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      I actually appreciate this, from the HSBC AM Global Head of Responsible Investing, Stuart Kirk: “At a big bank like ours, what do people think the average loan length is?” he asked. “It is six years. What happens to the planet in year seven is actually irrelevant to our loan book. For coal, what happens in year seven is actually irrelevant.” That’s honesty. […]
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Donald Trump and His Followers, Finally Unmasked?

So we find out that President Trump was literally a madman, the most dangerous one on the planet. We always sensed it; one does not have to be an expert psychologist to have done so. Incoherent ramblings, the absolute incapacity to tell the truth; the fury, the bellicose rhetoric, calling people names. Some of these characteristics are worse than others, but all are bad, particularly in the person who is in control of the country. And we all knew it years ago, at least as far back as 2015; and for others close to him, far back into his past.

The crucial point is, how did this person get anywhere close to the presidency? In past eras, the party system weeded them out. We had bad candidates, and some bad people, but not a raving lunatic. So how did this happen?

Well, there could be a ten-volume series about this. But to try to crystallize it, it is because of the almost total devolution of the Republican Party, a process which was always in progress, but really accelerated about the time of Gingrich, DeLay and Armey in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and then the Tea Party in 2010 and beyond. The Republicans turned into a party of anger, bellicosity, trying to win at all costs,; bringing down the hammer on Democrats, never ceding an inch to them. Cheating in elections, trying to stop people from voting, demanding that the right to abortion be taken away. Networks which preached, and tried to convert others to, a doctrine of racism, contempt for the disadvantaged, stealing money from anyone they could; lying at all turns, threatening in all contexts; buying a new gun any time they felt upset or impotent, and not caring how many people got shot by their gun-hoarding disciples.

Do you notice how many Republicans in office, not to mention those on the radio or TV shows, local or national, are full of absolute anger, and appear ready to strike or even kill anyone who disagrees with them? Remember Greg Gianforte, running for Congress in Montana, body-slamming a reporter? Paul Lepage of Maine screaming obscenities at the press? Corey Lewandowski accused of battery for grabbing a female reporter and bruising her? I am sure that there are other examples. Republicans, mostly men, of course, out of control, physically assaulting people they disagree with, or who bother them.

How are so many of these people not only Republicans, but actual officeholders representing that party? One assumes it is because their voters do not care a bit, and that they revel in these people doing what they would like to do to people they do not like, or who infuriate them by passing laws, they are taught not to want, or requiring adherence to health and safety rules.

How many people trying to enforce rules about masks have been shot and even killed by Republicans who not only cannot accept anyone having different views than they have. but actually want to murder them? Although they would not call it murder, they would call it standing up for their rights, or the pursuit of liberty. These seem to be people with an urge to kill. All those “stand your ground laws” which proliferated in various states, were essentially a license to do what these people wanted, which is to kill anyone who annoys them in some fashion.

This all didn’t just come out of nowhere. Donald Trump didn’t create these people, they were already there. They loved him, and still do, because he talks the way they like to talk, and gives them license to kill people at political events and marches, try to assassinate the governor of Michigan, storm the Capitol Building with weapons intended to kill political leaders of the other party. Trump praises them, says he loves them. This is what they have been looking for all their lives, someone who understands and encourages them to hate and attack, and even kill. That is why they veritably worship him, as the brownshirts worshipped Hitler.

Now Trump is not really one of them. He has contempt for them, as he has contempt for almost anyone who is not extremely wealthy, or who can pour money into his coffers. But he will use them as his weapons, and also to fill the absolute void at his center. Brutal strong men have always had followers who would kill for them What the followers get out of it, is a sense of purpose, of thinking they are being praised and even loved by the leader, who has chosen them above all the other people that they hate and feel inferior to. It is a perverse symbiotic relationship which recurs in various eras and cultures. It is really nothing new, but the human race should have progressed past it, but obviously cannot. Tyrants offer their followers escape from freedom, from having to make choices, or achieve something in their life. Freedom from what the 19th century sociologist Emile Durkheim called “anomie,” a sense of not belonging, an alienation and rootlessness.

Trump has not one admirable or even creditable characteristic. He has no friends, he never did. He welshes on all debts. He tries to ruin the lives of other people for fun. He is utterly sociopathic. He is also very stupid, but with the cunning to be able to cheat and con people who are as stupid as he is. So they all fit well together.

And then the people who should have been able to have stopped him, did not. These are the Republicans, many holding high office. Some of them ran against him, but quickly fell over themselves to support him, This is because, since all Republicans have devolved to only care about gaining more money and power, Trump was welcomed as someone who could give it to them. And they feared his mob of followers, who would vote against anyone who would not fall in line. And almost none of them possessed the courage or decency to stand up and tell the people how absolutely dangerous Trump was and is.

And we saw the kind of slavish obedience which we imagined existed in the days of ancient empires. Anything Trump did, they defended, said it was nothing, or that he would learn from his mistakes. They have evinced levels of cravenness and obsequiousness that one could scarcely imagine. I don’t even know what goes through their heads, how they rationalize it.

Marco Rubio, who is about as pathetic a political person as one could imagine, the kind of person you might see in a social drama movie, obediently trotting along behind the bad boy whom he so desperately wants to be like, actually wanted to blame General Milley for perhaps trying to stop Trump from starting a world war which would wipe out most of the human race. Were Hitler’s enablers in Germany any different than Rubio? Does he not care about killing billions of people? If Rubio were in Nazi Germany, he would eagerly turn on the gas in the camps, and then say that he was just following orders. And yet people in Florida keep voting for him, because they have been taught to hate liberals more than Nazis. Some think Rubio is sort of pathetically amusing. I think he is horrifying. And he is not the only one.

And all those people in Trump’s Cabinet, why did they not stand up to him, when he was trying to extort world leaders, trying to overturn the results of he election, goading his mob to kill Democratic officials; and, if we are to believe the book by Woodward and Costa, attempting to attack China, possibly with nuclear weapons, so that he could stay in power as a dictator, undoubtedly living in some bunker below. Or maybe he just wanted to have his own cataclysm, his final Eff You to the world, blowing up everything around him. Insane men sometimes kill the rest of their family before committing suicide, or go to a public event with assault weapons, and try to kill as many people as they can before their suicide by cop. Was that what Trump was about to do? And now the insane patriarch who runs Fox News tells his underlings to call Milley a traitor for not letting Trump blow up the world? What kind of science fiction horror movie have we entered into?

And where has the media been in all of this? Covering the endless “horse race?” Reveling in the access which Trump would dole out to the ones who would parrot what he told them, and what they proudly would call “a source close to the President”? Feeling so important that Trump chose them to talk to? Doing their frat boy and sorority girl thing of mocking Hilary, writing inanities like “Hillary the Hawk, Trump the Dove,” or “Trump is wicked, but he’s wicked smart,” and then gleefully following Hillary around to laugh at her some more?

All a fun game, where they get to feel important, too? Their bosses telling them not to call Trump a liar, to try to always make it a “both sides” narrative? Where was their courage? Why did almost none of them speak or write forcefully when it mattered? Is everyone’s career and gratuities, and the illusion of being a big man or woman, so overwhelmingly important, that they would sell their soul and the lives of their fellow Americans for it? Is Trump’s utter contempt for everyone, his mafia-styled belief that everyone is corrupt and stupid and has a price, actually well founded?

The way out of this, if there is one, is to realize how dreadful the Republican leaders are, and that Democrats cannot trust them on anything, much less protecting the health and welfare of American citizens, or even those anywhere in the world. Trump may never run again, or maybe he will, and maybe the Republicans will eagerly support him again. But even if he doesn’t, how much better are Abbott and DeSantis and Kevin McCarthy and Pence and Cruz and Hawley and the others? Not very much. They may not be clinically insane like Trump, but most of them are sociopaths, cruel and angry people who want total power to force everyone else to submit to them.

This is what the Republicans now “offer” to the citizens of this country. Trump was a horrible manifestation of it, but we cannot be foolish enough to think that he and the Republican Party are not both exemplifications of each other Will enough people finally wake up to the reality of what Trump always was, and is? And that what Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and Tim O’Brien, and David.Cay Johnston and Mary Trump always said about him, was the real truth, and maybe worse than even they had imagined? If not now, at last, then never. In most of the great novels, the progress is ultimately toward the light, towards insight and realization and epiphany. It is long past time for it, with regard to the truth about Trump and his enablers.

Do Political Polls Have Value? Or Do They Not? Choose One

It was very good news that Governor Newsom of California defeated the Recall attempt, and also great news that he did it in overwhelming fashion. I was very worried about this vote, at least five weeks ago, when the first poll in a while, conducted by Survey USA, showed a turnaround from earlier polls by other pollsters, which had Newsom about ten points ahead. SUSA’s poll had the Recall winning by about six percent, something like 51-45%

Much was made of this poll by other media. I certainly reacted to it. I had seen Grey Davis lose his lead against the Recall, and lose rather substantially to Arnold Schwarzenegger. I knew that it could happen again. I knew that Republicans would likely have a greater voting enthusiasm than Democrats. This worried me a great deal. Not only would it be a tragedy for the state and nation, I would have to move out of California. I was not going to live in the West Coast version of Florida, and see Larry Elder appoint a Far Right zealot to replace Dianne Feinstein if she had to retire before the next election. And trends are so important in elections, particularly in an expected low turnout election. And if the SUSA poll was accurate, things looked very bad for Newsom, and I wrote that it looked as if he would lose.

Well, he did not lose, he won in a tremendous landslide. He had a lot of campaign funds to spend, and he used them well. He started to lead in polls done a couple of weeks before the election. The last poll I saw about a week before the election had him up about 14%. My worries were allayed, and I was confident, though wary. And as we saw, Newsom is winning by something like 25%, a resounding defeat for Trump, Trumpism, Trumpists, and Republicans in general, who are virtually synonymous with the other three.

But why was the SUSA poll absolutely wrong? Well, it was done a month or so before the election. And there was another one about the same time, showing Newsom ahead by only a few points. So maybe things changed drastically. But there was another poll on Tuesday, an exit poll which showed that only about 8-10% had made up their mind in the last week, the rest already had. Well, if all of those who just decided, voted against the Recall, that would help account for the margin. But even so, it looks like the SUSA poll was not close to accurate. Mark Murphy, not my favorite, but at least not a Trumpist, was a former campaign manager and strategist for Republican Presidents. He said on the night of the election count, that this race was over three month ago. Well, how was Yes on Recall winning in a poll one month ago, unless the poll was very flawed, or Murphy was very wrong?

Now, there were so many polls during the last couple of presidential elections, that they all seem to blur. But I thought that SUSA was a decent polling organization. How could they have Newsom behind by six percent, when a month later he wins by twenty five percent?

There is a mathematical theory behind the validity of polling. I actually learned more about it in my Statistics courses at UCLA Graduate School of Management. I have forgotten some of the details, but the working out of the validity of polls is an elegant mathematical proof. It has to do with what is called the Normal Distribution, and how it predicts with relative accuracy, depending upon the number polled, and the integrity of the sample, the results of the much larger voting numbers. Underlying the entire theory of the accuracy of political polling, is the mathematics which shows that an accurate representative small sample can predict the actual voting outcomes.

Theoretically, the larger the sample, the less is the so-called margin of error, the chance that the poll will not reflect the actual results, were the election held on the days of the polling. As we always hear, a poll is just a snapshot at that particular moment, things can change. And sometimes they do, but that does not give the pollsters an easy out, if their polls ultimately prove inaccurate on election day.

It does seem as if national political polls have become less accurate. I recall that the Gallup Polls used to be very accurate when done a couple of days before a Presidential election. Sometimes they missed a late surge, such as Reagan in 1980, or to a lesser extent, Obama in 2008, but other times they were very accurate, as I believe was the case in 1968, and 1976, 1988, 1992, and a few others.

Now, in 2016, the general belief is that the polls vastly underrated Trump’s vote. But actually, to my great concern, those polls got very tight two days or so before the election, mostly due to James Comey’s unconscionable letter to the Republicans in the House about finding new emails, which was completely untrue, and should relegate him to infamy forever, for effectively putting someone in the Presidency who was a a literal nightmare for the world.

Back to the polls, they showed Hillary up by about 3-4%, and she won by about 2.8% of the popular vote, not enough to win the Electoral College, skewed toward Republicans,, because even the smallest states are given three electoral votes, and California, which should have something like 77 times the electoral votes of Wyoming, has only about 18 times the EVs. That is the true disgrace to our democracy, an inherently biased Electoral College which is biased toward the small, and almost inevitably Republican, states.

In 2020, the presidential polls were further off. Biden was leading by about 8-10% in almost every national poll right up to the election. There might have been one where he was winning by 6-7%.. But he only won by about 4.9%, and once again the bias of the Electoral College almost lost him the Presidency, in a race he won by seven million popular votes. That is terrifying in itself, but it also highlights something wrong with national polling.

The general “explanation” is that the pollsters are systematically underrating the Republican vote. I am not close enough to the data to know why this should be, and why the pollsters have not adjusted. Obviously, a poll is only accurate if it mirrors the actual demographic makeup. If it oversamples Democrats, or does not reflect heretofore non-voters who have become galvanized into voting, the polls are not reliable. At this point, I cannot be confident that they are accurate. I do not need polls, none of us not in the actual campaigns, do. We might be better without hearing them., particularly if they lead to assumptions and expectations which may be misleading or just inaccurate.

Of course, now the pollsters are going to have to weigh the vote suppression tactics of Republicans. We could see polls showing a Democrat in a Senate race be five points ahead, and lose by five points, because many Democrats had their votes not allowed or counted. What a horror that would be. Actually, the Senate polling was poor in 2020, as several races which looked good for Democrats, went four or more percent in the other direction, including North Carolina, and Maine. Why were Democratic voters overpolled? Is it possible that in some cases, there was cheating, or throwing out of votes on the Republican side.? Always accuse your enemies of doing what you are doing,” was said by the figure of pure evil, Joseph Goebbels.

I think we are all sick of internet polls, and also the ones we see which are just there for headlines or propaganda. “Sixty percent of people say they would choose job success over free time.” Those kind of things are so amorphous and subjective (How much success? How little free time?) as to mean nothing. They are a sort of pornography, if one wants to use that term. They draw clicks and viewers. But they lead to assumptions and conclusions which are not valid or warranted, at least by those vague or leading questions.

When I would tell my father about a particular poll in an important election, he would usually say that polls were not accurate. I would try to explain my perception that yes, the polls on subjective matters were flawed and sometimes deliberately intended to obtain a desired result, but that the science behind polling made simple “Which candidate are you voting for?” polls, done by respected pollsters, mostly reliable.. But maybe not even those are accurate now, and he was more right than I had thought.

Polling is not going away,though, and we will hear about new polls every day. Favorability ratings, preferences, most important issues, etc., etc. Who knows how accurate they are? Who can tell if extrapolations and conclusions made from them are warranted? Maybe we should have a moratorium on polling? How many are in favor of that, what are the numbers?

OMFG, we needed a Jaime Lannister after all.

Before I begin, I have some new things on my plate at work. All good but it means I need to spend some time in rapid learning mode. So posts from me might be spotty for a couple of weeks.

Now onto the fireworks.

General Mark Milley had to reassure his counterpart in China that he wasn’t going to let Trump nuke them.

Take that in. Breathe its unsubtle aroma.

This news is coming from Bob Woodward (natch) in his new book Peril.

Here’s the scoop:

One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.

The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Wasn’t that nice. At least we would call them in advance before we blasted Beijing.

Didn’t Mary Trump allude to something like this? Donald can’t tolerate the idea that in some universe in the space time continuum, he loses anything to anyone. It doesn’t happen. Ever. So he’s likely to lash out either from anger or retribution or just because he’s still a brat and a bully and he doesn’t care about people who are not him and may not actually exist anyway.

I know that the Cult of Trump will claim “there was a reason why Trump wanted to plunge us all into a nuclear winter and we just don’t know what it is but if we did, we would see him as the steadfast, patriotic, principled strong guy that would have put the fear of god into all our enemies. Why are we picking on him?? Leave Donald Trump Aloooone!!, you stupid commie liberals. You just wanted China to win because you love socialism blah-blah-blah.”

And anyway, he was only kidding. He wasn’t serious about nuking the Chinese. {{they roll their eyes}}

Wait for it. You know it’s coming. Somehow, they’re going to spin this. Mark Milley was a failure. He’s disgruntled. He begged Trump for a job. He’s a never Trumper. He’s a secret Democrat.

Technically, General Milley didn’t have the power or authority to run interference or prevent Trump from doing whatever he wanted. He was a Jaime Lannister watching the mad king unravel, ready to set the world on fire. If Milley had to override the president without constitutional authority, if he was successful, only Milley’s reputation would suffer.

No one would be around to do a retrospective on the alternate outcome.

Partisan Political Hacks on the Supreme Court

Amy Coney Barrett spoke a few days ago, alongside Mitch McConnell at the McConnell Center in Kentucky. She wanted to assure everyone that the Supreme Court was not composed of “a bunch of partisan hacks.” She said that “They must be hyper-vigilant to not let personal biases creep into their decisions, because judges are people, too.”

The absolute gall and arrogance and partisanship (some might call it irony, but that is too kind a word) of a newly installed Supreme Court Justice who has been championed by the Far Right for years, going to an event alongside the absolutely rigidly partisan Republican Senate Minority Leader, who prevented a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee made by the Democratic President, is beyond astounding. It is absolutely redolent of totalitarianism and religious/political orthodoxy.

That was Barrett speaking to her flock of supporters, alongside the person who put her on the Court. It is very rare for Supreme Court Justices to do public appearances, much less try to rationalize their viewpoints. To show up with McConnell is horrifying.

McConnell praised her at this event, of course he did. He said that “she does not legislate from the bench.” That has been the phrase used by the Right for decades, and they don’t even know what they are saying, but that isn’t the point for them, because for the untutored, it sounds like good policy. “We don’t want judges to legislate, we want them to decide,” is the mantra.

Well, every decision made by a Supreme Court is deciding the law. The Court can throw out legislation which they decide is unconstitutional. Many, including me, think that this is what they are going to do if a voting rights law ever gets through. If we somehow manage to pass a law trying to limit the purchase of assault weapons, the Court will almost certainly find that unconstitutional. Why? Because they want to. That is legislating from the bench, if one wants to use that term. It is deciding that the bill passed by the Congress, and signed into law by the President, shall not be enforced. It is overriding the legislature, hence in so many words, legislating.

That is the role of the Supreme Court, as it evolved from the early days of Chief Justice Marshall, through the centuries. They have given themselves the power to overturn legislation, and also to make rules on their own. How is the decision in “Citizens United” not making a law? This garbage spouted by the likes of McConnell, that somehow it is liberal Justices who legislate, while their Justices just decide, is infuriating, but who in the major media points it out?

During the early days of the FDR presidency, he and the Congress tried to enact major legislation to deal with the ravages of the Depression, and to try to help working people stay afloat, and have some power in the workplace. The Supreme Court, composed almost completely of Justices who were appointed by conservative business-favoring Presidents, kept declaring things like the minimum wage or a 40-hour work week unconstitutional, because they violated what these Justices, dubbed “The Nine Old Men,” termed “the freedom to contract.” That phrase, long used by the oligopolies, meant that if someone was willing to work for 5 cents a week to avoid starvation, he should be allowed to do that. That was the doctrine which exemplified the Gilded Age in America.

FDR and his advisors, utterly frustrated by the Court striking down all the New Deal legislation, tried to add seats to the Court. “Oh, you can’t do that!” said the Republicans, and enough people supported them, to make it impossible to achieve. But apparently various senior members of the Court started to realize how vastly unpopular they were, and so they began to resign, allowing Roosevelt to replace them, and eventually get crucial legislation, supported by a vast majority of Americans, passed into law.

The Supreme Court we have today is even worse than that of The Nine Old Men. It is filled with six Justices appointed by Republican Presidents, and essentially chosen by the Heritage Foundation, which arrogated to itself the ability to determine which appointees would do exactly what they wanted them to do.

It used to be that there was some attempt by Presidents to appoint respected legal minds to the bench. And often we saw that the positions of these Justices evolved over time. Warren and Brennan were appointed by Eisenhower. Blackmun was appointed by Nixon, after Senate Democrats had refused to approve the appointments of Haynsworth and Carswell. GHW Bush appointed Souter. All of these evolved to becoming Supreme Court members who valued important individual rights. That was when the Supreme Court worked, at least as well as it could be expected to. Even Frankfurter, who had been a friend of FDR, eventually became the most Conservative Justice on the Warren Court. The thinking and analysis of the Justices was open to their own philosophies as they emerged.

But Republicans were furious at the Warren Court, and at various Justices appointed by Republicans not following their political orthodoxy, and so a system of appointments was developed where the appointees had established a categorical record of always voting in the way that the Right wanted them to. They were also carefully vetted, and undoubtedly in most cases, met with Republican power brokers to assure their doctrinaire positions. And so the Court became more and more Right-Wing in their rulings, there is no other way to put it. The remaining liberal Justices were left to write dissents excoriating the rulings on legal grounds; but who cared, gloated the Far Right. “We are getting our way. We are making the laws to replace the old ones established by the Court which we hated, when we tried to get Justice Douglas impeached for no other reason than that we hated his positions.”

We know the rest of it; how McConnell is proudest of not even holding a hearing on the nominee put forward by President Obama, and making up some idiocy about how the people should decide–even though of course the Republicans love to declaim about how the Court does not make laws. And then they pushed through Kavanaugh, who is a political hack if ever I saw one; his whole career was working for Republicans, trying to get every bit of prurient information in the Lewinsky matter out to the general public; trying to curtail the right to vote, just as Justice Roberts before him had done, which made him a favorite of the Heritage Foundation. These are all political hacks, and they are meant to be. Kavanaugh was in no way a respected Judge. There is one case where he deliberately delayed a decision on a woman’s abortion rights, so that she would not be able to have the abortion in time. “Partisan hack,” and Kavanaugh, are side by side in the dictionary.

And then of course Barrett herself, appointed and confirmed about two weeks after Justice Ginsburg had died, about three weeks before the Presidential election. What happened to “let the people decide?” Oh, that just disappeared. McConnell even tried to say that because Republicans controlled the Senate, “the people” wanted them to approve the nomination. Lindsey Graham said it was because Democrats were mean to Kavanaugh during his hearings. The bottom line. always the bottom line with Republicans, is that they had the brute power to get Barrett confirmed, and they did.

Barrett was long the ideal of the Far Right; she is a person who recently said that she wants to install God’s kingdom on Earth, whatever that means to a Justice of the Supreme Court. Her history has epitomized the definition of ideologue. She was the final nail in the coffin of a liberal Court, the mocking of the entire concept of a judiciary which values the separation of Church and State as a major tenet, as it was outlined in the Constitution.

So what did Barrett and her Right-Wing colleagues on the Court do? They essentially overturned Roe v. Wade, not by trying to cobble together a bunch of words which mean nothing, but just by not even holding a hearing on a Texas law which outlawed every single abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. They didn’t even have the courage to try to write a decision to be analyzed by legal scholars. They use the newly enhanced (by them) “Shadow Docket,” where the so-called Supreme Court issues emergency rulings without even holding hearings or writing opinions. That is what they have devolved themselves into . Oh, they will eventually write a decision full of words about the Mississippi law attempting to ban all abortions; the decision will not specifically say that they are overturning “Roe v. Wade,” but it will essentially allow it, or so close to it as to be the classic distinction without a difference.

So who told Barrett to go to Kentucky and do an event with McConnell? Somebody did, it certainly was not her idea to go there. This was in the nature of a Trump political rally, where he showed up with his supporters and got the media coverage he craved. I did not see the text of Barretts’s speech, but I am sure that she did not try to explain how refusing to hear the appeal to the Texas law, and writing no opinion, but simply letting the law, a law opposed by a strong majority of even the citizens of Texas, stand, is not political hackery of the utmost degree?

As we know, we are seeing a minority population attempt to take over all the law-making in this country. They can’t get these draconian unpopular laws through the Congress, so they will use the alternative technique of having Radical Right legislatures and governors in various states enact these laws, and then their bought and paid for Supreme Court simply refuse to overturn them as unconstitutional. The Texas law is clearly unconstitutional, as it violates Roe, even with the previous carving away of it done by the Roberts Court. But this Court let it stand.

It gives me a tiny bit of pleasure to see that Barrett is apparently unhappy with the way the Supreme Court is now being perceived. But the event she spoke at, with its obvious attempt to purvey the rhetoric of the Far Right: “Oh, we are not taking away your liberties, even as we are doing it, we are just calling balls and strikes, we are not partisan at all,” belies any thought one might have that she will change one iota of her set in stone, doctrinaire religious points of view.

The RIght-Wing Supreme Court may every once in a while issue a decision which is not awful, but that would only obscure the absolute truth that on three crucial aspects of democracy: voting rights; the rights of workers and consumers vs. the power of big business; and abortion rights, the Court will relentlessly find on the side of the people and businesses which put them on the Court, in the same way that Republican legislators only care about the wishes of their donors, not the large majority of voters who are always shown to poll against tax cuts for the wealthy, and for the right to abortion. This is not representative democracy, it is an oligarchy of the wealthy and of fringe religious groups.

Barrett should never have deserved to have been put on the Supreme Court, but there she is, for life, with her patron McConnell standing proudly beside her, delivering his 1840’s South philosophies. Their Supreme Court deserves no respect, they are doing what they were intended to do, and worked toward for the last four decades: be a rubber stamp for the Far Right, with decisions as utterly predictable as those of the phony judiciaries they have set up for centuries in autocracies and dictatorships. Barrett can smile all she wants, and say, “Oh, we must put our partisan views aside,” but that is just the calming smile of the zealot, who is completely happy with her ideas, and cannot wait to impose them on everyone else which is the ultimate goal.

I would like to think that if Barrett came to speak at any legal presentation, a majority of the attendees would ostentatiously walk out. She and her shadow docket colleagues are not deserving of the respect historically accorded to the judiciary in this country; she is a rubber-stamp judge for the Radical Right, for the intolerant, the plutocrats, and those whose version of democracy is that you get radical state legislatures or even a radical Congress to pass laws to benefit a minority of people, and then the Courts approve them, and are there to throw out any laws which somehow get passed by states or Congress, which are not liked by the people who put them there to stop them. It is an evil perversion of the original tenets of our democracy, it is the tyranny of the people whose political ancestors seceded from the Union. If we want to keep our democracy, we must do everything possible to stop them, including adding seats to the Supreme Court, something that Congress has always had the right to do, and has done in the past.

A Chilling Headline

And not to intend to spoil anyone’s day, but it has to be at least noticed, and responded to, lest it become the wave of the future in this country. Just this one act is dreadful enough.

“A Texas man ambushed and fatally shot Georgette Garcia-Kaufmann, a prominent El Paso lawyer, because her home displayed a prominent Joe Biden flag, and he believed the victim was a pro-choice Jewish Satan worshipper.”

That is what Trump has wrought, and it was there before him, but he gave out the call to these people, and emboldened them. Fox News also wrought it, they think it is a kind of game with big monetary rewards. All the demagogues at CPAC. All the enraged talk show hosts. All the “Stop the Steal” rallies which have now extended to the California Recall election tomorrow, where their story is that the only way Newsom can win is due to voter fraud. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spoke about “Jewish space lasers” starting the fires in California; and the news mocking it, but not understanding how frightening such calls to arms for anti-abortion fanatics and anti-semites are.

They will always disavow this, as those who incite terrorism in this country do. What a tragedy for this woman and her family. And the man who threatened to kill Nancy Pelosi, faces a minimal sentence of six months to two years, and some fines, but it is expected that he will get credit for time served since arrested in January, so may not serve any more time for this. For some reason, there is little punishment for domestic terrorists, at least those who espouse a Right-Wing view. All this coddling encourages more of it.

It is insanity, and worse than that, because most insane people are not dangerous to others. But these people are, and they are being encouraged and weaponized by soulless profiteers and opportunistic inciters of violence and chaos. I almost didn’t want to even comment on this, but how can one just let it sink under the avalanche of other daily headlines?

Odds and Ends

Just a few unrelated thoughts about some light topics

I like to watch college football, but I am increasingly doing it in terms of rooting against all the schools which are from bad states. I know, there are some good people in all the states, but some of these states are bad in general. So I was happy to see Pittsburgh beat Tennessee, and Oregon win at Ohio State. Colorado almost beat Texas A&M, but lost in the last three minutes. Texas got thrashed, hooray, although it was to Arkansas. Missouri vs. Kentucky, both bad, McConnell vs. Hawley.

I know that all the teams from bad states cannot lose; the SEC is essentially made up of them. But I do get some enjoyment out of seeing some of them lose, because to them, football is much more important than the right to vote, or to be able to have an abortion, or the importance of being vaccinated. Now, the University of Texas has its primary campus at Austin, which is a fairly progressive town, and the school itself is respected. I am not angry at any of them, but they are in Texas, so I will root against them, and enjoy seeing their fans get upset if they lose, while we are upset at all the terrible things they are doing or not doing in those states.

A completely different topic. As I was recently watching a movie starring one of these actors, it occurred to me that a case could be made, even though tastes of course vary,, that of the five talented movie stars who might possibly be generally considered the most beautiful, or at least glamorous, female actors who were major names in American cinema from at least part of the period spanning the ’40’s to the early ’70’s, four of them were Jewish at some point in their lives. Try to guess, answers below.

On a completely different theme, do people still read the comics in the newspaper? I imagine that most people do not buy an actual paper, but many may view them online. I never hear people talking about them, but I know that there still are comics, and some of them have the same names as they did many years ago; though there are different writers, sometimes with the same last name as the original one, so I assume that they are their children.

I will date myself a bit, but there used to be a Sunday show on the radio here, about which I have no idea what the overall format was, but would devote about fifteen minutes each week to the host reading the comics to children. He would apparently try to pick out the most suitable ones in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Comics section. I would always look forward to it, and my parents would let me go into the living room right after breakfast, spread out the paper on the floor, and read along with him.

He would announce each comic with a kind of reverberating effect. “Dick Tracy!” “Little Orphan Annie!” “Terry and the Pirates!” I loved “Treasure Island,” so I thought that this strip was about pirates, but to my disappointment, it appeared to be about U.S. pilots in the Korean War. I don’t remember liking too many of these strips, they were really not for children. “Nancy,” which was, was a really boring strip. Apparently there still is a “Nancy,” but it tries to be clever, which the original strip certainly was not. I liked “Blondie” with the cute dog Daisy. There was a strip about Horace and Dotty Dripple, which was an imitation of “Blondie.”

“Blondie” had a good-natured charm. My father had a collection of the cartoons in a book, I think because as a cartoonist and graphic designer, he liked to study styles. I read it, and one strip I liked, because I valued rules of good grammar, had Dagwood, out of the frame, answering the door, and saying, “Who do you want to speak to?” And Blondie calling to him, saying, “No, you should say, ‘To whom do you wish to speak?.'” And then showing Dagwood saying that–to the hobo who was at the door.

I’m just doing this from memory. There was “Snuffy Smith,” was that about hillbillies? “L’il Abner,’ that was of course by Al Capp, who was a liberal, until he became a right-winger (I will not give these people the benefit of the appellation “conservative”), who insulted Joan Baez, and debated John Lennon on TV. “Little Orphan Annie” was one that my parents knew well, and my mother knew the song from ’40’s radio. I did not find it fun to read, though. “Joe Palooka,” about a boxer. He had apparently adopted, or had, a kid named “Kayo,” who I think slept in a drawer. That disconcerted me, though I don’t imagine it was meant to.

“Prince Valiant,” drawn in an illustration style. I liked the pictures, but my parents were not at all fans of the Crusades, where so-called Christians would travel to the Holy Land to liberate it, meanwhile killing as many Jewish people as they could on their way. “Dennis the Menace,” not really funny, and it is still around today with someone with the last name of Ketchum, doing it, but not he originator Hank. “Gasoline Alley,” I could never really figure out what that was about, an auto garage? “Andy Gump,” another one I did not understand the point of.

“Bringing Up Father.” That had a strangely drawn couple, Maggie and Jiggs. I guess they wee rich, and looked like they were from the early ’30’s. They always argued. Maggie would squint at him in a strange way, and try to hit him with a rolling pin. Sigh.”The Katzenjammer Kids,” that seemed like it was originated in the 1890’s or so. Not funny. “Pogo,” by Walt Kelly. I guess he was an actual liberal, who set his stories in the Okfenokee Swamp,; the gentle political humor probably went over my head at that age. He is famed for writing, “We have met the enemy and they are us.” “Dick Tracy” was always at the top of the first page. Very weird looking criminals with deformities of some sort, one looked like a lemon, one had spots all over his face. Dick Tracy and Sam Ketchum were the detectives. The two-way radio was the big thing, kids wanted one.

“Buck Rogers,” which I liked, but was in the other paper, so we rarely got it. “Flash Gordon” was similar. “Tarzan of the Apes,” I remember the announcer reverberating the title. I liked that one. The interesting thing to note is that most of these weekly comics were adventure story serials that one could follow. Since we may not have gotten the paper every day then, I had to try to figure out what was going on from one strip a week. I don’t think that they do those kind of continuing stories in the newspaper comics now,maybe those are the graphic comics. Then there were the strips which were meant to be funny, but note that there was none of he later sarcasm, or ironic or mocking cleverness of say, the ’70’ strips. They really were intended to be wholesome family entertainment, though they were only very occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.

Then of course there was “Peanuts,” which is its own genre, though of course many artists later tried to come close to it. Everybody is familiar with Charles Schulz’s brilliantly funny, charming, sometimes melancholy strips, which dominated the comics page from around 1958-1975 or so, though they preceded and succeeded that period. I would say that the absolute height of “Peanuts” was from about 1961-1968. I thought that they became more sentimental after that, though still sometimes charming. It was always the first thing one turned to on the comics page, and each year the strips were collected into volumes, which my parents got for my younger brother, who would finally let me read them after he did. I now have hardbound volumes, from about 1959-1967, each containing two years of strips. They are fun to read years later.

I do recall a period somewhat later, when my mother would daily read, “Rex Morgan, M.D,” “Brenda Starr,” and “Apartment 3G,” whose residents were Tommy Thompson, Lu Ann Powers, and Margo Magee; a redhead, blonde, and brunette, n that order. Why I remember all of this, I do not know. But I miss settling down with the funnies when I was little, because it was the only part of the paper I wanted to read. There was something comforting about seeing the same familiar strips, particularly with the colored weekend pages. I am sure that there are many people who have that same nostalgia for a comfortable Sunday morning reading them.

Oh, yes, the answers to my self-styled beautiful actresses quiz. (I know that one is supposed to say “female actor,” but it sounds less elegant, somehow). I would say that even allowing for different tastes, the five would be, in no order at all, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Tierney, Marilyn Monroe, Hedy Lamarr, and my personal favorite among them, Eleanor Parker. Oh, I just thought of Lee Remick, so maybe six, and then of course Jean Simmons, perhaps my favorite actress of all, so now I have seven. And Jane Greer, of course, so… well, anyway, Hedy Lamarr was born to a Jewish family in Austria-Hungary but later converted to her first husband’s Catholic faith. Gal Gadot is playing her in a new movie. Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism when she married Eddie Fisher. Marilyn Monroe converted when she married Arthur Miller. Eleanor Parker converted to a sort of Messianic Judaism. I don’t think Marilyn Monroe was beautiful, but she was glamorous and legendary, so she is in there. I just liked the trivia aspect.

Paper Tiger

When Morning Edition on my car radio crackled with static and went out on my way to work, I just changed the station from WNYC to WHYY. I had just crossed the invisible boundary at Princeton that separates the New York news market from the Philadelphia market. Princeton has dead spots for radio and cell service. What I didn’t know or any NPR station for the next 5-10 minutes was that the broadcast antenna on top of the WTC north tower had been cut off.

When I got into the lab and fired up my workstation, I usually checked the news in my browser before I settled in for a morning of creating pretty protein pictures. But my browser was slow. Like impossibly slow. Almost like the whole world had logged in at once.

When my supervisor A. rushed in to my office to tell me that a plane had accidentally hit the north tower, I remembered that time about 7 years previously when some terrorists had planted a bomb in the garage of one of the towers. Then I remembered the day I took the elevator to the top of the WTC tower and thought there was no fucking way it was an accident. So that’s what I told A., except I left off the expletive because it was a work environment and it was still early in the morning. Well that explained the slow internet.

When the second plane hit a few minutes later, I *almost* expected it. It just seemed like the kind of thing a terrorist would do. You can’t just leave one smoking tower on the skyline. Symmetry demands two. It sends a clearer message. But we assumed the loss of life would be contained to the floors affected and that everyone else would be able to evacuate the floors like they did the last time.

When the plane hit the pentagon, I jumped out of my seat and ran out to the parking lot to my car to turn on WHYY. I remember saying to no one in particular, “we’re under attack” and I started to consider all the other targets because there were definitely going to be more. Then I recalled how my dad, the nuclear reactor maintenance specialist, took me on a tour of Three Mile Island and told me that the reactor building was reinforced to withstand the impact of a plane crashing into it. I was hoping the structural engineers had gotten that right and then wondered how they knew this day might come.

When the managers realized that no one was going to get any work done, they opened the auditorium and projected the network feed on a large screen. We watched in horror as the first tower fell. The room gasped and then cries erupted and fear was all around because some of those people had relatives working at the WTC and the their cell phones were busy. Our colleagues at the New York labs stood on the roofs of the buildings and watched the smoking towers in the distance.

When I heard about United 93 crashing somewhere between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, I wondered again what the target might be.

When the school called and told me to pick up Brook from her first week at Kindergarten because after school was canceled, the lab had already told us we could go home. By then, the computational chemists I worked with were sitting around talking about what was happening. My Chinese colleague K. turned to me with a smirk and said, “That is not surprising. The country that did this thinks America is what we say in Chinese, a Paper Tiger. You know what that is?”, she smirked again.

Then I turned on her and looked her dead in the eye. You never say that to someone who was born here, grew up here, shouted “this is a free country, I can say whatever I want” on the playground. We didn’t have military parades. We had sonic booms from jets that went faster than the speed of sound. We saved Europe- twice. We dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I said, “We beat our chests and roar and then we eat you alive. Whoever did this has no idea what they have unleashed on the world. You think Americans are soft? You have no idea what you are talking about. Watch us.”

I picked up my bag and left her a bit stunned. But not nearly as stunned as what she would see in the next few weeks.

We took it seriously. We sought vengeance. We delivered retribution and punishment and justice for the lives they took. We were also remarkably restrained. It would have been no trouble at all to reduce Afghanistan to a glass parking lot. I’m probably not the only one who wanted to do it. But our cooler heads prevailed. The pastor of the Princeton Presbyterian held an impromptu lunch service, and read the psalm about the waters of Babylon where the Israelites sat down and wept for Zion and then vowed to dash the heads of their enemies’ little ones against the rocks. Do we really want to do that?, he asked. Aren’t Christians all about peace? Which religion would have the moral high ground?

When the dust settled but the chaos remained, a new set of bad guys stepped in to take advantage of all that rage.

The rest of it we did to ourselves.

The Vaccine Mandate

Biden is expected to give a speech this evening to announce a vaccine mandate for all federal employees without a test out option. It’s about time. I think we’ve given refusers long enough. I’m sure Biden will have some speechwriter frame this decision diplomatically but I’d let them have it. Here’s what the selfishness and defiance means:

  • The hospital system in some states is collapsing. That would include Oregon, Mississippi, Idaho, Missouri and Louisiana to name a few.
  • ICU beds are overwhelmingly occupied by unvaccinated Covid patients leaving cancer patients and people with other life threatening health issues with nowhere to go. Some cancer patients have had to wait for four days in the ER for a bed only to be transported to another hospital hours away.
  • Children are both victims and vectors. The delta variant spreads so quickly and with such a high viral load that more children under 12 are getting Covid. And although their immune systems are better equipped to handle it, the magnitude of increase in the number of patients means that more children will end up in the hospital. They also bring it home to their parents, grandparents, other children. They take it to school and spread it around.
  • It is impacting the economy in the expected ways. If a school needs to quarantine a couple of classrooms of kids under 12, then someone has to stay home with them. That usually means mom. If mom can work from home, that will work. But if she can’t, then she has to decide if she can continue working at all.
  • Unemployment benefits are running out. That means there will be less money coming back into the economy. Less money being spent means fewer goods and services purchased which impacts small business’s bottom line which leads to unemployment. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Fewer people working means fewer people paying taxes, especially social security taxes. That means there may be an impact to the benefit payoff down the line. That should make the soon to be retired VERY nervous.
  • The more time it takes to reach herd immunity, the more likely there will be more variants. Some of those variants, such as the Mu variant, may be escape varieties. That means the vaccines we already have circulating may no longer be effective or as effective. That means pharma will need to create new versions of the vaccine and everyone will need to get one periodically or the economy will continue to sink, more people will die and the hospital system will continue to be stressed beyond its capacity.

If that’s ok with you who are still holding out, then go ahead and continue to make a stink about having to get a shot. It’s not the hill I would want to die on, literally or figuratively, to defend my freedom but your mileage may vary. Maybe the refusers want the country and the globe to devolve into chaos, pain, and economic collapse. Maybe it suits their purposes. Maybe that will make a big daddy politician more popular no matter how ugly his policies or bad and incompetent his performance. I don’t see how anyone but the very wealthy elite benefit from that. I dunno. I just do thought experiments and follow them where they lead and the chaos scenario only works for you people like Littlefinger. The rest of us will suffer.

But I suspect that this is just the opening salvo in a war against the holdouts. It starts with a federal employee mandate. It will spread to large corporations and I am here for it. It should be a test of character, reliability, teamwork and ultimate employability. Those wellness points should be adjusted accordingly. Just a suggestion.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Going to the Heart of the Matter

I will say that of all the so-called “Never Trump” Republicans who are journalists or “pundits,” the most articulate and forceful has been Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. She was a consistent advocate for the Bush era policies, but actually seems to have evolved, first to a vehement critic of Trump; and now continuing, to strongly support Biden, and attack the leaders of the Republican Party. Right now, I think that she is one of the best political journalists out there.

Today, she writes that Biden needs to sharpen his attacks on Republicans, so as not to allow them to dominate and control the news cycle. She notes that Biden is trying to pass his bipartisan infrastructure bill, so is loath to attack Republicans at this point; but that, “His reticence simply gives Republicans dominance of the airwaves and the social media, without extracting any measurable goodwill from them. Without an aggressive White House message, Democrats–who do not enjoy a captive media akin to the right-wing echo chamber–tend to fall into hand-wringing and infighting.”

She says that, “On a range of issues, Biden has an opportunity to convey just how greatly GOP extremism and irrationality threaten the lives, prosperity, and political rights of Americans. He would be foolish not to take advantage of the moment.” And, “It would also serve Biden to reset the debate on the infrastructure and reconciliation bills. Neither has passed yet, because Republicans en masse insist that big corporations pay little or no taxes, oppose reducing drug costs and expanding Medicare coverage (which both garner around 60% or more support in polling), and resist other popular programs such as free community college and subsidized child care.”

Finally, “Biden needs to remind voters that this grievously unfair system is what Republicans WANT. He has allowed the debate to descend into a battle of top-line numbers, rather than a debate about values, and where we should direct our tax dollars. Biden should make clear this is a stark case between a party which favors the rich and its donors, and one that actually tries to aid the the poor and middle classes. With such unappealing positions, Republicans should be on defense–but they will not be put there unless Biden goes for the jugular.”

This is well said, I think, which is why I quoted from it at length. We have discussed this a great deal, because it is so crucial. We know how much Republicans dominate the airwaves, and thus frame the terms of many debates. We also know that they have no intention of helping Biden or the Democrats, and that all they want is some “cut” on Biden, which they can pound away at, like boxers, so as to win what was a losing fight. They think they have found this in Afghanistan, which is why they went all-out in criticizing the withdrawal; and with the media’s help, lowering Biden’s approval ratings

Today, we see that a flight out of Afghanistan, allowed by the Taliban, will carry 200 people, at least some of them Americans of dual nationality. So maybe the withdrawal was not the incompetent disaster that many portrayed it as? Republicans only cared about the effect of the outrage, not the logic of it, or the aftermath. It is all a propaganda game for them. It is very unfair, but it is the terrain, so Biden has to deal with it.

Matthew Dowd is another decent Never-Trumper, though he was, as many of them, a political strategist for Republicans, helping them win elections, before now hoping that they lose, and criticizing Democrats for not being more effective in stopping them. So one looks somewhat askance at this, but I do think he is sincere, and realizes how awful his party has become. Dowd often says that the Democrats are effective in talking about policies, but ineffective in talking about values. He seems to mean that Republicans are able to come up with simplistic slogans, or to convince people that “the battle is about X,” when Democrats should have their own pithy slogans about why it is really about Y.

There is unfortunately also some truth to this, which is largely the fault of unperceptive voters, and of course the Republican propaganda machine. Ronald Reagan, by his own nature, and his handlers “skills,” was able to convince a whole generation of voters that Republicans were for such unassailable concepts as “freedom,” “patriotism,” and “opportunity.” The freedom and opportunity were mostly given to the very rich, of course, who got a massive tax cut, while unions were almost destroyed. And the various wars and foreign involvements which were entered into in his and the Bushes’ administrations, were sold as patriotism, and standing up for American values. The failures of all of this, are things which Republicans simply deflect away from, and which the media conveniently forgets, when it attacks Biden for extricating us from a twenty-year debacle in Afghanistan.

Republicans have run on “values” for over a hundred years. “Anti-Bolshevik,” then “Anti-Communism”and “Anti-Socialism.” “Law and Order.” “Get government off your backs” (that was one which actually was cover for cutting taxes on the wealthy, and cutting social programs, but was somehow sold as helping average Americans). Now it is still all those, plus “Freedom,’ “Stop Cancel Culture,” “Don’t let government tell us what to do” (this, while they seek to ban the right to abortion, and virtually ban the right to vote for all but themselves). It just emphasizes the power of simple-minded slogans and themes.

As much as I dislike that kind of simplistic sloganeering, Democrats need to do some of it, and have needed to for decades. One of the reasons that we do not, is that we realize that the issues are far more complex than that. The other, is that our party is made up of so many different groups, by identify, or viewpoint, that almost any general theme we came up with, would be disagreed with by some of our own people, thus essentially diluting it to ineffectiveness. But we should keep trying, despite the few Democrats who would be eager to go on television shows to say that they don’t like the tone of it.

The key issues can actually be boiled down to effective themes, such as “Helping only the wealthy,” vs. “Helping the rest of the people.” That was what Franklin D. Roosevelt so masterfully put at the forefront of the consciousness of American voters, though of course the Great Depression was a more than significant factor. Before that, people kept electing Republicans who said that “The business of America is business.” And we did have the “Solid South,” the loss of which was inevitable, but very damaging to us electorally.

Republicans somehow managed to control the Cold War narratives. Commentators now say, “Republicans were always known as the party of strength in international affairs.” Why was that? Because they talked tough, while always calling Democrats weak and cowardly? Because of the “brinksmanship” of the 1950’s? Because they pushed the idea of the “domino theory,” where if Vietnam fell, so would the entirety of Southeast Asia? Because they got us embroiled in a series of foreign wars in which we accomplished very little? How does this equate to a historical pass by the media and the pundits, as “the party which is known as strong on foreign policy”?

Similarly, we keep hearing that “Republicans are known as the party of law and order.” Only because they keep calling themselves that. Oh, they yelled about students protesting the Vietnam War. But when it comes down to attacking the capitol, they suddenly pivot to their “freedom” slogan, where the people trying to kill and maim members of Congress and police officers, are heroes. It is all a game and a propaganda technique; and the real tragedy is that so much of the media, and too many of the public, just accept it.

Democrats should campaign as the party of respect for law enforcement and law, while labeling the Republicans as the party of sedition and insurrection. Not wanting to upset Republicans or their mouthpieces, is not a sufficient reason for not doing it. Give the voters some clear delineations to give them a shorthand for why they are voting for Democrats.

Similarly, Democrats want to protect a woman’s right to choose, while Republican are taking it away. We have said that for years, but apparently not enough people really believed it. Now they will, tragically enough. Democrats are the party of health, vaccines, and science. Republican are anti-science, and would sacrifice health and the planet to their own greed. These are easy cases to make, and we cannot shrink from emphasizing them.

President Biden is a nice man, and he never wants to offend anyone. This is a good attribute, but it must be subsumed to the need to win elections on a large scale, and reverse the political power which the Republican Party has gained. And do that, you have to attack the other side, label them, give people an effective shorthand view of them, which will override any overly complicated discussions of the exact value of an infrastructure bill. Republicans revert to their usual false theme of, “We will save you money.” Democrats should forcefully contend that Republicans want to destroy the middle class; or at least say that America desperately needs a major investment in people and health. Otherwise, the media narrative will be that both parties are willing to spend money, but Democrats want to spend more than Republicans are. That is literally true, but ignores the essence of it.

Biden has been in politics a long time. He got into office doing some of what Obama did; talking about no blue states and no red states, and good relations with Republicans. Where has that gotten him now? Where is what in earlier eras was supposed to be general bipartisan support for our foreign policy, particularly regarding military involvements and withdrawals?

Republicans are terrorists who want to win at any price, they are not a loyal opposition. I don’t think that Obama ever figured that out, or more likely. is someone who so much valued his personal popularity, that he was unwilling to risk any of it, even when the stakes were the Supreme Court, and the sanctity of the 2016 election. This is a losing strategy, only effective for personal goodwill. We have let Republicans get away with misleading slogans, and lies, and slanders and obstruction and gamesmanship for far too long. Let the people know what is at stake, and in direct and powerful terms. If it upsets the Republicans, or their media arms, that is too bad and a risk we absolutely must take to save our democracy.

P.S. I don’t want to throw away the chance, after using the phrase, to note that “The Heart of the Matter,” by Graham Greene, is one of my favorite novels of all time.



Biden-bashing for Fun and Profit

We have probably all sometimes read or listened to the political analysis of Larry Sabato, who is a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, and who has a popular political prognostication and analysis site. I was never a big fan of Sabato, who I saw as a moderate-to-conservative pundit. But I may have gotten him wrong, or he may have changed somewhat in his perspective. I thought that his coverage of the 2020 campaign was commendable.

I don’t read his work very much, but I happened to see a comment he made on Twitter the other day. I did not read the replies, but I was impressed at his forcefulness. He said, “My, my, the Sunday shows today are a festival of Biden bashing. The blabbers all seem to be enjoying themselves.”

That is strong language, coming from a respected political analyst, and we need more of it. I have turned off just about all of the cable news for the last two weeks, once I saw that every show was filled with coverage of Afghanistan, and the narrative that someone or someones in the media wanted to purvey, that the withdrawal was an absolute disaster, debacle, calamity; and that President Biden was responsible for this; and further, that this may have destroyed his presidency, all over now but the shouting.

Why would I want to watch this? Covid is spiraling out of control in various areas. Climate change is not only real, it is causing more destruction every day. The Supreme Court has essentially overturned Roe v. Wade. Unemployment benefits have been taken away from 8-10 million people, because Republicans refuse to extend them. But we were subjected to endless hours of what can really be described in no other way than “bashing Biden.” So I turned it off.

The topic of why the media does this; and as we can now form a fuller graph over the decades, of a systematic pattern of doing it, is an immensely important subject, and there should be many books written on it, though there may not be, because they don’t have the “sexiness” to them that the stream of books about Trump had. It is a real problem for our democracy, though. This is no longer a possible aberration, or a question of the media’s unreasoning hatred of Clintons, particularly Hillary Clinton. No, they are doing it to Biden, too. I had thought that they might give him a year, at least, but they gave him six months.

Now, we can debate the judiciousness of our withdrawal policy. But I know that there are some very respected foreign policy and international analysts who think, and have written, that given the pre-existing situation, we did about as well as any leader or nation could have done. We got out about 120,000 people, including all of our military personnel. We have evacuated all but 100 or so Americans, and many of those are people with dual citizenship who were not ready to leave; and when they are, we will do everything to help them. We brought about 115,000 Afghans out of the country. We tragically lost the lives of 13 military personnel, because of a terrorist bombing at the airport.

But the media, with virtual or real glee, has made this worse than 9/11, worse than Beirut; or Iraq, where there were no WMDs. The guests they have on are mostly current or former military people who pushed for our continued involvement in Afghanistan, so would be expected to loudly complain about the manner of our leaving it. Someone is booking these guests, one would want to know why. When I was watching some of the coverage, the only show that was booking guests who were largely supportive of what we were doing, was the Lawrence O’Donnell show.

The media is not supposed to be a cheerleader for any Administration, but I thought they were for Reagan and both GWH Bush and GW Bush. As for Trump, by far the worst and most evil president in American history, they were mostly afraid to say much at all, until the last year or so, probably fearing that he would turn his brownshirts on them.

The New York Times, at least from its headlines, since I am not going to buy it, or pay for it online, has devolved into this appalling collection of Hillary haters, Trump apologists like Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker (who decided to write a biography of Bush consigliere James Baker), and people they brought over from various right-wing publications, to attempt to push those narratives with a bit of grammatical finesse.

Their reporters might still be good, at least some of them, but their political articles are awful. The other day Peter Baker wanted to tell us that Biden’s “empathy” is not always appreciated by everyone, and that perhaps he should tailor it to different audiences. This is so reminiscent of what they did to Hillary: she was overprepared, she did not smile enough, she laughed too loudly. We know that this was disgracefully like what mean people do in elementary or junior school, find any way to mock or belittle their targets for their own gratification. The major media does not dare to do it to Republicans, but they love to do it to Democrats, as Sabato’s tweet crystallizes.

So if we have learned one thing, it is that the media will never get better. That does not mean that there are not a few writers and anchors whose work is commendable and worthwhile, but they are almost overpowered by the din of the rest of them. Do they want Trump back? Or is it not them, but just their bosses who tell them what their narrative should be? If so, that is pathetic on the so-called journalists’ part.

Are these just self-indulgent, arrogant people who have really not progressed from high school, or fraternities and sororities? There is something inside them which leads to the kind of almost atavistic attacks on Biden, and before that, Hillary. I would love to see them have to stand up and actually put forth coherent arguments about the nuances and complexities of domestic and international policy. But they can’t do it; they substitute attack mode as a pretense of knowledge.

How well we remember the likes of Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell treating Hillary as if she were a defendant in a criminal trial, and they were the State prosecutors. That of course was the vastly overesteemed Tim Russert’s approach; he would glare at her as if she were on trial for murder, would wave sheets of paper at her, going back to statements she had made 25 years before; while with Republicans, he would ask one follow-up, question, let them deflect, and then go on to something else.

I would not even mind this so much, except that it becomes in the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy by the media. They drive Biden’s favorable ratings down, and then that becomes their new lead story. It is strangely evocative of how certain unscrupulous people manipulate the stock market for profit. Or how marketers relentlessly try to get people to choose their product. Maybe it is the financial “bottom line” which is driving the “news narrative,” rather than the other way around?