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Tag: biden transition

Biden Taps First Transgender Woman For Senate-Confirmed Post

President Joe Biden nominated Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender Pennsylvania Health Secretary, to be his assistant secretary of health yesterday, according to several news outlets. If approved Levine will become the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate.

"A deeply experienced public servant and public health expert, she is poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate," announced a tweet from the official White House Twitter account.



"Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond," Biden said in a statement. "She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration's health efforts.

The nomination is a huge step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in America and a continuation of the promise President Biden made to have a diverse Cabinet. Levine will join Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg, who became the first openly gay nominee for a Senate-confirmed position, as the firsts in the LGBTQ+ community to be nominated for Senate-confirmed postions. She will also become the fourth Tulane alumnus nominated for a position within the Biden-Harris administration.




Levine, who "has emerged as the public face of the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic," according to AP , will assume her role as the U.S. has already surpassed 400,000 Covid-19 deaths.

"Rachel Levine's nomination represents a long sought-after leap in political representation for the embattled trans community," read a Pink News article. "And a tremendous turning point in a country that has witnessed the Trump's administration years-long attacks against LGBT+ rights as well as surging rates of transphobic violence."

Kyle Knight, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, pointed out an article by InterAct a group that advocates for intersex youth.

How To Answer The Criminal Delusions Of Donald J. Trump

Some years ago, my wife and I were walking along the edge of horse pasture when a stampede broke out. We heard them before we saw them. Nine big mares—Shire/thoroughbred crosses—went thundering past at a dead gallop, a thrilling and somewhat scary sight.

I knew them all by name, they knew me, and a horse will never trample you on purpose, but these were 1500 pound animals fleeing headlong at 30 mph. The only thing to do was freeze for a heart-stopping moment. As the herd swept past I noticed the two youngest animals at the rear looking back over their shoulders and making eye contact, as if to say: "I don't see anything chasing us. Do you? Why are we running?"

Just then the lead mare went pounding into a run-in shed and stopped dead. The rest imitated her at once. Evidently the whole thing had been caused by a horse fly on the herd boss's butt.

The equine equivalent, if you will, of Donald Trump tweets about election fraud. Except that the horse fly was real, and if you've ever been bitten, you'd run too. To hear Boss Trump's aggravated supporters, however, most are stampeding from largely imaginary dangers.

Consider, for example, the Colorado man who told the New York Times that he quit his job as fuel truck driver because he refused to wear a mask. He sees masking not as a temporary public health measure but a harbinger of tyranny. He sees himself as "a guy up on the wall of a city seeing the enemy coming, and ringing the alarm bell."

He asked reporter Sabrina Tavernise if she's "OK with internment camps if you refuse to wear a mask or take a vaccination?"

In short, he's a naive fellow whose judgement has been overwhelmed by Trump and right-wing talk radio. It happens to a lot of guys that drive trucks; all alone on the highway with Rush Limbaugh.

At this point, it's worthwhile revisiting the wisdom of Charles Mackay, the 19th century Scottish author of "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds." "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

The abiding political question of the moment is how many Trump cultists are as smart as those two skeptical mares at the back of the herd?

Also, can calm, steadfast Joe Biden end the stampede?

On a related question, it's also worthwhile quoting Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat. Asked by NJ.com what he thought about letting bygones be bygones after a Trumpist mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, he responded with deadpan Jersey sarcasm: "Yes, we've got to come together," he said. "I'm not going to condemn someone who just attempted to kidnap and kill me. It would only foster division."

In short, the new administration is going to have to proceed in two directions at once: restoring rational, competent governance even as it deals sternly with the criminal delusions Trump left behind.

The staggering incompetence of the Trump administration's handling of Covid-19 vaccines poses both a threat and an opportunity. "This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country," Biden has said. "You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation."

They damn well better. It's the public health equivalent of the Normandy landings of 1944. The lives of millions are at stake. To be honest, I thought Biden was exaggerating when he said just after the election that the Trump administration had no plan for the vaccine rollout. But it was simply a fact.

Partly because Trump himself has no interest anything that doesn't directly affect him, and partly because he filled his administration with incompetent brown-nosers, the matchless capacities of the Federal government to produce, distribute, and administer the vaccines mainly sat idle.

When people begin to see the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard setting up thousands of mass inoculation sites and sending mobile medical teams into remote communities, the political climate in the country will also begin to change. It will be a hard slog, but the day this accursed plague begins to recede will be the day Trumpism does too.

Ask somebody who's already been vaccinated how relieved they feel.

Meanwhile, as Rep. Malinowski implies, some of those jerks who invaded Congress need to do serious prison time. Maybe even the head insurrectionist himself, depending upon how much active collusion investigators can find.

"The mob was fed lies," Sen. Mitch McConnell has said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence" to stop the votes being counted.

The word for that is sedition, and the remedy begins with impeachment.

Tearful Biden Delivers Heartfelt Farewell To Delaware

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On the day before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden spoke at a send-off event in Delaware — and he was overcome with emotion when discussing his connection to his adopted state.

Biden, now 78, was only 29 when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate via Delaware back in 1972. After decades in the Senate, Biden was sworn in as vice president in January 2009 as part of President Barack Obama's administration.

The president-elect, originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, explained, "My colleagues in the Senate used to always kid me for quoting Irish poets. They thought I did it because I'm Irish. I didn't do it for that reason; I did it because they're the best poets in the world."

Biden added, "James Joyce was said to have told a friend that when it comes his time to pass — when he dies, he says, 'Dublin will be written on my heart.'"

Overcome for a moment, Biden paused and then continued, "Well, excuse the emotion. But when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart and the hearts of all of us — all the Bidens." At one point, he wiped way a tear from his eye.

Sunday’s ‘Million Militia March’ On DC And State Capitals Disrupted By Chaos On Far Right

Reprinted with permission from Daily kos

The far-right extremists who overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 are far from done—but it's also far from clear where they plan to strike next. That's because the organizers of the various pro-Trump factions behind last week's insurrection can't agree on whether to hold a fresh round of protests in state capitals around the nation, or to focus their fire on Washington, D.C., for militia-based protests beginning Sunday and perhaps extending into Inauguration Day on Wednesday.

On the one hand, a number of far-right factions have been assiduously organizing armed protests—and possible statehouse invasions—at the Capitols of all 50 states, many of which appear to be ill-prepared for the onslaught. Yet a number of factions are urging people to ignore those protests—even conspiratorially smearing them as "false flags"—and instead concentrate their efforts on creating a massive turnout for Sunday's planned "Million Militia March" in D.C.

The plans for a "Round 2" began appearing in posts within hours of the initial Capitol siege on Jan. 6. About a day later, the first announcement appeared on the currently-defunct right-wing social-media site Parler, from an account associated with the authoritarian QAnon cult, announcing a "Million Militia March" for Jan. 17. It read:

Millions of American Militia will meet in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2021 for the purpose of preventing any attempt by the treasonous domestic enemy Joe Biden, or any other member of the Communist Organized Crime Organization known as the Democratic Party, from entering the White House belonging to We The People.
In the event that justice is miraculously served and our Re-Elected President Donald J. Trump is sworn in: The President, the capital and our National Monuments will be protected from the proven-violent Leftist insurgents who have declared war on the United States of America and have been committing a massive insurrection in the United States of America.

About the same time, an event called the "Million Martyr March"—honoring Ashli Babbitt, the woman who was shot to death during the Capitol siege while attempting to storm House chambers—was promoted on Parler, planned for Inauguration Day. The post promoting the event appeared shortly after the militia event was announced, featuring a flier with a logo and text ("On January 6th an unarmed woman was shot and killed in our nation's capitol. Two weeks after her death we will march to demand justice for all Americans") misspelling Babbitt's name, as it happened. The march appears to be largely considered supplemental to the larger militia event on Sunday.

The Parler posters supporting the Million Militia March, freed from the constraints of mainstream platforms, were unrepentant in their open calls to engage in insurrectionist violence. In one post, a self-described "retired colonel" boasted that the Sunday march, and possibly others in the following days, would be awe-inspiring in its size.

"If we must, many of us will return on January 19 carrying our weapons, in support of our nation's resolve, to which the world will never forget," he wrote. "We will come in numbers that no standing army or police agency can match. However the police are not our enemy, unless they choose to be!"

He added: "All who will not stand with the American Patriots … or who cannot stand with us … then that would be a good time for you to take a few vacation days."

Some of the Million Militia March advocates dismissed state-level protests as distractions at best, and nefarious government "false flag" operations intended to ensnare unsuspecting "Patriots." "Do not attend armed protests at state capitols before inauguration! Possible sinister plot hatched by radical left to take away gun rights!" a post in a Telegram chatroom devoted to the far right read.

A Washington Post report on the online organizing for the events cited a study by the anti-disinformation organization Althea Group, which surveyed the broad array of post-January 6 discussions by far-right groups, and found that some of the insurrectionists took an "all of the above" approach as well.

"REFUSE TO BE SILENCED," read an online post calling for an "ARMED MARCH ON CAPITOL HILL & ALL STATE CAPITOLS" for Sunday. Another advocated action at "DC & All State Capitols," signed by "common folk who are tired of being tread upon" and declaring: "We were warned!"

Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League told the Associated Press that the D.C. events appear unlikely to draw a massive crowd. In either case, a lack of agreement on a strategy appears likely to dilute both the state-level and D.C. protests.

As Politico's Tina Nguyen and Mark Scott explain, the far right's organizing efforts—as well as efforts to counter them—are complicated by the chaotic and decentralized nature of the pro-Trump forces online. The posts advocating and organizing the events are to be found not simply on Telegram—which has in fact become a major hub, thanks to the 25 million new usersit gained since the purge of the far right from mainstream platforms last week—but in such predictable locations as the far-right-friendly platform Gab, as well as on unexpected platforms such as TikTok.

TikTok videos from influencers bearing the Three Percenters logo as their avatar, referring to the anti-government militia movement, are hyping up future protests — even going so far as to publish videos of them collecting ammunition and guns, while playing doctored audio suggesting that Trump wants them to target his vice president, Mike Pence.
On Gab and Telegram, two fringe networks frequented by white nationalist and other extremist groups, mysteriously-originated videos of military personnel walking around American cities have also gone viral, with social media users either questioning if such activity was part of support for Donald Trump's presidency or efforts by the government to clamp down on people's constitutional rights.

Woven among many of these pro-militia videos on Tik Tok is a groundless conspiracy theory claiming that martial law is imminent in America. According to Media Matters, the TikTok "MartialLaw" hashtag has over 26 million views, while a similar "MartialLawIsComing" hashtag has attracted over 1.1 million viewers. At both hashtags, the top videos "contain panic-inducing misinformation about martial law."

The confusion has spread some wavering commitments on the part of participants. Politico notes that the far-right militia group Boogaloo Bois originally organized their own event for Sunday but then attempted to cancel it. Warning that "mainstream headlines" had drawn too much attention, they nonetheless encouraged any protesters out that day to bring weapons to Washington, despite the city's well-known ban on the open carry of firearms: "If you can carry legally, you can carry," they claimed.

Some major far-right figures are throwing up their arms and running away from all of these events—declaring, in typically paranoid fashion, that both the state-level and D.C. protests are "Deep State" plots to draw "Patriots" into criminal behavior for which they can be arrested, or by far-left "antifa" schemers hoping to make MAGA supporters look bad. Among the leading voices of this contingent is Infowars' Alex Jones.

"Do not go to capitols armed, do not be part of the demonstrations on January 20th. It's run by the globalists," Jones warned on Tuesday. "There isn't some secret plan to overthrow things so Trump wins. All you're doing is cementing things as domestic terrorists, so Biden can cement a new Patriot Act and come after you."

What’s Wrong With Joe Biden’s ‘Identity Politics’?


In 1980, a presidential candidate pledged to appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court. "It is time for a woman to sit among our highest jurists," said Ronald Reagan, and in 1981, he kept his promise by nominating Sandra Day O'Connor.

In 2008, John McCain made history by choosing the party's first female vice presidential candidate. Announcing his choice of Sarah Palin, he said he was "especially proud to say in the week we celebrate the anniversary of women's suffrage" that she was "a devoted wife and a mother of five."

From the criticisms of Joe Biden's choices for his Cabinet and other senior positions, you might think that Democrats had a monopoly on what is condemned as "identity politics" — selecting people because they represent specific groups (racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation) rather than because of their qualifications. But both parties have made a point of highlighting their efforts to expand representation beyond white men.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Donald Trump promised to appoint a woman to fill the vacancy, and nobody objected. At her confirmation hearing Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, welcomed Amy Coney Barrett as "a fellow woman, a fellow mom, a fellow Midwesterner."

But when Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate, he was accused of elevating someone underqualified for the job. It was alleged that he chose her only because she checked so many boxes, being Black, Asian American and female. One critic lamented that Biden had not "searched the entire adult population and determined she was the best person for the job." Like that's unusual.

Never mind that Harris had 16 years of experience in elective office at the local, state and federal level, or that she had enough political skills and substantive heft to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Never mind that among the credentials cited for the pathetically unprepared Palin was — I'm not making this up — that she knew "how to properly field-dress a moose."

How many vice presidential candidates have been chosen strictly for their brains and experience? Age, religion and state of origin have all been regarded as reasonable criteria. Mike Pence's chief asset was that he could appeal to an important constituency: white evangelical Christians. Palin was not the first who didn't qualify purely on merit. Anyone remember Dan Quayle? Or Spiro Agnew?

As for the Cabinet, Biden would have to make a strenuous effort to find appointees less qualified than many of Trump's. Rex Tillerson, picked for secretary of state, had no diplomatic background. Ditto for U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

Barack Obama's first energy secretary, Steven Chu, had a Nobel Prize in physics. Trump's, Rick Perry, had a bachelor's degree in animal science. Ben Carson, an African American neurosurgeon, was tapped to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development even though he had no expertise in housing, aside from living in it.

Doubts have been raised about Susan Rice, a Black woman chosen to head Biden's Domestic Policy Council despite a background almost entirely in foreign and security affairs. But Biden pointed out, accurately, that she "knows government inside and out" and "is among our nation's most senior and experienced government leaders." Not to mention that she worked with him in the White House and earned his confidence.

Washington Examiner columnist Michael Barone insists that "among the public, if not in the press, most people care more about policy than ethnicity, more about competence than ticket-balancing." Easy for a peevish white guy to say. But he shouldn't fret. Biden's appointees will be appreciably more competent than the people they replace.

It's true that Biden has taken care to stock his administration with women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, a Native American and an openly gay man. But what's wrong with including groups that have always been underrepresented?

"Identity politics is often a euphemism for 'shrill minority voices I don't like,'" says Jonathan Blanks, a Black scholar at the centrist Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. "People experience America differently. Including them is valuable for understanding what is wrong and how it needs to be changed."

Conservatives say they long for a time when such differences as race, sexual orientation and gender will be irrelevant. They fail to understand that it will happen only after diversity in leadership is so commonplace that it is barely noticed. When that happy day arrives, some people will owe Biden an apology.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

How Biden’s Team Is Building Back Government, Better

With the Biden-Harris transition in full gear, I can't help but be reminded of my time working on the Obama-Biden transition in late 2008 and early 2009. A quote from the mega-hit musical "Hamilton" keeps popping into my head. There's a scene in which Alexander Hamilton and George Washington are going back and forth during a Cabinet meeting, and Washington says to Hamilton, "Ah, winning was easy, young man. Governing's harder."

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Democrats Demand Answers From GSA Chief On Transition Holdup

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

It took them a little while, but House Democrats have gotten around to asking General Services Administration head Emily Murphy to explain just why she's holding up the transfer of power at great risk to the nation.

"We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer," wrote Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), in a letter calling on Murphy to brief lawmakers by Monday, with the possibility of a public hearing involving Murphy and her top deputies to be held later.

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