Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Controlled Mania


It could be that they are idiots and unlike Donald J. Trump, were not elected President of the United States of America. Even a Never Trump Republican and great journalist doesn't understand:

Donald Trump's goal is not to win a debate or two, it is to win the election- or rather, to be the President a year from now.  We already knew that voter suppression is the key, a route more plausible than outpolling his opponent, to victory. It is why the President in May tweeted “MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE. IT WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY. WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR NATION.” It's why Trump in Cleveland boasted he was "urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully" to intimidate voters at polling sites in major cities, It is why he ranted about "Philadelphia," "wastepaper baskets," "military ballots," and Carolyn Maloney for one false charge after another.

The Trumpian strategy in 2016 was to toss one lie after another against the wall. If they stuck, great; if not, they'd suppress the vote. Consequently, voting declined in 2016 and the challenger is credited with winning among voters who disliked both candidates. (Admittedly, that number is exaggerated. The vast majority of individuals who voted for Trump liked him- even many who have claimed otherwise.)

As the incumbent, Trump probably won't win the greater number of votes of this turned-off group in 2020. However, he understands that he needs to discourage from voting those individuals with doubts about Biden but who have tuned out Trump because of his record and histrionics.  

If that doesn't work and Trump fails to win in enough states to get to 270 electoral votes, he has an ace to play. And he did so Thursday night when he warned "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."

So Donald Trump may have seemed in Cleveland to be an uncontrolled, unhinged crackpot. But to him, a debate is not to win or lose. It is to to get him one step closer to occupying the Oval Office after January and resume his 12-year reign.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


"The agency I represent,," explained main character Donald Cherkenlagenhagenflagen, "is one of the oldest in the business."

One of the two oldest, along with the divine. In the plot of an episode from 1992 entitled "Zombies in PJ's" of the television series (which unfortunately lasted only one year) "Eerie, Indiana"

The IRS threaten to shut down the World o' Stuff, and in desperation Radford signs a contract with a new partner.... As the new marketing campaign takes subliminal advertising to a new level, sleepwalking customers start buying everything in sight on credit and even Marshall and Simon can't resist signing on the dotted line. But they should have read the small print.

The con man introduces himself with his full name- but adds "you can just call me "The Donald."  The boy who was the main character and moderator of the series laments that he should have realized "not to trust a man with a ponytail whose first name is "The."

Many, if not most, people who lived in the greater New York metropolitan area in the 1980s or the  1990s understood that Donald J. Trump was a co -man.  The mistake many of us made was in assuming that the garishly ostentatious phony was merely a two-bit con man. failing to recognize that much of the rest of the country would not recognize the obvious buffoonery. Or as shopkeeper Radford says, "there's no way to beat the guy. We did it to ourselves, I guess."

The episode ends on a high note, however. An Internal Revenue Service agent goes to the store and confronts The Donald, who throws a tantrum, and is thrown into hell. Given reporting this week by The New York Times and the likelihood that the IRS will have a word or two with Donald Trump if he departs the presidency next year, "Zombies in PJs" certainly looks more than a little prescient.

In Christian theology, God the Son appears on Earth as a man. Yet,  Satan has been depicted through the ages in various ways in literature and visual art, in one common rendering with a "red body. horns, batlike wings, red skin, goatee,  furred legs with hooved feet, and sometimes atrident (pitchfork)."  It is conceivable that the devil may, similarly, emerge (or has emerged) not as a bizarre creature but as a man, one less likely to have red skin than orange hair.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Pure Evil

If Dayid Dayen can put off talking about "Trumpian con artistry in tax planning" for a day, I can do no less. Forbes reported on September 12 that the (New York) Daily News (behind a paywall for me) had

revealed that the Trump administration has siphoned around $4 million from the New York City Fire Department’s fund for its September 11 first responders, drawing outrage on the 19th anniversary of the attacks, but the U.S. Treasury says the money was diverted because of “delinquent debt” owed by New York City to the federal government.

The funds are part of the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, which was established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, a bill passed by Congress that provides healthcare to first responders who have suffered a range of illnesses from exposure to dust and smoke at Ground Zero.

And so it is striking that on September 25, CBS This Morning host Gayle King  remarked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Tuesday is a big debate. The first debate between the two of them. Between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. You had earlier suggested that you didn’t think Biden should debate. Do you still feel that way?”

“I do,” replied Pelosi. “Not that I don’t think he’ll be excellent. The president has no fidelity to fact or truth, and actually in his comments the last few days, no fidelity to the Constitution of the United States. He and his henchmen are a danger with their comments, are a danger to our democracy. Why bother? He doesn’t tell the truth. He isn’t committed to the Constitution.”

“But Speaker Pelosi, that’s what people say is the problem,” said King. “Your language to some is just as egregious as what they’re saying by calling the president’s people ‘henchmen.’ Some could say that’s just as insulting as what he’s saying about you.”


Henchmen? Nancy Pelosi should be applaud for her discretion and diplomacy.  An applicable definition of "henchman" is "a political follower whose support is chiefly for personal advantage."

Of 248 Republicans in either the US House or US Senate, exactly one (1) voted for the impeachment and/or conviction of President Trump. Given our understanding that many of Trump's supporters recognize his threat to democracy but need his support to get through a GOP primary, to keep their cushy jobs, or for financial advantage, "henchmen" fits like a high-end glove.

A medical expert in infectious diseases calls the threat of funds from a fund to treat the living victims of a terrorist attack "pure evil,"  an apt description also of the President behind it all.  That is clear, whatever the bothsiderism from mainstream news anchors.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Yearning To Be Insulted

According to Olivia Troye, in a Covid-19 task force meeting, the President of the United States of America admitted "maybe this Covid thing is a good thing. I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't like shaking hands with these disgusting people."

We know Donald Trump dislikes journalists, immigrants, Jews, Christians, and veterans.  Lots of the latter two are Trump supporters. However, it was edifying to learn that Trump dislikes his supporters as his supporters and that they, too, lack self-respect.

Nonetheless, those who see Trump's strategy as one of avoidance should take note that this may be one of those instances.  The President truly does see this novel coronavirus as a positive. However, there are two reasons more significant than an excuse not to shake hands.

Though the President's handling of SARS-CoV-2 has been jarring to anyone concerned about human life, it has not been entirely a bad thing for him politically. Not only has it taken attention from a presidency which even otherwise had been a failure, it may be a boon to the Trump re-election effort in depressing the vote.

Donald Trump and his supporters successfully depressed the vote in 2016 by throwing at Hillary Clinton accusations (most of them ludicrous), which the media dutifully reported. By the time the campaign was over, both candidates were stained and tarnished, an impact which significantly boosted Trump.

Now the fear of being infected has propelled fear of voting in person, which improves the re-election prospect of the most evil man in America. Polls indicate that Democrats are far more worried about voting in person than are Republicans, while Trump is aggressively characterizing mail-in voting as fraudulent.

Also: people are dying, which has enervated the Eugenicist-in-Chief.  That is particularly useful for him because Walter Shaub is not only right but particularly insightful as to his first point:

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.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Privatization Strikes Again

A whistleblower complaint filed this week with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General alleges that high rates of hysterectomies — sometimes without what the complaint called “proper informed consent” — have been performed on women detained in a privately owned immigration jail in Georgia.

The complaint, filed by the human rights group Project South, quoted a detainee from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention Center saying that five women who had the procedure between October and December 2019 had told her that they “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” Multiple women claimed that they did not have access to proper interpreters and that medical staff often did not speak Spanish.

The accounts in Project South’s complaint — which included that of the whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse at the facility — were consistent with accounts given in separate interviews conducted by The Intercept with three other current detainees at the facility, eight advocates for detainees at the prison, and a former Irwin employee, all of whom requested anonymity for fear of reprisals against themselves and their clients.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten, who is being represented as a whistleblower by Project South and the Government Accountability Project, explained in the complaint. “I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor, and they’ve had hysterectomies, and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going.”


If this story isn't bogus, there are three critical factors in this story: 1) the treatment of detainees;  2) the treatment of women; 3) the venue of the treatment.

The first two are horrific and most obvious. Less so is that these women are being detained at a private facility, which is a particularly noxious means to jail human beings. Incarceration should not be a profit-making enterprise.

Fortunately, there is at least a little hope offered in the "Protecting Communities By Reforming Our Criminal Justice System" portion of the Biden-Sanders task force recommendations. in which (page 10, here) we read

Private profit should not motivate the provision of vital public services, including in the criminal justice system. Democrats support ending the use of private prisons and private detention centers, and will take steps to eliminate profiteering from diversion programs, commercial bail, electronic monitoring, prison commissaries, and reentry and treatment programs.

The facility in Georgia is not operated by those two giants, but rather by LaSalle Corrections. There is no record of Vice-President Biden opposing President Obama's decision to open two "family detention centers," from which immigrants were deported, which are operated by GEO and CoreCivic.

However, those two companies have donated heavily to politicians, especially of the Republican variety, in the last two election cycles. By contrast, Joe Biden already has signaled that as President he will be unsympathetic to the private prison industry.

The lure of campaign donations may be too much for a President Biden to resist. Yet, we can expect pressure from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to phase out arrangements with the industry. About Joe Biden, we cannot be sure.

But about Donald Trump, we can be sure because of his ideology, record, and corrupt dedication to squeezing money out of anyone and everyone. There would be more people immorally and illegally detained under abysmal conditions in private detention facilities. And that is no way, even without forced hysterectomies, to run either a criminal justice system or an immigration system.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Herd Mentality

It already had appeared that President Trump wanted Americans to die of Covid-19.  However, he must have decided suicide would be more profitable because he told George Stephanopoulos at Tuesday night's "town hall" in Philadelphia

Sure, with time it goes away. And you'll develop- you'll develop like a herd mentality. It's going to be- it's going to be herd-developed. That's going to happen. That will all happen. But with a vaccine I think it'll go away very quickly.

The President yearns for herd immunity, in which the virus can't easily leap across different populations. As The Washington Post's Phillip Bump explains, "there are two ways to achieve that immunity: deployment of an effective vaccine; or rampant, largely unchecked spread of the virus."

A week or so ago, we might have concluded that Trump expected an effective vaccine to be developed and widely administered within a few months. However, Bob Woodward then blew away the Trump as Dunce or Trump as Self-Deceiver theory when he reported that Trump on March 19 claimed "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."   

So President Trump probably knows a vaccine isn't just around the corner because, the day after Trump's town hall, Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director

told a Senate panel he expects vaccinations to begin in November or December, but in limited quantities with those most in need getting the first doses, such as health-care workers. He said it will take about "six to nine months" to get the entire American public vaccinated.

"If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third.... late second quarter, third quarter 2021,"he told the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education, and related agencies.

Obviously, with the election less than two months away and Trump having retired the World's Greatest Liar trophy, the President will promise announcement of a vaccine soon after Election Day. But it's not coming quickly and Trump therefore is depending on the "unchecked spread of the virus."  That will be facilitated if the American people accept it willingly by developing a "herd mentality." Death may not be sufficient- it may have to be earnestly desired. Bloodlust must be satisfied somehow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

And Now, This

Sure, the President of the United States of America reportedly "thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.”  It only makes sense, then, that First Lieutenant John Kelly, Lieutenant commander John McCain, and Lieutenant George Herbert Walker Bush were losers to Donald J. Trump.

But not all soldiers are losers or suckers to President Trump.

And so it's increasingly difficult to refute the highly patriotic and ever cautious former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who last week stated

I believed at the time in 2016 and I continue to believe that Donald Trump is compromised by the Russians. And when I say that I mean that they hold leverage over him that makes him incapable of placing the national interest, the national security ahead of his own.



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Monday, September 14, 2020

Death Then, Death Now, Death To Come

Former Missouri senator may have a point: 

One reason we know that is because President Trump did not tell Bob Woodward that he wanted to avoid panic. Rather, on March 19 he had contended "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."  Not "I don't want to create panic" or "hysteria" but I don't want to create a panic. Use of the phrase "a panic" traditionally has referred to the stock market.

Moreover, the time to avoid creating a panic is well over. Whatever panicking- and rising to the occasion would have been more likely- would have resulted, there can be no panic six months later. Panics occur when individuals first learn of a problem.

There are at least two other reasons we know that the President was concerned about hysteria. Clearly, his campaign is based, as it was four years ago, upon frightening people. That's why he has claimed "They want to indoctrinate our children, defund our police, abolish the suburbs, incite riots and leave every city at the mercy of the radical left." And then Democrats will put Cory Booker in charge because, well, Booker is black.

Additionally, though, it's because Chris Hayes only states the obvious:

That would be the rally Sunday inside Xtreme Manufacturing in Henderson, Nevada, a state in which the governor has restricted indoor gatherings to 50. on Sunday. Approximately 5600 people, most of them maskless, roaring approval of the President. This was held not despite the danger of spreading Covid-19 nor in reckless disregard of the peril.  Nevada governor Sisolak observed the President "taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada." That was the point.

President Trump may or may not have been thinking of the stock market when he claimed concern about "a panic."  But a panic would have, if nothing else, resulted in fewer deaths than the ever-mounting toll Trump is responsible for. If you think what your core supporters believe is "bull_ _ _ _" and deceased veterans are mere "losers" or "suckers," their death is less a bug than a benefit.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Lives Which Really Matter

It's the dirty little secret of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The ringing declaration of the summer, continuing at lower volume still, is "black lives matter." Black lives should matter, the thinking goes, because white lives already matter.

This view is dangerously mistaken. The saga begins with Covid-19, ironic because the virus disproportionately affects blacks (and Latinos/hispanics) far more than whites. Atul Gawande explains

Many developed countries have met their testing needs, and ready access to speedy tests has been key to containing outbreaks and resuming social and economic activity. Whether you live in England or South Korea, scheduling is straightforward. No doctor’s order is required. Tests, where indicated, are free. And you typically get results within forty-eight hours.

In the USA, however

Appointments can take days, results days more. Most testing in the United States is done by four companies—Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, BioReference Laboratories, and Sonic Healthcare. Through early August, results routinely took four days or more, making the tests essentially useless. Times improved only when testing volumes declined, because many people gave up on getting tested. The vast majority of infected Americans, including those with symptoms, never get tested. And we have not even reached the fall, when flu season will hit and coronavirus-testing needs and demand are expected to rise substantially. As the saying goes, it’s as messed up as a pile of coat hangers.

This is not the way an exceptional country does things and

Further complicating matters, insurers don’t pay for testing that they don’t consider medically necessary. Yet testing people who don’t have symptoms will be important to getting covid-19 under control....Testing is the only way to know whether a person is potentially contagious and in need of isolation.

What Gawande terms "assurance testing" has been required under special circumstances by four states, at least three European countries, and hospitals in the USA. As he notes, it is required generally by the film and television industry but as he does not, in another industry: professional sports.

Professional athletes generally deserve their salaries because they a) possess unique skills; b) have very short careers; c) work for bosses- the owners- who make a tremendous amount of money from the labor of their employees, the players. In return, compared to the average American, they make a ton of money, in 2017 averaging $7.1 million in the National Basketball Association, $4 million in Major League Baseball, and $2.7 million in the National Football League.  (It is more now throughout the industry.)

So even in the NFL- and accounting for the median being lower than the mean- these guys earn a great deal.  That- and the extreme wealth of the owners and the league- is why professional athletes (and staff) are being tested as is  no one else, whether quarantined or not, health care worker, white or not. From August 30 to September 5, there were 8,349 players and team personnel were given a total of 44, 510 tests.

Approximately 70% of NFL players are black, far lower in MLB (in which there is a disproportionate number of Latinos) and higher in the NBA. Those tests were no less administered to black and and Latinos than to white non-hispanic, colleagues. 

And they are being tested constantly. Surely, it's not because the owners (who control the commissioner's office) are altruistic. It's also not primarily because of the market value of the individual players. In two (baseball and football) of the three (baseball, football, basketball) most popular sports in the USA, the players could take a hike, the owners would replace them, and the league would continue to be very popular, profitable, and successful.

Nevertheless, they are valuable commodities in each league and most are rich, some extraordinarily so. They are tested at rates otherwise unknown in this country- and beyond even advocated by Gawande- for anyone else. They are wealthy and make the bosses even wealthier. They are deemed valuable.

While the wealthy and near-wealthy of professional sports are being tested regularly and often, nearly all other Americans are not. They include the wealthy- but the vast majority of us are middle class, working class, or poor. We are of African, Caribbean, Latin, Pacific Island, Asian, indigenous, European, or other backgrounds.

Our lives are endangered, regardless of our ethnic background, race, or color, in part because of the inadequacies in testing Gawande outlines. In professional sports, a haven of the wealthy, extreme care is taken that lives are not put in danger. There is a moral in that story, but it's not that black lives matter, black lives should matter, or that white lives do matter. In this society in this age, the color that matters most is green.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Joe Biden's Signal


 Only five weeks late, Bernie Sanders and Will Bunch have good advice for Joe Biden:

That suggestion should have come before August 11, when the former vice president announced as selection of his running mate the former California Attorney General who in January, 2017

vaguely acknowledged The Intercept’s report about her declining to prosecute Steven Mnuchin’s One West Bank for foreclosure violations in 2013, but offered no explanation.

“It’s a decision my office made,” she said, in response to questions from The Hill shortly after being sworn in as California’s newest U.S. senator.

“We went and we followed the facts and the evidence, and it’s a decision my office made,” Harris said. “We pursued it just like any other case. We go and we take a case wherever the facts lead us.”

Mnuchin is Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, and served as CEO of OneWest from 2009 to 2015. In an internal memo published on Tuesday by The Intercept, prosecutors at the California attorney general’s office said they had found over a thousand violations of foreclosure laws by his bank during that time, and predicted that further investigation would uncover many thousands more.

But the investigation into what the memo called “widespread misconduct” was closed after Harris’s office declined to file a civil enforcement action against the bank.

Harris’s statement on Tuesday doesn’t explain how involved she was with the decision to not prosecute, or why the decision was made.

That of course is Kamala Harris, whose interest in challenging power and wealth when she had the opportunity in California was far exceeded by her current interest, shared with Joe Biden, of becoming a "first." It may be the first black woman to be the vice presidential nominee of a major party, the first Asian-American woman to be the vice presidential nominee of a major party, or the first to rock out in Chuck Taylor All Stars.

In any case, her nomination certainly is historic, crucial to those who symbols as more important than, say, governance. Moreover, it offers an opportunity to juice black voter turnout, which would have been the case with any of the other black women Biden was considering.

But there probably was no other candidate on Biden's long list of possibilities (each a woman, as he had promised) who would have most dramatically epitomized the candidate's emphasis on appealing to the emerging Democratic demographic: young, educated, affluent, and oh, so hip.

Perhaps "Middle Class Joe" assumed he himself would fill the ticket's need to staunch the flow of working-class and poor whites voting against the Democratic Party.  That would be a dangerous assumption, one arguably held four years ago by Hillary Clinton, who had last been seen in electoral politics wiping the floor with Senator Barack Obama among those voter, when she went on to lose that group to Donald Trump.

Biden could start with with Social Security. The President advocated cutting Social Security benefits back in March, roughly eight months before his order (since derailed) to postpone collection of payroll taxes, which he realized would undermine Social Security.  The former vice president should not simply mention the issue but pound it home.

The nominee could more often address other financial deregulation and other economic matters, not simply patting his back for "Obamacare," which Americans recognize as inadequate, is insufficient.   And if the Democrat believes the pandemic itself will be sufficient, he is apparently fooling himself.

So go at it, Joe, and do your best. And pull it off with a straight face, which will be just a little harder to do since August 11, 2020.


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Closed Minds

The signers of the excellent letter published July 7, 2020 in Harper's Magazine believe

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.

However, even they probably didn't anticipate this:

David Peterson is an art professor at Skidmore College, a private liberal arts college in Saratoga Springs, New York. In late July, the professor and his wife, Andrea Peterson, attended a "Back the Blue" rally—not as supporters of the cause, they say, but as curious spectators.

"Given the painful events that continue to unfold across this nation, I guess we just felt compelled to see first-hand how all of this was playing out in our own community," he later told the student newspaper.

They stood on the edges of event, watching pro- and anti-law enforcement demonstrators argue with each other. After 20 minutes, the Petersons left to eat dinner.

But unbeknownst to Peterson, the couple's attendance at the rally was noticed. Now Skidmore students are demanding that both Peterson be fired for "engaging in hateful conduct that threatens Black Skidmore students," according to Times-Union columnist Chris Churchill, who wrote about the controversy.

Andrea Peterson is not an employee of the college, according to Churchill.

"The Petersons weren't wearing pro-police T-shirts," notes Churchill. "They weren't carrying a banner, holding a sign or waving a black-and-blue flag. They appear to just be listening. But merely listening to an opinion that some Skidmore students find objectionable is apparently enough to get a professor in hot water."

Students have circulated their demands on social media, and even taped a note to the door of Peterson's classroom advising his students that they are "crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson." Peterson has attempted to make it clear that his presence at the rally did not constitute an endorsement of it; this matters very little to the students. An opinion piece in the student newspaper included his explanation, but still accused him of failing to "reconcile with his behavior." That piece also claimed that "there have been many claims of Mr. Peterson making students of color and queer students feel uncomfortable and unheard in his art classes prior to this," but did not elaborate.

"I still have no indication of how [David and Andrea Peterson] plan to take accountability for their actions and make their classrooms a safe space for our communities of color," wrote the student.

The cancel culture critics at Harper's recognized

... it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.

They now appear prescient- at least in the case of Skidmore- because

Peterson said that most of his students have dropped his classes: Those who think the boycott is ridiculous are afraid to speak up, one student told Churchill. Skidmore's administration defended his free speech rights in a statement, but is nevertheless investigating the accusations of bias in the classroom.

In June I was curious about the speakers and the crowd size of a Black Lives Matter protest and thus observed one from outside of the perimeter of police, there partly in case trouble ensued but mostly for traffic control. The Petersons appear to have done the same thing, although in their case a Blue Lives Matter Matter protest.  Mr. Peterson thus has become the subject of individuals sufficiently privileged as to be intolerant of even the possibility that someone may have a view different  than their own.

Or perhaps they are appalled that individuals may want to learn, find out a little more about an issue then roiling the nation.  And so Mr. Peterson's job and livelihood are endangered, subject to a mob mentality, an ironic effort on the part of individuals who presumably view themselves as progressive or at least acting to secure rights of others.

The signers of the 6/7 letter warned "As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences." Little did they realize that only a few months later there could be dire professional consequences without even a mistake being made.

One of Our Own, Or So He Says

So do your thing ,Charles! Stephen A. Smith on Fox News on Wednesday night commented I got to tell you something. As much as people may ha...