Saturday, February 12, 2022

Guns Are More Important Than Women, Apparently

Senate Republicans were more than happy to let the Violence Against Women Act provisions expire in 2019, and Democratic efforts to revive it have been spectacularly unsuccessful as the Senate GOP vowed to block anything that would actually help women from not being shot to death by domestic partners. Here in 2022, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats are going to give Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans a huge win with a gutted VAWA bill with zero provisions for gun safety.

It’s been an embarrassingly bumpy road for VAWA reauthorization in Congress. Once upon a time, this was legislation that passed unanimously in both chambers. How can you not support programs credited with stopping violence against women and saving people’s lives?

But the last time Congress reauthorized VAWA was in 2013, and that was only after an ugly partisan fight over adding new protections for Native American, LGBTQ and immigrant victims of domestic violence. That authorization lapsed in 2018, and, despite the House passing bipartisan bills to renew it, Senate Republicans simply wouldn’t unite on anything.

The result is that VAWA’s authorization has been expired since 2019. That doesn’t mean the law itself expired; it means there’s been uncertainty for its grant programs and no ability to update the law with new protections that domestic violence advocates say are badly needed.

The Senate bill unveiled Wednesday is a different story.

For starters, it has bipartisan co-sponsors: Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

It also has other Republican cosponsors right out of the gate. They are Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Rob Portman (Ohio), John Cornyn (Texas), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Jerry Moran (Kansas) and, at the last minute, Richard Burr (N.C.).

That’s 10 GOP co-sponsors. Because of the Senate filibuster, it takes 60 votes to pass any bill, or 10 Republicans voting with all 50 Democrats. That means the newly introduced VAWA bill already has the votes to pass, presuming all Democrats vote for it.

The problem is there's not 50 Democrats available.

VAWA is a priority for President Joe Biden. The 1994 law is one of his signature accomplishments. It was the first major federal legislative package focused on stopping violence against women, and it has since provided billions of dollars in grants for lifesaving programs. Rates of domestic violence declined by more than 50% between 1993 and 2008 after VAWA became law, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“I am grateful that this critical bipartisan bill is moving forward,” Biden said of the VAWA bill in a Wednesday-night statement. “I look forward to Congress delivering it to my desk without delay.”

The Senate bill is similar to the version that passed the House in March 2021, but there is one big difference: The Senate bill doesn’t include a gun safety provision that would have prohibited people who have been convicted of abusing their dating partners from owning firearms, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”

The gun provision was the biggest sticking point in the Senate, where most Republicans simply refused to support a VAWA bill that included any kind of restrictions on gun access. The National Rifle Association, among other gun rights groups, made it clear they opposed the provision.

Even Murkowski and Ernst tried to keep the gun language in the bill, along with Durbin and Feinstein, according to a Senate Democratic aide. But in the end, they didn’t have the GOP votes to pass the bill with the provision in it.

“It was a really difficult decision,” said this aide, who requested anonymity to speak freely about private conversations. “But it came down to we don’t want this to be a messaging bill. We want this to be a bill that can get to Biden’s desk.”

Durbin didn’t give any details on when the bill might start moving through the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, and then onto the Senate floor.

“We’re perilously close to 60 votes,” he said.

He emphasized that every vote counts for passing VAWA and acknowledged the current absence of Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), who had a stroke recently. Lujan is expected to return in four to six weeks
So yeah, there's no way this bill moves until April at the earliest, and that's an eternity in election year politics.

The Great Canadian Trucker War, Con't

As a few right-wing nutjob truckers are blocking America's major crossings into Canada for a fifth day now, Ontario's provincial government has had enough and is calling in the big guns.
A judge on Friday ordered protesters at the Ambassador Bridge over the U.S.-Canadian border to end the 5-day-old blockade that has disrupted the flow of goods between the two countries and forced the auto industry on both sides to roll back production.

It was not immediately clear when or if law enforcement officers would be sent in to remove the demonstrators, who parked their pickups and other vehicles in a bumper-to-bumper protest against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions and an outpouring of fury toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court said during a virtual hearing that the order would be effective at 7 p.m. to give protesters time to leave.

Windsor police immediately warned that anyone blocking the streets could be subject to arrest and their vehicles may be seized.

The news was met with defiance by protesters.

At the Ambassador Bridge, an unidentified person grabbed a microphone and addressed them, asking if they wanted to stay or leave when the deadline rolled around. By a show of applause, it was agreed they would stay. “OK,”’ the man said. “Let’s stand tall.” The protesters responded by singing the Canadian national anthem.

The crowd later grew in size and intensity, with flag-waving and frequent chants of “Freedom!” More patrol cars moved in around the site, and police handed out leaflets warning that a state of emergency would come into effect at midnight.

Since Monday, drivers mostly in pickup trucks have bottled up the bridge connecting Windsor to Detroit. Hundreds more truckers have paralyzed downtown Ottawa over the past two weeks. And protesters have also blocked two other border crossings, in Alberta and Manitoba.

The judge’s decision came after a 4 1/2-hour court hearing at which the city of Windsor and lawyers for auto parts makers argued that the blockade was causing undue economic harm for the city and region.

Supporters of the protesters, some of them truckers, argued that an order to disband would disrupt their right to peacefully protest vaccine mandates that hinder their ability to earn a living.

The ruling came in a day of fast-moving developments as federal, provincial and local officials worked simultaneously on different fronts to try to break the standoff with the so-called Freedom Convoy, whose members have been cheered on by the right in the U.S., including Fox News personalities, Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“This unlawful activity has to end and it will end,” Trudeau warned just hours earlier.

“We heard you. It’s time to go home now,” the prime minister said, cautioning that “everything is on the table” for ending the blockades.

Also Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency and threatened heavy penalties against those who interfere with the free flow of goods and people.

Ford said he would convene the provincial cabinet on Saturday to urgently enact measures that make it “crystal clear” it is illegal to block critical infrastructure. Violators will face up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000, he said.

“There will be consequences for these actions, and they will be severe,” Ford said. “This is a pivotal, pivotal moment for our nation

The ruling went into effect at 7 PM Eastern time on Friday night, so at this point I expect arrests and clearing of the bridge should be done by today.

The problem is FOX News and the right-wing white supremacist noise machine absolutely want trucker convoy protests to shut down American interstate highways and cities.

Heartened by the size and disruption of the Canada protest, activists in the United States are now planning their own domestic convoys. On Telegram, leaders of the California anti-vaccine group Freedom Angels Foundation are urging followers to create national and local convoys, and calling on those who can’t participate to donate supplies.

Telegram threads from Southern California planning groups obtained by Mother Jones show that these groups, like their Canadian counterparts, have attracted extremists, including prominent white nationalists. Parents are heavily involved, too, offering the use of family vehicles and enlisting their children for moral support.

On TikTok this week, Denise Aguilar, founder of Freedom Angels Foundation and the far-right women’s group Mamalitia, urged her followers to support a March 1 convoy in Washington, DC. “You don’t have to be a trucker,” she said. “We’re looking for mom vans, too!” She encourages people to host parties at local parks to collect supplies. “Have some music and get involved with your community,” she enthused. “Truckers make the world go round, and if anyone is going to put a stop to these mandates, it’s them—just watch what Canada’s doing.” She invited viewers to join her on Telegram to assist in her organizing efforts.

As of Thursday evening, the main organizing group on Telegram had more than 46,000 followers. Messages from that group and others provide a window into a movement of Americans increasingly willing to foment chaos in order to pressure the government to drop public health mandates. Some group hosts point to the Ottawa convoy as a model. “It’s critical that we understand why the Canadian protest is so effective, so we can do the same in the United States,” wrote the leader of a Los Angeles planning group. “It was not the convoy itself, but the occupation of Ottawa and the resultant economic and psychological effects on the Canadian government that is effective.”

He continued: “We Americans need to grow out of our tendency to prioritize “performative protest” and flashy stunts for social media clout, and instead focus on the systems and institutions responsible for our oppression and how to best disrupt them.”

Participants in the threads brainstorm ways to maximize the disruption. One member suggested recruiting local towing companies as allies. This would allow protestors to block access to government buildings using abandoned autos, knowing those vehicles wouldn’t be towed “until mandates r lifted,” he wrote.

Overtly racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic comments are a constant theme. One member explained the need to donate goods in person, rather than rely on crowdfunding platforms: “We don’t want to get caught in a GoFundMe situation where a Gay Jewish Canadian man held all the funds for the entire movement on an unsecured platform and almost fucked the supply lines for the whole movement.” Elsewhere, a participant complained about pornographic spam posts on the thread, citing “interracial pornography.”
Canadian police moved in Saturday to remove protesters who have disrupted Canada-US trade at a major bridge border crossing.

Protesters at the busiest crossing between the United States and Canada remained overnight despite new warnings to end the blockade that has disrupted the flow of goods between the two countries and forced the auto industry on both sides to roll back production.

A city bus and school bus arrived at the scene Saturday morning and police moved in formation toward them. One of the protesters used a megaphone to alert others that police were coming for the demonstrators, who are protesting against Canada’s COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. There is also an outpouring of fury toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The Windsor Police & its policing partners have commenced enforcement at and near the Ambassador Bridge. We urge all demonstrators to act lawfully & peacefully. Commuters are still being asked to avoid the areas affected by the demonstrations at this time,” police tweeted.

About 20 protesters huddled together while others remained in pickup trucks and cars as police asked drivers to leave. Tow trucks and ambulances were stationed near the protest.
The blockade will be over pretty quickly, I suspect.  The damage to Canada's government, well, that's another story.
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