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Democrats and Gorsuch

[ 68 ] March 20, 2017 |

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Democrats don’t seem to be united on how to deal with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, which is “no way, no how.” Richard Blumenthal gets it:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Sunday that he would filibuster Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and “use every tool that we have” if Gorsuch fails to disavow litmus tests on abortion and guns, among other things.

Gorsuch’s multi-day confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET on Monday.

Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, began by saying on MSNBC Sunday that Gorsuch would have to tell the committee that a ban on any religion is unconstitutional. Judges have said that religious bias motivated President Donald Trump’s recently blocked travel ban.

“Even if he can’t comment on the specific immigration case, he has to at least show that he respects the principle that the government can’t discriminate on the basis of religion; that a Muslim ban would violate the Constitution,” he said.

Blumenthal said he would hold Gorsuch to the same standard on Roe v. Wade, which set a precedent establishing abortion as a fundamental right, and gun control laws.

Michael Bennet on the other hand:

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will get some bipartisan cover at his confirmation hearing next week — even if for just a few minutes.

Gorsuch, a Denver native, will be introduced by both Colorado senators — Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican — before he delivers his opening testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. It’s long been tradition that a nominee’s home-state senators give the introduction during the high-profile confirmation hearings. The third person who will introduce Gorsuch is former Obama acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, who has written op-eds and letters to the committee endorsing Gorsuch’s nomination.

Aides to Bennet, who has faced political pressure to vote for Gorsuch, stressed that his introduction has no bearing on whether he will support President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee. Indeed, the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced then-nominee Samuel Alito before the Judiciary Committee in 2006, but ultimately voted to filibuster him.

Gorsuch comes from a Colorado power elite family and his mother was Reagan’s absolutely nightmarish EPA director. So he is getting a lot of pressure from the Colorado political class. But who cares. He was just elected to a second term. Come 2022, no one is going to care how he voted on Gorsuch on the right because they aren’t going to support him anyway. Colorado is moving pretty rapidly to the left and voting to confirm is only going to hurt him with his base. Moderates won’t care either way in five years. While I realize Bennet has not said he will vote for Gorsuch, he’s also been fairly favorable in his public comments. He needs a lot of pressure to vote no. Gorsuch will almost certainly be confirmed. Given that it is a stolen seat, it needs to happen with zero Democratic votes which forces Republicans to blow up the filibuster.

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Dumbasses of America

[ 323 ] March 19, 2017 |

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The genre of “let’s talk to idiotic white voters who support Trump even though he will decimate their lives” is already more stale than bread baked on November 8. However, it does lead to the occasional special anecdote that truly sums up the stupidity of many white people.

Blake Yelverton is taking a break with a burger that doesn’t cut any corners. Cheese and bacon and everything. He’s 23, a burly young man with a big red beard, and he works on his father’s cow farm.

“I don’t believe it’s the federal government’s job to provide health care,” he said. “It’s communism, socialism anyway.”

Yelverton hopes Trump trashes the whole thing, and he’s not too fond of the GOP plan being discussed in Congress either. “They’re doing a lesser evil of Obamacare,” he said.

His insurance?

“I’m on my parents’ plan,” he said.

So, Yelverton, it turns out, benefits from Obamacare. That’s because the law allows parents to keep kids on their insurance until age 26 — a widely-popular element of Barack Obama’s signature health law that Republicans intend to keep in their replacement plan.

Confronted with that information, he pauses for a moment.

“I haven’t been to the doctor in four or five years,” he said.

Smart kid.

Unionize Uber

[ 36 ] March 19, 2017 |

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Great news out of Seattle:

A judge in Washington State has rejected Uber’s attempt to overturn a Seattle ordinance that gives its drivers the right to unionize, potentially opening the door for higher rates and labor costs. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Teamsters labor union intends to begin working to organize drivers soon.

The legal battle over the rule, which originally passed in December of 2015, has been lengthy. Last August, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group seeking the rule’s suspension.

Gee, you wouldn’t want to frame this “potentially opening the door to dignified lives for workers” or anything. Of course, this is from Fortune, magazine of the New Gilded Age. Anyway:

Uber has extensively lobbied its own drivers to oppose unionization. The company says the rule could impinge on drivers’ flexibility, and has previously protested a provision that would give voting rights on the unionization question only to drivers who make at least 52 trips in a three-month period. Those higher-volume drivers are presumed to be more likely to support unionization.

Observers have long argued that Uber’s business model depends on very low pay for drivers. A British government report last year found that Uber drivers often took home substantially less than that country’s hourly living wage. Elsewhere, Uber has battled lawsuits over its classification of drivers as contractors rather than employees.

Even under such conditions, Uber has repeatedly posted huge operating losses. Drivers pushing for higher fares or pay rates, then, are a major threat to the company’s viability.

The entire company is losing money on every ride while also relying on poverty wages and playing with employment law to shield itself and force its low-paid drivers to bear the burden of responsibility on the job. To say the least, this company needs to die. If employment law was to cover these workers and if unions were to represent the drivers, I would have no problem with rideshare services. The problem is not that I need to defend the traditional taxi companies, which are pretty bad in their own right. The problem is that the rideshare companies won’t do such less than crazy things as “consider their workers employees” and “run background checks on the drivers” and “make sure the drivers make at least the minimum wage.” This, on top of Uber’s cozying up with Cheeto Mussolini, makes it one of the New Gilded Age’s most rapacious and awful corporations.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 75

[ 17 ] March 19, 2017 |

This is the grave of Thomas Catron.

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Born in Missouri in 1840, Catron graduated from the University of Missouri in 1860 and joined the treasonous Confederate army in his home state. He fought throughout the war, rising to the rank of 1st Lieutenant after having fought at such battles as Mission Creek and Pea Ridge. After the war, Catron moved to New Mexico Territory and studied law, settling in Mesilla, near Las Cruces. He learned Spanish, became a Republican, and rose quickly in the territory’s white political elite.

Catron quickly learned what it took to succeed in the Gilded Age: a complete lack of scruples in stealing resources from the poor. What learning Spanish and the law did for him was to allow him to become incredibly wealthy by stealing land grants from the territory’s Hispano population. The Spanish and Mexican governments had sought to settle their northern boundaries by offering settlers large land grants. This was communally-held property that could not be sold by a particular individual. This of course was counter to the individualistic property rights regime of the British-descended United States. When the U.S. stole the northern half of Mexico in a war of conquest to defend slavery, the Mexican government tried to protect the land heritage of its citizens now forced to live in a foreign land. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican War in 1848 guaranteed the land grants. But after that, once whites began moving to New Mexico in relatively large numbers after the Civil War, the courts treated the Hispano New Mexicans about the same as they treated African-Americans and Native Americans during these years: as lesser beings with no rights.

This is the world Thomas Catron stepped into and helped to create. Admitted to the bar in 1867, he was appointed district attorney for the territory’s Third Judicial District in 1868 and 1869 became Attorney General. He became law partners with another of the territory’s white elites, Stephen Elkins. When Elkins was elected to Congress as the territory’s representative in 1872, Catron took his job as U.S. Attorney, which he held until 1878. He moved to Santa Fe and ran for various offices, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

What made Catron exceptional though is not his political career, but rather his role as a member of the Santa Fe Ring. While historians have debated whether this actually existed in concrete form, it doesn’t really matter. It was a group of white elites looking to cash in on the territory’s wealth. The real wealth was in the land. But it had to be separated from the land grant descendants who relied on it for their grazing, logging, and gathering needs. These were huge chunks of land with very few people on them. But the people had developed long-held traditions of collective use of that land. For whites, this was a waste of land, just as the sparsely populated Indian reservations were. So they sought to grab it. Because Republicans controlled the patronage in the territory for most of the territorial period, these local Republicans had a free hand to act and in an era where even wealth and power were for those who anyone who could ruthlessly acquire it, no one in Washington was going to care about what happened to Spanish-speaking non-whites in distant New Mexico.

The Ring (or its various members if it never quite existed as a concrete matter) were involved in any number of sketchy actions, leading for instance to the huge ranches in central and southern New Mexico that led to the Lincoln County War and other periods of violence in territorial New Mexico. Catron’s biggest play in this was setting himself up as the lawyer for the land grant holders, getting them to sign documents that they did not understand and that stripped them of the vast majority of their holdings, and then acquiring that land for himself. As one of the few lawyers who really understood the land grand system, he became New Mexico’s largest landholder by far. He took over the vast majority of 34 land grants for himself and his friends, holding at least a partial interest in over 3 million acres of land. Much of this land eventually became the national forests and wilderness areas of northern New Mexico that you may enjoy today. For awhile, he was the largest landholder in the United States.

This happened when individuals involved in the grant, usually wealthier people, sought to confirm that the grant was privately-held, not communally. The courts were happy to confirm this. And then those people, looking to cash in and often in debt, sought to sell. Catron was there to buy. Here’s a good discussion of the Tierra Amarilla Grant.

Sale of interests and speculation on the grant began almost immediately after it was confirmed by Congress. By 1880, Thomas B. Catron had purchased sufficient interests in the grant from Martinez heirs so that in February 1881, when the United States Congress issued a patent for the grant to Francisco Martinez, Catron himself signed the receipt. By 1883, Catron filed suit to quiet title to the grant, exempting only a few “informal conveyances of some very small pieces of land.” These parcels, which have become known as the “Catron exclusions,” were the donaciones, or allotments, made by Francisco Martinez to more than one hundred settlers of the grant. These were the same individuals to whom Martinez gave hijuelas, or deeds, which stipulated their rights to free use of the grant’s common lands.

Even before Catron received quiet title to the grant, he had begun developing its vast natural resources. He leased right of way to the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, sold rights to the region’s coal mines and massive pine forests, and leased its lush pastures to large cattle companies. During this period, however, there is little evidence Catron aggressively curtailed Tierra Amarilla’s settlers from grazing their personal livestock on the traditional common lands of the grant. Introduction of the railroad and extensive lumbering operations in the region apparently brought prosperity to Tierra Amarilla during the 1880’s and 1890’s. As long as local residents had access to grazing for their small herds and flocks, the nuances of who retained legal ownership of common lands did not seem to be an important issue.

Interestingly, in northeast New Mexico at the time, the gorras blancas, or white caps, were waging a campaign of political activism and violence to protest the fencing of traditional grazing lands. The tranquility of Tierra Amarilla prompted pioneering archaeologist and historian, Adolph Bandelier, to comment about it. In 1891, Bandelier traveled through northern New Mexico and recorded the Tierra Amarilla grant’s resources for Thomas Catron, who was desperately seeking a buyer for the heavily mortgaged property. Bandelier was clearly impressed by “Catron’s grant” and in his journal he describes it as “a most valuable piece of property, a little kingdom of its own.” Then he added a statement clearly designed to assuage the concerns of potential buyers about whether the influence of the gorras blancas extended to Rio Arriba. “There is no trouble to be apprehended from the people [of Tierra Amarilla],” Bandelier noted, “unless there should be a leader.”

However, this began to change after 1909, when Catron finally succeeded in selling the grant. When the Arlington Land Company obtained ownership, it continued the practice of selling timber and mineral rights to various companies. The company also sold large tracts of land to corporations and individual buyers, many of whom further subdivided the land. When these new owners began to fence off large portions of the grant, they initiated a process which began to severely restrict the access to pasture on which the settlers of the grant depended for their livelihood.

The residents’ ability to access pasture for their livestock appears to be the principal reason why there is little documented evidence of resistance or protest to Catron’s purchase and ownership of the Tierra Amarilla grant. In 1889, several residents of the grant filed a suit against Catron but did not ask for return of the grant or make access to land an issue. Instead, the plaintiffs cited the stipulations of the original grant and the hijuelas, which were issued to individuals by Francisco Martinez in the early 1860’s, and sought a share of the proceeds Catron was receiving from leases and sale of timber and mineral rights. The few extant records of this case tell little beyond the fact of its dismissal in April 1892.

Although there is little evidence that Catron moved aggressively against grant settlers who grazed their livestock, he occasionally took action to counteract perceived threats to his ownership. In 1892, he filed suit against Miguel Chavez and Pablo Rivas for allegedly pasturing their sheep on his property and sought a restraining order to prevent their further use of the land. Chavez and Rivas responded that while Catron may have been given patent to the Tierra Amarilla Grant, they were grazing their sheep by right of the grant made to Manuel Martinez by the Mexican government and the deeds, which allowed them “free and common” use of water, pasture, and other resources of the grant. They claimed to be doing nothing illegal and asked the court to force Catron to produce proof of his ownership. The suit lingered in District Court for nearly ten years and was finally dropped from the docket in 1902. The record shows Catron paid the court costs, which amounted to less than ten dollars for various filing fees.

The land grant thefts continued to make many people seethe and eventually led to the rise of Reies Lopez Tijerina and his Alianza Federal de Mercedes in the 1960s, culminating in the attack on the courthouse in Tierra Amarilla.

When New Mexico became a state in 1912, Catron was one of the two first senators. Typically, whites worked together to make sure that the Spanish-speaking New Mexicans would hold no power. Specifically, Catron and Albert Fall, a man who would later be no stranger to scandal himself, coordinated the election of each to the Senate. He lost his re-election bid in 1916. He died in Santa Fe in 1921.

Thomas Catron is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The CIO, Race, and Liberalism

[ 15 ] March 18, 2017 |

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Yeselson has an excellent long-form review of two new books on the CIO, race, and New Deal liberalism that look flawed but necessary anyway. You will want to read the whole thing if you care about the issues of the working-class, race, and the government in these perilous times. Here’s the conclusion:

But this isn’t true. Unions and black workers are closer than they have ever been. And unions are, if anything, less ambivalent bulwarks against racism than they were in the immediate postwar period. The AFL-CIO and African-American organizations and politicians work together and, for better or for worse, agree on pretty much every policy issue. Even the building trades, pushed for years by the courts and civil rights activists, have responded by opening up their apprenticeship and training programs to women and minorities. Today, there is a higher percentage of black workers who are union members than there are white workers. Ask any organizer of any color and they will tell you that they stand a better chance of organizing non-white workers, blacks especially, than white workers. And the most successful labor campaign in recent years, the SEIU-led Fight for $15, seeks to organize fast-food workers who are disproportionately non-white. Like the CIO when seeking to organize the industrial sector during the thirties and forties, SEIU today has both pragmatic and ideological reasons to organize workers of color in the growing low-wage service sector. Similarly, service-sector unions have built powerful alliances in California and Nevada with Latinos. As for white unionized workers, despite all of the stories about how pissed off they are at neoliberal Democrats and how they were attracted to Donald Trump’s trade message, the fact remains that white men in unions have still voted for Democrats at a rate of about 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts. (This pattern likely did not hold this year. Exit polls from the 2016 election indicate that Clinton carried the union vote by 51–43, the lowest margin for a Democrat since 1984.)

So, while Schiller’s expertly depicted legal conflict seems ineluctable, in fact there is more solidarity between unions and African Americans today than there was a half century ago. He insists that the “weak and unstable foundation” of postwar liberalism provided little to “fleeing working-class whites in a time of economic crisis.” But how could a labor movement, grounded in industrial pluralism, win against management as its numbers declined? Conversely, how could this same declining movement succeed in petitioning the state for compensatory protections precisely at the moment when its political impact, along with its membership, grew smaller?

The dueling visions of the law—majoritarian, anti-statist industrial pluralism versus state-assisted redress of individual claims of racial discrimination—as Schiller demonstrates, generated a lot of conflict between unions and civil rights activists. But this conflict didn’t end the labor liberalism driven by the CIO and a few of the AFL unions. The collapse of employment in the key postwar industries and the subsequent decline in union membership is what badly wounded this iteration of labor liberalism. This undermined the Democratic Party’s desire to promulgate full employment and a redistributive economic policy, which meant that the party had an ascendant and growing African-American voting bloc, which simultaneously alarmed white workers at precisely the moment when their economic clout and the unions that provided it were waning.

So the new labor liberalism, built with the support of proportionally more non-white workers (and women), is more progressive than the old pre–civil rights era labor liberalism. If it achieves its powerful new vision, it will be a more humane, cosmopolitan, and egalitarian movement than its predecessor. But as of now, it is a significantly smaller movement and lacks economic and political leverage in key sectors of the political economy. The Fight for $15, however innovative and promising, doesn’t remotely compare to the great CIO victories of the late 1930s and ’40s in terms of its impact on workers, both white and non-white. The unique conditions that engendered labor’s massive growth during this period, barely commented upon by either author, does not necessarily provide a template for contemporary organizing.

As these two sharply argued books demonstrate, postwar liberalism hinged upon how and whether unions maximized and used their power. The books together form an odd complementarity: even as a powerful union movement promoted the cause of equality for African Americans (Schickler), union and civil rights activists began splitting apart from each other (Schiller). Meanwhile, modern conservatism merged its opposition to both worker empowerment and cosmopolitan racial equality, embodied in the figure of Barry Goldwater, the opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act who (as neither book notes) also despised and sought to curtail the embodiment of CIO power, Walter Reuther, and the flagship institution of American liberalism that he led, the UAW.

Today, multiracial political activism has returned to the left, but without the support of anything like the economically and politically weighty labor movement of the postwar era. The New Deal order cannot be resurrected. The working class is split along racial, regional, and cultural lines and, by most measures, a significant part of it (even slightly more non-white workers than expected) voted for an authoritarian, racist, misogynist grifter in the last election. Schickler, on the last page of his book, with more hope than evidence, asserts that demographic changes to a “majority-minority” population may in themselves put pressure on Democratic Party elites in the way that the labor and civil rights movements once did. More valuable is his concluding remark regarding the necessity for progressive groups to see themselves not as “isolated claimants on the party system but instead as part of a broader ideological coalition with common aims and shared enemies.” The only good news that resulted from this election is that the need for “shared enemies” has been filled.

Big Scary Socialism

[ 109 ] March 18, 2017 |

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If fascism wasn’t haunting our lives, I’d laugh more at this NRO freakout about rising socialism that evidently I am causing as a professor because apparently I can’t get my students to do the reading, but I can convert them to revolutionary ideology. But I’m laughing anyway.

Today in the Criminal Injustice System

[ 86 ] March 18, 2017 |

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Another day, more police officers getting off scot free after the wanton murder of African-Americans.

On June 23, 2012, Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic man serving time for cocaine possession, was thrown into a prison shower at the Dade Correctional Institution. The water was turned up top 180 degrees — hot enough to steep tea or cook Ramen noodles.

As punishment, four corrections officers — John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — kept Rainey in that shower for two full hours. Rainey was heard screaming “Please take me out! I can’t take it anymore!” and kicking the shower door. Inmates said prison guards laughed at Rainey and shouted “Is it hot enough?”

Rainey died inside that shower. He was found crumpled on the floor. When his body was pulled out, nurses said there were burns on 90 percent of his body. A nurse said his body temperature was too high to register with a thermometer. And his skin fell off at the touch.

But in an unconscionable decision, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office announced Friday that the four guards who oversaw what amounted to a medieval-era boiling will not be charged with a crime.

“The shower was itself neither dangerous nor unsafe,’’ the report says. “The evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff.’’

What is there even to say at this point?

Thanks Irish-Americans!

[ 81 ] March 17, 2017 |

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For this St. Patrick’s Day, let’s thank our Irish-American political leaders such as Mick Mulvaney, Peter King, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Flynn, and of course Paul Ryan for bringing the British policies that starved out millions of Irish in the 1840s to the USA.

Sandwiches Perhaps Improved by Ketchup

[ 203 ] March 16, 2017 |

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Of course Trump not only eats at McDonald’s, but prefers the Filet o Fish. This may actually be a greater crime than putting ketchup on steak. That is a righteously disgusting sandwich, a concoction evidently created to give Catholics something to eat on Fridays but never improved over its original invention in 1962, a true peak year of American cuisine. Of course, the Filet o Fish was invented in Cincinnati, home of America’s worst regional food tradition. Of course it was. Though I’m surprised St. Louis isn’t claiming it as its own.

Meanwhile, I have been spending the last few days in West Virginia exploring the menu of one of the nation’s regional fast food chains, Tudor’s Biscuit World. The sausage and egg biscuit is highly recommended. My heart may not appreciate it but the rest of me is happy.

Labor, Environment, Neoliberalism

[ 1 ] March 16, 2017 |

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I did this podcast with the environmental historian Michael Egan last week on the relationship between environmentalism and neoliberalism. This is actual neoliberalism, not the current definition of “someone in the Democratic Party who does something I don’t like” so commonly used on the left. The whole last half is a discussion on the relationship between the labor and environmental movements. Check it out.

The Trump Budget

[ 127 ] March 16, 2017 |

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I interrupt my travels around Appalachia this week that have taken me away from both the blog and the 21st century for a brief post on the Trump budget. It’s as great a monstrosity as you would expect.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

Parts of the budget proposal also appear to contradict Trump’s agenda. Trump has said he wants to eliminate all disease, but the budget chops funding for the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion, or close to 20 percent. He has said he wants to create a $1 trillion infrastructure program, but the proposal would eliminate a Transportation Department program that funds nearly $500 million in road projects. It does not include new funding amounts or a tax mechanism for Trump’s infrastructure program, postponing those decisions.

And the Trump administration proposed to eliminate a number of other programs, particularly those that serve low-income Americans and minorities, because it questioned their effectiveness. This included the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which disburses more than $3 billion annually to help heat homes in the winter. It also proposed abolishing the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides roughly $3 billion for targeted projects related to affordable housing, community development and homelessness programs, among other things.

The budget was stuffed with other cuts and reductions. It calls for privatizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control function, cutting all funding for long-distance Amtrak train services and eliminating EPA funding for the restoration of Chesapeake Bay. Job training programs would also be cut, pushing more responsibility for this onto the states and employers.

Many Republicans have criticized these programs in the past as wasteful and ineffective, but supporters have said the programs are vital for communities in need.

The proposed budget extensively targets Obama programs and investments focused on climate change, seeking to eliminate payments to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund — one key component of the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement — and to slash research funding for climate, ocean and earth science programs at agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At the same time, clean-energy research, heavily privileged by the Obama administration, would suffer greatly under the budget with the elimination of the ­ARPA-E program (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) at the Energy Department and an unspecified cut to the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

But here’s the thing: While some parts of this are uniquely Trump and will be definitely pushed back by fellow Republicans, such as the State Department cuts, the vast majority of this isn’t a Trump budget so much as a Republican budget. What Republicans will stand up for the NEA and NEH? Which Republicans will reinstate the Sea Grant for universities like URI? Which Republicans will fight for climate change research funding? Which Republicans will fight for the National Park Service? It’s possible that McConnell will step up for the Appalachian Regional Commission since it brings money to his state, but then again, Kentucky Republicans are so destroying their own state internally that maybe he won’t care.

We have to remember that the enemy is not Donald Trump. It’s the Republican Party.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 74

[ 9 ] March 12, 2017 |

This is the grave of Joseph Warren.

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Born in 1741 in Roxbury, Massachuestts, Warren grew up in the respectable class of his colony. His father was a reasonably well off farmer who died in 1755 after falling out of an apple tree. Warren still managed to attend Harvard, where he graduated in 1759. He became a doctor and joined the Masons. That lodge was a hotbed of protest activity toward the centralizing aims of London after the Seven Years War concluded. Getting to know men such as Paul Revere and John Hancock, Warren became a leader in the Patriot movement. He was a member of the Boston committee that issued a report on the Boston Massacre, damning the British for their actions. In 1773, he was appointed to the Boston Committee of Correspondence. He also drafted the Suffolk Resolves that the Continental Congress approved in protest to the Coercive Acts. It was Warren who sent Revere on his famous Midnight Ride that became central to the mythology of the Revolutionary War.

He instantly joined the fighting when it began on April 19, 1775, coordinating the Patriot attacks on British troops as they retreated from Concord. He was nearly killed there, as a musket ball knocked off his wig. He became a Major General on June 14, 1775. But at the Battle of Bunker Hill, he refused to command, volunteering as a private and allowing more experienced men to command. He was one of the last holdouts to hold that hill as the British commenced their third wave of the assault, finally taking it. In doing so, a British officer shot Warren in the head and killed him. There were some rumors that the British officers desecrated his body after the battle, but it’s hard to know. Warren became the first martyr of the Revolutionary War and his death was useful propaganda for the Patriots as they moved toward independence the following year.

Joseph Warren has been played several times in film and television. Wilfred Noy played him in a 1924 silent called Janice Meredith. In the 1957 adaptation of Johnny Tremain, Walter Coy played Warren. He’s been played in a whole bunch of seemingly minor productions in this century, including by Ryan Eggold in the History Channel production named Sons of Liberty and by Michael Anthony Coppola in some 2007 10 minute film called The Ride.

Joseph Warren was originally buried in the Granary Burying Ground off Boston Common but was moved twice. In 1825, he was reburied in St. Paul’s Church. Then, in 1855, he was supposedly buried again with his family at Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston, Massachusetts, where he remains today. I say supposedly because his grandson died in 1856 and his name is carved on that old headstone placed against rock where the family is buried. Anyway, he seems to be there now.

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