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President Joe Biden may be viewed by some as a moderate figure, but he came into office with a raft of big promises and the knowledge that he needs to move quickly. For one thing, the whole state of Washington, D.C., on this Inauguration Day—what with the military protection following an attempted coup, and the flags representing the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to a pandemic—makes it completely obvious that other guy left behind a disaster.
So, in the spirit of getting things done at malarkey-less speed, Biden had a whole set of executive orders ready to sign as soon as he stepped inside on Wednesday afternoon. Then he got out an ordinary human pen and signed them. Some of these orders immediately address the worst actions of the outgoing person. Others hit hard at areas that have been simply overlooked for four years. And some are first steps toward moving the nation along a path that will be followed up by legislation.
Or, as the White House puts it …
Over his first 10 days in office, President Biden is prepared to sign no less than 53 executive orders. Of these, 15 executive orders and two presidential actions were moved to the front of the queue as representing immediate needs. Those needs break down as addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, removing some of the stumbling blocks to equity, boosting the faltering economy, and starting down the road to seriously address the climate crisis.
- No more wall. Biden is immediately putting an end to that boondoggle.
- 100-day mask challenge. Wearing masks will be mandated at all federal facilities, on federal land, and by federal employees and contractors no matter where they work.
- Rejoin World Health Organization. Because leaving was always a bad idea, and with new variants of the coronavirus popping up everywhere, global coordination is vital.
- Restructure COVID-19 response. Biden will restore the position called the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense within the NSC and replace the staff positions that were designed to target events exactly like the coronavirus pandemic. The president will also name a “response coordinator" to manage testing, case tracing, vaccine distribution, and PPE distribution.
- Continue the "pause" on student loan payments. Payments are suspended until Sep. 30, but Biden’s team hopes to pass legislation by then that will greatly reduce or eliminate loans.
- Extend moratoriums on foreclosure. Extend isn’t really the right word, since … that other guy already let this rule lapse. President Biden will revive and extend these limits of foreclosure through at least the end of March.
- Rejoin the Paris climate agreement. Because all the reasons for leaving were simply lies, and the world needs the U.S. to be part of this, just as the U.S. needs everyone else.
- Cancel Keystone XL pipeline and end oil and gas development on national monuments. This one action will revoke or cancel over 100 steps taken by team loser. Considering the glut of low-priced oil and gas, these were all unnecessary steps that harmed the environment for no good reason. Keystone XL may be the headline item, but this also reverses development at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah as well as other national monuments and wildlife sanctuaries.
- Strengthen anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. In particular, this will bolster protections against bias based on gender identity.
- Include non-citizens in census figures. Because leaving them out never made and sense and only served to burden cities with a lot of immigrants. Oh, and not including them also violates the Constitution.
- Review and advance racial equity in the federal government. That means a general review of equity in every department. It also includes every program, especially those that hire federal contractors or hand out loans and grants.
- End the Muslim travel ban. Including restrictions on travel and immigration to almost a dozen nations.
- Maintain protections for Liberians in the U.S. Extends the protection long-term immigrants from Liberia enjoy until 2022 with hopes that legislation will take over before that date.
- Defend "Dreamers" program. President Biden halts challenges to the law and calls on Congress to grant permanent status through the DREAM Act.
- Limit ICE’s ability to detain immigrants. Rolls back changes made in 2017 that allowed ICE to take much broader action against immigrants, including those who had committed no crime other than desiring to enter the United States.
- Freeze last-minute regulatory changes. Actually reversing these will take congressional action, but last-minute changes can be easily overturned. This action from Biden is more about queuing up changes to be reversed.
- Create executive branch ethics doctrine. Every member of the Biden administration will sign a pledge that recognizes the nation’s needs above any individual and recognizes the independence of the Justice Department.
Donald Trump's parting words to a smattering of his supporters just before leaving the White House for the last time were telling. "We will be back in some form," Trump promised them.
It is now critical that we turn our attention to making sure that can never happen through a series of investigations and potential prosecutions that immediately await Trump. As New York Attorney General Letitia James noted Wednesday, the state's civil investigations of Trump continues even though "the circus has left town." Surely, that also applies to the Manhattan DA's lengthy criminal investigation of Trump and his business for financial fraud, not to mention the impending Senate trial of Trump.
But the aggressive pursuit of holding Trump to account will also have the ancillary benefit of loosening his grip on his cultists. As the latest Daily Kos poll showed, some 40% of respondents still think the election was stolen. But even more telling, of the 45% who said they voted for Trump, 30% identified at Trump supporters while just 15% considered themselves supporters of the Republican party.
Deprogramming as many Trump supporters as possible will now become one the most crucial endeavors of the post-Trump era. According to Bandy X. Lee, one of the most outspoken forensic psychiatrists during Trump's tenure, it will "require active intervention to stop him from achieving any number of destructive outcomes for the nation, including the establishment of a shadow presidency."
Trump, completely incapable of any form of self-regulation, will need to be externally contained by society, Lee told the Scientific American.
"He will have no limit, which is why I have actively advocated for removal and accountability, including prosecution," Lee said. "We need to remember that he is more a follower than a leader, and we need to place constraints from the outside when he cannot place them from within."
Lee said Trump groomed his followers to have a "shared psychosis at a massive scale." She gave multiple reasons for that during the interview, but perhaps most importantly, she also offered a prescription for breaking those bonds to Trump.
For healing, I usually recommend three steps: (1) Removal of the offending agent (the influential person with severe symptoms). (2) Dismantling systems of thought control—common in advertising but now also heavily adopted by politics. And (3) fixing the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to poor collective mental health in the first place.
While it will take some time to fix the underlying factors that gave Trump an opening to manipulate his followers, in the short-term, simply removing Trump from the public sphere and reducing his fanatics' exposure to him is a critically important part of starting to deprogram them.
Deplatforming Trump from social media is certainly a step in the right direction. For now, that has defanged him in considerable ways. But prosecuting Trump to the fullest extent of the law, burying him in litigation, and bankrupting him will also help to neutralize his ability to continue injecting his toxic brand of disinformation into the universe.
Glory, glory. It was a beautiful, if cold, day in Washington, D.C., as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were inaugurated. Let’s take a look at a few images of the lovely ceremonies their team put together despite the pandemic precautions observed—and at some of the beloved figures who came out to support them.
First, of course, we saw the transfer of power—peaceful in that moment after too many lies and too much trauma.
While the outgoing guy skipped the proceedings, there was a lot of presidential authority on hand (but I’m not bothering with a picture of Dan Quayle). We don’t usually do vertical images, but Michelle Obama deserves it:
Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez ably filled the Inauguration Diva role and brought the star power Donald Trump always wished he could draw. And when Lady Gaga gestured at the flag of the recently attacked Capitol as she sang “and the flag was still there,” it gave incredible resonance to the usually stale anthem.
Garth Brooks repeated his 2009 inauguration feat of winning over some people who really did not think they would enjoy Garth Brooks.
In a show of unity, the Obamas, Bushes, and Clintons joined Biden and Harris for a wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery:
And there was just a whole lot of joy on display:
Forums of the conspiracy theory known as QAnon went berserk Wednesday as their delusional dreams dissolved into dust while the completely obvious took place: Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Here's what QAnon-ers expected to happen, according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins: Trump would use the Emergency Broadcasting System to announce the The Storm had arrived; Democrats would be rounded up and arrested; and Trump would be declared president. Q supporters had apparently bought CB radios for the blackout.
Well, rats! Instead, Biden is now president, and America's legal system is getting ready to rain down comeuppance on Donald Trump. But the meltdown that ensued in QAnon forums was epic.
"I don't think this is supposed to happen?" wrote one follower. "How long does it take the fed to run up the stairs and arrest him?" Apparently, a very very long time—otherwise known as never.
No emergency announcement from Trump. No mass arrests. Just the continuation of American democracy as regularly scheduled every four years at 12:01 PM on Jan. 20.
"I'm about to puke," wrote another conspirator. Okay, finally getting to where the rest of us here in reality have been for the past four years.
Many followers cycled through the classic stages of grief (documented here): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Some rather infamous purveyors of the QAnon nonsense even suggested they might have reached the end of the line with the conspiracy theory. "We gave it our all," wrote Ron Watkins, the former 8kun administrator, under the handle CodeMonkeyZ. "Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able."
At the end of the day, a conspiracy theory that was so certain of its ability to predict the future, left its followers deeply disillusioned.
"It's like being a kid and seeing the big gift under the tree thinking it is exactly what you want only to open it and realize it was a lump of coal," observed one.
Sorry, not sorry!
Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony made strides in history for a number of reasons. Not only did America just inaugurate the first female vice president, the first-ever Black, and South Asian vice president, but this presidential inauguration also featured the country’s first national youth poet laureate.
Poet Amanda Gorman was featured in the ceremony as the sixth poet to perform at a presidential inauguration. As the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, the 22-year-old poet follows in the footsteps of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
For teachers, educators, and others who would like to include this poem in lessons, a plan has already been made. You can find the plan that encourages students to find connections between the poem’s message and moments in history here.
"Maya Angelou was mute growing up as a child and she grew up to deliver the inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton," Gorman said. "So I think there is a real history of orators who have had to struggle with a type of imposed voicelessness, you know, having that stage in the inauguration."
According to CBS Los Angeles, Gorman began writing at an early age in order to cope with a speech impediment. "I had a speech impediment. And so I couldn't use my voice, then I would author my voice on the page. So it's really been a godsend and a lifeline for me," she told CBS News.
Her powerful words caught the attention of many and by the age of 16, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. At the request of Jill Biden, Gorman was invited to recite a poem at the inauguration.
In preparation for her inauguration performance, Gorman began writing a few lines a day to work on her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” But she finished writing the piece the night of Jan. 6, the day Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol. “I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”
During the interview, Gorman shared the following excerpt of her poem.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.
If the ceremony hasn’t made you cry yet, her work definitely will.
Read the full text of the poem here.
President Biden wastes no time starting repairs of some of Trump’s harm to environmental protections
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden will sign a broad executive order mandating that the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement and restore greenhouse gas limits that Donald Trump has weakened. Gina McCarthy, Biden's national climate adviser, told reporters Tuesday, "We know rejoining [Paris] won't be enough, but along with strong domestic action, which this executive order kicks off, it is going to be an important step for the United States to regain and strengthen its leadership opportunities." Formal rejoining will take 30 days, which starts with a letter today to the United Nations requesting that the U.S. be allowed to reenter the agreement that was designed to reduce emissions and the impacts of the global climate crisis.
Biden will also launch a review of the Trump regime’s rollback of environmental protections. According to a description of the executive order provided by the Biden transition team to ClimateWire, the review will scrutinize "federal regulations and other executive actions taken during the last four years that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest."
In a move resulting from more than a decade of fierce and persistent activism by environmentalists and Indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada, Biden is rescinding the permit for finishing the Keystone XL pipeline, which carries petroleum extracted from tar sands in Canada to oil refineries in Illinois and Texas. The Obama administration ultimately rejected the pipeline, but Trump restored it.
McCarthy said, "Climate change is a crisis, and the Keystone pipeline and its construction was not consistent with addressing the climate crisis to the depth and scope that we are planning to address it. Whatever limited benefit that Keystone was projected to provide now has to be obviously reconsidered with the economy of today."
"As we celebrate this long delayed victory of people power over the fossil fuel industry, it is important to be clear that truly moving the climate needle forward will require following through on the logic of climate science and Indigenous land rights that makes KXL unacceptable," Rainforest Action Network Executive Director Ginger Cassady said in a statement.
"A huge victory for Lakota and Indigenous front liners and Water Protectors. None of this would have been possible without their sacrifices," Nick Estes, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, tweeted.
Among other things, the review will look at Trump’s moves to make environmental rules more polluter-friendly when it comes to endangered species protections, forest management, oil and gas emissions standards, and pollution control standards.
The reviewers will check out Trump’s removal of protections for national monuments from mining and other development. These include Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine national monuments. Many environmental advocates have proposed that Biden restore the original boundaries established by President Obama in the first two of those monuments that were drastically cut by Trump. However, that may be delayed until the outcome of litigation challenging the authority of a president to shrink the acreage of a monument set by a previous president.
The new administration will also restore the social cost of a carbon schedule requiring federal agencies to gauge the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions, "including climate risk, environmental justice and intergenerational equity."
Also on the review roster is a temporary moratorium on all oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, tougher oil and gas methane regulations, new energy efficiency standards for appliances, and the strengthening of vehicle emissions standards weakened by Trump.
An example of the kind of Trump-era regulations Biden likely will deep-six is a rule finalized just a week ago. This one could keep future administrations from requiring that gas-fired water heaters, furnaces, and boilers be more efficient. Currently, many of these appliances vent large amounts of heat. Others use condensing technology to capture heat and prevent waste. The Department of Energy (DOE) acceded to industry groups that petitioned asking the department to create two classes, one for condensing models and one without. This hamstrings DOE’s authority to require condensing equipment in all future models of these appliances. But it’s a rule that likely will soon be headed for the rubbish bin.
The first half of this Inauguration Day has been devoted, at least rhetorically, to unity. But Sen. Mitch McConnell is still in charge of the Senate Republicans, and he's still Mitch McConnell. The chamber is evenly divided, which does one good thing: It makes Vice President Kamala Harris one of the most—if not the most—powerful VPs the nation has ever had. McConnell seems intent on making her work. In his discussions with new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on power-sharing in the split chamber, McConnell is insisting that the agreement contain a commitment from Schumer to retain the filibuster.
That tells you everything you need to know about McConnell's intentions for helping President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate save the country. Staff for each leader had been operating on the assumption that the power-sharing agreement from 2001 would be the default for this time around. Then McConnell threw the filibuster curveball. Schumer spokesperson Justin Goodman said that their view is that "the fairest, most reasonable and easiest path forward is to adopt the 2001 bipartisan agreement without extraneous changes from either side." McConnell's spokesperson told the Post: "Discussions on all aspects of the power-sharing agreement will continue over the next several days."
It's good that Schumer isn't giving in to this bullshit. It wouldn't be binding if Schumer just said "sure, Mitch, whatever," but it would give the less resolute members of the Democratic conference—Joe Manchin, Chris Coons, and Dianne Feinstein—an excuse to stray from the majority. That would make it that much harder for Schumer to nuke the legislative filibuster when he needs to, and this latest from McConnell tells everyone that he's going to need to—the Republicans will do everything in their power to obstruct Biden's agenda just as they did President Barack Obama's. The good news, at least, is they can't do it on nominations.
However, McConnell has already delayed getting key Cabinet officials confirmed and in place. When he recessed the Senate until this week, it meant that those Cabinet officials couldn't go through the committee process to be ready on Day One. So right now the nation's defense is dependent upon those acting career officials in the Pentagon the Biden team could trust. The delay in agreement between Schumer and McConnell on the organizing resolution for sharing committee power could also keep more nominees in limbo because committees won't be able to formally process them until the chairs and their staffs are in place.
Some nominees could move forward with unanimous consent—all 100 senators agreeing to bring them to the floor. But already insurrectionist Sen. Josh Hawley has announced that he's objecting to a critical nominee, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Biden's pick for Homeland Security secretary. That's going to hamper Biden on everything from his immigration reforms to the coronavirus response, forcing procedural delays.
McConnell is giving every indication of dragging this out as long as he can, his monkey wrench in Biden's first 100-day plan. Because that's who he is, nation in multiple crises notwithstanding.
The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate is likely to be a real trial, unlike the first time around when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans conducted a sham process, refusing to hear witnesses and refusing to consider the gravity of Trump's crimes. That's changed, now that their place of work—their essential home—has been defiled by an insurrectionist mob incited by Trump. That the impeachment hearings will go forward this time was made clear Tuesday by none other than McConnell, when he stated on the floor "The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people."
Despite McConnell's essential granting of the validity of the charges against Trump and recognition that the process will proceed, there will still be Republicans and Trump apologists who will argue that the Senate shouldn't continue because Trump is already gone—variations on the supposed "unity" theme we have been hearing since January 6 and the violent, armed, deadly insurrection Trump instigated. Some will argue that the Senate cannot try a former president for acts during his or her presidency. Most nonpartisan experts have called that idea bunk, but now we have the pretty darned definitive conclusion of the Congressional Research Service, which looks at all the scholarship and all the precedent, and concludes that it is well within the power of Congress to convict a departed official and that "even if an official is no longer in office, an impeachment conviction may still be viewed as necessary by Congress to clearly delineate the outer bounds of acceptable conduct in office for the future."
The attorneys writing at Congressional Research Service start at the beginning. "As an initial matter, a number of scholars have argued that the delegates at the Constitutional Convention appeared to accept that former officials may be impeached for conduct that occurred while in office," they write. "This understanding also tracks with certain state constitutions predating the Constitution, which allowed for impeachments of officials after they left office." That's following the precedent of British law and practice, which included the impeachment of the former governor-general of Bengal Warren Hastings, impeached two years after his resignation and while the Constitutional Convention was actually happening. The Framers were aware of this while it was happening, and in crafting the impeachment articles did depart from some British precedent—for example requiring a two-thirds rather than simple majority vote for conviction—but they didn't explicitly restrict Congress's power to convict a departed official.
There's the plain text of the Constitution, however, which doesn't really definitively say one way or the other. "The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment … and Conviction." Then there's the other part: "judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States [emphasis added]," which follows from removal from office. How could you disqualify an already-departed and deserving official from holding future office if you couldn't impeach them first? As one scholar argued all the way back in the 1920s, "an official's resignation following an initial impeachment by the House but before conviction in the Senate may not 'deprive the people of the full measure of the protection afforded them' through the additional remedy of disqualification."
What was in the Framer's heads isn't too hard to divine, either. They told us. CRS relates this: "President John Quincy Adams, who, during debate on the House's authority to impeach Daniel Webster for conduct that occurred while he had been Secretary of State, said in relation to his own acts as President: 'I hold myself, so long as I have the breath of life in my body, amenable to impeachment by this House for everything I did during the time I held any public office.'" There's also the precedence of the 1876 impeachment of Secretary of War William Belknap for, essentially, bribery—accepting payments in return for making an appointment. Belknap resigned hours before a House committee determined there was "unquestioned evidence of malfeasance," but the committee recommended impeachment anyway, despite his resignation. The House debated moving forward, and ultimately approved the resolution, without objection. The Senate debated and deliberated on the issue of whether he could be tried in the Senate as a former official for more than two weeks, and ultimately "determined by a vote of 37 to 29 that Secretary Belknap was 'amenable to trial by impeachment for acts done as Secretary of War, notwithstanding his resignation of said office before he was impeached.'" That vote established the representation of an impeached former official being subject to a Senate trial. A majority voted to convict, but not a two-thirds majority.
What the CRS report does not go into deeply, and what would be the larger point of a Trump conviction, is the disqualification part. That would come in a simple majority vote following a successful conviction, and would prevent Trump from ever holding "any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States." They can't get to that part—the part that matters to McConnell and plenty of other Republicans—if they don't do the first part, convict.
McConnell's condemnation of Trump on Tuesday means little more than McConnell trying to create distance between himself and the man he—almost single-handedly—allowed to remain in a position in which he could raise an insurrection against McConnell's own branch. This could have been prevented if, one year ago, McConnell and Senate Republicans had offered even one word of rebuke to contain Trump. If at any point in the last four years McConnell had done anything to curtail Trump's worst instincts. Hell, if we wound the clock back to late summer 2016 when the entire intelligence community was warning congressional leadership that Russia was intervening in the election on Trump's behalf, when McConnell refused to let that information be made public. But I digress.
Yes, Trump can still be impeached, convicted, and barred from ever holding office again. That's if Senate Republicans care more about the country, about their own institution, about the future of their own party than about their next election and whether the MAGA crowd will primary them.
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki hit the ground running Wednesday evening with the brand of completely normal, truthful, run of the mill press briefings we have been longing for four years. Psaki began by saying she intends to restore daily White House briefings with an emphasis on “bringing truth and transparency” back to the Biden administration.
Psaki was most animated around questions related to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and rescue package President Biden has proposed. She said Biden wakes up “every morning” thinking about getting the pandemic under control and goes to bed every night thinking about getting the pandemic under control.
Asked if there was any “wiggle room” on the price tag of bill, which some Republican lawmakers are already balking at, Psaki responded, “What are you going to cut? Funding for vaccinations? Funding for unemployment insurance? Funding for opening schools?" The legislation, she said, wasn’t assembled to simply cost a certain amount but rather “it was designed with the components that are necessary” to address the country’s needs.
Frankly, it was the perfect posture for the incoming administration—we’re focused on delivering for the American people. If you object to that, then tell us what and who you think is expendable.
Internationally, Psaki said Biden’s emphasis was on rebuilding relationships with American allies first and foremost while also reclaiming a seat at the world table that had been forfeited for four years.
On a more personal note, Psaki said Biden had returned to the White House with an “incredible sense of calm.” After working there eight years alongside Barack Obama, he said “he felt like he was coming home,” she added.
All in all, Psaki wasn’t combative, wasn’t evasive, she didn’t lie, and she didn’t center her entire first briefing around an effort to pump up the ego of her boss. The sane part of the nation can once again exhale.
I would like to preface this by saying I like Sen. Bernie Sanders. I voted for him in two primaries. This story is not about mocking Bernie Sanders but about enjoying how absolutely Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders is. He is the most Bernie Sanders of anyone in the world. His political convictions are clear, and the package it comes in is also clear. I was born and raised on the east coast, and Sanders reminds me of many folks I knew growing up. Whether you like Sanders or not, he is definitively Bernie Sanders.
Today, during the celebratory inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Sanders set the internet alight by wearing a smart and sensible winter jacket, some powerful Vermont-made mittens, and keeping himself cozy and casual during what was clearly a very cold day in Washington, D.C. One image of Sanders, which depicts him with his arms and legs crossed while sitting quietly, went viral—and viral again, and again. Let’s enjoy the senator from Vermont on this hopeful day.
Sanders showed up and the internet took notice right away.
Then he sat down, and the glorious collective unconscious feeling that we are all Bernie Sanders took hold.
And took off.
Game of Thrones.
Boutique art Bernie works on a lot of levels.