Friday, September 25, 2020

Confronting Reality

One-time Democratic congressional candidate, MSNBC host, Democratic activist and current podcaster Krystal Ball realizes the Democratic Party "panders to identity" rather than addressing issues which affect minorities and struggling Americans. Citing an important study described in The New York Times by authors Ian Haney Lopez and Tony Gavito,  She recommends for Joe Biden

It's time to let go of the identity politics which change nothing substantive and only serves to assuage the consciences of white liberals. Less 1619 Project, more Battle of Blair Mountain. Embrace the class war and see what happens with that black and Latino enthusiasm if only the donor class would let him.

She adds

But all is not lost, my friends. There was a strategy that effectively appealed to Latinos, black and white voters alike. I'll give you one guess what it was. These voters were most persuaded by a message that linked class and race in a broad strategy against elites.

The research is right. The key is to link racism and class conflict. Democrats should call for Americans to unite against the strategic racism of powerful elites who stoke division and then run the country for their own benefit. This is not to deny the reality of pervasive societal racism but it does draw attention away from whites in general and toward the powerful elites who benefit from divide and conquer politics. This, of course, was exactly the approach of Bernie Sanders.....

This begs analysis in three key areas:

1) Good for Ball that she would emphasize racism among elites, rather than among the American people as a whole. Liberal pundits and the mainstream media too often emphasize the latter to the exclusion of the former while the Democratic political class, as Ball has noted, typically simply turns a blind eye to the racism of elites.

2) Bernie Sanders did in fact do extremely well among Latinos in the Nevada caucus.  However, this was the only state among the four which mattered (Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina the others) with a large number of Latinos. Further, we don't know why Sanders proved so popular with that cohort in Nevada, with one theory being that the youth (among whom Sanders was popular everywhere) leaned on their parents, often less conversant in English and American culture generally, to vote for the Vermont senator. It is unclear whether Sanders' appeal to Nevadan Latinos reflected a general popularity throughout the nation with that group.

3) "This, of course, was exactly the approach of Bernie Sanders." No, it wasn't. Bernie's message centered on class and though he always has had liberal views toward minorities, he was led kicking and screaming into showing real concern about blacks or Latinos. The approach Ball approvingly cites was that of Elizabeth Warren, whom Ball, a fervent supporter of Sanders, criticized regularly.

It's only fair to concede, as someone pointing out the disingenuous nature of Sanders supporters, that the inter-sectionalism which Ball describes (but which term she assiduously avoids) was not one of the two reasons I preferred the Massachusetts senator to the Vermont senator. 

But it is now only a few days shy of seven months since the pivotal South Carolina primary and a few days later, Super Tuesday, which effectively ended the contest for the Democratic nomination. And the supporters of Bernie Sanders still can't face reality.

The reality is that black voters crushed the campaign of Senator Sanders.  Exit polls indicate that in South Carolina, Biden won 61% of the black vote while his closest competitor received 17% of that vote.  Exit polls indicated Biden won approximately 63% in Virginia, 72% in Alabama, and 60% in Texas and North Carolina. At his best among black voters, Sanders trailed Biden in Minnesota by four percentage points.

The former vice-president did extremely well, and the Vermont senator very poorly, among blacks for reasons related to both Biden and Sanders. This occurred despite Sanders' strength among blacks who are young- as he was strong with other young voters- which obscured the flat-out dominance held by Biden with middle aged and old blacks. 

That doesn't mean that Biden would be a better President generally than Sanders, that he is a better general election candidate than Sanders would be, or that the issues which most concern blacks are ones Biden will more effectively address.

It means only one thing: Joe Biden owes his nomination to African-Americans. The South Carolina primary was the first in which a majority of primary voters was black (still are black, no doubt). But he wouldn't have surged to the nomination without South Carolina and, specifically, without African-American voters in South Carolina. 

When the South Carolina primary was held, Sanders clearly was in the lead for the nomination.  Recognizing that, those voters, a majority of them African-American, overwhelmingly opted for Joe Biden, for whatever reason. They didn't especially want Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, or Pete Buttigieg and they most emphatically did not want Bernie Sanders. It's difficult for Sanders' acolytes, and somewhat less for those of us for whom he was second choice, to face that reality. But it doesn't erase reality.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Liar, Liar


It's #8 in the Catholic book and #9 in the Protestant book but in the book it's always Exodus 20:16. In two of the most readable, yet literal, translations it is "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor'"; in another, "you shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."

Other translations are slightly different but in all it means, in significant part: don't lie. And William Barr has done so, extensively and significantly, with great harm to the country he doesn't love.  Ruling against the Justice Department in March on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a full-text version of the Mueller report, Judge Reggie B. Walton, appointed to the Federal District Court in 2001 by President Bush

cited: Mr. Barr’s obfuscation about the scope of the links that investigators found between the Trump campaign and Russia, and how the report documented numerous episodes that appear to meet the criteria for obstruction of justice, echoing the complaints of many critics of Mr. Barr’s summary of the report.

The attorney general issued an initial four-page letter in March 2019 — two days after receiving the 381-page Mueller report — that purported to summarize its principal conclusions. But within days, Mr. Mueller sent letters to Mr. Barr protesting that he had distorted its findings and asking him to swiftly release the report’s own summaries. Instead, Mr. Barr made the report public only weeks later, after a fuller review to black out sensitive material.

Among the issues Judge Walton flagged: Mr. Barr declared that the special counsel had not found that the Trump campaign had conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and left it at that.

But while Mr. Mueller did conclude that he found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with the Russians, Mr. Barr omitted that the special counsel had identified multiple contacts between Trump campaign officials and people with ties to the Russian government and that the campaign expected to benefit from Moscow’s interference.

Judge Walton also wrote that the special counsel “only concluded” that the investigation did not establish that the contacts rose to “coordination” because Mr. Mueller interpreted that term narrowly, requiring, in the report’s words, agreement that is “more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.”

In addition, Mr. Barr told the public in March that Mr. Mueller had made no decision about whether the president obstructed justice, then pronounced Mr. Trump cleared of those suspicions....

The judge also blasted similar “inconsistencies” in public comments made by Mr. Barr hours before he released the redacted version of the report in April.

There are right-wingers in secular society, most notably our anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim President a trifecta!).. Moreover, the NationalCatholic Prayer Breakfast is not an official arm of the Roman Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, its Board of Directors and Founders Circle reveal it to be part of the conservative movement while it dishonestly claims to be non-partisan. It is is a reminder that there are organized, right-wing elements in that denomination as there are in evangelical Protestant Christendom. To such groups, the Ten Commandments, especially that pesky one about not bearing false witness, are a pesky inconvenience.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

No Permanent Friends Or Enemies, Only Interests

Well, you can hardly blame them:

The Palestinian Authority is referring to the normalization agreements which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have signed with Israel in what Al Jazeera refers to as "a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran."

Qatar has ruled out signing a similar agreement because "normalizing relations with Israel" allegedly "can't be the answer" to the conflict between Arab Palestinians and Israeli Palestinians (commonly, the "Israel-Palestinian conflict"). 

Ever hostile toward Israel, Amnesty International, citing killings of Palestinians by Israeli ground forces and airstrikes, charged "Israel continued to impose institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians living under its rule in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories." That echoed widespread condemnation in the United Nations and elsewhere against the Jewish state, portrayed as unilaterally standing between the Palestinian people and the liberty they deserve.

A more objective USA Secretary of State John Kerry (video below) in December 2016 sensibly made the case for the two-state solution in the Middle East. One of its advantages he cited was "as the only way to ensure a future freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people."


He may have been right but there are at least two nations (Bahrain and the UAE) - for which the future freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people are largely inconsequential.  And as al-Maliki hints at, there likely are others for whom Arab Palestinians are an afterthought.

So it turns out that Israel is not the Great Satan- or at least no more so than the Palestinians' brethren. It is the greatest myth, perpetrated by Amnesty International and other interests, of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that the nation of Israel is uniquely hostile to the hopes and aspirations of Arab Palestinians. For whatever reason, no one wants any part of the Palestinians.

These anti-Zionists were not aware of their naivete. However, each country of the Middle East has known. And now the Palestinian Authority has acknowledged it.  Perhaps that is one reason two governments of the region have now pulled the rug out from under the Palestinians. They realize that in the somewhat odious regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel finally has an attitude toward the Palestinians they themselves can relate to.


Monday, September 21, 2020

It's You, Chuck And Nancy

Will Bunch maintains

The thousands of people who spontaneously packed the plaza outside the Supreme Court Friday night and again on Saturday for impromptu vigils show how deeply many Americans cared for Ginsburg’s ideals, and about her replacement. If McConnell appears able to forge ahead with a vote on Trump’s nominee, either in October or during a lame duck session after the election, that energy must be channeled into massive civil disobedience on an unprecedented level.

If McConnell sets a date for a confirmation vote, the American people need to respond with a general strike — to shut down the entire country, maybe for a day or two, maybe a week, maybe longer. This is a tactic that — although it’s succeeded on a municipal level, in a different century — hasn’t ever worked on a national scale. American capitalism can brutally punish displays of courage around work. But there’s a first time for everything, and if an authoritarian power grab won’t do it, then our democracy is beyond saving.

I also see a general strike as a galvanizing tool — both to drag too often cowardly Democratic leaders toward facing the realities of the Trump/McConnell threat, but also to rally strike participants behind longer-term protest measures.

Nonetheless, there are other measures which can be taken within the legislative system, turning "not me, us" on its head. 

The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur outlines a few of the possibilities in the video below.  Two seem to stand out as most practical, ones which Republicans would take if roles were reversed.

Democrats could ask for "unanimous consent" "on every vote there is between now and November 30" because a quorum of 50 Senators would be needed for a quorum to proceed. He notes that the vote for senator from Arizona is a special election, likely to be won by Democrat Mark Kelly over incumbent Martha McSally. (Democrats might have to hold out until January 3, when the new Senate- possibly a Democratic controlled one- is sworn in.)

Alternatively, Democrats could refuse to lift the debt ceiling and/or refuse to agree to a continuing resolution until the GOP Senate agrees to drop consideration of a replacement for Justice Ginsburg.  Senate Democrats don't have enough votes to pull this off themselves, Uygur concedes, but "You need the (Democratic-controlled) House to pass those."

But Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have to demonstrate leadership, though they are fond of playing softball and so may not utilize any of the tactics at their disposal. However, Uygur concludes of ("cowardly," as characterized by Bunch) Democrats that with

all that is on the line, if you can't get it done, then we're going to primary you not just because you're wrong ideologically and you're out of step with Democratic voters ideologically, but also because you're incompetent. You let Donald Trump walk into the White House, you lost a thousand seats over a decade and then on top of that if you lose the Supreme Court for three decades, there is no disputing how epic a failure the Democratic leadership is.


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It Sounded Better In The Original German

It's a fair question

And the answer:

A few decades ago, possibly when Trump apparently kept the collected speeches of Adolf Hitler by his bedside, he reportedly stated  “I’m proud to have that German blood. No doubt about it. Great stuff.” In May 2013, he wrote "Dr. John Trump, uncle, for many years at M.I.T., good genes, I get it!" and the next month assured someone who tweeted "your dad gives good brain?? Damn" that "it's called genes! In July of 2016 he would reiterate "Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes. OK, very smart."

 On December 3, 2015 he tweeted "I consider my health, stamina and strength one of my greatest assets. The world has watched me for many years and can so testify- great genes!"  In an interview with The New York Times in July, 2017 he praised his granddaughter, who "speaks fluent Chinese" for having "good, smart genes."

Trump’s recent remark in Minnesota echoes the observation in September, 2016 by a Trump biographer that the Trump family believes in the racehorse development theory,” that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring." In this, the most important aspect, Donald Trump has not changed in decades and will boast that the voters knew exactly what to expect when they gave him a second term. He is again pushing the envelope, now daring people to call him out for views popular in the Germany of the 1930s.  All he lacks is the mustache.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Smart When He Has To Be

With the extraordinarily untimely death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there will be encomiums to her personality and character, examination of the impact of her jurisprudence, and seemingly endless analysis of the political implications of her passing.

Those are critical considerations- but where can you go for a completely insignificant analogy between Justice Ginsburg's death and Andrew McCabe? Only here.

Three weeks ago, Linda Greenhouse wrote for The New York Times a piece recalling Bush v. Gore following the 2000 election and contemplating the scenarios in which the 2020 presidential election might end up in the courts. Among them is one in which the election must be decided by Congress, Speaker Pelosi and Mike Pence (as president of the Senate) bicker, violence in the streets ensues, the Presidential Succession Act seemingly makes Pelosi the President, and the Supreme Court must consider whether to act.

Or GOP-controlled state legislatures in tipping-point states, buoyed by Trump's claim of fraud, refuse to certify a Biden victory, might fight Democratic governors or secretaries of state who could try to block the other party's slate of electors.

A third possibility Greenhouse raises (as described by the Brennan Center) involves

a diverse collection of special statutory authorities that become available when the president or Congress declares a “national emergency.”

Presidential declarations of national emergency are governed by the National Emergencies Act, which went into effect in 1978. Under this law, the president has significant discretion to declare a national emergency; there are no statutory limitations, beyond the word “emergency” itself, on what type of event qualifies.

Although President Trump may be unaware of the details of these and other possible scenarios, he's not unaware that the federal courts may play a pivotal role in determining whom the next President will be. Therefore, whether Senate Majority Leader McConnell believes his goal of maintaining a Senate majority is enhanced by holding a vote for Ginsburg's replacement before or after the election, Donald Trump knows what he wants:

Without delay, says the man who understands the stakes in this election, the possibility of prosecution vs. further accumulation of wealth in the presidency and the likelihood he'd be able to structure a Putin-style autocracy and plutocracy.

That is several things, including evil, but it's not stupid. Similarly, on September 12 Mr. Trump tweeted

Was Andy McCabe ever forced to pay back the $700,000 illegally given to him and his wife, for his wife's political campaign, by Crooked Hillary Clinton while Hillary was under FBI investigation, and McCabe was the head of the FBI???"

As CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale noted at the time, this was truly impressive, albeit in a dishonest manner.  He explains:

McCabe himself did not receive any donations, and the donations were not illegal.... Clinton did not make any of the donations....

Andrew McCabe was not "head of the FBI" in 2015. Rather, he ran the bureau as acting director for nearly three months in 2017 -- long after the donations and his wife's defeat -- after Trump fired director James Comey.

As McCabe realized, these were four false claims in one sentence. That is hard to do unless  intentional.  It is truly impressive and, unless a claim is made to the contrary, appears to be the first time a powerful public figure has accomplished this.

President Trump is smart enough (also sufficiently self-centered and greedy) to know that he has to look out for No.1. And he can put together a marvelously inclusive string of self-serving lies in one sentence. He deserves some credit for that, even if there is no connection whatsoever between the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and national security professional Andrew McCabe.


Friday, September 18, 2020

Trivializing Hospitalized Parents

In an "analysis" on the CNN website, we read

Democratic South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn got right to the point when asked about Attorney General William Barr's comment on Wednesday that shutdowns to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus were the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties" in US history "other than slavery."

Speaking with CNN's John Berman on "New Day," the House majority whip distilled the absurdity at the heart of Barr's words.

"I think that that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I've ever heard," Clyburn, the longtime Black leader from South Carolina, said on Thursday. "It is incredible, as chief law enforcement officer in this country, to equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives. Slavery was not about saving lives. It was about devaluing lives."

Give Clyburn a point for, almost uniquely employing the word "incredible" correctly, meaning "not credible," rather than simply amazing, tremendous, remarkable, startling, or the other ways in which "incredible" is commonly and improperly used.

Nonetheless, Barr did not equate lockdowns and slavery, instead claiming that the former is second only to the latter in infringing upon the freedom of Americans.

That itself, of course, is ridiculous given the slaughter of Indian tribal members, the Alien and Sedition Acts, segregation/apartheid, internment of Japanese-Americans, and probably other events of our national past.

But Clyburn is on the right track by slamming Barr for an inaccurate and offensive characterization of efforts to stop spread of the novel cornonavirus. This, however, is simply bad:

Now, that's equating two things- going to a football game and visiting parents in a hospital- which should not be equated.

If you are unable to visit a parent in the hospital, the loved one may die- without even having the opportunity to speak to you. Moreover, some experts argue that the likelihood of recovery is greater if the hospitalized individual sees and hears, especially in person, someone important to him or her.

That is life and death; it is not a football game.

That’s better than Donald Trump’s view that football is more important than life. Joe Biden may learn that watching an athletic event ≠ visiting a sick patient in the hospital.  As of now, he apparently (as Bill Clinton claimed to do), feels your pain- whatever it's for, life-threatening or trivial.

Confronting Reality

One-time Democratic congressional candidate, MSNBC host, Democratic activist and current podcaster Krystal Ball realizes the Democratic Pa...