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Cheryl Eichar Jett / Opinion


Biden's VP Pick Checks 

All The Right Boxes


By Cheryl Eichar Jett
Opinion/Analysis
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   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill., (RP NEWS) - 8/17/2020 - One hundred years nearly to the day (August 18, 1920) after the ratification of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed American women (white women, anyway) the vote, a multi-racial woman – Kamala Harris – made history this past week as the first woman of color to run for vice-president on a major

Graph courtesy of statista
party ticket. After a closely-followed, much-speculated, but tightly-held process to determine his pick, former vice-president Joe Biden selected Senator Harris (D-CA) and on Tuesday, August 11, he announced his pick via Twitter. His tweet was picked up immediately and news outlets quickly spread the announcement. Republican mistruths and conspiracies were not far behind.

   In many opinions, including my own, Sen. Harris checks all the right boxes to serve as former vice-president Joe Biden's running mate. Some of these are obvious. She's a woman – of color. And some check marks have been on display – in spades – particularly since the announcement. Motivated supporters contributed, allowing the campaign to rake in $48 million in as many hours. And, fulfilling one of the modern roles of a vice-presidential candidate, Harris has shown that she's capable of assuming the role of attack dog.

   So what are the ways that Harris fills the bill as Biden's vice-presidential candidate – and as vice-president, should their Democratic ticket win the election?

Attack Dog

   Harris has already proven that she can competently handle the task of launching attacks on the opposition. At their August 11 press conference, she and Biden seemed to already have their routine down pat. Biden outlined issues and touched on policies, while Harris offered attacks on the Trump administration's failures, followed by assurances that Biden would capably lead their new administration. Several pundits have been heard commenting on Harris' ability to “throw a real good punch.” And Joy Reid, MSNBC host of “The ReidOut,” commented that “anyone who criticizes her will face a wall of opposition.” Harris has been a fierce and consistent critic of Trump. Reid has called her the “anti-Trump.”

Kamala Harris / Wikimedia Commons
Female During the Trump Era

   Of course, this is a historically significant pick in the era of the “me too” movement, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, and the surge of women voters and electees in the 2018 election. Harris is the first African American, the first Asian American, and the first Howard University (a historically black college) vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) said, “This is huge.” Presidential historian Michael Beschloss described the pick as it “recognizes the glory of diversity in America.” Beschloss added that Harris' entire career had been spent “defending the rule of law, at the time the rule of law is under grave danger from the president.” “A really qualified choice and future leader of the Democratic party,” said political consultant James Carville.

Biden's Preference For a Close Connection

   Harris became good friends with Biden's son Beau when they were fellow state attorney generals – Harris in California and Beau Biden in Delaware. That's when Joe Biden first met Harris. Sharp-eyed journalists and photographers zeroed in on Biden's notes at a campaign on July 28, which at the top of the list said “do not hold grudges,” assumed to be a reference to Harris' sharp attack on Biden in the first primary debate over Biden's opposition to school busing in the 1970s. Biden apparently kept his own advice in mind. Columnist Eugene Robinson commented that both Biden and Harris “ have the empathetic connection thing going for them.”

Harris' Multi-Racialism Offers Many Americans A Connection

   Harris' Indian mother and Jamaican father emigrated to the US, where they married and had two daughters, Kamala and Maya. At her graduation from Howard University, Harris looked around and realized how many graduates looked like her – multi-racial. In John Blake's article, “Why Kamala Harris as VPwould be a revelation for Black America,” Blake states, “Presidential candidate Joe Biden's selection of Harris as his running mate could have a similar impact. Thousands of students at Howard and other historically Black colleges and universities – known as HBCUs – can now look at the 55-year-old Harris' ascension and say the same: She looks like me.”

Articulate and Strong Debater

   Joe Biden, if he didn't already know, found this out during the televised first primary debate when Harris went after him on his school busing stance back in the 1970s. Reverend Al Sharpton has called her a “very good debater. She will give Vice-President Pence a very bad evening in the debates.” At the same time, she is clear-eyed about what will be coming at her, both on the vice-presidential debate stage and in the opposition's ads and tweets. Harris has stated in interviews that she knows what's coming from the Trump campaign – “lies.”

Reputation as Champion For The People

   Harris' reputation-making achievement as California Attorney General was the $20 billion in settlement funds for California homeowners that her negotiations eventually garnered. Playing hardball and pulling out of the nationwide mortgage settlement talks in 2011, Harris was under fire from housing rights advocates and union leaders for doing so. In the long run, the larger mortgage settlement – the $20 billion – finally came through to mitigate some of the disastrous effects of the financial and housing crisis of 2008.

Liberal Voting Record In The Senate

   Despite a reputation that seems to persist as a “law and order” or “top cop” senator, Harris has maintained one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate during her term as junior senator from California, according to watchdog groups. A recent ranking by the government watchdog website GovTrack.us ranked Harris more liberal than Bernie Sanders.

In Duo With Biden, Given Voters A Clear Choice

   The Biden-Harris campaign presents a clear choice between government for the people, and government for one's own purposes and pockets, as exhibited by the Trump administration. The Biden-Harris team has been visible in the past week providing leadership on the COVID crisis that is sorely lacking from the current occupant of the White House. As Princeton University James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies, author, and cable news commentator Eddie S. Glaude Jr. said recently, it will now be a “reckoning at the ballot box” between two very stark choices.

Fund raising

   And finally, as mentioned above, her announcement as VP pick touched off a record-breaking wave of donations to the campaign. Of course, Biden is hoping that this is the tip of the iceberg as their campaign gathers steam. See: Biden Campaign Raise $48 Million in 2 Days

   As Harris continues to prove her mettle on these points, one can't help but think, even if it's a simplistic notion, that it's a rewarding nod to the 19th Amendment ratification 100 years ago, and to the suffragettes who made it happen.

 

 

 

The Great 2020

Bathroom Tissue 'Hoard'


By Cheryl Eichar Jett
Opinion/Analysis

   (RP News) - 8/3/2020 - None of us will forget the events of the first half of 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest drop in the U.S. economy in history, record business closings and job losses, and the politicization of everything from the mask to the virus itself. As of this writing, there have been 155,000 deaths heading up to a possible and unthinkable 200,000.
   Then there was the toilet paper shortage.
An assortment of toilet paper roles and packages.
In the middle of March, when closings were about to begin and the news coverage of the pandemic expanded, consumer panic buying was in full swing. Staples, canned goods, snacks, shelf-stable foods, bottled water, flour, you name it, were all flying off the shelves as customers packed the grocery stores. And disinfectant, wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper flat out disappeared. TV news shows were quick to highlight the shortages and showed scenes of packed stores, frenzied shoppers, long lines, overflowing shopping carts, and empty shelves.
   By June, supply was catching up with demand, and tissue was again available most everywhere, although customers sometimes had to settle for less than their preferred brand or abide by the store's package limits.
   Then, the Max Planck Institute (https://www.mpg.de/en) in Germany published the results of a study conducted in March with 1,029 adults from 35 countries, and the shortage was once again a topic of interest.
   The researchers had set out to investigate “the relation between personality traits, perceived threat of COVID-19, and stockpiling of toilet paper in an online survey (N = 996) across 22 countries. (Citation: Garbe L, Rau R, Toppe T (2020) Influence of perceived threat of Covid-19 and HEXACO personality traits on toilet paper stockpiling. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234232.
   Using a personality assessment called the HEXACO Inventory, the researchers assessed the participants' purchases according to six personality characteristics, finding that participants high in “conscientiousness” and “emotionality” were most likely to panic-buy or hoard. The study also revealed that, not surprisingly due to increased risk from COVID-19 in the elderly, age was a factor in the “emotionality” category.
   The study concluded that, “The most robust predictor of toilet paper stockpiling was the perceived threat posed by COVID-19. People who feel more threatened by the pandemic stockpile more toilet paper. Given that stockpiling is objectively unrelated to saving lives or jobs during a health crisis, this finding supports the notion that toilet paper functions as a purely subjective symbol of safety. We also found that this effect was partly based on the personality factor of Emotionality. Around 20 percent of the differences in toilet paper consumption that were explained by feelings of threat were based on people’s dispositional tendency to worry a lot and generally feel anxious. At the same time, the remaining 80 percent of this effect were not found to be rooted in personality differences.”
   What about the other 80 percent?
   To supplement the study results, I conducted a small and unscientific survey on Facebook, to which 64 friends replied to my three questions: (1) Do you think that you hoarded in March? (2) If so, why? (3) Are you now having problems finding toilet paper available to buy? The 49 female and 15 male respondents live in 16 different U.S. states plus two European countries. I did not ask for respondents' ages in this informal poll.
   Out of the 64 respondents, all but two answered question #1 with “no,” but often qualified their answers with statements that they regularly keep a “reasonable” stockpile and/or get subscription deliveries of a certain brand. Question #2 (why did you hoard) applied to only two of the respondents, and their answers were not relevant to the pandemic. One revealed that a family member had hoarded a lifetime's worth of tissue. The other stated that along with a family member, they had stockpiled years' worth in anticipation of a serious crisis after the 2016 election.
   To Question #3 (are you currently having problems getting tissue?), almost all simply replied “no.” Some elaborated by stating that they could not always find their preferred brand, or that a trip to more than one store was occasionally necessary. Overall, everyone is buying tissue now with little or no problem.
A toilet paper making machine for sale.

   My poll results showed a group of people who generally maintained an adequate or a little extra stock (with the exception of the two with large stockpiles), and did not seem to exhibit panic-buying. Although I did not ask the same questions as the Institute's researchers did, it would appear that my poll respondents generally do not equate to the 20 percent in the Institute's study whose stockpiling was attributed to their “conscientiousness” or “emotionality.”
   As I see it, there is another factor that actually skewed the whole panic-buying scenario. As workers and students moved from commercial buildings and schools to their homes, factories were forced to scale back the production of large industrial rolls for use in commercial and institutional buildings to produce more of the smaller rolls, affecting production, warehousing, and trucking. This lag time looked suspiciously like a shortage of domestic-sized rolls, but was actually a shift in product demand.
   Does the time lag due to manufacturing adjustments, and/or other factors, make up for the unexplained 80 percent from the Max Planck Institute study? Perhaps another study is needed. But in the meantime, I'm not sure anyone is waiting breathlessly for more study results – or another shortage. Maybe we're just ready to move on and forget all about the toilet paper “hoard” of 2020.


Trump's 'Secret Police Force' Casts 

a Dystopian Pall

By Cheryl Eichar Jett
Opinion/Analysis
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   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 24, 2020 - Citizens of the fictional country of Oceania feared the Thought Police in George Orwell's dystopian – some say prescient – novel entitled 1984. After Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Amazon sold out of Orwell's book. Will the outrage over the unmarked military police at the Portland, Oregon, Black Lives Matter protests spike another round of social protest book sales?

The Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. Photo by Steve Morgan. Creative Commons License.


   While the Oceania Thought Police are fiction, the unmarked military descending from unmarked rental vans to harass, injure, and kidnap protesters in Portland are disturbingly real. Real enough to cast a dystopian shadow across the United States as U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his willing sidekicks, Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, violate civil rights in Portland and threaten to send uninvited federal law enforcement into other major U.S. cities to do their bidding.
   Against the background of intense and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, unidentified (except for a generic “police” patch on their camo uniforms) paramilitary showed up in Portland earlier in July. And they are still there. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed them and insists the forces are in Portland to defend federal buildings against violent anarchists, although the statement they initially released simply lists instances of graffiti. Meanwhile, the protesters aren't backing down. If anything, their numbers are increasing as the “Wall of Moms” and subsequently the “Portland Dads with leaf blowers” have shown up to help protect the young protesters. Ironically, consider the pepper spraying of Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler at an anti-police brutality protest.
  Condemnation of the troops' presence and actions has been swift and fierce. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, urging that “the Department of Justice (DOJ) must begin the necessary, independent, and thorough process of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute, those responsible for ordering and carrying out attacks on protesters.” Democratic mayors of major cities across the country have also pushed back in a letter sent to both DHS and DOJ.
   During the past several days, criticism has been relentless. On Tuesday, July 21, on the MSNBC TV show “Deadline Whitehouse,” journalist and national-affairs analyst John Heilemann called the unmarked military in Portland a “trial run” for actions in additional cities. Heilemann posed the question, “Is this going to be used as voter intimidation on Election Day?” Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General during the Obama administration, also appearing on the show, said that Trump “may be planning to delegitimize the election this way.”
 
  Also on Tuesday, Retired Three-Star Lt. General Russel Honore, who became the voice of reason and an American hero with his decisive and effective action after he was put in charge of the Hurricane Katrina effort in 2005, was on fire on “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.” Honore, with a long and well-respected military career behind him, vociferously decried the paramilitary actions, “What kind of bullsh** is this? Wolf [DHS Acting Secretary] needs to be run out of Washington. He has no business being in charge of Homeland Security . . . they have denigrated this to a lawless group who go around and think they can suppress demonstrators.”
   On Wednesday, the concern clearly grew. Appearing on “Meet the Press Daily” (MTPD), Sen. Ed Merkley, D-Oregon, opined that Trump is simply planning to stir up more trouble in order to present himself as the savior. Also on Wednesday's MTPD, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon said that we are “looking down the barrel of martial law during an election.” In reference to the Black Lives Matter protest, Wyden stated that Donald Trump and Chad Wolf have “basically inflamed the situation.” Yet another guest was Mayor Quinton Lucas, D-Kansas City, Missouri, who quipped that instead of a dog whistle it's “dog barking” from Trump.
   On Wednesday evening, on “The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell,” Neal Katyal, an MSNBC contributor and Professor of National Security Law at Georgetown University Law Center, formerly Acting Solicitor General of the U.S., analyzed the situation. In terms of policy problems, “we see secret unmarked agents beating and teargassing the American people,” Katyal explained. “Legally . . . what we are seeing is rebellion against our deepest constitutional principles. This is a betrayal of what America's about.” An hour later on “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams,” Steve Schmidt, the always-eloquent former Republican strategist and founder of the Lincoln Project, called the deployment “federal thuggery.” He added, “It's out of control, and no American should stand for this.”
   This week, an Oregon court is hearing a lawsuit seeking a restraining order barring federal agents in Portland from restraining citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden testified that these actions by Trump are nothing more than part of his re-election campaign, with film footage being obtained for his “law and order” platform. A ruling is expected yet this week.
   Chad Wolf, the former lobbyist appointed by Trump to the position of Acting Director of Homeland Security, defended his actions in a July 21 press conference, and in subsequent appearances on news shows. “We will not retreat,” he stated. Wolf was previously an architect of the Trump administration's family separation policy.
   Trump is threatening to deploy federal forces to other major cities (with Democratic mayors) in what he calls “Operation Legend.” Acting DHS Secretary Wolf insists this is different from the situation in Portland, making the distinction that in Portland they are protecting federal buildings from violent rioters, while in the other cities the intent is to assist with overcoming a high violent crime rate. Trump's “Democrat cities” rhetoric and a crackdown on local crime are being conflated, and mayors aren't buying it. Both Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzger and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have pushed back strongly against federal forces arriving in Chicago.
   Trump's authoritarian deployment of unmarked baton-wielding federal troops into America's major cities against the wishes of their mayors is a chapter that's going to be hard to close the book on any time soon. This is not dystopian fiction, but the sad and shocking reality, and it's still being written.

Further reference
Neither side is backing down as federal agents and protestors clash
Lawmakers, church, others file suit
ACLU sends letter to Attorney General Barr
Mayors call on Trump Administration to withdraw forces
Trump considers 'more federal law enforcement' for Detroit protests
Nothing can justify the attack on Portland


Trump's Racism On Display

At Mt. Rushmore Rally


By Cheryl Eichar Jett
Opinion/Analysis
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   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 15, 2020 -- U.S. President Donald Trump's racism against Native Americans was on full display at his rally at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on July 3. And he used a full arsenal of insults to underscore it, although he really got the job done before he even opened his mouth. “On Friday [July 3], President Donald Trump continued his tour of racism and colonialism, moving from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the sacred Black Hills. Make no mistake, this divisive visit was an attack on indigenous people,” said Nick Tilsen, president of NDN Collective and a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation (as quoted from his article for NBC News).
  
   No one can accuse Donald Trump of not being inclusive when it comes to racism. He's targeted African Americans (think Central Park Five or his “birtherism” conspiracy theory against Barack Obama), Muslims (think the travel ban targeting Muslims or his attacks on Muslim Gold Star parents), Asians (think “Chinese virus” or “kung flu”), Hispanics (think “They're rapists” or the Hurricane Maria response debacle), and Native Americans (think the “Pocahontas” tweets or his green-lighting of pipelines across native treaty lands).
   But Trump's choice of location and holiday on Independence Day Eve should leave no one, least of all the South Dakota tribes, wondering about the depth of his disdain for our country's indigenous peoples. The Mount Rushmore rally was just another self-created opportunity to double down on his white supremacist stance.
   Attacks and policies against Native Americans are not exactly revelatory news with this president. For instance, his outrageous January 2019 tweet which referenced Wounded Knee was widely condemned. (Wounded Knee Creek was the site of the U.S. 7th Cavalry's brutal massacre of hundreds of Lakota on December 29, 1890.) Trump's green-lighting of pipelines across native treaty lands and support of voter suppression laws which affected Native Americans have also been widely covered.
   However, at the Mount Rushmore event, he solidified, in at least a half-dozen ways, his prejudice against Native Americans. His range of insults ran the gamut from his careless disregard of environmental issues to his focus on his hero Andrew Jackson to the very land on which he harangued.
   First of all, the choice of the Mount Rushmore monument was clearly a slap in the face, as Native Americans have long regarded this region as their sacred land. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie gave the Black Hills of South Dakota over to the Sioux. But by 1877, after almost an additional decade of conflict, the U.S. seized the land. Besides the very land it rests on, the Mount Rushmore monument itself is perceived by Native Americans as a symbol of white supremacy, and its honorees carved into the monument, particularly Washington and Jefferson, are seen as colonizers. “To me, Mount Rushmore is a symbol of ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation and the theft of our territory,” said Phil Two Eagle, executive director of the Sicangu Lakota Treaty Council (as quoted in Voice of America VOA News).
   As for the Independence Day weekend chosen for the rally, it's important to remember that the July 4 holiday is not celebrated universally by Native Americans. The Declaration of Independence cemented Jefferson's vision of manifest destiny, the never-ending push west deeper into Native American territory.
   But the venue and the holiday weren't enough for Trump to make his point. He extolled his favorite muscle man Andrew Jackson, son of the south, public hero for defeating the British at New Orleans in the last battle of the War of 1812, and the bane of the Cherokee and Choctaw during “Indian Removal” as he sent them on the Trail of Tears in 1831-1833 (Choctaw) and in the harsh winter of 1838-1839 (Cherokee).
   Of course, for the most part Native Americans, especially the Navajo in the Southwest, have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic due to their underfunded health care system from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and chronic medical conditions among many tribal members. The Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota, however, have garnered extensive coverage of their embrace of science and effective measures in preventing the spread of infection. No wonder that tribal leaders were concerned about the rally and its draw of Trump supporters from beyond the immediate area, potentially sparking a virus outbreak. “The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,” said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe (as quoted in Time Magazine).
   Perhaps a less obvious insult was Trump's blatant disregard for the danger of wildfire. Fireworks have not been held at Mount Rushmore since 2009 due to fire concerns. The Ponderosa Pines surrounding the monument and their devastation by a Japanese Beetle infestation make the area particularly susceptible. Native Americans, of course, revere the natural world. But an impressive fireworks display was high on Trump's list, and so to hell with anyone's concern about wildfires.
   Of course, South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem was all in for the Trump rally. She refused to endorse or enact regulations providing for social distancing (the seats in the natural amphitheater were tied together) or masks, making her complicit in the slam against the roughly 71,800 Native American citizens of South Dakota. That said, as if Trump needed much assistance in his steam-roller approach to inviting himself into a Covid-19 hotspot or a controversial location for one of his rock 'em sock 'em rallies.
   However, the president did receive some assistance in adding insult to injury that day from the National Guard and from Trump supporters. As anti-Trump protesters, most who were Native American, were pepper sprayed (and 15 were arrested), Trump supporters, ironically, yelled, “Go home.”
   They were home, on sacred ancestral land.

Further reference:
Trump uses Mount Rushmore address to rail against removal of monuments
Native Americans and Mount Rushmore
The Horror of Trump's Wounded Knee Tweet
Trump's Mount Rushmore fireworks show is a Fourth of July attack on Indigenous people
Whose Independence Day is it?
American Indian Protesters Told to “Go Home” by Trump Supporters at Mount Rushmore