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Politics

A National Guardsman Sent To LA Protests Is Under Investigation For Ties To Proud Boys

The California National Guard is investigating a member’s possible ties to the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group, after he posted a photo of himself standing next to a military vehicle inscribed with one of the group’s slogans while patrolling anti-racist protests in Los Angeles last month. 

Anonymous anti-fascist activists shared the photo with HuffPost, which Sgt. Brian Jackson posted on Facebook last month. After HuffPost inquired about the image, a spokesperson for the California National Guard confirmed on Wednesday that Jackson, a motor transport operator from Bakersfield, California, is now under investigation for ties to the extremist group. 

“We have initiated an investigation and will take appropriate action in accordance with regulations,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma said in a statement. “Any form of hate speech and extremist behavior is not tolerated, and has no place in the California National Guard.” 

Jackson has not, however, been suspended during the investigation, Shiroma said. It’s unclear how long the investigation will last. 

Jackson was among the roughly 1,000 armed California National Guard troops sent to Los Angeles County in early June to quell the uprising against police brutality, one of many such demonstrations that have swept the country in response to a series of high-profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. 

“Hopefully a quiet night in Canoga Park,” read the caption Jackson posted with the photo on June 2, referring to the Los Angeles neighborhood. 

The message inscribed on the vehicle, “POYB 2020,” is an acronym for “Proud Of Your Boy,” a Proud Boys slogan derived from a song in Disney’s ”Aladdin.”

Some of Jackson’s Facebook friends wrote “POYB” and “Uhuru” — a common Proud Boys chant — in the comments below his photo. 

A protester looks at National Guard troops posted in Los Angeles on June 3. Jackson was among their ranks.



A protester looks at National Guard troops posted in Los Angeles on June 3. Jackson was among their ranks.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Proud Boys as a hate group. Its members are explicitly anti-feminist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. While the group publicly claims to reject the so-called alt-right and says it allows Black and brown members, its ranks have included many white nationalists and its founder, Gavin McInnes, is deeply racist.

Proud Boys are perhaps best known for violently attacking leftist protesters in the streets, attacks that they discuss and plot in private chat rooms. McInnes once said members could become a high-ranking, or “fourth degree,” Proud Boy if they “kick the crap out of an antifa.”

Jackson did not respond to a request for comment sent via Facebook on Wednesday, and soon after HuffPost sent the message, he deleted multiple racist posts and other evidence related to the Proud Boys from his Facebook page.

“Serious question: what is ‘Black culture?’” Jackson wrote in one post that has since been deleted.

“As far as culture is concerned,” he wrote in a subsequent comment on that post, “why is America so obsessed with endorsing something that seems contrary to polite society and our American values (drugs, weak family structures, criminality, glorification of violence, subjugation of their own people to low expectations and political slavery)?” 

Another since-deleted post featured an advertisement for an April 25 Proud Boys rally against coronavirus lockdown measures. 

Jackson appeared to have attended that April 25 rally, and posted a Facebook Live video from the event. The footage includes a man in the Proud Boy uniform — a black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirt — near Jackson.

After HuffPost contacted Jackson this week, he replaced his Facebook profile photo — a graphic with the words “ZERO WHITE GUILT” — with an image of the comedian Will Ferrell. (Proud Boys often describe themselves as “anti-white guilt.”)

Jackson’s current Facebook banner image shows him and other national guardsmen posing with members of the Los Angeles Police Department during the protests last month. 

The Jackson incident comes amid heightened concern about white supremacists and other extremists within law enforcement and the military, especially as those institutions have been deployed to suppress anti-racist protests. In many cities, law enforcement has used violent tactics against protests, including tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray. 

Last month, Right Wing Watch reported that a member of the Ohio National Guard, who had been sent to Washington, D.C., to police protests there, was a white supremacist YouTuber. “They activated my unit and we’re getting real ammunition to shoot and kill,” the Ohio guardsman, Shandon Simpson, allegedly wrote on the social media platform Telegram ahead of his deployment. 

“Rahowa,” Simpson added, using the popular fascist shorthand for “racial holy war.” The FBI later said Simpson had been removed from the protests in D.C. and sent home. Simpson has since said he was discharged from the Ohio National Guard. 

Vice News also reported that at least one member of a private chat group for so-called Boogaloo Bois — a far-right movement hoping to hasten a violent civil war in the U.S. — claimed to be a Pennsylvania National Guardsman getting ready to deploy to protests in Philadelphia. 

And in Wilmington, North Carolina, last month, three white police officers — who haven’t been connected to any extremist groups — were fired after they were caught on a patrol car camera using racial slurs while discussing murdering Black protesters. 

“We are just going to go out and start slaughtering them fucking niggers,” one officer said. 

“Wipe ’em off the fucking map,” the same officer said of Black Americans. “That’ll put ’em back about four or five generations.”

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Politics

The Unemployment Rate Is Falling, But More People Are Losing Their Jobs Permanently

These days, reading the monthly jobs report can feel like opening a time capsule. According to the data for June, which was released today, the recovery from the COVID-19 recession was still chugging along as of the middle of last month, when the two surveys that form the backbone of the report were conducted. The unemployment rate fell from 13.3 percent in May to 11.1 percent in June, and 4.8 million more people were employed in June than in May.

Those numbers look promising — but it’s important to remember that they’re just a snapshot of what the economy looked like in mid-June. And a lot has changed since then. Most importantly, COVID-19 infections have spiked in states across the country, and many governors have rolled back the phased reopenings that brought many jobless workers back into the labor force. That could have a seismic impact on the sectors of the economy, like leisure and hospitality, that saw the biggest gains in June.

Even underneath the surface of the June report, there were signs that the recession is deepening. Crucially, the number of workers who have permanently lost their jobs rose quite a bit — signaling that for an increasing number of Americans, getting back to work won’t be an easy matter. And the unemployment rate for white Americans continues to be much lower than the unemployment rate for Black, Hispanic or Asian Americans. That’s an important reminder that some workers are continuing to do much better than others as the recovery creaks into gear.

If you just focus on the report’s headline numbers — the unemployment rate and number of payroll jobs — the country’s economic situation was looking up in June. In fact, the drop in the unemployment rate may have been even more dramatic than the topline number lets on. Over the past few months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been struggling with an issue that’s unique to our pandemic-ridden times: A substantial number of workers were reporting that they were absent from their jobs for the entire week referenced in the survey for “other reasons.” That probably meant they were temporarily out of work because of COVID-19 — but they weren’t counted as unemployed.

To be clear: The BLS has been extremely transparent about the presence of this problem, and it does not mean that the numbers were fudged. Our methods for measuring unemployment are simply not designed for a pandemic-induced recession. But it is important to take the misclassification issue into account because if those workers had been included in April, BLS estimates that the unemployment rate would have been about 20 percent; in May, the rate would have been about 16 percent. By June, the BLS reported that it mostly had the misclassification issue under control — which meant the actual unemployment rate declined even more substantially, to around 12 percent.

Bear in mind, though, that we still have a long way to go before we’re anywhere near pre-pandemic levels of unemployment. It’s all about your frame of reference: An 11.1 percent unemployment rate is stunningly low compared with where we were in April, when close to 20 percent of the population was unemployed. But it’s still higher than at any point in modern history — including the unemployment rate at the apex of the Great Recession.

And there are many reasons to believe that the recovery could stall — or even backslide — in the coming months. One clue is tucked in the June report: Of those who did lose jobs, a larger share of them were permanent than in previous months.

In April and May, 88.6 percent of job losses were classified by the BLS as “temporary,” which fit the early theme of this recession: Businesses shut down temporarily to stop the spread of COVID-19 but planned to reopen later as the virus came under control — particularly with the assistance of government loans such as the Paycheck Protection Program, which incentivized small businesses to keep employees on payroll during the closures. But in June, the share of job losses that were temporary fell to 78.6 percent, a sign that a growing number of workers will not have a job waiting for them when the crisis lifts.

“As more job losses become permanent, this recession will look more and more like an ordinary recession, where in recent history the recovery has been a slow slog,” said Nick Bunker, the director of economic research for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab, a research institute connected to the job-search site Indeed. “That means the hopes of a quick recovery will be slimmer and slimmer.”

The fact that some of the industries hit hardest early in the recession made big gains in June is both good and bad news. Leisure and hospitality, which had lost a staggering 8.3 million jobs in March and April, built on its May gains to add 2.1 million more workers in June, an increase of nearly 21 percent month over month. Similarly, retail trade, which lost 2.4 million jobs in March and April, bounced back with about 740,000 new workers in June, a 5.4 percent increase month over month. And education and health services, another of the industries most affected (with 2.8 million total job losses in March and April), added 568,000 jobs in June, for a 2.6 percent gain month over month.

Overall, almost every major industry sector of the economy added jobs in June, with total private employment up by 4.3 percent since May. However, it is worth noting that despite better-than-expected jobs reports in both May and now June, total private employment is still down 10.2 percent relative to its pre-crisis level in February. Things are looking better, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

And the hammer might fall yet again on sectors like leisure and hospitality, which includes the restaurant industry. Several states allowed restaurants and even bars and casinos to reopen at partial capacity in May and June — only to abruptly close them again when case counts started to spike. That means that some of the workers who finally got to return to their jobs as servers, bartenders or blackjack dealers might well be unemployed again in the July report.

That everything these days is in a state of flux complicates even the most seasoned experts’ ability to read the report. Erica Groshen, who served as BLS commissioner from 2013 to 2017, said it’s extremely difficult to isolate the impact of the many different forces that are churning underneath the report. “We’ve got all of these effects that are going at cross-purposes,” she said. “We have the ongoing effects of restrictions in place. We have the effects of some restrictions being lifted. And we have the deepening of the recession itself.” All of that, she said, makes it hard to assess exactly what’s happening under the surface — much less what will happen next.

And again, the gains have not been equally distributed throughout the population — another theme of this very unequal recession. Although the unemployment rate for women dropped at a faster rate (2.8 percentage points) than for men (1.6) in June, women still had a higher overall unemployment rate than men did. Likewise, the unemployment rate for white Americans dropped by 2.3 percentage points last month, while it only fell by 1.4 percent for Black Americans and 1.2 percentage points for Asian Americans. And at 15.4 percent, Black Americans still have the highest unemployment rate of any racial or ethnic group, 5.3 percentage points higher than their white counterparts.

Perhaps one bit of encouraging data in this jobs report was that the unemployment rate for Latino or Hispanic Americans did drop by quite a bit — it was down 3.1 percentage points in June. However, that still left their overall unemployment rate at 14.5 percent, which is not only far higher than it was before the coronavirus recession began (it was 4.4 percent in February) but also higher than the unemployment rates for white (10.1 percent) or Asian (13.8 percent) Americans.

As we’ve said often during this crisis, you really need the next jobs report in order to interpret the current one. The June report shows that the unexpected employment gains of May were not a mirage — the economy really did start recovering earlier and more quickly than many economists expected. But next month’s report could be a sobering reminder of just how fragile any economic gains are — at least while the virus is still spiraling out of control in many parts of the country. So we’ll know better by next month whether the concerning trends in this report have deepened, as well as how much the recent COVID-19 outbreaks across the country have hamstrung the nascent recovery. In typical fashion, our economic data is moving at a much slower pace than the virus, which leaves us guessing at where things might head next.

CORRECTION (July 2, 2020, 4:45 p.m.): An earlier version of the permanent layoffs chart in this article incorrectly labeled the numbers of layoffs as being in the thousands when they should have been in the millions.

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Politics

Trump Hotel Tells People to Wear Masks. But Its Owner Won’t.

Police officers stand in front of the Trump International Hotel amid protests on June 3.Sue Dorfman/ZUMA

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Donald Trump did it again. Or, that is, didn’t do it again. On Thursday morning, he appeared in the White House briefing room to take credit for the newest jobs numbers and to talk up the economy. He discussed the coronavirus pandemic almost as an afterthought. He didn’t acknowledge the recent nationwide surge in cases and instead said there were “some areas where we are putting out the flames of the fire.” Not really. The flames are spreading.

And once more Trump did not advise Americans to wear masks. He did say, “Wash your hands.” But there was no encouragement from him about donning face coverings—the most basic action that can be taken to thwart the pandemic and save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans. Needless to say, he wasn’t wearing a mask himself.

Trump just can’t seem to bring himself to support this fundamental step championed by medical experts, scientists, and the entire public health community. Not even if his own business does.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, and its bars and restaurants are open for business these days. But if you want to enter the establishment—which Trump and his family own through the Trump Organization—you need to wear a mask, as required by the DC government.

Here’s what the hotel’s website says:

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. remains open for our guests due to its designation as an essential business. The safety of our guests and employees remains our top priority. 

Benjamin Bar & Lounge is now fully open! In line with the city’s Phase 2 authorization, we will be serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails in our expansive Grand Lobby setting. In-Room Dining for our hotel guests remains available. Please note that face coverings are required when entering the hotel and in all common areas, except when eating or drinking. We will only seat groups of up to six people at this time. For the safety of all, guests should remain mindful of social distancing and frequent hand washing.    

In this ever-changing environment, please know that we will continue to post updates at this site for any and all changes to our policies as we continue to abide by all government requirements and recommendations. Learn more about our commitment to health and safety HERE.

So the Trump Organization is committed to health and safety, even though its owner is not. Of course, this commitment is not a choice of the hotel’s management: In the spring, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the use of masks within businesses. Fortunately for its employees and customers, the Trump Hotel is following the guidelines set by responsible public officials, not the example set by its namesake. 

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Politics

The Coronavirus is Knocking Progressive Priorities Off the Ballot

A protestor shows solidarity with essential workers outside a Whole Foods store in Brooklyn, New York, on May 1, 2020.Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa/AP

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In 2016, Republican candidates did what they often do in Idaho: They swept. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 32 percent. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) earned a fourth term with nearly 70 percent support, as did Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a leading Tea Partier who dragged his party to the hard right when he entered Congress. In statehouse elections, Republicans took 88 of the 105 statehouse seats up for grabs that year.

These lawmakers were no friends of the Affordable Care Act. Crapo ran ads promising to replace “Obamacare mandates with affordable health care that works.” Labrador told his constituents that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care” after he cast his “yea” vote for the House’s ACA repeal bill in May 2017. And Trump, of course, backed a lawsuit aimed at repealing Obamacare through the courts.

But two years later, Idahoans broke with their preferred party—even as they again sent Republicans to Congress and statewide offices. More than 60 percent of them voted to accept a core provision of Obamacare and expand Medicaid coverage to low-income people younger than 65 through a referendum on the 2018 ballot.

That sort of ballot measure—referendums that citizens can place on their statewide ballots to be passed by a popular vote—has become an increasingly popular tactic for pushing progressive policy in GOP strongholds like Idaho. “What we normally see in our political system is hyper-incrementalism at best,” says Jonathan Schleifer, the executive director of the Fairness Project, an organization that leads liberal ballot initiatives on health care and economic equality. ”What ballots allow us to do is to pass really progressive policy in blue states and progressive policy in red states.”

Idahoans had been gearing up for another ballot measure in 2020 to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 an hour. By the beginning of March, organizers had collected 35,000 of the roughly 55,000 signatures required for a measure to be on the November ballot. But then the pandemic struck, and all signature collection ceased. “We studied the data coming from CDC and concluded that going out in public and interacting with Idahoans to get signatures would put our volunteers at high risk,” Rod Couch, an organizer for Idahoans for a Fair Wage, tells me via email.

Across the country, coronavirus and the efforts to contain it have made it impossible to meet the requirements for putting measures on the ballot. The pandemic will stymie a cycle’s worth of progressive policy that, in some instances, would have directly addressed the medical and financial hardships it has worsened.

To be clear, referendums aren’t just used for progressive causes: Voters in several blue states have decreased their tax payments through ballot measures over the last 40 years. But for liberal causes, ballot measures have forced federal lawmakers to act on policy before their party would demand it. Gay marriage, for example, advanced through a combination of ballot measures that legalized it in some states and refused to ban it in others. Activists fighting for a $15 minimum wage—which has languished at the federal level but made progress through ballot initiatives in several states—hope to repeat that movement’s success with a push like the one they’d planned for Idaho this fall. “The birth of the ballot process was to hold power accountable and given power to the people,” says Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. “That’s why direct democracy is such a critical part of a thriving democracy.”

Twenty-seven US states and territories allow for ballot measures, and in order for a proposed measure to make it onto the ballot, organizers need to collect some minimum number of handwritten signatures. “Normally it is a very grassroots enterprise of walking up to someone on the street, or going into the grocery store and asking people to sign a petition,” explains Schleifer. “Obviously, that’s not safe during a pandemic.”

Indeed, the months of shelter-in-place orders and limited reopening of businesses and public spaces killed off a number of efforts underway for the 2020 elections. In addition to Idaho’s minimum wage campaign, activists in Arizona suspended their signature-gathering for a measure that would have stopped surprise medical billing and increased health care worker pay. In Oregon, a petition for safe gun storage has stopped, as well, as has a push to legalize marijuana in Missouri. Most of these efforts can reboot for the 2022 cycle, but some cannot: A Oklahoma campaign to establish an independent redistricting committee –an effort to combat gerrymandering—will have lost its window of opportunity by then.

In some states, organizers have tried to press forward, asking leniency in either the number of required signatures or the in-person collection demands. Such requests in Massachusetts and Montana have been met with success, but others have run into the buzzsaws that often smash liberal dreams: Conservative judges. By July 1, organizers for Raise the Wage Ohio needed to collect nearly 443,000 signatures in order for their measure to gradually raise Ohio’s minimum wage to $13 an hour to appear on the November ballot. When the pandemic made that task all but impossible, the campaign filed an injunction in county court to reduce the signature threshold or allow for electronic signature gathering, adjustments they argued reflected the containment efforts required for combatting coronavirus. The court rejected their request, citing the risk of fraud. (The campaign appealed the ruling, but decided not to move forward on soliciting more signatures because of the legal stalemate.)

If the measure succeeds, 1.4 million Ohioans would receive a raise, the importance of which is heightened in the midst of the pandemic-induced recession. A number of those low-wage workers are putting their lives at risk in essential jobs, and their peers who have lost their jobs are now receiving paltry unemployment sums because of Ohio’s low minimum wage. 

If a similar measure had made its way onto the ballot in Idaho, it would have raised the income of minimum wage-earning Idahoans to a level above the federal poverty line. But the state’s deadline for collecting signatures was May 1, and organizers, unable to resume collection, did not turn any in. Though they’d planned to just regroup for the next cycle, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Idaho must accept electronic signatures and extend the deadline by seven weeks to accommodate another ballot initiative that would raise $170 million in education funding through higher taxes. It’s not yet clear if that ruling applies to the minimum wage campaign, but even so, the campaign won’t resume.*

*This piece has been updated to reflect the decision of Idahoans for a Fair Wage to not resume their campaign during the 2020 cycle.

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Politics

Trump Picks the Dumbest Possible Fight With Congress Over a Must-Pass Defense Bill

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

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The House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved a draft defense policy bill early Thursday morning, setting up a clash not between Democrats and Republicans—who seem to mostly agree on the fundamentals of the legislation—but with Donald Trump over the naming of military bases after Confederate generals.

Before the House panel finished its all-day markup, Trump threatened to veto the final bill if it included a provision to rename bases. The amendment that drew Trump’s ire initially appeared in a Senate version of the bill, where it was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and won bipartisan support. The presence of a similar provision in the House bill all but ensures it will survive in the final version that reaches Trump’s desk. “The Confederate soldiers who betrayed the United States to fight for the Confederacy were fighting for the institution of slavery,” Warren said Monday on the Senate floor. “It is time to put the names of those leaders who fought and killed US soldiers in defense of a perverted version of America where they belong, as footnotes in our history books, not plastered on our nation’s most significant military installations.”

To Senate Republicans, this is all needless fluff from Trump. Would he really give Joe Biden the chance to run attack ads, weeks before the election, noting that Trump vetoed a pay raise for the troops? “The veto would take place sometime probably in November,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Politico. “And we have a long, long time between now and November. So we’ll see.”

It’s not unusual to see Trump kickstart another culture war over a bunch of racist symbols, but in this case it’s especially strange because the defense policy bill is one place where he can usually claim victory. Last year, after House Democrats attempted to pass a progressive bill reining in his military authority and blunting his ability to fund a border wall, Trump took a victory lap upon defeating those measures. In a statement released after its passage in December, the White House applauded the bill for “rejecting progressive attempts to limit the President’s authorities as Commander in Chief.”

This year’s House bill was more of a conscious compromise, avoiding many of the battles over defense spending and war powers that defined last year’s drafting process. The overall defense spending figure—a subject of heated debate between Democrats and Republicans last year—increased to $741 billion without much of a fight, due to a deal brokered last year by congressional leaders. Progressives repeatedly tried to make an issue out of the overall spending figure, but never made much progress. Even the coronavirus pandemic, which neatly presented an opportunity to rethink traditional spending priorities, didn’t lead to any large-scale changes. An amendment introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), which would have taken $1 billion from a fund for the next generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and put it toward pandemic preparedness, was roundly rejected in a 44–12 vote. (Northrop Grumman, the contractor working on the new missile program, has poured nearly $6 million into lobbying members of the Armed Services committees and other lawmakers who have ICBM bases in their states.)

House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) supported Khanna’s unsuccessful amendment, but has been reluctant to relitigate last year’s fight, which led to the rare instance of a defense policy bill clearing the House on a party-line vote. Even with Democrats holding a large majority in the House, outside the progressive wing there seems to be little appetite to stop the inevitable ballooning of the Defense budget. In April, with Smith inclined toward a bipartisan bill, it seemed like the stage was set for a progressive backlash. Khanna hinted as much in a conference call with reporters that month. “The leadership is going to have to make a choice,” he said. “They’ll either pass a progressive NDAA or pass a bill with Republican votes.” Instead, the bill was sent to the House floor unanimously.

Some amendments are not likely to survive the eventual compromise process with the Senate. A thin majority supported Khanna’s push to end logistical support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, reviving a years-long fight by a bipartisan caucus in Congress to reduce American involvement in that catastrophic war. Other amendments, including a bipartisan one to block Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from Germany, will meet resistance from the White House and potentially be stripped out.

But the bill eventually passed by the Democratic House is sure to include the amendment requiring names of Confederate generals to be stripped from military bases. The Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee has already adopted the measure, and, as Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) pointed out on Twitter, 60 votes would be needed to reverse it on the Senate floor. 

Trump, never one to forgo an opportunity to ignite a culture war, seems fixated on playing the dummy in this stupid, racist fight. A bill sure to please Republicans, anger progressives, and keep the national security establishment humming might falter all because Trump wants to keep a bunch of secessionist rebels’ names on some bases. Like the Confederacy, he doesn’t seem to know when the cause is lost. 

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You Aren’t the Ones Who Are Struggling to Breathe

mpi04/MediaPunch/AP

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They’re everywhere these days—in our grocery stores, at our post offices, and attending our city council meetings. They’re furious and victimized by a great social injustice that has befallen this nation. Outraged white people are in full rebellion over mask mandates. And the self-professed victims have co-opted the racial justice movement to make their point.  

It is a movement grounded in the history of this country’s systemic persecution of Black people and other people of color. Over Memorial Day weekend, George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man, cried out for his mother and said he couldn’t breathe while white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. It sparked a nationwide protest movement, but it was far from the first time a cop had killed someone who was gasping for air. In 2014, Eric Garner was killed by New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo who put him in a chokehold and ignored his dying words: “I can’t breathe.” In fact, the New York Times found 70 cases in the last decade where individuals died in police custody after crying out for air. The tragic phrase has become a rallying cry, splashed on posters at protests and across the chests of celebrities.  

“I can’t breathe.”

And now it has become part of the rallying cry of white people who object to the public health effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some states and localities immediately implemented rules requiring the wearing of masks, while others floundered. Officials have reassured anyone who would listen that even though wearing a mask can be a little uncomfortable, it doesn’t inhibit breathing. Nonetheless, almost immediately, the mask mandates turned into a new front in the culture war. Only liberal sheep wore masks to protect the public from coronavirus; real conservatives and libertarians would never stoop to something so feminine and weak! Just look at the president! Meanwhile, as the coronavirus has surged in the South and West, so too has the intensity of the mask war. The anti-mask cohort has adopted a slogan they saw was very effective, insisting that when wearing a mask, they can’t breathe.  

Just look at last week’s county commission meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, where coronavirus infections have been rising rapidly. One woman claimed commissioners seeking a mask mandate were doing the devil’s work. Another woman said she doesn’t wear a mask for the same reason that she doesn’t wear underwear: “Things need to breathe.” Still another resident claimed wearing a mask would “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.”

But this movement is not limited to conservative enclaves in Florida. Three-thousand miles away, a white woman went on a tirade in a Southern California Trader Joe’s grocery store after being asked to leave because she was not wearing a mask.

“That man harassed me for not wearing a mask,” the woman says in the video. “I have a breathing problem, my doctor will not let me wear a mask. So anyone harassing me to wear a mask, you guys are violating federal law.” It does not seem to have occurred to her to simply find someone else to shop for her or order her groceries. The logic of the masks being that they protect others.

Last month in Montgomery, Alabama, city council members debated an ordinance that would require residents to wear masks in public places. While white council members rebuffed the idea because it would be hard to enforce, Dr. William Salinsky described the scene at his hospital, saying that 90 percent of patients on ventilators, unable to breathe on their own, were Black. A member of the audience, a Black man, said he had lost six family members to the disease already. Do Black lives matter to the city council of Montgomery, Alabama?

The mask ordinance vote failed, but Mayor Steven Reed implemented it by executive order the next day. It takes an incredible amount of privilege and stunning lack of self-awareness to complain about breathing in this country. Who is really struggling to breathe? 

For communities of color, struggling to breathe is nothing new. Black people are more disproportionately affected by COVID-19 because, as my colleague Edwin Rios wrote, racism is a pre-existing condition. But the inability to breathe is not restricted to the coronavirus and police brutality. By design, Black and brown neighborhoods suffer from more air pollution than wealthier, white neighborhoods. A 2017 study found that Black people are 75 percent more likely to live near toxic and oil and gas facilities. More than 1 million Black people live within half a mile of an oil or gas facility and face serious health risks like asthma and other respiratory diseases. 

All of a sudden, it seems as if the struggle to breathe is everywhere. In April, I found out my uncle, my father’s 79-year-old brother in Brooklyn, died from COVID-19. I happened to be on the phone with my mom. After she told me the news, she paused mid-sentence to say something to my father who I could only hear faintly in the background. Then she said she’d call me back. I hung up the phone, sobbing and gasping for air.

As I see the maskless people insisting on their right to breathe, I am struck by the irony of how, I too, was struggling to breathe, and how that fact was lost on me until now. I imagine that’s how other Black people feel, constantly fighting to breathe after another knee plants on our necks, or when someone we love is admitted to the ICU, or as we encounter one of the other million little ways this country sucks the breath out of us. 

So, before you launch into a public temper tantrum about your alleged breathing troubles because of wearing a mask, take a look around. You’re actually breathing just fine.

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Politics

Pelosi And Schumer Rip Trump For Defending The Confederacy Instead Of US Troops

Pelosi and Schumer shredded Trump for planning parades and defending the Confederacy instead of protecting US troops from Russian bounties.

Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer said in a statement provided to PoliticusUSA:

Force protection is a primary purpose of intelligence. It should have the same importance to the Commander-in-Chief. Any reports of threats on our troops must be pursued relentlessly.

These reports are coming to light in the context of the President being soft on Vladimir Putin when it comes to NATO, the G7, Crimea, Ukraine and the ongoing undermining of the integrity of our elections.

Our Armed Forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy.

Trump has called the Russian bounty scandal a hoax as he has spent weeks defending Confederate statues and names on military bases. The President simply refuses to challenge or stand up to Putin. He is allowing Putin to put targets on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan. Trump was briefed on the bounties in 2019 and in more than a year, he has done nothing.

Pelosi and Schumer have put the situation into terms that everyone can understand. Trump would rather defend statues that gloried an attempt to destroy the United States than protect the troops from Putin.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and  Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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Politics

Herman Cain Didn’t Wear A Mask At Trump’s Rally, And Now He Has Coronavirus

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has tested positive for Coronavirus after he didn’t wear a mask at Trump’s Tulsa rally.

Here is the statement announcing Cain’s positive test:

Here is a picture that Cain tweeted of himself not wearing a mask at Trump’s Tulsa rally:

Herman Cain is 74 years old. In the middle of a pandemic, he should not have been attending a large indoor gathering. He should not have been without a mask.

It is impossible to know if Cain got the virus from Trump’s rally because anyone who would engage in such reckless behavior could have picked up the virus in a variety of places, but the fact is that Herman Cain thought that he could attend a large indoor political rally without a mask, and now he is sick.

The virus doesn’t care about political parties or elections. It will attack anyone who is not following the guidelines.

Herman Cain is proof of what happens when anyone listens to Donald Trump instead of medical experts.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and  Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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Politics

Arizona Republican Voters Are Trashing Trump’s Pandemic Response

As virus cases surge in Arizona, Republican Voters Against Trump is out with a new ad with the state’s voters trashing Trump.

In the ad, an Arizona Republican named Patricia says, “He’s letting over 100,000 people die due to his incompetence.”

The spot loaded with Republicans talking about how Trump has ruined the economy and made people sick with his handling of the pandemic.

Arizona Republicans say that they have had enough and they are pledging to vote for Joe Biden in November.

Watch the ad:

The Arizona ad is brutal for Trump, and it illustrates how much the political landscape has changed during his presidency. Trump isn’t just running against Joe Biden. He is running against a united group of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans who have come together under the common banner of getting this president out of office.

Trump’s presidency has been a disaster that has literally helped the virus kill hundreds of thousands of Americans with no end in sight.

Arizona is a state that was already on the Democratic radar in 2020, and the Biden momentum has only continued to grow since the pandemic. It is debatable whether Arizona or Florida is the nation’s biggest virus hotspot, but voters are being reminded of who is to blame for their misery.

Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and  Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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Politics

Trump To Cancel Jacksonville Convention To Avoid Being Humiliated

Trump is expected to cancel his relocated Republican convention in Jacksonville, FL because the Trump campaign is trying to avoid another humiliation.

Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair reported:

To console himself, Trump still has moments of magical thinking. “He says the polls are all fake,” a Republican in touch with Trump told me. But the bad news keeps coming. This week, Jacksonville, Florida—where Trump moved the Republican National Convention so he could hold a 15,000-person rally next month—mandated that people wear masks indoors to slow the explosion of COVID-19 cases.

According to a Republican working on the convention, the campaign is now preparing to cancel the event so that Trump doesn’t suffer another Tulsa–like humiliation. “They probably won’t have it,” the source said. “It’s not going to be the soft landing Trump wanted.”

With the coronavirus raging through Florida, a one-third capacity turnout would have been a big number for Trump’s acceptance speech. Trump’s rallies have long been used as an ego-boosting tool, and now that his own incompetence has taken them away, Donald Trump has nowhere to get his cult leader fix.

Jacksonville didn’t want Trump’s convention, and it looks like holding any sort of convention with people attending will backfire on him as the US is setting daily coronavirus case records.

The man who relies on rallies to measure his success had to cancel his acceptance speech because it would have resulted in a fresh round of humiliation.

The script is being written for a perfect ending to the presidential days of Donald Trump.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

Follow Jason Easley on Facebook

Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and  Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association