Juneteenth and the Several Endings of Slavery in the U.S.

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, which is a lovely thing. Juneteenth is a commemoration of the day on which the last enslaved people in the United States were informed they were free, on June 19, 1865.

However, it’s not clear to me that those were truly the last enslaved people. Slavery hadn’t yet been officially abolished everywhere in the United States. But before going forward to wallow in historical nerdiness, let us note that yesterday’s White House signing ceremony also was lovely.

People can always complain that there are critical race issues to be addressed in the U.S., and a federal holiday isn’t going to fix them. And that’s true. No argument from me. There has also been some fuzziness in the way the history of Juneteenth has been reported, and that’s what I want to address here.

First, what the teevee people keep saying is that the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, “freed the slaves.” But the Emancipation Proclamation only freed people in Confederate states, or the “states in rebellion.” Which meant that on the day it went into effect it didn’t actually free anybody.  The Proclamation did not apply to slave states that had remained in the Union — Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. Further, oddly, it wasn’t applied to Union-occupied areas within Confederate states. This left about 700,000 people still legally enslaved.

Further, West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, as a slave state. Persons in Virginia who had been technically freed by the Emancipation Proclamation were, technically, enslaved again when West Virginia became its own state. The West Virginia legislature quickly went to work passing a law to end slavery in the state, but it didn’t go into effect until February 1865.

Note also that when the Civil War began in April 1861, slavery was still legal in the District of Columbia. Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862. This was the first act of the federal government to abolish slavery anywhere. In June 1862 Congress made slavery illegal in the western federal territories that had not yet become states.

But why weren’t people freed in the four “border” states? As the war began, Lincoln was in a delicate position; the slave owners in those states might have pushed for secession if they believed a Union victory was going to end slavery. The war certainly was about slavery in that southern states seceded to preserve slavery, but in the early months of the war Lincoln had to be careful to make the war about preserving the Union, not ending slavery, as far as the North was concerned. When in August 1861 Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, commanding the Department of the West, issued an emancipation proclamation that would have freed people enslaved in Missouri, Lincoln promptly relieved Frémont of command and countermanded the proclamation.

Even if Lincoln wanted to end slavery in the four “border” states, and he probably did, he did not believe he had the Constitutional authority to do so. The question of the legality of slavery was up to individual states. Since the Confederate states had seceded it could be argued that areas in rebellion were no longer states of the Union but had reverted to the status of federal territories. But the legality of slavery in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri was up to Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.

But in September 1862, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation reframed the Union effort as a blow against slavery.  As such it was a war measure and a critical piece of foreign policy. The Proclamation’s primary purpose, historians say, was to sway public sympathy in Europe, especially in Great Britain and France, to keep European powers from entering the conflict on the side of the Confederacy. Southern states were a major supplier of raw cotton to Europe, especially to Britain and France, and the Union blockade of the South was keeping all that cotton in southern warehouses. The Confederacy had also commissioned war ships to be built in Liverpool and was buying Enfield rifles and other munitions from British manufacturers, whose ships apparently were very good at running the blockade.

So, British industrialists pressured Queen Victoria’s government to take the side of the Confederacy. But the Emancipation Proclamation made the question of slavery the defining issue of the war for those looking on, and the British public was firmly opposed to slavery by then. Great Britain would remain neutral. France had more or less been hanging back waiting to see what Britain would do, and it remained neutral also.

There was also the matter of the many Black men — some born free, some escaped from slavery — who were highly motivated to join the Union military. In spite of the brave service of Black men who fought in the Revolution, somehow the U.S. military had decided it wanted only White men as soldiers and sailors. But by 1862 the war was dragging on and casualties were mounting. In April 1862 Congress passed two acts to allow Black men to serve in the U.S. military, although those acts didn’t go into effect until January 1863, on the same day as the Emancipation Proclamation. By the end of the war 186,097 Black men had enlisted in the Union Army and approximately 20,000 Black sailors had joined the Union Navy. Many gave their lives.

The ending of the war, and the Confederacy, in April 1865 finally brought actual freedom to the people freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. In most of the South the freed people knew about the Emancipation Proclamation, and they knew they were no longer slaves. But not everywhere.

On June 19, 1865, Union troops — including regiments of the United States Colored Troops — arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. And on that day, a somewhat disputed story tells us, Union General Gordon Granger proclaimed that slavery had been abolished in Texas. The date was ever after commemorated in Texas as “Juneteenth.”

However, what’s not clear to me is what was going on in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. By June 1865 slavery had been ended in West Virginia, but technically it was still legal in the four border states.

Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery everywhere in the U.S., in January 1865. It was quickly approved by most of the northern states, and it went into effect in December 1865, eight months after the war had ended and five months after Juneteenth. Only then was slavery illegal everywhere in the United States.

And, of course, that wasn’t really an end of anything, but just sent the struggle for liberation off on a new trajectory. See also Daina Ramey Berry, The Truth About Black Freedom, at The Atlantic.

Statue of Dred and Harriet Scott by the St. Louis Courthouse where the Scotts sued for their freedom in 1846.

The Newest Episode of the Joe Manchin Saga

You really ought to go to The Intercept and read Leaked Audio of Sen. Joe Manchin Call with Billionaire Donors Provides Rare Glimpse of Dealmaking on Filibuster and January 6 Commission by Lee Fang and Ryan Grim. It does indeed.

It can’t be a surprise that Manchin is talking to a lot of center- and not-so-center Right types with a lot of money. The billionaires — capital management, equity firms, hedge funds — are all associated with No Labels, a “third way” sort of group that lists Joe Lieberman as one of its national leaders. You get the picture.

The Zoom call happened on Monday, the article says, and we see Manchin still nearly frantic to get some Senate Republicans on board with a January 6 Commission, even though that vote was taken in May.

Manchin told the assembled donors that he needed help flipping a handful of Republicans from no to yes on the January 6 commission in order to strip the “far left” of their best argument against the filibuster. The filibuster is a critical priority for the donors on the call, as it bottles up progressive legislation that would hit their bottom lines.

Torches, pitchforks, buckets of hot tar. Grrrr.

Manchin told the donors he hoped to make another run at it to prove that comity is not lost. He noted that Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who missed the vote, would have voted for it had he been there, meaning only three more votes are needed. “What I’m asking for, I need to go back, I need to find three more Republican, good Republican senators that will vote for the commission. So at least we can tamp down where people say, ‘Well, Republicans won’t even do the simple lift, common sense of basically voting to do a commission that was truly bipartisan.’ It just really emboldens the far left saying, ‘I told you, how’s that bipartisan working for you now, Joe?’”

Poor baby. But here is the part of the article that is getting the most buzz:

THE GROUP IS passionately supportive of the filibuster, and when multiple donors quizzed Manchin on his stance on it, the senator displayed an openness to reform that is at odds with his latest public statements.

Last spring, he said that he could be supportive of a “talking filibuster” that required the minority to hold the floor, rather than putting the onus on the majority. After an uproar from Republicans, he penned a Washington Post op-ed saying that he would not “weaken or eliminate” the filibuster, which optimists noted left room for reforms that strengthened it in spirit, by forcing more bipartisanship.

In June, he told CNN, when asked if he was committed to maintaining the 60-vote threshold, that he wanted to “make the Senate work,” a sentiment he repeated each time he was pressed. Once again, he followed it up with an op-ed, this time in the local Charleston Gazette-Mail, saying that he had no intention of weakening the filibuster.

Manchin’s openness for filibuster reform on the call is notable given it flew in the face of many attendees’ hopes. Asked about a proposal to lower the threshold to beat back a filibuster to 55 votes, he said that it was something he was considering, but then quickly referred back to his earlier idea of forcing the minority to show up on the Senate floor in large enough numbers to maintain a filibuster.

Hope springs eternal, and yesterday after this came out there was much chirping that maybe filibuster reform isn’t completely dead after all. It also clarifies that Manchin isn’t clinging to the filibuster because he really believes in it, but because his donors really believe in it.

Also yesterday, Manchin released his version of what he wants in an election reform bill. Tierney Sneed writes in Talking Points Memo:

Manchin is seeking to strip several major ballot access provisions from the For the People Act, the bill currently before the Senate, which is also known as S.1. He also wants to scale back the reach of the Voting Right Act’s preclearance regime, weakening what’s in previous versions of the VRA restoration legislation, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Preclearance is the requirement that certain states with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices get federal approval for election policy changes. It was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013, and Republicans refused to revive it when they controlled Congress.

According to a proposal document made public Wednesday, Manchin also opposes S.1’s requirement that states offer no-excuse absentee voting. He also wants changes to its voter ID language. Currently, S.1 would require that states allow non-ID holders an affidavit option to confirm their identity; Manchin’s proposal vaguely alludes to letting voters show utility bills or other forms of identification that some photo ID states do not now allow.

But here’s the kicker — this morning Stacey Abrams threw her support behind Manchin’s proposals. No, really, she did. And that’s because of the items in the For the People Act and John Lewis Act that Manchin does support. Manchin supports;

  • The ban on political gerrymandering. This is huge.
  • Mandating at least 15 days of early voting.’
  • Making election day a holiday
  • Making it a crime to spread false information about an election, such as dates and hours polls are open.

Other provisions he supports would make registration and absentee voting easier. And Stacey Abrams is saying, I’ll take it. To me, if they didn’t pass anything but a ban on political gerrymandering, that would be worth it.

Of course, none of this will mean anything if Manchin doesn’t get over his, um, ambivalence on the filibuster.

Update: Mitch has already shot Manchin down. Politico:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed all 50 Republicans would oppose Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) slimmed-down elections compromise, which focuses on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. And it’s not clear there’s a single Republican vote to even begin debate on the matter, potentially dooming Manchin’s proposals before they can even make it into the bill.

Even Romney and Murkowski are turning up their noses at Joe’s proposals.

Update: See Greg Sargent, Joe Manchin reaches out to Republicans, and they slap him in the face. Republicans were thrilled when they heard that Stacey Abrams had endorsed Manchin’s proposal. This is not because they admire Stacey Abrams.

Rather, they were thrilled because, as Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri candidly put it, they now get to rebrand Manchin’s compromise as “the Stacey Abrams substitute.”

“When Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Senator Manchin’s proposal,” Blunt told reporters, “it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.”

The careful observer will note that nothing substantive about the proposal itself changed when Abrams endorsed it. What changed is that Republicans now get to associate it with Abrams, rather than Manchin.

So that would be zero Republican votes for the Manchin compromise, I take it.

More on What’s Happening With Infrastructure

As I wrote yesterday, Senate Democrats are moving forward on two parallel tracks with infrastructure bills. At the moment, Chuck Shumer does intend to allow the “compromise” bill being cobbled together by five Republicans and five Democrats to be put forward for a vote, if it gets enough votes for cloture. At the same time, today the serious work of preparing a reconciliation bill that doesn’t require Republican votes is beginning in the Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Bernie Sanders.

Playing footsie with the compromise bill appears to be a means to give Joe Manchin room to vote for the reconciliation bill, if the compromise bill fails. He can say he gave bipartisanship his best shot.

But what if the compromise bill passes in the Senate? Which is possible if it gets through cloture. Jim Newell writes at Slate that the bad bill could freeze out the good bill.

Few Republicans were worried that they might look like suckers if they were to give Democrats a bipartisan “win” and then watch as Democrats proceeded to secure the rest of their agenda through reconciliation anyway. Their relative openness is guided by another political suspicion: the belief that making a limited bipartisan deal would prevent Democrats from having the votes to get the rest of what they want through reconciliation.

In other words, if the bad compromise bill passes, Manchin and other troglodytes — er, moderates — would be harder to pressure to vote for the good reconciliation bill.

How bad is the bad bill? Really bad.

The [compromise] proposal would offer about $579 billion in new spending for physical infrastructure. It would be paid for through some combination of indexing the gas tax to inflation, creating a new miles-traveled fee for users of electric vehicles, improving tax enforcement, repurposing certain unused COVID relief funds, and creating public-private partnerships.

Putting aside the fact that $579 billion doesn’t even amount to a down payment on what’s needed for physical infrastructure — increasing gas taxes instead of taxing corporations once again puts a tax burden on working folks rather than just the fat corporations that use those roads and bridges and other physical infrastructure to move goods.

And “repurposing certain unused COVID relief funds” is basically a ruse to strip funds from the American Rescue Plan that was signed into a law in March. See What The GOP’s Infrastructure Pay For Would Actually Mean For States And Cities by Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo. It’s true that much of the allocated covid relief money has not yet been spent. However, that’s not because there’s nothing to spend it on.

Funding for states and cities in the American Rescue Plan would be uniquely vulnerable to repurposing. The money is set to come in two tranches, with the second tranche arriving one year after the first.

What that money might go to depends on the jurisdiction, but it comes as states and cities shore up budgets that were depleted during the pandemic and rehire staff that were laid off because of the virus. It also includes plans for grappling with the longer-term consequences of the pandemic, in the form of programs for those suffering from long COVID, or funding for public health programs.

It also represents a marked increase in federal investment in local government that comes after decades of neglect.

Irma Esparza Diggs, director of federal advocacy for the National League of Cities, said that for many cities, the narrative of “too much” federal aid was overblown and that officials she spoke to were still searching for more funds to restart programs that were cut during the COVID recession.

St. Louis, for example, is still formulating plans for the money the city received in the relief package. Mayor Tishaura Jones just released her proposals for the money yesterday. So much has not been spent, but that’s not because it isn’t needed. Clawing that money back would be a disaster.

There is also a real possibility that such a bill would fail to pass in the House, which would leave us with nothing.

Greg Sargent, at least, is reassuring us that the reconciliation package won’t be substantially watered down.

Schumer will instruct those Democrats to craft a measure that includes requisite spending for policies that would “reduce carbon pollution at a scale commensurate with the climate crisis,” the aide emails, adding that he will also say that the family-oriented components of Biden’s package are “essential” and must be “robustly funded” in reconciliation.

The reason this is so critical is that many progressives have been loudly objecting that the endless quest for a deal with Republicans was putting all the progressive priorities in Biden’s package at risk. This seems like an effort to reassure the progressives that they needn’t worry. …

… Indeed, as I’ve reported, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who as chair of the Budget Committee is playing an influential role in the creation of that reconciliation package, is privately confident that this measure will be historic in ambition and scope, even if it doesn’t give progressives everything they want. Schumer’s latest directives perhaps validate that confidence.

If Benie likes it, it should be okay.

Greg Sargent also casts doubt on whether the compromise bill will pass in the Senate.

As we all knew would happen, the bipartisan deal is failing to materialize. While it’s still possible, skepticism is intensifying on both sides, with Republicans saying it’s too liberal, and progressives saying too much is being traded away and it’s time for Democrats to move forward alone.

In short, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing left to do here. But all is not yet lost.

BOSTON – OCTOBER 16: This is a view of the rusted Long Island Bridge. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Infrastructure Reconciliation Tomorrow?

Tomorrow Chuck Schumer is going to meet with Democratic members of the Senate budget committee to begin the process of going forward with the infrastructure bill via reconciliation, says The Hill.

He’s also going to submit a pared-down infrastructure bill via regular order in July.

That bill would need 60 votes to pass outside the reconciliation process. But it’s running into opposition from Senate progressives such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who say they won’t vote for a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless all 50 members of the Democratic caucus agree on the size and shape of the later reconciliation bill, which needs unanimous Democratic support to pass the 50-50 Senate.

“Both are moving forward, the bipartisan track and the track on reconciliation, and both we hope to get done in July, both the budget resolution and the bipartisan bill,” Schumer said.

This pared-down deal is the one worked out between five Republicans — Portman, Romney, Murkowski, Collins, and Cassidy — and five Democrats — Sinema, Manchin, Warner, Shaheen, and Tester.  The New York Times:

The framework is expected to include about $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall package that would cost about $974 billion over five years and about $1.2 trillion over eight years, according to two people familiar with the details, who disclosed them on the condition of anonymity. The outline is expected to address a narrower range of physical infrastructure projects and to avoid the Democratic push for tax increases; but it is also likely to suggest indexing the gas tax to inflation as one of the mechanisms for paying for the plan.

Basically, it’s a tiny fraction of new spending needed, there are no tax increases (except on gas, which would be a burden to poor working folks), and the climate change requirements are all taken out. A whole lot of Democrats have already said they won’t support it. But putting forward the weaker bill appears to be part of the process of winning Joe Manchin’s vote to pass the stronger bill.

Well, good luck to us.

Missouri: The Screw Me State

After years of Reaganist propaganda that government bleeps everything up, I guess the voters here just expect government to bleep everything up and are not alarmed at the ongoing bleeping up being committed by the state government. Otherwise, citizens would be outraged. The state government is so bleeping incompetent I’d suggest taking all authority away from it and just hiring some managers to straighten things out.

To catch you up, here’s Rachel Maddow on June 3. This video is of the entire program, but the segment to watch begins at about the 1 minute mark. Here’s the transcript if you’d rather just read what was said.

And there is a very real possibility that whoever replaces Sen. Roy Blunt when he retires at the end of next year will be even worse than Josh Hawley. There’s always been a big wackjob element in the state, going back as far as I can remember, but they were never as totally in charge as they are now.

Here’s an update on Kevin Strictland, the man Maddow discussed who has been imprisoned for four decades for murders that even the prosecutors admit he didn’t do. All of the evidence that got him convicted four decades ago has completely fallen apart. It is now beyond all doubt that he was wrongly convicted. The legislature actually did something useful and passed a bill that would allow local prosecutors who believe a prisoner has been wrongly convicted to take that case to court to overturn the conviction and get the prisoner released.

The bill is waiting on the governor’s signature. For that matter, the governor could just pardon Strictland and get him released today. But the governor, Mike Parson, is dragging his worthless feet. ABC News reported,

Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says addressing the clemency petition for a man who’s been behind bars for a triple murder for more than four decades is not a “priority,” even though prosecutors say he didn’t commit the crime.

Parson noted that Kevin Strickland, 62, was tried “by a jury of his peers” and found guilty. But he added that he knew there was “a lot more information out there.”

Did I mention that Kevin Strictland is Black? Also, Parson found the time to pardon 36 people just before the June 3 Rachel Maddow segment aired, and he pardoned 13 other people in May, but other than their names I can’t find any information about those people.

Gov. Parson is finding the time to sign another piece of legislation; he’s doing it tomorrow with great fanfare and ceremony. This is the Second Amendment Preservation Act. “HB 85 declares that it’s the duty of the courts and law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. It also declares as invalid all federal laws that infringe on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment,” it says here. It’s unconstitutional as all get-out, but it’s being signed. I take it from the article linked that this bit of nonsense began to take shape in January, when rural residents and their representatives became hysterical in the belief that there would be a Democratic president who would grab their guns.

Maddow’s segment didn’t talk about the Medicaid disaster. Last year the voters passed a resolution calling for Medicaid to be expanded under the Affordable Care Act. A couple of months ago I wrote that the state government refused to fund it. So there will be no expansion. This refusal was in spite of the fact that the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost of new Medicaid patients and that Parson at the time was, and probably still is, sitting on more than $1 billion in unspent federal covid aid. Lawsuits have been filed.

But now there’s a fight over what cheapskate Medicaid benefits Missouri already hands out. The legislature is fighting over the tax appropriation to fund it. And you’ll never guess why certain conservative Republicans refused to vote for the tax appropriation. It says here, “some senators wanted to attach items to it that would bar Medicaid from paying for certain contraceptives and prevent Planned Parenthood from getting funding.”

Planned Parenthood doesn’t get direct funding from Medicaid; it gets reiumbursements for providing medical services to Medicaid recipients. The infamous Hyde Amendment, still on the books, does not allow Medicaid money to reimburse the cost of abortions. Republican legislatures don’t want Planned Parenthood to be reimbursed for things like cancer screenings and STD testing, either. Exactly what’s going to happen to the state Medicaid program if the tax isn’t passed is not clear, but as I understand it, it’s a matching funds thing, so if the state pays less the feds pay less also.

As I wrote in April, rural hospitals are closing in the state because people who use them are uninsured and can’t pay their bills. Ten hospitals have closed in Missouri since 2016. Expanding Medicaid would go a long way toward getting more money into hospitals to keep them open.

However, I was not aware until this current flap that Missouri raises its share of the Medicaid funding by taxing hospitals, which is the kind of colossally stupid thing only a Missouri legislator would think of. I don’t believe even Mississippi does that. Most states take their part of the Medicaid funding from general funds.

The state has big problems. Much of the rural areas of the state, especially in the southeast section, are desperately poor. Life expectancy is going down; crime, drug use, child abuse and neglect, are going up. These are the voters Mike Parson and Republican legislatures like to favor, because most of those voters are white and vote Republican, but he “favors” them with pro-gun legislation, which is the last thing they actually need. Health care? Jobs programs? Any kind of development? Nah. Let’s dither around and make sure they can’t get abortions. Since the only abortion provider in the state is in St. Louis, that’s pretty much the case already.

Gov. Mike Parson, who perhaps needs a life coach to help him organize his time..

What Really Happened in Lafayette Square Park

You may have seen the headlines declaring that an Interior Department’s inspector general report decided that Lafayette Park was not forcibly cleared last year for Trump’s Bible Stunt. Closer inspection of said report reveals that’s not exactly what it says.

The report documents that a decision to clear the park and surround it with non-scalable fencing had been made prior to Trump’s formulation of the Bible Stunt. However, the report (which has redacted bits) also more than hints that said plans were accelerated once it became known that Trump might visit the area later that day, June 1. People quoted in the report denied that the timetable was accelerated, but it sure as hell looks accelerated.

Do turn your attention to page 14 (or PDF page 17) of the report.

At about 6:10 — while reporters were gathering to the Rose Garden for a 6:15 announcement — AG Bill Barr entered the park with his security detail and some White House staff. Barr spoke to the U.S. Park Police officer in charge. This officer told Barr to move away because the area was unsafe. Barr expressed displeasure that the protesters were still there; he thought they would be gone by that point, he said. The report continues,

The USPP operations commander told us he advised the Attorney General that they were getting into position to move the crowd. He stated he again advised the Attorney General that the Attorney General was not in a safe area and should move further from the crowd. The USPP operations commander said the Attorney General asked him, “Are these people still going to be here when POTUS [President of the United States] comes out?” The USPP operations commander told us he had not known until then that the President would be coming out of the White House and into Lafayette Park. He said he replied to the Attorney General, “Are you freaking kidding me?” and then hung his head and walked away. The Attorney General then left Lafayette Park. The USPP operations commander denied that the Attorney General ordered him to clear Lafayette Park and H Street.

Barr wouldn’t have had to order him explicitly, would he? The order was implied. And then, according to a report published last June by the New York Times,

At 6:17 p.m., a large phalanx of officers wearing Secret Service uniforms began advancing on protesters, climbing or jumping over barriers at the edge of the square at H Street and Madison Place. Officials said later that the police warned protesters to disperse three times, but if they did, reporters on the scene as well as many demonstrators did not hear it.

So it’s just a concidence that Bill Barr dropped by at 6:10 to let the Park Police know the POTUS is coming, and at 6:17 officers in Secret Service uniforms advanced on the protesters to clear them out? Are you freaking kidding me?

Meanwhile, the 6:15 announcement was delayed until 6:43 to give the clearing-out time to work.

What I’m seeing here is that Trump and his minions expected the park to be cleared by that evening, and when the Trumpers found out it wasn’t cleared, Bill Barr trotted over to drop a hint they’d better hurry up.

More from the New York Times, June 2:

Some form of chemical agent was fired at protesters, flash bang grenades went off and mounted police moved toward the crowds. “People were dropping to the ground” at the sound of bangs and pops that sounded like gunfire, Ms. Gerbasi said. “We started seeing and smelling tear gas, and people were running at us.”

By 6:30 p.m., she said, “Suddenly the police were on the patio of St. John’s Church in a line, literally pushing and shoving people off of the patio.” …

… At 6:43 p.m., Mr. Trump made his statement in the Rose Garden, finishing seven minutes later, and then headed back through the White House to emerge on the north side and walk out the gates and into the park.

Now, seriously, they want us to believe that it just miraculously happened that the park was cleared minutes before Trump set foot on it? Note also that National Guard troops were observed arriving in the area earlier that day, which makes me suspect the White House had anticipated the park problem would have been taken care of before that evening.

If the argument is that the Park Service had already planned to clear the park and put a fence around it before anyone thought of the Bible Stunt, so they weren’t cleared out just because of the Bible Stunt, okay. But it’s obvious that the way the clearing-out was handled, and the timing of it, was very much about the Bible Stunt.

See also Philip Bump at WaPo, who has videos:

Five minutes after Barr and the commander spoke, uniformed Secret Service officers briefly began pushing the crowd back. At 6:28 p.m., after several audio warnings to the crowd to disperse, Park Police began clearing the area from east to west; that is, starting from the side nearest the church where Trump would later appear for his photographs. At 6:43 p.m., nearly half an hour after scheduled, Trump begins speaking, even as the area is still being cleared.

Bump notes that the report is a very limited one that deals only with the actions of the U.S. Park Police.

We don’t know Barr’s side of the story because the inspector general’s report focused only on the conduct of the U.S. Park Police (USPP), the organization that falls within the Interior Department’s mandate. Many other agencies were on the scene that day, including Bureau of Prisons officers — airdropped in by the Justice Department in response to the ongoing protests — and the Secret Service. Most of the officers there were under Park Police direction (except the Secret Service) but the inspector general only “sought interviews and information from individuals outside of the USPP when doing so would provide us with information about the agency’s USPP’s activities. Accordingly, we did not seek to interview Attorney General William Barr, White House personnel, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officers, [D.C. Metropolitan Police (MPD)] personnel, or Secret Service personnel regarding their independent decisions that did not involve the USPP.”

It’s obvious that the White House expected the park to have been cleared. Note also that there was a 7 pm curfew, put in place by Mayor Muriel Bowser, and it might have been reasonable to wait until 7 pm to begin moving people out. The protesters probably expected that. When the push began earlier, there was chaos.

The report also documents (beginning on p. 13, or PDF p. 16) that  chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) gas was used on protesters by Metro Police, which caught the USPP personnel off guard because that gas wasn’t authorized and the USPP were unmasked. This operations was utterly uncoordinated, it appears. And of course the feds denied for months that chemical irritants were used at all.

So pretty much everything we said about the Bible Stunt last summer is confirmed by this report, but the headlines say just the opposite. Typical.

WTF, Merrick Garland? Seriously?

I was pleased when Merrick Garland was nominated to be Attorney General. I was pleased when his nomination was confirmed. I am not pleased now.

First, about a month ago U.S. District for the District of Columbia Judge Amy Berman Jackson called for a memo written by former AG Bill Barr to be made public. We can infer from the judge’s remarks that the memo revealed something shady about how Barr decided to clear Trump on obstruction of justice charges. Yes, show us that memo! But Merrick Garland appealed that decision and chose to release only a small part of the memo, most of it redacted.

Well, that was odd. Then things got worse.

You’ll remember that E. Jean Carroll, a jounralist and advice columnist, accused Trump of raping her back in the 1990s. Trump called her a liar. Carroll sued for defamation. So far, pretty run of the mill Trump stuff.

Then Bill Barr’s Justice Department argued that Trump is immune from Carroll’s lawsuit because his denial of her allegations — basically, calling her a liar and saying she was “not my type” —  were made “within the scope of his office or employment” as president of the United States. It was official presidential business, in other words. Further, the Department of Justice itself was preparing to defend Trump in court as if it was Trump’s personal law firm.

This is obvious hooey on steroids. Yet AG Garland is going to continue this farce and defend Trump’s comments as official presidential business.

Garland was asked about this in a Senate hearing this afternoon. Here is what he said:

“Look the job of the Justice Department in making decisions of law is not is not to back any administration, previous or present …  And the essence of the rule of law is what I said when I accepted the nomination for attorney general, it is that like cases be treated alike, that there not the one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, that there not be one rule for friends and another for foes,” Garland said in response to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont.

That’s not an answer. Maybe he’s trying to avoid an appearance that the Department of Justice is politicized. But hooey is hooey.

Well, today the Justice Department also declared it would defend — no, “vigorously” defend — religious exemptions for Christian schools that receive government money and discriminate against LGBTQ students. Garland thinks they should be able to discriminae and keep the money, in other words.

I can’t even. Maybe we should be grateful Garland didn’t make it to the Supreme Court.

About Time for the Pitchforks

Ezra Klein:

This is a moment when an implicit but ugly fact of our economy has been thrown into unusual relief: Our economy relies on poverty — or at least the threat of it — to force people to take bad jobs at low wages. This gets couched in paeans to the virtues of work, but the truth is more instrumental. The country likes cheap goods and plentiful services, and it can’t get them without a lot of people taking jobs that higher-income Americans would never, ever consider. When we begin to see glimmers of worker power in the economy, a lot of powerful people freak out, all at once.

In the United States, whether you earn a comfortable living or struggle to keep a roof over your head depends less on how hard you work but on what work you do. This doesn’t necessarily track with training and education. Even if your job requies specific training or a college degree, it might very well fall into the low-paying end. Social workers, teachers, and journalists come to mind.

All the years I was in publishing I couldn’t help but notice that people in sales and marketing got the big salaries and spacious offices, while most of the editors and editorial production people were paid either less or a lot less and worked out of cubbyholes with never enough space for all the manuscripts and proofs. It was explained to me that sales and marketing people “bring in dollars” while editorial and production do not; we were just cost.

The really low-paying jobs are in the service and food industries. These include health aides and day care workers.  These include the people who grow, process, distribute, and prepare our food. This is work that has to be done. For years whenever people talk about income inequality, somebody starts chirping about how people who want more money should get better training. But that’s not really the answer. Work that needs to be done should pay enough so that someone doing it full time can earn a living. And by “earning a living” I mean that individuals working full time at those jobs should not have to depend on food stamps and Medicaid.

If employers don’t want to provide health benefits for their low-income employees, they should start supporting Medicare for All or some other universal taxpayer-funded program, instead of whining about their costs going up.

I call your attention to an article from the June 2013 Harper’s, Education Is Not the Answer by Jeff Madrick. In spite of the time lapse it still seems pretty current. Among other things, he points out that during the recovery from the 2008 financial sector crash the typical American household saw its income fall every year. Further, “The percentage of American adults with college degrees, meanwhile, is greater than ever, having grown in the past decade from 26 to 30 percent. Every year our country is better educated, while wages remain stagnant or fall.” And with more college graduates in the job market, employers began hiring them to do work a high-school grad used to do. At the same pay.

I liked this part also: “The labor economists David Card and John DiNardo have shown that in the postwar period inequality rose fastest between 1980 and 1986, before rapid advances in computer technology began to affect the job market.” Um, gee, what else happened between 1980 and 1986? Reaganomics, anyone?

Fast forward to July 2020, and A college degree is not the solution to U.S. wage inequality by Kathryn Zickuhr at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Zickuhr addresses some of the same themes as Madrick in 2013 and disagrees with the prevailing notion that income inequality is caused by a “skills gap.”

Yet this focus on individual workers misses the structural conditions that constrain workers’ options and ability to share in economic growth. This issue brief examines recent data-driven research that demonstrates the skills gap is only a small and relatively unimportant explanation for the college wage premium because it fails to account for declining worker power and the role of monopsony in the labor market. These more important explanations for the college wage premium—and its recent decline—underscore why policymakers need to improve the underlying labor market conditions for all workers, instead of shifting responsibility to those already struggling in an uneven playing field.

Now, as the economy re-opens, employers are finding it harder to hire people. Republicans naturally fell back on the old strategy of forcing people to take whatever work they can get or face homelessness, and Republican governors yanked enhanced employment benefits prematurely. I understand some Senate Republicans are trying to stop the enhanced benefits for the whole country. There is all kinds of data showing that the extra $300 a week really isn’t the reason people aren’t jumping to take back their old minimum wages jobs — see, for example, The real reason employers can’t hire enough workers by Jill Filipovic at CNN — but you can’t tell a conservative that. The peasants must be punished to make them work, they say. In so many words.

The labor shortage is starting to affect the stock market, which may be the real reason so many Republican politicians are concerned about it.

Some employers find themselves doing the unthinkable and offering higher wages. But if it’s too soon to tell if this is the beginning of a trend or just a temporary blip.

Today in the New York Times we see From Appetizers to Tuition, Incentives to Job Seekers Grow by Nelson D. Schwartz. A lot of companies are adding education benefits like tuition reimbursement to their benefits packages. “As generous as the incentives may seem, they can be cheaper than across-the-board pay raises,” the article says. Of course.

We know the rich have been getting richer at a fantastic pace these past few years. The U.S. tax code is all about taxing income from labor over good ol’ wealth, which hasn’t helped our inequality issues much. See also The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax at ProPublica.

This may help. Over the weekend the G7 nations agreed to a minimum 15 percent tax rate on the profits of foreign subsidiaries of multinational corporations. Paul Krugman explains why this is a big deal.

But if any good comes out of this terrible time, maybe it will be that the peasants finally learn they can push back. Let’s hope.

Everybody Hates Joe Manchin

Joe, how much do we hate thee? Let me count the ways. And provide some links.

Manchin wrote an op ed headlined “Why I’m voting against the For the People Act.” Some reactions to this op ed and Manchin’s stated policy of putting “bipartisanship” ahead of everything else follows.

Eugene Robinson, Joe Manchin retreats to fantasyland and sticks America with the consequences. 

“Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has the right to live in a make-believe wonderland if he so chooses. But his party and his nation will pay a terrible price for his hallucinations about the nature of today’s Republican Party. And even this sacrifice might not guarantee that Manchin can hold onto support back home.

“Manchin’s declaration Sunday that he will vote against sweeping legislation to guarantee voting rights nationwide and that he “will not vote to weaken or eliminate” the Senate filibuster is a huge blow to President Biden’s hopes of enacting his ambitious agenda. There’s no way to spin this as anything other than awful.”

On the plus side, Robinson cites some polls that show Manchin’s voter base in West Virginia isn’t pleased with him, either.

Jonathan Chait, Joe Manchin’s Incoherent Case for Letting Republicans Destroy Democracy. In brief, Manchin’s op ed makes absolutely no sense.

James Downie, Joe Manchin’s mighty delusions.

“Manchin has become the Senate’s Walter Mitty: a man who believes himself the champion of a fantasy and who has hope but no plan. He believes he will save the country by recruiting “10 good Republicans,” even though dreaming doesn’t will into existence that many Republicans who will cast a fair-minded vote. Anything that would snap him back to our partisan reality he either ignores or treats as divisive. Meanwhile, McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party laugh all the way to the ballot box.

“That’s what makes Manchin so infuriating. In his mind, he’s the hero of this story. In truth, he’s the patsy. And the country pays the price for his delusions.”

Jennifer Rubin, Time to call Manchin’s bluff

“It’s time for Manchin to put up or share blame for Republicans’ subversion of democracy. Let him come up with 10 Republicans for H.R. 4 and for a slimmed down H.R. 1. Let him find four more Republicans to support the Jan. 6 commission. If he cannot, then his thesis that the filibuster promotes debate and makes way for compromise collapses and his role in promoting the tyranny of the minority is laid bare.”

Alexandra Petri, Joe Manchin and the Ten Good Republicans Joe sees them everywhere! But nobody else does. And the photos are blurry.

Charles Pierce, Joe Manchin’s Argument Is as Far Removed From Reality as West Virginia Is From Neptune.

“The Reverend William Barber, official preacher man here in the shebeen, has announced that, on June 15, he plans to lead his Poor People’s Campaign in a march on Senators Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell. By now, Manchin’s appalling decision not only to continue to embrace the filibuster—the primary barrier to any attempt by Congress to counter the national campaign by the Republican Party to destroy the franchise for millions of American citizens—but also to vote against the For The People Act even if it ever came to a vote, has been chewed up and spat out by practically everyone who’s read his misbegotten op-ed in a West Virginia newspaper. …

“… It is more than possible that Joe Manchin simply has got his, and the hell with the rest of us. His support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a less sweeping bill, is primarily camouflage, since I can’t see enough Republican senators supporting that to get it passed, either. His op-ed is so threadbare that it’s compelling evidence that he’s not even really trying anymore. He cannot be so myopic and detached not to be aware of the political reality. Just last week, he pronounced himself baffled by the Republican refusal to authorize an independent investigation into the events of January 6. He’s just a babe in these woods.”

Greg Sargent, How Joe Manchin’s awful new stance could blow up in his face.

Blowing up in his face sounds good to me. How would that work?

“In his CBS appearance, Manchin hailed the handful of “brave Republicans” in the Senate who voted for the failed Jan. 6 commission, and said this suggests Democrats can still get 10 Republicans to vote for the John Lewis bill….

“… once it becomes clear that 10 Republicans will not support any voting protections, Manchin will have to say whether he believes Democrats cannot act alone to secure them when the alternative, by his own lights, will be disastrous.

“At that point, Manchin may dodge and obfuscate, to be sure. But, if he does continue holding out, that will inevitably be his position. And it’s untenable.”

That’s it? So we’re just screwed.

Here’s Your Failed Experiment, Your Honor

Here’s a bit of random background. There is a lot of background to choose from, but I just learned this bit today, so it’s on my mind.

In 2019, Megan Montgomery was rushed to a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, with a gunshot wound in her arm. The shooter was her husband, Jason McIntosh, a local police officer. NBC reports what happened next.

Police took her husband’s pistol away. Nine months later, the state’s top law enforcement agency gave it back, despite pending domestic violence charges and an active protective order. Just 16 days after that, he used the gun to shoot and kill her during another late-night dispute.

Of course he did. Even McIntosh’s lawyer thinks the state was nuts to give him his gun back. In the United States, a woman is killed by an intimate partner every nine hours, the NBC article says. And in spite of laws calling for domestic abusers to lose their access to firearms, these laws are rarely enforced. Why?

Experts say the reason is a combination of deference to gun rights on the part of judges and other officials, the absence of a defined procedure to remove the guns, and a lack of awareness by law enforcement about just how lethal the risk can be.

And, anyway, it’s just women, right? Gun rights are more important.

Megan Montgomery and Jason McIntosh in 2019.

Now, with that in mind, let us turn to California, where a U.S. District Judge named Roger Benitez has overturned the state’s 32-year-old assault weapons ban. Benitez called the ban a “failed experiment” and also compared the infamous AR-15 rifle to a Swiss army knife — “a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”

Daniel Polti, at Slate:

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez said that the way California has described the military-style rifles that are illegal to own means law-abiding citizens of the state can’t have weapons that most other states allow. The restrictions on the use of the weapons are “hereby declared unconstitutional and shall be enjoined,” Benitez wrote.  …

… Benitez also criticized the news media, saying that it’s their fault assault weapons have a bad reputation. “One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter,” he wrote. “In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle.”

I do not have data on precisely how murders are committed in California, but in the U.S. as a whole the overwhelming majority of homicides are committed by firearms. “Knives or cutting instruments” are a very distant second. Of course, maybe he’s saying that if Californians could get their hands on more AR-15s, maybe the state’s homicide rate (currently 4.5 per 100,000 residents) could be bumped up to rival Mississippi’s (15.4 per 100,000 residents)!

If you’re wondering, Benitez is a George W. Bush appointee, and he has a history of pro-gun rulings. In a November 2020 news item in the San Diego Union-Tribune, reporter Greg Moran wrote that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra formally objected to a gun law case being assigned to Benitez.

Benitez has issued rulings striking down the laws banning high capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks for people buying ammunition in the past two years. He is also now hearing two other cases from Second Amendment advocates, one dealing with the state’s assault weapons regulatory scheme and another on the ban on billy clubs and blackjacks.

I take it AG Becerra couldn’t get the case reassigned.

Although Benitez overturned the assault weapon law, he granted a 30-day stay of the ruling to allow an appeal. And it will be appealed, and I suspect there’s a good chance the law will be reinstated. But let’s go back to Benitez and failed experiments.

Charles Tiefer writes in Forbes, Judge Strikes Down California’s Assault Weapon Ban As Part Of His Crusade Facilitating Mass Killings:

In his 94-page ruling Judge Benitez clearly aims to get the case to the Supreme Court, with its three new Trump-appointed justices, and bring about what he crusades for, a radical doctrine that the Second Amendment extends to weapons of mass killings of helpless, hopeless victims.

After noting Benitez’s pro-weapon history, Tiefer continues,

Benitez was picked although the American Bar Association clearing committee had more than 10 of 15 members giving Benitez an unqualified rating. The ABA said: “Judge Benitez is ‘arrogant, pompous, condescending, impatient, short-tempered, rude, insulting, bullying, unnecessarily mean, and altogether lacking in people skills.’”

Judge Benitez apparently thinks the assault weapons ban is a failed experiment. I have not been an unadulterated fan of assault weapons bans, mostly because “assault weapon” is not really a tightly defined technical term, and a lot of firearms with capabilities very similar to the dreaded AR-15 are not considered “assault weapons.” It’s also the case that one state’s firearm regulations are too easily undermined by laxer laws in other states. But Tiefer provides data arguing that the ban reduced the stockpile of privately owned rifles in California by more than 175,000. Which is better than nothing.

But if you want to talk about failed experiments, let’s look at the experiment we’ve been running in the U.S. This is the experiment to find out what happens when you let any damnfool own and carry guns, including high-velocity semiautomatic rifles like AR-15s. In recent years Republican states have been tripping all over themselves to eliminate even the most modest speed bumps to gun owenership. Licensing and permits are for socialists, you know. All this arm-bearing is supposed to reduce crime, enable public safety, and foster good manners. “An armed society is a polite society,” the Second Amendment advocates like to say.

So how is that working out? The murder rate in the U.S. jumped by 21 percent in 2020, it says here. No doubt a lot of violence was fueled by stress caused by the pandemic, and politics, and social upheavals, but if Americans didn’t own so damn many guns the violence might be a lot less lethal.

See also As Shootings Continue to Surge in 2021, Americans Set to Face a Summer Plagued by Gun Violence in Time; Mass shootings turn America’s gun culture into a killing culture in USA Today; There Have Been, On Average, 10 Mass Shootings In The U.S. Each Week This Year at NPR. Yeah, clearly, that “good guy with a gun” thing is workin’ real well. And are we more polite yet?

Life in the United States — Texas mom accidentally shoots her own child while firing gunshots at roaming puppy.

The woman, 24-year-old Angelia Mia Vargas, was charged with deadly conduct with a firearm after opening fire three times on the 6-month-old boxer puppy but instead wounding her son in the abdomen, reported KTRK-TV.

The puppy had been accidentally left out of the house and was roaming the street; his owner was present and trying to call the pup back to his house.  But Ms. Vargas had a gun handy, so a shooting occurred. The boy and puppy will both recover. Vargas was charged with deadly conduct with a firearm.

Texas lawmakers recently passed a bill to allow open carry of firearms without a permit or required training, which Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign into law.

And the carnage will continue. This experiment is not going well. Maybe we should call it off.