This week I was reintroduced to one of my favorite poems, Good Bones by Maggie Smith:
I loved a lot about this poem when I first read it in 2016 but I also hated parts of it. I wanted to find the author and argue with her about the premise. I wanted to convince her that life is not at least 50% terrible.
Oddly, since then, I have come around to her position. Life is at least 50% terrible. There are people who are born into pain and live in pain. There are horrible cruelties. There are injustices. That sounds terribly depressing, but it has actually been liberating. When you stop denying the existence of pain and difficulty, they no longer have the power to destroy you every time they rear their ugly heads. Instead, they hurt, but they also inspire you to keep building up the portion that is good.
I feel the same way about America. I love this country from the bottom of my soul, but it is at least 50% terrible. We built our nation on the backs of slaves. We continue to subjugate huge portions of our population. Income inequality continues to grow. We pay too little attention to the planet and too much to things that don’t matter at all.
But America has good bones. There are no better bones that government of the people, by the people, and for the people. There are no better bones than justice, freedom, and liberty for all.
Believing in those bones — seeing and feeling and experiencing those bones — inspires us to do the hard and never ending work of fixing and repairing all that needs to be fixed and repaired — from infrastructure to inequality. It leads us to continue the neverending fight against persistent problems like prejudice and inequality — the rot that always seems to return. It leads us to keep chipping away; room by room, floor by floor.
And knowing that our work is never done and that the forces of darkness are always fighting us makes our hard work that much more essential. This house could crumble into the ground without our work. It could be a pile of dust and sticks of old wood and rot and rusted nails poking our dangerously through the rubble.
But with our hard work, it can be better and better, every single day. You can picture it, can’t you? The walls painted vibrant colors. Plenty of space for everyone. Window seats conveniently located next to bookcases. A kitchen full of warm and delicious food. Beds covered in comforters and fluffy pillows. The holes in the windows and doors and curtains patched up and more beautiful for each patch. A shining house on a hill.
So when I speak of America — to my kids, to my friends, to myself, and to all of you — I am like that realtor walking you through a real shithole, chirping about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.
Biden is doing great things
Just check out article after article about all the great things about Biden’s plans and actions… from just this week!
President Biden on Friday asked Congress to authorize a massive $1.5 trillion federal spending plan in 2022, seeking to invest heavily in government agencies to boost education, expand public housing, combat the coronavirus and confront climate change.
Many of the agencies Biden seeks to fund at higher levels in 2022 are programs that now-former President Donald Trump had unsuccessfully sought to slash while in the White House. In a further break with Trump, Biden’s new plan also calls for keeping military spending relatively flat in the upcoming fiscal year.
Under the proposal, the Department of Education would see a roughly 41 percent increase over its current allocation, reaching $102 billion next fiscal year, with most of the increased funds targeted to the Title I program, which funds high-poverty schools. The proposal would double federal spending on the Title I program and represent the largest increase since it was created more than 55 years ago.
President Biden on Thursday announced a series of executive actions to curb gun violence, and he pledged to push for sweeping change to the country’s firearms laws — his first substantive response to a pair of mass shootings last month that left 18 dead.
The president unveiled new rules on “ghost guns” — firearms that are assembled at home, which lack serial numbers and are harder to track — among other moves designed to make it harder for unqualified people to obtain dangerous weapons.
Biden said his moves Thursday do not relieve Congress of the responsibility to act. He urged lawmakers to take up gun-control legislation, including measures already passed by the House that would require more gun buyers to undergo background checks.
“They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” Biden said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”
The president’s plan is to allocate $5 billion to a new competitive grant program that “awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate such needless barriers to producing affordable housing.”
ne of the most significant aspects of Biden’s infrastructure agenda could be the ability to influence Democratic policymakers and voters’ opinions on how their local zoning rules come into conflict with economic growth and equality of opportunity. Places like New York City and the Bay Area, with the greatest gains to be had in zoning reform, are overwhelmingly Democratic; having the leader of your party draw a clear line about where he stands is no small thing.
President Biden will sign an executive order Friday that creates a bipartisan commission to study a number of Supreme Court reforms, including expanding the number of seats on the court, the White House said.
Why it matters: The six-month commission, promised by Biden throughout the 2020 election, will provide an analysis of the principal arguments surrounding the divisive subject.
The Biden administration unveiled its plan to overhaul the corporate tax code on Wednesday, offering an array of proposals that would require large companies to pay higher taxes to help fund the White House’s economic agenda.
The plan, if enacted, would raise $2.5 trillion in revenue over 15 years. It would do so by ushering in major changes for American companies, which have long embraced quirks in the tax code that allowed them to lower or eliminate their tax liability, often by shifting profits overseas. The plan also includes efforts to help combat climate change, proposing to replace fossil fuel subsidies with tax incentives that promote clean energy production.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki signaled that President Biden is still considering his options on canceling student loan debt in a Monday press briefing.
The questions came after Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, said Biden had been researching his “legal authority” to use executive action on canceling up to $50,000 of student loan debt per person.
President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure proposal has a lot going on: replacing lead pipes, expanding broadband, improving roads and trains, investing in green energy technologies, and permanently altering the tax landscape to pay for it.
But one of its smartest provisions has mostly flown under the radar — a proposal to switch at least one-fifth of the school bus fleet from diesel to electric.
It may seem like a minor idea, bundled with other provisions in the plan’s splashy electric vehicle push, but it’s a low-key consequential one. There’s substantial evidence that breathing diesel fumes puts kids at risk and harms their performance at school. Until recently, the battery technology just wasn’t there to switch buses over to electric — but now it is. And Congress should make sure it’s in the final version of the infrastructure bill.
The White House is considering a pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 50% or more by the end of the decade, according to people familiar with the deliberations, a target that would nearly double the country’s previous commitment and require dramatic changes in the power, transportation and other sectors.
Biden’s first set of judicial nominations this week is the beginning of something big: almost certainly by the end of this Congress, the majority of lower court seats will be filled by Democratic appointees.
That may surprise you, considering the breathless coverage Donald Trump received for his four-year judicial confirmation blitz.
the Republican grip on the lower courts is tenuous. Just one circuit court has to flip for Democrats to hold the majority of circuits again. Just nine seats have to flip for Democrats to hold the majority of seats again.
Securing those flips shouldn’t be too hard. Despite Trump’s torrid pace, he left some judicial seats empty, and more vacancies have been announced since Biden’s inauguration. At present, the federal judiciary has 97 current and future vacancies for seats with lifetime appointments. Fifty-two of those vacant seats were last held by Republicans,
President Joe Biden is thanking naturalized Americans for “choosing us” in his official video message to the nation’s newest citizens.
In the brief remarks, Biden references the “courage” of immigrants coming to the U.S. and his own heritage as a descendant of Irish immigrants. He also praises the contribution they will make to American society.
“First and foremost, I want to thank you for choosing us and believing that America is worthy of your aspirations,” Biden says in the video, calling the U.S. “this great nation of immigrants.”
“You all have one thing in common — courage,” Biden says in the video, released on Monday. “The courage it takes to sacrifice and make this journey. The courage to leave your homes, your lives, your loved ones, and come to a nation that is more than just a place but rather an idea. An idea that where everyone is created equal and deserves to be treated equally.”
With more than one in 10 households reporting that they lack enough to eat, the Biden administration is accelerating a vast campaign of hunger relief that will temporarily increase assistance by tens of billions of dollars and set the stage for what officials envision as lasting expansions of aid.
The effort to rush more food assistance to more people is notable both for the scale of its ambition and the variety of its legislative and administrative actions. The campaign has increased food stamps by more than $1 billion a month, provided needy children a dollar a day for snacks, expanded a produce allowance for pregnant women and children, and authorized the largest children’s summer feeding program in history.
“We haven’t seen an expansion of food assistance of this magnitude since the founding of the modern food stamp program in 1977,” said James P. Ziliak, an economist at the University of Kentucky who studies nutrition programs. “It’s a profound change.”
The Biden administration is stepping up efforts to combat domestic extremism, increasing funding to prevent attacks, weighing strategies historically used against foreign terrorist groups and more openly warning the public about the threat.
The attempts to more assertively grapple with the potential for violence from white supremacists and militias are a shift from President Donald J. Trump’s pressure on federal agencies to divert resources to target the antifa movement and leftist groups despite the conclusion by law enforcement authorities that far-right and militia violence was a more serious threat.
We Are Fighting for Voting Rights
No bigger fight right now than the one for voting rights and we have great allies.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday signed a bill automatically restoring voting rights to people who have been released from prison after committing felonies, even if they are still on parole — a measure sponsored by a lawmaker who was herself formerly incarcerated.
“While other states are restricting the right to vote, I’m glad that in Washington, we are expanding access to democracy,” Inslee said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Wednesday signed a bipartisan bill that expands voting access in the state.
Why it matters: The legislation, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature, comes as Republicans in other states push for more voting restrictions. Last month, Georgia became the first battleground state to pass a law curbing voting access.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order Tuesday that directs the city’s chief equity officer to implement “a series of actions to mitigate the impact” of Georgia’s new election law imposing a series of voting restrictions.
The city of Atlanta does not have authority over state election law, so the administrative order cannot change any of the new requirements. Most of the actions focus on voter education and staff training to better assist Atlanta residents with information on the new law changes or how to obtain necessary identification.“This Administrative Order is designed to do what those in the majority of the state legislature did not — expand access to our right to vote,” Bottoms said in a statement.
Want to help? Here are some ideas:
- Join the charge to protect voting rights in your community
- Voting rights are under attack in state legislatures, and Federal action is needed.
- Help voters get the IDs they need to vote
- The ACLU plays a key role in filing lawsuits that often stop voter suppression. Get involved with them at this link.
- The League of Women Voters work year-round to combat voter suppression through advocacy, grassroots organizing, legal action and public education. You can get involved with them at this link
- Volunteer with Black Votes Matter at this link. They have on the ground work in 10 states and people from other states can write postcards, phone bank, fundraise, and text.
- Spread The Vote works to get voters IDs before voting begins. You can volunteer with them at this link.
- Sign up at Democracy Docket to stay informed about the fight against voter suppression and the fight for voter rights.
- CALL YOUR SENATORS and let them know that voting rights are at the top of your agenda!
Most important: DON’T LOSE HOPE. This is a giant and important fight for us but, win or lose, we keep fighting and voting and organizing and spreading truth and light. We never give up.
Things are less great for Republicans
Turns out that Mitch McConnell doesn’t actually think corporations are people or that money is speech if the companies in question aren’t speaking his language. Instead, he warned them to “stay out of politics,” since they “invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs.” Uh huh.
And that isn’t what McConnell signed up for as he spent the past three decades waging war on behalf of unregulated corporate cash’s “right” to corrupt our democracy. What he meant, as anyone who’s watched his incredibly destructive career knows, is that those corporations were welcome to bestow wheelbarrows of cash upon Republicans, to relieve him of the burden of having to actually develop policy ideas to improve Americans’ lives and get around the fact he’s a charisma event horizon.
Companies that create things need an educated workforce, which increasingly means Democratic and socially tolerant. And they must appeal to consumers with disposable income who actually buy stuff. Needless to say, these folks tend not to reside in what you’d call “the Hannity demographic.”
So Mitch doesn’t want these companies to talk. But as Georgia has proven, they’re going to anyhow, because the alternative is alienating their customers, and no amount of crazy GOP tweets suggesting major league baseball is is an offshoot of the “China Virus” that makes its players do double headers reading Dr. Seuss will change that fact.
What this all means is that Mitch is finally reaping the whirlwind of the corporate speech he was so keen to unleash on our politics back when it benefitted him and his party.
Call it the anti-boycott. While Major League Baseball it is pulling the All Star Game out of Georgia in protest of the state’s recently passed election law, Patagonia is giving $1 million to groups to push voting access in the state.
In an announcement Tuesday morning, the outdoor apparel maker announced it will divide the money equally between the New Georgia Project and the Black Voters Matter Fund, two grassroots groups that actively opposed Senate Bill 202 in Georgia before Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation last week.
President Biden is boasting about Mitch McConnell’s voters supporting his policies. In this special report, MSNBC’s Ari Melber examines how republican voters are supporting Pres. Biden’s agenda from the popular Covid Relief Bill to a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs package. Melber reports on how democrats are using the ‘Reagan Playbook’ – working on a wave of ‘Biden Republicans’ similar to the ‘Reagan Democrats.’
What would it take to bankrupt the Proud Boys?
One of the oldest historically Black churches in America may soon find out.
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the Proud Boys’ leader, has so far refused to answer a lawsuit filed on January 4 by the Metropolitan AME Church accusing him and other members of committing acts of terror by destroying Black Lives Matter signs in Washington, D.C., in December.
And that leaves the downtown-D.C. church days away from a likely default victory, legal experts say—one that could hand the church, founded in 1872, the power to blow the lid off the notorious street-fighting gang’s murky financial empire, begin hunting down its assets, and stake a claim on what it finds.
The House Ethics Committee said Friday it was opening an investigation into the allegations surrounding embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican facing a federal investigation into whether he violated sex trafficking laws.The top Democrat and Republican on the Ethics Committee said they were examining Gaetz for a host of potential offenses, including both potential illegal activity and violations of House rules
Promising Virus News
The U.S. reached a milestone in its vaccination efforts on Wednesday, with new data showing that close to 25 percent of adults in the country have been fully vaccinated.
The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also show that 40 percent of adults and 75 percent of seniors have received at least one dose.
Last year, as then-President Donald Trump railed against Covid-19 lockdowns and called on states to reopen their economies, he claimed the shutdowns would lead to a spike in suicides: “You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression. You’re going to lose people. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands.”
But new data suggests that the number of suicides actually decreased in the US last year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicides totaled fewer than 45,000 in 2020, down from about 47,500 in 2019 and more than 48,000 in 2018.
So far, this seems to be true globally. England saw no increase in suicides in the aftermath of lockdowns, Louis Appleby, a researcher on suicide and self-harm at the University of Manchester, wrote for the medical journal BMJ. The same seems to be true in other nations, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, and Sweden, based on data for the first few months of lockdowns around the globe.
- Schools around the country are reopening — slowly
- By the fall, essentially all teachers will be vaccinated. Older kids may be, too.
- Distancing guidelines could shift, and masks will remain effective
- Many places will still offer a remote option
- Schools will have more resources to help keep people safe
Pfizer on Friday asked the FDA for an amendment to its emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine to expand its use in people ages 12-15 in the United States.“It’s highly likely” that the FDA will allow the expansion and could act “relatively quickly,” the acting chairman of an FDA vaccine advisory committee said.“It’s highly likely, if the data submitted support it,” said Dr. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan who is serving as acting chairman of the advisory committee for its review of the Covid-19 vaccines. “I think it could be done relatively quickly.”
On the Lighter Side
I am so proud and so lucky to be in this with all of you ❤️ ✊ ❤️