OUR VOICES: Some Politicians Confuse Freedom with Irresponsibility

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Photo: Gage Skidmore

By Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.

As extreme weather caused floods in Kentucky, collapse of the water system in Jackson Mississippi, and the savage destruction of central Florida – to say nothing of fires and drought and a growing water shortage in the West – we ought to agree on two simple realities: America faces a growing challenge from both catastrophic climate change and a growing infrastructure deficit that is putting lives and communities at risk.

All should agree that we must act aggressively and at scale to address the climate challenge and rebuild our decrepit and aged infrastructure. We can invest now – or we will pay far more on the backside of calamity.

Yet that’s not how it works. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and his state’s two senators, Mark Rubio and Rick Scott, all Republicans, now call fervently for federal aid and resources to help clean up the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Ian.

With millions still without electricity or safe water, and many still endangered by floods, fallen bridges, downed electric lines and collapsed bridges, recovery will take years and cost tens of billions of dollars. The politicians are all in for getting federal dollars and resources to help in the wake of catastrophe.

DeSantis regularly scorns federal spending in general and Joe Biden in particular, but when asked after Ian hit if he’d meet with Biden, he said, sensibly, “We need all the help we can get.”

Yet, Gov. DeSantis, who has presidential ambitions, goes out of his way to dismiss warnings about extreme weather from catastrophic climate change. He said during his gubernatorial campaign that he doesn’t want to be labeled “a global warming person.”

When asked last December how he plans to address climate change, DeSantis replied that “people when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things. … We’re not doing any left-wing stuff.” Last year, he signed a bill that blocked Florida cities and towns from transitioning to 100 percent clean energy. He also championed a resolution prohibiting Florida’s pension fund from considering the impact of climate change in its investment decisions.

The Lever, a reader-supported investigative news outlet, reports that about three months before Florida was clobbered by Ian, eight of the state’s Republican lawmakers pressured federal regulators to halt a proposal requiring businesses to more thoroughly disclose the risks they face from climate change. Those lawmakers have raked in more than $1 million of campaign cash from oil and gas industry donors.

Similarly, all of Florida’s politicians voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden managed to pass through the Congress. DeSantis scorned the $19 billion that would go to Florida. Now, in the wake of Ian, of course, he wants a lot of “left-wing stuff,” like massive funds from the federal government to rebuild Florida.

Politicians like DeSantis, Rubio and Scott confuse freedom with irresponsibility. They tout the freedoms of Florida, where public health officials won’t tell you to wear a mask, planners won’t tell you where to build your house, politicians won’t tax your incomes. And if that leaves the state with vulnerable bridges and water systems, with homes exposed on flood plains, with impoverished communities, so be it.

Pundits regularly expose the hypocrisy of politicians like DeSantis, Rubio and Scott seeking billions in aid to help Florida rebuild in the wake of Ian, while voting against aid for other disasters in other states. One of the first votes DeSantis took when he was sworn in as a congressman in 2013 was to oppose aid to the victims of Superstorm Sandy. But hypocrisy is a relatively minor sin among politicians. A far bigger failing is to sacrifice the lives and the security of the people they claim to represent to embrace the corruption of fossil fuel campaign money and the blinders of ideological posturing.

A catastrophe like Ian or a shameful horror like the collapse of the water system in Mississippi’s state capital should concentrate our minds. Accelerating the transition to renewable energy isn’t “left-wing stuff,” it is a moral and existential imperative. Rebuilding the resilience and efficiency of our dangerously decrepit infrastructure isn’t a socialist plot, it is the foundation for safe communities and a robust economy.

In the wake of a natural disaster, people come together to help their neighbors. Smart politicians put aside their partisan posturing to join in doing what can be done to save the endangered and rebuild from the destruction. Now, we need to demand that the same common sense and responsibility be exercised to protect ourselves from the calamities to come, not just to rebuild after them.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is president and CEO of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

COMMENTARY: Afghanistan: After 20 Years, Thousands Dead and Trillions Spent, Rep. Barbara Lee Proven Right

rep barbara lee

By Lauren Victoria Burke
NNPA Newswire 

rep barbara lee
“I urged caution because I knew even then that there was no military solution in Afghanistan,” Rep. Lee, the one lawmaker who got Afghanistan right, told The Nation on August 30.

On September 15, 2001, only three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., Congress voted to give the authority for military force to President Bush.

The vote in the U.S. Senate was unanimous: 98-1. In the U.S. House, the vote was 420 to 1. That one dissenting vote was Rep. Barbara Lee of California.

Rep. Lee was opposed to giving President Bush broad and open-ended authority.  She would be the lone member of Congress to vote against that authority and she would face death threats and be called a traitor for her vote.

Two decades and thousands of deaths later, Rep. Barbra Lee would be proved correct about what would become America’s longest war.

“I urged caution because I knew even then that there was no military solution in Afghanistan,” Rep. Lee, the one lawmaker who got Afghanistan right, told The Nation on August 30. Lee felt that the 60-word resolution on Afghanistan that she voted against was a “a blank check for any president to use force anywhere in the world.”

In an August 30 statement on the Afghanistan withdrawal, Congresswoman Lee said: “Twenty years ago, it was clear that rushing into war without a clearly defined mission and exit strategy would risk perpetual war. The Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction clearly illustrated in recent reports that ‘U.S. officials rarely had even a mediocre understanding of the Afghan environment, much less how it was responding to U.S. interventions,’ and that this ignorance often came from a ‘willful disregard for information that may have been available.’ In a world where the threat of terrorism cannot be ignored, hopefully we will learn the lessons from the past two decades and not repeat our mistakes.”

On August 31, President Joe Biden announced that the United States was exiting Afghanistan.

“Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history. We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety,” President Biden began.

“Leaving Aug. 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just months after I was inaugurated,” Biden further explained.

According to an analysis by Forbes, it’s estimated that the U.S. spent over $2 trillion over 20 years on the war in Afghanistan. The math comes to $300 million dollars a day, every single day, for two decades.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

Bomb Threat Puts U.S. Capitol on Lockdown

Capitol building

Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Capitol building
CNN reported that the Senate and House are not in session, and most lawmakers are not currently in their offices. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

A suspicious vehicle with at least one person inside led to the lock down of the U.S. Capitol, police said early Thursday.

Capitol Police said the incident is occurring near the Library of Congress.

“This is an active bomb threat investigation,” the USCP wrote on Twitter.

Workers in the Madison and Jefferson buildings were told to remain calm and evacuate, but to avoid First Street.

Those working in the Cannon building were ordered to the Longworth House Office Building via the Capitol’s underground tunnels.

CNN reported that the Senate and House are not in session, and most lawmakers are not currently in their offices.

The Supreme Court has also been evacuated on the recommendation of US Capitol Police, according to a spokesperson for the court, which is closed to the public because of Covid-19, the outlet noted.

The FBI said in a statement that its Washington field office’s National Capital Response Squad is responding to the incident. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also responding, the agency said on Twitter.

Texas Democrats End Near-Record 38 Day Streak of Breaking Quorum, Return to Capitol to Fight for Texans

Gilberto
Gilberto
Gilberto

AUSTIN, Texas — After a near-record 38 days of breaking quorum to block Republicans’ anti-Texan legislation, Texas Democrats are bringing this phase of resistance to a close — returning to the Capitol to continue seeking solutions to the attacks facing Texans.

All year long, Texas Democrats have held the line against Texas Republicans’ relentless attacks on our right to vote. During the regular legislative session, after Texas Republicans consistently flouted legislative procedure to jam a spate of anti-voter bills through the Texas legislature, Texas House Democrats refused to be complicit in the passage of these racist bills — and instead, chose to deny Republicans the quorum of legislators needed to pass the bills into law. After the increasingly tyrannical Gov. Greg Abbott added two irregular extra legislative sessions to the calendar to give the anti-voter bills a second chance, Texas House Democrats once again resisted by breaking quorum — and spent four weeks in D.C. rallying a massive coalition and advocating to federal legislators for voting rights protections.

Now, during this second irregular, anti-voter legislative session, Texas Democrats are taking the fight back to the Capitol. Texas House and Senate Democrats are united in their opposition to Texas Republicans’ efforts to silence the voices of Texans, and will continue to use every tool available to stand up for their constituents.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“I am beyond proud of our Texas Democratic legislators, who have spent a near-record 38 days denying Texas Republicans a legislative quorum and thwarting their efforts to pass anti-voter legislation. This is what it looks like to stand up for Texans. Our Texas Democrats in D.C. ferociously lobbied for federal solutions to protect our right to vote. They showed the world what it means to be a Texas Democrat — and brought the eyes of our entire country to the fight Texans are facing. Their work forced votes on critical voting rights legislation that would have otherwise remained stalled. And thanks to them, Texas remains in the national spotlight — and as Texas Republicans continue to throw our democracy in jeopardy, their anti-democratic attacks are facing the condemnation of the nation. Today, as our legislators continue their fight in our Capitol, I thank every single Texas Democratic lawmaker who has fought tirelessly in defense of our most basic constitutional right: the chance to make our voices heard at the ballot box.

“For months now, Texas Democrats have spoken with one voice, and our message is clear: we will do whatever it takes to protect our freedom to vote. Faced with yet another irregular special session from a governor who is willing to sell out our democracy for political gain, we will fight with everything we have in this special session to protect Texas voters and to push for real solutions to the most urgent issues facing Texas families. We knew that breaking quorum was one tool in our arsenal, and our legislators used it to fend off Republicans’ attacks. Now, some of our lawmakers are taking the fight back to our Capitol, while another delegation is staying in D.C. to continue to push for the federal legislation that will put an end to these attacks. We are continuing to fight with everything we have, on all fronts — and we know the fight is still on.

“An attack on our right to vote is an attack on our communities and our future. We know it, and Texas Republicans know it. And they’re persisting in these attacks for one reason: Republicans like Greg Abbott know their days in power are numbered, and they’re trying to hold onto their jobs the only way they can — by stopping us from voting. We deserve leaders who look like us, who will listen to us, and who will fight for us — not sellouts who throw us under the bus any chance they get if it means they can make a buck from their elite donors. And the day that every single eligible Texas voter gets to the ballot box is the day we make that happen. The fight isn’t over. Texas Democrats are in it for the long haul. And we will not rest until the right to vote — the one thing that makes us who we are as a country — is finally, fully, and federally protected.”

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