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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Fox News, Republicans, and the Destruction of Democracy

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That is from this post by Kevin Drum, which is worth reading. The post concludes with:

Correlation is not causation blah blah blah. By itself, this isn’t proof of the baneful effects of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. However, there’s plenty of other evidence and this is one more straw on the camel’s back. Fox News is responsible more than any other single entity for the destruction of American politics over the past two decades.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2021 at 3:24 pm

The attack on American foundational principles

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

I wanted to note that on this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. A unanimous court decided that segregation denied Black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. Brown v. Board was a turning point in establishing the principle of racial equality in modern America.

Since the 1860s, we have recognized that equality depends upon ensuring that all Americans have a right to protect their own interests by having a say in their government.

Today, that principle is under attack.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act to “help rid the Nation of racial discrimination in every aspect of the electoral process and thereby insure the right of all to vote.” And yet, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted that law, and in the wake of the 2020 election in which voters gave Democrats control of the government, Republican-dominated states across the country are passing voter suppression laws.

Today, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) begged their colleagues to reinstate the Voting Rights Act. In 2006 a routine reauthorization of the law got through the Senate with a vote of 98-0; now it is not clear it can get even the ten Republican votes it will need to get through the Senate, so long as the filibuster remains intact.

But here’s the thing: Once you give up the principle of equality before the law, you have given up the whole game. You have admitted the principle that people are unequal, and that some people are better than others. Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have granted your approval to the idea of rulers and servants. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in one of the lesser groups.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Senate, warned that arguments limiting American equality to white men and excluding black Americans were the same arguments “that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world…. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent.” Either people—men, in his day—were equal, or they were not.

Lincoln went on, “I should like to know if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2021 at 2:28 pm

History rhymes: Israel does not want outsiders to observe their actions

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Many still recall the USS Liberty incident, in which Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats attacked and attempted to sink a lightly armed US Navy technical-research ship that was in international waters. The ship was clearly flying the US flag, and there is no doubt in the minds of many that Israel deliberately attacked the vessel. Casualties included 35 killed and 171 wounded, and the ship was badly damaged.

And day before yesterday, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed a civilian building in Gaza, giving the residents had 1 hour to pick what possessions they wanted to keep and get out of the building. Al Jazeera reports:

Youmna al-Sayed had less than an hour to get to safety.

But with just one elevator working in al-Jalaa tower, an 11-storey building in Gaza City housing some 60 residential apartments and a number of offices, including those of Al Jazeera Media Network and The Associated Press, al-Sayed made a dash for the stairs.

“We left the elevator for the elderly and for the children to evacuate,” the Palestinian freelance journalist said. “And we were all running down the stairs and whoever could help children took them down,” she added. “I myself helped two children of the residents there and I took them downstairs – everyone was just running quickly.”

Moments earlier, the Israeli army, which has been bombarding Gaza for six straight days, had given a telephone warning that residents had just an hour to evacuate the building before its fighter jets attacked it.

Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout also had to move quickly. He and his colleagues “started to collect as much as they could, from the personal and equipment of the office – especially the cameras”, al-Kahlout said.

“Just give me 15 minutes,” an AP journalist pleaded over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer. “We have a lot of equipment, including the cameras, other things,” he added from outside the building. “I can bring all of it out.”

Jawad Mahdi, the building’s owner, also tried to buy more time.

“All I’m asking is to let four people … to go inside and get their cameras,” he told the officer. “We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don’t allow it, but give us 10 minutes.”

“There will be no 10 minutes,” the officer replied. “No one is allowed to enter the building, we already gave you an hour to evacuate.”

When the request was rejected, Mahdi said: “You have destroyed our life’s work, memories, life. I will hang up, do what you want. There is a God.”

The Israeli army claimed there were “military interests of the Hamas intelligence” in the building, a standard line used after bombing buildings in Gaza, and it accused the group running the territory of using journalists as human shields. However, it provided no evidence to back up its claims.

“I have been working in this office for more than 10 years and I have never seen anything [suspicious],” al-Kahlout said.

“I even asked my colleagues if they’ve seen anything suspicious and they all confirmed to me that they have never seen any military aspects or the fighters even coming in and out,” he added.

“In our building, we have lots of families that we know for more than 10 years, we meet each other every day on our way in and out to the office.”

Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of AP, also told Al Jazeera: “I can tell you that we’ve been in that building for about 15 years for our bureau. We certainly had no sense that Hamas was there.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

It strikes me that Israel did not want reporters covering the conflict in Gaza, and this was an efficient way to preventing it.

I have to say Jared Kushner’s great peace plan doesn’t seem to be working. Patrick Kingsley in the NY Times explains what led to the current outbreak of war:

 Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.

It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.

The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.

But in hindsight, the police raid on the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, was one of several actions that led, less than a month later, to the sudden resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the outbreak of civil unrest between Arabs and Jews across Israel itself.

“This was the turning point,” said Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. “Their actions would cause the situation to deteriorate.”

That deterioration has been far more devastating, far-reaching and fast-paced than anyone imagined. It has led to the worst violence between Israelis and Palestinians in years — not only in the conflict with Hamas, which has killed at least 145 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel, but in a wave of mob attacks in mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel.

It has spawned unrest in cities across the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians on Friday. And it has resulted in the firing of rockets toward Israel from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, prompted Jordanians to march toward Israel in protest, and led Lebanese protesters to briefly cross their southern border with Israel.

The crisis came as the Israeli government was struggling for its survival; as Hamas — which Israel views as a terrorist group — was seeking to expand its role within the Palestinian movement; and as a new generation of Palestinians was asserting its own values and goals.

And it was the outgrowth of years of blockades and restrictions in Gaza, decades of occupation in the West Bank, and decades more of discrimination against Arabs within the state of Israel, said Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Parliament and former chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

“All the enriched uranium was already in place,” he said. “But you needed a trigger. And the trigger was the Aqsa Mosque.”

It had been seven years since the last significant conflict with Hamas, and 16 since the last major Palestinian uprising, or intifada.

There was no major unrest in Jerusalem when President Donald J. Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital and nominally moved the United States Embassy there. There were no mass protests after four Arab countries normalized relations with Israel, abandoning a long-held consensus that they would never do so until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been resolved.

Two months ago, few in the Israeli military establishment were expecting anything like this.

In private briefings, military officials said the biggest threat to Israel was 1,000 miles away in Iran, or across the northern border in Lebanon.

When diplomats met in March with the two generals who oversee administrative aspects of Israeli military affairs in Gaza and the West Bank, they found the pair relaxed about the possibility of significant violence and celebrating an extended period of relative quiet, according to a senior foreign diplomat who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

Gaza was struggling to overcome a wave of coronavirus infections. Most major Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, were looking toward Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for May, the first in 15 years. And in Gaza, where the Israeli blockade has contributed to an unemployment rate of about 50 percent, Hamas’s popularity was dwindling as Palestinians spoke increasingly of the need to prioritize the economy over war.

The mood began to shift in April.

The prayers at Aqsa for the first night of Ramadan on April 13 occurred as the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, was making his speech nearby.

The mosque leadership, which is overseen by the Jordanian government, had rejected an Israeli request to avoid broadcasting prayers during the speech, viewing the request as disrespectful, a public affairs officer at the mosque said.

So that night, the police raided the mosque and disconnected the speakers.

“Without a doubt,” said Sheikh Sabri, “it was clear to us that the Israeli police wanted to desecrate the Aqsa Mosque and the holy month of Ramadan.”

A spokesman for the president denied that the speakers had been turned off, but later said they would double-check.

In another year, the episode might have been quickly forgotten.

But last month, several factors suddenly and unexpectedly aligned that allowed this slight to snowball into a major showdown.

A resurgent sense of national identity among young Palestinians found expression not only in resistance to a series of raids on Al Aqsa, but also in protesting the plight of six Palestinian families facing expulsion from their homes. The perceived need to placate an increasingly assertive far right gave Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, little incentive to calm the waters.

A sudden Palestinian political vacuum, and a grass-roots protest that it could adopt, gave Hamas an opportunity to flex its muscles.

These shifts in the Palestinian dynamics caught Israel unawares. Israelis had been complacent, nurtured by more than a decade of far-right governments that treated Palestinian demands for equality and statehood as a problem to be contained, not resolved.

“We have to wake up,” said . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Benjamin Rosenbaum, a writer, made this comment on Facebook:

American politicians enjoy piously invoking “Israel’s right to defend itself”, and many Americans catch themselves nodding along to what seems like a commonsensical thought experiment: what if someone lobbed a missile over your borders? Surely no nation would simply ignore it! We too would pound the hell out of them!

And, yes, firing a missile over your borders is an act of war. However — never mind for a moment occupation and UN resolutions and all that other stuff that makes our heads hurt, just keeping it very simple — embargo is also an act of war. As is assassination. Somehow we always do the thought experiment “what if Canada fired a missile at us” and we never do the thought experiment “what if Canada embargoed all our ports and airports, periodically shut off our water and power supply, didn’t allow anyone to sell us food or medical supplies, didn’t allow us to leave, didn’t allow anyone to come in, and we were regularly dying for lack of medical care, and also they regularly assassinated our political leaders?”

“Israel’s right to defend itself” sounds like Israel is minding its own business (terrorizing and evicting its minorities, brutally suppressing its protesters… hey, we’ve all been there, right?) when Hamas, just trying to stir shit up, makes an unprovoked attack. This is very silly because if Hamas-controlled Gaza is a neighboring state, then Israel is constantly committing acts of war against it. Every day the ports don’t open is a day when “any other nation” would fire a rocket, right?

I am not a big fan of Hamas, people. Hamas is loud and clear that it wants to kill me (Hamas isn’t too into making fine distinctions between “the Israeli state”, “Israelis” and “Jews”). (Also there are a bunch of people I love in Israel, and it is very scary to be herded into bunkers because your prime minister is an asshole who has provoked a war, and I have a deep emotional connection to Israel as a big part of world Jewry and as the source and locus of my religion, and, sure, my people’s homeland; which is, by the way, all a bunch of emotions happening in my brain, which does not magically give me any rights to anything).

But: come on. You cannot have it both ways. If Gaza is a separate state, it is a state with which Israel is at war, all the time; and acting shocked when it fires rockets is very odd. If you are at war with a state and you want it to stop shooting at you, maybe consider making peace?

And if Gaza is not a separate state — and you have to squint pretty hard to claim that an entity that has no control of its exports, imports, water, power, free movement of people, where no one has a valid passport, etc., is a state — then it is a piece of territory Israel controls in which it is slowly strangling three quarters of a million people, and depriving them of almost all human rights. It’s one or the other.

I mean, no, dude, I don’t know how to make peace there either, the positions of the two sides are so incompatible. A younger me was full of ideas, but a younger me was partly playing into a racist and colonialist idea that clever people from the enlightened West should arrive with Solutions. So, younger me, STFU. I’m not Palestinian or Israeli; it is not my job to know what they should do. I am a human, so I know that people should stop killing each other, and also particularly the people with 95% of the weapons who are inflicting 95% of the casualties bear the responsibility for that happening. And, I am an American; so it IS my job to react to the bullshit American politicians spout. And this whole “oh noes! For Some Reason naughty Hamas is firing the rocketz! Everything was Going So Well before Why Would They Do That” is a monumental act of willful pretend ignorance.

Written by Leisureguy

17 May 2021 at 6:31 pm

Google, Deloitte, and Citigroup quietly collaborate with GOP group pushing voter suppression

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Judd Legum and Nick Surgey report at Popular Information:

Several large corporations that have recently issued public statements supporting voting rights — including Google, Deloitte, and Citigroup — are also funding and collaborating with a top Republican group advocating for new voter suppression laws. Internal documents obtained by Popular Information and Documented reveal the corporations participated in a “policy working group” on “election integrity” with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a party organization that is actively supporting new voter suppression bills. Participation in the roundtable required a minimum annual contribution of $15,000 to the RSLC.

For example, on March 31, Google’s SVP for Global Affairs, Kent Walker tweeted that the company is “concerned about efforts to restrict voting at a local level” and “strongly support[s] the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

A week later, Google’s State Policy Manager, Joe Dooley, was listed as a participant in a private RSLC policy working group led by the organization’s “Election Integrity Committee.” The April 6 presentation, obtained by Popular Information and Documented, details an array of proposals to suppress voting, including purging of voting lists, more stringent voter ID requirements, and targeting of voting centers. The RSLC also opposes any federal action to protect voting rights. The meeting was run by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R), who has embraced Trump’s lies and conspiracies about election fraud.

The RSLC presentation deck makes clear that the purpose of restricting voting under the guise of “election integrity” is to elect more Republicans. One slide asserts that Republican control of state legislatures is the “last line of defense for the Republican Party.” The RSLC argues that Republicans must act “now” because “2022 is just over the horizon — election integrity is likely to have a major impact.”  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including charts and slides.

Written by Leisureguy

17 May 2021 at 12:53 pm

Liz Cheney v. her party (especially Kevin McCarthy)

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), whom the Republican House conference dumped as chair last week after she refused to kowtow to former president Trump, said some interesting things to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this morning. She reiterated that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has information about conversations with Trump surrounding the events of January 6 and should be subpoenaed if he will not talk about those things voluntarily (and, by implication, under oath).

Cheney is bringing back into the media cycle a number of things we heard between the election and January 6, but she has said that McCarthy should be subpoenaed enough times that it’s hard to believe she is talking generally.

On ABC’s This Week, Cheney also repeated the information she gave last week: that Republicans were afraid to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial because they were frightened for their lives. You may recall that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA) said something similar in his closing remarks in January 2020 at Trump’s first impeachment trial, and Republicans claimed to be outraged. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters: “That’s insulting and demeaning to everyone to say that we somehow live in fear and that the president has threatened all of us.”

And yet, sixteen months later, here we are.

Cheney is not the only Republican who is turning on the former president and his loyalists. Last night, Trump posted a statement claiming that “the entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona”—where the bizarre “audit” is underway—“has been DELETED!” The statement goes on to make sweeping claims about “this unbelievable Election crime,” and so on.

But, in real time, the Republican recorder of Maricopa County wrote on Twitter in response to Trump’s statement: “Wow. this is unhinged,” Stephen Richer wrote. “I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now.” He went on: “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5. If we don’t call this out….”

And Maricopa County did call it out. In a remarkable Twitter thread, the Maricopa County official account destroyed the effort by the private company Cyber Ninjas to recount the 2020 votes in that county. “The 2020 elections were run w/ integrity, the results certified by the county & state were accurate, & the 2 independent audits conducted by the County are the true final word on the subject,” the account said. “We know auditing. The Senate Cyber Ninja audit is not a real audit.” The account went on to list all the many ways in which this audit is simply a propaganda effort to shore up the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

This weekend we also learned that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 May 2021 at 9:08 am

The GOP’s war against poor Americans

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Heather Cox Richardson has a good column on the origin of the GOP’s hostile attitude toward the public good. The column begins:

This morning, as expected, the House Republicans elected Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Trump’s choice for conference chair, to replace Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY). This means that the four top House Republican leaders—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik, and Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)—all voted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Stefanik thanked “President Trump for his support,” saying “he is a critical part of our Republican team.” She went on to say that “House Republicans are united in our fight to save our country from the radical Socialist Democrat agenda of President Biden and Nancy Pelosi.”

Today’s vote confirmed that the leaders of the current Republican Party are willing to abandon democracy in order to save the country from what they call “socialism.”

But what Republicans mean when they say “socialism” is not the political system most countries recognize when they use that word: one in which the people, through their government, own the means of production. What Republicans mean comes from America’s peculiar history after the Civil War, when new national taxation coincided with the expansion of voting to include Black men.

In the years just after the firing stopped, white southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls. But in 1870, Congress created the Department of Justice, and President U.S. Grant’s attorney general set out to destroy the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, southern leaders changed their tactics. The same men who had vowed that Black people would never be equal to whites began to say that their objection to Black voting was not based on race. No, they said, their objection was that Black people were poor and uneducated and would elect lawmakers who promised to give them things—hospitals, and roads, and schools—that could be paid for only through tax levies on people with property: white men. In this formulation, voting was not a means to ensuring equality; it was a redistribution of wealth from hardworking white men to African Americans who wanted a handout. Black voting meant “socialism,” and it would destroy America.

With this argument, northerners who had fought alongside Black colleagues and insisted they must be equal before the law on racial grounds were willing to see Black men kept from the polls. Black voting, which northerners had recognized as key to African Americans being able to protect their interests—and, for that matter, to defend the national government from the former Confederates who still wanted to destroy it—slowed. And then it stopped.

The South became a one-party state ruled by a small elite class, defined by white supremacy, and mired in poverty. For its part, the North also turned on workers, undermining the labor movement and focusing on protecting the new industrial factories whose owners claimed they were the ones driving the economy.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression changed this equation. When the bottom fell out of the economy, Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt transformed the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure. As early as 1937, Republican businessmen and southern Democrats began to talk of coming together to stop what they considered socialism. But most Americans liked this New Deal, and its opponents had little hope of attracting enough voters to stop its expansion.

That equation changed after World War II, when Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower began to use the government to advance racial equality. Truman’s 1948 desegregation of the military prompted southern Democrats to form their own short-lived segregationist party. The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional enabled opponents of the new government system to tie racism to their cause. They warned that the expanded government meant the expensive protection of Black rights, which cost tax dollars. They argued it was simply a redistribution of wealth, just as their counterparts had done in the Reconstruction South.

With the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that. . .

Continue reading. The history is interesting and relevant. She concludes the column:

. . . With the election of Democrat Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with a Democratic Congress, the leadership of the Republican Party has taken the next step. They are rejecting the legitimacy of the election, doubling down on Trump’s Big Lie that he won. Claiming to want to combat “voter fraud,” they are backing bills across the country to suppress Democratic voting, making sure that no one but a Republican can win an election.

Just as white southerners argued after the Civil War, Republican leaders claim to be acting in the best interests of the nation. They are standing firm against “the radical Socialist Democrat agenda,” making sure that no wealthy person’s tax dollars go to schools or roads or social programs.

They are “saving” America, just as white supremacists “saved” the Jim Crow South.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2021 at 10:08 am

A GOP Civil War? Don’t Bet On It.

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Jeff Greenfield, five-time Emmy-winning network television analyst and author, has a piece in Politico that is somewhat depressing because it seems valid. It begins:

If you’ve been reading the coverage lately, or listened to gloating Democrats, it’s easy to believe the Republican Party is eating itself alive.

The former Republican president literally campaigns against incumbents of his own party. NBC calls it a “GOP power struggle”; The Hill describes “deep rifts”; and the Democratic National Committee exults over “a GOP civil war.” After losing the White House, the House and the Senate, its congressional leadership is now in open conflict; Wednesday, the minority leader is expected to oust his No. 3.

Among Democrats painfully aware of their tiny or non-existent margins in the House and Senate, the prospect of a divided Republican Party offers hope that this “civil war” will redound to Democrats’ advantage in 2022.

They shouldn’t be so sure.

First, beyond a few spats that make headlines, it’s getting harder to detect any serious division among rank-and-file Republicans. In Congress, and at the grassroots, the dominance of Donald Trump over the party is more or less total. The small handful who denounced the former president for his massive lies about the election and his seeding of an insurrectionist riot are now either silent, or have embraced a mealy-mouthed argument for “election integrity.” The same state officials who pushed back against Trump’s attempt to overturn November’s results have embraced a series of restrictive voting measures ostensibly designed to combat non-existent “fraud,” all aimed at hobbling voters inclined to vote for Democrats. Mitch McConnell, who denounced Trump’s behavior in high-minded tones in the aftermath of the riot, also—on the exact same day—voted to exonerate him of wrongdoing.

Second, and more significant, history is littered with times that critics on the left, and in the pundit class, were positive the Republican Party was setting itself up for defeat by embracing its extremes … only to watch the party comfortably surge into power. This time there are structural advantages as well: Given the Republican advantages in the House (through gerrymandering, and the statistically “wasted” votes in landslide Democratic districts), in the Senate, in state legislatures and in the Electoral College, a Trump-dominated Republican Party is a strong contender to take the White House next time around. And, contrarian as it may seem, the lockstep devotion to the former president may actually enhance, rather than lessen, its chances. What we’re seeing isn’t a civil war. It’s a purge, and there’s every reason to believe it will work.

This is not the conclusion you’ll reach if you follow much of the mainstream press. A New York Times story on Saturday about Trump’s hold on the GOP quoted former Rep. Barbara Comstock, former Sen. Jeff Flake, GOP consultant Sarah Longwell and Republican strategist Scott Reed, all warning of the political danger of a Trumpcentric party. These are estimable public figures, none of whom remotely speaks for the Republican base. For the past few weeks, much media attention was focused on Michael Wood, the 34-year-old veteran running for a Texas seat with a message that the Republican Party had to move away from Trump. He wound up finishing ninth, with 3 percent of the vote.

For a broader measure of just how one-sided the “civil war” is, you don’t need to stop at the behavior of House Republicans, who are poised to defenestrate Liz Cheney from her leadership post, and who overwhelmingly voted in January to block the certification of electors. A far better picture emerges when . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2021 at 12:12 pm

Conservatives embrace Pro-Choice

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At least it seems that way, based on the chyron in this screengrab from Tucker Carlson’s Fox “News” program:

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2021 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Medical

The Darkness Descends

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“この世界は, 暗黒に包まれている. 風は止み. 海は荒れ. 大地は腐っていく.” — Final Fantasy

Translation: “This world is surrounded by darkness. The wind stops. The sea is rough. The earth is rotten.”

Noah Smith uses that quotation as the epigraph for his post:

There is a Darkness creeping over our world.

That is a melodramatic thing to say. But when I reach for words to express the profound unease that I feel watching the advance of illiberalism across my planet, the language of fantasy novels, children’s movies, and video games is the only one that seems up to the task. Throughout my youth, I consumed a great many stories that all had the same basic premise — an ancient evil, long ago banished from our world, is now returning, and once again we are called upon to rise up and fight it. Perhaps all those stories shaped my worldview and made me see complex, gritty reality in epic, Manichean terms. Or perhaps the stories were written by people who had themselves lived through a global wave of illiberalism, and were trying to pass down a warning.

There is plenty of darkness in the world even at the best of times. Wars, ethnic cleansing, rights violations, suppression of speech and religion…these things are always, or almost always, happening in some part of the globe. No leader and no country is spotless. And yet observers of comparative government and human rights are able to clearly identify times when respect for the rights and liberties of human beings begins to gutter and wane.

We are now in one of those times. The news headlines from around the world give us a continual stream of dark portents. Concentration camps and forced mass sterilization of minorities in China. Millions rendered stateless by a new law in India amid a retreat of secularism. A coup attempt and election denial as a normalized political strategy in America. Rising authoritarianism in Turkey, in Hungary, in Brazil, in the Philippines, in Israel. Protesters massacred in Myanmarmassacred in Iransuppressed in Belarussuppressed in Hong Kong. Mass surveillance everywhere. Internet shutdowns. “Anti-terrorism” laws.

But headlines are just anecdotes. Unfortunately, data tell the same story.

Freedom House, a think tank that tracks political and civil liberties around the world, warns in its 2020 report that “democracy and pluralism are under assault”. You can quibble with Freedom House’s measurements and definitions, but at least they’re consistent across time, and for a decade and a half now they’ve shown a world inching toward illiberalism: . . .

Continue reading. The charts are chilling. And later in the column:

Trump did various nasty things (family separation, using federal agents as cops, etc.). But the biggest threat here by far is the apparent rejection of electoral democracy by the dominant faction of the Republican Party. Trump’s attempt to brazenly deny the result of the 2020 election and use every means short of civil war to overturn the result might not a one-off thing; they provided a blueprint that the GOP now seems to be embracing for the future:

If electoral democracy in America relies on Democrats never losing an election, it’s doomed. If the GOP doesn’t change its tune and agree that the rules by which Americans choose their leaders are legitimate, the next decade could be one of rolling constitutional crises…or worse.

But beyond America’s flirtation with autocracy, the coalition that it assembled to win the Cold War is just much weaker now than it was in the 1980s. . .

Read the whole thing. There’s much more.

Later in the column:

How did our world begin to fall into Darkness? Why did a 25-year trend of increasing human freedom and human rights stall and go into reverse? Everyone is going to have their favorite answer to this question. Those will include the death of the WW2 generation, the rise of social media, new disruptive technologies, economic inequality, the failures of late capitalism, and so on. Any and all of those might well be contributing factors. But while we’re here, I might as well tell you my answer.

My answer is “fear”.

If Freedom House and V-Dem are to believed, the Darkness began to return right around the mid to late 2000s. Two notable geopolitical events occurred in that decade — the rise of China, and the Iraq War. And both events can be interpreted as being broadly part of the same overarching trend — diminution of the United States of America.

The Iraq War did incalculable damage to the moral standing the U.S. had accumulated since its intercession in World War 2 and its construction of the postwar liberal order. We invaded a non-threatening country on the thinnest of false pretexts (don’t deny it), inflaming an entire region of the globe. Hundreds of thousands died. A few of our troops committed well-publicized atrocities. If I had to tell you a single moment when the Darkness was released from the barriers that sealed it beyond the boundaries of the world, it would be this moment:

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:37 am

In the GOP today, lying is a non-negotiable requirement

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Judd Legum has a very good column in Popular Information. A few snippets:

For the Republican party, there is only one thing that is non-negotiable. Trump says that Biden stole the 2020 election. Republicans must not contradict him.

In 2016, Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) was elected to Congress as “an unabashed supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.” In 2019, Cheney co-hosted a fundraiser for Trump with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney endorsed Trump again in 2020. Here is how she described her support for Trump in a July 2020 appearance on Fox News:

So there is no comparison in terms of the kind of leadership that we need in the world and the choice is a very clear one. You know, the American people are going to have to choose between a world in which the United States and the other free nations set the rules of the road or a world in which China and Russia and our adversaries, who do not believe in freedom, set the rules of the road. That is the world you will see under a Joe Biden presidency… We are all going to work together to stop that.

In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, Cheney supported Trump’s position on 95.8% of her votes. In the last two years, Cheney supported Trump’s position 92.8% of the time. That’s a higher level of support than Trump received over the same time period from Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), who Trump later selected as his Chief of Staff.  .  .

But despite that, Cheney was voted out of her Republican leadership post in the House and is now ostracized and ridiculed by her fellow Republicans.

Her offense, according to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy? She would not “move on” from fights about the 2020 election. Legum quotes some Republicans about how important it is to “move on”:

“I don’t think re-litigating the 2020 election is a winning strategy,” opined Senator John Thune (R-SD), one of the Republican leaders of the Senate.  Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, agreed. “Let’s move on,” she said. “She seems not to be able to leave it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer said of Cheney (R-ND).

Legum points out:

But is it really Cheney who is responsible for extending disputes about the 2020 election? If Trump would admit the truth and concede that Biden won fairly and there is no evidence of meaningful voter fraud, the issue would disappear. The same thing would happen if Trump just stopped talking about it. But in recent weeks, Trump has issued one statement after another perpetuating the lie the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Journalist Jon Ward compiled a list of statements issued by Trump in recent weeks claiming the election was rigged:

March 20

April 2, 4, 5, 6, 12, 23, 24 (4x), 26 (2x), 27

May 3, 5, 6, 7

During the time period, Cheney issued one tweet calling out Trump’s lies. It’s clear that Trump is the one who hasn’t moved on. But Republicans are now required to endorse or ignore his lies to remain in good standing with the party.

There’s much more, and it exposes the rotting corpse of a party that at one point had some integrity.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:18 am

The Republican party has demonstrably lost its collective mind (and conscience)

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Heather Cox Richardson points out some salient facts:

As expected, this morning the House Republicans removed Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from her position as conference chair after she refused to stop speaking out against the former president for instigating the January 6 attack on our Capitol and the counting of electoral votes for President Joe Biden. The Republicans ousted her by voice vote, which meant that no one had to go on the record for or against Cheney, and the Republicans kept the split in the party from being measurable. It also ensured that she would lose; she has survived a secret ballot vote before.

Before the vote, Cheney allegedly told her Republican colleagues: “If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person; you have plenty of others to choose from.” After the vote, she went in front of the cameras to say that she would lead the fight to reclaim the party from Trump, and said: “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again goes anywhere near the Oval Office.”

After her ouster, Trump Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn (NC) tweeted ““Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney.” The former president echoed Cawthorn: “Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being. I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country.”

After convincing his caucus to dump Cheney and embrace Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters: “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.”

This was a breathtaking statement. McCarthy himself challenged the certification of Biden’s win, and just last week, Trump made a big announcement in which he called the election of 2020 “fraudulent.” The Big Lie animating the Republicans today is that Trump, not Biden, really won the 2020 election.

But McCarthy is not alone in his gaslighting. Yesterday, in the Senate Rules Committee markup of S1, the For the People Act protecting the vote, ending gerrymandering, and pushing big money out of our elections, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “I don’t think anyone on our side has been arguing that [voter fraud] has been pervasive all over the country.”

The false claim of widespread voter fraud is, of course, exactly what Trump Republicans have stood on since the 2020 election. It is the justification for their voter suppression measures in Republican states, including Texas, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and, as of yesterday afternoon, Arizona.

In today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 insurrection, Republican lawmakers in general tried to gaslight Americans, as they tried to paint that unprecedented attack on our democracy as nothing terribly important. Although 140 law enforcement officers were injured, five people were killed, more than 400 people have been charged with crimes, and rioters did more than $30 million worth of damage, Republican representatives downplayed the events of the day, insisting that they were not really out of the ordinary. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) said that calling the attack on the Capitol an insurrection is a “bald-faced lie” and that “if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit….”

CNN later called Clyde’s remarks “absolute nonsense.” Even the definition of insurrection Clyde quoted—“an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country usually by violence”—showed the attack of January 6 to be an insurrection. And, as lawyer and CNN analyst Asha Rangappa noted tonight on Twitter, at his second impeachment trial even Trump’s own lawyers did not dispute that the events of January 6 were a violent insurrection. The record is clear.

Republican lawmakers like Clyde did, though, echo the former president’s interview on the Fox News Channel in March when he said that when his supporters went into the Capitol they posed “zero threat” and were “hugging and kissing the police and the guards…. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out.”

The former president appears to be continuing to exercise control over his underlings. Former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller provided testimony at the House Oversight Committee hearing, and what they would not say was revealing. Rosen refused to answer questions about whether Trump asked him to try to overturn the 2020 election. Miller’s prepared remarks had included a sentence that said “I stand by my prior observation that I personally believe his comments encouraged the protesters that day.” In his testimony, he omitted that line, and later tried to walk it back, trying to draw a line between people who marched on the Capitol and those who broke into it.

But with Cheney and her supporters now in open revolt, and with news about the Capitol attack dropping, and even with more information coming about the ties between the former president and Russia, will Republican Party leaders manage to sweep everything under the rug?

Today, at a hearing on domestic extremism before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas both testified that the most serious domestic national security threat in the U.S. right now is that of white supremacist gangs. “I think it’s fair to say that in my career as a judge, and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. “There was an attempt to interfere with the fundamental passing of an element of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. And if there has to be a hierarchy of things that we prioritize, this would be the one we’d prioritize. It is the most dangerous threat to our democracy. That does not mean that we don’t focus on other threats.”

For his part, President Biden is refusing to get sucked into the Republican drama, instead focusing on the country. Today an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12, and the CDC signed off on the recommendation, making it easier to reopen schools in the fall.

Today Biden met at the White House with . . .

Continue reading. It’s worth noting that the domestic terrorist threat comes almost totally from the radical right.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2021 at 9:52 pm

Conservative critics of the CIA think that “excellence” and “diversity” are opposites

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As Susan M. Gordon, deputy director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019, points out, we see a lot of blatant bias from conservatives. She writes in the Washington Post:

A recent installment of the CIA’s social media series, “Humans of CIA”, depicted a young (to me, at least) Latina telling her story as she walked the sacred halls of Langley. It is part of the Agency’s effort to share real stories and show the many faces, perspectives, and experiences of today’s intelligence officers. Their aim is to connect to America, and if they’re lucky, attract new talent.

Well, you would have thought the free world had come to an end.

And not because trolls on Twitter had lots of inane comments about the officer herself or the sad decline of the Agency because it aspired to be an inclusive, diverse organization. (Without trolls and inane comments, there would be no Twitter.)

What was shocking — more exhausting than shocking, really — was the number of notable leaders who decided to weigh in with similar commentary.

Mike Pompeo — a former CIA director, no less — tweeted this spectacular non sequitur: “The collection of incredibly talented patriots serving at the CIA is what makes it the best spy agency in the world — and we must continue to recruit the best and brightest. We can’t afford to risk our national security to appease some liberal, woke agenda.”

His implication, of course was that women such as the one in the video do not represent the best and brightest — even though she is definitionally one of the “talented patriots” he longs for. Not to be outdone, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tweeted: “If you’re a Chinese communist, or an Iranian Mullah, or Kim Jong Un . . . would this scare you? We’ve come a long way from Jason Bourne.”

When reminded that Bourne was, um, fictional, Cruz clarified: “My point is that CIA agents should be bad-asses — not woke, fragile flowers.”

This is what systemic bias sounds like, for all those who don’t know or question its existence. It is the suggestion that there is only one look to excellence, only one kind of experience of value, and that any change of the status quo — or the Hollywood-fed stereotype — must mean a reduction in standards. It is also how power keeps power.

And it’s not just in intelligence that the battle is still being fought. In March, when the Air Force and the Army made long overdue changes in uniforms and personal (hair) standards, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson used his on-air time to opine, “So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military.” He does know that women have served in the military since its inception and in combat for decades, right? Our military’s record of achievement is their record of achievement.

As a woman, I am plenty familiar with the false choice between diversity or excellence; the seemingly legitimate argument of “merit-based” selection that advances the notion that if organizations increase diversity and expand inclusion, they sacrifice mission or quality. Nothing could be further from my experience during my more than 30 years in the intelligence community, no matter how many times it is stated or implied. In reality, the smart move is to choose both. Inclusion and excellence. Diversity and mission. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2021 at 4:11 pm

Why Trump Still Has Millions of Americans in His Grip

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Thomas Edsall’s column in the NY Times today makes good points, some of which relate to the previous post on the coming automation of trucking:

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the priorities of the Democratic Party began to shift away from white working- and middle-class voters — many of them socially conservative, Christian and religiously observant — to a set of emerging constituencies seeking rights and privileges previously reserved for white men: African-Americans; women’s rights activists; proponents of ethnic diversity, sexual freedom and self-expressive individualism.

By the 1970s, many white Americans — who had taken their own centrality for granted — felt that they were being shouldered aside, left to face alone the brunt of the long process of deindustrialization: a cluster of adverse economic trends including the decline in manufacturing employment, the erosion of wages by foreign competition and the implosion of trade unionism.

These voters became the shock troops of the Reagan Revolution; they now dominate Trump’s Republican Party.

Liberal onlookers exploring the rise of right-wing populism accuse their adversaries of racism and sexism. There is plenty of truth to this view, but it’s not the whole story.

In “The Bitter Heartland,” an essay in American PurposeWilliam Galston, a veteran of the Clinton White House and a senior fellow at Brookings, captures the forces at work in the lives of many of Trump’s most loyal backers:

Resentment is one of the most powerful forces in human life. Unleashing it is like splitting the atom; it creates enormous energy, which can lead to more honest discussions and long-delayed redress of grievances. It can also undermine personal relationships — and political regimes. Because its destructive potential is so great, it must be faced.

Recent decades, Galston continues, “have witnessed the growth of a potent new locus of right-wing resentment at the intersection of race, culture, class, and geography” — difficult for “those outside its orbit to understand.”

They — “social conservatives and white Christians” — have what Galston calls a “bill of particulars” against political and cultural liberalism. I am going to quote from it at length because Galston’s rendering of this bill of particulars is on target.

  • “They have a sense of displacement in a country they once dominated. Immigrants, minorities, non-Christians, even atheists have taken center stage, forcing them to the margins of American life.”

  • “They believe we have a powerful desire for moral coercion. We tell them how to behave — and, worse, how to think. When they complain, we accuse them of racism and xenophobia. How, they ask, did standing up for the traditional family become racism? When did transgender bathrooms become a civil right?”

  • “They believe we hold them in contempt.”

  • “Finally, they think we are hypocrites. We claim to support free speech — until someone says something we don’t like. We claim to oppose violence — unless it serves a cause we approve of. We claim to defend the Constitution — except for the Second Amendment. We support tolerance, inclusion, and social justice — except for people like them.”

Galston has grasped a genuine phenomenon. But white men are not the only victims of deindustrialization. We are now entering upon an era in which vast swaths of the population are potentially vulnerable to the threat — or promise — of a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This revolution is driven by unprecedented levels of technological innovation as artificial intelligence joins forces with automation and takes aim not only at employment in what remains of the nation’s manufacturing heartland, but also increasingly at the white-collar managerial and professional occupational structure.

Daron Acemoglu, an economist at M.I.T., described in an email the most likely trends as companies increasingly adopt A.I. technologies.

A.I. is in its infancy. It can be used for many things, some of them very complementary to humans. But right now it is going more and more in the direction of displacing humans, like a classic automation technology. Put differently, the current business model of leading tech companies is pushing A.I. in a predominantly automation direction.

As a result, Acemoglu continued, “we are at a tipping point, and we are likely to see much more of the same types of disruptions we have seen over the last decades.”

In an essay published in Boston Review last month, Acemoglu looked at the issue over a longer period. Initially, in the first four decades after World War II, advances in automation complemented labor, expanding the job market and improving productivity.

But, he continued, “a very different technological tableau began in the 1980s — a lot more automation and a lot less of everything else.” In the process, “automation acted as the handmaiden of inequality.”

Automation has pushed the job market in two opposing directions. Trends can be adverse for those (of all races and ethnicities) without higher education, but trends can also be positive for those with more education:

New technologies primarily automated the more routine tasks in clerical occupations and on factory floors. This meant the demand and wages of workers specializing in blue-collar jobs and some clerical functions declined. Meanwhile professionals in managerial, engineering, finance, consulting, and design occupations flourished — both because they were essential to the success of new technologies and because they benefited from the automation of tasks that complemented their own work. As automation gathered pace, wage gaps between the top and the bottom of the income distribution magnified.

Technological advancement has been one of the key factors in the growth of inequality based on levels of educational attainment, as the accompanying graphic shows:

Acemoglu warns:

If artificial intelligence technology continues to develop along its current path, it is likely to create social upheaval for at least two reasons. For one, A.I. will affect the future of jobs. Our current trajectory automates work to an excessive degree while refusing to invest in human productivity; further advances will displace workers and fail to create new opportunities. For another, A.I. may undermine democracy and individual freedoms.

Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings, contends that it is essential to look at the specific types of technological innovation when determining impact on the job market.

“Two things are happing at once, when you look at traditional ‘automation’ on the one hand and ‘artificial intelligence’ on the other,” Muro wrote in an email. “The more widespread, established technologies usually branded ‘automation’ very much do tend to disrupt repetitive, lower-skill jobs, including in factories, especially in regions that have been wrestling with deindustrialization and shifts into low-pay service employment.”

In contrast, Muro continued, “Artificial intelligence really is a very different set of technologies than those we label as ‘automation, and it will for a while mostly affect college educated workers.” But, and it’s a big but,

there is a greater chance that such white collar workers, with their B.A.s, will be better equipped to coexist with A.I. or even benefit from it than will non-B.A. workers impacted by other forms of automation. And yet, there’s no doubt A.I. will now be introducing new levels of anxiety into the professional class

In a November 2019 paper, “What jobs are affected by A.I.? Better-paid, better-educated workers face the most exposure,” Muro and two colleagues found that exposure to A.I. is significantly higher for jobs held by men, by people with college degrees or higher, by people in the middle and upper pay ranks and by whites and Asian-Americans generally.

In contrast, in a March 2019 paper, “Automation perpetuates the red-blue divide,” Muro and his colleagues found that automation, as opposed to A.I., hurts those who hold jobs that do not require college degrees the most, and that exposure to automation correlates with support for Trump:

The strong association of 2016 Electoral College outcomes and state automation exposure very much suggests that the spread of workplace automation and associated worker anxiety about the future may have played some role in the Trump backlash and Republican appeals.

More specifically, Muro and his colleagues found:

Heartland states like Indiana and Kentucky, with heavy manufacturing histories and low educational attainment, contain not only the nation’s highest employment-weighted automation risks, but also registered some of the widest Trump victory margins. By contrast, all but one of the states with the least exposure to automation, and possessing the highest levels of educational attainment, voted for Hillary Clinton.

How do the risks of automation, foreign-trade-induced job loss and other adverse consequences of technological change influence politics? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 May 2021 at 12:32 pm

Liz Cheney and Big Lies (including lies of omission)

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Maureen Dowd has a good column in the NY Times:

I miss torturing Liz Cheney.

But it must be said that the petite blonde from Wyoming suddenly seems like a Valkyrie amid halflings.

She is willing to sacrifice her leadership post — and risk her political career — to continue calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie. She has decided that, if the price of her job is being as unctuous to Trump as Kevin McCarthy is, it isn’t worth it, because McCarthy is totally disgracing himself.

It has been a dizzying fall for the scion of one of the most powerful political families in the land, a conservative chip off the old block who was once talked about as a comer, someone who could be the first woman president.

How naïve I was to think that Republicans would be eager to change the channel after Trump cost them the Senate and the White House and unleashed a mob on them.

I thought the Donald would evaporate in a poof of orange smoke, ending a supremely screwed-up period of history. But the loudest mouth is not shutting up. And Republicans continue to listen, clinging to the idea that the dinosaur is the future. “We can’t grow without him,” Lindsey Graham said.

Denied Twitter, Trump is focusing on his other favorite blood sport: hunting down dynasties. “Whether it’s the Cheneys, the Bushes or the lesser bloodlines — such as the Romneys or the Murkowskis — Trump has been relentless in his efforts to force them to bend the knee,” David Siders wrote in Politico.

Yet an unbowed Liz Cheney didn’t mince words when, in a Washington Post op-ed a few days ago, she implored the stooges in her caucus to “steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”

That trademark Cheney bluntness made Liz the toast of MSNBC and CNN, where chatterers praised her as an avatar of the venerable “fact-based” Republican Party decimated by Trump.

But if Liz Cheney wants to be in the business of speaking truth to power, she’s going to have to dig a little deeper.

Let’s acknowledge who created the template for Trump’s Big Lie.

It was her father, Dick Cheney, whose Big Lie about the Iraq war led to the worst mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Liz, who was the captain of her high school cheerleading team and titled her college thesis “The Evolution of Presidential War Powers,” cheered on her dad as he spread fear, propaganda and warped intelligence.

From her patronage perch in the State Department during the Bush-Cheney years, she bolstered her father’s trumped-up case for an invasion of Iraq. Even after no W.M.D.s were found, she continued to believe the invasion was the right thing to do.

“She almost thrives in an atmosphere where the overall philosophy is discredited and she is a lonely voice,” a State Department official who worked with Liz told Joe Hagan for a 2010 New York magazine profile of the younger Cheney on her way up.

She was a staunch defender of the torture program. “Well, it wasn’t torture, Norah, so that’s not the right way to lay out the argument,” she instructed Norah O’Donnell in 2009, looking on the bright side of waterboarding.

She backed the futile, 20-year occupation of the feudal Afghanistan. (Even Bob Gates thinks we should have left in 2002.) Last month, when President Biden announced plans to pull out, Liz Cheney — who wrote a book with her father that accused Barack Obama of abandoning Iraq and making America weaker — slapped back: “We know that this kind of pullback is reckless. It’s dangerous.”

For many years, she had no trouble swimming in Fox News bile. Given the chance to denounce the Obama birther conspiracy, she demurred, interpreting it live on air as people being “uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.”

Thanks to that kind of reasoning, we ended up with a president who fomented an attack on the nation at home.

In her Post piece, Cheney wrote that her party is at a “turning point” and that Republicans “must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”

Sage prose from someone who was a lieutenant to her father when he assaulted checks and balances, shredding America’s Constitution even as he imposed one on Iraq.

Because of 9/11, Dick Cheney thought he could suspend the Constitution, attack nations preemptively and trample civil liberties in the name of the war on terror. (And for his own political survival.)

Keeping Americans afraid was a small price to pay for engorging executive power, which the former Nixon and Ford aide thought had been watered down too much after Watergate.

By his second term,

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 May 2021 at 11:24 am

The Republican party has actively turned against American democracy

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It’s telling that Mitch McConnell stated explicitly that he is 100% focused on stopping the Biden administration. Mitch is not interested in helping the country or its citizens. He simply wants to stop the Biden administration from accomplishing anything — despite the fact that a large majority of Americans approve of Biden’s programs.

The thing about autocrats is that they really don’t can what people want, but instead are focused on what they (the autocrats) want. That’s the current Republican party. For example, the Republican party is busy enacting state laws to prevent people from voting.

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo articulated today what many have been reluctant to say: What is at stake in the Big Lie and all the Republican efforts to keep it in play—the shenanigans in the secret Maricopa County, Arizona, recount; the censuring of Republicans who voted to impeach the former president; the expected removal of Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from a leadership role in the party; and so on—is not the past election of 2020, but the upcoming election of 2024.

The Republican Party has demonstrated that it intends to control the government in the future, no matter what most Americans want. Iowa, Georgia, Montana, and Florida have already passed voter suppression laws, while other states are considering them. (Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s bill yesterday live on the Fox News Channel.)

As Marshall points out, though, making sure that states return only Republicans to Congress is also about controlling the White House. Republican lawmakers are purging from state election machinery members of their own party who refused to change the outcome of the 2020 election and give a victory to Trump. The former president has fed speculation that he still hopes to overturn the 2020 election, but Marshall looks forward: Is it really possible to think that in 2024, members of the new Trump party will protect the sanctity of any election that gives a victory to a Democratic candidate? If Republicans capture the House in 2022, will they agree to certify electoral votes for a Democrat? In 2020, even before the current remaking of the party in Trump’s image, 139 House Republicans contested them.

Trump is systematically going after leading members of the Republican Party, determined to remake it into his own organization. Several former senior White House officials told Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post that “[t]he defeated ex-president is propelled primarily by a thirst for retribution, an insatiable quest for the spotlight and a desire to establish and maintain total dominance and control over the Republican base.” Republican strategist Brendan Buck noted that Trump seems to relish fighting, rather than victory to achieve an end. “Usually,” Buck said, “a fight is the means to an end, but in this case fighting is the end.”

The Republicans are consolidating their control over the machinery of government in a way that indicates they intend to control the country regardless of what Americans actually want, putting Trump and his organization back in charge. Democrats have proposed the For the People Act (H.R. 1 and S. 1), which would start to restore a level playing field between the parties. The For the People Act would sideline the new voter suppression bills and make it easier to vote. It would end partisan gerrymandering and stop the flow of big money into elections permitted after the 2010 Citizens United decision.

But Republicans are determined to stop this measure. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is especially engaged in its obstruction. He has called it a “partisan takeover” that would “give Washington Democrats unprecedented control over 50 states’ election laws.” He recognizes that restoring a level electoral playing field would hamstring the Republicans’ ability to win elections. Defeating the act is McConnell’s top priority.

The story of how Republican leaders embraced voter suppression and gerrymandering starts back in the 1980s, though the mechanics of overturning a presidential election are new to 2020. Still, their undermining of our democratic system begs the question: Why are leading Republicans surrendering their party, and our nation, to a budding autocrat?

Two days ago, when asked if he is concerned about the direction of his party,  McConnell told reporters that he is not paying attention to it because the Democrats are trying “to turn American into a socialist country,” and that “[o]ne-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”

In his April 28 address before a joint session of Congress, President Biden indicated he intended to reverse the course the government has been on since the Reagan years. “My fellow Americans,” Biden said, “trickle-down… economics has never worked, and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Republicans have tied themselves to the idea that, as Reagan said, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” (although in 1981 he prefaced that statement with the words: “In this present crisis”). Since the 1990s, they have focused on tax cuts and deregulation as the key to building a strong economy, even though that program has moved wealth dramatically upward.

Today, Republicans interpreted a jobs report that showed job growth slowing in April as a sign that Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which pumped $1.9 trillion into the country to help it heal from the coronavirus recession, has failed. Rather than speeding up growth, they say, it is slowing it down. Biden pointed out that the nation has added 1.5 million jobs since he took office and that the recession will not end overnight, but Republicans insist that the federal $300 weekly unemployment checks included in the law are keeping people from going back to work.

The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, issued a statement saying: “This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas.”

Citing help wanted ads, Republican governors in South Carolina, Montana, and Arkansas are ending the unemployment benefit in their own states to get people back to work. Other Republican-led states are suing the administration to force it to let them use the money provided in the American Rescue Plan not to offer help to workers, but to subsidize tax cuts. Meanwhile, still others . . .

Continue reading. Emphasis added. There’s more. And the comments are interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2021 at 12:27 pm

He Bought Health Insurance for Emergencies. Then He Fell Into a $33,601 Trap Created by the Trump Administration.

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Jenny Deam reports in ProPublica:

In the spring of 2019, Cory Dowd suddenly found himself without health insurance for the first time. A self-employed event planner, he had just finished a Peace Corps stint that provided health benefits, but he was still more than a year away from starting a graduate program that would provide coverage through his university.

So, like countless others in an online world, he went insurance shopping on the internet.

But the individual insurance market he was about to enter was one dramatically changed under President Donald Trump’s push to dismantle Obamacare, offering more choices at cheaper prices.

Dowd is well-educated and knew more than most about how traditional health insurance works. But even he did not understand the extent to which insurers could offer plans that looked like a great deal but were stuffed with fine print that allowed companies to deny payment for routine medical events.

Not bound by the strict coverage rules of the Affordable Care Act, the short-term plans that Dowd signed up for have been dubbed “junk insurance” by consumer advocates and health policy experts. The plans can deny coverage for people with preexisting conditions, exclude payments for common treatments and impose limits on how much is paid for care.

Dowd, like millions of other Americans who have flocked to such plans in the past three years, only saw what looked like a great deal: six-month coverage offered through an agency called Pivot Health, whose website touts the company as a “fast-growing team obsessed with helping you find the right insurance for your needs.”

Monthly premiums for the two short-term plans he bought were surprisingly cheap at around $100 a month each, with reasonable co-pays for routine doctor visits and treatments. Best of all, the first plan he bought promised to cover up to $1 million in claims, the second up to $750,000. That should more than do it, he thought. Dowd was 31 and healthy but wanted protection in case of a medical emergency. He signed up and began paying his premiums without closely reading the details.

Then he was hit with the very kind of emergency he had feared. And he wasn’t protected after all.

Short-term plans have been around for decades, and are meant to temporarily bridge coverage gaps. Under the Affordable Care Act they were limited to three months. But when the Trump administration allowed them to be extended to nearly a year, they became a fast-growing and lucrative slice of the insurance industry.

Because these plans are not legally bound by the strict rules of the ACA, not only do they come with hefty restrictions and coverage limitations, but insurers can search through patients’ past medical histories to find preexisting conditions.

All companies selling short-term plans have to do is acknowledge that they are not ACA-compliant and may not cover everything — a disclosure the insurers insist they do.

Still, the Biden administration faces a challenge on what to do about the proliferation of such plans.

Once in office, President Joe Biden quickly moved to make enrolling in comprehensive ACA coverage easier and make plans more affordable. On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced 940,000 people had signed up for ACA plans this spring after enrollment was reopened in February. In many states, enrollment will run through the summer.

Yet, while health policy experts say ACA expansion is important, it does not specifically address those who remain in plans outside the health care law and could be at risk for financial ruin.

“The Biden administration is going to have to find a way to put the genie back in the bottle,” said Stacey Pogue, a health policy analyst for Every Texan, an Austin-based advocacy group.

True numbers of how many people have noncompliant plans remain elusive, as such plans often fly under regulatory radar and industry tracking. Still, an investigation last year by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce concluded that at least 3 million consumers had short-term limited duration plans in 2019, the last year for which information was available. That was a 27% jump from the previous year, when deregulation began in earnest, the investigation found.

“I would not be surprised if  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2021 at 10:24 am

Why People Feel Like Victims and Victimhood’s Role in Social Acrmony

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Mark MacNamara writes in Nautilus:

In a polarized nation, victimhood is a badge of honor. It gives people strength. “The victim has become among the most important identity positions in American politics,” wrote Robert B. Horwitz, a communications professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Horwitz published his study, “Politics as Victimhood, Victimhood as Politics,” in 2018.1 He focused on social currents that drove victimhood to the fore of American political life, arguing it “emerged from the contentious politics of the 1960s, specifically the civil rights movement and its aftermath.” What lodges victimhood in human psychology?

In 2020, researchers in Israel, led by Rahav Gabray, a doctor of psychology at Tel Aviv University, conducted a series of empirical studies to come up with an answer.2 They identify a negative personality trait they call TIV or Tendency toward Interpersonal Victimhood. People who score high on a TIV test have an “enduring feeling that the self is a victim in different kinds of interpersonal relationships,” they write.

The study of TIV is built around four pillars. The first pillar is a relentless need for one’s victimhood to be clearly and unequivocally acknowledged by both the offender and the society at large. The second is “moral elitism,” the conviction that the victim has the moral high ground, an “immaculate morality,” while “the other” is inherently immoral. The third pillar is a lack of empathy, especially an inability to see life from another perspective, with the result that the victim feels entitled to act selfishly in response. The fourth pillar is Rumination—a tendency to dwell on the details of an assault on self-esteem.

You only need to spend only a few minutes watching or reading the news, in any country, to hear and see victimhood raging. We caught up with Gabray to get the science behind the headlines.

Is TIV an aberration in the personality?

Sometimes it may be, if one is high on the TIV scale. But we didn’t research clinical patients. That’s not what interested me. I’m interested in how this tendency appears in normal people, not those with a personality disorder. What we found was that like in a bell curve, most people who experience TIV appear in the middle range.

You found a correlation between TIV and what you referred to as “anxious attachment style”, as opposed to “secure and avoidant” styles. What is the anxious style?

Another way to say it is an “ambivalent attachment style.” So when a child is very young, and care is uncertain, perhaps the caregiver, or the male figures in the child’s life, don’t act consistently, sometimes they may act very aggressively without warning, or they don’t notice that the child needs care. That’s when the anxious attachment style or ambivalent attachment style is created.

So victimhood is a learned behavior after a certain age.

Yes, normally children internalize the empathetic and soothing reactions of their parents, they learn not to need others from outside to soothe themselves. But people with high TIV cannot soothe themselves. This is partly why they experience perceived offenses for long-term periods. They tend to ruminate about the offense. They keep mentioning they are hurt, remembering and reflecting on what happened, and also they keep dwelling on the negative feelings associated with the offense: hopelessness, insult, anger, frustration.

Why is it so difficult for people with a high degree of TIV to recognize that they can hurt other people?

They don’t want to divide up the land of victimhood with other people. They see themselves as the ultimate victim. And when other people say, “OK, I know that I hurt you, but you also hurt me,” and want them to take responsibility for what they did, the person with TIV is unable to do it because it’s very hard to see themselves as an aggressor.

In one of your studies, you conclude that TIV is related to an unwillingness to forgive, even to an increased desire for revenge. How did you come to that? . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2021 at 1:32 pm

Kushner Companies Violated Multiple Laws in Massive Tenant Dispute, Judge Rules

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It turns out that Jared Kushner is exactly what he seemed to be. Alex MacGillis reports in ProPublica:

It’s been six years since Dionne Mont first saw her apartment at Fontana Village, a rental housing complex just east of Baltimore. She was aghast that day to find the front door coming off its hinges, the kitchen cabinet doors stuck to their frames, mouse droppings under the kitchen sink, mold in the refrigerator, the toilet barely functioning and water stains on every upstairs ceiling, among other problems. But she had already signed the lease and paid the deposit.

Mont insisted that management make repairs, but that took several months, during which time she paid her $865 monthly rent and lived elsewhere. She was hit with constant late fees and so-called “court” fees, because the management company required tenants to pay rent at a Walmart or a check-cashing outlet, and she often couldn’t get there from her job as a bus driver before the 4:30 p.m. cutoff. She moved out in 2017.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2021 at 6:41 pm

Republicans have lost their grip on reality

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Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2021 at 5:36 pm

Trump’s inner circle terrified that the Feds will come for them next

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Bess Levin writes in Vanity Fair:

f you haven’t been keeping up with the legal affairs of Donald Trump of late, what you should know is that the guy is very likely f–ked. With the ex-president facing no fewer than 29 lawsuits and three criminal investigations, his tax returns are currently in the hands of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose team is also working to flip the Trump Organization employee who knows where all the bodies are buried and has both (1) cooperated with prosecutors in the past and (2) made some rather interesting comments about the company’s legal dealings. At the same time Rudy Giuliani had his home and office raided by the feds last week, a turn of events that former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara has said is very, very bad news for the NYC mayor turned Trump lawyer/cautionary tale. All of which reportedly has the rest of the 45th president’s inner circle extremely concerned about their own legal exposure.

CNN reports that the raids on Giuliani’s Madison Avenue apartment and Park Avenue office have “left allies of the former president feeling uneasy about what could come next,” according to sources close to Trump. “This was a show of force that sent a strong message to a lot of people in Trump’s world that other things may be coming down the pipeline,” one adviser told CNN. According to that person, the seizing of Giuliani’s electronic devices has “ignited a sense of fear” inside Trump’s orbit “that Justice Department officials may be more willing to pursue investigations of the 45th president or his inner circle than many Trump allies had previously believed.” The same person opined to CNN that they couldn’t believe “you would need to send seven FBI agents to go and collect a cell phone and laptop,” calling the raid “overkill.”

Of course Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s allies may still be operating under the false sense of security provided by the last administration’s Justice Department, run by Bill Barr, wherein alleged criminals were shielded from consequences thanks to their proximity to the equally shady president. As The New York Times reported last week, political appointees at the DOJ blocked prosecutors from obtaining the Giuliani warrants last summer and again after the election. (They were only granted once Merrick Garland took over, which, as Bharara noted, was a delay that could have accidentally cost Giuliani a Trump pardon.)

And speaking of Trump’s inner circle, last week his former “fixer,” Michael Cohen, claimed that Giuliani would ultimately turn on Trump to save himself. And not just Trump, but the entire family. “There’s no doubt that [Giuliani is] nervous…. And it’s rightfully so that he’s nervous, because he knows the power of the SDNY is unlimited, and they use that power,” Cohen said. Noting that Giuliani presumably “has no interest in going to prison and spending the golden years of his life behind bars,” Cohen said, “Do I think Rudy will give up Donald in a heartbeat? Absolutely. He certainly doesn’t want to follow my path down into a 36-month sentence.” He added: “What’s ironic here is the fact that these tactics of the Southern District of New York, in terms of bullying you into a plea deal, were created by Rudy Giuliani going back 30 years ago. And it’s just ironic that the tactics that he created for that office are now going to be employed against him, in terms of making him plead guilty and, certainly, at the least, turning over information about Jared, Ivanka, about Don Jr., about Donald himself, about all of these individuals in that garbage can orbit of Donald Trump.” A person close to the 45th president concurred that Giuliani would end up cooperating with prosecutors, telling CNN: “Even the most loyal people have their breaking point,” adding that Giuliani flipping “wouldn’t shock me at all.” . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2021 at 4:29 pm

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