• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    William on Too much of a good thing.
    Catcatscats on Hillary and Bill
    Ga6thDem on Hillary and Bill
    William on Hillary and Bill
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Hillary and Bill
    William on Hillary and Bill
    Catscatscats on Hillary and Bill
    William on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    jmac on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    Beata on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    Beata on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    Beata on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    William on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    Beata on Break Time: Uncle Wiggily…
    Beata on “The Bachelor” Con…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    April 2021
    S M T W T F S
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    252627282930  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Open Thread
      Use the comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.
  • Top Posts

Do Something

Marc Elias, the great attorney who heads “Democracy Docket,” which was successful in blocking or overturning several suppressive voting laws passed by Republicans before the last election, today wrote an article entitled, “Republican Legislation Would Remove Eligible Voters From the Rolls.”


Quoting a report from Bloomberg News, Elias states that “Republican proposals to purge voters from the rolls could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters across the country.” He notes that, “Mistakes are common with these kinds of purges. (supposedly based on official state records). In Arkansas, 7,000 voters were incorrectly listed as felons in 2016, and Texas driver license data incorrectly marked 25,000 people as non-citizens in 2019. Wisconsin mistakenly marked 46,000 voters as having moved addresses in 2017.” Interestingly, all three of those states had Republican governors and legislatures at the time of these “mistakes.”

There is more related news, of course. Arkansas just passed a bill that would, among other things, disqualify any mailed in ballot not received four days before the date of the election. Florida just passed a draconian bill that will mirror Georgia. Iowa is in that process, as well.

To quote David Byrne again, “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.” The Republicans in this country are trying to guarantee that they will win every election. They are not content with “just” making it harder to vote, by limiting or closing drop boxes, putting restrictions on absentee ballots, instituting various signature certifications and checks, limiting voting hours, refusing to allow someone to bring water to a voter stuck in line for ten hours because they limited the amount of polling places.

That may somehow not be enough, so like true criminals, they are going to fix it even further, by throwing thousands of Democrats off the voting rolls. They did that in 2016, with Kris Kobach’s “Cross Check” disqualifying what some have estimated as 200,000 voters, ” because someone in another state had the same name. That by itself cost Hillary the election, because it was largely concentrated in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. So they want to repeat that now.

One does not have to be an advanced statistician or demographic expert to realize that these laws and purges will throw a bunch of states into the Republican column. They don’t need many as it is. The electoral results in an election won by 8 million popular votes by Biden, were frighteningly close. These new actions are intended to flip all of that. And of course we have the Congressional and Senate races in 2022, where Democrats are only four House losses, and one Senate net loss, away from losing control of either body.

And don’t forget what may amount to a built-in net House loss of three seats due to the deliberately shortened census counting and the fact that Republican-controlled state legislatures will gerrymander those districts in their favor.That is the goal. They are stealing our democracy right before our eyes.

And what is to be done about it? I wrote about the imperative need to get H.R..1 passed by the Senate, as it has already passed the House, but how the unwillingness of Manchin and Sinema to vote to get rid of the filibuster rule would prevent it.

We can be certain that Elias will file many lawsuits to try to protect the democratic right to vote, but we know that the Supreme Court is stacked with voting rights suppressors. Depending on the courts would seem very optimistic, if not decidedly foolish. The majority of the Supreme Court is so partisan, that they might wait until a couple of months before the election to render their decision, so as to ruin Democratic chances to hold the Congressional majority, by doing something proactive.

What else can we do? The DOJ could sue various states. But the Supreme Court would rule on those cases, and we would lose most or all of them. The federal government can’t send troops like they did to enforce Brown v. Board of Education (decided in 1954 when we had a worthwhile Supreme Court), in the early ’60’s, because they would have no federal authority to do that.

Massive boycotts of companies in the many states which are gleefully and vengefully passing voting suppression laws and purges? That could help, but the very fact that there are so many states doing this, makes it harder to do, because there are so many companies which do business in them, to be able to target. And would enough people participate in these, to make a major difference? In Georgia, a few companies there spoke up, but seem to have let it go, and apparently just wanted to look good, not to actually try to make Georgia rescind their law. This kind of thing is the “paper gain” which we have fallen for many times in the past, and which ultimately gets us nowhere.

I am fairly confident that President Biden is well aware of all these suppressive and historically unconstitutional laws. He has spoken about them generally. But that doesn’t remove them, and it certainly hasn’t stopped the states from going right ahead with them. They are confident that the Supreme Court will allow them to stand; or that even if somehow one or two provisions are thrown out, most of them will be in effect.

They might even violate any ruling by the Supreme Court that disqualified any of them, by just ignoring it, and doing right ahead and purging voters and closing polling places. In the case of Georgia, where the supporters of their bill point to something which says that polling places which cause a three-hour or more waiting time must have additional places, I expect that it is a lie, that they will do nothing, or say , after they have won the election, “Yes, we must fix that next time,” and then do nothing, or even make it worse. They are utterly dishonorable people, they do not have the slightest interest in any voting rules changes, except those that will insure that their side always wins.

Possibly, making this a Civil Rights issue, could have some effect. Clearly, in many of these states, the intent is aimed at minority voters. Cases could be brought citing the 14th, 15th, and 24th Amendments. Another possibility would involve a major boycott by Black athletes, college or professional, in the suppressive states. But they have careers to think of, and it is unlikely that they would risk those to make that statement. I will say, that if you take away the chance to have winning teams in those locales, this would hit them very hard.

Biden has some very able people working in this Administration. Surely we can think that some of them are going to try to do something about it, before it is too late. Because it will be too late before too long. The 2022 elections are not that far away. Republicans are hammering the nails into the box where the democracy will be buried. Waiting to see what will happen, is not feasible; what will happen is too predictable, like rolling loaded dice. Something must be done now.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, who is CEO of national voting rights organization Fair Fight Action, and who was campaign manager for Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign in 2018, has said that Georgians are prepared to come out and vote as never before. She has been pretty optimistic about this, which is heartening. But it doesn’t take more than a few thousand votes subtracted from the presidential and senate runoff totals there to throw them to the Republicans.

Is it possible for immense organizing to bring out enough previous non-voters to make the difference? Can there be enough education of voters, getting them the proper IDs, making sure their absentee ballots are filled out in the requisite way, to stymie the Republicans? I am not too confident about that. Republicans will also try to intimidate voters, and throw out their ballots on any pretext, if they are in Democratic and/or minority areas. They will tell them that they can cast a provisional ballot, most of which are summarily thrown out by Republican officials after the day of the election, something which likely happened in 2016. They have many ways and techniques, just like gangsters have many ways to steal money from people and intimidate them into doing what they want. They both use the same playbook, except for the fancy suits and haircuts

We all know that something must be done to protect the gains which we made in the last election, gains which Republicans have vowed will not only be reversed, but kept so for many decades to come. I would very much like to see some evidence that we have some viable plans in place to stop that, rather than, as was the case during the Obama administration, just making impassioned speeches about voting rights, and then shaking our heads sadly or even shaking our fists in anger, when we lose. We might not get another chance to win again if we do, so we have to make this one count.

Back to work decisions, decisions

The scuttlebutt is that returning to the office is going to be starting this summer at companies across the country.

I look forward to going back in some respects. I’m a creature that does better when my daily routine can kill multiple activities all at once and it was severely interrupted when I had to work from home all the time. Yes, there was extra sleep time and less commuting. But oddly enough, that leads to a sort of entropy. You’d think you’d have a lot more time to do stuff at home. Instead, you find yourself surrounded by your projects. There’s no getting away from them. They become muddy and indistinct. Well, maybe this didn’t happen to everyone but for me, it’s not been as productive as I hoped.

And the weight gain has been annoying. There’s a research paper in here somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I was more than grateful to be able to work from home in the last year. But I can’t wait to get back on the bus a few days a week coming up.

The problem is: unvaccinated coworkers. They’re out there. And they have the potential of getting and spreading dangerous variants.

I’m not interested in their excuses and reasons and political views and fear of needles or cowardice about side effects or the nature of the itty bitty pieces parts of genetic material they are being asked to put into their bodies that haven’t been shown to be perfectly harmless and as inert as water (that ain’t never going to happen).

What I am interested in is their lack of sense of connectedness with other human beings.

I’m vaccinated. But when I go back to work, I will wear a mask all day long on the bus and at my desk. I’m ok with this. I protect you from me. Can I trust that someone who is refusing to get vaccinated will also be as conscientious?

These people are not children and yet we expect children to passively submit to vaccination in return for a free public education. We expect adults to carry car insurance and wear their seatbelts as much to make them aware of road safety as to reduce the cost of driving for the rest of us. Patrons can’t go into a convenience store without shoes or shirts.

But they can go to work carrying a potentially lethal variant of a virus and in a room with recycled air potentially take off their masks?

My best guess is that the unvaccinated will not return to the office until it is mandatory. But once it is, why can’t the rest of us have peace of mind that they have done everything they can to protect the rest of their work community from harm?

It wonders me.

***********

More:

It looks like Pelosi is facing the same problem.

Tend to Your Garden, or Brave the Storm?

“We must tend to our garden” is essentially the last line of Voltaire’s “Candide,” a novel of unrelenting bitterness and outrage at the human condition.

The story follows Candide, and his love interest Cunegonde, as they go out into the world, and are battered by every manner of disaster and mistreatment. There is also a Professor Pangloss, who was created as a mockery of the ideas of the philosopher Leibniz, who wrote that “This is the best of all possible worlds.” He continually tries to spin something good out of the tragedies that befall the two main characters.

At the end of the book, Candide and Pangloss are in Turkey, and they meet an elderly man who has decided that the best way to live life is to not try to achieve anything in the external world, to just grow his garden. All the main characters in the novel then start their own garden together. Pangloss is still contending that things did work out and it is indeed the best of all possible worlds. Candide replies, “That is very well put, but we must go and tend our garden.”

The “lesson” is that the world is full of so much misery, and so many bad people, and catastrophic events, that it is futile to try to do anything externally significant. in it. The only meaning is tending to one’s garden, literally and figuratively.

It is certainly not my favorite novel. It is bleak, it is intentionally vulgar and shocking. But it has remained as a major work. I never liked the nihilism combined with the fatalism, which pervades it. However, one can at least sometimes feel like throwing up one’s hands, and retreating from the incessant hurly-burly out there. Some days, it feels like it is only getting worse.

We know all about the Far Right, and about their efforts to take over the country and install a totalitarian state. We know how they are passing laws to suppress the right and the ability to vote. We see that their vast media brainwashing empires do story after story intended to compel people to vote for them and their evil brew of hate, fear, and anger. “Biden is going to take away your meat.” Completely untrue, they were forced to admit it, but the story still got out there, which is all they care about. “Democrats are going to tell you what to eat, and to read, and what you can say” A new story every day.

Their goal is to simply scare people into voting for the likes of Trump or Cruz or Hawley. Republicans have no programs or policies, they simply try to get people to vote against Democrats out of fear, since in a binary game, that elects Republicans. We know that they are all lies, we know that they will never cease them. We are compelled to keep aware of them but to try to ignore most of it, because they are not susceptible to rational discussion.

So I try not to immerse myself in all of it, because it is equivalent to pounding one’s head against a wall, to keep refuting each day’s right-wing meme. They want to control the narrative, they want to keep repeating the same thing, and then forcing people to defend against it. “Did you know that Biden and Pelosi want to force everyone to wear masks everywhere, and not be able to take them off?” Or,”We are learning that at the capitol on January 6, it was BLM and Antifa who were allowed in by the police, who were only going after the Trump supporters.”

Do you think I made that last one up? No, I read this a few days ago on a Dodgers baseball blog. What does one say to that kind of idiocy? Nothing, it is useless. Yes, of course. the police at the capitol were given orders (from whom?) to let in the BLM and the Antifa. Why would BLM be storming the capitol? Did you see Black people waving weapons around, and crashing into the building? No. Did you see Antifa people/ What are Antifa people? How does one recognize them? Why would they and BLM be storming the capitol to stop the certification of Biden’s election?

Yet the person who runs the baseball blog, thought to put this in, along with his now daily denunciations of “cancel culture,”ever since the baseball Commissioner, after consulting with various team owners, decided to move the All-Star game out of Atlanta, because of the voter suppression bill Georgia passed. So I can no longer read that site, with Dodgers baseball as a bit of a haven from the right-wing propaganda machine. Not a big deal, but a sign of the times.

Yesterday, there was a headline, “Rose McGowan says that the Democratic Party is a cult.” Of course I did not read it, but just seeing the headline is upsetting in many ways. First, who cares what Rose McGowan thinks about the Democratic Party? Does she have any knowledge or understanding of history, politics, or government? No. Did she not grow up in a cult? Yes, the headlines say that she claims that this gives her the understanding that the entire Democratic Party is a “deep cult.”

Of all the large entities out there. the Democratic Party would be just about the least for anyone to conceive of as a cult. Didn’t Will Rogers say, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”? That was of course a pointed joke about the fact that Democrats are famed for internal battles, for having so many groups of people with different views and agendas, whereas Republicans march along like a militia.

I just looked this up, and there are twenty or more stories about McGowan’s statement, many of course featured on right-wing sites. “Hey, if Rose McGowan thinks this, it must be true! She was in a cult, after all, so she says she can recognize it! Let’s use this to cancel the entire Democratic Party! Go, Rose!” She has made herself into another arm of the Far Right, whether because she ultimately identifies with them, or because she is so starved for media attention, which she got for a time with the Harvey Weinstein story, that she wants more of it. Whatever her motivations, she is immediately used by Fox News and the rest of them as propaganda fodder. And of course some people will give her inanity credence.

There is another story I did not read, but saw the headline. “Justin Bieber again accused of cultural appropriation due to hair style.” Ah, what can that be about? Bieber, a musical artist of sorts, whose music I have never had any interest in listening to, but who has made hundreds of millions of dollars without my support, keeps being accused of “cultural appropriation” because he has a hairstyle which…imitates a hairstyle of Black people? The word “accused,” as if we are in the Salem of the witch trials, or the Toledo of the Spanish Inquisition. “Justin Bieber, you stand accused of the crime of cultural appropriation, a serious offense. Before you are found guilty do you have anything to say in your defense?”

I didn’t read to see who is accusing him, or the punishment they demand. To change his hairstyle immediately, to one they will accept? To give them tens of millions of dollars as recompense for his or his hair stylist’s actions? To go to an indoctrination camp where he learns what is and is not cultural appropriation? Probably none of that; it is just a grab for attention; and it is fun for too many people to see what can be banned. whom they can get fired or forced to apologize for “cultural crime,” a term with Orwellian connotations.

Again, another story which the media machine puts out there. There are so many sites, and they desperately need stories to get people to look at them. So any of these will do; they are about entertainment figures, they are easily understandable, and draw many views, in a way that a story titled, “An in-depth analysis of the complex economic issues the country faces” would never achieve.

Which is why we almost never see any of those, but we see hundreds of them about McGowan or Bieber. Maybe each of them will comment on each other’s stories, that would keep it going. “McGowan says that Bieber must shave his head, and that he is a willing tool of the Democratic cult.” “Bieber replies to McGowan, says she cannot act, and wonders what happened to her ex-boyfriend Marilyn Manson.” And it is a virtual guarantee that all of it will be picked up by the Far Right Propaganda Machine to be used as another example of why people should vote for them.

“Tend to your garden.” I never liked the idea of retreating from things, literally or figuratively concentrating on seeds and bulbs, deliberately blocking the outside noises, and people waving and yelling for one’s attention. But are these the only two choices we are being driven to? “Tend to your garden,” or alternatively, in a line spoken by an important character in another famous book, Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim,” “In the destructive element immerse.”

And if you wonder exactly what he, and Conrad, meant by that, scholars have been puzzling over it ever since it was published in 1900. It has been a long time since I read it, but I still interpret it to mean that to learn, succeed, and transcend, you must engage with the powerful negative forces which are outside of you and perhaps within you.

The great books don’t necessarily solve our problems, but they can give us words and images to crystallize what we are dealing with. We don’t easily forget the stories and what we individually take from them. How do we deal with the maelstrom of noise and misdirection that we are assaulted with. and with all the bad things that we see going on? Deal with it head-on? Ignore most of it, and concentrate on the few areas and issues where we might have some influence? Or abandon the whole thing altogether?

That last reaction might have been easier in Voltaire’s time, than ours., of course. And my father would always say, “If people walk away, they just leave the field to the bad guys.” But in this era, doesn’t it seem as if the bad guys have as their goal to just inundate us with lies, and with stories which never actually signify what they pretend to, but which much of the media automatically purveys as worth our hearing?

And it often feels like a tennis game where only one player gets to serve, and the other player is always having to return serve. The umpire in this metaphorical game is of course the media. Sometimes looking at or growing some beautiful gardens of flowers is a welcome respite from the tennis game, but I don’t think we can afford to just stay there, though it can be tempting.

Russia’s Sh*##y Vaccine.

Yeah, I went there. Whaddayagunnado, Vlad?

So here’s the story as told by Derek Lowe of In The Pipeline.

Russia offered their Sputnik vaccine to Brazil. Shipped it out to them. Anvisa, the Brazilian equivalent of the CDC or FDA needed to test it before approving it for use. But when they tested the batches that Russia sent them, they found that every one of them was forming plaques of self-replicating adenovirus.

Correction: Russia sent ANVISA the assay results for their batches. So they weren’t trying to hide anything with respect to poor quality control.

What does this mean? Let’s back up a bit. Presently, there are two types of Covid vaccines using two different technologies. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. They’re just straight up genetic material with some lipids and salts. The genetic material is just mRNA that codes for the Covid spike protein. Pretty straightforward and elegant.

The J&J, Astra-Zeneca and Sputnik vaccines are made using an adenovirus. It’s tried and true, old faithful effective technology. The DNA that codes for the Covid spike protein is inserted into a plasmid (a ring of DNA) in the adenovirus and the adenovirus delivers that DNA to your cells where spike protein is made. You get to the same result as Pfizer anf Moderna but the adenovirus route is well known and was probably easier to ramp up production.

The thing with adenovirus is they are grown in HEK cells and their ability to replicate comes from the HEK cells which provide the critical protein for that. In the absence of HEK cells, adenovirus is not supposed to self-replicate because its plasmid is engineered to not make that protein. The mechanism is that you get the adenovirus as the delivery device but the adenovirus itself does not have the capacity to make more of itself and make you sick. (I think they just give you a respiratory infection but there are probably vulnerable populations for whom adenovirus infection could be very serious. Ah yes, I remember seeing something to that effect. Here is the WaPo article from 2019.)

The Sputnik vaccines that were delivered to Brazil, all batches tested, had the ability to self-replicate when they should not. This should have been caught by a QC assay in the processing facility that said, “no, this batch can’t self-replicate, let’s send it out” or “yes, this batch can self-replicate, let’s throw it away”

So, either Russia has abysmal quality control standards or they knowingly sent bad batches to other countries.

I’d be shocked. SHOCKED, to discover that Russia had behaved unethically when it comes to vaccine distribution to other suckers countries.

But wait!

There’s more.

It turns out that the Twitter account for the Russian sovereign wealth fund that has been distributing the vaccine has been calling these findings “fake news” and spreading disinformation about their competitors, especially Pfizer, and no doubt increasing the confidence for all vaccines in the refuseniks.

Nice.

It’s the old first “deny, deny, deny” and then double down and project routine.

Unknown if Brazil knew what it was getting or if only Bolsonaro knew what it was getting… But whatever the case may be, the Russians look bad. They’re either really bad at quality control or they’re just governed by sociopaths.

Pick one.

This is why we wear masks.

India’s healthcare system has collapsed. A small tank of oxygen is now selling for $1000 when it used to sell at $80. The number of infections is skyrocketing as are the number of deaths. It’s beginning to look like something out of the 14th century:

We do live in the richest, most successful country in the history of the world. That’s why we were able to sign contracts for hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine. And elections have consequences. Once the Biden admin was able to get its hands on the mechanisms of government, the wheels started turning again. I shudder to think what might have happened if Annoying Orange had been re-elected. After all, there was no real distribution plan for all that vaccine. Who knows where it might have ended up?

Modi followed Orange’s playbook. He has been pitting Hindus against Muslims and caused all kinds of disunity. He has had political rallies, scoffed at social distancing and masks, allowed for Hindu holidays to go on with no regulation.

This is the result.

But we really are all in this together. We are stuck on this earth. We do not have another one to escape to. And with new infections cooking in hundreds of millions of Indians, it’s absurd to think Covid will respect any borders.

We can only watch helplessly as the bodies line up at the crematories.

Political backlash may be coming to India.

The Liz Cheney Factor

I read some speculation this morning that Liz Cheney wants to run for President. People have to speculate about something, of course. But what would happen if she did?

She would have to run as a Republican. There simply are not nearly enough sane Republicans to make a new third party out of them. And let’s not overly adulate her for simply stating that the election of 2020 was fair, that Biden won, and that the assault on the capitol building was a dreadful thing. But in this time, it is notable, and commendable, for any Republican to even go that far.

Even so, I would certainly never want her to be President. Of course, I cannot think of one Republican officeholder whom I would want to be. Mitt Romney would be the closest, only because he is reasonably competent, though his pro-wealthy capitalist policies would predominate. But he would be one person who might not destroy the country if elected The rest probably would. Liz Cheney is to the right of Romney.

I don’t think she would have a chance of winning enough Republican primary votes to be nominated. But if she ran, she would get some votes, because she would offer sanity, as against the insanity of Hawley, Cruz, Rubio, Pompeo, Pence, and of course Trump, who I don’t think will run, but who can tell for sure? She would give some Republican voters a haven. Being a woman would help in terms of coverage, although we may well see Haley and Konst running as well.

I almost have a bit of fondness for Cheney, because she stands up to the QAnon Republicans, who live in a frightening word of lies and insane delusions. She is the kind of Republican we faced back in the Bush era, and of course her father was one of the most hard-line, “conventional” Republicans we ever saw. But he was not insane, which is about the only positive thing one can say about one now. Nor is Liz.

It does bring up the question as to whether we will ever have a viable Third Party. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, who was always so irritating as a champion of GW Bush policies, has actually evolved into someone who hates the Trump Republicans, and supports Biden. And as she was always intelligent, it is very good to have her on our side. But she is still probably a Republican, and so she wrote something today which suggests a hope that Liz Cheney can do what Lincoln did, and start a new party. It was pointed out to her that John C. Fremont, “The Pathfinder,” was actually the first Republican candidate for president in 1856, but it doesn’t invalidate Rubin’s point.

Just about all of the “Never Trump” Republican writers and pundits like David Frum, BIll Kristol, Amanda Carpenter, Sarah Longwell, Rick Wilson, Charlie Sykes, Tim Miller, remain Republicans, at least from what I can glean from what they write. They seem to hope that if the Trumpists are resoundingly defeated, there will still be a salvageable Republican Party.

I do not think so; I think that the Republican Party, never admirable, past Lincoln, and then some of the East Coast “Brahmin Republicans” of the 1950’s and then later with the occasional decent person in it, has descended, from Nixon, to the Gingrich wing, to the Tea Party, now to the Trumpists, and the QAnon people. They are not only wrong on all the issues, they want to institute some kind of fascist/religious totalitarian state where they win every election, with their boots perennially stomping on the faces of everyone else, to use O’Brien’s image from the novel “!984.”

Those people are anathema to any concept of democracy. They cannot be allowed to win; but they control the Republican Party at every level. “Rational Republicans,” however few those are, will not be strong enough to wrest control from them.

A third party is possible, but of course any such party carved out of the remnants of the Republican Party, would just split the two, letting Democrats win most of the elections. That would be good, but the billionaire power people are not in there for causes, they want to see their money work, and get them more money. So they would never support it. I don’t think that a third party is viable in America, unless it were a phony party designed to take away from the Democratic vote.

It is wishful thinking on the part of lifetime Republicans that their party can be saved, and brought back to its 1950’s iteration, or even that of the 1980’s. The social darwinist and QAnon Republicans are either going to take over the country, or they are going to be a minority party. That is what they are playing for, and they think they hold enough levers of power to take over everything. Our task is to stop them, and not worry about how to salvage them. I think that the Never Trumpers should support Biden and the Democrats, because it is the only feasible alternative to the takeover of the literally crazy, psychopathic and vicious people who control the Republican Party.

“Look At Me”

I discovered the novelist Jennifer Egan about 15 years ago, by noticing her novel titled “Look at Me” on a table in a bookstore. I might have perused it first, and then bought and read it. She wrote very well, with literate, and sometimes corruscating, sentences and paragraphs. The plot of the novel followed several characters, and was initially taut, but then meandered, as if she did not know how to end it. The last few chapters were a rather unsatisfying ending. But to me, she showed great promise.

Then I read her earlier book “The Invisible Circus, ” which had an interesting premise, and again flashes of insight, and fluid writing, but the narrative flattened out, and became rather tedious, I thought. I read some of her book of short stories, which I did not like; they were mostly in the genre of “magical realism.” Then another novel, “The Keep,” which started very well, was mysterious, and then again disappointed as it progressed, and left some of the mysteries as inconsistencies, or as some more magical realism. I decided that Egan certainly was a talented writer of sentences, but that at least in my opinion, she did not create interesting characters. She seemed to have an affinity for male rebels and “bad boys”; she certainly favored the unconventional characters, but rarely made them compelling.

Then she wrote “A Visit from The Goon Squad.” The title seems to be a mix of a William S. Burroughs quote and an Elvis Costello song. I stopped halfway through. which I rarely do. I found the characters very uninteresting, and the fragmented plot jumping around with different characters and times, to be more of a self-indulgent exercise, than anything meaningful. She isn’t in the same league as Faulkner, who is famed for that technique. And yet, amazingly to me, the novel was awarded the Pulitizer Prize, which upset me, as such things do. I thought it was, like some of the recent Academy Awards, voters choosing surface style over depth and substance. I would not recommend this book to anyone, but it made Egan famous.

One could certainly disagree with me, and think that I don’t sufficiently appreciate Egan’s great writing, but I am convinced that this novel is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It is sort of fun to read wildly disparate reviews of it, some loving it, some hating it. After that, she wrote another book, “Manhattan Beach,” which I only learned about yesterday, while looking up her list of works. I have no idea if I would like it, but probably I would not.

Actually, this post is not really so much about Egan’s stature as a writer. She will always have that Pulitizer Prize, even though it makes me cringe, because there have been vastly better books and writers which do not. But she does have an impressive ability to perceive social trends, before they become so pervasive. “Look at Me,” was ostensibly about a female model who had been in a devastating accident, and had to have her face surgically restored. But I saw it as an underlying indictment of a society where everyone seems to be trying to stand out and be noticed. “Look at me.” I always remember that phrase when I see something going on which embodies it.

I am far from knowledgeable about computers and the social media. But it certainly seems as if there are literally millions of people, at least in this country, who are now desperately striving for attention. Whether it is videos, instagram pictures, or Twitter bon mots, everyone wants to be a star, in the way that they never could be before. They may have pseudonyms, but those can become famous, too. I realize that much of it is just out of a wish to share, show pictures of their pets and family. But there is also a part of it which shows an awareness that this is an age where anyone can pop up and become well known, and have many people notice them and listen to them.

At one time, there were “celebrities,” and there were “regular people.” That didn’t make celebrities more interesting, or smarter, or better people, of course. But there was this distinction. Now, it seems as if almost everybody is striving for celebrity, and it is attainable.

Do something heroic, or outrageous, or even ignominious, and you will be noticed. And once you have a lot of people’s attention, you can capitalize on it, in terms of money, greater exposure, a chance to invent yourself as a guru, or Life Coach, or Influencer. What do any of those words actually mean?. But people often seem to choose the most unlikely and most shallow individuals to follow, or admire, or want to hear more from. It seems as if the Kardashians are the most obvious example of people who somehow are a source of fascination for tens of millions of other people, even though they don’t know much about anything more than marketing themselves.

No one seems to just want to be part of any group that would have them as a member. They want to be sui generis, their own genre. Or they want to be part of a new, breakout group. Notice how many voters now prefer to identify as ‘Independents.” I don’t even know what it means, other than that they think it is too bland to be a Democrat or Republican, and they would prefer to cast themselves as more nuanced and discerning than those “sheep” who identify as one of those conventional categories .They are independent! They are not locked into boxes, they break out and vote for whomever they think is best! They voted for Reagan, then Clinton, then Bushes, then Obama, then Trump. That this is inane in any policy-oriented sense, is not how they see it. They see it as bold and smart and always adaptable to different situations.

Pretty soon, “Independent” will become too bland, too, so they will have to re-identify themselves. “I used to be an Independent, now I am a Seeker, never wanting to be part of any political group. I move with the shifting winds of change. I am also a life coach, and an Influencer, influencing anyone who actually chooses to listen to me.”

Wanting to appear special or even unique, is the goal. Each of us is unique. And conformity, and wanting to fit in, went out with the 1950’s, which was probably generally a good thing. “Be yourself,” or the older, “Do your own thing,” are useful slogans. But there is a value in working together for a common goal. For example a political party needs almost everyone pulling in the same direction, to use another cliche.

The Democrats have had that problem. Too many diverse forces each wanting something, or being unhappy with not getting this policy or this candidate. Republicans always fall in line, which is not good, either, particularly given what their line is. But Democrats too often have engaged in internecine battles which may have cost them the general election. 1968 is a prime example, though the anger was very warranted. 1992 had Jerry Brown, whom I like, but not so much then, yelling at Bill Clinton about “being bought and paid for.” But we won, anyway.

In 2000, Bill Bradley ran against Gore for no discernible reason than an ego trip, and he did cause damage. In 2016 we had Bernie Sanders and his enthralled followers throwing dollar bills at Hillary, calling her every derogatory name in the world, and undoubtedly costing her a few million votes, because he could not stand to leave the race, he was too much in love with his new stature, and ability to draw audiences.

People are certainly entitled to strong political views and intense battles among candidates. But there is a wing of the Democratic Party which has trashed every national candidate since 1968, except for 1972, where they nominated an unelectable candidate; 1988, where they did the same thing, albeit a better one; and then the Obama romance. At least enough of them woke up enough to grudgingly support Biden in 2020. I think that it is reasonable to think that some of the “Look at Me” needs of people, have been part of it.

What happens, is that things move so quickly in our shrinking world of interconnected media, that the “nouvelle vague” quickly becomes passe’. So someone who wants attention, has to desperately search around for some new identity, or philosophy, or shtick. Fame is ever more fleeting, sometimes less than Warhol’s famous comment about fifteen minutes. However, f you can manage to get a TV gig, as a “Contributor,” or even anchor, you can last. And of course then you write a book, everyone writes a book. Then maybe when your presence fades, you do TV commercials for non-stick pans, annuities or reverse mortgages. Just so you stay noticed, and keep getting paid.

I have no real answer to any of this, except to say that it gets very tiresome to see someone get publicity just because he or she is loud, or obnoxious, or has some event which they can use to vault into visibility. People get on a TV reality show; and now they don’t have to win to become household names, they can do it by claiming bias on someone else’s part, or having a new identity. It would be unfair to say that this is behind all of it, but the effect is such that one almost thinks so.

No one seems to want to be just another person in a large group, also-ran contestants in the so-called game of life. They want to win! And the broadcast and social media provides a variety of ways to win, at least for enough time that you can cash in on it, in one way or another. “Look at Me! I’ve got something to say and I demand your attention!.” The media is so anxious to fill their time, and to have the next big story, that they are willing accomplices in it.

It is not that I am specifically jealous of any one of them, but I do generally resent some of the attention various people are given, which amounts to a distraction, and makes people potentially dangerous, in that they use their burst of fame or notoriety, to push for things which make money for them, but do not help anyone else.

Some of them run for public office. What qualifications does Caitlyn Jenner have, other than a penchant for getting media attention? It may be very fulfilling to such people, but it does not help most of the rest of us. She will not be elected, but she is being used by very dangerous Right-Wing billionaires like Peter Thiel, to try to siphon enough votes to get Gavin Newsom recalled. They did that to Grey Davis, and got Arnold Schwarzenegger elected, someone who is better than Jenner, but was a bad governor who almost bankrupted California. They’ll try to do it again, too, using her or someone else to put the Republicans back in charge, so they can cut social programs, let the environment be wrecked, and make more billions for themselves in tax cuts.

Jenner also sees Trump, and figures that if he can do it, so can she. There will be more like this, particularly on the Right, which would nominate a refrigerator, if they thought they could market it to the voters as something new and anti-liberal.

So it is not just an entertaining spectacle, all this preening and self-aggrandizement for the insatiable media. I read that Elon Musk was the host of”Saturday Night Live,” this last weekend. He is an egomaniac: I would guess a right-wing libertarian type, who got one of his cars launched into outer space, where it will at least visually pollute the universe, by circling around for a hundred years or more, as space junk. But the people can’t get enough of someone like this, it seems, so he is now an entertainment star. I wish that they would somehow get tired of it, because the growing cult of instantaneous celebrity is seeking to fill up every precious second of public attention.

Getting Rid of the Filibuster is Imperative

There is almost always some nuance to things, but sometimes searching for nuance obscures what is most crucial. And this is one of those times, so I will get right to that, and skip some of the detail and the history, because, to channel the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime,” “We ain’t got time for that now.”

We, which means all people who care about American democracy, need to pass H.R. 1. We also need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but let’s focus on H.R. 1. That legislation was immediately designed to combat the Republicans’ all-out assault on voting rights. We all know about that, how state legislature after state legislature has passed, or is in the process of passing, hundreds of bills designed to do two things: Make it harder for Democrats to vote; and allow Republican run-states to toss out their votes. In combination, this would allow Republicans to win virtually every election.

That is what is at stake. Republicans ran a program of pretending that Biden didn’t win, and that any evidence to the contrary, is either fake, or a result of immense fraud by the Democrats. This, even though their own election officials conceded that the entire election was one of the most free and fair in our history.

But Republicans are not focusing on the optics, and certainly not on the truth. They simply want to win all the elections, however they can. They could not win them in 2020 (although they did pick up House seats, somehow; but logic is alien to them), so they are going to make damn sure that they win them in 2022 and all future elections.

They will do this by constructing a wall of impediments which mostly affect Democrats in large cities, where their vote is largely concentrated. Cutting the time to send in absentee ballots. Eliminating drop boxes. Instituting rigid programs of voter signature certification–which they control. Making sure that people, particularly minorities, who vote in large cities, have to wait in line for many hours, and that no one can give them water. Putting election boards in the hands of the Republican controlled state legislatures, so that in at least one state, they can actually throw out the results of any election, and hand it to the Republicans.

Make, no mistake, they want a dictatorship, no matter what Orwellian term they would call it. And H.R. 1, while not solving all of this, goes a long way, in that it allows for same-day registration, and expands voting access, while providing federal oversight of how states conduct the voting process. The reason for this bill, is to combat the Republicans’ efforts to destroy the concept of free and fair elections, which once done, will become a self-perpetuating process. If they keep winning, you can’t get rid of them by voting them out because they control the voting process. This is how they do it in totalitarian states, where they usually hold fake and fixed elections just for show.

So as far as I am concerned, this bill must pass, or we could well lose our democracy. It has already passed the House. But now it would need to pass the Senate . And in the Senate, lying in wait like the Kraken of mythology, is the filibuster. Under current Senate rules, all a senator has to do is to hold up his hand, and the non-talking filibuster is in place, and the other party must garner 60 Senate votes for cloture, to bring the bill to the floor .

Is there any other way to stop the Republicans other than H.R. 1? If the courts overturned the suppressive voting laws. But Republicans have set this up for years. Some lower courts would allow them, some would not. To get past the ones that allow them, we would have to go to the Supreme Court. The Republicans will send up the overturned ones. The Supreme Court, packed not only with Far Right people, but those who have spent a career in trying to limit voting rights, will write some abstruse opinion, with a lot of vague language, but the essence of which will give the states wide latitude in their voting laws, and even more importantly, not throw out any but perhaps a very little part of any of them. Pete Williams will jump on TV saying, “Overall, this is a big win for Republicans, because the major part of the laws stand.” And that will be that. It was set up that way. So H.R. 1 seems by far to be our best chance, except of course for the filibuster.

I have always thought that the filibuster rule was absurd. Surely it was never contemplated by the Founders or any other reasonable person interested in representative democracy, that for a bill to be considered, much less passed in the Senate, it would need the support of 60 senators.. A bill needs 51 votes to pass, or 50+1, if the VP breaks a tie. Why does it need 60 to even get a vote? It is ludicrous. Many believe that the institution of the filibuster was set up as a tool of racists trying to block votes they did not want. It has been used for other purposes as well, but it is a ridiculous rule, which as carried out in this era, has essentially turned the Senate into a sludge pit where nothing moves.

But it’s there, and Republicans will certainly use it to block H.R. 1. This not only defeats it, but allows Republicans to avoid having to take a vote for or against it, an additional plus for them.

So we lose; H.R. 1 cannot get through; oh, well, goodbye to democracy? Not necessarily, we can possibly get rid of the filibuster. But–we need 50+1 votes to do that. And we have two Democratic senators, Manchin and Sinema, who say that they are categorically opposed to getting rid of the filibuster.

I cannot tell if this is mostly due to cowardice, or stupidity. I do not like to insult Democratic senators, but this is absurd. I was trying to think of a good metaphor for this, and the mind boggles. How about: You are standing outside in your front yard, and you see your neighbor putting the finishing touches on a long-range missile launcher which would destroy the entire city. You actually could run over there and tackle him, and stop it. But you decide that this would violate his property rights, for you to run onto his property. So you say, “I value property rights! And I do not want to do anything which might damage or get rid of such rights! So I will not run onto your property to stop you from launching those missiles!”

Well, that is a little far-fetched. But is not the principle the same? Manchin and Sinema value the maintaining of the Filibuster Rule, over saving the democracy. Or is it just that they are too obtuse and stubborn to see what will happen if H.R. 1 is defeated through filibuster, and the Republicans’ dreadful assault on voting rights is successful? I could think of some kind of New Yorker cartoon, with blackshirts roaming around shooting and arresting people in a ravaged capitol building, and Sinema and Manchin, clothes tattered, proudly holding up a sign saying, “We saved the filibuster!”

Am I being overdramatic? I don’t think so. This is a seminal moment for our country. We seem to have one after another, because Republicans, like gangsters or Nazis, will stop at nothing to get what they want, so one defeat doesn’t repel them, they just keep coming. We managed to win the 2020 election, so they will rig the voting system, as in Jim Crow South, or really in any totalitarian state. And they bludgeon their bills through. And they use their weaponry, which includes the trusty filibuster, designed to give a Senate minority the power to stop all legislation they don’t want, or anything which would give the federal government the right to supersede undemocratic state laws.

This is the ballgame. Pass H.R. 1 in the Senate. It is unquestionably necessary to get rid of the filibuster to do so. I wish it were gone, never to return, but they could bring it back later, if there were an immense demand for it. But not here, not when the rights of Americans to be able to cast ballots, not have them rejected because some partisan board does not quite think that they made their “S” the same way as twenty years ago; and to be able to mail them in, put them in drop boxes, stand in line for less than ten hours, are at stake.

I really do not know what Manchin and Sinema are about, and who backs them. I do know that if they do not eliminate the filibuster for H.R. 1 they will be sitting in the minority wing of the Senate, with Mitch McConnell in charge. And in a final irony, he will almost certainly get rid of the filibuster. so that Democrats cannot block any Republican bills. But at least Sinema and Manchin would not be the ones getting rid of it, is that the idea? Profiles in lack of courage or stupidity, I don’t know which. It amounts to the same thing, I guess. Totalitarians count on either or both of those to attain their goals.

Revisiting the Past

Reading Riverdaughter’s post about “The Lord of the Rings,” and how Tolkien was inspired by Plato’s story about the Ring of Gyges in his own tale about Sauron, brought me to a much earlier RD post, from 2012, which also used Gyges as a starting point for her theme.

I was taken back to an earlier time, which in some sense seems just yesterday, and in another sense, a very long time ago. This was a few years after 2008, when The Confluence blog started as “A weblog for Democrats in Exile,” for so many people who were more than upset at how various Democratic power figures, as well as much of the media, maneuvered Barack Obama into being awarded the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton. .

I remember writing an essay in 2008 about how we, like the young boy in the musical “Camelot,” who wants to fight alongside King Arthur, but is told by the king to go back home, so that he can tell the story of “a place called Camelot,” needed never to forget or stop recounting our story. It almost brings tears to my eyes to recall that scene on stage. Arthur knew that at some point, no one would be around to properly recall what Camelot was like, and what had happened to it, and he wanted it not to be forgotten.

I thought then, that in our sped up, information saturated culture, eventually most would not remember the 2008 campaign. How many people still recall that Hillary won virtually every major primary, and that mostly all that Obama won were caucuses, which his people had cleverly figured out how to game? Locking the older Hillary supporters out of the voting room; throwing away their ballots; all this was not only recounted by people there, but there was film of much of it, the rest was anecdotal from those who witnessed it. But like most such things, it wafted away. History is written by the winners, it is said; and Obama had most of the media behind him, as well

The mythology they told was that here was Hillary, a major favorite to win the nomination, but Obama’s great charisma and ability turned the tide, and he won a stunning victory. Well, no, he lost primaries in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and many others. He was going to lose badly in Michigan and Florida, but DNC Chairperson Donna Brazile cooked up a scheme to get rid of those votes, because the two states had moved up their primary a week or two. Brazile “punished them” by saying that the primaries were invalid. Obama did what he was told, took his name off the ballot in Michigan, to hide the fact that he would have lost by a large margin there. It was too late to do the same thing in Florida, and he lost by a very substantial amount.

No party had ever invalidated a primary, but Brazile was determined to get Obama nominated. Finally, she allowed Florida’s votes to count for half the delegate total, thus costing Hillary a bunch of delegates. For Michigan, she set up some kind of group which actually allocated delegates, and literally took delegates away from Hillary, and gave them to Obama, who was not even on the ballot. I have followed primaries for both parties for quite a while, and I have never seen something as blatant and partisan as that. But Hillary and her supporters were supposed to take that travesty with good-natured acceptance, even though it was literally a fixed contest.

And then there were the superdelegates. RD knows more about that, but there obviously was immense pressure put on them, particularly Black delegates, to switch their votes to Obama. What went on at the convention is almost too upsetting to contemplate. It may well have been that despite the Obama spin which the media endorsed; and even after awarding Hillary delegates to Obama, and halving Hillary’s delegate margin in Florida, she went to the convention with more delegates than he had; but some things went on, including pressure, threats, and maybe even miscounting votes, which got him the nomination.

Even if one wants to discount that, Hillary won virtually every major primary. The delegate awarding system which Brazile had cooked up, literally gave extra delegates to Black majority districts, the guise being her contention that districts which had gone by the largest margins for John Kerry in the 2004 election, should get extra delegates in the 2008 primary. This is utterly undemocratic, it goes against every tenet that the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for. But Brazile got away with it, because who was going to argue against Black majority districts being rewarded?

So Hillary would win an actual primary in a state like Ohio by ten points or so, and end up with about eight more delegates than Obama. Meanwhile, in a caucus state like Kansas, which Democrats had no chance of winning in the general election, Obama would literally pile up a 38-delegate margin, because the caucuses have this tiered situation, where if you lose out in one round of early compiling of votes, you don’t get any delegates from those districts and the winner could end up with a 78-22% margin and virtually all the delegates. That is where most of Obama’s delegates came from, caucus states where the vast majority of the people who showed up at the caucuses were young and aggressive people in their 20’s, who could stand up for ten hours; while the Hillary supporters were mostly older people who had regular jobs, and could not get off to stay at a caucus all day; and who were bullied by the Obama forces.

This is all true. One may well ask, “What is the point of going over it all now? It was four election cycles ago. It can’t be changed. Obama got elected to eight years in office, and Hillary never will be President. It’s over.”

Well, that is certainly in one sense a concrete reality. But even if one’s sense of justice is not still immensely upset by what went on in 2008, the consequences of it are significantly still with us. It is not over, though some would wish it so. And the ability to change the past is not a requisite for wanting to remember it, or learn about it; to mourn it, and to possibly gain some knowledge from it. We can’t change the history of the Bubonic Plague in 14th Century Europe, or the rise of the Nazis in the 1930’s, but we can analogize to our current era, and very possibly there are parallels to be made, and terrible lessons to be learned if we want to avoid such a course. So it is never over. This is obviously not comparable to those examples, but it stands for the general principle of not just burying the past because it is upsetting or inconvenient to consider it.

We can argue about how effective a president Obama was. My sense is that he was not very effective, in terms of advancing the important agendas of the Democratic Party. One might contend that he would have been, had he not been hamstrung by Republicans. But that avoids the absolutely crucial fact that under Obama after 2008, the Democrats lost something like 87 House seats, 10 Senate seats, a host of governorships, and perhaps most importantly, just about all of of the state legislatures in all but Deep Blue states. Once the Republicans got in there, they have entrenched themselves. We eventually got rid of terrible Republican governors in Michigan and Wisconsin, but Republicans still control the state legislatures in those states, and even in Pennsylvania.

And Republicans, with no shame and no restraint, use that power to try to pass bills over the governor, and to limit the actual power of the governor. And that is how we are seeing this immense push to rewrite voting laws, even in states with Democratic governors, in an effort to make it impossible, or very, very difficult for Democrats to win there. And if they get the governorships back, they will gerrymander the states further, leading to what leading Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias characterizes as the potential of a Republican Party which loses by sixteen million votes nationally, managing to have enough of the levers of power in states, to actually control the country.

Did Obama cause all of this? No, but he certainly was a major factor in it. One of the most important jobs of any President, is as leader of his Party. Obama never seemed to want that role. He almost never talked about the history of the Democratic Party, or praised any former Democratic Presidents.. He virtually never criticized the Republican Party as an entity. For whatever reasons, he chose the role of someone who transcended politics, rose above partisanship, a virtual figure out of time and place, maybe someone to be venerated as the religious figures of old. In the meantime, the Republicans basically stomped all over him electorally. He couldn’t get anything passed after 2010.. He couldn’t even get his crucial swing seat Supreme Court nominee a hearing, much less confirmation. He hardly even tried to.

And yet Obama is adulated in many circles, though perhaps not quite as much as a few years ago. But enough so that his campaign people: Axelrod, Plouffe, Favreau, Lovett, Gibbs keep showing up on television as the gray eminence sages of the party, the ones who commandeered this incredible victory of Obama over Hillary in 2008. They were not, they are not; and I do not enjoy seeing them lecture to everybody from the pedestal that certain people put them on.

Finally, and most significantly, where are we now as a Democratic Party, compared to where we might have been had Hillary gotten the nomination in 2008, and almost surely would have won election, since she was more popular then, did not have Russians interfering with elections, and had a decent man to oppose as the Republican nominee, who would never have dreamed of conspiring with any foreign power to cheat in the election? And she also would have gotten the same benefit, maybe more, than Obama got, from the housing market and economic collapse which happened a couple of months before the election.

Hillary was always concerned about helping downticket Democrats, while Obama was not. Hillary is a Democrat, and has an issue-oriented political ideology. The stories, which anyone is welcome to refute based on data, were that virtually all the money sent to the Democratic Party from 2008-2015, went to Obama’s coffers, not downticket candidates. Obama was so unpopular in certain districts that the Democratic candidates discouraged him from coming there to campaign for him.

And while we might give him credit for inspiring a large turnout in 2008 which did help downballot, too much of his base didn’t feel like coming out to vote in 2010 and 2014 so that the Republicans could swamp the Democrats even with only 1% more of the overall vote. All Obama could say in 2010, was, “We got shellacked,” which Republicans laughed at, and which did the Democrats no good at all. And it proceeded to happen again in 2014, although losing all those seats in 2010, meant that there were somewhat less of them to lose that time. Virtually every one that they could lose under his tenure, they lost. In that specific sense, it was the most unsuccessful Democratic regime since the parties realigned around 1890.

So I think that this is not about wanting to go over the same thing again, or “beating a dead horse,” an image that I have always hated, and which an unpleasant 8th Grade Social Studies teacher said to me once, when I was perhaps unwilling to concede to him on a subject which I was sure I was right about. I think it was, and is, a terrible lost opportunity, a lesson, and a warning. Unless we find a way to turn around some of those state legislatures, we are never going to get close to where we want to go, in terms of being able to get important policy agendas passed on guns, climate, substantially getting corporations to pay any kind of reasonable share of the economic costs of running the country, rather than continuing to fob it off on the middle class and poor.

And we may never get free and fair elections again, if they have the power to stop them. That is what we lost by getting shellacked in state after state under someone who would scarcely identify with the Democratic Party, and who even praised Republicans for finally not refusing to raise the debt ceiling, because “he gave us 98% of what we wanted,” according to Speaker John Boehner.

Have you noticed that Trump, the Republicans, and the Wall Street Journal and CNBC, have managed to get interest rates so low, that it is impossible for the middle class and retirees to save any money? The 2008 collapse was used as the excuse to flood banks with free money. Rates finally crept up a bit at the end of Obama’s tenure, but Trump intimidated the Federal Reserve to drop them again to almost 0%. Disparities in income and wealth did not meaningfully improve under Obama, and increased under Trump. Our best economic time was under Bill Clinton. And I believe that had Hillary become President, she would have had similar success; and Bill would have been there to give counsel.

For the eight years of his presidency, very little was done to help the working class under Obama, probably largely because the Republican Congressional majorities would not allow it, although Obama, “the man who transcended partisanship,” kept trying for a deal which would cut Social Security and Medicare in exchange for some tax increases on the wealthy. And the long-term effects of the devastating election losses in his administration have kept Republicans very close to dismantling the whole society. This connection and effect cannot be passed over

So unless one wants to ignore history, scoff at lessons, and wish to make every election cycle a tabula rasa, with no effect from, or on, anything else, it would be imperative to reassess the Obama Presidency, and how he got nominated way back when; and what caused RD to feel that it was important and necessary to establish this fearless, intellectually stimulating and cathartic blog. And I will add, that if we feel compelled to nominate another Obama (and I’m not talking about race, but about charm and image, and a “New Age” appeal, as opposed to an in-depth knowledge of issues, and a willingness to stand up strongly against Republicans and their policies), we will have a similar result.

So it does matter. And it did matter, that the person who was clearly more popular with Democratic primary voters, and who won virtually every single major primary, and who was more concerned with, and more knowledgeable about, issues and policy, did not get the nomination in 2008. That and the blatantly undemocratic unfairness with which the process was conducted. We should not and will not forget, it would be both an injustice and a mistake to do so. Even as we beat on, boats against the current, we are borne back ceaselessly into the past. Fitzgerald had it exactly right.

India

Covid is ravaging India. It took a lot longer than I thought it would. I don’t know what to attribute that to. Coworkers from and in India presently, have been variously sequestered or in intermittent lockdown for the last year.

There was a period of time early in the pandemic when some of them were a bit smug about their low Covid numbers. Yep, for a couple of months, when other countries were reporting a rapid increase in cases, the John’s Hopkins Covid tracker showed a total of 4 cases in India, which at the time seemed grossly irresponsible to me. My Indian friends said that was due to Indians’ natural immunity to Covid or the subcontinental hot climate.

(Funny, that’s the kind of thing I would have expected from a prime minister who thrives on nationalism and is planning on taking the Trumpian approach to pandemic control.)

They quickly had to reassess their assumptions when it was pointed out that Singapore was also hot and steamy and not only were they reporting realistic numbers showing that heat and humidity had not curtailed spread, those numbers indicated a concerted effort by the government of the city state to stop the spread as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

My gut feeling is that there were many cases of Covid and many deaths early in the pandemic but those cases weren’t visible and reported because many deaths might be attributed to some other cause. There’s a cultural aspect to this I’m sure. And conflict between Hindus and other religions in India, particularly Moslems, has caused disunity and focused disproportionate attention on the culture wars and away from pandemic control.

So the epidemic simmered beneath the surface for more than a year. The numbers for much of last year were unbelievable. As in, they weren’t credible for an airborne disease in a country with a billion people. And now it’s starting to catch up with Modi and his government.

My friends are scared. They’re scared for their families back at home. It was bad when Covid ran amok here during the Trump admin. But the US is not nearly as crowded or, in some areas, as poor. The numbers are going nuclear. Also, once Biden took over, the science and governmental agencies that were held back, were able to get their gears turning quickly.

At least we were out there with the scale of our problem. It was horrifying and embarrassing but imagine what it must have been like in India last year when the numbers didn’t reflect how serious the problem was and the public was reassured that India was stopping the virus at the borders. We all know now that once it gains a foothold in your country, stopping it at the border is just putting a bandaid on the problem and efforts need to be redirected internally.

Whatever vaccine we send is going to be a drop in the bucket at this point. India needs to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people as soon as possible. The size of the problem means there are going to be some significant new variants in the future.

The Indian pharmas need to step it up now and forge their own paths. This is an emergency. They can do this and they must.