Has Manchin had His Moment of Zen? — Can he rise above the GOP?

Has Manchin had His Moment of Zen?

Can he rise above the GOP?

May 29th 2021

Joe Manchin, Senator from West Virginia, is probably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. In an evenly split Senate, his decisions on such things as the infrastructure bill and the filibuster can possibly make or break the Biden presidency, and for that matter, the country itself.

Manchin has opposed ending the filibuster rules in the Senate, and while there is all sorts of conjecture as to why he supports this democracy-defeating relic of the ante-bellum days, it’s safe to say that self-interest isn’t one of those reasons. With the filibuster, he’s just another pointless vote in a Senate controlled by 41 of the Senators and 28% of the voting population. Without the filibuster he’s the deciding vote on most legislative items, minor and major, including all judicial nominees. Being the deciding vote is a dream of any congressional; he can parley his vote into advantages for his district and his constituents, and if he’s reasonably straightforward and honest in his dealings, he can use his place in the sun to career-boosting things such as plum committee assignments or support for a future presidential bid. For the next 18 months, getting rid of the filibuster would be very much to Manchin’s advantage.

Until yesterday, he had adamantly opposed changing the rules to eliminate the filibuster. He argument was that if things weren’t done in a bipartisan manner, the interests of the general population weren’t being served. This is a view that required utter blindness to the behavior of Republicans who are openly contemptuous of bipartisanship and regard “reaching across the aisle” as a sign of weakness.

Manchin’s delusion may have come crashing to Earth yesterday. That was when the Senate finally voted on whether to establish a commission to study the events of January 6th. The House has already voted on it, passing what should have been a no-question-about-it resolution with the support of only 35 Republicans.

Manchin regarded a Congressional inquiry into the events of that day as essential and seemed confident that there were at least 10 Republicans with the honor and courage to vote for the bill. After weeks of intense negotiation, mentored by Manchin, it was decided that rather than the usual arrangement of majority party getting 50% +1 in membership and agreeing that tie votes would defeat a passage of a report, the Republicans reneged when the vote came down, with only 6 of them voting for what they had agreed upon.

Republican reasons for their vote varied from not wanting to anger the monster from Mar-a-Lago to covering up complicity with the insurrectionists to avoiding embarrassment to the party to the simple, savage Gingrich-type glee of simply cheating the Democrats by pretending to negotiate in good faith and then shafting them on the vote itself.

The scales fell from Manchin’s eyes. He released a statement that evening, saying in full,

Before January 6, 2021, an attack on Congress and Democracy at our Capitol at the hands of our own citizens was unimaginable. In the 240 plus years of our great nation’s history, we have never seen an attack of this nature. Not even during our nation’s horrific Civil War did this happen. This was our chance to have a bipartisan commission that would allow for an impartial investigation into the events of that horrific day so we are better able to prevent another attack on our nation. Let me be clear – Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate accepted the proposed changes from Republicans because a commission of this nature must be bipartisan to be successful.   

This commission passed the House with a bipartisan vote. The failed vote in the Senate had six brave Republicans, but that was four short of the ten necessary to advance the legislation. Choosing to put politics and political elections above the health of our Democracy is unconscionable. And the betrayal of the oath we each take is something they will have to live with.

To the brave Capitol police officers who risk their lives every single day to keep us safe, the Capitol and Congressional staff that work around the clock to keep Congress running, even the reporters who work hard to deliver Congressional news to the American people and every American who watched in horror as our Capitol was attacked on January 6th – you deserve better and I am sorry that my Republican colleagues and friends let political fear prevent them from doing what they know in their hearts to be right.”

He was later quoted as telling reporters,”This job’s not worth it to me to sell my soul.”

That doesn’t sound like a man who has any trust or respect left for the Republicans in the Senate, does it? Whatever else you might say about him, he was honestly appalled by the events of January 6, and wants a reckoning. And he’s clearly tired of McConnell’s vicious little fascist games.

Biden was expecting something like this. He simply put his infrastructure bill in the 2023 budget intact, realizing that Republican “negotiations” were in bad faith, and just coincidentally, creating a space for a different major bill to be presented under Reconciliation, such as SR1, the Voting Act. He knows what the Republicans have in mind for us, and that they must be stopped.

I believe that Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer were waiting for the Republicans to take a last big bad-faith step like this. Public outrage is high over this vote—I wrote on Facebook that if your representative voted against this committee, you were being represented by a coward, a liar, a hypocrite and in all likelihood, a traitor, I didn’t get a single negative response.

If Schumer moves this coming week to abolish the filibuster—which only requires 50 votes, ironically—I believe Manchin will vote for it. After working hard to give the Republicans full representation on the committee in order to ensure a truly bipartisan result (he hoped!) he has to feel outraged and betrayed, and like all of the rest of us, deeply skeptical of Republican patriotism and basic decency.

We are at our make-or-break moment.

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.

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.

Swine before Pearls — GOP clutches pearls in trivial outrage

Swine before Pearls

GOP clutches pearls in trivial outrage

March 6th, 2021

Of course you’ve heard about the paroxysms of outrage gripping the snake pits of the right this past week. Mister Potatohead has been desexed. Libruls have taken Doctor Seuss and served him up with green eggs and ham. And worst of all, the President called Republicans Neanderthals! (Yes, that was unfair. Neanderthals greatly resembled humans. Republicans do not.)

Of course, there isn’t much else they can talk about. Every once in a while you hear a murmur about pork in the Covid Relief Package (which passed yesterday!) which amounted to 142 million dollars (about 0.07% of the bill). That pork was removed, making no discernible difference in the size of the bill. Similarly, Manchin of West Virginia got his wish, and ¼ of the supplemental payment on unemployment was cut, which amounted to another $100 million or so. Subtract $242 million from $1.9 trillion and you get $1,899,758,000. My god, the republic has been saved!

The Covid relief bill is widely popular, with even 44% of Republican voters supporting it. But the efforts to derail this badly-needed and popular bill started out tawdry and ended up ridiculous. Ron Johnson, as a delaying tactic, demanded that the poor clerks read every word of the 758 page bill to the Senate, a process that took some 10 very dreary hours. It was so boring that by the end, all the Republicans had gone home, including the estimable Senator Johnson. The Democrats spotted an opportunity, and voted unanimously to limit debate on the bill to six hours. The Republicans had hoped to force votes on hundreds of amendments to the bill, and that tactic was eliminated. So the next day, the bill was passed and awaits President Biden’s signature to become law. Yes, Republicans will stand for their beliefs, but luckily for us, they’re all nihilists.

It was a massive win for the Democrats and Biden, and more to the point, it was a massive win for the country. By the end of summer, life may be generally back to normal for most people.

Republicans don’t want to talk about the vaccination program. Biden on his first day in office promised 100 million shots would be given in the first 100 days, a goal many people had dismissed as unlikely even before it was discovered that the Trump administration had left absolutely no plans to distribute the vaccines—a final little nasty bit of vindictiveness from the defeated Trump.

Instead, we have some 75 million shots administered in the first 45 days, and the Biden administration is now promising that everyone will have had both shots by some time in May. Even by the standards of an America that existed before Republicans privatized it, that’s an extraordinary accomplishment.

The infrastructure bill is next on the schedule. It’s even bigger (some 2 – 4 trillion dollars) and most assuredly will have pork, both Republican and Democratic. Back in the Nixon days, Republicans decided that it would be far more efficient and cheaper to contract government road work out to the Sopranos. The results were predictable enough. Most infrastructure projects will end up in the hands of contractors who will skim 40% off the top and use the cheapest materials they can get away with. But it’s expected to include some items that will be hugely controversial (in other words, will annoy the rich) while providing vast improvements to society. It will include a Civilian Conservation Corps project that will employ up to two million people in public works and public improvements projects. It will eliminate most if not all tax credits for the fossil fuels industries and transfer those credits to renewable clean energy projects. On a level playing field, renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels. This will make it MUCH cheaper.

Republicans will fight this, but they know that even with the inevitable flaws, they are on the wrong side with public opinion.

The mad, deposed Trump is going to be a gigantic problem for the GOP. One Trump official was indicted yesterday for involvement with the January 6th crowd, and Trump himself is lashing out furiously and blindly, attacking all GOP members who didn’t support his stolen election fantasy and even going so far as to send a cease and desist order to the GOP to not use his image or name in their promotional materials. Historians didn’t bother to see if any former president did anything like that. It hasn’t happened before. And in the justice system, a tidal wave of evidence is mounting that will sweep Trump into prison, probably for life. A sizable percentage of Republicans have fled the party and will not return until the Trump movement is dead. That will take a couple of more years.

Republican policy, such as it is, is to cling blindly to power, no matter what it takes. Gerrymandering, stacked courts, 258 different bills in 43 states designed to make it harder for people to vote, and endless attacks on the media. People are realizing that they aren’t doing this for the benefit of the people, and public opinion is mounting against that.

Then there’s the matter of raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. Over three-quarters of voters approve of that, and in any real democracy, the outcome would be a no-brainer. But Republicans will continue to unanimously oppose it, even as many of the corporations and rich people they serve approve of it. In that way, they’re a bit like the Japanese soldiers marooned on Pacific islands for 25 year or more, unaware that World War II had ended.

Given all that, is it any wonder Republicans would sooner whine about Potatohead and Doctor Seuss?

Day Five — Disgrace and Acquittal

Day Five

Disgrace and Acquittal

February 13th 2021

In many ways, today turned out to be the wildest day of Trump’s impeachment trial. Yes, he was acquitted, with only 57 Senators voting that he was guilty of sedition. Seven Republicans declared his guilt. So he was simultaneously acquitted and humiliated, escaping conviction on a technicality.

The day started with the stunning news that the Senate had voted to permit witnesses. It would have been a disaster for Republicans many of whom want to see Trump gone but who can’t work up the courage to do that themselves. Many of them wanted impeachment to go away, but a lot of them want Trump to go away.

Team Trump immediately started issuing threats, promising that things would get real ugly real fast. Who knows? Maybe their client would whip up a violent armed mob to attack the Capitol to prevent witnesses from testifying. Joni Ernst shouted that the Senate would not consider anything Biden wanted—not COVID relief, not minimum wage, not the remaining cabinet nominations—until the trial ended, and promised witnesses would tie everything up for months.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said McCarthy told her of a conversation: “He said to the President, ‘You’ve got to hold them. You need to get on TV right now, you need to get on Twitter, you need to call these people off.’ And he said, the President said, ‘Kevin, they’re not my people.’”

McCarthy told Trump: “Yes they are, they just came through my windows and my staff is running for cover. Yeah, they’re your people. Call them off,” Herrera Beutler said. On Friday she tweeted, “That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Truly an incendiary account. Trump supporters didn’t want anything like that in the public record, right?

But then something odd happened; the Senate ruled that the accounts of the conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump could be stipulated; in other words, admitted as evidence without objection. The phone call is utterly damning, with McCarthy shouting to Trump to call off his mob (Remember, Trump’s brownshirts were busting the windows to McCarthy’s office at the time). Further, it revealed a depraved indifference on Trump’s part toward his own vice president, Mike Pence. A few minutes later, Tommy Tuberville told Trump that Pence had been hustled away, but was still in danger. Trump followed the conversation with instructions to the mob via tweet to attack Pence for his lack of courage. It’s widely reported that the Pence Secret Service were in constant contact with Trump’s Secret Service, and so Trump had to know Pence was in danger, along with his staff, family, and even the backup nuclear football Pence’s Secret Service carried.

Trump did not call off his mob. He did not send in the National Guard. It was Pence who called the guard, and it was five hours later that Trump finally told his followers to go home. And five days before he bothered calling Pence to see if he was ok.

After that, the Dems suddenly reversed their field on calling witnesses, and today saw the end of the trial, and the 57-43 vote that disgraced but did not convict Trump.

Why did this happen? Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he voted to acquit Donald Trump because he thought it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a president who had already left office. That’s nonsensical on the face of it, but it reveals McConnell’s thinking—he wants Trump gone. He just doesn’t want the Senate to do it and thus widen the existing civil war within the GOP. At least 300,000 voters have fled the party since election day, and there is a serious movement afoot to create a new party that isn’t overwhelmed by Nazis and conspiracy freaks.

To that end, he was willing to disgrace Trump and make criminal charges against him much easier?

Anyone remember Ollie North? Betrayed America through his role in Iran/Contra, got off on a technicality, and spent the rest of his wastrel life gloating at us? He got off because a court ruled that testimony against him in Congressional hearings could not be entered as evidence in criminal proceedings as being prejudicial and a violation of double indemnity. He walked because of the witnesses in Congress.

There may well be hundreds of witnesses who are willing or can be subpoenaed in a criminal trial of Trump for dereliction of duty and possibly sedition. And criminal trials are coming. Count on it.

So Senate Republicans punted, but civilian courts are made of sterner stuff.

In the meantime, this was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States.

Trump may be acquitted. But he has also been disgraced like no other President in history.

Day Four — Weak Tea for the Defense

Day Four

Weak Tea for the Defense

February 12th, 2021

After the devastating presentations the House Management Team gave, there wasn’t much Team Trump had to bring to the table. They questioned the constitutionality of the trial—something the Senate already settled four days earlier on a 56-44 vote. They claimed that attacking Trump for his speech on January 6th 2021 would have a chilling effect on free speech because all Trump did was urge his followers to fight for a noble cause peacefully. They then ran a 10 minute supercut of Democrats and random celebrities using the word “fight.” Hundreds of half-second examples, none of which, oddly enough, resulting in an angry armed mob sacking the Capitol. Even some Republicans were laughing at how ridiculous, and how strained, the efforts to equate Trump’s rhetoric to that of Democratic speakers was.

Just to show how desperate Team Trump were to fill the three hours out of the 16 allotted to them, they showed variants on the same video three more times. They repeated themselves a lot. In fact, they used three hours to present about 15 minutes of material. Perhaps the aim was to have the Senate nod off and forget what they were doing. Watching presiding officer Patrick Leahy, who is 80, struggle to stay vertical in his chair, it probably was about the only real plan they had.

They started out with the claim that a “leader of Antifa” had been arrested prior to the rally, but was released. Quite aside from the fact that Antifa doesn’t have a leader, the effort to imply that Antifa was involved in the march in any way falls apart when you realize that the purpose of the march was to overturn the results of the election and give Trump a second term. Oh, and hang Mike Pence and put a bullet in “Nancy’s friggin’ brain.” You know—peaceful like.

Team Trump went on to describe how Democrats did nothing while BLM and Antifa “burned vast swatches of American cities.” This would have been a good time to show the insurance claims surrounding such destruction, but at least they didn’t use the campaign videos the Trump campaign released about how THIS would be what America would look like under Sleepy Joe. I guess we weren’t supposed to notice the images were all taken under Trump’s America, except for the ones they [ahem] borrowed from scenes in the 80s, or from other countries.

A new addition to Team Trump was Michael T. van der Veen, “…who less than one year ago was suing then-President Trump, alleging in federal court that his role in undermining the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and baseless claims of mail-in voter fraud would disenfranchise Pennsylvania citizens,” according to the Law&Crime website. Well, in fairness it’s probably getting pretty hard to find a lawyer who hasn’t sued Trump at one point or another. Just part of that lawn order matrix that underlies Trump’s philosophy.

The team hilariously used Trump uttering “Law and Order” many times during the trial to demonstrate Trump’s love of, well, law and order. The term really has a different meaning when Republicans use it, and has since the days of Spiro Agnew. With Trump, it’s even more different: he says it to mean letting cops, national guard and troops go in and beat the shit out of actual peaceful demonstrators, like the ones that were standing around when Trump wanted to stroll over to Saint Patricks and hold a bible upside down to show how religious or patriotic or something he was.

Beyond that, the defense was empty flailing. The trial was “rushed”. Democrats always hated on Donald Trump and wanted to impeach him from day one. True, some did, but bills to impeach don’t go anywhere without strong supporting evidence. [At least one Republican House member filed a bill to impeach Joe Biden before he was even inaugurated, which may be a new record in partisanship.] Democrats had a bug up their asses about Russia. It was unconstitutional. It was denying the will of 73 million Americans. It attacked free speech. Everyone should have the right to use ambiguous phrasing to send a murderous mob to burn the Capitol. It’s kind of the Law and Order version of Free Speech. The Democrats “doctored evidence.” Oh, and they violated the discovery process by withholding video evidence and springing it on Team Trump on Day One. Unfortunately for them, they signed the receipt for those videos two days before the trial began.

They had a question and answer period, which is still ongoing, but Bernie Sanders, characteristically, had the mike-drop moment.

He asked the lawyers on the Trump Team if in their judgment, Trump (who Team Trump were forced to refer to conspicuously as the 45th President) won the 2020 election. Van der Veer snapped, “My judgment. Who asked that? My judgment is irrelevant in this proceeding,” It was as close as any of them could come to an answer.

That, of course, is what underlay Trump’s whipping up an angry mob, culminating in the attack on the Capitol. Even now, his allies and mouthpieces can’t admit that he lost the election.

It’s pretty much over except for the voting at this point. And most elected Republicans are a combination of liars, fools, cowards and traitors. Trump in all likelihood will be acquitted by the Senate.

But in the eyes of the public, both Trump and the Republican Party were found guilty of sedition against America. The vote to acquit is, at best, a Pyrrhic victory.

Day Three — Yes, Trump planned the attack

Day Three

Yes, Trump planned the attack

February 11th, 2021

The third and final day of the House Manager presentation occurred today, and it was actually somewhat anticlimactic, not because of any lack on the part of the presenters, but because the first two days were amongst the most riveting and jarring days of presentation in the history of the Senate.

They set out to show that for the better part of a year, Trump knew he was going to lose, and set up the false narrative that if he lost, it meant the election was stolen. He hammered that idea to cheering crowds and millions of credulous twitter followers hundreds of time, perhaps thousands. “They [the insurrectionists] came because he [Trump] told them to,” congresswoman Diana DeGette said.

It was the Big Lie technique; repeat something simple often enough, and people will come to believe it. An inveterate reader of Adolf Hitler’s My World Order (it was his bedside reading for years, perhaps his only reading), he was familiar with the concept. Keep it simple. Say it all the time. Pretend it is an absolute truth, not to be questioned.

As the election neared, it was already an article of faith amongst his followers. Democrats were going to steal the election. Trump had inculcated the idea so thoroughly into his brainwashed followers that no amount of evidence could dissuade them. Not that Republicans overall did better in the election than expected. (Does anyone seriously think if Dems were stealing elections, McConnell and Greene would have won?).

At the same time, he was following another portion of the approach Hitler used to take power. He formed a legion of brownshirts—Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, Oath Keepers and other cryptofascistic groups, fed them the same toxic mix of hypernationalism, racism, and Got Mitt Uns, and carefully groomed them to be ready to take up arms on his behalf.

Independent of the Senate trial, we learned yesterday that between the election and January 6th, Trump’s campaign pumped $2.3 million to them, more than enough to secure paramilitary gear and transport hundreds of them to Washington. Today, in another court case deposition, CNN reported that Oath Keepers leader Jessica Watkins, “who planned and led others in the Capitol siege to attempt to stop the Biden presidency — believed she was responding to the call from then-President Donald Trump himself.” According to the filing, prosecutors said Watkins texted “I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.”

It’s safe to say that ‘POTUS’ activated them.

The Managers demolished what was left of the First Amendment argument Trump’s lawyers half-heartedly presented on the first day of the proceedings, noting that if anything, Trump’s deliberate lies about the election were intended to deprive the 80 million plus Americans who voted for Biden of their First Amendment rights.

Inciteful speech has never been protected by the First Amendment. If I go out on a street corner and start shouting “Hang Mike Pence!” the cops are going to arrest me. Yes, even now, when Mike Pence is no longer Vice President and I pose no credible threat. Had I shouted such things while standing near the Vice President with a rope in my hand and calling for his death, I would be looking at twenty years in federal prison. Trump clearly sent people to kill Mike Pence.

Unsaid at the trial but hanging in the air like a bison’s fart was the fact that Trump sent his mob to the Capitol knowing that people were likely to die. He didn’t care. He didn’t even care which people died. He has never expressed remorse for the five people who died, not once. I have a feeling, knowing his sociopathic narcissism, that he would have been flattered that people died in his name. The more, the better.

And the first two days of testimony made it clear that it came very close to being a bloodbath, and could have been far worse than it was. It could easily have been a Joe Abercrombie battle scene.

The Managers closed by noting what the Managers said in the first impeachment trial: if he gets away with it now, he’s going to do it again.

The Republicans probably won’t convict, and it will come back to haunt them. It will come back to haunt all of us.

At this point, there are four only types of Republicans that still support Trump:

1) Cowards 2) Traitors 3) Liars 4) Fools

Call your Republican representative and ask which of those four categories apply. In all likelihood, all four will for the Senators.

And keep working to crush the Trump movement and its brownshirts.