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.

 

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?

Fascism in America — A feature, not a bug

Fascism in America

A feature, not a bug

February 21st, 2021

The other day, Robin Chopineaux posted a video link on Facebook to an Oscar-nominated short from 1939 titled A Night at the Garden. For those of us over the age of about 50, chances are we’ve seen that seven minute video, or at the very least heard of the German-American Bund, the America First!ers Party, and the Ku Klux Klan.

The video is something of a masterpiece of understatement. It shows what to all appearances is a standard American patriotic rally. The opening shot shows police fire hosing a crowd outside of Madison Square Garden. The marquee proclaims this night to be a “Pro-American Rally.” A parade marches in with flags, there’s a huge backdrop of a full-length George Washington striking a ridiculously heroic pose. The crowd of 22,000 recites the pledge of Allegiance, and sings the national anthem, and then the speaker, wearing the sort of uniform that the world would quickly learn to know and hate, takes the podium. The crowd, as one, gives him a stiff-armed salute, palm down, fingers extended. Yes, THAT salute. Granted, most of the country was still using that very same gesture when saluting the flag, but The American salute, called “the Bellamy Salute” was essentially identical to the Seig Heil salute in Germany, although the similarity was coincidental. Congress finally abolished it in 1942.

But the pledge at this rally is recited with a distinctly German accent. And the opening speaker, one Fritz Kuhn, begins by evoking guffaws and snorts of disdain from the audience by explaining how he has been demonized by the press. The “Jewish-controlled press.” What a fascist of today would call “the liberal media.” He explains that he, and his audience, are the true Americans who simply want the country returned to those who founded it. He goes on to evoke a “white, Gentile-ruled United States.” Yes, he said “ruled.” Like the fascists of today, the Bund had little or no use for Democracy. He wished to “free” unions from Jewish Moscow-directed domination. At that point an individual jumps onto the stage, apparently with the aim of attacking Kuhn, and a couple of hundred of the 1,700 cops at the rally gleefully subdue him. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the assailant was “a 26-year-old plumber’s helper from Brooklyn named Isadore Greenbaum charges the stage and yells, ‘Down with Hitler.’

He is beaten up by Bund guards and his clothing is ripped off in the attack before New York police officers arrest him for disorderly conduct. (In court that night, the judge said,“Don’t you realize that innocent people might have been killed?” Greenbaum responded, ‘Don’t you realize that plenty of Jewish people might be killed with their persecution up there?’)”

Substitute “liberal” for “Jewish”, “Democrat” for “Moscow” and MAGA for “bring America back” and it’s indistinguishable from a Republican rally of today.

Halford E. Luccock famously said, “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’”

The coda to the German-American Bund may be predictive of near-future events here. Germany attacked Poland some seven months later, triggering World War II, and a wave of anti-Germanism swept the country. Support for the Bund collapsed. Kuhn was found guilty of embezzling the Bund to the tune of $14,000, jailed, and eventually stripped of his citizenship and shipped back to Germany after the war to be tried under denazification rules in post-war West Germany.

America does have a history of murderous right wing populists.

In 1829 Andrew Jackson was elected president, and the inauguration quickly descended into mayhem. Per wikipedia: “Jackson left on the west front of the Capitol,for the crowd had broken the ship’s cable and surged forward. He proceeded to mount a white horse and rode up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. While this happened people were climbing in through the windows to get into the White House.

“The White House was opened to all for a post-inaugural reception and was filled by the public even before Jackson arrived on horseback. Soon afterward, Jackson left by a window or a side entrance, and proceeded to Gadsby’s, later called the National Hotel. The crowd continued to descend into a drunken mob, only dispersed when bowls of liquor and punch were placed on the front lawn of the White House. ‘I never saw such a mixture,’ said Joseph Story, then a justice of the Supreme Court: ‘The reign of King Mob seemed triumphant.’ The White House was left a mess, including several thousand dollars worth of broken china.”

It seems that vicious right-wing populists and treasured national structures don’t get on well, no matter how patriotic the mob thinks it’s being. Several thousand dollars back then was a lot—Gold was only $13 an ounce.

In 1933, the United States saw a kind of a half-assed coup against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then in office less than four months. Smedley Butler, then America’s most decorated Marine, was supposed to lead this fascist coup, supported and underwritten by many business leaders of the time, including the Bush family, J.D. Morgan, the Scaifes, and other movers and shakers who were terrified of FDR’s proposed New Deal. However, Butler was witness to the attack upon and massacre of the Bonus Marchers by Douglas MacArthur at the behest of then-president Herbert Hoover, and grew alienated from fascistic authoritarianism. He revealed the plot (which the ever-servile New York Times dismissed as “a gigantic hoax” but Congressional committee findings later reveal that, inept as it might have been, the attempt to overthrow the United States government was a real thing.)

A lot of the offspring of those would-be insurrectionists are prominent in today’s GOP. And most of them hate liberals, Democrats and socialists with the same passion as a Jackson supporter, a member of the Bund, a business leader in the Depression, or a member of MAGA today.

Fascism isn’t an invasive force in America, and neither is it anything new. It’s a feature of America, an an opportunistic disease that become dangerous when the host organism is weak. The fascist regimes of the 30s and 40s so disgraced the concept that fascists refuse to self-identify as such. Call them “conservatives.” Call them “libertarians.” Call them “patriots.” Or Proud Boys. Or Qanon. Anything but what they actually are.

Don’t think that just because they wave American flags and chant American patriotic oaths and songs that they aren’t deadly enemies to everything America stands for.

“They walk among us.”

https://www.niot.org/blog/oscar-nominated-short-night-garden

Cold Comfort — Texas Shivers; Ayn Rand Quivers

Cold Comfort

Texas Shivers; Ayn Rand Quivers

February 20th, 2021

It’s been a truism in American politics ever since the anti-government absurdities of the John Birch Society in the 1950’s: if you elect people who want government to fail to office, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a heavily underwritten idiocy that spread from the Kochs to the JBS, and then to the Libertarian party and from there to the right wing noise machine, where millions of man hours and billions of dollars were spent creating amiable puppet monsters like Reagan, and persuading Americans that if they only threw government off their backs, the aristocrats and churches would take good care of them.

It took over the Republican party entire in the 1990s, and Republican approach to governance ever since has been a blend of disdain for societal needs and general incompetence. Republican governors routinely blew up the budget. Vast sums of money were transferred from the public weal to big multinationals and the super rich. Infrastructure languished. Workers lost power and options, and wages stagnated, and then dropped. Consumers started hearing it was none of their damn business what was in their food and water. As part of a devil’s pact with fundamentalist churches, religion was permitted to intrude more and more deeply into our personal lives. Health care and education were weakened, and turned into lucrative scams.

Jefferson, Madison, et al set government up to serve the people and forestall the depredations of corporations, aristocrats, and the churches. They used to teach that in school before the current fable that individuals could stare down trillion-dollar companies and the Church.

GOP governance saw a steady procession of massive screwups from the war on drugs to 9/11 to the war on terror. Katrina. The 2008 financial melt down. And most recently, COVID.

It’s no wonder the GOP finally coughed up the morally bankrupt and criminally corrupt Donald Trump as their avatar.

Texas, of course, has its own particular ethos that lends itself readily to libertarian propaganda. Individualist, go-it-alone, free brave and independent. A cross between John Wayne and the Marlboro Man. Government help, sissy stuff like medical care, roads, schools and infrastructures were for weinies and darkies. Bubba don’t need no government telling him he’s gotta buckle up and wear a mask. Fuck the Feds! Anything government is socialist.

Which brings me to another truism. Socialism sees to the needs of society, and capitalism sees to the needs of capitalists. Having a lawnmowing business makes you a business owner, but you’re no more a capitalist than owning a computer makes you Bill Gates. (And in something symbolic of how the game is rigged for capitalists, read your various EULAs for your software—despite paying for it, you don’t own any of that shit). The only reason Americans put up with the crap and don’t stage the French Revolution redux is they all believe they can become capitalists. They’re all just temporarily embarrassed millionaires, as the joke goes.

We had plenty of warning before last week’s cold snap paralyzed the entire state of Texas and caused minor inconvenience everywhere else.

Texas broke from the federal power grid specifically to avoid federal regulation. Ken Lay and ERCOT would see to all their needs. Billionaires are selfless heroes, here only to serve the people, you know.

Republicans aren’t just incompetent in times of crisis; they philosophically cannot make a response to a crisis because that would make government look effective.

They started dealing with the crisis by lying. It was the fault of windmills freezing (some did, but the agency overseeing this fiasco admitted that generation from wind power was actually UP during the blackout crisis). Tucker Carlson, the poor man’s William F. Buckley, said “So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside. The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died,” Some other lies were ludicrous on the face of it. Blaming Biden for canceling Keystone XL or rejoining the Paris accord were flat-out ridiculous accusations. Rick Perry, who outside of the GOP would be the dumbest man in the room, declared proudly that Texans would rather endure blackouts rather than suffer under federal regulation. (I’ll bet Perry’s lights were on). Donald Trump Jr., who somehow manages to be even more stupid than his father, blamed the crisis on Texas’ “Democrat governor.” That would be Greg Abbott, who is…wait for it…a Republican. Texas has been Republican since the days of Ann Richards, and somehow, inexplicably, in decline over those 30 years.

Ted Cruz fled to Cancun, leaving his little doggie alone in his freezing house and when caught out, blamed his young daughters for the trip, lying about when the trip was planned and his expectations of an early return. (Newsmax sprung to Cruz’s defense, noting that Joe Biden’s German Shepherd was looking kinda raggedy-ass, which isn’t too unusual for that breed in February in a cold climate.)

While Cruz was indelibly disgracing himself and his office, Beto O’Rourke organized volunteers to make more than 784,000 wellness calls to senior citizens around Texas. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC to the dimwitted dittoheads) used her office pulpit to raise more than two million dollars for Texas. Biden and FEMA sent 60 massive power generators and over 200,000 meals, along with a million gallons of fresh water and 30,000 blankets. Unfortunately, most are still sitting at airports around the state because state and local authorities can’t figure out how to move them to people that need them. Fortunately for Texas, Biden is sending in federal guard to take over distribution. Someone’s gotta go it, and it sure isn’t the government haters that infest Texas government.

The cold snap should have been nothing more than an inconvenience. It stretched from northern Mexico to Newfoundland, and except for Texas, that’s all it was—an inconvenience. But not Texas. Because freedumb.

This should be a massive wakeup call to Texas and the country, and hopefully, people will remember in 2022 that billionaires won’t save them from their own stupidity.