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Eli Lilly, Indiana and Dobbs.

I told you so.

After Indiana passed it’s new abortion law, Eli Lilly announced it would seriously consider pulling out of the state:

“After the legislation was signed into law, Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant and one of the state’s largest employers, warned that such laws would hurt its employee recruiting efforts and said the company would look elsewhere for its expansion plans.

“We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific engineering and business talent from around the world,” the company said in a statement issued Saturday. “Given this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.””

Many people who read that statement will think Lilly is making a statement about how Indiana is becoming an unattractive state for STEM professionals altogether. It’s not exactly what Lilly is saying here because I’ve met Republicans and very religious people in the labs. I’m not sure Indians, Asians, Muslims and non-religious scientists are the whole story. That’s not the issue.

Here’s the issue:

Eli Lilly is the first employer to highlight what will happen to women’s careers even if they aren’t pregnant.

A woman working in an R&D lab (biology, chemistry) is frequently exposed to known teratogens and substances that are unknown teratogens. In Indiana, that means exposing the fetus to harm, causing birth defects. To avoid this, R&D labs have been know in the past to remove women from the labs as soon as they know they are pregnant to prevent damage to the fetus and liability for the company. 

Now, without the ability to abort except for lethal damage, woman may need to be excluded from the lab altogether. She may not know she is pregnant before the damage is done and while these instances are rare, no one will be able to risk it. So, a female PhD for example who has studied for a significant chunk of her life to do a particular area of research will probably need to follow strict guidelines on what she can do in the lab. Or she may have to stay out of the lab altogether. The is going to directly impact the research projects she’s working on, her body of work, patents she might be an inventor on and papers she might have published. It will also be difficult for her to manage or direct the experiments of people who are working for her. 

In other words, it’s a huge setback for female STEM professionals in terms of achievements, recognition, advancements and compensation. This is what Eli Lilly is saying, likely because their female scientists immediately brought it to their attention after Dobbs. It doesn’t matter if they can travel out of state for abortion. The state could hold female lab workers and their companies liable for any damage to fetuses who are not aborted. Will criminal suits follow? Who knows. You could end up in jail for knowingly exposing a fetus to a known teratogen. It’s bad for female researchers in industrial and academic labs anywhere a legislature as decided that “it’s not her body, not her choice”.

Pennsylvania, take notice. We have an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature and the only thing preventing us from becoming Indiana is our Democratic governor. This fall, we have a choice between Doug Mastriano, an extreme right wing religious Christian Nationalist who’s not above bussing people to insurrections and Josh Shapiro, our Democratic AG. We also have a number of pharma companies and small biotechs in the Philadelphia area. In Pittsburgh, we have Bauer and PPG, which although it isn’t a pharma also has labs for paints and coatings. All of these companies with labs that could potentially expose women to harmful agents will be affected and all of the women working in them now are facing an existential threat to their careers.

It’s not a crazy theory now. It’s really happening.

Arrows Up

Do you remember when Newsweek started to do that “Who’s Up, Who’s Down” little box in each issue? To me, that was the start of the decline of that magazine. Oh, it was catchy. and one looked at it, but how irresponsible of what was supposed to be a thoughtful weekly magazine covering crucial issues, to try to distill this into some kind of sports metaphor. And I well remember how in 2008, they almost always gave Hillary Clinton a down arrow; either she lost a primary, or more usually, she won one or two, but the snarky people who ran that feature would always put “She is running out of primaries.” things like that.

So we know that it is beyond simplistic to try to analyze governance in terms of “ups and downs” But in terms of the “horse race,” which the media now almost always accentuates, this kind of thing predominates. We can’t get rid of it, though it is misleading and facile. But, since it is “a la mode,” let us note that the imaginary arrow is pointing way up for Biden and Democrats this last week.

Today, the Jobs Report shows 528,000 jobs added in this country, and an unemployment rate of 3.5%, the lowest unemployment figure in fifty years. This convincingly belies the “we are in a recession!” nonsense that all of the Republicans and far too much of the media latched onto when the GDP number slightly declined. Of course these numbers will change next month, and likely the jobs added will be a good deal less, and then the “Recession!” headlines will start again. But taken in totality over the months. the economy is strong, with inflation being the one drawback for now.

There is so much more. Kyrsten Sinema finally came through, at least as far as she ever does, along with Manchin earlier, and will support the Inflation Reduction Act, which should pass. There is still a question of what the Senate Parliamentarian will allow on this piece or that, but most of it should pass. And the bill is not ideal; there are things which we would want which are not in there. But given everything, and our beyond slim majorities, it is not bad. And there are enough Democrats whom I respect, such as Senator Schatz of Hawaii, who are very much for this bill, to cause me to think that it is indeed worthwhile to pass it; that it will be important for the environment, and may even reduce inflation somewhat.

The CHIPS Act recently passed as well. Given the limited numbers which Democrats hold in Congress, President Biden, aided by House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer, have done a rather remarkable job of passing important legislation, in the face of intractable Republican opposition, propaganda, and mockery.

We also note that gas prices have dropped for fifty straight days, with many stations showing a price of less than $4.00 now. This is obviously higher than last year, but given the factors, including massive oil company price gouging, it is a significant reduction. It is certainly possible that prices will go up again, particularly right before the election, since oil companies never want the Democrats to win. But the current drop is not negligible.

This week, we learned about the elimination of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Whoever is credited with the planning and implementation, it happened with Biden’s approval, and so he deserves credit for it as well.

Now, the general tenor, incessant from Republicans, and certainly accepted and even amplified by the media, is that Biden’s presidency has been a terrible failure. This was always absurd, and is particularly so now. We have all seen various presidential regimes. How many of them have accomplished more in less than two years, particularly with the political headwinds, a Republican Party which is worse than it ever has been, and which takes pride in voting as a bloc to stop every bill that the Democrats propose?

We all know that things can rapidly change, particularly with Republicans and much of the media just waiting to go back to their “Biden is a failure; put the Republicans back in charge,” narrative. Very likely there will be another negative report on inflation, at least it will not drop “enough.”

It is such a tightrope that Democrats have to walk, that one bad jobs report right before the election will be headlined on every station. One hates to have to depend on some luck in the last pre-election statistics, but it often comes down to that, because Republicans essentially own the media.

The thing to note is that this has been a very good week for Democrats; first with regard to the economic news, and then with the great victory in the Kansas election, where by a margin of 59-41%, voters refused to allow their state legislature to take away abortion rights. That is a righteous cause and energy which has to be channeled into the upcoming midterms.

Somehow, virtually every election has to be about abortion to at least some degree, as well as climate, guns, and Republican totalitarianism. Any party which actually features the fascist Viktor Orban as a keynote speaker, drawing cheers from the fascist sympathizers who make up that party, should be more than defeated, it should be ostracized from public legitimacy.

Democrats need to capitalize on the good news, and even more importantly, make the elections a referendum on the Republicans, who are far too dangerous to be allowed to govern anywhere. Do not shrink from that, do not think that “going high” will win on its own nobility of sentiment. Tell the people what the Republicans are now. They want the United States to be Hungary or Russia, and they want to be able to tell everyone else what to do and not do. This is completely inimical to the founding principles of this nation. This cannot be allowed to go one step further, and it must be rolled back.

That will of course depend on people’s willingness to come out and vote in record numbers, and not to be dissuaded by the various noises and distractions which Republicans and their media arms make. Full speed ahead. Arrows up!

Kansas Nope

The ballot initiative in Kansas illustrates vividly why the idea that leaving abortion rights to the state legislators is a naïve and undemocratic idea. For those of you not following along, back in 2019, the state Supreme Court agreed with an amendment to the state constitution that protected the right to abortion. It was a sort of reverse trigger law. The ballot initiative yesterday asked whether Kansans wanted to do away with the amendment and allow the state legislature enact new laws regulating abortion.

Kansas, which at one time recently was the subject of a book called “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”, was the belwether warning us what could happen when extremism in Republican politics moves into a state. The state legislature is 2:1 Republican. Interestingly, they have a Democratic governor. I’m beginning to see THAT as the real indicator of public sentiment on abortion. Voters might not be able to do anything about how the state legislative seats are allocated but more densely populated cities can elect statewide offices. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Kansas state legislature crafted the ballot initiative in such a way that it would have the best opportunity to pass. The sneaky tactics included voting for it on a primary day in August instead of November. The idea was that voter turnout was expected to be a low 38% and since most Democrats were running unopposed, the primary should have pulled in mostly Republican voters.

The wording of the initiative was as confusing as date rape where yes meant no and no meant yes. A No vote meant that the voters wanted to keep the amendment. A yes vote meant that the voters preferred the legislature to regulate abortion. The Republicans were breathtaking in their disinformation campaigns spending $10 million dollars on ads that muddled the issue even further.

Then there was a new law that makes it a felony to impersonate an election official. This is one of those maniacally important election integrity laws that is intended to scare people into not running voting registration drives. Everyone knows they’re not election officials but do they really want to take that risk of going to jail for going into high schools and churches to sign people up?

But in spite of all that, in fact, maybe because of all that, voters turned out in crazy numbers. The No vote won by almost 20 points. It might have won by more if the legislature skullduggery didn’t have some impact.

I imagine the state legislature scratching its head today like the Grinch hearing Wahoo Dorus in Whoville on Christmas morning. It tried every sneaky thing it could think of to trick Kansans into gutting their own rights in a presumably red state that went for Trump by gobs and gobs of deluded red state votes. The presidential election went 56% to 41% for Trump in 2020 and this ballot initiative was almost completely the opposite.

That means there were probably a lot of Republicans who voted No. Oooo, that’s not good. That’s a completely different bellwether.

“It came without bobbles, buttons or bows.”

Maybe it was because a 10 year old rape victim couldn’t get an abortion in Ohio. Maybe it was because of all the accounts coming out of Texas and Missouri where women have to be minutes from dying before they can get abortions that would save their lives because doctors are terrified they could lose their license to practice medicine. Maybe it was because Kansans in cities looked around at their only options and decided they didn’t want to be stranded out on the prairie and have to travel all the way to Colorado or Illinois. Maybe Republican women who are now pillars of the community remembered that abortion they had when they were second year college students. I’ll leave it to the 538 data scientists to sort it all out.

There’s one thing I do know for sure. The state legislature and the militant anti-choice, pro-forced motherhood brigade are hardly going to let a speed bump like this stand in their way of making sure women suffer punishment of biblical proportions for being human and opening their legs. No. They will find some new, diabolical scheme that will make sure they get control of every female who dares to have the same bodily autonomy as their male counterparts.

I don’t know how they’re going to do it but if I were Kansans who voted No, I’d be very vigilant. They might consider voting No on their local state legislator running for office. Republicans currently have a 2:1 advantage in the legislature and the governor is up for re-election in November. Do they really want to swap out Democrat Kelly for Republican Schmidt?

Maybe Kansas is starting to recover from its fever dream. Maybe reversing Roe was the thing that will make Kansans re-evaluate their commitment to Trumpism or extreme conservatism in general. Maybe Republican women don’t actually prefer being second class citizens in their own country with no say in their healthcare or parenthood decisions. Maybe Dobbs has created a whole new category of single issue voter.

Maybe Republican politicians nationwide should think about that.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I Think That There Are Democrats Running in Midterms Today

Today there are primary elections in five different states. Apparently there are only Republican primaries, because I didn’t hear anything about Democratic primaries.

I heard about the races for governor and senator and secretary of state in Arizona, and about how Far Right (that is a euphemism in these examples) the candidates are. This is similarly true of the candidates in Missouri. These Republicans deny the results of the 2020 election, at least on the presidential line. One of them pledges to eliminate voting by machines. Another one ran an ad showing loyal MAGAs carrying assault weapons and hunting the few Republicans who are not MAGAs.

Now, this is obviously alarming, but not surprising. Even worse, is the fact that there don’t seem to be any Democrats who would run against them. I didn’t watch all of the shows, of course, but I heard almost no words about any Democrats having primaries. However, there eventually was a sentence or two mentioning Democratic candidates, but nothing about them, or any of their positions. For those viewers who do not follow politics closely, they will either think that the Democrats are not at all important; or that they have no chance to win. So we hear the news commentators go on and on about how these races are a fascinating test of the power of Trump.

Actually, there are some Democratic candidates. In Arizona, there is Katie Hobbs running for Governor, she is the Secretary of State of Arizona. For Senator, there is actually an incumbent senator, that is Mark Kelly, who won that position in 2020. So one might think that both Hobbs and Kelly are legitimate contenders in those races, even if the media currently doesn’t cover them.

Why does the media do this? Various reasons combined. Mostly, it is that they think that Trump is such a headline grabber, that the only excitement in these primaries is about whom he endorses, and how they do, and how that might affect his chance to be nominated for President again. And I will guarantee you that the reporting tomorrow will focus on that, with the Democratic candidates acting as backdrops.

There is one very important election which does not feature candidates. This is is a measure in Kansas which would throw out the State Supreme Court’s decision in 2019, guaranteeing a right to abortion. If it is overturned by the election, we can expect another draconian abortion bill coming from the state legislature. If Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is re-elected, she can stop it, but Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt is favored to recapture the governorship for Republicans.

Hopefully, Kelly and other Democrats opposing Republicans in November will get at least some media coverage after these primaries. And maybe Pro-Choice defenders will win tomorrow, although this measure was deliberately placed on the ballot by Republicans who figure that since there is no strongly contested Democratic race, less Democrats will turn out to stop it.

There is better news coming from the Democratic side. Gas prices have dropped for 48 days, albeit by pennies each day, but it is an improvement. The House passed the CHIPS and Science Act, and President Biden will sign it. The Inflation Reduction Act, which is a major step in trying to fight the climate crisis, will pass, if Kyrsten Sinema, who started her political career in the Green Party, actually votes for it. She has not deigned to favor the rest of the people with her position on the bill.

And yesterday it was announced that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a U.S. drone strike. One would hope that some of these things might turn around the narratives, and help in the midterms. It will be a struggle, though, as the media decides the narratives, even if they do not control the facts.

Hollywood Farmers’ Market Today

There is a Farmers’ Market that I like to go to in Hollywood, on Sundays. It is quite large, it runs almost three small blocks.

Today, I got there about 10:30 AM. I parked on a side street, and then walked to Hollywood Boulevard, where “you can see the stars,” “some that you recognize, some that you’ve never even heard of.” (“Celluloid Heroes,” The Kinks 1972).

Except that there was no market. Hollywood Boulevard was blocked by police tape for a few blocks. I saw three police vehicles parked inside the area of the market, and no activity in the market, no stalls or people. There were about six police officers standing a block north of Hollywood Boulevard. They didn’t seem like they intended to answer questions, so I just turned around and drove away. I was worried about running out of gas, because I had only a little left; I had planned to get gas about five minutes away from the market when I had finished shopping, but the roads were blocked or stalled, making it difficult to drive. But I was able to get to a gas station once I cleared the traffic jam.

I turned on the radio at 11am, and there was no report of anything going on there, except a story about a woman who was a victim of a motiveless attack in a parking lot in Hollywood, probably last night. I wondered if that was what closed the market.

I drove to another Farmers’ Market, in Beverly Hills. I asked a vendor who also had a stand in Hollywood, and he said, “There are different stories.” Another vendor said that there was an active shooter at the market.

I finally heard something about it on the car radio around noon. They said that a man had fired shots from a building overlooking the market, at about 7:30 AM, and was finally taken into custody. A woman who apparently was at the market, either as someone helping a vendor, or an early customer, said that she heard noises, and a man there said that this is gunfire, so she raced away.

Tonight, when I got home, I read an updated news article which said that there had been several reports of gunfire at the market in the morning. Multiple callers told Police Dispatch that a gunman had opened fire around 8AM from a building very near the market. When officers arrived at the scene, they saw a man throwing rocks from a balcony. The man barricaded himself in an apartment and would not cooperate with police. Several household objects were thrown down into the street during the standoff. No injuries were reported.

Officers quickly announced the closure for the day of the Farmers’ Market. The man was taken into custody about noon. Police said that they saw no evidence of gunfire.

No lessons here, just a sadness that we have devolved to this. Of course the police needed to do the safe thing, and close the market and get everyone out of there. Apparently this time there was no gun, no gunman. But of course there could have been, and tragically enough, there will be more of them. They can be anywhere, any area with many people, or maybe a few.

Everyone has a gun, it seems; some have many guns Some intend to use them, some get angry and use them, some are completely divorced from reality and social norms, and no one knows what they might do. Some are on drugs. Some are psychotic. Governor Reagan shut down many mental health facilities during his terms as Governor of California, and many thousands of people who were a danger to society, were let out into the streets without their medications. That was decades ago, but the problem persists.

Of course, there are shooters in upper class areas as well. One never knows if one is hearing a backfire, or someone throwing rocks or objects, like today, or shooting one of his many guns.

Is everyone who goes to a farmers’ market, or a concert, or a parade, in serious danger of having some psychotic or simply evil person shooting at them? One would hope not, but there are an increasing number of them.

The NRA, in its greed, and lust for power, let loose this scourge, and now they can’t and won’t control it. Republicans have no answers, they don’t even want to try to think of any rational ones, they just hope that each shooting vanishes from the headlines. Democrats try to do something, they passed an Assault Weapons Ban on Friday. It passed by a vote of 217-213. Two Republicans voted for the bill, along with 215 Democrats.

Of course the bill will go nowhere in the Senate, it will not even see the floor. And of course a number of very strange people will blame both parties for this, and blame Biden for “not getting it done.” Some will say that the parties are the same, and that they should vote for egomaniac crackpot Andrew Yang and his supposed new third party.

My thought is that if enough people voted in the midterms to keep the Democrats in control of the House, and give them enough Senate votes to make an exception to the filibuster, or get rid of filibusters entirely, an assault weapons bill would be passed, and President Biden would sign it. But too many people want to vote for Republicans because of inflation, not being cogent enough to realize that putting Republicans in a majority in either chamber of Congress, not only will not do one thing to improve the economy, it will guarantee that nothing will be done about any of the other issues which people strongly care about, and which a sizeable majority of Americans want significant action on.

Gun control is one of these issues. Republicans will make sure that not one significant gun bill will be passed, and nothing will be done about mass shootings, nor about the fear that so many people now have of going into open or crowded spaces. Democrats will try to actually do something.

Just another day. Very fortunately, no one was shot, or even shot at, at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. Not today, at least. Many farmers were unable to sell their crops, which some had driven 250 miles to sell. Many patrons were inconvenienced. One of the vendors in Beverly Hills, who did not know exactly what was happening, said, “Go home, relax there, it’s not safe out here.” One doesn’t want to do that, but it is a legitimate recommendation. Voting for Democrats in every single race in November, would help to improve the situation. But will enough voters be perceptive enough, and energized enough, to do that?

Republicans For Recession

I looked up a compilation of recessions in American history. We can debate the definition of recession, it is generally understood as a contraction in the economy, involving higher unemployment, lost jobs, layoffs. Obviously, some recessions are worse than others. I used wikipedia for these statistics, which is not ideal ,but probably accurate enough for a gloss on the issue.

Here are the listed recessions in America from 1950 until today, with the reminder that by far the worst economic period in the last 100 years, was the Great Depression of 1929, essentially the result of the laissez-faire policies of the three Republican Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. I will also list the President in office at the time the recessions began.

1953, Eisenhower. 1958, Eisenhower. 1960, Eisenhower. 1969, Nixon. 1973, Nixon. 1980, Carter. 1981, Reagan. 1990, GHW Bush. 2007, “The Great Recession,” GW Bush.

That is the list. We are not in a recession now, that is ordinarily something determined by The National Bureau of Economic Research, using specific criteria. Actually, of the six key indicators, NBER lists four of the six indicate growth. Those are Real Personal Income, Jobs, Real Wholesale Retail Sales, and Industrial Production. People can argue about this, but we are not currently in a recession, though we might be in one next year. There are some short recessions, some longer ones, and then the awful one in 2007 which lasted for years.

Back to the list, we will note that every single one of them but one, started under a Republican president. That is not coincidence. Republicans do not believe in stimulating the economy by increasing the buying power of the middle class. That is not the only factor causing a recession, but the historical data is overwhelming.

Now the Republicans are excitedly claiming that the estimated GDP decline of .9%, following a decline of 1.6% three months ago, means RECESSION! Admittedly, the word is powerful, and connotes all sorts of bad things, particularly to unsophisticated voters. With all the bad things the Republicans are doing, and the positive news on Democratic bills, they are going to hammer away at the R word.

Today, Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said that he was absolutely sure that the U.S. economy was not in recession, though the outlook was “cloudy.’ It was also suggested by some economists a few weeks ago that we are “talking ourselves into a recession,” meaning that if enough people shout “recession!,” some consumers will cut back on spending so that there is a slowdown, which would lead to more cutting back, and a greater slowdown. Of course, the Republicans want the recession, or talk of it, because they don’t care about anything but winning elections right now.

I remember most of those recessions, some were worse than others, most of them were not reasons for panic. They are to be avoided, but there are natural economic cycles: inflation, then the Fed raises interest rates, and if they shoot too far, they could cause a recession. Nine recessions from 1953-2007, eight of them under Republican Presidents.

None under Clinton, whose policies Republicans swore would destroy the economy. None under Obama. None under JFK or LBJ. If there is one coming up, it certainly would not be Biden’s fault, it would be due to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. Now, someone could blame Biden for the inflation, even though the pandemic, the pent-up demand, the supply chain problems, the Ukraine war, were the major causes. and so the inflation is worldwide.

But we know that none of this matters, because with the 24-hour news stations, there will be about 23 hours and forty minutes of “Recession!” and twenty minutes of explanation. Very few people understand economics; and I don’t understand all the nuances, either, but it’s all overpowered by the headlines. We could have really used a slightly better GDP number, so as not to trigger the “two negative GDPs mean a recession,” which is not the case, but fits the easy narrative that the media likes.

This is where the media really fails us. The President does not control the actions of the Federal Reserve Board, although Trump kept trying to force Powell to drop interest rates, to juice the economy to enhance his election chances. Remember that Trump said he wanted negative interest rates, and wanted a stimulus package of $3 trillion. All stupid, short-term measures designed for the only things that Trump cares about, money and winning. But the media never mentions any of that. Biden is blamed for the stimulus of 2021, and Republicans, who do not want government to spend anything on average citizens, say that this is what caused inflation, and then they blame Biden for the inflation and the recession.

All they want is to win, and advance their dreadful agendas. They just look for an entry point. Inflation. Recession. Fears of Recession. Migrant caravans. Social unrest. Wokeness. Anything. Trying to argue about economic realities and causes is frowned upon by the media, it does not get them ratings, not the way that running chyrons about “Democrats fear destruction in midterms,” or “Prices soar,” do. So they go for what sells for them. It is very frustrating, because there is a good deal in the way of good news coming from Democrats, while we hear more stories of treasonous purging of phone and computer logs by those who were planning and carrying out the coup against democracy. but it gets pushed out of the headlines and news cycle.

I would bet that half of every cable news show hour, and 90% on Fox, will be about inflation, or recession, or both. I would hope that the Democrats somehow try to focus on abortion, climate, guns, and the Republicans voting against aid to veterans out of spite. No matter what the news hosts say, just keep switching the subject.

Republicans are the Party of Recessions. They specialize in causing them. It is very rare that they can use the term as a weapon against Democrats, but they are eager to do so, to push the cultural issues off the election coverage, only to return when they have tricked enough people into putting them in power.

How Voting in Record Numbers Can Save the Country

I saw a little discussion with former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. Steele is pro-Republican, but very anti-Trump. Belcher is a pleasant person, who laughs a lot, I guess that is just his nature.

Belcher was asked about some chances the Democrats have right now to pass some not great, but decent, bills, and whether Biden would get credit for them. He laughed, and said “probably not” and then got serious and said that much of the criticism Biden gets is coming from “Progressive Democrats.” That if you took thirty Democrats, you would hear thirty different takes on issues, whereas with Republicans, you might get two or three. He said that it was the Millennials in the party who were expressing the most disappointment with Biden. He seemed to be saying, “But that’s Democrats, what can you do?”

I think that if we watch news shows or read articles, we are likely to come to a similar conclusion, that there are far too many people who call themselves Democrats or Progressives, who have been constantly carping at Biden for not getting this or that accomplished. Well, they certainly have that right to express themselves, but at some point, they have to realize that not only are virtually all of these “failures” due to Republicans almost unanimously voting against the bills, along with Manchin and Sinema, but that at some point, this almost reflexive complaining is hurting Biden, and with it, the chances to keep the Republicans from taking over.

I won’t go through all of the bills, but it seems to me that Biden is almost always trying to do the right thing on crucial issues like abortion, guns, climate, medical care. Could someone else do better? Possibly, or possibly not, at this political moment. And more importantly, he’s what we’ve got now–unless people are so foolish as to think that Democrats could lose the midterms, and then make some amazing comeback in 2024, win the presidency with someone else, and take back Congress.

My opinion is that if we lose the Senate, we will not get it back for many years; the map in 2024 contested seats favors Republicans. If we lose the House, we face so much consolidation of Republican power in state legislatures, that it would be very difficult to win it back. And so, since Republicans use their political power in relentless fashion, we would need to control the presidency, House, and Senate, to get anything meaningful accomplished. What is happening now on bills is not Biden’s fault; even if one doesn’t like his style or elocution, or whatever, these bills would fare no better with someone else at the helm.

Now that sounds bleak. But just consider that if Democrats could somehow keep the House, and add at least two seats in the Senate, great things could be accomplished. Right now, the House is trying to pass an assault weapons ban, which is brave and exciting, except that it would never pass the Senate, and would not even get on the floor, because of the filibuster.

But what if Democrats had 53 Senate seats? Impossible? Not at all. Polls are not reliable, and Republicans pour in money in the last part of a campaign. But our small donor money is greatly exceeding the amount Republicans are donating.

Right now–and keep our fingers crossed–we look strong in Pennsylvania with Fetterman, and that gains us a seat. Very surprisingly, Ryan is running ahead of Vance in Ohio, which would be a gain. Beasley is tied with Budd in North Carolina. Warnock is ahead in Georgia. Hassan leads in New Hampshire. I worry about Cortez Mastro in Nevada and Kelly in Arizona, but they are both ahead. And we have a chance in Wisconsin, though I still think that Godlewski would have a better chance against Johnson than Barnes, who is likely to win the primary.

So it is certainly possible for the Democrats to pick up two Senate seats, though three would be better, of course. That could conceivably override anything that Manchin or Sinema would do. It could well mean changing the filibuster rules, for specific bills like voting rights, abortion, climate, gun safety. Unfortunately, if we lose the House, we would not be able to pass any bills, they would never even be brought up. But it is certainly not impossible that we could hold the House. And if we held only the Senate, we could retake the House in the elections of 2024.

Now, that is not a great deal to hold onto, but it does emphasize that the position Democrats are in is not intractable. Not if people who call themselves Democrats, or liberals, or Progressives, actually come out to vote in record numbers, to save the country. But they have to do that. Indulging themselves by not voting because “we are disappointed in Biden! He did not keep his promises!” (gee, do you think that this might just be because Republican blocked or defeated the legislation?). “Where is the student loan forgiveness?” “He is too old, we need someone younger!,” accomplishes nothing at all, except the illusion of agency, and the reality of Republican rule of the country.

That may be something that the people who are complaining do not want to hear, they are insulted by it, they are going to show everyone that they won’t take it! (just like in 2016); they won’t be dictated to or patronized by Baby Boomers, or by Biden, or anyone who doesn’t do what they want! So I guess we have to be very nice, very ingratiating, with the appreciation of how absolutely important these people are, so as to somehow beg and coax them into going out to the polls every two years, and voting for every Democrat on the ticket.

Oh, yes, I know that they won’t be patronized, they “vote for the person, not the party,” they want what they want, and if they don’t get it, they’ll stay home and complain some more. Growing up, and that is far from just a matter of age, it is about maturity, and the ability to understand how our flawed political system works, is imperative.

We are contesting the most evil force in American history. They are poised to ban all abortions, ban contraception, force children to attend religious schools; do nothing at all about the terrifying rise in global temperatures, do nothing about increasing gun violence–and, oh, they won’t reduce one dollar of student loans, plus they will take away Social Security and Medicare.

If that isn’t enough to compel every single person to go out and vote, then we cannot save the country, as many decent people are trying very hard to do, by donating, organizing the vote, and trying to tell all the recalcitrant people that they need to stop the complaining, stop the “I’m a superior person, and I won’t listen to any of you” immaturity, and do the only right thing here, which is to help the Democrats save the country from the fascists.

It can be done, but it takes will, commitment, and some intellectual and emotional maturity. It’s not an ideal situation, it never is in politics. Keep waiting for the ideal situation, and you are exactly where the fascists want you to be: out of power, complaining, giving up on participating altogether; looking for somebody to blame for the fact that the Radical Right controls the Supreme Court; that the fascists either control all the levers of power, or enough of them to keep the good people from ever changing any laws.

“The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Take responsibility, do something positive, and then see if things might indeed improve for you and the country. Otherwise, the Far Right totalitarians have you exactly where they intended to put you and keep you. You’ve got a little over three months to realize this, and act upon it. Please do so.

Nobody Lives Forever

I watched the movie “Nobody Lives Forever” on a movie channel I have which unfortunately has commercials, but makes up for it by showing noir movies all Thursday, and in the evening on Sunday. I have a number of noir film compilations, but there were many I not seen, as I learned from watching this channel.

This is really a superb movie, I think. It is based on a novel by W.R. Burnett. It was directed by Jean Negulesco, who did a brilliant job. It stars John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald, who are first-rate; and the supporting cast, including Walter Brennan, George Coulouris, Faye Emerson, and George Tobias, are all very good, particularly the rather amazing Coulouris, who was in Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater, and played in many classic British stage dramas, which background one would never guess from his role as Doc Ganson in this movie.

Garfield plays Nick Blake, a successful, nonviolent con man who fleeces rich women, among other people. He was a soldier in WWII, and performed admirably, to his credit. He comes back; and joining up with his long-time friend played by Tobias, presumably to resume his prior career, he first takes a sumptuous vacation at a Southern Californian beach house, and says hello to an old friend, Pop Gruber, an amiable grifter who now does very small cons. But Doc Ganson, who has fallen in stature in this milieu, thinks he has a chance for a big score in a very wealthy young widow (Fitzgerald). He hates Blake, but needs his help

Blake finally agrees to take on the scheme, only if he can do it his own way. Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s character, who is both lovely and very nice, becomes very attracted to Garfield, and it seems as if he likes her very much, too, although he is a professional.

The tension between the growing mutual attraction and the con; and the pressure from the dangerous Ganson, helps to make this a movie which never falters, never is anything but involving. As I first watched it, the tension was increased by my thinking of the title, “Nobody Lives Forever.” As we know, many noirs have downbeat endings. Since you may either have already seen it, or might not watch films in the genre, I will presume to say that after some very tense moments, it has a mostly happy ending.

In my opinion, they just do not make films like this now, and that’s not just a matter of a different era, or black and white vs. color movies. This is very well written, not at all preachy; focused on character and milieu. The dialogue is never overwrought or pretentious. The film keeps one’s interest from the very first minutes; and it is never artificially amped up, nor does it have scenes which distract or are not coherent with the rest of it.

Everyone who made this film should have been very proud of it. Why it is not generally mentioned as a great noir film, is baffling, unless it is that it is more about character, nuance, and dialogue than action. If you like film noir, I highly recommend it!

John Garfield was a great talent, who died young, certainly to some extent due to his hounding by the Hoover and HUAC forces. He would have been one of the all-time greats; maybe he was, despite his relatively short career. Fitzgerald was a star, but never quite reached the heights of say, a Fontaine or de Havilland, but she was every bit as good.

Nobody lives forever. That takes on different meanings in different contexts. I don’t look for stories like this, but yesterday I saw this terrible story about a man who was killed by shots from a motorist who may have been enraged because the victim had inadvertently sprayed some wiper fluid onto his car.

This was in Oregon. The victim of this horrific killing seemed like a very nice man. He had met his long-time female partner online, then came out to see her, but she was unable to deal with it, and told him he should go; but then immediately thought better of it, and called him, and he came back and never left They were together 18 years. He had an adult son, and the couple had two younger children.

They were driving, and suddenly this young man, identified as around 25, started following them. The victim’s partner told him to drive off the highway, which he did, but then they soon saw him alongside, and he apparently seemed to be trying to force their car off the road, by stopping and starting, and driving very close to them. Then suddenly the other car went right alongside, and the driver shot and killed him, then drove away.

There were expressions of shock and horror. A friend started a Go Fund Me page, with a goal of $10,000; and $30,000 was received in one day. Of course, this cannot undo the tragedy, or the thoughts I have, undoubtedly shared by many people, that the two young boys would never again see their father, shown affectionately playing with one of them in a photo. And of course neither would his partner and his older son.

Some twisted person, one of an increasing number of them, went out driving, carrying his handgun, and maybe more guns, since the police have not apprehended him. He was angry at something, generally or specifically. He shot the other man several times and killed him. Just like that. Guns, proliferating everywhere. Everyone wants to buy several of them. Concealed carry. Assault rifles.

No one wants to do anything about this. The recent gun bill will not stop such things. For Republicans, this is what they think is the price of living in America. It is obscene.

A sick and evil person had to have his gun. He had to take out his anger and hate at someone in a car who was just driving along. The killer drove away. Maybe they will catch him, or maybe not. It does not seem to matter much.

Nobody lives forever. But everyone deserves the opportunity to live free of the killing impulses of people who should be locked away in mental institutions, much less allowed to drive around and shoot anyone who has triggered their mechanisms of hate and deadly violence.

We cannot spend each moment with such awful stories, but they cannot be passed over. The stylish and engaging world of noir movies is a welcome diversion, but one cannot avoid thinking that this country has become so much more violent, hate-filled, and dangerous than film noir’s enhanced version of reality.

The antidote for magical thinking.

I don’t understand the minds of the people who voted for Trump. I’m not wired that way. I can’t see what they see in him and, like William below, I find it puzzling that anyone would praise his “accomplishments”. Long time readers know that I wasn’t a fan of Obama either for the myriad of reasons I documented from 2008-2016. Obama may go down in history as the luckiest man to ever be president because he was sandwiched between two of our worst presidents.

But if we compare temperaments, Obama was passive and complacent while Trump was unfit. We knew this ahead of time. No doubt, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did extensive opposition research on Donald. It’s not like he suddenly became pathologically impulsive and irresponsible overnight. He’s been that way for his entire adult life.

Here was Hillary’s warning in 2016:

I don’t believe for a minute that Trump’s voters didn’t know that about him. I think it was a feature to them. For some reason, they want destruction. They think so little of the government they’ve had the privilege to grow up with that they want to see it burned to the ground. Even if that means chaos. Even if that means bloodshed. Even if that means loss of services, energy grid, weather forecasts. Even if that means they won’t be retiring with the Social Security and Medicare they’ve paid for all their working lives.

That’s why so many MAGA supporters to this day, after so many hearings and evidence of Trump’s unfitness are still unwilling to see things as they really are. He was getting away with things they could only dream about.

There are specialists in autocratic governments and how they are created who have been warning that it could happen here. The American population has cut its teeth on jingoism and slogans and imagery of baseball game anthems and fireworks that have lost all their original meaning. We are sitting ducks for the strong men who will slide in unawares and gobble up everything that once belonged to all of us and will now be handed out like fiefs by a feudal lord.

There will come a day soon when Florida will crack down on abortions in the state, probably following Victor Orban’s lead on what he did in Hungary: Reduce the number of weeks to 12 or close to it, prohibit the use of medication for abortions, force women seeking one to go to a crisis pregnancy center for a couple of time wasting meetings where they will be emotionally manipulated and if that doesn’t work, humiliated and lectured before they’re finally allowed to make a decision that is right for their lives. Ron DeSantis is definitely playing by the Orban playbook and the next steps are entirely predictable.

Magical thinking is believing that some strong man is going to avenge your wrath on your enemies on your behalf and remake America into the idyllic past that never existed. Accountability is necessary to impose limits on pursuing magic instead of governance. The people responsible for what happened on 1/6/21 and to this day (because they’ve been busily setting up their next coup) have to be held accountable. They must face the consequences of their actions. There must be punishment or prohibition from ever holding office again. The public needs to see that we won’t tolerate the theft of our government by extraconstitutional means.

I get it that they think they have enough guns to overwhelm us but what does that get them? Do they really want to be those people? The kind that slaughters innocent people like the pioneers just passing through Mormon territory at Mountain Meadows in 1857? Those Mormons who participated in the slaughter were indoctrinated and lead to believe that the pioneers were their enemy without any justification. That’s where we are heading, slaughter of fellow Americans. The shooters who did it were eventually caught, tried and hung but the strongman, Brigham Young, who sicced his domestic terrorists filled with the wrath of God on 140 men, women and children, seemingly got away with it, giving hope to the many renegades to come, some of them the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and their wannabes of 2021.

That’s what is going to happen here. He’s going to try to get away with it. And then he’ll do it again because he can’t help himself. Even this week, he tried to get Wisconsin to change its 2016 election results. He’s focussed like a shark on only one thing: whatever he wants. And the one who aspires to be next will take advantage of the cracks in our electoral system that Trump has helped to open up.

And when you’ve lost your vote, you’ve lost your control over your future and the stability of your country. Ask any voter in Russia or Hungary how they feel about the strongman they once invited in and can’t get rid of. Once you’ve lost it, you can almost never get it back without becoming the enemy of the state you put in power to begin with.

We don’t have to go through that. We can start imposing limits now. We can punish the guilty. We can keep insurrectionists from holding office, forcing voters to choose a different hard ass Republican for their district, one that doesn’t have treason on his hands and who won’t run from the vampire’s minions he invited into his House.

There is no antidote for magical thinking. It’s like a fire that may take a long time to burn out. The only thing that stops it in its tracks is decimating the believers and hoping that their leaders go down with them.

I take that back. Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, wrote this in a recent substack. The antidote is pulling ourselves back, giving ourselves a moment to reflect:

“Russian propaganda reaches us for much the same reasons it reachers Russians. The three “N”s give us no analytical purchase on what is actually going on; we cling to them for the reasons that Russians do, which is that they touch deeper emotions. If your default inclination is guilt about the world, and you are inclined to believe that America is responsible for all evil, then your “N” is NATO. If you are fearful and looking for a reason to do nothing, then you are best served by “nukes.” And if you like to look down on others as barbarians, or have the urge to be seen as the most radical person in your pack, you will be susceptible to Putin’s characterization of his chosen enemies as “Nazis.”

It is easy to demonstrate that none of this makes any sense, nor has any bearing on Russia’s war aims. But unless we are able to say about ourselves: “oh yes, I have that vulnerability” or “sure, I might fall for that sometimes” or “I can see how I could be led down that rabbit hole” such a demonstration will make no difference. And this, one hopes at least, is the fundamental difference between Russia and America at the moment. We still have the institutions and, one likes to hope, the inclination to reflect, to reconsider. Tyranny at some late stage is based on nothing more than the backwash of violent action: it must have been right because we did it at the tyrant’s behest. Democracy depends upon the ability to catch ourselves halfway, before we internalize the slogans and defend them just because we defend them.”

Coup de Grace for Trump?

Just a few of my immediate thoughts while watching today’s January 6 Committee hearing. Not in order of importance, but just things which stood out to me tonight

I understand the Committee wanting to use almost all Republican witnesses, people who were in the Administration. They wanted this to look as unpartisan as possible; and of course the members of the Administration were Republicans. But the problem is that Republicans being Republicans, they are always looking to cover and elevate themselves. So they can’t resist telling the audience that they were so proud of their work with Trump, and “the great things he did.”

Matthew Pottinger, who was called as a witness because he abruptly resigned after January 6, wanted to make sure to say that he and Trump did great things, which he enumerated. Sarah Matthews, and earlier Cassidy Hutchinson, did somewhat the same., though they were very critical of Trump’s actions on January 6. These are hardcore Republicans, which of course they have the right to be. But I thought it particularly inappropriate for Pottinger to do this here. There are too many people out there who somehow think that, well, Trump did some bad things on January 6, but he was a good President. That is what Pottinger wants people to think. Republicans want to win both ways.

It was grimly amusing to see Josh Hawley, after giving some kind of White Power sign to the rioters, racing out of the Capitol to protect himself. The gallery laughed at this. Videos have now been made with Hawley’s running shown over the themes to “Chariots of Fire,” and “Rocky,” “Staying Alive,” “The Benny Hill Show.” Plaudits to the Committee for showing Hawley running away from what he helped to cause.

People kept testifying that they needed Trump to call off the mob. But why would he do that? He is the person who got them to the Capitol, who told them to march there, and that he would join them. Why would he then tell them to go home?

What are people missing? Trump wanted a riot, and he wanted carnage, and he probably wanted killing. He was not going to suddenly decide that this was not good. There is some kind of disjunct, where Republicans refuse to believe that Trump wanted people murdered, and anything which would stop the certification. He created all of this, but then they thought he would decide that the violence was not good, and it should stop? Absurd.

The fear of Pence’s security detail that they might all be killed, was chilling to hear on tape. And Pence still supports Trump? What kind of psychological gymnastics are required to be one of these Republicans?

Trump doing multiple versions of his “okay, go home” speech, will be played millions of times.

I continue to be extremely impressed by Elaine Luria. Intelligent, articulate, and humane.

The summations by Luria and Kinzinger were very strong.

Liz Cheney does a superb job in her final summations.

Will this hearing, culminating the earlier ones, guarantee that Trump will never successfully run for President again? I think so, though I know that many are not all sure, particularly when polls show him leading any Republican opponents, and running close to Biden in a general election. One can never be over-optimistic on such matters, but I just have this sense that there are enough people who will never vote for him to be President.

The January 6th Committee is united in wanting to focus on Trump. They have not seemed as interested in impugning any of his advisors or subordinates who conspired to cause the virtual overthrow of American democracy. Probably it is too difficult to achieve it, because none of them will tell on the other ones, and they are all essentially united in their causes. Well, we can be grateful for what they have done so far, with intelligence, commitment, and eloquence. And there will be more hearings in September!