Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Last Call For Fleeing The Shinking Ship, Con't

With Missouri Sen. Roy Blount's announcement this week, five Republican senators have now announced their retirement ahead of 2022 contests, and that means Democrats have the opportunity to pick them off as votes who no longer need to fear Republican primary cultists, and to take those seats in 20 months.

This is not the way Republicans wanted to begin the year.

Missouri’s Roy Blunt on Monday became the fifth Republican senator to announce he will not seek reelection, a retirement wave that portends an ugly campaign season next year and gives Democrats fresh hope in preserving their razor-thin Senate majority.

History suggests Republicans are still well-positioned to reclaim at least one chamber of Congress next year. But officials in both parties agree that the surge of GOP departures will make the Republicans’ challenge more difficult in the Senate.

“Any time you lose an incumbent, it’s bad news,” said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who briefly worked for failed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin nearly a decade ago. “Missouri’s not necessarily a safe state for Republicans. Democrats have won there.”

The 71-year-old Blunt’s exit is a reminder of how the nation’s politics have shifted since the rise of Donald Trump. Blunt and his retiring GOP colleagues from Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Alabama represent an old guard who fought for conservative policies but sometimes resisted the deeply personal attacks and uneven governance that dominated the Trump era.

Their departures will leave a void likely to be filled by a new generation of Republicans more willing to embrace Trumpism — or by Democrats.

Several Missouri Republicans are expected to seek the nomination to replace Blunt, but none will be more divisive than former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid the fallout of a sex scandal and ethics investigation. Missouri’s Republican base has since rallied behind him, believing he was unfairly prosecuted.

Greitens was considering running for the GOP nomination even before Blunt’s announcement. He is expected to announce his candidacy as soon as Tuesday morning.

Two leading Missouri Democrats, former Sen. Claire McCaskill and 2016 Senate candidate Jason Kander, both said they would not run for the open seat.
Greitens in, McCaskill out. Should be a hell of a fight, but can Democrats convince people to vote for them instead of even worse Republicans?

GOP Going After Gupta

Having collected Neera Tanden as a trophy, Republicans are eager to take out yet another Asian-American from Joe Biden's cabinet, this time they are after Deputy Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta, who like Tanden has been a long-time activist foe of the GOP before joining the Biden team. The difference this time is that Gupta has far more allies.

Two decades ago, a former rodeo cowboy went undercover in Tulia, Texas. He targeted dozens of Black residents and accused them of selling small amounts of cocaine. He lied on the stand. Some defendants received sentences of decades in prison on his word alone.

The Lone Star State’s attorney general named the former rodeo cowboy as lawman of the year. But not long after, a young attorney weeks into her job at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund flew down to Texas, where she launched a campaign to fight for the defendants’ freedom and eventually secured a multimillion-dollar settlement.

On Tuesday, that civil rights lawyer, Vanita Gupta, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing for the No. 3 position in the Justice Department. The former Texas attorney general who named that racist informant “lawman of the year,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn, will be on the other side of the dais. And he’ll probably have some questions about law enforcement and race.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see why Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, is drawing the ire of some Republican senators. Biden’s nominees for attorney general and deputy attorney general ― Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco, respectively ― are both white and have spent their careers predominately on the bench and in law enforcement. Gupta, the daughter of immigrants from India, built her career as a civil rights advocate, the type of background that has doomed Justice Department nominees as recently as 2014.

Unsurprisingly, some GOP senators have signaled that they plan to attack and oppose Gupta. They’ll claim it’s because they “back the blue.” The only problem? “The blue” backs Gupta.

Policing leaders, as HuffPost first reported last month, have pushed back on the baseless “law and order”-style attacks that a D.C. conservative group launched against Gupta. Her nomination is supported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association and even the National Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Donald Trump twice.

Gupta has received even more support from top law enforcement officials in recent days. In a letter obtained by HuffPost, Democratic attorneys general from 22 states wrote that Gupta was “guided by a commitment to public safety,” had “worked to build partnerships across the political spectrum,” and “has a long history of working with law enforcement agencies, elected leaders, correctional officials, and advocates from many different viewpoints to build support for policies that will make our criminal justice system more just.” They also wrote that Gupta was a “smart, honest lawyer who would serve the Attorney General and the U.S. government with shared focus and mission: equal justice under the law.”
It will be far harder to sink Gupta because unlike Tanden, she hasn't been going after Democratic Blue Dogs like Joe Manchin, who was more than happy to personally destroy her out of spite (and Tanden going after Manchin's daughter, a former drugmaker CEO who was responsible for jacking up the price of EpiPens.)
We'll see how ugly this gets, but odds are very good that Gupta has 50 votes and will be confirmed like her soon-to-be boss, Merrick Garland.

Where's My Forty Acres And A Mule, Con't

Biden's American Rescue Plan contains billions for aid to Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous farmers, who have been utterly crushed by the Trump Depression and by the Great Recession before that...and by American history before that.

A little-known element of President Biden’s massive stimulus relief package would pay billions of dollars to disadvantaged farmers — benefiting Black farmers in a way that some experts say no legislation has since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Of the $10.4 billion in the American Rescue Plan that will support agriculture, approximately half would go to disadvantaged farmers, according to estimates from the Farm Bureau, an industry organization. About a quarter of disadvantaged farmers are Black. The money would provide debt relief as well as grants, training, education and other forms of assistance aimed at acquiring land.

While it’s a fraction of the $1.9 trillion bill that passed in the Senate on Saturday, advocates say it still represents a step toward righting a wrong after a century of mistreatment of Black farmers by the government and others. Some say it is a form of reparations for African Americans who have suffered a long history of racial oppression.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation with respect to the arc of Black land ownership in this country,” said Tracy Lloyd McCurty, executive director of the Black Belt Justice Center, which provides legal representation to Black farmers.
Historically, Black farmers have all been rendered extinct by powerful white farm interests.

Black farmers in America have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland over the past century, mostly since the 1950s, a result of what agricultural experts and advocates for Black farmers say is a combination of systemic racism, biased government policy, and social and business practices that have denied African Americans equitable access to markets.

Discrimination started a century ago with a series of federal Homestead Acts that offered mainly White settlers deeply subsidized land. Since then, local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices charged with distributing loans have frequently been found to deny Black farmers access to credit and to ignore or delay loan applications. Many Black farmers don’t have clear title to their land, which makes them ineligible for certain USDA loans to purchase livestock or cover the cost of planting, and they have seldom benefited from subsidy payments or trade mitigation compensation — almost all of President Donald Trump’s $28 billion bailout for those affected by the China trade war went to White farmers.

Today, the average farm operated by an African American is about 100 acres, compared with the national average of about 440 acres, according to the last farm census. The Center for American Progress found that in 2017, the average full-time White farmer brought in $17,190 in farm income, while the average full-time Black farmer made just $2,408.

Many civil rights advocates say the USDA’s own practices have resulted in the loss of land and generational wealth for Black families.

“For generations, socially disadvantaged farmers have struggled to fully succeed due to systemic discrimination and a cycle of debt,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Saturday. “On top of the economic pain caused by the pandemic, farmers from socially disadvantaged communities are dealing with a disproportionate share of Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, death and economic hurt.”

Of the 3.4 million farmers in the United States today, only 45,000 are Black, according to the USDA, down from 1 million a century ago. Black farmland ownership peaked in 1910 at 16 to 19 million acres, about 14 percent of total agricultural land, according to the Census of Agriculture. A century later, 90 percent of that land had been lost. White farmers now account for 98 percent of the acres, according to USDA data.
Read that again.

98% of farmland in America is owned by white farmers.

Ninety-eight percent.

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