Thursday, April 29, 2021

Bad To Worse

Peter Wehner, formerly of Hanford High and U-Dub, who worked for Reagan and both Bushes and a couple of conservative think-tanks as well as Christian foundations, shared his thoughts in an Atlantic piece titled “The GOP is a Grave Threat to American Democracy.

“Having alienated college-educated suburban voters,” he wrote, “many consequential Republicans decided their best bet is to keep their contracting coalition in a state of constant agitation and fear, combatants in a never-ending culture war… And that, in turn, requires them to feed the base even greater falsehoods.” 

Post-truth; post-democracy; post-community. Anyone who thought Republicans might turn toward sanity after the anti-constitutional, violent exit of Trump has been shown a fool. They have, in fact, gotten worse, bottom to top. 

Scraping the bottom of the bottom, the lower Tucker Carlson goes, the higher he rises in the estimation of Trumpists. Masks, he has discovered, turn us into drones. Also, making kids wear them is child abuse, so call the cops when you see it. It’s immaterial whether he believes his offal or spews it for ratings and income no matter the damage to his viewers’ health (probably the latter). Unlike hydroxychloroquine or drinking bleach, it works great on Trump-drones, perfectly exemplifying what Wehner said. 

Meanwhile, Sean “I need ratings, too” Hannity questioned the science behind vaccines, but refused to say whether he got them. Care to guess? If he didn’t, he’d have said so, bravely. Like Tucker, he knows his listeners are unquestioning and dupable. They count on it. 

Another example: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy is working hard to whitewash Trump and Trumpists out of any involvement in the January Six insurrection, and to sabotage serious inquiry into what happened before, on, and after that day. Why? It’s not mysterious: complicity. 

More: Wafting through rightwing media like smoke from a backyard barbeque is the lie that Biden’s climate plan bans burgers. Debunked repeatedly, it lives on, even in the mouths of Republican governors and Congress-dwellers. As does the one about Kamala Harris’ book being given to migrant children. (The reporter who produced that malarkey resigned from the New York Post, saying she’d been forced to write it.)

They don’t care: once told, their falsehoods, like N. fowleri, burrow into the brains of their softened targets. Retracted or not, they propagate like weeds in manure. Metaphors are for mixing.

Further evidence of unshakably embedded insanity is a private, Trump-mega-donor, anti-vaxxer-funded Florida school firing vaccinated teachers. Because, doncha know, “reports have surfaced” of the unvaccinated being harmed by contact with the vaccinated. A zombie thing, possibly.

Upping the Floridante, spreading red-ily from there, a “Citizen’s Alliance” says teaching children about climate change is “indoctrination” and wants it to stop. Those kids don’t have a chance to become science-literate. Which, one assumes, is the point. It’s all yours, China.

It gets worse: The so-called audit of Arizona presidential ballots is a funded, promoted, and populated Qanon playground. A shady rightwing company name of “Cyber Ninjas,” the outfit doing it initially refused a court order to reveal its methods, saying it’s not obligated to follow federal rules. To “restore trust,” is why Arizona Republicans hired them. 

There’s more. Consider the disingenuous, tiny infrastructure proposal Republicans made in response to President Biden’s plan: even more parsimonious than it appears, it counts money already allocated, unlike Biden’s numbers, which are for new spending. But it allows Rs to pretend they’re the ones bipartisanshipping. Offering five-hundred bucks on a house selling for half a mill, convincing their voters it was a good-faith negotiation.

Then there’s SCOTUS-packer Amy Coney Barrett’s refusal to recuse from a case involving the rightwing firm that helped underwrite the campaign promoting her nomination. “Bottom to top.” Even including that of the previous “president,” corruption gets no higher than that.

Finally, because it needs saying and James Carville just did, let’s acknowledge how some liberals facilitate Trumpists’ cynical propaganda. Like “defund the police,” competing for who’s the most “woke” is perfect fodder for rightwing disinformation. President Biden has approval ratings Trump could only lie about. Unlike Republican “policies,” for lack of a word, Joe’s proposals enjoy broad, bipartisan enthusiasm outside D.C. All Republican leaders have in response is distraction. So stop handing it to them.

It’s really okay to have schools named after Honest Abe and Dianne Feinstein, and for colleges to host unwelcome speakers. We really need police – just not bad ones. And, sometimes, 3 is just three. Let’s concentrate on the doughnut, not the hole. Focus. After four years without it, people are seeing what good government looks like. When not blinded by Republican diversions, they like it. 

And there’s the message.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Country Gone Nuts

People who refuse masks and vaccination, who still claim the election was stolen, who see nothing wrong with voter-limitation laws, who consider climate change a hoax, who stormed the Capitol, who believe the stormers were anti-Trump, who’re high-fivin’ white-guy Tucker Carlson’s “replacement” ravings, who fear transsexuals in bathrooms, who insist Trump never lied, who accuse Hillary Clinton of child-trafficking and cannibalism, who think if we stay long enough in Afghanistan we’ll “win,”

Who “do their own research” about science, who say ignoring pandemic social behavior is about “freedom,” who think black people killed by police asked for it – even an unarmed child with his hands up, who are convinced undocumented immigrants are allowed to vote, who insist there’s never been or no longer is racism in America, who say the only racists are non-whites, who don’t mind the Republican Party becoming overtly white-supremacist

Who elect people to Congress who harass and lie and block but produce little of value, who drive into crowds of demonstrators (now legal in Florida), who consider Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization, who imagine Christianity is under siege and that it’s only white people who face discrimination, who fear “Sharia law” while legislating based on their personal Bible interpretations, who say the ACLU is a Communist front and that Democrats want communism, who demand we consider America a Christian nation, who call Kyle Rittenhouse a hero, who believe Democrats want to take away their religion and guns and free speech and create open borders, 

Who think it’s easy to distinguish between good guys and bad guys with guns and background checks are fascist, who are convinced vaccines are mind-control, who’ve concluded Dr. Fauci is an evil liar, who reckon the “wrong kinds” of people are voting, who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex but deem the impeachments of Trump political hit-jobs, who believe there’s a “deep state” in cahoots with an international Jewish cabal, who reject proof that Russians interfered with Trump’s election and colluded with his campaign,

Are the same ones insisting if assault-style weapons are banned “the government” will track them down and haul them to reeducation camps or gas chambers, and that the Second Amendment was created, expressly, to provide citizens with the muskets to stop it from happening. And that the recent spate of mass murders, added to the mounting all-time total, is reasonable, unpreventable, maybe a bit unfortunate but not-worth-doing-anything price we should be happy to pay for keeping ourselves armed against, well, that thing that will never happen.

Except it did when Trump brutally cleared peaceful protestors so he could wave a Bible at us and later sent troops to Portland and Seattle against mostly peaceful demonstrators but it’s fine because it was people seeking justice which is communism and it showed them who’s boss and wasn’t the thing they’d been arming themselves for because government gassing non-violent citizens is okay because Trump is on our side and they deserved it and also inciting deadly insurrection against the Constitution.

Half of our country is nuts. We may disagree about which half, but, surely, we do agree this ever-widening, bridgeless divide is incompatible with democracy, and that we’re nearing the impossibility of finding our way back. If half the country doesn’t check every one of the foregoing boxes, they check plenty more than a few.

If there is a way back, it won’t come from Cruz, Hawley, Jordan, Nunes, Gozar, Gaetz, McCarthy, Graham, Greene, Boebert, Cotton, Barasso, Thune, Paul, Kennedy, Hyde-Smith, Cornyn, Gohmert, King, Scott, Ernst, Blackburn, or any of the rest who prefer dissimilation and cries of “socialism” instead of producing useful ideas.

But it could, in fact, come from Pelosi, Murray, Ocasio-Cortez, Porter, Sanders, Warren, Whitehouse, or the others whom Trumpists love to hate and dismiss with prejudice, but who are offering serious, fact-based proposals, like them or not. In Congresses past, their ideas would initiate constructive, good-faith debate; leading, if you can imagine, to workable compromise. If Republicans were to stop fearing their Fox-, Newsmax-, OAN-indoctrinated supporters and rise above taking orders from their corporate sponsors, perhaps they’d remember their job is to legislate for the good of everyone. Ticking, is the clock.

Meanwhile, on Mars, NASA flew a self-driving helicopter carrying a tiny piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane. If that doesn’t cause you to admire science, what will? How many members of the design and build team are immigrants or first-generation or non-white? Lots. Its name, “Ingenuity,” came from an Alabama high-schooler named Vaneeza Rupani. Makes a person think.

Finally, for now, one word on the Chauvin verdict: just.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Infrastructure. Gotta Do It.

Rumor has it that Congressional Republicans will soon present their own infrastructure plan. If true, it’s a positive development, depending on what is and isn’t in it, and how they plan to pay for it. (Not by raising corporate taxes, they’ve already said.)

In any case, it'd be refreshing for a party that had, for decades, given up producing legislation of its own, other than military spending and limiting voting rights of Americans. It’s much easier and more attractive to their base, simply to decry and block, if they can, whatever Democrats produce. They did it during President Barack Obama’s administration, kept at it through Trump’s, and the production/block cycle continues today.

So far, the Republican response to President Biden’s wide-ranging plan has been to argue about the meaning of “infrastructure.” And, from Mitch McConnell, a promise that not a single Republican senator would vote for it; period, end of discussion. Which surprised exactly no one except, possibly, the President himself, who, like President Obama but perhaps less naively, still contends there’s a possibility of Republican helpfulness.

On the other hand, it was a gift: Mitch’s proclamation freed President Biden from wasting time trying to cajole cooperation from the right. And it makes coffee-out-nose-laughable the complaints, regularly heard on rightwing media, that Joe is forsaking his commitment to bipartisanship.

Sure, we could argue about what fits the definition of infrastructure. Setting aside South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s forehead-fracturing claim that pipes and housing have nothing to do with it, one might question the inclusion of various items. But why? It is what it is: a much-needed, serious attempt to make up for precious lost time in addressing increasingly costly, previously neglected needs of our country.

To his credit, Trump campaigned, among other disingenuous promises, on rebuilding infrastructure. Who can count the number of disappearing “infrastructure weeks” he announced during his tenure? But at least it was Republican recognition that action has been too long in coming. Remember, it was the last of the honest and pragmatic Republican presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, who convinced Congress to pony up for the interstate highway system; making the case that it was a matter of national security. Which is a pillar of conservatism.

Aging dams and bridges are security threats, too. The same for an inadequate electric grid and unsafe water. Underfunded schools. Insufficient housing. Limited healthcare access and not caring for our elderly. And, maybe more than anything else, the climate change emergency, broiled in which we now find ourselves. 

However we choose to label them, America has chronically neglected needs, and it’s way past time to address them. The longer we wait, the more it’ll cost, and the more likely is disaster to happen in the meantime. As with his pandemic relief plan, President Biden’s proposals for rebuilding America (which will actually MAGA) enjoy broad public support, even among Republican voters.

It’s not mysterious: most everyone has had to pay for needed repairs or upgrades; many have seen the consequences of delaying them. In our homes, for our families, we do what we must. In rejecting it, Congressional Rs would, yet again, flout the will of the people. And please countries hoping for America’s decline.

The problem, compounding hourly, is that rebuilding costs money. Staggering amounts of it. Far more, even, than President Biden is asking for. We all know it, and we know putting it off makes it worse. The only question is how to pay for it. And, no, dear Republicans, the answer isn’t another fairy-dust, trickle-down tax cut. Or a piper-postponing, bond-selling smokescreen. And, no, dear Democrats, the money can’t come entirely from corporations and millionaires.

President Biden ought to rescind his pledge about people making less than $400 thousand a year. Everyone drinks water, uses roads and electricity. And breathes. Plus, it’ll create millions of jobs. In fact, taking a page from the Republican bumper-sticker book, but honest and descriptive, it’s named “The American Jobs Plan.” Worth a read. 

Not wanting to spend money doesn’t change the need. We do it to keep our families safe; we must do it for our country, too, which amounts to the same thing. China understands this, evidently better than we, as they build and pave their way past us, everywhere.
And now, the Trump story of the week: Saffron-spined Republican senators gave him a made-up award, titled like a Marvel comic, engraved on a tiny silver bowl. In gratitude, spewing his usual undead election lies and worse, he called Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch.” 

Mitch McConnell isn’t dumb.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Corporations Are People, My Friend

Not so many years ago, five-ninths of the Supreme Court informed us that money is speech and corporations are people. Shortly thereafter, finishing off, to the best of its ability, the remnants of governance by and for the people, the court, having experienced another 5-4 epiphany, declared racism over and lynched the Voting Rights Act. 

These partisan rulings delighted Republicans, fulfilling their most liquid dreams; for it’s the subsequent deluge of corporate money, and being freed from federal oversight of naked suppression of voters of Democratic inclination, that has kept them in office ever since. Funny thing about that, though: their recent exuberant escalation of decades-long efforts has shone a light; if not on the money itself, then on the hypocrisy surrounding it.

The apotheosis, the sine-qua-non, the Platonic ideal of Republican subterfuge is Georgia’s, arising after their recent electoral defeats. Lacking – apparently not even wanting – a message to attract more voters to their side, they chose to narrow the avenues of access that had increased minority votes. And, more egregiously, to give their legislature the power to overturn unhappy results. But, they insist, it’s only about preventing widespread fraud (the big lie) and keeping illegal immigrants from voting (doesn’t happen). Paraphrasing a recent letter implying those very things, “huzzah for hysterics.”

Not everyone who saw what happened was okay with it.

In response to criticism came the “liberal lies,” “who-me,” cat-who-ate-the-canary-in-the-coal-mine disavowals; the counterfactual claims that they’d actually increased opportunities to vote; the “Fox said it, I believe it, that settles it” assertion that Colorado, to which MLB moved the all-star game, is just as restrictive. Repeated robotically by right-wing pundits and Trumpists, it’s false. The truth (remember truth?) is the opposite

Then, the unexpected: several Georgia-based corporations, generally given to giving Republican, spoke out in criticism. “Spoke” is the operative word. Said it was wrong, didn’t actually do anything. But it was enough to cause apoplexy and consternation among rightists, self-styled protectors of free speech and corporate autonomy, and bulwarks against “cancel culture.” Immediately, their dudgeon turned to eleven, Georgia’s legislature voted to rescind a tax break for Delta Airlines: well-deserved punishment for the crime of firing off a high-capacity load of words.

Then, in Texas, as their legislature prepared even more oppressive restrictions aimed at minority voters, corporations based there also expressed pro-democracy opinions. Which let loose a flood of two-faced outrage, led by the heartless harbinger of hypocrisy himself, Moscow Mitch McConnell. There’ll be consequences, he warned, ominously but without specifying, for speaking their people-minds. Corporations should best stay out of politics, he intoned. Except, of course, for continuing to bankroll us, he added hurriedly, realizing too late what he’d just said. The money kind of corporate political activity is perfectly legal, he assured us, as if speaking out for democracy isn’t.

Having let slip his truth, he immediately tried to wiggle free. “Unartful,” he said. It was a hilarious episode, in a cephalexplosive kind of way.

So far, it’s only words. But corporate refusal to keep grubstaking Republicans, or, even more dramatic, were they to boeing-boeing away to other states, might be the only remaining recourse to right the wrongs. Democracy-loving voters in democracy-hating states are increasingly unable to do anything about it; which is the whole point.

Are corporations concluding there’s more profit in retaining customers than in purchasing legislators? Maybe. Politics beds strange fellows. The world has flipped on its axis: Republicans are yelling about corporations using political influence and Democrats are cheering them on.

Trump, of course, speaking about whom we’re informed ought to no longer be allowed, had to put in his two-kopeks-worth. Boycott, he demanded; something he was against when liberals suggested it. Cancel the lot of ‘em. Delta, Coca-Cola, UPS, MLB, and more.

But Trump is Trump. Always the faker and ever the cheat, he was caught, in a subsequent photo-op with Stephen Miller, the worst of his many in-house swamp-dwellers, trying to hide his extra-large bottle of Diet Coke. Also hilarious, in a “people actually voted for that guy” kind of way.

With Trump, there’s always more. We learned this week how he suckered credulous cultists into giving monthly or even weekly donations to his campaign, using fine print so small it was barely noticeable. Having bankrupted many people, including the sick and dying, his campaign was forced to return $122 million when the scam was uncovered. As usual, Trump got away unscathed. 

Hey, here’s an idea: no matter the topic, every column should end like this one, with a “Trump revelation of the week” feature. Everyone would love it, right?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Voting From Space

It goes without saying – which is why it needs saying – that without fair and unencumbered elections in all states, wherein the people’s votes actually matter and count roughly equally, democracy dies.

If we were watching from outer space, studying a country having two distinct, opposing parties, it shouldn’t be difficult, assuming it’s the case, to tell which of them believes in democracy and which doesn’t. Which one favors giving average citizens the ultimate voice, and which one does everything it can to create and maintain a self-serving plutocracy. 

We find ourselves in the International Space Station, looking down on exceptional America. And what do we see? Two parties, working hard for legislative action affecting elections and the safety and ease of voting, but with diametrically opposite intent. For fun, let’s not figure out the party names yet. (Incidentally, the science keeping us afloat and alive up here is the same as the kind telling us about Covid-19, the vaccines, and climate change. Which is why we'll remain safe and breathing.)

Oh, look: way down there, in the House of Representatives, one party has already passed legislation aimed at reducing the influence of dark money, striving for uniformity among states for voting by mail, limits on unfair gerrymandering, numbers of voting locations and drop-boxes per population, ethics reform, and more; including requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

Even up here, you can see the other one is trying to make voting by mail harder if not impossible, to limit or eliminate drop-boxes, and, despite how well mail-voting works in several states without it, including ours, to require ID. While making access as difficult as possible for minority voters. Which one, shall we conclude, believes in the indispensability of voting rights in a democracy and which one doesn’t? (No peeking!)

As to the act of voting, per se, all we need to know is that, in a state it just lost for the first time in nearly forever, one party made it a crime to provide food and water to people waiting for hours to vote, in lines possibly visible from up here. This tells us that forcing selected portions of the population to wait like that is deliberate.

It also reveals that their rationale – that it’s to prevent people who provide food and water from politicking the standees – shows who they really are. Specifically, they’re certain no one in their party would even think of providing comfort to hot, tired, hungry voters. And that they choose not to consider ways it could be done without giving political advantage to the providers. We can think of several. It’s not hard.

By simple observation, then, we know one party favors equal access to voting by all eligible citizens, and one clearly doesn’t. (No fair reading ahead!) To the former, eligibility includes law-breakers who’ve fulfilled their debt to society. Ironically, it's the party that insists we're a Christian nation and, therefore, ought to believe in redemption, that demagogues the very idea. 

As to the aforementioned dark money, a conference call about it, between mega-donors and an adviser to Mitch McConnell, can be heard from the ISS (we have the technology). According to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, one party is very, very worried. They call it a power grab by the other party, but their problem, in fact, is with its bipartisan appeal

“The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision … about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill … was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress. … because the broad public is against them when it comes to billionaires buying elections.”  

“Ignoring the will of American voters.” “… kill the bill in Congress.” “Billionaires buying elections.” Can it be any more obvious to whom Congressional members of that party really listen, and why? Could it be any clearer in whose interests they’re acting? Can you barely wait to learn which is which? After finding out, will you care enough to vote for the democracy-saving one?

As with choosing between former Vice-President Joe Biden and Trump, true conservatives must yet again decide between party and country; between preserving election fairness or letting their party destroy it.

Back on Earth, we see it clearly: the party trying to protect democracy rather than end it has been the Democrats all along. Surprised?

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