Thursday Reads

Santiago Rusiñol

By Santiago Rusiñol

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a historic day.

But the biggest accomplishment of the day was the House passage of Biden’s $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Also huge: the Senate confirmed Merrick Garland as U.S. Attorney General. They also confirmed Marcia Fudge as the first Black woman Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in more than 40 years, and Michael Regan, a Black man, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The New York Times: Congress Clears $1.9 Trillion Aid Bill, Sending It to Biden.

Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to President Biden’s sweeping, nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus package, as Democrats acted over unified Republican opposition to push through an emergency pandemic aid plan that carries out a vast expansion of the country’s social safety net.

By a vote of 220 to 211, the House sent the measure to Mr. Biden for his signature, cementing one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression. It would provide another round of direct payments for Americans, an extension of federal jobless benefits and billions of dollars to distribute coronavirus vaccines and provide relief for schools, states, tribal governments and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. He said he looked forward to signing what he called a “historic piece of legislation” on Friday at the White House.

The vote capped off a swift push by Mr. Biden and Democrats, newly in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, to address the toll of the coronavirus pandemic and begin putting in place their broader economic agenda. The bill is estimated to slash poverty by a third this year and potentially cut child poverty in half, with expansions of tax credits, food aid and rental and mortgage assistance.

Henri Lebasque

By Henri Lebasque

According to CNBC, people who have direct deposit could start their $1,400 checks next week.

The American Rescue Plan Act is expected to be signed by President Biden on Friday, and stimulus payments could start being sent out within days of him signing. That means Americans could start seeing the money as early as next week.

The first people to receive the checks are likely those who have direct deposit set up with the IRS. That’s because the government already has their account information on file and doesn’t need to go through the process of printing, sorting and mailing physical checks or pre-paid debit cards.

Americans who don’t have direct deposit will have to wait for the payments to be produced and sent, a process that can be time consuming.

The Washington Post: How big is the Biden stimulus bill? And who gets the most help?

This latest round of aid, which was rejected by all Republicans in Congress, marks the first major legislative victory for President Biden. In contrast with the emergency bills passed last year, the Democratic bill focuses the vast majority of aid on households, states and cities, and vaccine distribution. There is little money directed this time toward businesses….

Over half the money — 54 percent — in the bill goes toward households. In addition to the popular $1,400 checks, there is also funding for extra unemployment insurance through Labor Day, expanded tax credits, and various programs to make rent, food and health insurance more affordable.

Economists say low- and moderate-income Americans will benefit the most from this aid, especially individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples earning $150,000 or less. The number of Americans living in poverty is predicted to drop in 2021 by as much as a third because of this legislation.

The cash infusion is expected to result in a 20 percent income boost for the bottom 20 percent of earners (those making $25,000 or less), according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that the bill will an important impact on climate change: The Weekly Planet: Biden’s Stimulus Is a Big Deal for Public Transit.

In little-noticed ways, the rescue bill is going to reshape several areas of American climate policy. It will revive a number of crucial, pandemic-hammered institutions central to the country’s climate response. More important, it shows how the prevailing atmosphere of American governance has shifted.

Giovanni Segantini

Giovanni Segantini

This isn’t to say it’s a climate bill, per se. But it is part of the broader climate agenda being advanced by the Biden administration.

First, the bill devotes $30.5 billion to public-transit agencies. “COVID has really decimated transit ridership, and that has eaten a huge hole in agencies’ budgets,” Ben Fried, the communications director at the think tank TransitCenter, told me. Including the latest bill, Congress has spent $60 billion on transit over the past year, money that has been key to keeping the agencies solvent, Fried said. “If they didn’t get funding, then transit would have faced existential peril at the end of last year.” In Washington, D.C., for instance, the local Metro system was contemplating eliminating weekend service and permanently closing 19 stations. The new bill is enough to support agencies’ daily operations into 2023, he said….

Second, the rescue bill has quietly become an infrastructure bill. It devotes $350 billion to supporting state and local governments. These funds, initially proposed to plug COVID-19-created holes in public budgets, in many cases now exceed those holes. So the Senate has allowed states, cities, and counties to spend that money on improving services such as water, sewage, and broadband. Because many water systems are vulnerable to climate change and must be adapted, this is de facto climate funding. The bill also contains $31 billion for tribal governments and Indigenous communities, including line items for new infrastructure, housing, and language preservation.

More broadly, the bill epitomizes the Biden administration’s more forceful approach to running the economy. It shows that much of the American political establishment—from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to Jerome Powell, the Donald Trump–appointed Federal Reserve chair—is comfortable pursuing a strategy of restoring full employment as quickly as possible, even if that creates some inflation in the short term.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Tonight President Biden will give a prime time speech to discuss the way forward. CNN: Biden seeks to chart a path out of the pandemic in prime-time address.

President Joe Biden can report in his first prime-time address Thursday that a vaccination drive now reaching 2 million people daily has brought America far closer to exiting the pandemic than when he took office 50 days ago.

With new infections and deaths way down from their peaks of a horrific winter, Biden can afford to conjure hope that better days may be imminent and will speak to the nation from a position of political strength. He is also armed with a newly passed $1.9 trillion Covid-19 rescue package — his first major legacy achievement — which represents an ambitious attempt to rebuild the US economy to favor the less well off.

Victor Gilbert

Victor Gilbert

“This bill represents a historic, historic victory for the American people,” Biden said Wednesday, touting his rescue plan that finally cleared Congress on Wednesday and pivoting to an address that he said would inform the country what “comes next” in the effort to prevail over the coronavirus. A clear majority of Americans — 60% — approves of the new President’s handling of the pandemic in a new CNN poll. He has reintroduced the nation to calm, functional leadership and a scientific approach to the public health crisis, and has ended the stream of vitriol that poured from the Oval Office for four years.

Yet in a national crisis this deep and in a country so polarized less than two months since ex-President Donald Trump’s insurrection, nothing is remotely normal. While Biden honored campaign promises to take the virus seriously, to secure funds to get kids back to school and to help Americans pummeled by the economic crisis, his White House is weighed down by stark challenges.

A White House official said Biden’s Thursday night speech, expected to last about 20 minutes, would focus on the lives lost and changed in the pandemic and the work Biden’s administration has done to rapidly increase the vaccination effort. The President will also explain what must still be done to defeat the virus, the official said.

Next, Biden will begin a “media blitz” to sell his plan. Vanity Fair:

After President Joe Biden signs his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law this week, he is set to embark on a press tour to sell his COVID-19 relief package to the American public, starting with a primetime address on Thursday, likely followed by his first formal news conference in the days after, CNN reports. The media and travel blitz comes as reporters have grown increasingly frustrated over lack of access to Biden, who has yet to hold the kind of solo, back-and-forth press conference that his 15 most recent predecessors—including Donald Trump—had all submitted themselves to by this point in their term. He has also yet to address a joint session of Congress, another appearance reportedly set to take place next month. 

While Biden taking off on meticulously planned sales tour may not yield the type of freewheeling exchanges that reporters are clamoring for, it makes political sense for the White House to get the president on the road. Biden’s relief package is overwhelmingly popular among Americans—about 70 percent—but less so with GOP lawmakers in Washington, whose total opposition required Democrats to push the bill through the budget reconciliation process. Going that route means many provisions, such as increased subsidies for health insurance and expanded child tax credit, have a one-year expiration date. “Making them permanent will require another act of Congress that would likely need some Republicans on board,” according to CNN.

Eerno Järnefelt

Eerno Järnefelt

It will be a two-part effort, starting with spelling out the impact of the package to Americans. Biden has said that the Obama administration “didn’t adequately explain what we had done” with the 2009 stimulus. “I kept saying, ‘Tell people what we did.’ [Barack Obama] said, ‘We don’t have time. I’m not going to take a victory lap.’ And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility,” the president recently told House Democrats. This time around, Biden’s team is focused on making sure Americans know that relief measures, such as individual stimulus checks, come as direct results of his American Rescue Plan, and are reportedly using local media and outside coalition groups to help establish that connection. 

Among the groups and leaders supportive of the package and thus capable of being leveraged by Biden’s team are “over 400 bipartisan mayors and governors, organized labor and the business community, as well as economists and experts from across the political spectrum,” one White House official told Axios. Benefits to schools, vaccine distribution, and food supply for low-income families are among the parts of the package that cabinet officials and White House aides will team up to publicly promote, according to another administration official. Axios notes that the strategy at play extends beyond short-term goals, such as the 2022 midterms; maintaining wide support for the bill rewards Biden’s ability to “build on the legislation and make it harder for the next Republican president to unwind.”

Much more is happening. Here are some additional stories to check out today:

Buzzfeed News says that today is a one year anniversary of our realization of the seriousness of the pandemic: March 11: Tom Hanks, The NBA, And COVID’s Day Of Reckoning In The US: An Oral History.

NPR: Whistleblowers Allege Improper Hiring At Justice Department During Trump’s Last Days.

The Bulwark: Can Biden Restore the Pentagon’s Balance of Power?

The New York Times: Oath Keepers Founder Is Said to Be Investigated in Capitol Riot.

The Washington Post: Veteran charged in Capitol riot once served in Marine One squadron, officials say.

Trump is in more trouble in Georgia than we realized. CNN: Wall Street Journal: Trump pressured Georgia investigator to find ‘the right answer’ in baseless fraud push.

More trouble in New York too. Reuters: Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to meet again with Manhattan DA in Trump probe.

Talking Points Memo: Cuomo Accuser Claims Governor Groped Her At Executive Mansion.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?


Tuesday Reads: Another Crazy Day In Trump World

Good Morning!!

This morning Trump appeared on Fox and Friends and rambled on for 47 minutes. At the end of the interview, Steve Doocy expressed some surprising hostility toward the fake “president.”

Wow! Doocy’s getting a little fed up with Trump’s word salad, I guess. He even offered equal time to Joe Biden.

In another headline-grabbing moment, Trump told his Fox and Friends pals that he wanted to assassinate Syria’s Bashar al-Assad awhile back.

The Washington Post: Trump confirms he wanted to assassinate Assad. In 2018, he denied it was even considered.

In the Fox interview, Trump criticized former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who has in recent months warned the country strongly against reelecting Trump. But in the course of making that case, Trump offered an odd claim: He said Mattis had effectively stood in the way of his efforts to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I would’ve rather taken him out,” Trump said. “I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general.”

When asked whether he regretted not taking Assad out, Trump added: “No, I don’t regret that. … I had a shot to take him out if I wanted. Mattis was against it.”

The first problem with this argument is that Trump is disparaging Mattis for opposing something that Trump doesn’t even say he regrets. The second is that the commander in chief makes these decisions, full stop. If Trump wanted to do it, Mattis couldn’t block him.

That’s not what Trump said in 2018.

In 2018, Woodward published “Fear.” In the book, he reported that Trump had considered assassinating Assad. Trump, on Sept. 5, 2018, flatly denied it.

“I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed,” Trump said, adding: “No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated.”

He even held it up as evidence that the book shouldn’t have been published.

Breaking news: Trump is a pathological liar.

Lets see . . . what else is happening in the United States of crazy?

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, Trump seems determined to continue holding super-spreader rallies that threaten the lives of his own supporters and staff. The Washington Post suggests that Trump is using these events to “rebuke” Democratic governors and mayors who have established restrictions on public behavior in order to protect their citizens.

President Trump’s first indoor rally in months was staged as a rebuke to Democrats he accuses of using coronavirus restrictions against him, but the campaign event in Nevada also prompted sharp denunciations from critics on Monday as a symbol of the president’s failure to effectively confront the deadly covid-19 crisis.

The Sunday night gathering came as the pandemic has caused at least 190,000 deaths in the United States, with the number expected to pass 200,000 sometime before Trump holds his next official campaign events on Friday. The Nov. 3 election had already become a referendum on the president’s often dismissive approach to the pandemic before revelations last week that he had told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he knew the severity of the virus but preferred to play it down in public….

On Monday, Trump held another indoor campaign event at a luxury hotel in Phoenix that was billed as a roundtable with Latino supporters. The White House pool reporter traveling with Trump described the scene as looking much like a rally, with more than 100 people crowded closely together inside a ballroom. Television footage showed mask-free supporters waving campaign signs.

“I know this was supposed to be, you know the fake news, they said that this is supposed to be a roundtable, but it looks like a rally,” Trump said. “But it is a rally because we love each other.” He then added that “it is a roundtable.”

AP: Trump defies virus rules as ‘peaceful protest’ rallies grow.

President Donald Trump is running as the “law and order” candidate. But that hasn’t stopped him and his campaign from openly defying state emergency orders and flouting his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines as he holds ever-growing rallies in battleground states.

Democratic governors and local leaders have urged the president to reconsider the events, warning that he’s putting lives at risk. But they have largely not tried to block the gatherings of thousands of people, which Trump and his team deem “peaceful protests” protected by the First Amendment.

“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said in a statement….

Trump’s campaign insisted that it takes appropriate health precautions, including handing out masks and hand sanitizer and checking the temperatures of rallygoers.

But images of thousands of maskless supporters standing shoulder to shoulder remain jarring in a country where sports are still played in empty arenas and concerts have been largely banned. That’s especially true for those who have lost loved ones or spent months isolating at home and worry that rallies will further spread infection, undermining hard-fought progress. An indoor rally that Trump held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June was blamed for a surge of virus infections there.

In an interview yesterday, Trump demonstrated that he couldn’t care less about threatening the health of his supporters, as long as he himself is protected. The New York Times: Trump Defends Indoor Rally, but Aides Express Concern.

President Trump and his campaign are defending his right to rally indoors, despite the private unease of aides who called it a game of political Russian roulette and growing concern that such gatherings could prolong the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, after thousands of his supporters gathered on Sunday night inside a manufacturing plant in a Las Vegas suburb, flouting a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

The president did not address health concerns about the rally attendees, a vast majority of whom did not wear masks or practice any social distancing. When it came to his own safety, he said, “I’m not at all concerned.”

He is simply incapable of caring about anyone but himself.

Yesterday afternoon, Trump met with California officials and told them they are clueless about how to deal with wildfires. Forbes: ‘I Don’t Think Science Knows, Actually’: Trump Dismisses Climate Science In California Wildfire Discussion.

After multiple California officials confronted President Donald Trump Monday about ignoring climate change’s role in the raging west coast wildfires, the president dismissed their concerns and raised skepticism about the “science” that has concluded the Earth is warming.

“It’ll start getting cooler,” Trump said in response to California Natural Resource Secretary Wade Crawfoot, who pressed the president to acknowledge the fact untamed vegetation is not solely responsible for the wildfires in the Golden State.

“I wish science agreed with you,” Crawfoot replied back, to which the president replied, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Trump’s solution to the wildfire problem:

In other insane news, Trump loyalist Michael Caputo, who “interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19” made wild claims about a conspiracy involving the CDC and “left-wing hit squads.” The New York Times: Trump Health Aide Pushes Bizarre Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt.

The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.

Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.

He went further, saying his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” [….]

To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.

Read more at the NYT link.

Also at The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie argues that there’s a serious side to these conspiracy theories, even though they make no sense to normal people: Trump’s Perverse Campaign Strategy: If the president’s allies are talking about the moment “shooting will begin” and “martial law,” it’s not by accident.

On Sunday, Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, warned of left-wing insurrectionists and “sedition” within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a video he hosted live on his Facebook page. After predicting victory for President Trump in the upcoming election, Caputo warned that Joe Biden wouldn’t concede. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” [….]

…Trump isn’t actually running for re-election — or at least, not running in the traditional manner. He has a campaign, yes, but it is not a campaign to win votes or persuade the public outside of a few, select slivers of the electorate. Instead, it’s a campaign to hold on to power by any means necessary, using every tool available to him as president of the United States. Caputo, in that sense, is only taking cues from his boss.

Of course, Trump would like to obtain a proper victory. But it’s clear he’s not counting on it. That is why the most visible aspect of Trump’s campaign for continued power is his attack on the election itself. If he doesn’t win, he says again and again, then the outcome isn’t legitimate….

Along with this warning comes Trump’s call for supporters to act as “poll watchers” to prevent imaginary fraud at voting locations….

There’s also the president’s rhetoric toward his political opponents. Asked on Fox News about “riots” if he wins re-election, Trump said he would “put them down very quickly,” before adding:

Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes.

Trump also indicated that he supports extrajudicial killings.

Later in the interview, Trump commented on the Sept. 3 killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl by U.S. marshals. Reinoehl was suspected of shooting a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during a protest in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29. Trump, who swore to uphold the Constitution when he was inaugurated, claimed to have essentially called for an extrajudicial killing:

Now we sent in the U.S. marshals for the killer, the man that killed the young man in the street. Two and a half days went by, and I put out “when are you going to go get him.” And the U.S. marshals went in to get him. There was a shootout. This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. marshalls killed him. And I’ll tell you something — that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution.

Instead of making a conventional appeal to voters to give him another term in office, Trump is issuing a threat, of sorts: I cannot lose. If I do lose, the election was stolen. Anyone protesting my effort to hold onto power is an insurrectionist. And sometimes, “there has to be retribution.”

I guess that’s enough crazy for today. Take care of yourselves folks and check in if you can to let us know what’s happening where you are. We’ll be thinking of those of you who are in the paths of wildfires and hurricanes.


Monday Reads: Change is Imperative

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There are so many things right now that you think we should’ve figured out by now that seem to be worsening because there is no leadership in Washington.  We’ve known about global climate change making weather patterns worse for decades now.  We’ve known at least that long about the insidious institutional racism and misogyny that makes it nearly impossible for large swarths of our country to live up to their potential and be protected under the law. We have a global pandemic that is mostly out of control in places like Brazil and then the United States because we simply do not have the people in office willing to make tough decisions based on evidence to do what’s best for the country. They are either overlords of chaos and greed themselves or serving said said overlords as underlords.  Also, lessons of history should have warned us that another Nixon would try to grab power and yet, so many have ignored what’s going on and actively thwarted oversight designed in our U.S Constitution.

We should know better and the rest of the world watches us struggle with disbelief and horror as we repeat all our mistakes of history and science over and over.

This important segment on Climate Change on the 15th anniversary of Katrina is worth watching.  Our government did not learn anything from our experience from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and another set of people are reliving much of the same  horror.

Young Woman with a Red Fan (1910) By Max Pechstein.

Folks in the know continue to warn us about the impact of Global Climate Change. This is from US News and World Report: “Climate Change Bigger Economic Risk Than Pandemic, ECB’s Schnabel Says.”  How can an institution like the European Central Bank help prioritize a risk that obviously will cost lives and fortunes?

The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates in the clearest terms why central banks must take a bigger role in fighting climate change even if the issue at first appears unrelated to monetary policy, European Central Bank board member Isabel Schnabel said.

Initially just a health crisis, the pandemic has set off economic shockwaves around the globe, affecting every nation and forcing central banks to provide unprecedented support to underpin economic activity.

With climate change posing an even bigger risk, the ECB must keep this issue high on its agenda as it reviews its policy framework, Schnabel told Reuters in an interview.

“Climate change is probably the biggest challenge we are facing, much bigger than the pandemic,” Schnabel said.

“Even though this health shock was entirely unrelated to monetary policy, it nevertheless has huge implications for monetary policy,” she said. “The same is true for climate change and this is why central banks cannot ignore it.”

Through its supervisory arm the ECB could require banks to provide a climate risk assessment, which could then affect their access to central bank funding if this assessment has a direct implication on collateral valuations, Schnabel said.

The central bank should also push the European Union to add a green element to its long-delayed project to set up a capital markets union as a focus on green finance could give the bloc a competitive advantage, she argued.

Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket
Max Beckmann
Date: 1950

This new poll from STAT shows how politicized basic non-partisan policies should be in this country.  “Poll: Most Americans believe the Covid-19 vaccine approval process is driven by politics, not science.”

Seventy-eight percent of Americans worry the Covid-19 vaccine approval process is being driven more by politics than science, according to a new survey from STAT and the Harris Poll, a reflection of concern that the Trump administration may give the green light to a vaccine prematurely.

The response was largely bipartisan, with 72% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats expressing such worries, according to the poll, which was conducted last week and surveyed 2,067 American adults.

The sentiment underscores rising speculation that President Trump may pressure the Food and Drug Administration to approve or authorize emergency use of at least one Covid-19 vaccine prior to the Nov. 3 election, but before testing has been fully completed.

How have we come to this place where the most important decisions in policy are being driven by the most base aspects of governance?  Why is everything a culture issue now?  Why is everything played like some team that you root for even though what they is completely wrong?

Why are so many invested in a White Nationalist Christianist future where truly there is no hope for the planet or democracy for that matter?  Did we not settle this last century?

“Oddy-Knocky” by Alessio Radice
 2013

This is a story from Minnesota that should be told around the world.

Since last fall, Minnesota State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, has taken a keen interest in a book called Bronze Age Mindset. The self-published tome has captivated many on the American right while trafficking in neo-fascism, racism and misogyny. The writer is an anonymous internet figure who goes by the pen name “Bronze Age Pervert” and has 45,000 Twitter followers.

The book argues that equality and human rights are unnatural; that most people form a vast, inferior class who will only find “solace and meaning” through “submission” — and that the proper rulers of the world are white men.

A passage claims, “Life appears at its peak not in the grass hut village ruled by nutso mammies” — using a racial slur to refer to Black women — “but in the military state.”

Chamberlain, the influential chairman of the upper chamber’s Taxes Committee, tweeted at the author, Bronze Age Pervert, on April 30, thanking him for an introduction to Bach’s “Fugue in G-minor;” likely a reference to Pervert’s podcast, which uses classical compositions as bumper music. (The podcast is even more overtly white supremacist.)

“The most obvious form of hatred in this book is misogyny,” said Curtis Dozier, a Vassar College professor of classics who documents appropriations of Greco-Roman antiquity by hate groups. “His ideal of masculinity is racialized.”

Dozier has analyzed the book’s appropriations — and misappropriations — of ancient literature.

Dozier said the title’s “Bronze Age” refers to an imagined era when a glorious warrior culture overthrew female tribal rulers and spread the Indo-European language — and male domination — from Iceland to southern India. Pervert identifies these conquerors as the Aryans, borrowing the ideas of Nazis, eugenicists and contemporary white supremacists, Dozier said.

Unlike most peddlers of hate online, however, Pervert does not disavow violence to soften the historic image of white supremacism and fascism — he glorifies it.

Gerti by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Photo by Barney Burstein/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

But, it’s not only Minnesota. Try Kansas City on for size. 

It started as soon as her family, along with all of their belongings and their dog Kingston, arrived in Kansas City from Southern California not quite two months ago, Maureen Roland says: The smiles that froze and then disappeared when her new Northland neighbors, near Parkville, caught a glimpse of her Black husband and biracial children. The woman down the street who put her hand up and said, “No, thank you,” when Maureen introduced herself. The slurs shouted from across the way, the pointing, the pretending to retch.

“Kansas City nice” is real, but so is Kansas City not-so-nice. There are people in our town who yell, “You’re disgusting!” at the Rolands’ house as they walk by, and who have gotten out of line at the Best Buy to avoid them.

The Rolands have lived all over the world, so it’s not a revelation that there’s racism in it. But “I have not experienced it to this degree,” she says. “I have not experienced it this much. I have not experienced it this vocally.”

Or, try Lafayette Louisiana …

“Self Portrait with Hat” by expressionist painter Karl Schmidt Rottluff in 1919

We have welcomed thousands of evacuees here in New Orleans to hotels and the Mayor of Lafayette says no to any shelters at all. His reason is something that should warn us all that Republicans are emboldened to be openly and nakedly racist. Black Lives Matters is not a terrorist operation.  Any local “militia” group is definitely on the FBI watch list for domestic terrorism.

Officials with the Josh Guillory administration have asked local churches to stop trying to set up shelters for evacuees from Laura because of the “serious threat” of recent protests

I wanted to advise you that I have officially asked local churches to take a pause on any action to establish a shelter at this time. As you probably know, we have had some serious, concerning activities pop up today with armed protestors in the streets. Many from out of town.

This is a serious threat and we must handle this issue before we can care for our neighbors. It goes against what we believe and how we usually respond after a disaster but it would be irresponsible to potentially put others in harms way.

We are not in a position to safeguard people displaced by Laura with this serious, local security threat. We know that bad actors will take our hospitality and use it against us.

H. Craig Hanna (b. 1967), Paris

And, that really is disgusting.

Here’s the latest on how the national campaign is turning us against one another via Politico. “Biden forced to play on Trump’s turf as campaign turns to racial strife.  The Democratic nominee wanted to talk about Trump’s performance on the coronavirus. Instead, he’s having to straddle a line on civic unrest. ”  Of course, they don’t want to talk about the policies we need to actually do something for the big issues. Let’s focus on pitting the first and second amendments against each other in strictly racist terms.  After Trump’s horrid visit to Louisiana and Texas, he wants to head to Kenosha today.

The chaotic scenes in Kenosha, Wis. and Portland, Ore., are redefining the contours of the presidential race — shifting the immediate debate over how to quell the clashes, who should own the unrest and which candidate is better suited to lead the nation through strife.

Donald Trump, who’s planning to visit Kenosha on Tuesday, is claiming the mantle of law and order even as he stokes conflict between protesters and his supporters. Trump is trying to take credit for restoring order by loudly calling for an influx of National Guard troops and painting Democrats as too fearful of alienating their base to denounce violence.

Joe Biden last week called for a halt to the violence, though it took him longer than many Democrats wanted. The Democratic nominee decided over the weekend that he would not travel to the pivotal battleground state on Monday ahead of Trump’s visit. Instead, the Biden campaign plans to ramp up messaging that Trump’s rhetoric has only inflamed hostilities on the streets, beginning with a speech in Pennsylvania Monday.

It’s a very difficult argument to make when he is president of the United States that the unrest and chaos that’s happening on the ground is somehow not his responsibility,” Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield told POLITICO. “He owns it. He’s the president of the United States and he owns it. People are seeing a president who is failing to lead and that will be a big focus for us as we move forward.”

“We will continue to put this at his feet and hold him accountable for it because it’s hard to make a law and order argument when you’re an incumbent.”

The balancing act over the riots and police misconduct marks a new, intensifying phase of the election. Both campaigns are preparing for a burst of activity: Biden plans to break his month slong hold on travel to swing states in the coming weeks, with stops expected initially in Wisconsin and Michigan in addition to Pennsylvania. He’s also looking to appear in Minnesota and Arizona soon.

And the on going battle should really be against the Rule of Law as seen within the Justice Department.  Here’s some headlines to read on that.

So, this all should keep you busy today. I’m sorry it’s all so alarming but seriously, thing’s have to change.  We owe it to all of us that have lived and will live in this country.  These policy challenges should be faced head on with regard to our laws, science, and getting the best results we can from the political process. We cannot take an administration whose goal is to tear us all apart, tear our country down, and ruin the gifts of nature around us.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Tuesday Reads: Climate Change Action and Impeachment Inquiry News

Good Morning!!

Action on Climate Change

Before I get started on the latest news, I want to share some information about a climate action that is taking place today in several U.S. cities, including Boston. My sister-in-law is a leader in her local chapter of Mothers Out Front, an organization that fights climate change. The group has been working to call attention to Blackrock, a huge asset management corporation whose CEO Larry Fink has tried to position himself as pro-environment, while leading the company that contributes more than any other to the problem of global warming.

My brother made this video to publicize today’s actions.

Some background:

The Guardian, May 21, 2019: World’s biggest investor accused of dragging feet on climate crisis.

[Blackrock CEO Larry] Fink, who was paid $24m (£18.8m) in 2018, began BlackRock as part of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity group, and spun it out in 1995. Since then, New York-based BlackRock has risen to become an investing behemoth, controlling $6.5tn in assets – a value more than twice the annual output of the UK economy.

That staggering size has placed BlackRock at the heart of the global fossil fuel industry: it is the largest investor in coal worldwide, according to InfluenceMap, an environmental campaign group, and has by far the highest density of coal holdings of the world’s 10 largest investors. BlackRock effectively owns 2.1bn tonnes of thermal coal reserves, based on the size of its stakes in major miners.

In August, two of the country’s fastest growing grassroots groups – Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front – sent a bold message to BlackRock staff at their Boston office.

BlackRock is counted among the top three shareholders in every oil “supermajor” bar France’s Total, and is among the top 10 shareholders in seven of the 10 biggest coal producers, according to Guardian analysis of data from financial information firm S&P.

Yet Fink, 66, who moves in US Democrat political circles, argues it is not his company’s duty to fight the climate emergency. In the real version of his annual letter to shareholders, published in January, Fink said that his overriding duty is to make customers money.

“Our firm is built to protect and grow the value of our clients’ assets,” Fink wrote. “We often get approached by special interest groups who advocate for BlackRock to vote with them on a cause. In many cases, I or other senior managers might agree with that same cause – or we might strongly disagree – but our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter here. Our decisions are driven solely by our fiduciary duty to our clients.”

Also from The Guardian, September 17, 2019: Wall Street investment giants voting against key climate resolutions.

Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report.

The report, published on Tuesday by the Washington DC-based Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project, claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.

Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims….

“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub.

“Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change,” Kasargod-Staub added.

Unfortunately, it’s raining in Boston today. I expect the mothers will still show up for the demonstration though. I’ll report back if I hear anything about how it went.

UPDATES from the Boston BlackRock protest

Impeachment Inquiry News

Today a White House insider who heard Trump’s call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will testify in the impeachment inquiry.

The New York Times: Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns.

A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, arriving Tuesday on Capitol Hill.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”


Lazy Caturday Reads: Heat Wave

Good Afternoon!!

Here in Boston, today could be the hottest day of the year so far and tomorrow will likely be about the same. We may hit 100 degrees and it will feel even hotter. The Boston Globe published some “heat hacks” to help people cool down. Here are a couple of examples:

If you’re tossing and turning in bed and having trouble falling asleep in the blistering heat,Consumer Reports offers this interesting trick: Put your sheets and pillowcases in a sealable plastic bag and stash them in the freezer so they’ll be nice and cold when you hit the hay….

New York State Office for the Aging suggests…“Fill three plastic soda bottles full of water, freeze them but in a manner to not damage them (liquid expands on freezing), then place them in a large bowl,” the agency’s website states. “Position a fan to blow on them.. … The water in the bottles can be refrozen and used repeatedly.” [….]

Seattle City Light suggests putting lotion and moisturizers in your fridge to cool down your skin.

I might try that last one. This reminds me of the scene in The Seven-Year Itch when Marilyn Monroe explains how she keeps her panties and potato chips in the fridge next to the champagne.

USA Today: Searing heat across nation, reaching 100 degrees in some spots, takes its toll on events and roads.

A relentless heat wave gripped the country from the central states to the East Coast Saturday, prompting cancellation of the New York City Triathlon and producing cracked and buckled roads in some Plains states. Some East Coast cities braced for temperatures in the triple digits.

As the stifling heat — expected to affect 200 million people — settled in for at least a fifth day, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisory from parts of the Texas Panhandle to the Ohio Valley, around the Great Lakes, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and in the Northeast.

An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater.

Daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 90s or higher plus high humidity will result in heat indices as high as 115 for some, forecasters said.

Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston were bracing for weekend temperatures in the triple digits. New York City and Baltimore were under a Code Red Extreme Heat Alert that is expected to continue through Sunday.

“It’s been since July of 2012 that Chicago and Philadelphia both hit 100 degrees, and Washington, D.C., hasn’t hit 100 since August of 2016,” says AccuWeather Meteorologist Danielle Knittle.

In addition, forecasters warned that overnight temperatures were not likely to fall far enough to bring relief, pariticularly in larger cities, like Chicago, St. Louis and New York City.

CBS News is posting live updates: Massive heat wave blamed for at least 6 deaths.

Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, the district’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said officials will be monitoring the dangerous temperatures from an operations center.

“This is going to be one of the most severe heat events that we’ve had in the last several years,” Rodriguez said.

While midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Chicago will be affected, the East Coast is expected to take the brunt of it. Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 90’s to the triple digits, with the heat index making it feel as hot as 100 to 115 degrees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned the heat can be a silent killer. Doctors are warning to watch out for signs of heat illness. Symptoms can include headache, muscle cramps, nausea. another sign is a lack of sweating.

Vox: The worst part of a heat wave is when it doesn’t cool off at night.

Extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the world. There are direct health effects like heat stroke, which occurs when body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to organ failure, and heat exhaustion.

But high temperatures can also worsen conditions like high blood pressure and can limit the effectiveness of certain medications. Heat can also exacerbate air pollution, which in turn can send people to the emergency room due to breathing problems….

While it may cool off after the sun sets during a heat wave, it may not cool off enough for people who have been exposed to high temperatures all day. That leads to a higher cumulative exposure to heat.

One study examining the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed upward of 70,000 people found that nighttime temperatures were a key indicator of the health risk from high temperatures. There’s also research that shows high nighttime temperatures disrupt sleep. Without relief from the heat, the stresses on the body mount.

Over the weekend, forecasters expect evening temperatures will stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat index remaining above 90 degrees, in some areas along the East Coast. That will make it hard for some to cool off. Health officials advise staying hydrated, wearing light clothing, and avoiding the outdoors.

It’s worse if you live in a city.

Part of the reason temperatures stay high after sunset in many parts of the country is because of the urban heat island effect. Dense cities with their concrete, steel, glass, and asphalt soak up more heat than their rural surroundings, causing temperatures to rise further than they would have otherwise during the day. In the evening, those artificial surfaces continue to dissipate their accumulated heat, keeping denizens from keeping cool.

Our efforts to keep cool can also paradoxically make cities heat up. Air conditioners venting hot air outside can contribute to urban warming, and if the electricity that powers them comes from fossil fuels, they can increase the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that “July 2019 is likely to be the hottest month ever measured.”

For the next several days, a vast blanket of oppressive heat will smother the eastern two-thirds of the United States, subjecting tens of millions of people to searingly hot days and forbidding, unrelenting nights. From the southern Plains to New England, inescapable humidity will meet broiling air to produce heat indexes in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

We are not simply talking about a series of sweltering afternoons. Even hours after the sun sets, air temperatures could hang well above 90, dipping below the 80-degree mark only in the moments before dawn. The heat index in some big cities—including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—may sit above the mid-80s for 72 hours straight.

“July is shaping up to be the warmest July on record—and probably the warmest month ever measured, since July is the hottest month of the year,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, told me. “Obviously, we still have half the month to go. But so far, it’s on track.” (Since most of the planet’s land surface is north of the equator, and since land heats up faster than the ocean, the Northern Hemisphere’s summers are the hottest months of the year for the whole planet.)

If that mark is realized, then two months in a row will be the hottest of their type ever measured, since last month was the hottest June ever recorded. And the odds are good that 2019 will be the second-warmest year on record, Hausfather told me. Either way, it’s a near-certainty that the past six years, including this one, will be the hottest six years ever measured.

And yet the Republican Party refuses to acknowledge the causes and effects of climate change.

Today might be a good time to refer back to David Wallace Wells’ 2017 article at New York Magazine. The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built….

But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

Wells has expanded this article into a book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. You might also want to check out his article archive at New York Magazine.

So I wrote a whole post without talking about the monster in the White House. If you really want to read some politics stories, check these out:

Alex Shepard at The New Republic: It’s Not Strategy, It’s Racism.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The Joy of Hatred. Trump and “his people” reach deep into the violent history of public spectacle in America.

CNN: Judge halts Democrats’ subpoenas of Trump Org docs in emoluments case.

The New York Times: Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats.

NBC News: Mueller hearings to highlight ‘shocking evidence of criminal misconduct’ by Trump, Democrats say.

NBC News: U.S. spy chief creates a new head of election security for intelligence agencies.

HuffPost: Trump Puts More GOP Money In His Own Pocket During Another Million-Dollar Golf Trip.

The Washington Post: Trump tells aides to look for big spending cuts in second term, sowing confusion about budget priorities.

The Washington Post: Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz; denies Trump’s claim that drone was brought down.

The New York Times: U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker.

What stories are you following today?