Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Quandary Unnecessary

In the video attached to the tweet below, Marjorie Greene is seen remarking

You have to accept the fact that the government totally wants to provide surveillance on every part of your life.  They want to know when you're eating. They want to know if you're eating a cheeseburger, which is very bad because Bill Gates wants you to eat his fake meat that grows in a peach tree (sic) dish.

So you'll probably get a little zap inside your body and then say "no, no." Don't eat a real cheeseburger. You need to eat the fake burger, the fake meat from Bill Gates.

Um, they probably also want to know when you go to the bathroom and if your bowel movements are on time. I mean, what else do these people want to know?

 Sounds pretty crazy, huh? This person would agree:


Recall when on April 23, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia testified in an administrative lawsuit brought by five voters who charged that she "voluntarily aided and engaged" in the 1/6/20 insurrection and thus is ineligible to run for federal office.

Greene put on a spectacular performance and thus defeated the bid to disqualify her.  She admitted to nothing other than forgetting everything but oh, no, she couldn't possibly have believed whatever she was accused of. Approximately ten days after her testimony, an unavoidably cynical columnist from the Holland (MI) Sentinel would post this snippet:

Questioner: “Did you like a (social media) post that said it’s quicker, that a bullet to the head would be a quicker way to remove Nancy Pelosi from the role of speaker?

Greene: (Smiles and hesitates) I’m not answering that question. It’s speculation.

Questioner: You have said, Ms. Greene, that she’s a traitor to this country.

Greene: No, I haven’t said that.

Questioner: OK. (Then speaking to a clerk) Show Exhibit 5, please.

Greene (immediately): Oh no, wait. Hold on, now. (Pause) I believed that by not securing the border, that that violates her oath of office. (Apparently Greene remembers better just before exhibits are about to display evidence contradicting her statements.)

Later in the hearing …

Questioner: Had you ever advocated for martial law to be imposed in a conversation with the chief of staff …

Greene: I don’t recall.

Again, I’m pretty sure I would remember advocating, or not advocating, for something so notable, so horrific, as declaring martial law in America. Wouldn’t you?

The congresswoman demonstrated that she could teach a law school class entitled "How to Avoid Admission of Guilt When Your Hand is Caught in the Cookie Jar" by deftly avoiding responsibility for any actions taken or words spoken.

And she could. Greene may be trolling the left, hoping the antagonism and ridicule she incurs will stir up would-be donors among extreme conservatives. Or she may be seeking publicity, to gin up those donations, raise her national profile among GOP voters, or simply for the benefit of publicity. She may be having a ton of fun.

The exhortation to eat a "real cheeseburger" instead of a "fake burger" brings to mind the adage "real men don't eat quiche" of the 1980s, which was meant as satire but widely interpreted as a demonstration of masculinity. Additionally, the substitution of "peach tree" for "petri" may have been a nod to the voters in the Peach Tree state of Georgia. It's speculation- but we sell the Georgia congresswoman short at our peril.

Greene's intent is not clear, yet it's likely she is fully aware of why she is doing what she is doing.   Asked whether she considered Speaker Pelosi a traitor,  tried to claim that she never said that Nancy Pelosi is a traitor. Confronted with proof to the contrary, the congresswoman skillfully pivoted, her memory restored by the possibility she otherwise would be charged with perjury.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is characterized by extremism, bigotry, and deceit.  But only at our peril do we mistake that for craziness or stupidity.


Monday, May 30, 2022

The Right To Be Vile In Church

For some really serious right-wing hatred, you can travel to something called the Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Or maybe you can't listen there to pastor Greg Locke, present at the Capitol on January 6, 2020,  who has said "said that those who wore masks to his church would be asked to leave and discouraged his congregation from getting vaccinated.."

On May 15, Locke stated

You cannot be a Christian and vote Democrat in this nation. I don't care how mad that makes you.... They are God-denying demons, butcher babies, and hate this nation.....

 You cannot be a Democrat and be a Christian. You cannot. Somebody say "amen." The rest of you get out. Get out. Get out in the name of Jesus. I ain't playing your stupid games. ...

They want to talk about this insurrection. I'll tell you something. You ain't seen an insurrection yet. You keep pushing our buttons. You go down, sorry compromisers, you God-hating Communists. You'll find out what an insurrection is.

Now, however:

I doubt that a fellow who calls all Democrats "God-hating demons," urges members of his congregation to get themselves killed, and tells people who don't say "amen" to leave his church will voluntarily surrender tax-free status. And contrary to the implication of the tweeter above, it's very unlikely that, in the absence of specifically asking for a vote for or against a specific candidate, it would be yanked from his church. As NPR explained in 2017

The Johnson Amendment regulates what tax-exempt organizations such as churches can do in the political arena.

Under terms of the 1954 legislation (named for its principal sponsor, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson), churches and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office," according to the IRS website.

Organizations claiming tax-exempt status cannot collect contributions on behalf of political campaigns or make any statement for or against a particular candidate. Clergy are not allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

As this document from the Internal Revenue Service suggests, the IRS grants wide latitude to 501(c)(3) organizations without yanking their tax-free status. (See especially situation #5.) Good thing, too, because

A 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center found that black Protestants have been more likely than other Christian groups to report having heard their clergy speak out clearly on the merits or faults of a particular candidate. The study found that 28 percent of black Protestants heard their clergy speak in support of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, while about 1 in 5 black Protestants, about 20 percent, said they had heard their ministers denounce Donald Trump.

By comparison, just 4 percent of white evangelicals reported having heard their clergy speak in favor of a presidential candidate (2 percent each for Trump and Clinton), while 7 percent heard their clergy speak against a candidate (mostly Clinton).

Many churches, from the right or the left, get involved in political advocacy.  It appears that short of recommending a vote for or against a candidate, a church can be nearly as involved in political causes as it wishes without seriously endangering its tax-exempt status. So we may have a great deal more of ostensibly religious figures like Greg Locke in a dystopian future.


Saturday, May 28, 2022

A Strategy Without Guns

There are dirty little secrets and dirty big secrets, and this is in the latter category.

Igor Volsky, Executive Director of Guns Down America, has been justifiably angry at the passive response of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden to the massacre in Uvalde. He told (beginning at 2:32 of the video below) Zerlina Maxwell of MSNBC

Don't let him tell you the choice is either to have those negotiations or to have a quick vote that will fail. No, what the President can do is bring Senators, key stakeholders, survivors to the White House and begin the process while they're all in D.C. now while this tragedy is fresh in everybody's mind of having negotiations to get us to some kind of solution.

The fact that they are unwilling to do so and are talking- listen to the way they tweet about this issue. "We should do something. Congress should take action." You are the President of the United States of America. You are elected because you promised us that your thirty years of Senate experience, of bringing lawmakers together to get tough things done. Where is that experience now? Put it to the test, Mr. President.

In contrast to Volsky, I believe that having a quick vote that will fail would have the salutary effect of putting Democratic senators and Republican senators on record at a time of maximum impact of the massacre upon public opinion.

Democrats like to like their Democratic president and, notwithstanding the state of the world, generally like this one. Volsky's strategy is a sound one, and calling the President out is both necessary and courageous.

However, Joe Biden's strategy does not require him to bring together these varied stakeholders, nor to take action directly on gun safety. As Maxwell noted, Volsky has said that the President must "get caught trying to do something"- and that's exactly what he has done.  The Guardian reported

Joe Biden signed an executive order he promised would usher in the “most significant police reform in decades” on Wednesday, the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

With Congress deadlocked, Biden said he was using the powers of the presidency to advance his campaign promises and deliver police accountability and reform “that is real and lasting”.

As to whether the President was caught trying to do something

Biden was joined at the White House for a signing ceremony by Floyd’s family as well as relatives of Breonna Taylor, who was killed when police executed a no-knock warrant at her apartment in 2020. In remarks preceding the signing, Biden praised them for their efforts to push for change even as they grieve.

“It’s not about their death but what we do in their memory that matters,” he said.

The measure, signed in response to congressional (read: Republican) inaction in responding to blacks being killed by police officers, is the racial justice analogue to the "sensible" gun safety legislation urged by liberals and progressives, who recognize more meaningful legislation is unrealizable. Biden's

executive order signed on Wednesday directs federal agencies to revise use-of-force policies, banning tactics such as chokeholds, restricting practices like no-knock warrants and promoting de-escalation techniques.

It also calls for the creation of a new national standard for accrediting police departments; establishes a national database to track police misconduct; further restricts the transfer of military equipment to police departments; and requires agencies to implement new tools to screen for inherent bias among officers as well as recruits, including those who promote unlawful violence or harbor white supremacist views.

It is not law but merely an executive order, and thus likely to be rescinded if a GOP president is elected in 2024. Moreover, it applies only to federal law enforcement officers, who rarely are the individuals most likely (justifiably, sometimes unjustifiably) to shoot black, brown, and white citizens.  Nonetheless, Biden's was "caught trying to do something" because his intent, though with limited consequences, is clear and proper. 

And if it is still not clear that the President's intent was to appear to be "trying to do something," he said the order

was “a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation, to address profound fear and trauma, exhaustion that particularly Black Americans have experienced for generations”.

Order signed; country healed; paradise looms. In light of the history which racial justice advocates are determined Americans learn, it is unclear- if not concerning- what the "very soul" of this nation is. Nonetheless

When the ceremony concluded, Biden invited Floyd’s young daughter, Gianna, to sit in his chair and handed her the pen he had used to sign the order. Remarking how tall she’d grown since the last time he saw her, Biden turned to the audience and recalled that Gianna told him the first time they met: “My daddy is gonna change the world.”

It doesn't appear to have happened. But not to worry. Biden signed an order, with family of George Floyd and of Breonna Taylor, to enhance accountability of law enforcement in light of its racial bias. Biden strained to link it to the massacre of the previous day.  The Guardian noted

Biden began his remarks by addressing the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday. “We’re here today for the same purpose – to come together and say, ‘Enough,’ ” he said.

As everyone understood, that was not the purpose of the Executive Order. 

Joe Biden very likely wants to be re-elected, and to do that he must be re-nominated which, if things don't turn around in the next 18 months, will not be a slam dunk. He is a Democratic President. It is helpful to be is caught responding in some way or another to the events in Texas.

But it is necessary to be caught doing something, anything, to respond to racially disparate treatment. He gets extra credit for doing so in the presence of family and/or relatives of victims of that injustice.

Whatever Biden's long-ago record of promoting gun safety legislation, it is not the reason he was endorsed for his party's nomination by Jim Clyburn, given a standing ovation by the largely African-American primary electorate in South Carolina, and driven to victory in the campaign. Sad, but true: he need not do anything about gun safety to be the party's standard-bearer in 2024.

President Biden was caught trying to do something. If interest in gun safety fizzles after a while, his disinterest now will hurt him little while seeking re-nomination. If instead the March for Our Lives demonstrations nationwide on June 11 reinvigorates the movement, there will be plenty of time for him to be caught again trying to do something.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Now, It's Lockdowns?

For conservatives, there are many boogeymen, whether in the field of entertainment, media, or politics, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi being the most obvious in the latter. For liberals and progressives, too, there is a range of highly-disliked individuals, including Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Meghan McCain, Marjorie Taylor Green, and hundreds of others.

In the vast majority of instances, it's impossible to confirm their sincerity because there are so many reasons, which may include a lust for financial well-being, attention, or political ambition, Elise Stefanik being the most obvious of the last. Typically, a right-winger does not say or do something reprehensible primarily out of stupidity.

Nonetheless, some individuals are well-meaning, which should lead one to ask: are you actually serious? That's a reasonable question to pose upon reading a tweet from a serious, otherwise thoughtful writer at The Intercept:

The fact the last two mass shooters were 18 years old exactly makes me concerned about the psychological impact of the years of lockdown on many who were children at the time. At least one of them spent two teenage years getting completely radicalized at home online.

Print journalist turned MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan responded "the dark irony: the lockdowns were the only time we didn't really have any mass shootings in schools in this country!"

Severe restrictions would have been more accurate. American citizens never experienced a lockdown- confinement to a particular place- during the pandemic.  In no state was there a lockdown and in Texas, headed by a right-wing governor and state legislature, restrictions were less than in most. People would howl- beyond anything we heard- if officials in any state had imposed anything even approaching a lockdown. That would be mainland China.

Calling restrictions, even significant one, a "lockdown" has been stretching the meaning of the word well beyond its original meaning.  If conservatives- as is quite plausible- intentionally had decided to invoke the term "lockdown" and propagate its use, they couldn't have chosen a more effective messaging strategy.

Hussain fell into the trap of using the word, as did Hasan, neither of whom anyone would consider a conservative.  Additionally, Hussain didn't consider that Salvador Ramos appears to have been a loner and high school dropout.

The proposition that closing schools even helped create mass murderers is a very dubious notion. Ramos bought on his 18th birthday two AR-15 firearms, military-grade weapons which likely gave police pause to confront him.  It appears he did so without a permit because in September 2021 Governor Abbot signed a bill rescinding a permit requirement. And shortly before that the governor had signed into law a measure allowing carrying without a permit.

There are many possible reasons for mass slaughter in the USA. Here are three: guns, guns, guns. Also, this:




Thursday, May 26, 2022

Mental Health Dodge

At a news conference on Wednesday headlined by Texas governor Greg Abbott (without Costello)

"The gunman was 18 years old and reportedly a high-school dropout. Reportedly, there has been no criminal history identified yet," Abbott said. "He may have had a juvenile record, but that is yet to be determined."

He added: "There is no known mental-health history of the gunman."

But minutes later, when asked a question about the role that Texas gun laws might have played in the gunman's ability to purchase the weapons he used in the massacre, Abbott pivoted the conversation away from guns and back to mental health.

The Republican governor began by emphasizing that the ability of an 18-year-old to purchase a long gun had been a Texas law for more than 60 years.

"Why is it for the majority of those 60 years, we did not have school shootings? And why is it that we do now?" Abbott said.

Despite acknowledging that he didn't have any easy answers, Abbott continued, offering an explanation.

"What I do know, in talking to the leaders here, as well as leaders around the state, one thing that has substantially changed is the status of mental health in our communities," he said. "We, as a state, we, as a society, need to do a better job with mental health."

He added: "Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental-health challenge, period."

Well, no. And no. And did I mention "no?" Fortunately for Texans, Greg Abbott, who presides over "the worst state in the U.S. for access to mental health care," doesn't believe what he said.

Neither does Sunny Hostin of The View, who on Thursday applauded the interruption of that news conference by the  state's Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Beto O'Rourke, by noting (at 3:09) in part

They're trying to blame it on mental illness. Let's remember that people that have mental illness are ten times more likely to be the victims of crime, not the perpetrators of crime. I am so sick of this freakin' narrative about mental illness....

The assailant was so mentally ill and so impulsive that he knew to wear a tactical vest, evidently in an (unsuccessful) effort to avoid being shot.  The per capita firearm ownership in this nation is almost twice as high as in any other, No evidence suggests that mental health problems are far greater in the USA than in any other. But, it must be mental illness.  Abandoning tact for truth, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy explained

Spare me the bullshit about mental illness. We don’t have any more mental illness than any other country in the world. You cannot explain this through a prism of mental illness, because we don’t — we’re not an outlier on mental illness. We’re an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their hands on firearms. That’s what makes America different.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Tweet of the Day- Blame Where Blame Belongs

Some tweeters recognized both the depth of the calamity which unfolded Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas and the manner in which Democrats need to respond to the need for action. 

Democrats technically "control" Congress. Of course, they aren't really in control because the will of possibly two Democrats and 50 of 0 Republican senators has obstructed the effort of a Democratic House of Representatives to enact meaningful change. 

There are many Americans who are not solidly left or right, most (not all) who pay limited attention to politics and thus do not realize that Congress is effectively controlled by Mitch McConnell with periodic assistance from conservative Democrats. They understandably confuse de facto control with de jure control.

Mitch and his gang are aided and abetted by the extent to which MSNBC- and more consistently, CNN- talk of "Congress" instead of Republicans. (MSNBC at least features as a guest one truthteller, video below). This tweeter understands:

Only in rare moments of boldness will Democrats actually hold Republicans responsible name or by party. Even more rarely will they name names.  They must call out specific Republicans who not only obstruct passage of firearm safety legislation but receive large sums of money from the gun lobby. While senators come and go, as of mid-2019, the #1 recipient was Utah senator Mitt Romney.

That would be the same Mitt Romney who expressed "grief" which "overwhelms the soul" because of the murders in Texas. It's the same Mitt Romney who joined George Floyd protestors two years ago while  ostentatiously posting a photo to "make sure that people understand that black lives matter."  He has gone on to oppose federal gun safety legislation, and a measure to make infant formula more available. Black lives matter, though only when convenient..

Now it is Ted Cruz who collects the most blood money. However, Democrats will avoid upsetting their GOP colleagues or cause them discomfort by naming names. Voters will be denied an opportunity to recognize Republicans whose passion for the proliferation of deadly weaponry may be prompted by the financial generosity of the industry of death featuring the NRA and firearms manufacturers.. It is late, but not too late for Democratic collegiality to give way to the importance of highlighting GOP indifference to slaughter.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Breaking News- Joe Biden Is President!

Booking a liar can be useful for a journalistic purpose but Whoopi Goldberg had nothing of the kind in mind, as this tweeter points out:

Oh, Sunny Hostin tried (video unavailable; thanks, Disney!). She asked (at 23:23) "Let me ask you this. Can you agree that Trump lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College and that there was a free and fair election?  Conway responded "I think it's pretty obvious that Joe Biden is the President. I can't believe we're still talking about this, respectfully."

Of course,we're still talking about it, and that's because people such as Kellyanne Conway will not admit that Joe Biden won a free and fair election. As other Republicans do periodically, Conway would say only "it's pretty obvious that Joe Biden is the President."  That is so obvious that even Liar-in-Chief Donald Trump acknowledges it with his condemnation of the President.

"Alternative facts" Conway continued " I write extensively in this book that I am the closest person to Donald Trump to tell him the earliest that he came up short." Not that he lost the election, mind you; rather, that he "came up short" among the votes which were counted.

If she is sincere, Conway can barely believe that her guy "came up short" because the election

broke my heart; I wanted him to get re-elected and I wish- I only wish that people who were in charge of the 2020 campaign with the $1.4 billion that they wasted had won outright and overwhelmingly.  He should have won huge. He had all these accomplishments. He's running against the guy who's stuck in the basement....

Hostin attempted a follow-up, which was drowned out by a couple of The View panelists speaking over the questioning along with a smattering of boos, enough that the host believed that Alternative Facts woman might not have the opportunity to continue her shtick.  Thus Goldberg admonished the crowd, remarking "listen, this is The View and this is her view, and she's talking about how she views and what she knows. Please don't boo her." She then went to break.

Kudos to Goldberg for the clever turn-of-a phrase with "this is The View and this is her view." But we don't know that Bowling Green massacre woman really believes this. She seems much too intelligent and much too dishonest.

Hostin tried twice more stating, as a question, to Conway "it's a year later, he's still lying" and "he's still lying."

But it was to no avail.  Conway wouldn't give a straight answer because host Goldberg had no interest in her audience getting an answer to Hostin's question(s). 

The segment featuring Alternative Facts woman did not have to be disgraceful.  Journalism could have been practiced had one of the panelists had her way and the host permitted it. Instead, it was simply "a lying, conspiracy theorist who thinks the election was stolen"- or won't acknowledge what she knows is reality.


Monday, May 23, 2022

Tweet of the Day- With or Without Donald Trump

Doing important work on varied issues in a very conservative, Republican state:

She's saying it out loud because she will face no penalty, electorally or otherwise, for doing so.Tenessee may not yet be a theocracy but there are GOP legislators who would like it to be.  If there weren't, Republican legislators would denounce a statement which is as contrary to both the spirit and the letter of 1B as anything we've heard in years. 

Nor are there legislators in Georgia, the state in which Kandiss Taylor is running for the GOP nomination for governor, who will openly disagree with these remarks while Democratic politicians and others plead that the problem lies with Donald Trump and GOP politicians who are afraid to cross him.

Yet, here is a candidate who will lose badly in the Georgia primary on May 24. Polling at only about 4%, she has no chance to be nominated. She is not endorsed or praised by Donald Trump, who has endorsed and publicly supported former US Senator David Perdue. (Perdue has been running well behind incumbent Brian Kemp.)

She is not a particular favorite of Donald Trump, not only because she has had no chance of winning but also because she seems to be a living, breathing believing Christian, which does not go over very well with an ex-President contemptuous of Christianity.

Taylor never has held elective office and is not a veteran of the armed services, a businesswoman, or a member of the clergy, any of which may endear her at least a little to the GOP street. She has been described as having "formerly worked as a 3rd-grade teacher, testing coordinator, school counselor, student service coordinator, and homeless liaison in public schools." This is a field generally not well-regarded by either Republican voters or politicians.

Democratic politicians and others plead that the problem lies with Donald Trump and GOP politicians who are afraid to cross him. Yet, Kandiss Taylor, a zero trying to be a one, declares "the church runs the state of Georgia" and there is nary a peep from politicians in Georgia or in Tennessee.

Admittedly, in 2015-2016 Donald Trump did not have to invent crude and extreme right-wing views, needing only to mobilize and energize the dark impulses of the Republican id.  They were impulses lurking not only among GOP voters but also among party officials and officeholders.  

Nonetheless, independent of Mr. Trump, those impulsesnow  have been reinforced in some, adopted in other, Republican politicians.  They're not all insurrectionists, bigots, or theocrats. Nonetheless, many are- and  have become bolder and more extreme not because of Donald Trump but because it is what they believe.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Not A Simple Prescription

Some center-left Democrats are enthralled with Mayor Eric Adams of New York City and Politico has reported

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, just had Adams speak at the DCCC’s Chairman’s Issues Conference and Weekend in the city on Saturday. Adams suggested the following talking points to attack the GOP:

 “Let’s force them to explain why they oppose common sense gun laws but support the violence claiming innocent lives.”

“Why murder rates are the highest in red states.”

“Why they won’t stop the flow of illegal firearms or ban ghost guns, but they will allow police officers to be shot with them.”

“Let’s force them to explain how they are for law and order and against funding law enforcement.”

Gun safety legislation is necessary and Democrats should inform voters that GOP states are murder havens and that Republicans accept police officers being shot with ghost guns and other firearms. That should be easy to do. However, Politico adds, Adams

also reinforced a moderate path for the party in rebuke of the more progressive actors who’ve supported the movement to defund the police and attack corporations.

“If we do not have the courage to admit public safety needs police, prosperity needs the private sector, and this country needs big changes, then we will not have the credibility to lead,” Adams said.

Steve M  understands

Right, because capitalism has worked so well for people in the 21st century. If you don't count the dot-com crash, the painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession, the current wave of inflation, and the decades-long decline in the share of national wealth that goes to the non-rich, capitalism seems awesome!....

As for capitalism, who apart from the Masters of the Universe themselves, and the politicians who desperately want their money, actually likes it anymore? Even Republicans know now that they get loud rounds of applause when they attack big corporations (although they don't really want to change their overall approach to the rich, as long as the rich defer to them politically).

He concedes

I think Defund the Police was an off-putting message, a terrible way to frame what was a popular idea two years ago: that there's serious police abuse that needs to stop. It's true that most people, including people of color, want traditional policing -- but they want it without the brutality. Adams actually won the mayor's race by appearing to hit a sweet spot: He's an ex-cop who said he was a victim of police mistreatment as a young man, and he seemed to advocate reform as well as law and order. But as mayor he's abandoned the idea of reform.

I'm not convinced voters are repulsed by police brutality. After George Floyd was murdered 24 months ago this month, most people were outraged as images of the brutality were so pervasive that they were virtually inescapable.

Those images are now a thing of the past, replaced by video of mayhem which occurred at some of the George Floyd protests, as well as constant (exaggerated) reminders by the media of soaring murder rates.  Republican Conference chairperson Elise Stefanik skillfully exploited this with her loathsome, yet tactically brilliant, tweet following the mass murder in Buffalo:

When Stefanik spoke of allegedly "skyrocketing violent crimes," she wasn't referring to mass murders at schools, discount department stores, or supermarkets.  She was talking about the violent crime which takes place daily across the country, which occurs disproportionately in minority neighborhoods in major cities. (If a Tucker Carlson fan, you might believe it occurs exclusively in black neighborhoods in major cities.)

Democrats didn't need a lecture from a big-city mayor to know they have been plagued with an image of being "soft" on crime since Richard Nixon demagogically urged "law and order" to combat "crime in the streets."  It's history that Eric Adams chooses to ignore because it carries with it potentially explosive implications.  Democrats cannot talk effectively and convincingly about crime, guns, and police without confronting the racial component considered fundamental by (non-black) Americans. So good luck with that.

Race was an important theme in Richard Nixon's narrative and, even more cagily, it is now for Elise Stefanik and her fellow travelers.  Eric Adams won't tell you. Nancy Pelosi and Sean Patrick Maloney won't tell you. Neither will Politico and the rest of the mainstream media tell you. But it is the rest of the story.


Friday, May 20, 2022

Where Sociology, Law, And American History May Meet

Admittedly, two items do not constitute a pattern, and various individuals are involved. However,  with both parties right-wing Republicans and an intriguing confluence of values exhibited, this might be referred to as Speculation Friday.

You will recall that, as explained in July 2018

In April 2018, the Trump administration announced a so-called “zero tolerance” policy on unauthorized immigration. Under this policy, each and every migrant – including asylum seekers – attempting to cross the U.S. border anywhere other than at an official port of entry was to be detained and criminally prosecuted. This approach meant the systematic separation of newly arriving adult migrants from children who had accompanied them if those migrants were crossing into the United States without authorization (and outside of official ports of entry).

Thousands of children were separated from their parents, and, following intense public outcry, the administration halted family separation and has sought instead to detain migrant families together – a move that has been subject to legal challenge and has yet to move forward.

"So-called" 'zero tolerance' policy is about right.  The Administration would have liked, if possible, to prosecute each parent in federal criminal court. Fortunately

A Biden administration effort to reunite children and parents who were separated under President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance border policy has made increasing progress as it nears the end of its first year.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that 100 children, mostly from Central America, were back with their families and that about 350 more reunifications were in process after it had taken steps to enhance the program....

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to reunite families that had been separated under the Trump administration's widely condemned practice of forcibly separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border to discourage illegal immigration.

"Zero-tolerance border policy." Unless the Voice of America is stenographer for former President Donald Trump, the first two words should be in quotes. The Administration claimed the objective was zero-tolerance. At 1:48 of the Canadian video below, the narrator innocently maintains "still, the Administration is convinced it will work. It will be, and already is, a deterrent. The problem is, that might not be so." A little needed skepticism, but still an assumption that deterrence was at the heart of the policy.

That might not be so. It may have been prompted by an interest in deterrence or plain cruelty, or some combination thereof. But there is no better time than Speculation Friday to suggest the possibility of a third motive, suggested by what- on the surface- is a completely different issue.

Justifiably alarmed, Slate's legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick recently wrote

One of the most arresting lines in Justice Samuel Alito’s 98-page draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade is a footnote that didn’t really surface until the weekend. A throwaway footnote on Page 34 of the draft cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that in 2002, nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children, “whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted has become virtually nonexistent"

....... the footnote reflects something profoundly wrong with the new “ethos of care” arguments advanced by Republicans who want to emphasize compassion instead of cruelty after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health fallout. Footnote 46, quantifying the supply/demand mismatch of babies, follows directly on another footnote in the opinion approvingly citing the “logic” raised at oral argument in December by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who mused that there is no meaningful hardship in conscripting women to remain pregnant and deliver babies in 2022 because “safe haven” laws allow them to drop those unwanted babies off at the fire station for other parents to adopt.

Lithwick is concerned about "the extortionate emotional and financial costs of childbirth and the increased medical risks of forced childbirth." Additionally, she offers a brief history lesson which suggests "removing babies from their biological parents to be used by others lay at the very heart of the system of slavery."  

Drawing a connection between that system and Alito's reasoning, Lithwick recognizes "the argument that forced birth is justified because other people can have enjoyment of the resulting children sends us tumbling deeper down the rabbit hole into commodifying babies and conscripting their mothers. This is hardly a practice that ended with slavery. " 

According to the VOA, approximately 5500 children were forcefully removed from their parents during the Trump Administration. Yet despite their intensive efforts, well under 1000 youngsters have been reunited with their family. And now we have conservative Republican Samuel Alito, with tactical air support supplied by Trump nominee/appointee Amy Coney Barrett, pining for "the domestic supply of infants." This could be a coincidence. 

 And yet, "cruelty was the point, sure, but so was the forced birth and separation," Lithwick maintains about the practice of slaveholders using white men to impregnate black slaves for economic benefit. Slavery certainly provided a domestic supply of infants, which Alito et al. are favorable toward. Meanwhile, no one knows the exact location of those 4,000 boys and girls, cruelly separated from their parents at the border, or whether they have conveniently become a domestic supply.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Very First Rule

For a political strategist, Rachel Bitecofer is way out of touch.

As Chris Hayes explains, there is video of U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn, who on Tuesday lost his bid to be nominated by the Republican Party for a second term, claiming that Republican colleagues had asked him to attend sex and cocaine-infused parties.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was upset. Other Republicans probably also were none too pleased.

We in the public do not know whether Cawthorn was telling the truth. However,  no video of this escapade exists other than Cawthorn calmly alleging existence of these affairs. Thus, it is a charge which probably does not stick in the minds of many voters, in part because there is no sex or hint of sex in any video itself.

However, we do have the following:


And there is this:



For those many Democrats and centrists, including the preponderance of the national media who would interpret this as harmless and normal fun, it should be instructive that a PAC has filed an ethics complaint against Cawthorn and

Among the many allegations is the claim that representative for North Carolina's 11th district provided thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to (Stephen) Smith, a staff member, with whom, the complaint states, he is engaged in an improper relationship characterized by steamy postings on social media and so close that the staffer joined Cawthorn on his honeymoon to Dubai in April 2021.

After the crotch thing became public, a prescient Cawthorn noted "Many of my colleagues would be nowhere near politics if they had grown up with a cell phone in their hands.' He wasn't talking about phone calls or text messages.

And so, as one tweeter maintains and Bitecofer agrees, one rule of a Republican primary is not to be associated in any way with a hint of cocaine or sex parties.  But two other rules for a man to survive GOP primaries might be: don't flaunt foreplay with another man and don't advertise your preference for wearing women's lingerie. And of course the most important: don't be captured on video doing either.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Not Quite Yet

I confess that I do not like Oprah Winfrey. I have never liked her, don't like her, and probably never will like her. 

Winfrey, or "Oprah" as an adoring media calls her, has never seemed to embody principle or a firm set of values. Money and image appear to be her guiding principles. There is no clear ideological reason that (as the video below reminds us) she endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. The dirty little secret (for which the elite would substitute "wonderful" for "dirty") is that she yearned for a President who would "make history," whatever benefit or harm he would bring to the country.

I posted yesterday two excellent tweets. Today, I reverse that and post tweets from one clueless, and one almost clueless, individual about arguably the most popular American celebrity of the past decades.

"Oprah" is more than a "dialogue starter." As of 2021, she was considered the fourth most admired woman in the world. Reportedly worth approximately $2.6 billion, Winfrey is held in such esteem that the Smithsonian museum in 2018 dedicated to her an exhibition entitled "Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture." With such great influence and wealth comes great responsibility.

Winfrey did indeed launch the media career of Dr. Mehta Oz, who thereby became simply the far more marketable "Dr. Oz." She chose to promote his career despite the widespread belief in medical circles that Oz  stood upon a platform of quackery (video below from 12/21).  Winfrey promoted Dr. Oz- and his growing popularity in turn contributed to Oprah's own phenomenal success.  She commands a microphone more than almost anyone in this country, and if she were to choose publicly to deny responsibility for Dr. Oz' rise, she has every opportunity to do so.

Nonetheless, there was no reason heretofore for Ms. Winfrey to "campaign relentlessly against Oz."  Mehta Oz was running in a primary, not a general election.  If Winfrey had spoken out against Oz, she would have been aiding the candidacy of either David McCormick, a far-right hedge fund executive, or Kathy Barnette, apparently a far-right participant in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2020. Though Oz would be a terrible US Senator, there is scant evidence that either of the other two wouldn't be at least as dangerous.

As of this writing, the race is sufficiently close that a recount is likely. If Oz does not prevail, Winfrey's silence will prove to have been irrelevant. If Oz does prevail, there is plenty of time for Ms. Winfrey to explain not only that Oz would not be a wise choice in November but that his opponent, John Fetterman, is far more dedicated to the democratic process and to the values of a free people.  

Patience, patience.  Tweeter Thrasher recognizes that powerful people should speak out against injustice, particularly when the individual (albeit lacking prescience) indirectly helped bring it about. But if there is a time for everything, the time for Oprah Winfrey to criticize Dr. Mehta Oa was not during a primary race but during a general election contest. It would be an invaluable part of her legacy.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

On Target

Monday, May 16 included an excellent tweet from a prominent Republican- and an excellent retort.


It is the opposite side of the same issue, or an essential part of the same issue. Last August, Representative Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Adam Kinzinger, the Republican who serves with Cheney on the 1/6 commission, voted against the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, thus leading Mehdi Hasan to note."On voting rights, the most important issue of our time, Cheney, Kinzinger, Romney… are not your friends."

It is the most important issue of our time and no Republican in the US House of Representatives voted in favor of voting rights. (The bill failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to proceed in the Senate, with Alaska's Lisa Murkowski the only Republican willing to advance it to debate.)

Nonetheless, Cheney's said (typed?) what was necessary. She criticized the white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism saturating today's GOP. She avoided attributing it specifically to Donald Trump, albeit a worthy target but low-handing fruit, or to the Republican street. Clearly, she had in mind House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik but broadened it to House leadership generally.

The Wyoming congresswoman challenged the leaders of her party to denounce the bigots. Moreover, she managed to blast white supremacy and white nationalism without using the "r" word, arguably the least-defined, most abused term in the English language: racist.

White nationalism and white supremacy, with a valid nod toward anti-semitism, says it all. There is no need to write "racist" because it is flagrantly overused, poorly understood, and antagonizes individuals.  It is applied to individuals who are racist and more often to individuals who are not. Used in this fashion, it has become virtually meaningless, a go-to term invoked by people to mean- well, whatever they choose for it to mean.

When she accuses leadership, in the chamber in which she serves, to the party to which she (and her famous father) belong, of enabling evil, Liz Cheney is being succinct and comprehensive in under 281 characters. It's what had to be said by someone we needed to hear it from, a Republican and sitting member of the House of Representatives.

Her legacy will be determined by two things: her leadership opposing her party's allegiance to the attempted coup of 1/6/20; and the leadership she thus far has not exhibited in opposing her party's allegiance to voter suppression. As Professor Nesnow indicated, the first logically leads to the second, a connection which thus far Elizabeth Cheney regrettably seems not to have made.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Where "Partisan" Is Republican

Buried deep into her piece on Saturday in The Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer write

Biden’s decision to dub Republicans as “ultra MAGA” — like another new Biden quip, “This is not your father’s Republican Party — represents a turnabout from his campaign persona. He ran as a unifier, promising that under a Biden administration Republicans would have an “epiphany” and bipartisanship would return to Washington.

Instead, partisan vitriol has continued to consume the nation’s capital, a reality Biden seems to acknowledge with his “ultra MAGA” descriptor — a wing of the Republican Party that he described as “petty,” “mean-spirited,” “extreme” and “beyond the pale” at a fundraiser in Chicago Wednesday night.

Biden's recent remarks, Ashley & Scherer maintain, "represents a turnabout from his campaign persona." (As I explained in my immediate previous post, they really don't, but that's off-topic.)  Moreover, they maintain, "partisan vitriol has continued to consume the nation's capital...."

If indeed- as conventional wisdom has it- Biden's recent comments are a turnabout from his promise to be a unifier, the reporter seems at a loss to understand it. Her point appears to be: Joe Biden is no longer Joe Biden, but instead has become what his enemies are.

That bothsiderism angle is, as the President himself would put it, malarkey. In the same newspaper the following day, WAPO's Marianna Sotomayor noted promotion of the Great Replacement Theory by the wildly popular right-wing talk show host Tucker Carlson, as well as by three Republican US Representatives- Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Nevertheless, Sotomayor properly emphasized the advocacy of New York State's Elise Stefanik. In a Facebook ad posted by her campaign last September, the third highest-ranking GOP House member contended

Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.

At the time, Stefanik's hometown newspaper editorialized

Ms. Stefanik isn’t so brazen as to use the slogans themselves; rather, she couches the hate in alarmist anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s become standard fare for the party of Donald Trump. And she doesn’t quite attack immigrants directly; instead, she alleges that Democrats are looking to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants in order to gain a permanent liberal majority, or, as she calls it, a “permanent election insurrection.

So perhaps this was not surprising:

Stefanik is much too slick to say "let immigrant babies die" or "keep the Latinos out."  However, as Yale professor Philip Gorski has told Greg Sargent, "first, it was the entertainment wing of the GOP. Now it's the political wing as well." New York Times reporters Nicholas Confesore and Karen Yourish recognize that versions of the ideas espoused in the manifesto of Payton S. Gendron, the apparent perpetrator of the mass murder in Buffalo

sanded down and shorn of explicitly anti-Black and antisemitic themes, have become commonplace in the Republican Party — spoken aloud at congressional hearings, echoed in Republican campaign advertisements and embraced by a growing array of right-wing candidates and media personalities.

Republican leaders have been spouting rhetoric which itself goes well beyond President Biden's adjectives of “petty,” “mean-spirited,” “extreme” and “beyond the pale.”  Nor is the Republican invective relegated to an "ultra-MAGA" wing, whatever that is. It is deep in the heart of leadership, including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. That is the partisan vitriol infecting the country and it has no parallel in the Democratic Party, even as some reporters pretend otherwise.



This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...