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    • The Wages Of Embarassing Elites Are Death
      Everyone remember the Panama papers? A leak of bank records showing that the ultra-rich are hiding massive wealth, tax-free and often breaking the law to do so? A rather weak set of laws designed to allow tax avoidance by rich people, at that. Found out the other day that the reporter who broke the Panama Papers story was killed by a car bomb. Coincidence, n […]
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New CDC Guidance

My first reaction to the CDC announcement was surprise, and then happiness. But of course I did think of questions and concerns. And when I read that the respected Doctor Leana Wen said today that she thought that the CDC had done an abrupt about-face, and went too far, that is certainly cause for concern. We wish that there were not, but of course there always is, with the virus.

RD can shed much more light on this than I can. My layperson thoughts on it, are, where is the allowance for possible new variants? I understand that CDC seems very confident that a fully vaccinated person is protected against any current strains of the virus in the United States. But what if a new variant comes in, as is probably likely, particularly with the dreadful surges in India and other places? Won’t some of those inevitably come here? And if virtually everyone is going around without a mask, won’t that create a very dangerous situation, with a possible immediate spread of the virus to even vaccinated people who thought they were safe?

And then of course there is the language about “most situations.” It is safe not to wear a mask if fully vaccinated, except in “certain situations.” I saw some interviews of Rochelle Walensky and other doctors. They were questioned about possible situations. The general answers were that, it is probably okay not to wear a mask at a baseball game, but might be advisable at a large music concert. It is also advised if you are on public transportation. So how can someone accurately identify when it is safe and when it is not? If it is not certain, then why lift the restrictions in a rather vague way?

I would love for everything to go back to normal in regard to masks and the danger of COVID. I am not sure that we are there yet. There are many people yet unvaccinated, and many who simply refuse to do it, mostly because they are idiots or jerks. I do not feel safe walking outside without a mask, and I wish I should be. I wish that medical experts could say with certainty that we are completely safe to do that, if vaccinated. But I do not hear that.

And we know there will be more variants. And they don’t know that the vaccines are effective against those. How do we find out? Hopefully not by trial and error.

I had written about “risk aversion and risk tolerance” a while ago. If someone told you that if you were fully vaccinated, and did not wear a mask, your chances of contracting COVID were, say, one in a thousand, would you feel very safe? One in ten thousand? How much risk would one be willing to take, for the freedom to stop wearing masks?

I would take very little; I would rather wear the mask, until I hear that there are so many people vaccinated, that it is almost impossible for the virus to be transmitted. Some think that these new guidelines will make it even harder to get there. Some think that it might provide incentives to be vaccinated, but judging from what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think that those who refused to be vaccinated will now decide to do so. I wish that it were otherwise, but we have seen enough of these people and their proud refusal to follow health guidelines, in the name of “liberty,” and, “we don’t want any liberals telling us what to do,” to have no confidence in their rationality at all.

Was CDC under political pressure? Not from the BIden Administration. President Biden seemed surprised and overjoyed at their announcement, and he is straightforward and honest, I am sure of that. Pressure from Republicans in Congress? Maybe. Businesses? Certainly, but they have withstood that for a year. But why is Dr. Wen so concerned that this is going too far? Whom can we confidently listen to? And has the damage already been done with Republicans in the Senate throwing off their masks, and McConnell saying, “Free at last!”? These are questions which we certainly hope will be answered, and in a way which will legitimately make us all feel better.

“Never Trumpers” and the Wheel of Life

It is nice to see some of the so-called “Never Trumpers” speaking up about the Stalinist-type purge that the Republicans executed in the House of Representatives yesterday. But what is it that they are actually doing, or planning to do, about any of it?

I caught a few minutes of Nicolle Wallace’s show, and she had Miles Taylor on, who was “Anonymous” who wrote that piece about how the good Republicans like him who held federal positions were doing their best to stymie Trump; then later identified himself. In his well publicized anonymous article, he wanted to be sure to say that he was a proud Republican, and was for so many of the ideals of that party, even though he was upset at what Trump was doing. He then wrote a book about it, as many of these people manage to do.

So he was talking about how 100 or so Republicans had written something about that if the Republican leadership did not change its ways, they would look to form a new party.. Well, that was certainly a rather unimpressive statement. If they do not change their ways? The Republican fascists have done all of these awful things; basically condoned the attempt to violently overthrow the government; said, “let’s move on”; continued to deny that Biden won the election; are passing greatly suppressive voting laws in states; and just purged Cheney for telling the truth about Trump and the insurrection. So Taylor and these others say,, “Well, you should stop it, or we will form a new party!”If the fascists stopped it right now, which they will not, so much harm has already been done,, perhaps irrevocably. It is far too late, Mr. Taylor, and even then you are giving them more chances to coax you back into supporting them.

Mike Murphy, who is one of those bare-knuckle Republican strategists whose ruthlessness was effective in getting Reagan and Bushes elected, is not happy with what happened yesterday. But he first wants you to know that, “as much as I hate the Left,” it is upsetting to him that Cheney was canceled, though he doesn’t use that word.

There are others of them who are pushing for Liz Cheney to run for President. Do not be misled into thinking that they have had some epiphany or conversion, and have decided to leave the Republican Party forever. No, they are still Republicans. They would support Cheney and her extreme right wing positions. They would actually support any Republican who was not Trump, or so closely allied with him as to upset their sense of morality.

There are some exceptions to this, but i is hard to count on. any of them. Nicolle Wallace, certainly; probably Jennifer Rubin, maybe Max Boot, that might be it. I cannot read the minds of all of these well-placed people who manage to continue to have a large forum to tell us that they are proud Republicans who just don’t like Trump, but are determined to save the Party. Obviously, we want whatever support from Republicans we can get in this critical battle to save the country. But it is appalling to me as to how much they are still committed to the Republican Party, and apparently think that if only we could get Reagan or GHW Bush or GW Bush or presumably Dick Cheney back in there, things would be great again.

What is it that “The Left” has done to Mike Murphy so as to cause him to hate it? What is “The Left?” Pelosi? Hillary? Obama? Biden? What policies have they pushed for which are so hateful to him? What is it that the Republican Party has accomplished, what actual policies do they have which he so much admires that he cannot even think of leaving that party?

Obviously, people have the right to vote for or support whomever they want. But one would think that among these mostly educated and well-off people, there would be more than a few who would completely disavow the Republican Party, and simply support the Democrats. But they can’t bring themselves to do it and likely never will.

It is unlikely that Trump will be nominated in 2024. That gives them the opportunity to convince themselves that whomever Republicans nominate–DeSantis, Cruz, Koenst, Haley,– would not be all that bad. Hawley might be too far for them, but someone will write some speeches for him, and they will convince themselves that he might be acceptable.

Actually ,it is very possible that if Republicans take back the House in 2022, the democracy is over. Some speculate that a Republican-run House would not certify any Democratic victory in 2024, thus throwing it back into the House, delegation by delegation, so that the Republican candidate would win. So if the Never Trumpers actually want to save the democracy, they should support all the Democrats in 2022.

But would that cost them book deals, or heading forums where they can commiserate with their fellow battered and bruised Republicans who yet still believe in “the principles of Conservatism?” To me their brand was always about lowering taxes on the wealthy, getting rid of all regulations on corporations, doing nothing to help the environment, doing nothing about assault weapons. Can anyone think of any other actual policies that the Republicans have had since, say, 1980? That is what they are fighting to keep?

As to a third party, I had written a few weeks ago that a third party made up of disaffiliated Republicans would help the Democrats. But rethinking it in light of current trends, maybe it would not. If there were a party like that, headed by Liz Cheney or someone of that perspective, who would vote for it , who would otherwise have voted for the fascists? Very few.

The votes which would go to that party would be from people who would perhaps otherwise have been “forced” to vote for the Democrats, if they voted at all. So would this actually hurt the Fascist Party? Perhaps not at all, it would just give the Taylors and Murphys a haven so that they could avoid having to vote for any Democrat. It is something to think about. Any vote which does not go to the Democratic candidate helps the Republicans take over the country. The 40% or so who are Trump cultists could be enough to win elections, particularly with the anti-democratic Electoral College rules..

So ultimately, one has to make a choice. There was a very powerful and memorable song from the ’60s, “The Great Mandala (The Wheel of Life)” by Peter, Paul and Mary. The refrain was, “Take your place on the great mandala/ As it moves through your brief moment of time/ Win or lose now, you must choose now/ And if you lose, you’re only losing your life.”

You do have to choose. That song was about a fictional person who did not want to fight in the Vietnam War, and decided to go on a hunger strike after being thrown in prison, where he died; and those in charge of things, blamed him, and said, “We are free now/ We’re not guilty.”This choice is not as intense as that one, perhaps, but it is every bit as important. Those Republicans who watch the ship go down when they possibly could have saved it, but just couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of the mad captain and officers who were steering it, are a lot less moral and intelligent than they consider themselves to be.

Wolverines

I read The Premoniton by Michael Lewis last weekend.

Ok, I don’t mean to put myself in the same category as the problem solvers, thought experimenters and out of the box thinkers that Lewis describes in his book but I will point to this post I made on January 24, 2020. By the time I wrote this, I had been checking out the JHU tracker for about a week:

And the government’s plan is… what, exactly?

Posted on January 24, 2020 by riverdaughter | Edit

We may have a Plague scenario developing:

Some of us have or may still have compromised immune systems. This s}#% isn’t funny. 

Luckily, I bought masks last year with a virus barrier layer. That won’t help much if we should all wear spacesuits. 

Normally, I wouldn’t get freaked out about this but we have a contagious illness with human to human transmission. It’s viral and we have no drugs or vaccines for it. It started in a densely populated area of a densely populated country and it’s a holiday season there. It’s spreading to other countries. 

I’d like to know what Trump’s plan is to combat this. I mean in coherent sentences and where he can answer questions that indicate he understands cause, effect and the consequences of inaction. 

He’s been gutting science in government so I’m concerned that we may be under resourced. 

Commence the “la-la-la, we can’t HEAR you!” response from the Republicans with a death grip on our health agencies. 

As Schiff asked, can we reasonably expect that Trump will do something in our interest and not simply his own?

The reason I was thinking about this is because I had been to Ontario on MLK weekend and when I came back, I saw that there were two cases reported in Toronto and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I wondered how close I got to them as I passed through a food court on the outskirts of Toronto on the way home.

Maybe it was just coincidence. But I can’t explain why my attention was so riveted on coronavirus back then. The news reports were only just starting. Even weirder was Trump’s response was about as underwhelming and irresponsible as I predicted. And our scientific infrastructure found it difficult to rise to the occasion.

Lewis’s book is all about the people who were initially tasked with coming up with a pandemic response back in the day when George W. Bush read about the 1918 Flu pandemic while he was on vacation. I hate to give Bush credit for anything. It’s not that he never did anything good. It’s that it was all negated by the tsunami of bad.

The wolverines consisted of former members of that pandemic task force (remember, they were disbanded by John Bolton) who came up with the social distancing concepts that we have relied on during this pandemic. Chief among the wolverines was an ICU doctor named Carter Mecher who appears to be a wizard at design thinking. He had planned school closing scenarios and safety net enhancements back in 2007.

But it was California’s Assistant Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean who took some of those ideas and created the public health pandemic plan and region codes we see today. Dean might be pleased to know that Pennsylvania adopted her plan. So did many countries around the world.

What I learned from this book is that the parts of the world that followed Mecher and Dean’s recommendations fared far better at controlling the pandemic within their borders than we did. The blame for that underperformance lies with the politicization of the CDC over 40 years and the lack of presidential leadership during the Obama and Trump years. Undermining our governmental agencies hit its apex during Trump but we might not have known how seriously our CDC and pandemic response was compromised if we hadn’t had Covid.

Now we know.

As for Charity Dean, the world owes her a medal. Her background is very similar to mine except for that whole MD thing. It probably helped that she wasn’t shifted around the country to a zillion schools in her youth. She managed to snag a scholarship to college that was intended for underprivileged kids. I’m not saying I’m bitter or anything but when you’re poor and your family is dead set against you getting a college education, it helps if someone takes notice and gives you a scholarship so you don’t have to work til 2am closing the restaurant you just worked a shift at instead of studying.

Let that be a lesson to all of us. You never know what a poor kid is capable of until you give them the opportunity to get a stress free college education.

Anyway, The Premonition is a unputdownable read. Highly recommended.

Republican Cowards

The House Republicans removed Liz Cheney from her position by secret voice vote. No open vote, no secret ballot. This comes from a source close to Cheney, via Chris Jansing of MSNBC.

The reason they did that is of course to hide how they voted. They don’t even have the courage of their radical fascistic convictions. They are doing the right thing, they proclaim. But they don’t want anyone to know who voted for it. This way they will say, oh, it was a rousing voice vote; many, many people were for it, hardly any dissent at all. Their only concerns were, 1) Getting Cheney out of power in the House; 2) Making sure that no one could run against any of them based on their vote, since there is no recorded vote.

One has scarcely ever seen anything like this kind of totalitarianism in American history. Well, come to think of it, the HUAC hearings in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s were comparable. The Republicans canceled the careers of many brilliant and talented people in their crusade to “get Communism out of Hollywood.”

The Republicans have a mission, and it is fascism, though they of course never would call it that. McCarthy, spokesperson for fascism, said yesterday that his party was for openness and expression of opinions, not like those “Cancel Culture” Democrats. Oh, yes, they certainly allowed Cheney to express her views, until they purged her, in a Stalinistic way.

They canceled Cheney. They will cancel anyone or anything who stands in their way, while they follow Goebbels’ dictum to always accuse your enemies of what you are doing.

No one should ever use the acronym “GOP” to refer to Republicans. That stands for “Grand Old Party,” and it is completely inapposite to put the word “Grand” anywhere near them.

I wish more Democrats would openly call them fascists. They certainly use the “socialist” label when referring to Democrats. Why are Democrats so cautious about labeling them? All the Republicans want to do is to try to make the Democratic Party seem so dangerous, that people will vote for Republicans, to avoid the horrors of “socialism” and “cancel culture,” which of course was chosen to seem like some kind of “liquidating” from the spy or gangster movies. So do not be afraid to call Republicans what they are. It might wake a few people up.

“Instead of the cross, the Albatross/About my neck was hung.” That is from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s extraordinary poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Liz Cheney may turn out to be the albatross for Republicans, at least if there are still enough people who are capable of understanding and reacting to it. The poem also says, “He prayeth best who loveth best/All things both great and small.” Republicans love nothing but themselves, their power, and their money. It is too bad that none of them ever read the Romantic poets, but they wouldn’t understand any of it, anyway.

To Tell the Truth

The words “truth” and “lies” are ones we all know from an early age. Even so, cultures have struggled with the concepts. “What is truth?” “Is there a metaphysical truth, or is it phenomenological, dependent on how one sees the world?” “What about ‘white lies'”? And so on.

I read a book in graduate school about this topic, written by a female academic, but I can’t remember the name of her or the book. It was written in a non-academic style and easily readable, but ultimately I thought that it did not really delve deeply enough into the complexity of it. But maybe that is the problem at the outset. She seemed to rely on an argument that lying is bad in itself, a selfish putting of one’s own needs ahead of someone else’s, and didn’t want to brook any excuses.

I love topics like this, they get to the heart of the human condition. But indeed, one could write many books on it. Is it ever morally acceptable to lie? About what, and when? Of course, this kind of question presupposes a wish to be moral, a concern about what is morally right and wrong. Some people just do not have it.

Why they don’t, is another subject for books. Are they born that way? Do they get it from early childhood development? Do they learn it from interactions with fellow children or adults? Do they at some point consciously or unconsciously decide that they can get more of what they value in life by lying when it suits them? Are there some people who literally are so wrapped up in lies, that they cannot discern lies from truth?

So much has been written about Donald Trump, who lies about everything. It is about 95% likely that any sentence which comes out of his mouth is either a partial lie or a complete lie. How the media has allowed this, in not just announcing to its listeners that Trump is LYING (not misstating, or saying something controversial) is a disgrace, and a horrible danger to democracy. Newspapers like the NYT have contorted themselves to not use the words “lie” or “lying.” But that is what he does.

So he lied when he ran, he lied when he was President, he lies now. I have no idea whether he knows it or not. I think that his view of the world, such as it is, is so transactional, that he just says what he thinks will help him get the pleasures he wants. Truth vs. falsity is not in the equation for him. It is beyond weird and unsettling, but there he is.

And Trump’s amorality and conning has seeped down into the rest of the Republicans in office, and to his voters. But we should not give him all of the perverse credit for this. It has to have been at least inchoate in the natures of these people, because they do it so easily. Al Franken wrote his book about lying liars a few decades ago, before Trump was doing it on a national scale. These Republicans lie and lie, and revel in it. And their followers love to be lied to, and told this fantasy story in which they are the heroes, fighting against evil forces who want to tell them what reality is.

The lies told by Republican officials seem to grow exponentially in number and scope. Elise Stefanik, soon to be #3 in the House Republican leadership, says that 140,000 ballots in Fulton County, Georgia, were illegal. She might have said that they were flown in by bats who dropped them onto the desks, after having forged the signatures of humans. There is as much chance of one or the other, they are both beyond ludicrous. But she says it as easily as someone might tell you what they had for breakfast

This is a woman who went to Harvard, whatever that means now, and she says this. Does she believe it? If so, she is insane. Did she just repeat what some other insane person told her? That would make her utterly irresponsible. Or, and probably most likely, did she just say whatever she felt best suited her political needs, and that of her Republican Party?

Charles Grassley says that it is good to have the Cyber Ninjas conduct their own recount in Maricopa Country, Arizona. It is interesting that neither he or anyone else has called for a recount in any state which Trump won. Apparently we are never going to have any election where Democrats win. Either Republicans win, or it is a fraudulent election. The ultimate extension of sociopathy. The world view of dictators and psychotic tyrants from the onset of human history.

This is what seems to be going on. Republicans like Stefanik and McCarthy and Graham and Cruz and many others, just say whatever they think helps them. The actual truth or untruth of it is something that is not within their internal framework. “Might Makes Right” is a very unsettling rationale for power. This is “Winning Makes Right.” If you win, all the lying is worth it. And this is the rationale and process of every single Republican, with the very few and desperately needed exceptions of Liz Cheney, Barbara Comstock, and a couple of others.

Is this kind of mentality coming from the Russians? Totalitarian states, not just Russia, have long thrived on lying about everything. Russian propaganda is essentially to deny the existence of any truths; hence the Kellyanne Conway statement about “alternative facts.” Anything you say might or might not be true; who can know or care? This of course not only countenances lying, it also elevates the most ignorant person to the same level as the scientist or historian. It’s all just made-up stuff, anyway, right? The perfect refuge for stupid and willfully ignorant people.

Democracies need a moral foundation of some sort. Right vs Wrong, Good vs Evil, Facts vs Lies. Have the Republicans decided to completely abandon all of this and just lie and lie, more each day? They obviously think that this will help them in their only goal, which is winning elections and maintaining permanent power. Do they just rationalize to themselves, that once they win the Congress and then the Presidency, it will have been worth it, no harm done?

But there is immense and lasting harm in what they are doing. The chaos which they are creating will consume them and everyone else. If there is no right and wrong, no truth, no lies, just opportunism, then no one can believe any of it, or listen to anyone. As bad as I have seen Republicans be for decades, this is an entirely new level of depravity that they are wallowing in. And they can’t just climb out of it when they think they want to. They are the depravity now, there is no separation between it and them.

Fruit Season

It was nice to see that the weekend fruit markets were quite busy. Everyone is required to wear masks there. But, without being too upbeat about it, it does feel as if there are more good spirits there now, than there were in the bleak times last year.

I love summer fruits. Plums are my favorite, although it does depend on the variety. There are no plums out yet. The first peaches I got last week were not good, but the ones I got yesterday are not bad at all. And there were even apricots, quite good. You have to choose carefully as regard to farms; some are just better than others in how they grow and tend the fruits.

One concern is that the number of family owned farms is decreasing. Some of the legendary farmers of twenty years ago, have retired. Sometimes the adult children take over, but some of them do not want to farm, and the farms are sold. What we do not want are those large farms where the fruit is bland. But they sell a lot, and I don’t really know why.

One of the better farmers who had many varieties of peaches, finally decided to sell his farm a few years ago. The person who bought it, kept t going for a couple of years, but didn’t really want to do it, and was looking for a way to make more money off the property. The woman who was running the fruit market part of it, who is very smart and nice, tried to save it, though she did not have the money. It was far too much for me or any few people to buy the farm. Finally, the “farmer” cut down all the trees, which is an awful thought in itself, all those lovely trees. First I heard that he was going to sell pistachios worldwide, then that he is just going to sell the land for development. This is the kind of thing that should not happen. It takes at least five years for a peach tree to grow, and then one has to have the land, the love of farming, and the ability to make a living at it.

There are going to be less choices this year, but there are still a few good farms, family owned. I am told that it will be a good crop of red beaut plums, which are just about my favorite, with a fresh and clean taste. Most varieties of summer fruits are only on trees for a few weeks, and then there is another variety which comes to the fore.There was a legendary farmer, Art Lang, who had a PHD in biology, and developed better systems for growing fruits. He retired some years ago, though, and his son had no interest in farming, wanted to surf. His farm, Honeycrisp Farm, had so many wonderful varieties of plums, and no one else has nearly as many now.

I am one of the few people who go to fruit markets, who does not look for soft peaches. I like fruit that is firm and rather crunchy, though with flavor. The sellers are always saying to their customers,”Just leave them on the counter for a few days,” but I want to immediately put them in the refrigerator to stay firm as long as possible. It requires some fast eating, but it is the best snack I can imagine, to have a few peaches and plums.

Right now it is cherry season, and there are many varieties. The prices have gone up, which is rather understandable, after last year’s season when most of the fruit markets were closed or limited for a few months. My favorite varieties of cherries are Sequoias, Brooks (but only if they are from the best cherry growing farm there), and Bing. Cherry season here only runs from early May until early June, so one has to take advantage of it while one can. The entire summer fruit season essentially ends in late August and early September, so one has to gather one’s fruits while one may, to paraphrase the Cavalier poet Robert Herrick.

And then there is berry season, which is even shorter, but rewarding. Boysenberries are my all-time favorite, though few grow them. There was one great farm where that is almost all they grew; and it went through generations, but the son got married, and decided he wanted to do something else with his life. Supposedly a younger daughter was going to try to make a go of it, but I have heard nothing as to whether they are going to go to fruit markets, they didn’t last year. So it gets more difficult, but there still are a couple of farms which grow berries.

I hope that you live in a place where they have fresh summer fruits and fruit markets. They are happy places, almost everyone is cheerful. People get there early, including those who represent famous restaurants, who buy large quantities of the fruit, which is not ideal, because they then use it to make $40 desserts for Hollywood types. I have run into Wolfgang Puck at fruit markets, but never had a reason to talk to him. I am told that he only goes there to shop for his family, not his restaurants, which is how it should be.

A Few More “Ghost” Quizzes For You

People seemed to enjoy the last game. So I’ll put a few more up, to mull over. I don’t know how many more of these I can think of, because I am trying to come up with situations where it looks like the opponent has put you in a difficult position, but there is a way to turn it to your advantage. And there probably are not that many such examples of letter sequences, bur it’s fun to try to think of them.

Just a response to the issue of “foreign words.” There is no rulebook for “Ghost.” There are no formal competitions, like for Scrabble or Bridge, where there are rules, and even officials to settle disputes. Ghost is a game which I played with my parents, and then with friends; and I think I also read about it in a book or magazine as a boy. So one can play it as one wishes, but for the game to be the most fun, I think it should be limited to commonly used words in America, even if they are sometimes esoteric, or originated from a foreign country, as almost all of them did.

Use only American spellings, or you will have people adding a “u” to HONO, to turn honor into honour. No suffixes or plurals. No slang. This is not snobbery or parochialism, it is just that you want as few disputes as possible, or the game can be spoiled. Interestingly, my parents and I rarely argued about whether a word was valid or not, we just seemed to agree on the basic rules. It’s actually a fun game, not unwieldy, moves right along.

Here are some challenges to try. Again, I thought of these, I did not research sequences or use a dictionary, that would not be right. So ideally you should not, either!

  1. He starts with S. You say Y, for SY. He says L, for SYL. You respond with?
  2. You start with S. He says T, for ST. You say Y for STY. He says L, for STYL. You…?
  3. You start with G. He says R, for GR. You say A, for GRA. He comes back with V, for GRAV. Do you have a winning play? Yes, I would not have asked if you did not!
  4. He starts with M. You say O, for MO. He says R, for MOR. You say…? There may be more than one answer to this, but I have picked the only one I can think of which looks like a sure winner.
  5. You start with C. He says R, for CR. You say A, for CRA. He says V, for CRAV. What do you do?

Answers below

  1. You say P, thinking of Sylph
  2. You say U, thinking of Stylus
  3. You say A, thinking of Gravamen, a word often used in legal arguments or decisions
  4. You say D, thinking of Mordant
  5. You say A, thinking of Cravat

The Devolution of the Republican Party

When Joe Biden was running for President, he was described as saying that he thought that the Trump era was an aberration, and that “the fever would break” after he was defeated.

Other people, writers, pundits, had felt that as well. It was probably at least partly due to the mind’s protection from the concept that the Republican Party and its leaders could be so awful; so that it had to be because of Trump; and that once he went away, some of the awfulness would go away. But it has not, it is even getting worse.

When I first started following politics with my parents, who would likely have described themselves as FDR and Adlai Stevenson liberals, the Republicans were essentially the party of the wealthy. Not all people who voted Republican were rich, of course, but that is the group which ran it. That was the theme which ran through the various periods and threads. Republicans were a party which, at least from 1870 on, tried to enact policies which would help the rich keep their money, and get richer. There were exceptions such as “trust-busting” Theodore Roosevelt, but the people who ran the party did not intend for him to become President.

Republicans mostly fought for laissez-faire capitalism. “The business of America is business,” as Calvin Coolidge said. Their foreign policy was basically isolationism. They hated Bolsheviks, because they were at least theoretically against a monied elite. They hated Socialists, too, because they offered a more democratic and less violent alternative, but were also against the amassing of immense wealth. Republicans, particularly as embodied in the Hearst media empire, took to calling any Democrat they didn’t like, a “socialist.”

Republicans mostly did not want us to enter WWII, largely because they wanted to keep making deals with German businesses, so they argued that we should stay out of Europe’s affairs,; until Japan bombed us. After the war, Republicans developed an agenda which combined business power and wealth with hatred of Russia, and Cold War “brinkmanship.” They would contend that Democrats were “soft on communism.” Calling Democrats “soft” or “weak,” as compared to the manly and tough-minded Republicans, morphed into various aspects, over the years, and brought Republicans the electoral success that they never would have gotten through their economic policies. After the Great Depression, there were not all that many people who were going to put their faith in big business looking out for them, so they needed the distractions.

So Nixon became the master of “Red-baiting.” Joe McCarthy terrorized anyone who had ever gone to a Communist Party meeting in the ’30’s, or had written or directed a pro-labor, anti-corporate movie.

Then it moved to the era of the Vietnam War, where Republicans took for themselves the mantle of “fighting Communism everywhere,” warning about the “domino theory” where if we abandoned Vietnam, the Communists would take over Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia. They portrayed Democrats as being soft, particularly in view of the fact that there were growing protests against the undeclared war in Vietnam.

The protests gave Republicans a new route, “law and order.” Part of this went with the segregationists in the ’50’s and ’60’s, part of it was hatred of the youth culture, “hippies,” people burning replicas of flags. Nixon and Agnew talked about “the silent majority,” and most unfortunately, they were right; there were many people in the Midwest who hated the protests, who felt that people who protested the war were unpatriotic, even treasonous.

So Nixon won twice, and hen after a four-year aberration because of Watergate, Republicans used the two lines of attack of anti-Communism and law and order, to usher in their third great era (the first two were the Gilded Age, and the period of unfettered laissez-faire of 1920-1932), that of Reagan, who was a syrupy-voiced former actor and spokesman for General Electric, who, with his multimillionaire backers, mastered the art of reciting simple platitudes, buoyed by the lofty but essentially meaningless words of Peggy Noonan. The press adored Reagan’s “ability to focus on one or two simple statements of policy,” as opposed to Democrats discussing issues in complex fashion.

At that point, and with GHW Bush’s win in 1988, Republicans believed that they had a lock on the Presidency, that they had convinced the public that Democrats were a bunch of East Coast eggheads who were soft on crime, soft on Communism, soft on law and order, soft on attacking the ‘welfare state.” They also made abortion a major issue, to fire up their base.

But Bill Clinton turned that around. And they hated him for it; and his brilliant wife Hillary, too, and even their daughter Chelsea. But Republicans rallied back with another Bush, with the help of a corrupt Florida governor, his brother; and a corrupt Florida secretary of state who was told to delay the mandated vote recount, until the Supreme Court could step in. Bush’s version of naked capitalism did not work well, so even though Republicans had found a new “soft” theme, Democrats were “soft on terrorism,” they lost the 2008 election, because they had wrecked the economy again.

We got Obama, when we should have gotten Hillary; and this blog has discussed from the outset, how he was unprepared or even unwilling to fight the ever more radical, vicious and unscrupulous “New Republicans,” who simply bore no relation to the Republicans of the 1960’s, who were not good, but not thoroughly evil.

So then the Republicans, having devolved to a party which had no standards or ethics, actually got to the circle of hell where they enlisted the help of Russia, to defeat the Democrats. At that point, they had lost any flimsy pretense to scruples or ideology; they only had an a insatiable appetite to win, no matter by what means. They just look for culture issues to rile up their base. They simply want to get their people to vote against Democrats out of hatred, not because of any actual policy matters. And now, greatly fearing that it will not be enough to win, they have resorted to trying to take the vote away from people who would vote against them, to a sufficient extent so that they could rule forever.

And then of course they would, as they always do, revert to their economic social darwinism, robbing from the middle class and poor, to give more wealth to the rich. That has now been combined with the worst aspects of White Supremacy, anti-abortion fervor, hatred of science, professors, the media, anyone who threatens their perverted world view.

The Republican Party has steadily devolved from a party which was able to convince non-rich people to vote against their economic interests, by distracting or misdirecting them with “cultural issues,” into one which promises to protect them from any facts or knowledge which will upset them, or permeate the relentless brainwashing which they need to keep them in line.

Even in previous times of Republican political ascendancy, there had always been some Republicans in office who held moderate views, and who were decent people. They were never the majority of them, but they acted as a counterbalance, and could at times allow for compromise proposals to become law. But those days are gone, and whatever small remnants are left of them are being systematically purged. They have lost whatever semblance of respect one might have had for a few of them in past decades. They have just about gotten to the point where they are all the same. They are not men, they are Devo.

Modi Operandi and the misleading promise of patent relief

India has always had a Covid pandemic crisis. They’ve just been successful until now at covering it up. Here’s part of the reason why:

When I heard that millions of workers were returning to their villages from the cities last year, I thought it was only going to make the pandemic worse. When you have a disease as catchy as Covid running loose, the very LAST thing you want is people moving around. Ideally, you want them to not move at all like players in a game of Spud.

We’ve known that India has been fudging its numbers from the beginning. It’s also a country of 1.3 billion people and a very underfinanced public sector. Check the video above if you want to get a reason why.

Modi’s government has exacerbated the conditions that have made the pandemic explode and is endangering the rest of the world with potentially more lethal escape variants. Modi is a Trump-esque politician who whips up nationalism and disunity between Hindus and Muslims. Take the Republican “if you’re poor and needy it must be because you didn’t do x,y, z and deserve your fate” meme and paste it on a country with a strong residual caste system and you have hundreds of millions of people whose plight is ignored while the upper classes walk around thinking they are immune.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

It’s been made worse by Modi’s Trump style rallies and the government’s encouragement of unregulated Hindu religious festivals where millions gather at the Ganges, completely ignoring social distancing rules as they go down to the river to pray.

Now, we in the US have pressured pharma to give up their patents. And given the nature of the global emergency, this is the right thing to do. It would be the equivalent of forking over the polio vaccine patent. It’s ethical and presumably, the companies have already gotten phenomenally wealthy by now from the government contracts of developing countries. If I were Biden, I’d make sure a healthy chunk of that went in to hiring more researchers but more likely, the CEOs will take the money and run. Who needs scientists, right?

And that’s part of the problem with India. India has a pharmaceutical sector of its own. It has its own brands plus it has benefitted mightily from the US offshoring a lot of research. Maybe it was not high level research but more like contractors supplying parts for drugs and other biologicals for US research companies but India *does* have the brainpower, facilities and probably the raw materials to do their own vaccine research. They shouldn’t feel obligated to just be the hired help for the wealthy.

The question is why didn’t it do it? Why didn’t Modi’s government mobilize its pharma sector? Vaccine research isn’t a new thing. There’s no reason why Indian scientists couldn’t have whipped up an adenovirus vaccine. In fact, I think they do have a home grown version.

But they didn’t plan on vaccinating hundreds of millions of people, especially poor people. So, the government didn’t throw its resources behind vaccine production. Instead, it relied on covering up Covid infections and propaganda and misdirection.

Giving Modi’s government the patents and raw materials that they didn’t seem to feel necessary to get by themselves is not going to solve their problem. In fact, there *is* no solution to the problem in India right now. It will take more time than they’ve got to vaccinate a country that size to herd immunity status because they have to overcome the logistics of ramping up production and distribution. India’s Covid crisis is going to have to burn itself out and hopefully stay within its borders.

What India has is a sociopathic government and an irresponsible electorate that has been encouraged to turn to religion in this crisis.

This could have happened to us if Donald Trump hadn’t been defeated by millions of voters in the US. We’re still not out of the woods. But India should be the focus of our news programs to show how disastrously bad it could have gone. Instead, the Fox News addict will be discouraged from getting vaccinated by misleading and sensational stories. Or they’ll be distracted and outraged over the stupid fantasy story of Biden forcing us to become vegetarians. In a way, a significant portion of the American public has been lulled into a state of false security abs complacency because once Trump was out of the way, our public sector was able to do what India didn’t.

More people should be aware of that. More pictures of rickshaw ambulances and crematoriums running out of fuel to burn bodies need to be shown. More secret footage of India’s collapsed healthcare system, overflowing hospitals, patients on makeshift beds on the floor gasping for air. More pictures of religious devotees bathing in the river. More video of political rallies. More time lapse graphics of the spread. More and more and more.

Everything else in the news is a distraction. There but for the grace of the US electoral system in 2020 go we.

Climbing the water tower to defend Liz Cheney’s honor?

How did it come to this? Normally, I find everything about Liz Cheney’s politics to be utterly repulsive. But she’s living in the same reality as me. So, is defending her limited to defending a shared reality? If so, I’ll go with it. It’s definitely not an endorsement of ANYTHING she stands for otherwise.

There will be a vote soon on whether she can keep her number 3 spot in the House Republican leadership. Republicans have a choice. They can stop acting like creepy fascist insurgents with a fanatical devotion to the principles of Joseph Goebbels or they can embrace reality and be the same execrable skinflints and Scrooge’s that they have become globally infamous for.

They get what they want in either case. It’s just that with the former, civil war and loss of democracy starts to be more of a possibility.

On the other hand, if throwing her out increases the likelihood that she and likeminded Republicans leave the party to become the party of Conservative Libertarian Independent Titans, I have no problem with that. It doesn’t give Democrats one tiny advantage in Congress except for the entertainment value of watching Republican factions fight amongst themselves.

As well as proposing no new policies or getting anything done until the rest of the party acknowledges simple sh*t like gravity, moon landings and that Trump LOST the election because as a candidate, he got fewer votes than his opponent.

So, you know, there’s that.

Here ya’ go, Liz. Stick to the truth and do the right thing. For once.

************

Unpacking why Liz Cheney must be sidelined, here is Joseph Goebbels’ definition of The Big Lie, how it works and what can terminate it:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Dissent can be repressed at the voting booth. Check.

Truth can be repressed by stuffing a sock in the mouth of anyone with enough power to oppose it, like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. Check.

The consequences of the Big Lie are pending.

The other tactic the Trump faction uses is High Conflict. That is, divide us and keep us at each others’ throats. Does this sound familiar?:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Want to take a guess as to who operated by these rules?