Biden’s Speech — Not the SOTU—better

Biden’s Speech

Not the SOTU—better

April 28th, 2021

After listening to Joe Biden’s address to some of Congress (COVID, don’t you know, but it was amusing watch the expressions on Boehler’s and Cruz’ faces as Biden spoke) I caught Tim Scott’s genial but largely delusional paean to America and how those nasty Democrats were preventing Republicans from rushing to embrace the policies that Biden would present to Congress if he had policies, which he didn’t, and proved it by presenting the policies to Congress.

I followed that by scrolling through the comments section on our local Sinclair Broadcast station, and encountered gems like, “I can’t believe this is America. No one is safe under the democratic regime of evil! We are all in terrible danger, you should be afraid, be very very afraid. Save yourself! Save democracy!” *

Well, OK, then. Tim Scott may have not sounded overly coherent, but at least I didn’t feel any need to shoot him with the tranquilizer dart. Typically of comments sections, nobody there seemed to have actually watched or even read about the speech. I think I could have posted something about Biden congratulating Mitch McConnell on their groundbreaking agreement to sell white babies to China, and nobody would have contradicted me. Those comments groups are bad for your mental health.

One of the most remarkable things about Biden’s speech was the sheer oratorical capacity the man showed. Any idiot can rile up an audience with stentorian exhortations to do Noble Things, and most do, but I watched Biden hold the House Chamber, and much of the nation, spellbound with just a friendly whisper. He spoke with an earnestness and compassion, qualities lost in the hoarse brays of self-pity and truculence we had to deal with for the previous four years.

The tone could be summed up in one anecdote, told late in the speech. “I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. As I knelt down to talk to her so we could talk eye—to—eye, she said to me, Daddy changed the world.’” Politicians, with rare exceptions, like to be shown relating to children. But the line that caught my eye (and heart) was “…I knelt down to talk to her so we could talk eye-to-eye” That speaks to a humanity that transcends the usual political rhetoric. Joe is a good guy who genuinely cares about people. That’s not something I believe because I am a liberal; it something I feel because I am a human being.

As for content, the basic message was actually summed up in Biden’s opening remarks. “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. 

Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.  Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength. Life can knock us down. But in America, we never stay down. In America, we always get up.

He then spoke of the progress America has made against the pandemic, and the early signs of an economic recovery that is likely to turn into a roaring boom. He talks about the vast, ambitious plans he has to ensure that we do come out of this stronger and better: child support, in the form of cash-back tax breaks, universal child care, universal health care. He spoke of the amazing results of the American Rescue Plan—well over 200 million vaccinations, and hunger greatly reduced just in the first few months. He spoke of the difference the child credits would make for working families by the millions. It has already created 1.3 million new jobs in the past 60 days, an amazing record.

He then spoke of his infrastructure plan, The American Jobs Plan, which he described as “a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself, the largest jobs plan since World War II.”

Sounding like FDR, he spoke of the millions of good paying jobs regular workers would see from this plan, and said, “Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class. “

Defending the plan further, he said, “I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – the PRO Act — and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize. 

By the way – let’s also pass the $15 minimum wage. No one should work 40 hours a week and still live below the poverty line. And we need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. Let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk for equal pay. It’s long past time. 

Finally, the American Jobs Plan will be the biggest increase in non-defense research and development on record.  We will see more technological change in the next 10 years – than we saw in the last 50 years. “

He’s right, of course, and the Republicans are going to be twisting themselves in deep knots figuring out how to oppose Biden without opposing the plan.

My own takeaway, following the speech, is that Biden was his own best friend tonight in his goals of getting these policies enacted.

 

*Perhaps the comments “Save Democracy” reads better in Russian. “Я не могу поверить, что это Америка. Никто не находится в безопасности при демократическом режиме зла! Мы все в ужасной опасности, вы должны бояться, очень, очень бояться. Спаси себя! Спасите демократию!”

OK, maybe not.

DecPop — It’s been 70 years since 1950

DecPop

It’s been 70 years since 1950

April 27th 2021

Back in 1974, when the average number of births per woman was 3.65, Phillip José Farmer wrote a novella, “70 Years of DecPop”. The premise was that a mad scientist released an aerosol that rendered 99.999% of all humans sterile (world population was about 4.5 billion at that time) and from there studied the devastating effects the immense drop in population would have over the ensuring 70 years.

It was a bit of a gloomy read. Humans didn’t react well to forced sterilization, and few economies were equipped to deal with shrinking markets and less demand on resources.

At that point, the birthrate had already declined significantly from its peak in 1964, when it was at 4.65. Much of the decrease was credited to a decline in religious oppression, the increased availability of birth control, and in a rebuke to Malthus, improved living conditions with greater food and shelter security. People in poor nations no longer had 12 children in hopes that one of them might live to take care of them when they got old.

At that time, sociologists expected the birth rate to climb back up, and there was even a book by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, that forecast widespread famine and war as a result of population outstripping resources such as food and clean water.

Didn’t happen. Food production soared, outpacing population growth. And the Ehrlichs hadn’t realized that most famines aren’t the result of actual food shortages, but of politics. The rich stockpile and the poor starve. Nearly all famines were easily avoidable back then. They still are.

And the birth rate continued to decline, against all expectations. By 1993 it had dropped below 3.0. By 1997 it was at 2.5.

This year it’s expected to reach a magic number: 2.1 Two point one is the birthrate at which population stops growing, known as Zero Population Growth, or ZPG.

Many developed nations had already reached that mark in the 1990s and first decade of this millennium. Almost all of western Europe, Japan, and Canada had native birthrates below 2.1. Population growth came solely from immigration.

In the United States, immigration drove population growth until 2015, but since then immigration has dropped below the level of the birthrate, which means that the next decennial census might show a population drop for the first time in American history.

The preliminary results of the 2020 census show the second smallest rate of growth in American history, with only the 1930s being (slightly) lower. For ten years, population growth was just 7.4%.

A lot of reasons have been given for this. Trump and the Republicans actively messed with the census, hoping to undercount the poor, minorities and anyone else who might be a threat to Republican power. While there’s no doubt that they tried, it’s not clear that they were particularly effective at sabotaging the census. A 2017 projection claimed the 2020 census would show 332,639,000, The actual census was 331,500,00, a shortfall of 1.16 million. Further, the growth rate drop was part of a trend, 7.4 in the ‘10s from 9.7 in the noughts, and from 12.34 in the nineties. Republican buggery had an effect, but a relatively small one. Independent surveys show that the growth rate was under 0.6% for the past three years.

Sorry for all the numbers, but they make a case. Population growth has not only slowed, it has stopped. Even in the US, where population growth came mostly from immigration, is seeing a dramatic decline in immigration, despite the fearmongering from the Nazis on the far right. It’s well under half what it was twenty years ago, and the percentage of non-native-born in the general population has leveled off at 14%.

And it’s the same world wide. Japan is in the early stages of a population crash that may see their population drop by 60% by 2100. Russia had a massive population drop following the collapse of the USSR, brought about by initial chaos and followed by an Ayn Rand gangrape of the country by western corporations during the Yeltsin years. Then Putin came along and turned Russia into an autocratic and repressive nightmare. Russia’s population is down nearly 40% from 1990.

According to the BBC: “Japan’s population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century. Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe. They are two of 23 countries – which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea – expected to see their population more than halve.”

It’s only a matter of time before capitalists, who depend endless unsustainable growth, will realize that their consumer base is both shrinking and aging. (One of the darker elements of that DecPop story is the small number of young people trying to cope with the billions of elders who outnumber them by hundreds to one). Capitalism is ill-equipped for this coming change.

Climate change, disease and war will accelerate the drop in population. Some people believe the population drop is propelled by pollutants—forever chemicals, micro plastics, and the like. If true, that could be an existential threat to humanity.

Remember, this census doesn’t even include the nearly 600,000 dead in America from Covid, and it’s becoming clear that this pandemic will have over 10 million dead before it runs its course world wide.

Population drop is a good thing—the Earth is able to sustain perhaps three billion people comfortably, assuming those billions aren’t as wasteful and foolish as we have been. But the economic and political repercussions led by people unwilling to take a hit in profits, also make it a risky time for humans. We normally spend all our efforts fighting greed and corruption, but capitalism celebrates greed and corruption, and is very willing to be very destructive in preserving such.

Our numbers will drop, but we’ll ensure that it won’t be pretty.

,

The Master Race — A Nice and Precise Historie of Britain and its well-known suburb, Europe

The Master Race

A Nice and Precise Historie of Britain and its well-known suburb, Europe

April 17th, 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene and a couple of the more ignorant racist oafs in Congress have decided that what America really needs is an “Anglo-Saxon” caucus in the government to represent the needs and wants of the poor, downtrodden Angles and Saxons. Yes, Greene is the new White.

I guess the first thing they need to do is tell the Normans to get out. They invaded Great Britain, quite illegally in the eyes of the Britons, back in 1066, and proceeded to subsume the regional culture over the ensuing 400 years until “Anglo-Saxon” was a quaint (and inaccurate) term used by historians to give a blanket description of the people who lived on the islands prior to and for a while after the invasion.

When William the Conqueror finished consolidating his takeover in the ensuing twenty years, the culture of the country had been utterly transformed. The dominant language was now the more-or-less Germanic Anglo-Norman, and the largely French-based Saxon tongue was relegated to peasants. Slavery was abolished, a new currency established, and the Angles and Saxons who had the resources to flee had left, most to the Byzantine, and a handful to Gaelic and Celtic regions, where they weren’t particularly welcome.

The Scots and Irish term for Saxons to this day is “Sassenach,” broadened to include all English people, and it is not a term of affection.

One of the weirder things the racists embrace is the notion that “Anglo-Saxon” is basically a Scots and Irish culture. It’s a bit like saying the dominant culture of the United States is Cherokee, and will offend respective groups in much the same way. English relations with the Scots and the Irish ranged from uncomfortable marriage to flat-out rape. Telling the people to the north and west of England that their culture is based on a group that got their asses kicked and obliterated a thousand years ago and replaced by non-Sassenach Sassenachs won’t win you any friends.

Assuming Scotland and Ireland are just suburbs of England is a dire mistake. Trump gave a good demonstration the day after Brexit won, warmly congratulating the Scots on voting for it. Scotland voted heavily against it, and is likely to leave the UK as a result, and Americans widely broadened their vocabularies in a unique and dark way by reading the Scottish responses to Trump’s blunder.

When racists talk about “European culture” they don’t know what the hell they are talking about. Italy and Norway, to pick a random pairing, do not have much in the way of cultural homogeneity. You may as well say that the Serengeti and Keewatin are pretty much the same climate. Most individual countries in Europe have several different and often conflicting cultures. The Basque and the Normans (yes, the Normans, they’re still around) both live in France. And are none too happy about that. And despite having invaded Britain in the 11th century, present day French Normans feel little affinity for the resulting dog’s breakfast of a land they call Angleterre. Yes, that means “land of the Angles.”

About the only definition of white supremacy that is sillier than “Anglo-Saxon” is “Caucasian.” This refers to the Caucasian range, which separates European Russia from Asiatic Russia. The majority of the inhabitants of the region are called Caucasian, but they aren’t the Hitler wet dream of blond hair and blue eyes. Most look Turkish or Semitic, having interbred cheerfully with both groups with whom they share the region. Most of them have been invaded and massacred by the Russians (and others) over the past few centuries, particularly the Chechens, the Armenians, the Kurds, the Semites and the Georgians.

When racists say “Caucasian” they usually refer to people some 1,500 miles north and west, such as the Danes, the Swedes, the Germans…basically, the Vikings. Except DNA evidences show that even amongst the Vikings, brown (or black) hair, brown eyes, and copper skin were abundant. There is no common tongue amongst these groups. Nor a common culture, or a common religion, or even agreement on what “Nordic” means.

“Nordic” bears the same relationship to Europe that “Los Angeles” does to Californians: the further away you are from it, the wider its borders, and the less desirable a neighbor it becomes. I live in far Northern California, and LA is seen here as beginning around Bakersfield/San Luis Obispo and going straight to hell from there south. From Rome, “Nordic” is pretty much anything they didn’t invade back in the glory days of the Empire. What they did invade includes large chunks of what the racists like to call “Nordic” now. Including Angleterre, but not Scotland or Eire.

In other words, the whole “white heritage” thing is nothing but a bunch of bloody nonsense. They are celebrating a history that didn’t exist, or if it did, existed thousands of miles from where they like to pretend it was. The mythology raises the level of subjugated and subsumed cultures to the level of movers and shakers on the world stage. Nobody has even seen a Pict in 300 years, and nobody can pronounce a single word of their language. Nonetheless, they are seen as an apotheosis of white supremacy.

Well, Hitler pretty much invented the history and culture of “the master race,” and he was a whole lot smarter and better educated than the right wing clowns who are trying to puff themselves up into a position of superiority today.

And Hitler was a vicious and self-defeating fool. These clowns won’t do any better.

Gaeteradez — Right Wingers drink from wrong cup

Gaeteradez

Right Wingers drink from wrong cup

April 10th 2021

Could Joel Greenberg end up destroying the American right for a couple of generations?

It’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Greenberg is a real piece of work. He came to public attention when hit with 14 charges on federal felonies, including trafficking of children. If just half of the things alleged against him could be proven in court, he would never get out of jail. The first charge, framing a political opponent and thus winning a campaign, was pretty awful. The second, even sleazier indictment, states that Greenberg “used his access to the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office to take surrendered driver licenses before they were shredded. [He] also used his access to DAVID to run searches that were not for any permissible use .. . As a result of those searches [he] obtained, disclosed transferred, and used personal information of individuals whose personal information was in a motor vehicle record, including individuals with whom [he] was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships.”

Matt Gaetz, the besieged Congressman, and Greenberg were close associates (Gaetz contributed the maximum allowed to Greenberg’s sleazy campaign for the tax collector’s job) and there’s at least one eye witness account that the two were seen together in the tax collector’s office (Greenberg was its elected department head) rummaging through various state IDs that had been turned in and were intended for shredding.

But for all his apparent viciousness, Greenberg isn’t exactly the rock of Gibraltar when it comes to personal courage and resoluteness. When he violated bond following his arrest on all those charges, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg claimed to have explosive devices and threatened to harm himself while negotiating his surrender with deputy sheriffs in early March, which delayed for hours his arrest for violating his bond conditions, newly released records state.” Well, isn’t that exactly the sort of situation you would want to see your tax collector in? Even for Tampa Bay it seemed a bit over the top. The county tax office motto isn’t “Come and git me, coppers! You’ll never take me alive!”

In the meantime, the number of charges against him rose to 33, which according to the Times included “stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, bribery, theft of government property, conspiracy to bribe a public official, creating fake IDs and sex trafficking of a minor.” The Tax Collector’s office under his purview handed out three million in contracts to people who had attended Greenberg’s wedding.

At this point, it’s all somewhat minor. Greenberg would still be unknown outside of Florida were it not for the fact that Gaetz was in any way involved. (Gaetz steadfastly maintains his innocence.)

Now it seems Greenberg is going to cop a plea, and given the number and size of the charges against him, he’s going to have to give up the whole zoo if he wants to see daylight again.

But Greenberg isn’t the only buddy of Gaetz who is involved in all this. Dr. Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and marijuana advocate, traveled with Gaetz to the Bahamas. The trip was on Pirozzolo’s dime, and allegedly included escorts, including some who may have been underage.

Again, not that significant a story, except for this: soon after, then-President Trump made an unscheduled trip to Florida. The only people to greet him on this unpublicized trip were…Gaetz and Pirozzolo. Why would Trump want to meet with those two? Did he perhaps have a bunion on his thumb?

And there’s Roger Stone. Granted, pick any significant Republican scandal over the past 50 years and his name is likely to pop up in there somehow. He should be fighting to stay out of jail right now except Trump gave him a preemptive pardon.

There are reports that Gaetz asked Trump for a blanket pardon sometime before January 20, but no actual evidence has emerged, and both men deny it. Trump may even be telling the truth, since the aides who handled pardons were keeping the more politically disastrous away from Trump’s attention.

So Greenberg is copping a plea, and it’s one likely to completely engulf Gaetz, who’s already in a position where his political career is toast and he’s just fighting to stay out of federal prison.

Now, Gaetz doesn’t strike me as the sort who is going to take one for the team. He could conceivably be facing a future of being a rich white boy who is a child sex offender in federal prison, which by all accounts is not an admirable situation to be in. So he may decide to cop a plea, as well?

Against whom?

Well, Pirozzolo is a possibility. He hasn’t been formally accused of anything yet, other than being a buddy to Gaetz and a mover and shaker in Florida politics. Ron DeSantis appointed him to Greater Orlando Airport Authority on the recommendation of Gaetz.

But for a man in Gaetz’ position, Pirozzolo may be a rather small fish to fry for the feds. He’s going to need a bigger shark, to coin a phrase.

This in turn leads to Stone and Trump. What did they know and when did they know it?

Stand by. This whole thing could get much bigger.

And how would it destroy the right? Well, for years they’ve been screaming that the rest of America were involved in child sex slave operations, were corrupt, lied, and were criminals.

Now, it seems, the calls were coming from inside the house. How is Qanon going to react to the news that the people they (sometimes literally) worshipped were the same one they were warning us all about?

More to come.

More Chances to Reconcile — Dems get a golden opportunity to break fascist stonewalling

More Chances to Reconcile

Dems get a golden opportunity to break fascist stonewalling

April 6th, 2021

The 1974 Congressional Budget Act had a then-obscure provision in it that allowed the Senate, once a year, to consider a bill involving revenue and/or spending to be fast-tracked through the Senate. Debate would be limited to twenty hours, and required only a simple majority for passage. In an era of bipartisanship and when using the filibuster meant standing and talking against the bill for hours or even days, it didn’t seem at all important. The main item of interest was that of limiting debate to twenty hours, ten on each side. It was then known as “the fast track bill.”

It gained prominence for the majority vote provision when Obama’s Senate used it to pass the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s Senate used it to give a nearly two trillion dollar tax cut to the extremely rich and major corporations.

It was the crafty Chuck Schumer who noticed that not only could the reconciliation process apply this year, but retroactively to last year, since no budget was submitted by the inept and rapidly fading Trump administration.

Democrats seized the opportunity, getting the Covid Relief Package passed on a vote of 51-50. By itself, it was a monumental effort, the biggest piece of public-interest legislation since the days of the New Frontier. In addition to funding the fight to end the pandemic, it pulled a third of American children out of poverty, and improved the standard of living for tens of millions of families. It was immensely popular, with even a plurality of Republican voters supporting it. Of course, not a single Republican Congressional voted for it, although a few did try to take credit for it anyway.

The second reconciliation bill due up next is the Infrastructure bill, now dubbed The American Jobs Plan. It’s a slightly bigger bill, two trillion, and is mostly meant for repair, restructuring and modernization of the infrastructure—energy, water, sewage, transportation, education and communications. No Republican supports it, and Democrat Manchin of West Virginia is upset that it will be funded by rescinding the Trump tax cut because society is there to serve the economy, goddammit, and not the other way around. Biden and Schumer are doubtlessly taking a carrot-and-stick approach to Manchin now, to get him on board. Biden, aware of the fact that the GOP is rapidly collapsing, in the political equivalent of a failed psychotic decompensating, plans to invite Republicans to hear their concerns and persuade at least one to stop marching in lockstep with the demented felon who took over their party.

The nations infrastructure has been largely ignored for over 50 years, and it will take a lot more than two trillion dollars to bring America back to first-world status. But it’s a large step in the right direction.

Then, last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, she broke the news that the Senate Parliamentarian and Chuck Schumer had found an obscure provision in the Senate rules that apparently make it possible to have TWO MORE reconciliation bills this year.

To quote the story from MSN: “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman told CNN in a statement Monday that ‘the Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues.’”

Here’s the language the parliamentarian ruling is based upon, from the Congressional Budget Act: Sec.304. At any time after the concurrent resolution on the budget for a fiscal year has been agreed to pursuant to section 301, and before the end of such fiscal year, the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to.

I’m glad we were able to clear that up. Seriously, I’m having a hard time making sense of it, but if I am reading it correctly, it means that when a Reconciliation bill is offered up, the Senate may add on a second such bill, so long at it pertains to or supplements the first bill in some way, and of course, like all reconciliation bills, be subject to the Byrd Act. Senator Harry Byrd was concerned about the amount of pork in reconciliation bills, and so they are limited to revenue and budget, and may not pertain to Social Security in any way.

So there is a huge opportunity for the Dems to continue bringing America into the 21st century and avoid some of the damage caused by the GOP self destructing. (Three examples of how far gone they are just from yesterday: Mitch McConnell, staunch defender of Citizens United, snarled at Coke and Delta and other companies that corporations should just shut up and stay out of politics. In the meanwhile, the GOP declared war on … baseball. You know, that thing with the bats and Dustin May’s hair. Marco Rubio seems to think MLB are stooges of China for some obscure reason. And because he’s annoyed at Amazon for whatever, he wants the union to win the Alabama election. The mind boggles.)

So: two more possible reconciliation bills.

The first one is easy enough: addendum to the American Recovery Act: Medicare for All. Everyone gets Medicare. No “window” no schedule D. We will save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. In any non-fascist state, it would be a no brainer. It should be a no brainer in America, too.

Unfortunately, the Help America Vote Act is outside of the limitations of the Reconciliation Act. But there is a way around that.

I propose a Public Campaign Funding and Voting Infrastructure Bill. Public funding would make up not less than 80% of funding for any political campaign, the amount being a function of the size of the population the office being sought represents. No person could donate more than $500 to any individual running for that office, and must be resident in that office’s zone. Companies and corporations would be limited to $1,000 dollars. Any office-seeker could have access to a pod cast.

Pursuant to that, the US would devise a voting infrastructure. ALL persons eligible to vote would be issued a national Voter ID free of cost, and would be able to use said ID to vote. E-transfer via the card to physical ballots would facilitate absentee and mail-in voting, and voters would have the ability to view their votes and check for accuracy before sending the ballots in. We could rid ourselves of Citizens United and Jim Crow laws in one fell swoop.

Biden has promised to “go big.” He’s done a good job of it so far, but much more needs to be done, and he has just been handed a golden opportunity.

Have at it, Joe.

Mattgates and Jim Crow — And how Faux News is massaging them

Mattgates and Jim Crow

And how Faux News is massaging them

April 3rd, 2021

Three items this week show the problems with the fascist right in America: Matt Gaetz, the Georgia State Government, and how Fox News has reacted to those two.

Gaetz and the Georgia lege have these things in common: both are despicable, dishonest, have scant regard for the rights of their victims, and are part of a larger pattern.

Gaetz, of course, is at the heart of a mushrooming sex-and-corruption scandal, one that has allegations of sexual child abuse, whoremongering, mass identity fraud and a host of other items. Gaetz himself is a well-known scumbag who liked to show images of his sexual conquests in the halls of Congress and had a long history of being a wastrel playboy who was bailed out of various types of legal trouble by his rich and powerful Daddy, escaping two DUIs and racking up 15 speeding tickets in 12 years.

Georgia was the first to pass voter restriction laws that effectively restored Jim Crow to Georgia. It was introduced in the State House at 9 am, passed in minutes without debate, sent to the state Senate at 1pm, passed in minutes, again without debate, and signed by the contemptible and corrupt Governor Brian Kemp by 4pm. A black legislator was arrested for daring to protest the signing.

Then there is the Fox News reaction to each of those stories.

For 48 hours Fox simply didn’t mention Gaetz at all. They did have a story about a drummer in some southern rock band who was involved in some sort of sex scandal, but that was as close as they came to discussing any possible scandal involving a Republican Congressmen. Few drummers have the temperament to be Republican congressmen. They lack the necessary wildness, dementia and psychosis the job requires.

It was only this morning, three days after the story broke, that far down on their website they had a squib reading, “Matt Gaetz says he won’t resign as pressure mounts” The story made it clear they were writing old Matty off, with a featured quote from former GOP congressman David Jolly, “”These scandals hit a certain point where there’s no escape. We’ve clearly hit that point for Matt in Florida politics.”

The message is clear: Matt fucked up massively and got caught, so let’s wash our paws of him and hope he goes away quickly. I’m guessing there’s a lot of Fox viewers who still aren’t even aware of the scandal, despite it being headline news everywhere else for three days. It reminded me of nothing so much as the fates of politicians in the old USSR who fell out of favor with Stalin: they simply were disappeared, airbrushed out of state photos, their families ordered not to discuss them on pain of 20 years in the Gulag on a charge of Anti-Soviet Agitation.

In any case, Fox can say that they’ve written him off and thus have no more reason to discuss him. Not even if his scandalous behavior reaches out to other Republicans, including at least one possible ex-President. And quite possibly Fox’s own Tucker Carlson, who was scandalized when Gaetz tried to drag him into the middle of the whole thing.

To swipe an analogy from Robert Heinlein, the whole thing is as futile as a cat trying to cover up a mistake on a linoleum floor. The only reason they mentioned it at all was it was now impossible to hide, and now they’re just trying to wave it away.

Their response to the reinstatement of Jim Crow laws in Georgia is slightly more nuanced. Georgia, it seems, has nothing but the best interests of their voters at heart. Why, they even had a provision permitting counties to extend voting hours to 7 am to 7:30 pm, although the counties that (heh, heh) wanted to keep their hours to 9 to 5 to accommodate working people were free to do so. And they forbade giving water to people in line to vote because that could be possibly construed as bribery, and in this age of Trump, Republicans are horrified at the concept of bribery. And above all, we mustn’t have voter fraud. There was vast voter fraud in the presidential election, you know. Over 60 court cases had rulings about that. That’s right, 60. What does that tell you?

And now that major corporations based in Georgia and Major League Baseball have reacted in horror, and in MLB’s case pulled the All-Star game and draft scheduled for Atlanta this year, Fox’s reaction is that this is the rise of Corporate “Cancel Culture” designed to thwart democracy. That’s right: protesting onerous voting restrictions is “thwarting democracy.”

Only fascists could tell a lie that big and that bare-faced.

One Republican defended the Georgia law, stating he was “proud to oppose the will of the American people.” I’m sure it sounded better in his head.

Unlike the Gaetz situation, there’s no pretending this won’t expand to engulf the party. Republicans have introduced a staggering 338 bills in 46 states designed to hinder people’s ability to vote. They can’t wave it away because it is the heart and soul of how they want to stage a bloodless coup and stage a fascist takeover of the land.

To that end, they’ve taken up attacking…corporations. Any student of political history knows that the main feature of fascism is that corporations and governments become one, and rule the people to their own benefit. Instead of E Pluribus Unum, the motto is “Make it Pay.” You might guess who does the paying.

So they’re attacking corporations because of “cancel culture” – you know, masks, vaccine passports, Mister Potatohead, Dr. Seuss, all that. Corporate decisions all of them. Only they don’t mention that they’re corporate decisions, but create the impression that liberals and democrats are abusing government to deprive people of their rights to outdated commercial products and the right to ignore a pandemic.

Now they’re doing the same with the Jim Crow movement, pretending the poor beleaguered white race is being downtrodden by people who want to vote for someone else because it benefits them. Can’t have that, you know.

With any luck at all, by summer we’ll see SR1 (a national voting rights act already passed by the House) become the law of the land, and Matt Gaetz will get his just reward.

Maximizing Wages — How to raise wages without the fascists

Maximizing Wages

How to raise wages without the fascists

3/28/2021

There’s a lot of talk about how to raise the federal minimum wage to a still-inadequate $15 an hour. It’s popular with elected Democratic officials, it’s very popular with the public (around 70% support, including 40% of the voters in the fascist party) and it’s even popular amongst big businesses, who often realize that paying a decent wage would pay for itself in terms of employee loyalty, and decreased theft and absenteeism, not to mention increased business from a wealthier consumer base, but need a level playing field where nastier and greedier competition won’t undercut them by screwing their own employees.

Nobody’s sure how to get this badly-needed raise past the fascists. None of the 50 in the Senate will support it because they believe doing anything to benefit working people is a sign of moral weakness. There’s talk of abolishing the filibuster, or at least making it painful and difficult to use. Old fashioned talking filibusters, for instance. Imagine the look on the face of any fascist Senator who has to stand for hours, even days, in front of cameras and the world, shouting about how $7.25 an hour is plenty for those scummy little workers. Personally, I approve of reinstating the talking filibuster. There are times when a Senator needs to make a principled stand against bad legislation, and so it acts as a safety brake. But fascists will be loath to abuse the filibuster because they will be exposed as always being opposed to the needs and wants of the people.

There’s talk of getting a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian on being able to include the minimum wage raise in the upcoming infrastructure bill, and this comes much closer to a viable answer.

The infrastructure bill is going to happen, because like the Covid-19 relief bill (now the American Recovery Act) it is going through the process of reconciliation, a tactical dodge that allows legislation to pass in the Senate with a simple majority. The fascists can vote against it unanimously and almost certainly will, but it doesn’t matter, because the Democrats have 51 votes.

Now, the infrastructure bill is going to be huge: Anywhere between two and four TRILLION dollars. It will include new highways, new airports, new schools, new water and sewage systems, new bridges, and massive investment in clean and sustainable energy. It will create millions of jobs. Not thousands, not hundreds of thousands—millions of jobs.

Further, large infrastructure projects usually pay for themselves dozens of times over. The Interstate Highway system essentially CREATED the modern American economy. The Tennessee Valley Authority pulled millions out of poverty. The Clean Air/Clean Water Acts resulted in savings to Americans amounting to over $25 trillion dollars by the year 2000, and continue to do so despite the best efforts of the fascists. If we spend $4 trillion now, we can expect a return of $20 trillion by the year 2030—and that’s a conservative estimate!

Back in the day of sane Conservatives in the GOP, it was usually a bipartisan issue. Two of the three examples I noted (Interstate System and CA/CW) happened under Republican administrations. But Republicans are dead, replaced by fascists, and even if they see the economic benefits to be had, they can’t allow Democrats and the government credit for doing things that they could do but won’t.

Yes, there will be pork. Every single rep and senator is gonna want a little bit of sugar for their districts, and that’s ok—after all, that’s what they’re there for. Some will be driven by an earnest desire to better the lives of their constituents, and some will just be looking for an opportunity to steal with both hands. Not just fascists, either. Human nature is human nature. We’re going to have to be vigilant, and keep the grifters in check.

But that brings us back to the matter of wages. It would be nice if the $15 minimum wage were somehow tacked onto this bill, but I’m not holding my breath.

However, all those tens of thousands of projects—road work, construction, upgrading and modernizing—will be hiring. Some may be direct government actions, like we saw with FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Most of the rest will be contract work. In either case, the government has the power to set conditions of work, including such things as time off, vacation time, union membership, health and safety regulations—and wages.

There’s no reason the bill cannot include mandated minimum wages for employees, either directly or demanded of private companies seeking government contracts. Twenty an hour for custodial staff or drivers, 150% of prevailing wages for more skilled positions. Millions of jobs, many unskilled or semi-skilled.

And remember, this will pay for itself, many times over. Most immediately through what’s called “the velocity of money” – people who were making $10 and hour and now are making $25 will be hitting the local stores for clothing and household items that they have been denied before. On average, each dollar received in wages above the existing amount results in between 2 and 3 dollars in increased economic activity. And if the town also has an new or improved highway, and clean and efficient power, and safe clean water…well, that’s fat city, folks!

In the meantime, all the cheap-ass minimum wage employers are going to have to raise their game if they want to compete and keep their workers. Why flip burgers for $10 an hour when you can do it for $20/hour plus benefits?

All the Dems need to do is include a provision for direct and contract labour: 150% of the norm, plus health benefits and vacation and the like. It would immediately start paying for itself, and create an economic juggernaut.

Instead of $15/hour, make it 150% prevailing rates. It’s a winner, and even the fascists won’t be able to stop it.

Prejudicial — Cowardice breeds contempt

Prejudicial

Cowardice breeds contempt

March 25th 2021

When people hear the term “prejudice” they usually think of the cowardly and despicable practice of bigotry; the deliberate denigration of a group of people, usually for social and economic unearned advantages. It is the recourse of a fretful and unconfident population, this need to systematically cheat and harass people who are guilty of no crime but easy to target. It isn’t courageous—quite the opposite. Systematic bigotry is the province of cowards.

There is a second type of prejudice, and with this as well as the first, the American South is all too familiar. It is the type of prejudice that people have against bigots, those cruel small authoritarians who cheat and steal from the weak.

It’s often as unfair and capricious as the first type of prejudice, and the fact that there is a basis for some of it doesn’t excuse it.

But for years it was applied to white people in the American South. The world noticed the systematic and cruel exploitation and subjugation of what were then called “coloured people” and recoiled in disgust. Segregation, Jim Crow, Bull Conner, fire hoses, the Freedom Marches, all of that. All this in a country devoted to the notions of freedom and equality.

And for years the South was subject to scorn, contempt, and ridicule. If you were white and from the South, you were presumed to be a backward and hate-filled moron, a toothless hick whose own sense of self worth lay upon blowing up children and denying people the use of bathrooms and drinking fountains.

The number of Southerners who deserved that sort of contempt were far outnumbered by the millions who didn’t support Jim Crow and segregation. Many of them did so silently, subject to intense social and economic pressure from their neighbors, their town councils, their churches. Yes, Christianity played a fundamental role in the more disgraceful practices of the Old South.

It took the South over half a century to partially claw its way back from the self-inflicted black eye its behavior in the 50s and 60s caused, to the point where it wasn’t automatically assumed that a southern white male was a moonshine-guzzling unkempt yahoo who burned crosses on the weekend. Part of it was a lot of good-faith hard work by people in the South to turn the page on a disgraceful past, and part of it, in the wake of Boston and Watts, the realization that racism and vicious bigotry wasn’t limited to the South.

But now, in the wake of the corrupt and unAmerican Brian Kemp and the GOP of Georgia, that image of the South being a bastion of racism and vicious cruelty is being resurrected by new voting laws that Joe Biden called “despicable” and which are draconian, deeply unfair, and against all American values. It’s so vicious and overreaching that a large majority of Georgians across the entire spectrum oppose it.

It will dawn on the country over the next few months that it isn’t just the Southern disease resurrecting itself. It’s a national problem with voting and Democracy under attack in a large majority of the States, not just in the Bible Belt but in the West, the prairies, and the Midwest. It isn’t a Southern thing, this vile paroxysm of bigotry and cowardice: it’s a Republican thing.

The Republican Party has two main sides these days: the mainstream fascists who put corporate power and Ayn Rand ahead of people, and the Nazis and Nutzis of the Trump movement. Neither side has the faintest interest in holding office with the consent of the governed; they simply want to rule, and are willing to crush anyone who stands between them and that goal.

But it is first manifesting in Georgia, a state that has, for a decade, been the bloody Kansas of the cold civil war being fought between Americans and Republicans.

Which means the South has lost much of the good will it worked so hard for. It adopted Republicans when they opposed civil rights legislation, they stayed with Republicans when they tried to make themselves the avatars of patriotism and godliness, and they are doggedly clinging to them even after they’ve gone fascist—and worse.

They don’t want Americans to vote. They are changing voting laws wherever they can, and with no regard for deliberations or democratic process. Georgia passed their voting law today, savage as it is, in the space of six hours between introduction in the lege to a ludicrous shout of approval in the Senate to a behind-closed door signing by the reptilian Brian Kemp (whose own election was one of the most corrupt in American history) even as a Democratic legislator was dragged away and arrested by Georgia state thugs for demanding to witness the signing.

Republicans don’t want Americans to vote. They don’t want Americans to have any say in how they are ruled. They pass laws against peaceful assembly, make it a crime to insult a cop, anything they can in the cause of turning the world’s second-oldest Democracy into a authoritarian shit hole.

If they succeed, they will fail. John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

If Republicans want to suppress Americans, it will blow up in their faces. And the toothless bigots of the old South won’t be able to save them. Nobody can.

 An Ill Wind — Blows Trump Good

 An Ill Wind

Blows Trump Good

March 14th 2021

From the campaign of 1944 onward until April 12, 1945, rumors about the state of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s health mounted. Although still in his early 60s, FDR had been president for twelve years, seeing the United States through two of the greatest crises in its history, from a wheelchair, smoking two packs of Camels a day, and consuming enough liquor that by today’s standards, he would be considered a problem drinker.

He gave a speech on an aircraft carrier in Seattle in March, wearing leg braces so he could stand in a cold wet wind. He was stuck just as he began his speech with a fairly major siege of angina pectoris, sending waves of pain through his chest. Not only did he keep his balance on the heaving deck, but he somehow managed to finish his speech, although the horrified audience could clearly see something was terribly wrong.

But with typical personal resiliency, he looked and seemingly felt fine just fifteen minutes later.

A few days later a press photographer managed one of the rare candid shots that got past FDRs staff. The shot showed a man nearing his end–”eyes like poached eggs, jaw agape” as William Manchester described it. For a nation used to the ear-to-ear grin, the chin thrust out, the cigarette holder at a jaunty angle, the image was deeply disturbing. FDR himself was shaken by it, and snarled of the photographer, “They’re nothing but a bunch of goddammed ghouls.” Two weeks later he was dead. America was shocked, but not particularly surprised. Most people sensed he had worked himself to death, and he had done it for them.

Donald Trump, just seven weeks out of office, reminded me of that March 1945 photograph. He had a fund raiser at Mar-A-Lago yesterday, and some of his sycophantic attendees snapped some shots of him that they honestly thought to be conveying strength and certitude. The first shows a hesitant-looking Trump being escorted in by Lara Trump, looking almost humanly concerned for someone who has been ripping off a charity for puppies for two years. She is holding Trump’s hand, both to steady him and to guide him into the room. Nick Adams, who took the shot, wrote “President Trump is looking better than ever before!! He is getting in shape for 2024 and the liberals are freaking out!!” There’s a large discoloration on Trump’s right cheek, maybe a bruise, or perhaps he smeared his makeup. His jaw is agape, and what little there was of his neckline has vanished altogether.

The second image is even more disturbing. He is looking around blankly, isolated in a crowd of admirers, in a pose usually seen in people with Parkinson’s or dementia, leaning forward, arms dangling out in front. My own reaction to the image was, “He looks like he should be wandering around a rest home demanding to know who stole the chain out of his toilet.”

Bridgette Gabriel took that one, and wrote, “President Trump looks fantastic! Stronger than ever!”

Gaslighting is a staple with Trump and his crowd, but even those two had to be looking at the man and seeing that he isn’t “in shape” or “fantastic.” He’s aged 10 years in seven weeks, and he doesn’t even look like he knows where he is.

In short, he looks like a man who is at death’s door.

I would forget about him running in 2024. Ain’t gonna happen. He’s going to be fighting to keep out of jail, and to keep even 1% of his wealth after the civil suits have run. He’s forcing a revolt within the GOP by demanding funds go to him rather than the party, and eventually, sooner rather than later, he’ll have to fight that war just to maintain any political viability. And of course, he runs a significant risk of being tried as a traitor within the next year.

Don’t expect pity from me. He’s earned all the grief he will face, including an early death.

But I saw those images, and immediately eliminated him as any sort of viable force in American politics going forward. He’s dying, and the inchoate rage of a movement he formed is dying with him.

Joe’s first White House Speech — Reasonable Assurances and Sensible Warnings

Joe’s first White House Speech

Reasonable Assurances and Sensible Warnings

March 11th, 2021

Day fifty of the Biden presidency, and so far so good. Both politically and psychologically, today was a good point for Biden to stop and have a talk with the people. It came a few hours after he signed into law the biggest rebuilding act America had seen since FDR’s first 100 days. The American Rescue Act will, in the estimate of Goldman-Sachs, result in 8% annual growth over the next 12 months. That, too, is a rate of growth not seen since the 1930s. Best of all, it’s going to people and small businesses, what you could call “trickle up economics.” It will save thousands of small businesses, protect millions from hunger and homelessness. It is, as Biden once put it about the AMA, “a big fucking deal.”

In the glow from this massive legislative victory, Biden addressed the state of the country on the anniversary of the Covid pandemic.

After the past year where lies, braggadocio and delusions were all Americans got from the White House, Biden’s cautionary optimism was a gust of fresh air. Biden extolled the immense gains the vaccine program had made in the past 50 days, but didn’t try to pretend it was all his doing. (In a truly pathetic footnote, Trump put out a brief communiqué under a sort-of presidential seal, from The Office of Donald J. Trump, trying to take credit for the vaccine program.) The program has been pretty much miraculous, despite Trump. When Biden first took office, he spoke of 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days (the last day of April). That was considered a high goal, even before we learned that the outgoing administration had absolutely no plan in place for distribution or even procurement of the needed vaccines.

Now, not only are we well ahead of pace for that, but we may have vaccines available for the entire adult population by the end of May, some 500 million shots all told. The CDC is of the opinion that we’ll have herd immunity by the beginning of May, but Doctor Fauci, on the Rachel Maddow show tonight, cautioned that we are in a race against variants, and we may, even with full vaccinations, end up playing whack-a-mole (his term) with those variants, much the way we do with strains of flu and the common cold. It’s evolution, people.

Biden himself made the same cautionary note, and urged people to keep on social distancing and wearing masks for the time being, despite what the “Neanderthals” in the GOP think we should be doing. It’s not a popular request, but Biden has some courage. Things are a lot more hopeful, but we are not out of the woods. He’s right, Fauci’s right, and nearly every expert in the field is right. Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones and Donald Trump are all wrong, and for vicious, self-serving reasons.

Biden spoke movingly of the loss and deprivation hundreds of millions of people suffered over this past year—well over half a million dead (“more than World War I, World War II, and 9/11”), millions of families separated, millions of jobs lost. Even the most cynical of viewers had to admit that he SOUNDED sincere.

He knows, at long last, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and he just wants us not to derail ourselves by being reckless as we approach the light. It won’t stop the freedumb morons, but it might just keep enough sane people cautious enough that we might get by.

Fauci and Maddow were talking about monoclonal antibody treatments. Two studies showed respectively 87 and 89% efficacy if administered early in the course of the disease, numbers so convincing that they dropped the double blind nature of the studies on the ground that it was not moral to give half the subjects a placebo based on what is known.

This doesn’t mean that you can run out licking random seats in the New York subway knowing you just need to pop two in the mouth and you’ll be all better. The treatments are by infusion only, and still very expensive. And if you get to the point where the symptoms are life-threatening, then you’re far enough along that the treatment will be of little or any help. Fauci is hoping for a treatment that involves simple injections, or even just pills, but that’s an unknown amount of time in the future. It’s not here, and may not be here for years, but there is a cure.

Not mentioned was the spectre of “long COVID”. Roughly a third of people who become infected develop symptoms weeks or months later, even if they were completely asymptomatic to begin with. And yes, you can still be infected, even with the shots. You just are very unlikely to develop symptoms, and in the beginning, they will be mild. Nobody knows how that will affect development of “long COVID.”

Futher, variants are appearing, and while the evolutionary trend is for such variants to become both more contagious and milder (the weeding-out process of evolution means viruses that successfully inhabit live hosts will outnumber the ones that kill their hosts) that is just a trend. The mutations are individually random, and a variety of Covid could show up that is as lethal as Ebola and as communicable as measles. Worst case scenario, to be sure, but within the realm of possibility. And if we are reckless and go on acting as a culture medium for this virus, the higher the chances that something even nastier will crop up. And the more variations, the more types of vaccines are needed unless and until we can come up with an umbrella shot that can block all Covids. Note: we haven’t been able to develop a shot like that for influenza, and with the common cold, it’s pointless to even try.

Because of this, Biden’s speech was perfect for the occasion. He didn’t tell us what we wanted to hear. He told us what we needed to hear, and for most of us, that’s going to help us a lot through the coming year.