Sunday, September 25, 2022

Editors' Note: The midterm elections are only six weeks away and it's harder than ever to know what to think about them.  To help you, the untutored ignorant reader who may believe in their naiveté the issues this fall include the future of democracy and the right of a woman to control her own body, the Spy's master political prognosticator, David Bloviator, has graciously agreed to spell out the conventional wisdom in words even you can understand from his vantage point at the center of all political intelligence, the National Press Club bar.

TMS:    Good evening, Mr. Bloviator.  It's such a pleasure to be able to meet with you in person at your favorite haunt.

DB: Yes, isn't it.  By the way, there seems to be a problem with my tab.  You'll have to pick up the next four rounds, you young cur.

TMS: Gladly.  Double Chivas-rocks for Mr. Bloviator.

The great man, now back at his post.

DB: [inhales his drink].  Ah, now we can get down to the hard work of assessing the midterm election picture.

TMS: And what is it?

DB:  Cloudy.  Although there are ominous signs for the Democrats.  After all, the party in power normally loses seats in the midterms.  And Biden is massively unpopular.

TMS: Why do you think that is?

DB:  Because of the economy, stupid.  It's in a shambles.

TMS: Really?  Hasn't Biden seen the best economic growth of any US President since Clinton? Hasn't the economy added 10,000,000 jobs since he took office? Isn't unemployment near its record lows?

DB:  But inflation is killing the average American family.  Do you know how much a bottle of Old Capitol Hill Scotch costs in Washington?  

TMS: How much?

DB: How should I know?  I can drink for free here.

TMS: What about Biden himself?  Is he an asset or liability to the Democrats? 

DB:  He is clearly a liability.

TMS: Why?

DB: He is so divisive.  Did you hear him calling his fellow Americans “semi-Fascist?”

TMS: Isn't it true?

DB: The truth is besides the point.  The point is Republicans will point out he is dividing and not uniting us.

TMS: How about Republicans who lie about the 2020 election and claim that Biden isn't really President?

DB: That's just Republicans playing to their base.

TMS: Right.  By being divisive.

DB: You're missing the point.  Democrats need to unite the country.

TMS: But Republicans get to accuse Democrats of supporting baby murder and that's OK?

DB: It's brilliant political messaging.  Midterms are all about exciting your base.

TMS: Speaking of which, hasn't the Supreme Court overruling of Roe excited the Democratic base?

DB: It's possible a few ladies will get their panties in a twist, but polling shows it's not a top issue for most voters.  People care about kitchen-table issues.

TMS: The polls I've seen rank it at #2, right behind protecting democracy.

DB: Don't worry, they'll get over it.  Speaking of which, my glass is empty. Another double Chivas-rocks if you please.

TMS: Let's talk about some of the other issues.  Republicans are attacking Democrats for being weak on crime.

DB: Crime is soaring.  Many voters are concerned.

TMS:  Actually, it isn't:

DB: But voters perceive crime as disrupting their lives, and that's a problem for Democrats.

TMS: If crime isn't soaring and Republicans are lying about it, isn't that a problem for the press?

DB: God, man, give it a rest.  Our job is to take the pulse of the body politic and not chase down everything someone says.  What could be more tedious?

TMS: If Republicans can't make an issue out of flat or falling crime rates, how about immigration?

DB: Immigration is the Democrats' Achilles Heel.  The border is in crisis.

TMS: What exactly is the crisis?

DB: My God you twit, the Board Patrol apprehended 2 million border crossers!  Doesn't that sound like an open border to you?

TMS: It doesn't sound like an open border to anyone if the border guards have stopped 2 million people in their tracks.

DB: But it's the perception of a crisis that counts.

TMS: Did you ever stop to think that the media is working with Republican anti-immigrant bigots to create the impression of a border crisis, when in fact the country is in desperate need of young immigrant families?

Republicans hope to cash in on fear of immigrants

DB: Politics is all about perception, you young whippersnapper.

TMS: What's your impression of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis?

DB: A rising star. A bright light.  The future of the Republican Party?

TMS: Even though his anti-science policies killed thousands of Floridians who didn't have to die.

DB: But he stood up for freedom.

TMS: What freedom?  Freedom to die?

DB: The freedom not to be forced to wear those horrible masks in public.

TMS: What about his program of defrauding migrants in Texas and flying them to places DeSantis hopes won't be prepared to receive them?

DB: As my distinguished colleague Blake Hounshell put it in The New York Times, the migrant flights were “the cherry on top of a months-long campaign to essentially troll liberal cities and states.”

TMS: I can't take this any longer.  HOW CAN YOU OR ANY JOURNALIST COMPARE THE UNSPEAKABLY CRUEL AND TRANSPARENTLY FRAUDULENT KIDNAPPING OF REFUGEES TO SMALL TOWNS LACKING IN RESOURCES TO A SUNDAE TOPPING?  DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW INCREDIBLY CRUEL AND CYNICAL IT IS TO TREAT ANY HUMAN BEING LIKE THIS?  IS IT ALL JUST A GAME TO YOU?  DO YOU EVER CONSIDER THE REAL WORLD CONSEQUENCES OF PRETENDING THAT A WHITE EXTREMIST ELECTION-DENYING REPUBLICAN PARTY IS JUST ANOTHER POLITICAL ACTOR?  DO YOU REALLY NOT SEE THE THREAT TO THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY ITSELF, NOT TO MENTION THE BLATANT BIGOTRY AND HATRED THAT ANIMATES REPUBLICANS?

DB: [slumps down on bar].  Harraumph!

TMS: [shakes DB's unresponsive form; gets no response].  Thank you, Mr. Bloviator!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Good and dead: pervy rape-enabling democracy-subverting mouthpiece and mainstream Republican Ken Starr

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

Superannuated Republican dirty trickster and enabler of rapists Ken Starr died in obscurity last week at the age of 76.  It's hard to improve on the summary provided in his Rolling Stone obituary:

We could stop there, but it may be useful to locate this antidemocratic creep where he belongs: in the wonderful mainstream of the Republican Party that never-Pres U Bum Republicans mourn.  For Ken Starr would have been some obscure d**k partner at an insufferable law firm tying up the peanut butter rulemaking for 27 years without the enthusiastic participation of the entire Republican establishment, including, critically, that portion that puts on black robes and cosplays as judges.

We have to set the Waybac machine to the 1980's.  Life was good under the smiling reign of St. Ronald of Bitburg.  Between his cheerful attacks on “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” and his visits to the graves of Nazi war criminals, his popularity managed to persuade Republicans that they had a perpetual lock on the Presidency.  It also provided high level government jobs and a later lifetime of ease to modestly qualified Republicans who could put up or agree with such nonsense and to insane whack jobs who were otherwise unemployable.

After Michael Dukakis fumbled the ball in 1988, allowing unlovable aristocrat George H.W. Bush to win, Republicans were sure that they were entitled to the Presidency in perpetuity.  When the voters dared to otherwise decide, the Republicans were stunned, according to the New York Times:


 

(The Yankees went on to suck too, by the way.)

But the Republicans' “more philosophical” stance soon curdled into denial and rage.  The party decided on the strategy it has since followed whenever a Democrat is President: total vicious opposition.  Here's how one bright light of the Republican strategy described their position in 1994:

At 41, Mr. Kristol already has a long conservative pedigree, as the son of the commentator Irving Kristol and a former top aide to William Bennett, Secretary of Education, and Vice President Dan Quayle. But Mr. Kristol rose to new prominence over the last two years by writing a series of widely circulated memorandums that challenged the conventional wisdom on health. ...

Mr. Kristol played heretic, arguing against the idea that there was, in fact, a health care crisis; he also urged Republicans to resist any effort at making a grand compromise with the Democrats on the issue. "I never thought we faced an inevitably dominant resurgence of liberalism," he said, then and now. "I always thought '92 was a rejection of Bush, not an endorsement of activist government."

Hey, whatever happened to that guy?  Hope he's happy about how things turned out, especially the hundreds of thousands who died between 1994 and 2014 because they could not afford health care, which to Billy was not a crisis.

The vicious Republican opposition to Clinton led directly to Ken Starr's reign of legal terror.  Republicans trotted out all sorts of wild claims about the Clintons, but the one they pimped the hardest (with the dishonorable participation of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) was the Clintons' investment in a busto Arkansas land scheme known as “Whitewater.”  No evidence of Clinton wrongdoing was ever found (or really even alleged), although a Special Prosecutor named Robert Fiske spent years pursuing the matter.

When Fiske, a highly-regarded ex-prosecutor and white-shoe lawyer, eventually concluded that there was nothing there, he was replaced by Starr:

Mr. Starr, 48, a conservative Republican in private law practice, is untested as a prosecutor. His background contrasts sharply with that of Mr. Fiske, a Wall Street lawyer, a former United States Attorney and a political moderate....

The White House was pleased with the initial results of Mr. Fiske's investigation, in which he found no basis for criminal prosecution arising from the discussions between the White House and Treasury that were the subject of the Whitewater hearings.

But under a broadly worded charter granted by the appeals court today, Mr. Starr has the authority, if he chooses, to go back over the ground covered by Mr. Fiske
.

Under the old Special Prosecutor law, the choice of special prosecutor was vested in a panel of judges chosen by extreme reactionary Chief Justice William Rehnquist.  So it was no surprise when the panel he chose, including a bag carrier for the notorious racist hell-raiser Jessie Helms, decided to keep appointing a Special Prosecutor until they found someone unscrupulous enough to carry out their desired political lynching.

Whereupon our dead guy spent the next four years chasing down one smear after another until he found that President Clinton had had a legal and consensual (albeit disgusting and inappropriate) affair with an intern.  You know the rest of the sordid tale. 

The point here is that Ken Starr was no slavering outlier in his dishonorable effort to bring down an elected Democratic President.  He was acting with the full support of the wonderful moderate mainstream Republican Party that today cowers in a corner as their demented flag-bearer ever more openly pursues a fascist policy of democratic subversion by inciting mob violence.

After the impeachment trial ended and Starr's, um, service to his country ended, he parachuted into the kind of no-heavy-lifting high-paying sinecure usually made available to loyal Republican handmaidens; in his case, Presidency of a fourth-rate Baptist diploma mill in Tumbleweeds, Texas [Louise, please check – Ed.].

Which he proceeded to f**k up royally:

John Clune, a Colorado lawyer who specializes in cases of campus assault and who had already resolved three other women’s claims against Baylor, filed a lawsuit on behalf of an alleged victim that...claim[ed] that at least 52 rapes by at least 31 players had occurred from 2011 through 2014...

Baylor’s interim president has said in a statement that he cannot confirm Mr. Clune’s numbers, which followed other troubling figures that Baylor’s board gave to The Wall Street Journal in October: assaults on 17 women by 19 players, including four gang rapes....

Ken Starr loved a good sex scandal

University officials have said in another court filing that Ms. Hernandez was Mr. Elliott’s fifth alleged assault victim at Baylor — her lawsuit said she was the sixth who had reported a sexual assault to Baylor — and that Mr. Briles was indeed apprised of her alleged assault. In addition, they said, only extraordinary interventions by Mr. Starr and Mr. Briles kept Mr. Elliott from suspension or worse because of academic misconduct.... 

Mr. Briles, the revered coach who had led Baylor to gridiron glory, was effectively fired. Mr. Starr, the affable president who reveled in that glory, was demoted; he later resigned.

Yeah, that's right, affable.

Somehow in the thousands of words conventional wisdom geyser Peter Baker spilled in his Starr obituary he didn't have room for any of these facts, reported in the March 9, 2017 editions of, wait for it, The New York Times.

You might think that an obituary of a man known for trumpeting claims of sexual misconduct to overthrow a President might have included a tidbit about how that same affable gent was unconcerned about much more serious charges of an epidemic of rape of women he was supposed to protect as the President of a Christian institution.

But then you might start to wonder why Baker didn't bother to mention Starr's earlier role as a mouthpiece (alongside prominent Jewish Democratic advocate Counselor Underpants) for degenerate child rapist and Presidential friend Jeffrey Epstein.

Starr's sordid post-Monica career and his ability to escape any serious accountability for his misdeeds only proves the point that he was not a rogue or an extremist; he was in the mainstream of the white Christian hypocrites who make up today's Republican Party.  

Why anyone who remembers his career should be surprised every weeknight at 5 p.m. Eastern about today's gruesome subversive Republican machine led by a lying sex criminal is hard to understand.

Especially because those never-Pres Tiny Toadstool Republicans seem so, what's the word for it?

Ah, yes.  Affable.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Neither sustainable nor normal: This f***in' guy.

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

Really we tried.  We tried so hard to stop obsessing about pisspoor New York Times columnists.  Nobody gives a f*** what they say anyway, as they have proven for decades. We haven't said boo about them in weeks.  

It was this Tweet that broke us:


Sustainable and ultimately normal? 

We know what banning safe, legal abortion looks like.  It was normal for the first 70 years of the previous century.  Maybe ol' Ross is too young to remember those days, but we haven't:

Pregnant women seeking abortions in Chicago had few options before 1973, when the Supreme Court codified the right to have an abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Abortion had been illegal in Illinois since the early 19th century, and few doctors were willing to defy the law. Some women tried to self-induce abortions using objects or chemicals, which often led to infection and sometimes death. Others turned to Chicago’s organized crime syndicate, but its services were expensive and often unsafe.  

Some of us remember those days, especially those among us who faced the terrible risks of terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Those people can be described as “women.”

Here's one typical example of what happened to women who sought to terminate their pregnancies before abortions were legal.  It was so common that it appeared on page 36 of the December 1, 1954 New York Times:

In 1954, the very act of putting career ahead of motherhood was uncontroversially regarded as a capital offense. 

The pre-Roe agony and mortality of peritonitis, hemorrhage, or other fatal sequelae caused by an unsafe  abortion was, to use Ross's anodyne term, ultimately normal:

"In the 1960s, it is estimated that thousands of people attempted to abort with these unsafe methods. Hospitals regularly saw women in 'septic abortion wards,' where they would die of hemorrhage or infection after an incomplete attempt to self-abort.  

From the point of view of the woman who died painfully from sepsis, it probably wasn't sustainable, but that minority view was not shared by white men like Ross who arrogated to themselves the right to  impose their religious metaphysics on women who did not share them. 

And illegal abortions weren't rare either, according to Kinsey Report data:

One out of twelve? That meant that millions of women were driven to unsafe, life threatening abortions before Roe.  This is the sustainable world Ross wants to inflict on 21st century women because his Catholic metaphysics demand it.  He knows this because Christian Scripture discusses abortion exactly, let's check here, zero times.

Voters in the reddest states must not be subscribing to Ross's Tweets, or must be too dense to understand them, because in crimson-red Kansas, voters chose to maintain their rights over their own bodies by a margin of 59% to 41%.

By the way, what would constitute “proof” that outlawing abortion had become ultimately normal?  100 dead women a year?  1,000?  How many girls would have to bear their rapist's child?

Speaking of sustainable, it's now the case in Ross's beloved red states that women are being denied all sorts of health care because of fear that their doctors will be criminally prosecuted for an abortion:

Now, when patients arrive with ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages or hemorrhaging — all situations where abortion has been established as standard care — the questions for the lawyers are more pressing: “Do we wait until the fetus is definitely dead, or is mostly dead good enough?” she asked. “If they’re telling us to wait for the condition to be fully emergent, how much bleeding is too much?”

“Having to consult a lawyer in an emergent situation is a whole new ballgame,” she said.

So is a felony conviction for providing medical care to women, but for the women who suffer and perhaps die while waiting for a lawyer to parse a statute written to criminalize anything any whackjob could consider an abortion (like Plan B, which isn't), it will soon become sustainable and normal and thus OK with Ross.

And the gratuitous cruelty of Ross's refined metaphysics doesn't stop there:

Forensic nurses who care for sexual assault victims in the emergency room said they would no longer provide morning-after contraception for fear it would be considered an abortion drug. Because the old law punishes those who “aid and abet” an abortion, an anesthesiologist worried that he might be prosecuted for putting a patient to sleep for an abortion. A neonatologist worried about liability for declining to resuscitate a fetus judged no longer viable. “We already work under a cloud of getting sued. That’s what we signed up for,” Dr. Kwatra said. “This is different. This is criminal liability, not civil liability. This is jail time.” 

And if Ross has his way, these cruel restrictions on women with cancer or other serious health concerns will in purplish states will be tailored to the prevailing sentiments of Republican-dominated legislatures.

You'll be pleased to know that forced-birth flacks claim that doctors are being too cautious.  If you're a doctor willing to stake your life and freedom on the half-assed opinions of notorious liars, you're better than we are.  We'd be scared s***less.

We've only got the stomach for about two more words from Ross.  Remember his reference to “thermostatic backlash?”  We assume he's trying to equate the outrage of women and others who care about them to the loss of their rights and possibly their lives to the mechanical response of a brainless device like a thermostat to a change of conditions.  You can reduce fear and anguish to a phenomenon no more human that expansion of a copper coil, but it doesn't sound like the “pro-life” position.

Maybe Ross thought that when his classmates got up and left when he sat down with them in Leverett House Dining Hall it was just “thermostatic backlash.” We think it was their considered judgment that his cruel freakish views wrapped in condescension were too repulsive to be borne.

And you know what?  They were right.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Report from Mississippi: Nor Any Drop to Drink

Dispatches from the Old Confederacy

By Phil Ochs
Mississippi Correspondent

It's been almost ten years since our old buddy John “the Bongmaster” Roberts '76 told us that state discrimination against Black people was no longer a problem in America.

Gov. Tate “What Me Worry?” Reeves

So on this last long weekend of summer, let's raise a glass to toast the brilliant insights of the Sage of Leverett House.  If you're in Jackson, Mississippi, though, don't put water in the glass, because the stuff that comes out of the tap is unfit for human consumption:

The entire city of more than 150,000 was without safe drinking water, with no end in sight. Many residents here say they adapted long ago to catastrophic government failure.

“Jackson’s water’s been messed up; I don’t even feel like they should be issuing people bills,” said Roshonda Snell, 32, who works at a local hotel. “It’s infected, and you can’t even do nothing with it.”

Lack of safe running water is something more commonly thought of as a problem in poor and developing countries without the financial resources or will to install and maintain a water system. But in the richest country in the world, how could this happen?

As usual, there's one white answer.

The estimate to repair the system comes to $2 billion, a sum far beyond the capacity of the city to bear.  Of course, the State will not allow its capital and largest city to suffer and languish, right?  The state's potato-faced Republican Governor, Tate Reeves, has responded.  Last week, he told the residents of Jackson not to drink the water.  Then he told them they could be thirsty for an indeterminate amount of time.

This is not the first time that the white supremacist tuber in a J.C. Penney suit ignored the plight of the residents of his capital city:

Gov. Tate Reeves (R) declared Jackson’s ongoing water crisis an “immediate health threat.” Experts say this crisis was years in the making, a result of inadequate funding for essential infrastructure upgrades. For the past year, leaders of this majority-Black, Democrat-led city have pushed for additional funding from the White Republicans who run the state. Little has come of those appeals....

Jackson might be the seat of power for the state government, yet many in the city contend that the water system is a glaring example of how the community has been starved of investment and attention. For decades, the city’s population has been shrinking, an exodus propelled in large part by the flight of white residents — along with their tax dollars — to surrounding affluent suburbs where, by and large, the water on Tuesday was flowing just fine.

Who saw that coming?  Not John Roberts!

Gov. Spud Reeves has also been sitting on over $400 million in federal water infrastructure funding, thanks to Joe Biden and the Democrats, or more than enough to slake the thirst of the residents of Jackson.  Last year the white Republicans who run the state also authorized the expenditure of a different $450 million of Federal money for infrastructure, as long as the community requesting the aid matched it dollar-for-dollar.  So if your community or county is rich and white, you cam get state aid.  If your city is poor and Black, you get to drink from puddles.   Nothing fishy going on here, of course.

The defenders of the white plutocracy that run the state may complain that you can't make out a claim of systemic racism based on this one data point.  OK, let's scout around and see if we can find anything else that would raise a bark from Bilbo, the ol' racism hound.

Say hello to washed-up football player and Mary's ex-boyfriend, Brett Favre.  What does he have to do with anything?  According to NBC News, in an impressive act of journalism:


Mississippi took federal money intended to ease the plight of poor people, some of them Black, and used it to enrich already rich white men.  It paid over a million dollars to Favre to make supposedly motivational speeches which he never made.  Don't worry; there's more:

The speeches aren’t the only welfare grants tied to Favre. Text messages obtained by Mississippi Today and authenticated by Pigott show that Favre sought a $3.2 million grant for a drug company in which he was a shareholder and a $5 million award that built a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played the sport and where he played football. Favre’s lawyer declined to comment.

Let's hear it for volleyball!

So while poor Black families in Jackson are forced to shell out $300 a month to avoid dying of thirst or dysentery, Brett's daughter gets to play volleyball in a gleaming new facility. If that seems fair and reasonable to you, then you must be be a white Republican. Like John Roberts.

In addition to stiffing thirsty Jacksonians and shoveling money at rich celebrities, what else is Mississippi's predatory white plutocracy doing to make the poorest and more wretched state in the nation better?

As previously recounted in the Spy, they have terminated rental and unemployment assistance to the state's poor and unemployed, even though all the dough came from the federal government.

And just this year, after the reality of the collapse of Jackson's water system was evident to even the meanest intelligence (such as a Mississippi white Republican legislator), the ruling plutocracy handed out tax cuts to the rich and screwed the public school students of the state to pay for it:

The Mississippi Legislature may end the 2022 session taking credit for a historic tax cut while leaving local officials on the hook to either raise property taxes on their constituents or decide where to make cuts to their school districts. As gasoline prices rise and overall inflation rates increase, the Legislature is preparing to underfund the program that provides for the basics of operating local school districts by what may be a record amount. The only options for local school districts to deal with the state funding shortfall could be to make cuts or raise local property taxes.

Keep in mind that the white elite sends its mouth-breathing children to private segregation academies, so its appetite for providing a decent public education to majority-Black schools is shall we say limited?

They also cut the income tax by $500 million, benefiting higher income Republicans, while maintaining the nation's highest 7% sales tax on food.  Food.  Chew on that.  Just don't wash it down with tap water.

But don't think that the predatory white Republicans in the state are against people paying income taxes.

Mississippi is one of only five states that will levy taxes on the amount of forgiven student loans (up to $1000 in taxes for Pell Grant recipients who are by law poorer), disproportionately affecting Black residents, who rely on such loans in lieu of merit scholarships from their daddies.

But don't worry – the white Republican Governor and Legislatures have already agreed not to tax forgiven PPP loans, the kind that goes to white businessmen like Florida Republican Congressman and car dealer Vern Buchanan, who trousered $2,300,000 for his heroic effort to sell cars during the COVID pandemic:

Let's just keep in mind that these state-level shenanigans were made possible by a 50-year Republican policy of letting white Republican states get away with murder to pander to their racist voters, whose power has been enshrined by a bent Republican Supreme Court.  And all, repeat all, of the current crop of Never-FLG pundits and gasbags now heard to bemoan what happened to their beloved Party of Lincoln were in on the scam.

The results: across great swaths of this country, and notably in white supremacist plutocracies like Mississippi, racism, like water, is everywhere.  And like the water that oozes out of the tap in Jackson, it's toxic and disgusting.  And it comes to you thanks to the Republican Party.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Who's a Threat to US National Security?

By David Bloviator
Political Editor

Which political party can you trust to protect the United States from its foes, foreign and domestic?

The answer is obvious, right?  Let's see what the polls say:

Whiskey tango foxtrot?

Before you say it's Fox “News,” we'd point out their polling unit is well respected and often accurate, which is why the rest of the Fox hatemongers have no use for it.  If they say that Republicans have an eight point edge on foreign policy, we're inclined to believe it (at least before we learned that the leader of the Republican Party stole and hid the most sensitive national security secrets we have, to the cheers of his grovelling Republican tongue-bathers.)

The party that in this century alone brought you a useless bloody war in Iraq that turned the country into a failed Iran-dominated shell of a state, to our detriment, and then followed that performance by electing a Russian asset who collaborated with Putin throughout his Presidency and stole highly classified secrets to at best use as blackmail and at worse as a cash cow?

That Republican Party?

If you take the longer view, though, there's a reason for the longstanding Republican advantage on national security despite being falsified by pretty much every fact since 1968. 

The reason is that for at least that long (actually, since 1948), Republicans have successfully smeared Democrats as weak on national security, whether the threat was the Communist menace, the terrorist menace or the menace of desperate refugees along the Rio Grande seeking to exercise their right to asylum.  The threat morphs but the story stays the same: Democrats are at best weak and at worst unpatriotic.

This is the attack line even when reality is diametrically opposed.  When  a Democratic Vietnam War hero ran against a Republican draft-dodging coke-snorting ne'er-do-well, the Republicans invented a ridiculous fiction smearing the war hero as just the opposite.  

And when the draft-dodger was elected by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court, he then proceeded to drop the ball when warned of the clear and present danger of al-Qaeda terror attacks in the United States.  Al-Qaeda attacked just as warned and instead of being held accountable for their fecklessness, we got this  instead:

And the little man in the flight suit, under the direction of Deadeye Dick Cheney proceeded first to turn victory into defeat in Afghanistan and then tear up Iraq on transparently false pretenses.  The resulting power vacuum, in addition to costing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, led to the strengthening of Iran and the creation of an oil-fueled failed state in the heart of the Middle East.  That's not much of a reason to trust Republicans with U.S. national security, but the myth persists.

We think it persists because the Republicans have been so ruthlessly pounding away at Democratic “weakness” ever since Dean Acheson and College of Cowardly Communist Containment “lost” China like a vagrant sock.

And because Democrats have been so bad at fighting back.  Their first instinct was to prove they could fight Communism by waging pointless bloody wars in Asia.  That didn't work out so well, especially for the Asians.

Their second instinct has been to hand over their lunch money, thereby locking themselves permanently into the myth that Democrats can't be trusted to protect national security.

On the rare occasions they have fought back, the results were gratifying.  Remember in 2008 when John McCain tried to play the card against Barack Obama because, one, he was a Democrat, and, two, just look at him?  Here's what President Obama had to say:

Well, you know, Sen. McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don't understand. It's true. There are some things I don't understand.

I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11
, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us.

That was Sen. McCain's judgment and it was the wrong judgment.

When Sen. McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq, he suggested it was going to be quick and easy, we'd be greeted as liberators.

That was the wrong judgment, and it's been costly to us.

Obama went on to do what the Bush Administrations flubbed: removing Osama bin-Laden as a threat. However, Republicans, blinded by hate, played the national security card to keep the lawless detention center in Guantanamo Bay, weakening the United States by maintaining for no reason a symbol of American contempt for international law and order.

More recently, President Biden stated the uncontroversial view that the Republican insurrectionists seeking a mass mobilization to overthrow democracy and replace it with a reactionary kleptocracy were “semi-Fascist.”

Republicans used to think that being soft on Russia was bad

The response from the semi-Fascists has been the usual Republican performance of fake outrage, combined with brilliant historical rejoinders along the lines of “Are you saying that a violent movement embraced by millions of Republicans is fascist?”  Got it in one!

The blunt statement of an inconvenient truth is great for rallying the Democratic base, but for really peeling away the Republican red, white and blue veneer, you need to move the middle ground of the electorate, the same one that for half a century believes against all evidence that the party of Nixon, Agnew, Ollie North, Sarah Palin, Tomatoe Quayle and Dead-eye Dick Cheney is the Party of National Security.

The news that the Tangerine-Faced Traitor a/k/a the Leader of His Party stole reams of sensitive intelligence and secreted it in the basement of his Florida hash house between the liquor bottles and pool towels and then lied about has not landed well with anyone not a semi-Fascist.  And it's even caused many who fit that description to suddenly pipe down.  (Calling Cancun, come in Cancun, calling Sen. Cruz.)

But if Democrats really want to close the public perception gap, why not make the obvious point that no party led by a person with so little regard for the defense of the U.S. can be entrusted to protect us?

There are maybe two problems.  First, Dems don't really like wrapping themselves in the flag, which Republicans have used, and therefore the progressive wing recognizes, as a cover for white supremacy among other forms of bigotry.

Secondly, they've never done it, so they don't have the invective at hand.  We can help, by repurposing some of the most rancid Republican attacks and smears on generations of patriotic Democrats (remember the 2004 Republican Conventioneers happily mocking John Kerry's Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in military service 12,000 miles away from where George W. Bush won his dental health medal for service in the Alabama National Guard?).

Here are just three attack lines, repurposed from their bastard Republican birth:

Republicans – the party of amnesty and abortion!  That was one of 1972's greatest hits.  What kind of party promotes amnesty for a dangerous corrupt subversive who has tried to overthrow the U.S. government, helped a Russian dictator whitewash interference in U.S. political affairs, and stole highly-classified sensitive documents in violation of among other criminal statutes the Espionage Act? 

And abortion.  Abortion.  Abortion.  Abortion.  Let's see how Republicans like it when they get to defend forced birth every day, at every campaign stop, and in every interview with a member of the real news media.

Oh, by the way, abortion.

Republicans coddle Communists. This was the heart of Ronald Reagan's national security pitch in 1984, in a successful effort to distract the nation from his pointless disastrous forays in Lebanon and Nicaragua.   Anyone who opposed his love of random shoot-'em-ups was weak on Russia and Communism.  

Commie coddler? Love it!

Is there any doubt which party is squishy-soft on Russia?  Despite their votes to ship some arms to Ukraine, on the number one national security issue of our time – protecting the U.S. against Russian subversion – the Republican have sided over and over again with Putin's Russian agents, and in fact support installing a known Russian stooge and former President as the next one despite overwhelming and unrefuted public evidence of collusion.  See, e.g., Mueller Report, Vol. I.

Republicans support a candidate who openly solicited Russian hacking and election subversion, whose campaign conspired with Russian agents by sharing confidential campaign information with them and watering down a pro-Ukrainian plank in the 2016 platform.  Later that same Russian agent echoed Putin's incredible denial of that interference, tried to destroy NATO, the successful anti-Russian defensive alliance, and stole highly classified documents, which he stored in a golf club penetrated by Chinese and Russian agents.

You can't trust a party who promotes and defends an agent of Russian Communism (what would you call a regime where all economic assets are under the control, political and economic, of a tyrant like Putin?).

Republicans won't protect us against terrorists
Maybe Joe Biden could drive the point home by flying to Berlin and telling Vladimir Putin to tear down his illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Republicans won't protect us from dangerous terrorists who want to attack the homeland.  Remember the little man in the flight suit pictured above?  You may not believe it, but he beat a real war hero in 2004 not only by smearing that hero as a coward and traitor, but also by branding said hero's entire party as too weak on homeland security.  In 2004, Flight Suit Guy and his wingman Dead-eye Dick Cheney ran for re-election by claiming that a Democratic win would lead to an America overrun by terrorists.

Here's ol' Deadeye:

Cheney was criticized in September for saying about this election “if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.” ...

“It’s very important that we choose someone who understands the nature of the enemy we face, who understands the depth of the commitment needed in order to defeat it, who understands that we’re far better off taking them on over there than we are fighting them on the streets of our own cities,” Cheney told a group of supporters last week in Michigan.

Absent an ongoing offensive against terrorists such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cheney said, “terrorists will grow only more determined … and the risk will increase that they’ll get their hands on deadlier weapons than anything we’ve seen yet.” And at a rally earlier this month in this Green Bay suburb, Cheney accused Kerry of “a record of weakness and a strategy of retreat” on national security.

Now the terrorists aren't scary brown people from Iraq (actually, they were from Saudi Arabia, a fact that ol' Dead-Eye invariably overlooked).  Instead, they're home grown.  And sure enough, Republicans are encouraging domestic terrorists to attack the very foundations of our country again, just as they did on January 6:

 Republicans are doing nothing to protect our democracy from being overturned by violent rampaging mobs incited by the leader of their party.  They are even using threats of further mob violence to obstruct justice and threaten law enforcement, whom they used to back when they were shooting Black women in their beds.

Elect Republicans and the domestic terrorists will grow only more determined and, if the Republican-bent Supreme Court has its way, the risk will increase that they'll get their hands on weapons deadlier than anything we've seen yet in a school shooting.

That should work.

Oh, and don't forget, abortion.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Hot off the Trail: Campaigning Like It's 1932


By Political Editor David Bloviator with Correspondents Nellie Bly in Cleveland, Ida Tarbell in Phoenix, Jenny Birk in Tampa, Florida, and Mike Connor in Harrisburg, New Jersey [Are you sure about that one? – Ed.]

The midterm elections are “right before” us, as noted by a Florida sex offender and target of multiple criminal investigations (Actually, they are almost three months away), so we thought it was time to rev up the ace Spy Political Team to hit the hustings and give us the low down on how things are going.

Actually, not too badly.  The disastrous campaign of famous New Jersey snake oil salesman Mehmet Oz is, like the victims of his ridiculous body cleanse programs, sh***ing all over itself.  Not doing much better is venture capitalist and sock puppet for fascist financier J.D. Vance in Ohio, once thought of as a sure Republican hold.  The House still looks like an uphill fight but there are reasons for hope.

Unfortunately for those with a shred of empathy, the hope is based on Sullen Sam Alito's principle-free reversal of Roe and subsequent Red State outrages like forcing women to give birth to severely defective fetuses with no chance of meaningful life.  Amazingly enough (to Republicans, that is) the unspeakably cruel assault on desperate women is not going too well, at least among women.

Here's some recent polling from of all places, Fox ‘News’ (to be fair, their polling unit unlike their anchors deals in reality) in the hotly-contested Wisconsin Senate race:


Almost a fifth of the electorate names abortion as their number one issue.   In that cohort, the breakdown looks not too terrific for Republican dimwit Ron “Take my fake electors, please” Johnson:

For decades Republicans have been able to gin up their white supremacist/Christian extremist base by bravely opposing abortion rights, safe in the knowledge that those rights were protected by the Supreme Court.  Now the dog has caught the car and the results don't look too good.

But as the poll itself properly suggests, there are other issues on the ballot as well, like the future if any of American democracy.  Here Republicans have taken a clear and forthright stand: they're against it.

They make their views plain in all sorts of ways.  This week, when anti-democratic Ron DeathSantis (R – Pandemic) decided to lend a hand to the floundering finagler in Ohio, J.D. Vance, the sponsors of their little get-together decided the last thing they needed was a free press covering the event.

Here's how the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the last remaining newspaper in Northeast Ohio [Louise, please check – Ed.] , put it:

Those pesky reporters – what are they whining about this time?

The worst of the rules was one prohibiting reporters from interviewing attendees not first approved by the organizers of the event for DeSantis and Vance. When we cover events, we talk to anyone we wish. It’s America, after all, the land of free speech. At least that’s America as it exists today. Maybe not the America that would exist under DeSantis and Vance.

Think about what they were doing here. They were staging an event to rally people to vote for Vance while instituting the kinds of policies you’d see in a fascist regime. A wannabe U.S. Senator, and maybe a wannabe president.

Another over-the-top rule was one reserving the right to receive copies of any video shot of the event for promotional use. That’s never okay. News agencies are independent of the political process. We do not provide our work product to anyone for promotional use. To do so would put us in league with people we cover, destroying our credibility....

Anyway, we didn’t accept the limitations, because they end up skewing the facts. If we can speak only with attendees chosen by the candidate, we don’t get a true accounting of what people thought of the event. You get spin from the most ardent supporters.

Isn't stealing private property (like photos and video footage) what they do in Socialist dictatorships like Venezuela and Cuba?

The Republicans didn't invent demonizing the press

But these tactics are right out of DeathSantis's anti-democracy playbook.  While not persecuting people for thinking they could vote merely because Florida voters passed a referendum allowing them to (or the registrar said they could), he's been shutting the independent media out of covering his Huey Long-like Reign of Terror in Florida (although to be fair to Huey Long, he tried to make his constituents healthier, not sicker):

When Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill Thursday morning to change mail-in voting in Florida, the only television cameras allowed to capture the moment belonged to FOX News.

Outside, reporters and videographers from local news outlets were told the ceremonial bill signing was an “exclusive” for FOX & Friends, the conservative network’s morning show. DeSantis confirmed as much later in the day. 

So the Miami Herald, the largest newspaper in the state, couldn't attend a public function. And if you're a member of an opposition party who dares to attend a public event at which a public official is speaking, well...

Norman Ornstein?  We're so old we remember when Norman Ornstein was considered a mainstream figure.  Guess the mainstream, like the Colorado River, has shrunk to a puddle.

The demonizing of a free press has been a Republican talking point since before 2016, despite the legions of Republican shills who whine otherwise.  Remember Agnew inveighing against “nattering nabobs of negativism” in between trousering thick envelopes of dirty money?  Or flacks for George W. Bush boasting about they refused The New York Times' request for a Presidential interview for eight years? 

But undermining a free press isn't just a cute Republican affectation that you can forget about in your post-Bush career as an adorable anchor for MSNBC.  There's no democracy without a free press because voters can't decide for whom to vote unless they know what tf is going on.

As the illustration above suggests, undermining and attacking a free press isn't the only analogue between 1932 and 2022.  There's also ... the Jewish Question.

A standard Republican attack on any Democratic candidate or idea is that they are it are backed by...George Soros.  George Soros is a rich guy and Hungarian Holocaust survivor who supports Democrats.  To Republicans, he's Jewy Jewison, according to the Forvitz:

Florida governor Ron DeSantis suspended state attorney Andrew Warren and mocked him as a “Soros-backed state attorney” on Thursday over Warren’s refusal to prosecute charges related to abortion and gender affirming care for minors.

Typical Democrat
Soros, a billionaire and philanthropist, has often been invoked as an antisemitic dog whistle, standing in, as a Vox article noted in 2018, for the longstanding antisemitic trope “of the scheming Jewish billionaire, without any real (i.e., blood) loyalty to the country that allows him to be a citizen, actively seeking to undermine white Christian unity.”

A prolific political donor, Soros is connected to Warren through his donations to the Florida Democratic party, which the party in turn disperses to its candidates, possibly including Warren. ... During the 2016 race, per the Times, supporters of Warren’s Republican opponent spread rumors about the extent of Soros’ involvement on Warren’s behalf in an effort to damage his campaign.

Conspiracy theories about Soros, the Forward noted in 2020, “seem to be born of the antisemitic trope that there is some rich, shadowy Jewish figure who is responsible for the country’s perceived problems.

In addition to DeSantis’ comments, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake this week suggested on Steve Bannon’s far-right podcast that diplomat Cindy McCain and Soros are co-conspiring to “destroy America.” ...

So the Republican mainstream's brightest hope for a post-Tangerine-Faced Traitor renaissance hates not only democracy and free press, but Jews. Seems like kind of a loser in Florida, but what do we know?

Hatred of Jews seems to be popping up all over the Republican Party. Let's go to Pennsylvania, where insurrectionist whack job Doug Mastriano is counting on anti-Semites to get him over the line.  And guess who's right there with him:

Mr. Mastriano...is a prominent proponent of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. His campaign was recently swept by controversy over efforts to recruit supporters on the social media site Gab, a haven for white nationalists and antisemites.

Mr. Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, Josh Shapiro, began airing ads this week invoking the man accused of killing 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, after posting antisemitic vitriol on Gab. Mr. Mastriano distanced himself from Gab last month, saying he rejected “antisemitism in any form.”

Jewish Democratic leaders in Florida criticized Mr. DeSantis’s planned appearance with Mr. Mastriano in the same city as the Tree of Life synagogue.

“When Ron DeSantis goes to Pennsylvania to campaign for Mastriano, what he’s doing is he’s encouraging all of the bigotry,” said Rabbi Mark Winer, the president of the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus.

Of course, you can expect the good mainstream Republicans in moderate Pennsylvania to reject anyone who embraces anti-Semitic extremists, right?

Wrong, according to the often-reliable New York Times:

And here's one more pogrom in the making, from deep in America's thirsty hellscape, also known as Arizona:

Arizona will seldom have moments of clarity like this, so let’s get to the brutal facts.

One of our two-major party candidates for governor has just endorsed a man who hates Jewish people, despises gay people and wants no Black or brown immigrants in this country.

Jarrin Jackson is no casual bigot. He has produced such a stream of internet bile he can only be seen as a committed anti-Semite, homophobe and racist – one of the most vile people in political life, unfit for government and unwelcome in polite society.

And yet Jarrin Jackson, Republican candidate for the Oklahoma state Senate, tweeted on Wednesday that he has won the endorsement of Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor. There he was photoshopped together with the smiling Lake, two peas in a tweet.

"I am honored to be endorsed by the #AmericaFirst (and Trump-endorsed) warrior who drained the McCain swamp in Arizona and is now the GOP nominee for governor in Arizona – Kari Lake. She is a rising star and her endorsement is a big deal! Thank you, Kari!"

That comment appeared in the far-left rag, The Arizona Republic.  It is not owned by George Soros.

It's almost as if anti-Semitism is as Republican as their other passions: insurrection, racism, and torturing women.

So if it's beginning to sound like a German election in 1932, remember the lesson of that history: whether the Jew-hating insurrectionists doing business as the Republican Party prevail or not is matter of whose will is stronger: theirs.

Or yours. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Why We Can't Have Nice Things Part III: The Anti-Federalist Papers

By Publius XVI
of the Board of Editors

We've been away.  Any news?

We don't know much about Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence, having been kicked out of a CIA briefing in 1982, so we'll leave all the learned commentary on the latest felonies of the Tangerine-Faced Grifter to those qualified to speak to it, on the one hand, and to his remaining media shills and co-conspirators, on the other.  

Instead, we have some thoughts about one deeply buried news item that caught our eye:

The face of federalism

Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday said he’s “pushing back on the left” by pulling Mississippi out of a federal pandemic rental assistance program and plans to send any unspent dollars back to Washington....

Advocates who help people with rental assistance said Reeves’ decision will hurt Mississippians — many of whom are working but struggling to pay all of their living expenses.

“This is not a good day,” said Gwen Bouie-Haynes, the executive director of the National Association of Social Workers-Mississippi Chapter, which has helped residents sign up for the program. “… This will result in more people living on the street in Jackson and across the state of Mississippi.”

Reeves’s office said the program has about $130 million remaining....

In February, Mississippi Today reported, based on information provided by the Home Corporation, that 66% of the applicants approved to receive funds through the program were employed, and the majority are Black and female.

The latest U.S. Census data available, for the week ending July 11, showed that 44.5% of adult Mississippians surveyed reported being behind on their rent or mortgage, with eviction or foreclosure in the next two months being either very likely or somewhat likely.

At the same time period last year, 60.5% reported eviction or foreclosure as likely. At times during the pandemic, Mississippi led the nation in the percentage of people reporting likelihood of eviction or foreclosure.

So, to sum up: a white Republican is turning down free Federal money to punish and immiserate his poor constituents, many of them Black and most of them working for poverty wages.

How could this happen?  We've talked about the obvious answer: racism.  But there's another, less obvious answer: federalism.

Hey, where you going?  Federalism may sound boring, but if you're a poor Mississippi family evicted and living in a tent, not so much!

Now in most countries, when the nation decides that it needs to give poor people money to pay their rent, it does so.  But in our glorious republic, we have an entirely separate and sovereign layer of government, called “states.” 

Those of you who live in states like California, Texas, or Florida may not even notice,  But if you have tried to move from state to state and practice your profession or drive a car, you have.  And it was a moderate to gigantic pain in the ass, for no gain to you or your country.  

So why do we have these idiotic states?  We'll offer two answers: one, we always have; and, two, it serves the interests of rich white male racists.

Let's start with Mississippi Governor Alfred E. Neuman on steroids.  Who is this guy?  He's the latest in a long line of white Republican racist stooges installed by the local white elite to keep poor people in their place.  (Tossing poor Mississippians into the streets instead of accepting free money being just one example. )

You'll be shocked, shocked to learn that he doesn't think racism is a systemic problem in America, or in his Old Confederacy:

She...asks Reeves to weigh in.

He gives the correct response, in the sense that a Republican speaking to Laura Ingraham on Fox News is expected to give a particular response: There is no systemic racism in America.

Reeves has had a pretty good week. In addition to his Fox News appearance, he got Monday off since it was a state holiday: Confederate Memorial Day. In fact, he was speaking to Fox at the tail end of what he on April 7 declared to be Confederate Heritage Month. April, according to the proclamation obtained by the Mississippi Free Press, should be a period in which Mississippians “honor all who lost their lives in this war” and to “come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage.”

Coming back soon

There will be people who argue that this holiday [is] an effort to learn from the past, they might say, not an endorsement of it. One might claim that there's nothing inherently racist about celebrations of the Confederacy (which this obviously is), perhaps because they view the Civil War as being centered not on slavery but on, say, states' rights.

That particular argument is undercut fairly robustly by the fact that Mississippi state law mandates the holiday, one of three Confederacy-related state holidays on the calendar. It is clear that the system in Mississippi encourages a generous view of the Confederacy, a rebellion against the United States that was predicated on the enslavement of Black people. 

It's almost like the whole structure of states' rights was invented to keep the national government from protecting its Black citizens from continuing racism and discrimination, as indeed was the case from 1876 through 1964.

But federalism isn't only a matter of screwing Black people for no reason other than racist vindictiveness (remember, this was federal money Mississippi refused to dole out).  Thanks to six bent Republicans, including two sex offenders, on the Supreme Court, your state of residence can mean the difference between life and freedom or death and carrying your rapist's child. 

A woman who is ten weeks pregnant in Kansas City, Kansas can obtain a safe, legal medication abortion.  Thanks to Smarmy Sam Alito and his henchmen, another woman who lives a mile away in Kansas City, Missouri, can be tried and convicted for that same safe easy medical procedure.  Or she could start to miscarry and die of sepsis before Missouri would permit a life-saving abortion.  That's federalism, at least according to our current Supreme Court.

Or worse.

The white male slaveholders who dominated the Constitutional Convention of 1787 inserted a clause designed in large part to give slave states the power to reach into free states and get their property, which we thought of as human beings, back.

According to Article IV, Section 2:

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

So let's say our unfortunate Missouri resident flees the state one step ahead of the law and arrives safely in Massachusetts. Having been charged with a crime by Missouri, the courts of Massachusetts have no choice but to lock her up (sound familiar) and ship her back to Missouri.

But wait, there's more!

The forced-birth states are busily passing laws outlawing assisting a woman in obtaining an abortion, even if that assistance comes from out of state.  There is nothing to prevent the creative minds of legislators in those states from making such assistance a criminal offense.  When that happens, under the current Supreme Court's understanding of federalism, there is nothing to prevent Missouri from indicting a doctor or clinic in Massachusetts that mails abortion pills into Missouri, and then demanding that the doctor be “delivered up.”

What is to be done?  We can't very well get rid of states, as much as we would like.  But from 1937 through about 2000, it was commonly understood that the Fourteenth Amendment, passed following a Civil War started and prosecuted by slave states asserting their supposed right to make war on the United States, protected us from the worst excesses of federalism.

Under that understanding, certain rights, even if not explicitly stated in the general terms of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, were held safe from state interference.  And the federal government was allowed to tell states what they had to do to get federal dollars (like pass along housing assistance to poor Mississippians). That all changed thanks to the Republican-nobbled Supreme Court.

But what a nobbled bent Court can do, a reconstituted Court can undo.  And if we get just a few more Democratic Senators, we can unpack and unbend the Court and put the states back in their bottles.

All we have to do give a f***.