Saturday, November 26, 2022

Hot Off the Trail: Politically Savvy Republicans Party Like It's 1932 - in Germany

By Political Editor David Bloviator
with Meta-Content Generator A.J. Liebling

Politically savvy Republicans, angry and disappointed over their lackluster midterm performance, have hit upon a sure-fire strategy for electoral success in 2024:


The leader of the Republican Party, and the overwhelming favorite of Republican voters, formally embraced Nazi leader Nick Fuentes over, wait for it, Thanksgiving Dinner at his pisspoor Palm Beach “club,” a club so exclusive that it will admit anyone who forks over 200 large for membership. 

Who's Nick Fuentes?

According to the Trevi Fountain of conventional wisdom Axios, he's “a man labeled a "white supremacist" by the Justice Department, [and] frequently promotes racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” As Nazis are wont to do.

The less tactful Media Matters stated flatly that Fuentes is a “[w]hite nationalist and Holocaust denier.”

Media Matters went on to report that 

Fuentes?  A Nazi? Who knew?

Nick Fuentes posted on Telegram, “​​Kanye [West] is going to be cancelled by the Jews for saying that the Jews invented cancel culture” and shared multiple memes celebrating the rapper. Fuentes also streamed West’s music on his Cozy.TV platform while wearing a West-inspired face covering. The title of the stream was “DEFCON 3.”

Say what you will about demented Jew-hater Kanye West, but he knows who his friends are.  As a reward for standing loyally by his side, Kanye brought Nazi Nick to Mar-a-Lago to celebrate the true spirit of Thanksgiving – white supremacy – with well-known foe of democracy Donald Trump.

According to the always-lying Tangerine-Faced Grifter, Kanye was invited by Trump to add some celebrity glitter to the usual Mar-a-Lago crowd of used car dealers and their high mileage surgically-improved escorts.  Mr. Kardashian supposedly brought Fuentes along as an uninvited guest and Trump and his ace political team waved him over to Trump's table, although the Tiny Toadstool claimed that he had no idea who Fuentes was.

Of course, Trump's hapless stooges tried to lie about Fuentes:

Citing people close to Mr. Trump, some earlier news coverage of Mr. West’s visit to Mar-a-Lago had falsely reported that Mr. Fuentes did not attend the dinner. 

When that lie blew up, they trotted out a new series of whoppers, stating that Trump had no idea who Fuentes was and just let him in because he seemed hungry.

Sure.  That makes sense.

If a deranged anti-Semite shows up on your doorstep with a friend, would you think that this guy had graduated from Reb Solovetchik's yeshivah?  Don't tell us that Trump was accompanied by an aide who who knew exactly who Fuentes was:

The fourth attendee at the four-person dinner, Karen Giorno — a veteran political operative who worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign as his state director in Florida — also confirmed that Mr. Fuentes was there.

Trump, desperately eager to flaunt any celebrity, no matter how loathsome, who will appear in public with him for free, planted his two Jew-hating guests on the patio.  The dinner started out cordially enough:

A source familiar with the dinner conversation told Axios that Trump "seemed very taken" with Fuentes, impressed that the 24-year-old was able to rattle off statistics and recall speeches dating back to his 2016 campaign....Trump at one point turned to Ye and said, "I really like this guy. He gets me," according to the source.

He sure does, Donald, he sure does.

As with any other interaction with Trump, the dinner soon derailed:

"Kanye brought a couple friends to dinner"

Ye, who has lost major sponsorships over his anti-Semitism and recent far-right associations, has said he wants to run for president in 2024. The rapper claims Trump started "screaming" at him at the dinner and told him he would lose — "most perturbed" by Ye asking Trump to be his running mate. 

But that was just the comic relief.

The unfunny part happened next, when Trump's embrace of Nazi Fuentes could no longer be denied. The now-frightened Tiny Toadstool fired off a series of incoherent messages claiming that he didn't know who Fuentes was and that anti-Semitism didn't come up at the dinner (how nice!).

His handlers, meanwhile, spun credulous reporters like Maggie Haberman, claiming that the entire incident reflected nothing more than the usual chaos of Camp Trump:

Even taking at face value Mr. Trump’s protestation that he knew nothing of Mr. Fuentes, the apparent ease with which Mr. Fuentes arrived at the home of a former president who is under multiple investigations — including one related to keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago long after he left office — underscores the undisciplined, uncontrolled nature of Mr. Trump’s post-presidency just 10 days into his third campaign for the White House.

Sure, Maggie, that's got to be the reason.  The reason couldn't be that Trump agrees with Fuentes on core neo-Nazi principles like white supremacy and Jew hatred, could it?

After all, didn't Trump move quickly and decisively to disassociate himself from Fuentes's Nazi ideology?

Um, no, he didn't.

He hasn't said one f***in' thing that would lead even the most naive observer (like Ms. Haberman) to conclude that he had any problem with the substance of Fuentes's loathsome Nazi views.

Two likely reasons why:  (1) Trump is a white racist and anti-Semite, as he has repeatedly proven, and (2) Trump believes that racism and anti-Semitism are winning issues with the Republican base.

It's explanation number 2 that intrigues us the most.  If it is incorrect, one would expect that Trump's political rivals would be falling all over themselves to condemn Fuentes and all the awful things he stands for.

Thus far, the number of Republican politicians doing so remains at, let's check here, running one more data batch, 0.0.

In fairness Sen. Wilfred M. “Profiles in Courage” Romney was too busy overseeing the illegal aliens he hired to lubricate his car elevator and install a new luggage rack dog crate, but he'll get around to weighing in, we're sure.

Surely the Republican Jewish Coalition would fearlessly call out Trump for happily consorting with open and notorious Jew haters? 

Guess again:

 Oy vey.

And what about Trump's leading rival and God's gift to Florida, Ron DeathSantis?  He certainly isn't going to base his campaign on the same hateful white supremacist garbage that Fuentes is peddling, is he? Let's ask the reporters who know him best at the Florida Phoenix:

DeSantis has one goal: become our first full-bore White Nationalist president. To achieve it, he’ll borrow Donald Trump’s playbook, whipping up white folks’ fear that their America — the one in which they were unambiguously in charge — is being taken over by feminists, gays, Marxists, Muslims, secular humanists, climate change activists, the “woke,” the over-educated elites, and migrants. 

Oh.  That sounds a lot like – Nick Fuentes.

Wait until the national media figures out that all leading Republicans espouse an ideology not meaningfully different from the Nazi revival swill of Nick Fuentes and his fellow insurrectionists.

Keep waiting.

Wait some more.

Right now, though, the wise white political hotshots are running with two stories: Trump is a laughable buffoon who is tripping all over himself (the same narrative that they embraced to disastrous effect before the 2016 election) and DeSantis is a master politician with broad national appeal.  Here's how the creepy white supremacist, hate-monger, and Christian dominionist is treated by The New York Times:

One of the most anticipated, Gov. Ron DeSantis, received a raucous reception for a keynote address that outlined how his success in Florida could be a nationwide formula for Republicans. “The state of Florida is where woke goes to die,” Mr. DeSantis declared.

Raucous?  Like Nuremberg Rally raucous?

If woke means supporting democracy, diversity, and tolerance, then you would think this would not be a good thing for our Republic and our media would want to point this out while there's still time.

Alas they are too busy putting out a different message: even if the entire Republican Party has become a bastion of white supremacy and fascism, the Democrats aren't without sin either:

On the one hand, the entire Republican Party is mouthing Nazi ideology.  On the other, Joe Biden wouldn't let reporters bother his son Hunter during the wedding of Hunter's daughter. 

Both Sides. 

When they make the documentary about the media's failure to cover the Republican infatuation with white supremacy and fascism, we've got the title: Triumph of the Willfully Ignorant.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

It's a Wonderful Lie: The Story of FTX

By Financial Editor Samuel Insull
with Legal Correspondent Saori Shirosaki

It's almost Christmas time and that means we'll all gather 'round the old tube and watch It's a Wonderful Life, which tells the story of George Bailey, who always wanted to see the world but never left Bedford Falls, N.Y.

You'll remember that George, ready to leave on his around-the-world honeymoon, had to change his plans to quell a run on his family's two-bit bank.  The problem was panic: his bank had properly used its depositors' assets to underwrite mortgages to the locals.  But when the depositors wanted all their money at once, he couldn't satisfy their demands because he didn't have the cash on hand.

Now George Bailey was a honest man and – spoiler alert – his story has a happy ending.

But the same cannot be said of the 2022 remake starring Sam Bankman-Fried, the disheveled boy-man who sent $10,000,000,000 of his depositors' money up the chimney.  Somehow when Sam jumped onto the Foosball table in his Bahamas penthouse/office/sin bin and explained, “the money's not here, it's in my worthless crypto currency,” the customers were not comforted.

Cue flashback:

 Out of control, according to the normally-staid New York TimesTell us more:

In 2019, Mr. Bankman-Fried hit upon an idea: Why not build a cryptocurrency exchange that could bring in revenue to help fund Alameda’s activities?

FTX was born. It moved from Hong Kong to the Bahamas, where Mr. Bankman-Fried built his base of operations, and the exchange took off. In financial presentations to investors, the company claimed in 2021 that it was raking in $1 billion in annual revenue by charging fees to customers who wanted to trade cryptocurrencies on its platform. It marketed itself aggressively to ordinary investors eager to trade the hot new thing.

Both FTX and Alameda benefited from [Sam's FTT] token’s rising value. The exchange began using FTT to make dozens of investments worth billions of dollars in other crypto companies. A 2019 investor presentation for the new exchange said, “FTT will be the backbone of the growing FTX ecosystem,” and promised investors and customers “guaranteed liquidity,” or the ability to always get back their money.

FTX investors want their money back
In the presentation, a cartoon avatar of mop-topped Mr. Bankman-Fried gave a thumbs up and simply said: “So easy!”

At the same time, Alameda, which held a large stake in the token, began using its FTT holdings as collateral for more loans to facilitate its trading activities. As of Sept. 30, Alameda had roughly $13 billion in assets, according to Thursday’s bankruptcy filings, although Mr. Ray, the restructuring lawyer and newly appointed chief executive, said he had no confidence in the numbers.

The intertwined business model, with FTT propping up the two entities, turned Mr. Bankman-Fried into a crypto hero. Even if many backers and supporters of the exchange didn’t quite understand how it all worked, they were taken in by his compelling pitch. He styled himself as an idiosyncratic genius willing to engage with regulators and call out the scams plaguing the crypto industry. He also expressed a commitment to give away much of his wealth to charity. 

Charity?  He's like the Paul Newman of crypto, if there was nothing in the Newman's Own salad dressing bottles.

Before we even wade into the crypto nonsense, let's spend a minute on these two entities, Alameda and FTX.   

FTX claimed it was an “exchange.”  If only anyone could help us define what an exchange is.  We found this thing called the “Securities Exchange Act of 1934.” Let's see what it has to say!

The term “exchange” means any organization, association, or group of persons, whether incorporated or unincorporated, which constitutes, maintains, or provides a market place or facilities for bringing together purchasers and sellers of securities.

15 U.S.C. § 78c(a)(1). (This means it's actually the law of the land as enacted by the Congress.)

So an exchange is a place, perhaps an online space, or perhaps a street corner in Lower Manhattan where buyers and sellers can meet and, um, exchange stuff. Central to this definition is the idea that the exchange never owns the objects it's trading, so if it goes toes up, the buyers and sellers can take their marbles and trades elsewhere. 

Can any Tom, Dick or Sammy run their own exchanges? Well,

An exchange may be registered as a national securities filing with the Commission an application for registration in such form as the Commission, by rule, may prescribe containing the rules of the exchange and such other information and documents as the Commission, by rule, may prescribe as necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors 

15 U.S.C. § 78f. Regulated to protect investors? What a ridiculous idea!  Sam would never allow anyone to protect his investors, you'll be shocked to learn, even as he swanned around Washington distributing campaign cash and acres of sincere b.s. on a bipartisan basis.

And how was he supposed to know about the arcane provisions of the fundamental securities law of the United States?  Was he just supposed to ask his dad?  What would he know about it?

Just because your dad holds a chair in law and business at Stanford Law School doesn't mean he knows anything about the basics of financial markets, apparently.

A course on anxiety psychoeducation at Stanford Law School?  Probably something all those Silicon Valley geniuses who lost hundreds of millions of their investors' money in his son's scam might be interested in about now.

And mom wouldn't be much help either, would she?

Distributive justice?  That's the branch of philosophy where you learn the ethical basis for redistributing wealth from investors into your own pocket.  As a member of the Class of 1976, she would have been able to hear about distributive justice from John Rawls himself, and pass along his wisdom to her boy Sam.

But we digress. As we said earlier, FTX was not an exchange because it took control of assets and then invested them for its own purposes, mostly in its affiliated unregulated hedge fund, Alameda.

When an institution does that with your cash, we call it a “bank.”  Like George Bailey's Building & Loan.  Let's go back to the Securities Exchange Act:

The term “bank” means any...banking institution or savings association, .. a substantial portion of the business of which consists of receiving deposits or exercising fiduciary powers similar to those permitted to national banks...and which is supervised and examined by State or Federal authority having supervision over banks or savings associations.

So when an institution reduces you to the status of an unsecured creditor, and then invests your assets someplace, it's acting like a bank.  And it has to be regulated because that's a dangerous business.  There are thousands of pages of bank regulation and multiple agencies all sticking their noses in bank business exactly to prevent your bank from doing what FTX did.

To be fair, sometimes the regulation is so nobbled that the financial institution invests in crap deals for the benefit of bank management and the bank fails.  Generally, however, the small depositors are protected by insurance and the big investors bribe Congress for a bailout.  Just ask the “Keating Five.”

We could quote even more fascinating provisions of federal law, but let's cut to the truth about regulation of crypto crap.  As our old friend Dennis Kelleher explained, 

Too many (again, who should know better) are still repeating industry talking points that the FTX collapse shows that new legislation and regulation is needed. That is not true. The current laws and rules are fully adequate to address the lawlessness going on in crypto. It has been estimated that around 80% of the crypto tokens comfortably fall within the longstanding, clear, black letter law definition of a security (around since 1933) and the remaining fall within the equally longstanding definition of commodity (around since 1936). The problem is that the crypto industry refuses to comply with the securities and commodities laws (that exist to protect investors, customers and financial stability) and, therefore, the vast majority of crypto products are unregistered securities and commodities being traded on unregistered exchanges

Last meeting of FTX Compliance Committee

All of these made up tokens, including Sam's own FTT, are securities. It's illegal to sell unregulated securities to the general public. If you sell them by fraudulently failing to disclose material information, like you put a supposed $10 billion worth in an affiliated hedge fund for your own benefit, you can go to jail. 

Why haven't our vast armies of financial regulators done anything up to now?  One sad truth is that financial regulators don't step in until it's too late, as was the case with the S&L crisis and the 2008 market meltdown.  Another less charitable view belongs to the aforementioned Mr. Kelleher, who has spent his entire professional life working in the financial-services sector:

Sure, some in the industry said they wanted to “engage” with regulators (on terms they dictate) and even wanted to be regulated (albeit as little as possible), but the clear strategy has always been to just break the law and at the same time buy as many politicians as possible to get special interest legislation that would give it the weakest, most friendly possible regulator and regulation. They wanted the form and appearance of regulation without the substance of real regulation. That’s why the industry keeps pushing for the CFTC to be its regulator: the CFTC is the smallest and least funded financial regulator. Crypto believed it would be the easiest to capture, dominate, manipulate, and keep defanged.

Stop beating around the bush, Dennis, and just tell us what's on your mind.

We suspect that the brazenness of Jughead Bankman-Fried's thievery will bring down the regulatory hammer, but we also suspect that those who entrusted their life savings to him are, to use one final term of art in the field of securities regulation, s*** out of luck.

We suggest that the poor sods whose lives have been ruined by this finagle enroll as quickly as possible in a course of “anxiety psychoeducation.” And if you live in Palo Alto, you're in luck, because you can walk across the Camino Real and sign up today!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Broken News: The Red Puddle

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

What happened to that Red Wave?  We know the answer: it crashed against the rocks of real voters.  Our topic today is: what happened to the pundits and gasbags who for months predicted that Red Wave?

The short answer is of course nothing.  They will continue to dispense conventional wisdom and memory-hole their farcically-wrong pre-election prognostications.

The pundits were spot on as always

But there's a longer answer provided by long-time media critic Dan Froomkin:

Ever since they started handicapping the 2022 election...leading political reporters and pundits consistently predicted a midterm shellacking for Joe Biden and Democrats. It’s almost like they were looking forward to it.

They never even considered that voters might reject extremism.

No wonder they didn’t see it coming.

They wrote about the inevitably devastating impact of Biden’s low approval ratings. They wrote about the undeniable historical trends. And more recently, they wrote relentlessly, about inflation as a Democratic albatross, even though it was a global phenomenon being exploited by fossil-fuel and grocery-store giants.

After the Dobbs decision, they briefly entertained the notion that things might go another way. But then they dismissed it entirely.

By contrast, what any responsible, halfway-intelligent and not coopted political reporter should have been asking, over and over again, is: After all this — after Trump’s attempt to steal the election, after a violent right-wing assault on the Capitol, and with the GOP swearing fealty to MAGA, spreading vile conspiracy theories about white replacement, and accusing teachers of grooming — how could America possibly vote for Republicans ever again?

That's a harder question, especially in Texas and Florida, which we'll have to leave for another day.  Today we seek only to turn the hot lights on some of the supposed experts who were left with their junk flopping in the breeze when the Red Tide receded.

Here's that Niagara of conventional wisdom, Politico, getting it wrong to the very end (November 7):

The story went to cherry pick a poll that asked voters what would play a major role in deciding how they would vote.  Lots said the economy.  Can you name a single year in the history of polling when voters didn't say the economy was a major issue?  Our lines are open!  Politico also cited a finding that 70% of voters thought the country was on the wrong track.  By a marvel of meta-incomprehension, Politico itself took the wrong track and concluded that this was bad for Democrats.  Have you met any Democrat after Dobbs, Trump, DeathSantis, election denial, endless hate speech and acts, and an attempted and continuing insurrection led by Trump and supported by 90% of Republicans who thinks the country on the right track?  

Speaking of the Usual Suspects, let's go back to October 28:

That voters might have other things on their minds than Joe Biden (whose performance since inauguration given his razor-thin majorities has been nothing short of astonishing) never seemed to find purchase in the great empty spaces of Cillizza's brainpan.   Women worried about losing their half-century right to control their own bodies thanks to a Republican-bent Supreme Court?  Not an issue...for white men like him.

Not to be outdone in quoting some poll data and then free associating it to nonsense, reliably wrong Chuck Todd opened Meet the Press on October 23 thusly:

Overall, the battle for congressional control, it's a dead even 47-46. But if you go under the hood of our poll, this brand new poll, you will see that among likely voters, Republicans have an advantage, and among the final group of persuadable voters, Republicans have the advantage. That is why it feels as if the wind has shifted a little bit here.

Dead even?  That must be good news for Democrats because, as pundits never tire of telling us, the party controlling the White House usually loses a bunch of seats at the midterms.  There was indeed a mighty wind brewing but poor old Chuck needed a weatherman, or perhaps a 25-year-old woman, to tell him which way it was blowing.

Sadly the results were not much better at the summits of the journalism food chain.  Here's The Washington Post's Michael Scherer on October 23:

You would think that it's always the case that Democrats express pre-election shpilkes, in part because they're Democrats and in part because it's tactically wise to strike fear into the heart of your base by claiming that even a single vote could change the outcome (as indeed appears to be the case).  And Republicans always express steely confidence, in part because they're Republicans and in part because everyone they talk to at the Bushwood Country Club bar thinks like them.  That's why if you just rely on party hacks, you will, like Scherer, f*** up.

By the way, what's he saying now?

We're seeing a lot of passive voice in the post-election coverage.  The midterms looked like a GOP lock?  To whom?  And with the keen hindsight now being deployed by Mr. Scherer, how could any f***in' idiot have missed the signs?

Here's his post-mortem:

They [Republicans] were hobbled by unprepared first-time candidates, fundraising shortfalls and Trump, whose self-concern required constant attention — right up to the eve of the election, when he forced party bosses to beg him once again to delay a presidential campaign announcement.

Interestingly, each of these phenomena were in public view before Election Day. Anyone could have observed them if they weren't too busy jabbering to consultants and their fellow hacks.

But don't worry, Scherer based his coverage not on what real voters think but on the same disingenuous clowns who misled him all along:

This story of how the Republican Party red wave became a ripple — with Republicans on track to narrowly win control in the House and still at risk of falling short in the Senate — is based on interviews with 47 strategists, donors, advisers and candidates from both parties...

Which is why he focuses on insider baseball and not on the views of his fellow citizens worried as much about the future of democracy as reporters are about the soaring price of Cheetos in the Post's vending machines.  It also means that he regurgitates the Republican talking point that their problem is not their sucky white supremacist pro-rich anti-women anti-Earth views; it's that they can't find anyone to put them across as smoothly at St. Ronald of Bitburg did 40 years ago. Just because the Republicans pour this into the ears of credulous reporters doesn't make it true.

We've saved the apex of the journalism food pyramid for last.  How did The New York Times do?

Not so good:

But surely The Times in its post-election analysis would not step on the same cowpie as the Post by relying on self-serving spin from Republican hacks, right?

Sorry, Scotty:

So how many interviews does it take to f**k up a story like this?  Seventy!  And it's yet another triumph of the passive voice:

All the conditions appeared to have been set for a Democratic wipeout: inflation at 40-year highs, concerns about crime, elevated gas prices, the typical thrust for change.

Appeared to whom, we ask.

Did the Times piece delve deeply on the vital issues that caused millions of voters to gag at the thought of voting Republican?

Our careful review of the piece reveals:

 Phrase not found.  

In fairness, the word is found in a subhead several thousand words into the piece, in connection with a brief, stupid discussion of how the loss of reproductive rights protected for a half-century helped the Democrats, wait for it, raise money.

How about one more fun word search?

 Yeah, we knew that.

So like the Bourbon Restoration, the political punditocracy has risen from their debacle having learned nothing.  Unlike the Bourbons, though, they've forgotten everything and appear ready to commit the same elementary mistakes beginning today:

Sure, that sounds right.  If Republicans are able to shut down the government, default on the national debt, disarm Ukraine, and spend the next two years yelling about Hunter Biden, you can be sure that our reliably wrong pundits will faithfully pass along the talking points they get from their red-hot Republican “sources” who will term the ongoing Republican subversion of democratic government a “midterm stalemate.”  

UPDATE, November 13:  Remember Dan Froomkin?  Here's his latest:

Saturday, November 5, 2022

From the Archives: Do Republicans Really Want To Cut Social Security and Medicare?

Editors' Note: Republicans are now so confident about the midterms that they have started to talk about their plans to aid hard-working Americans struggling with soaring inflation by...cutting their Social Security and Medicare.  Their unpopular message doesn't seem to be harming their standing with those who will suffer, perhaps because they don't believe that Republicans are serious about cutting either of these two programs enjoyed by millions of white people.  We decided to dip into our archives to see if Republicans had ever made similar threats before.  You'll never guess what we found:

June 9, 1981:

From The New York Times News Service: Other [Medicare] measures sought by the [Reagan] Administration include blocking certain benefit expansions authorized by Congress last year. These include proposals not to expand coverage to the elderly for pneumonia vaccine, dental care, unlimited home health service visits and alcohol detoxification facilities. 

August 22, 1983:

These Florida voters aren't worried about Medicare.

In an essay published in the August 21 New York Times, prominent Republican Senator Bob Dole has urged Congress to consider cutting Medicare benefits to ward off what he said was a looming financial crisis in the government-run single-payer health care system:

I would argue that first we ought to allow the Congress an opportunity to do what it is here to do. In my view, we should revive the bipartisan spirit that marked the success of the Social Security rescue plan. There will be those who will urge us not to consider certain options they believe to be undesirable, such as increased beneficiaries' cost sharing, and will ask that we depend solely on regulatory solutions. On the other side, there will be those interested in removing the Federal Government from the business of health care. Finally, there will be those of us in the middle, ready to consider all options for reform ...

December 11, 1991:

From the New York Times News Service: President Bush's budget director is proposing to increase Medicare premiums for affluent people, to impose new limits on the cost of biomedical research and to expand programs encouraging teen-agers to abstain from sex. ...

The Medicare proposal would affect people with annual incomes of more than $125,000, raising their monthly premium to about $95.

Congress took no action when Mr. Bush put forward a similar plan 10 months ago,...

He was talking about Medicare.

November 17, 1995:

From Spy news services: Republican negotiators from the Senate and House sent the balanced budget bill that would limit spending on Medicare and Medicaid, saving more than $430 billion over seven years. During that same period, the Republicans propose to reduce taxes by $245 billion. And they would overhaul welfare, turning responsibility over to the states.

The Federal Government went into partial shutdown at midnight on Monday, hours after President Clinton vetoed a temporary spending bill that would have kept all operations going until Dec. 5. But Clinton said that the Republican-drafted temporary spending bill would have required "a level of cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, in education, in the environment and a tax increase on working people, all of which I find highly objectionable." 

November 15, 1997:

The New York Times reported that Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation said yesterday that it had agreed to pay its former chairman and chief executive nearly $10 million when he was forced out in July in the wake of an unfolding criminal investigation of the company.

The agreement with the executive, Richard L. Scott, [Whatever happened to that guy?  He must have done hard time. – Ed.] provided for a one-time payment of $5.13 million, as well as a five-year annual consulting fee of $950,000, for a total of $9.88 million, ...

The company also disclosed yesterday that its lawyers had met with Federal prosecutors investigating Columbia's business practices as part of its efforts to cooperate with the inquiry. ...The investigation has focused on contentions that Columbia illegally increased compensation from Federal programs like Medicare by misrepresenting certain expenses in reports to the Government. The Government is also investigating allegations of improper billing practices, from misreporting the diagnosis on medical billing records to improperly charging Federal health programs for inappropriate blood tests.

Sen. Rick "Fifth Amendment" Scott
has big plans for Social Security

June 24, 2005:

The New York Times has come out against George W. Bush's Social Security privatization plan, calling it a “winless quagmire....” Although Congressional Republicans have begged him to drop the plan, the Times reported “Mr. Bush has responded to this new political reality by, first, insisting that the American people do not yet understand the virtues of privatization, and second, blaming the failure of his deservedly unpopular plan on Congressional Democrats....That's absurd.

After listening to Mr. Bush talk of little else during his second term, the American people understand quite well what he is proposing for Social Security, and by wide margins reject it. In fact, the polls show that the more they learn about privatization, the less they like it. And with good reason. The very real risks of privatization -- in terms of retirement security and the enormous budgetary cost to the country -- far outweigh the potential rewards.”

October 22, 2022:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who could become speaker if the GOP wins the House, suggested this week that his party would be willing to use an increase in the debt limit as leverage to force policy changes. McCarthy did not rule out including Medicare and Social Security in the calculation as Republicans look to reduce government spending. Washington Post News Service. 


Did we mention that the last day to vote by person or by mail is Tuesday, November 8?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

From the Archives: Economic Anxiety May Decide Crucial Election

Editors' Note: The crucial midterm elections, with democracy hanging in the balance, are but two weeks away and we're seeing a lot of coverage of things like ... the high price of gasoline and Snickers bars, not to mention endless horse race stories about the likely effect of unpopular leaders.  Was there any other time when a vital election was covered by obscuring the real matter at issue?  We took a deep dive into our 252-year archives and fished this out:  (In a future issue, we'll look at what happened after the election.  Spoiler alert: it turned out badly!)


     November 1, 1932                   LATE CITY FINAL★★★                        PRICE: TWO CENTS


By Margot Oater
Berlin Correspondent
By Cable to The Massachusetts Spy

With the crucial German election only a few days away, economic issues are taking a front seat in the minds of German voters, weary of high unemployment while fearing a rise in inflation.  The National Socialists and Social Democrats are both vigorously competing for votes, in some cases by putting forward claims not supported by evidence.

The National Socialists are campaigning on economic anxiety

Chancellor von Papen accused the National Socialists of trying to “stab the Government in the back” while negotiations in Geneva around war reparations are continuing, although he cited no basis for that claim.  

For his part, the charismatic populist National Socialist party leader, Adolf Hitler, has accused his political opponents of being tools of international Jewry, again without factual support.

But the charges and counter-charges are being ignored by most voters, who are most concerned about German's bad economic situation.  And Hitler's party is making hay with the charge that the current depression in Germany is caused by the indemnities imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty.  Some critics note that depressed economic conditions prevail in other countries including those who receive those indemnities, like Britain and France.

And some Germans, tired of the endless wrangling between the two extreme parties, are considering Bruening's Center Party, which seeks a third way between right and left and wants to move Germany forward together.

Concern is also rising that elections may be disrupted by extremists on both sides.  In October, Nazi brown shirts were arrested in Silesia on charges of terrorist activities intended to disrupt Reichstag elections, which Nazi party officials were quick to dismiss as a “witch hunt” and “Jew news.”

A recent dispatch from The New York Times described the current election campaign as “lively” and informed its readers that informed German observers now believe that “the Nazi movement has seen its best days” and that the National Socialist party has “lacked something of its former drive.”

The Times report also downplayed the seriousness of the Nazi threat to seize power by force and violence, assuring its readers that the German Government “is prepared to use the Army against a Hitler attempt to seize power.”

German voters appear not to regard any potential threat to German democracy as a top-tier political issue, focussing instead on kitchen-table issues like unemployment and possibility of a recurrence of the ruinous inflation of the 1920's.

“I'm really concerned about the economy.  I haven't been able to find a job in months, and I'm more worried about keeping wurst and pretzels on the table than I am about all this scare talk about the end of democracy,” said Prenzlauer Berg housewife Margot Schneider-Gruene.

“We need to get the economy moving again and I think this Hitler fellow will be good for business confidence, ” said Potsdam undertaker Teodor Kreuz.

The New York Times, Oct. 23, 1932

On the other hand, backers of the Social Democratic Party express concern that Hitler, if given any power at all, will make himself a dictator and unleash a wave of mass violence against political enemies and Jews, whom he has made a focus of his campaign.  Some of them even make far-fetched accusations that a National Socialist government will send its political enemies to so-called “concentration camps” and even “burn down the Reichstag.”

Long-time bipartisan observers of the political scene dismiss those concerns.  “The average German voter has no time for extremist threat or predictions of disaster.  In my focus groups, voters are telling me they are looking for leaders who will reach across the aisle and propose bipartisan solutions to the economic crisis,” said Frank Luntz.

The election may turn on the decisions made by undecided voters who feel “politically homeless” in the current environment, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine columnist Rolf Wetterdas. “We are looking for someone who will stand up for Christian German values like increasing the birthrate of Aryan children, although we are appalled by some of the rhetoric we are heaing on all sides,” Wetterdas wrote yesterday in his influential newspaper column.

The liveliness of the campaign, featuring stormtroopers rampaging through the streets of major German cities yelling party slogans through bullhorns, has caught the attention of foreign visitors to Germany.

“I'm very impressed by the very strong, very beautiful National Socialist campaign.  Germany needs a very powerful man to take over and make Germany great again.  I hope that someday we'll have a President like Adolf Hitler,” said Queens property owner Fred C. Drumpf.

Material from The New York Times News Service was included in this dispatch.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

News from Zontar: Key midterm races

Editors’ Note: Every so often the Spy Deep Space Desk gets a transmission from the mysterious planet of Zontar, located in the Remulac galaxy millions of light years from Earth. The planet is apparently populated by a race of intelligent alien life forms whose communications, while largely incomprehensible to those of us here, may shed some light, however dim and distant, on the thought patterns of these bizarre creatures. In the spirit of cosmic understanding, we present a recent signal received from – [They get the drift – Ed.]

By Dan Balls
Zontarian Post Political Editor

With the midterm elections in the United States of Zontar only four weeks away, it now appears that the result will turn on closely contested elections in key states. 

Our Zontarian Post Political Team has had its ear to the breakfast specials in key diners across the USZ and reports on these critical races, all of which could go either way.

Georzhia: In this key state, the Democratic incumbent, Albert Schweitzer, is a Nobel Prize winning physician and priest who has spent his life providing health care to the poor and underprivileged in his state.

The Republican candidate is not an astronaut

His opponent is former Georzhia football star Herzhel Raver, who has caused concerns among Republican pros due to his sometimes bizarre antics on the campaign trail.

In his only debate with Schweitzer, Raver claimed that he had been a policeman, an astronaut, and a movie star, and to buttress his claims, donned sunglasses, a space helmet, and a tin star.  Raver's campaign has also been dogged by allegations that he has neglected and abandoned his 87 illegitimate children and paid for multiple abortions for women he had impregnated, although he has frequently claimed that abortion is murder.

His defenders cite his exuberant personality: “He's just bubbling over with life and he wants to share it with everyone,” said his campaign manager Shaw Vellingit.  “In any event, if you want to stop the radical Socialist Democrats from allowing hordes of aliens from the Tudarc system to destroy the USZ way of life, Raver's the man.”

In rural Georzhia, patrons of local diners are sticking with their bacon-fried sausage and their candidate.  They cite Raver's strong support of Republicanz leader Donald Drumpf.  “He's pro-Drumpf and that's good enough for me,” said average Republican mom Phylliz Zhlafley.

Arizona: Unlike Georzhia, there is a real astronaut on the ballot in Arizona: incumbent Senator Zach Boom, perhaps best known for a daring rescue of a sick astronaut from the International Space Station in the midst of a Borg attack.

Threeway, at left, has been dogged by her past.

Boom is opposed by well-known TV personality Tessa Threeway, who has announced the winning lotto numbers in Arizona for years.  She has launched fiery attacks on Boom, whom she calls “an enemy of Christian civilization and a pedophile,” without providing any evidence to support such accusations.

She also has attached herself to former President Drumpf and urged him to retake the White House, by force if necessary.

Although she styles herself a guardian of family values and opposes abortion, birth control, gay rights, and any sex education in the schools other than her trademarked slogan “Hit It With A Shoe,” her campaign hit a bump when it was revealed that in addition to her lotto career, she has spent many years as a porn star, including her long-running video series “Tessa Tongues Tuscon.”

While Boom has been careful not to directly attack Threeway, some moderate suburban women have been turned off by the idea of being represented in the Senate by an adult film star.  On the other hand, the disclosures may have helped widen her lead with Arizona men who say that they appreciate a candidate “who has nothing to hide.”

Zoo Hampshire.  Thousands of parsecs away on the ice planet Zoo Hampshire, there's another close race between incumbent Senator Thereza Mutter, the Democrat, and her challenger, former Space Patrol Admiral Bat Guano.

Is Gen. Guano too extreme for Zoo Hampshire?

Mutter, who had formerly served on the USZ Zupreme Court after a distinguished career as a professor of Constitutional Law, has had to confront Republicanz charges that she is “pro-murder” because she once defended someone accused of a crime.

However, Guano has faced criticism for being “too extreme” for ZH voters due to his propose to execute women who have abortions and to drown undocumented aliens from other systems in the deep waters of Lake Rufkinkiddinme.

Further footage of Guano having a private dinner with the USZ's chief alien enemy, the twelve-tentacled supremo of the Sybaron system, Zadomir Putin, may have damaged his campaign.  The video shows Guano handing over a large envelope and in return getting a bar of Sybaronite Gold from an obviously pleased Putin.  

Guano's defenders have called the meeting “purely a social dinner,” and said that any true USZ patriot would bow down to Putin in exchange for galactic peace.

However, Guano is helped by the rising price of energy crystals in ZH, which are needed over the winter when temperatures fall to within a degree of absolute zero.   Some pundits believe that pocketbook issues like these will be more important to shivering ZH voters than a distant meeting involving people of whom they know nothing.

Pennzylvania:  This race looked to be among the best Democratic pickup opportunities until Republicanz managed to recruit the superstar of magnetic healing, Dr. Drownit DeVil.  Dr. DeVil, known for his ubiquitous appearances hawking his curative magnets, stumbled out of the gate when it became known that he had never set foot in Pennzylvania until he announced his candidacy.

The Republican candidate killed these puppies

He is opposed by long-time Pennzylvania Gov. Whit Provalone, who first gained fame by leading the hapless Ziladelphia Igglez to their first Galaxy Bowl championship.  Later Gov. Provalone led the fight to provide free health care and cheese steaks to all Pennzylvanians, ensuring his popularity.

In recent weeks, the campaign has been jolted by revelations that Dr. DeVil had killed and tortured hundreds of adorable  puppies in testing his magnetic healing devices.  Gruesome footage showing the agonized yowls of the animals has been prominently displayed in Democratic TV ads airing across the state.

In response, the Republicanz have launched their own ad blitz blaming Gov. Provalone for each and every felony committed in the state over the past eight years.  The ads, featuring tag line “Protect people, not puppies” are thought to have resonated with swing voters in key suburbs and smaller cities.

Where the Republican candidate killed a man

Zevada: The final key race is in this desert planet, known for its wide-open acceptance of pretty much any vice known to the galaxy.  The Republican candidate, Zhonny Cazh, has a carefully-cultivated image as a hard-drinkin' hard-fightin' country boy, which has played well with independent-minded Zevada voters. 

However, Cazh's campaign was stunned by accusations that during his years as a cocaine addict, which ended three months ago, he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.  The Democrats have made the case that this should disqualify him from serving in the USZ Senate, but Republicanz have rallied around the tousled candidate.

“He has sought forgiveness and embraced Jesus Christ, and that's the important thing. Also he was suffering from a concussion at the time.  We need to focus on the real issue in this election, which is the menace of radical Socialism, and not on trivia like how many murders Cazh may or may not have committed,” said Republicanz operative Charles Manson.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

In Search of the Elusive "Moderate" Republican, Ch. 82,537

By Jenny Herk
Florida Correspondent

Having heard of recent reports of a sighting of the rare and possibly mythical moderate Republican, we donned our white rubber go-go boots and headed off into the trackless swamplands of central Florida where the beast is supposed to be.  Sure enough, one may have been spotted:

Who is this great champion of higher education, this Ben Sasse?  He's a graduate of Harvard College.  He got his doctorate at Yale.  And for decades we've been told he's the voice of thoughtful Third Way conservatism and a Solon of great integrity. Here's that perennial font of conventional wisdom, CNN:

Sasse presented himself as a sober conservative, critical of both parties and the three branches of government for failing to live up to their responsibilities. A frequent critic of Trump before, during and after his presidency, Sasse has given voice to a conservative critique of the lack of civic virtue.

“Many years of corroding our constitutional order have contributed to the polarization and the viciousness that are poisoning our politics more broadly,” Sasse said in his opening remarks Monday. “We all know that our civic health and our civic life is not healthy.”  

Let's not even ask what the f***  that even means.  Instead let's turn to the mother lode of both-sides pontification, Chris Cillizza

Instead Sasse is trying to forge a third way – Bill Clinton smiles wryly – between those two extremes: A candidate who believes in traditional conservative values and thinks T**** has strayed at times from them but not someone wholly motivated by their hate for this President. 

Whilst chomping on his favorite Chevy Chase sopprassata sub, David Brooks back in 2017 said:

For Republican senators, it’s harder. Their consciences pull them one way — to tell the truth — while their political interests pull them another way — to keep their heads down. Some senators are passing the test of conscience — Ben Sasse, ... 

Those interested can read Mr. Brooks's full list of Republican conscience-test passers in the light of their behavior over the past five years.

Here's an adoring 2021 tribute from the Associated Press:

When Ben Sasse heard that GOP activists in Nebraska were primed to censure him for insufficiently supporting Donald Trump, the Republican senator didn’t try to talk them out it. Instead, he punched first....Sasse ripped fellow Republicans for following a “cult of personality” and “acting like politics is religion.”

It’s the no-apologies approach Nebraskans have come to expect — and even appreciate — from their junior senator, who perhaps more than any other rising Republican leader is cultivating anti-Trumpism as his brand.  

Have we found it, the elusive moderate Republican, thought to have become extinct with the retirement of Ed Brooke? Are Gator fans (and we never hear from you!) rejoicing?

Um, not so much.

According to The Gainesville Sun,

A presidential search committee on Thursday announced it had selected Ben Sasse, a Republican United States Senator from Nebraska, as the sole finalist to lead the University of Florida, a provocative move after more than a year of controversy at the public university over academic freedom and accusations the Board of Trustees has politicized the cherished state institution.

Is this the elusive moderate Ben Sasse?

Above all, secrecy was key to Sasse's elevation.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law earlier this year making applications for college presidential openings confidential, effectively cloaking the process in secrecy until the very end stages. From the outset, it was clear that the law was intended to give crucial cover as Florida's benighted college boards considered overtly political candidates for the lucrative, powerful positions heading the state's universities. 

Or as we used to say on Beacon Hill after a state rep's nephew was appointed to a no-show job, “After a worldwide search...”

The Gainesville Sun continued:

The UF search committee, headed by Rahul Patel, a member of the Board of Trustees, claimed its search was "exhaustive," but it did not explain in any detail how such a process could have landed on Sasse, who possesses limited experience in higher education and accumulated a divisive, hard-right voting record in the U.S. Senate. Nor did the board bother explaining how secrecy best served the process. In the past, the minor inconvenience that an applicant would need to disclose their interest was considered secondary to the public's right to have a full view of an important hiring decision. No more: Sasse was permitted to walk away from his Nebraska constituents under cover of darkness, alerting them only after the goose had been cooked.

Maybe we need to look a little harder at this supposed Third Wayer.

To ensure the health of our civic, Sasse joined every single Senate Republican in denying so much as a hearing to President Obama's highly-qualified Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland on transparently hypocritical grounds (as we shall see) and then voted to let the corrupt grifter fill the seat with hard right mediocrity Neal Gorsuch.  He then soberly and thoughtfully voted to ram through the nomination of Brett “Here it is, wanna touch it?” Kavanaugh despite serious unanswered questions involving the nominee's perjury and sex crimes.

Then, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg finally succumbed two months before the 2020 election, Sasse had no problem disregarding his previous stance against election-year nominees by voting for Spooky Handmaid Amy Coney Barrett.

Again let's consult The Gainesville Sun:

One change Sasse will immediately bring to UF's executive office is a right-wing political philosophy deeply hostile toward gay rights, women's reproductive health, equality and academic freedom. In the Senate, Sasse enthusiastically backed Donald Trump's three Supreme Court appointments, all of whom are laboring to engineer a puritanical society that would be unrecognizable to incoming and current students.

More recently he voted against superbly qualified appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson because, frankly, who give a s*** why? 

Sasse continues the tradition
of great Florida educators

At least with that Harvard AB and Yale Ph.D. he must be a bright boy, right?  Guess again:

Supporters of Sasse's bid pointed to his intellect as his ace in the hole, a claim difficult to evaluate since the search process was secret. Rob Bradley, a former state senator from Clay County and staunch DeSantis ally, called Sasse "brilliant," and other advocates pointed to an essay on higher education Sasse wrote for The Atlantic in May as evidence of his intellectual heft.

Sasse's essay is a broad argument against student debt forgiveness — an inflammatory message to send to aspiring and current Florida college students. The piece also broadcasts Sasse's dark view of higher education as a system that is "failing our students on a massive scale," an odd argument from the likely next president of UF, an incredibly high-performing institution.

Sasse's turgid, buzzy prose does not reveal the mind of an education reformer but that of a wishy-washy dilettante. Sometimes he says very little ("we need dynamism — not status quo-ism — in higher education"). At other points he merely repackages bland ideas into Ponzi-like sales pitches: "As important, we will need a broader base of wise, gritty learners. We cannot build what we need if we assume that the developmental experience of every 20-year-old will be the same." (Sasse might be shocked to find no one at UF assumes the developmental experience of every 20-year-old is the same).

To sum up, he's an intellectual lightweight who realized he was going nowhere in national politics as long as the Former Loser Grifter had the Republican Party chained up and ball-gagged.  Given the crookedness of the authoritarian DeSantis regime in Florida, it's a safe bet that his new job was a grift [Surely, gift? – Ed.] delivered to him by minions of ol' Go-Go Boots Ron in exchange for providing a sheen of intellectual respectability to DeSantis's Amsterdam-like ambition to impose his form of dictatorship on the United States.

If moderates like Ben Sasse can attach themselves to an anti-democratic bigot like Ron DeSantis, can our wonderful Never FLG Republican allies be far behind?

Let's see what David “Axis of Evil” Frum thinks:

So the bad news is that once again our search for the elusive moderate Republican has crapped out.

The good news is that it's clear that supposedly principled conservatives like newly-minted Gator Ben Sasse and former Iraq War flack David Frum have shown their true colors. And those colors are as pure white supremacy [Surely, white? – Ed.] as the boots worn by their new crush, wannabe dictator and Nancy Sinatra cosplayer Ron DeSantis.