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This left-wing pundit explains why he's surprised and impressed by Joe Biden's presidency so far

February 3, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Before Joe Biden received the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, many liberals and progressives were expressing strong reservations about the former vice president. His most enthusiastic support, at that point, came from centrist Blue Dog Democrats and Never Trump conservatives.

Progressive pundit Mehdi Hasan was among Biden’s outspoken critics during much of the primary. But in an op-ed published by MSNBC’s website this week, Hasan stresses that so far, he has been pleasantly surprised by Biden’s presidency.

“During the Democratic presidential primaries,” Hasan recalls. “I was one of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s fiercest critics on the left. I reminded readers how he was the architect of the 1994 crime bill. I reminded listeners how he was the champion of the credit card industry. I reminded viewers how he had misled us over Iraq.”

Hasan even went so far as to say that Biden, “would be a disaster” if elected. But unlike the far-right pundits at Fox News, Newsmax or Breitbart, Hasan didn’t believe that Biden would turn the U.S. into Venezuela under Hugo Chávez — he viewed Biden as much too conservative.

Early signs from the White house show Mehdi he was probably wrong, the pundit readily admitted.

“The new president has been far from a disaster,” Hasan writes. “His first ten days were as smooth as any in modern presidential history — and that despite, perhaps, the worst presidential inheritance in all of American history. He has signed more than 40 executive orders — an ‘opening-days blitz…. essentially compressing 100 days into ten,’ to quote the New York Times. ‘Biden has outlined the most liberal agenda in a generation,’ Axios observed Sunday…. What’s not to like for progressives?”

Originally from the U.K., Hasan stands out in the U.S. media not only because of his British accent, but also, because he aggressively critiques Democrats from the left and points out how conservative parts of the Democratic Party can be. And any right-wing pundit who described former President Barack Obama as a “leftist” or a “socialist” during an interview with Hasan would be in for a tongue-lashing and a long list of reasons why Obama was very much a centrist during his eight …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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DOJ debates using RICO law to charge insurrectionists involved in Capitol riot: report

February 3, 2021 in Blogs

By The New Civil Rights Movement

The U.S. Dept. of Justice is weighing the use of “RICO” laws, designed to prosecute Mafia bosses behind racketeering crimes, to charge far right group members who had a part in Donald Trump’s January 6 attempted coup at the Capitol, Reuters reports.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) law “was crafted to help prosecutors convict top Mafia leaders who ordered others to commit crimes. RICO cases are complex, often take years to develop, and require approval from Justice Department leadership.”

“RICO was designed to address the Godfather – the person who doesn’t get their hands bloody,” said Jeffrey Grell, an attorney who specializes in RICO law. “You would really only use RICO to go after the kingpins or the leaders.”

Disgraced former president Donald Trump will be on trial in the U.S. Senate next week after the House of Representatives impeached him for inciting the January 6 insurrection.

“Obstructing an official government proceeding, the charge some Oath Keepers and Proud Boy members are currently facing, is considered a ‘racketeering activity,’” Reuters adds.

Trump infamously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” and later, they were part of the insurrection, according to multiple reports. The group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, for years worked undercover as a “prolific” informant, Reuters has also reported.

Read Reuters’ full RICO report here.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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New report reveals how a radicalized mother of 8 became an infamous figure in the Capitol attack

February 3, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Rachel Powell is a 40-year-old mother of eight from Western Pennsylvania who is being pursued by the FBI for her role in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. An article by journalist Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, published this week, describes Powell’s path to far-right radicalization and includes an interview with Powell herself — who spoke from an undisclosed location.

“In her first public comments since the riot, Powell acknowledged her role in the events at the Capitol,” Farrow reports. “During a two-hour telephone interview, she claimed that her conduct had been spontaneous, contrary to widespread speculation that she had acted in coordination with an organized group.”

Powell, Farrow notes, isn’t a native Pennsylvanian. She was born in Anaheim, California — which is in Orange County south of Los Angeles — and lived in what she describes as “the really bad side” of Fresno in Central California before moving to West Sunbury, Pennsylvania with her family. In some respects, Powell sounds very middle-of-the-road; she’s into yoga and organic food and sold yogurt at local farmer’s markets. But her politics became increasingly radicalized in 2020, when she was drawn to conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Infowars’ Alex Jones and then-President Donald Trump, according to Farrow, were major influences on her thinking.

Videos taken at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, Farrow notes, “show her, wearing a pink hat and sunglasses, using a battering ram to smash a window and a bullhorn to issue orders.” Using a bullhorn, Powell told fellow rioters, “People should probably coordinate together if you’re going to take this building. We got another window to break to make in-and-out easy.”

Farrow notes, “In recent weeks, as journalists and law enforcement officials tried to identify participants in the assault, she came to be known as ‘Bullhorn Lady’ and ‘Pink Hat Lady.’ She appeared on an FBI ‘Wanted’ poster, was featured in cable-television news segments, and became an obsessive focus of crowdsourced investigative efforts by laypeople and experts.”

During her phone interview with Farrow, Powell said that breaking into the Capitol Building wasn’t something she planned to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The truth about the declining American empire that both Trump and Biden wanted to restore

February 3, 2021 in Blogs

By Medea Benjamin

In 2004, journalist Ron Suskind quoted a Bush White House advisor, reportedly Karl Rove, as boasting, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” He dismissed Suskind’s assumption that public policy must be rooted in “the reality-based community.”

“We’re history’s actors,” the advisor told him, “…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Sixteen years later, the American wars and war crimes launched by the Bush administration have only spread chaos and violence far and wide, and this historic conjunction of criminality and failure has predictably undermined America’s international power and authority. Back in the imperial heartland, the political marketing industry that Rove and his colleagues were part of has had more success dividing and ruling the hearts and minds of Americans than of Iraqis, Russians or Chinese.

The irony of the Bush administration’s imperial pretensions was that America has been an empire from its very founding, and that a White House staffer’s political use of the term “empire” in 2004 was not emblematic of a new and rising empire as he claimed, but of a decadent, declining empire stumbling blindly into an agonizing death spiral.

Americans were not always so ignorant of the imperial nature of their country’s ambitions. George Washington described New York as “the seat of an empire,” and his military campaign against British forces there as the “pathway to empire.” New Yorkers eagerly embraced their state’s identity as the Empire State, which is still enshrined in the Empire State Building and on New York State license plates.

The expansion of America’s territorial sovereignty over Native American lands, the Louisiana Purchase and the annexation of northern Mexico in the Mexican-American War built an empire that far outstripped the one that George Washington built. But that imperial expansion was more controversial than most Americans realize. Fourteen out of fifty-two U.S. senators voted against the 1848 treaty to annex most of Mexico, without which Americans might still be visiting California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah and most of Colorado as exotic Mexican travel spots.

In the full flowering of the American empire after the Second World War, its leaders understood the skill and subtlety required to exercise imperial power in a post-colonial world. No country fighting for independence from the U.K. or France was going to welcome imperial invaders from …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Who Invented the Potato Chip?

February 3, 2021 in History

By Greg Daugherty

It’s complicated.

The credit for America’s greatest inventions is often a matter of controversy. The telephone: Alexander Graham Bell or Elisha Gray? The radio: Guglielmo Marconi or Nicola Tesla? The airplane: Gustave Whitehead or the Wright Brothers?

Add to that illustrious list: the potato chip.

The most common origin story for the potato chip involves Moon’s Lake House, a popular restaurant in the resort town of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. But even there, at least five different men and women have been credited as its creator. What’s more, food historians suggest the chip probably wasn’t invented in Saratoga—and possibly not in the U.S. at all.

The Saratoga Story

The most popular potato chip legend goes like this: One day in 1853, the shipping and railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt was dining at Moon’s Lake House. Disappointed by the fried potatoes he’d been served, he sent them back to the kitchen, asking for more thinly sliced ones. George Crum, a famed chef of Native American and Black heritage, took umbrage at the request and, in an “I’ll show him!” mood, sliced some potatoes as thin as he could, fried them to a crisp and served them to Vanderbilt. To Crum’s surprise, Vanderbilt loved them, and the potato chip was born.

This version of events eventually became so well-established that, in 1976, American Heritage magazine would dub Crum, also known as George Speck, the “Edison of Grease.”

WATCH: The new season of The Food That Built America premieres Sunday, February 14 at 9/8c. Can’t wait for the premiere? Catch a sneak preview episode on Tuesday, February 9 at 10/9c. Watch a preview below:

Unfortunately, there are several problems with the Crum story. For one, if there was a disgruntled diner, it almost certainly wasn’t Vanderbilt. “There is no truth to the tale,” historian T.J. Stiles concluded in his Pulitzer prize-winning biography The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

For another, Crum’s supposed role in inventing the potato chip seems to have gone largely unrecognized in his lifetime, even though he was widely known across the U.S. and celebrated for his brook trout, lake bass, woodcock and partridge, among other dishes—making him perhaps the first celebrity chef in America. In 1889, a writer in the New York Herald called him “the best cook in the country,” with nary a word about potatoes. Most of his obituaries, in …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Rep. Matt Gaetz thrills his critics with surprise offer to potentially resign: 'Icing on the clown car cake!'

February 3, 2021 in Blogs

By The New Civil Rights Movement

MAGA nationalist Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has offered to resign his House seat (video below) so he can defend disgraced former president Donald Trump during his Senate impeachment trial for inciting the deadly January 6 insurrection.

Far right political activist and Editor-in-Chief of The National Pulse, Raheem Kassam, says Gaetz made the offer Wednesday.

“I would leave my House seat, I would leave my home,” Gaetz told former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. He called it “the greatest priority in my life.”

“I view this cancellation of the Trump presidency and the Trump movement as one of the major risks to my people,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz, who has wholly aligned himself with Trump, apparently has made the decision serving the former president is more beneficial to his career than serving his Florida constituents.

He was quickly mocked on Twitter.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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America’s First Black Regiment Earned Their Freedom by Fighting Against the British

February 3, 2021 in History

By Farrell Evans

The Slave Enlistment Act of 1778 stipulated that any enslaved person accepted to the 1st Rhode Island Regiment be “immediately discharged from the service of his master or mistress, and be absolutely free.”

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, widely regarded as the first Black battalion in U.S. military history, originated, in part, from George Washington’s desperation.

In late 1777 during the American Revolution, the Continental Army, led by General Washington, faced severe troop shortages in its war with the British. “No less than 2,898 men now in camp [are] unfit because they are barefoot and otherwise naked,” Washington wrote to Congress, begging for material support. Disease claimed nearly 2,000 soldiers during the army’s winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. When enough white men couldn’t be persuaded to enlist in the depleting army with bounties of land and money, Congress resorted to the draft. Its mandate: Each state must fill a quota of militias, based on its population.

Rhode Island, the smallest state with a population under 60,000 on the eve of the Revolution, needed to fill two battalions. When the state couldn’t recruit enough white men, its leaders appealed to Washington to allow both free and enslaved Black men to enlist.

As both a slaveowner and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from its formation in 1775, Washington had long opposed the use of Black soldiers, fearing that armed Black men would incite a rebellion among enslaved people and alienate Southern slaveholders. But over time, the harsh realities of a failing war effort called for America’s founding fathers to make some pragmatic decisions to preserve their nation’s future.

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, widely recognized as the America’s first Black military regiment, didn’t start out that way. From its inception in 1775 as a part of the Rhode Island Army of Observation to its reorganization as the 1st Rhode Island in 1777 and its recruitment of Black soldiers to their own unit starting in February 1778, the regiment was one of the few in the Continental Army to serve all seven years of war. The unit distinguished itself in battles from the Siege of Boston to the Battle of Rhode Island and beyond to Yorktown.

READ MORE: 7 Black Heroes of the American Revolution

The British Recruited Enslaved People First

For the Continental Army, the use of Black soldiers had proved one of the war’s …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Reconstruction: A Timeline of the Post-Civil War Era

February 3, 2021 in History

By Farrell Evans

For a 14-year period following the Civil War, the U.S. government took steps to try and integrate the nation’s newly freed Black population.

Between 1863 and 1877, the U.S. government undertook the task of integrating nearly four million formerly enslaved people into society after the

April 20, 1871: The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871
To suppress Black economic and political rights in the South during Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups like the Knights of the White Camelia were formed to enforce the Black Codes and terrorize Black people and any white people who supported them.

Founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee by a group of Confederate veterans, the Ku Klux Klan carried out a reign of terror during Reconstruction that forced Congress to empower President Ulysses S. Grant to stop the group’s violence. The Third Enforcement Act or the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, as it is better known, allowed federal troops to make hundreds of arrests in South Carolina, forcing perhaps 2,000 Klansmen to flee the state. According to Foner, the Federal intervention had “broken the Klan’s back and produced a dramatic decline in violence throughout the South.”

March 1, 1875: Civil Rights Act of 1875
The last major piece of major Reconstruction legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, guaranteed African Americans equal treatment in public transportation, public accommodations and jury service. In 1883 the decision was overturned in the Supreme Court, however. Justices ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional on the grounds that the Constitution did not extend to private businesses and that it was unauthorized by the 13th and 14th amendments.

The End of Reconstruction

President Rutherford B. Hayes oversaw the end of Reconstruction.

April 24, 1877: Rutherford B. Hayes and the Compromise of 1877
Twelve years after the close of the Civil War, President Rutherford B. Hayes pulled federal troops from their posts surrounding the capitals of Louisiana and South Carolina—the last states occupied by the U.S. government.

According Foner, Hayes didn’t withdraw the troops as widely believed, but the few that remained were of no consequence to the reemergence of a white political rule in these states. In what is widely known as the Compromise of 1877, Democrats accepted Hayes’ victory as long as he made concessions such as the troop withdrawal and naming a southerner to his cabinet. “Every state in the South,” said a …read more

Source: HISTORY