Sunday, January 16, 2022

An inconvenient truth for our "progressive" friends

By Isidore F. Stone
Politics Editor

As predicted in these pages last week, the Supreme Court on Thursday authorized the most dramatic expansion of the federal death penalty in U.S. history when its six bent Republican members hiding behind a cowardly unsigned opinion held that an agency charged by Congress with protecting workplace health and safety could not in fact require employers to protect the health and safety of their employees in a time when COVID has already claimed 850,000 lives and continues to kill off Americans at the rate of 2,000 per day.

We'll save the deconstruction of the Court's brazenly political and unprincipled opinion to others (like the dissenters) and limit ourselves to assigning blame.

Thank you Jill Stein and her backers!

The elephant's share of the responsibility belongs of course to the Republican reactionary-industrial complex, which built an empire of bulls***t in the service of its one key goal: installing a government that has as its sole end the protection of the interests of rich reactionary white men.  As part of that goal, it has propagandized for, essentially, ever that government has no role to play in making life better for anyone who is not rich, white, and male.  Even more remarkably, it has mobilized white racism to ensure that those who are not rich and even not male forget all that and just focus on the white privilege bit.

But this is not a piece about reaching out to these angry racists, which has proven to be a fool's errand, no matter how many fools the New York Times dispatches to jerkwater diners.  This is about pointing the finger at another but-for cause of the collapse of the Supreme Court.  

Of the six unprincipled Republican a**holes who condemned thousands of American workers to an early and unnecessary death, five (excluding Long Dong Thomas) were appointed by Republican Presidents who owed their election to the failure of progressives to support the Democratic candidate.

In 2000, demented Jew hating spoiler candidate Ralph Nader siphoned off enough votes from Al Gore to give the Presidency (maybe – we'll never know for sure because the bent Supreme Court of that era stopped the Florida recount) to George W. Bush.  He duly nominated two unprincipled a**holes: John Roberts '76, who came to W.'s attention for his role in persuading the Court to stop the Florida recount, and Sullen Sam Alito, whose 100-octane white resentment has provided the fuel for the current Court's firebombing of the Federal Government.

Here are the results for Florida and New Hampshire for W., Al Gore, and the Demented Jew Hater left to right:

As Cecily Strong would say, do the math!  Had the 97,488 idiots who voted for Nader in Florida (or their equally wrong-headed 22,198 coreligionists in New Hampshire) voted instead for Al Gore, there would be no Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Sullen Sam Alito.  And no majority for letting a pandemic rip through America's workplaces.

In 2016, demented but possibly not Jew hating spoiler candidate Jill Stein performed the same function for the Former Loser Grifter, allowing the FLG to eke out victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

For those of you with short memories, here's a little reminder from CNN:

In each case, had everyone who voted for Jill Stein instead voted for Hillary Clinton, Hillary would have won those states' Electoral Votes and the election.  There would be no Justice Neil “We don't need no stinkin' masks” Gorsuch, no Justice Brett ”This underwear is locked” Kavanaugh and no Justice Amy Coney Stepford Barrett.  And there would have been three principled Justices who one hopes would have decided the vaccine-or-test rule on its merits, and upheld it.

It's no answer to say, as some research suggests, that the absence of Nader or Stein would not have elected the Democrat because those voters might have just stayed home.  This is why politics is not a science.  The point not what these allegedly progressive voters might have done; it's what they should have done.

And had they done the right thing and gone to the polls and voted for the Democrat who had a chance of winning, American workers wouldn't be in the crisis they're in today.

We're old so we remember a lot of blah blah from lefties claiming there was no real difference between Gore and Bush, or between Clinton and the Former Loser Grifter.  We'd like to introduce you to a pandemic that begs to differ.

Which brings us to today.  With our democracy hanging by a thread, the conventional wisdom is that 2022 will be a debacle for the Democrats because ... well, there are lots of reasons.  Generally people aren't too chipper during a raging pandemic. Parts, but by no means all, of the Democratic agenda have been stalled by the Supreme Court, solid Republican opposition, and two d**kish Senators.

Here's a representative sample of said CW from that reliable dispenser thereof, The New York Times Washington Bureau:

Thank you Ralph Nader!

Democrats already anticipated a difficult midterm climate, given that the party in power historically loses seats during a president’s first term. But the party’s struggle to act on its biggest legislative priorities has rattled lawmakers and strategists, who fear their candidates will be left combating the perception that Democrats failed to deliver on President Biden’s central campaign promise of rebooting a broken Washington. 

We don't recall that being Biden's central campaign promise.  We recall him promising to bring honest law-abiding democratic government back after a four-year absence and trying hard to pass some progressive priorities.  But no matter, we'll accept as a premise that Democrats must turn out in these midterms, as they failed to do in 2010 and 2014, but did in 2018.

And while we're at it, they better turn out for state governor races in places like Pennsylvania and Florida if there is to be any hope of keeping the Republican coup d'etat at bay.

Already we're hearing from our friends on the left that their manifold disappointments with the Biden Administration, some of which are actually real and fair, might lead them to sit this one out:

The presumption seems to be that come election time, voters owe the Democrats their support, rather than Democrats owing voters the promised policies that improve people’s lives. Democrats also seem to believe that democratic institutions unto themselves — in absence of policy follow-through — will automatically generate positive political outcomes for their party. The idea is that people will vote harder, because they have to, given the alternative.

The national elections of 2010, 2014, and 2016 — as well as Virginia’s 2021 election — prove the opposite.
They show that when a ruling party so obviously sides with its corporate sponsors, voters are perfectly willing to stay home or use those democratic institutions to throw that party out of office — even if that means electing an even worse set of villains. 

The author is clever enough to write his screed as descriptive, not as a recommendation, but he seems satisfied enough with the result (electing villains). We're not going to identify the writer because we're not here to rubbish some random rich screenwriter/crank. We're just providing an example of progressive “thinking” that if followed will lead to a generation or more of legal oligarchy. (Their answer is apparently that's what we have now, but we don't recall the Supreme Court from 1936 to 2000 to be invariably devoted to the ruling class.) 

We would never suggest that progressive Democrats follow Mark “Lumpy” Penn or other empty Third Way gasbags and abandon their principles.  Of course they should fight for better Democratic candidates than hedge fund handmaidens like Terry McAuliffe.

But when Election Day approaches and the choice is between a Democrat, good or mediocre, or a Republican insurrectionist, we have an inconvenient truth to share with our progressive friends:

Regardless of the imperfections of the Democrats as a group or individually, if you do anything else besides show up and vote Democratic, you are consigning you and those you care about to a tyrannical regime and in a time of pandemic perhaps even worse. 

We understand that the left doesn't like to hear that.  But just because a fact is unpleasant doesn't mean it's not true.  

If you think that staying home and “electing a worse set of villains” is an acceptable response to imperfect Democratic candidates and policies then, to borrow a phrase from a recent movie (written by our polemicist quoted earlier), you better look up.  The extinction event is only ten months away.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Dr. Gorsuch, with whom Drs. Fine, Howard, and Fine joins, delivered the opinion of the Court

By Scott V. Sandford, Justice Correspondent with
Vincent Boom-Batz, M.D., Medicine Correspondent

You might think that after 825,000 deaths in less than two years, and with daily new cases and COVID deaths reaching these levels

the one thing that would unite Americans and their government would be the unquestioned dire need to combat the spread of COVID with every effective tool at the command of the United States.

But if you thought that, you probably also thought that your fellow Americans would never elect a depraved corrupt ignorant Russian-owned bigot with no experience, wisdom, judgment, or ethical compass as President.

And here's a fun fact: that election may lead to crippling our COVID response, thanks in large part to the three mediocre extremists the Former Loser Grifter shoehorned on to the court, aided and abetted by virtually every Republican Senator.

The great Eric Boehlert noted the juxtaposition on the front page of today's New York Times:

Almost all.  

So what happened?

The Supreme Court in its wisdom was considering whether the Biden Administration had the power to protect workers (and everyone else) from dying from COVID by adopting a rule requiring large businesses, as part of their virtually unlimited power to boss their workers around, to either get a safe, effective COVID vaccine or wear a mask and get tested weekly.

Who could object to a simple, virtually cost-free common-sense step to protect workers and all of us from the profound suffering and death of what has become the worst pandemic in American history?

Say hello to Neil Gorsuch, the mediocre Republican scion of mediocre Republican wardheeler Anne Gorsuch, who occupies the seat that Merrick Garland was nominated for, but never got a hearing or a vote thanks to every Republican Senator: 

During oral arguments, made by two right wing attorneys remotely because both have COVID, Gorsuch compared the deadly coronavirus which has killed over 850,000 Americans, to the seasonal flu.

Justice Gorsuch told the Court the flu kills “hundreds, thousands of people every year.”

According to the CDC, the flu kills 12,000 to 52,000 annually. COVID-19 to date has killed over 850,000 in the U.S., including 385,00[0] in 2020.

It’s clear Gorsuch does not understand how highly transmissible the coronavirus is, nor how deadly it is – not to even begin to mention long COVID, or that millions of Americans are ineligible for age or health reasons to get vaccinated against COVID.

Social media users erupted in anger and frustration.

The Economist’s Supreme Court reporter Steven Mazie reveals Justice Goursuch actually laughed when the U.S. Solicitor General called the coronavirus pandemic “terrible.”

And if you thought that was the full extent of Dr. Gorsuch's misunderstanding of public health, then hold my beer while I sneeze on you:

That's University of Michigan Law Professor (and former U.S. Attorney) Barbara McQuade, not some Twitter rando.

Sounds like Dr. Gorsuch got his degree from the Tucker Carlson School of Medicine. And that's kinda the problem with the Supreme Court second-guessing decisions by experts in a time of pandemic: they don't know jack s*** about what they're talking about.

If they wanted to get some idea of the importance that government agencies attach to controlling COVID in the workplace, they might consult – their own website:

Their own rules didn't prevent the bent Republican Justices from whining about government overreach:

A majority of justices seemed inclined to agree...that OSHA’s proposed action was beyond a federal agency’s powers.

Such a workplace requirement “sounds like the sort of thing that states will be responding to or should be, and that Congress should be responding to … rather than agency by agency, the federal government, the executive branch acting alone,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

The states?  Sure, that would work because as every one knows, viruses cannot spread across state lines.  We're beginning to wonder if our classmate's penchant for hitting his bong between classes in Leverett House has done lasting brain damage.

As for the argument that the Executive lacked statutory authority, you'll be shocked to learn that such a position is, to use the technical legal terminology, utter horsesh*t:

Congress has directed that OSHA “shall” issue an “emergency temporary standard” if the agency “determines (A) that employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and (B) that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger.” 29 U.S.C. 655(c)(1). 

That's from the Solicitor General's brief.

The rule also follows well-documented cases of COVID sweeping through workplaces, causing death and disease not only to the workers but to their communities, as OSHA itself pointed out to all who cared to listen:

Unsurprisingly, OSHA documented “clusters, out-breaks, and other occurrences of workplace COVID-19 cases that government agencies, researchers, and journalists have described.” Ibid.; see...extensive empirical studies by state agencies and researchers. Indeed, one state health department concluded that “[m]ore than three quarters of outbreaks” in that State as of August 2021 “were associated with workplaces.”...Because “[t]he science of transmission does not vary by industry or by type of workplace,” moreover, OSHA determined that transmission would “occur in diverse workplaces all across the country.” ...Substantial evidence thus supports OSHA’s conclusion that “most employees who work in the presence of other people (e.g., co-workers, customers, visitors) need to be protected” by an ETS from the grave danger of COVID-19 spread.... The Standard protects against that grave danger.

As of this date, it appears that the transportation and health care segments of our economy are nearing collapse because too many workers are sick.  Here's tonight's Boston Globe:


That might also be of interest in considering the reasonableness of the OSHA vaccine-or-test rule. 

And, speaking of judicial fact-finding, John Roberts '76 implied he was willing to destroy a major lifesaving government initiative in a time of pandemic because of, wait for it, a Tweet: 

"It seems to me that it’s that the government is trying to work across the waterfront and it’s just going agency by agency. I mean, this has been referred to, the approach, as a work-around, and I’m wondering what it is you’re trying to work around.” The “work-around” reference was to a tweet describing the mandate in that way, with regard to the state’s role in public health, that was retweeted by Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s chief of staff—a social-media click that has become a cause célèbre on the right.

There was more nonsense in the Republican Justices' questions, including Sullen Sam Alito's desperate effort to claim the vaccines aren't safe, a fear that supposedly Congress has given the Executive too much power to protect workers from pandemic, and the claim, knocked down by Justice Kagan, that because people get COVID outside the workplace, OSHA couldn't protect workers from workplace exposure.  (That would be true of every workplace risk, including being crushed by beef carcasses).  We can't stomach too much more of this, so you should listen to the Strict Scrutiny podcast for yourself.

But the error underlying the threat to Executive action to try to keep the COVID death toll from reaching 1,000,000 is the Supreme Court's arrogant willingness to substitute its own facts and judgment for reality.  One of the worst examples of that arrogance is Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), in which the Court said that states could forcibly sterilize people they deemed inferior.

Great Bostonian, and, like John “the Bongmaster” Roberts '76, Harvard man Oliver Wendell Holmes reasoned:

It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes....Three generations of imbeciles are enough. 

Drs. Gorsuch, Roberts, and Alito,
ready to operate

But a century of Supreme Court medical malpractice is manifestly more than enough.

Nullifying the Executive's ability to exercise its statutory duty to protect workers from suffering and death in a time of pandemic, whether due to public health principles pulled from the blowhole of Sean Hannity or to an improper lust to cripple the power of the federal government to exercise its enumerated powers for the public good brings to mind Justice Robert Jackson's famous warning: “There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

Also not a suicide pact is the legislation enacted by Congress, which may be changed by Congress at any time and for any reason, now codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1:

The Supreme Court of the United States shall consist of a Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices ....

If the workplace safety rule in invalidated and several hundred thousands more die unnecessarily, maybe then we can revisit that statute.  More likely, urgent remedial action will be delayed by specious claims of “court packing” by another three generations of imbeciles.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

From the Archives: New Year's Days in Parlous Times

By Aula Minerva
Spy Archivist

New Year's Day 2021 seemed to offer reasons for hope.  Effective vaccines were on the way.  The crooked depraved Russian-owned bigot who had misruled America for the previous four years was about to be replaced by a decent honorable Democrat supported by a (marginally) Democratic Congress.

How'd that turn out?

If you don't remember, we can't help you.

Let's just say we tread upon a New Year with COVID still epidemic, the United States Government under continued attack by fascist insurrectionists d/b/a the Republican Party, the catastrophe of global warming upon us, and without Betty White.

Not good.

That's why we went back in time to see if past New Year's Days in other times of crisis could offer any words of hope or succor.  Twenty years ago, New  Year's Day 2002, the nation was still reeling from what was then an unendurable loss of human life in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.  That loss was less than half of one percent of the COVID death toll, but at the time it was overwhelming.

No wonder The New York Times offered words of hope:

The shock of a day like Sept. 11 makes the conventions of our lives look merely conventional....But any convention grown old enough acquires a meaning that's as hard to deny as it is to explain.

Hence Jan. 1, a day as melancholy as it is hopeful, completely secular and yet committed by many of us, even ironically, to an ideal of renewal that feels almost spiritual....What we commit ourselves to on the first of the year isn't a sudden increase in talent or intelligence or native beauty. It's an increase in what William Cobbett, the great 19th-century journalist, called ''exertion,'' the best application of the abilities we already have.

How'd that turn out? A hint could be found on page one of that day's Times, and it wasn't good:

The story led off with an anecdote that revealed W.'s motivation in all of the post 9/11 excitement: to make himself look big and strong, and not the clueless weakling who continued to read My Pet Goat after learning the U.S. had been attacked:

It was late on a Saturday, just days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when President Bush was ready to sign an order freezing the assets in the United States of suspected Islamic terrorist groups, the first showy financial strike against Al Qaeda. The order was to be announced, or so the plan went, the following Monday by Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. But the president suddenly had another idea.

Not much hope here

''I am about to sign this order,'' an aide recalled Mr. Bush saying. ''Why am I not announcing it?''

The staff scrambled, and by Monday morning it was the president, not Mr. O'Neill, who made the announcement, reinforcing the message that Mr. Bush would direct the war against terrorism on many fronts.

Whatever happened to the staff that scrambled so hard to project a false impression of confidence and resolve? Tune in MSNBC any weekday (except Christmas week when your host prefers to languish in St. Barts) at 5 p.m. and find out. Or check out Twitter and other congenial homes to anti-FLG gasbags. They're all there!

Further down, the story dropped hints of the lawless and pointless violence and human rights abuses that would come to represent the core of the Bush/Cheney “Global War on Terrorism:” 

His most assertive action was a November order establishing military tribunals for accused terrorists, but Mr. Bush has also moved to keep presidential papers secret and permitted sweeping government efforts to investigate anyone suspected of terrorism. To help in those investigations, he expanded government wiretapping and allowed the monitoring of communications between some people in federal custody and their lawyers. 

And that was just the chips and salsa at the banquet of pointless bloodshed that led to decades of useless violent war and grotesque torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

What can we say, not much comfort from 2002.

Let's turn the clock back a couple of generations to New Year's Day 1942, when the nation had to confront the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and the reality of war on two fronts against the two most powerful and highly-militarized powers ever seen.   This page one greeted hung over New Yorkers on that day:

That Gen. MacArthur had botched the defense of the Philippines by allowing his air force to be destroyed on the ground after Pearl Harbor would not become known for many years.  Those gay throngs in Times Square would be fed into the maw of World War II, and more than 400,000 never saw New Year's Day 1946.  On the plus side, you got all this for three cents, or 1% of the newsstand price today.  Bad news for Biden!

At least Bloomingdale's was trying to cheer New Yorkers up:

Nice thoughts, but another New York department store knew that nothing was better for morale than a white sale:

And the Times found reasons for cheer:

That's actually not bad, although the bit about being a united people seems strikingly inapposite to our current plight.  (And, spoiler alert, it worked.)

One more New Year's Day, from 1862, when the United States had been sundered by insurrection and treason (sound familiar?).  Worse yet, with disloyal former U.S. Army Generals like Robert E. Lee leading the Rebels, the Union Army had been routed at Bull Run and cooped up in Washington.  The United States knew that defeating the insurrectionists would be a terrible and bloody affair.  

In any event, the Times lead story was full of patriotic good cheer:

And the good news didn't stop with the immense armament secured by the Union.  There was this dispatch, sure to gladden the hearts of the good citizens of Binghamton, N.Y.:

The outcome perhaps generated fewer happy feelings:

During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 4 officers, 49 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 2 officers, 52 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 1 officer, 158 enlisted men; total, 7 officers, 259 enlisted men; aggregate, 266; of whom 13 enlisted men died in the hands of the enemy.

There's always a bill to be paid.

But sure enough the Times editorial writers found reasons to wish loyal Americans a Happy New Year:

A cowardly old fool and a Cabinet of knaves?  That's pretty sharp.  Too bad the Times editorial page gave up telling it like it is sometime between 1862 and 2017.

As for the clear purpose and fixed aim, we'll bet that the Times's wordsmith had no idea of the carnage yet to come, not to mention the continuing struggle down the centuries to attain the aims of the Civil War: national unity and racial justice.

So one thing we've learned from the New Year's Days of 2002, 1942, and 1862: for all the hope and good cheer of New Year's Day, the road ahead is at best long and hard.  

Just when we were about to leave you with this gloomy conclusion, we heard from our old friend Barack Obama.  He's not having any of it:

If Barack Obama tells us to look on the sunny side, who are we to argue?  Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

It's Christmas! Let's roast some media chestnuts!

Through the years, the true spirit of Christmas never changes!

It's time to roast the chestnuts!

By Isaiah Thomas
Chair, Board of Editors

Jack Frost is nipping at our heels here in Massachusetts, and when Mr. Frost starts biting, it makes us think (for some reason) about roasting chestnuts over an open fire.

2021 has brought a bumper harvest of chestnuts served up to us by all media savants. They've dished many of them up for years, but to be fair they've also brought forward some new ones.  We can't let Christmas pass without roasting a few of the most fatuous ones hawked by the usual media suspects.

1.  Finally, the Former Loser Grifter Alienates His Base.  We'd have to vote this 2021 number one chestnut if only because it blew up so quickly.

Let's go back 1,000 years ago to January 2021, when a defeated President hatched any number of stratagems designed to topple democratic government in the United States.  After terror, death, and bloodshed, the violent insurrection was quelled by brave outmatched police forces and the election results ratified by the Congress.

It was clear to the meanest intelligence (by which we mean Republicans) that although many whack jobs had a hand in the mayhem, it was propelled and supported by the Tangerine-Faced Traitor himself.  As the entire nation recoiled in horror, we were told that this outrage had finally sundered the enduring romance between the depraved corrupt orange bigot and the Republican Party.  Here's The New York Times reporting on how the plutocrats who had profited so richly by investing in the GOP were now abandoning the party:

They'll never support violence, amirite?

But last week seemed to be a breaking point. Big business could evidently tolerate working with Mr. Trump despite his chauvinism, his flirtations with white nationalism and his claims of impunity, but the president’s apparent willingness to undermine democracy itself appeared to be a step too far. [Thanks, fellas – Ed.]

“This thing was a little different. I mean, we had sedition and insurrection in D.C.,” said Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase. “No C.E.O. I know condones that in any way, shape or form. We shouldn’t have someone, you know, gassing up a mob.”

The fallout has been swift. After the president exhorted his supporters to march on the Capitol, chief executives used their strongest language to date to repudiate Mr. Trump, and some of his longtime allies have walked away. Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and an ardent supporter of the president, renounced Mr. Trump, telling CNBC, “I feel betrayed.”

Oh, did he? But then a funny thing happened:

On Friday, supporters of Mr. Trump swarmed Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, at...National Airport, calling him a “traitor.”

“You know it was rigged, you know it was rigged,” a woman yelled as he was ushered away by a security detail. “You garbage human being. It’s going to be like this forever, wherever you go, for the rest of your life.”

A similar scene unfolded Tuesday night in the Salt Lake City airport as Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, sat waiting to fly to Washington. A maskless woman approached and called him a “disgusting shame” for not standing with the president. Once on board, Mr. Romney was greeted by supporters of Mr. Trump chanting “Traitor!” 

And when rabid Republicans lean on spineless empty suits like Graham and Romney, well, you know the rest

Republican revulsion toward the riot was, however, short-lived. Arceneaux and Truex, in their paper “Donald Trump and the Lie,” point out that Republican voter identification with Trump had “rebounded to pre-election levels” by Jan. 13. The authors measured identification with Trump by responses to two questions: “When people criticize Donald Trump, it feels like a personal insult,” and “When people praise Donald Trump, it makes me feel good.” 

As a result, the formerly outraged Republicans lined up to cover up the January 6 insurrection and pretend it never happened. This cover-up continues today, powered by the same angry white supremacist base that has kept the Republicans in office since 1968.  

Well, that media chestnut has been roasted to ash.  Let's look at one that's perpetually on the grill.

2.  Republicans are Angry Because Coastal Elites.  How can the Republican base hold on to views as insane as vaccines are really Bill Gates's microchips or the 2020 election was stolen?  It can't be that their views are warped by unjustified grievance and frustrated white supremacy.

It has to be the fault of those coastal elites.  And this media chestnut flourishes because you can get ancient Democratic hacks like Mr. Mary Matalin to parrot it:

Which coast was Viola Liuzzo from?

But if you’re asking me, I think it’s because large parts of the country view us as an urban, coastal, arrogant party, and a lot gets passed through that filter. That’s a real thing. I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about it — it’s a real phenomenon, and it’s damaging to the party brand.

Let's ask somebody who has actually studied real data instead:

Racial attitudes among all Americans best explain the gap in vote choices between rural and urban areas. Controlling for racism denial, the gap in vote choice between rural and urban Americans drops to just eight percentage points. In other words, the different rates of racism denial among rural and urban Americans appears to explain about three-quarters of the urban-rural gap in voting for Trump. 

So it's white racism that accounts for the Republican love of extremist grifters like the FLG?  Not those chardonnay-sipping coastal elitists blithely trying to get health and child care for all?  Better get that media chestnut off the grill.  It's toasted.

3.  The Search for the Good Republican.  Some people search for decades for Sasquatch;  others for intelligent life in the universe of Real Housewives.  For the media, it's the search for the Good Republican, by which they mean any white man in a suit who can talk without spitting and screaming.  Over the decades, the search party has discovered a wide variety of corrupt or reactionary clowns from Nixon to – John Thune.

And yet the search continues.  Here's a recent example from that Niagara Falls of Conventional Wisdom, Das Politico.

The flaming responses to this ludicrous puff piece reduced this particular chestnut to a cinder:

That would be Stuart Stevens, who spent his adult life trying to elect Good Republicans. Let's just say his views on this one have a great deal of – validity. But we'll make one prediction: wait 10 minutes, and some media ham-and-egger will announce that he has finally, after years of searching, found The Good Republican!  

4.  Don't Worry, He'll Go Quietly.  This media chestnut was served up repeatedly in 2020, right up to Insurrection Day, 2021, whereupon it self-immolated.  Here's an example from the boy no one would have lunch with in Leverett House (and really can you blame his housemates?):

5.  Technology Will Save Us!  This chestnut has been served up since the days of DDT [No one will get that reference – Intern] and it continues today, along with lionization of the lucky white men who made hundreds of billions out of it, whether through timing, inheritance, rapaciousness, or some combination of them all.

Time Magazine, in a year when humanity was saved by tireless health care workers and researchers, had the audacity to make one of the most odious tech bros its Man of the Year.  Elon Musk, an exploitative employer and a terrible human being, offered this vision of the future:

In the future Musk envisions, no one tells you what to do. Robots perform all the labor, and goods and services are abundant, so people only work because they want to. “There’s, like, plenty for everyone, essentially,” he says. “There’s not necessarily anyone who’s the boss of you. I don’t mean to suggest chaos, but rather that you’re not under anyone’s thumb. So you have the freedom to do whatever you’d like to do, provided it does not cause harm to others.” 

And Time duly printed these chestnuts.

In addition to robots, rockets, and cars that drive themselves off the road, the latest tech miracle is the Metaverse, which means you and others making cartoon avatars of yourselves and then doing whatever it was you were doing.  This is supposed to usher in a new exciting era some touts are calling Web3.  Kara Swisher (who actually knows tech and reports on it) isn't so sure:

Web3 is supposed to be anathema to kings and other powermongers. But before you start imagining some digital utopia, many (with some justification) think the Web3 movement is also rife with hype, windbags and more than a little grift.

Despite the utopian chestnuts proffered by Silicon Valley brown-nosers, we'll agree with Ms. Swisher.  Our guess is that the Metaverse, like the Internet itself, will be a boon to three basic human instincts: (1) porn, (2) grift powered by anonymous untraceable fake currency, and (3) more billions for Lord Zuckmort made by strip-mining every movement and utterance you make in his metaverse for ad dollars.

And that's just a few of the chestnuts the media expected us to swallow without question in 2021. There were so many more: the fake battle about cancel culture, the meretricious assault on “wokeness,” and the supposed Republican concern, vanished after the Virginia election, about “education.”

Please enjoy these roasted chestnuts as our Christmas gift to you, at least while you're waiting for the Chinese restaurants to open.  Don't worry; next year there will plenty more chestnuts to be roasted, courtesy of the media gasbags desperate to gloss over the plight we are in.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Good and Dead: Destroyer of Boston Neighborhood Who Gave A Bit of His Loot to Harvard

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

A very rich man died recently in Boston.  His name was Jerry Rappaport.  From the first obituaries, you would think that he was the embodiment of righteousness and generosity.  Here's the fatuous Boston Globe eulogy:

Barely into his 20s, Jerry Rappaport was an academic prodigy who had finished Harvard College and Harvard Law School in about four years when he helped John B. Hynes defeat James Michael Curley in the historic 1949 mayoral election that changed the course of Boston history.

Though he quickly moved into powerful government posts, Mr. Rappaport soon realized his true path lay elsewhere — as a developer reshaping the city’s neighborhoods and skyline.

A whole neighborhood was destroyed
to enrich Jerry Rappaport

“Early on, I decided there’s a limitation in changing politics that I couldn’t do,” he said in an interview three weeks ago. “It was easier to rebuild the city than to change its politics.” 

That's one way of putting it.  Another way would be to describe how he actually made his fortune.  Joan Venocchi of the Globe summed it up pretty well:

When he died earlier this month, at 94, Jerry Rappaport was hailed as a great philanthropist who also played a key role in developing a gleaming new Boston. A more complete picture of his legacy can be found at the West End Museum at 150 Staniford St.

The museum...tell[s] the story of a neighborhood demolished in the late 1950s in the name of urban renewal. This home to working-class Bostonians was ultimately replaced by Charles River Park, the luxury housing complex developed by Rappaport. A young Rappaport won the bid to redevelop the neighborhood after a stint in the administration of Mayor John Hynes. Afterward, .. the city allowed the Rappaport team to change the project terms. A set-aside for affordable housing was eliminated; instead, all units were designated for luxury apartments. To build them, about 53 acres of land were taken by eminent domain, and some 7,500 West Enders were displaced, in what is now considered a textbook case of urban planning gone bad.

Pre-Vulcan, he grew up in the West End.

That seems ... different.  A political insider finagles his way to destroying a thriving neighborhood for personal gain by lying about building affordable housing. 

Indeed, if you want to see Rappaport's monument, swing by Charles River Park, which, true to the original grift, was build like a public housing project with pastel balconies glued on.  It's as hideous today as when it was built in the 1950's.

What was the West End, anyway?

The West End Museum remembers:

The history of the West End is one of a largely immigrant neighborhood displaced or destroyed by ‘Urban Renewal‘ in a campaign that saw a third of Boston’s downtown demolished between 1958 and 1960, but it’s also the history of a diverse community that produced several influential people, boasted a unique culture and included many places of historical significance. 

If a diverse vibrant urban community had to be sacrificed to enrich a greedy ruthless pol from . . . the Bronx, well, that was a small price to pay.

With the fortune that he made by mobilizing the power of government to line his own pockets, Rappaport devoted himself to passing himself off as a beloved philanthropist who gave millions to among other schnorrers Harvard for the study of, wait for it, state and local politics, which he had manipulated so expertly to his advantage.

With the fawning that accompanies any scoundrel who tosses a little pelf its way, Harvard remembered the old grifter thusly:

Harvard, working hard for the money, went on:

In the 1980s, Rappaport found himself in a position to pay it forward. As he noted: “I sent a letter [to Harvard] saying that I wanted to establish a Rappaport Fellowship for an elected official from Greater Boston…. I wanted people to understand that it was extremely important to understand how to create and implement public policy. Shortly after, I expanded the fellowship to include appointed officials. And the Kennedy School picked up and expanded this effort.”

This was the beginning of his significant philanthropy to Harvard, which also included funding to establish the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston in 2000. The University-wide entity, housed at the Kennedy School, works to improve the governance of Greater Boston by strengthening connections among the region’s scholars, students, and civic leaders.

You've got to hand it to Jerry: He was shameless. Even John D. Rockefeller didn't endow an institute for the study of predatory monopoly. 

Harvard did take a pass at describing rather incompletely the sordid source of Rappaport's largesse:

Charles River Park, a 48-acre development that broke ground in 1960, later became contentious because it razed a neighborhood and displaced low-income residents. He told Nantucket Magazine last summer that “[t]here was a sense of community that could have been handled better. But you have to understand that there wasn’t any experience with relocation at this size or scale.”

Nantucket Magazine? *chef's kiss*

Rare photo of Jerry Rappaport prior
to Boston City Council vote

By the way, lots of urban renewal projects involved destroying thriving urban neighborhoods.  But in most cases at least some public housing was built on the ruins so some of the former residents had a place to live.  But razing a neighborhood and replacing it with rich white people?  Truly that had never been attempted on the scale of Jerry's Charles River Park. Or with such brazen disregard for the interests of those who lived there.

We can't prove it but we suspect that Jerry Rappaport provided the inspiration for Mel Brooks's great villain, Hedley Lamarr, who wanted to destroy the village of Rock Ridge to make money from a new railroad.  He explained his problem to his loyal henchmen, which was the exact same quandary Jerry handled so deftly:

Unfortunately there is one thing standing between me and that property - the rightful owners.

And if you thought Harvard would ever spend one penny to compensate the victims of Rappaport's campaign of urban annihilation, then you're as clueless as the residents of Rock Ridge.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Republican Pestilence: A New Disease or Just a Variant?

By Political Editor Izzy Stone
and Health Correspondent Vincent Boom-Batz, M.D.

America will shortly reach an appalling tomb – [Surely, milestone? – Ed.] in the COVID pandemic: 800,000 lives lost, most unnecessarily.

Every real scientist has told America that the best answer is mass vaccination: if everyone is vaccinated, then the ability of the virus to kill, injure, mutate, and spread is crippled.  Further, the vaccines have proven to be almost utterly devoid of threatening side effects.

And that's why every single Republican Senator voted last week to cripple the mass vaccination program by blocking President Biden's rule that large corporations must ensure, among the other rules that apply to them regarding the health and well-being of their employees and consumers of their products, that their employees are either vaccinated or tested weekly.

Every single one.  That includes lovable moderates like Senators Wilfred M. “Profiles in Courage” Romney, Susan “He's Just Playing With It” Collins, Lisa “It's Grim Up North” Murkowski and even Republican Senators who have decided to hang it up and thus cannot blame their votes on political cowardice, like Senators Portman, Burr, and Toomey.

How could an entire party vote to prolong the nation's pandemic agony and promote an agenda that if allowed to take effect will kill tens if not hundreds of thousands more with no offsetting benefit?

Let's ask the man with all the wrong answers:

This week, he put down his sopprasata sub long enough to agonize in the Atlantic about the broader related question, which was what happened to the rich philosophical world of American conservatism.  Let's just say his concern is pretty rich itself.

He starts out with a tired trope: the failure of (many) postwar housing projects as a symbol of the failure of liberalism and the endorsement of the conservative program to address poverty with “benign neglect.”

These initiatives failed according to the Conservative Mind because  “Human society is unalterably complex....If you try to reengineer it based on the simplistic schema of your own reason, you will unintentionally cause significant harm.”

Of course, that's not what was going on at all.  Chicago public housing was segregated by order of well-known liberal Mayor Richard Daley. That same lovable liberal and his henchpersons did nothing to address the systemic racism that had blighted the lives of the Black tenants in Chicago public housing. Instead they perpetuated it. So when the buildings, but not the systemic racism, crumbled, it was a triumph of Conservatism!

In Brooks's fanciful and fatuous retelling, “I was enchanted by their [Conservatives, apparently] way of looking at the world. In conservatism I found not a mere alternative policy agenda [which was what? – Ed.], but a deeper and more resonant account of human nature, a more comprehensive understanding of wisdom, an inspiring description of the highest ethical life and the nurturing community.”

He must have been deeply impressed when the Conservative Messiah, St. Ronald of Bitburg, offered inspiring descriptions of the highest ethical life and nurturing community by inveighing against “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks buying T-bone steaks with food stamps.”  Or when Crooked Dick Nixon's designated Deep Conservative Thinker, Pat “Just leave the bottle ” Moynihan proposed to replace discredited Great Society programs with – nothing.  

If you get the impression that the Conservative thought project had no room in its nurturing community for a critical examination of race and class in America, and how they worked together to oppress and immiserate communities of color, then we'd like to buy you a Italian cold-cut sandwich, unless you are a lower-class minority group member in which case you get a taco instead.

When American Conservatism had good ideas.

Now that you, the humble Atlantic reader, have grasped the beauty and ethical rigor of Conservative ideology, you can share Brooks's shock at seeing what it has become: “what passes for the worldview of “the right” is a set of resentful animosities, a partisan attachment to Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson, a sort of mental brutalism. The rich philosophical perspective that dazzled me then has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression.” 

Because one thing you can say about Republicans like Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew or their intellectual flacks like William Safire: they never trafficked in “resentful animosities.”  If you forget about the Safire/Agnew attack on the free press as “nattering nabobs of negativism,” or Nixon's celebration of the National Guard execution of unarmed protesters at Kent State, or white construction workers who attacked antiwar protesters on Wall Street, etc., etc.

In fact the Republican Party and its Conservative deep thinkers have done nothing but promote “resentful animosities” since 1964.  They called it the “Southern Strategy,” and like most Conservative ideas it was simple: stoke the anger of white racists, causing them to transfer their loyalty to the party that embodied their racist “nurturing community.”

And of course a well-educated observer of politics and society has figured out the linkage between the racist Republican appeal of the 60s, 70s, and 80s and the insanely violent white backlash insurrection that is the Republican Party of our time.

If that's the answer you wrote down, no sub for you!

Brooks instead is doubling down on the conservative drivel of his youth, while being careful to isolate its words from the reality of white racism and unregulated predatory capitalism:

I recently went back and reread the yellowing conservatism [sic] books that I have lugged around with me over the decades. I wondered whether I’d be embarrassed or ashamed of them, knowing what conservatism has devolved into. I have to tell you that I wasn’t embarrassed; I was enthralled all over again, and I came away thinking that conservatism is truer and more profound than ever.

Oh, boy.  Let's skip his efforts to trace American Conservatism to 1562 (as it more properly dates from 1619).  Let's cut right to what Brooks sees as its last stand:

Mitt Romney?  What's that glorious salmon in the great stream of Conservative Thought up to these days? 

It seems like a long time since this piece began, but we think he's the same Mitt Romney who we  met earlier voting against a vaccine-or-test mandate scientifically designed to limit the carnage of a pandemic that has removed 800,000 Americans from their nurturing communities.

It's also the same Mitt Romney who has refused to back the revival of the Voting Rights Act to protect democracy from the unrelenting white supremacist attack that will stop at nothing, legal or otherwise, to establish its perpetual dominance of American government despite the inconvenient fact that most people don't share its views.

So on two of the life-or-death issues of our time, that pillar of Traditional Conservative Values is firmly on the side of death, disease, and disenfranchisement.  If he's your best advertisement for your values, either you need better PR or, more likely, your values always sucked.

The lost Burkean glory days of American Conservatism

It's pretty to think of American Conservatism as Hamiltonian unicorns and Jeffersonian rainbows gamboling in the Burkean flower beds, but in a deeper sense it's pretty disingenuous.  Does Brooks really think he can overlook 421 years of institutionalized racism, including Jefferson's own slave labor colony, and we won't notice?  It's not his first marriage, it's history.

He must also be oblivious, or hope that the rest of us are oblivious, to real American Conservative thought articulated by real Americans (unlike Burke whom we remember as an English fellow).

We remember William F. Buckley, Jr., widely hailed as the Plato of modern American conservatism, arguing against the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the basis of pure racism.  

We remember the strain of paranoid conservatism embodied in the John Birch Society that saw Communism behind every drop of fluoridated water and every chord of a Pete Seeger concert.  

We remember how American Conservatives sought then (and now!) to destroy public education because it was either Socialist or the kids might learn something (like slavery was a bad thing, no matter how adorable Scarlett O'Hara was).

And we also remember how in the 70's and 80's conservatives used jibber-jabber about the absolute importance of culture to blame poor people for their own plight, an almost weekly argument put forward in proud Brandeis grad Marty Peretz's wretched New Republic.

But guess what – that particular bit of American Conservative nonsense Brooks remembers:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s brilliant dictum—which builds on a Burkean wisdom forged in a world of animosity and corrosive flux—has never been more worth heeding than it is now: The central conservative truth is that culture matters most; the central liberal truth is that politics can change culture.

(Maybe if Pat didn't kill off a fifth of Johnnie Walker every night, he wouldn't have suffered from so much corrosive flux.)

Culture matters most was the attack line used to destroy the welfare state on the grounds that the poors were so uncultured they would just waste public assistance on beer and Doritos, so let them rot in underfunded and unmaintained public housing. This blaming-the-victim argument held sway for decades in American life.

If only the poor were cultured, like Marty

Unfortunately for this overripe bit of misdirection, we have learned that the culture of the non-poors, most recently exemplified by their attack on the U.S. Capitol and their attempted lynchings of the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, leaves something to be desired as well.

It also turns out that culture doesn't create poverty, but poverty and hopelessness create all the terrible things American Conservatives warned us about, although when white people do them, somehow it's not so bad.

For all that, Brooks and his fellow American Conservatives were on to something, although they of course got to the exact wrong answer.  A culture of racism, of misogyny, of unearned white male grievance, of gun violence, and of predatory capitalism manipulated by billionaires acting out of insatiable greed and vanity does resist all political efforts to change it and improve the lives of those harmed by that culture.

At its extreme, such a culture chooses authoritarianism over democracy, mob violence over the rule of law, and pervasive disinformation over educating its young. In its current insane incarnation, American Conservative praxis is now engaged in sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of American lives by opposing worker safety regulation in a time of pandemic.

So David and Pat may lift a glass (in Moynihan's case, the entire bottle) to the supposedly great tradition of American Conservative thought.  But when we think of the lives lost, ruined, and at risk today thanks to the modern expositors of that very tradition, like Mitt Romney, we'll skip the celebration.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

News from Zontar: 20 years of progress and democracy

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

By Luke Reschuz
Obituary Editor
The New Zork Times 

Ralph Zader, the consumer rights crusader whose selfless decision to pull out of the 2000 Presidential race led to the election of President Al Gorz, died today. He was 482. 

Zader, widely criticized as a spoiler in the race, decided in late October that the country could not afford the consequences of electing George Z. Bush and urged his supporters to vote for then-Senator Gorz. As a result, Gorz carried New Hampshire and went on to a successful two-term Presidency. 

Chief Justice Zonia Zotomayor hailed Zader as a “visionary leader whose unselfishness led to two decades of social progress in this country, including universal health care, paid parental leave, enactment of the Equal Rights and Electoral College Abolition Amendments, protection of voting rights, and enshrining the rights of women to control their own bodies into law.” Asked if she agreed with Chief Justice Zotomayor, Justice Zanita Hill said only “Me, too.” 

The new home of the Supreme Court

President Zillary Clinton called for a National Day of Mourning in honor of the passing of what she called a “truly courageous and principled Zamerican patriot.” She spoke at the opening of the new National Capitol Childcare and Family Services Center, located across the street from the U.S. Capitol in the imposing marble building that once housed the Supreme Court, until it was relocated to the former Youngstown Sheet & Tube steel mill in Youngstown, Zohio pursuant to President Clinton's “Spread the Jobs” program. She was joined by D.C. Governor Zusan Rice. 

“Can you imagine what might have happened had George Z. Bush been allowed to eke out an Electoral College victory despite decisively losing the popular vote?” she mused. “We could have been saddled with a Supreme Court dominated by religious zealots that would have destroyed generations of political progress and human rights in this country.”

“Who knows what would have happened to protecting the rights of all Americans to vote and have their vote counted in fair districts? And the fundamental right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy, instead of being available to all women at no expense thanks to President Zobama’s universal health care initiative, could have depended on whether the woman had the bad luck to live in a s***hole like Zexas instead of Mazzachusetts,” she said. 

Clinton then excused herself, saying she had to prepare for the upcoming signing of the Ziran-Ziraq-Zaudi Arabia Peace and Cooperation Treaty, which her Administration had shepherded through years of tortuous negotiations. “There’s no such thing as being too prepared,” she said with a laugh. 

In gracious remarks, George Z. Bush interrupted his toe painting career to hail Zader as a “true patriot.” He admitted that it was “just as well” that he lost the 2000 race because he would not have been able to foil the al-Qaeda terror ring before it could wreak havoc in the United States, as President Gorz had done. 

But not all the comments from Republicanz were as measured as Bush’s. During a break in his most recent sex-trafficking and rape trial, bankrupt supplement huckster Donald Drumpf said that Zader had paved the way for the destruction of the American way of life, citing the election of a black President as further “proof” of his widely-ignored conspiracy theory of “stolen” elections.

Had Republicanz taken over the Supreme Court,
women would have become second-class citizens.

Around Drumpf, a small claque of supporters and hangers-on echoed similar deranged extreme views. Drumpf’s driver, disgraced former Supreme Court Justice Clarenz Thomas, who was removed from the bench for lying during his confirmation hearings, called Zader “the pubic hair on the Coke can of life.” 

Drumpf’s lawyer, former Third Circuit Judge Sullen Sam Zalito, muttered, “Zader started it all. If he had stayed in the race, we could have transformed the country into the reactionary Catholic theocracy intended by Torquemada and the other founding fathers.” 

The press generally lauded Zader for his service, although discouraging notes were heard, even in the pages of this esteemed publication. Columnist Maureen Zowd complained for the 281th time that Gorz’s victory paved the way for Clinton’s, who turned her down for an interview in 1995. Her colleague Ross Zaywhat mourned the genocide of 1,400,000 embryos and fetuses a year and wondered why the women who committed these murders in cold blood failed to appreciate his brilliant irrefutable arguments against abortion rights. 

In the Senate, the session opened with a moment of silence for Zader, led by its Presiding Officer, Sen. Pat Zillman (R – Arizona), who was not killed by his own troops in a senseless war of lies.