Good Day, Gnusies!
There’s such a lot of good news again this morning, I can’t wait to share it. As you read, notice just how many people in so many arenas of life are working hard to build a better world! Yes, Republicans will kick and scream and sabotage and fight progress every step of the way, and Joe, Kamala and the entire Democratic leadership is ready for them. Even FDR — to whom Joe is already being compared in some circles — had a struggle to get most of his agenda to rescue America implemented, and he didn’t succeed in everything. Looking back, we sometimes forget what it must have been like at the time. It is never easy to make progress. And yet we are going to make progress. We are strong and growing stronger. The momentum is with progressives and Democrats are not going to waste it!
Before I bring you all the good news I could find last night, here is a beautiful video and new song from Pink, recorded with her daughter, Willow. I think it captures a lot of what so many of us are feeling right now — the hope and the optimism as we are finally beginning to see the rays of sunshine breaking through the gloom of despair and anxiety we’ve been enduring for so long. And I bet this darling little girl, sweetly, joyfully singing, full of promise and hope for the future, will warm your heart like she did mine.
Happy Wednesday, Gnusies! Here comes the sunshine!
🎵 Musical Opener 🎵
President Joe Biden Continues to Make Us Proud
As Michael Tomasky said in his column last week, President Joe Biden’s first 30 days has been “staggeringly good”, and he will continue to show us why he is the man for this moment in history.
“It Hasn’t Happened in My Lifetime”: A Labor Historian on Biden’s Pro-Union Push, Noah Lanard, Mother Jones, March 2, 2021.
There were early signs President Joe Biden would try to make good on his pledge to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” On the first day of his presidency he fired Peter Robb, the anti-labor general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board appointed by Donald Trump. One day later, Biden fired Robb’s Trump-era deputy.
The pro-union shift has now become far more public. On Sunday, Biden delivered a video message in support of unionization and against the tactics companies use to stop it. The video comes as thousands of Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are facing intense pressure from management as they vote on whether to unionize. Biden didn’t explicitly tell Bessemer workers to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. But it was hard to see the video posted to his official Twitter account as anything less than an endorsement.
Labor historians quickly weighed in to say it was the most pro-union message they’d ever seen from a sitting president.Labor historians quickly weighed in to say it was the most pro-union message they’d ever seen from a sitting president.
Biden urges Senate Dems to rally behind $1.9T virus bill, Alan Fram, AP News, March 2, 2021.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to rally behind a $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill and stood by his proposed $1,400 payments to individuals, even as some party moderates sought to dial back parts of the package.
“He said we need to pass this bill and pass it soon. That’s what the American people sent us here to do, and we have to get America the help it needs,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters, describing a 20-minute conference call Biden had with Democratic senators.
The president’s cry for unity came as Democrats, with no votes to spare in a 50-50 Senate, sorted through lingering divisions over the emerging bill. Those included moderates’ efforts to focus spending more narrowly on those hardest hit by the deadly pandemic and resulting economic contraction.
Good News From the U.S. Senate
Senate Dems sorting final details of $1.9T virus relief bill, Alan Fram, AP News, March 2, 2021.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats sorted through lingering disagreements over emergency jobless benefits and other issues Tuesday and prepared to commence Senate debate on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that would deliver a major victory to President Joe Biden.
With Democrats having no margin for error in the evenly split 50-50 Senate, Biden was expected to urge them on by conference call. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he planned to bring the sweeping bill to the floor as early as Wednesday, teeing up first votes on a bill aimed at energizing the nation’s battle against the pandemic and its wounded economy. ✄
The legislation would provide $1,400 payments to individuals plus hundreds of billions of dollars for schools and colleges, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, mass transit systems, renters and small businesses.
It also has money for child care, tax breaks for families with children and assistance for states willing to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents.
Democrats Push Biden To Avoid Major Mistake Of Last Economic Recovery, Kevin Robillard, HuffPost, March 2, 2021.
Ten Democratic senators are pushing President Joe Biden to make direct payments and the extension of boosted unemployment insurance benefits automatic until the economy fully recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to take the fate of the recovery out of the hand of politicians and avoiding a key mistake of the Democratic plan to recover from the financial collapse of 2008.
Led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the senators are pushing Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party to include what are called “automatic stabilizers” in his Build Back Better plan, which is expected to be written this spring and summer and aims to jump-start the economic recovery. The stabilizers would automatically extend enhanced unemployment benefits and issue direct payments to American families until key economic indicators ― say, GDP growth, the unemployment rate or job growth ― reach predetermined levels. ✄
The 10 senators who signed the letter include the chairs of three major committees: Wyden, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who leads the Budget Committee; and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the chair of the Senate Banking Committee. Other signatories include five veteran progressives ― Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin ― alongside newly installed Sen. Alex Padilla of California and the more moderate Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.
U.S. Senate confirms Raimondo to head Commerce Department, David Shepardson, Reuters, March 2, 2021.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted 84-15 on Tuesday to confirm Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to head the U.S. Commerce Department, the agency that repeatedly sparred with China during the prior administration.
Raimondo, a Democrat tapped by President Joe Biden, will oversee the Commerce Department and its bureaus, which have about 46,000 employees.
The department includes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Census, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service and the Foreign Commercial Service. It also helps negotiate trade agreements and enforces laws on trade and national security.
Her approach will be far better than former secretary Ross’s: Biden’s Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo, Confirmed By Senate, Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, March 2, 2021.
During the confirmation process, Raimondo emphasized the need for the department to address how the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the economy and underscored structural inequities facing people of color and families with lower incomes.
“In this time of overlapping crises, the Commerce Department must be a partner to businesses and their workers to help them innovate and grow,” Raimondo said during the January confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.
Among Raimondo’s most urgent agenda items in the coming weeks is overseeing the processing and release of the first results of the 2020 census, which are now more than two months overdue because of delays stemming from COVID-19 and last-minute schedule changes by the Trump administration.
Warren Revives Wealth Tax, Citing Pandemic Inequalities, Jim Tankersley, New York Times, March 1, 2021.
Ms. Warren’s wealth tax would apply a 2 percent tax to individual net worth — including the value of stocks, houses, boats and anything else a person owns, after subtracting out any debts — above $50 million. It would add an additional 1 percent surcharge for net worth above $1 billion. It is co-sponsored in the House by two Democratic representatives, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania, a moderate. ✄
Polls have consistently shown Ms. Warren’s proposal winning the support of more than three in five Americans, including a majority of Republican voters.
“A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations,” Ms. Warren said. “As Congress develops additional plans to help our economy, the wealth tax should be at the top of the list to help pay for these plans because of the huge amounts of revenue it would generate.” ✄
Ms. Warren estimated her initial proposal during the 2020 campaign would raise $2.75 trillion over a decade, which she proposed spending on education and child care, based on estimates from the University of California, Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.
For a ton of useful information about this (longer than the usual Raw Story blurb), here is more:
🎵 Music for Millionaires 🎵
Dems in the House No Slouches Either!
Sweeping climate bill aims for zero carbon emissions by 2050, Benjamin J Hulac, RollCall, March 2, 2021.
High-ranking House Democrats unveiled legislation Tuesday to zero out domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, including deep cuts in the next decade, a deadline that has support from the world’s leading climate scientists.
The draft bill would set a U.S. goal to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 50 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2030. It would also set a national goal to “achieve net-zero” emissions by mid-century and direct heads of federal agencies to come up with plans for how to meet those targets by 2050.
“We have to act decisively,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told reporters. “The time for small marginal change is long past. If we don’t take meaningful nationwide action now our children will inherit an economy and a world beyond their capacity to repair.”
Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., the chairmen of the panel’s subcommittees on the environment and energy respectively, said there would be hearings on the bill. While the committee members said they aim to move the bill through the committee process and gain Republican support, they did not rule out using the budget reconciliation process to advance it.
And some bicameral Democratic work
Democratic lawmakers introduce new proposal for Puerto Rico statehood, Olivia Wilcon, CBS, MArch 2, 2021.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday tried to lay the groundwork for Puerto Rico to become a state, introducing a bill that would set up a vote for residents to decide on statehood and the election of its own senators and representatives.
The bill, introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Representative Darren Soto of Florida, has the backing of Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi and Delegate Jenniffer González-Colón, the island’s resident commissioner. Its supporters argue that the federal government doesn’t treat Puerto Rican citizens equally, something statehood would help rectify.
Soto says the bill has about 50 co-sponsors. At a news conference Tuesday, he pointed to the hardships the island has endured, including the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and he argued residents deserve the same representation as all Americans.
⚖ Justice ⚖
Fulton DA’s investigation into Trump heads to grand jury, Christian Boone and Tamar Hallerman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 2, 2021.
Fulton County prosecutors are expected to appear before a grand jury this week seeking subpoenas for documents and witnesses related to their investigation of former President Donald Trump and some of his top associates for possible election fraud, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
Legal experts are split as to whether there’s a strong case to be made, but most agree Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results merit greater scrutiny. Fani Willis, Fulton’s new district attorney, has said she’s prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads. ✄
She indicated she’s investigating several state crimes, including solicitation of election fraud, making false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.
FBI chief calls Jan. 6 ‘domestic terrorism,’ defends intel, Eric Tucker and Mary Clare Jalonick, AP News. March 2, 2021.
WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director Chris Wray condemned the January riot at the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorism” Tuesday as he defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence indicating the prospect for violence. He told lawmakers the information was properly shared with other law enforcement agencies even though it was raw and unverified.
Wray’s comments before Congress, in a rare public appearance since the deadly Capitol attack two months ago, was the FBI’s most vigorous defense against the suggestion that it had not adequately communicated the distinct possibility of violence as lawmakers certified the results of the presidential election. He also described in stark terms the threat from domestic violent extremists and said that, contrary to some Republicans, there is no evidence that anti-Trump groups were involved in the riot. ✄
In characterizing the events of Jan. 6 as an act of domestic terrorism, Wray highlighted the FBI’s growing concern about an increase in extremist violence in the U.S., including from militia groups, white supremacists and anarchists. The threat they pose is being treated with the same urgency as that from international terror groups like the Islamic State or al-Qaida.
More from Christopher Wray: Wray Hints Feds Are Looking To Charge People Who Simply Trespassed On Capitol Grounds , Matt Shuham, TPM, March 2, 2021.
✔️ Voting Rights ✔️
Liberals are rightly concerned about the SCOTUS case currently being argued which could jeopardize voting rights and yet the case may have some surprises for us:
Hardcore GOP Position For Defanging VRA Falls Apart Under SCOTUS Questioning, Tierney Sneed, Talking Points Memo, March 2, 2021.
But the oral arguments produced another seeming loser. Michael Carvin, the high-profile Republican lawyer who was representing the state GOP in the hearing. Carvin backtracked on the sweeping arguments in the GOP’s briefs, prompting skepticism from the court’s left and right wing alike. ✄
Coney Barrett’s harsh exchange with Carvin suggested that there were not five votes on the court for the state GOP’s original position that put election regulations out of reach for the results test of the VRA. The potential that the Court would take the state GOP’s suggestion and say that the “results test” did not cover election regulations was the absolute doomsday scenario for federal voting rights enforcement. There were plenty other ways, however, that the conservatives flirted with limiting the scope of that provision. ✄
How Carvin wavered on his even more hostile take on the VRA was not the only surprising moment from the hearing. He was surprisingly candid when he was asked by Justice Coney Barrett why the GOP should be allowed to be in the case in the first place. (Its opponents have argued that striking down the measures does not inflict the kind of harm to the GOP that would allow it to defend the measures in court.)
Carvin justified the GOP presence in the case by saying that blocking the policies put Republicans at a “disadvantage” because it would help more people to vote, and those people would lean Democratic.
More here: The Voting Rights Act had a surprisingly good day at the Supreme Court, Iam Milhiser, Vox News, March 2, 2021.
Meanwhile in Georgia
Quick story here from Georgia (🎩 hat tip to hpg who posted about this in the Evening Shade last night, thanks!): don’t succumb to gloom and dooming about the GQPer machinations to suppress the vote. Our Democrats are outnumbered, but still going to fight like hell! Never forget that we are NOT helpless in the face of Republican fuckery!
Also, in case you still had any lingering doubt about whether Stacey Abrams is the GOAT for voting rights…
The Jolt: Georgia Democrats play hardball to derail GOP voting restrictions, Greg Bluestein and Tia Mitchell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 2, 2021.
Georgia Democrats and their allies are behind an extraordinary campaign at the Capitol and in the public square to derail the new Republican-backed voting restrictions moving through the statehouse.
The pressure is mounting as Georgia House lawmakers prepare to vote Monday on a measure that would require ID for absentee voting, curb the use of ballot drop boxes and restrict weekend early voting hours.
Ads financed by Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action group began bombarding the airwaves last week with dire warnings that the new restrictions on mail-in ballots will hurt Republicans as much as Democrats.
If you’re able and so inclined, you can support Fair Fight Action here.
🎵 Music Time! 🎵
US sanctions Russian officials over nerve-agent attack, Ellen Knickmeyer, AP News, March 2, 2021.
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid- and senior-level Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen businesses and other entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.
The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration’s first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was an intimate and favorite of President Donald Trump even amid covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. ✄
Tuesday’s step “was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We’re prepared for that.”
Good Health News
💉 Covid Vaccine News 💉
Go, Joe, Go! A weary nation thanks you!
Biden vows enough vaccine for all US adults by end of May, Zeke Miller, Linda A Johnson and Jonathan Lemire, AP News, March 2,, 2021.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
With the bolstered supply, Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers, and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all educators by the end of March as part of his administration’s efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Biden, who likened the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national cooperation during World War II.
Here are the details on that Merck/J&J cooperative effort:
Merck Will Help Manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine, Sydney Lupkin, NPR News, March 2, 2021.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced, calling it “an unprecedented historic step,” considering that the two companies are normally competitors.
Merck will produce the drug substance at the heart of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine as well as work on filling vaccine vials and getting them ready for distribution.
“The U.S. government will facilitate this partnership in several key ways, including invoking the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safety manufacture the vaccine and asking the Department of Defense to provide daily logistical support to strengthen Johnson & Johnson’s efforts,” Psaki said during Tuesday afternoon’s press briefing.
Exciting development in Alzheimer’s research
New Drug Prevents Buildup of Brain Plaques Responsible for Alzheimer’s, Dustin Manduffie, Courthouse News, March 2, 2021
Researchers unveiled new evidence that a novel Alzheimer’s drug could prove effective in treating patients with early signs of the disease – though less so in its later stages.
A team from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital published a study Tuesday in the Journal of Experimental Medicine demonstrating the drug’s effectiveness in monkeys, rodents and birds, which could pave the way to human trials.
Researchers believe the new drug will be most effective in patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s and in those who are genetically predisposed to getting the disease. They warn that it’s less likely to benefit individuals who are already symptomatic because the drug helps prevent amyloid plaque from forming but doesn’t reverse damage that has already been done.
Great News from Texas!
More evidence of just how much energy and determination and people power we have on the side of equality, humanity and equality:
Planned Parenthood Returns to Rural Texas, By Kaysie Ellingson, Sophie Novack and The Texas Observer, The Nation. March 2, 2021.
This is a long and deeply reported article, but hopefully I can give you the good news highlights in a few paragraphs:
Access to reproductive health care is limited statewide, but especially in vast, mostly rural West Texas. Lubbock, a city of around 260,000 that also serves as a medical hub for people in surrounding counties, has largely been without dedicated family planning providers in recent years. For the 15 percent of residents who are uninsured, options for affordable reproductive health care are even more scarce after years of budget cuts by elected officials. Few publicly funded family planning clinics remain in the region. There are just three providers in the 41 counties that comprise the Panhandle and South Plains regions that are part of the federally funded Title X family planning program. The two federally qualified health centers in Lubbock, which provide a range of primary care services, sometimes have weeks-long waits for appointments. After the Lubbock center closed in 2013, there were no Planned Parenthood facilities left in the western half of the state. And for the last seven years, Lubbock residents seeking an abortion have had to travel at least 300 miles one-way to the closest provider in Fort Worth, one of the longest distances from any city in the country. ✄
In 2018, Planned Parenthood announced plans to open two clinics in West Texas, citing a dearth of services in the region. Barred from state funding streams, the organization launched a $16 million fundraising campaign for the expansion, with private donations going toward running the health centers and helping to subsidize care for uninsured patients, says Sarah Wheat, chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. In October of 2018, Planned Parenthood returned to El Paso, which had been the largest city in the country without a clinic after the last one closed in 2009. Last July, Planned Parenthood announced that it would open a Lubbock clinic, though the location and timing were not released for security reasons. But after “monitoring” the old clinic location, local anti-abortion activists identified the new address and shared it, along with photos, in a mass e-mail through the statewide anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life in mid-October. Planned Parenthood opened its doors just a few days later.
⚡️ Lightning RoundUp ⚡️
⚡️Yer Wonkette: Manhattan DA Getting Closer And Closer To Trump, Like Chompy ‘Jaws’ Shark!, Evan Hurst, Wonkette, March 2, 2021.
⚡️Perspective; FDR, Johnson and Joe Biden: Democrats Are Learning Fast Why Being in Power Can Suck, Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 2, 2021.
⚡️Kitzinger appears to be in the wrong party — great read! The Man Who Refused to Bow, Peter Wehner, The Atlantic, March 2, 2021
⚡️ How Is The COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Going In Your State?, Pien Huang and Audrey Carlsen, NPR News, March 2, 2021.
⚡️ YAY Dolly is vaccinated! Dolly Parton gets COVID-19 vaccine she helped fund with her $1 million donation, Cillea Houghton, ABC, March 2, 2021.
⚡️ COOL history and science! Reading A Letter That’s Been Sealed For More Than 300 Years — Without Opening It, Nell GreenfieldBoyce, NPR, March 2, 2021.
⚡️ Fascinating article on the history of “pink” and “blue” toys! Toys are ditching genders for the same reason they first took them on, Paul Ringel, Washington Post, March 2, 2021.
⚡️ Oops! Hope you know who doesn’t hear about this, Alex! Leaked Video Shows Alex Jones Railing Against Trump: ‘God, I’m F*cking Sick of Him’, Reed Richardson, Mediaite, March 2, 2021.
Here’s How You Can Help Build Our Democracy Back Better
Democratic litigation hero, Marc Elias was the legal eagle behind the 60 Big Lie losses after the election. Here’s his website, Democracy Docket. You can find information about current cases he is fighting to defend voting rights around the country, as well as actions you can take to help fight voter suppression at the link!
🎩 Also, Goody posted a great list of links and I am going to borrow it because it’s great! 🎩
The only way they can win is by keeping people from voting. They are working like heck to make that happen and we need to do all we can to keep 2022 from being a year when they grab the Senate and House back from us.
How do we do that? Fight voter suppression!
What can you do?
- Contact your local representative NOW to encourage them to pass the For the People Act. This link makes it easy to do!
- 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.
- Finally, when it comes time to pass HR1 (the new voting rights act) the Democrats will have to end the filibuster to do it. It will not pass without that. 10 Republicans will not vote for it. So, when the time comes, you will need to call, call, call and call your Senators to push them to do this. If you live in Arizona, Montana, or West Virginia, you may want to put in for some vacation time to really devote yourself to it. It will be the only option. Get ready!
💙 RoundUp WindDown 💙
We’ve been through a lot and there’s still plenty of struggle ahead. But, Gnusies, the path looks a whole lot brighter. we will have to work as hard as we possibly can to ensure that Democrats hold on to the House and Senate in 2022 so that we can continue to have good government working to make the country stronger, better and more equitable.
The sunlight is also visible at the end of the long, dark pandemic tunnel. We’ve got a shot at a fairly normal summer and fall this year, with vaccines and Democratic leadership to get them into peoples’ arms.
I encourage everyone to use this time of remaining pandemic social distancing to rest and recharge as much as you can. There’s a lot of work ahead of us — mostly the good, satisfying kind of work — and we will need to be at our best to keep it up.
Eat nutritious food, get some rest and try to get outdoors for a few minutes each day if you can. Being out in nature is the ideal, but even in the city we can look up at the sky and watch the clouds puff by. It will refresh your spirit.
Thanks to all of you for coming to Gnuville and reading each day. Happy Wednesday!