• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump says he’s been indi…
    William on Trump says he’s been indi…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump says he’s been indi…
    Propertius on Trump says he’s been indi…
    Propertius on Trump says he’s been indi…
    Propertius on “Why should you go to jail for…
    Propertius on “Why should you go to jail for…
    thewizardofroz on Trump says he’s been indi…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on “Why should you go to jail for…
    riverdaughter on “Why should you go to jail for…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on “Why should you go to jail for…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on “Why should you go to jail for…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on “Why should you go to jail for…
    campskunk on Ping me when there’s news
    William on D-Day -1
  • Categories

  • Tags

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

  • History

    February 2023
    S M T W T F S
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

  • Top Posts


We have read and heard all about George Santos, the new Congressman from New York, who has lied about virtually everything, or maybe absolutely everything, in his claimed background. Yet despite about 80% of his constituents polled as wanting him to resign, he goes nowhere; and Kevin McCarthy and the House Republicans will do absolutely nothing, other than taking him off some committees and putting him on others. They want his vote, and more than that, they are virtually all just fine with lying, if it gets them where they want to be.

Now we learn about another new Republican Congressman, Andrew (Andy) Ogles, from Tennessee. who brazenly lied about all sorts of aspects of his college record, and his career background. Ogles has called himself an economist, but his transcript shows that he took one economics course in his life, at a community college, and got a “C” in it. He apparently failed (maybe he didn’t show up to them, because it is very hard to get an “F” at any college) the nine political science courses he took.

He had claimed to have majored in International Relations (my mother legitimately majored in that, with a minor in Languages), but his transcript showed that he graduated with a major in “Liberal Studies,” which Middle Tennessee State University allows for someone who never picked a major. Actually, it appears that Ogles left the school, then got a degree ten years or so later, through a “Distance Learning” program

Ogles lied about his background, saying that he was an expert in sex trafficking cases, and various other things which were not true. In fact, there appears to be almost nothing which he did not invent or wildly embellish in his background and history.

This of course will not get him removed from the House, either. When first confronted with his lies, Ogles actually blamed liberals for making a big deal out of a little mistake. But then when all the lies were revealed, he has stopped saying that, for now.

We could go through all of his fabrications, which Ogles first tried to pass off as bad memory, but it’s not worth it. Nothing is going to happen to him that would benefit the country; and even if it somehow did, they would put another one in there. Ogles is described as “Far Right.” Of course, and undoubtedly with all the sanctimonious speeches about virtue and honesty and trust and all the things that the Far Right trumpets as proof of their patriotism.

Politicians have an ignoble history of lying, though not all. And obviously, some lies are more trivial than others. Ogles, like Santos first tried to do, has said that he did it for the sake of brevity, or that he just made an error. Santos said that everyone inflates their resume, which is not true; and Santos just invented his, he might as well have said that he was heroic at the battle of San Juan Hill, or with Lord Nelson at Trafalgar.

It does seem rather clear that Republicans have unmoored themselves from any sense of responsibility for telling the truth about anything. We’re hearing about (as if we did not already know) how Fox “News” lies all the time, it is built into their model. We would say that Donald Trump was the biggest fabricator, pathological liar, of all time, but he didn’t start this. At this point, the only possible motivation for a Republican political figure not to lie, is if he or she didn’t think it would get them anything.

Why do people lie? In general, outside of the absolutely psychologically warped ones, it is because they think it will get them something, or save them from something they don’t want. We can discuss the nature of lying; and I read at least one book on it, which meant well, but did not answer much. The book, and I forget the author, tried to make a case for the value of telling the truth. And one can certainly do that, but it is an abstract argument, if it comes from some version of a cost-benefit analysis. I think she emphasized that if you lie, you are showing that you do not respect or value the other person, and thus the relationship is perhaps ineradicably damaged.

The most time-honored arguments for telling the truth are either religious, or secular moral, or the concept that if you lie, then you are countenancing people lying to you, wherein all trust and reliability breaks down. But for the habitual liar, there is always the idea of what he can immediately gain from the lie; and also, that his sense of self-worth, his whole self-identity, is at risk if he doesn’t try to protect it by lying about what he is, or what he has or hasn’t done. They don’t usually realize it, of course, it is on an unconscious level.

How could one try to exhort someone to always tell the truth about significant things? Someone could talk about Hell, and try to scare them into it. One might read from some of the parables or childhood stories, which emphasize that if you lie, soon no one will believe anything you say. One could quote particularly good poetic verses. But there is something that goes on in the minds of these Far Right people, who make a career out of lecturing people about morality, and the terrible wages of sin, where their own lies are not only acceptable, but to them, necessary. Of course, they usually don’t call them lies, but let any liberal misstate anything, and they are calling for impeachment, hanging, the stocks and the whipping posts.

Apart from the mild humor in hearing about Ogles, there is a sense of futility, where we see people utterly making up resumes, backgrounds; claiming they didn’t say something, until it is shown on tape. I heard someone the other day say that the people who watch Fox have come to reject any story or fact they don’t like, by simply saying, “Fake News.” That becomes a self-constructed impenetrable shield which blocks out anything they don’t want to hear, or even consider. That would be analogous to absolute fundamentalist religion, or a cult.

The frustration comes not just from seeing these people get away with it, but in knowing that for most of us, we have tried to be honest about our educational or career achievements, and what we tell other people about ourselves. And we rely on others to be as honest, that would seem to be a legitimate human goal. But we as a species are falling far short of that, and there is nothing, outside of possibly religion, that can change that, and it certainly has not. And often, it is those who want to tell everyone how religious they are, who lie with not an ounce of guilt about it.

So is morality a lost cause? “Might makes Right”? Or “God is on the side of the one who has the most guns”? Is getting what you want, the answer to any moral dilemma? For Santos and Ogles it is, that is obvious. And there are many more of them. What did Al Franken write about lies and the lying liars who tell them? That seemed like a rather dramatic description, at the time, but it now seems that Franken was being nothing but completely honest about what they are.

“The Both-Sides Game”

Let me introduce you to the “Both Sides” game

You may already know it, but I’ll tell you all the same

You see it on TV and the printed page

It’s always so useful, it’s become all the rage

You use it to prove that your side’s never wrong

It’s just another viewpoint, different words for a song

If you want to sell papers, or get them to stay tuned,

You can’t upset either side, or else you’ll be ruined

So whatever the issue, whatever the claim,

You’ll just “both-sides” it, so they both are to blame.

You don’t value logic, you don’t look for truth

You let them decide that in the voting booth

There’s nothing that’s wrong, there’s nothing that’s right

It’s all just perspective, what’s day and what’s night

One side says this, another says that,

And you give them equal merit, like slips in a hat

Now, I’ll give you an example, just so you can see,

That no one “both-sides” better, than the famed NYT.

(Jonathan Weissman, writing in the New York Times: “Democrats see East Palestine as action and consequences: rail regulations were gutted, blame assigned. Republicans see a more operatic narrative, a forgotten town in a flyover state struggling against an uncaring mega-corporation and an unseeing government.”).

So you take a tragic story, and go past the narrative,

To get to your usual theme of both-sides comparative.

You say that Democrats want to focus on the sequence,

While Republicans see operatic themes, which gives them depth and credence.

You say that Democrats are stuck on the train off the tracks,

While Republicans have an aesthetic sense, which their rival lacks

What you always want to do when you play a “both sides” part,

Is to concentrate just on style, like reviewing a piece of art

Thus, what actually has happened, is less important to know

Than the fact that in your words, they each see a different tableau

To the Democrats, it’s the faulty train, and the governor’s toxic burn,

While Republicans want to give it a more elegaic turn

The effect of this, of course, is that it’s just another contrast,

No one’s right, and no one’s wrong; the train recedes into the past.

So you can “both-sides” anything, by taking out the gist,

And inserting in your story, your own psychological twist

Both sides are flawed, you say, they can only see a part

Of this complex reality that’s at this story’s heart

So Democrats can’t escape the blame, in some cosmological sense,

And Republicans have an equal chance to win their audience.

You can do this endlessly, with every theme or story,

Ultimately you frame it all as just another quest for glory

And no matter what’s at stake, or what anyone might say,

Your goal is to cancel it all out, so as to write another day

You know the Right will hate you if you ever give them blame,

And you want your job, and you want your perqs, and you want your front-page name

So you wait for the newest piece of news, and you know just what to do,

You’ll immediately write the both-sides piece that your bosses want from you

But one day you’ll find that “both-sides” means only the powerful will win,

And then there’s only one side, and they won’t let you in.

But for now, it’s a comfortable living, where you try not to tell dark from light,

And you’ll never admit that it’s not just a game, and that usually only one side is right.

At the end, when you count up your money, or think of your status or fame

You’ll realize that you lost us the country, by playing the “Both-Sides Game.”

The Biden Presidency after Two Years

Joe Biden has been President for just over two years. During his rather amazingly fruitful tenure, we have seen the economy get much stronger than it was when he took office. The unemployment number is currently the lowest in history, though it may go up just slightly in the upcoming report. Job growth has been remarkable. Consumer spending is strong.

We haven’t really seen the effect of the bill which will pour billions into infrastructure projects. The only negative economic number is inflation, and that is declining. And that has been a worldwide problem, due primarily to the pandemic. Virtually any unbiased economist will say that.

And yet such is the relentless Republican noise machine, and such is the mostly reflexively echoing media, that Biden’s “Favorable” numbers are always below 50%. Republicans started attacking him from his first day in office, and that will only increase as the next election comes nearer. If there were a children’s story about some boy or girl who would always complain about everything, and always disagree with whatever someone else said, that would pretty much be what Republicans are like. They have no substantial things to complain about, and certainly no coherent ideas or plans; they just start complaining, equivalent to hoping that the parents (the voters, in this analogy) will get so tired of the complaining, that they will punish the target of it.

It is an embarrassment to any concept of a functioning republic. It is beyond-childish yelling and screaming and threatening. MTG and others call for secession. One could only hope. They wave their guns in the air. Every single thing that the Republican-controlled House (thank massive gerrymandering for that) does, is only for show, what the media likes to call “performative.” There is not one bit of policy or position behind it, just noise.

Not only has the economy substantially improved, by any halfway reasonable measuring stick, Biden has also stood up, as best he can, on important matters such as abortion rights, arresting climate change, limiting assault weapons, civil rights. Apparently these do not count for the people who keep rating Biden unfavorably.

We have witnessed many presidential regimes. Opinions can differ, but I would say that the only presidents whom I would rate more highly from what I experienced, are Clinton, and then Johnson, who tarnished so much of his great domestic legacy by escalating the Vietnam war. Kennedy was learning about the unreliability of the military officials, and might well have pulled us out of Vietnam, and become a great president, but he was tragically assassinated. The other presidents ranged from passable, to very bad, to would-be dictators. And yet here is Biden, and every week the media must tell us how low his Favorable numbers are.

I feel like I am watching some kind of surrealistic movie, where things are not meant to make sense; these are the kind which now invariably win Best Picture Oscars. I have no illusion that Biden is always right, or that there are not things I wish he would articulate better. But I like his foreign policy team; I very much appreciated his former Chief of Staff and Communications Director, and their loss will be felt. I think that he has mostly appointed very good people to Cabinet positions; the unfortunate exception might be his Attorney General, who unquestionably is a very decent and honorable man, but who seems so concerned about appearing partisan, that he does not do nearly enough to counter the most dangerous internal force in American history.

Biden has done a very commendable job with regard to Ukraine, the polar opposite of what his predecessor did. He has helped to re-establish alliances among democratic countries; and it is clear that the worldwide battle is between democracy and totalitarianism, with the Republican Party in America essentially being on the side of the totalitarians. In that sense, Biden is fighting two wars.

There are so many people shown on TV or in the polling, who appear to have this idea that Biden is a terrible president. This is so far from the truth as to be only attributable to a combination of ignorance, stupidity, and brainwashing by the nonstop Right-Wing attack apparatus. And we know that it will only get worse. Whatever Biden does or says is immediately criticized and mocked. I would ignore it, except that it has consequences.

The very grimly amusing thing is that under any Republican president, the various daily problems are mostly ignored, by them, and by the media. Did we get daily worry about the stock market, or any economic numbers, or crimes, under Republicans? Did any terrible event like the train derailment and aftermath in Ohio, get blamed on the President?

Again, this is like some eight-year-old kid trying to blame everything at school on his enemy. We laugh at that, but this continues each day. “Republicans charge that Biden caused this or that.” He didn’t shoot down the spy balloon fast enough. (If he had it shot down sooner, and the debris hit people or buildings, he caused all of that). He shouldn’t have shot down the other balloons. He hasn’t fixed immigration. (nobody, no president from either party has fixed it, but that is not the point for them).

Their big issues going into the next election, appear to be immigration, crime, and something they call “wokeness.” Crime is somehow blamed on Biden, or on Black mayors. That is where the wokeness thing comes in; it is an attempt to get White people to consider the Democratic Party to be full of Communists (they still use that term, even though they have no idea what it means in this era), Black lawbreakers and militants, Jewish people who only care about money, angry women. Essentially, they have been doing this since at least the 1920’s, and it is pathetic that this is all they have; but then again, it is what fascists usually have used as their betes noires, as they seek to install the totalitarian state which is their ultimate goal.

Biden is thus just the newest target, there will always be another, unless and until the totalitarians take over, or are greatly marginalized. Kamala Harris, Gretchen Whitmer, Gavin Newsom–we know what the Far Right which owns the Republican Party would say about them if they ran for president. Biden had to be the target, because he is the Democrat who is President.

I remember Trump making a speech to his supporters after the 2016 election, saying something like, “Now that we have won, you’re going to be less angry, right, you’re going to be happy?” As if he knew that he had unleashed something very dangerous, and then thought that he could control it. I do think that part of what Republicans do, is to yell and threaten so much, that maybe people will just give in and let them win, so they don’t have to endure all the imprecations and gun-waving and insurrections. Probably someone like Bannon has written an article about that tactic. “Drive them crazy, make every minute of their day full of anxiety, fear, and anger, and eventually they’ll let us win.”

But we can’t let them win. President Biden is certainly not perfect, but given the current political and media atmosphere, he is a model of decency, determination, and bravery, much like the people of the country he is trying to save from being taken over by brutal totalitarians. Both countries, actually. Ukraine and the United States of America.

A Few Things Going On in Our Country

I had written earlier about the immensely important race for the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The top-two primary took place on Tuesday, and the two highest vote-getters were reasonable judicial moderate-to-liberal Janett Protasiewicz, and MAGA John Kelly. Kelly is supported by every anti-abortion group, and the Far Right powerful Uhlein family, which pours dark money into Wisconsin politics.

Protasiewicz actually received more votes than the two far Right candidates combined. However, Ben Wikler, the great strategist and organizer for Democrats in Wisconsin, points out that in the last major race for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, the liberal candidate led by nine points in internal polls of both candidates, but that a flood of dark money came in, and the conservative won by over 5,000 votes. That is the insidious power of dark money, running ads lying about the other candidate, and pouring them onto the airwaves, with no one able to know who funded them, or to even accuse them of lying.

We all know that the Citizens United case was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history, and may well have caused most of the bad things that we see in our country, if one follows the cause-and-effect skein. It is absolutely essential that Protasiewicz, win, or abortion will be virtually illegal in Wisconsin, based on an 1849 law. Wisconsin is just about the most gerrymandered state in the country, and that will continue. And it is not inconceivable that the Far Right Wisconsin state legislature will find ways to keep a Democratic victory in Wisconsin’s vote for President to not be certified,. All this is really at stake, so we must do what we can to help this from not happening. The election is on April 4. American democracy is literally on the ballot.

Did you all see Emily Kohrs on television? She was the foreperson of the grand jury that was called to investigate the allegations that former president Trump tried to interfere with the election in 2020, by demanding that the secretary of state of Georgia invent 12,000 or so ballots for him that did not exist.

Ms. Kohrs essentially had appointed herself as foreperson of the grand jury, because she was the only one who wanted the position. She admits that she did not vote in the elections of 2016 and 2020, but now said, in the long interview which she gave on TV, that she thought it was important to be the foreperson, and now to tell everyone her thoughts on the hearings. And she did, in a very weird interview, where she laughed, made strange faces, and acted as if she should never have been anywhere near this matter, much less the only person who has talked about the actual hearings.

She said that she loved Lindsey Graham, she thought that Rudy Giuliani was great, and Pat Cippoloni was wonderful. She said that there would be about a dozen indictments, some of famous people, some of not-so-famous. No one can absolutely decipher her actual intentions here. but there seem to be only two possibilities. She either is a fool, or she is trying to discredit the grand jury, and thus make it easy for the cases filed to be thrown out. Republicans are already on that path. Kohrs looks so much like another right-wing set-up, that it is hard to think that she is just weird. Things like this keep happening every time there is a hearing about a Supreme Court nominee, or an effort to sentence a Trump ally.

If one wanted to spend fifteen minutes being depressed, one could try to decide who would be a more awful and dangerous president, Trump or DeSantis. We’ve seen Trump; and a second term, where he would not have to worry about being re-elected, would be worse. DeSantis seems to me like the absolute model of an American fascist, yelling about “woke mobs,” and “woke agenda” which is somehow causing violence, which is going to be his major issue, the classic fascist attempt to gain power. I certainly cannot root for either of them to win the nomination, with the logic that the other would be even worse. Cyanide and strychnine. Good political ad, there!

As to President Biden, I think he will run, but the media is having fun with “what if he doesn’t run?”? scenarios. I would be quite upset to see him not run, because I don’t see a Democratic candidate who would get as many votes. Republicans’ best “skill” is derogating and smearing any new Democratic candidate. And they’ve got the trillions of dollars to do it.

Kevin McCarthy giving Tucker Carlson 41,000 hours of Capitol insurrection film, is almost incomprehensible, except that nothing is for Republicans. The Speaker of the House, which is a position supposed to represent the country, not a political cult, just gave those films only to a Far Right person on a Far Right station which now has essentially admitted that it makes up facts, and lies, to do with them what he wanted. I won’t bother to suggest what he will do with the films, except to try to doctor them, reframe them, try to create a narrative which has nothing to do with the reality of what happened on January 6, 2021.

The forces which exist, are far more than a battle between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. It is democracy vs. totalitarianism. Truth against lies. Reality vs. constructed illusion. Good vs. evil. Light vs. dark. Could it be viewed in any other way?

Denialism: Power, Profit, and Psychosis

You probably have heard about the election denier who was chosen by Michigan’s Republican Party to be the head of that party in the state. Her name is Kristina Karamo.

Ms. Karamo said in 2020 that she witnessed fraud when she was a poll challenger during the Presidential election. She said that Trump won the state of Michigan. Then she ran for Secretary of State for Michigan, and lost to incumbent Jocelyn Benson by fourteen points. She refused to concede that she lost. Following that, the Michigan Republican Party chose her as leader of the state party. Trump called her “a fearless election denier.”

Karamo had previously called herself an “anti-vaxxer,” on her personal websire. She has called abortion “child sacrifice.” Very unfortunately, she does not even stand out in her opinions or agenda, in this Republican Party. Or maybe she has the positions so that she has a chance to rise in the frightening cult that the Republican Party is.

Kari Lake of Arizona rose to prominence as host on right-wing media. She then ran for governor. She was a vocal election denier regarding the presidential election. Trump supported her in the governor’s race, which she was widely expected to win. When asked whether, if she lost, she would concede the race, she would always scornfully reply that she would win. She lost. As the early results came in, and she was slightly behind, she accused election officials of “slow rolling the count,” i.e., they knew she would win, but were counting votes for Democrat Katie Hobbs first, to make her look bad, or not let her claim her victory right away.

When the final count was finished, showing that she had been defeated, the first thing she did is to say on social media, “Arizonans know b.s. when they see it.” Of course she did not concede, and never has. She filed a variety of lawsuits which have gotten nowhere. Now she is preparing to run for the Senate seat in Arizona next year.

There will only be two results in the world of Kari Lake, if she runs. She will either win, or she will have been cheated. She can never lose. Just like Trump. This is the world that they, and increasingly others, have projected into existence, in this country which calls itself a democracy. You win, you always win. If the count says that you lost, you demand recounts, over and over. I think that in Arizona, they had four recounts of the presidential election, with the Ninja election deniers. And if somehow you are not able to get the results overturned, or have a revote, you send your armed supporters out to storm the Capitol, and install you through violent means.

That is not an overstatement, that is where the Republican Party is now. Karamo and Lake are just two of the many Republicans who still claim that Trump won. And of course that means that they won, too. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Republicans who are planning to run for office, as true believers in the infallibility and undefeatability of Trump, and with the certainty that either they will be elected, or will be cheated out of their victory by corrupt election officials.

Do you remember the so-called “Brooks Brothers riot” of 2000? Those were Republicans who feared, or likely knew, that Al Gore had won Florida over George W. Bush, and that the only way to avoid it, was to shut down the recount by any means. And it worked. And the Supreme Court finally shut it down by writing a decision which had no logic other than that they had the power to make Bush President, and they were going to do it. Then they finished by saying that anything they wrote in their opinion had no legal or precedential import whatsoever, it was limited to this one case. “We win, you lose, we call the game over right now.”

In retrospect, Gore and the Democrats should never have accepted that. Not just because it was terribly wrong to have the Florida Secretary of State stall and delay the legal recount, until the Supreme Court could step in and say that it was too late to finish the recount, so Bush wins. But because it was another step in the “might makes right” progression of the Republican Party toward an end-game of absolute totalitarianism. Does a dictator ever lose an election? Never. That is what they are shooting for here. Trump and his followers’ refusal to not only accept, but even perceive, a result where they don’t win, is near to their final goal.

One can speculate about and try to analyze why they are that way. Different reasons, if it matters. For many, it is the ultimate in megalomania; they are invincible, they never lose. They may have been brought up that way by psychotic parents, and then become psychotic themselves. Or they are just utterly amoral sociopaths, who cannot even conceive of any result but the one where they win. Those people have some dim sense that they lose from time to time, but simply believe that they can manipulate or force others to submit to them, so that they have “won” again.

I suppose that there is a more pedestrian but just as scary third type: those who know that they are lying; that they lost, but they don’t want to admit it because it would cost them money or fame or influence or power. “Fox News” top brass are showing clearly, in the evidence put forth by Dominion, that they deliberately withhold information and news, and lie about what they know are facts. The lies are put forth to their credulous viewers, who then turn them into their votes and violence.

Can you imagine endlessly lying, when you know that others will believe you, and be like automatons that you are controlling, even to the extent of seeking to kidnap and kill officials whom you tell them, or strongly suggest, heh, heh, are evil, and should be destroyed? They do it every day, like certain kids or adolescents might do. Lessons about being decent, being empathic; the Golden Rule, are never learned, or contemptuously rejected. And as we all know, most of them love to preach and declaim about how spiritual they are, how they can quote Biblical verses to fit any need.

I remember encountering a few boys on the playground or even playing board games, who simply refused to ever concede a defeat. Endless calls for do-overs; balls claimed to be foul or out of bounds; they weren’t ready, they called timeout; you didn’t play fair. I wondered even back then how they became that way. Did some of them grow out of it, or were they the Nixons and Alitos and Trumps and Lakes of tomorrow?

This is such a small thing, but I remember a summer where I helped around the Recreation Center in the neighborhood where we lived; and one of the best parts was playing a lot of ping-pong with the Recreation Director. We were very even in ability, and had great games; and we always yelled out, “good shot,” when the other person made one. We wanted to win, but we never argued about a call, in or out. If we won, it was because we earned it.

I realize that it is far easier to admit that you lost a ping-pong match, than that you lost an election, or that the real news story was unfavorable to your side, so you refuse to tell it. But I think that we all have known people, children or adults, who could not even accept the loss in the game.

The recourse that you have is not to play with the other person any more. In a sphere of life where you can’t escape so easily, you are forced to keep interacting with the other person or people, how do you manage to contend with those who not only are determined never to lose to you, but will simply deny any part of reality that will show them losing? And when the people who decide who won and lost are not just the people who played, but a large group of observers whom the other person and his supporters relentlessly try to convince not to believe anything they see or hear, but to just believe him, or her, and inevitably them, what must you do to surmount that?

At the very least, I would hope that Democrats constantly call out directly as liars, those many Republicans who are, without trying to dilute it. Everything is not debatable, or shades of gray. Blatant lies are blatant lies, no matter if the people who tell them are after money, or power, or are mentally and morally twisted. Doesn’t it really ultimately come down to variations of the same thing?

Biden in Warsaw

He’s about to give his speech, carefully timed to follow Putin’s whine fest. In retaliation to the US support of Ukraine, Putin is defiantly pulling out of the New START nuclear deterrent treaty – in 2026. Pathetic.

The square in Warsaw is full. I’ve read that people started gathering hours ago.

Let’s listen in. Leave your comments 👇

It’s a sunny Presidents Day in Kyiv

Oh yeah, Biden went there. Literally.

That’s an air raid siren in the background about halfway through that clip while cameras are clicking. They just continue to stroll through Kyiv. Amazing.

Russia is calling it a “demonstrative humiliation”. Well, of course it is. We aren’t seeing pictures of Putin walking the streets of Donetsk. He might be taken out by one of his own mobiks. That would be humiliating for so many reasons.

I was watching the latest interview drop from Frontline’s Putin and the Presidents series. I’d been looking forward to the Timothy Snyder interview almost as much as Julia Ioffe’s. Each interview gives a unique perspective on the war in Ukraine based on the interviewee’s subject matter expertise. Snyder’s is the motherlode. He’s studied Ukraine extensively. He knows more about Ukraine than some Ukrainians. It might be from studying that history that Snyder has also gotten into the heads of tyrants and how they operate.

This is the interview that every American should see. There are a few people I’d like to strap into a chair and hold their eyelids open ala Clockwork Orange to get what Snyder is saying past the thought stopping filters. That probably goes against everything Snyder believes but the frustration with some of our Republican fans is prompting day dreams of mandatory deprogramming.

In Snyder’s interview, we get a better understanding of how Russian leadership thinks. It’s deeply cynical and paranoid. All dictators fall, Snyder says. They live in fear of falling because they understand how to come to power by undemocratic means. And Putin and the Russian elite don’t understand Americans.

Snyder says that by using KGB tactics and psychological warfare, Putin was able to get into to minds of many Americans on Facebook and Fox News. We always knew that but Snyder breaks it down for us. It’s fascinating and frightening because each one of us has a lever and Russian propagandists know how to manipulate it. In Ukraine’s case, be very suspicious of anyone talking about Ukrainian corruption or nuclear war or Hunter Biden. Snyder says Ukrainian journalists know that the Hunter Biden laptop story is less than nothing.

But Snyder also says that Russia doesn’t get America’s fundamental decency. Yes, we have issues. Still, a slight majority really are freedom loving, sincere, decent people who saw that Russia crossed a red line in invading Ukraine. We aren’t kidding about helping Ukraine. We didn’t push Ukraine into anything. We’re not puppet masters. We’re supportive friends. We’re the kid on the playground who keeps the bully from picking on younger kids. That’s the role that we have taken on. We’re very lucky, we children of the kindly west, fortuitously situated between two oceans with friendly neighbors on both sides. We are unsullied by the kind of trauma that Ukraine has suffered through for many centuries. That means we have a greater reserve of optimism and resilience that we can lend to others in a crisis- if we recognize that crisis and have the collective will to act.

But what about Ukraine? Where did it find these qualities? It must have been there. The Maidan revolution shows that primarily young people decided to choose a pro-EU path back in 2014. Where did that sentiment come from? The source is probably dissected in detail there in one of Snyder’s lectures.

Leadership counts too. I sometimes catch myself marveling at how extraordinarily lucky the world is at this moment that so many good people were in the right places when the latest set of crises erupted. I seriously underestimated Joe Biden, who doesn’t second guess himself. There’s a core there. Pelosi masterfully got the band back together after the insurrection and displayed calm and steeliness throughout. Our NATO Allie’s and EU partners stepped up. And Zelenskyy is the Churchill of our times.

Zelenskyy was a comedian before he was president and had no expectations of rising to this occasion. His Servant of the People sitcom might have been more influential than we know. Zelenskyy plays a earnest high school history teacher whose rant about corruption in his country that was recorded without his knowledge goes viral and gets him elected president. If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Netflix. Zelenskyy displays his fundamental decency. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that his humble history teacher had something to do with Ukraine’s resilience today.

So, now we have two presidents meeting on Presidents Day in Kyiv. I couldn’t imagine such a scene four years ago. Look at how much has happened since 2019. It took a slim majority of us to tap into that fundamental decency to push off the toxic miasma of the Trump years. Slowly, slowly, we are fighting back against ubiquitous propaganda undermining that fundamental decency and pushing back the forces of illiberal democracy and election denialism. It’s two steps forward, one step back. If more people understood how they have been deceived by the KGB tactics that American right politicians and media sources have embraced been using on them to grab power and corrupt the country, then this meeting in Kyiv would be recognized as the historic moment that it is. We are allies with Ukraine and it helps us as much as we help it.

The older, wiser president, walking the dangerous streets for the younger scrappier one is a image of perseverance, self-determination, freedom, optimism and decency that Americans cut their teeth on.

Washington and Lincoln would be proud.

Is There Still a Future for the World of Film Noir?

I went to see the movie “Marlowe” on Thursday. I must support noir movies! There are so very few of them, and it is my favorite film genre.

There have been several movies which feature Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe. “The Big Sleep” is the one most cited, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Bogart is always superb, but I do not love this movie, the plot is very hard to follow; even when one has read the book!, and William Faulkner, who at least co-wrote the screenplay, famously admitted that he couldn’t follow it himself. But the film had style, and some memorable dialogue.

I like “Murder My Sweet,” which is actually Chandler’s novel “Farewell My Lovely.” Dick Powell transitioned from a light musical star to a protagonist in film noirs; and while I did not initially like him as Marlowe in this movie, on additional viewings, I appreciated him more. It is perhaps Chandler’s best novel, and the semi-romance between him and Anne Riordan (Ann Grayle in the movie, played by Anne Shirley), adds a nice charm to it. And who can forget Mike Mazurki as Moose Malloy? My father told me about that role before I had ever seen the movie. That movie was made in the same year as “The Big Sleep,” 1946.

There was “The Lady in the Lake,” also based on one of Chandler’s best novels. This movie was criticized, mostly for actor and first-time director Robert Montgomery’s use of a “subjective camera” device, where the viewer sees things through his eyes. It is somewhat unsettling, but I’ve seen the movie a few times, and I rather like it overall. Notable is Audrey Totter, whom I believe was a superb actress, and who appeared in several noirs.

See her in this brittle yet soft role, and as a sympathetic hospital psychiatrist in “The High Wall,” and then as a truly amoral and yet always watchable woman in “Tension,” and one has to be amazed at how good an actress she was. She was a guest invitee at a noir film showing, and I regret not seeing her, just to applaud or tell her how great she was.

There is a movie channel which shows all film noirs on Thursdays, and I admit that I have watched some of these movies several times. “Tension” is really a great noir movie. It was excellently directed by John Berry, whose career was essentially ruined by being blacklisted. So many times I will watch a movie, usually a noir, on TCM, and the host will tell us that the director or screenwriter was blacklisted. There was one so-so noir film, “Wash the Blood Off My Hands,” with Burt Lancaster and Joan Fontaine, which had three screenwriters, and they were all blacklisted, though two of them, including Walter Bernstein, who wrote the movie “The Front,” about the blacklist, used a front to get their work put on screen. So much great talent and so many decent people were destroyed during this infamous period.

Back to Philip Marlowe, “The Little Sister,” another Raymond Chandler novel, was made into a movie called “Marlowe,” starring James Garner. It is interesting to see how the different star actors play Marlowe. Garner did it with his characteristic somewhat light demeanor. It is a pretty good movie, notable for the appearance of Rita Moreno, Bruce Lee, and then Gayle Hunnicutt, who started as a glamorous young American actress, then went to England, and almost revamped her career, as she was given several very prestigious roles in historical or classic dramas.

“Farewell My Lovely” was remade, with the original title, starring Robert Mitchum. I admire him so much for his brilliant lead role in “Out of the Past,” and he would have seemed to have been an ideal Marlowe, but he was older then, and the movie is not quite as good as I would have thought, though not bad, few noirs ever are bad. Then the one which I have started to watch a couple of times, but turned off, because it is just wrong, unless somehow it got much better going along.

That is “The Long Goodbye,” directed by Robert Altman, starring Elliott Gould. He starts off waking up, looking sleepy or hungover, shambling into the kitchen to grab a box of dry cereal and a carton of milk, and pouring it into a bowl. He also has several cats. This is an “interpretation” of Marlowe that I do not favor, and Altman is not the director whom I want to see doing a noir film (though he did a great job on the gambling movie “California Split”), so I gave up on it.

There were a couple of other Philip Marlowe movies. Robert MItchum starred in another version of “The Big Sleep.” There was a “Marlowe” series starring Powers Boothe. Marlowe was played on the radio in a long-running series starring Gerald Mohr, who was superb, and won awards for it. BBC did the Marlowe novels in an entire series of radio dramatizations, starring Toby Stephens, who is excellent, along with a cast of British actors doing decent American accents.

So that brings us to this new and original movie, “Marlowe,” starring Liam Neeson, who is 70, which means that his Marlowe is somewhat different, though recognizable. The movie has good pedigree, with Neil Jordan directing, the screenplay written by William Monahan, who wrote the screenplay for the very good “The Departed,” and it was based on a novel by the very highly regarded Irish writer John Banville.

Well, I will leave it to you to see, if you want to, so I won’t say much more, except that I thought that it wasn’t bad, it was done with a serious regard for the Chandler and Marlowe canons. But it wasn’t great, either. And I am trying to think whether it was because of choices made by the filmmakers, or whether, as some critics were quick to say (though some did like it), it shows that the character of Marlowe, or the classic noir themes and images, have become worn out.

I give the filmmakers credit for trying to do an actual noir, setting it in 1939 Los Angeles, though it was mostly filmed in Ireland and Spain. It is not a “New Age noir” trying to make it more hip or familiar for a younger audience. It is an actual attempt to make a classic noir movie. But it was somewhat slow and at times uninvolving, though the “reveal,” what was really at stake, was well done, and gave the movie more resonance.

I do worry that this might be the last time that a “prestige film” is made like a classic noir. It may well be that an audience which has an inexhaustible appetite for “superhero movies,” or whatever one terms the seemingly thousands of films turned out by Marvel; or which wants politically themed movies about various kinds of biases, does not want to see anything about 1930’s or 1940’s Los Angeles. I will admit that at times “Marlowe” seemed to be trying to recreate the atmosphere of “Chinatown,” which was a better film. But I think we can use all the noirs we can get.

Why do I like film noir so much? I have written an essay or two about it here on the blog. I will just say that it offers escape; not the fantasy world of the Marvels, but an escape into an earlier time, which in some ways, as in “Chinatown,” is a kind of backstory to how we got to where we are now, not just historically or politically, but perhaps in terms of morality, who wins and who loses. Philip Marlowe, described as a “knight-errant” by Raymond Chandler, does not see himself that way; but in a world of deceit and corruption, and seduction of various sorts, he almost always does the moral thing, tries to help or save the decent characters.

Actually, the best noir, books or films, in my view, feature the detective as a good guy or woman, who is almost in some sense trying to save the world in microcosm, the “things fall apart/the centre does not hold” frightening evocation of the poet Yeats. Of course he is only working on one small corner of things, though sometimes, as in the best neo-noirs, it is more than that. In either case, the reader feels better to think that there are one or two people out there who can tell good from evil; who do not take the bribes, or lose their moral sense to the femme fatale or the power broker.

I think that we need this kind of champion, even if fictional, as much now as we did in those earlier eras. Not someone who is larger than life, that would not be satisfying. Someone who may have his flaws, but knows himself, as the words written on the temple of the Oracle at Delphi enjoined. A person who takes the wrong direction sometimes, but finds it again, and is willing to risk everything to put things right, at least as far as he can in the story he is in.

And I love stories set in that era; and of course Los Angeles, where I live, is where many noirs are set, for some obvious reasons. What a thrill it is to see movies from that time show streets and locales which I know, some recreated, some still there, Sometimes if feels as if I can open the door, and I will be on those streets, as they existed; go into the diners, visit the racetracks and the poker games; talk and dance and listen to the music in the famous clubs. It is a world of danger, but also of possibility, if you can somehow find your way through the maze.

I don’t know if the film noir ethos can be preserved in new films. “Marlowe” tried, but I don’t think succeeded as well as it wanted to. Maybe no one can, though I am excited about Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which I have deliberately tried to avoid learning anything about, maybe it is not a noir at all, but the title sounds like it is.

I know that the “Noirfest” every year in Los Angeles, showing twenty or so films in ten days, was very popular; but because of COVID, it was canceled, then currently moved to another city. Film noir still has an audience, its themes still have resonance. We can only hope that we are not overwhelmed by a surplus of fantasy films and comedies, which there is certainly room for, but not as a steady diet of non-nourishing junk food. I hope that there will still be a few other people who will try to evoke the world of film noir in their movies, with all the drama and character and moral choices that made the best films of that genre so involving, and in many cases unforgettable.

A Few Things to At Least Be Aware Of

Oh, there are always things to worry about. Personal concerns, and then general political concerns. One has to try to keep these political concerns moderated, because if one reads everything, and sees all the bad people out there, and worrisome things going on, it can be depressing and demotivating. So one tries to keep it in perspective, but not ignore them.

I did want to mention two areas to at least be aware of. One is the primary election in Wisconsin coming up on April 4. This is actually for one Supreme Court seat, but its importance cannot be minimized. The Wisconsin Supreme Court presently has a 4-3 “Conservative” majority. Actually, from what I have learned, these are four Far Right Justices, a disgrace to what the term conservative judges used to mean.

Wisconsin is another one of the states where Democrats were routed in the 2010 midterms. That was a dreadful election year. Republicans won so many seats, that they took over state legislatures and courts. Wisconsin, once a liberal state, home of Robert La Follette’s Progressive Party, ended up with a right-wing Governor, Scott Walker, and a right-wing legislature and Supreme Court. They immediately used their power to dominate the state in all aspects.

When a Democratic Governor was finally elected, Tony Evers, in 2018. the Radical Right did everything they could to limit his power. Various state officials would not resign, and their Supreme Court found in favor of them not having to. Now finally with the resignation of one Justice, there is a chance to stop this frightening takeover of the state, and maybe the country, if one of the liberal candidates wins. First, there is a primary, with two liberal justices and two ”conservatives” vying, in a ‘top two” race, where likely one of each group will runoff in April.

I listened to an interview with Ben Winkler, who has been effective in helping Democrats retake the state. He believes that if a right-wing judge is elected, the total abortion ban which was passed around 1849, could once again become law, after Roe v. Wade was overturned. This would be a nightmare. A liberal judge would make sure that abortion would remain legal in the state. In fact, either of these two right-wing judges, both Trump supporters, could so much ruin the state, that Wisconsin might not certify the presidential popular vote in the state in 2024.

We know that this is a real fear nationwide. But Wisconsin is a crucial battleground state. If Democrats do not win the state in 2024, it will be immensely difficult to win the national election. We would need to win Georgia or Arizona, or maybe both, depending on whether we held states like New Hampshire and Nevada. Demographics has caused more ‘blue” states to be at risk of reversal, than “red states.” Thus Wisconsin is crucial, and the Supreme Court race is central to how not only that state will go, but also the country. This should be focused on, and we know that Republicans will do everything they can, seize on any issue, to get the voters to just vote against Democrats. And if this ends up with the Wisconsin Supreme Court still in Republican hands, it could be much worse than even the media seems to understand We must win this race!

The other concern is more general, and should be something to be aware of going forward. I was watching a new television show, “Capture.” It is a British show. I have watched three episodes out of the six in the first season, and I am not quite sure what the outcome will be, but it is becoming clear that it is about technology, specifically video surveillance, which is increasing. And it is about how this technology could absolutely be tinkered with or subverted, so that what people might think they are seeing on video is not accurate. The impact of realizing this is powerful and unsettling.

I don’t find many shows that I like, but I am impressed by this one. It stars Holliday Grainger, and features a fine cast. Grainger, whom I first saw playing my teenage literary crush, Estella in “Great Expectations,” and who stars on “Strike,’ might well be the new potential superstar of British drama, although I very much admire Gemma Arterton and Kate Winslet as well. I think that if “Capture” continues to be as compelling as it has been so far, it will bring up the very real danger of technology being exploited for evil, or at the least very questionable, purposes. That is always the danger with technology, used by totalitarians to control the perceptions and attitudes of people. I will see where the show takes this theme.

And now another something to worry about; Senator Fetterman and his wife have stated that he is being treated for clinical depression. That is obviously a concern for him and his family, and of course will be exploited by Republicans any way they can, and generally used against Biden. Nikki Haley, whom I cannot stand, said in her presidential candidacy announcement, that she wanted “a competency test for any politician over 75.” That brings up images of “Logan’s Run,” and “Twilight Zone” episodes, and is an awful idea, but it is in line with where the would-be totalitarians who make up the Republican Party are going.

Sew Buttons on Balloons and Happy Valentine’s Day.

This is a collection of stuff on my radar.

1.) Atrios at Eschaton has a quote from an article featuring Steve Scalise on his site about making people work for their Social Security benefits. That’s interesting if Scalise is referring to retirement and not disability. By the way, some recipients on Social Security disability payments are over retirement age and due to life circumstances out of their control, not only have health issues that prevent them from working but disability is their ONLY source of income. I’m going to be pretty annoyed if Scalise is planning to deprive these people of the miserly payments we give them now just to prove that we are a nation of overworked citizens who can’t even enjoy the last years of our lives without justifying our existence. It feels Germany circa 1939 to me.

If he’s referring to retirement, probably to solve the labor shortage, I would expect he applies his new rule to everyone on social security who is not disabled regardless of age. Social Security depends on EVERYONE buying into it and trusting that the money will be there when they’re ready to stop working. Creating a two tier system for older vs younger retirees, that is the wedge issue that Scalise and the Republicans want to use to separate retirees, anger the youngs and kill Social Security as we know it.

If you voted Republican because you were convinced that the government can’t do anything right, now is the time to sit and think about what these con men talked you into.

2.) It may be time to stop going to Twitter. I’ve been reading about how Starlink stopped allowing Ukraine to use its system for drone attacks on Russians. The timing is super suspicious. Last September, Starlink was cut off from an FTC grant for something like $880M because it failed to meet its obligation to bring internet services to hard to reach rural America. It was shortly after that when Starlink said it was cutting off Ukraine from using the system for defensive purposes.

Last September/October, the Ukrainian army was on a roll, tearing through the Kherson region and taking back territory. But for some reason, the initiative stalled. I’d like to know whether Starlink cutting off Ukraine at a crucial period of time has something to do with that.

There are a few things I want to know about including Elon’s sudden support for diplomacy last fall where Ukraine cedes a significant chunk of its territory to Russia in exchange for peace.

Was he using his leverage to slow down the Ukrainian offensive in order to pressure the administration to approve the FTC grant?

What kind of “deals” did he make with the Trump administration in 2020 wrt Starlink and SpaceX?

SpaceX is cool and groovy and landing a rocket on a platform tickles my geek fancy but right from the very beginning, I’ve felt really uncomfortable outsourcing what should be a major US National security function to a private entity. My fears have proven justified, I think. I’d like to know how much control the US Defense Department has of SpaceX and Starlink in its current iteration. Do we treat it as a defense contractor like Lockheed Martin or are we going to Elon hat in hand, begging him to allow us to use his pretty toys, while we give him access to our NASA launch capabilities?

In other words, are we allowing Elon Musk to direct our foreign policy? Because that’s what this feels like. And no, I don’t think a private company can make better decisions about the safety of the country or the world than the Departments of Defense and State.

My concern is that TFG really screwed us good with SpaceX Starlink. And as a result, the war in Ukraine, which should have wrapped up late last year, was stalled, giving Russia just enough time to regroup. If that true, there were a lot of lives lost. The cost of the war will be applied to the world as it drags on for a second year. We will need to send even more weapons systems to Ukraine. This is what happens in a war when your enemy is losing and you intentionally interrupt the progress of your allies. Plus, we have no idea if a petulant billionaire has given Starlink access to the Russians just to get even.

Given that Elon has been playing with our national security interests and still has the power to do so, the US DOD has contracted with Kynmeta, a Starlink competitor that is part of the Microsoft empire, to fill in the gaps for Ukraine. It’s not as advanced as Starlink but urgency can do wonders for development.

In the meantime, Elon is merrily destroying Twitter, acting like a Demi-god, making it harder for just regular people like me to identify and follow diverse news sources and find consensus. It’s almost like if a rich, capricious, vengeful, self-absorbed, vain guy with fluid morals and principals were not able to manipulate public opinion and vital national security goals for fun, profit and unwarranted fame, the Russians would have to invent him. I’d like to think that the Trump administration built in safeguards so that Elon couldn’t hold the world hostage this but I’m betting it didn’t. Maybe we can threaten to prevent them from using our DNS servers or remotely send a signal to scramble their passwords or hack their code. Something. Maybe we can shoot down some SpaceX rockets. “Ooops! They looked like balloons. Sorry, not sorry.”

It feels like we have a huge spy network in Starlink and Twitter and I’m not here for it. So, I’m going to assess whether or not I can cut Twitter and bug out to my accounts on Mastodon and Post. I’m sure Elon won’t waste any tears over that.

3.) Happy Valentine’s Day, oh best beloveds. No matter where you are or what your life circumstances, “you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here”. And that’s a lovely place to be.

Love and kisses from me to you.