Saturday, July 30, 2022

Why We Can't Have Nice Things, Part II

By Adm. Husband Kimmel, USN (Ret.)
Defense Correspondent

This summer audiences have thrilled to the spectacle of the amazingly well-preserved Tom Cruise zooming around the sky in Top Gun II.  If you paid $18.95 for your ticket, $9.95 for a vat of popcorn, and $6.95 for a bladder-busting barrel of soda, you may think you paid richly for the experience of watching fighter planes zoom around.

That was the price you paid for fiction.  In reality, for the spectacle of the F-35 fighter not zooming around, you're on the hook for $1,270,000,000,000, according to the General Accounting Office, the green-eyeshade branch of Congress:

 


That's more than $1.2 trillion.  Seems like a lot of money to us.  The cliché is that a stack of $1 bills in that amount would reach beyond the Moon, although your stack may vary.

We'll talk about what else $1.2 trillion could represent later.  But first let's find out what that humongous pile is getting us:

WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - Concerns over defects in the explosive cartridges in pilot ejection systems aboard three U.S. military aircraft, including the F-35, forced a temporary halt to some U.S. operations in order to perform checks, the Air Force said on Friday.

"Our primary concern is the safety of our Airmen and it is imperative that they have confidence in our equipment," Major General Craig Wills, 19th Air Force Commander, said in a statement.

"This is a temporary stand-down, not a fleet-wide grounding," Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement about concern over "a component used in the pilot ejection system of several aircraft."

F-35 development has suffered a few setbacks

So we have a fighter plane that can't fly.  Seems like a problem to us, despite the Pentagon double-talk.

It's not as if before this week it had been blue skies for the plane, according to the GAO:

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program began development in 2001 and remains DOD's most expensive weapon system program. Currently, the program is more than 8 years delayed and $165 billion over original cost expectations.

Eight years? Good thing we haven't had to deploy Top, Middle, or Bottom Gun since 2013. Otherwise, what would they fly, other than the F-22 and F-18 fighter jets currently used by our armed forces?

As a result, the plane is still not ready for full deployment (even before the discovery of the non-ejection seats).  One problem was that the video game used to train pilots was two years late:

In March 2021, we found that F-35 simulator delays continue to prevent DOD from completing initial operational testing and making a decision to move to full-rate production.

Maybe they could train the pilots on Flight Simulator?

You might think that if they can just fix the seats and put out the simulator, the plane will be cleared for take-off.

If you put $25 on that at 40-1 against, you lost:

According to program officials, the F-35 program had 864 open deficiencies as of June 2021, which is slightly lower than the 872 we reported in March 2021

Well, let's do some math. At the rate of of fixing three deficiencies a month, everything should be right as rain in only 288 months, or 2046.

Why not just pull the plug on the whole mess and rely on the 600 planes that have already been duct-taped together?  We don't know if the F-35 will ever make a difference on a battlefield (and neither does anyone else) but there's one place it makes a huge impact: the 50 United States, where the program, according to its lead contractor, Lockheed, represents 298,000 job and $65 billion of annual spending.

Lockheed is so proud of this gravy train that it provides a handy map to let every Senator and Representative know how many jobs are generated by the unflyable plane.  Here's an example, taken at random:

 


 

 

What are the chances that a Senator or Representative from Texas would pull the plug on 75,000 jobs and $12 billion of economic impact, whatever that is?

Now we don't know if stopping production at 600 would have any detrimental effect on national security.  For $1.27 trillion, you can get a lot of brass-hats and PR geniuses to conjure scenarios in which only the F-35 can protect us from swarms of fighters piloted by immigrants flying over the Rio Grande, or something.

Our point is tiny and simple: our resources are not inexhaustible.  If we spend $1.27 trillion on a plane that can't fly with 864 known deficiencies, we don't have $1.27 trillion to spend on defending ourselves from threats less theoretical than aerial battles over Dubuque against the Chinese Air Force.

For example, we have lost over one million lives in the past two years from pandemic disease.  Imagine if even a tiny portion of that F-35 jack was reprogrammed into preparing us for future pandemics, including stockpiling vaccines, treatments, and protective equipment, improving ventilation in schools and other public buildings, and implementing nationwide testing and tracing.

Anyone see a national security issue here?

Or we could use the money to defend ourselves against the imminent prospect of catastrophic climate change that in this century inundated New York and now threatens other low-lying cities like Miami and Boston with ruin.  You can buy a lot of renewable energy sources for $1.27 trillion, and maybe even have a little left over to harden our urban coastlines, although, to be fair, if Miami slipped beneath the waves, we wouldn't be all that heartbroken. 

Or we hear a lot about the plague of homelessness, by which rich people mean  the agony of having to look at homeless people camping out on city streets.  We know that lack of shelter is lethal.  What if we took money from the F-35 program and put it into the H-35,000 program, to build 35,000 units of affordable housing for the homeless?  We bet we could spread the loot around as well as Lockheed and even build nice maps showing how many jobs were thereby created in Texas or wherever.

Of course that can't happen because of the other reason we can't have nice things: racism, but that's been covered well elsewhere, including, mirabile dictu, in the New York Times Opinion pages.

The idea that spending on war and weapons can crowd out good things is hardly new.  Fifty years ago it was characterized as “guns v. butter,”  a pejorative phrase positing an obviously unthinkable tradeoff between national security (guns) and fripperies like butter.

After 50 years punctuated by several gruesome needless wars of choice, pandemic, and the catastrophe of climate change caused by uncontrolled global warming, now we know that in deciding how to spend $1.27 trillion, the choice is between national security (if not survival), on the one hand, and, on the other, loud props for the next Tom Cruise summer spectacular.

Maybe it's time to eject the F-35 and other ridiculously expensive weapons (why are we building new aircraft carriers by the way?  are we headed back to Guadalcanal?).  If only the eject button worked.


Saturday, July 23, 2022

We were right! (about Times bloviators that is)

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

Are the bloviating gasbags who write for the New York Times Opinion pages ever wrong?

Our readers know to respond: by asking whether you've ever seen a wild bear in a bathroom stall.  But in case you were wondering if their comical lack of self-awareness and reflection was a feature or a bug, now you know.  According to their editors, they are even better than you because they admit they are wrong.  Or to put it even more condescendingly,

It’s not necessarily easy for Times Opinion columnists to engage in public self-reproach [And why is that? – Ed.] , but we hope that in doing so, they can be models of how valuable it can be to admit when you get things wrong.

Oh thank you! They are graciously admitting that they have erred, transgressed, and done perversely, not to reclaim their vanished credibility or seek forgiveness, but to set an example that lesser mortals should emulate.

Where to begin?  Let's dip a toe into this cesspool of performative fake self-abasement with two of the least appalling columnists: the usually pretty good Michelle Goldberg and the once really good Gail Collins.  Goldberg thinks that she was wrong to advocate for the resignation of Al Franken before he had a chance to defend himself in the Senate against every woman he groped.  We're kind of +/- on this one, but more from the perspective of Franken being forced to resign while a rapist and sex offender sat in the White House who then whipped out another sex criminal for a seat on the Supreme Court.

As for Gail Collins, we remember her as a funny, acerbic critic of hypocrisy and misogyny.  But too many jolly colloquies with Bretbug (don't worry, we'll get to him) must have rotted her brain because she now admits she was wrong to keep busting Mitt Romney's chops for driving around with his dog caged on the roof of his car:

Gail Collins apologizes to Wilfred M. Romney

It was supposed to be an example of Romney’s sense of organization. Got that car and dog hosed down at a nearby service station.... 

He also, of course, supports Mitch McConnell and his party’s agenda. If you don’t agree with that, it’s hard to get all that nostalgic about what might have been. But the one lesson I take away from my Seamus period is that there are some things that are way worse than boring.

Of course, the anecdote about Romney's animal abuse wasn't to show how boring he was. It was an example of his utter lack of empathy, as demonstrated by his entire life dedicated to the remorseless pursuit of pelf and his political career marked by – an utter lack of empathy for those whose daddies were not presidents of a car company and his belief that the purpose of government was to enrich grotesquely wealthy s***s like him.

Let's see what the usual suspects are up to.  These are the boys who have been so wrong for so long about so much that it's hard to imagine which nuggets of wrongness they will mine from their rich lodes.

How about Iraq War shill Tom “Six-Months” Friedman?  From his Alexandria Library of errors, he pulls his prediction that China would become more open.  Because when you think of Tom Friedman's lifelong litany of witlessness, you think about China?

Let's move along to a guy who offers an entire Italian sandwich shop of clangers, David “Moral Mountain” Brooks.  Many, including the great Soledad O'Brien '86, have recalled his disquisition on the uneducated and their fear of Italian subs, 


but he goes in a different direction, and, frankly, we were gobsmacked.

He's not ready to admit that you don't need a trust fund or a Ph.D. to scarf down an Italian with pickles, onions, and hots but he does say

It took me a while to see that the postindustrial capitalism machine — while innovative, dynamic and wonderful in many respects — had some fundamental flaws. The most educated Americans were amassing more and more wealth, dominating the best living areas, pouring advantages into their kids. A highly unequal caste system was forming. Bit by bit it dawned on me that the government would have to get much more active if every child was going to have an open field and a fair chance. 

In other words, he now realizes that every single tenet of anti-government conservatism is – dead wrong. This is news from a guy who wrote in The Atlantic last year that he had reread all of his loony right-wing conservative tracts he had swallowed whole in grad school and found them even more brilliant than before, but we'll take it.

As long as he's being so candid, we'd suggest another wrong bit, embedded in his confession, that he can work on while waiting for his next sopprassata sub.  He appears to blame the grotesque disparities of wealth in America on the “most educated Americans.”

In doing so he repeats the error he's made before, which is to lump together highly educated pediatricians making maybe $200,000 a year and college professors or print journalists making less with the tiny plutocratic elite that trousers billions while tying their dogs to the roofs of their car.

The reason that working class and poor Americans are so wretched is not because primary-care doctors and professors are making just enough money to buy a small suburban house in Boston or New York.  It's because ruthless plutocrats like the Koch family have amassed billions and deploy a small portion of their undeserved wealth as bribes to Republican politicians to maintain the economic status quo.

By the way, when we worked in a financial firm we ran into lots of jamokes making at least tens of millions a year.  They didn't have for the most part fancy educations.  Some of them couldn't write a sentence.  But they were ruthless, street smart, good at brown-nosing and really interested in making a lot of money.  And they made each week what many MD's, including those with multiple Ivy League degrees, make a year.

But Brooks lumps tycoons and doctors together not because he doesn't understand the difference.  He does so because the professional class tends to vote Democratic and he finds it ironic or hypocritical that the progressives among them are somehow responsible for the plight of the poorest three quartiles.  It's not true, but he's been mining this incorrect observation for decades.  Maybe if we wait another 20 years, he's confess this error too.

At least Brooks is trying.  A little.  But for sheer effrontery and shameless b**tshitting under the guise of confessing error, let's wrap up with Gail Collins's favorite yakking partner: Bretbug, who confesses to being wrong when he correctly referred to supporter of the Orange-Haired Insurrectionist as “appalling.”

They're not appalling, according to Bretbug

The same week that the January 6 Committee featured video of these thugs invading the Capitol, bent on committing murder and destroying democracy, Bretbug claims he now sees how right they were:

[Tangerine-Faced Grifter] voters had a powerful case to make that they had been thrice betrayed by the nation’s elites. First, after 9/11, when they had borne much of the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to see Washington fumble and then abandon the efforts. Second, after the financial crisis of 2008, when so many were being laid off, even as the financial class was being bailed out. Third, in the post-crisis recovery, in which years of ultralow interest rates were a bonanza for those with investable assets and brutal for those without.

Oh, and then came the great American cultural revolution of the 2010s, in which traditional practices and beliefs — regarding same-sex marriage, sex-segregated bathrooms, personal pronouns, meritocratic ideals, race-blind rules, reverence for patriotic symbols, the rules of romance, the presumption of innocence and the distinction between equality of opportunity and outcome — became, more and more, not just passé, but taboo.

Point one: if you felt betrayed by Republicans who conned you into the Iraq War, why would you vote Republican now?  (A similar stupid point was made 50 years ago to justify hard-hats beating anti-war protesters).

Point two is incorrect as a matter of economics.  Low interest rates helped the less affluent by making homes, cars, boats, and anything else financed by debt more affordable.  Low interest rates hurt rich a**holes with big investments in fixed-income securities by reducing the expected level of income they receive.  (It's possible though that TFG's rich supporters were browned off by this, although those low rates generally helped them by propping up the stock market and their strip-and-flip debt-laden private equity scams).

As for point three, it's not even wrong.  First, the only cultural revolution we remember in the 2010's was the reality of a Black President, which blew the minds of white racist TFG supporters.  LGBTQ rights, as Bretbug is well aware, have been a front-burner social issue since the Stonewall riot a half-century ago.  Opposing those rights has been a reliable Republican tool to rile up their reactionary base that whole time.

What could Bretbug even be referring to by “the rules of romance?“  Are those the rules that were followed by hopeless romantics like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill “Throw Wifey Down the Stairs” O'Reilly, and innumerable other powerful white male letches?  

The Twitterati have a few thoughts that we can't improve upon:

Yeah that's it.

By the way if Bretbug really wanted to admit error, he could have recalled his effort to cancel the job of a man who dared make the “Bretbug” joke. That professor still has his job and Bretbug's number:

We think there's at least one other explanation for Bretbug's regret at properly characterizing TFG supporters as appalling. As the above passage from his confession implies, there is no material distinction between his views and theirs. Their intolerance, their bigotry, their sneering dismissal of any challenges to the white male order are his. If they are appalling, so is he. (Spoiler alert: he is!) We suspect it was that uncomfortable realization that prompted his confession.

What can we conclude from this tendentious lying piece of crap?  

Easy: when it comes to the New York Times Opinion columnists and their inability to see or admit or correct properly their innumerable errors and misjudgments: we were right!

Being right feels great.  We can think of a few gasbags who might someday give it a try.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

How to focus your words on the story - more journalism for beginners

 By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

If you're writing a news story it can really help you if you figure out what the story is about.  This sure-fire technique is known as “focus.”

To see what happens when you don't focus on the real story, let's take a look at a few recent examples from America's media titans.

Here's one: with climate change accelerating, and Europe boiling alive due to unprecedented heat, the failure of the Democratic plan to do something about our fatal addiction to fossil fuel was important news.  So far, so good.  Here's how it was first reported in The New York Times:

How is it that one Senator can frustrate the will of the President and presumably the entire Senate?  Is that what happened?

Umm, no.

By day two the Times admitted that Maserati Joe didn't do this all by himself.  He had some helpers.  To be more precise, he had 50 of them:

WASHINGTON — President Biden bowed to political realty on Friday, conceding that he had been unable to persuade a holdout coal-state Democrat — and any Republicans in the Senate — to back what had been his greatest hope to confront the climate crisis. 

In the words of Emily Litella, that's different.  The real story is that the entire Republican Party, with as far as we know no exceptions, even from supposed heroes like Liz “Torture Girl” Cheney, has decided to do everything possible to encourage global warming and the ensuing catastrophes. 

Whether this is due to their dependence from coal-dark money from polluting titans like Koch Industries, a bent libertarianism that holds that government has no role in building roofs to protect us from rain, or just blind opposition to anything Democrats propose is ultimately irrelevant.

The key point is that our planet is not threatened solely by some schmuck from West Virginia.  It's an entire political party devoted to destruction of our democracy and our planet.  The word Republican makes a second appearance deep in the story, which portrays the result as another Biden failure.  Not a single Republican is interviewed.  (Was Wilfred M. Romney busy tying his dog to the roof of his car?) Nor is there any discussion of whether their implacable opposition to saving our planet will be a midterm winner or loser.  It's all framed as another Biden/Democratic failure.

By the way, you don't have to take our word for it.  You could ask America's best reporter, Jane Mayer:

Let's turn to another horrifying story from the week's news: the attempt to smear news media for truthfully reporting that a pregnant 10-year-old rape victim had to flee to Indiana to get the abortion she was denied in Ohio.  There are two important points here: one, the horrors inflicted on this child and two, the relentless smear campaign orchestrated by the media arm of the Republican Party, Rupert Murdoch's bent cable channel and business newspaper.

So how did this play?  Let's turn to another supposed lion of modern journalism, The Washington Post:

His focus on the fact that the Indianapolis Star's original account was based on – the statement of the doctor who performed the abortion.  That seems like a pretty reliable source, in the absence of anything that would cast doubt on her credibility, like, we don't know, past service in a Republican Administration.  But not to Ace Fact Checker Glenn Kessler:

With news reports around the globe and now a presidential imprimatur, however, the story has acquired the status of a “fact” no matter its provenance. If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding.

Be like Aloy and focus!

Of course, journalists rely on reliable sole sources every single day.  Or even not so reliable sources, like the police.  Watch your local news tonight and count the times you hear something along the lines of “According to police...”

Kessler didn't find worthy of focus the effort by Murdoch's media to smear the victim, the doctor, and anyone pointing out that the disaster was the entirely foreseeable outcome of the Supreme Court's law-free demolition of the right to safe, legal abortion.  

To be fair to the media, others, including the formidable Erin Gloria Ryan in The Daily Beast, did focus on the real point:

Rather than facing the cruel reality of their ideological position cheerleading no-exceptions abortion bans, members of the conservative media decided collectively that the story couldn’t be real. They set out to prove that the doctor was a liar, and that pro-choice people had made the whole thing up.

From the unhinged ramblings of Just Asking Questions lipstick-toothed bloggers to Fox News primetime to a Wall Street Journal editorial that accused abortion rights proponents of amplifying “an abortion story too good to verify”—the right-wing media septic tank was giddy to prove its point. In their telling, the left was just making shit up and the whole sob story of a pregnant 10-year-old was...a “fanciful” argument meant to make a post-Roe America seem much more barbaric than it actually was.

See how easy it is to focus on what's important? 

By the way, in response to waves of withering criticism of his pisspoor “fact check,” Kessler told his his critics basically LALALALALALALALA:


This is consistent with the proud boasts of other hacks raked over the coals for their hot takes. Here's Megan “Kiddie Suicide Squads” McArdle, who also graces the Post's editorial page:

Once again, Ms. McArdle fails to attain the standard set by the proverbial stopped clock.  If you are being trolled online because you are a woman and/or you express views displeasing to hateful highly-armed white men living in their mom's basements, you are entitled both to legal protection and to enforced moderation by the proprietors of whatever online platform you publish on.

If on the other hand you are being criticized for your pisspoor dangerous views (like claiming that the best answer to gun massacres in schools is to train kiddie suicide squads), the answer, applicable to Megan, Glenn, Kevin Dowd's sister, and other galaxy brains, is to stop publishing garbage and start focusing on what's important.

Try it – it works!

STOP PRESS: At deadline the aforementioned fan of kiddie suicide squads, Megan McCardle, told us we shouldn't worry about pregnant 10-year-olds because lots of times the child rape victim could be as old as 14 and that's not so bad:

Sunday, July 10, 2022

A Field Guide to Republicans and Other Wild Pests

By David Bloviator
Political Editor

America is reeling from at least three mortal threats: to women, to anyone choosing to venture outside to enjoy, for example, a Fourth of July Parade, and to democracy itself.  The fourth threat – a fatal pandemic that claimed over one million lives in two years – appears to be less grave, not because of a continuing effective government and social response, but because vaccines and treatment have lowered mortality rates to a mere 300 lives a day, or three 9/11's a month.

Each of these grave threats to the body and the body politic has one primary cause: Republicans.  They packed the Supreme Court with extremist reactionaries, at least two of whom are sex offenders.  They stopped all efforts to take high powered weapons of war out of the hands of losers and misfits (not to mention their parents).  And they, with a few exceptions that we'll now turn to, have been actively promoting or at best complicit in the destruction of American democracy and its replacement with a fascist plutocracy.

Whom do you persuade first?

That one political party has been behind so much cruelty and violence has led to two wrong conclusions.  First, of course, it's all the fault of Democrats for – who knows?  Maybe it's not enacting the entire progressive agenda despite a lack of a working Senate majority.  Maybe it was not writing an abortion rights statute during the three months in 2009 when they could have done so, but chose to pass health care instead.  Or maybe they're too “woke,” which is used by conservatives and gasbags as a more pleasing description than “opponent of bigotry.”

It's too hot to squeeze down all those rabbit holes today, so we'll turn to the second conclusion: we need to understand and propitiate Republicans, the ones who are doing this to us.

One prong of this love-the-good-ones campaign is an outbreak of support for soon to be ex-Representative Liz “Torture Gal” Cheney, who has had more success raising money from Democrats in California than she has persuading her own s***-kicking constituents to vote for her:

... one of the nation’s biggest Democratic donors, the film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg...is backing a surprise candidate: Representative Liz Cheney, the staunchly conservative Wyoming Republican.

“We agree on little, if anything,” Mr. Katzenberg said in an interview. “But she has...put her country over party and politics to stand in defense of our Constitution.” ...

To help Ms. Cheney bolster her chances in Wyoming’s upcoming Republican primary — she is facing a Trump-backed opponent — Mr. Katzenberg and his wife have donated more than $43,000 to her campaign and groups supporting her. ...

Mr. Katzenberg is one of a number of Democrats and independents who are crossing ideological lines to support Ms. Cheney,... 


A supporter of Mr. Trump for almost the entirety of his term, Ms. Cheney — who opposes abortion, supports conservative judges and wants to expand mining and energy drilling even in environmentally sensitive areas — voted in line with him 93 percent of the time....

Now it really makes no difference whether rich idiots like Katzenberg want to shower a few bucks on Liz Cheney.  It's not going to prevent him from gut-restoring his $20 million Tribeca loft or his $35 million Nantucket teardown.

But it does point to a larger campaign to ignore the grossly evil positions of reactionary whack jobs like Liz Cheney, who is perfectly happy to legally suppress votes to maintain Republican power, as long as it can be done without pooping in Statuary Hall (and thanks to generations of Republican election- and court-rigging success, it can).

The campaign is pursued by anti-Tangerine Faced Grifter Republicans seeking to return the Grand Old Party to its roots – like invading countries for no reason and ensuring that all rewards in society flow to where they belong: the top 1% in income and wealth, who are predominantly, by coincidence, white men.

Here's former Iraq warmonger Max Boot:

Maybe that's all that matters to Max Boot, but to the 13-year-old girl who had to drive 1,000 miles to terminate a six-week pregnancy, we bet other things matter too. And there's no reason to venerate much less appease a prairie extremist who lacks any regard for the plight of that girl and the tens of millions of women who have lost any reasonable access to abortion due to some not very democratic decision making by a Republican-bent Supreme Court.

Similar thoughts were offered by another member in good standing of the now-disbanded Iraq Hot Air Force, Jennifer Rubin, who is pursuing the Brooksian fantasy of a centrist aggregation of Democrats (who will give up on every core issue, including keeping the Earth from broiling us all and giving the poor some modest support) and Republicans like her, who will be graciously pleased to receive their entreaties.

She cites approvingly one idiot Democrat in a purple district who is trying to run on a third party that would “attract” support from supposedly influential Republicans like Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, neither of whom could survive a Republican primary in their own districts.  That'll work and then together we can climb the Moral Mountain to the Brooksian paradise where the sensible centrists rule, the unwashed enjoy their soprassata subs, and the wives are always 35 and comely.

Or maybe start here?

Maybe these people need to take a harder look at the species whose behavior they are trying to predict.  Why is it the case that almost all Republicans espouse and support extremist positions, up to and including the destruction of American democracy?  Let's ask long-time Washington pundit Mark Leibovich, who's got an entertaining new book on this topic:

...far more compelling to me—are the slavishly devoted Republicans whom T---- drew to his side... Without the complicity of the Republican Party, Donald T---- would be just a glorified geriatric Fox-watching golfer. I’ve interviewed scores of these collaborators, trying to understand why they did what they did and how they could live with it. These were the McCarthys and the Grahams and all the other busy parasitic suck-ups who made the T---- era work for them, who humored and indulged him all the way down to the last, exhausted strains of American democracy....

Did [Kevin] McCarthy want Trump to run? His look got even dirtier. “I think it’s a long way away.”...

McCarthy will not be winning any Profile in Courage Award anytime soon. In fairness, that could make him a good fit for the cowardly caucus he is so eager to lead.

Soon enough, 2024 will not be a long way away, and T---- is well positioned to claim his third consecutive Republican presidential nomination. Again, T---- will do as he pleases and take what he can take. Because really, who’s going to stop him?

So to Leibovich the answer is cowardice:  Republicans line up to polish the Former Loser's Grifter's taint because they are spineless and addicted to power. That's certainly part of it, but we think the rot goes deeper, if that is possible, along two axes. 

First, there is no reason to think that any Republicans disagree with the FLG on any issue other than staging a coup. The rest of the angry, bigoted, corrupt, pro-rich drivel is more than OK with them; it's what Republicans have stood for since 1964. Second, they are cowards because they know the Republican base agrees with the FLG on such drivel. Their voters like the racism, the hate, the incitement to violence, and perhaps most all the impunity.

Uh, you go first

So it's not just cowardice or even a supposed cult of personality.  To understand Republicans, you have to understand their racism, their anger, their love of violence, their contempt for any institution that stands in the way of white privilege, up to and including the United States Government.  That's who they are, and if you want to appeal to that, let us know how that worked out for you.  

(Incredibly enough, that is the prescription offered by even hackier Joe Klein, who reviews Leibovich's catalogue of FLG outrages and Republican boot looking and concludes we need to work harder to reach out to these very fine people!)

There is an alternative of course: instead of selling out every Democratic goal to appeal to the 17 Republicans who are willing to depart from the Republican agenda 1% of the time, we could persuade our own base, and the great alienated middle, that they have a stake in the fight to save our democracy, our schoolchildren, our planet, and our daughters.  That's what Mr. Abe Lincoln did.   If a few Republicans join at least one of these causes, good for them.

But appealing to the elusive Republican “moderates” by forsaking key Democratic ideals, like a country free from weapons of mass murder, will undoubtedly work out as well as it did for Aiden McCarthy.  Thanks to decades of Republican opposition to an assault weapons ban, on July 4, he was  the two-year-old boy orphaned in the Highland Park gun massacre. 

Remember that your new best friend, Liz Cheney, was OK with that.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

How did we get here, ask the people who got us here


By Isaiah Thomas, Board of Editors
with Spy Archivist Aula Minerva

How did we get here, we ask.

In one sense the answer is simple.  Here's Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith:

We’re in this dark moment because right-wing politicians and their allies have spent decades scheming to overrule a right many Americans considered sacrosanct. Passing state laws to restrict access to abortion care. Giving personhood rights to fertilized eggs. Threatening to criminalize in vitro fertilization. Offering bounties for reporting doctors who provide abortion services. Abusing the filibuster and turning Congress into a broken institution. Advancing judicial nominees who claimed to be committed to protecting “settled law” while they winked at their Republican sponsors in the Senate. Stealing two seats on the Supreme Court.

It's the fault of concupiscence

For nearly 50 years, right-wing extremists rejected the beliefs held by an overwhelming majority of Americans. They doubled and redoubled their efforts to create a future in which women and their doctors could face a prison sentence for seeking or providing basic health care. When these extremists couldn’t impose their radical views through the legislative process, they stacked the courts.

That's irrefutable but it doesn't tell the full story. The destruction of the right to a safe and legal abortion was aided by lots of folks who now proclaim themselves shocked, shocked to discover what Republicans have been doing for the last 42 years. Here's Kevin Dowd's sister:

Over the last three decades, I have witnessed a dismal saga of opportunism, fanaticism, mendacity, concupiscence, hypocrisy and cowardice. This is a story about men gaining power by trading away something that meant little to them compared with their own stature: the rights of women.

Pretty bad. But in her telling, the 40-year effort to stack the Supreme Court with extremist reactionaries has a clear villain.  Wait for it.  Wait.  Wait.  Admire the window boxes along her Georgetown street.

OK, you've waited long enough.  The villain is Joe Biden, for bungling the Thomas hearings (which he did).  Never mind that he voted against Long Dong Thomas and Sulky Sam Alito, and campaigned for Hillary Clinton.

Back to Kevin's sister. In 2016, after watching by her account 25 years of said dismal saga, she couldn't bear to tell her readers, of whom she has many we're sure, that the Presidential race between Hillary Clinton and the Tangerine-Faced Rapist represented a fundamental choice between a man who would enslave and degrade women and a women who would not, even if she had refused to dump her horndog husband. 

(Her glancing reference to “concupiscence” is both a nod to her fine Catholic education and a hidden attack on all Clintons. Perhaps she felt that the death of Roe, which Hillary Clinton told us was on the ballot in 2016, was not a promising day to shoot off the usual broadsides against Hillary.)

But as with other recent abominations, like the Supreme Court's insane lawless decision on the right to stroll into Market Basket packing a high powered assault rifle capable of shredding 40 shoppers a minute if they're keeping you from the BOGO Doritos special or the revelations about the manifold efforts to stage a coup after the Former Loser Grifter lost the 2020 election, the loudest yelps are coming from those who helped confect the catastrophe.

We' hate to call them the usual suspects, because this crowd (unlike the extras in Casablanca) actually did the deed.  Their relentless, cruel, loud, uncompromising support of Republicans and their reactionary agenda had the outcome they must have intended: the triumph of white supremacy, gun lust, and (today's example) telling women what to do with their own bodies (whether or not as a consequence of your raping them in the dressing rooms of Bergdorf Goodman).  

Who want to be first?  How about the short, smirking guy pouring a barrel of water over the face of a helpless detainee?  He seems to be no fan of Dobbs, preferring John Roberts' '76 principle-free position that maybe abortion is OK up to 15 weeks for some reason:

 

In another Tweet he notes that 95% of abortions are performed by the 15th week, so he seems to be OK with 95% of all abortions.  Has he always given off such powerful women-rights vibes?  

Guess what?

Always, however, the key social issue is abortion. [Billy] put the argument most revealingly in the February 1997 issue of the neoconservative political monthly Commentary. ''The truth is,'' Kristol wrote, ''that abortion is today the bloody crossroads of American politics. It is where judicial liberation (from the Constitution), sexual liberation (from traditional mores) and women's liberation (from natural distinctions) come together. It is the focal point for liberalism's simultaneous assault on self-government, morals and nature. So, challenging the judicially imposed regime of abortion-on-demand is key to a conservative reformation in politics, in morals, and in beliefs.'' 

Whoa Nellie. You'd think he'd be thrilled by Alito's triumph of self-government, morals and nature. Or, if he isn't, that he's a disingenuous dishonest unprincipled blowhard who has forfeited his place in America's political discourse. 

Let's try another one of our favorites: the high-spirited darling of the Contras, Ana Navarro:

That seems pretty clear to us. Guess she's always worked to keep the hands of government out of women's reproductive system.

Sorry, no.  Before rising to the summum bonum of American life – TV celebrity – she labored for and partied hearty with a series of Republican hacks and fronts:  

“She’s a friend” who “hangs out in South Florida” and “had been around the political world,” said Jeb Bush Jr., a son of the former governor. “We’ve known her for a long time,” he said, adding that having “more Hispanic or Latina conservatives out there” is good “for any Republican, especially Dad.”

We know that Jeb's brother George nominated two justices knowing they would oppose Roe and his father nominated one for the same reason.  But it's unfair to attribute their views to Jeb, right?  What did Jeb have to say when he ran for President with Ana's approval:

He said, "I'm the most pro-life governor on this stage....Life is a gift from God. And from beginning end we need to respect it and err on the side of life. And so I defunded Planned Parenthood. We created a climate where parental notification took place. We were the only state to fund crisis pregnancy [fake clinics used to talk women out of choosing abortion] centers with state moneys.”

The Jebster also promised to defund all Planned Parenthood services, not just abortion.  Ana didn't have a problem with imposing Jeb Bush's beliefs and religion on all Americans six years ago. 

Next up, an even more highly placed Bush flack and TV celebrity: Nicolle Wallace.  She didn't look too happy about the end of the right to an abortion, retweeting glum tidbits like this:

And yet when she was flacking for George W. Bush's re-election campaign, which led to the elevation of Sulky Sam Alito, her views on reproductive rights sounded, shall we say, different:

The Bush campaign unveiled a television commercial that questions Mr. Kerry's priorities and attacks him for voting against legislation, since signed into law by the president, that makes it a separate offense to harm the fetus in a federal crime against a pregnant woman....Because the law treats the fetus as a separate person, its opponents have described it as an effort to roll back abortion rights....

In a conference call with reporters, Nicolle Devenish [As she was then known – Ed.], the communications director for the Bush campaign, signaled that the commercial would be the start of a concerted effort to counteract what she described as an effort by Mr. Kerry...to reinvent himself.

And how about all those galaxy brain constitutional-law experts many of whom bemoaned the intellectual shoddiness of the Dobbs decision, like Georgetown Professor Neil Katyal and Harvard Professor Noah Feldman.  What did they say about the three FLG stooges who professed their respect for Roe as precedent?  

University of Michigan Law Professor Leah Litman as usual has her hand up:

And don't tell us that we didn't know in 2016 what was at stake in the Presidential election. A very smart graduate of Yale Law School told us plainly:

But the current political battle being waged over filling the current vacant seat on the Supreme Court—and the fact that our next president could appoint as many as three or four justices in the next four years—are striking reminders that we can’t take rulings like today’s for granted. Just consider Donald Trump, the Republicans’ presumptive nominee. The man who could be president has said there should be some form of “punishment” for women seeking abortions. He pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And last year, he said he’d shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood. If we send Trump to the White House and a Republican majority to Congress, he could achieve any—or all—of these things. And that’s why this election is so important. The outcome of November’s contests, from the presidency to state legislatures, is going to be a deciding factor in whether our elected officials and our courts defend or attack a woman’s right to health care for generations to come.”

So, she was, um, right.

To be fair, a very stupid corrupt sex offender was just as clear:

But there's another bunch of suspects to round up, and they're not Republicans.  The New York Times points out today that the Republican anti-abortion blitzkrieg actually began in 2010, when Democrats and progressives figured that having elected Barack Obama, their work was done and they could just stay home:


 

All it took for evil to triumph was for good Democrats to do nothing.  Any moral for 2022?  You can find if you have a strong stomach idiots Tweeting today about how they have given up on Democrats because for the three months the Democrats controlled the political branches in 2009 they did not drop everything else (like national health insurance) and legislate abortion rights.  Some even have the cojones to argue that because Dems can't break a Senate filibuster on abortion rights today, they have forfeited any claims to progressive support.  

The great thing about these insane arguments is they generate their own empirical validation: if pro-choice and progressive voters actually buy them, they will stay home and Democrats will be unable to protect abortion rights, just as predicted.

As we come to the most consequential midterms since the debacle of 2010, ask anyone who tells you there's no real difference between Democrats and Republicans and thus no reason to vote for a possibly imperfect Democrat, if they remember the 2010 and 2016 elections and the 40-year Republican effort to take away the right to a safe and legal abortion.

We remember, even if Billy, Ana, Maureen, Nicolle, and a bunch of hard left whack jobs pretend to forget.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Never FLG but maybe Cruz, Scott, Pence, DeathSantis, Rubio, ....?


 2024 Election Preview: Only 29 Months to Go!

By Spy Political Editor David Bloviator with
Izzy Stone in Washington

The race for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination, which you may have thought was over before it began thanks to the overwhelming lead enjoyed by the Former Loser Grifter, is on and you can feel the insurrection [Surely, – excitement? – Ed.]

Last week in these pages we took a look at what passes for courage and insight among Washington hacks (like Kevin Dowd's sister) and former Republican luminaries, who are now willing to tell us, after years if not decades shilling or apologizing for Republicans, that the FLG is – bad.  We also noted that their obloquy did not extend beyond said FLG to other Republicans, who, with rare exception, have either backed his insurrection or kept their mouths tightly shut.

At one of the formerly obligatory stops on the Republican  campaign trail – a mob of intolerant white bigots who slather their hatred with thick gobs of alleged Christianity like mayonnaise on Annie Hall's pastrami sandwich – some of the loudest deplorables had the ignominy of following the FLG's full-diapered defense of insurrection.

It took three Washington Post reporters to describe the incredible scene:

On Friday afternoon, Trump delivered the headline speech at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to Majority conference, which served as a preview of what the 2024 GOP presidential field could look like. But Pence — along with other possible presidential contenders — chose not to attend. Aside from Trump, no other speaker mentioned the Jan. 6 proceedings during the conference’s initial days.

Well, why would they?  If you're thirsting for Republican votes, there's no upside in appeals based on the rule of law, protection of democracy, or the enduring value of the American Constitutional order.  Just ask Liz Cheney, about to be retired by Wyoming Republicans, or South Carolina's Tom Rice, whose vote for impeachment based on the FLG's 1/6 insurrection was greeted by Republicans in America's treason capital – not well:

(graphic from The New York Times)

Republicans can count ballots correctly when they want to, so there was not a discouraging word among the Republican wannabes at Hatefest '22.

Of course, some of the leading Republican, um. luminaries, were smart enough not to follow the FLG roast, including Cancun Ted Cruz, Ron DeathSantis, Li'l Marco Rubio, and no-show at the DC Necktie Party Mike Pence.  Don't worry; we'll get back to them.

But a number of second stringers couldn't resist the “chance to begin testing messages with one of the most influential audiences in Republican presidential politics: evangelical leaders and activists.”

Let's meet some of our contestants:

Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.)...predicted that Republicans will win majorities in the House and the Senate in November, and then, holding his hands up he added: “And then in two years — I have a dream,” a reference to the Rev. Martin Luther King. 

As SNL's Ego Nwodim once noted, “That's all Dr. King ever said.” 

Did we mention that Tim Scott is a Black Republican? You might think that's a disqualifier but you'd be underestimating the appetite of white racists to hear Black people validating their hatred. Ask Herschel Walker, the demented wife-beater who's tied with Sen. Warnock in the George Senate race, but speak slowly and clearly.

Next up was not Tim Scott's cousin, that titan of Medicare fraud, Rick Scott (R – Fifth Amendment).  Surely he would address the issues facing the country head on, right?

Scott suggested the country needs corporal punishment. “A switch is a southern form of encouragement,” he said, after explaining how his mother used to hit him with one to push him to focus more on school.

You might think this is a ridiculous bit of misdirection, but sadly you'd be wrong. Scott knows full well how to give a crowd of self-appointed Christian evangelicals a woodrow: call for child abuse.  As Talia Lavin '08 tells us,

Thank you Republican Jesus!

I started researching evangelical Christian corporal punishment quite recently, though I had known for years it was and remains a common practice in millions of American households. Knee-deep into parenting guides that read, to me, like alien and sadistic torture manuals,... I put out a simple Tweet, asking people who had had such childhoods to reach out to me for a research project.

The response was immediate, and wide-ranging, and intense. Within 48 hours, one hundred people had reached out to me, sharing pieces of their stories on email and DM..—and the responses contained so much candid anguish I marveled the words didn’t etch holes in my screen.

Yikes.  Guess Don Jr. and Eric don't realize how lucky they were that their father neglected them.

Nikki Haley, who faithfully shilled for the FLG's shambolic disloyal foreign policy as UN Ambassador had the incredibly big clanging brass balls to praise the Ukrainians for their patriotism, but said nothing about the President who corruptly tried to extort the President of Ukraine for political gain without objection from her.

The other three FLG taint-polishers waiting for their beloved former President to stroke out on his 20-piece fried chicken basket – Cruz, Rubio, and DeathSantis – wisely passed on taking eighth billing, but they've been supportive of the continuing insurrection perpetrated by the FLG, when they're not jabbering about the menaces of doors in public buildings and vaccines for toddlers.

Which leads us back to the point we were trying to make last week: it's not just the FLG, it's the entire f***in' Republican Party that's in on the effort to end democracy in these United States.  And why should we care?

Because if the FLG finally snorts his last Aderall, his party's Presidential nomination will be won by one or more of these loathsome individuals whose values are just as evil as the FLG's.  The result, according to two leading academic bloviators, one of whom holds the same job once inhabited by Henry Kissinger (Government Professor at a well-known university in the Boston area), is a dire future for our democracy:

Sounds more like a statement about American politics since 1994 than an dystopian warning, but you catch the drift.

Which got us to wondering about all those Republican heroes who like to proclaim their apostasy when it comes to the Treasonous Toadstool, like this guy:

What do they think about all those spineless Republican hacks who have failed to speak out against insurrection and in fact advocate policies that are as as bad as if not worse than those of Pres U Bum?  Funnily enough, you don't hear too much.  Sometimes a discouraging Tweet will be heard but if any of the Never FLG crowd has Tweeted Never DeSantis, Never Cruz, Never Rubio, or Never Pence, we haven't seen it.

Even Cheyenne's answer to Joan of Arc hasn't ruled out supporting any number of loathsome pro-insurrection Republicans. Republicans who are willing to point out that the whole party needs to reconstructed tend to be those who have no future in Republican politics, like retired right-wing Judge Michael Luttig.  As dusk falls over his career and his country, the retired appellate judge, like Minerva's Owl, spread his wings and observed

Over a year and a half later, in continued defiance of our democracy, both the former president and his political party allies still maintain that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him, despite all evidence -- all evidence now --that that is simply false. All the while, this false and reckless insistence that the former president won the 2020 presidential election has laid waste to Americans’ confidence in their national elections. More alarming still is that the former president pledges that his reelection will not be “stolen” from him next time around, and his Republican Party allies and supporters obeisantly pledge the same.

That's clear enough (although Judge Luttig was remarkably parsimonious in his use of the word “Republican”). Too bad that so few Republican stalwarts, including those who seek the Presidency and those ready to trouser millions flacking for them, can bring themselves to state the obvious truth about the irretrievably corrupt subversive conspiracy that is the Republican Party and the depraved cowardly grifters who seek its highest honor, second only to a round of golf with their Supreme Leader.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

A Monstrous Fairy Tale

By Meta-Content Generator A.J. Liebling
with Nellie Bly in Washington

Lucky readers of The New York Times were treated today to a fantastic revelation, courtesy of retired columnist and brother of Kevin, Maureen Dowd.  Are you ready to have your mind blown?

Here it comes:


 No s***, Sherlock.

What has led this savvy dispenser of conventional wisdom to this conclusion, other than it embodies today's Washington conventional wisdom (we'll get back to that)?

Maureen has a revelation!
The House Jan. 6 committee’s prime-time hearing was not about Trump as a bloviating buffoon who stumbled into the presidency. It was about Trump as a callous monster, and many will come away convinced that he should be criminally charged and put in jail. Lock him up!

The hearing drove home the fact that Trump was deadly serious about overthrowing the government. If his onetime lap dog Mike Pence was strung up on the gallows outside the Capitol for refusing to help Trump hold onto his office illegitimately, Trump said, so be it. “Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” he remarked that day, chillingly, noting that his vice president “deserves it.”

Was this really the same guy that Maureen was having flirty interviews with throughout 2015 and 2016? The same guy that she found hardly less odious than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was so political and wouldn't dump her horndog husband? The same guy her brother “Kevin” defended with a platoon of hate-filled lies in numerous Dowd columns

It's hard to argue with the proposition that the Tangerine-Faced Seditionist is a monster, as he has proven every single day of his wretched life.

(It would be easier to argue with Maureen's leading competitor for the coveted title of Times Columnist Mailing It In: Former Harvard Salient editor Ross Douthat.  Today, he's blaming Republican obstruction and subversion on – you guessed it! – liberals who are shirking their duty to remedy the prevailing “gyre of polarization” in America for which they are responsible.

Actually, we found a liberal intern who can help Ross.  She pointed out that a gyre, being a circular current usually of water but possibly of any fluid, has no sides by definition, and if you polarized it you'd destroy it, so problem solved.  Just not the problem of the Times giving eighth-rate polemicists miles of column inches to propagate gibberish in what it likes to think is America's leading news outlet.)

But there's a deeper problem with Ms. Dowd's diagnosis of the Bronzed Rapist as a monster.  While it's correct, it doesn't fully encompass the nature of the gyre in which our democracy is trapped.

Her column echoes this week's prevailing wisdom in the light of the brilliantly-crafted January 6 Committee Hearing, which was devoted in large part to building an unassailable case that the Former Loser Grifter criminally conspired to obstruct and pervert the course of American democracy in multiple ways, leading up to inciting a lynch mob to track down and kill Mike Pence on January 6, 2021.

All true and important. But it was a conspiracy; to understand it we have to track down all the conspirators. Here's a hint from loyal Republican and torture fan Liz Cheney:

WASHINGTON — Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming...paused to address the members of her own party who she said were “defending the indefensible.”

Pointing out shortcomings is a Republican tradition
“There will come a day when President Trump is gone,” Ms. Cheney said. “But your dishonor will remain.” ...

She has been unrepentant in continuing to blame Mr. Trump for stoking the attack, and her Republican colleagues for following his lead by spreading the lie of a stolen presidential election. That stance has left her marginalized by her party, with her colleagues ousting her from her leadership position and seeking to purge her from the House by boosting a MAGA-styled primary challenger to her at home in Wyoming.

Even a Republican as stone-hearted and reality-challenged as Liz Cheney is forced to admit that the seditious conspiracy encompasses virtually every Republican, not to mention their enablers, like Rupert Murdoch and his always-erupting bulls*** volcano.

But the never-FLG Republicans, after 40 years of dutiful flacking and apologizing for Republican insanity, are all too eager to dump it all on one grotesquely fat crook.

Here's ol' Axis-of-Evil David Frum, who came down from Toronto to polish lies for the Bush Administration but now believes that the Twice-Impeached Monster is The Problem:

The recently defeated president of the United States tried to overturn the Constitution rather than accept the outcome of an election. Brave and patriotic people stood up and stopped him at the time. Brave and patriotic people are seeking to hold him to account now. Be one of them. 

Oh we will, Dave, we will! But what about the 99% of elected Republicans who still back the Treasonous Yam and even worse his evil ideas? How about them?

And let's not forget that Bill “the Institutionalist” Barr, before pointing out on national television that the narrative of a stolen election was, in his word, “bullshit,” nonetheless told an interviewer 


 

He couldn't have revealed the future of the Republican Party any more clearly: radical reactionary white supremacy and Christian dominionism, just without the Orange-Faced Betrayer of the Constitution he corruptly defended until December 2021.

So the FLG-as-monster trope, correct as far as it goes, is misleading, because the conspiracy will survive the defenestration of the Combover Monster as long as the Republican Party remains the unreconstructed movement of white supremacy and anti-democratic subversion.

We note this because the next generation of loathsome Republicans have gained prominence by aping the ideas propagated by the Adderall-Crazed Perv.  To be fair, as the ACP never had an original, or indeed any, thought in his life, those ideas were the lifeblood of the post-1964 Republican Party.  The appalling bit, not mentioned by Maureen and others who enjoy hanging out with Republicans willing to tell her “privately” that of course they don't approve of the Thrice-Bankrupt Ravager's antics, is that such ideas, or more properly attitudes, are the Republican Party.  There's nothing else there.

To take one grotesque example among many, the excrementitious Governor of Florida, Ron DeathSantis, having sacrificed tens of thousands of Floridians to his crowd-pleasing science-free ignore-COVID policies, has now moved aggressively to undermine what's left of democracy in Florida, by using his rubber-stamp legislature to punish those who dare to oppose his appeals to hate and intolerance, like Disney and the Tampa Ray (soon to be Las Vegas) Rays. 

When does Maureen call him out?  Or can we expect a bunch of jolly columns on-the-one-handing DeathSantis and other-handing the too political too bossy Kamala Harris?  

The narrative that it's all the fault of the Former Loser Grifter is far too convenient for Republicans, eager to promote T***ism without T****.

Will they get away with it, in which case our democracy will be flushed down the gyre of misdirection and bothersiderism?  If you want to find out, we know the worst place to look: the opinion pages of The New York Times.