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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
January 15, 2022

The Supreme Court's golden rule: Only Republican leaders hold true power

The Supreme Court's golden rule: Only Republican leaders hold true power
The only "legal theory" the Supreme Court is operating under: Republicans alone have a right to rule


(Salon) Oh boy, remember the summer of 2021? That's when we were deluged with spicy hot takes about how the Supreme Court isn't nearly as bad as liberals feared it would be. Well, here we are half a year away and that supposedly reasonable Supreme Court just proved all of its critics right. They are a bunch of partisan hacks who will ignore the plain letter of the law in order to undermine Democratic governance and install Republicans into power.

Thursday's decision to strike down President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers certainly wasn't the result of a good faith reading of the law. It wasn't even an expression of some ideological opposition to the "administrative state," as Steve Bannon and other authoritarian nuts sneeringly call it. No, the only jurisprudence guiding the Republican-controlled Supreme Court — which has a whopping three appointees by Donald Trump sitting on it — is a belief that the only legitimate presidents are Republicans. We know this not just because of the bad faith of the decision itself, but also by contrasting it with the warm-and-fuzzy feelings that the justices have towards expansive presidential powers when Republicans are in charge.

First of all, the decision itself is a joke. As legal expert Mark Joseph Stern at Slate wrote, the court's "unsigned majority opinion rests on several dubious claims" and, crucially, "is utterly untethered to the plain text of the law." The anti-mandate argument held that because COVID-19 is a general threat to public health, it cannot be considered a discrete workplace safety issue. But, as many folks pointed out, the conservative justices don't believe their own reasoning here, as evidenced by the fact that the Supreme Court building's pandemic precautions are justified as a workplace safety issue.



To that end, the motives of the conservative justices are no different than the QAnon shaman and the other jackasses who stormed the Capitol last year in an attempt to overturn the election. They all flat-out reject that right of duly elected Democrats to govern. The justices may hide this anti-democratic sentiment behind faux-legalese and the enrobed pretenses of the Supreme Court, while the QAnoners hide it behind lurid talk of cannibalistic pedophiles and stolen elections. Underneath it all, however, is the same idea: Only Republicans have a legitimate claim to power. ..............(more)


January 9, 2022

NYT: How to Think About Covid Data Right Now

(NYT) Coronavirus case counts have reached record highs in the United States and continue to climb. Hospitalizations have surpassed the height of the Delta wave. Deaths are just beginning to rise.

The overall pattern is familiar, but a fresh perspective on how to interpret these metrics is necessary as a faster but less severe variant tears through the country. Here’s how to think about the data in the coming days and weeks.

Case spikes show Omicron still has room to grow

In just a matter of days, coronavirus case counts have shattered previous records in the United States, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly just about everywhere, including in communities with high vaccination rates. All but 13 states have seen record cases in the past week.

While these case counts are staggering, experts say they are not as alarming as they might have been a few months or a year ago. Instead, they should serve as a warning for the country, to adjust behaviors and policies to reduce infections and protect the most vulnerable. ................(more)


January 8, 2022

Celebrating "great songwriter" David Bowie's 75th birthday & introducing him to a new generation

Celebrating "great songwriter" David Bowie's 75th birthday & introducing him to a new generation
Pianist Mike Garson spoke to Salon about the second Bowie musical event featuring Def Leppard, Duran Duran and more


Pianist Mike Garson will never forget his first concert ever with David Bowie. It was September 22, 1972, and Bowie and the Spiders from Mars were kicking off the U.S. leg of the Ziggy Stardust Tour in Cleveland, Ohio. Garson's background was in jazz, not rock 'n' roll — in fact, he didn't know who Bowie was before joining the band — and so he wasn't necessarily prepared for what he'd encounter.

"I'm coming from jazz clubs, right — 10 people making $5. Right now, I'm in front of thousands of people, and they're going nuts," Garson recalls today. "All fine — I had heard that would happen. And he's singing great and the Spiders from Mars are playing great."

After the band finished the encore, things got interesting. Bowie and the rest of the band "[took] off through the back door at a speed you wouldn't believe. And I'm thinking, 'Why are they running?'" Garson says. "And then I see thousands of people storming the stage — and I'm collecting my music. I just joined the band — and all of a sudden, I'm under attack."

Today, on a Zoom call in mid-December 2021, the musician laughs heartily at the memory. After all, nearly 50 years later, Garson is still associated with Bowie. On Jan. 8, he's helming the second annual A Bowie Celebration, which brings together musicians who played with Bowie and musicians who are fans for a night celebrating the music. ..........(more)


January 8, 2022

Lessons from Washington Metro, America's Last Great Subway System

Lessons from Washington Metro, America’s Last Great Subway System
Highway construction was at its peak when the nation’s capital conceived and built one of the most comprehensive rapid transit systems in modern America. Zachary Schrag explains how and why it happened.

Jan. 7, 2022 • Jake Blumgart

(Governing) The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) is simultaneously a deeply impressive piece of infrastructure and a perennial frustration for residents of the nation’s capital.

Washingtonians will be forgiven for focusing on the system’s flaws in recent months, as hundreds of rail cars were taken off line to deal with a structural issue that resulted in a train derailment. Reduced service on Metro rail will now be matched by reduced service on its buses, as the new COVID-19 wave infects many transit workers.

All of this has frustrated Metro watchers in the wake of a historic regional policy initiative to secure funding from the jumble of jurisdictions that the agency serves. The fact that Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia all began rowing in the same direction was a serious win, which made the latest safety screw up all the more frustrating.

But the ups and downs of Metro have been with the agency from its earliest days, as George Mason University Professor Zachary Schrag documented in his 2006 book The Great Society Subway. Governing talked with him about what sets Metro apart from other American transit agencies, how it revived downtown Washington, and whether America could ever build a public transportation system as ambitious again.


Governing: Do you think a system that was built so specifically for commuters can retool itself to have less emphasis on nine-to-five after the rise of remote work? Or could Metro become a less important part of the region?

Schrag: I'm getting a little bit out of my lane. As a historian, we prefer to look backward. But certainly, the COVID-19 numbers are shocking. Ridership on Metro just plummeted starting in March 2020, and now it serves a fraction of the people it used to. The fact is that any technology is optimized for certain needs. What heavy rail is really, really good at is getting a lot of people to the same place at the same time. Much better than trying to use a freeway for that.

If we think about some of the pre-COVID challenges of Metro, there was ongoing debate about late night hours. The trade-off is it would be nice to have a system that runs late so if people are at a sports game or want to stay up late, especially drinking, you don't want them driving home. It's nice to have a system stay open for them. But the fact is relatively few people are needing to ride the system at 11 p.m. Those hours might be better used for maintenance, rather than for operations. Even before the pandemic, Metro's managers were struggling to figure out how to serve those nonrush hour needs. That's going to be all the more challenging as patterns of work change. ..............(more)


January 7, 2022

New train route proposed between Detroit and Toronto

(WXYZ) — Amtrak has announced support for the Canadian Pacific railway's combination with the Kansas City Southern railway, which adds a route from Detroit to Toronto.

Under the agreement, passenger service would be established through the Detroit River Tunnel between Michigan and Ontario, to Winsor and Toronto, with connection to VIA Rail Canada. No timeline was given for when service would be established.

The agreement also calls for increased frequency of travel between Chicago and Milwaukee, and extension of the Hiawatha Service from Milwaukee to St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as establishing Amtrak service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and studying the potential for Amtrak service between Meridian, Mississippi and Dallas. ........(more)


January 7, 2022

Living In The Florida County That Became A Breeding Ground For Capitol Rioters

Living In The Florida County That Became A Breeding Ground For Capitol Rioters
Seven residents of Brevard County — where cruelty and violence are fixtures of "Make America Great Again" politics — have been arrested since Jan. 6, 2021.

By Christopher Mathias
01/06/2022 08:08pm

Brevard County, Florida, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the SpaceX project, typically makes headlines for sending people beyond Earth. Recently, however, it has drawn attention for a different reason: the number of residents it sent to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

Federal authorities have accused seven Space Coast locals of taking part in the historic attack on the U.S. Capitol, giving Brevard County the dubious distinction of having the sixth-highest number of people arrested in the riot investigation in the country, according to a George Washington University analysis. (The top five counties represent major urban areas: Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Seattle.)

Among those arrested were a high school teacher who coached the football team; a pastor at a local church; his son, the church’s vice president; a parishioner at the church; and an Army veteran who belonged to the far-right militia the Oath Keepers.

Why do so many of the rioters hail from this coastal region east of Orlando? In the year since the Capitol riot, academics have studied data to divine why places like Brevard County were such hotspots — an effort to better understand the underlying social conditions driving conservative Americans toward violent insurrectionism.

Perhaps the most compelling study on the subject was published by Robert Pape at the University of Chicago, who found that Capitol insurgents were more likely to come from counties where the white population was getting smaller. “For every one-point drop in a county’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the likelihood of an insurgent hailing from that county increased by 25 percent,” The Atlantic reported, citing his research. ...................(more)


January 7, 2022

Canadian Passengers Who Went Maskless Stranded After Party Flight To Mexico

MONTREAL (AP) — Passengers who filmed themselves partying without masks aboard a chartered flight from Montreal to Mexico face being stranded after three airlines refused to fly them home to Canada.

Sunwing Airlines cancelled the return charter flight from Cancun that had been scheduled for Wednesday and Air Transat and Air Canada also both said they will refuse to carry the passengers.

Adding insult to injury, they were branded “idiots” Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Videos of the Dec. 30 flight shared on social media show unmasked passengers in close proximity while singing and dancing in the aisle and on seats. In one video, a large bottle of vodka appears to be passed among passengers and a a woman appears to be smoking an electronic cigarette. .................(more)


January 6, 2022

Michigan SOS Jocelyn Benson on The Big Lie:

Jocelyn Benson

(Detroit Free Press) One year ago our country, and our democracy, forever changed. Fueled by lies and a refusal to accept an election defeat, our nation witnessed a violent effort to block the typically routine congressional procedure of accepting the electoral votes in an attempt to overturn the results of a fair, safe, secure and accurate presidential election.

But the tragedy at our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021 was not the beginning nor the end of modern attempts to undo democracy. Indeed, while the 2020 election is behind us, the efforts to undermine the very bedrock of our country — the promise of free and fair elections — have only escalated and multiplied in the months since.

Now, as a new year dawn and the liars lay the groundwork to overturn a future legitimate election, we must come together as a nonpartisan coalition and dedicate 2022 to saving our democracy.

Our opponents have sharpened and expanded their attacks over the past 12 months: working to keep the Big Lie alive through sham election reviews that serve only as hotbeds for misinformation, eliminating policies that support voters to make it more difficult for citizens to participate in future elections, and systematically replacing officials who defended democracy in 2020 with people willing to overturn it in the future. ..............(more)


January 6, 2022

The Hard Rock collapse closed the Rampart streetcar line. Here's why its return is still far off.

NEW ORLEANS -- Another year is expected to pass before the Regional Transit Authority reopens the six-year-old Rampart-St. Claude streetcar line, which has been shuttered since the 2019 Hard Rock Hotel collapse damaged the nearby street and streetcar infrastructure.

During a City Council committee meeting Wednesday, RTA deputy CEO Lona Edwards Hankins shared a presentation that said a return of service was now expected by December, roughly a year later than an estimate RTA officials gave in April.

The RTA said that before providing that earlier estimate, engineers hadn't been allowed full access to the site because of debris and the building's long-delayed demolition. When they were able to do a full assessment last year, they discovered that several poles supporting the streetcar line's overhead power lines would need to be replaced. The RTA also blamed "staffing shortages, supply-chain delays and impacts from Hurricane Ida."

Hankins told council members during the virtual meeting that service could return sooner than December, depending on the extent of underground damage found during "underground forensic work." ..............(more)


January 6, 2022

The insurrection will be decentralized: The next Jan. 6 will happen in the state houses

(Salon) Ayear ago, a stunned world watched rapt as pro-Trump insurrectionists smashed through windows and barricades at our nation's Capitol, disrupting the constitutionally mandated tally of Electoral College votes certifying President Biden's win. But that display of violence ought to have come as no surprise, as escalating threats and violence in our state houses throughout 2020 presaged the Capitol insurrection.

A year later, we must again look to our state houses for a preview of what is to come. In key battleground states, Republicans are steadily building toward a future where they can engineer election outcomes. GOP-controlled legislatures are setting the stage for another attempted coup. The next insurrection will be decentralized, coming from our state houses with the sheen of legal authority. If we do nothing to stop their plans, then as the 2024 votes are tallied in our states, the laws and rules governing the process and outcome will have been rewritten for a particular outcome: Republican wins, regardless of the votes. And an arch-conservative Supreme Court could stand poised to thwart a constitutional challenge to this state power grab. We have the opportunity to stop this in its tracks — by pouring resources and attention into key state legislative chambers and races immediately. What we do next for our states could determine the fate of our democracy.

In the year since the Capitol riot, Republicans have made their 2024 play well known. Step one in this strategy is to pass state-level laws making it harder to vote. And indeed, Republican-controlled state legislatures enacted far more restrictive voting laws in 2021 than in the past decade. Step two is to change state laws so that partisan actors can interfere with election processes or reject election results outright. Here too, we see the strategy in action: At least 14 states enacted laws in 2021 that give state legislatures more power over election administration and certification, or impose criminal penalties on election officials. More were proposed but not passed, including an Arizona bill that would have given the state legislature power to undo the certification of presidential electors by a simple majority vote, right up until the inauguration. Looking ahead, at least 100 restrictive bills have been pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session or will carry over from 2021. .............(more)


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