. He lost his life for God and the supreme leader. God shall reward him greatly.”

Trump is rushing to damage environmental protections and public health before he leaves office, and EPA employees are fighting back. The New York Times: E.P.A.’s Final Deregulatory Rush Runs Into Open Staff Resistance.

President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency was rushing to complete one of its last regulatory priorities, aiming to obstruct the creation of air- and water-pollution controls far into the future, when a senior career scientist moved to hobble it.

Jane Brown, Cat in a restaurant window, Penzance, circa 1060

Photo by Jane Brown, Cat in a restaurant window, Penzance, circa 1060

Thomas Sinks directed the E.P.A.’s science advisory office and later managed the agency’s rules and data around research that involved people. Before his retirement in September, he decided to issue a blistering official opinion that the pending rule — which would require the agency to ignore or downgrade any medical research that does not expose its raw data — will compromise American public health.

“If this rule were to be finalized it would create chaos,” Dr. Sinks said in an interview in which he acknowledged writing the opinion that had been obtained by The New York Times. “I thought this was going to lead to a train crash and that I needed to speak up.”

With two months left of the Trump administration, career E.P.A. employees find themselves where they began, in a bureaucratic battle with the agency’s political leaders. But now, with the Biden administration on the horizon, they are emboldened to stymie Mr. Trump’s goals and to do so more openly.

The filing of a “dissenting scientific opinion” is an unusual move; it signals that Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the E.P.A., and his politically appointed deputies did not listen to the objections of career scientists in developing the regulation. More critically, by entering the critique as part of the official Trump administration record on the new rule, Dr. Sinks’s dissent will offer Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s E.P.A. administrator a powerful weapon to repeal the so-called “secret science” policy.

Trump is threatening to veto a defense bill because it includes instructions to remove Confederate names from military bases. NBC News:

President Donald Trump is threatening to veto legislation to fund the military as one of his final acts in office unless a widely supported, bipartisan provision to rename military bases honoring Confederate military leaders is removed, according to White House, defense and congressional sources.

Dream of a Cat, by Norbertine Breslern-Roth

Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump has privately told Republican lawmakers that he won’t back down from his position during the campaign that he would veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act if it includes an amendment to rename the bases….

Trump’s stance has put in doubt legislation that had been agreed to by Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate. It has sent members of Trump’s party scrambling to find a path for the defense bill, which outlines military policy and funding, and put them on a collision course with Democrats.

Trump is working to destroy protections for civil service employees. The Washington Post: Trump moves to strip job protections from White House budget analysts as he races to transform civil service.

The outgoing Trump administration is racing to enact the biggest change to the federal civil service in generations, reclassifying career employees at key agencies to strip their job protections and leave them open to being fired before Joe Biden takes office.

The move to pull off an executive order the president issued less than two weeks before Election Day — affecting tens of thousands of people in policy roles — is accelerating at the agency closest to the White House, the Office of Management and Budget.

The budget office sent a list this week of roles identified by its politically appointed leaders to the federal personnel agency for final sign-off. The list comprises 88 percent of its workforce — 425 analysts and other experts who would shift into a new job classification called Schedule F.

The employees would then be vulnerable to dismissal before Trump leaves office if they are considered poor performers or have resisted executing the president’s priorities, effectively turning them into political appointees that come and go with each administration.

1_jamiecampbell_Saddest-Kitten-2012

Photo by Jamie Campbell: Saddest Kitten

Trump’s Treasury secretary is working to make it harder for Biden to help Americans impacted by the pandemic. Fox Business: Mnuchin plans to move $455B in coronavirus relief out of Biden’s reach.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to move $455 billion in unspent coronavirus stimulus money into a fund that the incoming Biden administration cannot deploy without congressional approval, Bloomberg reported.

The CARES Act funding will be placed in the agency’s General Fund, a Treasury Department spokesperson told Bloomberg. If Mnuchin’s successor — Biden is widely expected to pick former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to fill the role — wants to access that money, she will need to receive Congress’ blessing….

Last week, Mnuchin said he would not extend several emergency loan programs set up with the Federal Reserve, prompting a rare criticism from the U.S. central bank. While the lending facilities have been little used so far, they were viewed as a vital backstop for the pandemic-ravaged economy.

The money is part of the $500 billion Treasury Department fund created at the end of March by the CARES Act. The Treasury Fund set aside $46 billion for loans and loan guarantees to the airline industry, and the remainder was designated to support Fed lending programs to businesses, states and municipalities.

And of course there’s the raging pandemic that Trump has not only ignored but enabled with his rallies and his mocking of public restr

CNN: US is ’rounding the corner into a calamity,’ expert says, with Covid-19 deaths projected to double soon.

As Thanksgiving week draws to an end, more experts are warning the Covid-19 pandemic will likely get much worse in the coming weeks before a possible vaccine begins to offer some relief.

Agnes Miller Parker, Siamise cat, 1950

Agnes Miller Parker, Siamise cat, 1950

More than 205,000 new cases were reported Friday — which likely consists of both Thursday and Friday reports in some cases, as at least 20 states did not report Covid-19 numbers on Thanksgiving.

The US has now reported more than 100,000 infections every day for 25 consecutive days, with a daily average of more than 166,000 across the last week — almost 2.5 times higher than the summer’s peak counts in July.

The number of Covid-19 patients in US hospitals is just off record levels: more than 89,800 on Friday, only a few hundred lower than the peak set a day earlier, according to the COVID Tracking Project….

Based on the current Covid-19 numbers in the US, the country is far from rounding the corner, she said.

“If anything, we are rounding the corner into a calamity,” Wen said. “We’re soon going to exceed well more than 2,000 deaths, maybe 3,000, 4,000 deaths every single day here in the US.”

That projection has been echoed by other experts including Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, who predicted Wednesday the country’s daily death toll would likely double in 10 days, and soon see “close to 4,000 deaths a day.”

Finally, Trump wants to cause problems for Biden’s inauguration and first term. I doubt if it will work, but it will be a national embarrassment. The Daily Beast: Trump’s Already Gaming Out a 2024 Run—Including an Event During Biden’s Inauguration.

In the twilight of his presidency, Donald Trump is discussing different ways to disrupt the impending Joe Biden era, chief among them by announcing another run against him.

According to three people familiar with the conversations, the president, who refuses to acknowledge he lost the 2020 election as he clearly did, has not just talked to close advisers and confidants about a potential 2024 run to reclaim the White House but about the specifics of a campaign launch. The conversations have explored, among other things, how Trump could best time his announcement so as to keep the Republican Party behind him for the next four years. Two of these knowledgeable sources said the president has, in the past two weeks, even floated the idea of doing a 2024-related event during Biden’s inauguration week, possibly on Inauguration Day, if his legal effort to steal the 2020 election ultimately fails.

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, the president has privately bragged that he’d still remain in the spotlight, even if Biden is in the Oval Office, in part because the news media will keep regularly covering him since—as Trump has assessed—he gets the news outlets ratings and those same outlets find Biden “boring.”

That’s it for me today. I hope you all are having a relaxing holiday weekend!


Friday Reads: Harvest of their Hands

Julien Dupre, circa 1880, In The Fields

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I hope you had a wonderful feast day!  It’s difficult for me not to think about how fortunate those of us with food and shelter are this year. I’ve watched the number of community fridges grow in my city and the food bank drive throughs are endlessly long. Unless Congress reups some kind of aid for those whose work and lives have been severely disrupted by Covid-19 we will continue to experience the kinds of things not really seen since the Great Depression.

Food Insecurity is on the rise.  Congressional Republicans seem completely disinterested.

Food insecurity appears to be on the rise across the country, worsened by the pandemic. Researchers from Northwestern University estimate food insecurity in America doubled in the first few months after the coronavirus arrived, and a recent CBS News poll shows more than one third of Americans are at least somewhat concerned they won’t have enough money for groceries in the next year. Errol Barnett reports on the growing need before the holidays.

I’d like to start by reminding everyone that some of the most essential workers in the country are Farm Workers.  No meal would be possible without them. Those of us of a certain age remember the work of César Chávez.  His Granddaughter,  Julie Chávez Rodríguez,, will now serve in the Biden Administration.

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday (Nov. 17) selected Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of farmworker icon César E. Chávez, to serve on his White House staff.

Rodríguez, 41, who was born in Delano, will serve as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

As a senior adviser for Latino outreach, she is the highest-ranking Latina on the Biden campaign.

“I am proud to announce additional members of my senior team who will help us build back better than before. America faces great challenges, and they bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment to tackling these challenges and emerging on the other side a stronger, more united nation,” said Biden in a press statement.

Rodriguez is expected to help Biden improve his outreach with the Latino population. More than 70% of Latino voters supported Biden, but he failed to garner as much support as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in areas like Miami-Dade County and Texas border counties.

Harvest, 2015, Sunil Linus De , Kottayam

Ever wonder how that food gets to your table?  Here’s an interesting set of tweets compiled by Life Hacker to let you know “Learn How Farmers Produce Ingredients for Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes.”  The United Farm Workers sent these tweets with videos showing the food and a farmworker that harvests it for our use.

On Sunday, November 22nd, the United Farm Workers tweeted a call for requests: “Tell us your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and we’ll share some of what we know about the work behind the ingredients.” And after inviting people to participate, the dishes started coming in hard and fast.

In response, the UFW sent photos and videos with brief explanations, providing some details about the growing and harvesting process. For example, Brussels sprouts grow on a very tough, woody stem, and there are not one, but two ways to harvest cranberries.

These videos are really quite fascinating:  “Organizers are using mesmerizing video clips of harvests to advocate for better protections and pay.”

The thread blew up, garnering more than 50,000 likes in a couple of days. It’s full of mesmerizing videos of highly skilled agricultural workers tossing turnips, parceling parsley, and harvesting radishes, hands moving with impossible quickness, blades swinging fast enough to take off a less-skilled person’s finger.

Yet the images don’t just reveal the immense skill most of us take for granted: They also reveal the often dangerous conditions, and lack of compensation, that agricultural workers endure. Most farm workers are paid by piece rather than hourly, a few cents a bundle, meaning they need to pick quickly, in physically grueling conditions, to make above minimum wage. Almost a third of farm workers live in poverty, often in cramped, impermanent housing, with no ability to work from home. This has left agricultural workers particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

“This has just been a brutal, brutal summer to be a farm worker,” says Strater. “We’ve heard so much about how their work is so essential—no matter what the cost you’ve got to keep it open, keep production running. But few people are thinking about the human cost.”

At one point earlier this year, following a particularly devastating outbreak, Strater found herself on the front lines. “It became my job to engage with the county coroner, and explain to these workers’ families why they weren’t even going to get their dads’ bodies back,” she says.

And then in late summer, when things seemed they couldn’t get worse, wildfires broke out on the West Coast. The fields were filled with a thick, dangerous coat of smoke. “There were farm workers working in the fields while their homes were burning,” Strater says.

Here’s just on example:

California accounts for 80 percent of the U.S.’s celery supply. Here, workers cooperate to harvest, process, and stack the long stalks in a few deft movements. According to Strater, celery juice can irritate exposed skin, so workers must completely cover themselves during the harvest—a difficult prospect in the harsh California heat.

There are a lot more to watch! Go to either of the above links or directly to the UFW’s tweet stream.

Dawn on the Farm, Rice Harvest , 1945, Thomas Hart Benton

We’ve said this a lot but read this  The Guardian article for more: “Putting Trump behind us is like exiting an abusive relationship: it takes time. Under Trump many had a ‘collective hypervigilance and anxiety of what he might do next’, experts say – so how do we unpack these past four years?

There are certainly many parallels between the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and a psychologically violent relationship. Think about the temper tantrums, the refusal to accept reality, mood swings, fear of reprisal and a sense of looming danger: all are hallmarks of controlling and abusive behavior.

Farrah Khan is a gender-based violence expert and member of the government of Canada’s Advisory Council on the Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence – and she echoes how Trump’s time in office has often mirrored domestic violence.

“Throughout his time in office, Trump would belittle communities, enact state violence through policies, act out in vengeful ways when he felt slighted and cut off access to supports or protections, isolating communities from each other,” she tells me. “I feel that under Trump many of us had a collective hypervigilance and anxiety of what he might do next. This has shown up in things like night terrors or constantly scrolling on social media for real or perceived threats from him to your community.”

One of the most common ways an abuser exerts control is through isolation, cutting their partners off from the support of their communities and loved ones. Through his most despicable policies on issues like race, immigration and LGBTQ+ rights, it can be argued thatTrump has pitted Americans against each other, sowing discord and creating rifts that push his supporters further from their family and friends.

For years, Trump has managed to isolate his most fervent followers from reality, creating a parallel Maga world where Covid-19 is little more than a hoax, mail-in ballots don’t count (unless they do) and behind every pizza place lurks a pedophile ring. And like many coercive partners, Trump refuses to let go.

Like many, Khan’s immediate reaction on election night was one of suspicion and worry. She wrote that the “most dangerous time in a violent relationship is when you leave”. She’s still concerned that Trump’s violent rhetoric is escalating rather than declining. “As someone that works daily with survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, I know that the risk of violence is often highest during the period of separation. People who cause harm will use anything available to them from coercive threats, lies or pleading to force the partner to stay,” she says.

Those are hardly words normally ascribed to the transition of power from one US president to the next, but prescient given the lengthy and increasingly futile legal battle Trump continues to wage in hopes of denying the reality of his loss and his increasingly tenuous grip on power. In a recent Guardian article on his increasingly unhinged behavior, Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota said: “This behavior is even more erratic than usual and he has retreated. He has put himself in a form of psychological isolation. His emotional state is clearly abysmal.”

The Harvest, 1883, Camille Pissaro

The Pope wrote a blistering Op Ed in The New York Times that seemed pointed towards Trump and his cronies.  It seemed prescient given that five pseudo Catholics on the Supreme Court Basically just voted against his advice.  “Pope Francis swipes at groups protesting COVID-19 restrictions in NYT op-ed.”  This is Joseph Choi’s take from MSNBC.

In the article, the pope talked about the ways in which his own personal health crisis helped him to understand how science is used to help people recover.

At 21, the pope had part of his lung was removed.

“When I got really sick at the age of 21, I had my first experience of limit, of pain and loneliness. It changed the way I saw life. For months, I didn’t know who I was or whether I would live or die. The doctors had no idea whether I’d make it either. I remember hugging my mother and saying, ‘Just tell me if I’m going to die,'” he wrote.

“I have some sense of how people with Covid-19 feel as they struggle to breathe on a ventilator,” he added.

According to Francis, two nurses – Cornelia and Micaela – helped him survive, adding that “They taught me what it is to use science but also to know when to go beyond it to meet particular needs. And the serious illness I lived through taught me to depend on the goodness and wisdom of others.”

The pope lauded doctors and medical workers who continue to take care of the sick during the pandemic, stating that they understand that “it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer one resisting that call.”

“That’s why, in many countries, people stood at their windows or on their doorsteps to applaud them in gratitude and awe. They are the saints next door, who have awakened something important in our hearts, making credible once more what we desire to instill by our preaching,” he added.

However, the pope swiped at groups who have insisted that measures put in place to stem the spread of the pandemic are an attack on their personal freedoms.

“Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate,” he writes.

Vincent Van Gogh – The Harvest,1888

Justice Sotomayor–also Catholic–delivered an eloquent clap back on the decision that basically puts religion above the law. “In Covid-19 regulations case, Sotomayor dissent claps back at Supreme Court majority. The high court’s ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, will “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.”

Sotomayor, the nation’s only Latina Supreme Court Justice and a native New Yorker, was not having it.

“Free religious exercise is one of our most treasured and jealously guarded constitutional rights. States may not discriminate against religious institutions, even when faced with a crisis as deadly as this one,” she wrote. “But those restrictions are not at stake today.”

In her dissent, in which she was joined by Justice Elena Kagan, she wrote: “Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.” The Court had rejected challenges to similar measures in California and Nevada earlier this year, and she saw no reason for its apparent change of heart. The Court’s ruling, she noted, “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.”

As the Court has increasingly shifted to the right, Sotomayor has emerged as its strong progressive voice. She has taken aim at what she saw as improper actions by the Trump administration, as well as what she considered improper behavior by the Court itself.

In her dissent in the Covid-19 restrictions case, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Andrew M. Cuomo, Sotomayor took aim at Gorsuch’s comparison of New York’s treatment of religious institutions to liquor stores and bike shops. In the latter venues, she reasoned, people do not gather inside for more than an hour to sing and speak to one another.

Sotomayor brushed aside allegations that Governor Cuomo had made anti-religious statements, which would mean that his coronavirus orders be subjected to strict scrutiny by the Court. Just a few years ago, she pointed out, the Court declined to consider President Trump’s remarks and comments in its evaluation of the so-called “Muslim Ban,” limiting immigration from Muslim-majority countries. In her opinion in the DACA case earlier this year, she likewise noted that the majority did not give weight to Trump’s comments (about Mexicans) in that decision, either.

So, that’s it for me today.

We’re still here together. Let us know how you’re doing!  We are a community that cares about each other!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thanksgiving Day Reads

download

Good Morning!!

This morning, I’m grateful for my family and friends;  I’m grateful for this blog and my Sky Dancer friends; I’m grateful to have a safe and comfortable place to live; and I’m grateful that the monster who currently sits in the Oval Office will soon be gone and we will once again have a normal president. I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving day.

Unfortunately, we still have to survive 55 more days until Trump is gone, but we can do it together! Here are some news stories to check out if you need a break today:

Amy Coney Barrett has made her unique contribution to worsening the already out-of-control pandemic. The New York Times: Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court Backs Religious Challenge to Cuomo’s Virus Shutdown Order.

The Supreme Court late Wednesday night barred restrictions on religious services in New York that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had imposed to combat the coronavirus.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s three liberal members in dissent. The order was the first in which the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, played a decisive role.

The court’s ruling was at odds with earlier ones concerning churches in California and Nevada. In those cases, decided in May and July, the court allowed the states’ governors to restrict attendance at religious services.

245988_rgb_768The Supreme Court’s membership has changed since then, with Justice Barrett succeeding Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. The vote in the earlier cases was also 5 to 4, but in the opposite direction, with Chief Justice Roberts joining Justice Ginsburg and the other three members of what was then the court’s four-member liberal wing.

The court has decided that religion “trumps” government efforts to promote public health. Churches are now free to hold frequent super-spreader events and put lives at risk.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to surge as we move into the holidays. It will likely worsen after Americans gather with family and friends. The Washington Post: As Americans prepare to gather for Thanksgiving, the world watches with dread and disbelief.

Foreign observers are watching with trepidation — and at times disbelief — as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, and masses of Americans are choosing to follow through with plans to visit family and friends for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday anyway.

It’s been a grueling year. Many have gone months without seeing their loved ones. Thanksgiving travel is down and many families are opting against their usual festivities. But as the pandemic drags on, with shorter days and chillier weather forcing more people indoors, the social isolation is becoming more difficult to bear.

Decisions over whether to gather have turned divisive, as experts warn that Thanksgiving includes the key ingredients — a shared, indoor meal and inter-household mixing — that could spark an even worse surge in cases in the coming weeks.

7064534a-d7ab-4693-a512-4c3e469b6641-245656_RGB_1536It’s a scenario that officials in other countries are trying to avert ahead of other upcoming holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s.

“From Australia, this looks like a mindbogglingly dangerous chapter in the out-of-control American COVID-19 story,” Ian Mackay, an associate professor of virology at the University of Queensland, wrote in an email. “Sadly, for some, this will be a Thanksgiving that is remembered for all the wrong reasons.”

Yesterday Trump pardoned Michael Flynn. Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Trump wages war on our country and the rule of law one last time.

In a move no less appalling for it being no surprise, President Trump has pardoned Michael Flynn, his disgraced former national security adviser. Add him to the rogue’s gallery — among them Joe Arpaio, Dinesh D’SouzaRod Blagojevich, Bernard Kerik and Roger Stone — of criminals and reprobates to whom Trump has given executive clemency, their loyalty and obsequiousness winning them an escape from full accountability for their misdeeds.

But Flynn stands apart from the rest, because his whole story contains so much of the Trump era in microcosm.

And in pardoning Flynn, Trump has waged what may be his final biggest act of war on our country.

Back in 2016, Flynn was given a close advisory role to the Republican candidate, mostly because he was one of the few retired flag officers who would stand behind Trump. The fact that he was a loony conspiracy theorist and venomous Islamophobe (he once said Islam is “a malignant cancer”) only helped. At the time, he was also secretly working on behalf of the Turkish government.

download (1)Flynn’s 24-day tenure as national security adviser came to an end when routine government surveillance of the Russian ambassador discovered the two officials in conversation before Trump was inaugurated. When the FBI questioned Flynn about it, he lied to the agents about the substance of their conversations, as well as to others in the Trump White House.

Flynn pleaded guilty to his crime, and that could have been the end of it. But then — and this is where his story becomes even more a Trump story — he was adopted by the far right as a martyr, a victim of the so-called deep state, a hero whose only crime was service to Donald Trump.

Attorney General William P. Barr injected himself into the case this past May, seeking to undo Flynn’s guilty plea. To say it’s unusual for the nation’s chief prosecutor to come to the side of someone who has already pleaded guilty would be an understatement. Along with the commutation given to Stone, it was as vivid an illustration of the corruption of the Justice Department as one could imagine.

But before Flynn’s case could be resolved by the court, Trump stepped in with a pardon. Not because Flynn was innocent. Not because he received some draconian sentence (he hadn’t been sentenced yet) and justice demanded it. But simply because he’s one of Trump’s guys, one of a long list of criminals and thugs with whom this president has surrounded himself.

As Andrew McCabe pointed out on CNN yesterday, the entire Russia investigation might not have happened if Flynn had not lied to the FBI. That led to an FBI investigation that Trump tried to get FBI director James Comey to end. Comey’s refusal led Trump to fire him, leading to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. Now Flynn, who twice pled guilty, has been pardoned. 

David Frum at The Atlantic: Trump Pardoned Flynn to Save Himself.

Here’s the first and most important thing to understand about the crime for which President Trump just pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: Flynn did not lie to protect himself. He lied to protect Donald Trump.

5dd8229d06539.imageAt the end of December 2016, Flynn had a series of conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. A month later, on January 24, 2017, Flynn was asked about those conversations by the FBI agent Peter Strzok.

In the first set of conversations, Flynn urged Kislyak to oppose a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. The second set occurred a week later, while Flynn was on holiday in the Dominican Republic. There, Flynn sought to convince Kislyak to persuade the Russian government not to retaliate against the United States, over a round of sanctions punishing Russia for intervening in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump.

From Flynn’s own narrow personal point of view, there was no reason to lie about any of these conversations. Yes, he was pushing the limits a little bit, doing diplomacy before the new administration took office. A more elegant diplomat would have found a way to honor the rule that there’s only one administration at a time, while also communicating what he wanted the Russians to know about the differing intentions of the incoming administration. But such limit-pushing has surely happened often before in the history of American foreign policy. All Flynn had to say to avoid legal jeopardy was, “Yes, I spoke to Ambassador Kislyak. Possibly I was premature. My bad.”

Read the rest at The Atlantic. Trump’s pardon of Flynn is corrupt and he should be prosecuted for it. I don’t know who the next attorney general will be, but Biden says he won’t interfere with the Department of Justice. We can only hope that Trump will suffer some consequences for what he has done to our country.

As of yesterday, Trump and Rudy Giuliani were still trying to overturn the 2020 election. As usual, their efforts were bizarre and embarrassing. The Daily Beast: Trump Calls Into Rudy Giuliani’s Latest Election Fraud Pantomime.

President Donald Trump called into a bizarre “hearing” on voter fraud organized by Rudy Giuliani and Pennsylvania Republicans on Wednesday—part of a doomed attempt to overturn an election result that has been certified by the state.

After canceling an in-person appearance, Trump called campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis’ phone, which was held up to a microphone as people in the Gettysburg hotel room cheered.

jd112220dapr“We have to turn the election over because there’s no doubt we have all the evidence, we have all the affidavits, we just need some judge to listen to it properly,” Trump said, after weeks of not producing any evidence of mass fraud in court. “Evidence is pouring in now as we speak.” [….]

In his rambling phone call from the Oval Office, Trump repeated his vague claims about the entire election being rigged, about winning every swing state, and about Republican poll watchers in Pennsylvania being “treated like dogs.” (In fact, COVID-19 restrictions meant all observers couldn’t be nearer than 25 feet to counters—a decision the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld.)

“This election was lost by the Democrats, they cheated, it was a fraudulent election, they flooded the market, they flooded everybody with ballots and I just want to thank everybody for being there,” Trump said. “This is a very important moment in the history of our country.”

Giuliani said he wanted a special prosecutor to probe those who ran the election.

“I think you have more than enough to say that this election, the numbers don’t add up,” he said. “It’s easy to figure out what the right numbers are by excluding the illegal votes. Out of the honest votes, the winner of the election changes.”

CNBC reports on the efforts of another Trump lawyer to overturn the Pennsylvania election results: Trump lawyer details far-fetched strategy to reverse Pennsylvania win for Biden.

Two-Turkeys-by-Jeff-Koterba-CagleCartoons.com_A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s campaign on Wednesday revealed that the campaign could be relying on pulling off a complicated — and possibly unprecedented — legal and legislative trick shot to undo President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania and possibly in other states.

That far-fetched strategy would require a federal court to invalidate Pennsylvania’s certification of its election results, and then get the state’s General Assembly to agree to send Trump electors to the Electoral College.

The idea is buried in a footnote in a three-page letter that campaign attorney Marc Scaringi wrote to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

The Trump campaign is asking that appeals court to hear its bid to block the effect of Tuesday’s certification of a win for Biden in Pennsylvania.

Read more Trump legal insanity at the link.

Ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell is still trying to “help” Trump stay in the White House, even though she has been fired from Giuliani’s team. Bloomberg:  Ex-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell Files Election Suits in ‘DISTRCOICT’ Court.

A lawyer who was dropped from President Donald Trump’s legal team filed typo-strewn lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia alleging massive election fraud.

Sidney Powell, who has pushed some of the most extreme conspiracy theories around the election of Joe Biden, filed the lawsuits late Wednesday, according to a post on Twitter. The two cases have similar themes of problems linked to voting machines, mail-in ballots and deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

Conspiracy-Theories-by-Kevin-Siers-The-Charlotte-Observer-NCPowell was kicked off Trump’s legal team this week after her claims about a vast Democratic conspiracy against the president. Days earlier she had appeared at a press conference alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, where she alleged a plot to swing the election to Biden that involved voting-machine tampering and Venezuela.

The pre-Thanksgiving lawsuits, which target elected officials in both states, also include other claims about forged ballots and observers being unable to watch the vote count.

Despite numerous allegations of voter fraud and irregularities from Trump and his supporters, no evidence has emerged of widespread problems that would have changed the results of the election, which Biden won with 306 electoral votes.

Hang in there Sky Dancers. Just 55 more days to go. Have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving Day.