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The Latest – Wednesday, December 23 (Holiday Weekend Edition)

:zap: A community space :zap:

Collect, share, and discuss the daily news, updates, and events pertinent to the daily shock and awe, this is The Latest.

:warning: This thread has ended. The discussion continues: The Latest – Monday, January 4

What we’re talking about


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T wants to get his ruling into the Defense Bill ( re: 230). But "The House is expected to return on Monday to vote on an override. Should it pass, the Senate is expected to return on Tuesday to begin considering the override."

President Trump on Wednesday made good on his promise to veto the annual military policy bill, setting up what could be the first veto override of his presidency after both chambers overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

In refusing to sign the legislation, Mr. Trump cited a series of provisions, including one that would allow the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases. He also has demanded that the bill include a provision that would repeal a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to a bill that dictates military policy and has become law for each of the last 60 years.

“My administration has taken strong actions to help keep our nation safe and support our service members,” Mr. Trump wrote in the veto notification. “I will not approve this bill, which would put the interests of the Washington, D.C., establishment over those of the American people.”

The House is expected to return on Monday to vote on an override. Should it pass, the Senate is expected to return on Tuesday to begin considering the override.


More pardons…!!

Always the worst…get them.

NYTimes: Trump Gives Clemency to More Allies, Including Manafort, Stone and Charles Kushner
Trump Gives Clemency to More Allies, Including Manafort, Stone and Charles Kushner

"“He had half the people loving him and half the people wanting him dead,”

President Donald Trump leaves the White House next month with the country more sharply divided than when he moved in and amid caustic assessments of his record in office, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds.

Fifty percent of Americans now predict history will judge him as a “failed” president.

The survey, taken in the waning weeks of his administration, shows the risks of actions he is contemplating on his way out the door. Americans overwhelmingly say issuing a preemptive pardon for himself would be an abuse of presidential power, and an even bigger majority, including most Republicans, say he should attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration to demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power.

“The last four years have been lacking in compassion and empathy, lacking in anything other than advancing the personal interests of President Trump and his friends and allies and family,” said Babette Salus, 60, a retired attorney and Biden voter from Springfield, Illinois, who was among those surveyed. “There have probably been worse presidents, (but) I’m not sure there has been a worse one in my lifetime.”

Asked how history would judge Trump’s presidency, 16% predict he will be seen as a great president, 13% as a good president, 16% as a fair president, and 50% as a failed president. Five percent are undecided.

"He had half the people loving him and half the people wanting him dead," said Arsh Ganjoo, 19, a Biden voter from Great Falls, Virginia, who is a sophomore at the University of Texas. “I think he will be definitely taught in history classes and regarded as more of an anomaly rather than, you know, a great president.”


No unanimous consent from the House - R’s block it. Now what?

House Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort by House Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus payments for millions of Americans. Democrats were seeking to advance the measure after President Trump demanded it on Tuesday night, breaking with many of his fellow Republicans.

House Democratic leadership attempted to advance the measure by “unanimous consent,” but the effort was blocked by Republican leadership.

Trump has hinted he will not sign a $900 billion emergency economic relief package into law unless these larger stimulus payments are approved. Many Democrats also support the higher payments, while most Republicans do not. But Trump’s late-stage intervention puts the entire package in jeopardy, and the government will shut down on Tuesday if there is not a resolution.


Saturday Dec 26th


Sunday Dec 27th



Taking the country to the brink…again and again and again.

Good riddance.


I don’t know how to add a new item. Just want to share that Matt was mentioned in the NYT piece on Heather Cox Richardson!


Here you go…thanks for pointing it out! @GracieC

Here’s the quote:
:boom: :boom: :boom: :boom: :boom:

In fact, the edgier younger sibling of Dr. Richardson’s “Letters From an American” is a newsletter that’s called “What Just Happened Today,” with an unprintable word included. Its founder, Matt Kiser, says he reaches more than 200,000 subscribers a day and is supporting the business on voluntary contributions.)

Last Wednesday, I broke the news to Heather Cox Richardson that she was the most successful individual author of a paid publication on the breakout newsletter platform Substack.

Early that morning, she had posted that day’s installment of “Letters From an American” to Facebook, quickly garnering more than 50,000 reactions and then, at 2:14 a.m., she emailed it to about 350,000 people. She summarized, as she always does, the events of the day, and her 1,120 words covered a bipartisan vote on a spending measure, President Trump’s surprise attack on that bill, and a wave of presidential pardons. Her voice was, as it always is, calm, at a slight distance from the moment: “Normally, pardons go through the Justice Department, reviewed by the pardon attorney there, but the president has the right to act without consulting the Department of Justice,” she wrote. “He has done so.”

The news of her ranking seemed to startle Dr. Richardson, who in her day job is a professor of 19th century American history at Boston College. The Substack leader board, a subject of fascination among media insiders, is a long way from her life on a Maine peninsula — particularly as the pandemic has ended her commute — that seems drawn from the era she studies. On our Zoom chat, she sat under a portrait that appeared as if it could be her in period costume, but is, in fact, her great-great-grandmother, who lived in the same fishing village, population a bit over 600.

She says she tries not to think too much about the size of her audience because that would be paralyzing, and instead often thinks of what she’s writing as a useful primary document for some future version of her historian self. But there was no ignoring her metrics when her accountant told her how much she would owe in taxes this year, and, by extension, just how much revenue her unexpected success had brought. By my conservative estimate based on public and private Substack figures, the $5 monthly subscriptions to participate in her comments section are on track to bring in more than a million dollars a year, a figure she ascribes to this moment in history.

“We’re in an inflection moment of American politics, and one of the things that happens in that moment is that a lot of people get involved in politics again,” she said.

Many of those newly energized Americans are women around Dr. Richardson’s age, 58, and they form the bulk of her audience. She’s writing for people who want to leave an article feeling “smarter not dumber,” she says, and who don’t want to learn about the events of the day through the panicked channels of cable news and Twitter, but calmly situated in the long sweep of American history and values.

Dr. Richardson’s focus on straightforward explanations to a mass audience comes as much of the American media is going in the opposite direction, driven by the incentives of subscription economics that push newspapers, magazines, and cable channels alike toward super-serving subscribers, making you feel as if you’re on the right team, part of the right faction, at least a member of the right community. She’s not the only one to have realized that a lot of people feel left out of the media conversation. Many of the most interesting efforts in journalism in 2021, some of them nonprofit organizations inspired by last summer’s protests over racism, will be trying to reach people who are not part of that in-group chat. One new nonprofit, Capital B, plans to talk to Black women, while another well-regarded model is Detroit’s Outlier Media, which is relentlessly local and often delivered by text message. For Dr. Richardson’s audience, it’s an intimate connection. She spends hours a day answering emails from readers. She spent most of Saturday sending thank-you notes for Christmas presents.

The challenge for many of those efforts, and for nonprofit news organizations in general, has been reaching large numbers of people. Dr. Richardson, whose run of short essays began when she was stunned by the response to one she posted last September, has done that by accident, though she credits her huge audience of older women to the deepening gender gap in American politics.

“What I am doing is speaking to women who have not necessarily been paying attention to politics, older people who had not been engaged,” Dr. Richardson said. “I’m an older woman and I’m speaking to other women about being empowered.”

Dr. Richardson confounds many of the media’s assumptions about this moment. She built a huge and devoted following on Facebook, which is widely and often accurately viewed in media circles as a home of misinformation, and where most journalists don’t see their personal pages as meaningful channels for their work.

She also contradicts the stereotype of Substack, which has become synonymous with offering new opportunities for individual writers to turn their social media followings into careers outside big media, and at times appears to be where purged ideological factions go to regroup. That’s true of Never Trump Republicans pushed out of conservative media, whose publications, The Dispatch and The Bulwark, are the largest brands on the platform (just above and below Dr. Richardson’s revenue, respectively). And it’s true of left-leaning writers who have broken bitterly with elements of the mainstream liberal consensus, whether around race or national security, from the Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald to the Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias to the firebrand Matt Taibbi, whom Dr. Richardson unseated from the top slot in late August.

Dr. Richardson happened into this frontier of the media business pretty much by chance. When readers on Facebook started suggesting she write a newsletter, she realized she didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars a month for a commercial platform, and jumped at Substack because it would allow her to send out her emails without charge to her or her readers. Substack makes its money by taking a percentage of writers’ subscription revenue, and she said she felt guilty that the company’s support team wasn’t getting paid for fixing her recurring problem: that her extensive footnotes set off her readers’ spam filters. She seemed intensely uncomfortable talking about the money her work is bringing in.

“If you start doing things for the money, they stop being authentic,” she said, adding that she knew that was both a privilege of her tenured professorship and “an old Puritan way of looking at things.”

Like the other Substack writers, Dr. Richardson is succeeding because she’s offering something you can’t find in the mainstream media, and indeed that many editors would assume was too boring to assign. But unlike the others, it’s not her politics, per se: She thinks of her politics as Lincoln-era Republican, but she is in today’s terms a fairly conventional liberal, disturbed by President Trump and his attacks on America’s institutions. She’s a historian who studied under the great Harvard Lincoln scholar David Herbert Donald, and her work on 19th century political history feels particularly relevant right now. This spring, she published her sixth book, “How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America,” an extended assault on the kind of nostalgia that animates Mr. Trump’s fight to preserve Confederate symbols. The face of the South in Dr. Richardson’s book is a bitterly racist and sexually abusive South Carolina planter and senator, James Henry Hammond, who called Jefferson’s notion that all men are created equal “ridiculously absurd.”

What is unusual is to bring a historian’s confident context to the day’s mundane politics. She invoked Senator Hammond when Representative Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders signed on to a Texas lawsuit seeking to reverse the presidential election, comparing the Republican action to moments in American history when legislators explicitly questioned the very idea of democracy.

“Ordinary men should, Hammond explained, have no say over policies, because they would demand a greater share of the wealth they produced,” she wrote.

She is, ultimately, offering what feels like straightforward, if thoughtful, answers to the big questions about America right now. One subscriber, Dani Smart, 50, who works for her family real estate brokerage in Richland, Wash., told me that Dr. Richardson helped her “sort through this maelstrom.” (In fact, the edgier younger sibling of Dr. Richardson’s “Letters From an American” is a newsletter that’s called “What Just Happened Today,” with an unprintable word included. Its founder, Matt Kiser, says he reaches more than 200,000 subscribers a day and is supporting the business on voluntary contributions.)

Dr. Richardson’s “readers are people who have been orphaned by the changes in media and the sensationalism and the meanness of so much of Twitter and Facebook, and they were surprised to find her there and pleased and spread the word,” said Bill Moyers, the former Lyndon B. Johnson aide and public television mainstay.

Dr. Richardson isn’t sure what she’ll do next. She plans to keep writing her letters through Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s first 100 days as president. But her routine isn’t sustainable: She makes dinner most nights and eats with her partner, a lobsterman, then starts reading. She often falls asleep facedown on her desk for an hour around 11 p.m. before getting back up to write.

I’ve been getting “Letters From an American” in my inbox since July, and I have to admit that I rarely open them. I live on Twitter much of the time, where yesterday is old news, and everyone assumes you know the context. I find it hard to hit the brakes to look at a print newspaper, much less Dr. Richardson’s rich summaries.

When I confessed that to Mr. Moyers, he didn’t seem surprised. “You live in a world of thunderstorms,” he said, “and she watches the waves come in.”


The $900 billion economic relief package that President Donald Trump signed over the weekend will deliver vital aid to millions of struggling households and businesses. Yet his nearly one-week delay in signing the bill means that it will take that much longer for the financial support to arrive.

The package that Trump signed at his private club in Florida on Sunday will extend two unemployment benefit programs providing aid to 14 million people that expired last week. It will also provide small business loans and up to $600 in cash payments to most individuals. In addition, it extends a moratorium on evictions for one month. The measure does not include aid for states and localities that are being forced to turn to layoffs and service cuts as their tax revenue dries up — a potential long-run drag on the economy.

The legislation extends the two federal jobless aid programs until mid-March and adds a $300 supplemental weekly payment. But because Trump signed the bill on Sunday, a day after the two programs lapsed, that could cost the unemployed a week of benefits, with payments not restarting until next week.

“The date was really unfortunate,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, a workers’ advocacy group. “Now there’s some question as to when this gets paid out.”

It is possible that the Labor Department will interpret the law to allow payments for the week ending Jan. 2, Evermore said. But if the bill had been signed Saturday, payments clearly could have restarted this week.

And it will likely take two to three weeks for states to update their computer systems to resume the aid programs and pay out the extra $300, Evermore said, a process that could have started earlier, after Congress first approved the bill about a week ago.

The delay will force those out of work to make hard decisions about paying for food, medicine or rent.

“These are people who have been living in poverty for months,” she said. “Any delay is an immense hardship.”

Months from now, economists say, the widespread distribution and use of vaccines could potentially unleash a robust economic rebound as the virus is quashed, businesses reopen, hiring picks up and consumers spend freely again. Yet the aid likely won’t last long enough to support struggling small businesses and the unemployed until the vaccine has been broadly distributed and a strong rebound has begun.

“Some aid is better than no aid,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “It’s positive. But it’s likely going to be insufficient to bridge the gap from today until late spring or early summer, when the health situation fully improves.”

President-elect Joe Biden has said he will seek another relief package soon after his inauguration next month, setting up another political brawl given that some Senate Republicans have said that with vaccines on the way, further government aid may be unnecessary.

The new aid package should boost the broader economy, according to Goldman Sachs. Economists at the investment bank said late Sunday that they are boosting their growth forecast for the first three months of next year to 5% at an annual rate, up from an earlier estimate of 3%.

Much of that upgrade is based on the inclusion of $600 stimulus checks, Goldman economists said.

Right now, however, the economy is in a renewed slump as a resurgent virus intensifies hardships for businesses. Consumers have cut back on shopping, traveling, dining out and attending sports and entertainment events. Key measures of the economy — retail sales, applications for jobless aid, travel spending — have weakened.

Roughly 14 million Americans faced a cutoff of their federal unemployment benefits if Congress hadn’t agreed to the new package after months of stalemate. Perhaps 2 million Americans would have been able to transfer to a state-run extended benefit program, but the rest would have had no income at all. More than 4 million have already used all the unemployment aid available to them, which lasts 26 weeks in most states; they will be able to reapply.

A program that provides unemployment aid for self-employed and contract workers will now pay benefits for 50 weeks, up from 39. A federal program that provides extended benefits, on top of the 26 provided by most states, will also last for another 11 weeks.

Kathy Richardson, 60, hopes to catch up on the car and rental payments that she has fallen behind on, now that she can reapply for unemployment benefits. She started receiving jobless aid in the spring after she was laid off from her executive assistant job at a dental practice but the benefits ran out in November.

“If it hadn’t been for family and friends I’d be homeless,” she said. “It’s been very stressful.”

Richardson, who lives in Overland, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis, had a Zoom interview for a new administrative job Monday and was hopeful about her prospects. She has applied for work at Walmart, Target, and Burger King, she said, but was turned down because those companies assume she will quit once she can find a job more consistent with her career.

Her 18-year old son received Christmas presents from her three sisters this year, but not from her.

“I told him, ’Maybe we’ll have a special Christmas in July after I’ve gone back to work,” Richardson said.

The much larger rescue package the government enacted in March was widely credited with averting a disaster. By injecting money quickly into the pockets of individual Americans, it served to reduce poverty. But as much of that aid expired over the summer, poverty grew. Many people ran through the $1,200 direct payment checks that had been distributed in April and May. And a supplemental $600 in jobless benefits expired over the summer.

According to research by Bruce Meyer at the University of Chicago and two colleagues, the U.S. poverty rate jumped from 9.3% in June to 11.7% in November — an increase of nearly 8 million people.


Defense Dept and OMB are not presenting roadblocks to the transition team. Biden reacts.