Thursday, June 10, 2021
BY BRIAN BEUTLER & CROOKED MEDIA
** -Don McGahn ([link removed]) , on why he was sad Trump called him a "lying bastard."
Joe Biden’s first visit abroad as president is a mission to shore up our European alliances, increase the resolve of their democratic governments, and tell Vladimir Putin to stuff it, even as our own country’s democracy continues its tailspin into oblivion. AWKWARD!
* It’s fitting then that Biden began his trip with a speech not to Europeans but to U.S. military personnel stationed in the U.K., to boost their democratic morale. “I believe we’re at an inflection point in world history—the moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure, but they will excel as we rise to seize the enormous opportunities of a new age,” he said ([link removed]) . “We have to discredit those who believe that the age of democracy is over...You know and I know they’re wrong. But it doesn’t mean we don’t have to work harder than ever to prove that democracy can still deliver for our people.”
* Biden’s first overseas meeting with a head of state, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, culminated in an agreement to ease COVID-19-related travel restrictions ([link removed]) between the U.S. and U.K., and a revised Atlantic Charter ([link removed]) , which is modeled on the joint statement FDR and Winston Churchill issued 80 years ago to formalize their shared vision of post-WWII democracy. In his remarks afterwards, Biden made good on the “U.S. is back” theme ([link removed]) , detailing his plan to donate hundreds of millions of coronavirus-vaccine doses to countries that need them, and announced that other G-7 nations would soon follow suit in announcing their no-strings-attached vaccine commitments.
Also, Jill Biden wore a jacket that said “LOVE” on the back of it ([link removed]) , which is a step up in U.S. global messaging from “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U?” Just one newsletter’s opinion.
* After meetings-to-come with NATO and E.U. leaders (and the Queen, natch) Biden will end his trip at a summit with Putin in Switzerland where he will (as he told the aforementioned servicemembers) “let him know what I want him to know.” That is likely to include the threat of consequences for serving as a safe haven for ransomware attackers and “violating the sovereignty of democracies in the United States and Europe and elsewhere,” though it’s unlikely the summit will end with any new shared understandings between the two countries.
This is all a huge improvement over how presidential trips to Europe played out over the past four years, but it’d be a bit more forceful if so many Americans weren’t strongman happy.
* Don’t take it from us, take it from Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who earlier this week told reporters ([link removed]) , “the basic notion of democratic reform and voting rights in the United States is a national security issue. We are in a competition of models with autocracies, and we are trying to show the world that American democracy and democracy writ large can work, can effectively deliver the will of the people. And to the extent that we are not updating, refurbishing, revamping our own democratic processes and procedures to meet the needs of the modern moment, then we are not going to be as successful in making that case to the rest of the world—to China, to Russia, or to anyone else.”
* Dear reader, we are not “updating, refurbishing, revamping our own democratic processes and procedures to meet the needs of the modern moment.” Consider this ([link removed]) . Or this ([link removed]) . Or this ([link removed]) . Relatedly, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified ([link removed]) Thursday that he’s not aware of any specific current investigation of former President Trump’s role in trying to overthrow the U.S. government. Which means there are precisely zero dedicated federal inquiries into that question. Which seems...bad? For democracy?
Biden rehabilitated the country’s global image simply by not being a sociopath, and his domestic and international vaccination policies, along with his public commitment to democracy, will strengthen it further. But in much of America, including at the federal level, majorities can’t rule, citizens are disenfranchised by partisans, and the minority party is rapidly committing itself to insurrection. Democrats currently have the power to change all that; it’s just very unclear if they'll change any of it.
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The Biden administration has dramatically scaled back long-delayed coronavirus-related worker-safety rules ([link removed]) , in a blow to workers and labor unions. The new rules were initially anticipated to apply to all sectors of the economy, and to include mask requirements. Instead, the Labor Department will tweak the existing, optional guidance for most employers and limit the new requirements to workers in health-care settings. Business interests had been lobbying against far-reaching new rules all along, and the success of the administration’s vaccine rollout has somewhat reduced the stakes of the decision, but unions continued to push for more extensive safety rules to protect immunocompromised workers, and those who can’t get vaccinated for health reasons, from increasingly maskless coworkers and customers. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh did say the rules will include guidance on how employers can protect
* The other bipartisan Senate infrastructure working group claims to have reached a deal ([link removed]) on 1) over $900 billion worth of new spending over five years, that’s 2) supposedly fully paid for without tax increases, both of which raises serious questions about whether it can gain wide buy-in across both parties.
* Dozens of Arizona state House and Senate Democrats have written a letter to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) ([link removed]) , pleading with her to [DEL: stop hanging them out to dry :DEL] change her position on the filibuster so Congress can protect voting rights.
* Only three Senate Republicans voted to advance the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill Merrick Garland’s seat ([link removed]) on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, in another terrific reminder of why Stephen Breyer needs to retire.
* Cities in Miami-Dade Country, FL, are erecting pre-emptive barriers to gaming ([link removed]) after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) negotiated a $500 million deal with the Seminole tribe that appears to include a loophole that would allow Donald Trump to turn his properties into casinos.
* Germany has fired 19 police officers who served in an elite commando unit ([link removed]) after discovering that they were Nazi-curious and had glorified violence online.
* Bolivia’s parliament erupted into a brawl over whether the last government amounted to a coup ([link removed]) . (It amounted to a coup.)
* Rounding out this week’s slapping news ([link removed]) , a French court sentenced the guy who slapped President Emmanuel Macron to four months in prison.
* In a resolution of the greatest popular-science controversy since Pluto: Planet Or Not-Planet? ([link removed]) National Geographic has yielded to the academic consensus that the water around Antarctica is the planet’s fifth ocean, the Southern Ocean.
The Boston Globe editorial board has published out a multipart series about the urgent need to retrofit democracy ([link removed]) , not just to combat voter suppression and minority rule, but to prevent the authoritarian abuses Donald Trump has paid no price for from becoming precedent. The essays outline steps U.S. leaders should take to prevent the Trump years from serving as a roadmap for a future authoritarian—perhaps even Trump himself—to topple the American system of government. Their proposals include: financial disclosure and divestment requirements for presidents; stronger anti-nepotism laws; enhanced whistleblower protections and congressional oversight powers; limitations on the pardon power; and, most importantly, the criminal indictment of Trump himself. “If Congress had played the role the Founders envisioned, by removing Trump from the presidency after his criminality became clear in the
Ukraine affair, that might have been enough of a deterrent to scare future presidents straight. But lawmakers didn’t. So now there is only one way left to restore deterrence and convey to future presidents that the rule of law applies to them.”
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Despite slightly lower efficacy than mRNA-based vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown to induce a strong response ([link removed]) to coronavirus variants beyond the antibody response, “so even though [people] may become infected, [their] Killer T cell responses can help get rid of that infection very, very quickly."
The Senate has confirmed the country’s first-ever Muslim-American judge ([link removed]) .
Workers at Smithfield Foods, where over 1,000 employees contracted coronavirus last year ([link removed]) , have authorized a strike if the company doesn’t raise their wages and cover more of their health care.
Turns out there’s a near-perfect cure for the dreaded worker shortage: higher wages! ([link removed])