Thursday, July 30, 2020
Granted, many of the unemployed currently are collecting more in unemployment benefits than they earned while they were working, which might make them hesitant to return to their crappy jobs – mostly "heroic" ones like cashier, busboy, and pedicurist. Sorry – no extra pay for your added risk. Many more will stay unemployed because their jobs have disappeared, and aren't coming back any time soon.
While some Republicans in Congress must see their $200 proposal as a starting point in a negotiation, the hard right would like to end the benefit entirely. They play on the politics of resentment, which may be the defining feature of the Tr*mpian base: "Why should somebody else get something if I'm not getting it — especially those people?" Needless to say, opponents of enhanced unemployment benefits will masquerade as "fiscal hawks," but one can't help but notice how their hawkishness waxes and wanes depending on who gets the money being spent.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
It is true that laws requiring us to wear face masks impinge on our personal liberty, The same is true of laws requiring us to wear pants, and demonstrations against that restriction might be more entertaining than the anti-mask protests.
The Twitter Hack
Smart enough to hack the accounts of lot of famous people, including some leading Democrats, the hackers were not smart enough to run a profitable con, pulling in less that $120,000 from some very gullible people. They may have done better had they hacked leading Republicans; Our President's account could have brought in millions.
The Tr*mp family attended Marble Collegiate Church when it was led by Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking and a forerunner of today's Christian conservatives. I suspect his influence on young Donald may have been profound, but, sadly, positive thinking hasn't worked on the coronavirus.
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Just in case you missed yesterday's presidential "press conference," here's a sample of what Our President had to say:
Friday, July 10, 2020
Now that the USofA finally has achieved some degree of consensus regarding just who won our Civil War, it certainly is time to remove all those monuments to the losers. A big question, though, is just what to do with all that statuary that may be of some historical and/or artistic value. Some want them relocated to private property, but all that would accomplish would be to create a network of private shrines to racism. I have a better idea.
Let's create a new Losers National Monument on some suitably desolate expanse of desert land out West, where it will be possible to display them all together. They would be removed from their pedestals and placed with each abutting the next, bearded cheek by mutton-chopped jowl and horse's ass by horse's ass – with just enough room for intrepid visitors to squeeze between them for access to the statues that particularly pique their interests. Better yet, the relocated statues could be arranged into a maze for added tourist appeal – a classic American roadside attraction.
Then, perhaps, we could turn our attention to that other monument to slavery, the United States Constitution — where concessions to slave states resulted in our profoundly non-representative Senate and Electoral College. As that unrepentant racist Winston Churchhill once said, "democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
I'm not sure he got that right, but I don't have a better idea right now.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Another possibility is that he was told, and got on the phone to Putin to "find out if it was true." Putin, of course, denied it — and Tr*mp, of course, believed him, just as he believed Putin's denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election: "President Putin says it's not Russia," Tr*mp proclaimed in Helsinki. "I don't see any reason why it would be!"
Tr*mp has spoken to Putin by phone five or six times since he "didn't find out." What were they talking about? Oh, yeah — we're not allowed to know.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
News commentators have made much of Gorsuch's commitment to "textualism" – the idea that judges should interpret law according to its specific language rather than trying to descry the lawmakers' specific intent. Textualists, though, are the Jesuits of jurisprudence: individuals expert in spinning eminently logical arguments in defense of foregone conclusions. In Bostock v. Clayton County, Gorsuch demonstrated his mastery of the art.
The four decisions in support of LGBT rights written by Justice Kennedy are likely to be viewed by history as his most significant actions in his time on the Supreme Court. While I'm certain Kennedy made no attempt to influence his former clerk's decision, I'm equally certain that preserving Kennedy's historic legacy was a powerful factor in shaping the younger man's thinking.
Yeah, that's really sweet.
Thursday, June 11, 2020
I had this funny feeling for a couple of days, and it took me that long to figure out what it was. It had been quite a while since I'd experienced twinges of optimism.
That horrifying snuff film starring Derek Chauvin and George Floyd had set off what was beginning to look like a genuine mass movement. Our President's psychopathy was becoming so evident that even a few Republicans were looking uncomfortable, and voices from the military offered some reassurance that our armed forces might not support a Tr*mpian coup d'etat. I suppose that's cause for "hope," but the "change" part will be harder to come by.
Cop culture is macho, authoritarian, and insular. I suspect it is held together primarily by shared privilege: everything from never getting traffic tickets to "qualified immunity" for murder. Maintaining that privilege demands intense loyalty to each other: hence, the "blue wall of silence." Compounding that opacity, municipalities save money by conceding "free" items in negotiations with police unions, like periodic deletion of public complaint records, or contract language that keeps them secret.
I'm not encouraged by any of the "reform" or "defund" ideas making the rounds now. None of them addresses the real problem: somebody has to be repressing the underclass to keep the elite in its very comfortable place. Somebody has to ensure that the working class remains divided and at odds with itself.
Just the same, I keep getting this funny feeling . . .
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Reading fiction as a distraction from our current depressing Situation was working pretty well for me until, at 2AM, I encountered this passage from Keiichiro Hirano's novel, A Man:
...Kido saw his life as composed of several stages linked together by a shared name, with himself as their culmination. A significant portion of the life given continuity by the label "Akiro Kido" that had once lain ahead had already been relegated to the past, and so his identity was in large part already determined. Of course there might have been other paths he could have taken and therefore other people he might have been. Perhaps an infinite number. It was in the light of such considerations that he confronted his former question anew. The problem was not who he was in the present but who he's been in the past, and the solution he sought was no longer supposed to help him live but to help him figure out what sort of person to die as.
Hirano wrote in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Fukushima — an event just as arbitrary and unforeseen as a pandemic, and just as likely to provoke a little existential anxiety. It's a common human condition, albeit most humans can't put a name to it when they feel it. We respond by immersing ourselves in the present, focusing on some current, less transcendental outrage.
That's why I'm having a problem this time around: I seem to be suffering from outrage fatigue. I've been outraged so often recently that it's become hard to work up a good surge of anger anymore. My head has been bombarded by the corruption and the inequalities and the classism and the blatant lies and the manipulations of reality. Where the hell is that revolution I wanted fifty years ago, and that I never stopped wanting?
There. That feels much better. I'm back! :)
Friday, May 15, 2020
The last economic depression led to the creation of social safety net programs. It also weakened the rule of law and led to the rise of fascism. These are dangerous times. Meanwhile. . .
◆ Richard Burr (R-NC) led the Senate Intelligence Committee, which affirmed the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Now he's under criminal investigation for insider trading, unlike other members of Congress who dumped a lot of stock before the virus induced market crash. One wonders . . .
◆ The normally taciturn Clarence Thomas has been surprisingly talkative in the context of hearings by telephone, which might make some of us suspect that Ginni Thomas could be feeding him his questions.
◆ Quite a few Tr*mp supporters could be okay with reopening the country because the virus "mostly" kills blacks and Latinos.
There is no available "evidence" to support any of this, but those with the proper mindset will have no trouble believing it. After all, "evidence" is so 2015! Isn't it?
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Maybe that was just my own first impression, but I'm confident I'm not alone. Of course, everything is as clear as mud at the moment; and as they said on the radio when old Joe was a pup, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" Government being government, though, there has to be a personnel file for Tara Reade in some archive or another, and some bureaucrat should be able to find it. It wouldn't hurt at all if Biden let a couple of archivists at the University of Delaware go through his papers for the relevant time period, and see if they can find any reference to Tara Reade whatsoever. If he doesn't want to antagonize a lot of progressive Democrats, he'd better do it soon.
Saturday, April 25, 2020
"Antiseptics kill germs, right? And I heard somewhere some kind of light kills them too. I wonder if they thought of that?
Simultaneously, his lips started moving – and a moment later, he was bouncing his great idea off Birx and the scientists. It is not easy to be Fauci (not invited this time) or Birx, but I guess they hang in there for fear of whom their replacements might be. Tr*mp, meanwhile, was imagining how neat it would be when he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
While I don't anticipate any Lysol shortages, I won't be surprised if there's a rush on UV lighting fixtures, possibly advertised on Fox News. Soon, I predict, there will be plant lights shining down on the MyPillow® accoutred beds of many who comprise Our President's base. Somehow, it seems appropriate.
Monday, April 20, 2020
Maybe there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, but nobody has any solid ideas about what else we'll find down there. Pretty clearly, though, things will be different. Both socially and economically, our current situation is a lot more novel than the novel coronavirus; and major societal disruptions provoke culture change.
Nobody is surprised by leaders like Orban, Duterte, and Modi becoming more authoritarian. Tr*mp might dream of emulating them, but Tr*mp's general ineptitude and lackluster popular approval should make that impossible. Meanwhile, economic collapse has prompted Congress to adopt a series of "socialist" initiatives that may be the forerunners of broader socioeconomic reform.
Granted, the plutocratic class will do its best to stymie any significant change; but workers who lose their health insurance along with their jobs are a lot more likely to abandon their "preference" for employer provided plans; Americans with little or no savings, including a sizable slice of the Red Hat Brigade, will come to recognize the need to expand safety net programs; and America's massive wealth disparities will become increasingly intolerable as the pandemic and its aftermath make them increasingly impossible to ignore.
Even if Tr*mp's "miracle" happens, and the virus subsides substantially in coming months, economists agree that recovery from its economic damage is likely to take years. With weak consumer demand, many of the "safe" jobs currently being performed at home also will disappear. Nobody is truly immune, and all of America will come to understand that.
Those who follow this blog know that optimism is not one of its defining characteristics, but this time there is some reason to hope that we eventually will emerge from this crisis with a more just society. To be sure, November's elections will make a big difference. One only can hope that the Democratic establishment can move beyond Clinton-era ideas of what is "practical" and start listening to the party's more progressive wing.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Mitch McConnell always sounds like he's grumbling, so it's hard to say just how he feels about the largest welfare program in American history. Apparently, though, he agrees that it's necessary. Now that McConnell has broken the ice, only a few stubborn holdouts still say "stimulus" — the word du jour is "relief." Add the restraints on the Administration's ability to dole out corporate loans, and restraints on how that loan money can be used, and the overall tone of the bill is classic Welfare State Democratic.
Progressive Democrats wanted more, of course, but Pelosi is offering some proposals for "phase four" that might offer them more satisfaction. If, somehow, science turns out to be right and Tr*mp turns out to be wrong (imagine that!), "phase four" will be along in short order.
How will the USofA pay for the bills it's running up at the moment? Essentially, it won't. The Fed is gearing up to increase the money supply with extensive, near-zero interest loans to the Treasury. It will be inflationary, but that makes the biggest losers the ones with the most money. The Fed hasn't met its inflation target since the Great Recession, so you could say there's some catching-up to do.
By the way, I really like the idea of some workers collecting more in unemployment insurance than they earned in salary: clearly, they're people who weren't making nearly enough money to begin with.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Democrats, of course, have no aversion to giving away free money, but hope to put some limitation on how corporations can use essentially interest-free loans, hoping to avoid some of the abuses we saw in the 2008 economic crisis: using government funds for stock buybacks and absurd levels of executive compensation. By the time you read this, there's likely to have been some sort of "compromise" negotiated.
The current plan to pay $1200 to 85% of the American people, and a bit less to another 5%. The "stimulus" effect would be negligible. To many higher earners, $1200 will be just a blip in the bank balance; and with so few places to spend it, most of the "stimulus" wouldn't make it into the broader economy until the pandemic is over. For the unemployed, $1200 won't cover a month's rent.
Proposals coming out of the House, though, seem to recognize that what America needs now isn't stimulus, but relief — money individuals and small businesses need to survive the crisis. Needless to say, there will be plenty of resistance to new "entitlements," but if you're going to give people money, it makes sense to give it to those who need it most.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Maybe. Fresh from arresting an uncle and a cousin on charges of plotting a coup, MBS roiled oil markets by launching a price war against Russia, exacerbating instability in a world economy already teetering from the impact of COVID-19. Investment houses think recession is likely.
The manufacturing sector already is in recession from Tr*mp's trade war, global supply chains are a mess, and a virus is not especially susceptible to economic interventions. However much money is pumped into the economy, it doesn't do much good if people won't go out and spend it: so whatever fiscal stimulus Congress comes up with probably won't make much difference. The Fed will cut rates again, but interest rates already are so low that a further cut can't have significant impact. The truth is that firms already have plenty of cash-on-hand were they interested in expansion — but who's interested in expansion while there's a pandemic going on?
I suspect the coronavirus may have done some good for "Grandpa Joe" in yesterday's primary contests: weird "Uncle Bernie" seems far too angry to offer much comfort and reassurance. If the viral threat persists, of course, "Mean Boy Donald" fares even worse.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Meanwhile, in the USofA, the Democratic establishment has solidified around Joe Biden. The push was especially evident on MSNBC, where invited guests heavily favored Biden over Sanders. Chris Matthews may have gone a bit overboard, though: he's losing his prime-time slot, possibly in response to complaints from MSNBC's more progressive viewers.
I still have serious doubts about Biden's "electability." While the media tout his "improved" debate performances, he still has problems remembering his talking points, much less thinking on his feet. I can't help thinking that his staffers are praying that ARVID-19 will damage Tr*mp enough to compensate for their candidate's many weaknesses. Some think tank, somewhere, has to be calculating how many Americans have to die to ensure a Biden victory.
Also, although we haven't heard much about Burisma lately, it's coming. By hook or by crook (mostly the latter), Tr*mp can count on Dan Barr to deliver in time for the presidential campaign
Rare as it may be, I feel some sympathy for Erdogan's efforts to keep another million Syrian refugees out of Turkey, which already is overburdened – and equivalent sympathy for the government of Greece, left to muddle through the refugee crisis with no real EU support. At the same time, I understand that admitting more refugees can only further empower AfD, National Front, and other far-right parties.
Putin is having a very good week.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
At this point in 2016, the consensus among the talking heads was that Donald Tr*mp could never win the Republican candidacy, much less the presidency. Surely, they opined, Tr*mp was too extreme, too unorthodox: the nominee would be a far safer candidate. (Remember Jeb Bush?)
What the punditry missed was that it was Tr*mp's unorthodoxy – his disregard the "rules" – that powered his candidacy. Tr*mp was a disruptor – a norm-breaking agent of change – and change was just what many voters desperately wanted. It was the same impulse that helped Obama win in 2008. (The black guy just had to be different – right?)
For decades, American optimism has been in decline. Only a third believe their children will be better off than they are, and the data indicate that the majority two-thirds are probably correct. Over the past three years, nothing has happened to change those attitudes. A low unemployment rate makes it easier to find a second job when your first job won't pay the bills, but that's not a recipe for life satisfaction. In the critical Rust Belt states, Tr*mp's trade wars have reduced the number of well-paid manufacturing jobs; and insecure "gig" jobs with no benefits offer little comfort.
Tr*mp's own weaknesses could make him vulnerable to any potential Democratic opponent (with the possible exception of Joe Biden), but cautious incrementalism doesn't inspire voters to flock to the polls. The real "swing voters" aren't cautious moderates; they're angry malcontents. Like it or not, Bernie is the Democratic Party's best chance to win over those voters and take the presidency.
Sunday, February 16, 2020
I'll never forget the look of shock and horror on the young ADA's face when the grand jury I was serving on failed to endorse just one count of a multi-count indictment against a drunk who had seriously annoyed some local cops. It was the only charge we failed to endorse among the dozens of cases brought before us that month.
"I'm not going to be bullied by anyone," the AG proclaimed. Perhaps. Maybe it doesn't count as bullying when you've already rolled over and played dead.
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Clearly, the LDS Church is conservative, despite some of the "socialistic" aspects of its theology; and has been reliably Republican at least since Ezra Taft Benson served in the Eisenhower administration. Nevertheless, Mormons remember their long history as outsiders in America, forced to flee from the East Coast to the Midwest to the deserts of Utah and Nevada. Other politically conservative Christian denominations still refuse to accept them as "real" Christians – so their integration into the American mainstream remains incomplete. Mormons remain a "minority group" in the USofA.
While Romney's vote to impeach may do him some political damage in Utah, it's hard to imagine Mormon Utah failing to re-elect him to the Senate in 2023. Still – despite the fact that his political peril is far less than what other prodigal Republican would have encountered – his decision to vote for impeachment was courageous and worthy of admiration.
Friday, January 31, 2020
Clearly, Clinton was guilty of abuse of power – not necessarily his political powers, just the usual power of an executive over an intern. Democrats should have forced him to resign, but #MeToo wouldn't arrive for another eight years. Although I'd like to believe today's Democrats would behave differently, somehow I doubt they would.
Meanwhile, plenty of Americans – Democrats as well as Republicans – are thinking, "They all do it." In future administrations, that assessment very well may prove to be true.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
When, at their private meeting, Elizabeth Warren told Bernie Sanders that she was entering the Democratic primary, his first thought had to be "She'll split the progressive vote, and Biden will get the nomination. How do I talk her out of this?"
One obvious albeit ill-considered argument: "I don't think a female candidate can beat Trump." Maybe it slipped out before he had a chance to reconsider: I seriously doubt that Sanders actually believes it. Almost a year later, it must be hard for him even to believe he said it — but, be that as it may, his denial at the debate did amount to calling Warren a liar. (I winced.)
I was hoping for something more like this: "I don't remember saying anything like that, but if I did, I apologize — I certainly don't believe a woman can't be elected." Then, he could have gone on about Clinton's victory in the 2016 popular vote, et al.
Hopefully, the progressive wing of the party can get its act together in short order, because failure to do so only empowers the Democratic establishment. Americans wanted change in 2016, and they still want it in 2020. Frankly, I have strong misgivings about Biden (much less Buttigieg) defeating Tr*mp in November.
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
The Suleimani assassination would have made sense had there been reliable intelligence that it would set off a destabilizing power struggle within the Iranian government; but reliable intelligence, in either sense of the word, is not characteristic of the Tr*mp Administration. The action's chief impact has been to put a damper on resistance to Iranian influence in Iraq. While many attribute the killing to Our President's shoot-from-the-crotch strategic incompetence, one still wonders: How does it benefit Putin?
Back in the 90s, liberals were broadly accused of practicing situation ethics: choosing to violate basic moral codes for the sake of some "greater good." Currently, that philosophy's main adherents are conservative Christians, most of whom were outraged when Mark Galli's editorial in Christianity Today identified Tr*mp as "a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused."
Given the 99.9% conviction rate in Japanese courts, nobody can be surprised that somebody with the wealth and influence of Carlos Ghosn would find a way to jump bail. Was Ghosn under-reporting his income, as charged? Probably: it's what the super-rich do. Does that explain why he was indicted? Highly unlikely.
Clearly, the drop in contributions to the Warren campaign was a direct outcome of her waffling on "Medicare for All": the left wing of the Democratic Party is in no mood for compromise. Granted, some sort of compromise will be required to get any such program through Congress, but facing up to reality is never a winning strategy in electoral politics.