Lazy Caturday Reads: Mostly Good News and Military Cats

sailors of the HMS Hermione in 1941 surrounding their sleeping cat, Convoy.

Sailors of the HMS Hermione in 1941 surrounding their sleeping cat, Convoy.

Good Afternoon!!

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

Binx, the cat who was trapped on the ninth floor of the collapsed Mami condo has been found! 

The Miami Herald: Cat that lived in collapsed Surfside condo tower is found safe, reunited with family.

Binx, a cat that lived on the ninth floor of Champlain Towers South condo, was found safe two weeks after the building collapsed and has been reunited with his family.

The black cat was found near the rubble and was taken to Kitty Campus, an organization that cares for community cats in Miami Beach.

A volunteer feeding cats in the area was the one who found him, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference late Friday. Binx was reunited with his family Friday.

“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the life of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” Levine Cava said.

Here’s another feel-good story from the Boston area. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman dog went missing after being frightened by fireworks on the Fourth of July; but now, days later, he has been returned to her. WCVB ABC 5: After nearly a week missing, Massachusetts Olympic hero Aly Raisman finds her dog.

After nearly a week missing, Massachusetts native and two-time Olympian Aly Raisman says her missing dog has been found….

Raisman tweeted last Saturday night that her dog, Mylo, was terrified of the fireworks and ran off in the area of the Seaport District. She says the dog had a tag on, as well as a leash.

Raisman asked people not to actively search for Mylo — yelling his name or running around looking for him — because the organization Missing Dogs Mass advised her that scared dogs will make bad decisions if they are pressured.

The Needham native was a member of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics teams, both of which won the gold medal. With two team and four individual Olympic medals, Raisman is the second-most decorated Olympic gymnast in American history.

A bit more good news on the political front. Social Security activists have been pushing Biden to fire the two horrible men that Trump put in charge of the Social Security administration, and he has finally done it.

The Washington Post: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration, a Trump holdover who drew the ire of Democrats.

President Biden on Friday fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, a holdover from the Trump administration who had alienated crucial Democratic constituencies with policies designed to clamp down benefits and an uncompromising anti-union stance.

Saul was fired after refusing a request to resign, White House officials said. His deputy, David Black, who served as the agency’s top lawyer before his appointment by former president Donald Trump, resigned Friday upon request.

Biden named Kilolo Kijakazi, the current deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to serve as acting commissioner until the White House identifies a permanent nominee to lead the agency.

As the head of an independent agency whose leadership does not normally change with a new administration, Saul’s six-year term was supposed to last until January 2025.

The White House said a recent Supreme Court ruling, followed by a Justice Department memo on Thursday affirming the president’s authority “to remove the SSA Commissioner at will,” gave the president power to treat the position like that of other traditional political appointments.

Making friends with the locals in Afghanistan

Making friends with the locals in Afghanistan

Saul says he plans to keep doing his job as if nothing has changed.

But Saul said in an interview Friday afternoon that he would not leave his post, challenging the legality of the White House move to oust him.

“I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” he said, adding that he plans to be back at work on Monday morning, signing in remotely from his New Yorkhome. He called his ouster a “Friday Night Massacre.”

What a dick! I hope someone will lock him out of the system ASAP. More about Saul from Yahoo News:

Saul, a Trump appointee, had triggered fierce criticism from Democrats and advocates, who said he gummed up the speedy distribution of $1,400 stimulus checks to disabled Americans and applied union-busting tactics with labor unions representing federal employees….

Saul is a former GOP donor who served on the board of a conservative think-tank that advocated for cuts to Social Security benefits. Advocates said the Social Security Administration delayed releasing information to the IRS for stimulus checks earlier this year.

They also argued the SSA under Saul made it much more burdensome for disabled people to reestablish their eligibility for benefits.

Congressional Democrats and activists cheered Friday’s firings. Alex Lawson, president of Social Security Works, told Insider it was “great news” Saul and Black are no longer in charge of the agency.

“They were put in place by former President Trump to sabotage Social Security and no one but Wall Street is sad to see them go,” he said. “Their attacks on seniors and people with disabilities will be their shameful legacy.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio also praised the move. The Banking committee chair said in a statement Saul “tried to systematically dismantle Social Security as we know it from within.”

“Social Security is the bedrock of our middle class that Americans earn and count on, and they need a Social Security Commissioner who will honor that promise to seniors, survivors, and people with disabilities now and for decades to come,” Brown said.

I’m one of the people who had to wait weeks for a stimulus check. I’m celebrating these firings.

The CATS program originated during World War II and was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy.

The CATS program originated during World War II and was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy.

Before I move on the bad news, here’s a laugh-out-loud piece from Raw Story: GOP’s Madison Cawthorn: Biden may use door-to-door vaccine program to ‘take your Bibles’

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced “door-to-door outreach” in communities that have low rates of vaccination.

“It’s a year of hard-fought progress. We can’t get complacent now. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family and the people you care about the most is get vaccinated,” Biden said.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) panicked over the efforts to protect Americans from the pandemic during an interview conducted by Right Side Broadcast Network at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering in Texas.

Despite the fact the federal government goes door-to-door during the Census, Cawthorn painted a dystopian vision of what could happen if the government knocked on doors to tell Americans about the COVID vaccines, which have proven safe and effective.

“The thing about the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that massive of a thing — and then think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could then go door-to-door to take your Bibles,” he argued.

LOL! The U.S. Post Office also goes door to door, and I don’t think they have ever taken anyone’s bibles away.

Now for the bad news of day.

Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist: Western states face possible all-time heat records this weekend.

Over 30 million people are under heat alerts across western states as temperatures are forecast to soar well into the triple digits this weekend.

Nearly the entire state of California will be impacted by this heat wave, in addition to major metro areas in the Southwest. Numerous daily temperature records will be broken and some all-time records may also be in jeopardy.

Simon, the ship's cat about the HMS Amethyst, with Dickin Medal, awarded for catching rats in wartime.

Simon, the ship’s cat on the HMS Amethyst, with Dickin Medal, awarded for catching rats in wartime.

“High pressure will continue to dominate the southern Great Basin and Mojave Desert, producing a major heat wave into early next week,” the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Las Vegas said. “All-time record high temperatures will be rivaled or exceeded in some areas.”

While the Southwest may be known for its hot temperatures, these numbers are extreme.

A “Very High” heat risk, the highest level (4 of 4), has been issued for much of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. This includes cities such as Sacramento, Bakersfield and Palm Springs, California, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

“Very High” simply means that the entire population, not just elderly or people who are ill, will be at a very high risk of heat-related illness due to the long duration of heat and the lack of overnight relief.

Utah’s current state temperature record is 117 degrees. The town of St George may meet or exceed that record on Saturday.

Las Vegas has the potential to set a new all-time high temperature record this weekend. The current all-time high is 117 degrees and the National Weather Service is forecasting at least that temperature for Saturday and Sunday.

Sacramento also has the chance to break their all-time high temperature of 114 degrees this weekend.

Death Valley, California, hit a high of 130 degrees on Friday, coming close to the hottest temperature ever recorded on the globe — 134 degrees at the same location in 1913.

The New York Times: Like in ‘Postapocalyptic Movies’: Heat Wave Killed Marine Wildlife en Masse.

Dead mussels and clams coated rocks in the Pacific Northwest, their shells gaping open as if they’d been boiled. Sea stars were baked to death. Sockeye salmon swam sluggishly in an overheated Washington river, prompting wildlife officials to truck them to cooler areas.

The combination of extraordinary heat and drought that hit the Western United States and Canada over the past two weeks has killed hundreds of millions of marine animals and continues to threaten untold species in freshwater, according to a preliminary estimate and interviews with scientists.

“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” said Christopher Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia who studies the effects of climate change on coastal marine ecosystems.

To calculate the death toll, Dr. Harley first looked at how many blue mussels live on a particular shoreline, how much of the area is good habitat for mussels and what fraction of the mussels he observed died. He estimated losses for the mussels alone in the hundreds of millions. Factoring in the other creatures that live in the mussel beds and on the shore — barnacles, hermit crabs and other crustaceans, various worms, tiny sea cucumbers — puts the deaths at easily over a billion, he said.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Afghanistan 2009

Afghanistan 2009

The Washington Post: The Trump administration used an early, unreported program to separate migrant families along a remote stretch of the border.

The Trump administration began separating migrant families along a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border months earlier than has been previously reported — part of a little known program coming into view only now as the Biden administration examines government data.

In May 2017, Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Ariz., began implementing a program known as the Criminal Consequence Initiative, which allowed for the prosecution of first-time border crossers, including parents who entered the United States with their children and were separated from them.

From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, 234 families were separated in Yuma, according to newly released data from the Department of Homeland Security, almost exactly the same number as were separated in a now well known pilot program in El Paso that year. Because the Yuma program began in May, and the existing data on family separations begins only in July, the number of separations there was likely higher than 234, a prospect the Biden administration is now investigating.

Some of the parents separated under the Yuma program still remain apart from their children four years later. Others are missing — lawyers and advocates have been unable to locate them since they were deported alone. The children separated in Yuma in 2017 were as young as 10 months old, according to government data.

One more from The Atlantic: The Biggest Threat to Democracy Is the GOP Stealing the Next Election, by Steven Livitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

The greatest threat to American democracy today is not a repeat of January 6, but the possibility of a stolen presidential election. Contemporary democracies that die meet their end at the ballot box, through measures that are nominally constitutional. The looming danger is not that the mob will return; it’s that mainstream Republicans will “legally” overturn an election.

In 2018, when we wrote How Democracies Die, we knew that Donald Trump was an authoritarian figure, and we held the Republican Party responsible for abdicating its role as democratic gatekeeper. But we did not consider the GOP to be an antidemocratic party. Four years later, however, the bulk of the Republican Party is behaving in an antidemocratic manner. Solving this problem requires that we address both the acute crisis and the underlying long-term conditions that give rise to it….

HMS Warspite asleep with the ship's mascot kitten in its hammock, 1944.

HMS Warspite asleep with the ship’s mascot kitten in its hammock, 1944.

Last year, for the first time in U.S. history, a sitting president refused to accept defeat and attempted to overturn election results. Rather than oppose this attempted coup, leading Republicans either cooperated with it or enabled it by refusing to publicly acknowledge Trump’s defeat. In the run-up to January 6, most top GOP officials refused to denounce extremist groups that were spreading conspiracy theories, calling for armed insurrection and assassinations, and ultimately implicated in the Capitol assault. Few Republicans broke with Trump after his incitement of the insurrection, and those who did were censured by their state parties.

From November 2020 to January 2021, then, a significant portion of the Republican Party refused to unambiguously accept electoral defeat, eschew violence, or break with extremist groups—the three principles that define prodemocracy parties….

As we argued in How Democracies Die, our constitutional system relies heavily on forbearance. Whether it is the filibuster, funding the government, impeachment, or judicial nominations, our system of checks and balances works best when politicians on both sides of the aisle deploy their institutional prerogatives with restraint. In other words, when they avoid applying the letter of the law in ways contrary to the spirit of the law—what’s sometimes called constitutional hardball. When contemporary democracies die, they usually do so via constitutional hardball. Democracy’s primary assailants today are not generals or armed revolutionaries, but rather politicians—Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—who eviscerate democracy’s substance behind a carefully crafted veneer of legality and constitutionality.

This is precisely what could happen in the next U.S. presidential race. Elections require forbearance. For elections to be democratic, all adult citizens must be equally able to cast a ballot and have that vote count. Using the letter of the law to violate the spirit of this principle is strikingly easy. 

I hope you’ll head over to The Atlantic and read the whole thing.

This is getting way too long, so I’ll sign off for now. I hope you all have a great weekend!