Friday, January 28, 2022
Billionaire Republican backer donates to Manchin after he killed key Biden bill | Joe Manchin | The Guardian
Billionaire Republican backer donates to Manchin after he killed key Biden bill
"Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, author of I Love Capitalism!, said of the Democratic senator: ‘Thank God for Joe Manchin’
A billionaire Republican donor and Trump supporter donated the maximum allowed amount to Joe Manchin after the West Virginia Democrat sank Joe Biden’s signature domestic spending plan.
The Build Back Better plan sought to boost health and social care, and to help combat the climate crisis, at a price tag of $1.75tn.
Manchin, one of two key swing votes in the 50-50 Senate, used a Fox News Sunday interview in December to say he was finally a “no” on the legislation.
The move appeared to surprise Biden, and enraged progressives, but Ken Langone was presumably delighted.
The co-founder of Home Depot and author of a 2018 book called I Love Capitalism! had signaled his support for Manchin before the senator made his move on Build Back Better.
“I don’t see leadership any place in this country. Thank God for Joe Manchin,” Langone told CNBC in November. “I’m going to have one of the biggest fundraisers I’ve ever had for him. He’s special. He’s precious. He’s a great American.”
Manchin voted for Biden’s earlier Covid relief and stimulus package, as well as for a bipartisan infrastructure bill, but helped to water down both.
In December, shortly after Manchin torpedoed Biden’s flagship legislation, Langone and his wife each gave $5,000 to Manchin’s Country Roads political action committee, CNBC reported. The amount is the most any individual can give in a year.
CNBC also listed donations from major corporations that helped Country Roads raise more than $150,000 more in December than it did in November.
Manchin is next up for re-election in 2024. As the only Democrat in a high office in West Virginia, he holds outsized power in the evenly divided Senate – a position that would change if Republicans take back the chamber in November.
Langone has contributed to Democrats but predominantly supports Republicans. He backed Trump in 2016, and continued to support him throughout Trump’s tenure in the White House, though he chided him over the Capitol riot.
CNBC reported that Langone has recently made much larger donations than to Manchin, including $1m to a fund that works to defeat Democratic senators and half a million dollars to Americans for Prosperity Action, a group backed by the hard-right Koch family.
In his book I Love Capitalism!, Langone writes of his fear of socialism in the US, a fear stoked by the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Some young Americans, Langone says, think the US “should be headed toward something that, in my mind, resembles socialism: guaranteed income. Free college tuition. Single-payer healthcare.
“I disagree. Strongly.”
He also writes that he disagrees “not (as you might believe) because I’m a rich guy trying to hold on to my money. I disagree because socialism is based on the false notion that we should all be exactly equal in every single way.”
Neither Langone nor Manchin immediately responded to requests for comment."
“After nearly 10 years as physical media, SlaveVoyages was introduced to the public as a website in 2008 and then relaunched in 2019 with a new interface and even more detail. As it stands today, the site, funded primarily by grants, contains data sets on various aspects of the slave trade: a database on the trans-Atlantic trade with more than 36,000 entries, a database containing entries on voyages that took place within the Americas and a database with the personal details of more than 95,000 enslaved Africans found on these ships.
The newest addition to SlaveVoyages is a data set that documents the “coastwise” traffic to New Orleans during the antebellum years of 1820 to 1860, when it was the largest slave-trading market in the country. The 1807 law that forbade the importation of enslaved Africans to the United States also required any captain of a coastwise vessel with enslaved people on board to file, at departure and on arrival, a manifest listing those individuals by name.
Countless enslaved Africans arrived at ports up and down the coast of the United States, but the largest share were sent to New Orleans. This new data set draws from roughly 4,000 “slave manifests” to document the traffic to that port. Those manifests list more than 63,000 captives, including names and physical descriptions, as well as information on an individual’s owner and information on the vessel and its captain.
Because of its specificity with regard to individual enslaved people, this new information is as pathbreaking for lay researchers and genealogists as it is for scholars and historians. It is also, for me, an opportunity to think about the difficult ethical questions that surround this work: How exactly do we relate to data that allows someone — anyone — to identify a specific enslaved person? How do we wield these powerful tools for quantitative analysis without abstracting the human reality away from the story? And what does it mean to study something as wicked and monstrous as the slave trade using some of the tools of the trade itself?
Before we go any further, it is worth spending a little more time with the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade itself, at least as it relates to the United States.
A large majority of people taken from Africa were sold to enslavers in either South America or the Caribbean. British, Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese traders brought their captives to, among other places, modern-day Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Haiti, as well as Argentina, Antigua and the Bahamas. A little over 3.5 percent of the total, about 389,000 people, arrived on the shores of British North America and the Gulf Coast during those centuries when slave ships could find port.
In the last decades of the 18th century, moral and religious activism fueled an effort to suppress British involvement in the African slave trade. In 1774, the Continental Congress of rebelling American states adopted a temporary general nonimportation policy against Britain and its possessions, effectively halting the slave trade, although the policy lapsed under the Confederation Congress in the wake of the Revolutionary War. Still, by 1787, most of the states of the newly independent United States had banned the importation of slaves, although slavery itself continued to thrive in the southeastern part of the country.
From 1787 to 1788, Americans would write and ratify a new Constitution that, in a concession to Lower South planters who demanded access to the trans-Atlantic trade, forbade a ban on the foreign slave trade for at least the next 20 years. But Congress could — and, in 1794, did — prohibit American ships from participating. In 1807, right on schedule, Congress passed — and President Thomas Jefferson, a slave-owning Virginian, signed — a measure to abolish the importation of enslaved Africans to the United States, effective Jan. 1, 1808.
But the end to American involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade (or at least the official end, given an illegal trade that would not end until the start of the Civil War) did not mean the end of the slave trade altogether. Slavery remained a big and booming business, driven by demand for tobacco, rice, indigo and increasingly cotton, which was already on its path to dominance as the principal cash crop of the slaveholding South.
Within a decade of the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, annual cotton production had grown twentyfold to 35 million pounds in 1800. By 1810, production had risen to roughly 85 million pounds per year, accounting for more than 20 percent of the nation’s export revenue. By 1820, the United States was producing something in the area of 160 million pounds of cotton a year.
Fueling this growth was the rapid expansion of American territory, facilitated by events abroad. In August 1791, the Haitian Revolution began with an insurrection of enslaved people. In 1803, Haitian revolutionaries defeated a final French Army expedition sent to pacify the colony after years of bloody conflict. To pay for this expensive quagmire — and to keep the territory out of the hands of the British — the soon-to-be-emperor Napoleon Bonaparte sold what remained of French North America to the United States at a fire-sale price.
The new territory nearly doubled the size of the country, opening new land to settlement and commercial cultivation. And as the American nation expanded further into the southeast, so too did its slave system. Planters moved from east to west. Some brought slaves. Others needed to buy them. There had always been an internal market for enslaved labor, but the end of the international trade made it larger and more lucrative.
It is hard to quantify the total volume of sales on the domestic slave trade, but scholars estimate that in the 40-year period between the Missouri Compromise and the secession crisis, at least 875,000 people were sent south and southwest from the Upper South, most as a result of commercial transactions, the rest as a consequence of planter migration.
New, more granular data on voyages and migrations and sales will help scholars delve deeper than ever into the nature of slavery in the United States, into specifics of the trade and into the ways it shaped the political economy of the American republic.“
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Stephen Breyer Was the Right Justice for the Wrong Age
Two misfortunes have befallen Stephen G. Breyer during his long Supreme Court career. One, which became apparent about halfway through his nearly 28-year tenure, was that it was his fate to be the quintessential Enlightenment man in an increasingly unenlightened era at the court. The second happened during this past year: the demand from the left that he step down and open his seat for President Biden to fill.
Justice Breyer’s belief in the power of facts, evidence and expertise was out of step in a postfactual age. The protections of the Voting Rights Act were no longer necessary in the South? The Constitution’s framers meant to give the populace an individual right to own a gun? Or, more recently, the federal agency charged with protecting American workers was likely powerless to protect the workplace from a deadly pandemic?
Really? Of course, Justice Breyer was on the losing side.
To my second point, it’s not that requests for him to step down were unreasonable. It’s that they became so vociferous, so belittling, really. It’s as if this distinguished public servant could be shoved out of the way, obscuring any idea of who he is and what his time on the court has meant. That is a loss not only for him — and he certainly deserves better — but also for the rest of us, because his career has much to teach us about the state of the court today.
At 83, Justice Breyer is a decade older than the next oldest justice, Clarence Thomas, and a generation older than the youngest, Amy Coney Barrett, who turns 50 on Friday. Like five of his colleagues (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Barrett, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh), he was once a Supreme Court law clerk.
But there is a difference. He clerked for Justice Arthur Goldberg during the Supreme Court’s heroic age, the period under Chief Justice Earl Warren when the court seemed to be pushing — or dragging — post-World War II America into recognizing the equality of the races and the rights of criminal suspects. The other five came of age in the subsequent era of judicial retrenchment, that era now reaching a climax.
Although the labels often affixed to Justice Breyer are “pragmatist” and “seeker of compromise,” it has always seemed to me that these, while not inaccurate, miss the mark. They discount the passion beneath the man’s cool and urbane persona, passion that I think stems from his early encounter with a court that understood the Constitution as an engine of progress.
That passion was obvious in his astonishing 21-minute oral dissent from the bench in 2007 from a school integration decision that, early in Chief Justice Roberts’s tenure, marked a significant turn away from the court’s commitment to ending segregation. The law professor Lani Guinier, in a famous article in The Harvard Law Review the next year, celebrated that dissent as “demosprudence,” a way of speaking law directly to the people in the expectation that they will then speak back to the lawmakers.
His passion was obvious this month, too, when the court heard a challenge to the Biden administration’s Covid vaccination rule for businesses employing 100 or more people. Justice Breyer radiated fury as he addressed Scott A. Keller, the lawyer representing the business plaintiffs.
“I mean, there were three-quarters of a million new cases yesterday,” the justice said, his voice rising. “New cases. Nearly three-quarters — 700-and-some-odd thousand, OK?” He continued that the number was 10 times as high as when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “put this rule in. The hospitals are today, yesterday, full, almost to the point of the maximum they’ve ever been in this disease, OK?”
Noting that the standard for granting an injunction of the sort the plaintiffs requested required a showing that the court’s intervention was in the public interest, he asked: “Is that what you’re doing now, to say it’s in the public interest in this situation to stop this vaccination rule, with nearly a million people — let me not exaggerate — nearly three-quarters of a million people, new cases every day? I mean, to me, I would find that unbelievable.”
Of course, that’s what the court did, and of course, Justice Breyer dissented.
His dissenting opinion, written with Justices Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, wasn’t particularly showy. It was, one might say, Breyeresque, using data, logic and the language of administrative law — a subject he taught for many years at Harvard Law School — to arrive at its central argument:
Underlying everything else in this dispute is a single, simple question: Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from Covid-19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the president authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?
That this argument failed to carry the day speaks volumes not only about how out of step Justice Breyer is with the court’s trajectory but also how out of step the majority is with the kind of fact-based analysis that he has brought to the problems the court is charged with solving.
In recent months, Justice Breyer has been mocked on the left for clinging to a romantic vision of the Supreme Court as an institution apart from politics. Surely, that argument has gone, if he could only get over that fiction and understand the political moment, he would hang up his robe.
That mistakes the man. He cut his eyeteeth in politics, working for Senator Edward Kennedy as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. I’m sure he, along with the rest of us, has watched with clear eyes and a heavy heart as politics swamped the institution he loves.
His understanding of politics — that the only way to make a difference is by staying in the game — led him to stay on the court as the diminished liberal side’s senior associate justice, a role that will now pass to Justice Sotomayor. Although he will reportedly remain on the court until the end of this term, he chose to announce his plan to retire now, just after the court finished assembling the cases it will hear and decide through late June or early July. This suggests he has the months ahead fully in view and has decided that he has made all the difference he can make.
Now it’s time to let someone else try."