Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Imperial Presidency?

Pema Levy in Mother Jones recalls that last August, Florida governor Ron DeSantis removed elected county prosecutor Andrew Warren, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional.  Moreover

Warren is not the only local elected official DeSantis has targeted. He’s booted school board members, an election supervisor, and a sheriff—all Democrats. DeSantis has turned the power of the state against political opponents, businesses that transgress his orthodoxy, and the education system and universities that serve as liberal bulwarks against illiberal rulers. DeSantis breeds fear of vulnerable groups for political advantage. As part of this politics of reprisal, he is imposing a uniform ideology upon Florida: anti-queer, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and patriarchal, through laws banning discussion of gender identity, systemic racism, and sexism. The “Free State of Florida,” he likes to say, “is where woke goes to die.” But his rhetoric scrambles reality. In fact, DeSantis has stoked a fear of wokeism to strip freedoms and amass power.

To stifle dissent, in 2021 DeSantis signed a law that would ramp up penalties for rioting but that civil rights groups warned would ensnare peaceful protesters; this spring he pushed legislation to unleash speech-­chilling lawsuits against news outlets.

Unsurprisingly, a Twitter debate has emerged over whether DeSantis would be a more authoritarian President than would Donald Trump if the latter were elected.  It's probably a close call, or at least almost impossible to determine now.

Aside from being a right-winger and would-be authoritarian, there may be an additional similarity between the Florida governor and the ex-President. Besides the habit of whining which binds the two men, it seems DeSantis would like to be a king.

Fashion magazine? If she became First Lady, Casey DeSantis would be the wife of the President of the United States of America, and her fashion sense would be irrelevant. Casey would not be a queen and Ron would not be a king- though it seems he'd like to be treated as one.

Obviously, this is another GOP complaint about Republicans being treated unfairly by the the meanies in the media. As usual, it is specious. Jill Biden dresses simultaneously fashionable and tasteful, yet isn't feted by a media which appears to believe that Ukraine, crime, immigration, the economy, education, the current budget battle and a whole lot of other issues are far more important.

I believe Mrs. Biden presents an excellent image for a First Lady, made at least a little more difficult because, unlike Mrs. DeSantis, she is not a youthful 42 years of age. Or perhaps you disagree, believing that Casey is the epitome of uplifting elegance while Jill fails to enhance her appearance.

But that would be the point: it doesn't matter, or at least it shouldn't.  The wives of the President are important only insofar as they influence the actions or statements of their husbands. We get caught up in this country obsessing, occasionally negatively and usually positively, about the First Lady, whomever she is.  Apparently, it is is considered feminist, or at least not misogynistic, to be so interested in details of a woman because of whom she is married to.

We had this with Melania Trump and still have it with Michelle Obama, neither of whom ever have, or will, run for public office, nor probably ever serve as a government employee. That's the life they've chosen for themselves and good for them, and especially for Jill Biden, who does not draw attention away from the actual leader of the Free World. 

We should hope that, in the unfortunate (and very unlikely) circumstance that Ron DeSantis becomes President, he does not suffer uncontrollably if his subjects do not think of him as King and his wife as Queen. An imperial presidency would not be ideal.


Monday, May 29, 2023

Hearing What We Want to Hear

Perhaps you can discern the irony in the following tweet.

Of course, it would be foolish for President Biden to say what a good deal he hammered out with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy if the impediment to approval is the far right of the Republican caucus. That probably is the case, as the complaints from the House's Freedom Caucus roll in. 

If the challenge were from the left side of the Democratic caucus, it still wouldn't move Biden. The center-left wing of the Party has been taking the progressive wing for granted for years now, and it has been largely effective strategy. 

One consistently overlooked instance was during the 2020 presidential nominating process, when Biden was being routed and looking forward to the upcoming South Carolina primary, in which a majority of voters would be black. Biden promised at a debate that his first nomination to the US Supreme Court would be a black woman, Representative James Clyburn endorsed him a few days later, and Biden won the primary going away. Though having written much of the 1994 anti-crime bill, which would be partially blamed for the mass incarceration which millions of Democrats protested a few months later, Biden went on to sweep the field and become the party's nominee.  Play the right card, and liberal Democrats can be bought off cheaply.

Yet, the President was less than brilliant when he remarked "one of the things that I heard some of you saying is why doesn't Biden say what a good deal it is? You think that's going to help get it passes. No. That's why you guys don't bargain very well."

By lecturing the press, Biden was in fact explicitly doing what he denied he was doing: he was maintaining that it was in fact a good deal. He made it clear that the only reason he didn't say that it is a good deal is not because it isn't- but because it's not going to help get it passed.

Biden was so intent on spanking the press that he (slightly) undermined his own position.  The tweeter quoted at the beginning of this post evidently believes that the Administration negotiated effectively. Well, maybe: if it holds- a big if- it's a better deal than we could have expected a week or so ago.

Nonetheless, that's far more likely the impact of the Democratic negotiators than of Biden himself. The President's strategy was awful, asserting that he would not bargain with hostage-takers. That approach may have worked, but only if the President were resolute. (He stated that he wouldn't negotiate over raising the debt limit itself, and arguably did not, but obviously did talk to McCarthy and a deal was hammered out.) If the agreement announced does hold, it's a triumph not of strategy, directed by Biden, but of the tactics of his negotiating team.

Ultimately, the outcome is what matters. However, it would be helpful if we Democrats view honestly and accurately what our President says and does, rather than getting caught up in unrealistic adulation.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Real Anti-Trump Path

History doesn't always repeat, circumstances change over time, and Republican voters are not identical to Democratic voters. In the following podcast of Breaking Points. in which Emily Jashinsky told Krystal Ball discussed polling results which display Joe Biden's vulnerability in a general election and even in being nominated. They transitioned into addressing the Republican race for the nomination and Jashinsky caught my eye (ear, really) when she remarked (at 3:02 of the video below)

When I think about Tim Scott's campaign, uh, they're saying, like literally, we have no idea what's going to happen a year from now. We have no idea what's going to transpire, so we're just going to kind of wait in the wings and see what happens and we'll be the best in position if, if something changes.

The conventional wisdom is that Donald Trump's campaign is most likely to be upended or stymied if the candidate is indicted (beyond Manhattan) and GOP voters become considerably wary that the ex-President could not be elected because of his legal troubles. However, not only is there another path to defeating Trump as the nominee but it the one which Tim Scott- and perhaps others- believe is more likely.

Consider a little bit of history, which may or may not be applicable. In an article which appeared in the May, 2004 issue of The Atlantic, Paul Maslin, one of the four chief strategists for Howard Dean, detailed  the presidential campaign strategy of his candidate in the run-up to the Iowa caucus, which largely decided the nomination. Shortly before caucus day, as the two top candidates were expected to be John Kerry and Dean, the campaign ran a television ad criticizing Dean's strongest opponent. Maslin wrote

When we ran the ad, it barely brushed the intended targets—Kerry and Edwards—but delivered a devastating blow to (Dick) Gephardt. Quite naturally, he fought back—with a "kitchen sink" negative ad on us, which ran midweek. That ad, which attacked Dean's views on Medicare and Social Security, snuffed out what little chance we had left at victory—Dean and Gephardt were both increasingly seen by Iowans as running negative campaigns. The exchange, called off within days by both sides, nevertheless sent us hurtling to a crushing defeat instead of a narrow loss that we should have been able to endure. Had the vote been closer, I believe, there would have been no "I have a scream" speech on caucus night. All the habits we had learned so early in this race—work fast, use Iraq, be aggressive—were coming back to haunt us.

As the front-runner, Dean had been criticized by several candidates but most strenuously by Representative (and former Minority Leader) Gephardt. Gephardt had gone hard after Dean, and Dean (inadvertently, according to Maslin) retaliated robustly. Gephardt dropped out, Dean lost the primary and subsequent to the much overhyped, infamous "scream," went on to losing the nomination decisively.

The nomination went to the candidate, John Kerry, who mostly had stayed out of the fray. Fast forward sixteen years to the 2020 contest for the Democratic presidential nomination and before the Nevada caucus, when Elizabeth Warren

launched her first broadside against Bloomberg just minutes into the debate, setting the tone for the night.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” she said. “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

About 40 minutes later, the debate returned to Bloomberg’s alleged mistreatment of women when he was asked to address the accusations. He responded by touting the number of women in leadership positions within his foundation and business, noting, “I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement has exposed.”

Bloomberg faces attacks for refusing to release women from confidentiality agreements

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’ ” Warren said, drawing applause. “That just doesn’t cut it.”

Warren then immediately zeroed in on the nondisclosure agreements signed by women who sued Bloomberg, demanding that he release them from the deals and allow their alleged accounts of harassment or discrimination to become public. And from there, the situation only continued to spiral.

Warren repeatedly pressured Bloomberg to reveal how many agreements were signed and attacked his character and electability in light of the allegations, prompting the former mayor to issue defenses that many thought made him look worse.

“None of them accused me of anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” Bloomberg said at one point, prompting boos and gasps from the audience. He also declined to release women from the nondisclosure deals saying, “They signed the agreements, and that’s what we’re going to live with.”

Bloomberg was done, finished, obliterated while Warren was boosted. This sort of reaction was common:

On CNN, Van Jones stated “Bloomberg went in as the Titanic — billion-dollar-machine Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren.” Bloomberg went in to the debate as an extremely plausible Democratic nominee and came out shattered.

Warren had proven the giant-killer. Two days after the debate, the Nevada caucus was held and Bernie Sanders emerged as the most(more?) viable progressive contender for the nomination as he pulled down 46.8% of the voted. Joe Biden received 20.22%, Pete Buttigieg, 11.3%,, and Warren 9.7%.

The Massachusetts senator stayed in the race for a while but she was essentially eliminated after Nevada. She was done in by Nevada voters, who saw two Democrats fighting and decided that strife was not for them. Better to hold hands and sign "kumbaya," and eventually Sanders lost out to the milquetoast Joe Biden. That's the way it is with Democrats, anyway. "Can't we all just get along?"

Republicans may be different. Joe Scarborough and others in the mainstream media blather about Tim Scott having a lane in the Republican nominating contest because he exudes a cheery optimism reminiscent, they pray, of Ronald Reagan while Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are nattering nabobs of negativism. They fundamentally miss the rationale of the Senator's candidacy.

Republican voters believe the country is going to hell in a handbasket, a major reason they are attracted to DeSantis and especially Grump- uh, er, Trump. Many believe, additionally, that the latter is the once, current, and future President.

Although something has to happen to Trump if he is to be derailed, no Republican in the race is willing to criticize the 45th President. They all are waiting around wishing and hoping that the other guy (or gal) attacks Trump, erodes his numbers, and give them their opening.

Realistically speaking, there is one and only one (potential) candidate who would do that.  Someone confrontational, brash, and not a little nasty, perhaps somebody who exudes a bit of that Sopranos, stereotypical Jersey impulse.


Each- but especially a Tim Scott, who has better than a snowball's chance in hell- is waiting for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie He can be, candidates believe, a modern Jesus Christ- sacrificing himself to death (in this case of the political sort) on their behalf. Ironically, there are GOP candidates whose best hope lies in the possibility that Republican voters are similar to Democratic voters.

As a New Jerseyan, I can confirm that the only similarity between Chris Christie and Jesus Christ is in the first six letters of the former governor's name.  And yes, Tim Scott would like to demonstrate vote-getting ability in presidential primaries so he can become vice-presidential timber. However, Scott won't attain even that status unless someone puts a serious dent into the clear front-runner. A former prosecutor, Christie likely believes he can prosecute the case against Trump and, in either case, is probably the only one who can do so in the belligerent manner necessary for Republican voters to sit up and take notice.

It's conceivable that Christie will stay out of the race. He is, after all, more concerned with his own political future than anyone else's, a characteristic of most politicians. Nonetheless, he is a very good retail politician and unlike some candidates- such as Scott, DeSantis, and Nikki Haley- has no chance to be a vice-presidential nominee. He'd be in it to draw blood.

"If something changes," as Emily Jashinsky put it, it probably would be a fellow Republican getting into a figurative knife fight with Donald J. Trump.  Like Richard Gephardt and Elizabeth Warren, Chris Christie would take no prisoners. That would be a confrontation worth watching and provide the best opportunity for someone to thwart Donald J. Trump.


Friday, May 26, 2023

Details Matter

RNC Research claims it is "exposing the lies, hypocrisy, and failed far-left policies of Joe Biden and the Democrat Party. Managed by the Republican National Committee." Joe Biden and the "Democrat" Party rarely lie- until the Age of Trump, few politicians actually knowingly stated falsehoods. They're not as hypocritical as the GOP and as for "far-left policies"- if only!

So you won't be shocked that this twitter account is expert at taking things out of context. In the following 89 second clip, RNC Research displays Jean-Pierre commenting twenty (20) times about negotiations with the GOP over- well, now, this is what the deception is all about.

The clips are very brief, lacking a hint of either what the Press Secretary stated immediately after or before or to what question she is responding. Additionally, she is not very good at her job, in sharp contrast to Jen Psaki's performance in the same role. However, the gist of Jean-Pierre's theme- if consistent with President Biden's intentions until fairly recently- can be found in remarks of hers from April 22, followed by those from May 1:

As I said yesterday, he'd be happy to meet with Speaker McCarthy but not on whether or not not the debt limit gets extended. That is not negotiable; we have been very clear about this.

As he said, we'd be happy to meet with Speaker McCarthy but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That's not negotiable.

This Is a critical, though seemingly not big, difference. Biden has been willing to negotiate on the budget but not on the bottom line: whether the debt limit is extended, hence not on whether there is to be a default on the debt. By contrast, the GOP bill which passed the House in April would have extended the debt limit with deep- but unspecified cuts in discretionary spending.

The next day, RNC Research was similarly dishonest;

Minority Leader Jeffries here notes

And these Republicans- they're going to say that Joe Biden refused to sit down with them. That's a fake narrative that they continue to try to put into the public domain. They said that President Biden refused to talk for 97 days- fake, false, fraudulent narrative.

Jeffries was correct when he accused Republicans of a fake, false, and fraudulent narrative, and he gets extra credit for the alliteration. (Speaking in poetry seems to be a Jeffries specialty, and a fine one for him to have.)

As the presidential press secretary is depicted in the tweeted video as repeating, the President was always fine with talking, for better or for worse. But it was the budget, not default, he signaled an interest in negotiating, a distinction with a difference.

As of Friday afternoon, 5/26/23, the contours of a likely deal are not definitively none. Thus, whether Joe Biden has maintained that crucial distinction will be revealed only when a final deal is reached. We may find out also whether the message Jeffries displayed "House Republicans Are Running Out Of Town To Cause An Economic Meltdown," is accurate. In the meantime, faced with an extraordinarily dishonest foe, it's helpful for the Democrats, for a moment at least, not to be on the defensive.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Burning It Down

Recognizing that the goal of House Republicans in the fight over raising the debt limit is to "burn it all down," Will Bunch explains

John Harwood, the acclaimed veteran journalist who recently lost his CNN post while truth-telling, wrote that the real Republican position in the foundering negotiations seems to be what he calls “a primal scream.” Some of that, Harwood said, is GOP House members seeing the must-pass debt-ceiling measure as their only real chance to do something, with Democrats running the White House and the Senate. But he also noted that this leverage gives the right wing a shot at enacting measures, like reversing climate action, that are wildly unpopular with voters, and to roll back some of the cultural changes that alienate conservatives.

I think it could be even worse than that. Biden administration officials insist the government would run out of money to pay its bills and prevent defaulting on its current debts sometime in early June. Defaulting would trash America’s credit rating and possibly tank the stock market, and with it, the wider economy. Government payments — including Medicare reimbursements, Social Security checks, and military pay — would be at risk.

A large swath of House Republicans don’t act like they care about this. A handful of them who openly loathe Biden and who — thanks to the Big Lie of 2020 election fraud — don’t see his presidency as legitimate would probably love to see the White House fail. It’s the defining trait of the 21st century GOP: nihilism.

Bunch realizes that "Biden's faith that a bipartisan deal could be reached is very much in line with his political worldview" while he "should have adopted a no-negotiation stance, declared that the 14th Amendment renders the debt ceiling debate moot, and allowed the courts to work it out long before the government runs out of money." (With a more detailed argument for this, see David Dayen.) He concludes

The White House is preparing for a hostage crisis when they’re actually dealing with political suicide bombers. I believe Joe Biden when he insists that he’s fighting for “the soul of America,” but to win that battle, you need to know your enemy.

Democrats have been hamstrung in this battle not only because the leader of their Party seems not to understand the enemy. They've been hindered for decades because they believe the media is their friend and thus expected that the debt ceiling crisis would be reported honestly. Instead, the left/center media has presented the controversy as another partisan "he said, she said" dispute, failing to emphasize that the Democratic Party wants to pay the nation's debts while the Republican Party threatens to turn the nation into a deadbeat. Representative Katie Porter explains this to a House committee interviewee and to the country: 


Republicans do want to "burn it all down," as Bunch maintains. And if it does burn down, the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, as the opponent to the incumbent President, would benefit. 


But Jayapal did more when she remarked

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, that is exactly the problem, is when the media reports it as not their fault. And I'm just gonna- I know so many of you, I have so much respect for what you do. But let's tell the truth here. We are not tanking anything....

This is taking on the media Democratic-style. "I have so much respect for what you do but let's tell the truth here," as in "stop screwing up."   It may be a little passive-aggressive but it's effective, and refreshing for a Democrat, finally, to put the media on notice- or at least to question it. The media is not the Party's friend, not their ally, as the current episode so obviously demonstrates.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Tweet of the Day- Silent Tim

It took fewer than eight hours for former Representative Joe Walsh, still conservative but consistently and fervently, anti-Trump, to be proven right.

A few hours after Senator Scott announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency, he was interviewed on NBC Nightly News.  This was a portion of the exchange:

TOM LLAMAS: What do you-- what do you think about President Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election and to-- into January 6th?

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: We can do two things here, we can have a conversation about President Trump or we can have a conversation about my vision for the future. I’m gonna stay on my future, my-- my vision for the future for a couple reasons.

TOM LLAMAS: But it was a historical moment. I think voters deserve to know--

SENATOR TIM SCOTT: I-- I-- actually-- I was actually in there, so I know exactly how historic it was. But what I will say is simply this, that the future that America is focusing on is what I’m gonna provide. I’m gonna continue to talk about those conservative principles that move this country forward with the best path for all of us.

Walsh obviously emphasizes Senator Scott's lack of courage, which is particularly pronounced. However, it wouldn't have taken much for an individual with a modicum of either courage or integrity, if not to criticize Trump directly here, to have asserted that he himself would have accepted the results of an election after exhausting legal options. 

But Scott wouldn't say a thing about "President" Trump- even to admit that he chooses not to say a thing about Trump.  "We can have a conversation about President Trump or we can have a conversation about my vision for the future" is the most gutless response a politician could have given to Tom Llamas' question.... which is why it was given by Tim Scott.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Swindling the Gay Rights Movement

It's a shame, really. Unlike the left, this lady knows something isn't right. She is aware of the explosion in the number of individuals who identify as LGBTQIA or as "trans," the individuals who once were understood as transsexuals. And she wants to believe that it is a conspiracy among, and hatched by, forces she virulently disagrees with for other reasons. It is truly unfortunate, even tragic, that individuals such as she are completely unaware of the special interest(s) that is impelling so many young people today to identify as "trans.

It's not bigotry and it's not quite terrifying. However, itdoes represent an utter detachment from reality. It's not teachers' unions, it's not Biden, and only Lord knows what she is referring to by the ubiquitous "money." Nonetheless, she speaks for tens of millions of Americans. The gay and Republican Andrew Sullivan ("The Queers Versus the Homosexuals"), though he'd disagree with her, understands what has gone seriously awry and explains

The core belief of critical queer theorists is that homosexuality is not a part of human nature because there is no such thing as human nature; and that everything is socially constructed, even the body. Because heterosexuality is the overwhelming norm, and homosexuality the exception, and because society is nothing but a complex of oppression, homosexuals are defined by their rejection of heteronormativity. To be queer is inherently to exist on the margins; to be odd, peculiar, weird, queer, hated, oppressed, and in revolt and rebellion. To be queer is to be dedicated to subversion, to mock conventions, to deconstruct language, to dismantle the human body, to defy “nature” and, above all, to liberate humankind from the prison of gender.

To be homosexual, in contrast, is merely to be attracted to the same sex, and gays and lesbians run the gamut of tastes, politics, backgrounds and religions. Some are conservative, some radical, some indifferent. Some gays are queers. But most aren’t. And queers now run what was once the gay rights movement. (For a longer, piercing reflection on the takeover, read historian Jamie Kirchick’s new essay in Liberties. For a discussion of the homophobia of the new queer activism, see Ben Appel’s excellent essay in Spiked.)

No one held a news conference and announced that from 2015 on, after Obergefell, the gay rights movement had changed its entire rationale. But they sure gave hints. The Human Rights Campaign, once a relatively moderate group, replaced “gay” and “lesbian” with the acronym “LGBTQ+” and expanded the word “queer” to describe anyone gay, lesbian, transgender, or even straight who defied heteronormativity. They changed the flag from a simple rainbow, to one that included some races (only black and brown — no Asians or whites) and transgender ideology. Their building in DC is festooned with a massive banner declaring their mission: “Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter.” Their new head is a woman who calls herself “queer,” not lesbian.

Then they quietly changed the meaning of the word “gay” so that it no longer referred to same-sex attraction, but to same-gender attraction; and changed the word “men” to include people with vaginas and uteruses, and the word “women” to include people with dicks and balls. Checkmate for the gays! We are all now just bigots with “genital preferences,” just like the Christianist right used to claim. Just to add to the confusion, hundreds of new “genders” were adopted — because some teens on Tumblr once invented them and queer theorists loved them.

Gay hook-up apps now include biological women seeking gay men and straight men looking for chicks with dicks. “NO MEN” some profiles now say — on what was once a gay man’s app. There are fewer and fewer exclusively gay male spaces left. Lesbian bars? Almost gone entirely. Lesbians themselves? On their way out. Dylan Mulvaney is exemplary of the new queer order: a femme gay man who had to take female hormones to stay relevant. (Compare and contrast with disco icon Sylvester’s view of gay liberation: “I could be the queen that I really was without having a sex change or being on hormones.” We are going backward, not forward.)

Then the queers upped the ante and did something we gays never did: they targeted children. If they could get into kids’ minds, bodies and souls from the very beginning of their lives, they could abolish the sex binary from the ground up. And so they got a pliant, woke educational establishment to re-program children from the very start, telling toddlers that any single one of them could be living in the wrong body, before they could even spell.

Kindergartners were told to pick a pronoun, and thereby a sex, as soon as they arrived. Endless kiddie books reiterated the queer theory mantra about gender: “You can be a girl or a boy or both or neither or something else entirely!” And if the sex the child chose did not match their physical body, they were told they could just change it — and change it back if needed — no questions asked. Fun! If a boy said he was a girl, or vice-versa, it was in fact unethical to ask any further questions. From now on, he was a girl. Parents? A problem to be overcome.

No one held a news conference and announced that from 2015 on, after Obergefell, the gay rights movement had changed its entire rationale. But they sure gave hints. Yes, the LGBTQIA+ movement has promoted the harebrained idea that sex- or gender, as it now must be called- is merely a social construct. Moreover, the genesis of this radical rejection of reality came not coincidentally with the same-sex marriage ruling.

If written in 2023, this could have been what Steelers Wheel was referring to with "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right," though I believe the reverse is probably more accurate. The cultural far left cannot seriously believe- can it?- that biology does not determine sex. By contrast, the right really does seem to believe that, as does the woman recognized by Josh Cowen as detached from reality, a human being's sex at birth cannot be changed by surgery.

Rank-and-file conservatives know that we are not all bigots simply because we choose not to join this very odd socio-political movement.  Unfortunately, they also seem to believe that it has something to do with Joe Biden or liberals or unions or whatever, and their leaders, who know better, are treating them like mushrooms.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

At It Again

The eulogy for Jordan Neely, killed by Daniel Penny, on a New York City subway train, was delivered in Mount Neboh Baptist Church in New York City on Friday by Reverend Al Sharpton.

A New York jury, assuming there is no guilty plea, ultimately will render a judgement as to whether Mr. Penny actually murdered Mr. Neely. Presumably, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg believes that the jury will pronounce a guilty verdict upon the accused, who was charged with second degree Manslaughter eleven days after the incident. (By contrast, Bragg did not secure an indictment against Donald Trump until 401 days after Special Assistant District Attorney Mark Pomerantz resigned because Bragg decided against charging Trump for what Pomerantz termed "various felony violations.") 

Sharpton at the church was doing what he does, viewing a set of facts and accepting some while discarding others, and coming to a premature and entirely predictable conclusion.

Reverend Sharpton appears to have spoken for about twenty-one minutes, and the video below captures only the highlights.  He remarked

We should not- not- celebrate Jordan's life but we should not ignore how he died. This funeral was not on the schedule. We're not here because of natural causes.... Jordan was not annoying someone on the train.

Neely was alleged to have been annoying people on the train, the extent to which no doubt will be addressed at trial. However, if he were not annoying people there, he'd be way out of character because he reportedly

had a troubling history of violent attacks on straphangers in New York City before the disturbed man reportedly threatened passengers and Marine vet Daniel Penny allegedly put him in a fatal chokehold.

The 30-year-old vagrant, who once performed as a Michael Jackson impersonator, had been arrested dozens of times – including most recently for vicious assaults on subway riders, court records show.

In 2021, Neely socked a 67-year-old woman as she exited the Bowery station in the East Village in Lower Manhattan.

The woman sustained a broken nose, a fractured orbital bone, and "bruising, swelling and substantial pain to the back of her head" in the Nov. 12 attack, according to a criminal complaint. 

The woman sustained a broken nose, a fractured orbital bone, and "bruising, swelling and substantial pain to the back of her head" in the Nov. 12 attack, according to a criminal complaint. 

A pillar of the community, the Michael Jackson impersonator pled guilty to felony assault and

Court records show that as an adult Neely regularly lashed out at strangers on the subway and on the street.

From January 2020 to August 2021, he was arrested for public lewdness after pulling down his pants and exposing himself to a female stranger, misdemeanor assault for hitting a woman in the face, and criminal contempt for violating a restraining order. All three cases were dismissed as part of his Feb. 9 plea deal.

In June 2019, Neely attacked Filemon Castillo Baltazar, 68, on the platform of the W. 4th St. Station in Greenwich Village, according to the court papers.

"Out of nowhere, he punched me in the face," the victim told the New York Daily News. He said he'd seen Neely before looking for food in the trash bins.

One month prior, he hit a man so hard in the face that he broke his nose on the platform of the Broadway-Lafayette station – the same subway stop where he died four years later.

For both 2019 cases, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Reverend Sharpton maintained also

Jordan was screaming for help...

We keep criminalizing people with mental illness. People keep criminalizing people that need help. They don't need abuse. They need help.

If Jordan was screaming for help, then..... oh, he simply wasn't. The New York Times explains

In February, Mr. Neely, who had been in jail on an assault charge for punching a 67-year-old woman and breaking several bones in her face, was released to a residential treatment program, under a plea deal that required him to avoid trouble for 15 months, stay on antipsychotic medication and not abuse drugs.

Two weeks later, he walked out of the facility and did not return, and the arrest warrant was issued.

In March, Mr. Neely was approached by homeless-outreach workers at a subway station in Manhattan. He was neatly dressed and calm and accepted a ride to a shelter in the Bronx where he spent the night, according to outreach records shared with The New York Times.

But on April 8, when outreach workers found him at an end-of-the-line station in Coney Island, Mr. Neely, wearing dirty clothes riddled with burn holes, exposed himself and urinated inside a subway car, according to the notes shared with The Times.

Outreach workers, whose job requires them to win the trust of people who seek to avoid contact with the authorities, typically do not check for warrants, but they summoned the police, who ejected him from the station.

The police were also apparently unaware of the warrant. A program launched in 2019 in which the police did warrant checks on people caught violating transit-system rules was abandoned during the pandemic, after criticism that it was criminalizing homelessness.

"We" are so "criminalizing people that need help" that after Neely violently assaulted an elderly woman, he was not incarcerated but instead given an opportunity to get healthy at an in-patient treatment program at no expense to him.  He left, and when found the next month was taken to a shelter. When he committed a misdemeanor the following month, he was not taken to jail.

Mr. Neely was a criminal who was afforded considerable leniency by a law enforcement and court establishment which leans backward not to criminalize homelessness or mental illness. Ultimately, that approach failed, as it does with some and doesn't with others, because Jordan evidently wanted nothing to do with anyone who tried to help him.

The killing of Neely was unfortunate, even tragic, and a jury will decide whether (in its view) it was criminal. No one, not even- and  perhaps especially- the deeply tainted Sharpton can know for certain yet if this homicide was murder.  It's long past time for us, especially the Morning Joe crew which affectionately calls him "the Rev," to question the motives of Reverend Sharpton. Whether motivated by money, personal glory, racial prejudice, or an honest commitment to jumping to conclusions, he represents an ever-increasing obstacle to healing of the body politic.

Friday, May 19, 2023

And You Thought I Could Get Through This Without Mentioning Trump

You have to give this to Marjorie Taylor Greene: she can give as good as she gets. However, she still is a snowflake.

Representative Greene's argument with Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York and member of "The Squad," was captured on video.


So, too, was her press briefing, in which she claimed

I will tell you- what's on video is Jamaal Bowman shouting at the top of his lungs, cursing, calling me a horrible- calling me a white supremacist, which I take great offense to. That is like calling a person of color the "n word," which should never happen. Calling me a white supremacist is equal to that and that
is wrong.


 "Person of color?" Who would have expected Marjorie Taylor Greene to be woke? Of course, "person of color" can be black, Latino, Asian-American, or a native tribal individual but, hey, when you're woke you're woke.

The charge that Greene is a white supremacist is legitimate- reasonable- but unproven. However, unlike the "n-word," it is not a pejorative. It is not ridiculing someone's race, religion, or gender but the individual's ideas about racial superiority.

If the video accurately captures the argument, Greene and Bowman initially  stood face-to-face. Then the New Yorker took a step backward and a few seconds afterward, turned to the side. So Bowman, consciously or not, made an effort to avoid any more of a direct confrontation with the Georgian than already was taking place. The man may have been aware that the woman might feel intimidated and backed off slightly while the woman stood her ground.

There was, therefore, no need for Greene to feel threatened, even- maybe especially- after Bowman whipped out the race card.

Confrontation is what Jamaal Bowman does, whether to a woman such as Greene or a man such as Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky. It's his calling card, done whether to be performative, to draw in campaign donations, out of principle, or some combination thereof. Greene, for her part, probably would have hinted at a physical threat no matter the race of the man confronting her.

Thursday's action was a rather sordid, if barely consequential, affair. Marjorie Taylor Greene remains an extremist and bigot- if not a white supremacist, which is worse. Jamaal Bowman remains an in-your-face radical. He is periodically loathsome, yet a counterbalance to the overly cautious and moderate President Biden; she, merely loathsome.  Welcome to the America spawned by Donald J. Trump.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Phones can't ring off the hook.. The receiver can't jump off the hook on its own and if it did, someone would have to be there to put it back on promptly so that another call can come in, prompting the receiver to ring off the hook again. Also (unlike mine) most households no longer have a landline, hence have no hook to ring off of. "Here, let me get up and change the channel on the television" which, too, has gone by the wayside.

Of course, that's not Greene's point, which is far more significant than it appears to be. At first glance, this appears crazy to want "everyone" impeachment. At second glance, it appears way beyond the pale, even for the Republican Party.

But it's neither, and it's not only the Bidens (video below), anymore


In 1988, right-wing activist Grover Norquist challenged both Bob Dole and George W Bush a Taxpayer Protection Pledge in which the signee agreed never to agree to any tax increases..  Bush signed it, Dole did not, Bush was nominated and elected, and lost re-election partly because he broke his foolish "no new taxes" pledge. Thirteen years later, Norquist quipped  "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." 

Presumably, "the not in favor of abolishing the government" was accompanied by a nod and a sink and now, virtually every GOP candidate for an elected position in the federal government signs the pledge.

Never voting for a tax increase, no matter the need or decrease in the value of money, would go a long way toward Norquist's goal, which he clarified in 2015 as

to reduce the size of government by half over 25 years, and then to do that again in 24 years, and eventually get it small enough that if you wanted you could drown it in the tub. That's doable over time. It's a long-term goal.

Norquist is getting support recently most significantly, and in the immediate, by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has implied that he will agree to raise the debt limit if spending for social services is significantly cut.  His preference, unstated but likely, is to send the USA into default but if it's avoided with spending decreases, he becomes  a hero to the right, anyway.

Nonetheless, shrinking government sufficiently to drown it in a bathtub requires something additional. Elimination of government officials would come in handy. That could be accomplished by impeachment of high-ranking officials, such as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Christopher Wray and Matthew Graves, respectively.

Marjorie Taylor Greene's dream won't reach fruition. However, her extremist or hateful tweets at least move the Overton Window, wherein right-wingers don't appear so radical.  They're the same "moderates" who will rarely question Marjorie Taylor Greene or Donald Trump or their fellow travelers.

Monday, May 15, 2023

So Very Reasonable

In an otherwise good paragraph in an otherwise good post, Steve M. makes a minor, yet telling, mistake when he writes

In other words, the audience was the contemporary Republican electorate. Why do you think Governor Sununu chose not to run for Maggie Hassan's Senate seat last year? It was probably for the same reason Charlie Baker of Massachusetts -- also a moderate Republican governor with strong support from Democrats -- didn't run for reelection last year: he might not have survived his own party's primary.

I thought it was bad enough when last June former Chris Christie and Donald Trump strategist Bill Stepien characterized a group of Republicans as "Team Normal."  It's questionable whether a few Republicans these days are "normal"- but they certainly aren't "moderate."

And so it was that Jen Psaki (video below) on Sunday interviewed the relatable New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu,  who is one of many Republicans reportedly considering running for President. Sununu is no fire-breathing demagogue, surely would be considered among the "normal," and was labeled a "moderate" by Steve M.

When asked, Sununu stated that he would not sign a bill outlawing abortion nationwide, preferring to leave it to states to establish their own policies, presumably pro-life in some jurisdictions, pro-choice in others.

Sununu maintained that "with training," teachers should be allowed to take firearms into schools and in 2014 vetoed a bill which would have barred firearms on school property He stated "I believe the way the laws are now are pretty good."

Sununu declined to agree to any cuts in defense spending when Psaki turned the interview toward debt reduction. When she mentioned Social Security, he Governor contended it's "really about creating up other opportunities, options for the individual in terms of how they invest their dollars." That's privatization, at least partially, while avoiding the toxicity of the term.

Sununu mentioned "fiscal discipline"- Republican talk for cutting the taxes of the wealthy and slashing the safety net- and remarked "I don't mind increasing the debt limit as long as there are some cuts." He likes Kevin McCarthy's hostage-taking.

The most important pressing issue is lifting the debt limit to pay off bills already accrued. Spending has been approved and appropriated, and we need the money to pay the bills. In October, 2021 . As explained in October, 2021

The debt limit is a ceiling imposed by Congress on the amount of debt that the U.S. Federal government can have outstanding... 

It is also important to note that the debt limit is not a forward-looking budgeting tool that reveals what policymakers think are ideal levels of spending and revenue. Rather, it reflects the spending and revenue decisions debated and enacted in prior years by prior Congresses and Administrations;

If the debt ceiling is not raised, government services would be slashed, unemployment might skyrocket, interest rates would jump, and the stock market might plummet.

Social Security can be gutted, the USA could become a deadbeat nation, and school shootings can continue unabated as long as John Sununu can continue his 90%+ rating with the National Rifle Association. Failing to identify anything he disagrees with Donald Trump on, Sununu can argue only that the 45th President could not be elected again. This is today's "moderate Republican."

When my Master Card bill comes, I'm going to call the bank, advise that I will do as a Republican by imposing fiscal discipline upon myself in the future without paying the current bill. That will go well.


Saturday, May 13, 2023

Make It a Positive

From the world of mathematics: -3 X +3= -9;  -3 X -3= +9.

Beginning at 1:06 of the tweet/video below,  Anderson Cooper states

Now, many of you think CNN shouldn't have given him any platform to speak and I understand the anger about that- giving him the audience, the time- I get that. But this is what I also get. The man you were so disturbed to see and hear from last night? That man is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President and according no polling, no other Republican is even close.

Once CNN announced it was going to hold a town hall with former President Trump, many people complained that he was offered any airtime at all. However, following the performance- uh, er, event- the nature of the criticism shifted.

Cooper continues

That man you wee so upset to hear from last night, he may be the President of the United States in less than two years. And that audience that upset you? That's a sampling of about half the country and they are your family members, your neighbors, and they are voting. And many say they are voting for him.

I'd like to believe that if Cooper had proofread or, prior to airing the segment, had read aloud his commentary, he would have realized how absurd the third sentence immediately above is. (Hopefully, that's what Sullivan was applying the adjective "silly" to.)

It was not "a sampling of about half the country." It was a sampling- presumably, that- of the roughly half the country which will vote for Trump or seriously consider voting for him. It was not representative of the country, which includes the nearly 50% which would walk over burning coals before rather than vote for him. CNN selected Republicans and Independents for its audience while omitting Democrats. Some cross-sample.

Concluding, Cooper remarks

Now, maybe you haven't been paying attention to him since he left office, maybe you've been enjoying not hearing from him, thinking that can't happen again, some investigation is going to stop him. Well, it hasn't so far. So if last night showed anything, it showed it can happen again. It is happening again. He hasn't changed and he is running hard. You have every right to be outraged today and be angry and never watch this network again. But do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?

It won't make him go away. We all know that because we've all been paying attention to him since he left office as he is in the news every (every) day. Moreover, we all realize that he may be elected President again because we know he is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination of his decadent party. And a couple of days before the townhall event, we learned from The Washington Post, which teams with ABC News on its surveys

When asked who they would support in 2024, 44 percent of voting-age adults say they would "definitely" or "probably" vote for Trump while 38 percent would definitely or probably vote for Biden. The remaining 18 percent are either undecided or gave another answer.

The typically reliable New York Times noted "critics of the poll disparaged it for including all adults in its sample of 1,006, rather than just registered voters."  The typically unreliable CNN and MSNBC (probably also Fox News, though I wouldn't know) omitted from its breathless headline and explanation the four words "of voting-age adults."  The poll was trash and obviously so, yet bolstered the credibility of the leading candidate, whose detractors have argued that unlike other possible GOP nominees, he cannot possibly be elected.

Cooper addressed the opposition of some individuals- overtaken in the aftermath of the event itself- to Trump being given any platform. However, as details about the event trickle out afterward, it should become clear that the problem lay not in the platform but in the nature of the platform. Ever since these "town halls" became a thing, candidates and other politicians have been able to manipulate the forum for their own advantage. The CNN occasion was particularly bad because, unlike most of these shows, opponents of the official were deliberately excluded and the audience was given special instructions. Salon explains

Republican political consultant Matthew Bartlett told Puck's senior political correspondent, Tara Palmeri, that while many members of the audience applauded the former president, "there were also people that sat there quietly disgusted or bewildered," estimating that the audience was split in half.

"The floor manager came out ahead of time and said, Please do not boo, please be respectful. You were allowed to applaud," Bartlett said. "And I think that set the tone where people were going to try their best to keep this between the navigational beacons, and that if they felt compelled to applaud, they would, but they weren't going to have an outburst or they weren't going to boo an answer."  

Nonetheless, there is a possible silver lining to the CNN travesty. Before there is a general election season, there is a primary season.  Aside from Trump, there currently are three candidates- Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, and Vivek Ramaswamy- for the GOP presidential nomination. Each of the three should be given the same courtesy as was given the ex-President. Each could be granted a town hall meeting with Republicans and Independents; no Democrats need apply. The ground rules should be the same, including Kaitlan Collins as the moderator and booing discouraged. As more candidates emerged, they should be extended the same privilege by CNN.

If this were to transpire, one or more of the candidates would benefit more than Donald Trump did or could have hoped to. Trump is a known commodity. The cake is baked, with virtually everyone having a strong opinion of a fellow  whose floor is high and ceiling, low. Not so with the other candidates, who would be given a chance to shine (or flame out).

Two wrongs, some would say, do not make a right. In this case, multiplication of negative numbers is a much more applicable analogy. A negative number is a negative number, yet when it is multiplied by another negative number, a positive number results.

Give them all (and every declared Democratic presidential nominee) a shot. CNN's Chris Licht may decide not to do this and instead declare that he has learned from his error(s) or give another other excuse for not doing what is right. But beware. As he has done for one, he must do for all or face the charge- justified- that he's in the tank for Donald J. Trump.

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...