Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Greene Party

He could have- but he wasn't asked that question.  Instead, Hutchinson (as was Raddatz's next guest, Bernie Sanders) was asked "is she fit to serve and should she be on the Education Committee?"

As one of the commenters notes, the wisest answer would have been "I agree with almost nothing that Nancy Pelosi believes in but I don’t think threats should be made against her life.”

It's Politics 101; never answer the question asked. In this case, answering a different question would have been smarter because the correct answers to Raddatz's questions were a) it depends; and b) no.

Hutchinson responded

Well, that’s -- first of all, the people of her district elected her and that should mean a lot. They elected her and she’s going to run for re-election and she’ll be accountable for what she said and her actions.

Representative Greene can be recalled (a heavy lift) by the voters of her congressional district. If that isn't done, she can be denied re-nomination by Republican Party voters. And if re-nominated, she can be defeated in the general election.

Clearly the House GOP caucus should deny Taylor Greene a seat on any committee which, of course, it won't, because it is the Republican Party. However, whether Taylor Greene is "fit' to serve in the House of Representatives depends on the meaning of the ambiguous term "fit."

When he was asked whether the Georgian is "fit to serve," even Senator Sanders punted. He answered in relevant part "I think this is something the Republican Party has got to deal with," a more diplomatic expression of "no way am I touching that."

Inasmuch as neither politician saw fit to answer, "is she fit to serve" turns out to have been a good question. But Republicans also should be asked whether they agree with their colleague from Georgia that Nancy Pelosi should be shot. It would be telling to find out, after expressing their horror at being asked, how many Republicans would be willing to say "no."


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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Putin's Man In Washington

The Washington Post editorializes

For a moment, it seemed as if the Republican Party might exorcise former president Donald Trump. After four years of submission, GOP leaders were telling the truth. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared that Mr. Trump had “provoked” the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion, having “fed lies” to the rioters. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Mr. Trump “bears responsibility” for refusing to calm the insurrectionists. There was talk that enough GOP senators might be willing to join Democrats to convict the former president in an impeachment trial.

Days later, the era of glasnost seems to be ending. Senior Republicans are crawling back to Mr. Trump. The big lie of election fraud lives on. It is a sad turn for a once great party.

Barely three weeks after Mr. Trump’s mob stormed the Capitol, Mr. McCarthy traveled on Thursday to Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s Florida home, to kiss the ring. The apparent goal was to patch up his relationship with Mr. Trump following Mr. McCarthy’s mild acknowledgment of Mr. Trump’s guilt. The visit caps an apology tour in which the House minority leader walked back his criticism of Mr. Trump, at one point absurdly remarking that not just the former president but “everybody across this country” bears some responsibility for the Capitol riot.

In May of 2017, a national security reporter for the Post revealed

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.....

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

We know the then-Majority Leader wasn't speaking off the top of his head because

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

Notwithstanding his interest in real estate in Russia, Donald Trump probably never has been directly paid by Vladimir Putin; it hasn't been necessary.  In the recently published "American Kompromat," investigative journalist Craig Unger explains that the real estate mogul was an easy target for Russian intelligence because of his excessive vanity, narcissism, greed, and ignorance.  Trump was cultivated for approximately 40 years and became a Russian asset "used to channel active measures to influential people in the U.S.," according to this review.

Though once having stated that the then-President is on the take from Vladimir Putin, the House GOP leader now has declared "everybody across this country has some responsibility" for the January 6 capitol riot. Then he travels to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring (and maybe more)  of a demagogue who has lost all his public office, his authority, and the bully pulpit of the presidency. Country and constituency are trumped by the lust for power.

Those "senior Republicans" are crawling back of their own free will to an authoritarian who no longer has power. Chief among them is Kevin McCarthy, who recognized a few years ago a cozy relationship between the Russian regime and Donald J. Trump, with whom he is quite pleased..


Friday, January 29, 2021

Investigate And Prosecute. At Least Investigate.

Representative Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat from California, has announced he will introduce a bill to expel Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from Congress. Former Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois disagrees. However, many tweeters have lambasted him, these with a particular theme:

And if 75% of the voters in her small district are as brain damaged as her, the country is then forced to deal with her dangerous lunacy?

Sorry but that’s not full description. The woman is detached from reality. We cannot keep crazy people in government offices deciding out future.

Sorry, but some voters in tiny district who voted for her because there was no other option can impose crazy person on entire country.

About vetting  and having anyone who wishes to run for office take a written psychological test and a full psych evaluation by a mental health professional. All police officers have to do it, many jobs require as part of job. Why do we let mentally ill people get into congress?

Lunacy; detached from reality; crazy person; needs a full psych evaluation.

Can we of a liberal or progressive bent stop saying that everyone we disagree with is "crazy" or "psychotic" or a "lunatic"?  Many people have different values and opinions than we have; some of these are simply bad people, a minority even evil. 

Few of them are mentally deranged and psychiatrists have differing opinions. We all know of criminal trials in which both the prosecution and the defense call for testimony from a psychiatrist because psychiatrists are like economists- get ten of them in a room, you'll get ten different opinions.

Admittedly, it's interesting to read of leftists, who generally are repulsed by prejudice against physically, mentally, or emotionally ill people, demanding punishment for someone reputedly mentally damaged.

These critics take a slightly different approach, at least barking up the right tree:

Plotting to  kill some is not important and serious, is that what you are  saying?,?.

I can’t agree with you on this one. If any citizen threatens an elected official it’s a crime. Why would an elected official not be subject to the law? What about inciting violence against another individual? That’s a crime too. Why is she above the law?

She ran unopposed because her opponent kept being threatened. Letting her remain in Congress is another example if no real consequences for people who threaten their co-workers and engage in spreading unfounded conspiracy theories. She needs to be removed.

Hmm. Except we allow Presidents and Judges to be expelled by Congress do we not? Why should members of Congress not also be expellable? She is actively and knowingly doing harm. She is not acting in good faith.

Representative Greene has demonstrated a wanton disregard for decency and human life, the latter recently and in the past. However, as Walsh recognizes. "you don't expel someone for being a repulsive, depraved conspiracist. That's up to her voters." Instead, "Congress should censure her, and her Republican caucus should condemn her & deny her committee assignments." Democrats should sponsor a resolution to censure Taylor Greene, not only because she's deserving but also because it's unlikely more than a few Republicans would agree. Democrats could easily make this malignancy the poster child of the GOP. 

Nonetheless, there is more which can be done. The Congressional Research Service in 2012 found

While there are no specific grounds for an expulsion expressed in the Constitution, expulsion actions in both the House and the Senate have generally concerned cases of perceived disloyalty to the United States Government, or the conviction of a criminal statutory offense which involved abuse of one’s official position.

There is an extensive group of lawyers in the Department of Justice. In all likelihood, that department soon will be headed by a Democrat and former judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals.  

The Department of Justice very likely soon will be headed by a Democrat and former judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals. The office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia is led by a Democrat. We must expect, therefore, that neither will cover up the misdeeds of a Republican member of Congress.

Either one or both should do their (its) job and investigate the congresswoman. It would not require a conviction, which could be delayed years, nor even an indictment to determine the likelihood that the congresswoman has either been disloyal to the United States government or committed a criminal offense.

Marjorie Taylor Greene does present a clear and present danger- but that could be demonstrated by the legal system.  Even when the danger is established, there would remain a substantial number of Americans opposed to her expulsion. However, a rough consensus supporting removal from Congress of a duly elected official will have been formed. Democrats believe voters matter, and should in this case.

Prosecutors are charged with recognizing someone, including elected officials, who have violated the law. Let's not let them off the hook.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Style Points

We're all Joe Biden now.

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

— Joe Biden, describing fellow candidate Barack Obama. The remark was made the same day Biden filed the official paperwork to launch his presidential campaign. Biden later apologized and said the remark was taken out of context.

After Amanda Gorman recited her poem, "The Hill We Climb," at the presidential inauguration on January 20

The Obamas both responded Wednesday afternoon with the former president posting, "On a day for the history books, [Amanda Gorman] delivered a poem that more than met the moment. Young people like her are proof that 'there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it; if only we're brave enough to be it.'" Michelle praised Gorman's "strong and poignant words" for serving as a reminder of the power "we each hold in upholding" democracy. "Keep shining, Amanda! I can't wait to see what you do next."

The Obamas were only two in a huge chorus lavishing praise upon the 22-year old. Mr. and Mrs.Clinton were overcome with excitement, with the former President calling the poem "just stunning." In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Georgetown University English instructor Seth Perlow noted "a great delivery can imbue words with conviction, even a sense of spontaneity" and recognized

Despite the cliches, Gorman distinguished herself by performing with remarkable dynamism and grace. Instead of merely reading her poem from the page, she brought the language to life. Her delivery made poetry a more vital, stirring part of the ceremony than it usually is.

Gorman drew upon the contemporary style of spoken-word poetry, which emphasizes the rhythms and rhymes of the poet’s voice as she speaks. Spoken-word poets treat poems as performances, rather than texts for silent contemplation. Many people learn in school to read poems like regular prose, without pausing at line breaks or stressing the rhymes, but spoken-word poets do the opposite, foregrounding the rhythmical, musical qualities of language. This approach works perfectly for an inauguration: It makes a poem an event in itself, something we experience together....

Presumably (and understandably) intent on maintaining employment in academia, Perlow would never admit it. But his applause for Gorman differentiated sharply from that of the Obamas and the innumerable others who celebrated the poem. Almost surreptitiously in his piece lavishly praising the young woman, Perlow notes lines which "sound almost cloying when we read them silently."

There is no need for the adverb "almost." Some lines were cloying and as a piece of written material, the poem was simply not good.

That's irrelevant, of course. Perlow realizes "the younger poet's performance clearly stands out" among poets at earlier inaugurations because "while her predecessors read in a staid, academic style, Gorman animated the language, more like a preacher or, indeed, a politician."

He adds "Gorman says she intends to run for president in 2036."  The ambition is reasonable, with Hillary tweeting a selfie with Bill and herself while remarking "I for one can't wait (for Gorman's presidential run."

She should know. Her husband was a spectacular orator who became President 28 years ago partly on the strength of his remarkable delivery.  Without his spellbinding- albeit dishonest, bigoted, hateful, and belligerent- speeches, Donald Trump never would have sniffed the presidency.

And that brings us around to Joe Biden and the extremely eloquent President he loyally served.  Before Biden bowed out of the presidential race in 2008, he labeled Barack Obama articulate, bright, clean, and nice-looking.

How, without personal examination, Biden could conclude that Obama- or anyone- was "clean" was unclear. However, Biden's meaning was clear: a "mainstream" African-American who is all those things is "a storybook, man." He was variously accused of uttering a racist statement or ridiculed, the latter my reaction.

Whether because the poetess is merely 22-years-old or because she's black (spoiler alert: mostly the latter),  Amanda Gorman is being heralded as someone so awesome she may even become President.

"More like a preacher, indeed a politician," Perlow writes, because he understands the dynamic.  He observed "the spoken-word performance style draws upon multiple African American traditions, including hip hop and church orator." Whatever its content, Gorman's poem as recited was eloquent, stirring, and inspirational which, not coincidentally, characterizes weekly sermons of Protestant African-American preachers throughout the nation.

Gorman's recitation was extremely powerful. However, our elation- because of the speaker's age, race, or anything else- over the brilliance of the presentation should not propel us into a state of ecstasy about poem or poet.  If we do, we will not be unlike 2007 Joe Biden with his archaic perception of the limitation of others, consigned to the fate of eventually being elected President of the United States of America.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Now You've Gone Too Far!

BET reported a few days ago that

A white Ohio Republican lawmaker who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting COVID-19 because of their lack of hygiene will now lead the state’s Senate Health Committee.

Ohio State Sen. Stephen Huffman received heavy criticism from Black lawmakers after his testimony at a committee hearing in June 2020, where he asked whether cleanliness played a role in the disproportionate number of Blacks contracting the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press.

Angela Dawson, Executive Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, had emphasized that minorities suffered Covid-19 disproportionately, which Huffman conceded. Then the latter asked

Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?

Dawson responded (as seen in the video below)

That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country. Do all populations need to wash their hands? Absolutely, sir, but that is not where you're going to find the variation and the rationale for why these populations are more vulnerable.

The controversy has been renewed recently as

Huffman, who was fired from his job as a Dayton-area emergency room physician for the comments, was appointed to chair the committee by his cousin, Senate President Matt Huffman, in Jan. 2021. His offensive comments pushed Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio to call him to resign from the Senate.

Of course, medical experts are not going to address differences in lifestyle between one group or another. They are not well-versed in the field of social science but in the field of natural science. That's why we call them medical experts.

Yet, Americans have been lectured endlessly the past 9-11 months to wash hands, wear masks, and practice social distancing- exactly the behavior Huffman was asked about. And if medical or social science authorities have examined- or even inquired about- differences in behavior among ethnic groups, it has been kept a secret from the American people.

As the correspondent explained in the video explained, the hearing in Ohio was called to consider "whether to declare racism a public health crisis." It may be that there is little difference between a) blacks and Latinos and b) non-Hispanic whites in the proclivity to wash hands, wear masks, or practice social distancing. But we don't know because, as Huffman found out, it's dangerous even to ask.

And now scientists have found considerable evidence that individuals with low Vitamin D levels are more prone to contracting Covid-19. Moreover

Darker skin pigmentation has been associated with lower serum vitamin D concentrations in a single-center, cross-sectional study.

This was presented at the 2017 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting, from March 3 – 7.

Bridget Kaufman, MD, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, explained that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that maintains skeletal health. Deficiency of vitamin D has been implicated in the development of numerous conditions, including diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.

The finding came about approximately 33 months before the first incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in mainland China, thus before it would be largely ignored in the interest of  claiming that higher rates of a disease were due solely to racism.

Of course, it would not be racism but racial discrimination by businesses, corporations, or powerful individuals. Unfortunately, chiding you, me, and our neighbors for our attitudinal failures (racism) is more comforting to public officials and medical experts.

The conflict between Ohio Senate Republicans and Senator Huffman's critics may have a happy ending and not a cancellation.  However, the episode is a reminder that some issues cannot be raised, unacceptable thoughts permitted, or uncomfortable questions voiced.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Liar Or Accessory To Murder

If I had to improve upon Soledad O'Brien's characterization.... I couldn't.

In late February Dr. Birx (beginning at 6:04 of the video below) claimed that President Trump has

been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data and I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a benefit during these discussions about medical issues because in the end data is data and he understands the importance of the granularity and I think he's been really excited about finding the level of detail that we've been able to bring over the last few weeks and to really understand who's at the greatest risk for severe illness, who will have mild and less and asymptomatic disease and really calling on every American to do that social distancing.....

Give the (not so) good doctor some credit. Those are 114 words spoken without ending a sentence, and she wasn't done with the sentence until she had spoken 40 more. It's an impressive run-on sentence.

It also was, presumably, a bunch of hogwash or, as Joe Biden would put it while in his Irish tough guy persona, malarkey.   According to Birx, Trump was "attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data;" had "ability to analyze and integrate data;" and an understanding of "the importance of the granularity."

As a description of almost any other politician, that would be boilerplate fluff.  But we've been told by  Dr. Anthony Fauci and others that President Trump was not attentive, didn't care about the science, and didn't understand details. 

Accordingly, for months after the interview of Birx, Trump would downplay the coronavirus, urge people to attend church (while he golfed on Sundays), ridicule governors for not allowing non-essential businesses to open, appear in public without a mask to discourage mask-wearing, and generally promote spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Yet he did so while the public was unaware that six weeks before Birx's interview, the President had told Bob Woodward

It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air, and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one, that’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than your — you know, your, even your strenuous flus. … This is more deadly. This is five per — you know, this is five percent versus one percent and less than one percent. You know? So this is deadly stuff.

So maybe, as Birx suggested, Trump did have a good grasp of details and of the nation's calamitous predicament.  But this contradicts the view of Fauci, most medical experts, pundits, and Democratic politicians that President Trump was ignorant, intentionally or otherwise, refusing to confront the gravity of the crisis while avoiding science in favor of quick fixes. If they were right, Dr. Birx lied, repeatedly, grotesquely, and dangerously. Alternatively, as she maintained, Trump did understand details and recognized the nation's calamitous predicament- and proceeded to get Americans killed, knowingly and wantonly.

She was a liar or part of a conspiracy to end the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.  Either way, Dr. Deborah Birx's legacy is one of sycophancy and failure.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Nonsense, As Far As We Know

The New York Times received a lot of criticism for a recent article which begins

President Biden may cast his arrival in the White House as a return to business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but there’s at least one way he’s breaking from prevailing presidential tradition: he wears a Rolex.

At his inauguration, Mr. Biden laid his hand on the family Bible wearing a stainless steel Rolex Datejust watch with a blue dial, a model that retails for more than $7,000 and is a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades.

In the competition for expressing ostentatious materialism, the self-declared "Middle Class Joe" is a piker compared to Donald Trump. However, there is nothing that says "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdomof God" than a wrist with a $7,000 watch perched upon a humongous Bible.

At least the article was entertaining and well written while failing to put Biden's taste for expensive things into perspective coming off the Trump presidency. This tweet, however, takes superficiality to a whole new level:

Already a big change, writes (types) a guy who expects to be taken seriously as a New York Times reporter and frequent guest on MSNBC.

Baker may not be consciously helping Biden reinforce the latter's image as Middle Class Joe, though he should realize that it is possible to get a decent meal as a resident of a home with the address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

We now know that President Biden favors expensive watches, a point made a little critically; and that he patronizes small businesses, an endearing trait. We're privileged to have learned from journalists two things, though one positive and one negative, which are without proper context unworthy of the (arguably) greatest newspaper in the country.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Congressional Elite

On Thursday the Huffington Post reported

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who has repeatedly flouted the magnetometers that were installed near the House chamber after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, set off the metal detectors while trying to enter. When an officer with a metal detector wand scanned him, a firearm was detected on Harris’s side, concealed by his suit coat. Police refused to let Harris in, and the officer signaled a security agent that Harris had a gun on him by motioning toward his own firearm.

HuffPost witnessed the interaction and later confirmed with a Capitol official that Harris was carrying a gun.

HuffPost watched Harris try to get another member to take the gun from him so he could go vote. The member, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), told Harris he didn’t have “a license” and refused to hold the weapon for him.

HuffPost also heard Harris complain to some fellow members that he had asked his staff to remind him about the screenings and they hadn’t.

Harris then left on the elevators and 10 minutes later returned to the House chamber. He placed his cellphone and keys on a desk to the side, did not set off the magnetometer and was allowed to enter the House floor to vote on a waiver to allow retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Joe Biden’s defense secretary.

In the video below, Joe Scarborough can be seen remarking

I mean they're whining, Katty, two weeks- a little over two weeks after their lives were endangered and these guys are whining about being wanded before thy go onto the House floor/ Who the hell do they think they are?

They think they are United States Congressmen/Congresswomen, entitled to do whatever they want to do, rules be damned.  While members are prohibited from carrying firearms onto the floor of the House or the Senate, they are allowed what members of the public are not- to carry a gun in the office buildings, in the Capitol and on Capitol grounds. 

That's a loophole in the rules which each chamber should close. There are places, including but not limited to government office buildings, national parks, and schools in which firearms should be prohibited, whatever the status of the holder.

The District of Columbia permits concealed carry while banning open carry. Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) pledges to carry a weapon around the city and to work, although the police chief, unamused, intends to talk to the congresswoman about her obsession.

If a citizen tries to sneak a firearm onto an airliner, an arrest is typically made.   The Capitol is not the home of Rep. Boebert or any of her colleagues; it is a workplace of the United States Government. House Speaker Pelosi proposes merely that members who fail to pass through the magnetometer be fined.  The House should go further, wherein if a member is found trying to sneak a firearm through the detector, he or she would be subject to censure or expulsion. Members of Congress deserve no privileged status.


For Some, Mask Optional

During the second presidential debate, moderator Kristin Welker noted that many black parents believe their children can become "targeted, including by the police, for no reason other than the color of their skin." She continued, "Mr. Vice President, in the next two minutes, I want you to speak directly to these families. Do you understand why these parents fear for their children?"

Biden responded "we have bigger things to worry about."

Indeed, we did, especially the coronavirus in the short run and climate change in the long run. Yet, Biden did not answer in such a pithy, dismissive manner, lest he be pilloried. Nevertheless


The day after Joe Biden became President, on the day we learned that the number of dead Americans from SARS CoV-2 had exceeded 404,000 (plus many uncounted), we learned also that we have bigger things to worry about than Covid-19.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and in the accommodating weather of the summer, the driving issue was the black lives matter movement, and the Democratic nominee was eager to reply to Welker's question. Reportedly, for President Biden it is now the pandemic, necessitating "a full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production."

But we have bigger things to worry about than Covid-19, which requires a "wartime effort." Psaki, maskless lecturing reporters wearing masks, referred to "the requirements that we're all under every single day here to make sure we're sending that message (of protection) to the public."

Hypocrisy and hierarchy, the latter prompting the former. However, with a bar set extremely low, this Administration, including the Press Secretary, will be far more honest and transparent than the last. Perfection!


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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Ridiculous Punditry

In Politico Magazine, Jack Shafer concludes

The human impulse to treat an inauguration as a sacred and holy event akin to a coronation can never be eliminated, only suppressed. Until the United States switches from a presidential system to a parliamentary form of government, where the top political leader can be cashiered and replaced inside a day without pomp or circumstance, we’re stuck with all the fussery that meets an incoming president.

Short of dosing commentators, anchors and reporters with Seconal to prevent their central nervous systems from over-reacting to Inauguration Day proceedings, maybe we could embed a house cynic on each network and newspaper to police or at least tamp down the irrational exuberance that rains down on most inaugurations. Think of the house cynic as the one trusted to stay off the sauce all night long so that when the party ends, a sober somebody is still standing to drive all the drunks home safely.

Shafer recognizes that coverage of the yesterday's inaugural was a little worse than most. He knocks The New York Times, which "swallowed whole the recent myth-making that has transformed (Joe) Biden from a shifty politician into a statesman; also, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

And especially MSNBC, where

At day’s end, Rachel Maddow confessed to having worked her way through an entire box of Kleenex during the festivities and Joy Reid gushed like a partisan about the event. “They gave us fashion. They gave us celebrity. They gave us hope,” Reid said of the “incredible” inauguration.

Also joy, as the video below indicates, although J.A.R. can be excused for being personally prejudiced in favor of that adjective.  


More soberly:

At least Baker acknowledges that Biden made a vow he can't deliver on. However, the promise that political appointees will treat one another with respect is a little empty coming from someone who elevated to vice-presidential nominee a politician who directed a race-based attack on his character in a (successful) calculated fund-raising ploy. And after Biden was accused of sexual impropriety by two women, Harris markedly failed to defend her fellow Democrat. 

When Biden put Harris on his ticket, it demonstrated the strategic brilliance of the California senator in trying to undercut Biden by veiled, and not so veiled, criticism. It demonstrated also that Biden's commitment to people treating others with respect is subject to circumstances, to which principle and integrity are subordinate.

It should not be necessary to explain the importance of print and broadcast journalists (the latter far more guilty) holding their enthusiasm for an incoming president until he at least does something, maybe on January 21 quadrennially.  The failure to do so does neither the public nor the president any good.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Consequences, Even For Trump

Well, he certainly got religion, seemingly. The New York Times reports

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday that the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 had been “provoked by the president and other powerful people,” stating publicly for the first time that he holds President Trump at least partly responsible for the assault.

“The mob was fed lies,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to attempts by Mr. Trump to overturn the election based on bogus claims of voter fraud. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”

Mr. McConnell made the remarks on his last full day as majority leader, speaking on the eve of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration and as the Senate was bracing to receive a single article of impeachment from the House charging Mr. Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”

The Kentucky Republican has indicated privately that he believes that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses, but he has said he has yet to decide whether to vote to convict the president, and many senators in his party are awaiting a sign from Mr. McConnell before making their own judgments. 

Awaiting a sign, no doubt, to determine what principles they have. It's critical for McConnell to signal flexibility on the impending Senate trial because he is currently negotiating with Chuck Schumer the details on control of the Senate.

However, Senator McConnell probably is genuinely considering voting for conviction of Donald Trump.  The Times notes that at Trump's trial after he was first impeached

Mr. McConnell acted at the White House’s behest to set trial rules that would favor acquittal. Now, he has told allies he hopes never to speak to Mr. Trump again and is doing nothing to persuade senators to back him, instead calling the impeachment vote a matter of conscience.

McConnell hopes never to speak to President VL because the former is no Joe Biden, who has put a heartbeat from the presidency the politician who once called him, in Jill Biden's reckoning, a racist.  By contrast, McConnell is not inclined to reward an individual who successfully cut his legs out from under him.

It took the Senate Majority Leader six weeks to acknowledge that Donald Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden. Within five weeks later he had indicated that he might vote to convict Trump, stated that the Capitol riot was "provoked by the President and other important people," and has promoted a leak that he doesn't want to talk to Trump again.

Something happened in the interim. That something was the run-off election in Georgia for dual Senate seats. Instead of conceding his own race, the President argued vociferously that he had won and aggressively spread the myth that he would return to office. Not only did the GOP lose both races, but barely so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will become Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because of Donald Trump. 

Believing Joe Biden might not become President, Republican voters were less motivated because they thought Trump might return to office, making the idea of a Democratic-controlled Senate more palatable. Independent-minded voters found it unnecessary to ensure Republican control of the Senate as a check on the liberal Democrat in the White House.

Mitch McConnell has not undergone the "epiphany" Joe Biden expects from Republicans.  Rather, McConnell knows the GOP lost its majority in the United States Senate because of Donald J. Trump.  This does not endear the latter to the former, who will pay at least a small price for his single-minded devotion to self.  It should be a reminder to Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden that they will be facing off against a ruthless rival, not a partner.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Death, A Drug, And Silence

The New York Times reported last Thursday

Dr. Harold N. Bornstein, who for a time was President Donald J. Trump’s personal physician and who had attested that Mr. Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” died on Friday. He was 73.

His death was announced on Thursday in a paid notice in The New York Times. The notice did not give a cause or say where he died.

Of course it didn't. In a seemingly unrelated matter


The jokes practically write themselves for "he watches every show, he's working- he got to work immediately." However, the prior phrase- "he stays up late at night"- probably is more significant. The President's habit of getting little sleep has been nearly as little explored as the reason for Dr. Bornstein's death.

The fondness of  a singularly lazy President for staying up much of the night should have piqued the media's curiosity. Instead, it was left to Noel Casler, who worked as a talent handler on the set of Celebrity Apprentice for six seasons, to explain in an interview early last year that Mr. Trump

snorts Adderall as his maintenance high. When he gets too wired, this is tempered with benzodiazepines. There’s also a robust use of cocaine and methamphetamine in the Trump orbit, and I’ll leave it at that….NYC is also full of folks with anecdotes of Trump’s drug use. They come up to me and share stories all the time. Look into the Dr. Bornstein stuff if you want to know more, and ask yourself why Trump sent [his bodyguard] Keith Schiller to strong-arm the doctor and steal his medical records, shortly after being elected POTUS.

Casler knowingly has disregarded the non-disclosure agreement he was required to sign for his position on the brazenly unrealistic reality show. He has repeated his claims in interviews, Twitter, and comedy shows without a denial from Trump or anyone in his camp. They are completely unrebutted.

This website explains

Adderall is a prescription drug combination of both Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine to work as a stimulant and change the levels of certain natural chemicals in the brain. It is most commonly used to treat attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and can help with focus, concentration, and control of certain behavioral problems.

Donald Trump's use or abuse of dangerous drugs remains a mostly unexplored issue, as does the death of Dr. Harold Bornstein. That may be no coincidence.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Danger On The (Non-Insurrectionist) Right

In this excerpt from the portion (below) of an interview Friday evening on Bill Maher's Real Time, former Trump adviser Kelly Ann Conway contends

You know, the people who believed in Donald Trump, the forgotten man or forgotten woman, they appreciate an expansion of school choice and charter schools. Why should all- why should just the rich kids have all the opportunities?

You probably missed the "Support Charter Schools" banners amidst the Capitol Hill rioters with Stop the Steal signs, Confederate flags, "MAGA Civil War" and a Camp Auschwitz t-shirt. The weakened public school system, aided and abetted by President Obama's Administration, fortunately was another failure of the Trump Administration, which was unable to muster the financial and public support sought by Education secretary DeVos. Their loss but our gain as students, parents of students, teachers, and taxpayers.

Maher didn't take the bait, instead continuing his line of questioning. At one point, Conway claimed

... I think it's important to recognize you have dead terrorists named Soleimani al-Baghdad. You have whole judiciary, the dead terrorist, you have- well, that doesn't happen by accident.

Soleimani wasn't the only prominent individual killed in the Middle East. We recall that Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist and Saudi national resident in the USA who wrote for The Washington Post, was dismembered by bone saw, almost certainly by people close to the Saudi regime.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman bore major responsibility for the assassination, a situation which never once discomfited presidential senior adviser Jared Kushner, "the prince's most important defender inside the White House."

Conway neglected to mention Khashoggi, though she did applaud

policy gains, where you do have de-regulation and taxes lowered for people where it matters. I think his legacy on the policy stuff will survive a lot of this. Other people will be just fine, okay. Last week was horrible. I made that very clear. Last week was inexcusable, it's disgraceful.

The passive voice, "last week," does a lot of work there as substitute for supporters of Donald Trump, who did all he could to incite a riot and overthrow the government of the United States of America.

Nevertheless, the references to charter schools, judges, taxes, and de-regulation were most telling and significant.  Though omitting "far-right authoritarian" and "would-be monarch," David Frum recognizes a growing danger:

There is a legend building among the non-deadend Trumpers, that Trump had a decent record before some arbitrary date: before the election, before the pandemic. It needs to be stressed that Trump was a crook, charlatan, bigot, thug, and incompetent from the start to the end.

What Kellyanne Conway calls "legacy" is a false narrative building among non-dead end Trumpers, but also likely to generate support among a wide range of conservatives, including Jeff Flake, Joe Scarborough, maybe Conway's husband George, and many others. They tend to be media darlings because they dislike Donald Trump but long for a Republican Party which promoted the policies which led us down the road to a President Donald Trump. The light is blinking red and spelling danger.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Forgetting That Terrorists Terrorize

Joseph R. Biden was elected President of the United States of America and Kamala Harris the nation's Vice-President on November 3, 2020. In statehouses around the country, on December 15 electors met and made official the Biden-Harris victory. And famously late in the night of January 6 and into the early morning of January 7, Congress certified the triumph of Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.

Therefore, all of the mainstream media- especially CNN and MSNBC- were correct when they told us definitively on November 6 that the election was over and decided   Yet, on January 20, as we do quadrennially on January 20, there will be a ton of money spent for an inauguration and related activities, thankfully curtailed this year because of the coronavirus (a last laugh for Donald Trump). Nonetheless, bread and circuses will be the order of the day and tens of millions of dollars spent to demonstrate visually what we all learned the first week of November, were reminded of the third week of December, and reminded again the first week of January..

Noting the increased security precautions for the January 20 event, former FBI Special Agent Brad Garrett tells ABC News

So my sense is, if we're going to have a conflict, a violent conflict, it's going to be in the outer perimeter between probably the DC police, maybe the Capitol Police, maybe the Park Police, depending on where it is. But it's not going to be the day, if you're a protestor, to try to do anything significant- nothing close, obviously, to last Wednesday.

It will be either nothing close to last Wednesday- or nothing at all.  And that is why this guy is right:

We have been boldly told for over a week now that the January 6 insurrectionists are "domestic terrorists" or more boldly told "terrorists." But if the threat posed by violent extremists is of a terrorist nature, the insurrectionists are far more likely to attack state capitols (or less likely, elsewhere) than the US Capitol.

That's the way it is with terrorists because they are intent on spreading fear, or terror. It's most effectively accomplished not by attacking lawmakers, believed to be malevolent, who are on the verge of certifying an election the perpetrators evidently believe was fraudulent.  They do so by attacking innocents, individuals or groups unrelated to the evil the terrorists perceive. And the attacks usually come where least expected.

Nevertheless, despite intelligence indicating that the capitals of all 50 states are vulnerable to attack on January 20, the federal government is pouring money into protecting the buildings and institutions in the capital city of Washington. Meanwhile, states have limited manpower and, even if they are not besieged and attacked, will be spending their limited revenues to protect their own buildings and citizens.

This is foolish if preventing terrorist attacks is the highest priority but an effective approach if perception is the highest priority. It's an effort to convince the world that we are, and remain, exceptional, whatever evidence of the past four years (and especially of the past year) indicates.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Little New Under The Sun

With House Republicans on Tuesday making sounds that they were sufficiently displeased by Donald Trump that they would consider impeachment, Chris Cuomo (video below) stated

Tonight, there is reason for hope. Things are very much in flux. But we have never heard what we have tonight. Republicans may want their party back from Trump... Turns out now even die-hard Trumplicans are doubting their dedication.

Things do remain in flux. However, GOP members of Congress do not need to get their party back. It never went anywhere. Now in exaggerated form, it is close to what it has been for decades.  The day before the comment by the somewhat sanguine CNN host, Paul Krugman wrote that since "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" in 1964, "the big thing that has changed since (Richard) Hofstadter wrote is that" 

one of our major political parties has become willing to tolerate and, indeed, feed right-wing political paranoia.

This coddling of the crazies was, at first, almost entirely cynical. When the G.O.P. began moving right in the 1970s its true agenda was mainly economic — what its leaders wanted, above all, were business deregulation and tax cuts for the rich. But the party needed more than plutocracy to win elections, so it began courting working-class whites with what amounted to thinly disguised racist appeals.

Not incidentally, white supremacy has always been sustained in large part through voter suppression. So it shouldn’t be surprising to see right-wingers howling about a rigged election — after all, rigging elections is what their side is accustomed to doing. And it’s not clear to what extent they actually believe that this election was rigged, as opposed to being enraged that this time the usual vote-rigging didn’t work.

But it’s not just about race. Since Ronald Reagan, the G.O.P. has been closely tied to the hard-line Christian right. Anyone shocked by the prevalence of insane conspiracy theories in 2020 should look back to “The New World Order,” published by Reagan ally Pat Robertson in 1991, which saw America menaced by an international cabal of Jewish bankers, Freemasons and occultists. Or they should check out a 1994 video promoted by Jerry Falwell Sr. called “The Clinton Chronicles,” which portrayed Bill Clinton as a drug smuggler and serial killer.

So what has changed since then? For a long time Republican elites imagined that they could exploit racism and conspiracy theorizing while remaining focused on a plutocratic agenda. But with the rise first of the Tea Party, then of Donald Trump, the cynics found that the crazies were actually in control, and that they wanted to destroy democracy, not cut tax rates on capital gains.

And Republican elites have, with few exceptions, accepted their new subservient status.

You might have hoped that a significant number of sane Republican politicians would finally say that enough is enough, and break with their extremist allies. But Trump’s party didn’t balk at his corruption and abuse of power; it stood by him when he refused to accept electoral defeat; and some of its members are responding to a violent attack on Congress by complaining about their loss of Twitter followers.

Yet, Cuomo remarked (at 4:23 of the video) "members of the GOP considering whether to finally amputate Trump is meaningful."

In the end, there were ten Republican members of the House voting to "amputate" Trump while 207 voted to maintain the leadership of the President who openly and publicly, with malice and forethought, encouraged the overthrow of the federal  government. With 211 in the caucus, 4.7% of GOP members supported the quaint notion of a democratic republic.

Moreover, that constituted 95% of Republicans backing President Trump with one foot out the door. It was one week before, whatever influence he might continue to have, the fellow will lose all power.

In a mere 7 days (6 days now), the President will  no longer be the third most powerful person on the planet but instead private citizen Donald Trump. And still: 10.

Krugman wrote additionally "it’s not clear to what extent they actually believe that this election was rigged, as opposed to being enraged that this time the usual vote-rigging didn’t work."

Undoubtedly, some Republicans do believe that the election was rigged, notwithstanding the thoroughly overwhelming evidence that it was not manipulated.  However, this is the political party they helped build or, in the case of the younger members, decided to join and represent in Congress.

It is a Party which has long admired the authoritarian style and probably will continue to do so. With their guy leaving office and corporate donors uncomfortable, Republican senators may (though not likely) break with form, discover the importance of the rule of law, and provide the 17 or 18 (out of 50) votes needed for conviction.

Until then, however, 10. Ten out of two hundred eleven. It is not becoming a new party now. It did not become a new party because of Donald Trump.  Not for decades grand, it still is the Grand Old Party.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Meet The New Guy, Same As The Old Guy

President-elect Joe Biden is pushing to keep impeachment from consuming his agenda and overshadowing the early days of his administration, as he tries to avoid the appearance of either promoting the proceedings or trying to stop them.

With that in mind, CNN has learned, Biden called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week to discuss the possibility of "bifurcation," which would be conducting impeachment proceedings at the same time senators work to confirm his Cabinet nominees and consider a sweeping Covid relief package.

It's the latest sign that with each passing day since the siege of the Capitol, people close to Biden say, he has become resigned to the fact that impeachment is simply one more crisis that he will inherit from the Trump presidency.

It's also the latest sign that the new Joe is the same as the old Joe. And that's not good.

In April of 2019, In These Times reviewed Joe Biden's role, as described in Bob Woodward's 2012 The Price of Politics, in the Obama Administration's negotiations with Congress to secure an infamous Grand Bargain. Branko Marcetic explained

Later in the negotiations, Biden dangled the possibility of Medicare cuts in return for more revenue — meaning higher taxes. Soon after, he suggested Democrats might be comfortable raising the eligibility age for entitlements, imposing means testing and changing the consumer price index calculation, known as CPI. (Means testing is often seen a Trojan horse for chipping away at these programs, because their universality is one of the reasons they’ve remained virtually untouchable for almost a century. It’s also been criticized for imposing an unnecessary and discouraging layer of bureaucracy.)

At one point, Biden reportedly called the Medicare provider tax a ​“scam.” ​“For a moment, Biden sounded like a Republican,” Woodward notes. Biden’s team was forced to remind him that such a move would force states to cut services to the poor, to which he replied, ​“We’re going to do lots of hard things,” and so ​“we might as well do this.”

As Woodward writes, ​“this was a huge deal” for Cantor (“Biden had caved”), and showed the administration had adopted the Republican view on the matter of the Medicare provider tax. Despite this giveaway, the Republicans continued their stubborn opposition to any revenue increases in the proposed deal.

The negotiations were ultimately scuttled by Cantor....

Although Marcetic/Woodward focused on Vice-President Biden's decades-long mixed perspective toward earned benefits, this narrative additionally highlights Biden's approach toward cooperation and bipartisanship.  The V.P. negotiated a giveaway which pulled the rug out from under Representative (now Senator) Chris Van Hollen, a fellow Democrat.  

Presumably, he did so in part because of an ambivalence toward Social Security and Medicare and eagerness to reach a deal, any deal. That's bad on two levels.

But there was additional motivation. The Vice-President wanted to cut congressional Democrats, especially Van Hollen (then ranking member of the House Budget Committee), out. Teamwork for Biden took a back seat to, well, Joe Biden.

Now President-elect Biden evidently is taking the leading role in working with Senator Mitch McConnell, who soon will be Minority Leader rather than Majority Leader. He does not appear to be working through his own party's leader, Chuck Schumer, who is set to take over leadership of the chamber as Majority Leader.

Bad cop, good cop is a tried-and-true game, and can easily be applied here. Have Schumer and McConnell negotiate with each other, just as House Republicans and House Democrats were dealing with each other in 2011 before Vice President Biden undermined his own people. It would give Schumer a fair amount of leverage because of his ability to tell McConnell that he would have to get approval from the soon-to-be President. 

As of this writing on Wednesday afternoon, the impeachment process is still in its early stages. However, it's not too early to suspect that in many instances, if President Biden has to cut fellow Democrats effectively out of negotiations, he will. If he doesn't have to do so, he may, anyway.



On a Positive Note, It's What He Believes

During the War of 1812, Master Commandant Oliver Perry wrote to Major General William Henry Harrison " we have met the enemy and they ...