Later On

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Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

I’m starting to think the US is not going to make it

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Remember, the House of Representatives passed a Covid relief bill in May, thanks to Democrats. Mitch McConnell did not allow the Senate to take up the bill. Now there is nothing but some ineffective and poorly written executive orders that will do nothing. The Republican party is destroying the US (with the help of Russia).

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today was another one for the history books.

This morning, in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump came out and said it: he wants to starve the United States Postal Service to destroy mail-in voting. Claiming that mail-in voting favors Democrats, he said: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots… Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

The president’s acknowledgement that he is deliberately sabotaging an institution established in the Constitution to steal the election provoked outrage. He is tampering with an election by attacking mail-in voting even as he and Melania Trump have requested mail-in ballots for themselves. And the USPS does not simply handle ballots, it also handles many aspects of our lives: packages, medicines, and so on—things vital to our economy and way of life. “When the president goes after the Postal Service, he’s going after an all-American, highly approved-by-the-public institution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said.

The attack on the USPS dovetails with the push of the Trump administration to privatize the USPS, a push launched shortly after Trump took office. This week we learned that Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, retains at least $30 million in holdings of the company XPO Logistics, a private competitor to the USPS, and that on the same day in June that he got rid of a large number of shares of Amazon, he bought stock options at a lower price. Amazon would be hard hit by the disintegration of the USPS. “The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking,” said former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub.

But the bottom line is that, until the Senate decides to do something about it, the House is powerless to fund the USPS to help it survive the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. In the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act the House passed in May, there was a $25 billion support for the USPS. But the Senate declined to take up the HEROES Act. When the Republicans could not agree on a new measure at the end of July, the Democrats began to negotiate directly with the White House, which proposed a more limited, $1 trillion bill. Democrats suggested a compromise at $2 trillion, but the White House has refused to budge. With this stalemate, Congress has gone on vacation for the rest of the month, while negotiators continue to try to reach a deal.

Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) noted that DeJoy’s new regulations are slowing the mail dramatically. He tweeted: “Here is the truth and I need you to spread it: the voters need to take control. Voters need to [vote by October 22] if using USPS.”

Other Democrats pushed back on Trump in their own way. In his interview, Trump said of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat: “AOC was a poor student. I won’t say where she went to school, it doesn’t matter. This is not even a smart person, other than she’s got a good line of stuff. I mean she goes out and she yaps.” Ocasio-Cortez retorted: “Let’s make a deal, Mr. President. You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student. Loser has to fund the Post Office.”

The admission he is sabotaging the post office was not the only piece of news in Trump’s morning interview. He made it clear that he is eager to have Attorney General William Barr counter the story that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in Trump’s behalf. Trump wants Barr to reach a different conclusion based on a new Department of Justice investigation. When it became clear that the DOJ’s own inspector general would conclude that the FBI probe of certain of Trump’s campaign advisors was begun legitimately and without partisan bias—as he later did– Barr launched his own, separate investigation, placing U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham in charge of it.

This morning, Trump indicated he has great hopes that the Durham investigation will establish that former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spied on his campaign and lied to Congress about it. “Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy,” Trump said, depending on whether or not he produced a report that, according to Trump, is not tainted with political correctness. “We’ll see what happens…. It goes all to Obama, and it goes right to Biden.”

The president’s campaign has also . . .

Continue reading. There is much more.

It should be noted that the GOP is attacking Kamala Harris without knowing much about her. Tucker Carlson was attacking and he doesn’t even know how to pronounce her name, a clear sign of his ignorance regarding her.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2020 at 8:37 pm

Organizations CANNOT police themselves: Example from Congress

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Police investigating police misconduct generally don’t find any; banks investigating bank misconduct generally don’t find any; Congress investigating Congressional misconduct usually doesn’t find anything wrong; church officials investigating priest/minister/rabbi/imam sexual misconduct didn’t find any.

For a good investigation, the investigating body must be independent of the group/organization/department being investigated. Although this seems obvious, it is also something that apparent is extremely difficult to grasp or to put into practice.

Matthew Cunnighnam-Cook reports in the Intercept:

LAST DECEMBER, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics released a report concluding that there was “substantial reason” to believe that freshman Rep. Lori Trahan had broken campaign finance laws in the final days of her tight Democratic primary in Massachusetts. OCE then kicked it over to the House Ethics Committee, which is run by a bipartisan panel of Trahan’s colleagues. They’ve now concluded their own investigation, with a starkly different finding: Trahan was cleared — despite not having cooperated with the OCE investigation nor providing key documentation to support her claims.

In 2018, Trahan faced a hotly competitive primary for Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District, in the Boston suburbs, which she ultimately won by just 155 votes. In the final days of the campaign, Trahan had deposited $300,000 into her coffers that was classified as a personal loan, which she used to launch a TV blitz that, given the narrow margin, most likely swung the election.

By the time Trahan filed a personal financial statement, her records suggested that she did not have enough assets to have been able to make the loan to her campaign, as revealed by a Boston Globe investigation. Where, then, had the money come from?

Trahan’s critics floated the possibility that her wealthy husband’s companies had financed her last-minute surge, a charge that Trahan called not just preposterous, but sexist. She was asked about the money at a town hall last March, in the wake of the Globe report. “The suggestion that I did not have the personal resources to make that loan to my campaign is just inaccurate,” she said. “There’s a lot of narratives you want to change when you are taking on a run like this, and you’re going back to Congress as one of those 131 women, and that’s one of them, right? That women can start successful businesses, they can earn income, they can have affordable day care, they can get paid the same as men who are doing the same job, and they can make a loan that they can afford to their campaign.” She said that when her next financial disclosure in spring 2019 was revealed, everything would be cleared up.

Alison King, from NBC Boston, put the question to her directly a month later. “Can you categorically deny that your husband helped beyond the $2,700 allowed by law?” she asked.

“Yeah, look,” Trahan said, “the suggestion that I personally did not have the funds is completely inaccurate.”

It is now clear that Trahan was lying. What was ultimately revealed, after a series of corrections made by Trahan and $400,000 in legal advice, was that her husband had shifted assets out of companies he owned into a joint checking account which was then quickly deposited into Trahan’s congressional campaign. That’s not what Trahan’s critics are claiming — that is now her own story.

Yet, earlier this month, the Ethics Committee cleared Trahan by finding that, while the loan had indeed been made out of funds from her husband’s companies, doing so was legal because a prenuptial agreement stipulated that such funds were joint marital property. Trahan’s financial disclosure, however, lists all of the assets her husband used to make the loan as “SP,” for spouse, rather than “JT,” for joint, as she lists other joint property. And the prenup, in fact, stipulates that separate property will remain separate and that “each party waives, discharges, and releases all right, title, and interest in and to the separate property that the other party now owns or acquires after the execution of this Agreement, or acquires from the proceeds of any separate property now owned, including but not limited to any real property which either party may acquire with funds derived from the proceeds of his or her own separate property.” But the prenup also says: “All wages, salary, and income of each party earned or received during marriage, together with all property purchased with such wages, salary and income, shall also be marital property.”

But even if the committee granted that the funds were indeed jointly owned, part of the loan came from a company that was not subject to the prenup. A $50,000 loan made to the campaign by Trahan on June 30, 2018 originated with a company owned by her husband, DCT Development. DCT Development was founded prior to their 2007 marriage and not listed in the prenup as joint property. That was an oversight, Trahan said. “According to Representative Trahan, she and Mr. Trahan intended DCT Development, Granite Rock Businesses, and the income he received from those entities to be marital property under the agreement. Representative Trahan did not provide the Committee with any documentary evidence to support her explanation,” wrote the Ethics Committee in its final report. Federal campaign finance law states that a spouse cannot contribute more than the legal maximum (at the time, $2,700).

Some of the assets used by Trahan’s husband were not his alone. On April 2, 2018, the committee report reveals, Mass Eagle Development LLC deposited $100,000 into David Trahan’s personal account. He lists himself as just a one-third owner of Eagle Development in Lori Trahan’s financial disclosures (which list it as David Trahan’s separate property).

On August 21, David Trahan transferred $200,000 to the joint checking account with his wife. A few weeks earlier, he had drawn $180,900 from Middlesex Land Holdings LLC and $110,000 from Poplar Hill Development LLC. He lists himself as a half-owner of Poplar Hill. . .

Continue reading.

Congress seems more and more to be hopelessly corrupt. The future of the US looks increasingly bleak.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2020 at 8:49 am

Clear explanation of the forces driving the collapse of the US

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Reality is disrupting the ideology of today’s Republican Party.

For a generation, Republicans have tried to unravel the activist government under which Americans have lived since the 1930s, when Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and invested in infrastructure. From the beginning, that government was enormously popular. Both Republicans and Democrats believed that the principle behind it—that the country worked best when government protected and defended ordinary Americans—was permanent.

But the ideologues who now control the Republican Party have always wanted to get rid of this New Deal state and go back to the world of the 1920s, when businessmen ran the government. They believe that government regulation and taxation is an assault on their liberty, because it restricts their ability to make money.

They have won office not by convincing Americans to give up their own government benefits—most Americans actually like clean water and Social Security and safe bridges—but by selling a narrative in which “Liberals” are trying to undermine the country by stealing the tax dollars of hardworking Americans—quietly understood to be white men—and redistributing them to lazy people who want handouts, not-so-quietly understood to be people of color and feminist women. According to this narrative, legislation that protects ordinary Americans simply redistributes wealth. It is “socialism,” or “communism.”

Meanwhile, Republican policies have actually redistributed wealth upward. When voters began to turn against those policies, Republicans upped the ante, saying that “Liberals” were simply buying Black votes with handouts, or, as Carly Fiorina said in a 2016 debate, planning to butcher babies and sell their body parts. To make sure Republicans stayed in power, they suppressed voting by people likely to vote Democratic, and gerrymandered states so that even if Democrats won a majority of votes, they would have a minority of representatives.

This system rewarded those who moved to the right, not to the middle. It gave them Donald Trump as a 2016 candidate, who talked of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and treated women not as equals but as objects either for sex or derision.

And, although as a candidate Trump talked about making taxes fairer, improving health care, and helping those struggling economically, in fact as president he has done more to bring about the destruction of the New Deal state than most of his predecessors. He has slashed regulations, given a huge tax cut to the wealthy, and gutted the government.

If the end of the New Deal state is going to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, it should be now.

Instead, the gutting of our government destroyed our carefully constructed pandemic response teams and plans, leaving America vulnerable to the coronavirus. Pressed to take the lead on combatting the virus, the administration refused to use federal power, and instead relied on “public-private partnerships” which meant states were largely on their own. When governors tried to take over, the Republican objection to government regulation, cultivated over a generation, had people refusing to wear masks or follow government instructions.

As the rest of the world watches in horror, we have suffered more than 4 million infections, and are approaching 150,000 deaths.

The pandemic also crashed the economy as businesses shut down to avoid infections. It threw more than 20 million Americans out of work. Republican ideology says the government has no business supporting ordinary Americans: they should work to survive, even if that means they have to take the risk of contracting Covid-19. Schools should open, businesses should get up and going, and the economy should rebuild. As Texas’s lieutenant governor Dan Patrick said to Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson in March, grandparents should be willing to contract coronavirus for the U.S. to “get back to work.”

The coronavirus has brought the Republican narrative up against reality. Just 32% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, and only 38% of the country think the economy is good. Americans believe that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2020 at 10:26 pm

David Remnick describes well the context of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s brief evisceration of Rep. Ted Yoho

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In the New Yorker, David Remnick describes the incident and AOC’s brief takedown of Yoho’s lame excuses. Remnick’s conclusion to the column is worth noting:

The politics of our moment are dominated by a bully of miserable character, a President who has failed to contain a pandemic through sheer indifference, who has fabricated a reëlection campaign based on bigotry and the deliberate inflammation of division. His language is abusive, his attitude toward women disdainful. Trump is all about himself: his needs, his ego, his self-preservation. Along the way he has created a Republican Party in his own image. Imitators like Ted Yoho slavishly follow his lead. On the House floor Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplified a different sort of character. She defended not only herself; she defended principle and countless women. And all in just a few short minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2020 at 4:32 pm

A black man makes a good point about Joe Biden

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2020 at 8:33 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

The bright side of supermarkets not having meat on the shelves

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Dr. Michael Greger blogs:

When famed surgeon Michael DeBakey was asked why his studies published back in the 1930s linking smoking and lung cancer were ignored, he had to remind people about what it was like back then. We were a smoking society. Smoking was in the movies, on airplanes. Medical meetings were held in “a heavy haze of smoke.” Smoking was, in a word, normal. Even the congressional debates over cigarettes and lung cancer took place in literal smoke-filled rooms. (This makes me wonder what’s being served at the breakfast buffets of the Dietary Guidelines Committee meetings these days.)

I’ve previously talked about a famous statistician by the name of Ronald Fisher, who railed against what he called “propaganda…to convince the public that cigarette smoking is dangerous.” “Although Fisher made invaluable contributions to the field of statistics, his analysis of the causal association between lung cancer and smoking was flawed by an unwillingness to examine the entire body of data available…” His smokescreen may have been because he was a paid consultant to the tobacco industry, but also because he was himself a smoker. “Part of his resistance to seeing the association may have been rooted in his own fondness for smoking,” which makes me wonder about some of the foods nutrition researchers may be fond of to this day.

As I discuss in my video Don’t Wait Until Your Doctor Kicks the Habit, it always strikes me as ironic when vegetarian researchers are forthright and list their diet as a potential conflict of interest, whereas not once in the 70,000 articles on meat in the medical literature have I ever seen a researcher disclose her or his nonvegetarian habits––because it’s normal. Just like smoking was normal.

How could something that’s so normal be bad for you? And, it’s not as if we fall over dead after smoking one cigarette. Cancer takes decades to develop. “Since at that time most physicians smoked and could not observe any immediate deleterious effects, they were skeptical of the hypothesis and reluctant to accept even the possibility of such a relation”—despite the mountain of evidence.

It may have taken 25 years for the Surgeon General’s report to come out and longer still for mainstream medicine to get on board, but now, at least, there are no longer ads encouraging people to “Inhale to your heart’s content!” Instead, today, there are ads from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fighting back.

For food ads, we don’t have to go all the way back to old ads touting “Meat…for Health Defense” or “Nourishing Bacon,” or featuring doctors prescribing meat or soda, or moms relieved that “Trix are habit-forming, thank heavens!” You know things are bad when the sanest dietary advice comes from cigarette ads, as in Lucky Strike’s advertisements proclaiming “More Vegetables––Less Meat” and “Substitute Oatmeal for White Flour.” (You can see these vintage ads from 2:34 in my video).

In modern times, you can see hot dogs and sirloin tips certified by the American Heart Association, right on their packaging. And, of all foods, which was the first to get the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “Kids Eat Right” logo on its label? Was it an apple? Broccoli, perhaps? Nope, it was a Kraft prepared cheese product.

Now, just as there were those in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s at the vanguard trying to save lives, today, there are those transforming ads about what you can do with pork butt into ads about what the pork can do to your butt: “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer—Processed meats increase colorectal cancer risk” reads an for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s “Meat Is the New Tobacco” campaign, which you can see at 3:56 in my video. As Dr. Barnard, PCRM president, tried to convey in an editorial published in the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics, “Plant-based diets are the nutritional equivalent of quitting smoking.”

How many more people have to die before the Centers for Disease Control encourages people not to wait for open-heart surgery to start eating healthfully?

Just as we don’t have to wait until our doctor stops smoking to give up cigarettes ourselves, we don’t have to wait until our doctor takes a nutrition class or cleans up his or her diet before choosing to eat healthier. No longer do doctors hold a professional monopoly on health information. There’s been a democratization of knowledge. So, until the system changes, we have to take personal responsibility for our health and for our family’s health. We can’t wait until society catches up with the science again, because it’s a matter of life and death.

Dr. Kim Allan Williams, Sr., became president of the American College of Cardiology a few years back. He was asked why he follows his own advice to eat a plant-based diet. “I don’t mind dying,” Dr. Williams replied. “I just don’t want it to be my fault.”

I find this to be such a powerful concept that I have come at it from different angles. For other takes, check out . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 May 2020 at 10:04 am

Why Wisconsin Republicans Insisted on an Election in a Pandemic

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Reid J. Epstein writes in the NY Times:

Tuesday’s mess of an election in Wisconsin is the culmination of a decade of efforts by state Republicans to make voting harder, redraw legislative boundaries and dilute the power of voters in the state’s urban centers.

The Republican-dominated state legislature, which has held a majority since 2011, due in part to gerrymandered maps, refused to entertain the Democratic governor’s request to mail absentee ballots to all voters or move the primary. Then the State Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservative justices, overturned the governor’s ruling to postpone the election until June.

Now Wisconsin is conducting an election that the state’s largest newspaper — which previously endorsed Republican leaders including former Gov. Scott Walker — called “the most undemocratic in the state’s history.”

Here’s a look at how it came to this point.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders are on the ballot in Wisconsin, but the main event is the State Supreme Court race between the conservative incumbent justice, Daniel Kelly, and a liberal challenger, Jill Karofsky.

The winner will be in position to cast a deciding vote on a case before the court that seeks to purge more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls — in a state where 2.6 million people voted in the last governor’s race. When the matter was first before the court in January, Mr. Kelly recused himself, citing his upcoming election. He indicated he would “rethink” his position following the April election, which comes with a 10-year term.

But the election proceeding on Tuesday is not just about the voter purge case. It is the latest example of what many in the state see as a decade-long effort by Wisconsin Republicans to dilute the voting power of the state’s Democratic and African-American voters.

Since 2011, when Mr. Walker led a Republican takeover of the state government, the G.O.P. has enacted one of the nation’s strictest laws requiring government-issued identification to vote. In 2020, a voter must have a photo ID with a current address, or an ID and acceptable proof of residency — often a hardship for poorer black Milwaukee residents who live in neighborhoods with some of the highest eviction rates in the country. A 2017 study by the University of Wisconsin found nearly 17,000 registered voters were unable to cast a ballot during the 2016 election, and untold more were deterred from voting.

The Republican majority also drew legislative and congressional boundaries that are widely considered the most gerrymandered in the country. During the 2018 election, Democratic candidates won 190,000 more votes for State Assembly seats, but the G.O.P. held a 64-35 advantage in the chamber.

Forty Republican lawmakers on Monday wrote to Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, asking him to reopen the state’s golf courses.

If Mr. Kelly wins, it would cement the conservative majority’s ability to block any future Democratic efforts to change voting laws and litigate an expected stalemate over congressional and state legislative boundaries during redistricting that will follow the 2020 census.

Wisconsin is, by many projections, a key state for clinching an Electoral College victory. And in the last four years it has seen some of the closest statewide races in the country.

In 2016, President Trump won the state by less than 23,000 votes.

In 2018, Mr. Evers ousted Gov. Walker by less than 30,000 votes.

In 2019, a State Supreme Court race was decided by just 6,000 votes.

In a state so closely divided, any adjustment to voting procedures or voter eligibility has the potential to swing enough votes to tip the state.

This is truly a mystery that has consumed Democrats both inside and outside Wisconsin.

For weeks Gov. Evers insisted . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2020 at 4:01 pm

A World Without Partisan Gerrymanders? Virginia Democrats Show the Way

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Note what Democrats do. Jesse Wegman writes in the NY Times:

Politicians rarely give up power voluntarily. They never give it up when they have free rein to lock it in for at least a decade, and exact long-overdue revenge against their political opponents.

But a group of Virginia Democrats did just that earlier this month, when they voted in favor of an amendment to the State Constitution stripping themselves of the power to redraw legislative district maps in 2021, after the decennial census.

Last fall, Democrats won majorities in both houses of the Virginia Legislature; with a Democratic governor already in office, they took full control of the state government for the first time in a generation. They had unlimited power to fashion the new maps in their favor, cementing their own grip on power just as Republicans around the country have done since the last redistricting cycle in 2011. Some Republican maps are so biased that they have given the G.O.P. legislative supermajorities even when the party loses the statewide popular vote, which happened in Wisconsin in 2018. So it’s entirely understandable for Democrats who regain power to want payback — now.

And yet nine Virginia Democrats agreed to put down their partisan swords and join Republicans to support the new amendment, which would require that the state’s district maps be drawn by a bipartisan commission made up of lawmakers and regular citizens. Voters must ratify the amendment in November before it will take effect.

The Democrats’ vote was a display of integrity and selflessness by members of a party with unified control of government. It placed long-term interest in the health of representative democracy over the shorter-term partisan benefits that both parties have been happy to exploit when they control redistricting.

The Virginia amendment’s passage is all the more important in the present moment, when voters everywhere have been left at the mercy of self-serving state lawmakers, thanks to the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene to stop even the most extreme partisan gerrymanders. The ruling last June, by a 5-to-4 vote, asserted that redistricting was a political matter to be resolved by the states, not the federal courts. The justices thus enshrined one of the most corrosive and anti-democratic practices in American politics.

Virginia’s new amendment would establish a 16-member commission, made up of eight lawmakers and eight citizens, divided evenly between the two major parties. A supermajority of both lawmaker and citizen commissioners would have to agree on a proposed map to send it to the Legislature and governor for approval. If they can’t, the job shifts to the State Supreme Court.

The amendment, which under the State Constitution had to pass the Legislature twice in a row before going to the voters, was first approved in 2019 by overwhelming bipartisan margins . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2020 at 8:57 pm

An interesting bit of history: Democrats and Their Media Allies Impugned Biden’s Cognitive Fitness. Now They Feign Outrage.

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Glenn Greenwald reports in the Intercept:

IT IS VIRTUALLY REQUIRED in Democratic Party politics to periodically express revulsion about the bigoted political attacks wielded for years against former President Barack Obama: images designed to emphasize his African roots, false claims he was Muslim, the campaign of de-legitimacy based in the racist allegation that he was born in Kenya.

But that mandated Party denunciation often obscures the undeniable fact that — while Republicans seized on and drove them — all of those attacks also emanated from within the Party, particularly from the 2008 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which employed them to try to sink Obama’s rival presidential candidacy. In February, 2008, Clinton campaign officials widely circulated a photo of Obama meeting with tribal elders while dressed in Somali garb on a trip to rural Kenya, an act which Obama’s campaign chief David Plouffe angrily denounced as “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.”

In December, 2007, the Clinton campaign — weeks before the Iowa caucus — was forced to “request” one of its volunteer county coordinators leave the campaign when it was revealed that the official, along with numerous other Clinton supporters, were forwarding and posting emails claiming Obama was Muslim and sent by “madrassas” to infiltrate the U.S. on behalf of radical Islam.

When Donald Trump, in 2011, began pushing the “birtherism” attacks against Obama into the mainstream, Politico’s Ben Smith and Byron Tau wrote an article entitled “Birtherism: Where it all began,” and explained: “The answer lies in Democratic, not Republican politics, and in the bitter, exhausting spring of 2008.” While the blatantly false theory that Obama was not U.S.-born first originated on fringe right-wing sites and not from Democrats, Politico documented that it was during the 2008 Democratic primary, not the General Election, when the repellent theory first gained traction as a result of Clinton supporters spreading it:

Then, as Obama marched toward the presidency, a new suggestion emerged: That he was not eligible to serve. (See:  Birther debate alive across U.S.)

That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship.

“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth,” asserted one chain email that surfaced on the urban legend site in April 2008.

All of that was consistent with a very deliberate and carefully crafted strategy from the Clinton campaign of depicting Obama as an exotic, foreign, non-American Other. In early 2007, the Clinton family’s long-time chief political strategist Mark Penn wrote a now-notorious memo proclaiming Obama “unelectable except perhaps against Attila the Hun,” and decreed: “I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values,” and directing that Obama be targeted for his “lack of American roots.”

In other words, the very attacks that Democrats with virtual unanimity today vilify as disgusting, racist smears were ones that emanated from their own party — either from the Clinton campaign itself (maliciously spreading the photo of Obama in Kenya in traditional Somalian clothing and suggesting he is Muslim) or from various Clinton supporters (falsely claiming he was not eligible to run for office).

And now they are doing the exact same thing when it comes to plainly valid questions concerning Joe Biden’s cognitive fitness: expressing revulsion and scorn at the mere mention of these questions and declaring the topic off-limits to all decent people even though establishment Democrats were the ones who first spread insinuations and even explicit accusations about Biden’s cognitive decline when they thought doing so could help them defeat him and/or because it genuinely concerned them regarding his ability to defeat Trump.

PRIOR TO JOE BIDEN’S MASSIVE VICTORY in the South Carolina primary and his even-more impressive Super Tuesday showing, many viewed his candidacy as all but dead. A fourth-place finish in Iowa was followed up by a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, causing the corporate donors on which he centrally relies to flee and his political obituaries to be widely written.

But since then, he has consolidated his status as Democratic front-runner and, as is customary, he is receiving far greater attention than previously, particularly on the question most on the minds of Democratic voters: his “electability” against Trump. And one of the towering questions in that regard is his cognitive fitness: it is visible to the naked eye that the 77-year-old six-term Senator and two-term Vice President is in serious cognitive decline.

That is a grave matter not just because the establishment wing of the Democratic Party wants to put him in charge of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenal, a large chunk of the planet’s health, and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, but also because it directly pertains to whether he can sustain the rigors and spotlight of a General Election against the incumbent President. And multiple incidents over the past couple weeks — from Biden’s forgetting the words of the most iconic and memorized passage of the Declaration of Independence to confusing his wife for his sister to spouting sentences that make no sense — have only intensified those worries.

But, as the Democratic establishment has united with creepy speed and obedience behind Biden in order to stop the Sanders candidacy, those who now raise these concerns instantly come under a withering assault of insults and attacks from Democratic Party operatives along with their crucial media allies: thinly disguised pro-Biden reporters who continue to insist on wearing the unconvincing and fraudulent costume of neutrality. They are invoking the classic Orwellian formulation from the novel 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

CNN’s Democratic Party consultant Karen Finney condemned the discussion of Biden’s cognitive capabilities as “truly a disgusting low blow,” demanding that former Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Cory Booker — both of whom themselves had commented upon Biden’s cognitive failures (on camera!) — announce (falsely) that their prior comments about Biden had been distorted. Castro’s Communication’s Director, Sawyer Hackett, dutifully . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2020 at 8:55 pm

You Can Still Vote for Elizabeth Warren if You Think She’d Be the Best President

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I don’t hold much hope, but Elizabeth Warren was the candidate I most favored. I do think that if Biden is the nominee, the choice for vice-president will be extremely important. The question is whether Warren would be more effective by remaining in the Senate than as vice-president? One thought: Stacey Abrams for vice-president…

Ben Mathis-Lilley writes in Slate:

Morning broke on Monday, and, with the news that Pete Buttigieg has dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary, it apparently became smart to say that the race is now between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and no one else. Here’s a dissenting view: That’s absurd! Forty-six states have yet to vote, including the 22 most populous states; 96.1 percent(!) of the convention delegates that Democrats will vote to award remain unawarded. As Biden’s performance in South Carolina shows, a candidate’s narrative momentum can be reversed in a single day. No one is out of the race until they are out of the race.

One of the other people who are still in the race, fatalistic over-extrapolation of very recent trends aside, is Elizabeth Warren. If you are a Democrat and polls are correct, you would probably be OK with her becoming the nominee. It might also be relevant to you that she’s not a nearly 80-year-old man who has recently experienced heart problems, evident cognitive decline, or being embarrassed by Elizabeth Warren on national television. So why not vote for her—which, again, if polls and on-the-ground reporting are correct, is probably something you’ve already considered doing

That this feels like a contrarian thing to suggest—voting for the famously well-prepared presidential candidate to be president, as a hot take—gets at Warren’s weird status as a public figure. Since she came to prominence in the Obama years, her real reputation and identity haven’t changed at all, as far as most Democrats are concerned: She’s an advocate for public accountability and an enemy of unethical corporate executives. More or less via force of will alone, she—as a private citizen!—created an entire new arm of the government that protects consumers and borrowers and helped make sure that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (i.e., the bank bailout) wasn’t a boondoggle. As a senator, she shamed the rest of the government into holding Wells Fargo accountable for some of its many crimes. As a candidate, she has laid out ambitious but practically achievable ideas for a department of “public integrity” and a system of day care subsidies, just to name two of many.

Despite this consistency, her candidacy has been a roller coaster—not of accomplishments and defeats, or of sudden shifts in positions and style, but of meta-indecisiveness regarding her perceived potential strength in an election that is still eight months off. In a race that has been defined by voters changing their minds about who could best persuade other voters to vote against Donald Trump, she has been extra-volatile.

For years before she even entered the race and for months thereafter, there was concern that Trump would caricature and destroy Warren by belittling her past claims of Native American ancestry, or that she would be perceived as too leftist, angry, or nonmale for the general electorate. So despite being one of her party’s most well-known, enthusiasm-inspiring figures, she launched her campaign with little support from her peers, and her poll numbers stayed in the single digits for months.

From summer through early fall of 2019, though, she rose steadily to become a front-runner. This “surge” coincided with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2020 at 12:42 pm

Media Struggles with the Rise of Bernie

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Carl Quesnel has an interesting post at The Simple Serial:

It’s been interesting watching the mass media lately as they contemplate what they should do about Bernie Sanders. The panic and desperation are palpable. Do we assume that he’s vulnerable enough that we should continue attacking him relentlessly to try to make sure he doesn’t get elected? Or do we pretend “we knew it all along” [that he could win] and try to “get ahead of this thing” by running positive stories about him?

At times it’s hard to tell the difference, but in general MSNBC leans a little more toward the right than CNN. While MSNBC maintains its penchant for reactionaries like Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, CNN has brought in more diverse voices like Van Jones and, more recently, Andrew Yang. Both of those gentlemen are friendly to the Sanders cause, at least more so than the folks at MSNBC. On the other hand, in the debates with CNN moderators, Bernie has endured nonstop accusations from the likes of Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd, who only seem to know how to ask “Given that your plan is likely to destroy the country, tell us why we should believe you when you say it won’t.”

Now I definitely can’t say I’m an expert on the national news media. Because MSNBC and CNN are only for those willing to pay astronomical cable bills, I only see their coverage through what free clips are available. And I don’t usually watch network TV because I don’t like cop shows or reality TV series. However, the media are so ever-present and pervasive that one accidentally consumes all sorts of content from many different sources without even realizing it. Also, I have watched almost all of the debates, and it’s rare that I miss any story about Bernie, be it positive or negative.

So whether it’s through osmosis or intentional consumption, I have actually noticed a subtle shift in coverage of the Sanders campaign. Up until recently, it was rare to see any positive stories from any news outlet that was less edgy than Rolling Stone, or Mother Jones, or Grist. (Yes, I know, calling those sources edgy is stretching the definition of the word.) But recently I’ve seen positive stories from USA Today, and even CNN just released one of the most touching articles about Bernie supporters that I’ve seen (‘He understands us’: Why his supporters are loyal to Bernie Sanders).

I think there’s evidence, too, that . . .

Continue reading.

I’m not really following the horse-race aspect of the campaign. On the whole, I currently favor Elizabeth Warren, possibly with Amy Klobuchar as VP. I am unimpressed with Joe Biden. Bernie’s refusal release his medical records — after explicitly promising that he would — shows the degree to which we can rely on his word. (Note that he completely controls whether those records are released or not — it’s not as though he is “unable” to release them. He is simply reneging on his promise.) If Bernie is nominated, the VP slot will be very important.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2020 at 8:33 am

‘We Knew They Had Cooked the Books’

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Robinson Meyer has in the Atlantic an article worth reading. It was referenced by Jonathan Chait in a post I blogged yesterday, but Meyer’s entire article is worth reading. It begins:

On a drizzly day in January 2018, Jeff Alson, an engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency’s motor-vehicles office, gathered with his colleagues to make a video call to Washington, D.C.

They had made the same call dozens of times before. For nearly a decade, the EPA team had worked closely with another group of engineers in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, pronounced nits-uh) to write the federal tailpipe-pollution standards, one of the most consequential climate protections in American history. The two teams had done virtually all the technical research—testing engines in a lab, interviewing scientists and automakers, and overseeing complex economic simulations—underpinning the rules, which have applied to every new car and light truck, including SUVs and vans, sold in the United States since 2012.

Their collaboration was historic. Even as SUVs, crossovers, and pickups have gobbled up the new-car market, the rules have pushed the average fuel economy—the distance a vehicle can travel per gallon of gas—to record highs. They have saved Americans $500 billion at the pump, according to the nonpartisan Consumer Federation of America, and kept hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution out of the air. So as the call connected, Alson and the other EPA engineers thought it was time to get back to work. Donald Trump had recently ordered a review of the rules.

Speaking from Washington, James Tamm, the NHTSA fuel-economy chief, greeted the EPA team, then put a spreadsheet on-screen. It showed an analysis of the tailpipe rules’ estimated costs and benefits. Alson had worked on this kind of study so many times that he could recall some of the key numbers “by heart,” he later told me.

Yet as Alson looked closer, he realized that this study was like none he had seen before. For years, both NHTSA and the EPA had found that the tailpipe rules saved lives during car accidents because they reduced the weight—and, with it, the lethality—of the heaviest SUVs. In 2015, an outside panel of experts concurred with them.

But this new study asserted the opposite: The Obama-era rules, it claimed, killed almost 1,000 people a year.

“Oh my God,” Alson said upon seeing the numbers. The other EPA engineers in the room gasped and started to point out other shocking claims on Tamm’s slide. (Their line was muted.) It seemed as if every estimated cost had ballooned, while every estimated benefit had shrunk. Something in the study had gone deeply wrong.

It was the beginning of a fiasco that could soon have global consequences. The Trump administration has since proposed to roll back the tailpipe rules nationwide, a move that, according to one estimate, could add nearly 1 billion tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere. Officials have justified this sweeping change by claiming that the new rules will save hundreds of lives a year. They are so sure of those benefits that they have decided to call the policy the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule—or SAFE, for short.

SNAFU may be a better moniker. To change a federal rule, the executive branch must do its homework and publish an economic study arguing why the update is necessary. But Trump’s official justification for SAFE is honeycombed with errors. The most dramatic is that NHTSA’s model mixed up supply and demand: The agency calculated that as cars got more expensive, millions more people would drive them, and the number of traffic accidents would increase, my reporting shows. This error—later dubbed the “phantom vehicles” problem—accounted for the majority of incorrect costs in the SAFE study that the Trump administration released in 2018. It is what made SAFE look safe.

Once this and other major mistakes are fixed, all of SAFE’s safety benefits vanish, according to a recent peer-reviewed analysis in Science. If SAFE is adopted into law, American traffic deaths could actually increase, carbon pollution would soar, and global warming would speed up.

In other words, SAFE isn’t actually safe—and the Trump administration based its rollback on flawed math.

Extensive interviews with key participants and a review of emails and documents reveal how this happened: The Trump administration kept the government’s top tailpipe-pollution experts from working on the tailpipe-pollution rule. For two years, rival bureaucrats at NHTSA and overworked Trump political appointees stonewalled the EPA team, blocked it from learning of the rollback, and prevented it from seeing analysis of the new rule. When the EPA engineers finally saw the flawed study and identified some of its worst errors, the same Trump officials ignored them.

This may have been a series of legally fatal blunders. The EPA team identified the phantom-vehicles problem early in the process. Within weeks of SAFE’s publication in August 2018, analyses from outside economists and the Honda Motor Company vindicated the EPA team’s assessment. Those groups found that the SAFE study was a turducken of falsehoods: it cited incorrect data and made calculation errors, on top of bungling the basics of supply and demand. Not since 1999—when NASA engineers accidentally confused metric and imperial units when building and navigating the Mars Climate Orbiter, leading to the spacecraft’s eventual destruction—have federal employees messed up a calculation so publicly, and at such expense and scale. And the EPA team saw it coming.

My reporting directly contradicts what EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told members of Congress last year. In a June letter to House Republicans, Wheeler said it was “false” that “EPA professional staff were cut out” of the rollback’s development.

In a statement, an EPA spokesman did not directly deny my reporting. “As we’ve stated multiple times before, career and professional staff within EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation were involved in the development of this proposal and continue to be involved in the final stages as we work with NHTSA to finalize this rule,” said Michael Abboud, the agency spokesman. He added that the old rule was “unworkable” and rushed into law at the end of the Obama administration.

A NHTSA spokesman declined to comment because the proposed regulation is under agency review. He referred me to older statements that said the EPA and NHTSA had reviewed “hundreds of thousands of public comments” and undertaken “extensive scientific and economic analyses” in the course of reworking the SAFE rule. A final version of the rule is expected in the next several weeks. But that new version of the SAFE study recognizes that the benefits of the rollback do not exceed its costs, according to a letter from Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, obtained by The Washington Post.

If Carper’s allegation is true, that could doom the proposal in court. In fact, several legal issues could hinder SAFE. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act “requires” the EPA to regulate carbon pollution “from new motor vehicles.” But my reporting has found that NHTSA employees—and not EPA staff—actually wrote the first version of the rollback, raising questions about whether the rule is legally valid.

Either way, the SAFE rollback has already caused chaos. Major automakers—some of which once begged Trump to weaken the rules—now despise SAFE, according to reporting in The Wall Street Journal. When Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, and Honda began negotiating a compromise version of the standard with California last year, the Trump administration smacked them with an antitrust investigation. (It dropped the probe last week.) A fifth automaker, Mercedes-Benz, also considered joining the truce with California, The New York Times reported over the summer. (Mercedes did not respond to a request for comment.)

That chaos might have comforted Alson, who retired in 2018, and the other EPA engineers two years ago, as they sat slack-jawed in their conference room in Ann Arbor. Soon after unveiling the analysis, Tamm asked if anyone had questions. No one spoke. The meeting, originally scheduled to last an hour, adjourned after 30 minutes.

“We couldn’t even bring ourselves to try to engage,” Alson told me. “We knew they had cooked the books so bad that there wasn’t any reason to talk about it.”

Republicans will often claim that one federal rule or another meddles with an essential part of the economy. The tailpipe-pollution rules live up to the hype. They govern the place where the auto industry and the oil industry—two massive, planet-spanning businesses that together make up about 11 percent of American GDP—most often meet: the humble car engine.

There’s no way around this. In recent years, nearly one-fifth of the country’s climate-warming carbon pollution has come from cars and light-duty trucks, according to the EPA. It’s inevitable: If you burn gasoline in an internal-combustion engine, you release carbon dioxide; if you want to release less carbon, you must burn less gasoline. Some car regulations—such as those addressing traffic-safety issues—require only that some new technology, such as an airbag or backup camera, simply be affixed to a car’s frame. But any carbon-pollution rule must go to the heart of a motor vehicle: the engine, power train, and air conditioner.

Yet for decades, NHTSA—the traffic-safety arm of the Department of Transportation—set the nation’s fuel-economy rules. It was given that power for “purely political” reasons, says Lee Vinsel, a professor at Virginia Tech who studies American car regulation. “It had nothing to do with expertise.”

Congress first established the fuel-economy standards during the 1970s oil embargo as a “panic mode” policy that would reduce cars’ use of fuel and, by extension, American dependence on foreign oil, Vinsel told me. But lawmakers split on which agency should set the rules.

The EPA, then a young office, had already started measuring fuel efficiency as part of a broader campaign to defend the new Clean Air Act. Yet neither the EPA nor the other agencies in contention, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce, won the support of Representative John Dingell, a powerful New Deal Democrat from Detroit. Although Dingell was an environmental champion who helped write the Endangered Species Act, his Michigan ties meant that he was “rabidly anti-regulation of the automobile,” Vinsel said. If fuel-economy rules had to pass, Dingell wanted to keep an eye on them. And he could do that through the Department of Transportation, whose purse strings he held via his seat on the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (which he later renamed the Energy and Commerce Committee).

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2020 at 12:01 pm

10,599 Corporate Lawyers Have Donated to Buttigieg’s Campaign: Here Are the Dirty Little Secrets

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I like Buttigieg’s demeanor, but I dislike (a) his lack of experience in Federal politics and (b) his ties to big business in general and the financial industry in particular. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Pete Buttigieg, a 38-year old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a city with a population of 102,000, who has never held an elected federal office and was unknown to the majority of Americans last spring, has magically risen to the top ranks of the field of Democratic contenders for President – a field that includes three sitting U.S. Senators and a former Vice President.

On top of Buttigieg’s lack of experience in Washington, Buttigieg has almost no support from the black community, which would be essential for winning the Presidency. So exactly why has Buttigieg raised $77 million from some of the smartest and richest people in America. According to our tally from the Federal Election Commission’s data, 10,599 donor entries for Buttigieg list their occupation as lawyer or attorney. On top of that, there’s a high correlation between Buttigieg’s Big Tech donors and the law firms these lawyers work for: the law firms have big antitrust departments that work for Big Tech, at a time when it is under investigations for monopoly practices.

Buttigieg fueled the suspicions that he’s a corporate pawn by initially barring the press from his private fundraisers with big donors and failing to provide a list to the media of the lawyers, millionaires and billionaires that are raising money for his campaign (bundlers). Buttigieg now allows the press to attend his fundraisers but he has still not fully come clean on his bundlers.

Is Buttigieg simply a strawman to throw the election to Trump? Is he a strawman to throw the Democratic nomination to billionaire Mike Bloomberg — who is willing to buy the Oval Office for $1 billion of his own money. Or is Buttigieg the brainchild of the biggest corporate law firms in the country who want to eliminate Senator Elizabeth Warren from the running because she has promised to break up Wall Street’s mega banks as well as the big tech giants Amazon, Google and Facebook – all of which are cash cows for the biggest corporate law firms.

There is actually evidence to support all three scenarios. Supporting the scenario of a strawman for Trump, it’s hard to envision the heartland of America voting for Buttigieg, who is openly gay and has a husband, Chasten Buttigieg, who would be officiating at state dinners at the White House as the First Gentleman for the first time in 232 years. That image would likely turn out record numbers of Republicans to seal the election for Trump. Another Trump win would very much please the big corporate law firms whose clients have enjoyed deregulation and massive corporate tax cuts under Trump. Big Law has also gotten their law partners strategically placed in lifetime appointments in the federal courts to throw out plaintiff suits against their corporate clients.

Supporting the scenario that Buttigieg is a strawman for the diabolical Mike Bloomberg (who bought himself a third term as Mayor of New York City by financing the repeal of term limits and has now likely managed to insert himself onto the Democratic debate stage through a convenient rule change) is the fact that the Global Head of Public Policy at Bloomberg LP, the Wall Street data terminal and news outlet that is majority owned by Mike Bloomberg, is a bundler for Pete Buttigieg. The bundler is Didem Nisanci, who conveniently served as Chief of Staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from March 2009 to January 2013, the period after the financial crisis when the SEC failed to bring charges against any of the CEOs of the mega Wall Street banks that had brought on the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. As of September 14 of last year, Nisanci had contributed $2800, the maximum allowed by an individual to Buttigieg’s primary race. Prior to Mike Bloomberg throwing his own hat in the ring in November, Buttigieg had received additional contributions from other Bloomberg employees.

Bloomberg’s wealth of $61.5 billion and ongoing income derives from the data terminals he leases to the Wall Street trading floors around the globe. He showed his fealty to the hands that feed him on Wall Street as Mayor of New York City, using his police force to brutalize and bloody Wall Street protestors and coming down like the Gestapo during the eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan.

And now for the third scenario – knock Senator Elizabeth Warren out of the race. Around the same time last spring that Warren penned her scorching opinion piece at Medium on why it was critical to break up the giant tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook, bundlers connected to the three tech giants got busy pumping money into Buttigieg’s campaign. Ironically, this was the very thing Senator Warren was warning about in her Medium message. Warren wrote:

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.

“I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.”

An analysis of donor data at the Federal Election Commission shows the following number of donor entries from Big Tech and their leading antitrust law firms to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2020 at 7:48 pm

Educated Fools: Why Democratic Leaders Still Misunderstand the Politics of Social Class

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Thomas Geoghegan, author of one of the books I repeatedly find myself recommending (namely,, Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back), writes in the New Republic:

Here’s a little thought experiment: What would happen if, by a snap of the fingers, white racism in America were to disappear? It might be that the black and Latino working class would be voting for Trump, too. Then we Democrats would have no chance in 2020. We often tell ourselves: “Oh, we lost just the white working class because of race.” But the truth might be something closer to this: “It’s only because of race that we have any part of the working class turning out for us at all.”

How many of us in the party’s new postgraduate leadership caste have even a single friendship, a real one, of two equals, with any man or woman who is just a high school graduate? It’s hard to imagine any Democrat in either House or Senate who did not go beyond a high school diploma. (And no, I am not talking about Harvard dropouts Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.)

Still, it’s unthinkable that the college-educated base of the party would trust a high school graduate without a four-year degree to run for or hold a serious office. We don’t trust them, and would never vote for one of them. Why should they trust or vote for one of us?

It used to be otherwise. Yes, in the 1940s and 1950s, many a Democrat in the House or Senate had no four-year diploma: Even a president, Harry S Truman, did not. What’s more, those who did frequently went to night law school, or a teachers’ college, and at least still lived, or had a social life, in neighborhoods where no one over a long stretch of city blocks had college B.A.s. This was true even for the profession now cited as a sort of polemic shorthand for rule by the knowledge elite—the “liberal media.” As late as 1970, my friend Steve Franklin joined a city paper and was surprised to learn that most of the editors had never been to college—and of course they lived in neighborhoods all over the city with people who had gone to the same high schools they had.

Back then, many of these people understood that they could trust the Democratic Party for the same reason they could trust the liberal media. The Democratic Party of the 1950s and 1960s was probably much more corrupt and inept than the Democratic Party of today—but back then it lived in the neighborhood, as it no longer does today. Now the Democratic Party relies on think tanks in elite universities to find out what people back in those neighborhoods are thinking.

In fact, the college graduates who are now the base of the party have moved working people out of the old neighborhoods. I think here of my own city—Chicago—where the members of the City Council whom columnists from Ben Hecht to Mike Royko used to mock now have more degrees than reporters of Hecht’s generation had. Here’s the finding of a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago: In 1970, one half of Chicago by census tract was “middle-income”—that is to say, the people who made up the old working-class machine vote, most of them without four-year college degrees. Now that “middle-income” group is just 16 percent. The bungalows in those formerly middle-income neighborhoods teeming with high school graduates now belong to high-tech entrepreneurs and investors in hedge funds.

I am a labor lawyer and should have known better, but when I ran for Congress in 2009 in my Chicago-area district and knocked on doors, the white working class I imagined to be around me was gone: They had disappeared like the Etruscans. Or they at least had gone somewhere way to the west of I-90 and I-94—the monster expressway known as the Kennedy, which divides the city the way the Mississippi divides America, well out of range of the higher-credentialed and better-capitalized parts of the city where it’s $15 for a glass of wine. We recently elected a new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and the astonishing thing about her is not that she is female, or black, or gay—such things are routine in Chicago now—but that she is so totally from out of town: not born here, never went to high school or college here, or even in Illinois. She showed up for the first time in law school at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, which once did not count as Chicago at all.

This all fits the claim of the French geographer Christophe Guilluy about his own country in his 2016 book The Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France. Guilluy describes how the movement, if not the expulsion, of the working class from France’s most prosperous cities incubated the innovation and new modes of production that fuel the growth of the Knowledge Economy. The same thing is happening in places like Chicago and most of the other well-off and innovative capitals of information-age enterprise. Alexis de Tocque­ville blamed the French Revolution in part on the literal physical distance between an aristocracy pulled into Versailles and the rural France they left behind. Now those of us with postgraduate degrees and who are in the elite of the Democratic Party live in our own Versailles, and we don’t know any working-class people either—except perhaps the name of a barista at Starbucks or the woman who comes by at night to clean the office.

For those of us cut off from the white working class, it is easy to think the answer to inequality is: Imitate us. Why can’t they be like we are? I borrow this idea from The Light That Failed by Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev (2019), a book that explains why newly liberated ex-Communist countries turned away from liberal democracies to authoritarian or illiberal ones. Imitate us—be like we are—turns out to be one of the most grating forms of foreign policy on offer in a world of such great income inequality. But imitate us is also grating within a country with income inequality on the scale even of France’s, much less that of the United States. There are other geopolitical reasons beyond my ken for the rise of Vladimir Putin in Russia and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, but there is something about imitate us that helps account both for the rise of these forms of illiberal democracy and for the one that’s been hatched here.

The center left and progressive left—or the postgraduates who control both sides in the party’s debate—have a similar answer to inequality. Higher taxes? Yes. More welfare? Yes. And what else?

More college—a lot more college. What to do about lack of mobility? More college. What about competing in the global economy? More college.

Or if a few have started to detect the class snobbery here and added community college, it’s still … well, it’s still in the hope that the upward-striving student population will go on to obtain a four-year college degree. And yes, I know; we are . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s good. And read his book, too

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2020 at 2:29 pm

Six Children Died in Border Patrol Care. Democrats in Congress Want to Know Why.

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Presumably Republicans in Congress are not interested. Robert Moore reports in ProPublica:

After a ProPublica investigation into the death of a teenager in Border Patrol custody, House Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Trump administration to explain how six migrant children died after entering the U.S.

“I find it appalling that (Customs and Border Protection) has still not taken responsibility for the deaths of children in their care,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson said that while some of the children’s deaths may not have been preventable, Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that first deals with children who cross the border, seems “all too quick to pat themselves on the back for their handling of children last year. These deaths happened under their watch. I remain skeptical that real changes have been made.”

The Homeland Security border subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the administration’s efforts to treat sick migrant children. The six who died in government custody between September 2018 and May 2019 were the first such deaths in a decade.

ProPublica’s December investigation into the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in a South Texas Border Patrol cell, raised concerns about actions by Border Patrol agents and contract medical personnel and whether the agency was truthful about the circumstances of the teenager’s death. The boy died on the floor of his cell on May 20, and a surveillance video obtained by ProPublica showed he was left alone for hours as his illness worsened.

Carlos was the last of six children to die. Three children died from flu-related complications, one died of a massive bacterial infection and two died from chronic conditions they had before crossing the border, according to autopsies and other medical reports.

A spokesperson for CBP, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, said the department has made sweeping changes at the border in the past year. About 300 contract medical personnel work any given day at 40 border stations, up from 20 trained medical providers in December 2018, the spokesperson said.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General in late December issued one-page findings on the December 2018 deaths of two Guatemalan children. Investigators “found no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel” in the deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8.

“The inspector general’s one-page summaries on the investigation into the December 2018 deaths are clearly insufficient. Congress has yet to get a full accounting of how the investigation took place and how the inspector general came to its conclusions,” Thompson said.

The inspector general rejected Thompson’s criticism, saying the agency has fully briefed his staff on the investigations.

“We stand by our investigations. On Jan. 10, 2019, the Office of the Inspector General provided the Committee on Homeland Security staff a comprehensive briefing on both investigations and our conclusions. We have also provided the complete reports of investigation to the committee, per the chairman’s request,” inspector general spokeswoman Erica Paulson said. She said complete reports can’t be made public because of privacy laws.

A committee spokesman said the inspector general’s office has declined to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.

Jakelin died of streptococcal sepsis two days after she and her father crossed the border in remote southwest New Mexico. Felipe died of flu complications six days after he and his father crossed the border in El Paso, Texas.

The DHS inspector general continues to investigate Carlos’ death. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2020 at 12:51 pm

The Secret Lives of Democratic Women Married to MAGA Men

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Michelangelo Signorile writes at Medium:

Days before the 2018 midterm elections, a woman named Lisa was driving on a remote road in sun-baked Eastern Washington. An area that encompasses all of the state East of the Cascade Range — which is to say, most of the state — Eastern Washington over the past decade has been home to several unsuccessful movements to secede from liberal Seattle and the Pacific Coast to become the 51st U.S. state.

Not surprisingly, it is ruby red Trump country.

On this particular day, Lisa was listening to the live call-in radio show I host weekday afternoons on SiriusXM. We were talking about politics but also about a topic that would soon emerge as a recurring theme on the show: the divide inside marriages that Donald Trump and his presidency had created. A woman was on the line from her kitchen in rural Michigan, recounting her struggles as a progressive Democrat married to a Trump supporter.

Lisa, a college-educated white professional in her forties, painfully related to what she heard. She pulled over to the side of the road and phoned in.

“Wow, I’m not even sure what to say,” Lisa began. “This hit so much home. I almost wanted to cry.”

It was an early instance of what would, over the next year, become a surprising — and strong — community of Democrats married to Trump supporters reaching out to each other through my satellite radio show on SiriusXM’s Progress channel. (All callers to the radio program use only their first names and locations, and I am using that convention for the women I spoke with by phone or through Facebook, too, so they could feel free to discuss sensitive marital matters.)

Lisa’s husband, a farmer from a family that had been in the business for generations, told her he was a registered Democrat when they first met. “Back then, six years ago, we didn’t talk about politics because it really wasn’t part of our relationship at that time,” Lisa told the listeners. “Then, when we went through the election, I voted for Hillary Clinton and he voted for Trump. And our relationship has been on the rocks ever since.”

I can’t count how many people affected by the 2016 election have called my show day after day. Before and after the election, these callers recounted tensions with parents, children, extended family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends who are Trump supporters.

But it wasn’t until the very jittery days before the 2018 midterms, in the wake of the horrific October 27th mass shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree Of Life synagogue, that the plight of women (and some men) in marriages or intimate relationships with Trump supporters began to surface regularly on my program.

Noting how isolated she felt, Lisa told listeners: “My neighbors are all Trump supporters, too.”

Yet on the call-in show, connecting to a woman 2,000 miles away from the side of the road, that isolation started to lift. Today my show has a regular segment featuring their voices, their stories, and their efforts to negotiate life in the political minority, whether in their families or communities. The women connect on my show’s Facebook page, as well, reaching out to each other and to me directly.

White men have been the core of Trump’s support, and stories about them often imply a certain level of family political cohesiveness. Yet detailed analyses of the 2016 election show a far lower percentage of women than men voted for Trump in 2016. And both the 2018 midterm election results and other recent data show that women, both college and non-college educated, have only moved further toward Democrats. We rarely, if ever, hear discussion of the distraught women navigating tense relationships with these men.

The women I’ve heard from often not only have partners who demean them for their political beliefs and choices; they face hostility from other family members, including their own children. Some have ended their relationships or are headed in that direction. Others try to make it work, either because the couples have a strong bond despite the tensions or, sadly, because they believe they have little financial choice but to stay.

These are their stories.

The first call came two days after the Pittsburgh massacre. The caller was Alison from Los Angeles. Her challenge: co-parenting her twin four-year-old girls with a devoted Trump supporter she’d once been engaged to, but who she eventually realized she couldn’t possibly marry.

I’d been talking about how the synagogue shooter who murdered 11 people had promoted racist conspiracy theories online about “invaders” in migrant “caravans” — migrants Trump had been targeting as “invaders” as well, using white supremacist terminology — and blamed Jews for helping the “invaders.” I’d offered up my own strong opinions on the dangers of the cult of Trump, as well.

“I’m Jewish and he’s Jewish and we were talking today after the shooting and he says, ‘Trump can’t be held responsible — it’s not his fault,’” Alison said, referring to her ex-fiancé. “Then he turns it around to, ‘Well, we have the best economy’” and he “goes back to ‘Crooked Hillary.’”

A 39-year-old career counselor and therapist with a master’s degree, she’d met her former fiancé, a successful businessman, in 2009 on JDate. He was a “charmer,” she said — “sweet, funny, tall, successful in his own right” — who initially treated her “like a queen.”

n 2012 they became engaged and were living together but set no wedding date. They began fertility treatments, and Alison gave birth in 2014. During her pregnancy she learned one of the twins had a metabolic condition. That’s when health care became a major issue for Alison.

“I didn’t pay attention to his politics,” she said of the time long before the election, noting he didn’t discuss political issues. She said he only registered to vote for the first time — at the age of 38 — a few months before the election, just to vote for Trump.

“He has this one photograph where his dad was at a party with Donald Trump, from the ’80s, in New York,” Alison said in describing what, at least in part, drew her former fiancé to Trump. He “liked Trump as a celebrity,” she said, and he “watched ‘The Apprentice.’”

The day following the election, “on his Facebook page, he posted that picture of his dad with Trump,” she said. “I was devastated.”

They separated and tried, unsuccessfully, to reconcile several times. As Trump took office, they argued intensely about the president’s actions, especially Trump’s assaults on Obamacare. Alison couldn’t fathom how he didn’t see the threat to the health of his own daughter, who had a pre-existing condition.

“I saw [his] language change, even towards me,” she said. “He would call me a ‘libtard.’ He was never like that before. I didn’t see racism in him [before], and homophobia, but I saw it afterward.”

She still sees him regularly because of the girls. He lauds Trump’s support of Israel, Alison said, but when her synagogue was recently vandalized in an anti-Semitic hate crime he refused to speak with her about how Trump emboldens white supremacists.

And when she dressed the twins in t-shirts that say, “She won” — because the girls saw Alison wearing one and wanted their own — he threatened to put MAGA hats on them (something Alison vowed will never happen). She’s aware the incident is likely just a taste of battles to come as the girls grow up.

Alison’s call inspired many others in the days and months that followed. Some turned to social media to connect further with one another. Others reached out to me privately online.

“I am afraid there are many of us out here with Trump-supporting husbands and living in deeply conservative communities,” Lynnette from South Dakota wrote on my show’s Facebook page in response to Alison’s call. Mary from Florida posted: “It’s so depressing to have to live like this.” Cindi from Minnesota explained how she got divorced months after the election, ending her six-year marriage, and hasn’t looked back.

“We are not alone!” Erica from Wisconsin exclaimed on the Facebook thread, suggesting a private Facebook group, as did several others. They created a new private group and also started conversations on other ones they were already active in. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2020 at 6:37 pm

The problem with the Right is not that it’s wrong.

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Julian S. Taylor writes in Medium:

To a progressive liberal, the right of all adults to participate directly in their governance seems obvious, so how is it that the authoritarian regime seems to be in ascendancy the world over? Where is the general public gathering to be taught that they need autocratic direction? Where are average people persuaded that they are not actually human beings but instead animals in need of herding? Of course one need look no further than the nearest pulpit. Christ is The Good Shepherd and His flock is comprised of what many of us would call “humans”: humans who believe themselves to be sheep. Televangelist Joel Osteen tells seven million people every week “you’ve got to live an obedient life” and by that he means obedience to an all-knowing god. The motto of Kenneth Copeland Ministries is “Jesus is Lord.” A lord, of course, is the owner of the land and sovereign of all workers on that land. He collects the fruit of the workers’ labor and ultimately controls them. Oral Roberts was a faith healer meaning that members of his flock would come to him offering obeisance in return for the special gift that only he could provide. From these pulpits, the message spreads as each true believer carries their minister’s message to friends and associates. With this ancient and pervasive legacy, no wonder a sizable majority of people believe that a leader is essential to a healthy society. Those people proudly assert the philosophy of the right wing.

Various middle-of-the-road Democrats and Independents seek to express their belief that despite our differences, we are all intent upon the common goal of a functional democracy; but, of course, we do not all believe in democracy. The right and the left identify distinct poles. The words derive from L’États généraux of 1789: the French General Assembly of the Estates just preceding the French Revolution. In that gathering, those who believed that human beings had a right to govern themselves were largely gathered to the left of the president’s seat. Those who believed that humans were merely sheep who needed to be directed by a shepherd of some sort were gathered at the right of the president’s seat. Left versus Right defined those who favored democracy and those who favored monarchy.

By today’s standards the founding fathers of the U.S. were somewhere between left and right. They took their cues from the ancient democracies of Sparta and Athens which often restricted voting rights to an elite subset of the general population. For this reason, our founders suggested that white male landowners were best suited to govern. Fortunately, they provided for amending the Constitution and through that process, we have significantly expanded the voting population as the U.S. has moved consistently leftward over the past centuries.

Despite their firmly held beliefs, everyone on the left spends some time in doubt. It was U.S. voters who gave us “W” and Trump. It was U.S. voters who gave gerrymandering Republicans free reign to assure continuous Republican majorities. It was British voters who decided to Brexit when the U.K. was enjoying all the advantages of E.U. membership without the disadvantage of adopting the Euro. Every lefty knows that there are real rational people who seriously question whether democracy makes any sense at all; and every lefty wonders if that claim may actually be true. I regret to say that I, yes even I, a progressive liberal have occasionally despaired, writing in my 2006 novel The Flying Crossbeam

“[Politicians learned an essential lesson.] That virtue is not only insufficient, it is the heart of failure. That truth is not merely unnecessary, it is misleading. That the shepherd may not guide through reason, but only by sending dogs into the flock and calling repeatedly in a familiar voice.”

This is the hopeless cry of the doubting democrat and the legitimate proclamation of the right-wing autocrat. When Adlai Stevenson was told by an enthusiastic supporter that every intelligent American would vote for him, he responded, “Perhaps, ma’am — but unfortunately I require a majority.” Even Stevenson, an exemplar of the left, did not trust that people were qualified to vote wisely.

The ongoing question confronted by the left wing is how to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 December 2019 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Memes, Politics

Interesting comparison of Obama v. Trump

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Also, Obama was taller.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 December 2019 at 7:49 pm

From the Preface to Matt Stoller’s “Goliath:

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Matt Stoller’s book Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy is a serious effort to discover and expose what caused America to move so strongly in a bad direction. From the Preface:

. . . For two hundred years, Americans had fought concentrated power, relying on leaders like Patman. But now there was no one left to carry on the tradition. The new generation had, unwittingly, committed patricide.

Almost immediately, the liberal-led Congress was confronted with a mess of incomprehensible economic problems. The American economic engine was supposed to produce an endless surfeit of goods, services, and jobs, automatically. But now it was sputtering, with inflation, oil shocks, corporation bankruptcies, deep recession.

Without guidance, the new generation panicked. Rudderless and afraid, they turned to a group of scholars who promised them efficiency, progress, and freedom. All they had to do was undo the chains on concentrated power that men like Patman had spent their lives securing.

And so they did. They released the beast of monopoly upon the land. The revolution was here.


During the most recent financial crisis, in 2009–2010, I was a congressional staffer working for a member of Congress on the Financial Services Committee, what I would learn was Patman’s old stomping grounds. I kept getting calls from constituents in foreclosure, in crisis, and nothing that my government and my party offered could help them, or was designed to help them. In aggregate, from 2008 to 2012, during the crisis, the American middle class lost roughly $6 trillion. The assets of the powerful recovered value quickly, those of the middle class did not. Meanwhile, political leaders rewarded the so-called Too Big to Fail banks with bailout money, and bank executives, far from being punished, would be rewarded with large bonuses.7 All over the world, the story was pretty much the same. Bonuses for bankers, little for the rest of us. It was in that period that I began to ask myself a question, a question that turned into this book. The question was as follows. Our leaders responded to a financial collapse caused by a concentration of wealth and power by pushing even more wealth and power into the hands of the same people that caused it. Why? Answering that question—why did our leaders help confiscate the basis of American stability—was surprisingly difficult. Was it purely protecting the rich? That seemed unlikely; there were ways to make sure the rich did well while not undermining everyone else. Was it corruption? I didn’t think so. There were some payoffs, but from what I saw, bribery really did not drive policy. Was it poor strategy or partisanship? I doubted it. There were political fights and recriminations, but both parties came to agree on the need to seize the wealth of the middle class and protect a concentrated financial apparatus. Was it personal immorality? No. Many of our political leaders felt they had a moral obligation to do what they did, that it might be sad, but it was necessary and inevitable. The concentration of wealth and power that I saw, with terrible consequences, occurred largely due to the actions of well-meaning technocrats who did not understand what they were doing.

The more I thought about the question, the more difficult it became to answer. The policy choices around the financial crisis were odd because they were destabilizing. Making sure people owned homes has been a core way to stabilize our society since the 1930s. The original modern housing finance system was designed with political goals in mind. In the words of William Levitt, the founder of the first postwar suburb, “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist. He has too much to do.”8 This was a literal statement. People with a stake in society—a bit of property—do not rebel. People with no stake have nothing to lose. It seemed clear to many of us during the bailouts that the public would turn vehemently against the political establishment for taking their property, their stake in America, and so it has.

After years of research, I came to believe that the answer to the question is ideology, and in particular, turning our back decades ago on an old populist way of organizing our culture. But in 2009, I didn’t know this older tradition had existed. The first hint it was there was when an economist, Jane D’Arista, told me how and why the financial system was blowing up, almost in real time. At the time, no one else, not the bankers or lobbyists or government officials, had any idea what the system they had constructed was doing. But she did, and pointed me to old papers she had written on why the system would blow up.

Her ability to see clearly when everyone else was panicking seemed a bit like magic, so I asked her how she knew all about these problems before anyone else did. D’Arista told me that she learned how the system worked when she was a staffer for a congressman named Wright Patman in the 1970s, a congressman who had helped structure parts of the New Deal. I had never heard of Patman, but D’Arista told me about how he had tried to impeach Andrew Mellon in 1932 and had in turn been overthrown in 1975. A few years later, I read a book by a journalist named Barry Lynn, the founder of what was becoming a new antimonopoly movement. In that book, Lynn wrote about the Robinson-Patman Act, a law written by Patman designed to constrain chain stores in the 1930s. Somehow, one man had been involved in dealing with the giant threats of his day, banks and chain stores, that paralleled the threats of our day, banks and Walmart. And I had no idea who he was. Patman’s role in the twentieth century was the key to answering the question. To understand what was in the mind of policymakers from 2008 to 2010, I had to see how they learned to think about the world. There was an entirely different set of stories and traditions in the heads of policymakers before the 1970s than there was after the 1970s. And it was these differing approaches to power that explains why we took such dissimilar approaches during the New Deal and the Obama era.

Barack Obama and his generation had learned their politics from the Watergate Babies, a generation born in rebellion against Patman’s populism. Policymakers in 2009 didn’t understand this at the time; few of them had ever heard of Patman, and few were aware of the origins of their own intellectual traditions. They believed, proudly, that they were nonideological and pragmatic. But most of these officials had a visceral reaction toward populism. They wore the armor of Ivy League degrees, believing that being an economist or having some sort of widely respected credential offered them the divine right to rule. Voters might have formal mechanisms of democracy, but real decisions should be made by experts in opaque institutions like the Federal Reserve, the courts, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and so forth.

Toward the end of the Obama administration, a left-wing type of criticism emerged, an argument that the financial crisis and the response to it was all just an inevitable unspooling of capitalism with booms and busts and rampant inequality, a simple fact of life under a free market system. This critique, though appearing to present a radical challenge to the status quo, actually bore the same logic of the officials in charge during the financial crisis. It had an elitism of its own, a naïveté similar to that of the Watergate Baby generation, an unwillingness to think hard about commerce and markets. Inevitabilism, whether oriented around the sin of capitalism or the glory of it, reflects a refusal to entertain free will.

For much of this time, I felt alone, frustrated, angry. The financial crisis of 2008 was not a technocratic problem that happened in the banking system. It was a political crisis that happened everywhere. It was not a result of a few bad actors, it was a broad sweeping restructuring of our culture, the result of forty years of political choices, the same misfiring of institutions that led to the second war in Iraq, and an endless series of gruesome social consequences. The men in suits told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, just as they told us taxpayer-funded bank bonuses were essential to the economy.

Even political leaders I respected did not seem to understand how to make democracy work. But still, I believed that we could have done better. Our political leaders, and we ourselves, can and do make choices. I was not naive, but I looked around and saw tremendous hard-earned wisdom, inculcated in our science, our arts and songs, our bridges, our technology, our medicines, our societies. We didn’t always organize our world around the ideas of highly educated technocrats with bad judgment. We once could do greatness in our politics. So where was a tradition I could honor?

And then I found Wright Patman, and I saw through his eyes.

Going through hearings, archives, letters, he helped teach me about the vitality, the energy, the love, the beauty, the fear of what it means to live in a democracy. I saw the coldness of Andrew Mellon, the vibrancy and error of the Watergate Baby class, the intensity of Citibank leader Walter Wriston, the tragedy and racism of Woodrow Wilson, the narcissism and violence of Teddy Roosevelt, the elitist cunning of Aaron Director, the genius and spirituality of Louis Brandeis. This was the tradition I had missed, a battle that took place over how our banks and corporations would be run, a battle over America and the world. This is the tradition that finally made sense. This is the tradition that, if we had known about it in 2008, would have helped us restore our democracy, or at least given us a shot to do so.

Once I learned of this ideological battle, one that Americans before the 1970s understood, my time in politics began to make sense. Toward the end of the Obama administration, the musical Hamilton, based on a book written by journalist Ron Chernow, offered a capstone to the era of the Watergate Baby generation. The musical celebrated a telling of history in which Alexander Hamilton, the founding father Democrats had traditionally associated with the banker-friendly Republican Party and a self-proclaimed elitist who created Wall Street and distrusted democracy, had somehow become an icon of progressive thinking and national greatness. He had become a left-wing political hero, instead of the traditional enemy of democracy that historians—and members of the Democratic Party—understood him as for two hundred years.

The musical provided something of an answer to my question. In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt publicly blamed Wall Street and monopolies for ruining the economy, and used the political power he acquired with that criticism to decentralize and democratize the corporate sector in what became known as the New Deal. But in the Obama era, political party elites from both sides and cultural tastemakers engaged in a moral celebration of Wall Street. Barack Obama said that enjoying Hamilton was the only thing he and Republican Dick Cheney—the former vice president—agreed on. The musical reflected an ideological takeover, not left or right, but a joint attack on populism by the left and the right by people who, for their own reasons, distrusted the messiness and vibrancy of democracy. Those who organized our response to the financial crisis loved Hamilton because it celebrated their moral approval of rule by elite technocrats. And in this love, I saw, in its totality, the grand vision that had led to the crisis, and to the response. The bailouts from 2008 to 2010 were not intended to stop a depression, they were intended to stop a New Deal. And so they did. . .

Get the book and read it.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 December 2019 at 5:43 pm

Why the Media Are Ignoring the Afghanistan Papers

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Alex Shephard writes in the New Republic:

This week, The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, an extensive review of thousands of pages of internal government documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Like the Pentagon Papers, which showcased the lies underpinning the Vietnam War, the Post’s investigation shows that U.S. officials, across three presidential administrations, intentionally and systematically misled the American public for 18 years and counting. As Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told CNN earlier this week, the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers revealed the same dynamic: “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”

The documents are an indictment not only of one aspect of American foreign policy, but also of the U.S.’s entire policymaking apparatus. They reveal a bipartisan consensus to lie about what was actually happening in Afghanistan: chronic waste and chronic corruption, one ill-conceived development scheme after another, resulting in a near-unmitigated failure to bring peace and prosperity to the country. Both parties had reason to engage in the cover-up. For the Bush administration, Afghanistan was a key component in the war on terror. For the Obama administration, Afghanistan was the “good war” that stood in contrast to the nightmare in Iraq.

The Afghanistan Papers are, in other words, a bombshell. Yet the report has received scant attention from the broader press. Neither NBC nor ABC covered the investigation in their nightly broadcasts this week. In other outlets, it has been buried beneath breathless reporting on the latest developments in the impeachment saga, Joe Biden’s purported pledge to serve only one term, and world leaders’ pathological envy of a 16-year-old girl.

The relentless news cycle that characterizes Donald Trump’s America surely deserves some blame: This isn’t the first time that a consequential news story has been buried under an avalanche of other news stories. But one major reason that the Afghanistan Papers have received so comparatively little coverage is that everyone is to blame, which means no one has much of an interest in keeping the story alive. There are no hearings, few press gaggles.

George W. Bush started the Afghanistan War and botched it in plenty of ways, not least by starting another war in Iraq. But Barack Obama, despite his obvious skepticism of the war effort, exacerbated Bush’s mistakes by bowing to the Washington foreign policy blob and authorizing a pointless troop surge. Now, although both Democrats and Donald Trump seem to be on the same page about getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan, there has been little progress with peace talks. The pattern across administrations is that any movement toward resolution is usually met with a slow slide back into the status quo, a.k.a. quagmire.

The political press loves the idea of bipartisan cooperation, which plays into a notion of American greatness and its loss. It also thrives on partisan conflict, because conflict drives narrative. It doesn’t really know what to do with bipartisan failure.

During the impeachment hearings, news outlets gleefully covered the conflict between Trump and members of the foreign policy establishment, holding up the latter as selfless bureaucrats working tirelessly and anonymously on behalf of the American interest, in contrast with the feckless and narcissistic head of the executive branch. The Afghanistan Papers don’t provide that kind of easy contrast; they demand a kind of holistic condemnation, in which Trump and those bureaucrats are part of the same problem.

The media also has a long-standing bias toward “new” news. The Afghanistan War has been a catastrophic failure for nearly two decades. Because little changes, there is little to report that will excite audiences. (Though the Afghanistan Papers are startling, they are hardly surprising.) Given that the president is the greatest supplier of “new” news in recent history—his Twitter feed alone powers MSNBC most days—more complex stories, like the situation in Afghanistan, are often buried in favor of the political equivalent of sports sideline reporting.

The result is that this massive controversy receives disproportionately little coverage. Despite wasting thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, everyone in the U.S. government gets off scot-free. . .

Continue reading.

It is increasingly difficult to see how the US can get back on track. Too many different forces have motivation to stay the current course, which leads directly over a cliff.

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