On Wednesday, House Democrats voted 220-210 to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which is the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. These reforms, which House Democrats previously passed in 2019, face a challenging path to in the Senate given Democrats’ narrow majority and uncertainty over whether they can overcome a GOP filibuster, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attack by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress.

H.R. 1 would implement transformative changes to federal elections by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

Using Congress’ power to regulate Senate and House elections under the Elections Clause and enforce anti-discrimination laws under the 14th Amendment, the bill would:

  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they’ll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters’ registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting (possibly not until the 2030s round of redistricting);
  • Establish nonpartisan redistricting criteria such as a partisan fairness provision that courts can enforce starting immediately no matter what institution is drawing the maps;
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they’re incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

Ending Republicans’ ability to gerrymander is of the utmost importance after Republicans won the power to redistrict two-to-three times as many congressional districts as Democrats after the 2020 elections. If congressional Democrats don’t act, Republican dominance in redistricting may practically guarantee that Republicans retake the House in 2022 even if Democrats once again win more votes, an outcome that could lead to congressional Republicans more seriously trying to overturn a Democratic victory in the 2024 Electoral College vote than they did January, when two-thirds of the House caucus voted to overturn Biden’s election.

If this bill becomes law, Republicans would lose that unfettered power to rig the House playing field to their advantage. Instead, reform proponents would gain the ability to challenge unfair maps in court over illegal partisan discrimination, and the bill would eventually require states to create independent redistricting commissions that would take the process out of the hands of self-interested legislators entirely.

Protecting the right to vote is just as paramount when Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to adopt new voting restrictions by furthering the lies Donald Trump told about the election that led directly to January’s insurrection at the Capitol. With Republican legislatures likely to pass many of these bills into law—and the Supreme Court’s conservative partisans poised to further undermine existing protections for voting rights—congressional action is an absolute must to protect the ability of voters to cast their ballots.

The most important remaining hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster: The fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass H.R. 1 into law.

House Democrats just passed the most important democracy reforms since the 1965 Voting Rights Act 1

Holy Mother of God, what foolishness is this?

As reported by Ed Kilgore, writing for New York Magazine:

In a ruling reminiscent of medieval speculation over the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans has issued a split decision on the religious acceptability of major COVID-19 vaccines. It has deemed the Pfizer and Moderna versions okay but called the new Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine “morally compromised” because it was derived from cloned stem cells distantly related to tissue from fetuses aborted back in the 1970s.

As Kilgore notes, this reasoned determination is further explained by the Religious News Service.

The archdiocese issued the statement on Friday (Feb. 26), stating that while the decision regarding whether to get a vaccine is an individual choice, “the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing.”

Several COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers used cells originally derived from tissue from an aborted fetus in the 1970s, but the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines used the cell lines only to test their vaccines, making the “connection to abortion … extremely remote,” the statement said.

So cloned, aborted cells utilized in the development of the vaccine are okay, because the connection is more “tenuous,” but hey, when we are actually talking about saving peoples’ lives with the final product, then it’s a little too close to Jesus?

Thankfully, at least one religious authority has his priorities all straight and aligned.

At least one Catholic leader, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, has argued that even the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are “produced immorally” because they used the cells and must be rejected as well.

Just so we’re clear, this archdiocese (notably, Pope Francis, speaking for the Vatican one month before the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was announced, appears to disagree) is saying that it’s better to have no vaccine at all than to have one that was derived, however distantly, from fetal cell tissue—even in its production stage.

This dumbassery actually has real-life consequences, at least to those Catholics in the diocese who pay attention to such dictums.

The decision has the potential to impact vaccine distribution. Several houses of worship — including Catholic churches — currently serve as vaccination centers, as do many faith-affiliated organizations.

They’re not even real “fetus cells.” They’re cloned cells.

The statement is part of a longstanding debate regarding the use of what are referred to as HEK293 cells, which reportedly trace their origins to an aborted fetus from the 1970s. Scholars and ethicists have noted that HEK293 and similar cell lines are clones and are not the original fetal tissue.

When I was younger, I had these wild expectations that by a year such as 2021, we’d be way past this type of nonsense in American society.

Guess I was wrong.

Catholic archdiocese rules that 2 approved COVID-19 vaccines are OK—but not that third one! 2

Not sure where to slot this among the growing list of Fox News pseudo-scandals. Is this glaring omission worse than Barack Obama’s tan suit? That hardly seems possible. The tan suit affair nearly ended us. Our enemies saw our commander in chief arrayed in fine raiments of effete ecru and the gates of hell were flung wide open. Our national credibility was tarnished—one might even say tan-suited—for all eternity.

But that was then. After witnessing the stalwart, uber-patriotic leadership of Donald John Trump—who only launched one full-on insurrection attempt during his entire four-year term—we’re forced to endure this disgrace.

Are you ready?

Joe Biden didn’t mention Dr. Seuss in his statement on Read Across America Day. 

Not one mention of Dr. Seuss on his birthday!

A Fox News reporter asked Jen Psaki today about why Biden didn’t mention Dr. Seuss in his statement about Read Across America Day. I can’t believe Psaki didn’t laugh her out of the press room. pic.twitter.com/LSCy8h453o

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2021

FOX REPORTER KRISTIN FISHER: “It is National Read Across America Day, it’s also Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Both former presidents Obama and Trump mentioned Dr. Seuss in their Read Across America Day proclamations, but President Biden did not. Why not?”

JEN PSAKI: “Words, words words … [translation: what the fuck is this nitwit talking about, and who the fuck cares?] … words words words.”

REPORTER: “So does the omission have anything to do with the controversy about the lack of diverse characters in the author’s books?”

And … scene.

In her answer, Jen Psaki noted that the Department of Education actually wrote the statement, and … yeah, who the fuck cares? This question only exists in order to sell reverse mortgages to confused elderly people who think Sean Hannity is one of the Cartwright sons from Bonanza. But because Fox has been absolutely tearin’ it up over the Dr. Seuss “controversy” lately, they know wall-to-wall coverage will draw in millions of sallow, rheumy eyeballs. 

See here …

folks. pic.twitter.com/wjwQcnw8wQ

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2021

And here …

watch this while reminding yourself that this is one of Fox News’s “news” shows pic.twitter.com/rmX6UUFrjP

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2021

And here …

Dr. Seuss is the top story on Fox News today. They’re still talking about it. It’s absolutely insane. pic.twitter.com/SkY0tQ014H

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2021

Fox has found its new wedge issue. It’s cancel culture! Which is odd, because the guy whose bulbous arse they’ve spent the past four years smooching into oblivion literally tried to cancel democracy, and he’s now trying to cancel numerous members of Congress from his own party

Oh, and apparently Mr. Potato Head has been brutally defamed as well. Or something. Honestly, I don’t have the energy to keep up with this much inanity.

But, hey, God forbid we try to eliminate grotesque racial stereotypes like the following from our culture. 

AP:

In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. If I Ran the Zoo includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.

Say, Joe Biden also didn’t mention the book of Hitler speeches Donald Trump used to keep in his bedside cabinet. WHY NOT, JEN PSAKI?! Is this part of Joe Biden’s attempt to cancel U.S. history? YOU CAN’T CANCEL OUR HISTORY! We had a Nazi-ish president for four years. Our children’s children will want to know all about it.

Of course, Fox News and Republicans are blaming “cancel culture” for this outrage, but they really need to look at Seuss’ own family. It was Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which was founded by the Seuss family, that pulled the plug on several of the author’s titles.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.

Also, the only reason Donald Trump mentioned Dr. Seuss during Read Across America Day is that he’s the only author he’s ever heard of. But, sure, go after Biden some more. Maybe tomorrow he’ll salute someone while holding a coffee cup in his hand. If he does, that should be good for at least two full news cycles. 

Oh, hi there! You like free stuff, right? The long-anticipated EPILOGUE to Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump is now available for FREE. Download your copy at this link! And don’t forget to check out the rest of AJP’s oeuvre here. Sit back and enjoy the Trumplessness!

Fox News asks Jen Psaki about President Biden's outrageous disregard for Dr. Seuss 3

Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, crimes against the Asian community have increased globally. In the U.S.—especially because of the spread of misinformation, the use of xenophobic language, and the first case of the virus being traced to China—some individuals have blamed the Asian community for the pandemic. Thousands of people have thus been subjected to not only racist verbal attacks, but physical attacks as well. But these attacks go beyond interactions with strangers: Students across the U.S. have been subject to xenophobia from not only peers, but teachers, as well.

In one incident, a video surfaced from a high school in California in which a teacher is using slant eyes, a racist stereotypical gesture, to demonstrate what she says Chinese and Japanese people look like. “If your eyes go up, you’re Chinese,” the Grant High School teacher identified as Nicole Burkett said in a Zoom video obtained by The Sacramento Bee. “If they go down, they’re Japanese. If they’re just straight, you don’t know.”

According to The Sacramento Bee, Burkett is a Spanish teacher and student adviser. During a class lesson on Thursday, she used her fingers to stretch her eyelids up and down. The gesture she portrayed depicts a version of a racist school-yard taunt known as “ “Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees.”

The video was recorded on a cellphone by one of the students in the class, NBC News affiliate KCRA 3 reported. Since then it was shared multiple times across social media. The incident was brought to the school’s attention when the student who recorded the video notified another teacher, a source close to the matter told KCRA 3. “We need to teach the younger generation to understand racism, and that when they see something that is not right, if it doesn’t feel right, they need to feel comfortable to find a trusted adult to talk to,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, told KCRA 3.

Since the video surfaced, many have rightfully criticized her actions. Those of Asian descent especially condemned the racism associated with such stereotypical gestures. “For many of us who are Asian, the gestures that were made in that video are not unfamiliar to us,” said state Sen. Dr. Richard Pan. “We’ve seen it repeatedly, unfortunately, throughout our lives.” Pan, who chairs the API Legislative Caucus, is at the frontlines of the fight to enforce legislation to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans. “While we can’t stop individuals from expressing prejudice and hate, we can as a community say, this is not acceptable for us as a community,” Pan said.

In response, a spokesperson for the Twin Rivers Unified School District, Zenobia Gerald, noted that the video was not only “shocking” but “disappointing.”

“The video … does not represent the values held by Twin Rivers and the community,” Gerald said in the statement. “An investigation was immediately launched when we were notified about the video. Please know that Twin Rivers is committed to providing all students with a safe and civil learning environment in which all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect. We do not tolerate any form of racism from any member of our school community.”

The video is the latest attack against Asians across the country. While Asians have been subject to hate crimes for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in crimes nationwide. Multiple incidents have been reported throughout the past year, citing COVID-19-related hysteria as the motive. Between March and December 2020, more than 2,800 cases of anti-Asian crimes were reported across the U.S. According to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, a majority of these incidents involved Asian Americans over the age of 60.

The use of language like “Kung Flu” and “Chinese virus” to refer to COVID-19 by some individuals, including former president Donald Trump, has also contributed to further hate. Multiple reports examining the link between political rhetoric and anti-Asian bias found that discrimination against the Asian American community increased after the use of such terms, as Daily Kos previously reported.

The “slant-eyes” stereotype the teacher used is considered a racial slur, with roots in late 19th-century Western propaganda, in which Asians were often depicted in drawings with yellow skin, buck teeth, and slit eyes. Such gestures have been compared with the racist use of Blackface, because of its similar way of demeaning and dehumanizing individuals of color. The stereotype can be traced to what scholars call the “yellow peril,” an ideology where white folks claimed things from Asia were a great threat to the white world.

Historians and other academics found that this ideology, amongst other xenophobia, influenced U.S. policies on the basis “that Chinese people as a race, no matter where they are, are disease carriers.” As a result, anti-Asian laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were enacted to block Asian immigration. Additionally, Chinese migrants have historically faced invasive and humiliating medical inspections that other immigrants were not subjected to. During the bubonic plague and severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, Chinese people faced similar xenophobia, as several were unable to go to work or considered “unclean,” as Daily Kos has reported.

Sacramento City Council Member Mai Vang condemned the teacher’s actions and noted that the use of such stereotypes can contribute to an unsafe learning environment. “Anti-Asian hate and violence are not new in our community,” Vang said in a statement. “In the midst of so much trauma facing our community already, an anti-Asian incident from this afternoon was brought to my attention that occurred at a high school in the heart of North Sac. This is Sacramento, we must do better.”

According to ABC News, as a result of her actions, Burkett is now receiving attacks via her personal social media accounts. While this is unfortunate and no one should be subjected to hate, whether in person or online, it does not excuse her actions. Racism should not be tolerated anywhere, especially in schools. These actions and stereotypical gestures not only create an unsafe environment for Asians and other students, but contribute to harmful ideology.

Now more than ever the Asian American community needs our support. We cannot stand for hate whether it be in our schools, neighborhoods, or any part of the country.

California teacher uses racist and stereotypical gesture to describe Asians to her class 4

Disparities across the country have increased amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. In terms of food security, those who struggled with food access prior to the pandemic have been facing further obstacles. With schools closed and learning being remote, many students who relied on in-person schooling for meals have been impacted severely.

In efforts to address this issue and help students receive meals, a federal program has been announced in Chicago for public school students to receive $450 to assist with food expenses. The program will benefit 1 million Illinois students. Every Chicago Public School student is eligible and will automatically receive the benefits in the mail. Thousands of students in other districts will also qualify, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) was created to assist students who relied on free or reduced lunch programs through school. Families with more than one child will receive more funds. A family’s ability to receive the funds will not be impacted by their participation in meals-to-go programs provided during the pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the funds will be loaded on cards similar to debit cards and will be accepted at any grocery store that accepts Link cards.

The cards, which will be mailed this month, will be preloaded with money for students who were in virtual learning through December. A second card will contain funds for the start of this year through March as students return to in-person classes. The cards will only contain money for days students partake in virtual learning; they will have access to in-school meals the other days.

In order to receive the cards in a timely manner, state officials are urging families to make sure their child’s school has their current address. All families with children in Chicago Public Schools are eligible regardless of income or citizenship status. Those who receive SNAP benefits will also get a separate card instead of the funds being combined onto existing electronic benefits transfer cards, according to the state department.

“There are a lot of families struggling right now with kids not having access to meals at school unfortunately there are a lot of kids are going hungry,” Senior Manager of Public Benefits Outreach Claudia Rodriguez of the Greater Chicago Food Depository said according to ABC News. “We think about adults going hungry who may be homeless or under employed but there are a lot of families with children that are struggling.”

The move comes as an effort to end hunger for all. While it’s currently serving Chicago, hope remains that the program will expand nationally. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois is one of the 20 states with plans for the program that were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While a similar program was available last year, families enrolled in SNAP programs had to fill out separate forms, meaning those who did not know about the program were unable to access the benefits. The new P-EBT program combats this issue of access by automatically mailing the cards to all eligible students. According to CPS data, 76% of the benefiting students are classified as “economically disadvantaged.”

“Research shows that children who are hungry are not able to focus and learn,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a statement. “Schools have served more than 113 million meals to students since the pandemic began, and the P-EBT builds on this care and commitment to ensure all Illinois children have their nutritional needs met.”

According to Feeding America, nearly 30 million children in the U.S. qualified for free or reduced-cost lunches at school in 2019. Studies have linked food insecurity in children to poor health, stunted development, behavioral issues, and difficulty keeping up in school—all issues that have increased amid the pandemic.

Research experts from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the number of households with food insecurity across the U.S. has doubled since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, at least 2.5 million children have fallen below the poverty line since May 2020. The experts noted that each day at least 14 million children go hungry, with children of color being the most vulnerable.

While remote learning has enabled students and their families to be protected from the novel coronavirus, other disparities have increased. In addition to the pandemic contributing to a loss of jobs nationwide, remote learning has limited children’s access to free or reduced-price meals, resulting in increased food insecurity. Prior to the pandemic, many children relied on school meals for breakfast and lunch. The need to replace these meals amid remote learning is severe and greatly impacts the growth of children.

While schools and cities are making efforts to provide meals for children at multiple locations, more needs to be done nationwide. Lack of food security leads to a number of other issues and cannot be taken lightly. These payments make a difference but are not enough. America needs to do better to address issues of hunger.

1 million Illinois students will receive $450 to help assist with food expenses amid COVID-19 crisis 5

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic turned us upside down, how has life changed? 6

One year ago this week, my Kansas Jayhawks were the leading contenders to cut down the nets at the NCAA tournament. Everything on that team was clicking. Everyone on the team was perfectly playing their parts, reaching peak performance as they headed into college basketball’s biggest stage. Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut it all down. Like everyone else, the focus of March quite suddenly and dramatically shifted from normal spring happenings like the NCAA tournament to chasing down toilet paper and learning how to make bread at home because the bread and toilet paper shelves were as empty as the basketball arenas down the street. 

Even then scientists like Dr. Fauci were warning the public that we could be wearing masks into 2022 and the pandemic would take considerable time to get under control, if it could be controlled at all. We were thrust into a whole new unfamiliar and terrifying world. What we learned one day (wipe down your groceries! You don’t need to wear masks!) would no longer be best practice the next. It’s been one long, bumpy ride. And while we are not yet out of the woods, there is light at the end of the tunnel with three vaccines and distribution that is about to be significantly ramped up for the general public. 

So, how was this pandemic changed us individually and as a whole?

As a whole, there can be no doubt we’ve seen how flawed our public health apparatus is at the core. Decades of decreased funding have taken a toll and it is plain to see we need to expend more resources to shore up public health. At the end of the day, public health is both economic security and national security. And yet, even after everything we’ve been through, there is no question we are going to have to fight for more public health funding, because Republicans will stand in the way of increased funding in any form, even if it saves tens or hundreds of thousands of lives. So, get ready.

Individually, there are so many areas that feel like they’ve changed forever. I’ve seen images of public transportation workers routinely sanitizing bus, plane, and train interiors. In retrospect, why weren’t we doing this every cold and flu season? Please, let this be something that becomes permanent as a means of controlling the spread of viruses.

Along those lines, on a flight in 2019, the passenger next to me took out Lysol wipes and immediately wiped down her seat, tray, and arm rests before she sat down. She offered wipes to me, which I accepted, but if I’m being honest, I thought she was going a little overboard. Not anymore! This is how I’m going to travel from now on. Wipes and hand sanitizer at the ready. 

Along those lines, masks will be added to the travel routine as well, definitely during cold and flu season. Flu cases hit record lows during 2020-2021 flu season because masks work, social distancing works, and hand-washing works. 

A rose apple tart, a highlight of pandemic baking. Shortly afterward, it was all downhill from there. 

On a day-to-day basis, our house definitely plans our meals more than we did in the Before Times. We make a menu, hit the store once a week, and then stick to it. As someone who loves to cook as my primary hobby, it has been fun to experiment and hone my craft, but simultaneously it has also been completely exhausting. I’m done. Give me store-bought bread all day long. 

Personally, it has been challenging to maintain some relationships as well. In the beginning we were using Zoom and FaceTime to check-in with each other, but as the days went on and all we had were video calls, it became more tedious. I also felt like I had to be “up” for these calls, even on days when I truly felt down. Like the bread, they also became exhausting. I had to cut back on the scheduled calls and focus on a handful of family members for these video check-ins. At first we tried a handful of socially distanced gatherings, but soon enough we’d get a call saying this person might have had an exposure and that would set off obvious fears, relentlessly taking our temperature and monitoring pulse oxygen, looking for the slightest variations, fearful we might have contracted it.

There are some friends I talked to every week who I haven’t seen in months, because we are now focused on getting through the day-to-day. I don’t take it personally and I’m sure they don’t either, we are all doing what we can. Will we be able to return to our normal social selves after the vaccine? Possibly. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my more introverted friends find it harder to transition back to social life. If I’m being honest, part of me is going to struggle as well. I keep hearing “I can’t wait to get back to live music!” But standing in a crowd of hundreds or thousands of people singing and dancing to the music just doesn’t have the same appeal to me now. Perhaps I’ll get back in the groove, perhaps not. 

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic turned us upside down, how has life changed? 7
One of the tedious paint-by-numbers I did this winter to take my mind off the pandemic and the woes of the world. 

Mental health has been a huge challenge, especially for those of us with harsh winters that keep us indoors for days or weeks at a time. I’ve seen everything on Netflix. Some days it feels as if I’ve read the entire internet. All of it. Getting offline has become crucial to mental health. I found that closing my laptop to put on music and focus on an an adult paint-by-numbers, spending hours in the kitchen or putting on headphones to escape into meditation have become crucial. These are going to stay with me in the future.

Like millions of other Americans, my spouse and I have taken up cycling. Anytime the weather warms up enough that we can get out, we do. Cycling allowed us to get fresh air and escape the city, where I felt uncomfortable even walking around my neighborhood because of the population density, which was the very thing that drew us to this neighborhood to begin with! 

For better and worse, the pandemic has changed our hair. I’ve given up spending time and money at the salon. Thankfully I’ve been able to get two haircuts in, but that gray hair you see creeping in now? It’s probably going to stay. Like the bread and the video calls, I’m over maintaining it. My spouse on the other hand, for the first time in his adult life, he grew out his hair, going most of 2020 without a haircut and it turns out, it’s great! 

For those of us who are fortunate enough to work from home, the days of wearing hard pants went by the wayside. All sweats, leggings, and shorts, all the time. I have begrudgingly started to ease back into hard pants, wearing jeans on short errands or appointments and folks, I don’t like it! 

Finally and most importantly, is never taking for granted even one minute with family. We became grandparents just a few months before the pandemic hit. It has been so difficult to stay away. I get emotional thinking about family vacations and spending the holidays together again. Those holidays will take on new meaning this year. For far too many families, those reunions are going to be missing seats at the table. It’s going to be hard coming back together for the families who lost loved ones during this time, whether pandemic-related or otherwise, for as much joy as we’ll have together, there will be collective grief that will surely be a part of it as well.

During a recent brief window of warm weather, I sprinted over to my best friend’s house to visit in the backyard. Her teenage daughter walked outside to say hello and the sight of her, looking so beautiful, mature, different, caused me to burst into tears. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. How is it possible she had changed so very much in just a few months? In a way, the vaccines will bring us all back together, but be assured our journey isn’t quite over. There must be a reckoning for those days, moments and loved ones lost. 

Those are but a few of the many, many things that have changed since the pandemic began. I asked a few of my colleagues here at Daily Kos what has changed for them and here are their responses. Please share in the comments how this year has changed your life, both in real-time and in how you will go forward. 

Irna Landrum, Campaign Manager

One of the biggest ways the pandemic has changed me is making me think twice before taking to the streets. As the summer uprisings got into full swing in my own neighborhood, I found myself very nervous about being in such a large, shouting crowd. I went to some actions but got tested relentlessly. At some point, I realized it was better for my mental health to find other ways to support the uprisings, because the concern about my physical health was too high. 

Another thing that’s changed is my mother having to learn how to use Google Duo so she could see my face sometimes. I haven’t seen her since November 2019, and we usually see each other every few months. My nieces are in the years where they change a lot from month to month and I haven’t seen them in over a year.

Christine Larusso, Client Operations Manager

During the pandemic, I moved! I moved really far: one whole city block. My new place has two (small, but oh-so-glorious) yards so on a whim, I hung up a hummingbird feeder. Little did I know that watching my little friend (there’s just one—they’re very territorial) would become a bit of an obsession. Am I planting flowers that are known to be hummingbird magnets? Yes. Have I started a calendar so I know when I change the sugar water every week? Sure have. More importantly, have I given the bird a name? I call him Jerry. I haven’t become a full-on bird watcher per se but I am taking a lot of joy in hanging out with this weird, super small, winged friend. His presence in my yard has made me more alert to hummingbirds I see around the neighborhood during my daily walks for pandemic exercise, and that has made those walks less frustrating, and made me more alive to each moment, more present. I don’t know if this habit will last forever but I definitely want to cultivate every part of myself that’s allowing it to happen.

Faith Gardner, Publisher

Since the pandemic began, I’ve been so glad to have two children as they constantly keep each other entertained. They make up imaginary games, read books together, and sleep together in the same bed every night to have “sister sleepovers” even though they have their own rooms. I have a feeling this year-plus of being home and out of school is going to bond them in a unique way for the rest of their lives. I do have some concern about the long-term impacts of so much isolation, especially for my younger child, who was two when this began and is three now. She has no memory at this point of life before—no memories of playing in parks or riding public transit or interacting with other children her age or not wearing masks every time she leaves the house. But overall I’m so grateful that the children have adapted easily to these difficult circumstances, and that they have each other to lean on.

Sound-off below and let us know if your life has changed and if so, how? Will you go charging back to “normal” or is there a new normal now?

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic turned us upside down, how has life changed? 8

These 19 House districts flipped parties in the 2020 presidential election 9

Thanks to the recent completion of Daily Kos Elections’ effort to calculate the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district, we now know that Joe Biden won 224 districts to Donald Trump’s 211, a net increase of 15 seats for Democrats compared to the 2016 results under the same district lines. As shown on the map at the top of this post (see here for a larger version), 17 districts flipped from backing Trump in 2016 to Biden last year, while two districts switched from supporting Hillary Clinton four years ago to voting for Trump in 2020.

The districts that changed hands share some demographic commonalities, and many were competitive at the House level in November. Those that went from Trump to Biden include many historically red suburban seats with high levels of college education and voters who have grown increasingly hostile to the Republican Party under Trump. That’s an extension of the pattern seen in 2016, when Clinton also flipped many historically red suburban seats.

Unlike four years ago when Trump flipped many districts with large populations of white voters without a college degree, the two districts that Trump picked up this time both have large populations of Latino voters, a demographic that shifted sharply back toward Republicans in 2020 after giving Clinton historically high levels of support four years earlier.

Texas’ 23rd stands out in particular because it flipped twice over the last decade, having supported Mitt Romney in 2012. Five districts, meanwhile, showcased the opposite pattern, going for Barack Obama, then Trump, then Biden: Minnesota’s 2nd, Nevada’s 3rd, New Hampshire’s 1st, and New York’s 18th and 19th.

Only two of these 19 districts backed a different party at the House level compared to the top of the ticket: Nebraska’s 2nd District and Texas’ 24th District, both of which voted Biden but returned Republicans to Congress in spite of hard-fought Democratic efforts to win them last year.

In addition to the traditional map above, we have also created a cartogram below that shows every district as the same size so that dense populated districts in urban areas aren’t obscured and rural districts aren’t over-emphasized. Since many of the Trump-to-Biden districts were relatively small suburban seats geographically speaking, they become much more prominent when presented as a cartogram (click here for a larger version):

Finally, the chart below shows us who these members of Congress actually are, along with the results of the 2020 House election, 2020 and 2016 presidential elections, and a comparison between the two presidential results (a larger version is here).

These 19 House districts flipped parties in the 2020 presidential election 10

You can find the election results for House and president for every district in our 117th Congress guide spreadsheet here, along with a whole host of other demographic statistics on both the districts and the members who represent them.

These 19 House districts flipped parties in the 2020 presidential election 11

As Daily Kos has covered, Republicans in more than 20 states are currently pushing anti-trans legislation. This legislation tends to target transgender youth in one of two (or both) areas: keeping transgender youth (and specifically, transgender girls) out of sports and/or criminalizing physicians providing gender-affirming medical care. The latest disturbing bill out of Minnesota targets transgender student-athletes. Due to its surreally extreme nature and the state’s Democratic governor and state House, it’s unlikely to pass, but the precedent it sets is deeply concerning. 

Unlike other (also discriminatory) bills, this measure doesn’t only exclude transgender youth from playing on girls’ sports teams, but would actually criminalize trans girls who attempt to compete on girls’ teams. The result, if this bill passed? A petty misdemeanor. There could be additional criminal penalties for trans girls who use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms, even if they aren’t competing. The charge? A misdemeanor that is comparable to say, driving under the influence or fifth-degree assault. The result? Excluding, isolating, and dehumanizing some of the most vulnerable youth in our nation.

Like so many of these bills, HB 1657 defines sex-based on chromosomes. The petty misdemeanor charge could be punishable by a fine of as much as $300, if we go based on how petty misdemeanors work for adults in the state. The full misdemeanor (for using bathrooms or locker rooms) could be punishable by as much as 90 days in prison, up to two years of probation, and a fine of up to $1,000, if, again, we go by adults.

Executive director of Gender Justice Megan Peterson told LGBTQ+-focused outlet them. that penalties would more likely translate to juvenile detention for athletes under 18. She told the outlet “it would be on the child’s record until they’re an adult and their minor records are expunged.”

“There is no reason why it should be harder to play girls kickball in Minnesota than it is to play an Olympic elite sport,” Jess Braverman of Gender Justice told local outlet KSTP, adding that it’s “lunacy.”

In a statement, Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union summed up the situation nicely, saying: “Being trans is not a crime and trans youth should never be banned from sports or criminalized for simply being themselves.”

Now, the bill is unlikely to actually pass, as Democrats control the state House. Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, is also a Democrat. But just because many of these bills are unlikely to become law doesn’t mean we can just shrug them off. 

First of all, the very fact that people are debating the merit of these hateful, exclusive ideas gives them credibility, and that’s dangerous when it comes to transgender youth (and adults, as well, frankly). Talking about potentially criminalizing young people for playing sports is not a difference of values or perspective; it can have real, long-term effects on a person’s life and future.

Obviously, any kind of discrimination can have a negative impact on one’s mental health and self-esteem, but when the court system is involved, there’s another layer to consider. Transgender folks already report higher levels of employment and housing discrimination, as well as being at higher risk of finishing school without a diploma or becoming homeless as minors. Add a criminal record to that and dire situations become even worse.

The other level to keep in mind when it comes to the misdemeanor possibility is that our justice system is already stacked against people of color. We know, for example, that youth of color are more likely to be incarcerated or detained than white youth. Black students are already more likely to be arrested (yes, arrested) at school. Now, imagine being a transgender teenager of color facing charges for using the bathroom or locker room that aligns with your gender identity. The anxiety of someone becoming suspicious and calling the police or reporting you to the authorities simply for trying to participate in a sports team. No person should have to live with that fear just by daring to live as their authentic selves. 

Minnesota's anti-trans sports bill is unlikely to pass, but its ideas set a terrifying precedent 12

For the first time in nearly nine months, a national Harris tracking poll found that Americans’ fears of contracting the coronavirus and dying have dipped below a majority share of the public.

When given a binary choice between “I fear I could die as a result of contracting coronavirus” and “I do not fear I could die as a result of contracting coronavirus,” 48% said they harbor that fear while 52% said they did not fear such a death.

The number of people who said they fear dying of COVID-19 has reportedly remained above 50% since last July after roughly 55% of respondents said they were concerned about dying from the virus in the last half of the month. But short of one outlier result in mid-July, responses to the question had regularly hovered above a majority since early June. 

The uptick in Americans’ confidence about the course of the virus came even before President Biden announced Tuesday that the administration had secured enough vaccine supply to cover all U.S. adults by the end of May. That commitment improved on the White House’s original pledge for full coverage by two months. The expedited timeline was also partially the result of a deal brokered by the administration between corporate rivals Merck and Johnson & Johnson that is expected to help boost output and hasten distribution of a third vaccine. 

Americans’ approval of how the vaccines are being distributed has also increased sharply over the past month according to the Harris poll, with 66% now approving of the efforts compared to 51% a month ago—a 15% bump in a single month. 

This is what the American people hired Biden to do, and early signs indicate that public confidence in the U.S. response to the pandemic is increasing.

Under Biden, early polling shows Americans' confidence in U.S. pandemic response is increasing 14