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Slightly OT: They are horrified by our freedoms

The other side will have eyes welling with tears whenever they sing God Bless the USA. They made a thing out of shrieking that “the terrorists hate us for our freedom”. But a lot has happened in 20 years. Back then, just before Al Qaeda struck, we were coming off the Clinton years. We had money in the bank, there was full employment, our First Lady acted like she wasn’t ashamed of working for a living. You know, stuff like that. Life was pretty good.

Then Gore “lost” the presidential election, Bush was anointed by the supremes, and the country took a gigantic lurch backwards in order to cater to the Ownership Class. You can interpret that anyway you like but all interpretations have been negative in hindsight.

Recently, The Handmaid’s Tale began its fourth season. Margaret Atwood wrote the book back in the 80’s and we all thought it was fantastic, as in a dystopian fantasy. But in the intervening years, so much of it has come to fruition right here in our own country.

This season, we see one character’s flashbacks to the time she had to take off precious time from work to get an abortion and instead, she mistakenly books an appointment at a crisis pregnancy center. There she is lied to, manipulated and delayed. All perfectly legal. When she finally gets to a real abortion clinic, the doctor is forced to read her another set of lies about how abortion causes cancer and infertility, all perfectly legal. Then the doctor says it’s BS, hands her the dose of her medication abortion and sends her home.

That’s bad enough because it actually happens in this country everyday. But what is really shocking to me is the foreign commentary on the Handmaid’s Tale. I’m referring to the podcast, Eyes on Gilead, a group conversation and review of the latest episodes of the Handmaid’s tale from the perspective of a handful of Australian female media and social critics.

Guys, they aren’t hating us. They’re certainly not laughing at us. They are horrified. I mean seriously horrified at the way the religious right have taken over this country. It makes you want to move to Australia where women are treated like sentient human beings with the ability to make their own decisions and paid maternity is the default, not a gift from your beneficent employer.

I got a scent of this feeling in previous seasons but in the wake of the Trump years, these Australian women are looking at American women with pity and concern. They do not hate us for our freedoms because we are one Supreme Court ruling from not having any. America is about to go the way of Poland where abortions are completely outlawed now. Or Russia where there is no protection against domestic violence. Australian women are looking at us as a cautionary tale. They feel lucky to live in a civilized world with the western Europeans, Canadians and New Zealanders while they watch America devolve into a backwater of ignorance and oppression.

It brings me back to the conversation Offred the Handmaid has with her owner, Commander Waterford about whether Gilead was a better place than the America Waterford worked so hard to overthrow in a violent coup:

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, is what he says. We thought we could do better. Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better? Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.

Who has it better in this America 2021? And who is about to lose it all?

The Handmaid’s Tale is available on Hulu.

Check out the review of episode “Milk” on the Eyes on Gilead podcast. Find out how the world really sees us.

It ain’t pretty.

1968: LBJ, McCarthy, RFK, Humphrey, Nixon

Even just seeing those four digits, 1968, evokes so many memories. It may well have been the most momentous year in American political history.

There have been many books about it, from different perspectives. I have mostly avoided them. I retain my own personal perspective on all of it, and it is futile to mentally argue with someone else’s opinions in books or on television. So here is the story, at least from my memory and perspective, which differs from some of the general perceptions which have become the convenient narrative.

I was a freshman at UCLA in that year.. My parents had always cared about government and politics. They were great admirers of FDR as they grew up. They really liked Adlai Stevenson, and my mother said they could not understand how the brilliant Adlai could have lost to Eisenhower, who was not articulate, and had not much in the way of policy. And of course they hated Nixon, whom they had seen smear and Red-bait Jerry Voorhees and Helen Gahagan Douglas, on the way to being pushed on Eisenhower as the Vice Presidential choice in 1952.

My parents were not at all big fans of the Kennedys. Probably much of this came from Joseph Kennedy’s efforts to keep America out of World War II, continually telling FDR that England could not defeat Germany, and that we should just let it happen, and work something out with Hitler. They wanted Stevenson to get his third nomination in 1960, though he had never entered the race; they were hoping for a drafting of him by the convention, which was held in Los Angeles.

My father told me, probably around 1968, how Eugene J. McCarthy, the liberal senator from Minnesota, who shared a mutual dislike with the Kennedys, had felt that JFK was always getting headlines with some position, but that when the real voting came, he was not part of the battle, leaving McCarthy and others to be out on the limb. So they did not want Kennedy to power his way to the nomination. But he did, helped by the fact that Governor Edmund G. Brown of California, who held California’s delegates as a “favorite son,” did what he had apparently said he would not do, and threw the delegates to Kennedy. That was what enabled him to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Had he not, his chances would have decreased substantially. McCarthy gave the nominating speech for Stevenson. Eleanor Roosevelt gave a seconding speech. There was an incredibly long and loud demonstration on the floor of the convention for Stevenson, but it did not sway the delegates, who were already locked up for Kennedy.

My parents certainly supported JFK against Nixon. We had a debate in elementary school, where I argued for Kennedy. I remember that the islands of Quemoy and Matsu were an issue, typical Republican domino theory nonsense. My parents said that the islands were indefensible, which is what I said during the debate, though I did not really understand the geopolitics of it too well. Can you imagine that being an important election issue, but it was.

Kennedy won, barely. My parents came to terms with him, and liked him. I learned about his assassination over the public address system in my junior high school, and it was a dreadful day.

Lyndon Johnson took over, and governed with dignity in the early years of his Administration. He won a landslide victory in 1964, over Barry Goldwater. Johnson did great things domestically. But the Vietnam war kept escalating, as he listened to the hawks in his cabinet, and the generals. It was believed by some, and my parents felt that way, that had Kennedy won the second term he would have started de-escalating the war; he had seen enough of the generals with regard to Cuba, to not trust them; and he had the capacity and confidence to countermand them, which LBJ did not.

We will never know. The war kept growing, and young people, partly because of moral principles, and partly because they did not want to be sent to Vietnam to die for an unwinnable undeclared war, took to the streets. LBJ would not budge, and his Vice-President, Hubert H. Humphrey, was demonstrative in attacking the “Nervous Nellies” who wanted us to pull out of the war.

Humphrey was the other senator from Minnesota, known as a liberal; and most notably for pushing for a strong Civil Rights platform at the 1948 Democratic Convention, which caused Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats to walk out, and form a third party. Humphrey had run for president in 1960, but JFK defeated him in the West Virginia primary. In 1964, Johnson likely chose between Humphrey and McCarthy for Vice President, and picked Humphrey, who became a staunch loyalist toward LBJ and a supporter of the war, which disappointed and infuriated many liberal Democrats.

Robert F. Kennedy had run for and won the senate seat in New York in 1964. Many hoped that he would run for president in 1968, but he would not, though many were pleading for someone to run against Johnson in the primaries. A liberal activist Democratic Congressman from New York, Allard Lowenstein, begged him to run against Johnson, but he would not, as the war dragged on and the troops and bombings increased. It was generally believed that, being a pragmatic Kennedy, RFK thought that if he ran against President Johnson, he would lose, and he wanted to wait until 1972.

Lowenstein then turned to Eugene McCarthy who said, yes, that he would indeed run against Johnson. That was met with shrugs or even derision by most people. My parents liked McCarthy, a handsome and very intelligent and erudite man who had mentored freshman Democratic senators, and who had written the admired book, “The Liberal Answer to the Conservative Challenge.” He was a true liberal, though he had a classical view of history and politics, and thought that a president should serve only one six-year term. Some described him as someone who believed in the value of a quixotic quest; the great musical, ‘The Man of La Mancha,” about dreaming the impossible dream, had come out in 1965.

Nobody expected McCarthy to do more than get maybe five or ten percent of the vote in New Hampshire. His supporters were mostly liberal college students who cut their long hair and beards, going “clean for Gene,” and slogged through the snow, knocking on doors. On the night of the election, the results were stunning. Johnson had only won by 4% or so. It was an outcome which changed American history, though not in the way we hoped it would.

The next primary (there were not many primaries then) was in Wisconsin. Polls showed an actual lead for McCarthy, which shot up to 15-20%. Almost simultaneously, President Johnson got on TV to make a statement that he would not seek or accept the nomination for President. I saw this on a department store TV in Westwood Village.

Immediately, Robert Kennedy said that he was “reassessing.” My first reaction was excitement, because I thought that he could win. But when I called my father, he said that this was terrible, that Kennedy was going to ruin everything, and that McCarthy deserved to be supported. And I soon came to agree with him.

Johnson had no intention of letting the race be wide-open. He wanted Humphrey to win, to support his positions. Humphrey had of course not expected to be running, so the best they could do was get a slate of unpledged delegates on the primary ballots, to represent him. Also, and I did not realize it then, but it later had echoes in 2008: if Humphrey was not on the ballot, he could not “lose” the primaries, though he would have lost all of them, had he been.

There was then this war of positions and principles among leading Democrats. Richard Goodwin, an admirable asset for McCarthy in New Hampshire, had close ties to the Kennedys, and went over to support RFK, as did some other Kennedy loyalists. Most Kennedy supporters, though not Goodwin, hated McCarthy. RFK was adored by many liberals, but there were also many, including me and my parents, and many other students whom I met during the campaign, who liked McCarthy better. He was brilliant and witty, and understood all the issues. And he had the courage to run against Johnson, when Kennedy, who had been in the Senate for three years, and had also been Attorney General under JFK, as the total of his government experience. did not, or was willing to put up with four more years of war, and the despondency and deaths of so many young people, so that he would have an easier path in 1972.

There were not many primaries in 1968, not like now, The Indiana and Nebraska primaries were almost set-ups for Kennedy. Blue-collar Democrats, not that many college liberal types. And of course he had a very well-funded political machine, which McCarthy, running a true “people’s campaign,” certainly did not. The story we heard was that the Kennedy campaign played a race card there, claiming or implying that McCarthy would mandate widespread busing, where Black people would be sent to school in White areas. RFK won those primaries fairly easily. The unpledged slates of Humphrey got very few votes, but the McCarthy vs. Kennedy race obscured that important fact.

The media was of course all about RFK. McCarthy had to win the next primary in Oregon, and he did, as that was a more favorable place for him. That was a very exciting day for me.Then came the big primary in California. There was a debate between the two. Once again, RFK played a race card, actually claiming that McCarthy would bus Black children to Orange County. Louis Lomax, a well respected Black political talk show host, caught this, and said right after the debate that he was switching his support to McCarthy. There was also a moment when McCarthy challenged Kennedy about something he claimed that he said, and Kennedy denied it; McCarthy said that he had the quote on a piece of paper in his pocket, but did not deign to pull it out

I did my first political campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, knocking on doors in Westwood, and discussing the merits. It was invigorating. We were not paid, nor did we want to be, but the story was that RFK’s workers were paid. Jesse Unruh, the “Big Daddy,” of California Democratic politics, whose machine my parents had kept working in vain to defeat in primaries, strongly supported Kennedy, and mocked McCarthy, saying that he would be “a footnote to history,” to which McCarthy replied that Unruh would not even be a footnote.

The California primary election was closer than many expected, but Kennedy won by about 3.8% Would McCarthy have won had he pulled out the quote, which I was certain was actually there? Some thought that McCarthy may not really have wanted the Presidency, that the quest was all, but I think he did. This win, albeit very close, apparently meant to pundits that Kennedy had triumphed as between the two, and that McCarthy’s campaign was over. Kennedy gave a victory speech in the Ambassador Hotel, and then moments later was tragically assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.

At that point, things fell apart. Many of RFK’s campaign team refused to support McCarthy. They encouraged George McGovern to run and take RFK’s delegates. Humphrey had the power brokers on his side, and none of them was going to switch now. The fact that there was not just one anti-war candidate to oppose LBJ and now Humphrey, which was caused by RFK entering the race after. New Hampshire, diffused everything.

The Chicago convention was a tragedy. Protesters were savagely beaten by Mayor Daley’s police force, in what the Kerner Commission later called a police riot. Senator Ribicoff stood up on the convention floor, and spoke angrily about “Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago.” Mayor Daley cut his microphone off, said something like, “Shut up, you MFing Jew B—–d.” Humphrey was nominated. He praised Daley for his “great work” in running the convention.

At that point, I would never have voted for Humphrey, though I was not eligible to vote. Everywhere he campaigned, there were young protesters shouting , “Dump the Hump!” Two weeks before the election, LBJ temporarily stopped the bombing in Vietnam. Humphrey made a big rally, but lost by about 1%, and Nixon and George Wallace got about 58% of the vote between them.

McCarthy, whose people in his hotel had tried to care for the bloodied protesters in Chicago, seemed to lose verve, as if he had been permanently embittered by the way that the Kennedy forces had attacked him, after he had been the one to force Johnson out of the race. He did run for president again, but did not do too well in primaries, the Kennedy wing wanted McGovern in 1972. He wrote more intelligent and thoughtful books. He retired from the Senate, and Humphrey took the seat. The liberal activists who had organized so well in 1968, had temporarily taken control in many states, and they got McGovern the nomination in 1972, probably with the aid of Nixon’s forces; and his disorganized campaign was ultimately routed by Nixon, which left a vacuum in the Democratic Party, allowing an unknown governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, to gain the nomination in 1976.

The candidates and powers brokers of 1968 are all gone now. This campaign played out like a Greek epic or tragic play, with momentous and legendary figures. Many questions remain. Would McCarthy have gotten the nomination if RFK had not entered and made it impossible for there to be only one candidate to oppose Humphrey, and then McCarthy would have unquestionably swept all the primaries, piled up delegates, and built very strong momentum? My mother and I always believed so. I think that some of the party bosses would have decided that they could live with McCarthy. My brother disagreed, and thought that RFK would have gotten the nomination had he not been assassinated. Maybe. The national polls always had him running weaker against Nixon, with McCarthy running the best, though that could have changed.

Would Humphrey have beaten Nixon, had the anti-war people not been so much against him? Possibly, but it would have only been because Wallace was taking votes away from Nixon. My parents ultimately voted for Humphrey, because they just could not stand Nixon, and in retrospect, I think that was the right decision, though I would not have voted for him, though I never would have voted for anyone else on the ballot. It feels different when you are younger. My mother actually cast her first vote, in 1948, for Henry Wallace, because many liberals felt that Truman was veering away from FDR’s policies.

And we could also ask if LBJ would have won re-election had there no been a primary challenge. Very possibly. But there was an immense rift in the country, and there were millions of people who wanted us to get out of Vietnam, and it is hard to imagine that there would have been no candidate to represent them. If LBJ would have realized that this was a futile and destructive war, he would have won easily. Certainly almost no one can look back and say that the war should have gone longer, that it was a good idea. And yet a large group of people in this country vociferously supported the war, and called people traitors and cowards if they did not. Leaving Vietnam meant losing, to them, and they wanted to keep fighting until we won, in some fashion.

Can we learn things from 1968? Many things, though I sometimes wonder whether we can still gain from them. I think that some people learned the wrong things, but of course that is my opinion. In a haunting way, 2008 had echoes of 1968, with Hillary being like McCarthy in some aspects, and Obama being another version of RFK. By nature, I usually prefer the highly intelligent person of great knowledge, to the rock star personality whom people scream in adulation of. And though McCarthy said that he would only serve one four-year term, which I did not favor as an idea, he was so calm and reasoned, and did not engender the hatred that many Republicans had for RFK, that he might have won.

It was also like one of those puzzles in books: “Can you change this word to that, one letter at a time?” How we started with Johnson’s landslide in 1964, and ended up with Nixon and Agnew in 1968 is unfathomable in one sense, but understandable now, given what we know about voters and their lack of understanding of which party is trying to help them, and which is not. And of course LBJ spearheaded passage of the Civil Rights Act, which he supposedly said was the right thing, but would cost the Democrats political power for forty years or so.

In a famous scene from the second season of “Twin Peaks”, the Giant, (later calling himself the Fireman), said portentously, “It is happening again,” as Laura Palmer’s cousin Maddie was being killed by the same entities which had killed Laura, and everyone was powerless to stop it. And when I watched Hillary be an almost certain Presidential winner leading up to 2008, only to see the same kind of people and the same kind of frenzy as in 1968, lead to Obama being virtually handed the nomination, I felt something like that. General decency, and superior intelligence doesn’t get the political reward it should. And the consequences are not just one election loss, but a realigning of the entire playing board, so that it can never get back to what it might have been.

In my personal view of it, Eugene McCarthy was the hero, with Allard Lowenstein, who horrifyingly was also assassinated, in 1980, being right there with him. Humphrey was the person who lost his way in the service of power and the desire to attain it for himself. LBJ was a ruthless power politician who yet did much good, and who showed grace during an incomprehensible tragedy, but then reverted to his earlier instincts, and ended up losing so much of what he valued in the country, allowing a great enemy to profit from it. Nixon was a gifted politician of great evil, who yet did one or two good things, such as starting EPA, but he was an amoral totalitarian at heart. Robert F. Kennedy is hard for me to assess. Maybe I undervalued him, but I was never a supporter, though according to the movie “Thirteen Days,” about the Cuban missile crisis, he may have helped save the world. He would have been a better president than Obama, I think, but he put his own personal political assessments ahead of the country at a crucial time.

Evil won that year, in more than one way. But there was also greatness, and eloquence, and millions of good people who tried so hard to make the world better. And I wish that the story of 1968 were told in true detail, not through the prism of comfortable legend.

Get Rid of the Filibuster!!!

I put the exclamation points in, so that some necessary people in office might somehow see it. But of course they are busy doing whatever they do.

It is either eliminate the filibuster, or lose the democracy. Maybe it wasn’t always the choice; maybe it didn’t have to be this way; but it is now. Things change.

The filibuster is not in the Constitution. It was invented in the Senate so that a minority of senators could keep a bill from being voted on. It exists in the Senate because there is no rule limiting the amount of debate. The House of Representatives has rules about how long a member can speak, so there is no filibuster.

It used to be that to filibuster, a senator had to keep talking, but that changed.; now all they have to do is invoke it, and then if the other side cannot muster 60 votes for cloture, the bill never comes to the floor. Surely that was never what the Founders intended. The filibuster has been used for various goals, often to stop Civil Rights legislation. The number of filibusters has greatly increased in the last 30 years. The rules on the filibuster could be changed at any time by Senate vote.

The filibuster has become the predominant technique of Republicans who want to block all Democratic legislation. All they need is 41 senators not to vote for cloture, and every Democratic bill fails to even get to the floor for vote. The nature of our representation system, where every state gets two senators, allows small states to control things. There are enough rigidly Red states which have two right-wing Republican senators, to get to 41, and thus make it impossible for Democrats to pass any legislation; the exception being financial bills, where there is Reconciliation. Everything else fails now.

Republicans are not a party which wants to write laws on the federal level. They want Republican-run states to enact laws banning abortion, or coming as close as they can; laws making it nearly impossible for Democrats in big cities to vote; laws forcing textbooks to teach religion as being equally as valid as science in explaining the natural world. They want a Supreme Court which will allow them to make these laws. They worked for decades to achieve that. They view the Senate as a place where well-paid people get to make speeches and strut around, not as a place to make any laws. That is one reason why they take so many vacations.

So the states are passing horrible voting laws, which are beyond obviously designed to guarantee that the Republicans win elections and electoral votes in all but very Blue states. And the laws even say that if somehow the Republicans do not win, the state legislature controlled by Republicans can overturn that result. This all is very clear.

So Democrats in the House have passed H.R.1, designed to protect the right to vote, something which Republicans do not believe in, for anyone who is not them. And it now goes to the Senate, where Republicans will filibuster. And Democrats do not have 60 votes to stop the filibuster.

So the only hope to save the right to vote, and the democracy, is to get rid of the filibuster. Do not do that, and our side loses, maybe forever. It is that simple.

The arguments against getting rid of the filibuster? None, really. Some ridiculous concept of “protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate”? The filibuster is not protecting the minority. it is letting the minority control the Senate. Forty-one Republican senators stop every bill from getting through, even though the Democrats control the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Not by much in the legislative branch, but they do. But not for long, if they do not get rid of the filibuster with regard to H.R. 1. This is not debatable, this is certainty. Do not pass the voting bill, and the Republicans will win the House and probably the Senate, too, and no bill equivalent to H.R. 1 will ever be passed.

One wonders why this is not beyond obvious. Senators Manchin and Sinema want to keep the filibuster, because….? It is a charming part of the past, like cotillions, or the Charleston? In reality, it will be as charming as plantations, and with a similar effect. They are worried that if Republicans gain the Senate majority, the Democrats will lose the power to filibuster? They will lose it anyway, because the Republicans will get rid of it, once they have guaranteed their majority. They have no compunction whatsoever about doing that.

Not only that, but Sinema will lose her Senate seat. Manchin may not, but his choices will be either to become a Republican and caucus with Hawley and Blackburn, or be on the minority side of the aisle until he retires, to be replaced by a Republican. So tell me again, Joe and Kristin, why is it that you want to save the filibuster?

I try to think of analogies, and it is hard. If people with axes and guns are trying to batter down the door to your house, and you want to call the police, and your significant other says, “If we call the police, they might call us up all the time to contribute to the Police Fund, and that would be irritating, so let’s do nothing.”

Someone is trying to run you over with a truck, as you stand in the crosswalk island, and you do not want to run to the sidewalk and into the open doors of a store, because the light is flashing red, and you feel like you have to respect the precedent.

Probably you can think of better ones, but it is hard to even imagine such inane logic. Only Democrats, at least a few of them, would think like that. How about, you are taking a tea break in the trenches of World War I. and the enemy starts firing at you, but you do not want to shoot back, because you always take tea at that time, and it would be declasse to fight back?

There are Greek and Shakespearean plays where characters somehow make a dreadful decision which destroys themselves or their side, and yet will not listen to rational arguments as to why they should not do it. Or will not do the thing which would save them, even though people are begging them to. Sometimes these plays are based on known history; sometimes the playwright tries to imagine what rationales these people might have come up with to keep them so intransigent in the face of all the counterarguments and facts.

Maybe someone will write a play about this. “How the Democracy Was Lost.” People will read or see it and scarcely believe it. Or there will be no such play, because the Republicans who by that time will control everything, will not allow it to be produced., or will successfully purvey their own narrative which makes them the heroes of the new totalitarian reality.

I have watched all of this for years; and I know what the Republicans are, and it is even worse than under Nixon, or Bush/Cheney/Delay. And I know how Democrats mostly mean well, and keep trying to attribute general decency to the opposing party; and how they simply refuse to realize and accept the depth of their perfidy and depravity. But this may beggar the rest of it.

Your entire group is being pushed off a cliff, and it is possible for you to escape, and people are yelling at you to run out of the procession to doom, to safety, but you allow yourselves to be pushed, out of good manners, or not wanting to encourage anyone else to ever break out of a line that you somehow may be in charge of, after you have fallen off the cliff. Is that the elusive metaphor I am looking for? Should we even need a metaphor for this deliberate self-destruction?

I write a good deal about this issue, but it is deserving of it. Passing H.R.1 will not fully protect the right to vote, or unquestionably save the democracy, but it will give us a chance. And the only way to pass it is to get rid of the filibuster. It is certainly a simple calculation to make, the only winning move left on the table. So why is it such a struggle to get a couple of Democratic senators to make?

One last metaphor. You are having a dream, that you are in a serial called “The Perils of Democracy.’ The villain, Snidely Whiplash, or Black Bart, or Oilcan Harry (he has many disguises and avatars) has tied you to the railroad tracks. You hear the sound of the train approaching, as he laughs. You look, and you see that the engineers of the train are Manchin and Sinema. Do they stop at the last moment? Do they even see you?

“Do I wake or sleep?” (John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale,” 1819).

What is fair?

Today is the anniversary of the death of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. It’s common knowledge that she was accused of adultery with five men, including her brother, but that wasn’t the crime that sent her to the swordsman. She was found guilty of treason because with some careless words to Henry Norris, the groom of the stool, she had “imagined the King’s death”. That’s what did her in. It’s a little like talking about assassinating the president. We don’t do it. But then, most of us are not as physically close to the president as Anne and Henry Norris were to the king. Sure, it was all in jest but the King was ready to discard her anyway. He only needed a reason. This was a good one.

Today is also the day that Congress started to vote on the bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. About an hour ago, the House passed the bill for its creation. The Democrats were joined by 35 Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was not among them. Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem likely to vote for it either and it’s likely to fail in the senate because 60 votes will be needed to end the filibuster.

We don’t have to wonder why. This rogue version of the Republican Party is averse to being held accountable for anything. So, if they can’t be absolutely sure that the outcome will be exoneration for them, or even better, “a plague on both your houses”, they won’t go along with it.

It doesn’t matter if the composition of the panel is fair. It doesn’t matter that they agreed to the term of the bill 5 days ago or whenever it was. The point is, they can’t guarantee that they will come out of this unscathed in some way. Uncomfortable truths will come out. Maybe if it drags on long enough, the spell of the Big Lie will start to break ever so slightly. Whatever the case may be, subpoenaing some of the Republican leadership to testify in public about what really happened that day and what witnesses recall will make some of them look really bad and cowardly.

So, they’re going to do their best to squash it. Any kind of accountability is unacceptable.

I don’t know where I was going with the two cases of Anne Boleyn and the Republicans. In her final speech, she said,

I am come hither to die, according to law, for by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I come here only to die, and thus to yield myself humbly to the will of the King, my lord.

There were witnesses, many, to her treasonous words. She admitted that the law found her culpable. She yielded to it. As to the rest, look into it if you want. She wasn’t going to defend herself.

There is a quote by a former Mormon leader that goes:

“If we have truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed.”

No one in Congress should be afraid of truth and transparency. But if they don’t have the truth, they ought to be “harmed” in some way. Those aren’t permanent seats in Congress and no one should insist on writing their own verdicts before a trial.

Yield to truth.

What Are They Hiding?

That Republicans are hiding the truth is obvious. What the truth actually is, is open to speculation. It is something significant, or they would not be doing everything they can to stop there being a January 6 Commission run by Congress, to investigate all aspects of the hows and whys and whats of a moment in history which almost meant the end of the democracy.

Those people storming the Capitol with zip restraints and bear spray and guns, were not tourists, they were not out for a good time. They brought those things to use them. All I can reasonably assume is that they wanted to kill Speaker Pelosi and others, probably all Democrats. They might have intended to hang Mike Pence as well, that is one of the things we might find out.

There were people in power who knew what was intended, and/or what Trump was planning to do about it. There were conversations before and during the attack on the government. We can guess that Trump wanted Democrats killed. That he was planning to declare martial law, stopping the transfer of power, as the Senate could not certify the electoral count.

It is possible that Trump didn’t think this all out, that he just wanted carnage and chaos. It is also conceivable that his Russian allies were gaming this out for him. As to the rest of the Republican leadership, some of them had to have known. Tuberville? McCarthy? The Acting Defense Secretary? Certain members of the Secret Service?

There were too many conversations to imagine that no one had any idea what was going to happen. Trump boasted, “It will be wild.’ No Republican bothered to care about that? The same Republican Party which held ten hearings on Benghazi, which grilled Hillary Clinton for eleven hours one day? Now they are not interested in any of this, “it is time to move on,” in that rote idiocy that they love to utter?”

It boggles the mind, but the clear path to understanding it, is that Republicans only care about one thing; taking back power and keeping it. Hearings about January 6 would get in the way of that. Benghazi was important to them for the same reason, in the converse. McCarthy proudly said those hearings were lowering Hillary’s favorable ratings. So they kept having them. That is their only metric. People should stop giving them any benefit of the doubt on their rationales for blocking an investigation as to how the country was almost taken over by insurrectionists, who are still out there, planning more of it.

How corrupt is Kevin McCarthy? The depth of evil corrupt? Maybe. How about McConnell, and all of the other Senators and Congressional Members who are going to vote a firm “No’ against a Commission? Some are blindly partisan. Some are stupid. Some know exactly what they are doing. Rick Wilson is not someone I have admired, but he is smart. And he wrote something yesterday which was chilling as to what will happen if this Commission is not formed. He says that the Republican leaders are killers, and that they will have no compunction once they take power. He believes that the search for bipartisanship is foolish and futile.

I don’t know what a Commission would unearth. Republicans would do what they have always done, in Iran-Contra, and during the entire Trump Administration, which is to deny, deflect, lie, hide, stand on legal arguments, all to keep the truth from being known. There would be endless objections and grandstanding; deflection to the rioting of last summer, the man who shot Steve Scalise, the Haymarket Riot of 1886. People would claim executive privilege, dare anyone to sue them, figure that the Supreme Court will protect them.

We have seen this for four years. Even so, it would be very important to have a Commission, and extensive hearings. The alternative is that the evil people win; the attempt to overthrow the government and kill many members of Congress, and even the Vice President, is left to murky partisan arguing, and gets buried under the avalanche of fake conspiracy stories the Right Wing officials and media will come up with on a daily basis.

All Republicans want is to win control of at least one chamber of Congress in 2022. Then there will never be an investigation into possibly the worst moment in American history, and it will be lied about so readily that many people will think that the Democrats did it We cannot let that happen. There has to be at least one investigative committee, even if it is partisan. You fight with the weapons you have. We will find out at least some things, even if we do not learn all of them.

How many Republicans were knowledgeable enablers or participants in the very possible destruction of the government and the installing of a permanent authoritarian regime? It is very likely the biggest story in American history, and we must treat it as such, no matter what powerful forces try to deny or obscure it.

Who Wants It More?

In sports, one often hears a player or coach say, “They wanted it more,’ after a loss. They believe that it wasn’t because of less talent that they lost, it was because the other team played harder, “refused to lose.”

Now, these after the fact explanations or rationalizations are not necessarily right. People do look for causes to explain effects. But it is true that even a fan can see situations in which one team just played harder, and with more focus. And in college sports particularly, there seem to be some programs which have inculcated a culture of winning, which doesn’t mean that they win all the games, but that they know how to win, expect to win, and keep fighting, not getting distracted or downhearted if things go against them.

These things are relevant to any form of competition, whether it is chess or poker or trial court. It is now particularly relevant to politics and governance. We have only two parties, Democrats and Republicans. We know the origins and the history of those parties. But just focusing on these last few crucial decades in history, how much of their relative success or failure, is due to which party and its leaders and voters “want it more”?

The very unfortunate fact is that it seems that Republicans have wanted it more for most of the last fifty years or so. I remember reading an article a few decades ago in “The New Republic” which told of how the Evangelicals were determinedly working to take over power, starting at the very local level. I didn’t make too much of it then, but we have seen it continue, to where Evangelicals control many states in the South and Border regions, and are encroaching on the Midwest as well.

The appeal to them of their view of the world can be discussed at length. But we cannot doubt that most of them are utterly fixated on getting their agenda passed, and become dominant and unassailable. The Republican Party is not just made up of Evangelicals, but there seems to be a consistent connection among Republican voters, who want to win above all. I heard on TV the other day that they were trying to take over Education Boards. They know that winning at the lower levels helps them control the higher levels. Too many people did not realize this, to our chagrin.

Of course, there are these Republican strategy tanks which seem to spend all of their waking hours finding flaws or chinks in the Constitution or state laws, so that they can actually use them to rule from a minority popular position. In Michigan, Democrats took over the governorship, secretary of state, attorney general positions in 2018. Both of their senators are Democrats. But Republicans still control the state legislature, and they are actually managing to use a ‘loophole’ in election laws, to try to pass draconian voters suppression right past the Democratic state leaders. They live for this. They have learned, or been taught, to use any possible lever they hold, to try to subvert the whole system.

Democrats do not do that. Virtually every blue state has made provision for a nonpartisan body to do the congressional and state legislature redistricting. Republicans have no interest in that. This means that states like California are fairly districted, while the red states are relentlessly gerrymandered in Republicans’ favor. You have all seen the Wisconsin statistics where the Democrats get more statewide votes, but the Republicans get something like 60% of the legislative seats. That is because of targeted gerrymandering. This is not to say that Democrats have not gerrymandered in the past, but they mostly have tried to do it the fair way now, with nonpartisan election boards, while Republicans cheat in every way possible.

So “wanting it more’ has more than one meaning. I think it is fair to say that in most of the 2000’s, Republicans have simply outworked the Democrats on the ground. Of course there are many admirable Democrats who have devoted many hours to organizing, knocking on doors, and everything that goes with grass roots politics. But there haven’t often been enough of them. And of course Democrats do not have the immense funds which the ultra-wealthy Republican donor class spends to keep themselves in control.

After the Trump election in 2016, there was a real sense of panic and urgency among Democrats, and that led to more fervor at the local levels, and great wins in 2018. Even so, and even with the 8 million or so popular margin victory for Biden in 2020, the voters seemed inclined to leave Republicans in charge of state offices, which is proving disastrous, as they are passing one repressing voting bill after another. They now are adding provisions which allow the legislature to overturn the popular vote results, based on some meaningless language which actually means, “If Democrats win, we can overturn the results and hand it to the Republicans.’

Where Democrats really got “shellacked'”was in 2010 and 2014. The “Obama Coalition’ decided that it was not necessary to vote in the midterms. Republicans only got 1% of so more of the popular vote in 2010 and 2014, but that, combined with the gerrymandering, allowed Republicans to gain around 92 Congressional seats in those elections, and take over virtually every state house.

How did that happen? Did far too many people only care about electing Obama, and did not have any interest in the Democratic Party as a political force? Did they not care enough? Did Republicans just want it more? Is it more of a blood sport to them? Is it that they have a definite political agenda, and want to take over the entire country, while Democrats care about a few issues, but are not fanatical about them, and have various factions which will not vote unless they think the candidate directly affects or enhances them? There certainly have to be reasons for all of this, many overlapping.

We can generalize, and say that “liberals” have other interests besides playing the game of politics. They are often interested in the arts, relationships, spending leisure time. Republicans seem more fanatical, and many of them appear to have no other interests besides winning elections. The billionaires who run things like to take trips and buy fancy things, but their employees, the strategists, are devoted to their cause; and their “base” has become radicalized and fanatical. They never sleep, never relent, never concede any point or any election. They either win, or try to overturn those they lose. It becomes wearisome and enervating to keep combating them, but what is the alternative?

I could obviously write much more about this. How over decades, Republicans systematically plotted to take over the Supreme Court. How the awful Electoral College, and Republican hypocrisy and single-minded unyieldingness has led to a situation in which the Democratic presidential candidate has won the popular vote in four straight elections, and yet the Far Right has a 6-3 Supreme Court majority. This is virtually unthinkable in the abstract, but we have seen it happen before our eyes.

Politics is mostly a dirty game, and too many Democrats shrink from playing it, but Republicans have no such reservations. Sometimes i think it is like Athens vs. Sparta, or even like Eloi and Morlocks. Are Democrats by their nature, ultimately doomed to be conquered by the fascistic, militaristic, win-at-any-cost Republicans? We cannot have that, obviously. But ‘winning’ also has to do with “wanting it more,” however that is interpreted. That means Democrats going out to vote en masse, despite the unconstitutional (but the stacked Supreme Court won’t see it that way, that was the plan} restrictions put in their way. It means voting against every single Republican on the ballot, because they ultimately all funnel into the same corrupt party.

We all would like to focus on family, and loved ones, and pets and nice days at the park or a concert or play. And we should, except that we have a force on the other side which is working every second to turn the democracy into a totalitarian state. It is not an inevitable outcome, but it is going to depend a great deal on whether our side “wants to win” as much as they do. And that does not just involve voting, and helping to organize, or sending money, as possible, it also means being able to overcome and ignore the inevitable torrent of propagandizing and false issues thrown up by the other side, all intended to either keep people from voting, or to give up on the whole matter of saving our American Democracy.

“Leaving” Means Leaving

You all know Charlie Sykes from his TV appearances. He was a longtime very conservative talk-show host and journalist. Lately, he has become editor of The Bulwark, which is strongly anti-Trump. Sykes has never really wavered from his policy positions, but has become increasingly angry about what has happened to his Republican Party.

Today he wrote, “I think it’s incredibly naive to think that there is a chance to salvage the party. They wrote a piece in the Washington Post last week saying the ouster of Liz Cheney doesn’t mean the fight is over. The fight for the soul of the Republican Party is just beginning. Well, that’s just wrong.”

Sykes says, “The war is over. The conspiracy theorists, the cranks, the bigots have won. And I just think as a matter of reality, we need to understand that.”

Well, that is good to see him come right out and say that. I hope that more do very soon. Of course, it is just an essay;, who knows what he or any of the Bulwark people will do. It is clear that something has to be actually done.

The Republicans cannot be given the seat of power again. It would be about equivalent to the Germans putting Nazis into government positions. How different is the current Republican leadership from Nazis? There are some differences, but many similarities. These are people who want absolute power, and a complete right to change every law and rule to the way they want it. They do not compromise. They do not want a consensus. They want to win, and to stomp on the head of anyone who stands in their way.

I hope that they have made this abundantly clear to a majority of Americans. Maybe after the Supreme Court strikes a devastating blow against abortion rights, more will finally see it. Maybe some of the people who just couldn’t manage to vote for Hillary Clinton, for some absurd reason or another, might have more cause to greatly regret it. Maybe the media people who delighted in making “emails” their primary subject for a year, might slightly realize what they did. Not that this helps us, except that maybe they will not do it again? With regard to the Supreme Court, it might be too late, for fifty years, or maybe forever, in terms of saving this democracy. Maybe if they have a free hour, they could think of that.

Democrats have some political power now, but can they keep it? What is the alternative to that? If right wing conservative Charlie Sykes thinks that there is no hope for the Republican Party, then he has to be saying that he and other Republicans who agree with him, cannot vote for Republicans. Otherwise, it is just some kind of philosophical musing, with no concrete value.

And if the Party is hopelessly turned into an evil force, then no Republican candidate should win. So many people have deluded themselves into thinking that they could vote for this or that Republican, just not the ones they don’t like. That is foolish at the best of times, and idiotic at a time when Republicans are a bloc which marches in lockstep to what the donors and the party leaders tell them. Okay, there are maybe a very few Congresspeople who will once in a hundred times vote a different way, but never on policy. Every single one of them voted against the Covid Relief Bill, and they are all going to vote against HR 1. No Republican Senator has voted on the Democratic side with regard to any bill.

The point is, that if you vote for one Republican, you are essentially voting for them all. Vote for Susan Collins, and you are voting for Mitch McConnell. Actually, Collins lied when she said that neither Kavanaugh or Barrett would overturn Roe v. Wade, so she is ultimately just McConnell in a different wardrobe. Vote for Ernst or Toomey or Tillis, and you get Hawley, Blackburn and Tuberville; the votes are the same when it comes to making laws. To paraphrase a line from a couple of movies, “Their faces are only different so you can tell them apart.”

So if Sykes is as good as his words, his “leaving the Party” must not be a useless statement of position. He has to vote for the Democrats. And so do all of the Republicans of the various Never Trump sites and groups that we see listed on our TV screen when one of them comes on as a pundit. If you don’t vote for Democrats, you have accomplished nothing, and will actually be a worthy subject of mockery.

If you are convinced that of two sides in a war, one is wholly evil and run by bigots and conspiracy nuts, you have to fight for the other side, or at least give all of your support to them, even if it goes against your past and your nature. What is the other alternative for Sykes? To help start a third party which will never win, and actually keep the Democrats whom you should have voted for, from winning? Pragmatic philosophical Republicans surely know that third parties can’t win, which is why they always wanted Democrats to fall into the trap of voting for them. And a third party may actually help Republicans, to give the Never Trumpers a comfortable haven to act virtuous yet still not vote for Democrats.

I am waiting to see if we actually witness longtime Republicans stand up and speak up, and say that they are going to be voting for Democrats up and down the ticket. Actually, the only possible way to have a barely decent Republican Party is to get rid of those who now control and own it. That would probably be impossible, but they can hope for that, while they are electing Democrats.

If Democrats controlled large majorities in both chambers of Congress, and the Presidency, the tens of millions of Wingnuts would have no political power. They very possibly would try to overthrow the government by violent force, which is very unsettling to contemplate, but would have to be dealt with. Allowing them to have any political power is death for the democracy. That is what Von Hindenburg did in Germany, accepting the idea of a coalition government with Hitler in 1933. It is death. You can’t stop Far Right Republicans from winning this or that seat, but you can do everything you can to stop enough of them so that they are a distinct minority.

We hear people on TV say, “The Republican Party is shrinking.” By registration, yes. But in pragmatic reality, it only matters who wins the elections and who holds the power. If people leave the party as a symbol, or to feel moral, but do not actually vote for Democrats, they will have accomplished nothing meaningful.

As a Democrat, I never understood why they could not bring themselves to like a Clinton or Biden, and support their policies. But “principled conservatism,” whatever that means, is nowhere to be found, so you have to vote for the Democrats, and not just write lofty essays about it. I’m looking at you, Mr. Sykes, and Mr. Frum, Mr. Kristol, Ms. Carpenter, Ms. Rubin, Ms. Longwell, Mr. Tim Miller, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Michael Steele, and all of the rest of you. Otherwise, unless you come out verbally and support voting for Democrats, I don’t want to hear from any of you again, as you enjoy your well-paying guest spots on the cable news shows.

And again, all the people who said, “I am going to cast a conscience vote for Stein,” whatever that was supposed to mean; or who wanted any excuse to feel important and not support Hillary; or like the infamous Eddie Glaude, who called her “the devil you know,’ in 2016, you have my eternal contempt. Glaude is never going to need an abortion, but there were also many women who voted for Stein, Johnson and even Trump, and this is what you all have wrought. How hard was that to figure out in advance? The media didn’t want you to, they wanted you only to think about emails.

“Inspector Morse”

Perhaps the best series ever made, though others will have their favorites. “Twilight Zone” and “Twin Peaks” were right up there for me as well.

The Inspector Morse episodes ran from 1987-2000. They were based on the novels of Colin Dexter, and many were actually from the novels. John Thaw played Chief Inspector Morse of Thames Valley Police in Oxford, England. To say that Thaw was superb in this role, is actually to understate it. His may be one of the absolutely greatest series performances in television history. His assistant is Detective Sergeant Lewis, played excellently by Kevin Whately. His superior is Chief Superintendent Strange, played very well by James Grout.

The supporting casts of the two-hour shows are as good as I have ever seen. These British actors actually become their characters. The backstories are written so well, and the acting is so good, that you want to see more of the characters, even after their one episode is concluded.

The fact that the episodes are set in Oxford, means that many of the characters are academics, dons, students, speaking with upper class British accents. That certainly does not mean that there are not all sorts of bad things that some of them do. These are mostly murder mysteries, quite involving and with surprises. But there are virtually no guns, no fight scenes, little “action”; mostly intriguing personal interactions, dialogue, the solving of the mystery, and the revealing of character.

Morse is a complex person, more so than the typical police detective. He attended Oxford, but seems to have left before finishing. This might have been due to having his girlfriend snatched from him by an arrogant fellow student, whom Morse sees again about thirty years later on a case, and who does not even remember the name of the woman, earning Morse’s despairing contempt. He likes detective work, but he does not care to play the career game, and thus never makes the very highest ranks, while other less capable detectives get promoted past him. Morse has a strong sense of ethics, almost to a fault. And he does not suffer fools gladly,; he resents the advantages and manner of the very wealthy; and he refuses to compromise his principles.

Morse loves drinking good beer at pubs, classical music, and solving the London Times crossword puzzle. For him, detection is a mental challenge. He picks up clues that others don’t, because some of them require a puzzle expert’s mind. He is unorthodox, and can irritate Superintendent Strange by his stubbornness, but he solves the mysteries, though he does sometimes make mistakes in his early assessments, as anyone might. Occasionally Sergeant Lewis somewhat unexpectedly puts him on the right path.

Morse is not intensely lonely, but certainly somewhat, and he yearns for female companionship. As the stories develop, there is usually an intelligent woman involved, whom he finds attractive. He actually crosses protocol lines in that regard, though he is always shyish about it. Sometimes the interest is somewhat reciprocated, sometimes it is not, or he is even used by the woman to further her ends.

Near the end of the series, he develops a mutual relationship with a nice and intelligent woman. But there is an “Extra” segment on one of the DVDs, “The Women of Morse,” which mostly features short scenes or comments by the many wonderful female actors who played roles in the show, and some of those characters seemed more appealing. One of the most memorable is Joanna David, who plays Susan, a woman whom Morse was deeply in love with, and who cared for him, but decided to marry another man, and then briefly re-enters his life when her husband is found dead from a likely suicide.

There is an online site which asked readers which woman on the show Morse should have ended up with. There were some appealing ones to choose from, though he didn’t have a chance with most of them. I would probably pick the character played by Angela Morant in “Service For All the Dead.” Or maybe the opera singer played by Frances Barber in “The Death of the Self.”

One of the PBS stations bought the rights to the series, so that they can show an episode each week. I don’t think they are showing them all, though. I have now seen most of them multiple times, but they still make for much more enjoyable viewing than anything else out there. Scripts, dialogue, direction, acting are all brilliant. And a sense of melancholy, which, while it does not suffuse the shows, is certainly there, as if you were watching a play where there are tragic events, and you are left with a sense of lost potential or people having made the wrong choices.

The beautiful theme music was written by Barrington Pheloung. At the very end of an episode, you hear the first notes of it, and you realize that the story is over. You really are not sure until you hear the music. The stories are not just about the various suspects, but they are about Inspector Morse, and how he responds to them, and where he is left emotionally when that story is over.

I will just add that the most recent one I saw, “Last Seen Wearing,” was one that you might want to start with, if you decide to try these. The story is not dark, but it is interesting, with perfectly drawn characters. A young Elizabeth Hurley and Julia Sawalha have minor roles. Absolutely memorable is Fiona Mollison, who plays her role with perfect nuance. I wondered why she did not become a star. She was far from the only actor who played his or her role perfectly on the show, but I was so impressed to see someone who is not a major name, be so impressive. She popped up years later in “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2.” I just wanted to write a few lines about her, as she may be my favorite female character in all of the Morse episodes, even though she was not the star in this one. Also very memorable, besides the aforementioned, are Sharon Maughan, in “Deceived by Flight,” maybe my favorite episode; and Mel Martin, in “The Secret of Bay 5B.”

Of the men, Michael Kitchen, so great in “Foyle’s War,” in the episode “Death of the Self.” Peter McEnery in “Last Seen Wearing.” Kenneth Colley in “Second Time Around.”

If you like mysteries, and if you have somehow never seen this series, I would advise that you run out and buy it, finances permitting. Would that they made series like this now. But at least they made this one.

Tax Day

That is May 17, as they extended it a month this year. Last year, it was extended to July 15.

I went to see my tax accountant last Thursday, and I learned a few things which I should have known. I had never gotten the $1200 stimulus check last April or so. I had written and called about it, even contacted my Congressman’s office; was sent forms, sent them in, got more forms, but no check. But I learned that can get a credit for it as against taxes owed, on my tax form.

I asked the accountant if she had other clients who never got their checks; and she said, “Oh, yes, they (the government) totally screwed up everything.” What a surprise. Could it be that they simply did not bother to send out some of the checks, figuring, more money for them, if people didn’t complain or had no taxes owed to defray? It would go with the rest of how they ran things.

Also, there are now apparently almost no itemized deductions for people who are not wealthy and/or corporations. I usually got small deductions for auto registration fees, charitable contributions, and the tax preparer’s fee. She said that now all one can take is the standard deduction on those things, because they are under the limit. So the only deduction I can take are medical related costs such as insurance. As you probably all know, you now can’t deduct last year’s state income taxes, which you could always do a few years ago, and which might actually have been the biggest deduction for non-wealthy people.

This is what Trump and the people who wrote the 2017 tax bill did. Do you remember when lobbyists were running in and literally adding parts to the bill just before the vote? That was a rich person’s festival, as virtually any possible deduction which they might be able to claim, was given to them, while the deductions for everyone else were virtually eliminated.

Most people did not realize that, but they will now. Apparently taxes went up slightly for poor people this year. Meanwhile, the immensely wealthy are deducting airplanes, vacations, virtually every meal they can claim as a corporate expense. Matt Gaetz was probably deducting the money he paid to “escorts.” They have made a joke out of the tax codes, stealing and grifting everywhere they can, counting on their “base” to be distracted by all the cultural issues they make up. It’s an effective con for them, and their voters never figure it out, or blame it on the other side.

I’m not complaining about my own taxes, everyone has the same legitimate complaint. The tax codes have been altered to give immense breaks to the rich, nothing to anyone else. Let these people get back in charge, and it will look like the Middle Ages, with people taking whatever silverware they have, and laying it in a pile for the king.

In other brief news, Bob Baffert, the self-proclaimed victim of cancel culture, was not at the Preakness Stakes. Neither of the two horses he trained won the race, including Medina Spirit. The results of the second drug test will be in within a week or two, and then it will be determined if the completely innocent horse is disqualified from the Kentucky Derby win, and whether Baffert is “canceled,” for breaking the rules on the amount of a particular drug that is allowed. Medina Spirit should sue him for damage to reputation!

The Wide World of Canceling

I am doing my own mental audit of some of the voting results from last November. I have Biden winning North Carolina by 86.218 votes. I also have him very close in Iowa, but I have not finished my mental audit yet. I am trying to find out if some of the Iowa corn cobs were used by Trump supporters to change the ballots. Also, the letter “M” seems to be on a lot of the ballots I am mentally envisioning in my audit, so that could well be important. Or not. But it’s my audit, and I’ll do what I want.

It seems as if they have delayed the Cyber Ninjas’ audit of Arizona, because the gym needed to be used for other things, six months after the election. After they finish, there might be some other groups who would like to recount the ballots. The voting officials counted them right after the vote; then there were three more recounts, and now the Cyber Ninjas are doing theirs. There have to be more people in Arizona who would like to do their own recount, so let’s get this one done, and get the others started. If Trump wins any of these, then the counting stops, like “musical chairs.” They haven’t gotten there yet, though; the first four counts all came out the same, but the Cyber Ninjas had not sprung into action yet.

Have the Republican state legislatures finished with their voting laws? They’ve probably managed to reduce 10% of the Democratic vote, and that should be enough, but when you are fascists, you always want more.

Marc Elias noted that in one state, they were purging the rolls of “infrequent voters,” which they defined as voters who only voted every four years. You see, Republicans are more likely to vote in midterm elections than Democrats, so this will purge mostly Democrats, for the sin of only voting in presidential elections, which makes them “infrequent voters.” I’m waiting for Republicans to eliminate “unknowledgeable voters,” best identified by residing in a Democratic majority district. Get rid of those, and you might eliminate half of the previous Democratic vote. That should do it, but they’re still coming up with fun ideas, like armchair fans who think about ways to improve baseball. The difference is that the fans are not doing more than idly musing; while the Republicans are actually taking away millions of people’s right to vote.

Well, we’ve got the courts,and we’ve got HR1, to try and stop this. I think it would be very naive to expect that the ultimate decider, the Supreme Court, is going to throw out these voting laws. They’ll avoid it, they’ll write a bunch of verbiage which will not actually negate the laws. That leaves HR1, where we need 50 votes plus Harris, to pass the Senate and be signed into law. But of course there is the filibuster, which has to be overcome for the bill to even get to the floor. So we can see if Manchin and Sinema are more concerned about protecting the filibuster, or in saving the democracy. It seems an easy choice, not something to agonize over.

The media seems to be covering voting rights more, but always remember that Republicans really don’t care, they just pound on ahead. They don’t care if people are upset; or if historians see this as the potential end of democracy. It does not compute, as Julie Newmar used to say on “My Living Doll.” They see the end in sight, where they can take permanent power, and that is absolutely all that matters to them. Any words that come out of their mouths are utterly meaningless, they are just words that they put together to confuse or misdirect while they continue at their destruction. Why the media actually shows them talking, is only explained by their need to fill up their shows, plus their own rather deranged subservience to always presenting both sides of any issue. Except for Hillary’s emails, of course.

Well, it is the day of the Preakness, after the Kentucky Derby was ostensibly won by Medina Spirit, but who is on the verge of being disqualified (not the horse’s fault!) because the legendary trainer Bob Baffert apparently gave him an excess of a limited substance for his hooves. Baffert is currently suspended at Churchill Downs, but has been allowed to run Medina Spirit in the Preakness at Pimlico. Medina Spirit has not been officially disqualified from the win in the Derby, but he will be if the second test comes back positive.

I had admired Baffert, he seemed to be a good image for racing, which certainly has its legitimate detractors, but has its adherents as well. But not only have several of his horses tested positive for banned or limited drugs, Baffert has disgraced himself by first lying about not using the substance, saying that he didn’t know how it got there, and then saying that he “is a victim of cancel culture.”

I wonder who invented that term. It is now being used every hour by Republicans, as much as “Communism” or “Socialism,” or “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” were used in past decades by them. The woman who represents the arm of Heritage Foundation, found to have been sending voting suppression law templates to Republican legislators in multiple states, used the term as a response to critics. She said that they are not going to “let the left smear them or employ cancel culture.”

Of course, the ones who are canceling the right to vote for millions of people, are the Republicans. One can scarcely think of more effective canceling than that. But they coined the word, so they think that gives them the right never to have it used against them. Democrats are not nearly as good as coming up with such phrases, and I do not know why, since almost all of the bright and educated people are on that side. It may be that they are simply not comfortable with inventing nonsense phrases designed to propagandize, and disguise their malicious intent.

Anyway, Baffert had the absolute effrontery to use the term. Trump picked it up, too, in some of kind of inane even for him fashion. So anything that anybody on that side doesn’t like is “cancel culture.”

There is a story that some people who said that they bet large amounts on the Derby runner-up, Mandaloun, are suing Baffert and I don’t know whom else, claiming that they were cheated out of their money, and that there was some kind of drugging conspiracy. Well, it would be astounding if they had any chance to win. There is no proof that Mandaloun would have won the race had Medina Spirit not been in it. The pace would have been different. He might have, but who knows?

The courts never enforce gambling debts, and they certainly do not decide who might have won a horse race. It would be unfortunate if cheating changed the payout results, but the courts are not going to intercede. Medina Spirit will undoubtedly be disqualified, through no fault of his own, and Mandaloun will be declared the winner, and get the purse; but the people who bet on Medina Spirit all get to keep their winnings; and those who bet on Mandaloun do not, unless they bet him to Place, at good odds.

There was a person who apparently had a winning ticket worth $26 million in a California Lottery drawing of six months ago. But she could not find her ticket, and is pretty sure that she tossed her jeans into the washing machine, and the ticket disintegrated. I have inadvertently left dollar bills in my pants pocket, or receipts, but never a multimillion dollar lottery ticket. The store which sold the ticket can verify that, and will get $130,000 as the rules allow, but the Lottery spokesperson said that to win, you needed to have a picture of the front and back of the ticket, to at least show that it was in your possession. She could not, so the $26 million, or what remains after taxes, goes to the California Education Fund. This does not seem right, she did buy the ticket, the sale was verified, but she cannot absolutely prove it. Still, she has more right to claim “Cancel Culture!” than Baffert.

Republicans want to cancel everything and everyone who is not them, or for them. They will keep counting and recounting, and taking away votes until they get the results they want. When they cheat and get caught, they yell, “Cancel Culure!” The Cyber Ninjas are still counting votes, and looking for bamboo shoots to prove that the ballots were sent from China; and Bob Baffert is somewhere between, “I don’t know how the drug got there,’ and “They’re trying to cancel me.” When did so many people lose the capacity to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior, facts and self-serving fantasy?