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Friday, January 22, 2021

No, Open Sedition Is Not a First Amendment Right

The right to protest is not in dispute. If that's all the mob had done, its rights would certainly be defensible and protected.

By Pierre Tristam for Flagerlive

Like the torrent of video clips showing that last week’s terrorist attack on the capitol was more coordinated and more violent than its conspirators would want you to believe, the same conspirators are now pleading two narratives to cover their rear. 

One is that they were only exercising their First Amendment right to protest. The other is that the Black Lives Matter protests and riots didn’t draw the same scrutiny.

The right to protest is not in dispute. If that’s all the mob had done, its rights would certainly be defensible and protected, and everyone from the ACLU on down, including me, would defend that right.  

Making up facts and assaulting truth is a hallmark of the Trump cult.

Let’s assume the protest had remained peaceful. Even then, a protest isn’t an end in itself. It’s about a message. It should be judged accordingly. The KKK or any other neo-fascist organization has the right to march downtown. But it remains a despicable organization with a reprehensible purpose. 

It does not have a claim to any moral ground just because it’s exercising its First Amendment right. The mob gathered in Washington last week with an equally despicable and indefensible purpose: to overturn a democratic election decided by 81 million voters, certified by 50 states, reaffirmed by 60 court decisions and the attorney general. 

So it wasn’t a protest, since there was nothing to protest. It was the fabrication of a coup that became an armed insurrection. Insurrections are not protected by the First Amendment.

The legal parallel here is with Virginia v. Black, the 2003 First Amendment Supreme Court decision allowing bans on cross-burning if the intent is to intimidate. ”There’s no other purpose to the cross, no communication, no particular message,” Justice Clarence Thomas had said during arguments. ”It was intended to cause fear and to terrorize a population.”

Trump’s own incitement to violence when he directed the mob to the Capitol made the intent clear, burying his fine-print disclaimer “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” in the sharper language of provocation: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump's farewell letter to Biden


Congressional collusion from Q-Anon Congresswoman


Federal financial aid for college will be easier to apply for – and a bit more generous

Good news for students and families 

Robert KelchenSeton Hall University

The new application for student financial aid will feature fewer
questions. zimmytws/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Editor’s note: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid – better known as FAFSA – is being simplified through the omnibus spending bill that became law in December. 

The FAFSA is what students must fill out to receive Pell Grants, student loans and many other types of financial aid from states and colleges. 

Here, Robert Kelchen, an expert on higher education policy, explains what the simplification and other changes mean for students and families.

How is applying for federal student financial aid about to change?

The good news is the FAFSA will go from having 108 questions to 36 questions, and most students will only have to answer a smaller set of questions about family income and household size. The not-so-good news is that this simplified form will not be available to students until October 2022 to determine aid for the 2023-24 academic year.

Also, students with family incomes below 175% or 225% of the federal poverty line (which one depends on their family circumstances) will automatically qualify for the maximum Pell Grant, which is the main federal grant given to students from low- to middle-income families as of 2023.

For example, a high school senior in a family of three led by a single parent would receive the maximum Pell grant if their parent’s income is below about $50,000 per year. Currently, only about one in five students with family incomes around $50,000 per year gets the maximum Pell grant. Currently, most students have to file the FAFSA to know the size of their Pell grant.

Automatic qualification will make it easier for students to know how much federal financial aid they can count on getting well in advance of going to college.

Who can get vaccinated in RI next week? Presuming we have the vaccine supplies....


International Space Station flies over Charlestown tonite at 9:52

ISS will make 4-minute long journey across C-Town sky tonight at 5:21 PM
By Will Collette

CRS-20 - Final Dragon 1 arrives at the ISS -

The National Weather Service forecast calls for partly cloudy skies so chances are good for a viewing of the International Space Station as it flies over Charlestown tonight. 

We've had several overflights this week but too many clouds - I generally don't mention the overflights unless the chances of seeing it are good. With only some clouds, the 4 minute viewing window should be enough.

The space station will appear as if out of no where at 5:21 PM sharp in the west southwest at 43 degrees over the horizon.

It will rise to 80 degrees - almost overhead. Then it will track to the northeast for four minutes where it will disappear at a low 10 degrees above the horizon as it loses the sun's reflected light.

Surprise! Trump had NO vaccine distribution plan

Nothing to re-work: Biden team will have to use their own plan

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams

In a development that critics say provides additional evidence of former president Donald Trump's incompetence and malfeasance, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden learned soon after Wednesday's inauguration that his administration will have to develop a coronavirus vaccine distribution strategy from "square one" because the previous administration departed without a federal inoculation plan in place.

"There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch," one source with knowledge of the Biden team's pandemic response told CNN.

With more than 406,000 people having died from Covid-19 in the U.S. alone, and with seven-day averages of nearly 200,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths per day, Biden has pledged to ramp up the production and distribution of vaccines—vowing to inoculate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of his administration. 

But the failure of the Trump administration to leave behind any national rollout plans has made that task more challenging. Describing the moment when it dawned on Biden's team that there was no vaccine strategy for them to build upon, another source told CNN: "Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence."

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Megan Cotter announces plans for a 2022 rematch with Justin Price

She came within 321 votes of beating him in 2020

By  Steve Ahlquist for Uprise RI 

“Right after the [2020] election there was the budget vote [and] Representative Price refused to put on a mask,” said Megan Cotter, who lost her bid to replace Price in his seat in that election. “District 39 didn’t have a vote… He did not vote. He decided that he would rather leave than put on a mask and do his job.”

Justin Price (left) with fellow militia-supporters Rep.
Blake "Flip" Filippi and Sen. Elaine Morgan
Rhode Island Representative Justin Price (Republican, District 39, Richmond, Exeter and Hopkinton) was in the news recently after he made a series of inaccurate and unfortunate claims about the events in Washington DC on January 6.

On that day and in the days following, people around the world were shocked to see thousands of pro-Trump insurrectionists invade the Capitol building during a joint-session of Congress, with the intent of overturning the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

Admitting he was part of the pro-Trump march down Pennsylvania Avenue, Representative Price denied that he entered the Capitol Building or broke any laws.

But in a series of tweets, now removed, Price claimed that Antifa and Black Lives Matter members infiltrated the Trump protest and that these groups were responsible for the violence.

Justin Price called these people "Patriots" who were protesting peacefully, even though they nearly beat this police officer to death.

To be clear, this is not true. If anything, the arrests made and the evidence collected since the attempted insurrection indicates that many who invaded the Capitol that day had deadly designs on members of Congress and Vice President Pence. There is no evidence to support Representative Price’s assertions. His statements are not only untrue, they are preposterous and dangerous.

In the wake of Representative Price’s admission to being at the protest (in an interview with The Public Radios Ian Donnis) and his subsequent tweets, newly elected Representative Brandon Potter (Democrat, District 16, Cranston) and Rhode Island’s General Treasurer Seth Magaziner called for Representative Price’s removal from office. Since then, dozens of elected officials have called for Representative Price to step down o be removed from office.

Megan Cotter, who ran as a Democrat against Representative Price in the 2020 District 39 election, maintains that much of this could have been avoided had the Rhode Island Democratic Party supported her campaign. We spoke via Zoom.

UpriseRI asked Cotter what she learned about the issues voters in her district were concerned about as she went door-to-door during her campaign.

“A lot of people in this area of the state feel forgotten, left out,” said Cotter. “A lot of people just don’t care about politics at this point in the game. Exeter, West Greenwich and Chariho are all combining school districts with different towns and we continue to lose funding year after year after year for our schools. We don’t get a lot with our taxes. We don’t have garbage removal. We don’t have a lot of things that folks in the city have…

“That was something that we talked a lot about at the doors, fighting for more funding for our schools,” said Cotter.

The other thing Cotter heard a lot about from voters was about the issue of clear cutting trees for solar farms.

“I have three kids. I want them to have a world when they grow up. And if we don’t start taking care of our environment, there’s not going to be much left,” said Cotter. “We need to transition to renewable energy, but we need to do it in a way that is smart. And here, we’re doing a lot of clear cutting.

We have a lot of land here, and there’s been massive amounts of clear cutting. We’re talking 40 acres at a time for solar fields. We really need to start talking about conserving our forestry. That was an issue that we talked about a lot at the doors that really resonated with people. We all have well water, there’s flooding issues, there’s so many different issues that go along with clearcutting.

“Is the water quality maintained there?” asked UpriseRI. “Is the water still good in the wells there?”

“When you talk to someone whose property abuts a huge solar farm, there’s a lot of problems,” said Cotter.

“The forest, as it rains, filters the water. I know people who’ve had to replace pumps two and three times after the solar farms have been built because there’s no filtration anymore and a lot of sediments going into the pumps. We’re talking $900 for a new pump and it’s an unnecessary cost that a lot of families – If you can afford it, that’s great, but who wants to throw $900 out the window just because there’s a solar farm there now?”

“These are interesting issues, but I’ve never heard Representative Price bring these things up while he’s been there,” said UpriseRI.

“And you won’t because he doesn’t,” said Cotter. “I don’t feel like he’s listening and we’re at this pivotal moment in time right now where we need to come together in unity. If you look at this election and you look at our district, it was really split. I think Biden won Richmond by three votes.” (Biden won in Richmond by 2346 votes to Trump’s 2343.)

During your campaign, you were doing a lot of work – going door to door as much as possible with COVID, sending out mailers, that kind of thing. You had some trouble though,” said UpriseRI. “You were endorsed by several local Democratic institutions, but you were not endorsed and you were not helped by the statewide Democratic Party. Can you talk about that a little bit?

“There’s a greater conversation within the party that that I think is happening,” said Cotter, prefacing her story. “I was endorsed by the Richmond Democrats, the Exeter Democrats and I was also endorsed by my district committee, which consists of five older folks who I interviewed with. They helped me along through my campaign, just amazing gentlemen.

“Once you get endorsed by your district committee, typically you go to the party and they give you the party VAN, which is extremely important when running a campaign. VAN gives you you everything you need to know.

You create lists, you can look up any voter, whether they’re Democrat, independent, Republican, how often they’ve voted and you create your door knocking lists based on whatever you’re focused on that day. Maybe you’re focused on independent voters. I did a lot of independent voter door knocks.”

The Rhode Island State Democratic Party for some reason declined to endorse Megan Cotter against Representative Justin Price. Unendorsed Democrats are charged $1600 for VAN access, and money makes a big difference in hotly contested races.

“There were no other Democratic candidates in my race,” said Cotter, noting that access to VAN “would have been the bare minimum of help for someone running against someone [like Representative Price] who’s so right wing and not a Democrat.”

What the Democratic Party did instead was to send Cotter a rejection letter. The rejection letter stated that Cotter was not the endorsed candidate, notwithstanding her local endorsements.

Despite these travails, Cotter is “feeling optimistic for the future because I think that with new leadership in place we’re going to see a very different Democratic Party moving forward.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The final tally shows Cotter lost by only 321 votes out of more than 8,000 cast. Price had 4,181 and Cotter had 3,860.  – Will Collette

“I’ve already spoken to the new Speaker [Representative Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick)] and he’s told me that if I want access to party VAN, he will make sure that I get that,” said Cotter. “We are Democrats, right?”

“That’s what I hear from Democrats,” said UpriseRI, “that this is a big tent. But when push comes to shove, if you look a little too lefty, they don’t want you in… And that seems to be self-defeating, because in this case, as you point out, had you been able to get a few extra votes, this whole issue about Justin Price being in Washington, DC would be a nonstarter. He’d be a private citizen in DC. Whether he committed crimes or not is something the FBI could talk about and we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

“Exactly,” said Cotter. “And I think the other piece is that a lot of people in the party didn’t think I had a winnable race. I think a lot of people have written off my district as a red district, [thinking] a Democrat can’t win here, but obviously that’s not true, right? I mean, I came within a snowball’s throw of winning the election. What it really comes down to is talking to people and listening to them.”

Megan Cotter will be running for the District 39 seat in 2022. “That is a promise,” said Cotter.

Can you help us?

Funding for UpriseRI reporting relies on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence allows us to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone. But your support is essential to keeping Steve and Will on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.

How so many of us feel


VIDEO: Trust me, watch this

To watch this amazing thing on YouTube:


Does 'deplatforming' work to curb hate speech and calls for violence?

 3 experts in online communications weigh in

Jeremy BlackburnBinghamton University, State University of New YorkRobert W. GehlLouisiana Tech University, and Ugochukwu EtudoUniversity of Connecticut

Twitter’s suspension of Donald Trump’s account took away his preferred
means of communicating with millions of his followers. AP Photo/Tali Arbel
In the wake of the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump’s personal account, and Google, Apple and Amazon shunned Parler, which at least temporarily shut down the social media platform favored by the far right.

Dubbed “deplatforming,” these actions restrict the ability of individuals and communities to communicate with each other and the public. 

Deplatforming raises ethical and legal questions, but foremost is the question of whether it’s an effective strategy to reduce hate speech and calls for violence on social media.

The Conversation U.S. asked three experts in online communications whether deplatforming works and what happens when technology companies attempt it.

Americans have unrealistic expectations for a COVID-19 vaccine

It won't work unless we all (or most of us) get it

Matt MottaOklahoma State University

If too many Americans refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine,
achieving population immunity will be difficult. 
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Many Americans appear to be experiencing cautious optimism about the role that vaccines could play in ending the pandemic. But recent public opinion research suggests that 29% to 37% of Americans plan to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to some epidemiological estimates, as many as three-fourths of Americans must become immune to COVID-19 – either by recovering from the disease or by getting vaccinated – to halt the virus’s spread

As a scholar who studies vaccine hesitancy, I ask how Americans’ vaccine-related expectations might influence their willingness to vaccinate. What attributes do Americans expect a COVID-19 vaccine to have, and will they be less likely to get vaccinated if the vaccine they have the opportunity to take defies some of their preferences?

In a new peer-reviewed study, I found that the vaccine Americans most prefer may not reflect the choices we actually have. Americans are most likely to intend to vaccinate when a vaccine is made in the U.S., administered in a single dose, over 90% effective and carrying a less than 1 in 100 chance of experiencing minor side effects, and has spent just over a year in development.

However, even under these ideal conditions, the likelihood that the average respondent in the study would choose to vaccinate is just 68%. This implies that many Americans may refuse vaccination, even when a vaccine satisfies their expectations.

Is impeaching Trump 'pointless revenge'?

Not if it sends a message to future presidents

Michael BlakeUniversity of Washington

A different type of protest comes to the Capitol. 
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MoveOn
House Democrats have passed an article of impeachment against Donald Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for the siege at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

One immediate difficulty facing those seeking to impeach the president is that impeachment is a lengthy process

Trump has only a few days left in office before his term ends on Jan. 20. While the article of impeachment might be quickly approved by the House, in a vote scheduled for Jan. 13, the vote will initiate a trial in the Senate – and that trial will likely not be finished before Trump’s term of office comes to an end.

There is an open constitutional question about whether a president can be impeached after he has left office. But a more basic question asks about the point of impeaching Trump. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, writing in The Washington Post, described the entire exercise as “pointless revenge.”

“It isn’t principled, it isn’t concerned with justice and it isn’t concerned with the future,” he stated.

As a scholar who writes about the moral justifications of social and legal institutions, I argue that there may be good moral reason for this impeachment – even if it cannot be completed before Trump leaves office.

Impeachment is not a criminal procedure; it is generally described as “quasi-criminal” in American law.

The philosophical justifications given for the institution of criminal law, however, might help us understand the purposes this impeachment might serve.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The untold story of Donald Trump’s last day

Eviction Crisis Reaches White House

Pitiful Family Goods Dumped on Pennsylvania Ave Sidewalk

By Mitchell Zimmerman

The wave of home evictions which has swept America in the wake of the coronavirus catastrophe finally reached the White House, and the Donald Trump family found themselves on the street. After months of hapless legal (and illegal) maneuvering, the heart-broken Trump family was ejected from their home of four years. “Where are we to go?” cried a red-eyed Melania. “But I am President for Life,” a seething Mr. Trump insisted.

The owners of the coveted Washington residence, the American people, callously served a 78-day notice of eviction on the Trumps early in November, but Mr. Trump decreed the notice invalid based on technicalities and filed 60 lawsuits to stave off removal. “No one knows tenant-landlord law like me,” Mr. Trump said.

Nonetheless, a conspiracy of judges inexplicably deemed the cases frivolous and lawyer Rudy Giuliani told his tenant client nothing could halt the eviction.

When Mr. Trump still refused to leave voluntarily, Federal police were obliged to pry his fingers loose from the Resolute desk in the oval office, and six Secret Service officers strained to lift the hefty former tenant. Screaming “Mine! Mine! Mine!” and spasmodically squeezing his remote control, Mr. Trump was carried away.

A member of the White House kitchen staff followed, picking up silver spoons and forks that were dropping from Mr. Trump’s pockets.

The former tenant was deposited on the sidewalk just outside the main gate. There stood a pathetic heap of the distraught family’s goods – five sixty-inch television sets, a box of soiled MAGA caps and Stop the Steal pins, Tiki torches, injectors for Lysol, Mrs. Trump’s “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” jacket, Mr. Trump’s bible prop, and a stack of pardons he didn’t have time to sign. “Where’s my nuclear football?” Mr. Trump demanded.

Mitchell Zimmerman: Read my latest op-ed: A Tale of Two Mobs, How the GOP abandoned democracy and became an accomplice to insurrection. And on my anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning: L A Review of Books“Gripping … revelatory.  Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “Powerful.” Kirkus: “Riveting.”  Freedom Rider Diane Nash“Enthralling.”  Pulitzer-winner Eric Foner: “Rooted in history.”  Fed. Judge Thelton Henderson“a soul-wrenching narrative.”    Read an excerpt:

Starting today...

For more cartoons by Matt Bors, CLICK HERE