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Here's the evidence that suggests the White House knew of Trump's illness before debate — but deliberately hid it

Even after rattling off various positive measures of Donald Trump's health in various press conferences, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley has been adamant about not answering one of the most vital questions facing those exposed to Trump in recent days: When was the last time testing showed Trump was not carrying the pandemic virus that would send him to the hospital only a day after the White House admitted he was sick?

That's important, because it would allow those who came into contact with Trump during last Tuesday's presidential debate to know whether they spent 90 minutes in an enclosed space with a COVID-19 carrier shouting at them for most of that time—one of the precise scenarios that experts warn is most likely to result in pandemic spread.

It's also important because all evidence so far points to the White House knowing of Trump's illness at least as of Monday, before the debate. And it's important because the pattern of infections coming out of the White House do not appear to correlate with people who attended the Rose Garden celebration the previous weekend. They appear to more closely correlate with people known to have spent significant amounts of time in proximity to Donald Trump himself.

On Monday, we were treated to a rare sight at the White House: An outdoor press briefing in which Trump spoke at a podium alone, while all other speakers at the pandemic-related briefing used a podium set up on a separate platform well-distanced from Trump's own.

Tuesday's debate featured another unusual sight: Melania Trump alone, among the Trump family, followed debate venue rules and kept her mask on during the full event—only removing it when approaching Donald at his podium for the usual post-debate family visuals. But the Trump family arrived at the debate venue too late to be given COVID-19 tests at the venue, debate moderator Chris Wallace said afterward. "There was an honor system when it came to people that came into the hall from the two campaigns."

There are reasons to believe the White House is lying about the outbreak timeline, and it is absolutely certain that they are hiding key elements of that timeline, as White House doctor Conley did yet again on Monday. The first known illnesses from the White House outbreak are, for the most part, those immediately surrounding Trump himself.

• White House adviser Hope Hicks and assistant Nicholas Luna

• First lady Melania Trump

• Trump's debate prep team member Chris Christie and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien

• White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two assistant press secretaries

But what of the multiple Rose Garden guests who tested positive after the Saturday celebration held for Amy Coney Barrett, including Sen. Thom Tillis, Sen. Mike Lee, pastor Greg Laurie, Notre Dame president John Jenkins, and Kellyanne Conway?

All of them were seen in close proximity to Trump in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, during an indoors reception for Barrett that featured a much smaller group of people. Infections during the Rose Garden event were not, as far as we know, spread evenly throughout the outside crowd. They have appeared predominantly among the most important guests, the ones allowed to sit and the first few rows—and who were invited inside for a more personal meet-and-greet hosted by Trump.

The evidence, then, is that Trump himself may have been the source of infection for most of the COVID-19 cases in his orbit. Whether he was or wasn't, the outbreak was in full swing as of Saturday, during the Diplomatic Room event.

The White House, however, is flatly refusing to tell the public, the Biden campaign, the debate staff and others Trump met with when Trump, who is allegedly as president tested daily or near-daily, was last known to be free of the virus. They either don't know—because they haven't been doing the testing—or they're hiding it because they have a reason to hide it. The White House has also announced that it will not be doing contact tracing of Rose Garden guests, nor will they allow the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to launch that effort itself.

They are quite insistent on not finding out either the true extent of the White House outbreak, or revealing its origins.

It's reasonable to question whether the White House knew Trump was infected, or suspected it, at least as of Monday, when Trump's press event was set up to have the unusual dual-podium arrangement. It's reasonable to question whether the Trump campaign avoided testing at the venue not out of lateness, but because they did not want testing to be done. It's not just reasonable to assume Trump, a malevolent narcissist, would willingly expose others to his illness for momentary gain: It's proven, both from Trump's pointless but self-celebrating joyride around Walter Reed, unnecessarily putting Secret Service agents in an airtight container with him at the likely height of his own contagiousness, and his immediate removal of his mask upon returning to the White House.

There are very good reasons to suspect that the White House knew or believed Trump to be infected with COVID-19 before the debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took place, and that the White House covered up his infection to allow the debate to go forward. It is possible that, had Trump not become so physically ill two days afterward as to require public acknowledgement, then hospitalization, the White House intended to hide Trump's infection from the public completely.

This would be unconscionable behavior by itself, but exposing a rival presidential candidate to a deadly disease on purpose brings it past unconscionable and into the realm of the unthinkable. But here we are.

This is not an idle, fringe supposition. Senate Democratic leaders are themselves demanding that the White House explain their secrecy around Trump's initial diagnosis, accusing the White House (correctly) of "deliberately" hiding this information. The press is focusing in on this question as well. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that this White House would cover up a presidential illness even if it caused the possible death of others, and even if it exposed Trump's immediate campaign rival to the same disease. On the contrary, it is the most plausible theory we have as to why the White House is refusing to clarify the timeline of Trump's illness.

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley is explicitly hiding this information—and endangering lives. This is not tenable. If the press cannot scrape an answer from him, Vice President Biden's Secret Service detail might need to go question him directly.

'All due respect': Andrew McCabe torches House Republican's 'ridiculous' dismissal of gun violence

Senior CNN law enforcement analyst and former Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Director Andrew McCabe weighed in on the latest national discussion about gun violence on Tuesday in the aftermath of Monday's mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.

Three students and three staffers were killed in the attack by a female assailant wielding multiple weapons similar to the infamous AR-15 semiautomatic rifle – one of the most popular firearms in the United States and the most commonly used in American massacres.

Predictably, as guest anchor Abby Phillip pointed out to McCabe, Republican lawmakers began trying to shift the conversation away from guns almost immediately following the assault in Tennessee.

READ MORE: Guns don't kill Americans, Republicans do

"I want to ask you one more thing. Just take a listen to, this is Congressman Byron Donalds, responding to just the raising of this issue of the type of weapon that the shooter had, an AR-15. Listen," Phillip said before playing a clip of Donalds, who represents Florida in the House, coyly brushing off the issue to CNN's Manu Raju.

"If you're going to talk about the AR-15, you're talking politics now. Let’s not get into politics, alright? Let's not get into emotion, because emotion feels good, but emotion doesn’t solve problems," Byron stated.

Phillip had questions.

"Andrew, from a law enforcement perspective, in Uvalde [Texas], it almost seemed that the officers were afraid to go in because the gunman was so heavily armed. And here, they weren't hesitant, but the weaponry that was used against them was so powerful. What is your response from a law enforcement perspective?" she asked McCabe.

READ MORE: The GOP won't act because mass death is a means to an end

McCabe blasted Donalds' for his 'ridiculous' remarks:

Well, I mean, all due respect to the congressman, I mean, that response is ridiculous. It's not politics, talking about the weapon, the incredible military-grade lethality that shooters are bringing literally to our schools, repeatedly, every year. This is not about politics, it's about life and death in America. And the fact that we send our kids to school now, reasonably thinking that they might get shot there someday, by a gunman toting an AR-15 or something else.

The fact is that we are awash in guns in this country, and that simple fact makes all kinds of issues that we struggle with worse — the fact that we have mass shootings, the fact that we have higher violent crime rates here than anywhere else, the fact that people kill themselves with firearms in the United States at an alarmingly high rate, higher than any place else, any other comparatively developed country – so, at some point, we need to address the issue that connects all these problems, and that is that it’s very, very easy for anyone to get heavily armed quickly in this country.

Watch below via Media Matters for America or at this link.

READ MORE: Watch: 'Furious' Gen Z lawmaker delivers blistering remarks to GOP following Nashville school shooting

'Troubling questions': Experts slam Ginni Thomas' group and its dark money culture war against the left

Legal experts are responding to bombshell reporting from The Washington Post revealing Ginni Thomas, the spouse of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, who had unprecedented access to the Trump White House and Oval Office, for years headed a secretive right-wing activist organization funded through a web of dark money groups, whose purpose was to wage a culture war against the left.

The Post reports the organization, Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty, took in nearly $600,000 in anonymous funds to fuel its efforts to battle “cultural Marxism,” as Ginni Thomas, who headed the group, called their mission.

Thomas had stepped away from her previous non-profit right-wing activist group “amid concerns that it created potential conflicts for her husband on hot-button issues before the court,” The Post says, and yet, she led Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty, which creates the same concerns. Where is the money coming from? What is the group doing with it? How much crossover is there between her activism and the group’s targets and efforts, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ work?

According to The Post, in tax filings of its think tank sponsor, Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty is described as an “informal, unincorporated nonprofit association which serves as an incubator for ideas across a network of conservative leaders, cultural entrepreneurs, and cultural influences.”

READ MORE: ‘Heist’: Ginni Thomas Tells J6 Committee Election Was Stolen, Says She Never Discussed Efforts to Overturn With Spouse

It appears great efforts were made to ensure the donors to Thomas’ Crowdsourcers group would not be able to be publicly identified.

“In 2019, anonymous donors gave the think tank Capital Research Center, or CRC, $596,000 that was designated for Crowdsourcers, according to tax filings and audits the think tank submitted to state regulators. The majority of that money, $400,000, was routed through yet another nonprofit, Donors Trust, according to that organization’s tax filings. Donors Trust is a fund that receives money fromwealthy donors whose identities are not disclosed and steers it toward conservative causes,” The Post explains.

Thomas, who is reportedly active in another secretive far-right-wing group, the Council for National Policy, brought two well-known far-right wing activists from CNP into Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty: former Trump attorney, ally, and advisor Cleta Mitchell, and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.

The New York Times last year described the Council for National Policy as an organization that “brings together old-school Republican luminaries, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and MAGA operatives, with more than 400 members who include leaders of organizations like the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council.”

But despite all the obvious red flags, an attorney for Ginni Thomas, Mark Paoletta, told The Washington Post she was “proud of the work she did with Crowdsourcers, which brought together conservative leaders to discuss amplifying conservative values with respect to the battle over culture.”

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas ‘Intertwined’ With ‘Vast’ Campaign Pressuring Supreme Court to Overturn Roe: Report

“She believes Crowdsourcers identified the Left’s dominance in most cultural lanes, while conservatives were mostly funding political organizations,” Paoletta also told The Post.

“There is no plausible conflict of interest issue with respect to Justice Thomas,” he claimed.

Others disagree.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is also an attorney, responded to The Post’s report by mocking Paoletta’s claim there is no conflict of interest.

“Donors Trust was central to the far-right Court-packing operation, and now they pass secret donor funds to a justice’s spouse, but ‘no plausible conflict of interest’? Please.”

Sen. Whitehouse went on to explain his additional concerns.

“Plus, remember that the secrecy conduits like Donors Trust keep the *public* from knowing what’s happening, but nothing prevents the secret donor from telling the spouse or the justice, ‘Hey, that money that secretly came through to you — that’s me.'”

Adam Smith, Vice President for Democracy Initiatives at the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), observed: “Seems like the spouse of a Supreme Court Justice shouldn’t be able to hide the source of huge donations that could be from people with business before the court.”

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas’ Attempts to Influence Overturn of Election Even Wider Than Previously Known

CREW’s President, Noah Bookbinder, a former federal corruption prosecutor, adds: “Hundreds of thousands in anonymous donations to an activist group led by Ginni Thomas, spouse of a Supreme Court justice, raises all kinds of troubling questions about who could be influencing decisions that affect all of us.”

Attorney and Slate Magazine senior writer covering courts and the law, Mark Joseph Stern, pushed back against any idea the nearly $600,000 funding came from small donations.

“Ginni Thomas’ various political ventures have never had any small/grassroots donors. They have ALWAYS been funded by a handful of ultra-wealthy individuals and organizations who are very obviously trying to curry favor with her husband,” Stern said.

Former White House aide and CNN commentator Keith Boykin, also an attorney, called for Justice Thomas to recuse from certain cases: “If Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson had to recuse herself from the Harvard affirmative action case, then Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from all the cases on right-wing issues in which his activist wife, Ginni Thomas, is involved.”

Guns don't kill Americans, Republicans do

Yesterday a 28-year-old graduate of a Christian school shot up the place, killing three 9-year-old students and three adults. This was almost 2 years to the day that Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a wide-ranging gun deregulation bill allowing Tennesseans to carry guns — open or concealed — without a permit or any other government interference.

Republicans are trying to distract America from the easy access Audrey Hale had to weapons of war by discussing Hale’s personal life, but the availability of guns and the Republican embrace of death as a political weapon are the only real issues here.

We’re the only developed country in the world that unconditionally allows civilians to own military-style assault weapons, that allows “open carry,” and that lets gun manufacturers openly buy politicians (thanks, Republicans on the Supreme Court).

As a consequence, we’re also the only country in the world where the leading cause of death for children is being blown apart by bullets.

Today is the 87th day of the year. So far, we’ve had over 130 mass shootings. Yesterday’s was the 33rd school shooting. This is not happening in any other developed country in the world.

The last time there was a school shooting in the United Kingdom, for example, was 26 years ago.

These guns have been put into American’s hands by Republicans. Bill Clinton passed an assault weapons ban in 1994, but Republican President George W. Bush led the charge to refuse to renew it. It died in 2004.

The result is clear from the graphic Hillary Clinton posted here.

There are two simple reasons why Republicans want America drenched in guns and the deaths they bring.

The first is that they’ve been taking piles of money from explicit peddlers of death: the NRA and gun manufacturers. This form of corrupt political bribery was legalized by 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court in 1978 and doubled down on with Citizens United: it’s not just corrupting politics in America, it is killing our children.

The second is that there’s a substantial part of the violent white racist GOP base that is actively arming in preparation for a civil racial war in America, egged on by multiple Republican members of Congress.

These America-hating legislators — these sick, twisted bastards — delight in posing their white families with military assault weapons and posting the pictures on social media, their way of telling Black people and “liberals” what’s coming.

Last weekend in Waco, Donald Trump ran clips on a giant screen of his January 6th mob assaulting and killing people, producing three dead police officers, as he and his followers stood with their hands over their hearts singing a version of the national anthem that was interspersed with quotes from Trump himself.

The leading Republican candidate for president and his followers were literally celebrating the deaths they had caused, while calling for an end to our form of democratic republican government.

If that bloody mass murderer Vladimir Putin wanted to kill a few hundred thousand Americans, for example, he couldn’t have done better. We’ve lost more Americans to guns in just the past three years than Putin has lost on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Which reminds me of the September 17, 2019 article from National Public Radio (NPR):

“The National Rifle Association acted as a ‘foreign asset’ for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation...”

Or the April 11, 2018 piece in Politico that opened with:

“The National Rifle Association reported this week that it received more money from people with Russian ties than it has previously acknowledged, and announced that it was officially done cooperating with a congressional inquiry exploring whether illicit Kremlin-linked funding passed through the NRA and into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign…”

The Republican-controlled congressional committee and the Republican-blocked Federal Elections Commission that learned about this both failed to issue or enforce a subpoena to learn more.

Nothing to see here but thousands of dead children. Republicans will use them as an excuse to ban books or harass drag performers, but they don’t really give a damn if our kids die from bullets.

Setting aside the Putin theory — regardless of how we got over 400 million guns in this country, the majority of them since the Reagan Revolution, earning hundreds of billions for the weapons industry — we are experiencing an orgy of death unparalleled in the rest of the developed world. Brought to us by the GOP.

America has just a bit more than 4 percent of the world’s population, but, with more guns than people in our country, we have more than 40 percent of all the civilian guns in the world.

Specifically, as a Swiss-based research group found, there are “approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms in the world’s 230 countries and territories” and, as ABC News points out, in America there are “over 393 million firearms in civilian possession” as of 2017.

About fifteenth million more have been sold in the US since then: we are the only nation in the world with more guns than people.

For every 100 people in America, there are 120 guns. Among developed nations, next highest on the list is Canada, at 34 per 100 people, and all other developed countries are lower down the list than that: South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, for example, all clock in at fewer than one gun per 100 people.

This is entirely a recent phenomenon. Before the Reagan Revolution, gun ownership numbers in America resembled Canada’s and school shootings had not yet become a thing.

Today, however, America not only leads the world in gun ownership but we also lead the world in gun deaths. As an exhaustive study of gun deaths in the world’s 23 wealthiest countries published in The American Journal of Medicine found:

“US homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher. For 15- to 24-year-olds, the gun homicide rate in the United States was 49.0 times higher. Firearm-related suicide rates were 8.0 times higher in the United States... Unintentional firearm deaths were 6.2 times higher in the United States. The overall firearm death rate in the United States from all causes was 10.0 times higher.”

Astonishingly, they added, ninety percent of all women murdered by firearms in those 23 countries were killed here in the United States, as well as 91 percent of all children killed by firearms.

Thanks to the Republican Party, fully 82 percent of all the human beings living in the world’s wealthy countries killed by firearms lived in the USA.

Only ten percent of the wealthy world’s firearms deaths occurred in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland combined.

Other countries have gotten their gun violence under control by simply reducing the number of guns in circulation and requiring gun owners to do two of the three things we do across America for car owners: be licensed and register your weapon.

I’d add that we should include mandatory liability insurance, like we do for cars: the insurance companies would then sniff out the “high risk” gun owners and refuse to insure them, thus preventing them from easily and legally owning a gun. (San Jose, CA just put this into law!)

Gallup found last year that Americans are sick and tired of seeing our children slaughtered by guns just to satisfy fanatics and on-the-take politicians in the GOP: 57 percent of Americans and 85 percent of Democrats want stricter gun laws in America.

Giving American voters a giant middle finger, Republican politicians are moving in the opposite direction, endorsing gun violence and terror: then-Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn said after the Rittenhouse verdict that Republicans should “be armed and dangerous” while Marjorie Taylor Greene said, “[G]un rights are the only thing holding back the Communist Revolution the Democrats are waging.”

Because death-promoting fascists like these in the GOP continue to try to push America toward armed civil war, opposition to gun control appears to be an issue that animates the hard-core white supremacist Republican base who are openly enthusiastic about seeing Democrats and people of color die at the hands of vigilantes.

It used to be that Republicans promoted guns because of the NRA’s money, but the NRA is now a shell of its former self. Today, it appears they’re opposing rational gun control measures because so many of them are openly promoting gun-based rightwing terrorism and the death it brings to America’s streets.

Killer Kyle Rittenhouse, for example, is lionized by the GOP, embraced by the House Sedition Caucus, a popular speaker at Republican political events, and feted on Fox News and rightwing hate radio.

America is caught in a crossfire between gun manufacturers bribing politicians with the blessing of 5 corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court, and a fascist movement fed by billionaire-owned media machines that has seized control of the GOP.

Mass shooters, rightwing terrorists, and child-killers are celebrating. Meanwhile Republican politicians vow to protect us and our kids from — wait for it — librarians, drag queens, and history teachers.

Every developed country in the world has guns, and most have lots of them. But only America has a crisis of mass slaughter of our children.

Republicans and their sociopathic policies and rhetoric are causing people to use those guns to murder others.

It’s the Republican promotion of violence as an acceptable part of American politics — indisputably on display in Waco last weekend — that has led rightwing terrorists to commit virtually every act of political murder in the past 20 years.

It’s Republican austerity and tax-cut policies that have gutted the middle class, led to an epidemic of homelessness, and destroyed our system for treating mental illness.

And then those same Republican politicians cynically tell formerly middle-class white men that their economic crisis was caused by women, Black people, teachers, immigrants, and “radical” Democrats rather than the morbidly rich and massive corporations who are actually funding the corruption of our government.

They promote the language of dehumanization and victimhood, demonize immigrants and queer people, and encourage antisemitism and racial hate with their Great Replacement Theory, which has made it all the way to Fox “News” and has recently been cited by multiple mass murderers.

Even during the worst pandemic in a century, Republicans chose to politicize a virus, leading the British medical journal The Lancet to conclude that a half-million Americans died unnecessarily, the majority of them followers of conservative media.

All while GOP politicians condone the slaughter of our children with their silence, hypocritical “prayers,” and refusal to do anything about over 400 million guns.

The rest of the world is watching us, boggled. It’s way past time to wake the hell up and do something about the Republican-led slaughter of Americans and our children.

The number to call your members of Congress and demand immediate action is 202-224-3121.

And double-check your voter registration every few months: since 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Red states could throw you off the voting rolls without even letting you know, GOP governors and secretaries of state have already purged millions.

'Our January 6th pre-trial defendants': Marjorie Taylor Greene ties Republicans to Capitol attackers

Last Friday, United States Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), Mike Collins (R-Georgia), Anna Paulina Luna (R-Florida), Byron Donalds (R-Florida), Robert Garcia (D-California), and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) visited the Washington Corrections Department in the District of Columbia where twenty defendants are awaiting trial for their roles in the January 6th, 2021 Capitol insurrection.

Greene and other right-wing loyalists to former President Donald Trump have insisted that conditions inside the jail are deplorable and that the detainees are victims of "inhumane treatment" akin to the notorious American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After their tour, Greene and her colleagues held a press conference where they again asserted that their comrades are unjustly suffering.

READ MORE: 'Menacing wickedness': Twitter explodes at Marjorie Taylor Greene for blocking ATF gun store inspection

"It's been over two years and this is continuing on, and while the Antifa, BLM rioters, over ninety-five percent of their charges were dropped, none of our January 6th, uh, pre-trial defendant's charges are dropped," Greene complained to Real America's Voice.

"As a matter of fact," she continued of the largest investigation in the history of the Justice Department, "they're treated like political prisoners and the Department of Justice is going to continue to arrest one thousand to twelve hundred more protesters."

Crockett disagreed, according to The New York Times:

'My frame of reference comes out of Arkansas jails, Texas jails. Listen, this is so much different and so much better,' Ms. Crockett said, adding that detainees elsewhere in the D.C. facility were kept in worse, more cramped conditions. 'I don’t think the January 6ers would want to go the other way.'

Crockett further revealed that the "January 6th [defendants] had more access to technology [than other defendants]," CBS News reported on Saturday. "They have access to laptops and tablets. It's unlike anything I've ever seen."

READ MORE: 'They've got a barbershop': House Dem. schools Marjorie Taylor Greene on the reality of U.S. jail conditions

But what social media observers noticed in the clip that was posted to Twitter on Tuesday was Greene's use of the word "our," which many interpreted as an inadvertent confession that Republicans support the insurrectionist movement that Trump fomented and continues to stoke.

Recall that on January 6th, Greene voted against certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 Electoral College victory over Trump. Greene went on to boast in December that "if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won."

MsConduct: "From the f*ck around & find out files."

Wall(-e) Street: "'They're not dropping charges against people caught on camera committing crimes is quite the thing to whine about."

Romeo McFluorish, Electron Thief: "Exactly. Not the flex she thinks it is."

Logan Davis: "They're political in the sense that her political leader inspired them towards political violence."

Merrily awaiting: "Yes, the January 6th detainees do belong to her political ideology."

Eagledale: "It's hardly unusual for a terrorist to label themself as a political prisoner when they face the consequences for their actions."

Stelenj: "How come it took 900 white people being arrested to get her to care about conditions in prison? And when will she be visiting the prisons in her own state? It seems like there are a lot more problems there than here."

Kyle Schwerin: "@RepMTG literally out here admitting blatantly that she is an insurrectionist. Yet the House is not going to do anything, because they're all spineless cowards."

Greene has also falsely alleged that the Capitol attackers belonged to Antifa and Black Lives Matter, which commenters viewed as contradictory to what she claimed on Friday as well as in her previous condemnations of those democratic causes.

Audrey: "So… they are being detained because they 1) can't make bail, 2) won't make bail, or 3) have been deemed too dangerous or a flight risk to get bail? What is it Marge? There's a reason they are still there, and much of that reason is up to them."

Wilda Uhrig: "How do you tell that they're being treated like 'political' prisoners as opposed to criminal prisoners? Is it because they get to have tablets that allow them to access the internet and make calls that criminals don't get?"

Paul Allen: "I thought they were Antifa and BLM and FBI insiders? I can't keep up."

Rachel M. Horne: "But weren't they ANTIFA and BLM? Poor Marge. She just can't keep her lies straight."

Ken: "Wait I thought it was ANTIFA."

Watch the Real America's Voice segment below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Whoever she is': Marjorie Taylor Greene disses Nikki Haley in Trump-loving rant

Why the repeal of anti-union laws in Michigan boosts workers nationwide

The United Steelworkers (USW) mounted tireless battles for fair trade and other lifelines that helped to keep McLouth Steel open during the 1980s, enabling Jay McMurran and thousands of other Michigan workers to raise families and build pensions amid one of the nation’s worst economic crises.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Recognizing that other workers need the same kind of strength behind them, McMurran resolved to fight back when Republicans rammed union-gutting "right-to-work" (RTW) legislation through the state legislature in 2012.

He and other union supporters and their allies worked relentlessly for years to oust the corporate toadies and elect pro-worker lawmakers instead. Their long struggle culminated in victory on March 21, 2023, when new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate voted to repeal the deceptively named RTW laws, restoring workers’ full power to bargain fair contracts and safe working conditions.

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has since signed the legislation, which represents the latest in a string of victories for workers mobilizing to build strength across the country.

No one in America is ever forced to join a union, and no union wants workers to join against their will. Yet a union is legally obligated to serve all workers in its bargaining unit.

Many states allow unions to charge nonmembers a small fee to help cover the costs of representation. But in some states, RTW laws pushed by corporations and anti-worker groups enable nonmembers to receive union services for free.

These laws intentionally divide workers, erode the solidarity that's the foundation of union strength, and starve unions of the resources needed for effective bargaining, training, and other essential purposes—all to the boss's benefit.

"'Right to work' is simply a union-busting scam that the Republicans dress up as 'choice,'" observed McMurran, a longtime USW member who worked at McLouth Steel for 27 years.

"It weakens the local union," he said. "It weakens every worker's position when you get into collective bargaining, when you get into grievance hearings, when you get into arbitrations. The boss knows your weaknesses, and he exploits them."

It's no surprise that workers burdened by RTW laws make significantly lower wages than their counterparts in other states. They're also less likely to have employer-provided health insurance and retirement plans than other workers.

At the same time, workers in RTW states face a higher risk of dying on the job because they lack the strong, unified voice needed to fight for workplace safety.

"Everything I have is because I was a Steelworker," said McMurran, who recalled that unshakable solidarity among his coworkers not only ensured good contracts and safe working conditions but also kept their employer in business.

"The steel mill that I came out of was in financial trouble for 13 years, and the Steelworkers fought to keep the place open nearly every day of those 13 years," said McMurran, citing the busloads of USW members who converged on Washington, D.C., in the 1980s to demand support for the company. "We actually kept the place going so more people qualified for pensions and employer-sponsored health care. We did some good things there."

Sadly, despite successes like that, Michigan's GOP legislators conspired with corporations and other anti-union interests to undermine worker power.

McMurran was among the 10,000 protesters who packed the statehouse in a last-ditch effort to stop Republicans from pushing RTW through a lame-duck session during the 2012 holiday season.

Union members lost that skirmish but won the war.

After Republicans passed the legislation over the protesters' objections, McMurran said, workers and their allies launched a "long-game" plan to reverse it.

Workers helped pass a 2018 referendum that took redistricting out of the hands of partisan political hacks and put fair-minded citizens in charge of the process. New, equitably drawn legislative districts enabled voters to elect pro-worker lawmakers willing to represent them rather than corporations.

And those pro-worker majorities, in turn, speedily acted to end RTW. For McMurran, the victory highlighted both the power of collective action and the importance of electing the right people to office.

Workers in other states also are beating back RTW amid growing support for organized labor and a pandemic that underscored Americans' need for good wages, affordable health care, and the other benefits that unions deliver.

For example, even as Republicans in Michigan united behind a failed defense of RTW, several GOP legislators in Montana helped to kill RTW legislation in that state in February 2023. The opponents included Republican Senator Jason Small, a member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, who described his 26 years of union membership as a "heck of an opportunity" in his life.

"It has nothing to do with red or blue. It’s what's right for people and their families," explained Curtis Schomer, vice president of USW Local 11-0001.

Schomer, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for the Montana House in 2022, repeatedly traveled to Helena, the state capital, to rally against RTW and testify against the harmful legislation.

He noted that a strong union gives him and his 1,300 coworkers at the Sibanye-Stillwater mining complex the power to take safety concerns directly to management and address problems immediately. In a dangerous industry like mining, he noted, that kind of voice saves lives and ensures workers return home safely at the end of their shifts.

Schomer expects pro-business interests to continue to push RTW in Montana. But he predicted those efforts will fall flat in communities that not only have a rich legacy of labor activism but also continue to appreciate the benefits unions provide.

"Our unions do a lot for our communities," Schomer said. "They especially do a lot on workplace safety. People see that."

Author Bio: Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).

What's the best way out of the war in Ukraine?

In view of the recent geopolitical upheavals, and particularly the war in Ukraine, it does not make sense (and does not promise much success) to build a new global security architecture based on the logic of a bipolar confrontation for several reasons…

This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA).

Firstly, a principal prerequisite for success of a confrontational "conflict strategy"—a far-reaching identity of interests with politically aligned conceptions—is not given in the Western, democratic camp.

As long as the USA is deeply divided, it is difficult for the European partners to fully rely on it. And despite the rapid joint reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war of aggression, the cohesion of the EU is by no means assured.

Differing levels of concern and different opinions as to what action to take with regard to economic consequences of the war—as well as the large-scale energy crisis in Europe illustrate the potential for conflict rather than agreement within Europe.

Secondly, a lasting "conflict strategy" is inherently dangerous because of its potential for military escalation. Even the use of nuclear weapons has become a real risk as a result of Putin’s threats and increasing American involvement in the conflict.

And finally, coping with climate change (which will pose an existential threat to many people) and significantly reducing global poverty (which will increase in the coming years as a result of climate change and war) are much more difficult problems to solve in a confrontational bipolar environment.

Cornerstones of a Modern Policy of Détente

Instead of global confrontation (now often said to be underway between the world's democracies and authoritarian regimes), it is important to develop an alternative international policy that, on the one hand, counters the new military threats, and on the other hand, enables a new quality of global cooperation to combat climate change, global poverty and the expected large-scale famines.

The détente policy of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr is by no means outdated in this context. On the contrary, it offers important lessons learned for the new policy of global cooperation that needs to be developed.

The policy of détente which overcame a system of confrontation was never based on a naïve belief—such as those embedded in Democratic Peace Theory—that mutual benefits of economic cooperation would create interdependencies that would make it pointless for the states involved to wage wars against one another.

The policy of detente was not based on a belief in the peaceful nature of the Soviet Union. Rather, détente required a realistic picture of the interests of the states involved.

At the same time, it was anchored in an age of nuclear weapons, and the assessment, because of that, that a war between the Communist and Democratic systems could have no winner and must be prevented at all costs.

This was linked to efforts to enshrine the maintenance of the territorial integrity of all states in international law. The strength of the law would replace the ancient view that, as Thucydides wrote, "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

International organizations such as the UN or the OSCE were given central importance. Militarily, the policy of détente was based on sufficient deterrence capabilities and the need for mutual arms control and disarmament agreement to be binding.

This was based on the realization that security can only be guaranteed in the long term if we work with rather than against each other, as Bahr noted in the Palme Report 1982: 'Doctrine of Common Security.'

Economic cooperation between the two blocs, which intensified over time, served to strengthen the mutual benefits of working together. The policy of détente did not develop its effectiveness overnight, but was able to assert itself in a lengthy diplomatic process.

Incidentally, the starting point was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the result of a previous phase of confrontational politics between the USA and the Soviet Union, and which led the world to the nuclear abyss. These elements were joined in the 1980s by the concept of comprehensive security. This was based on the simple realization that lasting peace can only be achieved if important causes of conflict such as environmental damage and hunger are fought at the same time.

Certainly, in today's multipolar world, it will be more difficult to conceive a modern policy of detente in detail. In addition, there are no undisputed hegemonic powers in their respective camps today; on the contrary, there is a dispute over global hegemony between the USA and China.

But solving these conflicts requires taking into account the changes in the international community in the last few decades, even if these are not yet underpinned by adequate political implementation strategies.

With the adoption of the Paris climate agreement, the international community recognized that climate change can only be stopped if all states give climate protection a top priority. And the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, which are repeatedly emphasized, also show that development must benefit everyone.

Current Fields of Action

In relation to the current situation, this results in the following fields of action from my point of view:

Certainly, military, political and economic support for Ukraine will have to continue. However, it must be ensured that neither the EU states nor NATO become a war party.

That sets limits on arms deliveries.

It is also important that parallel diplomatic initiatives are repeatedly taken in order to avoid devastating escalations of the war, to make humanitarian aid possible and to achieve a ceasefire as a starting point for peace negotiations. The negotiations on grain exports and the efforts to ensure the safety of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia show that diplomacy can be successful.

And at the last UN General Assembly in December, important countries in the world community such as China and India spoke out in favor of diplomatic initiatives to end the war.

The decision to significantly improve the defense capabilities of the European nations is another step in the right direction.

However, this must not be the beginning of a permanent spiral of military rearmament. Abstract stipulations that the defense budget of the NATO countries should permanently be two percent of GDP are nonsense, especially since the European NATO countries already spend three times as much money on armaments as Russia.

Attempts that the European states should also engage militarily in the Indo-Pacific region should also be rejected.

And efforts must be stepped up today to reach international agreements on disarmament and arms control both in Europe and globally.

All steps in this context should be taken in close consultation within the EU.

It is self-evident that Germany, as the largest and economically strongest EU member state, is of particular importance. Above all, however, this means that Germany must take the initiative.

However, this should not be confused with a German leadership role that some people are calling for. In the EU, for the foreseeable future there cannot and will not be leading countries on the one hand and being-led countries on the other.

The EU must not limit its engagement to the European continent. As a major civil and economic power, the EU is destined to play a prominent role in creating a multilateral order of justice that should focus on combating climate change and combating poverty and famine worldwide.

In light of the serious destabilization caused by the Russian war of aggression, such a modern policy of detente cannot in the short term lead to a new, stable peace order, neither in Europe nor globally.

Detente requires a systematic step-by-step, while possible setbacks will have to be coped with by efforts to de-escalate and solve the conflict even if there are no blueprints for steps to be taken. However, these steps should apply the lessons learned from détente rather than pursuing a policy of confrontation that may look simpler but would ultimately be devastating.

Author Bio: Joachim Schuster is a member of the European Parliament from Germany and member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

How indigenous land management practices are a blueprint for climate-resilient agriculture

As a rapidly warming world strains at the shortcomings in industrial farming, key lessons can be taken from Indigenous practices.

Several Hollywood action films center around an impending apocalypse in the form of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth—a glaring metaphor for the real-world implications of a rapidly accelerating climate crisis.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

As this crisis unfolds before our very eyes, however, rather than look up to the atmosphere to see what can and should be done to curtail some of the worst effects of a rapidly warming world, maybe our gazes should also be trained downward at the soil beneath our feet, while pondering this question: If aggressive commercial agriculture exacerbates the climate crisis, are there key lessons to be learned from Indigenous land management practices that can help to restore environmental balance?

"I'm going to borrow from the founder of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini," said Enrique Salmón, head of the American Indian Studies Program at Cal State University–East Bay, when asked this same question.

"In a conference, someone asked him, 'What is the most important thing that Americans can do to help solve this food and climate change crisis?' And he said, not missing a beat, 'if everyone got rid of their refrigerators,'" Salmón said, relaying Petrini's response not so much to decry the refrigerator as a greenhouse gas emitter, but to signify its role at the heart of a system that has removed the average consumer from a direct connection to the natural world as a food source.

"We focus so much on the negative impacts from big agribusiness, and rightfully so. And it seems that, to the average American, there's not much they can do about it. But in reality, they can," Salmón said.

Soil Erosion and Climate Change

From the stripping of valuable rainforests to pave the way for crops and cattle grazing to the mismanagement of carbon-storing grasslands, the link between heavily commercialized agriculture and climate change has been well established—as has its association with exacerbating the impacts from climate change.

Take soil erosion, which can be caused by the ritual plowing of farmland before and after growing seasons, along with the overgrazing of cattle. As layers of fertile topsoils are lost, this can lead to a host of damaging consequences, including a reduced ability for the remaining soil to retain moisture, depleted biodiversity within the soil itself, and increased rainwater runoff, which can contaminate and clog local waterways. Soil erosion isn't a small problem, either.

A 2021 study found that the stretch of land constituting the U.S. Corn Belt—where 75 percent of the nation's grain is cultivated—has completely lost one-third of its topsoils.

Calls to Revise Global Farming Practices

It's no surprise then that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—an organization of governments charged with routinely assessing the current state of climate change science—has called for a revision to global farming practices in order to build a sustainable food supply as the planet warms and dries out.

Dwindling water supplies, for example, pose a major obstacle to growers on the U.S. west coast, which has been undergoing the worst megadrought in 1,200 years for more than two decades. Record low levels in the Colorado River have hit farmers hard.

Indigenous Land Management Techniques

As proponents of Indigenous land management techniques point out, the careful cultivation of naturally available resources can offer an alternate blueprint. Despite the fact that Tribes in the U.S. live on just 1 percent of their historical land base, many continue to successfully practice their ancestral farming techniques in areas often disproportionately impacted by climate change hazards.

A 2021 study found that while Indigenous peoples make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, their land stewardship protects approximately 85 percent of the world's biodiversity.

Salmón calls these lands "refugia" of resilience in an increasingly arid environment, using a term to describe surprisingly hardy habitats. "In other words, these are places that [can show us] how to adapt to what we're witnessing," said Salmón, during a presentation at the 2022 national Soil Health Innovations Conference.

During this presentation, Salmón ran through a snapshot of some of these techniques, such as the Hopi Tribe's no-till practice of planting corn very deep in the ground using digging sticks, to leave undisturbed the vast array of microbial life under the surface of the soil.

The Hopi also plant their corn and other crops on land at a low angle of repose. This helps the soil retain moisture, maximizes any potential water runoff from higher ground, and better regulates soil temperatures.

In contrast to parts of Nebraska and Iowa (where fields of corn can appear to stretch seamlessly off into the horizon), the Zuni Tribe in New Mexico breaks up the land into small one- or two-meter squares—a system known as "waffle gardens." Along the edges of these square plots, the soil is raised up to six or eight inches, and the corn is planted inside.

"What happens is that just a small six- or eight-inch height of the wall keeps the winds from whisking away the moisture in the soil, and it helps create just enough of a shade to also keep the soil temperatures low," Salmón said.

Artfully placed check dams—human-made constructs to help mitigate water runoff and soil erosion—can play a pivotal role in completely revitalizing a barren area of land within as quickly as ten years. What's more, Indigenous farming practices eschew the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides, said Salmón.

"We really wouldn’t need [pesticides] if we altered our agricultural techniques," Salmón explained. "We would stop poisoning ourselves and our pollinators and our water and the soil." Others agree.

Reconnecting Consumers With Nature

"We're now seeing an impact in our mammal populations," said Kelsey Scott, director of programs for the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), an organization that connects and promotes Indigenous land uses, about some of the consequences of blanket applications of pesticides and herbicides, like neonicotinoids.

"Deer that have fed on fields planted with seeds treated with neonicotinoids, they're now seeing a bottom jaw, lower jaw, half the size of what it should be at full maturity," Scott added, pointing to a 2019 study out of South Dakota State University that found a link between the pesticide and health defects in white-tailed deers that also includes reproductive problems and impaired thyroid function.

While the gulf between the everyday consumer and Indigenous farming techniques may seem wide, however, it’s not insurmountable, says Scott, who listed a series of practical suggestions for anyone interested in bridging that divide. One is to learn about nature at the local level, and see its intended functions "and patterns" not in isolation but as a harmonious whole, Scott said. Importantly for a warming world, these systems have built-in mechanisms that support climate resiliency.

As an example, Scott shared an anecdote from one of her colleagues who discovered that his trees stopped producing sap before a storm arrived. "He was able to correlate that with the fact that the tree had an awareness that there was a weather system coming in, and in order to withstand it, it needed to reserve all forms of energy that it could," she said.

For most consumers, the connection to farming is rooted in the end product—"the food"—Scott said. Perhaps the most effective way to flesh out and learn about these natural systems and cycles, therefore, is to visit places where Indigenous land management practices are being applied.

"If they can go and experience some connection with the land or find a local farmer or rancher where they can do a day tag-along, helping with operations, absolutely take up that opportunity because it’s such a unique experience," Scott said.

With a real-world grounding under one’s belt, it can be easier to understand how managing the climate crisis doesn’t require a complete reinvention of the wheel as much as it does an acknowledgment of how thoughtful Indigenous cultivation of biodiversity has thus far stood the test of time.

One example is happening at the Onondaga Nation Farm in Central New York, which has amassed a treasure trove of seeds linking the present to its ancestral past. This includes more than 1,100 varieties of corn seeds—some of which are around 4,000 years old—as well as 500-year-old squash seeds. The farm's rich bank of seeds is exchanged within an intertribal farming network called Braiding the Sacred.

"Without staples of Indigenous diets that have been very carefully stewarded in a symbiotic relationship over the evolution of time, societies wouldn’t have been able to make it through some of these [historic] natural disasters," said Scott. "In fact, a lot of times, societies would have been healthier if they would have utilized or grown or harvested the crop in the same production style that the Indigenous community—who they more often than not stole the crop from—would have been doing."

Wisconsin judge slams far-right state supreme court candidate as 'unfit to serve' in a scathing op-ed

In Wisconsin on Tuesday, April 4, voters will elect either a far-right MAGA Republican or a liberal to a seat on the state's supreme court. Republican Dan Kelly is up against liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, who has been railing against Kelly relentlessly over his severe anti-abortion views as well as for his sympathy for election denialists.

Kelly has given Protasiewicz plenty of material to work with. On March 21, he spoke at an event headlined by the Rev. Matthew Trewhella — a Christian fundamentalist who has described killing abortion providers as "justifiable homicide." Trewhella, a supporter of the militia movement, has also called for evangelicals to receive paramilitary training and wage a holy war against adversaries.

The seat on the Milwaukee Supreme Court that Kelly and Protasiewicz are competing for is up for grabs because of former Chief Justice Pat Roggensack's retirement. In an op-ed published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on March 28, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Ellen Brostrom — who is Roggensack's daughter — endorses Protasiewicz and emphasizes that Kelly is "unfit" for the position.

READ MORE:How a Wisconsin Supreme Court race previews the abortion battles that lie ahead in 2024: conservative

"As judges, we take an oath to support the constitutions of the United States and the State of Wisconsin," Brostrom argues. "Instead of supporting our constitutional rights, however, Kelly has worked to undermine the constitution and our democracy. He has never served as a front-line judge, and instead, most recently served as a legal advisor to the Republican Party of Wisconsin as it implemented the fake elector scheme — part of a multifaceted conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election."

The judge continues, "In the United States, we proudly elect our leaders. Our leaders do not install themselves. Our entire democracy — indeed, the very idea of America — is built on this bedrock constitutional right. Whatever our flaws and shortcomings, America, and Wisconsin specifically, has been a 'city on a hill' for the peaceful transition of power."

Wisconsin is among the five states that former President Donald Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020. And Brostrom slams Kelly for being sympathetic to the MAGA Republicans who tried to overturn the democratic election results in a state that now-President Joe Biden won fairly.

"Instead of peaceful transition, however, since the last presidential election, the country has been subject to a massive fraud designed to convince fellow citizens that the election was stolen," Brostrom explains. "It seems the losing side — led by President Trump, Fox News, and his allies — believes the results should be overturned by any means necessary. To that end, they have intentionally lied to the American people and conspired to keep Trump illegally in power."

READ MORE:WI Supreme Court hopeful spoke at event with pastor who says killing abortion doctors is 'justifiable homicide’

Brostrom continues, "Kelly assisted in this scheme, and that makes him unfit to serve on our state's highest court…. I believe we all have a patriotic and moral obligation to vote against candidates who have helped this conspiracy along, even if we are not fully comfortable with their opponent or would not vote for them otherwise. Kelly helped this conspiracy along, working to overturn the 2020 presidential election. That is not 'conservative,' and it is not American. Kelly is unfit to serve on our highest court."

READ MORE:Judge who aided Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election moves forward after Wisconsin Supreme Court primary

Read Judge Ellen Brostrom's full op-ed at this link.

The War of Surprises in Ukraine: Will there be too many?

Rajan Menon: A War for the Record Books

Yes, as TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon points out today, the world was surprised first by Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and then by his army's failure to capture Kyiv and obliterate the government of Volodymyr Zelensky. In truth, though, we Americans probably shouldn't have been. After all, it shouldn't have been all that hard to recall a similar American-style scenario — say, the U.S. military's disastrous attempt to defeat a rebel movement (and North Vietnamese forces) in South Vietnam in the last century or to do something similar in Afghanistan in this one. Either of those might, in retrospect, have been considered American Ukraines. In fact, it almost seems like an unnoticed truth of our moment that the more money a country puts into its military, the less striking the results from its use in the world.

Yes, until Ukraine, the Russian military, funded and upgraded by President Vladimir Putin, was thought to be a winner of a force. Today, pressed to the edge of who knows what and having thrown a private mercenary outfit (the Wagner Group) and tens of thousands of barely trained prison convicts into the front lines of death in Ukraine, it looks unimpressive as hell. Strangely enough, however, despite losses of every sort over the last three-quarters of a century, the world's best-funded military (by a country mile) is still considered impressive as hell (and I don't use that word lightly). Explain that as you will.

And by the way, the Russians never took the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, but in the American version of their war — the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — the U.S. military did indeed take Baghdad and little good it did them. Perhaps what we need on this increasingly odd planet of ours is a new assessment of the significance of traditional military power. If only. In that context, let Menon (who has seen the war in Ukraine firsthand) take you through the true strangeness of Vladimir Putin's attempt to invade and conquer his neighbor. Tom

The War of Surprises in Ukraine: Could There Be One Surprise Too Many?

Some wars acquire names that stick. The Lancaster and York clans fought the War of the Roses from 1455-1485 to claim the British throne. The Hundred Years' War pitted England against France from 1337-1453. In the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648, many European countries clashed, while Britain and France waged the Seven Years' War, 1756-63, across significant parts of the globe. World War I (1914-1918) gained the lofty moniker, "The Great War," even though World II (1939-1945) would prove far greater in death, destruction, and its grim global reach.

Of the catchier conflict names, my own favorite — though the Pig War of 1859 between the U.S. and Great Britain in Canada runs a close second — is the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739-1748). It was named for Captain Robert Jenkins of the East India Company who, in 1738, told the British House of Commons that his ear, which he displayed for the onlooking parliamentarians, had been severed several years earlier by a Spanish coast guard sloop's commander. He had boarded the ship off the Cuban coast and committed the outrage using Jenkins's own cutlass. If ever there was cause for war, that was it! An ear for an ear, so to speak.

If I could give Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine a name for posterity, I think I'd call it the War of Surprises, because from the get-go it so thoroughly confounded the military mavens and experts on Russia and Ukraine. For now, though, let me confine myself to exploring just two surprising aspects of that ongoing conflict, both of which can be posed as questions: Why did it occur when it did? Why has it evolved in such unexpected ways?

It's NATO's Fault

Though a slim majority of experts opined that Putin might use force against Ukraine many months after his military buildup on Ukraine’s border began in early 2021, few foresaw an all-out invasion. When he started massing troops, the reigning assumption was that he was muscle-flexing, probably to extract a promise that NATO would cease expanding toward Russia.

Some context helps here. NATO had just 16 members at its Cold War peak. More than three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has 30 — 32 when Finland and Sweden, which sought membership after Putin's invasion, are allowed to join. Long before Putin became president in 2000, Russian officials were already condemning the eastward march of the American-led former Cold War alliance. His predecessor Boris Yeltsin made his opposition clear to President Bill Clinton.

In October 1993, as Secretary of State Warren Christopher prepared to travel to Russia, James Collins, chargé d’affaires at the American embassy in Moscow, sent him a cable warning that "NATO expansion is neuralgic to Russians." If continued "without holding the door open to Russia," he added, it would be "universally interpreted in Moscow as directed against Russia and Russia alone — or 'Neo-Containment,' as Foreign Minister [Andrei] Kozyrev recently suggested."

In February 2008, eight years into Putin’s presidency and about a month before a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, William Burns, then the American ambassador to Moscow and now the director of the CIA, sent a cable to Washington focusing on Ukraine. "NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine," he warned, "remains an 'emotional and neuralgic' issue for Russia." That same month, in a memo to President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Burns wrote that Ukraine's entry into NATO would cross "the brightest of all red lines" for Russia's leaders. "I have," he continued, "yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests."

Such diplomatic missives had little effect as NATO expansion became the centerpiece of Washington's new security order in Europe. In April 2008, at Bush's urging, NATO finally took a fateful step at that Bucharest summit, declaring that Ukraine and Georgia would, one day, join its ranks.

Now, it was one thing to include former Soviet allies from Central Europe in NATO, but Ukraine was another matter entirely. In the eyes of Russian nationalists, the two countries shared a centuries-long set of cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious ties with Ukrainians, not to mention a 1,426-mile-long border, a point Putin made in a 7,000-word essay he wrote in July 2021, tellingly titled "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians."

Putin, who never regarded Ukraine as an authentic state, saw the Ukrainians' overwhelming December 1991 vote in favor of independence as a deep injustice. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that he told George W. Bush at a NATO-Russia Council meeting held during that 2008 Bucharest summit, "Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? A part of its territory is Eastern Europe, another part [Ukraine east of the Dnipro River], and a significant one, is a donation from us." He later added ominously that, if Ukraine entered NATO, it would lose Crimea, its sole Russian-majority province, and the Donbas, its Russophone east. In his 2016 book, All the Kremlin's Men, Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar confirmed that Putin had indeed threatened to destroy Ukraine, were it to join NATO.

Those who blame NATO for the present war point to just such evidence. And it can't be denied that NATO expansion created tension between Russia and the West, as well as Russia and Ukraine. But the alliance's Bucharest promise that Ukraine would become a member someday didn't make Putin's war any less surprising.

Here's why: between then and the invasion moment, NATO never followed through on its pledge to take the next step and provide Kyiv with a "membership action plan." By February 2022, it had, in fact, kept Ukraine waiting for 14 years without the slightest sign that its candidacy might be advancing (though Ukraine’s security ties and military training with some NATO states — the U.S., Britain, and Canada, in particular — had increased).

So, the NATO-was-responsible theory, suggesting that Putin invaded in 2022 in the face of an "existential threat," isn't convincing (even if one believes, as I do, that NATO's enlargement was a bad idea and Russian apprehensions reasonable).

It's Democracy, Stupid

A rival explanation for Putin's war is that it stemmed from his fear of liberal democracy. Under his rule, Russia had become steadily more authoritarian until the state was embodied in a single person: him. Putin's greatest fear, so this explanation goes, was the specter of Russians thronging the streets demanding more freedom — and so, his departure. For that reason, he curbed the media, exiled opposition figures, allegedly had others like Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov killed, and jailed Alexei Navalny, Russia's most prominent dissident and the person most likely to lead a grassroots rebellion against him.

According to this account, Putin can't imagine Russians turning against him spontaneously, since he played such a crucial role in putting the 1990s — a decade of economic collapse, fire sales of state property to sleazy "oligarchs," rising poverty, and potential civil war — behind them. Instead, he built a strong state, imposed order, crushed the Chechens' attempted secession, paid off Russia's massive debt early, rebuilt the army, revved up the economy, and left the country standing tall as a great power once again.

So, if Russians do protest en masse (as they did from 2011 to 2013 against rigged elections), it must be thanks to instigation from abroad, as was supposedly true in adjoining countries like Georgia during its 2003 Rose Revolution, Kyrgyzstan during its 2005 Tulip Revolution, and Ukraine during its Orange Revolution that same year. Putin, this narrative continues, hated the "color revolutions" because they created turmoil in regions he deemed Russia's sphere of influence or in which, as former president Dmitry Medvedev put it, the country has "privileged interests."

But his real beef against citizen rebellions in Russia's neighborhood, according to this explanation of what sparked the invasion, is that they might inspire insurrection in Russia. And when it came to that, he especially feared such events in Ukraine. In 2014, after all, its "revolution of dignity" culminated in the ouster of a Russian-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych. For Putin, in other words, that revolt hit too close to home. He reacted by annexing Crimea (after a referendum that violated Ukraine's constitution), while working to foster two separatist "republics" across the border in Ukraine's Donbas region. A little more than a month before his invasion at a meeting of the Russia-led Collective Treaty Organization, he warned that "we will not allow the realization of so-called color-revolution scenarios" and promptly dispatched 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan following a revolt there.

As for Ukraine, while it may be an imperfect democracy, it was certainly making progress. Its elections were cleaner than Russia's and its media far freer, as political parties competed, governments were voted in and out of power, and civic groups multiplied. All of this, so goes the argument, Putin found intolerable, fearing that such democratic ideas and aspirations would eventually make their way to Russia.

As it happens, though, none of this explains the timing of his invasion.

After all, Ukraine had been moving toward political plurality for years, however slowly and unevenly, and however far it still had to go. So, what was happening in 2021 that could have taken his fear to new heights? The answer: nothing, really. Those who claim that NATO was irrelevant to the invasion often insist that the deed sprang from Putin's ingrained authoritarianism, dating back to his days in Russia's secret police, the KGB, his love of unchecked power, and his dread of uppity citizens inclined to rebellion.

The problem: none of this explains why the war broke out when it did. Russia wasn't then being roiled by protests; Putin's position was rock-solid; and his party, United Russia, had no true rivals. Indeed, the only others with significant followings, relatively speaking, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democracy Party (neither liberal nor democratic), were aligned with the state.

According to yet another explanation, he attacked Ukraine simply because he's an imperialist through and through, yearns to go down in history as Putin the Great (like Russian tzars Peter the Great and Catherine the Great), and has been transfixed by far-right thinkers, above all the exile Ivan Ilyin, whose remains he arranged to have returned to Russia for reburial.

But why then did a Russian ruler seized by imperial dreams and a neo-fascist ideology wait more than two decades to attack Ukraine? And remember, though now commonly portrayed as a wild-eyed expansionist, Putin, though hardly a peacemaker, had never previously committed Russian forces to anything like that invasion. His 1999-2009 war in Chechnya, though brutal, was waged within Russia and there was no prospect of outside intervention to help the Chechens. His brief military foray into Georgia in 2008, his landgrab in Ukraine in 2014, his intervention in Syria in 2015 — none were comparable in their size or audacity.

Do I have a better explanation? No, but that's my point. To this day, perhaps the most important question of all about this war, the biggest surprise — why did it happen when it did? — remains deeply mysterious, as do Putin's motives (or perhaps impulses).

God Doesn't Favor the Bigger Battalions

Once Russian troops did cross Ukraine's border, just about everyone expected Kyiv to fall within days. After that, it was assumed, Putin would appoint a quisling government and annex big chunks of the country. The CIA's assessment was that Ukrainian forces would be trounced in no time at all, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley reportedly told members of Congress that resistance would fizzle within a mere three days. Those predictions briefly seemed on the mark. After all, the Russian army made its way to the northern suburbs of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv — think of a military bent on capturing Washington, D.C., reaching Bethesda, Maryland — before being stopped in its tracks. Had it taken that city, we would be in a different world today.

But — perhaps the biggest surprise of all — the far weaker Ukrainian army not only prevented what was then considered the world's second-greatest military superpower from taking Kyiv, but in September 2022 ejected Russian forces from the northeastern province of Kharkiv. That October, it also pushed them out of the portion of the southern province of Kherson they had captured on the right bank of the Dnipro River. In all, Ukrainian forces have now retaken about half the territory Russia occupied after the invasion.

As winter approached that year, the crescent-shaped frontlines extending from northern Luhansk Province (one of two that make up the Donbas region) all the way south became the scene of World War I-style trench warfare, with both sides throwing their troops into a virtual meat grinder. Still, since then, despite having overwhelming superiority in soldiers and firepower — the estimated artillery exchange ratio between the two forces has been put as high as 7:1 — Russia's advance has been, at best, glacial, at worst, nonexistent.

The Russian army's abysmal performance has perplexed experts. According to American, British, and Norwegian estimates, it has suffered something on the order of 180,000-200,00 casualties. Some observers do believe those numbers are significantly too high, but even if they were off by 50%, the Russian army's casualties in one year of fighting would exceed by perhaps twofold the losses of the Soviet Union's Red Army during its 10-year war in Afghanistan.

Russia has also lost thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters, while vast amounts of equipment, abandoned intact, have fallen into Ukrainian hands. All of this, mind you, after Putin initiated a mega-bucks military modernization drive in 2008, leading the Economist to declare in 2020 that "the Russian military dazzles after a decade of reform" and NATO had better watch out.

For the surprising evolution of the war, unlike so much else, I do have an explanation. Military experts typically dwell on what can be counted: the level of military spending, the number of soldiers, tanks, warplanes, and artillery pieces a military has, and so on. They assume, reasonably enough, that the side with more countable stuff is likely to be the winner — and quickly if it has a lot more as Russia indeed did.

There is, however, no way to assign numerical values to morale or leadership. As a result, they tend to be discounted, if not simply omitted from comparisons of military power. In Ukraine, however, as in the American wars in Vietnam in the last century and Afghanistan in this one, the squishy stuff has, at least so far, proven decisive. French emperor Napoleon's dictum that, in war, "the moral is to the physical as three to one" may seem hyperbolic and he certainly ignored it when he led his Grande Armée disastrously into Russia and allowed the brutal Russian winter to shred its spirit, but in Ukraine — surprise of surprises — his maxim has held all too true, at least so far.

When it comes to surprises, count on one thing: the longer this war continues, the greater the likelihood of yet more of them. One in particular should worry us all: the possibility, if a Russian defeat looms, of a sudden escalation to nuclear war. There's no way to judge or measure the probability of such a dreaded dénouement now. All we know is that the consequences could be horrific.

Though neither Russia nor the United States seeks a nuclear war, it's at least possible that they could slide into one. After all, never, not even in the Cold War era, has their relationship been quite so poisonous, only increasing the risk of both misperception and overreaction born of worst-case thinking. Let us hope, in this war of surprises, that it remains nothing more than another of the scenarios strategists like to imagine. Then again, if as 2021 began, I had suggested that Russia might soon invade Ukraine and begin a war in Europe, you would undoubtedly have thought me mad.

Sealed ruling: Federal judge orders Pence to testify in Jan. 6 probe

Former Vice President Mike Pence will be required to testify before a grand jury regarding his private conversations with former President Donald Trump leading up to the insurrection at the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

According to CNN, sources with details about the judge's sealed ruling have said, "that Pence can still decline to answer questions related to his actions on January 6 itself, when he was serving as president of the Senate for the certification of the 2020 presidential election."

While Pence does have the right to appeal the ruling, the former president has repeatedly lost his attempts to employ executive privilege.

READ MORE: 'Sacredly obligatory': Hakeem Jeffries says Mike Pence 'knows better' than to criticize Manhattan DA

The latest ruling follows Pence's remarks made at an event back in February. At the time, Pence touched on the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) subpoena.

“I am going to fight the Biden DOJ subpoena for me to appear before the grand jury because I believe it’s unconstitutional and unprecedented,” Pence said at an event.

READ MORE: Watch: Mike Pence declares that Americans have no right to 'freedom from religion'

Elise Stefanik promised Trump an 'aggressive' House GOP response to Alvin Bragg: CNN

A new CNN report details secret back channel talks between House Republicans and Donald Trump in which the former president exerts pressure on his congressional allies to do his bidding.

According to CNN's sources, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) has emerged as House Republicans' point person for keeping Trump informed of their assorted investigations, and she recently promised the former president that the caucus would offer an "aggressive" response to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's potential indictment of him for his 2016 hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who serves on the House Oversight Committee, tells CNN that she also regularly spills details to Trump about Republicans' plans, and she says she's sometimes surprised at how much Trump already knows what's going on.

“I keep him up on everything that we’re doing,” she explains. “He seems very plugged in at all times. Sometimes I’m shocked at how he knows all these things. I’m like, ‘How do you know all this stuff?’”

CNN notes that it is unprecedented for a party to essentially let itself be used as a "shield" to protect a former president who is under multiple criminal investigations.

As of this writing, Trump has still not been indicted on any criminal charges.

The GOP won’t act because mass death is a means to an end

Expect the Republicans to remain silent in the immediate aftermath of the massacre Monday, in Nashville, that left three adults and three 9-year-old kids literally shot to pieces. The shooter is also dead.

This is a familiar pattern. While the Democrats, this time led by Joe BIden, demand that Congress renew the ban on semiautomatic rifles (“assault weapons”), the Republicans will offer no more than prayers for families of the victims, and gratitude for “first responders.”

At some point, however, maybe a week, the Republicans will break their silence. They will re-dedicate themselves to preserving the Second Amendment and the right to self-defense. They will accuse the Democrats of “politicizing a tragedy.” They will also fake being outraged by the risk of “infringing the rights of law abiding citizens.”

We know this pattern of behavior will recur, because we’ve seen it so many times over the last 20 years, the period after the Congress allowed the old ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to expire. We also know, on account of this past behavior, that the Republicans, who control the House, won’t do a damn thing to stop mass death.

That’s the end of one story, but it should be the beginning of another, a story waiting to be told by liberals in a context of democratic politics about what the Republicans really care about and what they really want. They don’t want to solve problems. They don’t want to help people. They want to control people, especially outpeople who use democratic politics to undermine “the natural order of things.”

That they want to control outpeople was evident Monday in rightwing discourse on the shooter, Audrey Hale. The Nashville police chief said that she was transgender. Whether that’s true remains to be seen. But for rightwingers, that was enough to call for a crackdown. Guns didn’t shoot six people to pieces. “Wokeness” did.

From this, you can see the punitive desire behind rightwing politics. On the one hand, the government can’t do anything to stop mass death because stopping it might “infringe the rights of law abiding citizens.” On the other hand, the government must do something about “wokeness,” because failing to act will lead only to mass death!

How do the Second Amendment rights of trans people figure into this thinking? They don’t, because outpeople don’t deserve them.

They are not “law-abiding citizens.”

If trans people are not included among “law-abiding citizens,” that means that “the law” isn’t the law, but “God’s law,” which, from the rightwing viewpoint, puts white Christian men on top of society – the natural order of things. There are males and there are females. Being trans breaks God’s law. Lawbreakers deserve punishment.

That we talk at all about trans people is a consequence of democratic politics, of outpeople raising hell until a majority starts listening and is brought around to the reality of trans people. So rightwing politics not only seeks to punish trans people for breaking God’s law. It seeks to punish anyone using democratic politics. If the law won’t do it, then God’s people are free to take the law into their own hands.

This is why I have argued that shooting massacres are, one way or another, an outcome of democratic politics running up against God’s law. To adherents, the law is a gun. A gun is the law. If God’s people fail democratically – if they fail to gain control of the government in order to enact laws that will punish outpeople – they are free to take the law into their own hands. If mass death is the result, so be it.

In other words, mass death, or the threat of mass death, is another way in rightwing politics to control people, especially outpeople, who don’t buy guns the way God’s people do. The people with the most guns are the people most in control. The right to bear arms is the right of God’s people to force outpeople to stay where they belong.

When the Republicans finally break their silence, maybe in a week, to say that they can’t and won’t use the government to solve the problem of mass death, that’s because, to them, mass death isn’t a problem. Mass death is a means to an end, which is social control.

To be sure, Audrey Hale does not fit the profile. Whether she’s transgender or not, it’s rare for shooters not to be white men. It happens, but these are not exceptions to the rule. They prove it. After all, if you’re a target of punishment, for breaking God’s law, for being who you are, you might think if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

'The billionaire bailout': FDIC Chair says the biggest deposit accounts at SVB held $13 billion

In prepared testimony for a Senate Banking Committee hearing slated for Tuesday morning, the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation reveals that the 10 largest deposit accounts at Silicon Valley Bank held a combined $13.3 billion, a detail that's likely to intensify criticism of federal regulators' intervention in the firm's recent collapse.

When SVB was spiraling earlier this month, the FDIC, Treasury Department, and Federal Reserve rushed in to backstop the financial system and make all depositors at the California bank whole, including those with accounts over $250,000—the total amount typically covered by FDIC insurance.

"At SVB, the depositors protected by the guarantee of uninsured depositors included not only small and mid-size business customers but also customers with very large account balances," FDIC chief Martin Gruenberg writes in his prepared testimony. "The ten largest deposit accounts at SVB held $13.3 billion, in the aggregate."

Gruenberg goes on to estimate that the FDIC's $125 billion Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF)—which is financed primarily by assessments on insured banks and "backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government"—took a $20 billion hit as a result of the SVB intervention.

According to Gruenberg, nearly 90%—$18 billion—of the DIF loss stemming from SVB is "attributable to the cost of covering uninsured deposits." He added that the DIF absorbed a roughly $1.6 billion cost to cover uninsured deposits at Signature Bank, which failed shortly after SVB.

The FDIC chair's testimony comes as federal regulators continue to face scrutiny for glaring oversight failures in the lead-up to the collapse and backlash over the emergency response, which many have characterized as a bailout for the wealthy and well-connected given SVB's role as a major lender to venture capital and tech startups.

Billionaire Peter Thiel, whose firm was accused of helping spark a bank run by advising clients to pull their money from SVB, told the Financial Times that he had $50 million in a personal account at the bank when it failed earlier this month.

"The bailout really did protect billionaires from taking a modest haircut," Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project tweeted in response to Gruenberg's testimony.

Writing for The American Prospect on Monday, Revolving Door Project researcher Dylan Gyauch-Lewis called the federal government's swift action in the wake of SVB's failure "a good illustration of the enormous class bias in American policymaking."

"As soon as corporations and the wealthy run into trouble, elites trip over themselves, discarding both law and precedent, to rescue them," Gyauch-Lewis wrote, noting that federal regulators had to classify SVB's collapse as a "systemic risk" to the financial system—a disputed characterization—in order to legally guarantee deposits over $250,000.

For contrast, Gyauch-Lewis added, "consider student loan forgiveness. The legal justification is clear as day, and the authority itself is used regularly. According to the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, the Education Department can forgive student loans as it sees fit in a national emergency."

"At bottom, the core reason SVB's depositors got bailed out had little to do with morals or even financial risk," Gyauch-Lewis argued. "It happened because they had rich and powerful friends with the ear of the president's chief of staff. Broke students don't. The students have to organize and campaign for decades to get something far worse than what they wanted, and for that to hang in the balance at the Supreme Court. The SVB depositors just had to whine on Twitter and make a few calls."

Watch: 'Furious' Gen Z lawmaker delivers blistering remarks to GOP following Nashville school shooting

A Democratic Generation Z lawmaker recently offered a blistering rebuke of House Republican lawmakers, describing them as "cowards" in the wake of a school shooting that took place in Nashville, Tenn.

On Monday, March 28, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) weighed in on the shooting which claimed the lives of three teachers and three students.

After reflecting on the shooting, Frost expressed his concern about the laws governing gun violence and the lawmakers who advocate for less restrictive gun legislation.

READ MORE: 'Pits parents against parents': House GOP pass anti-LGBTQ Florida-style K-12 'Parents’ Bill of Rights'

“I rise today because I am furious, angry that three kids died today in Nashville, Tennessee,” Frost began. “Angry that hundreds of parents had to cry their eyes out today not knowing if their child would come home from school, and angry that we have to live day after day when we turn on the news and see rampant gun violence claiming life after life.”

“Three kids are dead today and every day that we wait, 100 more people die,” he said. “I pray to God that there are some Republicans in this chamber that can help support my legislation to save lives.”

The Florida lawmaker slammed Republicans who are “bought and paid for by the NRA, that put profits over people, over human lives.”

Frost went on to describe Republicans as “cowards” who advocated for the Parental Bill of Rights and failed to give “a damn about the rights of children to go to their classroom without the fear of being gunned down due to senseless gun violence.”

READ MORE: The Republican 'red wave' evaporates as Democrats shatter midterm expectations and precedents

Watch the video below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Solutions must be rooted in facts': Gen-Z congressman easily dismantles top GOP anti-immigration talking point

Free school lunch works — but rightwingers don’t care about outcomes

“If a child is on the verge of starvation, you must call CPS, not spend hundreds of millions on disproportionately unhealthy lunches, a huge percentage of which are discarded,” conservative pundit Ben Shapiro told California Congressman Ted Lieu on Twitter.

Shapiro is wrong. There’s a great deal of evidence that free school lunches reduce student hunger and improve children’s health.

Conservatives don’t necessarily care about good outcomes, though. That’s because they don’t want good outcomes. They want to police people.

The discourse around school lunches is a brutal, disturbing example of the broader carceral logic of rightwing politics.

Republicans and those on the right believe that government should be used not to help those in need, but to punish and discipline marginalized people.

School lunches have been studied extensively, and there’s little question that they improve health outcomes for children.

Contrary to Shapiro’s claim that school lunches are unhealthy, research finds that children who receive free school meals are more likely to receive daily adequate nutrition and more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, and drink milk.

Shapiro also argues that school lunches are economically inefficient. He believes poor families don’t really exist, and that if children are hungry, it’s because they’re being abused, and they should be taken away from their parents.

This is ludicrous. Real hunger and poverty do exist in the US. There are families that do not have money to afford both rent and food. There are families who want to care for their children but lack the resources to do so.

The US government estimates that 12.5 percent of households with children are food insecure, which means that there are times when they do not have enough food to feed everyone in the family.

In most cases, adults feed children first. But even given that, in 6.3 percent of households, children experienced food insecurity.

School meal programs are also incredibly efficient. One study found that every dollar spent on school meal programs saves two dollars in reduced health care costs and reduced poverty.

A study of Sweden found that free school lunch programs resulted in 3 percent higher lifetime earnings for children.

The greatest gains in earnings were among the poorest students. But even more affluent students benefited.

In contrast, when CPS removes children from their home, they are at great risk. Children in the foster care system have higher risk of learning disabilities, depression, asthma and obesity. They are less likely to go to college.

CPS investigations also disproportionately target Black students. More than 50 percent of Black children in the US are subject to child welfare investigations.

Discrimination is widespread. School officials are more likely to call child welfare about Black children. CPS is more likely to investigate Black families. Courts are more likely to remove Black children from homes.

Even if a family is not feeding their child as well as they could, school lunches are often a better option than removing children from the home.

Direct aid can help children in difficult situations, whereas the foster care system can be traumatic and make things worse even for children with neglectful parents.

School lunches reduce hunger, improve children’s lives, and reduce costs to society. Child welfare interventions are frequently racist and have negative health and education outcomes for children. They should be a last resort, not a substitute for aid.

So why does Shapiro prefer calling the authorities on poor families, rather than just helping them feed their children?

Dan McLaughlin, a writer at National Review, elucidated. He wrote a Twitter thread arguing that school lunches should be rolled back and child labor laws should be weakened.

“Literally, a ‘free lunch’ vs working,” he fulminated. “Perpetual childhood vs responsibility.”

McLaughlin and Shapiro see aid to hungry children as an assault on virtue. Having money is equated with work is equated with discipline and moral fiber.

Feeding your children is a test of character. Those who succeed are good, upstanding people, who need no help from the dangerous liberal state.

Those who fail are lazy and disreputable, and they should be policed by the virtuous conservative state.

Most people can see this logic is repulsive. Shapiro and McLaughlin think children should be denied food (and forced to work?!) in order to punish their parents for lack of discipline.

That’s obviously monstrous.

But these arguments undergird much of how we approach poverty and the social safety net.

One egregious example is from 2021. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot took $281.5 million in covid relief funds — which could have been used on air filtration in schools, or to vaccinate underserved communities — and instead gave it to police.

Nationwide, since the 2008 recession, police budgets have rebounded, but education budgets have languished.

Spending money to help people in trouble — on schools, on health care, on libraries, on direct aid to children in poverty — is cost-effective and humane.

But instead, we often choose to disinvest and then to criminalize the hunger, poverty and desperation that results.

This is the argument of the much-demonized defund the police movement.

Activists and advocates argue that helping people in need is more equitable, more just, and ultimately more cost-effective than immiserating people and then sending law-enforcement after them to immiserate them further.

Do we want to pay to feed hungry children? Or would we rather pay law enforcement to harass them and their families?

Ben Shapiro, Dan McLaughlin and their ilk want to spend money on punitive authorities, because they dream of a world in which everyone is kept in their place by force.

They oppose school lunches and every policy that has the potential to make the US more equal and more free.

GOP’s Tommy Tuberville singlehandedly blocks military promotions to protest abortion

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is single-handedly blocking a handful of military promotions to protest a Pentagon directive giving service members access to abortion services.

The Alabama Republican is holding up 160 promotions, which usually sail through the Senate Armed Services Committee, to force the Department of Justice to reverse a February policy directive that Republicans say amounts to using taxpayer funds for abortions, reported Punchbowl News.

“I hate to have to do this, it’s unfortunate, but we make the laws over here -- the DoD doesn’t," Tuberville said. "This is not about abortion. It’s about taxpayer-funded abortions … If this was about a list of personnel, people actually doing the fighting, this might be different … If this had to do with winning a war, obviously I wouldn’t be doing this.”

Although other GOP senators on the Armed Services panel agreed with Tuberville's objection, they're not entirely comfortable with his decision to use the promotions -- which includes commanders assigned to theaters with active conflicts -- as leverage in the domestic policy spat.

“Clearly, on the DoD policy, I absolutely agree with Sen. Tuberville,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the ranking Republican on the committee. “That said, there are a lot of military positions that need to be filled, and so we’re working with leadership and Sen. Tuberville to see what can be resolved.”

The second-ranking Republican on the panel was more blunt.

"It’s a tactic that he chose to use," said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE). "He has that right as a senator. It’s not one that I would use.”

Committee chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) warned that Tuberville's blockade would disrupt the military "at the highest levels," but some Republicans are cheering on the former college football coach from the sidelines.

“I think what [the Pentagon is] doing is illegal," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "I don’t think they have the authority to do this. Basically they’re setting a policy to give people leave, to use taxpayer dollars, which I think runs afoul of existing law.”

Alabama columnist rips GOP governor for using education funds to help 'struggling whitewater park'

Alabama reminded the U.S. how deeply Republican it is in 2020, when now-President Joe Biden lost the state to then-President Donald Trump by around 26 percent and Democratic then-Sen. Doug Jones lost to GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville by about 21 percent. Democrats are a minority party in Alabama, where columnist Kyle Whitmire has criticized the Alabama Democratic Party for being poorly organized and criticized the Alabama GOP from a policy standpoint.

Whitmire slams Republican Gov. Kay Ivey's plans for the state's education budget in his March 25 column for AL.com.

Whitmire points out that Ivey has proposed taking more than $300 million that was set aside for education and using it for non-education purposes that include building a prison and creating a rafting park in Montgomery County. The latter would cost $25 million.

READ MORE:'Unacceptable': Alabama prison officials slammed for 'sexist' treatment of female reporter

"This week," according to Whitmire, "Ivey gave lawmakers her proposed budget for the $2 billion surplus in state education funds. At least $331 million of that money would go to projects and expenses unrelated to schools and teachers and classrooms. Among those is $25 million for the Montgomery County Commission for economic development…. Gov. Kay Ivey's office won't come out and say it, but they want Alabama lawmakers to approve using education dollars to build a waterpark or perhaps a hotel or restaurant next to it."

Whitmire continues, "But here's the thing — you can't tell any of that from what Ivey gave lawmakers this week. You can't tell what a lot of other things on Ivey's wish list are, either. And lawmakers are scratching their heads."

The journalist criticizes Ivey, a former Democrat turned Republican, for not being more forthcoming about the state's education budget.

"Ivey could have come clean from the start," Whitmire argues. "If she thinks funding a struggling whitewater park is more important than education, she should make that clear instead of sneaking it into her budget. Rather than shoot straight, Kay Ivey tried to take us for a ride."

READ MORE:Alabama attorney general considering prosecuting women who take abortion pills

Read Kyle Whitmire’s full column at this link.

Watch: Jamie Raskin derails GOP hearing by railing against Trump’s 'lethal recklessness and lying'

During a House Oversight Committee hearing on school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) slammed former President Donald Trump and his administration, calling his public health response to the emergency a "historic debacle."

"You don't need to go to the American Medical Association or the American Hospital Association or the American Nursing Association to conclude that Trump's lethal recklessness and lying led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths," Raskin said.

"You just have to go to Donald Trump's own COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Deborah Birx, who said that by undermining mass testing, not more aggressively coordinating vaccination and treatment, not seriously implementing mask mandates, the administration failed to save at least 130,000 lives, and probably a lot more than that."

Raskin went on to quote Birx's 2022 testimony before the the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, where she said, "We probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less, to 40 percent less range."

'Taking guns away is not the answer': Scalise encourages prayer after Nashville school shooting

The official line from House Republicans on Monday’s mass shooting at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville is to encourage prayer and making schools “safer,” but “taking guns away is not the answer.”

GOP Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-most powerful Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, on Tuesday encouraged prayer, waiting for more facts, and looking into mental health option, despite his record of voting against them. Six people, including three nine-year olds and three adults, were shot to death after a shooter shot through the doors of Covenant Presbyterian Elementary School.

“The first thing in any kind of tragedy I do is I pray,” Scalise told a reporter Tuesday when asked if there’s anything Congress can do to reduce gun violence and deaths. “I pray for the victims. I pray for their families.”

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) also encouraged prayer over action. “We’re not gonna fix it,” he declared point-blank, while calling for a Christian “revival.”

READ MORE: Tennessee Governor Slammed After ‘Praying’ for Nashville School Community Without Mentioning Mass Shooting

Scalise was shot in 2017 in a rare act of left-wing gun violence by a man angry at then-President Donald Trump. He and House Republicans have repeatedly used that attack to target Democrats and their policies.

“I really get angry when I see people trying to politicize it for their own personal agenda,” Scalise continued, referring to shootings, “especially when we don’t even know the facts. There are facts coming out.”

“It looks like the shooter originally went to another school that had real stronger, much stronger security and ultimately went to this school,” Scalise said, which is false. According to a CNN report, the shooter had previously “scouted” a second location but had a detailed plan and maps of The Covenant School.

Let’s get the facts,” Scalise insisted, suggesting no action should be taken before any investigations into this shooting are complete.

The Washington Post in a continually-updated report notes, “There were more school shootings in 2022 — 46 — than in any year since at least 1999.”

It adds, “There have been 376 school shootings” since Columbine, in 1999, and, “More than 348,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine.”

But Scalise urged Americans to “work to see if there’s something that we can do to help secure schools.”

READ MORE: New WSJ Poll Is Devastating for DeSantis and His ‘Anti-Woke’ Policies

And he insisted reducing the number of guns in America, currently believed to be over 400 million – more than the total population of the country – is “not the answer.”

“We’ve talked about things that we can do, and it just seems like on the other side, all they want to do is take guns away from law abiding citizens, before they even know the facts. The first thing they talk about is taking guns away from law abiding citizens. And that’s not the answer, by the way. So why don’t we number one, keep those families in our prayers and see if there were things that were missed. Along the way, we’ve talked about the need to improve mental health in this country, and that’s been a driver of a lot of these shootings as well.”

But just last September, Scalise, along with all but one House Republican, voted against a bill that would “increase access to mental and behavioral health care.”

He also skipped a vote one week earlier on the Mental Health Justice Act of 2022.

Watch Scalise’s remarks in this clip, below or at this link.

'Moving rightward' won't help Biden 'win over' voters in 2024: socialist

Centrist President Joe Biden, now 80, has long had a liberal streak and a conservative streak — first during his decades in the U.S. Senate, then during his eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama. A lot of conservative opponents of former President Donald Trump endorsed Biden in 2020, including Republican activist Cindy McCain (Sen. John McCain’s widow), former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough (a former GOP congressman) and attorney George Conway.

And yet, MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan — a progressive firebrand — has described Biden's presidency as a pleasant surprise. During a late February interview with The Guardian, the 43-year-old Hasan exalted Biden as "the most impressive president of my lifetime."

Biden hasn't said whether or not he will be seeking reelection in 2024, but he appears to be leaning in the direction of "yes." And he seems to be reaching out to a combination of liberals, progressives, centrists and Never Trump conservatives.

READ MORE:'I was a big critic': Mehdi Hasan praises Joe Biden as the 'most impressive president of my lifetime'

But journalist Branko Marcetic, in an article published by the democratic socialist Jacobin on March 28, argues that Biden isn't doing himself a favor by trying to appeal to parts of the right.

"After two years of touting his presidency as progressive and transformational, Joe Biden appears to be returning to form and moving rightward," Marcetic writes. "It's not only the wrong thing to do — according to the latest polls, it also isn't winning voters over to him."

Marcetic goes on to cite specific things Biden has done recently.

The writer observes, "At the start of the year, Biden replaced outgoing, progressive-curious Chief of Staff Ron Klain…. with former private equity maven Jeff Zients…. Biden abruptly reversed his pledge to oppose a GOP bill aimed at the District of Columbia's recently passed rewriting of its criminal code, in the kind of classic tough-on-crime posturing that Biden himself helped pioneer several decades ago…. The (Biden) Administration announced new, harsher immigration rules."

READ MORE:'I don't blame people for being down': President Joe Biden says he understands Americans' frustrations

Marcetic points out that Biden has only 38 percent approval in a recent AP-NORC poll (down from 45 percent before).

"It's not hard to see the logic, since it's the same one Democrats like Biden have stuck to their entire careers: when you're under attack from the right, move to the center and adopt right-wing policies, giving yourself political cover while at the same time peeling off conservative voters," Marcetic argues. "How has this worked out? The answer comes in a recent…. AP-NORC poll…. Nevertheless, Democrats are continuing to stick with Biden as their 'best bet' to win reelection in 2024. Any opposition has been completely neutralized."

READ MORE:'The history is very clear': James Clyburn warns Democrats against primarying Joe Biden in 2024

Read the Jacobin's full article at this link.

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