Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Pelosis, Random Victims



The show began

This is the Ingraham Angle from Washington tonight. Thank you for joining us.

They're desperate, I tell you, desperate! to find any edge on Republicans as midterms approach. In the aftermath of this hideous attack on Paul Pelosi in their San Francisco home, of course we hope and pray for his full recovery from this disgusting attack. The question is will Democrats attempt to use the attacks of lone lunatics to chill political speech.



Her (fallacious) answer is of course. Though the rest of Laura Ingraham's monologue had nothing to do with the apparent terrorist attack in San Francisco, her rant was a fine display of conservative grievance politics. But that is not what makes her remarks dangerous.

I may be going out on the limb here, but I have a hunch that, whatever her hope, Laura Ingraham is not praying for Paul Pelosi's full recovery.

Nor is the atrocious assault by David DePape an attack of a "lone lunatic."  There are approximately 362,000 households in San Francisco. DePape decided to break into the home of the Speaker of the Untied States House of Representatives.  There are approximately 888,000 people residing in San Francisco. The alleged perpetrator did not yell out "where's Janet" or "where's Michelle" or "where's Ashley." He yelled "where's Nancy" and, given that it was Mr. Paul Pelosi he was attacking, the betting here is he was targeting the most powerful and most hated woman in the USA.

We don't know whether the alleged culprit is mentally ill, although most mentally ill individuals don't take a hammer to the head of someone else, and the vast majority of violent offenders are not "crazy" or "lunatics."  We can assume that DePape's choice of the Pelosi couple had something to do with Nancy's position as probably the second most powerful individual in the nation.  Had the Speaker been home, it would have qualified as an assassination attempt.

"Mental illness" has been a dodge for decades, in and out of politics- here by a Putin sympathizer. For most of that time, it has been largely harmless.  Of late, it has become the GOP excuse for avoiding gun safety legislation, and will increasingly be used to wave away political violence. 




Saturday, October 29, 2022

"Where's Nancy?"


Eleven days before Election Day, the Fox News spin machine is in high gear, even during discussion of the violent attack upon Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer cite recent cases of election intimidation, the latter remarks "

point being, depending on how the circumstances of this story work out here, crime hits everybody..... point being, this can happen anywhere and that's why it's such a significant part of this election story here.

By this reasoning, a random act of violence, which can hit anybody, anywhere takes place when

According to a person briefed on the case, who spoke with The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to describe the details, (alleged assailant David) DePape was searching for Speaker Pelosi when he entered, shouting out, “Where is Nancy?”

Moreover

police were dispatched to the Pelosi home at about 2:30 in the morning, where they found both DePape and Pelosi holding a hammer. DePape allegedly pulled the hammer away from Pelosi and attacked him, before a police officer tackled DePape. Both men were taken to a hospital, Scott said. The motive behind the attack is still under investigation.

DePape is said to have shouted "Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?" before beating Paul Pelosi in an incident which Hemmer claims "can happen anywhere." It probably was an attack planned and executed by a far-right conspiratorialist bent on killing Speaker Pelosi and inspired by an ex-President who has long been publicly partial to violence enemies and others. Probably.

There are two other, less likely, possibilities, one that a "secretly gay" Paul Pelosi was attacked by a crazy Grindr pickup, a "grinder hookup gone terribly wrong," which combines the qualities of denying it was a MAGA-style assault with an  assertion that Nancy Pelosi's husband is gay, a jibe against the hated Speaker herself.

Less discussed, but at least a realistic (though improbable) possibility:

 

Greene probably was referring to the consummation of Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter.  Yet

 

There is probably nothing, or at least next to nothing, there. But:

 

Maybe Representative Greene would lie, as she has done before, and flawlessly. But it's at least a question worth asking, especially when Trump TV will exploit the assault to reinforce their narrative of apathy of Democrats to urban crime.

 


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Blunder


Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania demonstrated that he is not a good debater. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in the Senate debate, Fetterman "appeared less polished than his" opposition and was "uncomfortable" with "frequent criticism." He had, as noted, "campaigned in a way that had, until now, largely shielded him from scrutiny on a big stage."

Those words were written on April 22 the day after the primary debate among Fetterman, Representative Conor Lamb, and State Senator Malcolm Kenyatta.

Soon afterward, and shortly before the primary he won, the Lieutenant Governor suffered a stroke, effects of which were evident at the faceoff Tuesday night.

That may- or may not- have been why Fetterman did not jump on Mehmet Oz's now infamous remark

As a physician, I’ve been in the room when there’s some difficult conversations happening. I don’t want the federal government involved with that at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.

Local political leaders? Picture a tearful of fearful pregnant woman in an office with her doctor and, say, Senator Ted Cruz- or perhaps Q Anon- adjacent Doug Mastriano, who will remain a Pennsylvania state senator after he loses the gubernatorial race to Democrat Josh Shapiro in two weeks. Better yet would have been Fetterman himself painting that picture.

Some of us are not quick on our feet. However, that's no excuse not to have prepared a pithy remark or two to undermine Mehmet Oz. 

When 37 seconds in, Fetterman stated "Send Dr. Oz back to New Jersey," that should not have been the high point of the debate for the Democrat. Yet, in the next 59 minutes and 23 seconds, the candidate whose social media feed once relentlessly slammed Oz for living outside of Pennsylvania, did not again utter "New Jersey."

Alex Norcia in The New York Times Magazine noted 7-8 weeks ago that the Fetterman campaign was (effectively) portraying Oz as "something that is, both regionally and nationwide, way more loathed: a guy from New Jersey."  He explained

It is, specifically, the idea that Oz is from New Jersey — a place that the rest of the country finds annoying and distasteful, and whose neighbors find it especially so — that resonates above all else....

Outsiders tend to see an obnoxious land of corrupt lawmakers, oil refineries and expensive tolls, the area you pass through on your way from Philadelphia to New York City.

It is a largely misleading stereotype, but worse yet (though unmentioned by Norcia): Oz is from north Jersey, the home of the "New York" Giants and "New York" Jets. Nonetheless, Fetterman made only a feeble effort on Tuesday night to connect his opponent to Pennsylvania's neighbor to the east. One possibility would have been  "I'd like your vote to continue fighting for Pennsylvanians, as I have as Lieutenant Governor. Mehmet Oz wants to be the third Senator from New Jersey."

There was at least one more failure. Appropriately, the debate's moderators referred to "Mr. Oz" and "Mr. Fetterman" while the Democratic candidate, incomprehensibly, referred to "Dr. Oz," rendering the Republican the legitimacy he arguably does not deserve and inarguably should not be granted by his opponent. Moreover, in this informal age, in which people often dress casually for church and funerals, hug rather than shake hands, and address strangers by their first name, there is no good reason for an opponent not to call Oz "Mehmet."  None.

John Fetterman may yet prevail in this race. However, it is one which should not have been close, stroke or not.

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Insurrection as Crime


"The left defunded the police and let criminals out of jail."

 

Odd, his tweets always read like they are directed at semi-literate, low-information, gullible people who require small words, short sentences and zero facts.

Unfortunately, many voters are gullible people possessing little information and requiring small words, short sentences, and zero facts. So they responded positively when Republicans, approximately a month ago

unleashed a barrage of negative ads in the final weeks of the midterms that hammer Democrats on crime.

In at least two states, the strategy appears to be taking hold.

Recent polling suggests that after GOP Senate candidates zeroed in on crime in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the trajectory of the races shifted. In Wisconsin in particular, the negative ads have relentlessly targeted Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is challenging Sen. Ron Johnson.

“They’ve all got the same crib notes: Attack Democrats on crime,” said political science professor Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette University Law School poll.

A Democrat "who asked not to be named for fear of political retribution asked “Why has it taken so long to figure out an answer to this crime messaging?” Why does it feel like Ron Johnson had like a month to hammer away at Mandela unanswered?”

Well, of course, he or she feared political retribution. Mention "crime" and most people- by a long shot, not all of them white- think of street crime and think blacks. It's not an easy issue for Democrats to address, given their base of black-dominated civil rights organizations and their liberal white allies. Understandably, though repulsively, the GOP ads sometimes feature unnamed young black males and, even when they do not, omit faces of white criminals.

The valid "crime is not committed by blacks because they are black" explanation does not fit easily into a political slogan or a campaign ad. Yet, Democrats know they cannot cede the playing field to the GOP.

There has been a Democratic crime message just begging to be used.  It has been out in the open, visible to all, for the better part of a year. It even has a name- "January 6."

The Democratic Party could have adopted a unifying message, one circumventing the conflict (mostly manufactured by the media, but still) between emphasis on abortion and emphasis on inflation, gas prices, or what the superficial punditocracy sometimes refers to as "kitchen table issues." (The 1970s wants its family lifestyle back.)

Ads would feature footage of the insurrection which took place on January 6, 2021. They could have been accompanied with a voiceover referring to an attempt to overthrow the government, an effort to destroy the United States of America as we have known it.   Blame would be laid upon Republicans- or at least among "MAGA Republicans" as the timid would prefer, while making clear that these latter are representative of the Republican Party itself.

In the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, in the greatest political irony ever, stated

- “If Hillary Clinton were to be elected, it would create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis. Haven’t we just been through a lot with the Clintons, right?”

- “Hillary is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in a criminal trial.”

- “She'll be under investigation for years. She'll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work.”

-  If she were to win this election, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial.”

- “Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency and we will make it honestly, look, it's gonna be virtually impossible for her to govern. Now, the Republicans have talked very tough and the Democrats. It's gonna be just another mess for another four years, folks. A mess. We've got to get back to work, right? I mean, we have to get back to work.”

Then Donald Trump pulled off one of the greatest, albeit most catastrophic, upsets in American political history, if not world history.   He did so in part by convincing a significant number of voters that if he lost, there would be endless chaos, investigations, and disruption. 

At 3:53 of this video above, a leading political behaviouralist explains that Republicans have been airing their crime videos because "you know, it's all more vivid. I guess, you get more of a visceral reaction, which is probably what ad makers are going for." Democrats could have turned the tables on the other guys and gals with a few ads of their own, even noting that Republicans have promised endless investigations if they get back into power, with impeachment of President Biden likely.

Remind the public that so many of these Republican officials- better yet, "Washington politicians"- support dangerous, violent thugs who want to destroy Americans and their way of life. Truth has its own appeal.


            




Sunday, October 23, 2022

Addressing Inflation



Dean Baker notes

The media have largely ignored the story of workers quitting bad jobs for ones that pay better and/or offer better working conditions.

It’s not just workers at the bottom who are doing better today than they were before the pandemic, tens of millions of homeowners were able to take advantage of the low mortgage interest rates that we had until the Fed rate hikes started. They refinanced their homes at rates that were often a percentage point or more below the rate they paid before the pandemic.

This could mean $2000-$3000 a year in interest savings for a typical homeowner. Are we really supposed to believe that these interest savings won’t cover paying $1 more for a gallon of milk at the supermarket? Obviously, no one is happy about paying higher prices for food and other items, but the families that were able to refinance are almost certainly better off today, even with the higher prices, than they were before the pandemic.

There is a similar story with the tens of millions of people who are now able to work from home as a result of changes workplaces implemented in the pandemic. These people are saving thousands of dollars a year in commuting costs. Are we really supposed to believe that these people are all worse off due to inflation, in spite of these savings?

It is worth noting that the average hourly wage has almost kept pace with inflation since the start of the pandemic. It’s down by just 0.7 percent (it dropped 3.9 percent during the “Reagan Boom”), so there is not that much ground that workers need to make up through paying lower mortgage interest or savings on commuting costs.

So, given the economic reality, is it plausible that everyone feels they are being devastated by inflation? That one doesn’t seem to fit, just like the story that everyone believed Social Security was in a crisis back in the 1990s didn’t make sense.

However, he recognizes

We know politicians can’t stick their necks out and say that inflation isn’t that bad, the media will mercilessly trash them for being out of touch. But people whose jobs don’t prevent them from telling the truth can point out what the data show. Most families are not being devastated by inflation, and that fact will not change no matter how many times the media and Republican politicians assert the opposite. 

However, the vast majority of persuadable voters will blow off the fairly complicated message that the economy isn't as they keep hearing it is. As summarized by Robert Kuttner, Democratic strategist Mike Lux favors a multi-pronged approach in which Democrats emphasize:

1. Wealthy corporations with monopoly power are jacking up their prices, and their profits are going through the roof.

2. Drug prices and health insurance premiums are going to go down because of the Inflation Reduction Act … Republicans have no plan of their own.

3. Seniors will be getting the biggest increase in their Social Security payments in 40 years … Republicans are talking about ending Social Security.

4. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States … and our infrastructure is being rebuilt. All of this will end our supply chain problems and create millions more good jobs.

5. I will fight for the Child Tax Credit, which will give parents up to $600 a month to help with groceries, gas, and housing. And I’m going to pay for it by taxing wealthy corporations and millionaires who are paying little or nothing in taxes right now. My opponent is against the Child Tax Credit

Falling just short of using the word "cut," Republicans have been clear that if put into power, they will reduce Social Security benefits, and it is political malpractice that Democrats have reduced this to nary an issue.  

But voters are in no mood to be informed that manufacturing jobs are returning, infrastructure is being built or rebuilt, and that the job market has been improving. They are simply in a sour mood, and don't want to hear that things are not as bad as they've been told they are.

Voters will blame someone for inflation and Republicans want them to blame Joe Biden. Yet, as explained by the Economic Policy Institute, the "main components of cost" 

include labor costs, nonlabor inputs, and the “mark-up” of profits over the first two components. Good data on these separate cost components exist for the nonfinancial corporate (NFC) sector—those companies that produce goods and services—of the economy, which makes up roughly 75% of the entire private sector.

Since the trough of the COVID-19 recession in the second quarter of 2020, overall prices in the NFC sector have risen at an annualized rate of 6.1%—a pronounced acceleration over the 1.8% price growth that characterized the pre-pandemic business cycle of 2007–2019. Strikingly, over half of this increase (53.9%) can be attributed to fatter profit margins, with labor costs contributing less than 8% of this increase. This is not normal. From 1979 to 2019, profits only contributed about 11% to price growth and labor costs over 60%, as shown in Figure A below. Nonlabor inputs—a decent indicator for supply-chain snarls—are also driving up prices more than usual in the current economic recovery.

As luck would have it, this was exactly Representative Katie Porter's point, that corporate greed is most responsible for inflation.



Don't defend; accuse. That's why Porter's argument and Lux's point #1 constitute the best approach.  It's a message that doesn't have to be- or because Election Day is almost upon us- didn't have to be wonky or complicated.  Everyone understands gluttony, and resents it in others. A message attacking corporations for disagreeable inflation would have been in keeping with the great American tradition- perhaps even of human nature-  of blaming someone.

 


Friday, October 21, 2022

Tweet of the Day- Chaos (and Worse)



This is the Trump position, and the ascendant if not dominant one on the right. We win or it's rigged.


Yes, it is the ascendant, probably the dominant, position of the right. Heads we win; tails, you lose. Similarly: if we're acquitted, the trial is fair; if we lose, it's rigged.

Devin Nunes, chief executive of Donald Trump's social media operation, claims

 ... that we have this other problem, that if you get tired as a Republican in a- one of the large cities, large jurisdiction in this country- there is a high likelihood that you're going to be on the losing side of that argument in court. Um, and this is- this is what's developed now, this two-tiered justice system.

Actually, that's quite clever, and analogous to the famous rants of Donald Trump about the "Deep State." There might be a deep state somewhere in American government, but not anything alleged by Trump. Similarly, people across the political spectrum sense there is a two-tiered justice system.  There separate tiers for the wealthy and all others, not one for Democrats and one for Republicans.

Major trials are disproportionately conducted in major cities and if the public views a jury with at least one black face (almost always the case), conservatives will lap up any claim that the conviction was biased. It's a corollary to the Party which complains about federal law enforcement while proclaiming "Back the Blue," a slavish devotion to local law enforcement, perceived as a bulwark against lawless young black males.

It's a brilliant move: "if we lose an election, it's rigged" and "if we're convicted in a court of law, it's rigged,"  It adds up to this:

 


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Satan's Immigration Position



When Republicans urge the overthrow of government and seek control of government to eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, immigration issues are often exploited as a diversion. However, former CBS correspondent Lara Logan, while pledging undying fealty to the God of the Scriptures, appears to be a true believer. She tells a supportive News Max host 

God believes in sovereignty, national identity, and the sanctity of family and all the things that we've lived with since the beginning of time and he knows that the open border is Satan's way of talking control of the world through all of these people who are his stooges and his servants. And they may think that they're going to become God, they tell us, Gerald and Haari and the rest of them at the World Economic Forum. You know, the ones who want us eating insects, cockroaches, and that while they dine on the blood of children.

For sheer entertainment value that ranks high, though neither cockroaches nor the blood of children is high on my list of dinner selections..

The twentieth chapter of Deuteronomy is famous for its advocacy of the death penalty for a wide variety of infractions. In it, we learn that God has directed Moses to inform the Israelites that death is the punishment for bestiality, incest, homosexuality, or practicing the occult. The sanctity of the family is addressed by warning that  "anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death," as are a man who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the latter also to be executed.  (Abortion somehow was omitted.)

Jesus himself became a refugee when "an angel of the Lord" appeared to Joseph and told him to take his wife and his son to Egypt to escape murder at the hands of King Herod. In that Old Testament bible Jesus was said to have read, God encouraged the prophet Jeremiah "not (to) oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow" and told him to issue the warning "Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow."  The prophet Zechariah warned "do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor."

And Jesus assured his disciples that when he returns as King and Judge,  he'll remember "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in."

If refugees, or strangers, or aliens were to be accepted- as appears to be the case- there was an even greater imperative to treat individuals fairly once among you.  In the first chapter of Deuteronomy, we read "And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you." 

Twenty three chapters later there is "do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that fellow is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns."  So I could argue that the priority is not to exploit any workers, as in encouraging immigration and then allowing the individual to be exploited because he or she has not been given citizenship.

But I won't do so because- however God is perceived- times change, people change, and issues change, especially over a couple of thousand years.  However, if He is a closed borders enthusiast, God had a funny way of telling us. 




Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Elderly, Targeted




 Good question with a simple, sarcastic answer.

 

The Washington Post reports 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that if Republicans win control of the House the GOP will use raising the debt limit as leverage to force spending cuts — which could include cuts to Medicare and Social Security — and limit additional funding to Ukraine.

“You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,” the California Republican told Punchbowl News in a recent interview. “And if people want to make a debt ceiling [for a longer period of time], just like anything else, there comes a point in time where, okay, we’ll provide you more money, but you got to change your current behavior.”

“We’re not just going to keep lifting your credit card limit, right,” he added. “And we should seriously sit together and [figure out] where can we eliminate some waste? Where can we make the economy grow stronger?”

Pressed on whether changes to the entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security were part of the debt ceiling discussions, McCarthy said he would not “predetermine” anything.

The debt limit — the country’s borrowing cap — will need to be lifted next year to protect the country’s credit score and to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt. But McCarthy suggested that his party would be willing to hold the debt limit up for policy changes.

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds and other payments. The debt limit is not new spending but rather allows the government to finance existing legal obligations.

It is right there in the proposed budget plan from the Republican Study Committee, which proposed “raising the eligibility ages for each program, along with withholding payments for individuals who retire early or had a certain income, and privatized funding for Social Security to lower income taxes.”

As Steve Benen notes,  If Republicans gain the majority, "they’ll demand changes to Social Security and Medicare, and if the White House balks, GOP lawmakers will simply refuse to raise the debt ceiling." Worse come to worse, they reason, at least they'll  crash the economy, and that's not nothing.

When Kevin McCarthy asks "where can we eliminate some waste?" his crew won't stop at earned benefits. The idea is to put on the table anything for the elderly, the poor, even the middle class. And they plan, if they don't get their way, to wreck the economy because that would pave the way for a GOP presidential victory in 2024.

We will need more than the occasional, though valuable, warning from President Biden:


 





Monday, October 17, 2022

Overly Cautious Strategy



Recognizing that there was no chance they'd garner 60 votes to pass this in their own chamber, Senate Democrats in July offered legislation

that would guarantee women can continue using contraception if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the long-standing precedent, the way it did with abortion.

But Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst blocked their efforts by objecting to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey’s request for unanimous consent to pass the bill, saying the measure went too far. Under Senate procedures, no roll call vote was taken.

Unanimous consent is a fast-track way to pass bills in the Senate, but any senator can object and block the legislation. The other path forward for bills would require the votes of 60 senators in the evenly divided Senate to advance beyond a filibuster....

Democratic lawmakers and advocates began raising alarm bells the day of the ruling about Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the case.

Thomas, who was nominated by President George H. W. Bush, wrote that the justices should reconsider all the precedents that rely on the substantive due process legal reasoning that kept abortion legal nationwide for nearly half a century.

Thomas specifically cited the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling that recognized married couples’ right to use contraception, the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling that invalidated laws criminalizing adult private consensual sexual relationships, and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriages...

The House-passed contraception bill and the Senate version would specifically protect oral contraceptives, long-acting reversible contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, internal and external condoms, injectables, vaginal barrier methods, transdermal patches, and vaginal rings, or other contraceptives.

The measures would allow the attorney general, an individual or a health care provider to file a civil lawsuit against any government or person who violates the law.


 

Abortion, as well as continuance of democracy, held the opportunity- a realistic, obvious opportunity- for Democrats to set the terms for the elections this cycle.  Instead:

Reproductive freedom, as well as continuance of democracy, presented a realistic, obvious opportunity for Democrats to set the terms of debate for this election cycle. Yet, in Senate races which should have been won easily, in Pennsylvania and Georgia respectively, the Democratic nominee is focusing on his opponent's elitism or playing defense and looking not to offend. In most of the country, Democratic candidates have decided that drilling down on an issue or on the authoritarian preference of Republicans is simply too risky.

A vacuum must be filled. Lacking a compelling message from the Democratic Party, most voters are now motivated by inflation/gas prices, somewhat by crime.  If this continues through Election Day, Democrats will have themselves at least in part to blame.


 




Saturday, October 15, 2022

Mum Should Be the Word


Tulsi Gabbard, continuing her tour explaining why she no longer belongs to the Party which she wanted to represent as the presidential nominee way back in 2020, has told Chris Cuomo


We should- our President needs to step up and bring the stakeholders around the table and have a negotiated end to this war that has been escalating ever since Putin invaded Ukraine back in February. That's what a leader would do. That's what President JFK would do. That's what Ronald Reagan....

After Cuomo followed up, Gabbard added

If you look at what the reports were when representatives from Russia and Ukraine were actually negotiating all the way back in March, it was the united States that was coming in and saying "Hey, no, don't make a deal here. Don't make a deal. Hold out."

The host responds, and the guest continues

There was a time, there was a time, early on, where both Russia and Ukraine were saying "Hey, we need to have a conversation. It was the President of the United States and maybe others in NATO who were telling them "leave the negotiating table." Every single American should be pissed off about that because who has suffered the most? The people of Ukraine have suffered the most and people here in the United States are continuing to struggle and wonder the hell are we doing here.



If untrue, this is dangerous revisionist history because it pertains to the USA's approach to a negotiated peace. Gabbard cited no evidence in defense of her (alleged) recollection. Journalist Julia Mendel, once a press secretary for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote in September of her

visit to Zelensky’s headquarters in Kyiv a few weeks ago. There, not far from the spot where I once worked as Zelensky’s press secretary, I met with senior presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. (These days Podolyak is often described as one of the most powerful people in Ukraine, not far behind the president himself.)

As Podolyak pointed out to me, it’s a myth — often asserted by the Russians, by the way — that Ukraine isn’t ready for talks. In fact, Podolyak already has experience of sitting at a table opposite a delegation from Moscow. In February, he was part of the Ukrainian negotiation team that met with Russian representatives at the border with Belarus just as the war was getting underway.

The Russian negotiators, fully believing their own propaganda, issued ultimatums to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.

“They kept calling us ‘Nazis,’ ” he told me. “It shows you how degraded Russian diplomacy and consequently the political process is.” He told me that even some of the members of the Russian delegation he has known for years referred to him with this label.

The Ukrainian delegation came with a mandate to do everything it could to start a dialogue. At the time, Russia was killing countless Ukrainian citizens and destroying Ukrainian cities; Ukraine had prevented the Russian troops from taking the capital but had not yet fully driven them out of the area to the north of Kyiv. The Kremlin demanded that Ukrainians lay down their arms and surrender. “They were completely unprepared,” Podolyak recalls. “The Russians knew nothing about the state of our army. They described some of our bases, which are exclusively under Ukrainian jurisdiction, as NATO bases. … The only thing they had to offer was war and blackmail.”

The last round of talks, held in Turkey at the end of March, ended with the Ukrainians handing over a communique with a proposal to end the war.

The Ukrainian delegation presented a proposal for a new system of security guarantees that would define Ukraine’s status as a neutral nonaligned nonnuclear state. Ukraine offered to negotiate the status of Crimea separately within 15 years, without the use of military means. Separately, the presidents of Ukraine and Russia would discuss the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The Russians responded by saying that they would give Ukraine a gift “that would please them very much.” That meant, Podolyak said, “that they would withdraw their troops from Kyiv region.” (By then, of course, Ukrainian fighters had already defeated the Russian forces marching on Kyiv.)

But what the Ukrainians discovered after the withdrawal filled them with horror. In Bucha, investigators discovered the bodies of more than 400 civilians — their hands often tied behind their backs — who were shot by the Russian invaders. There is evidence of torture and rape. Hundreds remain missing. What the Ukrainians saw was shocking in its brutality, this “not only canceled out the Istanbul communique but also our understanding of what Russia is.”

I asked what he meant by this: “We saw that the Russian army wasn’t just fighting, it was destroying,” Podolyak told me. “And they were doing it on the principle of genocide — not on the basis of ethnicity but of affiliation with the Ukrainian state. As if it didn’t matter who you were ethnically, what language you spoke, they would kill because you were a citizen of Ukraine.”

Even after visiting the site of the massacres on April 4, Zelensky still confirmed his readiness to negotiate: “We strive for peace, we deserve it. And these people showed it, and the Armed Forces showed it. Peace is impossible without victory.” And yet, he added: “We do not want to lose millions of people. That is why there should be dialogue.

Maybe Biden (or the State Department) did throw a monkey wrench into negotiations- but it appears otherwise. If Tulsi Gabbard doesn't have hard evidence to back up her serious allegation, she needs to remember that silence is golden.




Thursday, October 13, 2022

Bad Judgement


In what should itself be a disturbing passage, Patricia Mazzei, the Miami bureau chief for The New York Times, editorializes- uh, er, writes

Nikolas Cruz, the profoundly disturbed young man who carried out a massacre in the hallways of his former high school four years ago, igniting an anti-gun-violence movement led by students raised in an era of mass shootings, should not be condemned to death and instead should spend the rest of his life in prison, a state jury said on Thursday.

The jury of seven men and five women decided that Mr. Cruz should get life in prison without the possibility of parole for all 17 first-degree murder counts in the case, following less than a day of deliberations in a grueling and often emotional sentencing trial.

"Disturbed" is a conclusion, one which defense counsel wanted the jury to draw. There is no category for "disturbed" in criminal law, though there is "disturbance of the peace," which is slightly less than the murder of seventeen innocent strangers. The Google search engine would take the curious to "temporary insanity," which defense attorneys did not plead, lest they themselves be accused of being insane.  Nonetheless, Mazzei reports

Nikolas Cruz was born a damaged person, Melisa McNeill, the lead public defender in his sentencing trial, told jurors during her closing argument on Tuesday.

She described Mr. Cruz as “poisoned” by his biological mother’s heavy drinking while she was pregnant with him. That led to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which was misdiagnosed by experts throughout Mr. Cruz’s life, Ms. McNeill said, despite the slew of developmental problems and sometimes violent behavior he exhibited, which overwhelmed his adoptive mother.

But as another Times reporter noted ten days ago

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz told a prosecution psychiatrist he began contemplating a mass murder during middle school, doing extensive research on earlier killers to learn their methods and mistakes to shape his own plans, video played at his penalty trial showed Monday.

Cruz told Dr. Charles Scott during a March jailhouse interview that five years before he murdered 17 at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, he read about the 1999 murder of 13 at Colorado's Columbine High School, which first sparked the idea of his own mass killing.

Cruz told Scott how Columbine, the 2007 murder of 32 at Virginia Tech University and the 2012 killing of 12 at a Colorado movie theater all played a part in his own preparation.

"I studied mass murderers and how they did it," Cruz told Scott. "How they planned, what they got and what they used." He said he learned to watch for people coming around corners to stop him, to keep some distance from people as he fired, to attack "as fast as possible" and, in the earlier attacks, "the police didn't do anything."

"I should have the opportunity to shoot people for about 20 minutes," Cruz said.

The Parkland attack was not the impulsive act of a "disturbed" (whatever that is) person, provoked by the victims, or induced by another immediate factor. It was a premeditated act of murder committed by someone with a history of violence, who conducted extensive research, purchased a semi-automatic weapon in 2018, and modified the firearm.

That is the portrait of someone less disturbed than evil.  Many such people exist, notwithstanding our wish to the contrary. Some of the even were birthed by an alcoholic matter, and whose resulting condition may have gone misdiagnosed. Unlike Nikola Cruz, they are not bloodthirsty, nor so disciplined as to plan assiduously such a horrific crime.  Today, a jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, determined to grant mercy, cast aside its duty to pursue justice.



 



Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Crime is the Message, But Only the Message


NBC News notes

Inflation and the economy may be the centerpiece of the GOP sell to voters ahead of November’s elections. But in recent months, the party has doubled down on the issue of crime, running ads across the country in key races accusing Democratic messaging and policy of failing to combat crime.

The harshest example of where that rhetoric has led may have come over the weekend, when Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville claimed Democrats were “pro-crime” because “they want to control what you have” and want “reparations” for “the people that do the crime.

Crime, with its insinuations about race, is uppermost in the mind of Republicans as candidates- and Democrats as, well, Democrats.  However, it is not paramount in GOP thinking as legislators or public officials. Rather, as Jonathan Chait writes

Bloomberg’s Jack Fitzpatrick interviewed several Republican contenders to lead the House Budget Committee. They all said, with varying levels of specificity, that they plan to instigate a debt-ceiling standoff to force Biden to accept cuts to retirement and health-care programs. “Our main focus has got to be on nondiscretionary — it’s got to be on entitlements,” said Representative Buddy Carter. Representative Jodey Arrington said he wants “eligibility reforms,” which means raising the eligibility age and imposing a means test for Social Security and Medicare benefits. “We should ensure that we keep the promises that were made to the people who really need it, the people who are relying on it,” said Representative Lloyd Smucker. “So some sort of means-testing potentially would help to ensure that we can do that"...

With means testing, the GOP would turn Medicare and Social Security into welfare programs. Then, of course, the GOP would attack welfare and urge voters to reject Democratic politicians wanting to hand out "free stuff."

Chait adds

Last June, the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus that includes more than three-quarters of the House Republicans, released a sweeping domestic-budget plan. It received little attention in the mainstream media. The plan, notes Fitzpatrick, would

gradually raise the Medicare age of eligibility to 67 and the Social Security eligibility to 70 before indexing both to life expectancy. It backed withholding payments to those who retired early and had earnings over a certain limit. And it endorsed the consideration of options to reduce payroll taxes that fund Social Security and redirect them to private alternatives. It also urged lawmakers to “phase-in an increase in means testing” for Medicare.

Conservative media, wary of public backlash, ignored these planned cuts to earned benefits and instead celebrated the other proposals of the NSC, including ones pertaining  to energy production, immigration, China, and transsexuals. Chait concludes by explaining that Representative Arrington told Bloomberg's Fitzpatrick

he would prefer not to detail his proposals because “this can get so politicized.” Politicized, of course, is a term people use when they want the political system to advance their policy agenda without discussing it openly. The plan is to round up party support quietly, gain power without discussing it, then force the opposing party to make it happen.

The other bait-and-switch was almost inevitable in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests (uniformly applauded by Democrats and media centrists), which in a very few instances included violence perpetrated by a few participants. Video of the activism, seen endlessly by Fox News viewers and others, heightened fear to an irrational level. Thus followed the other bait-and-switch: crime! in Democrat cities! 

This is an election year in which Republicans can win only if Democrats allow them to hide their overarching goal of pandering to their donors, curbing the middle and lower classes, and reinforcing rule of, by, and for the economic elite.


 


Monday, October 10, 2022

Valid Criticism from Awful Ex-Governor


At a fund-raiser on October 6 in New York City, President Biden stated

We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We are trying to figure out: What is Putin's off-ramp? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?

On Friday evening's Real Time, Bill Maher asked his panel of Chris Christie and journalists Chris Wallace and Katty Kay to respond to a question from an audience member about Biden's invocation of "Armageddon."  Although a supporter of the President's Afghanistan policy, Kay wisely stated (as can be seen beginning at 6:45 of the video below)

I'm not sure the use of the word "Armageddon" is very helpful. I mean, Putin wants us to be afraid and you can- I mean, half of Europe is up in arms about him saying "Armageddon" because actually all that does is play in to Putin's desire to make us afraid. You can say there's a serious threat and there is a serious threat....

Historian Timothy Snyder, who believes Russian forces probably will eventually pull out of Ukraine, notes  "Right now, though, we have a certain difficulty seeing how Ukraine gets to victory, even as the Ukrainians advance.  This is because many of our imaginations are trapped by a single and rather unlikely variant of how the war ends: with a nuclear detonation."

Perhaps stuck in the 1960s-1970s, Biden painted a more worrisome scenario, seemingly unaware that even if Putin were to launch a nuclear weapon, the consequences would be less severe than they would have been during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962, it was widely assumed that escalation would result in an exchange of strategic, rather than tactical, nuclear weapons, possibly resulting in the end of civilization. Moreover, the extent of development of tactical nuclear weapons by both the USA and the USSR was largely unknown during the period in which Joe Biden was emerging as a prominent public official, which probably informs his understanding of nuclear firepower.

By contrast, Katty Kay would maintain "Bill Burns, the director of the CIA who thank goodness used to be the ambassador to Moscow has made it very clear to the Russians that were they to launch any kind of tactical or small nuclear weapon...."

Also making sense (and it's hard to type those words) was Christie, the former terrible governor of New Jersey, failed presidential candidate, and (usually) Trump supporter. He remarks (beginning at 7:54)

when he says nuclear Armageddon, it's clear to me doesn't understand it because he's causing alarm in a way that is not productive- like, you know, what if you really think that, then go and try to fix it but don't give us some pronouncements, scare the crap out of everybody.

Following a comment by Maher and one (dead on) from Wallace, Christie continued

To me, the problem with him saying this stuff is your job is not to be a weatherman when you're President. "Oh, let me show you what the map looks like." It's to go and come with a solution. And to say "oh, yeah, we're close to nuclear Armageddon we've been since 1962." Now, genius, what are you going to do about it?



The former disastrous governor is still what he always has been- charismatic, gruff-talking, opportunistic, egotistical, and up Donald Trump's rear end, albeit not as far as Ted Cruz and some others.

Nonetheless, the former dreadful governor, though far too smart a retail politician to put it this way, recognizes the disconnect between Biden's rhetoric and his actions. If the President truly believes that the world may be on its way to obliteration, he needs to be doing far more than he is. His actions don't meet the moment- if the situation is as dire as he describes it.

Fortunately, as Snyder and almost everyone else believe, it's very unlikely that strategic nuclear weapons will start flying. That's very good. Having to defend Chris Christie, the hideous former governor of New Jersey, is not.

 


Saturday, October 08, 2022

Tweet of the Day- Inflation


The unemployment rate isn't tangible to most people. And if you've recently obtained employment, you probably don't credit the President of the USA. So, no one cares.

Inflation is more tangible than job creation to people. It's especially important politically as expressed in gas prices, which drivers recognize as they stop at a gas station, or even pass by one and observe the numbers posted. Thus, from "an organizational strategy hub for left-leaning organizations that helps identify key elections":

 

(Wife, presumably): "Did you get coffee?"

(Husband, presumably): "I did. And it got us right back."

(Wife, presumably): "What? Whoa. This inflation is no joke."

(Husband, presumably): "Yeah. Republicans need to stop whining and start helping."

 

Many independent voters blame both sides, which they experience as complaining, as whining.  Talk, talk, talk and nothing gets done, they themselves complain. They're looking for elected officials to do something.

Inflation is the issue most on the minds of voters, and this ad turns the issue back on the GOP. Democratic politicians themselves are reluctant to blame Republicans but this ad reminds voters that Republicans complain without offering solutions. Nice.

 

Friday, October 07, 2022

Shooting of a Different Hue


In February, the family of a black juvenile arrested in New Jersey hired renown lawyer Benjamin Crump and

Z’Kye Husain appeared Friday on CNN with Crump and his mother, Ebone Husain, to discuss the viral video showing police officers in Bridgewater, N.J., responding to a fight at a mall and arresting Husain, who is Black, but not arresting the other participant in the fight, who was Latino.

Z’Kye, who is in eighth grade, told CNN’s John Berman he got into the fight with an 11th grader to defend a friend of his. During the arrest, Z’Kye said he felt “inferior” and “less important.”

“I was mad that they treated me differently,” he said.

In the video, a white male officer tackles the Black teen to the ground and handcuffs him, while a white female officer sits the Latino teen down as her partner makes the arrest. The female officer then walks away from the Latino teen, who is not cuffed, and assists with detaining the Black teen.

Wait for it...

Crump, who has worked with the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, said the incident shows “there are two justice systems in America.”

“One for Black America and one for white America,” he said. “The reason I think this video is so viral is because now we see it. People have been saying forever that police treat us differently, and we have to do something about this.”

(It appears the incident is still being investigated by the county prosecutor's office. assisting "an internal affairs investigation that is strictly adhering to the New Jersey Attorney General's Internal Affairs Directive.")

Crump argues that there are two justice systems in the USA, the premise of his well-paid activism. However, there are thousands more, each local law enforcement force being unique.  Sometimes police officers are overzealous, whatever the race of the suspect. Case in point:

A San Antonio police officer still in his probationary period was fired after he shot at and injured a 17-year-old boy in the parking lot of McDonald's, the department said Wednesday.

The teenager, Erik Cantu, is hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds. His condition was not known Friday morning.

The officer, identified as James Brennand, responded to the fast-food eatery on Blanco Road around 10:45 p.m. Sunday for an unrelated disturbance call, according to police.

"As the officer attempted to gather information from witnesses, he noticed a vehicle that had evaded him the day before as the officer attempted a stop because the registered license plate did not match the actual vehicle," Capt. Alyssa Campos, the department’s training commander, said in a video statement.

The car, driven by Cantu, was not the subject of the disturbance call at the McDonald's, according to Campos.

The officer, believing the car was stolen, called "for cover" but approached the vehicle before other officers arrived, she said. Campos said the officer "abruptly" opened the driver's door and ordered Cantu to get out.

Police body-camera footage released by the department shows Cantu sitting in the driver's seat eating a McDonald's hamburger. A 17-year-old girl is in the passenger's seat.

"Get out of the car," the officer says to Cantu, the video shows.

Cantu put the car in reverse with the driver's door still open and backed up, Campos said, adding the officer was hit by the open door.

"The officer then stepped back and opened fire on the vehicle as the driver reversed away from him," she said.

Multiple gunshots can be heard in the video as the maroon car backs away and the driver's door closes. More shots are fired as the car flees the parking lot, the video shows.

Cantu and his passenger were found about a block away. The passenger was not injured.

Police charged Cantu with evading detention with a vehicle and assault on a peace officer. It's not clear if he has obtained an attorney who can speak on his behalf. Police have not said if the car was, in fact, stolen.

The matter has been referred to the district attorney's office for investigation and Brennand, easily dismissed because he was still on probation with the department, has not been charged with an offense.

It's only two days since Erik Cantu was shot in Texas.  Benjamin Crump will be arriving shortly in San Antonio to preen before cameras and represent the Cantu family.  Cable news outlets will cover this incident extensively, emphasizing the need to root out injustice and brutality in the nation's police forces.  And it will snow in Miami.



The Lie Laughed At Around the World

I suppose if a guy would in the Oval Office advocate the execution of "a staffer who leaked a story ," it's not surprising th...