Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fresh off the griddle at the International House of Hot Takes: DeSantis stumbles over his go-go boots

By Meta-Content Generator A.J. Liebling
with Jenny Herk in Florida

Are you old enough to remember when Assistant Urinalysis Officer and pudding lover Ron DeSantis was regarded by political savants as the odds-on favorite to win the Republican Presidential nomination?

What happened?

According to long-time Washington Post Conventional Wisdom dispenser Aaron Blake:

I was an early adopter of the idea that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) could beat Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination; I even put him ahead of Trump in my rankings as the most likely GOP nominee as far back as August 2022.

Virtually everything in the six months that followed seemed to bolster that view. [To whom? – Ed.] DeSantis was never regarded as a heavy favorite, but he rose steadily; he sometimes led Trump in head-to-head matchups in the polls, and his 19-point reelection victory in November — coupled with Trump’s very bad midterm Election Day — felt like it could be a turning point.

I’m less convinced now. ...the Trump-usurper armor has shown some early cracks.

DeSantis once could do no wrong, it seemed, and that threatened Trump. But the last two weeks delivered something of a reality check.

Did reporters take a hard look at his anti-democratic assault on the right to vote, the right to speak, the right to read, and the right to be treated with simple human dignity?  Of course not.  What happened was DeSantis fell off his elevator shoes when asked the most basic questions relating to U.S. national security:

DeSantis last week drew attention — and some pretty harsh rebukes from his party — by seemingly telling Fox News’s Tucker Carlson what Carlson wanted to hear about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While DeSantis had been hawkish enough on the Russia-Ukraine issue when he was in Congress, he suddenly labeled it a “territorial dispute” and emphasized the lack of a “vital U.S. interest” in further American involvement. 

Of course, parroting the Putin/Trump party line on the criminal invasion of Ukraine should be a disqualifier, although it doesn't seem to be a problem for the Tiny Toadstool himself. But any failure to support military force regardless of the merits or lack thereof (like Iraq) is grounds for disqualification by the pundits of the Hot Air Force, always ready to direct the battle from their command post at the Metropolitan Club in Washington. 

Unleashing a reign of terror against gay and trans kids, punishing a corporation for daring to disagree, and empowering crazed vigilantes to censor books in school libraries – no problemo for this crowd.

DeSantis: “I love it!”"

Even more embarrassing was the sizzling platter of Hot Takes served up by The New York Times, desperately trying to get ol' Pudding Fingers to talk to them by attempting to mold the steaming pile of DeSantis foreign policy statements into a coherent and less-stinky mass:

A close reading of more than 200 of his speeches, votes, writings and television commentaries over the past decade, as well as interviews with his peers, reveal the makings of a DeSantis Doctrine. 

The DeSantis Doctrine?  Ayfkm?

Yeah, because there's no better way to understand what Lt. (j. pee) Ron DeSantis is up to than by reading the self-serving crap he and his flacks put out and trying to bend it like a pretzel into a supposed Doctrine, all in the most fawning, least critical way possible. 

What's really going on is that the Times, by putting out reams of hot takes purporting to take seriously the crap spewed out this subversive unpatriotic clown (while ignoring possibly relevant matters, like his involvement in torture and war crimes at Guantanamo Bay or his overarching contempt for democracy and the rule of law), is schnorring for an interview with this guy, which will generate thousands of words of uncritical stenography beginning above the fold on A1.

When will they give up?  DeSantis won't sit down with the Times for at least two reasons.  First, his brand is built largely on unjustified white grievance and hatred for a free press that might give a voice to non-bigots, non-Christians, and non-white people is a key part of that grievance.

Second, equally important, DeSantis fears that no matter how deferential the Times reporters are, he will s*** all over his nice white go-go boots, as he did when served up Ukraine softballs by reliable right-wing hack Piers Moron (apologies to Private Eye).

But we digress.  The torrents of conventional wisdom generated by Aaron Blake cannot be held just to DeSantis.  They flood every Republican who can fog a mirror.  Blake's hot takes cover what he sees as the top 10 candidates for the Republican nomination.  Since it's going to be Trump, the whole piece seems like an exercise in filling space.

Who can appeal to these very fine Republicans?

We can't cover every single one of his top 10 hot takes.  We'll limit ourselves to his choice for the number 3 slot.

Wait for it.

It's not Threeway Greene.  It's not Gym Jordan.  It's not Jeannie Pirro.  It's someone who is even less likely to win the Republican nomination:

3. Tim Scott: The senator from South Carolina is not polling like the top alternative to Trump and DeSantis; he’s usually stuck with all the others around 1 percent. But he’s doing just about everything you’d expect a would-be candidate to do, and he’s someone you can see emerging as a credible alternative to Trump — especially if DeSantis does flame out or just fades. Perhaps nobody in the field could drive the kind of happy-warrior message Scott appears likely to go with. His presence in the 2024 race could also be unusual in another way: He well might be the only senator. (Previous ranking: 3)

“I'm a Senator.” Now there's a crowd pleaser, especially to a Republican base that contemns competence and experience. 

There's one other possibly interesting thing about Sen. Scott that might be worthy of note: he's a Black man.  This actually may work in his favor, as white supremacist  Republicans get a cheap thrill out of voting for people of color, as long as they promise, like Scott, to preserve, protect, and defend white racism.

We don't really have the stomach to go through Blake's other Republican rodents.  We'll only note that in his breathless top-10 horserace ranking there's no room for discussing unimportant trivia, like what these Republican worthies advocate and stand for.

That's probably because there are in fact no differences of substance between ex-Pres. Tiny Toadstool and the other nine, except for sending weapons to Ukraine.  They all want to replace our pluralist secular social-democratic institutions with white supremacy, intolerance, Christian nationalism, and subversion of democracy.  

They all want to accomplish this by any means necessary.  If they can't win elections on the square, they'll rig the districts, disenfranchise opposing voters, lard the courts with extremist activists, and, as a last resort (as shown on January 6) launch violent insurrections to maintain their undeserved positions of privilege and power.

But DC gasbags like Blake are too busy serving up steaming hot takes to step back and smell the gunpowder.  We're on our own. 

UPDATE: After we went to press, NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen helpfully weighed in on the difference between covering the odds and the stakes of a campaign:

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Mission Accomplished, Revisited

By Post-War Correspondent Douglas MacArthur
with Meta-Content Generator A.J. Liebling

You kids out there Tik Toking and giving away your parents' entire private lives away to Chinese intelligence may not be aware of this, but once upon a time the United States started a war with Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and sorry and agony for millions more.

Unlike other Top-Ten hits of 2003 (including CSI, Friends, and, um, The Apprentice), though, it's fallen into the same memory hole that swallowed constitutional law, four door sedans, and Sara Lee chocolate cake.

Anyway, briefly, Republican neocons used the 9/11 attack as an excuse to invade Iraq (which had nothing to do with the attack) and overthrow and preside over the lynching of its dictator Saddam Hussein.  An orgy of pointless violence followed, including the commission by U.S. forces and intelligence services of grotesque tortures (apparently witnessed by former Assistant Urinalysis Officer Ron DeSantis).   Then shortly after U.S. forces finally left in 2011, there was another bloodbath as Sunni extremists, capitalizing on the collapse of legitimate authority in Iraq, took over huge swatches of the country.

Probably not the most shining moment in United States history (and therefore Florida students will never learn about it), but we've moved on to other things as a country, like insurrection and insanity.

It turns out though that Iraqis can't move on because they still live there, not far from their dead kin.  According to a fine report in The New York Times,

What's he so grouchy about?  We said we were sorry, didn't we? Actually, we didn't, and never have.  

We were wondering how the devastation visited on the Dhahi family was reported at the time.  You'll be pleased to know that we tried super hard to limit the number of dead civilians:

The New York Times, April 30, 2004.  

At least the Marines were out of lethal range!  That's something!

Beyond the incalculable level of human suffering is the strategic catastrophe brought on by the needless war.  Iraq today is a corrupt failed state plundered by factional leaders many of whom are under the thumb or on the payroll of what we have told is yet another Evil Empire, Iran:

The most powerful among these [Iraqi] militias have links to Iran.

Many Iraqis accuse the militias and Iran of undermining Iraq’s sovereignty and democracy because a number of them function outside Iraq’s military command and because many militias are also linked to political parties, lending a violent edge to politics....

 Sajad Jiyad...and other experts say that every party has tried to grab as much of the spoils of Iraq’s wealth and power as possible, and that over the years, corruption has become institutionalized to such an extent that it is not just the positions of ministers that are allocated by party; parties also control many lower-level jobs and contracts associated with a ministry and use them to reward supporters or curry political favor.

Cool cool cool.  Who could have foreseen that invading Iraq would be a strategic and humanitarian calamity?  Who could have known that supposed case that the Bush Administration confected to justify its war was all bollocks?

Here's my analysis piece originally published in the Spy in October 2002:

Finally a Commander-in-Chief with the rocks to do what has to be done – not like that lily-livered Harry Truman or that glad-handing Eisenhower.

Bush knows what we need to do to rid this world of the scourges of tyranny and terrorism – invade the world headquarters of Terror Incorporated. That's right: this time we're going to the Yalu to stay. 

Iraq is all well and good. I know we've got a score to settle there, but that's nothing compared to the unfinished business on the Korean peninsula. My boys in Seoul are rarin' to go and my sources tell me that the North Koreans will crumple like they did back in the fall of 1950 when confronted with the might of the United States Army, ably assisted by our many allies. 

If you think that was a bit over the top, remember that George W. Bush declared Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to be an “Axis of Evil,” but quit the job at one out of three.

By the way, whatever happened to David Frum, the Bush flack who coined that immortal phrase?  Surely he must have slunk off to obscurity or Toronto (essentially the same thing).

As devoted readers of the Spy are aware, he's thriving as a gasbag for hire, along with other warmongers like Billy Kristol and Max Boot.

Boot at least has admitted he was wrong about Iraq:

albeit with the same insouciance that normally accompanies a confession of error in choosing Kansas and Purdue for the Final Four. 

The Times piece was accompanied by an even more devastating analysis that asks the simple question: why did George Bush invade Iraq in the first place, knowing as he must have the weapons and terror stories were just crap used to persuade the non-Bonesmen rubes [Surely, Congress and the American people? – Ed.].

Twenty years later, he's doin' fine!

The answer will not astonish you:

“If there was a hidden reason, the one I heard most was that we needed to change the geopolitical momentum after Sept. 11,” [Bush Administration flunky Richard] Haass has said of internal deliberations. “People wanted to show that we can dish it out as well as take it. We’re not a pitiful helpless giant.” 

If anyone can think of a better reason to launch a war of choice that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and showed that the United States was in fact pitiful and helpless, please pass it on to that pitiful helpless pygmy, George Bush. 

Twenty years on, America has taken a couple of lessons from the Iraq debacle.  The right lesson is that we do not send our fine young troops into mortal danger unless there is an overwhelming need for their sacrifice.

As usual, Republicans, addled by their perpetual unjustified white grievance, have drawn the wrong lesson.  They now believe that we should let Putin run rampant until he reaches whatever he believes to be the proper boundaries of the Russian Empire, which once included Alaska.  Instead, we should focus our military on machine-gunning refugees seeking legal entry at our Southern border like so many British regiments on the Somme.

There's one final lesson that can be drawn from the Iraq War and 60 years of Republican f**k ups in foreign policy and national security.  (Elsewhere on page 1 of today's Times you can learn how Republicans tried to induce Iran to stonewall resolution of the hostage crisis to grease the election of St. Ronald of Bitburg). 

The lesson is simple.  The last Republican you could trust to protect American national security responsibly and rationally was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Judge criticized in public forum; free speech dead

By Scott V. Sandford
Legal Correspondent

It's been a tough week in Silicon Valley.  First, tech's Masters of the Universe lost hundreds of millions of dollars in unguaranteed deposits of Silicon Valley Bank.  Then, these galaxy brains couldn't flee to Tahoe because the weather in the Sierra has been awful.

Worst of all, Stanford Law students heckled a federal judge.  Thus ended free speech in America, according to the usual whiners.

Judge Kyle didn't get the reception he wanted

What happened in Palo Alto?  Was this poor judge tarred and feathered and drummed off campus?  Shot in his bed like Breonna Taylor?  Denied the right to choose their fundamental identity?

Trigger warning: the following contains harrowing scenes of a white man being criticized and should only be read while lying on a chaise and drinking a Chivas.

The judge in question, a gratuitously cruel hard-right Trump appointee to the bent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals named Kyle Duncan, was invited by the hard-right Federalist Society to blather on about the successful efforts of him and his fellow hard-right Republicans to further bigotry and disease while imposing their own policy preferences on the elected political branches [Surely, it was a talk entitled “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter?” – Ed.]

The first outrage was that in lieu of the fawning that federal judges expect from law schools and anyone else seeking favors from them, Duncan was confronted by a Stanford Law dean who had the temerity to express, wait for it, an opposing view:

U.S. Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a member of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an interview said he was "offended" and "disturbed" by the "deeply uncivil behavior" of the students who derailed a speech he was set to deliver, as well as that of a law school administrator who he says "attacked" him in her introductory remarks.

So his right to free speech was crushed like a cigarette butt because someone else exercised their right to free speech?

As our Torts professor used to say, “Too bad.  So sad.”

The administrator's critique was directed at what the untutored might think was the subject of the meeting: the judge's decisions, which of course chapped Judge Snowflake's tender pink butt:

He also criticized a Stanford official, Tirien Steinbach, the law school's associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, who...addressed him and the crowd before the judge spoke.

This is how you deal with hecklers!

"For many people at the law school who work here, who study here, and who live here, your advocacy—your opinions from the bench—land as absolute disenfranchisement of their rights,” she told Duncan in the video clip.

That sounds like free expression to us, but it was too much to be borne for a judge used to fawning acquiescence from everyone he comes into contact with.

But it only got worse for this titan of white jurisprudence:

Duncan said he did not get far into his planned remarks, saying he was heckled by some of the estimated 100 protesters who he said shouted at him and were carrying "vulgar" signs in some cases critical of him.

They held up signs! Oh, the cruelty.  By the way, if you think free speech gives you the right to edit someone else's protest sign, maybe you should clerk on the Fifth Circuit.

And they also dared to express their views, just like Judge Snowflake.  Imagine!  Apparently the judge did not understand the difference between his courtroom, where he can silence anyone for any reason at any time, and a public forum, where he can't:

"I told [students] this is not going to work in a courtroom, this way of disagreement," he said. "Maybe that’s where we are going as a society, but that doesn’t work in my courtroom." 

Did he not know where he was? More likely, he thought that he was entitled to the same brown-nosed deference that he gets in court, and he was sad that he didn't get it. This may be regrettable, but it is not in fact an issue of suppression of free speech.

In case you were concerned that the protesters were uncivil, you will be pleased to know that Judge Kyle gave as good as he got, at least if you think crude insults are the quintessence of reason:

Law student Tessa Silverman, who attended the protest, told Reuters that Duncan himself appeared angry and called some students "idiots," something Duncan acknowledged and repeated during Reuters' interview.

"They are idiots," he said. "They are hypocrites and they are bullies."

Doesn't sound like a hypocritical third-rate judge trying to bully students who dared to express their disagreement with him, now does it?

By the way, is there a pervasive climate at Stanford shutting down free speech when it spews out of the mouths or right-wing bullies and hatemongers? 

Uh, no:

Heckle him? Not for long!

Right-wing political commentator Matt Walsh spoke at an event co-organized by the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) and Young America’s Foundation (YAF) at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Wednesday night, urging the audience to reject “insane and poisonous gender ideology.”

The event came the day after Walsh joined Mississippi governor Tate Reeves on Tuesday in signing a bill that restricts youth transition-related health care. Currently, Walsh is promoting his controversial 2022 documentary titled “What Is A Woman?” The film has been criticized for its transphobic content and opposition to LGBTQ+ education in schools.

No protests materialized during the event. Instead, Walsh’s speech was countered by Community Care events hosted by several student groups on campus, including Queer Student Resources (QSR), the Women’s Community Center (WCC) and Students for the Liberation of All Peoples (SLAP).

Speaking to a crowd of around 600 people, including individuals who are not Stanford students or affiliates, Walsh said, “I’m not concerned about your feelings, I’m concerned about the truth. You are either a man or a woman. You don’t get to choose which category you belong to.”

Just pure anti-trans bigotry. And yet despite his hopes, this creep wasn't able to make a scene.  And by the way, what about the rights of kids and their parents to obtain gender-affirming treatment if they believe that's right for them?  That seems like a fundamental freedom to us, at least as fundamental as the right of a whacko judge to be kowtowed to every time he deigns to open his yip.

Cue the usual outrage about poor Judge Kyle and how his rights were cruelly abused by a no doubt very intimidating mob of Stanford law students and administrators.   We're not going to give them any air here, but look forward to another 435 pieces on the New York Times Opinion Page, The Atlantic, Bari's Big Beautiful Blog [Louise, please confirm name – Ed.], and a thousand other points of darkness.

What you won't hear from these stooges is what the students were upset about, and whether Judge Kyle is really a sterling defender of human rights.

How about the rights of trans individuals to choose their identity and request government to respect it, which seems fairly fundamental to any conception of rights based in dignity and respect?

Stuart Kyle Duncan, a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, issued an advisory opinion Wednesday that dismissed a transgender defendant's chosen pronouns and the broader concept of gender identity, just less than two years after LGBTQ advocates warned that Duncan would not rule fairly if confirmed to the bench.... 

In his majority opinion, Duncan vacated the lower court ruling that denied Jett's appeal, saying the court lacked jurisdiction, but then he proceeded to mock Jett's court motion that she be referred to using female pronouns and her new name.

That sounds deeply uncivil to us, but of course it's different if you're not a white man (anymore).

How about the right to an abortion, which was still federally protected in 2020.  When extremist Greg Abbott tried to use the COVID pandemic as an excuse to force Texas women to birth unwanted children, guess where Judge Kyle landed?

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court order halting the restrictions, saying the previous ruling had not adequately considered the temporary burden on abortion access in light of the measure’s medical benefits.

“Given the extraordinary nature of these errors, the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state’s critical interest in protecting the public health, we find the requirements for issuing the writ satisfied,” the majority said.

Judges Stuart Kyle Duncan, a Trump appointee, and Jennifer Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee, sided with Texas. Judge James Dennis, a Clinton appointee, dissented.

What medical benefits?  Why a mob of judges running roughshod over individual rights is OK when it happens in a Fifth Circuit courtroom, but not when it's Classroom E at Stanford Law School, is clear to Judge Kyle and his fellow defenders of free speech, but less so to us.

Stanford doesn't seem that scary to us.
Speaking of the right of life, when a lethal pandemic that has so far killed over 1,100,000 Americans raged across our land, and the democratically elected branches took effective measures to limit the catastrophic carnage, where was Kyle?

Of course, he blocked the Biden Administration from protecting workers from COVID infection by requiring vaccines despite OSHA's power to protect workers from workplace hazards.  That Kyle was upheld by an equally bent Republican Supreme Court doesn't affect the essentially ideological and lawless nature of Kyle's life-threatening actions:

Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies.  

NFIB v. OSHA (21A244, Jan. 13, 2022) , dissenting op. at 2.

The point of the performative outrage over the mean things that were said to Judge Kyle in Palo Alto is twofold.  In part it furthers the narrative of reactionary white men as victims, a story that has been promulgated by white supremacists since Reconstruction.

Even more important, the endless whining helps to focus attention on the supposed white victims of intolerance and not on the real story: the attack of bent Republican judges (like Kyle) and Justices on the rule of law, the fundamental rights of minorities, and the abilities of the political branches to protect life and liberty under applicable statutes.  

We're rather more worried about whether extremist hatemongers like Florida Gov. CPeeODeSantis or Mississippi mudman Gov. Tate Reeves are free to torment trans kids and their parents than about whether grandiose Republican mediocrities get the silence and deference they don't deserve.

So were the Stanford Law students.  Good for them.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Another triumph of Republican deregulation: Children on the kill floor

By Immigration Correspondent Emma Goldman
with Financial Editor Samuel Insull

There's a lot of bloviating these days by well-educated gasbags and ill-educated Republican hatemongers about protecting children from evils as disparate as library books about Billy and his two daddies or seeking health care for gender dysphoria.  

When it comes to real issues of child abuse, whether it's sexual abuse at the hands of white Christian nationalist “pastors” or violence perpetrated by school and other police, we don't hear a peep from these valiant protectors of our children.

For example, where's the outrage at this story, from real reporter Maria Sacchetti at The Washington Post?

Triumph of deregulation

The Grand Island teens had been hired to scour blood and beef fat from the slippery “kill floor,” using high-pressure hoses, scalding water and industrial foams and acids, according to the Labor Department in federal court records. They sanitized electric knives, fat skinners and 190-pound saws used to split cow carcasses, according to court records. Some students suffered chemical burns and were so sleep-deprived after working their night shifts that they dozed off in classes, according to a local prosecutor and court records.

These teens were undocumented children aged 13-17, working the night shift at a hellish slaughterhouse in Nebraska, which apparently did not want to pay wages sufficient to attract adults to perform the gruesome work.

The employer claimed piously that it was the real victim here, and was shocked, shocked to discover that it had hired 13-year-olds.  How many 13-year-olds of your acquaintance look like adults to you?  Of course, it could have verified the kids' identity but it didn't:

Packers has faced no criminal charges, despite evidence that it failed to take basic steps to verify the age of its young employees.

The company that hired these kids did have to pay a $1.5 million fine, which must have made a deep impression on its owners:

Packers is owned by Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, which is valued in the market at more than $100 billion. A Blackstone official said that company, too, opposes child labor and is “pleased that PSSI has resolved this matter with the Department of Labor.” 

That's nice. By the way, it turns out that Packers just supplies warm bodies to the slaughterhouse, which is owned by another giganto corporation, JBS. They too have piously declared that they were shocked and surprised to discover that child labor was going on on their kill floor, while pocketing their winnings.

Surely, this is an isolated example and not part of a huge problem of employing undocumented children in dangerous factories.

Stop calling us Shirley:

The Times' first-rate account described the same story: contractors in charge of staffing hellish factories willingly overlook fake age claims made by children and hire them to perform dangerous grueling work for the benefit of giant corporations, like Pepsi and General Mills:

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota. 

 When caught the firms claim they were hoodwinked and are let off the hook:

The Labor Department is supposed to find and punish child labor violations, but inspectors in a dozen states said their understaffed offices could barely respond to complaints, much less open original investigations. When the department has responded to tips on migrant children, it has focused on the outside contractors and staffing agencies that usually employ them, not the corporations where they perform the work. 

Why is it that giant corporations believe that they can egregiously violate fundamental laws like those keeping children out of killing floors with absolute impunity?

The answer is obvious: because for the past 40 years they have, through their wholly-owned subsidiary the Republican Party, rigged the system to achieve exactly this end. 

St. Ronald of Bitburg: Child labor is freedom

Remember beloved Republican St. Ronald of Bitburg?  One of his most notorious quotes was “The most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I'm from the Government and I'm here to help.’”

This was received by all media as a brilliant populist crowd-pleasing statement, rather than an attack on our armed forces, police, and fire fighters.

But in reality it was heard by his funders and country-club buddies as a license to do whatever the f*** they wanted, including sending children to the killing floor, with impunity.  

And they got that message.  Just ask the good Republican voters of East Palestine, Ohio.

If anyone wanted to solve the problem of sweating children in factories, they could enact any number of sensible regulations.  The Labor Department could require all employers with more than say 20 full time staff to use E-Verify to determine whether the 13 year old sitting in HR claiming to be 37 can be legally hired.

And there's an even simpler way, based on the principle of economic self-interest.

In lots of cases, when people commit crimes, or even if they are suspected of committing the crimes, their assets are seized as the fruit of the supposed criminal enterprise.  These forfeiture laws are often abused and turned against the poor and powerless.

But what if they were used against the rich and mighty?  What if all violations of child labor laws were punished by the civil forfeiture of all proceeds from their use, which would be the revenues the corporation earns from the sale of goods produced with illegal child labor?  Then General Mills and JBS wouldn't be able to hide behind crooked labor contractors. Or rather, they would make the contractor hold them harmless from the costs of illegal child labor.   Let's try it and find out!

If this requires a change of law, don't bet on anything changing as long as Republicans stay in power, in large part through the votes of those harmed by lack of effective regulation, like those living downwind of or in the same watershed as toxic waste derailments.  And the Republicans depend on the financial support of plutocrats, like this guy:

Stephen Schwarzman, the founder and chief executive of Blackstone Group, also financially supported a campaign group – Georgians for Kelly Loeffler – that is alleged to later have published a Facebook ad that darkened the skin of Loeffler’s Democratic opponent, Raphael Warnock....

Public records show that Schwarzman donated about $33.5m to groups supporting Republicans in the 2020 election cycle, including $3m to Trump’s America First Action Pac, a donation he made in January 2020. Schwarzman also donated funds to political action committees supporting seven Republicans who, months later, voted to invalidate results in Pennsylvania and Arizona,...
a spokesperson for Schwarzman emphasized that the CEO’s last donation to Trump’s presidential campaign was in January 2020, long before the former president was accused of inciting an insurrection, and that the two have not spoken “in over six months”.

Schwarzman’s spokesperson also emphasized that his assistance was “purely about matters related to economic policy and trade, not politics”.

But Trump engaged in controversial and racist rhetoric long before January 2020.... A spokesperson for Schwarzman said: “Of course Steve finds these statements objectionable and disagrees with them....The spokesperson said Schwarzman supported Trump during the Democratic primaries because he believed his “policy and economic agenda were the best path forward”. 

“They said they were 18!”

Blackstone Group? The same Blackstone Group that owned the labor contractor who hired desperate undocumented kids to hose down the remains of slaughtered animals?  

It reminds us of a 19th Century poem

The golf links lie so near the mill
That every single day
The children can look up from the looms
And see the men at play.

These days the golf clubs favored by rich s***s like Schwarzman aren't anywhere near the factories where exhausted children are exploited to give Schwarzman his eighth billion dollars.

Otherwise when it comes to rich Republicans getting away with sweating kids, the song remains the same.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Spy's Ace Pundit Deeply Reports the 2024 Campaign

Editors' Note: The race for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination is on, and a wide variety of election-denying Putin-lovin' truth-hating white supremacists have announced or seem to be dancing around a Presidential run in their white go-go boots.  High time to call upon the keen insights of the Spy's master political prognosticator, David Bloviator, who has been carrying out his world class deep reporting from his vantage point at the center of all political intelligence, the National Press Club bar.

TMS:    Good afternoon, Mr. Bloviator.  It's such a pleasure to talk with you at the outset of what – your 11th Presidential campaign, and drink deeply of your decades of wisdom.

DB: Speaking of which, why don't you open a tab and get me a double-Chivas rocks, your impudent pup?

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

The great man considers the Republican field.

DB: [inhales his drink].  Ah, now we can get down to the hard work of handicapping the race for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination.

TMS: And how does it look?

DB:  The big question is whether the Republican base is tired of their long-time standard bearer, Donald Trump, and ready to consider fresh new faces to carry on their fight.

TMS: So Republican voters are getting tired of Donald Trump's corruption, lies, and fomenting hate?

DB:  Of course not, you fool.  They still love Trump's views.  They just aren't sure he's the right person to get back to the White House.

TMS: They like the racism?  They like the truckling to Vladimir Putin?  They like the support for subversion and insurrection? 

DB:  Yes.  They are values voters.

TMS: What values?

DB: They are firmly pro-life.

TMS: Is that why they oppose feeding hungry children and expanding Medicaid to save the lives of those who cannot afford to pay for health care? 

DB:  You don't understand.

TMS: What don't I understand?

DB: You don't understand that they resent being shamed by coastal elites.

TMS: You mean for their support of white supremacy and subversion?

DB: They feel that their concerns are being ignored.  Look at the freight derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

TMS: You mean the one caused by Republican deregulation and support of railroad monopolists who are more interested in buying back their own stock than investing in needed safety improvements?

DB: You've got to look at the optics, man.  Speaking of optics, I can see the bottom of my glass.

TMS: Another round for Mr. Bloviator.  What were the optics?

DB:  Republicans criticized Biden for being out of the country after the derailment.

TMS: So Republicans think that Biden should have not visited Kyiv and stayed to cement allied support in a time of war?

DB: My sources are telling me that the Republicans believe that Biden's support for Ukraine can be used against him.

TMS: Which sources?  The anonymous Republican consultants who email you talking points daily? 

DB: Dammit, man, you know nothing about deep reporting.  I keep my finger on the pulse of America's leading political authorities.  It's how I know what's on the minds of average voters.

TMS: Wouldn't it be better to leave Washington and speak to voters across the country?

DB: [Shudders].  What a revolting idea.  Clearly you have no idea how political journalism works.

TMS: Maybe we should talk about the candidates.  Who are the leading contenders?

Florida AP History: students gather to welcome new classmate

DB: Donald Trump is still the favorite.  Did you see his appearance in East Palestine?  

TMS: Where he handed out expired water and surplus merch?  Why was that such a winner?

DB: You don't get it.  He went to McDonald's.

TMS: Did he buy anyone a Big Mac? 

DB: That's not important. The important part was that he showed up and made the derailment part of his culture war.

TMS: You mean his hate campaign?  Wasn't he responsible for repealing railroad safety regulations that might have prevented the accident and refusing to consider new ones?

DB: He's a populist.  But some of his base has begun to look for alternatives.

TMS: You mean corrupt hatemongers who haven't lost three elections in a row?

DB: Now you're talking about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was re-elected in a landslide last year. Liberals could learn a lot from him.

TMS: Like what?  How to censor books and course content?

DB: He understands the concerns of parents who don't want their children to be indoctrinated.

TMS: Doesn't he want to indoctrinate kids with white supremacist myths about America? 

DB: What about the threat of trans groomers using the men's bathroom?  That's very upsetting to lots of parents.  Liberals ignore that at their peril.  If you don't believe me, ask Prunella Pill.

TMS: You mean Pamela Paul?  There is no such threat by the way. 

DB: That's besides the point. 

TMS: What about other contenders? 

DB: Nikki Haley is a fresh face.  She is basing her appeal on the desire for a new generation to hold office in America.

TMS: A new generation with the same racist ideas? 

DB: Look at her.  She's an ethnic something or another.  Anyway she's brown. 

TMS: And yet despite her own minority status, she continues to assert that there's no racism problem in America. 

DB: That's the best way to appeal to the Republican base.  Look at Tim Scott.  He's Black all over and he still stands with Trump. 

The key to political success: optics

TMS: So Republicans will consider a Black man or a South Asian woman as long as they pander to the prejudices of white racists? 

DB: Now you're learning something about politics.  That calls for another double-Chivas. 

TMS: If all candidates agree with Trump about everything, how can they distinguish themselves? 

DB: With energy, optimism, and white go-go boots.  Also they can remind Americans how old Biden is.

TMS: He made a brave trip to a war zone right after crushing the State of the Union Address.  He didn't look too old then. 

DB: You're focusing on the optics. 

TMS: That's what you told me to do. 

DB: Dammit, man, don't you understand that optics always favor Republicans?  You clearly haven't done enough deep reporting on American politics. 

TMS: Maybe we've had enough deep reporting for one afternoon.  Thank you, Mr. Bloviator. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Questions that contain their answer: Why Doesn't Anyone Want to Work Anymore?

By Labor Correspondent Joe Hill

America's ruling plutocrats and the media leeches who make a handsome living parroting their supposed concerns have a new kvetch: you can't find anyone who wants to work anymore.

The Boston Globe devoted most of its Sunday opinion section to this burning question:


Perhaps the best thing you can say about this exercise of editorial judgment is that it is an improvement over the New York Times's obsession with defending rich middle aged women who enjoy tormenting trans and trans-curious children. 

The answers they provided were in part reasonable and in part editorial word salad.  Here comes the old “existential shift” again!

Stories such as theirs reveal that what’s going on is not entirely quantifiable; it runs deeper than what economics or demography can explain. We’re living through an existential shift in how people think about work and where it fits into the other things that give our lives meaning. And though this transition is particularly wrenching in some sectors, there might be a kernel of good news: Labor scarcity could give workers more power, which in turn could help spread prosperity more widely. 

Let's start with considering what work is.  We remember one of our old bosses suggesting that we do something disagreeable (have lunch with lawyers, as we recall).  When we shuddered at the prospect, he replied, “That's why they call it work.”  There a clue there: work is something that we either need someone else to do (because we can't) or want someone else to do (because it's unpleasant).

Of course, not all work is disagreeable.  For example, presiding over The Boston Globe sounds fun and interesting and if you are the trophy wife of its billionaire owner, you, too, might be considered for the job!  Good luck!

Other careers in journalism sound similarly tempting.  If you could earn a steady income publishing crapcan columns in The New York Times being mean about trans kids or Hillary Clinton or pushing your own nutball views on abortion as reasonable and moderate, and then do the same column week after week, why wouldn't you? 

But most work isn't that easy or agreeable.  The Boston Globe reports that any number of employers can't find bodies:

Hotels and restaurants. Railroads. Retail stores. Nonprofits. Hospitals. The MBTA. Police departments. Schools. Construction companies. Delivery services. Day care centers.

Our economy depends on millions of service workers, doing things that don't seem all that appealing, like wiping the asses of old people in nursing homes, plowing buses through rush hour traffic, hammering nails in the freezing cold, or being nice to ass****s in restaurants and hotels.

When these jobs are customarily performed by men, like construction and railways, the tedium is leavened by living wages and sometimes union protection.

When the jobs are thought to be women's work, no such luck: it's minimum wage toil, or in the case of teachers, a slightly better wage but less than those brave men in blue rake in.

The explanations for the lack of willing workers thrown out by the usual suspects vary.  COVID.  Drug addiction.  Variations on laziness, including the canard, disproved by the Globe's own data, that older people are leaving the labor force.  But the data shows the opposite: 55+ labor force participation is near its highs, and far above the rates of the 1970's-1990's:

By the way, ask anyone over 60 about how easy it is to get a decent non-barista professional job.

There are a few more sensible arguments: the Boomers are aging out of the workforce and subsequent generations are smaller.  As unions atrophy and wages stagnate, Economics 10 will tell you that the supply of persons willing to labor for pennies is unlikely to increase.

Here's a thought experiment: would restaurants and nursing homes really have trouble attracting workers at $25 an hour plus benefits?  Why not find out?

They're ready to work as assassins or otherwise.

The reason is because the owners of businesses have become accustomed to floods of workers toiling for declining real wages, allowing the owners to trouser the lion's share of economic growth.  And when you take that pleasing outcome away from them, they naturally doth protest.  Sure some businesses might go under if higher wages were paid, but if your business model is dependent on immiserated labor it's not much of a business now is it?

The one industry where higher wages might bite hard is nursing homes, although since most are owned by depraved private-equity finaglers squeezing every last farthing out of bedridden grandmas, it's hard to be too sympathetic.  

If Medicaid would reimburse nursing homes for higher wages for front-line workers, then the labor market would clear.   That in turn would require political will,  But the older white workers complaining about low wages are the same workers who vote for the same billionaire-owned Republicans whose policies have brought about their current plight.  Why this is is a complex topic for another day.  In other words, racism.

Speaking of white bigotry, there's another answer to the lack of persons willing to toil in s**t jobs like nursing homes or slaughterhouses: immigrants.

Right now there are millions of noncitizens without work authorization in America, and hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees who would happily carve up pigs all day long if they could enter the country.  To the Globe's credit, it mentions the option.

And yet, the same small and great business persons who whine about the lack of workers tend to support a political party devoted to demonizing immigrants and blocking any solution that would allow more to work and live freely in America.  

To put it bluntly, if you voted for the corrupt Russian-owned sex criminal who launched his campaign by telling us that Mexico was sending us its rapists and assassins, we're not going to listen to your complaints about how you can't get enough workers to man your deep-fat fryer.

It turns out that like almost every other problem facing America, the supposed labor crisis is at root caused by greed, bigotry, and Republicans.

But, to avoid misunderstanding, if the guy who owns The Boston Globe wants to replace his trophy wife/publisher, we'd be interested.  

Not in the wife part though.   Too much like work.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Floating the Idea that Republicans are Weak on National Security

By Isidore F. Stone, Washington Correspondent with
Spy Archivist Aula Minerva

The dastardly sneak attack on our homeland perpetrated by a [checks notes] Chines balloon gave rise to the usual Republican drivel about how Joe Biden and the Democrats compromised national security by [checks notes again] shooting down the balloon over water after tracking it and jamming its communications.

And the media churned out the usual stenography, according to Media Matters:

After citing idiotic commentary from Mrs. Alan Greenspan among others, Media Matters offered up this choice morsel of insider conventional wisdom from Das Politico:

It's hardly unexpected that Republicans would seize on anything, even a shredded balloon, to reiterate the point that you can't trust Democrats to protect national security.  They've been doing it nonstop since 1969, and the cumulative impact of the charge has been devastating.   Here's data from Gallup:

Notice the only time Democrats held a (narrow) advantage was during the Iraq War meltdown four years after the Bush-Cheney invasion.

It's a cycle of stupidity: Republicans claim that they protect our nation, wave a lot of flags, and shoot off a lot of guns.  Democrats avoid the issue, thus letting the public conclude that only Republicans care about national security.  The media notices the polling and reinforces the perception that Republicans are better at protecting the homeland.

The only problem with this feedback loop: it's a load of bollocks.  The actual Republican record since 1969 on national security has been a disaster.

You young whippersnappers may not remember Tricky Dick Nixon, the Republican who won the 1968 election after the Democrats became mired in the pointless morass of the Vietnam War.

Nixon's task was to end the war without appearing to lose it, at least not immediately.  He called this brilliant scheme “Peace With Honor.”  Although this plan cost hundreds of thousands of lives, it insulated Nixon from blame and allowed him instead to paint Democrats as yellow if not pinko surrender monkeys.

This was Max Frankel's summary in the October 17, 1969 New York Times, two days after massive peaceful nationwide antiwar protests:

By the way, the “extremists” turned out to be absolutely right and Nixon's senseless bloody prolongation of the war did nothing, except created the myth of Republican superiority on national security.

Speaking of extremists, the previous day's Times carried this account of Republican Massachusetts Gov. Francis Sargent's response to pro-war hecklers:

He was the last decent Republican.

Anyone here remember St. Ronald of Bitburg?  He too was a master of pretending to protect national security.  He sacrificed 230 Marines in Beirut for no purpose that was evident then or now, and then covered his tracks by winning a splendid little, very little, war on the tiny island of Grenada. 

Then after honoring Nazi SS war dead at Bitburg, he invented the fantasy that he could build an impenetrable nuclear defense which he called Star Wars.  Those who correctly pointed out that it could never work were branded as Kremlin stooges:

(The New York Times, October 27, 1986.)

In case you've lost interest in this 40-year boondoggle, we've spent trillions on Star Wars but still have no actual defense against nuclear attack.

Moving to this millennium, after the Republicans under Bush and Dead-Eye Dick Cheney ignored the intelligence pointing to the strong likelihood of an al-Qaeda attack on the United States and then invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, those who opposed their splendid Iraq War were once again branded as weak on homeland security:

Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out on Friday at critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, ridiculing their arguments against the war as naïve and dangerous in a speech that was a culmination of a campaign by the White House to regain support for the postwar effort.

Only Democrats can save us!

Mr. Cheney's remarks came at the end of a contentious week that included President Bush's announcement of a reorganization intended to give the White House more control over the Iraq occupation; a public spat between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, over control of the mission; and growing violence on the ground in Iraq.

The vice president's appearance before an invited audience of 200 people at the conservative Heritage Foundation here capped a weeklong White House public-relations offensive aimed at rebutting a new wave of criticism of the war and the postwar effort.

In his 25-minute speech, Mr. Cheney defended the administration's handling of Iraq policy and its larger vision in combating global terrorism. His searing statements came across as direct attacks on critics in Congress and among the Democratic presidential candidates.

Again, it was the Democratic critics who were right about everything, including their contention that the $2 trillion transformation of Iraq into a quasi-failed Iranian puppet regime did grave damage to U.S. national security.  Thanks to Republicans.

The same threadbare nonsense was recycled as recently as last year, when President Biden finally extricated the United States from the 21-year Republican quagmire in Afghanistan.  

As long as we're comparing the respective capabilities of Democrats and Republicans in the fight against terrorism (remember that?), remind us again which party's President tracked down Osama bin Laden and sent him on a one-way dive to the Six Thousand Fathom Undersea Beach Resort.  And which party's President let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora and then tried to cover up the debacle.

So after the debacles of Vietnam, Beirut, Star Wars, Afghanistan, and Iraq, why should anyone cede any ground to Republicans on the issue of national security?  They shouldn't.

But if Democrats refuse to forthrightly state that they are the only party that can be trusted to protect U.S. national security, in contrast to a Republican Party dominated by Russian stooges and insurrectionists, how can you expect our media to state the obvious truth:

You can't trust Republicans to protect our country.