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Juneteenth is not just another holiday

Opal Lee and DeForest “Buster” Soares, co-chairs of the “Heal America” movement, write for The Washington Post that Juneteenth is not simply another holiday.

By all rights, Juneteenth should be a day of great unity. When the enslaved people of Galveston, Tex., were told of their freedom on June 19, 1865, the promise of America became much more real and attainable. It was hardly the end of all injustice, but it was the end of one of the country’s original injustices. That’s why generations of Black Americans made June 19 into a long-standing holiday. What could be more American than remembering the forward march of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Yet Juneteenth is at risk of failing to be a source of unity. In these partisan times, there is a tendency to ignore or politicize it. There is also a danger of commercialization — think corporate attempts to trademark the word “Juneteenth” — which would cheapen this celebration of justice. Regardless of color, creed or country of origin, all Americans should oppose these trends, with all the urgency we can muster. If we forget the meaning of Juneteenth, we have little chance of continuing the progress this day is meant to spotlight and spark.

Juneteenth asks Americans to recognize that our nation’s principles are neither grossly hypocritical nor naively aspirational. We have inherited lofty yet practical ideals, and it falls to us to implement them as best we can.

Ms Lee’s tireless activism to have Juneteenth recognized as a holiday earned her the title “the grandmother of Juneteenth.”

Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Radio previews Tuesday’s hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, which will feature Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his chief operations officer, Gabriel Sterling, giving witness testimony.

The Georgia officials’ public testimony comes after Raffensperger appeared recently in a closed-door special grand jury investigation in Fulton County that is seeking to determine if Trump and others violated several state laws in their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Raffensperger and others have also provided hours of testimony privately to the committee, including discussion of the unprecedented call from Trump, leaked to GPB News, The Washington Post and other outlets in the runup to Georgia’s dual U.S. Senate runoffs.

Georgia’s politics have remained central to understanding how thousands of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol in hopes of blocking the certification of Joe Biden as president, ranging from fraudulent “alternate electors” submitted by top Republican officials, numerous failed lawsuits and harassment of election workers in efforts to find widespread fraud that three separate counts of the votes confirmed was not present.

Brian Schwartz of CNBC reports on the Facebook group administered by Virginia “Ginni” Thomas.  

A Facebook group that appears to be run by Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, could become a new point of interest in the U.S. House Select Committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Congressional investigators said they planned to ask Ginni Thomas to testify before the committee hours after Trump attorney John Eastman on Thursday publicly posted a Dec. 4, 2020 email from Thomas asking him to speak to a gathering she called “Frontliners,” which she described as featuring “grassroots state leaders.” Ginni Thomas is listed as an administrator of a Facebook group that goes by a similar name and description: “FrontLiners for Liberty.”

The private group, which listed more than 50 members, was created in August 2020, just two months before the November elections, according to the page’s description.

The group, which CNBC reviewed before it was removed from public view, described itself as “a new collaborative, liberty-focused, action-oriented group of state leaders representing grassroots armies to CONNECT, INFORM and ACTIVATE each other weekly to preserve constitutional governance.” Although Thomas’ personal Facebook page isn’t verified, it contained numerous photos of Justice Thomas.


Thomas Zimmer of the Guardian says that the Jan. 6 plot incriminates far more than so-called “Team Crazy.”

The committee’s core task is to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol and what led to it, of course. But everyone who believes in democracy needs to recognize that, in a very concrete sense, there is a continuing insurrection that far surpasses Trump.

The committee’s strategy of building its case almost entirely on testimony from Trump people, Republicans, and conservatives, not Democrats, is certainly effective if the goal is to prove the nonpartisan nature of the proceedings. But it runs the risk of letting too many people besides Trump off the hook. The narrative is that there was a “Team Normal” in and around the White House that moved away from Trump as he went increasingly off the rails, isolating him and leaving him with only “Team Crazy” and the likes of an allegedly drunk Rudy Giuliani, a rather unhinged Sidney Powell, and a rightwing lawyer, John Eastman, who seemed entirely willing to invent pseudo-legal reasons to justify a coup attempt.

It is important to get insight into these inner dynamics. But the group of people who were deeply complicit in Trump’s machinations is a lot bigger than Team Crazy. A tale that presents not only Mike Pence, but also former attorney general William Barr, Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, and even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, undoubtedly members of Trump’s innermost circle, as part of Team Good Guys (or at least: Team Normal, Team Reasonable) is problematic. All of them stood with Trump almost to the bitter end and fought long and hard to keep him in charge; Pence undoubtedly played a crucial role in thwarting Trump’s scheme, but none of the others spoke out publicly until, in the case of Barr, they had a revelatory book to promote and were looking for redemption.

Norman L. Eisen, Joanna Lydgate, and Christine Todd Whitman write for Slate that the insurrection remains in progress and that the election of state officials plays a critical role.

First, the challenge.

Just this week, Jim Marchant won the Republican primary for secretary of state in Nevada, seeking to fill the open seat left by term-limited Barbara Cegavske, a Republican who defended the state’s elections in 2020 and was later censured by the state GOP for not doing enough to investigate nonexistent voter fraud. Marchant is one of more than 100 primary winners so far this year who have embraced lies about the 2020 election.

Earlier in the week, Doug Mastriano, fellow election denier and Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, hired former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis to serve as his chief legal advisor. Mastriano, whom Ellis herself has dubbed “the Donald Trump of Pennsylvania,” is similarly campaigning on erroneous claims about our elections and supporting dangerous policy changes. He aims to re-register all Pennsylvania voters and de-certify voting machines in counties he deems to be producing “fraudulent” results. In 2020, as a state senator, he was one of the leading voices in the commonwealth connected to January 6 and conspiracies about the 2020 election.

These candidates and their successful primary campaigns are a stark reminder that the insurrection—and the lies that sparked it—did not end on January 6, 2021 or when former President Trump left office. And they are proof that the kindling for the attack—and the continued stoking of the fire—is alive and well in the states.

Max Fisher of The New York Times emphasizes just how messy “constitutional crises” can become.

Such crises, with democracy’s fate left to a handful of officials, rarely resolve purely on legal or constitutional principles, even if those might later be cited as justification.
Rather, their outcome is usually determined by whichever political elites happen to form a quick critical mass in favor of one result. And those officials are left to follow whatever motivation — principle, partisan antipathy, self-interest — happens to move them.

Taken together, the history of modern constitutional crises underscores some hard truths about democracy. Supposedly bedrock norms, like free elections or rule of law, though portrayed as irreversibly cemented into the national foundation, are in truth only as solid as the commitment of those in power. And while a crisis can be an opportunity for leaders to reinforce democratic norms, it can also be an opportunity to revise or outright revoke them.

Neil Lewis Jr. of FiveThirtyEight writes about what children really learn when they are taught about the more “challenging aspects” of American history.

One present source of tension is the question of whether and how we should teach children about racism, as well as other less rosy aspects of the nation’s history. Politicians, parents and other influential actors have strong and divided views about this. One side assumes that teaching a more critical version of history would be beneficial to our children and thus argue for adding more lessons critical of American history to curricula; the other side assumes that such lessons would be harmful and therefore argue that critical content should be banned from the classroom. […]

Social scientists have studied this question for years and found that, overall, there is a lot to be gained from schools teaching students about more challenging aspects of American history. For instance, in one field experiment conducted in high schools across the Chicago metropolitan area, University of Chicago political scientist Matthew Nelsen randomly assigned nearly 700 high schoolers to read different versions of history textbook segments and then measured what effect they had on students from different racial backgrounds.

Some students were assigned to read excerpts adapted from a widely-circulated history book that presents a relatively typical retelling of American history. Other students were assigned to read excerpts from a more critical history book that foregrounded “marginalized groups, systemic injustice and grassroots political action.” What happened to the students that read these different versions of history?

Victoria St. Martin of Inside Climate News notes that one of the nation’s most prestigious medical journals, The New England Journal of Medicine, will be regularly covering the intersection of climate change and public health.

Beginning with the issue published Thursday, The New England Journal of Medicine is expanding its coverage of the intersection of climate issues and public health, starting with a series on fossil fuel-driven health harms. The Journal plans to devote regular coverage to the topic—on its pages and in its affiliated journals—going forward.

The opening article focuses on how children—particularly children of color and those from poor and working class communities—are affected by such factors as extreme weather events, heat stress and air and water quality.

“People care about children, and families and children are going to suffer the most from long term climate change issues,” said one of the authors, Kari Nadeau, who is the Naddisy Foundation Endowed Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and the director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University.

“For example, my children will see three times as many climate change extreme events than their grandparents did,” Nadeau said. “In their lifetime there will be 5 million deaths across the world due to climate change—we need to really focus our efforts on communicating how to mitigate and adapt to climate change. And we have those tools.

“The time is now, it’s urgent and we can do something about it.”

I especially liked reading that that the NEJM series will cover the effects of climate change on mental health.

Dylan Scott of Vox says that COVID-19 will be the issue affecting the midterm elections that no one is talking about.

Democrats generally aren’t boasting about their Covid-19 responses or the rollout of vaccines under the Biden administration. If they are talking about the pandemic, they tend to focus more on helping the country move on from it. Republicans don’t want to talk about Covid either, as their base doesn’t take it as seriously. If they do, it’s typically to criticize the public health institutions that have taken center stage during the last two years.

But if you look closer, the pandemic is still having enormous, if subtler, influence on American politics. Inflation — a crisis that began with supply-chain and workforce issues caused by Covid-19 and was likely amplified by some aspects of the US relief legislation — is the No. 1 issue for US voters right now. Murders and drug overdose deaths began rising during the pandemic, souring the public’s mood on the country’s future and presaging a difficult campaign for the party in power.

“It’s been so extensive that you just don’t notice it,” John Gasper, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied the effect of prior natural disasters on political behavior, said. “People are sick of blaming Covid for a lot of things. Politicians don’t want to keep talking about Covid.”

Finally today, the Der Spiegel reporting team of Markus Becker, Martin Knobbe, Walter Mayr, Alexander Sarovic, and Severin Weiland say that conflicts are brewing in Europe over the possible fast-tracking of European Union membership for Ukraine, especially in the Balkans.

In Berlin, meanwhile, officials are trying to play down the debate surrounding Ukraine’s EU ambitions. “Candidate status is primarily a political-psychological term that has no legal dimension,” say sources close to the government.

That may be true in a formal sense, but the EU itself has lent significant meaning to the term by presenting candidate status over the years as a reward for reforms – without ever being particularly precise about when the reward will be bestowed.

It is a principle perhaps best illustrated by the example of North Macedonia. The country submitted its application for membership in the EU fully 18 years ago, back when it was still called Macedonia. First, Greece demanded that the country of 2 million change its name to North Macedonia, and now it is facing hurdles placed in its path by the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The country fulfills all accession requirements to a T and has been hoping for almost an entire generation for movement on its path to the EU – and now must watch from the sidelines as it is passed by a Ukraine that is leveraging its status as a war victim.

Other Balkan countries have had experiences similar to that of North Macedonia. Montenegro and Serbia each had to wait two years after receiving candidate status for accession negotiations to begin. Albania is still waiting. And neither Kosovo nor Bosnia and Herzegovina are even candidates yet. “The prospects of the Balkan countries are sometimes brighter, sometimes dimmer,” says one EU diplomat. “Right now, it is completely open.”

Everyone have a good day and for those who celebrate, Happy Father’s Day.

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