Heather Cox Richardson

As a Californian, I teared up at the news that Biden activated FEMA to help Texas. When it got really bad here over the summer, we got “too bad you didn’t rake your forests better”. The federal government at its best takes care of the whole country, and I don’t care who is the beneficiary of that.

Hope all our Texas mutants are Ok. We’re all pulling for you.

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February 18, 2021 (Thursday)

Today felt like a breather between the real, final end of the Trump presidency and the ramping up of the Biden years.

The Senate acquitted Trump of incitement of insurrection on Saturday. In response, the former president issued a statement reiterating all his lies in the months since the election. Then, last Tuesday, he lambasted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for blaming him for the insurrection. McConnell, clearly the winner in this exchange, didn’t even bother to answer.

Trump broke his post-trial silence yesterday, calling in to the Fox News Channel to acknowledge the death of talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. “He was with me right from the beginning. And he liked what I said and he agreed with what I said. And he was just a great gentleman. Great man," Trump said.

Limbaugh’s passing felt like the end of an era.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration are unveiling proposals for the future. Today, Democrats offered a proposal for providing a path to citizenship for most of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally offered to restore the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.

As we dive into the Biden presidency, I have some observations:

It is much harder and more complicated to build something, as the Democrats are trying to do, than it is to destroy something. This means it will be harder to give a clear daily picture of the Biden administration than it was of the previous administration. The status of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, for example, is not clear right now because it is being marked up in committees, as such a bill should be. While the contours are likely what they were when they went in, what will emerge and then be put into a draft bill is not yet clear enough that we can talk about it definitively.

Biden also appears to favor making a number of changes in different programs to achieve a goal, rather than moving a single large piece. On the table right now, for example, is the question of the forgiveness of up to $50,000 in student loan debt. Biden said yesterday he did not favor excusing more than $10,000, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tonight he has asked the Department of Justice to look into whether he has the constitutional power to excuse the debt, something that is not at all clear.

My guess is that his administration will try to avoid legal questions by getting rid of predatory lending and chipping away at debt in limited, clearly legal ways, rather than facing the issue in one fell swoop. So, for example, the coronavirus relief bill contains rules that will prevent for-profit colleges from taking advantage of military veterans. It will be important to look at the big picture of Biden’s policies, rather than taking stock of them in pieces.

There are two big questions the Biden administration is going to have to negotiate. One is the conflict between the constitutional role of Congress and the increasingly powerful presidency. In our system, it is Congress that is supposed to pass the nation’s laws. The president’s job is to make sure the laws are executed. But the presidency has taken on more and more power since at least the time of Richard Nixon’s administration, using the president’s direction of the executive branch to determine where the money Congress appropriates goes, for example, and sending troops to engage in military actions without a congressional declaration of war. As the Senate under McConnell has increasingly refused to act, more and more power has flowed to the White House.

Biden is an institutionalist who values the role of Congress—he was, after all, a senator for more than 35 years-- and yet the refusal of Senate Republicans to agree to any Democratic legislation means that he has launched his presidency with a sweeping range of executive actions. This runs the risk of alienating not only Republicans, but also those of his supporters who worry about the concentration of power in the presidency. His apparent refusal to use an executive order to cancel student debt without a firm declaration of legality from the Department of Justice suggests he’s trying not to push this boundary too far.

And yet, how can he preserve the power of Congress to pass legislation if it refuses to? How can the Democrats pass popular legislation if the Republican senators refuse to budge? Observers note that Biden’s coronavirus plan is exceedingly popular: 64% of voters want to see it happen. But Republican lawmakers are all opposed to it. It’s a conundrum: how can the Democrats both preserve the power of Congress and, at the same time, actually pass popular legislation over the obstructionist Republicans who appear to be out of step with the American people?

Democrats are committed to passing the coronavirus relief measure with or without Republican votes, and they predict they can do so by the end of next week. But then they are hoping to pass a $3 trillion infrastructure package, and there is little hope of finding Republican votes for it. The Democrats can pass an infrastructure bill through the budget reconciliation process or by getting rid of the filibuster, but doesn’t it set a bad precedent to spend almost $5 trillion by partisan votes alone? They would prefer to negotiate with Republicans.

The question of how—or if—that can happen is tied to the other big question the Biden administration will have to deal with, and that is whether it will be the Democrats or the Republicans who manage to advance their plan for voting rights. While the first measures Democrats introduced in this session of Congress were bills to expand and protect voting, Republicans in state legislatures across the nation are considering measures to limit voting. Expanded voting rights will encourage lawmakers to vote for laws that are popular; voter suppression will make that less important. What happens in state legislatures will echo at the national level.

So there is a lot on the table going forward.

But for today, it is a bit of a wonder that the news is no longer absorbed by the latest outrage from the presidential administration. The big story continues to be the disaster in Texas… along with the landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars, where it will explore the Jezero Crater. Almost four billion years ago, this was the site of a lake, and the rover will look for microfossils to bring back to Earth. It will also look for signs of life, and record sound on the planet for the first time ever.

Biden was quick to claim the theme of Perseverance for today’s nation. “Congratulations to NASA and everyone whose hard work made Perseverance’s historic landing possible,” he tweeted. “Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.”

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Thus was it ever. Destruction shows results much more clearly and quickly, construction takes time and is much more step-wise. We as a country have come to expect instant gratification, and that is not going to happen.

This runs the risk of alienating not only Republicans,

His defeat of Trump permanently alienated the Republicans, and it is important that he realizes this. SO long as the right proclaims fealty to Il Douche, Biden cannot pretend to any sort of kumbayah bipartisanship. At all.

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I need to be pedantic here:

As a scientist, I object to this.

Some things are impossible and always will be. Also space exploration is a particularly international effort, and while the US mission is really awesome, I think it would be impossible without international co-operations.

Now, if this doesn’t qualify me for a Pedant’s Pendant, IDKS.

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Pointing out errors in political rhetoric? I’m not so certain that’s worthy of a pendant. Would you settle for a no-prize?

image

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Oh, come on. Usually people get it for pointing out someone is inaccurate describing something on the BBS.

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February 19, 2021 (Friday)

Speaking virtually today to the Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering to discuss international security policy, President Biden promised that “America is back.” He assured the world that the U.S. will work with our European partners. We are, he said, committed to NATO, which the previous president tried to undermine, and we will honor Article 5 of that compact, which says that an attack on any one NATO ally will be considered an attack on all of them. He noted that the only time this article has ever been invoked was after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Biden noted that “the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined… to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.” He said we must work together to address the coronavirus pandemic, the global economic crisis, and the climate crisis.

Then he cut to the core of what is at stake.

Democracy is under assault around the world, he said. “We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world. We’re at an inflection point between those who argue that, given all the challenges we face — from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic — that autocracy is the best way forward, they argue, and those who understand that democracy is essential — essential to meeting those challenges.”

“… [D]emocracy will and must prevail. We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world. That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission.”

It shows. Democrats are setting out to demonstrate that democracy works. While Republicans have become the party of obstruction, starving the government while turning the nation over to business leaders in the belief that the market will most effectively order society, Biden is advancing government policies that are hugely popular among Democrats and Republicans both. Timothy Egan of the New York Times today compared Biden to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who oversaw the creation of a government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure.

More than 72% percent of Americans like Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Sixty-one percent want a $15 federal minimum wage, which is currently in the American Rescue Plan. Sixty-three percent want the U.S. to be in the Paris climate agreement (which we officially rejoined today), and 83% want undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, the so-called Dreamers, to have a path to citizenship. Biden promised 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days; we should actually hit that goal by late March— a month early-- even if the pace stays where it is.

Biden is making a clear contrast between his approach and that of his predecessor. Speaking at a Pfizer vaccine plant in Michigan today, he said: ““My predecessor – as my mother would say, God love him – failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers. That changed the moment we took office.”

Sixty-one percent of Americans say they are optimistic about the next four years.

Not just Biden, but other Democrats are also working to show that our government can reflect the community values of our people. Yesterday, when Texas Senator Ted Cruz ® was being roasted for taking his family on a vacation to Cancun when his constituents were suffering without heat, power, and supplies, former Representative Beto O’Rourke (D), who ran against Cruz in 2018 and lost, was running a phone bank to connect hundreds of thousands of older Texans with services.

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat who is often demonized by Republicans, also worked to demonstrate unity and government working for the people: she launched a fundraiser on social media and raised $2 million for the red state of Texas.

In contrast to Democrats and Independents, who are optimistic about the future, 65% of Republicans say they are pessimistic about it, and they seem determined to stop Biden in his tracks. They seem to be planning on regaining power by stopping people from voting, thus abandoning democracy altogether.

Republican state legislatures across the country are using the former president’s big lie to insist that they must change voting laws to stop voter fraud. The idea behind the attack on the Capitol on January 6 was that Democrats had stolen the election from the Republican incumbent. This was a lie, disproven in courts, recounts, and state legislatures, but it is now the excuse for suppressing the popular vote. This week, the Republican State Leadership Committee announced it was creating a commission to examine election laws “to restore the American people’s confidence in the integrity of their free and fair elections" by “making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

Republican state lawmakers are attacking the expanded access to voting put in place in 2020, especially mail-in voting. Although there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in 2020, and repeated studies have shown voter fraud is vanishingly rare, 33 states are considering more than 165 bills to restrict voting, more than four times the number from last year. These bills are intended to stop mail-in voting, increase voter ID requirements, make it harder to register to vote, and expand purges of voter rolls.

But, even as Republicans are trying to curtail voting, Democrats are trying to expand it. Lawmakers in 37 states have introduced 541 bills to expand mail-in voting, expand early voting, promote voter registration, and restore the right to vote for those who have lost it. At the national level, the first measure Democrats introduced into Congress this year was the “For the People Act,” which embraces the policies in the state bills and also reforms campaign financing, requires candidates to disclose the previous ten years of their tax returns, and ends gerrymandering.

The current struggle over our government and our democracy is in the news in another way today, too. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced that a grand jury had indicted six more people for “conspiring to obstruct the United States Congress’s certification of the result of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, among other charges.” They join three others already charged for trying to “corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding."

In his speech, Biden emphasized not just the importance of democracy, but also how much work it is to keep it. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it. We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of our history; it’s the single best way to revitalize the promise of our future.”

He did indeed sound like FDR when he concluded: “if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, I know that we’ll meet every challenge and outpace every challenger.”

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February 21, 2021 (Sunday)

On ABC’s This Week this morning, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) refused to admit that Democrat Joe Biden had legitimately won the 2020 election.

It’s hard to overestimate how dangerous this lie is. It convinces supporters of the former president that they are actually protecting American democracy when they fight to overturn it. Jessica Watkins is one of 9 members of the right-wing paramilitary group the Oath Keepers indicted for their actions on January 6. Yesterday, her lawyer told the court that Watkins behaved as she did because she believed that then-President Donald Trump would use the military to overturn what he falsely insisted was the rigged election.

“However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government. She took an oath to support the Constitution and had no intention of violating that oath…."

Watkins claims she was given a VIP pass to the pro-Trump rally, had met with Secret Service agents, and was charged with providing security for the leaders marching to the Capitol from Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally.

Supporters of the former president are portraying the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6 as a legitimate expression of anger over an election in which states did not follow their own rules. This is a lie that the Trump wing hopes will resurrect their lost power. Politico’s Gabby Orr and Meridith McGraw report that Trump is planning to “exact vengeance” on the Republicans who have turned against him, running his own candidates in 2022 to undercut them. Earlier this week, he met with Scalise.

Trump’s big lie is deeply cynical, and yet it is falling on the ears of voters primed to believe it.

Republican Party leadership launched the idea that Democrats could not win an election legitimately all the way back in 1986. They began to examine the made-up issue of voter fraud to cut Democrats out of the electorate because they knew they could not win elections based on their increasingly unpopular policies.

In 1986, Republicans launched a “ballot integrity” initiative that they defended as a way to prevent voter fraud, but which an official privately noted “could keep the black vote down considerably.” In 1993, when Democrats expanded voter registration at certain state offices—the so-called Motor Voter Law-- they complained that the Democrats were simply trying to enroll illegitimate Democratic voters in welfare and unemployment offices.

In 1994, Republicans who lost elections charged that Democrats only won through voter fraud, although then, as now, fraud was vanishingly rare. In 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched year-long investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, one in Louisiana and one in California. Keeping investigations of alleged voter fraud in front of the media for a year helped to convince Americans that voter fraud was a serious issue and that Democrats were winning elections thanks to illegal voters.

In 1998, the Florida legislature passed a voter ID law that led to a purge of voters from the system before the election of 2000, resulting in what the United States Commission on Civil Rights called “an extraordinarily high and inexcusable level of disenfranchisement,” particularly of Democratic African American voters.

After 2000, the idea that Democrats could win only by cheating became engrained in the Republican Party as their increasing rightward slide made increasing numbers of voters unhappy with their actual policies. Rather than moderating their stance, they suppressed the votes of their opponents. In 2016, Trump operative and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” Roger Stone launched a “Stop the Steal” website warning that “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.” The slogan reappeared briefly in 2018, and in 2021, it sparked an attack on our government.

The idea that Democrats cannot legitimately win an election has been part of the Republican leadership’s playbook now for a generation, and it has worked: a recent survey showed that 65% of Republicans believe the 2020 election was plagued by widespread fraud, although election officials say the election was remarkably clean.

Republican lawmakers are going along with Trump’s big lie because it serves their interests: claiming fraud justifies laws to suppress Democratic votes. Alice O’Lenick, a Republican-appointed election official in Gwinnett County, Georgia, endorsed restrictive measures, saying, “they have got to change the major parts of [laws] so we at least have a shot at winning.”

But that is not the only story right now.

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the confirmation process for Biden’s prospective attorney general, Merrick Garland. While he was still Judiciary Committee chair, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed curiously resistant to holding a hearing for Garland.

Now, Trump Republicans have made their demands clear in a letter to new Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-IL). It is signed by all but two of the Republicans on the committee, illustrating that the Republican contingent on the Senate Judiciary Committee is made up of Trump supporters. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) want Garland “to commit the Department of Justice” to investigating New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, for his handling of the coronavirus in his state.

Garland, 68, is well-known as a moderate centrist who made headlines when he oversaw the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers in 1995-1997. On Saturday, he released his opening statement to the committee.

He reaffirmed that the attorney general should be the lawyer for the people of the United States, not for any one individual. He noted that 2020 was the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Justice (DOJ), created during the Ulysses S. Grant administration to protect the rule of law in the southern states where, at the time, Ku Klux Klan members were murdering their Black neighbors to keep them from exercising their rights.

The rules developed in those years are the foundation for the rule of law, Garland wrote in apparent criticism of the previous president’s DOJ. We need the Justice Department to be independent from partisan influence, including that coming from the White House. We need it to provide clear guidelines for FBI intelligence operations. We need it to treat the press respectfully and to be as transparent as possible. We need it to respect the professionalism of the DOJ’s career employees, and to have clear guidelines for prosecutors.

Garland went on to outline what he sees as the crucial mission he would undertake as Attorney General: guaranteeing the equal justice to all Americans promised 150 years ago and still elusive. “Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change,” he wrote.

He pledged to protect Americans from abuse from those who control our markets, “from fraud and corruption, from violent crime and cybercrime, and from drug trafficking and child exploitation” while also being ever-mindful of terrorist attacks.

Then Garland took head-on the big lie: “150 years after the Department’s founding, battling extremist attacks on our democratic institutions remains central to its mission.”

“If confirmed,” he wrote, “I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6—a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

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February 22, 2021 (Monday)

Today the United States passed the heartbreaking marker of 500,000 official deaths from COVID-19. President Biden held a ceremony tonight to remember those lost, saying “On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind. We, as a Nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one Nation to defeat this pandemic.” The South Portico of the White House was illuminated with 500 candles—one for every thousand lives lost—and the president will order flags on federal property lowered to half staff for five days in their memory.

And yet, there is good news on the horizon: By the end of March, Pfizer plans to ship more than 13 million vaccine doses per week to the United States; Moderna plans to deliver 100 million doses; and Johnson & Johnson expects to ship at least 20 million doses. This means that by the end of March, the United States is on track to receive 240 million doses. By mid-year, we should receive about 700 million doses, which is enough to vaccinate our entire population. By the end of the year there should be 2 billion doses for the whole world.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans, including 34% of Republicans, approve of Biden’s response to the coronavirus.

Aside from the pandemic news, there were two important developments today on the national level: a series of Supreme Court decisions and Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearings for the position of attorney general. Together, these showed quite strikingly that Trump supporters are retreating into a politics of grievance while Democrats are embracing policy and governance.

The Supreme Court (often abbreviated SCOTUS, for Supreme Court of the United States), today denied former president Trump’s request to block a grand jury subpoena for his financial records. In its investigation into hush money allegedly paid by the Trump Organization to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential race, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office subpoenaed eight years of financial information from Trump’s accountant, Mazars USA. Trump has fought the subpoena all the way to SCOTUS, but today the court upheld the decision of the lower court that his accountant must produce the information. Mazars USA should turn over the documents, which run to millions of pages, this week.

The former president issued a statement rehashing his usual litany of complaints about how he is treated, saying this was “a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” He said the decision, made by a court on which three of his own appointees sit, was “all Democrat-inspired.” It is, he said, “political persecution.”

SCOTUS also refused to hear eight cases Trump or his allies had brought over the 2020 presidential election. It appears SCOTUS is done with the former president.

But Trump is not done with politics. He will be speaking this Sunday at the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), which has turned into a pro-Trump gathering. Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are all scheduled to speak at the convention, on topics like “Why the Left Hate the Bill of Rights… and We Love It,” and “Fighting for Freedom of Speech at Home and Across the World.”

Mike Allen of Axios heard from a longtime Trump advisor that, in his speech on Sunday, Trump will indicate that he is the Republicans’ “presumptive 2024 nominee” and is in control of the party. He is eager to take revenge on those who have not supported him, and plans to encourage primary challengers to them in 2022. He is expected to lay into President Biden as a failure of the Washington, D.C., swamp, and to promise to take on that swamp again from the outside.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) reported today that Trump reported his earnings from his businesses during his four years as president at $1.6 billion.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings for the confirmation of Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general. Garland is famously a moderate, and his confirmation is expected to sail through. The senators questioning him could use their time as they wished, and the results were revealing.

Pro-Trump Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) seemed to be creating sound bites for right-wing media. They complained that the Democrats under the “Obama-Biden” administration had politicized the Department of Justice, including the Russia investigation, and demanded that the abuses they alleged had occurred under Obama be addressed. They made no mention of Attorney General William Barr and his use of the office as an arm of Trump’s White House.

It was striking to hear long-debunked complaints about 2016 reappear in 2021. Honestly, it felt like they were just rehashing an old script. They are clearly pitching for 2024 voters, but will their politics of grievance resonate in three more years?

Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) tried to carve out their own space in the presidential pack, as well. Cotton tried to get Garland to admit that Biden’s call for racial equity, rather than racial equality—by which Biden means that some historically marginalized groups may need more than equal treatment—was itself racist. It was an obscure point that didn’t land. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, pressed Garland somewhat interestingly on the president’s power, then nodded to QAnon with a statement against the notorious sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

In contrast to them was the performance of the new Democratic senator from Georgia, Jon Ossoff, who asked Garland first about protecting voting rights, then about funding public defenders, then about civil rights investigations, using the specific example of Ahmaud Arbery, murdered in 2020 in Georgia while jogging. Ossoff’s focus on policy and governance illustrated the difference between Senate Republicans and Democrats.

For his part, Garland hammered home his conviction that the Department of Justice should represent the people of the United States and should enforce the rule of law for all. When Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked him to explain why he wanted to give up a lifetime appointment as a judge to take the job of attorney general to fight “hate and discrimination in American history,” Garland answered:

“I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. The country took us in and protected us. And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back. And this is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back. And so, I want very much to be the kind of attorney general that you’re saying I could become. I’ll do my best to try to be that kind of attorney general.”

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February 23, 2021 (Tuesday)

Someone asked me today why former president Trump seems still to get more news coverage than President Biden. My answer was that Trump is still a powerful force and explodes into the news because he is so unpredictable, while Biden is behaving like presidents always did before Trump, holding meetings and letting Congress get on with its own business, which is much less immediately newsworthy for all that it matters in the longer term.

I am reminded of the 2012 Calvin and Hobbes cartoon by Bill Watterson in which Calvin wonders why comic book superheroes don’t go after more realistic bad guys. “Yeah,” Hobbes answers. “The superhero could attend council meetings and write letters to the editor, and stuff…. ‘Quick! To the bat-fax!’”

“Hmm…” Calvin answers. “I think I see the problem.”

Today was a bat-fax kind of day.

The Senate committees on rules and homeland security today organized into a joint session to hear testimony about what happened on January 6, the day of the deadly insurrection in which rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes that would make Democrat Joe Biden president. The testimony told us mostly that what happened that day is still contested. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving disagreed about what happened when, and on what they said about deploying the National Guard.

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), who encouraged the rioters by their willingness to challenge the counting of the certified ballots, questioned the law enforcement officials about their actions during the insurrection. While Cruz drew criticism for scrolling through his phone during opening testimony, Hawley drew attention by appearing to refer to himself when he said that suggestions that Capitol Police leadership were “complicit” in the insurrection were “disrespectful” and “really quite shocking.”

The only firm information that came out of the hearing was that Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) used his time to read into the record an account of the January 6 insurrection that laid blame for the violence not on right-wing supporters of former president Trump, but on “provocateurs” and “fake Trump protesters.” The account came from a far-right website. Johnson is trying to convince Americans that, contrary to what our eyes and the testimony of the rioters tell us, the attack on our government came not from Trump supporters but from the left. It is a lie, and it is worth questioning why Johnson feels that lie is important to read into the Congressional Record.

The Senate, meanwhile, voted to confirm Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the United States ambassador to the United Nations by a vote of 78 to 21. The no votes were all Republicans, prompting conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin to tweet: “[T]hat 20 Rs could oppose diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield—an African American woman with decades of career experience tells you just how extreme and beyond reason these people are.” Thomas-Greenfield served in the Foreign Service from 1982 and was the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013 to 2017, when she was fired by the Trump administration as part of a general purge. Just next week, on March 1, Thomas-Greenfield will assume the leadership of the U.N. Security Council, the top decision-making body for the organization.

President Biden had his first bilateral meeting today with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Biden made it a point to say it was his first bilateral meeting. Both leaders focused on democratic values, ending racism, and addressing climate change. Biden expressed American support for the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been held for two years by the Chinese government. The men were accused without evidence of being spies, likely in retaliation for Canada’s decision to detain Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese technology executive, at the request of American prosecutors.

Biden’s meeting with Trudeau emphasized that American foreign policy will return to its traditional alliances. Trudeau thanked Biden for “stepping up in such a big way in tackling climate change.”

“U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years,” Trudeau said.

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The year this particular strip was rerun most likely

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Oh, I’m sure, I’m just old enough to remember reading it on its original printing.

(EDIT: to be clear, I still very much appreciate how much time she puts in researching the important bits. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if that one struck her in 2012 and she clipped it or printed it out to keep, and thus has that date rather than one 20 years earlier. Which is also much harder to look up.)

(EDIT2: and by much harder to look up, I have the complete collection in eyesight of the computer I’m typing this on, but it’s not indexed in such a way that I would be able to quickly find it, which is why I haven’t pulled any of those three large volumes off the shelf.)

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Yeah, re-run in 2012, but zoom in on the copyright…

1992

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They must have timed the reprint for the 20th anniversary of the first comic. (I was guessing above)

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lebron james lol GIF

I don’t know why that cracks me up, but it does a little…

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February 24, 2021 (Wednesday)

At 4:42 p.m., exactly a year ago, then-President Trump tweeted: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

On February 7, Trump had told journalist Bob Woodward something very different. “This is deadly stuff,” he said. The coronavirus is “more deadly than your, you know, your, even your strenuous flus.”

And now, here we are. As of February 24, 2021, the United States has suffered more than 503,000 official deaths from COVID-19. We have 4% of the world’s population and have suffered 20% of deaths from coronavirus. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, blamed political divisions for the horrific death toll.

Vaccinations rates are picking up, and now nearly 1 in 5 adults have had their first shot. Today, the Biden administration announced it will be distributing “no cost, high quality, washable” masks to community health centers and food pantries across the country, supplying masks for 12-15 million Americans. Dr. Fauci announced $1.15 billion in funding for studying those whose Covid-19 symptoms are not going away.

The pandemic has crippled the nation’s economy, and a new The Economist/YouGov poll reveals that 66% of Americans said they support Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan; 25% of Americans said they oppose it. This means it is the most popular piece of legislation since the 2007 minimum wage hike. Also popular is the proposed $15 minimum wage hike, which is supported by 56% of Americans and opposed by 38%, making it more popular than anything former president Trump did while in office.

More than 150 of the nation’s business leaders are now backing the rescue plan, saying it is necessary for “a strong, durable recovery.”

And yet, Republicans are, so far, united against the proposal. While the party remains split, party leaders appear to be lining up behind Trump and the big lie that Biden stole the election, entrenching them as a hostile opposition rather than giving them any room to work with Democrats to move the country forward. They are devoting their energies for the future primarily to voter suppression.

Studies of Republican voters suggest that they continue to support former President Trump and are turning against anyone who accepts Biden’s victory as legitimate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) popularity has dropped 29 points among Kentucky Republicans since he broke with Trump.

Republicans appear to be solidifying their identity with the former president, at the state level, at least. In Virginia, Republicans have decided to nominate candidates for November elections simply with a drive-up convention held on May 8 on the campus of Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell, Sr. Voters will choose candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general at that time and location.

The internal fight over the swing into Trump’s corner was on display today when Republican House leadership was asked whether they thought Trump should speak at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Committee conference (CPAC). Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responded: “Yes, he should.” Immediately, Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), who voted to impeach Trump in January over his incitement of the insurrection, said: “That’s up to CPAC. I’ve been clear on my views about President Trump. I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country."

Trump is scheduled to speak at CPAC, where there will be seven panels echoing his insistence that voter fraud plagues our elections. And yet, as Trump and his supporters continue to insist that the election was stolen, news broke this week that two separate audits of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona, found no fraud.

Today, in the interest of stopping voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, the Iowa Senate passed a bill shortening the period of early voting and creating a strict cutoff for absentee ballots. All the Republicans voted in favor; all the Democrats voted against.

Georgia lawmakers, too, are advancing measures to slash mail-in voting to protect against voter fraud, even as two counties in the Atlanta area want attorneys’ fees from Trump and the chair of the Georgia Republican Party for frivolous lawsuits designed to overturn the 2020 election. “Given the number of failed lawsuits filed by the former president and his campaign, petitioners apparently believed that they could file their baseless and legally deficient actions with impunity, with no regard for the costs extracted from the taxpayers’ coffers or the consequences to the democratic foundations of our country,” wrote lawyers for Cobb County.

In Congress today, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump backer whose reorganization of the United States Postal Service last summer appeared linked to an effort to hamper the delivery of mail-in ballots, testified about those delays. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), whose approach to hearings is generally to try to manufacture sound bites for right-wing news shows, accused Democrats of attacking DeJoy to score points before the election. “It was all a charade,” he said. “It was all part of the predicate for laying the groundwork for the mail-in balloting, and all of the chaos and confusion the Democrats wanted.”

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) noted that a number of federal judges prevented DeJoy from implementing the changes he wanted, and that Trump had lied to supporters for months that mail-in ballots would create fraud. Then he pushed back angrily against Jordan’s accusations of partisanship. “I didn’t vote to overturn an election,” Connolly said, referring to Jordan’s objection to counting electoral votes on January 6 and 7. “And I will not be lectured by people who did.”

News broke today that a close friend of new Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Anthony Aguero, was part of the January 6 insurrection, breaching the Capitol. "We were all there,” Aguero said in a video posted the day after the riot. “It was not Antifa and it was not BLM. It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday. I’m the first to admit it, being one myself.”

He said: “We need to stand up for our country. So patriots stand up for their country and they come out here to physically try to take back their house. The House of the people…. Now you have people on the right acting like they’re holier than thou, holier than holy…. ‘Oh, I’m appalled. I don’t condone this.’ What the hell do you expect conservatives to do? Do you want us to continue to sit there? Complacent, continue to take the higher route and keep getting fked in the a. I’m sorry for using that language, but I’m sick and tired of the hypocrisy."

“I stand with people like Marjorie Taylor Greene proudly,” Aguero said. “That woman has more courage than most of the men that were in that building. No, not most. That woman has more courage than every single man that was in that Capitol yesterday.”

Although Republican lawmakers might not admit publicly that Biden is president, they met with him today in the Oval Office to discuss something of interest to members of both parties: bringing vital supply chains home. Today, the president signed an executive order to review our national supply chains of vital materials to bring outsourced chains back to the U.S. Both Biden and Republican lawmakers spoke highly of their meeting. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) told the Wall Street Journal: “It was very substantive and they want follow-up meetings to move with some speed on this.” Moving supply chains home from China, among other places, should create jobs.

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February 25, 2021 (Thursday)

There are lots of stories in the news tonight, but most of them seem like preludes. What happened today will eventually be overridden by the stories’ outcomes.

So, for example, we learned that former president Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, turned over Trump’s financial information to the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday. This got a lot of headlines, but we had a pretty good sense they would turn over the information just as soon as the Supreme Court said they must, so this part of the story will get forgotten.

What is of more interest is that the district attorney’s office has hired a high-powered outside forensic accounting firm to review the documents, indicating it thinks there is something there.

There is news in the investigation of what happened on January 6 that might lead to later insights. Today, the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees the Capitol Police, heard testimony from acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman. One thing the hearing established was that ex-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund had requested backup from the National Guard by 12:58 pm on January 6, and had continued to call for the next hour. On Tuesday, the former House sergeant at arms, Paul Irving, insisted he had not received a request for National Guard backup until 1:28.

Pittman also said that 35 officers are being investigated for their behavior on the day of the insurrection. Six have been suspended and had their police powers revoked. The Capitol Police union opposes the investigations, saying they are an attempt to distract from the failures of leadership on January 6.

Also offering hope for future information is news that came from the communications director for Tim Ryan (D-OH), the chair of the committee. Michael Zetts said that security videos of Capitol tours before the insurrection have been turned over to the office of the U.S. Attorney General.

There are stories from today, though, that do have staying power. One is the passage through the House of Representatives of the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill passed by a vote of 224 to 206. Three Republicans joined the Democratic majority to pass the bill.

Another is that the Biden administration launched an airstrike today on Syrian facilities used by Iran-backed militias that have been attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. The strike was a response to a rocket attack in Iraq that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded coalition troops earlier this month. The airstrike, coming at a time that the U.S. is hoping to get Iran to rejoin talks about the 2015 nuclear deal Trump rejected, was likely a sign that Iran should expect that the U.S. will remain engaged in talks but will still respond to attacks.

Another development that has staying power is the attempt of Democrats to guarantee the right to vote. In the face of voter suppression legislation in Republican legislatures around the country, Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a law, called the For the People Act, to stop partisan gerrymandering, limit money in politics, and expand voting access.

The For the People Act, numbered in Congress as H.R. 1 and S. 1, would provide for automatic voter registration across the country and would require paper ballots. It would require that early voting be made available, and would expand mail-in voting. It would authorize $1 billion for upgrades to state voting systems.

Polling by Data for Progress and Vote Save America shows that the principles in H.R. 1 are very popular, across parties. Sixty-eight percent of Americans approve of the reforms in the bill. Sixteen percent oppose the measure. The items within the bill are also popular. Eighty-six percent of Americans support a plan to prevent foreign interference in our elections; 7% oppose it. Eighty-five percent of us want to limit the amount of politics; 8% oppose that idea. Eighty-four percent of us want more election security; 8 percent do not.

Seventy-four percent of us want to see nonpartisan redistricting; 11% do not. Sixty-eight percent want to see 15 days of early voting; 19% do not. Sixty percent want same-day voter registration; 29% do not. Fifty-nine percent want automatic voter registration; 29% do not. Even with the Republican attacks on mail-in voting, fifty-eight percent of us want to be able to vote by mail; 35% do not.

Democrats passed a version of H.R. 1 in the previous Congress, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up. Now, every House Democrat supports the bill, while Republican lawmakers oppose it.

To try to stop the bill from becoming law, Republicans are launching a full-throated defense of the filibuster, a tradition that enables a minority in the Senate to stop legislation unless it can command 60 votes. Republican objections to this popular, and seemingly vital, measure will test whether the Senate will protect the filibuster or continue to chip away at it.

Of all today’s news, then, this issue—the fate of the For the People Act—is one that most certainly will matter in the future.

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Michigan already has automatic voter registration through driver’s licenses. I got mine renewed recently at the Secretary of State, and there was a line there saying you will be registered unless you check a box. It was good to see (although I’m already registered.)

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Theoretically Pennsylvania has the same arrangement, so when we moved back here in '15 and transferred our licenses we checked the box at the DMV that said “Yes, register me to vote”. Fast forward about nine months, right before the primaries, and it turns out we weren’t registered at all. When I asked at the county courthouse what happened they said that the DMV was pretty notorious for not sending along the voter registration information. Whether that was through incompetence or malice it still had the same result - If I hadn’t checked about a month before the primary we wouldn’t have been able to vote.

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