Friday/ the moderates vs. the progressives

I live in one of the bluest (most progressive) Democratic districts in the country, and my representative is Pramila Jayapal. She leads the 100-member progressive caucus in the house (100 out of 224), so they have a lot of clout .. and they feel the time is NOW and nothing happens/ progressive legislation gets completely watered down time and again if the progressives do not make a stand.
700,00 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19, including 100,000 since the vaccine rollout.

Another week gone, and here is October 2021 on us, already.
Every night all the calamities of the moment are covered by NBC Nightly News. In a way, the news is always the same.
We’re in a climate crisis.
Hospitals are still filled with Covid-19 patients.
We’re told America could be just weeks away from defaulting on its debt for the first time ever.

And as far as enacting President Biden’s policy agenda, we don’t have 6 major political parties in government, the way the Germans do. We have only two.
I would argue we actually have only the Democratic Party.
(The Republicans are AWOL. They very, very rarely work with the Democrats. They will kill American democracy— and kill us all— if they come back into power).
The moderates and the progressives in the Democratic Party are tussling over two big policy bills.
There’s the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and a $3.5 trillion social policy bill that includes measures related to climate change, family aid, and expansions to Medicare.

Here’s what Amber Philips writes in today’s Washington Post about the key players in the Democrats’ congressional battles.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.): Leader of centrist Democrats in the House
What he wants: A vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday, which he didn’t get.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.): Leader of the progressive caucus in the House
What she wants: Centrist Democrats, particularly in the Senate, to get behind the $3.5 trillion spending bill that would be the capstone of Democrats’ control of Washington right now.
Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.): A centrist holdout in the Senate
What he wants: Democrats’ social safety net legislation to cost much less, around $1.5 trillion.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.): Another holdout in the Senate
What she wants: First off, for the House to pass the infrastructure bill. She helped negotiate that in the Senate, where 19 Republicans voted for it.
And like Manchin, she wants Democrats’ social safety net/climate change legislation to cost much less. But unlike Manchin, she’s been more quiet about what she could support, frustrating liberals who feel like they can’t negotiate with a moving target, or no target at all.

Wednesday/ Germany’s elections

Here is a set of slides from Deutsche Welle’s website that shows the outcome of Sunday’s federal elections in Germany.
Angela Merkel’s party (the Christian Democrats) lost ground everywhere.
For the first time since the 1950s, at least three parties will be needed to form a coalition in Germany’s government. (The two largest parties are unlikely to form a coalition on their own).
The Social Democrats and the Green Party made the biggest gains.

The historic Reichstag building in Berlin which houses the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament. It will house members of the 6 major German political parties. It was constructed to house the Imperial Diet of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894, severely damaged in 1933 (set on fire). It was only finally completely refurbished in 1999.
C.D.U./C.S.U. Christian Democratic Union/ Christian Social Union (the Bavarian sister party to C.D.U.)
S.P.D. Social Democrats
AfD Alternative for Germany (Deutschland)
F.D.P. the Free Democratic Party
Left The Left Party (‘Die Linke’)
Greens The Green Party
SSW South Schleswig Voters’ Association (regional party in Schleswig-Holstein)
There’s still a marked geographical element to support for the parties. The Greens have strong support in the big cities. The anti-immigrant far right AfD party has strong support near the borders with Eastern Europe.
The Greens have much more support among voters with higher educations; the AfD has much more support with voters without higher education.
Greens have more support in the cities; the AfD in the rural areas.
Older voters support the more traditional and established parties; younger voters the more progressive parties. No surprise here, I guess.
No marked difference in the male and female vote.

Tuesday/ no recall in California

‘I want to focus on what we said yes to as a State.
We said yes to science; we said yes to vaccines;
we said yes to ending this pandemic;
we said yes to peoples’ right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression;
we said yes to a woman’s fundamental constitutional right to decide what she does with her body, her faith and her future;
we said yes to diversity;
yes to inclusion;
we said yes to pluralism;
we said yes to all those things we hold dear as Californians – and I would argue as Americans: economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values, where as Californians had made so much progress.
All those were on the ballot this evening.
And so I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their right to vote, and expressed themselves so overwhelmingly to rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that’s defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years’.
– California Governor Gavin Newsom at a press conference tonight


Good news from California: the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom has failed.
This was a sour-grapes, politicizing-of-COVID effort from the Republican Party of Suffering and Death to unseat Newsom; a waste of $276 million. Per California law they had needed only 50% of the vote to recall Newsom, and install the challenger with the most votes. In this recall it would have been Larry Elder, a conservative radio talk show host and Trumpist.  That would have been downright awful.

Governor Newsom speaking after the projections show that he will defeat the recall.
[Still from CNN broadcast]

Sunday/ Pridefest on Broadway

There was no gay pride parade in downtown this year in Seattle. (It is held on the last Sunday in June every year).
A separate organization puts up an event called Pridefest in June—on Broadway in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. They postponed their event instead of cancelling it, and it was held today.

It turned out that the pandemic is very much with us, even though it is the end of summer. I was not too keen to rub shoulders with everyone out there.
Even so, I walked down to Broadway this afternoon, put my mask on, dodged the people in the street, and took a few pictures. The street was not very crowded, and many people were wearing masks as well.

This cute inflated unicorn was at Olmstead restaurant on Broadway. The weather is still fine,  and warm enough to sit outside (75 °F/ 24 °C today).
The stall of T Mobile, wireless network operator, outside their storefront on Broadway. Further up is BECU, a credit union originally established to serve employees of The Boeing Company, but now open to everyone.
Here’s the stall of Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group and LGBTQ political lobbying organization in the United States. We have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to do. LGBTQ Americans still face high levels of discrimination in public places, in school, and in the workplace.
Several vendors had stalls as well, selling artwork, clothing or flags.

Monday/ wheels up, for the last time

It’s official: America’s 20 year-long war in Afghanistan is over.
The last cargo plane from the United States armed forces had left at midnight Kabul time on Monday night. Someone on flightradar24.com noted that the United States military has ceased to provide air traffic control functions at Kabul Airport, and that the entirety of Afghan airspace is now without air traffic control.

‘Afghanistan has once more completed a cycle that has repeatedly defined the past 40 years of violence and upheaval: For the fifth time since the Soviet invasion in 1979, one order has collapsed and another has risen. What has followed each of those times has been a descent into vengeance, score-settling and, eventually, another cycle of disorder and war’, writes Thomas Gibbons-Neff for the New York Times.

Aug 30, 2021 U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the last service member to board the last airplane out of Hamid Karzai International Airport. There were no civilians on this flight. The C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane’s handle is MOOSE94, and it was wheels-up one minute before midnight local time, on Aug 30. (So technically there were still 24 hours left before the Aug 31 midnight deadline). [Hand-out photo from U.S. Central Command, via Getty]
Aug 15, 2021: Then there was this flight, crammed with some 640 Afghan evacuees, leaving Kabul airport for Doha, Qatar. The surge of anxious people had boarded the airplane, and the crew decided to just take off, even though the plane was not nearly designed to provide proper seating for nearly as many passengers. 
[Hand-out photo from U.S. Air Force]

Thursday/ the Kabul airport bombings

Reporting and map of the bombings from the New York Ties online.
P.S. The Pentagon indicated later that there was in fact only one suicide bomber: the one at the Abbey Gate. There was no explosion at the gate to the Baron Hotel.

What a horrible day at Kabul International Airport.
The terrorist organization called ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan Province) claimed responsibility for the attacks. ISIS-K was founded by former members of the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

ISIS-K sees the Afghan Taliban as its strategic rivals. It brands the Afghan Taliban as ‘filthy nationalists’ with ambitions only to form a government confined to the boundaries of Afghanistan. This contradicts the Islamic State movement’s goal of establishing a global caliphate.  (From ‘What is ISIS-K?’ at theconversation.com by authors Amira Jadoon & Andrew Mines).

Friday/ Afghanistan: what’s next?

Kandahar, in particular, is a huge prize for the Taliban. It is the economic hub of southern Afghanistan, and it was the birthplace of the insurgency in the 1990s, serving as the militants’ capital for part of their five-year rule. By seizing the city, the Taliban can effectively proclaim a return to power, if not complete control.
– By Christina Goldbaum, Sharif Hassan and Fahim Abed writing in the New York Times


Lester Holt spent 10 minutes on NBC’s Nightly News on the Taliban’s unsettling takeover of Afghanistan.

Retired US Army general David H. Petraeus and Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2010 & 2011, said on the radio today, that pulling out is a mistake, and that US forces need to go back in. It’s too late for that. Twenty years of effort and tens of billions of dollars of aid, to train an Afghan army, succumbed to the local corruption and internal strife there. The Biden* Administration has made it clear that the US troops are leaving, no matter what.

*Yes: Joe Biden is still the President of the United States. The delusional My Pillow guy had long touted today as ‘Reinstatement Day’ (which would see Trump put back in office). 

Map by Encyclopedia Brittanica.
Afghanistan is a mostly mountainous country (the Hindu Kush Himalayas) with 38 million people and 34 provinces. It is about as big as Texas. In the south is the Registan Desert. Afghanistan is the biggest producer of opium in the world. Most Afghans live in poverty and literacy rates in Afghanistan are among the lowest in the world, at 43%. The Taliban controls an estimated 65% of the territory, as of this week. [Map from FDD’s Long War Journal, figures from Aljazeera.com]

Sunday/ pomp and circumstance

Pomp and circumstance: impressive formal activities or ceremonies (Merriam-Webster dictionary).
Beefeater: Beef + eater. Prob. one who eats another’s beef, as his servant. Could also be from:  hlāfǣta, servant, properly a loaf eater. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary).
Beefeaters are the yeomen of the English royal guard, who, since the accession of Henry VII. in 1485, have attended the sovereign at state banquets and on other ceremonial occasions.
The name is also given to the warders of the Tower of London, who wear a similar uniform.


WINDSOR, ENGLAND – JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II (center), US President Joe Biden (right) and US First Lady Dr Jill Biden (left) at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2021 in Windsor, England. Queen Elizabeth II hosted US President, Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden at Windsor Castle. The President arrived from Cornwall where he attended the G7 Leader’s Summit.
By Sunday night he had arrived in Brussels, for a meeting of NATO Allies. Later in the week he will meet the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. (Photo by Samir Hussein – Pool/Wire Image)

Queen Elizabeth II received President Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden at Windsor castle today. ‘President Biden and the first lady seemed relaxed, and there were no obvious diplomatic breaches‘ reported the New York Times.
Yes. Like stepping in front of the Queen. Or tweeting about the Prince of ‘a group of large marine mammals’ (‘Whales’).

Saturday/ the war between Israel & Hamas

Today the President spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, and condemned these indiscriminate attacks against Israel.
– Statement from the White House @WhiteHouse on Twitter


It just seems to me that this statement is somewhat tone-deaf. It hides many, many of the complexities of the Israel-Hamas/ Palestine conflict. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself. What about the rights of Palestinians, who have been forced with an iron fist, to live like third-rate citizens in the confines of the Gaza strip and territories in the West Bank?

The stills below are from a video posted in the New York Times, of the destruction of the Gaza Tower.

Wednesday/ President Biden addresses Congress

Tomorrow marks President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.
Tonight, he addressed a joint session of Congress, with two women on the dais behind him for the first time in the country’s history (Madam VP Kamala Harris and Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi).
The president noted that 220 million vaccine shots had been given since he had taken office, and talked about his $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

Biden’s plans are big and bold. All told, there is a total of $6 trillion in the spending plans he has rolled out.
He says he will move ahead with these plans, even if he does not receive a single Republican vote of support in Congress:
The American Rescue Plan (the coronavirus relief bill), passed by Congress in March, $1.9 trillion.
The American Jobs Plan (infrastructure plan), unveiled Mar. 31, $2.3 trillion (paid for in part by raising the corporate tax rate).
The American Families Plan, unveiled this week, $1.8 trillion (paid for by increases in tax collection and high-earner income & capital gains taxes).

Illustration by Ben Kirchner for The New Yorker magazine, for an article titled ‘Biden’s Pandemic Plan Might Just Work’, by Dhruv Khullar, Jan 27, 2021.

Monday/ another massacre

mas·sa·cre
/ˈmasəkər/
noun

an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people


Reporting from the New York Times. Picture by Eliza Earle for the NYT.

The deadly shooting in Boulder today,  was the second massacre here in the United States in less than a week. So let me exercise my First Amendment rights, to address all Second Amendment gun fanatics.

The National Rifle Association is a domestic terrorist organization.
Of that I’m 99% sure.
(That the NRA is a domestic terrorism enabler, is borne out 100% by facts).

The domestic terrorist is almost always a white male.
More often than not, he is apprehended ‘without incident’.
(If he were black or brown, he would be shot dead).
The real ‘incident’ would usually be, what — 6, 8 .. or 10? people murdered in cold blood.
.. with an AR15 or something similar, a military-grade weapon that should have been outlawed decades ago,
.. and that the terrorist might have purchased just hours ago, over the counter (as in the case of Atlanta last week).

Is all of this the ‘well-regulated militia’ referred to in the (should-be-repealed) Second Amendment? Not even close. It’s a guns-for-all Wild West, that enables crazy people to go on killing sprees.

Thursday/ ‘we all lost something’

‘While it was different for everyone, we all lost something, a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice. A year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us’.
– President Joe Biden, in a nation-wide address today, on the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of the pandemic

Tuesday/ trillions of dollars of help

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan bill is about to be voted on for the final time (tomorrow, in the House). Then it will be signed into law by President Biden.

Direct payments will be sent to 150 million households ($1,400 per person), $300/ month unemployment benefits will be extended through September, additional monthly assistance will be paid to families with children, and it will provide funding for vaccine distribution & for state and local governments, and also boost subsidies for healthcare.

In the Senate, Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan through a procedure known as ‘reconciliation’, which enables certain budget bills to pass with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes necessary for a regular bill. (The Senate can only pass three bills a year through this process, and there are strict limits as to what can be in them).

If I have it right, not a single Republican has voted for the bill so far. Their anti-democratic, anti-everything, Party of Perceived Grievances should dissolve. You’re fired, all of you.

This eye-opening graphic from the Washington Post, tallies up the massive assistance that has had to be doled out from the federal government to counter the devastation from the pandemic. ‘Was this going to be the last?’ asked a reporter of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi today. ‘We will have to see’ was her reply (I’m paraphrasing).

 

Friday/ a poodle called Snowflake

One of the latest animal figures I had ordered from Schleich happens to be a poodle. I am naming the white pooch ‘Snowflake’ .. and no,  not because of the recent snow here in Seattle.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz took his family to sunny Cancun in Mexico on Wednesday night (to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, no less), leaving behind millions of his constituents in freezing homes with no electricity and no water.
That was bad enough, and Cruz returned the very next morning after a media firestorm erupted. It got even worse. It turned out that their family poodle, named Snowflake, was left behind in the freezing house.

Here is ‘Snowflake’. (Schleich® Poodle, part of their Farm World collection, Catalog Number 13917, new for 2020).
Snowflake got left behind in Houston in the Cruz’s freezing house. A security guard at the house assured the photographer that he is taking care of Snowflake.
[Photo Credit: Michael Hardy @mkerrhardy on Twitter]

Wednesday/ The Biden has landed

‘The new dawn blooms as we free it,
There is always light.
Only if we are brave enough to see it.
There is always light –
Only if we are brave enough to be it.’

— National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (22), delivering a poem at President Biden’s inauguration


It’s been a wonderful day here in the United States.
We now have President Joe Biden and Madam Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Before they were both sworn in, Lady Gaga sang The Star-Spangled Banner in her Schiaparelli scarlet & black couture, and wearing the largest golden peace dove brooch I had ever seen.
She made me cry (but Garth Brooks did not).

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, holds the Bible. Harris’ purple coat was designed by rising-star designer Christopher John Rogers. [Photo by Andrew Harnik / Pool via Getty Images]
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., just before noon Eastern Standard Time.  His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is holding a hefty Bible, accented with a Celtic cross, that has been in his family since 1893. [Picture by REUTERS/ Kevin Lamarque]
President Obama looked impeccable as always. As a Twitter fan noted, about ‘Forever First Lady’ Michele Obama: she did not come to play. She came to slay, with a burgundy-shaded jacket & matching turtleneck sweater and wide-leg trousers. The designer is Sergio Hudson, a Black designer from South Carolina. She completed her chic outfit with an oversized gold belt buckle, black leather gloves, simple black mask; her hair down in bouncy curls. [Picture by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post]

Monday/ it’s Martin Luther King Day

[Photo credit: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images]
Here is Dr Martin Luther King Jr, speaking on the Mall in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, after a civil rights march. This is where he delivered his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

Fast forward some 57 years, and in that time the United States had  inaugurated its first black president — twice.

In 2016, though, the archaic electoral college system, and vast social media disinformation campaigns, resulted in the first white supremacist president to be elected.

In 2021, that Capitol building in the distance would be overrun by violent white supremacists, seeking to overturn the free & fair* election results of 2020.
So now there is a vast amount of work to do, to eradicate a pandemic of lies about the election, along with the pandemic of the Covid-19 virus.

*A generous characterization? .. given the voter suppression, the non-stop gaslighting of voters by the sitting president and his allies, and the damage done to the US Postal service, in order to interfere with mail-in ballots and mail-in votes.

Sunday/ the Mall is closed

The long, grassy National Mall in Washington DC is home to the Lincoln Memorial and the equally iconic Washington Monument. It fills up with people during the inauguration of a newly elected American president. That will not happen this year with Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The Capitol building, and a large area around it, is patrolled and filled to the hilt with National Guardsmen, US Capitol Police, Washington DC police, the Secret Service – you name it.

I guess it is all a fitting end to the unmitigated disaster that was the Trump presidency.  The FBI published dozens of ‘FBI Seeking Information’ posters with pictures of the Jan 6. attackers. Several characters been marked ‘ARRESTED’ (dude with feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk; dude with horns & furs, and megaphone; ‘Baked Alaska’, a right-wing social media personality that live-streamed the scene from inside the Capitol with more than 5,100 viewers watching).

Trump is said to entertain the pardoning of at least 100 more criminals, in the final hours of his presidency. One wonders if any of those already arrested by the FBI, will get a pardon. I would hazard a guess and say they will not.    

That non-scalable fence is 8 ft high, but even so, razor wire is also being installed along its top. [Picture from Sunday taken by Evelyn Hockstein/for The Washington Post]

Wednesday/ impeached, again

And there it is.

From the Washington Post, today. 
Trump’s Senate Trial will start on Jan. 19 at the earliest. Joe Biden’s inauguration is on Jan. 20, at which time Moscow Mitch also gets downgraded to minority leader in the Senate. Trump has no legal team, no credible defense, and the events of Jan. 6 looks worse every day now, as more of what happened is revealed. [Front page of the New York Times for Thu Jan 14]

Monday/ Article I: Incitement of Insurrection

Part of the Article of Impeachment. There is a reference to the Sat. Jan. 2 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as well, in which Trump repeatedly tried to strong-arm him, and then threatened him, in his attempt to overturn the certified Georgia results. One can argue that that phone call alone, is an impeachable offense. And then came the run-up to Jan. 6, and Trump’s incitement of his followers at a rally in Georgia. When the assault on the Capitol happened on Jan. 6, the Trump family were watching it unfold on TV, and cheering.

It’s Monday night, and the Instigator-in-Chief is still in the White House.
The Article of Impeachment document has been published.
The latest is that the House will call for a vote on the Article of Impeachment by Wednesday night.

Here’s MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, explaining how Trump could be ousted. The Democrats want A or B, so that Biden can start his Presidency without lengthy impeachment hearings in the Senate. If the Dems are forced to impeach Trump in the House, they may wait several months before sending the Article to the Senate. (Yes, Trump can be impeached in the Senate even though he would already be out of office).
Plan A: Trump resigns, after getting VP Mike Pence to pardon him afterwards (the way Ford pardoned Nixon).
Plan B: Trump is removed by 25th Amendment.  Not likely, but if enough Republicans stay away and do not vote on the Amendment, it will be easier to get to 2/3 from those present in the Senate to vote Trump out with the 25th. 
Plan C: Trump is impeached (again). Also unclear if 2/3 in the Senate will find him guilty. What an indictment of the Republicans: that it’s doubtful if even 17 out of 50 would honor their vow to the Constitution.  (50 Dems + 17 Republicans = 2/3 of 100 Senators).

Friday/ Pelosi to Trump: you have to resign

Letter from Pelosi’s office today. (I corrected the date for them).

It is starting to look as if Trump is going to be impeached for a second time, with 12 days left in his term.
The rats have started to jump ship. Education Secretary Betsy De Vos, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger and others have resigned, possibly to avoid getting drawn into supporting Trump’s removal from office with the 25th Amendment.  First step to do this is for VP Mike Pence and for a majority of the cabinet, to provide a written declaration to the Senate .. but Pence is not going to do it. (25th Amendment removal requires 2/3 majorities in both the House and in the Senate).

So now to Impeachment 101 again.
It only requires a majority vote in the House to impeach. (The Democrats are in the majority, check).
Three House members already have a draft with one article for insurrection. (Trump encouraged & egged on the rioters of Wednesday; 5 people died, including a US Capitol Police officer).

Nancy Pelosi seems to be ready to have a vote on Monday.
Impeachment in the House is followed by a Senate trial. Conviction & removal requires 2/3 of the Senate, though. Neither the 25th Amendment nor impeachment automatically disqualifies Trump from running in 2024, but a clause in the 14th Amendment Section III can be written into the impeachment, to bar Trump from ever running again.

Whatever happens: Trump is not going to run again for president.
His Twitter account was permanently suspended today (for inciting violence), leaving himself & his 88 million followers in the dark.
He is likely going to be prosecuted for tax fraud and money laundering by New York State. He pardoned criminals, but he will not be able to pardon himself out of crimes that he would be found guilty of by the state of New York.