The Media’s false equivalence is deadly

The corporate media, at its fairest and most balanced, often presents things in this frame:

Since there are very fine people, (along with a few bad apples), on both sides, on both sides, all Americans have to try harder to aim for the sane middle ground, between Black Lives Matter and the Klan, between Nazis and Jews, between billionaires and low value citizens, and we’ll be right back to tell you exactly how you can find that Golden Mean, but first, these important words from our sponsors.

Robert Reich lays it out in five minutes

and this bit of bitter common sense, also from Reich

McConnell gloats

From Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American, January 19, 2022

Greg Sargent, from today’s Washington Post:

At the one-year mark in President Biden’s first term, there’s no sugarcoating it: A barrage of new polls are absolutely brutal for him. Surveys from NBC News and the Associated Press both put Biden’s approval at 43 percent, and CBS News puts it at 44 percent, in large drops since last summer.


In short: Everything is going pretty much as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has planned. We know this because the Kentucky Republican told us exactly how he planned it. In fact, he laid out the playbook more than a decade ago, and it has changed little since then.


At dark moments such as these, after Biden’s voting rights agenda fell to a Republican filibuster on Wednesday night, it’s worth revisiting a largely-forgotten, 11-year-old quote from McConnell. It captures a crucial insight about U.S. politics that helps illuminate the struggles Democrats are facing, and why they feel so frustrating and intractable.


At the time, McConnell was similarly wielding his role as minority leader to obstruct another Democratic president, by denying any and all GOP support for proposals like the 2010 Affordable Care Act. McConnell explained his thinking to journalist Joshua Green:


“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

https://wapo.st/3nDZfyn

Why change the winning, hopelessness-inspiring gridlock formula that brought us Jesus’s choice Donald Trump and the triumph of Charles Koch’s once lunatic fringe John Birch Society?

Fake debate 2022 style

Today in Congress we hear GOP elected officials opposed to restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act debate the issue. Most repeat the absurd GOP talking point, when not attacking Biden, as they urge bipartisanship while filibustering one popular policy debate after another in order to hamstring Biden and make him look weak “Democrats are trying to nationalize national elections!”

Communism pure and simple!

I suppose I should be happy that none of the obstructionists I heard are retreating to their normal post-Gingrich talking points “I know you are, but what am I?” and “make me!”

Also, the bits of the “debate” I heard were refreshingly free of snarled threats of scorched earth if the Democrats manage, against all odds, to carve out a filibuster exception for legislation protecting the right to vote.

And while I’m thinking about it, you know what? Send out a national ID card to every registered voter, which can be turned into a photo ID at any government office, and let it be presented at the polls when we vote, if that’s what it takes. End of fucking debate, defenders of the Confederacy.

Give Biden a break


Paul Waldman in today’s Washington Post pointed out an obvious fact about Senate votes in an op-ed laying out why it’s wrong to blame progressives for Biden’s failure to keep campaign promises to pass transformational and widely popular measures that include funding proven measures to decrease child poverty, billions to fund programs to slow climate catastrophe and the protection of older Americans, new parents, their children and democracy itself. Biden faces a wall of 52 obstructionists in a minority controlled 100 member lawmaking body that requires 60 votes to move anything forward — TO EVEN DEBATE A BILL.

It’s not that the filibuster simply shuts down a vote, which of course it does, it shuts down a public debate on the issues in bills the House sends to the Senate for debate and a vote to pass it into law.

Compare Biden’s razor thin majorities to those of his two Democratic predecessors, as Waldman does here:

The Senate is divided 50-50 and Democrats have just a 10-vote margin in the House. Compare that to the majorities Barack Obama had in 2009: 60-to-40 in the Senate, 257-to-178 in the House. Or Bill Clinton in 1993: 57-to-43 in the Senate, 258-to-176 in the House.

The only reason the now hugely popular Obamacare passed was that the Democrats had an unfillibusterable majority in the Senate. Of course, the private health insurance-based bill came out of a conservative think tank, which made it more palatable to conservative Democrats who are generally called “moderates” or “centrists,” like today’s corrupt and contemptuous autocracy-enablers Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Fucking Sinema. Sinema and Manchin are 100% against any changes or carve outs to the filibuster, other than the one Sinema voted for last month to raise the debt ceiling, the one McConnell and more than a dozen Republicans also supported on the theory that it would leave Democrats with the sole blame for reckless spending to cover debts incurred by Trump (while preventing an unprecedented international economic crisis when the federal government shut down and the US defaulted on its debts.)

But back to Biden. He is often lambasted for lack of strength and resolve, for not twisting arms, breaking them if necessary, to get these critical voting laws passed. LBJ, Master of the Senate, did just that in 1964 and 1965 getting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed over feverish opposition. Restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a massively successful law that five un-elected right-wing zealots eviscerated in 2013, and a 6-3 majority beheaded last year, to give their side a partisan boost in elections, would require convincing twelve lockstep Republican senators to defy the vengeance of their famously vindictive party leader, come forward and vote with 48 Democrats.

Although we hear that 16 Republican senators who voted for the 2006 re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act (it was reauthorized 98-0 under Dubya and Cheney) are still in the Senate, times have changed. If every eligible voter was allowed to vote, and have their votes counted by nonpartisan officials, the extremist Republican party, currently in thrall to a maniac who demands fealty to a series of demonstrable lies, rightfully reasons they would be finished in national politics. The obvious answer, employed so far by 19 states since Trump was voted out, is to restrict who can vote, criminalize certain voting-related practices (no water to Blacks waiting hours on line to vote in Georgia, that’s outlawed now) and place partisan election officials as the final word on who won the election in each state, crucially each “swing state”.

Here is the Congress LBJ was working with when he got the 1965 Voting Rights Act, since nullified by the Supreme Court, passed:

Now, in fairness to LBJ, a master politician, those numbers are misleading. The solidly Trumpist/Republican former Confederacy was then solidly Democratic, since the hated Lincoln had been a Republican, as had the hated Radical Republicans who, after the war over states’ rights (states rights to own slaves) that the south never lost, briefly tyrannized the region by changing the Constitution at bayonet point and trying to force them to treat their Negroes as equals of the White Man. LBJ faced at least 22 Dixiecrats (two from each state of the former Confederacy) who’d be as dead set against a law ensuring despised minorities could vote as they were against making lynching of those same troublemakers a federal hate crime. LBJ had to use all his tools to convince several members of the Ku Klux Klan Kaucus, a powerful part of the Democratic party in Congress for generations, to risk their careers to cast the votes needed to pass the reboot of the Civil Rights Act passed right after the Civil War, and a Voting Rights Act to enforce the 15th amendment that proved effective in ending racist/partisan voter suppression practices in many parts of the country. Johnson knew that passing this law would swing the former Confederacy solidly Republican for generations, which it did, but with the Voting Rights Act in place it was a reasonable tradeoff for progress toward a more perfect democracy.

Let’s also acknowledge that the GOP today is an openly racist outfit, every elected member either loudly dog whistling it, shouting it or remaining strategically silent about it — while piously quoting a sanitized, kindergarten version of Martin Luther King, Jr. on his day every year. It turns out you can rebrand racism at law “partisanship” (as the 6-3 Trump Supreme Court did in beheading the Voting Rights Act last year) and let the games begin! Manchin and Sinema are applauded by right-wing partisans and open racists everywhere for their “bipartisan” stand against allowing the majority to overrule the will of the Trump Supreme Court.

Much of this Biden Failure has little to do with Joe Biden. The corporately funded Democratic party leadership that orchestrated Biden’s candidacy is infamously spineless and reflexively accommodating to the needs of the most powerful among us, while taking the votes of the people who wait on line for hours to actually vote them into office for granted. They are also shit at “messaging” — have nothing to compare to “Lock Her Up!” or “Build the Wall!” in terms of an idea that even morons can lustily repeat to each other, in our ad and sound byte driven polity as rationale for their “ideology”.

That said, the perception that Biden is a failure is the product of a morally supple, corporate ad-fueled mass media that constantly equates things that are not equal (like unified obstruction and a willingness to compromise), offers reasonable spins on incoherent Republican arguments, gives allegations, no matter how wild and unlikely, the same benefit of the doubt it gives to proven facts, avoids discussion of the actual issues underlying policy decisions, like the moral imperative to decrease child poverty in the wealthiest nation in history, in favor of exciting horse race coverage of zero-sum electoral politics, sandwiched between commercials.

We see the world through the filter of “respectable” journalism, whether it’s the echo chamber of the far-right, where every crackpot conspiracy is carefully considered and promoted for months on end, or in the corporate “liberal media” where both sides are generally given a fair chance to influence the polls that will tell us who is the winner and who is the loser on any given issue, based on polling. And, as we all know, the polls never lie.

But also, come on, man, it’s not that Biden isn’t working his ass off. He made a big miscalculation that people, benefiting from his policies, would get behind them and move the needle back toward sanity. That ain’t happening at the moment and he should have known from day one that you can’t work to build common ground with committed Nazis bent on destroying you politically, folks who will use even safety precautions during a pandemic as a battering ram against “government tyranny”.

Politics is different now, everything is weaponized, as in Newt Gingrich’s wildest wet dream, and we have Exhibit A, Kyrsten “dagger to the throat of democracy” Sinema, filibuster absolutist (except when voting for a carve out to pay our bills) who gets most of her campaign money, 90% of it, reportedly, from lobbyists outside the state that elected her to represent them in the Senate. And as the 5-4 Supreme Court taught us a few years ago in Citizens United, to limit the dark money campaign spending of politically motivated billionaires is anathema to the First Amendment — might as well put a gag on these poor corporations and hereditary billionaires and hang them from a tree as silence their free speech in this greatest Christian, White nation ever created by the hands of men.

How all this shit is Biden’s fault? It’s not. It was reported the other day that the ten richest men in the world doubled their already record-shattering fortunes since March 2020, trillions in pandemic windfalls. Biden and 99% of the rest of us favor taxing them. That Biden can’t do it? Not strictly his fault.

Kyrsten Fucking Sinema and the whores she rode in on

To understand how truly foul this creature from Arizons is, you have to remember that while Joe Biden was literally on his way to the Senate last week to speak to the two Democratic filibuster holdouts, two vain, witting or unwitting supporters of white supremacy and lying autocracy, this former Progressive from Arizona gave a speech announcing to the nation that she had far more power than any weak-assed old president from her own party. The disrepect and chutzpah of her “in your fucking face, cuck,” to Joe Biden as he made his way to talk sense to her and Manchin is breathtakingly revolting. On top of everything else, this bought and paid for friend of white nationalists, fascism-enabling bitch is a troll.

Today she blasted out a tweet proclaiming her admiration for a civil rights icon on whose legacy she is currently shitting as she shits on all voters everywhere. I will let my co-religionist Bryan Tyler Cohen take it from here.

Intent?

All my years as a lawyer still do not allow me to understand how a person’s willfully delusional belief can insulate him from having the clear intent that his actions continually demonstrated. First, a bit of context from today’s Washington Post.

Jennifer Rubin, in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, chose Merrick Garland as the “distinguished pol of the week” for his long-belated speech about following the facts and the law and prosecuting everyone involved in the insurrection that culminated in the riot at the Capitol on January 6th. Rubin, a lawyer by training and, in my opinion, an astute political analyst, was encouraged by Garland’s newly announced determination to follow the facts and the law and hold everyone accountable for the insurrectionist riot (we can now officially call it that, after DOJ charged a bunch of militia leaders with seditious conspiracy), whether they stormed the Capitol on January 6 or not. Her op ed was written to encourage us to be encouraged too. If you believe Garland’s resolve, and trust his ability to get investigations and prosecutions done, and irreversible convictions, before the short window of two party democracy closes, you should be encouraged.

A top headline on the front page of the same Washington Post reads: Justice Dept’s January 6 conspiracy probe doesn’t seem to directly pursue Trump. The article details the lack of DOJ investigation into Trump, his inner circle at the very end, including anyone who was in the Willard Hotel Command Center on January 6. Pleader of the Fifth Amendment John Eastman, author of the legal memo on how Pence could brazen it out on January 6th, using a crackpot 12th Amendment legal theory, to keep the Biden election result in doubt and throw the election to the Republican (for purposes of an electoral tie only) House, was never contacted by DOJ. Neither was disgraced former NYC police commissioner and convicted felon Bernard Kerik (imprisoned in the same new jail complex that until his conviction bore his name — pardoned by Trumpie) who told the Post he had “no DOJ contact”. Neither was Rudy, Sloppy Steve, American Eichmann Jeffery Clark, Mark Meadows. Mike “Good guy” Flynn or anyone else involved in the Trump dead-enders’ hydra-headed plan to overturn a US presidential election based on repeated allegations of massive voter fraud by Black urban voters.

We read that the DOJ has not contacted Brad Raffensberger, whose recorded call with Trump. released publicly more than a year ago, has the desperate former president ticking off every offense and sub-offense in the Georgia criminal law about attempting to corruptly influence an election outcome. Between the lines we find ourselves reading “what the fucking fuck?”

Perhaps most concerning is this fucking trope, which recurs in the article and, as I wrote up top, I have no idea how to understand, even after three years in law school and practicing law for a decade.

How is this different than Alan Dershowitz’s demented argument at one of Trumpie’s impeachments that if the president sincerely believed he was acting in the best interests of the nation, even if he was incorrect in his belief, as when he asked the new Ukrainian president to announce a fake fraud investigation to smear his political opponent (on the grounds that it was best for his country that he alone be left in place to fix it) that he could not have committed a misdemeanor, let alone a high crime? It is a close variation on the classic Nuremberg defense: if the Fuhrer commanded me to do it, and his word is law, and I was bound by an oath to obey, how was I to know he was an insane, mass murdering maniac ordering me to commit massive war crimes, let alone crimes against humanity, when I merely did what I to this day believe was my lawful duty?

Intent can be established by showing a pattern of behavior that demonstrates it. Trump intended to stay in office, no matter what. His intent was clear and every act he undertook, before and after the 2020 election, was in furtherance of what he intended to do. He continued to do these things after being shown he was mistaken in his belief that the election had been stolen by bipartisan fraud. He fired and replaced any official who served at his pleasure who told him the truth about the election he still refuses to concede he lost.

He was told, unequivocally, by his loyal gunsel Bill Barr, by Barr’s successor who refused to participate in a plan to enlist the DOJ in the fraudulent claim of voter fraud, by Pat Cippolone, his White House Counsel, by HSA cyber specialist Chris Krebs [1], by Raffensberger, by many others loyal to him, that there had been no evidence of massive, or even appreciable, voter fraud found. This was confirmed by numerous recounts and “audits” in every swing state Trump lost. It was reaffirmed when every lawsuit brought to challenge the election results was thrown out of court for failure to make a legal case.

Are we to believe that if Trump argues that he genuinely believed these people all lied to him, that the recounts and audits were all wrong, that the courts acted out of mere spite and irrational hatred of him, and that his lie was actually the truth, that he lacked the intent, and the premeditation, to commit the crimes he seems to have committed (hard to explain events otherwise, unless you get all of your information only from FOX, OANN, Newmax or Breitbart)? Seems to me the claim might be useful as part of an insanity defense, but how does it show a hard to overcome lack of intent on Trumpie’s part?

Hard to keep the top of my skull from blowing off my head, sometimes. We are living in times so interesting they make the old Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” really pop.

[1]

Trump fired Krebs, Trump’s Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the United States Department of Homeland Security, immediately after Krebs publicly stated that the 2020 election had been the most secure election on record. Evidence of the Orange Polyp’s Intent? Nah…

The problem with moderate compromisers vs. Nazis

I’m with Mary Trump, brilliant niece of a cunning opportunist of average intelligence, I don’t join the bipartisan attack on President Biden. He wasn’t my first choice, or even my fifth choice, but he is the president 81,000,000 of us voted for, the president we have to work with as we try to figure out how to preserve democracy in the face of 52 immovable votes against it in a best of 100 scenario. In some ways Biden has exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly low), but in other ways I’ve been confirmed in my reservations when the DNC orchestrated his sudden candidacy, over the man who had won most of the primaries up to that point.

I would rather have taken my chances with a less morally flexible president, one with a clear vision of justice and a real fighting spirit, who’d announced and stood by his ideals year after year, always had the most direct, honest and reasonable reaction to the latest provocations by Trumpists, had a real vision of what this country could be, a hopeful vision in line with probably 60% of America. Instead, when it was deemed such a candidate couldn’t win (Biden famously said of his comfortable margin of victory over his predecessor: don’t forget, I ran against Trump) we got the compromise candidate. I don’t reduce him to this one craven act, but I never forget that Biden could not bring himself to actually apologize to Anita Hill for subjecting her to the humiliation she faced, at the hands of a bipartisan committee of white men, when truthfully testifying about what should have disqualified Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. “I wish I could have done more,” Biden, the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Hill, to clinch the decades-belated, politically motivated non-apology he tendered.

That said, Biden and his administration are our last, best hope for fact-based democracy, seemingly ready for the fight, at least in spirit, and infinitely preferable to the open, incoherent authoritarianism of a major party whose members must now swear loyalty to a transparent, anti-democratic lie about a rigged, stolen election to protect the ego of a delicate, vengeful madman.

Fascist takeovers are often preceded by a quieter legal takeover, as moderate, compromise-oriented politicians leaning slightly left thoughtfully ponder the way the water in the pot is getting hotter and hotter, almost boiling. The 1971 Powell memorandum commissioned by the US Chamber of Commerce advised corporations and their wealthy supporters to get serious about installing activist corporatist judges to lifetime appointments to the federal bench — or perish under the weight of “minority” voters and their parasitic entitlement. Two months after producing the Powell memorandum, its author, a corporate lobbyist, was on his way to a lifelong appointment to the Supreme Court. The right-wing has been deadly serious, and extremely successful in consolidating and ensuring perpetual minority power. The video below takes a look at the organized right-wing judicial capture that has a dagger at the throat of majority rule, while huge mobs of our countrymen believe, for some reason, that violence against a cabal of lying, poisonous pedophile cannibals is not only justified, but probably necessary at this point.

The Supreme Court that Federalist Society and religious Christian cult member Amy Coney Barrett insisted are not partisan hacks (she did this at the McConnell Center in Kentucky, the Grim Reaper himself doing his choked smile on the podium next to her) is a 6-3 majority of partisan hacks. Skilled hacks, in most cases, with the best legal minds they can hire researching and writing their opinions, rulings that consistently advance their carefully vetted extremist ideology.

The danger of a moderate, institutionalist, compromise-oriented presidential administration as the last bulwark against a well-organized, billionaire-funded, determined anti-democratic movement bent on destroying all democratic institutions, is that it will try to remain moderate and compromise-oriented, even when confronted with uncompromising partisans willing to use lies, bribery and violence to get its way. It will attempt compromise until it is too late.

They will appoint a moderate, ideologically balanced commission to study the problem of an openly partisan 6-3 Supreme Court, to ensure everyone of fairness. Eventually, after being thwarted over and over (along with a large majority of struggling Americans) by united far right obstruction, and sinking in the polls that drive our horse race politics (policy is too boring! horse and dog races are exciting!), in spite of major achievements, they will give an angry, irrefutable speech six, or ten months too late to make any difference swaying public opinion which is best shaped by bold action.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse lays out the judicial part of the scheme in the eleventh installment of his excellent series The Scheme.

No code of ethics for the Supreme Court, although Biden’s special commission to study how to re-balance the Federalist Society/Trump Supreme Court ventured that one was needed. Such a code could require recusal in cases where an incorruptible justice appears to have a conflict of interest! It would have made the 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore impossible, for example! Why impose ordinary government ethical requirements and oversight on nine judicial superheroes who are unappealably above the political fray?

Anonymous donations, to the tune of $400,000,000, to pack the federal courts? Uhmmm. Orchestrated flotillas of amicus briefs, funded by dark money, almost 100% persuasive to right wing judges, eh … wait, unlimited dark money is protected speech under Citizens United, 5-4.

Fast tracks for partisan 5-4 (now 6-3) decisions supporting donor chosen cases helpful to their bottom lines? No problemo, boss. That’s why they invented the shadow docket! Nothing wrong with a partisan judicial motive in democracy, it is fair play, just like partisan advantage in redistricting, and legislating in your own advantage, when you have the power. It’s a war (against Christianity, don’t you know?). Concerns about the “dubious legitimacy of how some of the justices were appointed” –mere fighting words from America-hating cucks like Laurence Tribe (how does a moderate even put someone like that on the advisory commission?!).

We had a 6-3 political ruling yesterday, a fast-tracked ruling on a Republican challenge to Biden’s allegedly tyrannical abuse of OSHA to try to restrain the new deluge of super-infectious covid cases in the face of united Republican opposition to vaccines, masks and public safety. This ruling was treated as a fast-tracked emergency, while Trump’s losing appeal languishes, continuing to baselessly delay the release of papers from the National Archives (presumably an army of dark money funded lawyers is working to find a legal theory for the court two overrule the two lower courts and affirm Trump’s right to obstruct justice in perpetuity).

The ruling against OSHA’s vaccine or weekly testing requirement (with an exemption for religious science objectors, don’t you know) may have been idiotic, it boils down to “Covid has nothing to do with workplace safety, cucks!” but it is also the unappealable last constitutional word on the subject. The big shocker was that two of the Federalist Society Six actually agreed with the three America-hating communist justices that programs funded by Medicare and Medicaid may require vaccines, masks and testing of their public facing health care employees. A great day for our activist Supreme Court. A great day for America, particularly fascist America, where tyranny, like racism, is only possible when the stinking evil, hateful majority does it. As for the Supreme Court, the stench is hard to miss.

Human history, written in the blood of the vanquished, is an uninterrupted epic poem of what happened when decent people, with the best of intentions, were besieged by armies of enraged fanatics who would stop at nothing to overrun weaklings. It generally does not end well for decent people, with the best of intentions. We have a fight of historic magnitude on our hands today, my friends.

Sarah Lazarus said it all today

In her excellent Crooked Media daily newsletter (which you can get emailed to you for free) Sarah serves up an intelligent, witty summary of, and commentary on, the day’s news. Here is her unbeatable recap of yesterday’s news:

So, to recap: The filibuster and GOP gerrymandering prevent Democrats from getting legislation passed in Congress, and two lunkheads prevent them from changing the rules to fix that. Then, when a Democratic president tries to govern around a paralyzed Senate, a handful of conservative justices (appointed by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote and confirmed by Republican senators who ditched the filibuster to do so) invalidate the White House’s authority, saying that Congress needs to pass legislation. By the end of that loop, all voters get out of a Democratic trifecta is a presidential statement asking business leaders to please just do the right thing. 

One of their best anti-Trump ads ever

These guys make very powerful political ads. I don’t like their politics, these now somewhat repentant Republican political operatives. They and their fellow far-right “movement conservative” ilk delivered our democracy directly to this extreme crisis point. I like their political views, their worldview, about as much as I like the idea of President Liz Cheney carrying on her evil father’s dynasty. But I have to take my hat off to their particular talent, these hardcore Republican media and marketing campaign specialists sure know how to make an ad that punches their enemy in the face, hard. This might be their best punch yet.