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Tag: james clyburn

Why So-Called Tough Guys Are Always Punching Down

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The late great stand-up, actor and occasional philosopher George Carlin was known to cross the lines of what polite society would call good taste, but he himself drew a few lines when it came to his theory of funny.

Asked by Larry King in 1990 about popular bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Carlin, while defending Clay's right to say whatever, said, "His targets are underdogs. And comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power." Clay's core audience, Carlin said, were "young white males" threatened by Clay's targets, assertive women and immigrants among them.

Rule-breaker Eddie Murphy came to look back on his younger self, the brash young man dressed in leather, and cringe, especially at his jokes about women and relationships, he told The New York Times in 2019. "I was a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an …" — well, you get the idea.

In today's cruel world, it's not just comedians punching down, reaching for the "easy" joke, setting new and low standards, though a few still revel in their ability to shock (see Michael Che and his approving nods to vile remarks about the sexual abuse of young female athletes).

Many who should know better have given up seeking a more perfect union, one that welcomes all. They see advantage in aggression and, unlike Murphy, don't feel one bit embarrassed when reflecting on their words and actions.

In fact, the "punching" is the point, and it's always aimed squarely at those perceived as less powerful, from poor and disabled Americans who want to vote without jumping through unnecessary hoops and facing intimidation from poll watchers to transgender children eager to play sports to Black and brown students who would like their role in the country's history to be taught without accommodation for those too fragile to hear the truth.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recent, threatening words involved actual hitting, in this case the speaker of the House and third in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi. At a Republican fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee over the weekend, when presented with an oversize gavel, McCarthy said: "I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it." According to audio, the crowd of about 1,400 laughed.

McCarthy can almost taste the speakership, with voting restrictions in the states and new gerrymandered districts being teed up, and the Supreme Court and a Senate stalled on voting legislation helping to clear the way. He's already referring to Pelosi as a lame duck. For him and his followers, the angry rhetoric isn't something to be ashamed of; it's dessert, a way to rile up the base and rake in the cash.

While not approving of the violent January 6 insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, McCarthy tried to block an investigation of the attack and said he ignored the testimony of brutalized police officers before the select committee that's proceeding without him. McCarthy seems to have forgotten his reported initial pleas to then-President Donald Trump to rein in his supporters that day.

Does he remember or care, as he's piling on, that the rioters particularly targeted Pelosi, defiled her office and called out "Where's Nancy?" in their best impression of Jack Nicholson's demented howl in The Shining?

The trickle-down effect that Republican politicians are so fond of when it comes to justifying tax cuts for the wealthy is certainly true when it comes to this style of "tough guy" posturing, as January 6 proved, though you can bet those rioters would not have been so free employing their weaponized flagpoles and bear spray if they were confronting each officer one-on-one.

The same goes for the bullies who don't need masks, but want to fight businesses trying to safely staff and operate their shops and restaurants, or the anti-vaxxers who show little concern for children too young to get vaccinated or neighbors who because of age or medical complications are at risk.

It's predictable that the tough guys and gals, so anxious to pick a fight — verbal and otherwise — offer a tsunami of excuses when called to account. That's usually the case with bullies.

The January 6 lawbreakers are blaming Trump, QAnon and the heat of the moment; some Republicans unbelievably blame Pelosi herself for the violence that targeted her. Professional comic Che says he was hacked, and amateur comic McCarthy claims he was "obviously joking" when he taunted the speaker.

I'd respect them all a lot more if they'd just own their perfidy. Instead, they do their damage with a wink before backing off, managing to look both mean and weak.

When I spoke with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn last week on my Equal Time podcast, he didn't have the time or desire to insult anyone. As someone who in the 1960s was in the middle of the fight for the Voting Rights Act, he would rather talk about the current battle to protect the rights promised in that landmark legislation — and to save democracy itself.

Convincing those who don't believe it's their fight won't be easy. But Clyburn has the optimism of someone who, in the face of real danger, helped take on the segregated South. In "punching up" at a system designed to hold "powerless" Americans down, he and all those who changed history showed a toughness that a gavel-toting McCarthy and company can only dream about.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer, and was national correspondent for Politics Daily. She is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Newly Released Emails Show Trump Appointees Tried To Slow Virus Testing

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Newly released emails written by a former Trump administration official show just how deep the effort to slow down the testing of Americans for the coronavirus went, as political appointees sought to meet Donald Trump's demand to make the number of cases look smaller in an effort to bolster his reelection chances.

The emails were released by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which has been investigating Trump's failed pandemic response. The Washington Post first reported on the emails, which the committee says prove there was political interference in the Trump administration's virus response efforts.

The emails were sent by Paul Alexander, a Trump political appointee who was behind an effort to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop testing asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the coronavirus. Alexander was the same official who Politico reported in December was behind the push for a "herd immunity" strategy, in which Alexander wanted millions of people to be infected with the coronavirus to build community resistance to it and end the pandemic — a strategy public health officials said was dangerous and could have led to many more deaths.

The committee wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden's chief of staff that "recently obtained evidence shows that political appointees were involved in the decision to change CDC's guidance, and that the Trump Administration changed the guidance for the explicit purpose of reducing testing and allowing the virus to spread while quickly reopening the economy."

In an Aug. 27, 2020, email obtained by the committee, Alexander wrote, "Testing asymptomatic people to seek asymptomatic cases is not the point of testing, for in the end, all this accomplishes is we end up quarantining asymptomatic, low risk people and preventing the workforce from working. In this light, it would be unreasonable based on the prevailing data to have widespread testing of schools and colleges/universities. This will not allow them to optimally re-open."

The email was sent one day after the CDC changed its guidance to say that asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the virus did not need to get tested, against the advice of public health experts who said finding asymptomatic infected people before they could unwittingly infect others was an important tool for stopping the pandemic from getting out of control.

The decision to change testing recommendations led to a barrage of criticism, and the CDC reversed the guidance a month later.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said that the investigation into the Trump administration's failures in handling the pandemic will continue, and requested more documents sent by political appointees and career civil servants in the health department related to Trump's coronavirus response, including the rollout of vaccines.

Trump left office with the COVID-19 pandemic raging out of control. More than 463,000 people have died of complications related to the virus to date in the United States.

Biden is now working to stem the spread of the virus. Jeff Zients, the co-coordinator of Biden's COVID-19 task force, told reporters after Biden took office, "What we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Congress Launches Probe Of Meatpacking Worker Fatalities In Pandemic

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

A key congressional panel launched an investigation this week into the wave of COVID-19 infections that killed hundreds of workers at meatpacking plants nationwide last year and highlighted longstanding hazards in the industry.

Since the start of the pandemic, the meat industry has struggled to contain the virus in its facilities, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas have endured some of the biggest workplace outbreaks in the country.

The meat companies' employees, many of them immigrants and refugees, slice pig bellies or cut up chicken carcasses in close quarters. Many of them don't speak English and aren't granted paid sick leave. To date, more than 50,000 meatpacking workers have been infected and at least 250 have died, according to a ProPublica tally.

The congressional investigation, opened by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, will examine the role of JBS, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, three of the nation's largest meat companies, which, the subcommittee said, had “refused to take basic precautions to protect their workers" and had “shown a callous disregard for workers' health."

The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House.

In response to the subcommittee's announcement, officials for JBS and Tyson said that the companies had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to implement coronavirus protections and to temporarily increase pay and benefits, and they looked forward to discussing their pandemic safety efforts with the panel. Smithfield said in a statement that it had also taken “extraordinary measures" to protect employees from the virus, spending more than $700 million on workplace modifications, testing and equipment.

The House subcommittee noted that reports from a variety of news organizations had illuminated problems with how the meatpacking companies handled the pandemic, and with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's enforcement efforts. The subcommittee cited ProPublica's reporting on how meat companies blindsided local public health departments, and on Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' efforts to intervene when local health officials tried to temporarily shutter a JBS plant amid an outbreak.

ProPublica has also documented how meat companies ignored years of warnings from the federal government about how a pandemic could tear through a food processing facility, and chronicled the role that meatpacking plants like a Tyson pork facility in Waterloo, Iowa, have played in spreading the virus to the surrounding community.

The subcommittee's inquiry will also scrutinize the federal government's shortcomings in protecting meatpacking workers. “Public reports indicate that under the Trump Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failed to adequately carry out its responsibility for enforcing worker safety laws at meatpacking plants across the country, resulting in preventable infections and deaths," according to the subcommittee's letter to OSHA.

The subcommittee also said that the agency had issued only a “few meager fines" and “failed to show urgency in addressing safety hazards at the meatpacking facilities it inspected." The letter noted that OSHA had received complaints about JBS and Smithfield plants months before the agency conducted inspections.

David Seligman, a lawyer who helped meatpacking workers in Pennsylvania file a lawsuit against OSHA during the pandemic, said he hopes the subcommittee's efforts are “just one of the initial steps" to holding companies accountable and ensuring workers are safe. “The harm inflicted on meat-processing workers during this pandemic, in service of the profits of corporate meat-packing companies and under a government that seemed happy to turn a blind eye, is a grave scandal," Seligman wrote in an email.

In a statement, a Department of Labor spokesperson said that the subcommittee's inquiry is “focused on the Trump administration's actions surrounding the protection of workers from COVID-19 related risks," and the agency is committed to protecting workers, and that new guidance on coronavirus enforcement that was issued in late January will serve as a “first step."

In its Feb. 1 letters to OSHA, JBS, Tyson and Smithfield, the subcommittee has requested documents related to government inspections at meatpacking plants and COVID-19 complaints lodged with the companies. OSHA was asked to brief the subcommittee by Feb. 15.

Democrats Suggest Capitol Attackers Had Inside Assistance

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

At least five House Democrats have said that evidence suggests both Capitol Police and Republican members of Congress may have aided and abetted the terror attack on Jan. 6, in which a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol as they tried to stop President-elect Joe Biden from being certified the winner of the 2020 election.

The comments from the Democratic lawmakers are chilling and come after those lawmakers have received private briefings from Capitol Police about the attack — which law enforcement was woefully unprepared for.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) made the most pointed accusation about Republican members of Congress possibly being involved in the attack. Sherrill, a retired Navy helicopter pilot who became a federal prosecutor after leaving the military, said in a Tuesday night video:

... Not only do I intend to see that the president is removed and never runs for office again and doesn't have access to classified material, I also intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted him; those members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 — a reconnaissance for the next day; those members of Congress that incited this violent crowd; those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy; I'm going to see they are held accountable, and if necessary, ensure that they don't serve in Congress.

Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), who served as chief of the Orlando Police Department before being elected to Congress, also suggested there may have been inside help, either from the Capitol Police or others.

Demings said on CNN on Wednesday morning:

Obviously this was a well-planned, well-coordinated breach of security, attack on our capital, and I do believe when we look at how the attackers were able to, they knew where they were going in many instances they knew directly where they were going, and I know many members of Congress get lost in the Capitol, and so I do believe there was some inside assistance. We know that there are officers that are being investigated, and others.

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley's chief of staff told the Boston Globe, "Every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit," suggesting something untoward had gone on.

And last week, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) suggested the attackers may have had help from within the building.

Clyburn said in an interview on SiriusXM on Jan. 8:

And the one place where my name is on a door, that office is right on Statuary Hall. They didn't touch that door. But they went into that other place where I do most of my work, they showed up up there. Harassing my staff. How did they know to go there? … How they didn't go where my name was? Then where you won't find my name, but they found where I was supposed to be. So something else is going on untoward here. So we need to have an extensive investigation to find out.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in an Instagram live video on Tuesday night that she does not feel safe around Republican members of Congress because she fears they, "would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera."

Some House Democrats are worried that their colleagues from across the aisle pose a danger.

An unnamed Democratic lawmaker told HuffPost that there is an "eyes-wide-open realization" that there must be precautions taken against "all these members who were in league with the insurrectionists who love to carry their guns."

"You can't just let them bypass security and walk right up to [Joe] Biden and [Kamala] Harris at inauguration," the unnamed lawmaker told HuffPost's Matt Fuller.

It's possibly why metal detectors were installed outside the House floor — machines that Republican lawmakers are blatantly refusing to use, ignoring orders from Capitol Police.

With each day, more video evidence emerges depicting acts of violence at the Capitol.

Video has captured rioters chanting that they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence, and a platform with a noose was erected outside of the Capitol building.

Another video shows rioters plotting where to go within the building, including a discussion of floor plans and where to go to "take the building."

Law enforcement officers say they are using the video and photos from that day to find and arrest the perpetrators.

To date, five people, including one Capitol Police officer and four pro-Trump rioters, have died from the attack.

Democratic lawmakers have made moves to try to expel congressional Republicans who helped incite the violence as well as those who voted to invalidate Biden's win.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

News Outlets Promote False Narrative Blaming Democrats For Relief Bill Failure

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

As the country grapples with the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, news shows are embracing a false Republican narrative that Democrats are to blame for a delay in the renewal of extended economic benefits. The fact is that Republicans waited until the eleventh hour to even make a proposal to begin with, while the Democratic-led House has been passing bills for months.

The economic stakes here are very high, and carry real consequences. With all the economic dislocation from the virus, the Census Bureau announced last week nearly 30 million Americans did not get enough to eat last week. While the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment assistance is keeping many people afloat, there exists the potential for up to 40 million Americans to lose their homes, "four times the amount seen during the Great Recession."

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House Republicans Insisted On Probing Benghazi — But Not Coronavirus Carnage

The House of Representatives voted 212 to 182 on Thursday to create a special panel to oversee the coronavirus pandemic and the federal government's response. But all 181 Republicans present and one conservative independent opposed the measure, with many dismissing the request for additional oversight as a scheme to hurt Donald Trump during an election year.

The new Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will be chaired by Majority Whip James Clyburn, under the auspices of the Oversight Committee. It will have broad subpoena power and be tasked with overseeing taxpayer-funded COVID-19 relief programs, the pandemic's economic impact, any disparate impact on minorities, and the executive branch's preparedness, response, and decision-making.

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Key South Carolina Democrat Clyburn Endorses Clinton For President

(Reuters) – U.S. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina backed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, giving her campaign a vital boost from the state’s most influential black politician ahead of next week’s primary.

Clyburn’s endorsement comes as Clinton battles rival Bernie Sanders for the support of blacks in the South Carolina contest on Feb. 27, when more than half of the voters are likely to be black.

Polls show Clinton with a solid double-digit lead in South Carolina, fueled by strong African-American support. Clyburn’s backing could help solidify that lead.

“Campaigns are and should be about the future, and I believe that the future of the Democratic Party and the United States of America will be best served with the experience and know-how of Hillary Clinton as our 45th president,” Clyburn said at a news conference in South Carolina.

Clyburn, the No. 3 ranked Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives and the only Democrat in Congress from South Carolina, stayed neutral in the bitter 2008 race between Clinton and Barack Obama.

But he said he decided to get involved this time because Clinton was well positioned to tackle many of the challenges facing minorities and the country.

“Hillary Clinton is a fighter, and that’s what we need for our next president,” Clyburn said.

Clinton and Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, have been courting support from black civil rights leaders and voters as the Democratic race has moved on from mostly white Iowa, where Clinton narrowly won, and New Hampshire, where Sanders routed Clinton.

(Reporting by John Whitesides and Megan Cassella; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

Photo: U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn speaks at a press conference held at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina February 19, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Endorse This: James Clyburn’s Risqué Plan To Get Out The Vote

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Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) has a suggestion for getting young people to the polls this November — but it doesn’t mean what the congressman thinks it does.

Click above to see Clyburn propose a get-out-the-vote plan that only Anthony Weiner could love — then share this video!

Video via Buzz Sourse/YouTube.

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