HomeOpen Thread3/16 The Ides of March Have Come & Gone; News Round-up & OT
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As Democrats pushed this month to pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, they were eager to rebuke Republicans for opposing en masse a measure filled with aid to struggling Americans. But they had another target as well: the core policy of President Barack Obama’s first-term agenda.

Party leaders from President Biden on down are citing Mr. Obama’s strategy on his most urgent policy initiative — an $800 billion financial rescue plan in 2009 in the midst of a crippling recession — as too cautious and too deferential to Republicans, mistakes they were determined not to repeat.

The pointed assessments of Mr. Obama’s handling of the 2009 stimulus effort are the closest Democrats have come to grappling with a highly delicate matter in the party: the shortcomings in the legacy of Mr. Obama, one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party and a powerful voice for bipartisanship in a deeply divided country.

The re-examination has irked some of the former president’s allies but thrilled the party’s progressive wing, which sees Mr. Biden’s more expansive plan as a down payment on his ambitious agenda. And it has sent an early signal that Mr. Biden’s administration does not intend to be a carbon copy of his Democratic predecessor’s. Times, all concede, have changed.

It also highlights the rapid change in Washington over a decade of partisan brawling. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden came into office on promises of unity and bipartisanship in the face of an economic crisis, but Mr. Biden is the beneficiary of a changed landscape in the party. Democrats are now more cognizant of Republican obstruction, less deferential to the deficit hawks and energized by a growing progressive wing that has pulled the party’s ideological midpoint to the left.

A decade ago, Mr. Obama’s strategy reflected the Democratic Party’s mainstream, an insistence on negotiating with Republicans, keeping the Senate filibuster and trimming his own ambitions for a nation that he and others worried could handle only so much change after electing its first Black president. Now, the progressive criticism of that posture has become party canon.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a leading progressive voice, said the changes should be attributed partly to the growth of the left, but partly to an inadequate Democratic response to the Great Recession, which she said “created so much damage economically, for people, but it also created a lot of political damage for the party” by not being larger in scope.

“I came of age watching Democratic governance fail me and fail my family,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said.

Progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez say the willingness to forgo Republican buy-in is proof the entire party now agrees on the need for structural reform, and the hardball tactics that may be required.

“Schumer spoke to the very real pain of delaying decisive action, which is a self-inflicted wound, I would say, for the party,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “Where you delay and you water down, and you just kind of hand Susan Collins a pen, to have her diminish legislation for months, just for her to not even vote for it in the end.”



High schoolers in Vermont candidly recounted their challenges with online school and its impact on mental health during a virtual town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday.

The event was open to 1,000 participants and included a panel of high schoolers, who shared their experiences, and an opportunity for audience questions.

Sanders answered a question from a student on what more young people can be doing to advocate for mental health, especially in the context of COVID-19, both in their communities and at the federal level.

“This country has for a long time been facing many challenges regarding mental health. We don’t have enough counselors, we don’t have enough psychologists, we don’t have enough psychiatrists,” Sanders said. “We don’t have enough psychiatrists who focus on children’s needs. That has been the fact the COVID pandemic has made a bad situation worse because of all the stress and anxiety that people are feeling.”

He mentioned the resources included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last week, noting that the legislation included “billions of dollars specifically for mental health — for community health centers who provide a mental health counseling, for the training of more psychologists and psychiatrists, etc.”

He also asked the students directly for feedback on how to better make mental health care accessible and gave them advice on how to make an impact on democracy — even if they are not old enough to vote yet.

“In terms of how you can make an impact, look, democracy is not all that complicated,” the Vermont senator continued. “And that is, if you and your friends go to a school board meeting and say, ‘Look, we go to school here at the high school, and these are our concerns,’ I suspect the school board will listen to you.”

“Start talking to your legislators, and they will listen to you as well,” he added. “It’s a small state, and I think elected officials are pretty responsive to the people who contact them.”


“Start talking to your legislators, and they will listen to you as well,” he added. “It’s a small state, and I think elected officials are pretty responsive to the people who contact them.”

I think Bernie isn’t wrong about that.

Years ago, was traveling along a remote section of the 87 in NY (jcitybone may know what I mean) at night, turned on the radio–two stations available:

a) country station (no go for me unless Johnny Cash or Jason & The Scorchers)
b) religious station

The religious station was interviewing a man who’d been very successful rallying like-minded people to effect change in the political arena. This is what he said:

‘Each letter you write to a representative counts as though 5,000 people felt the same way. Twenty letters and it’s as though 100,000 potential voters also felt strongly about that particular issue.’

(I’m paraphrasing, it was a long time ago, but you get it)



There’s a white oak tree in Athens, Georgia, that is not owned by anyone. It’s an autonomous entity – known as the “Tree that Owns Itself.”

Around the 1820s, the owner of the property wrote a formal deed proclaiming: “…in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection, for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.”



Nature is famously, gloriously complex. But it wasn’t always so. When the Earth was young, physics ruled. Steam spewed from prodigious volcanoes and seeped through the cracked surface, transforming our planet into an ocean-covered mass, circling in the darkness. The physics that governs a phase change from steam to water in the oceans is as true today as it was 4.5 billion years ago. Gas would turn to liquid on any planet at any time, so long as the temperature and air pressure oblige. Then, as now, the laws of physics were predictable and straightforward.

But the history of life that followed from that fateful phase change didn’t proceed along such a simple trajectory. Its evolution over billions of years defies simple rules and predictable outcomes. Nature became a complex system, a tangled web of invisible connections. As nature’s intricacy ramped up, it brought with it opportunities for expansion, but also possibilities for annihilation. Fortunately, with each problem that arose, a strategy evolved to overcome it.



As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic

The loans came as Uber and gig economy companies added billions to their stock values after defeating an effort to make drivers employees

Tens of thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers received at least $80 million in government assistance during the coronavirus pandemic — making them among the largest groups of beneficiaries of a little-known government grant and loan program established to help small businesses weather severe economic disruptions.

The drivers benefited from the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program of the U.S. Small Business Administration, money intended to help struggling businesses, entrepreneurs and other workers stay afloat during the pandemic. Policy experts said it was unusual for such a vast pool of workers under the umbrella of multibillion-dollar corporations to tap into that money. But gig workers qualified because they are classified as independent contractors under the law, a designation companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash fought last year to maintain.

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig companies poured more than $200 million into a ballot initiative last year that superseded California legislation that would have established certain gig workers as employees, granting them access to benefits such as health care, sick leave and unemployment insurance. Known as Prop 22, it codified gig workers’ status as independent contractors and left them without those employer-provided benefits, a massive blow to labor advocacy efforts at the height of the pandemic. The companies are now seeking to push the model to other states.

Policy experts and gig economy observers said tech companies benefited from their workforce’s access to programs the firms did not pay into, lessening the pressure to make workers employees at a time when they were engaged in a heated political battle over workers’ status.


like Walmart, etc. grifting on us.


That is the fundamental idea behind the gig economy. They are even more blatant about it than Wal-Mart, who at least acknowledges that their workforce is made up of employees.



A coalition of environmental groups backed by Democratic governors is launching a $10 million-plus ad campaign pressuring the Biden administration and Congress to spend trillions on climate change and clean energy as Washington gears up for its next fight over President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan.

Dubbed “The Great American Build,” the campaign aims to set an aggressive starting point for negotiations over the size and scope of the infrastructure package, which is coming into focus as Biden’s next major push after last week’s passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package.

Biden campaigned on spending even more on infrastructure and green jobs. But many Democrats have said they are concerned that his commitment to reaching out to Republicans, combined with a lack of appetite for another huge round of spending so soon after the Covid-19 deal, could lead to a scaled-back infrastructure deal that would fall short of the trillions they say is needed to address the climate problem.

The first TV ad, which starts airing Tuesday on cable, uses black-and-white images of blue-collar workers to argue that America’s builders, roofers, electricians and steelworkers would be the ones to benefit from investing heavily in new, climate-friendly infrastructure, reinforcing the Biden administration’s claim that clean infrastructure and jobs go hand in hand.

“Your country is calling you to rebuild America, to create a cleaner, safe, more prosperous future for all,” the ad says. “Tackling climate change — this is the job of our lifetime.”



Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is making universal basic income a central tenet of his political campaign once again — this time for New York City Mayor.

“It makes us stronger, healthier, more secure, mentally healthier, improves our relationships,” Yang said of the concept of guaranteed income. “55% of Americans are now for cash relief, in perpetuity, and 85% are for cash relief during this pandemic.”

Yang’s proposed income program would extend an average of $2,000 per year to New York City residents living in extreme poverty and would cost $1 billion per year, according to his campaign website.

The mayoral candidate told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” Monday evening that he would target property tax-exempt landlords in New York City, like Madison Square Garden, to foot a portion of the bill.

“MSG’s tax breaks [are] $40 million a year, alone,” Yang said. “If you look at that money and you get it back into the city’s hands, plus you invest some level of the city’s resources, we can alleviate extreme poverty here in New York City.”


Yang is going after the biggest money in NYC. The real Estate Lobby.

I can’t wait to see ow this goes.


Yang needs to go after the churches/organized religion if he’s targeting yahoos who have been ripping off taxpayers for over 300 years. Real estate property taxes?? We’re too sacred to pay them. Right, but you sure stick your nose in secular matters like politics.


This long article made me quite angry


The Covid Queen of South Dakota
Gov. Kristi Noem’s state has been ravaged by her Trumpian response to the pandemic — but that hasn’t paused her national ambitions

Then she pushed in all her chips. In August, she urged Americans to ride into Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally. “We hope people come,” Noem told Fox’s Laura Ingraham. She lambasted the left’s negativity. “We’re in a good spot.” So the Harleys came and their riders drank beer and shot pool in crowded bars, totaling 366,000. They stood shoulder to shoulder as Smash Mouth’s singer screamed, “Fuck that Covid shit!”

And then the wave hit.

The actual future held a pandemic disaster. By October 5th, South Dakota’s Covid outbreak was raging and health officials labeled the state one of the most dangerous places in the U.S. That evening, a Covid-ravaged Trump was released from Walter Reed Hospital after millions of dollars in medical care. Trump saluted Marine One after it dropped him off at the White House. In Rapid City, one of Drake’s Covid patients gasped for air and watched this president on television. “I wish I could trade places with him,” said the man.

South Dakota’s death toll continued to rise. Noem stayed the course. By December 3rd, more than 1,000 South Dakotans had died due to complications from Covid, including 17 residents of the Estelline Nursing Home. Noem’s own grandmother died there on November 22nd. She tested negative.

And Noem? She was busy being Ted Cruz before Ted Cruz. The virus ravaged South Dakota, and Noem spent 12 days in October out of state, campaigning for Donald Trump. “It’s imperative we get President Trump back in the White House,” Noem told the Argus Leader in late October. In January, she campaigned in Georgia against two Democratic Senate candidates who she described in an op-ed as “communists.” Back home, South Dakota was moving up the charts. Noem’s state now ranks eighth in deaths per capita, with four times as many deaths than similarly populated but tightly compacted San Francisco. It really is quite an achievement.

South Dakota has 880,000 citizens scattered over the country’s 17th largest state, providing built-in social distancing. In theory, it should have a Covid death rate in the bottom 10, near fellow sparse states like Maine and Wyoming. Instead, there are now more than 1,900 dead — one in 470 South Dakotans — and one in eight have tested positive for Covid, the second-highest rate in the country.

Almost immediately I start seeing signs at the end of driveways reading “Do not visit … elders quarantining.” Just outside of Wounded Knee, I drive down a twisting dirt road filled with rambunctious dogs and arrive at Nick Tilsen’s place. I ask him about the signs. “We’re losing elders at an alarming rate, people who speak Lakota fluently,” says Tilsen, the CEO of NDN Collective, a Native American-run nonprofit. “We’re one of the poorest counties in the country and a hundred miles from a major hospital. We’re trying to protect them.” He pours himself a cup of coffee. “You know who was against that? Governor Kristi Noem.”

Tilsen has found himself awash in Noem angst since she took office in 2019. In the last week of the 2019 legislative session, and without hearings, Noem introduced an anti-“riot boosting” law that would make it a felony to have aided or abetted a protester in any way. The bill was clearly targeted at Native Americans and others protesting the Keystone pipeline that was being revived under Trump. Noem was hoping to avoid the headlines that lit up the nation in 2016 with the pipeline protests up north on the Standing Rock reservation. “Her whole thing is about shutting us down,” says Tilsen. “She’d be happy if we didn’t vote, didn’t speak.” Tilsen and other tribes joined forces with the ACLU and challenged Noem’s law. It was quickly struck down in federal court as unconstitutional, with the judge deriding it as so broad “that Martin Luther King would have been arrested for writing ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail.’ ” The whole exercise cost the South Dakota taxpayers about $150,000 in court fees. (A less draconian version of the bill was passed in 2020.)

After the pandemic began, many South Dakota reservations started putting up roadblocks and checkpoints to keep visitors away from their vulnerable population. Noem initially threatened to call in the National Guard to end the checkpoints, but backed off after someone told her that the tribes had autonomy to do what they wanted to keep their people safe. “I thought for a while she was going to send her police and we were going to meet them with our police,” says Tilsen. He lives less than 10 minutes from Wounded Knee, a community that first saw American troops massacre 150 American Indians in 1890, and then, in 1973, laid siege to the town for 71 days in a standoff about indigenous rights.

Noem’s hands-off approach to Covid was seen as a death sentence by Native Americans who lived in small, densely populated houses and are a helicopter ride away from a ventilator. So, the tribes began taking care of their own. “If you test positive in South Dakota, they just give you a call and don’t contact anyone else,” a contact tracer tells me on the Standing Rock reservation. “We couldn’t live with that. Someone tests positive, we call everyone the patient has come into contact with.”

Tilsen had about 200 protesters; some were heckled by Trump supporters shouting “Go back to where you came from.” Still, it wasn’t something that Tilsen had not experienced before. He was surprised, however, when the police declared their gathering unlawful and the National Guard moved in.

“They were not even trained,” says Tilsen. “They weren’t using their shields for protection, but bashing them around like weapons. I’ve never been at a protest where they are actually swinging their shields.”

In the resulting melee, Tilsen says, he grabbed one of the shields to prevent it from smashing his head. The protesters retreated, and Tilsen wrote “Land Back” on the shield. He was then arrested and transported to the Pennington County Jail. Tilsen says he noticed two things at the jail: Everyone incarcerated was Native American, and there were no masks. Still, he thought he would be quickly released. Instead, he was held for three and a half days and charged with four felonies.

“I was sitting there and going, ‘Holy shit, they were ready for this,’ ” he says. “This was Kristi Noem saying, ‘I told you I’d have the guts to call out the National Guard on these Indians.’ She’d been wanting to, and this was the right opportunity.”

Tilsen’s trial date is set for April. He says he’ll opt for a jury trial before he takes a plea with jail time.

A footnote: Two months after Tilsen’s arrest, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg veered out of his driving lane near Pierre and killed a pedestrian. He claimed for the first 12 hours after the accident that he thought he’d hit a deer. This claim seemed dubious when the dead man’s glasses were found inside Ravnsborg’s car, presumably flying in when he hit the windshield. After a five-month investigation, Noem called for Ravnsborg’s resignation and he was charged with three misdemeanors with a possible 90 days in jail.

Tilsen? He faces up to 16 and a half years.


Hopefully, this is a good appointment with Vilsack as Agricultural Secretary


Janie Hipp – the granddaughter of a farmer and national advocate for farmers and ranchers – has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be general counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency she once advised on tribal relations.

Hipp, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and chief executive of the Native American Agriculture Fund, would serve under Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was first appointed to the position by President Barack Obama in 2009 and reappointed by Biden earlier this year.

Hipp created the Office of Tribal Relations under Vilsack and served as his senior advisor during the Obama administration.

Her nomination Monday came on the day that Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, won historic confirmation in the U.S. Senate to be the first Indigenous person to be Secretary of the Interior.

If she is also confirmed by the Senate, Hipp would join Haaland and more than a half-dozen other Indigenous people appointed to high-level positions by the Biden administration.

“This is an important opportunity, and we acknowledge the gravity of this moment,” the Native American Agriculture Fund said in a statement released Monday. “This will be beneficial for all of agriculture.”

As the USDA’s general counsel, Hipp would lead the office that provides legal services for all programs and activities of the department. Among the actions facing the USDA are lawsuits filed over the U.S. Forest Service’s attempt to transfer Oak Flat land considered sacred by the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other Indigenous people for a massive copper mine.

The Biden administration has temporarily halted the planned transfer of the Oak Flat land. Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona filed a bill Monday to overturn a provision approved by Congress for the land transfer.



Democrats loved watching Orange County Rep. Katie Porter skewer Trump administration appointees and corporate executives in congressional hearings.

But it felt different when Porter’s progressive passion and impatience for convention turned to them.

Just as she wielded a whiteboard and sharp questioning to expose the flaws and outdated thinking she saw in Postal Service management or the nation’s COVID-19 testing system, Porter recently took aim at House Democrats’ rules and traditions for what is usually a behind-the-scenes competition to determine which lawmakers sit on which coveted committees.

It was a calculated high-stakes gamble that resulted in Porter not returning this year to sit on the Financial Services Committee, one of the House’s most sought-after panels and one for which the former bankruptcy and consumer law professor was highly suited.

Her sharp-elbowed maneuvering and willingness to publicly confront party leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters underscored the brash determination that made Porter the surprise national standout of California’s 2018 House freshman class — and a strong contender for the U.S. Senate someday.

But in an institution fueled by seniority and relationships — especially within one’s own party — Porter’s tendency to ruffle feathers could cost her the allies she will need in the future in order to get legislation approved.

In an interview, Porter expressed no regrets that her actions might have cost her support. In some ways, she may have felt she had nothing to lose. None of her progressive bills made it through the Democratic-controlled Financial Services Committee in her first term, a factor in her decision to focus more on oversight.

“That was a big concern for me as a front-liner,” she said, using the Democrats’ term for a politically vulnerable member, “and as somebody who’s very committed to governance and to doing the work.”

Though she will no longer serve on one of the House Democrats’ four “exclusive” committees, Porter did not walk away empty-handed. She will continue to be on the House Oversight Committee, the body’s top investigations panel, where her knack for cutting to the chase and simplifying complex issues will come in handy.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Porter is simply doing what she was elected to do.

“So many of us, regardless of ideology, run on ‘shaking up Washington.’ But then when you actually come here, there’s a lot of consequences for doing that,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who sat near Porter on the Financial Services Committee and remains on the panel. “There are many strong personalities in our class, and that leads to some ruffling of feathers, because we’re sent here literally to try to disrupt.”

But Porter’s critics say there is a risk in trying to change the system that her colleagues have been operating under for years, particularly trying to undermine committee leadership.

“This is a place that operates on relationships,” said one Democratic lawmaker, echoing a sentiment repeated by others but speaking on the condition of anonymity. “These things don’t win Katie any friends.”

Two years ago, Porter and several other progressive freshmen, including Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), landed on Financial Services.

Porter immediately clashed with committee Chairwoman Waters, a powerful member of the California delegation who is close with Pelosi. In addition to balancing the needs of her party’s moderates with the boisterous newcomers, Waters, a longtime force on Democrats’ left flank, didn’t always see eye to eye with the new crop of progressives.

The first time Porter tried to use a poster board in the committee, Waters upheld a Republican objection, citing committee rules. When Porter came back to another hearing with a “Financial Services bingo” board, Waters again told her to take it down. “We’ve talked about this before,” she said.

Porter balked at Waters’ ruling. “Are we adding additional committee rules at this time?” asked Porter, whose use of such props was not an issue on the House Oversight Committee. In a show of her emerging political star power, Porter eventually got to display the bingo poster — on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

“I disagreed with her interpretation of the rules regarding the ability of committee members to use evidence to make their points,” Porter said in the interview. “I was overruled on the whiteboard. I was overruled on my ability to play audio. I was overruled on my ability to display a poster board.”

Though some have wondered whether Porter might seek refuge in a 2022 challenge for Sen. Alex Padilla’s seat in the Senate, she took such a move off the table, disclosing that she has endorsed Padilla for 2022 and contributed to his campaign.

“I’m a strong supporter of Sen. Padilla,” Porter said, “[I] really look forward to working with him and have already begun conversations about policies we can collaborate and opportunities to introduce him to the Orange County community.” Padilla was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the seat previously occupied by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Porter did not rule out, however, a future bid for the Senate. Progressives hope she runs when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 87, leaves the Senate, although it is certain to be a crowded field.


So, Waters is buddies with Pelousy, huh? A liberal progressive? She’s a phony who obviously needs to start considering retirement just like Botoxed Nancy. Katie Porter will continue to gain power and prestige. The last laff will be hers. 🙂


T and R, Ms. Benny!! ☮️😊👍



Love it!