Sunday, July 25, 2021

Police Beat: Crime in the White People's Streets

By Bart Vanzetti
Spy Police Reporter 

The story was huge news in Our Nation's Capitol last week:

Thanks, WTOP, uh, WUSA Washington.

News of that shooting at the corner of 14th St. N.W. at Riggs St. followed another shooting outside the Nationals stadium during a game, scaring the s*** out of thousands of spectators who had been enjoying watching their team underachieve.

Yep, crime is back, by which we mean that it's happening around white people.   That makes it news.

The shooting last week took place on 14th St. between R and S:

In a previous century, during the pacific glorious reign of St. Ronald of Bitburg, there was a 14th St., N.W. in Washington city, we recall.  It was paved and everything.  We lived there – well, not there. We're white.  In those days, no white person would go anywhere near 14th & S NW unless they had to buy drugs in an emergency.

There were plenty of shootings in that neighborhood then too.  If you don't believe us, just ask the BBC:

When Ruben Castaneda moved to the US capital in 1989 to take up a job with the Washington Post, he was struck by how easy it was to score crack.

Days after arriving in the city, he was taken to S Street Northwest by a "strawberry" - a streetwalker who offered sex in return for drugs.

"The moment she stepped out of the car, the drug dealers ran across the street and surrounded her," he recalls. "Coming from Los Angeles, I was a little taken aback by how casually all this went down."

Crime in the 80's: you couldn't believe
how bad it was

They were in the Shaw/U Street neighbourhood, less than two miles from the White House. ...

Drug markets were already established by the 1970s, but it was after dealers started selling crack in the mid-1980s that drug-related violence escalated.

"The city was going through a terrible time," says Castaneda, who covered endless shootings as a reporter on the night police beat. "Through the late '80s to mid-to-late '90s there were just unbelievable levels of violence behind crack cocaine, and fights over drug turfs, witness killings and retaliatory killings."

By 1989 the annual homicide rate had risen above 400, and Washington DC had become the "murder capital" of the US - the city with the highest rate of homicides in the nation. ...

In 1991, there were 479 homicides in the city, a record...."There was kind of an unspoken thing that nobody really lived east of 16th Street," says Horsley. "That was like a racial, social, political dividing line."

Nobody, in this context, as was understood at the time, meant no white people.  So nobody, in the sense of no white people, gave two s***s about crime on 14th Street, north of say P Street.

How things change.

Although crime remains low by historical levels, there's plenty of dangerous gunplay, most of which ends up hurting or killing – Black people.

Which has left people of color torn.  On the one hand, they would like to be protected against being shot down on the streets of Chi-Raq.  On the other hand, if the only protection they have is heavily armed mostly-white uncontrolled police force whose members can't quit choking the life out of them on the streets, that seems suboptimal, to put it mildly.

Which brings us to the difficulty of disentangling crime, the problem, from crime, the excuse for Republican-sponsored white supremacy.  

In the aftermath of reign of police terror that culminated in the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among many others, one school of thought, led by but not exclusively comprising persons of color called for “defunding the police,” thus handing the Republicans a handy club with which to beat anyone advocating any effort to bring the police under the control of democratic government.

From the WBBM Chicago in the Crosshairs page

Bree Newsome Bass, who yanked down the treasonous Confederate flag that flew at the South Carolina State Capitol 150 years after General Sherman's U.S. Army tore it down, is on the side of arguing that the American police are an irredeemably racist institution and therefore it's got to go:

[Police] Reformists remain committed to preserving the existing system even though the idea of reforming it to be the opposite of what it was designed to be is an unproven theory that’s no more realistic than the idea of abolishing police altogether. The most pressing question remains: Why are we seeking to integrate and reform modern manifestations of the slave patrols and plantations in the first place?

There's one problem with the idea of defunding and abolishing the police, as Ms. Newsome admits:

One of the primary talking points against calls to defund and abolish police is that Black communities would have no way to maintain peace and order, and that a state of chaos would ensue.... The current political divide on this issue falls exactly along these lines, separating those who think the system is simply in need of reform and those who correctly define the problem as the system itself. The reality is that Black people fall on both sides of this divide, . . . 

In fact in turns out there are quite a few people of color who are not ready to chuck the entire police department overboard. Enough in fact to elect a mayor in New York:

He bluntly challenged left-wing leaders in his party over matters of policing and public safety. .... With his substantial early lead in the Democratic mayoral primary when votes were counted Tuesday night, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, demonstrated the enduring power of a candidate who can connect to working- and middle-class Black and Latino voters, while also appealing to some white voters with moderate views. 

Just as importantly, in his supporters’ eyes, Mr. Adams was perceived as having credibility on what emerged as the most consequential, and divisive, issue in the race: public safety. ....

“He was in the police force, he knows what they represent,” said Gloria Dees, 63, a Brooklyn resident who voted for Mr. Adams and described being deeply concerned about both rising crime and police violence against people of color. “You have to understand something in order to make it work better.”

Polls this spring showed public safety increasingly becoming the most important issue to Democratic voters amid random subway attacks, a spate of bias crimes and a spike in shootings. On the Sunday before the primary, Mr. Adams’s campaign staff said that a volunteer had been stabbed in the Bronx.

“I can say crime and white racists
will vote for me?”

“Being an ex-cop, being able to have safety and justice at the same time, was a message that resonated with folks in the Bronx,” said Assemblywoman Karines Reyes ... Mr. Adams won the Bronx overwhelmingly in the first vote tally. “They’re looking for somebody to address the crime.” 

It's beginning to sound as if defunding (as distinct from reforming or restructuring) the police isn't an obvious winner even among those who bear the brunt of police misconduct.

The, um, jury is still out as to whether Adams's approach can provide New Yorkers with protection from criminals, both badged and otherwise, but there's no doubt that people of color have more complex views on the issue that demand attention and respect.

Which distinguishes their views from those of white Republicans, who blame rising crime on the supposed Democratic effort to defund the police, which has succeeded in exactly 0.0% of American police departments:

NEW YORK — “SKYROCKETING MURDER RATES,” claimed the National Fraternal Order of Police. “An explosion of violent crime,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. ...On social media and in political speeches, some Republicans and pro-police groups say last year’s calls to slash spending on law enforcement have led to a dramatic rise in killings in cities overseen by Democrats.

The increases they cite are real, and several big cities did make cuts to police spending. But the reductions were mostly modest, and the same big increases in homicides are being seen nationwide — even in cities that increased police spending. At the same time, the rates for burglaries, drug offenses and many other types of crime are down in many cities across the country.

The effort to blame Democrats for crime may offer a preview of Republicans’ strategy for upcoming elections: a new twist on an old “law and order” argument from the party’s past, harkening[sic] back to President Richard Nixon.  

Wait, you mean Republicans have been pushing the same racist smear for over half a century?

Hey, it works.

Speaking of things that work, the obvious solution to gun-related crime is to crack down on the unregulated traffic in handguns, which are available in most red states on demand, like waffles.  The stricter gun controls in places like Chicago can be and are easily circumvented by entrepreneurs with a car and gas money.

The reason we can't require uniform national standards on access to lethal weaponry?  It's Republicans!

Remember how happy “Moscow Mitch” McConnell was after he blocked any gun legislation following the massacre of 26 innocents, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook?

He was happy not only because he taught another lesson to uppity Barack Obama, but also because doing nothing to limit gun violence and crime works for Republicans.

If we had limited access to lethal weaponry on demand, shooting and death rates might decline to levels found everywhere else in the civilized world.  But then white people couldn't be terrified into voting Republican.  The more people die from unregulated guns (as compared to Swiss Army Knives, to use an analogy favored by a bent Republican federal judge), the easier it is for Trumpublicans to demagogue the crime issue.

This is usually the place where we bemoan that nothing can be done as long as Republicans pursue evil policies for political gain  But that's not true.

As soon as Democrats get a working majority in Congress, they can enact real gun legislation, like outlawing insanely lethal assault weapons, closing the gun show loophole, limiting purchases to something shocking like two per year per customer, and requiring 100% background checks.

It could happen. The Congressional district once represented by loathsome fraud Newt “Polish My Rocket, Hon” Gingrich is now represented by a Democratic woman of color who knows all too well the toll of gun violence.  Repeat in a few more districts and states, and maybe you can take me out to the ballgame in D.C. without a bulletproof vest.

All it takes is for persons of goodwill to turn away from The Bachelorette for a few minutes, organize and turn out at the polls.

If we do, we can do something.  If we don't, as we didn't in 2010 and 2014, well, be sure to duck.

For Democrats to let their safety and democracy slip away because they couldn't be bothered to show up for midterm elections would be worse than a tragedy.  It would be a crime.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Broken News: Whitewashing the past for fun and profit

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator with Isidore F. Stone in Washington

Are you covered with, well, it looks like mud, after years of enabling the hate-addled depredations of the Former Loser Grifter and want to wash it off?

Have no fear, the media is here!  No matter how loathsome your conduct or how blatant your failure to protect our nation is, you can rehabilitate yourself.

It's fun and easy!  All you have to do is leak your brains out, on background of course, to an enterprising journalist looking to finance their dream kitchen in their Annandale rambler by publishing a dishy book about – the hate-addled depredations of the Former Loser Grifter.

Ivanka's rehab tour is going great!

Let's look at a few recent examples in which scoundrels who were up to their chin implants in s*** come out smelling like cheap perfume with their names on it.

Two Washington Post reporters have recently published a book describing the last days in the bunker of the Former Loser Grifter Administration, featuring horrifying details about what might have been the end of the American Republic.

We already knew that the Former Loser Grifter fomented a violent insurrection designed to overturn the 2020 election.  As his depraved followers stormed the Capitol seeking to lynch Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and whoever else they could catch, at the White House his spineless toadies wandered around in circles wondering what if anything they should do.  Each of them deserves a chapter of their own in “Profiles in Cowardice” but we only have time to examine a few of the most egregious:

Some of those around the president encouraged his fantasy of Pence the hero stepping in to overturn the election. Guilfoyle, referring to the growing crowd on the Ellipse, told him, “They’re just reflecting the will of the people. This is the will of the people.”

Ivanka Trump did not agree and was upset about what attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and others had been advising her father. At one point that morning, she said: “This is not right. It’s not right.”

Pretty bold stuff, that. Now how would two Washington Post reporters know what sounded like Ivanka's interior monologue?  We'll go way, way, way out on a limb and conclude that Ivanka spilled her reconstructed guts to them to create the false impression that she opposed her evil father and should not be regarded as a traitor.

To demonstrate the depth of her conviction that inciting a crowd to storm the Capitol was not right, she then joined her depraved father at the rally intended to incite a crowd to storm the Capitol:

Ivanka Trump was in the tent, too, [at the rally] tending to her father. [What tf does that even mean? – Ed.] Melania Trump had chosen not to attend the “Save America” rally, telling aides that she was not sure it was a good idea for her to participate. ... Yet the first daughter, who typically was just as careful as the first lady about when and where she appeared in public, attended, which surprised White House officials.

“You, who curates your image, you, who looks down on many of the rest of us, what are you doing there? Honestly,” a Trump adviser later remarked.

Start leaking, Kimberly

Ivanka Trump did not appear onstage, however. Rally organizers repeatedly had asked her to give a speech, but she declined. The first daughter told aides that she decided to attend only because she had hoped to calm the president and help keep the event on an even keel.

Remember how that turned out? 

After her triumph on the Ellipse, Ivanka returned to the White House with the incompetents, drunkards, cokeheads, and toadies who represented the senior leadership of the Former Loser Grifter Administration.  

Yet the stirring tale of Ivanka's self-professed heroism had only just begun, according to her, um, the Post reporters' account:

As soon as she saw on the television in her second-floor office that the rioters were inside the Capitol, Ivanka Trump said to her aides, “I’m going down to my dad. This has to stop.” She spent several hours walking back and forth to the Oval trying to persuade the president to be stronger in telling his supporters he stood with law enforcement and ordering them to disperse.

Several hours? While the Capitol was under attack by armed invaders? Guess there was no rush.

She must not be very persuasive.  

Maybe if she had said something like: “Dad, if you don't go on camera in the next 10 minutes and demand these rioters leave, I will do it myself on national TV.”

But that would have required – what's the word – courage.  So it never happened.

You'd never know from the printed account that she did nothing effective to save her country in its most critical hour since 1861 from the slurpy account she spoon-fed to the Post team. 

Nor is the only one whose self-serving accounts make them appear much better than the evidence would suggest.  Enter Gen. Mark A. Milley:

At the Pentagon, Gen. Mark A. Milley was watching on television from his office as well, deeply disturbed by the rhetoric.

Kellyanne Conway: real, a housewife,
and from Jersey
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff already had been on edge. A student of history, Milley saw Trump as a classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose. He had earlier described to aides that he kept having a stomach-churning feeling that some of the worrisome early stages of 20th-century fascism in Germany were replaying in 21st-century America. He saw parallels between Trump’s rhetoric about election fraud and Adolf Hitler’s insistence to his followers at the Nuremberg rallies that he was both a victim and their savior.

“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides. “The gospel of the Führer.”

So not later than 12 noon on January 6, Gen. Milley knew that the Capitol was in grave danger of attack in furtherance of a fascist-style putsch. So he used all the resources at this disposal (basically the entire U.S. military) to ensure the Capitol was adequately protected by more than a scratch force of under-equipped security guards, right?

We're just s***in' you.  His next appearance in the Post account was at 2:30 p.m., after he had spent the intervening hours assessing the security situation in, who knows, Afghanistan, 10,000 miles away, rather than executing a plan to protect the Capitol.

Isn't protecting the country like why we have a military?

When he did weigh in, his advice was to send in more police.  How about the 82d Airborne?  Is Washington, D.C. in 2021 as undefended as it was in 1861 when Abraham Lincoln found himself isolated with one Massachusetts regiment to protect him?

The military doesn't have a plan to defend the Capitol?  And this time, unlike Pearl Harbor, we don't want to hear it was the Navy's fault.

A half hour later, National Guard units were finally mobilized, but these part-time forces can't mobilize while the Zeroes are on their bomb runs.  Why didn't Gen. Milley start the mobilization at 12 noon when he perceived a threat of Nazi dimensions?

Guess he didn't have time to leak the answer to that stumper.

Speaking of hideous enablers desperately trying to rehabilitate themselves, what was lying Kellyanne Conway doing while the Capitol was under assault?  According to, wait for it, Kellyanne Conway:

Kellyanne Conway tried to talk to Trump and left a message with his office, asking that her name be added to the chorus of people calling on the president to do something.

“This is really bad,” Conway said. “People are going to get hurt. Only he can stop them. He can’t just tweet. He’s got to get down there.” 

Even worse than her boss's solicitation of Russian help to rig the 2016 election, which she referred to as the “collusion delusion?”

She left a message? Can't expect her to do anything more, can we, like telling the Former Loser Grifter she will do a live interview in 10 minutes accusing him of being an active participant in a seditious plot to bring down the government of the United States?

But this isn't the first reputation-polishing rodeo for the bottle-blond demons of death and deception.

According to, well, everyone, Kellyanne leaked like Old Faithful to preserve her nonexistent reputation:

The author of the latest book on President Donald Trump’s White House claims that the president’s counselor Kellyanne Conway leaks more information to the media than anyone else in the administration. 

As for Daddy's Lap Candy, let's ask the Columbia Journalism Review:

Reporters from two top-tier publications, as well as a Trump insider, told me that Ivanka is a frequent source for journalists, usually on background, perhaps giving her some protection from a press corps loathe to burn a valuable informant. ...

In a recent Washington Post op-ed imploring Ivanka and Kushner “to move back to New York,” Joe Scarborough spends the first three paragraphs lavishly praising the Trump children, whom he knows personally from having socialized with them over the last decade. ... Scarborough never takes Ivanka to task for her own suspicious business practices—namely the Baku deal, which Davidson had discussed on Scarborough’s show just a few months earlier.

So she leaks like a week-old Depends too.

We would the last people to stand between newspaper reporters and the granite counters they deserve as much as the K Street finaglers who rake in millions from nobbling the government, but there are no freebies in life.  If you dine out on leaks from loathsome criminals (like Ivanka), expect to be stuck with the check.

As usual, though, we can't ever say anything quite as pithily as Soledad O'Brien '86:

Let self-serving leakers rewrite history? We can't do better than “just say nah.”

UPDATE, JULY 18: Here's the great Erin Gloria Ryan roasting Gen. Milley and other bag-carriers for the Former Loser Grifter/Traitor in The Daily Beast:

While he’s leaking now, Milley’s supposed courage while Trump was president did not involve speaking publicly or even getting stories to the press when that might have mattered about behind-the-scenes warmongering, which, given Trump’s tendency to pay more attention to press coverage than to security briefings, would have probably been a more effective way to blow that plan up.

....We’ve been through so many rounds of rehabilitative Trump official fan fiction that it is its own genre at this point. Do writers depicting those who were complicit as secret heroes think their spin is believable? It wasn’t believable when it was the Actually Don McGahn’s Secret Bravery Saved America news cycle, the Anonymous Miles Taylor The Quiet Hero cycle, several cycles of Ivanka and Jared Are Privately Urging The President To Be Less Bad, a round of John Kelly Always Hated The Guy, a hearty dose of Lt. General McMaster Pounds The Table And Yells “Sir!” Possibly Loudly Enough To Save the Republic, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis Has Some Tough Talk After The Fact, Bill Barr Was Actually Secretly Doing Smart Things, or the Mike Pompeo Was Tough And Presidential this Whole Time cycle. (Coming soon! Kellyanne Conway pretends that she didn’t spend the last six years blabbing to journalists from the Times on down as she promotes her “tell-all.”)

In a time when talk is cheap but self-aggrandizing exaggeration can fetch you a seven-figure book advance, every piece of historical revisionism that makes anybody look suddenly good should be taken with a grain of salt or, better yet, simply ignored.

Or at least not used to package the coward as a cable news savant, or, even worse, anchor.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

From the Archives: If only the Left wasn't so . . . you know, divisive

By Aula Minerva
Archives Editor

Who's to blame for the anger of the reactionary right, which has now reached the point where half of Republicans prefer authoritarian rule to democracy?

If you guessed it's the reactionary right and the forces of plutocracy and white supremacy that stoke their insanity and unjustified anger, you lose!

It's really the fault of those oh so angry, rigid, and intolerant “social justice lefties” whose supposed radical intransigence has frustrated all efforts to reach out to their fellow Americans who just happened to hold slightly different values, like racism, bigotry, misogyny, and fascism.

Don't believe us?  Just ask venerable white hack George Packer, who pocketed a healthy advance for a new book in which he divides America into four pieces (sure, why not?):

He thinks America has fractured principally along lines of social class and material hardship, which increasingly persist across generations. He blames “the new aristocracy” and “invisible monopolies,” but also the divide between “two classes, rising professionals and sinking workers.” A few generations ago [in the age of lynchings and segregated schools – Ed.], they “were close in incomes and not so far apart in mores.” But now they “no longer believe they belong to the same country.”

George Packer yearns for the days
when we were united

In the book’s sharpest chapter, Packer describes “Four Americas.” . . .Packer is biting in depicting the left. He divides it into “Smart America” and “Just America.” Neither is a compliment. Smart Americans are the rising professional class, for whom unions hardly exist and college admissions are “the most important event in the life cycle of a family.” Packer allows that striving is human, but skewers Smart Americans for being “meritocrats by birth” yet going “to a lot of trouble not to know it.” He has receipts: “After seven decades of meritocracy, it’s as unlikely for a lower-class child to be admitted to a top Ivy League university as it was in 1954.” In Smart America’s families, passing achievement from one generation to the next is an obsession, and democracy is an afterthought....[Which must be why Smart America is so concerned about voting rights – Ed.]

Just America “is concerned with language and identity more than material conditions.” . . . According to Packer’s rendition of Just America’s ideology, on the other hand, “all disparities between groups result from systems of oppression and demand collective action for redress, often amounting to new forms of discrimination — in other words, equity. In practice, identity politics inverts the old hierarchy of power into a new one: bottom rail on top.”  [These two sentences are contradictory.  If Justice America is interested in redistributive justice, then it is in fact principally concerned with material conditions. – Ed.]

Packer spells out the problems he sees with abandoning the Enlightenment framework. Fixating on language alienates sympathetic outsiders. It’s hard to build a coalition while constantly correcting how people talk. Symbolic fights distract elites while doing nothing to address economic hardship. Just America may also find itself out of touch with people it claims to represent. The activist push to defund the police in many cities, for example, “was stopped by local Black citizens, who wanted better, not less, policing.”

Silly generalizations – the Left makes them all the time, amirite? 

Does any of this line up with reality outside of George Packer's costive imagination (which previously imagined a case for war in Iraq, the opposition to which came almost entirely from – the Left)?

Of course not.  The movement to “defund the police” was not started by rich white elitists – it was a cry of anger and despair from people of color overwhelmed by the continual cycle of white police murdering Black folks.  If other people of color see a value to keeping a police force, that means there's a debate to be had, not that those angered by apparently uncontrollable police violence are somehow responsible for the political polarization caused by that violence. 

And the tired cliché about white lefties and college admissions: is it entirely or even partially their fault that college admissions do not properly reflect diversity across race and class? If only there was a theory that could explain how the embedded effects of racism in our society perpetuate inequality, Packer might learn something.  Or perhaps not, because he could just dismiss it as the product of of the Justice Left's preoccupation with language or its contempt for Enlightenment values.  And by the way, how is insisting on dignity and freedom for all persons regardless of past oppression or current bigotry inconsistent with Enlightenment values?

Perhaps someday, after another large advance, George Packer will enlighten us.

If only the antiwar Left had been less divisive . . .

But we're not here to rubbish mediocre current day hacks like Packer, although it's certainly good sport.

Rather, we'd point out that Packer's Complaint about the left, and how it is to blame for the divisions that plague, and indeed threaten the foundations of, our society is not just ridiculous, it's not even original.

In fact it's consistent with 70 years of white male whining about how those nasty Lefties are to blame for everything from the white backlash to civil rights to the endless prolongation of the Vietnam War (about which the Left was, um, right all along.)

This line was a staple of Southern racists in the 60's. This New York Times News Service dispatch, printed in the July 10, 1964 Massachusetts Spy, is a fair example:

ALBANY, Ga., July 9— Ten Negroes who tried to enter a swimming pool patronized exclusively by whites were convicted of vagrancy today in a case that may provide an important test of the scope of the Civil Rights Act....

Recorders Court Judge Adie N. Durden sentenced the youths to 30 days on the road gang or $102 each.

Then the judge lashed out at “agitators from New York.” He gave voice to the prevalent feeling among whites that Albany's racial troubles were incited by “outside meddlers.”

“Best thing you can do is go back and clean up your own state,” the judge told members of the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which staged the pool demonstration last Sunday.

Substitute the Justice Left for New York agitators, and you've got George Packer.  Those outside agitators who sought to end racial disparities without any concern for the delicate sensibilities of white snowflakes are to blame for the divisiveness of the civil rights movement.  Or at least partly to blame, in Packer's fair and balanced assessment.

It will come as almost equally shocking to recount how the same bushwa was weaponized to blame antiwar protesters for the disaster that was the Vietnam War.  Just before the giant antiwar demonstration of November 15, 1969, crooked Republican President Dick Nixon and his bag carriers were busy accusing the protesters of treason:

Do you support Hanoi? Love it or leave it? If only the Smart and Justice Left had not stabbed our troops in the back, Vietnam might be as democratic today as, just to name one Republican paradise, Texas.

One more bit of idiocy in the vein of blaming injustice on those fighting it and we'll let George Packer go back to autographing his books.  

If you think America exploits and degrades women today, then you probably shouldn't look back on the rise of the feminist movement in the late 60's and early 70's, because then you would learn that their rigidity and extremism caused an inability to reach out to those who wanted them to remain in their second-class economic, social, and political status:

If only they had been more demure

There are political consequences to remembering things that never happened and forgetting things that did. If what you mainly know about modern feminism is that its proponents immolated their underwear, you might well arrive at the conclusion that feminists are “obnoxious,” as Leslie Sanchez does in her new book, [no plug for pisspoor books – Ed.] “I don’t agree with the feminist agenda,” Sanchez writes. “To me, the word ‘feminist’ epitomizes the zealots of an earlier and more disruptive time.” Here’s what Sanchez would prefer: “No bra burning. No belting out Helen Reddy. Just calm concern for how women were faring in the world.”

The world that Sanchez has in mind is really Washington, D.C. Sanchez has a day job as a Republican political analyst; perhaps this is why she measures progress solely by the percentage of people with government jobs who wear bras...[S]he bitterly regrets that the former governor of Alaska did not make it to the West Wing. “Most of us are Sarah Palins to one degree or another,” Sanchez asserts. Palin “so very clearly reflected the lifestyle choices, hard work ethic, and traditional values that so many women admire.”

That was Ariel Levy writing in The New Yorker 12 years ago.  She makes the central point: it's a lot easier to frame a satisfying if false narrative blaming all sides for the bigotry of bigots, the intolerance of the intolerant, the racism of racists, and the greed of plutocrats if you just rewrite history to say what you wished it said. 

At least George Packer has figured out how to get paid for it.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Good and dead: war criminal, liar, subverter of democracy, and mainstream Republican Donald Rumsfeld

The obituary page of
The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

There could be no more fitting sendoff to the evil incompetent Donald Rumsfeld than today's announcement that U.S. forces successfully slinked away from Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, almost two decades after Rumsfeld started and then lost a war that resulted in 18 painful unnecessary years of lost and broken American (and other) lives:

At least there were no photos of desperate evacuees grasping at helicopters as there were during a previous Republican war debacle in 1975.

But the shambles of Afghanistan can serve as a fitting memorial for the crafty little warmonger, whose intelligence and judgment were sadly outweighed by his propensity for self-serving finagling and lies.  

Or maybe a more fitting monument could be the even bigger but equally futile bloodbath in Iraq, for which he was largely responsible.  After 17 years of war in Iraq, here's what Rummy wrought in this ancient seat of civilization:

American airstrikes against two Iranian-backed militias on Monday were just the latest skirmish in a conflict between the United States and Iran that is playing out on Iraqi soil.

Iran has relied on the militias to attack American assets in Iraq, putting pressure on the United States while the two countries engage in indirect talks over their nuclear deal in Vienna. Monday’s airstrikes were the second time the Biden administration has responded militarily to the harassment.

But the conflict between its two powerful allies has put Iraq squarely in the middle. Unable to rein in the Iranian-backed forces or to stop the United States from retaliating, Iraq now faces the biggest threat to its stability since the Islamic State was marching toward Baghdad in 2014.

Consequential and controversial?
In other words, a failed state that represents a continuing black hole of war and instability in the Middle East and a vehicle for Iran (which Republicans and Likudniks tell us is the greatest threat to the world's peace and stability outside out of Critical Race Theory) to dominate a once-independent counterweight to its influence.

Of course, after a career filled with lies, war crimes, and defeat, Rumsfeld was given the sendoff he deserved, amirite?

Here's the lede of The Washington Post's panegyric:

Donald H. Rumsfeld, whose roles overseeing the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and efforts to transform the U.S. military made him one of history’s most consequential as well as controversial Pentagon leaders, died June 29 at his home in Taos, N.M.

Consequential and controversial?  Ffs.  

We recall that he conned the Post's credulous editorial page editor for life Generalissimo Freddie Hiatt '76 into supporting his half-assed war of choice in Iraq so maybe the Post was simply trying to cover up its own complicity.

Anyone else want to chime in? How about you, Phyllis Bennis of The Nation?

The human, environmental, economic, and social costs of Rumsfeld’s war in Iraq are staggering.

Rummy said he stood up all day
so what was the bfd?

In Afghanistan at least 47,245 civilians and 69,000 security forces have been killed in the war since 2001....Iraq Body Count has documented a total of 288,000 deaths from violence since Rumsfeld’s Iraq war began in 2003. Of those, from 186,000 to 209,000 deaths were of civilians. The numbers are all approximate. While Rumsfeld’s military made clear from the beginning that it would count every injury and certainly every death among US forces, tabulating Afghan civilians or Iraqi families killed in the wars was just not their thing. “We don’t do body counts,” he blithely acknowledged in 2002.

According to the National Priorities Project, Rumsfeld’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost $5.4 trillion and counting. If Rumsfeld and his Bush administration cohorts had decided to treat the 9/11 attacks for what they were, a horrific crime against humanity, rather than answering those acts with a global war, imagine what that money could have been used for instead....And all those hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis would still be alive.

Yeah that's more like it. 

We don't think we can improve on that verdict. As our contribution, we'd like to place Rumsfeld where he belongs: in the mainstream of the Republican Party over the past fifty years.

Rummy's first brush with infamy was as one of Tricky Dick Nixon's clean-cut henchmen.  In Don's case, after helping to rig the 1968 Republican Convention for Nixon, he was rewarded with an important Nixon initiative: f***king the poor to appease the white racists that Nixon brought into the Republican base, where they have raged ever since.

His brilliant success in quashing the hopes and dreams of America's immiserated led to a series of other high-level jobs in Republican Administrations, including two stints as Defense Secretary.  His lust to invade Iraq was stoked by the 9/11 attacks, in which (inconveniently for his warmongering) Iraq was not involved.  But Rumsfeld was never a man to let facts or morality interfere with his wet dream of imposing American hegemony on the cheap. 

Rumsfeld's vision of American warfare
Actual veteran and novelist Phil Klay explained Rummy's, um, vision slightly more sympathetically:

The defense secretary’s disastrous early decisions weren’t the result of stupidity so much as his unshakable adherence to a vision of American warfare that outlives him. That vision imagined a military that eschews the fetters of international institutions and nation-building, and instead conducts rapid strikes using technology and air power and small specialized units rather than large ground forces. 

If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s a good description of how we’ve been using our military in recent years. From 2018 to 2020, American forces have engaged in combat in eight nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria and Yemen) and supervised forces in four other countries (Cameroon, Libya, Niger and Tunisia). . . .

And those turned out great!

The belief that America could impose its will on the world on the cheap has been a staple of white male Cold Warriors since it was first falsified at the Bay of Pigs.  It persists at a low level today, but at least for another generation the carnage and futility of Iraq and Afghanistan should prevent any mass deployment of American forces except at the Mexican border.

But it took a man of Rummy's adamantine cluelessness to adhere to it long after it was clear to even the meanest intelligence (in this case, President George W. Bush) that it didn't work.

His decision making in Iraq was a clusterf*** of arrogance, stupidity, and immorality that would make even Gen. Westmoreland blush.  He elbowed the State Department experts out of any role in planning for his war and occupation, and then claimed to be shocked that his decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi Army, turned out so disastrously.  

He showed contempt for the death and maiming of American troops caused by his lazy planning and offered a not a word of contrition for his failure to prepare properly for the war despite a year's lead time:

Rumsfeld happily sent ill-equipped
National Guardsmen to their doom

Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit scheduled to roll into Iraq this week, said soldiers had to scrounge through local landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt on to their trucks for protection against roadside bombs in Iraq.

"Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 troops assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary. ...

A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armor Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq were struggling with.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced them. "Now settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here." ...

Nonetheless, he warned that equipment shortages would probably continue to bedevil some American forces entering combat zones like Iraq. "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time," Mr. Rumsfeld said. ...

A senior officer in Specialist Wilson's unit, Col. John Zimmerman, said later that 95 percent of the unit's more than 300 trucks had insufficient armor.  

This icy indifference to the needless sacrifice of the finest of America's youth like these unfortunate under-trained and under-equipped National Guard units was memorialized in The Washington Post as just another example of “[h]is wit, directness and folksy language.” 

Yeah, he was a f**in' Mark Twain of massacre. 

And speaking of depravity, his enthusiastic support of torture and war crimes put him in a elite group of war criminals who beat the hangman because they were white and American.

But the point is not that Rummy was some gruesome anomaly.  He wasn't.  He was a lifelong, devoted, mainstream, loyal Republican.  He embodied the values of his party, then and now.

So when Republicans are shocked, shocked to see what has become of their beloved GOP, just remind them that lies, fraud, and depraved indifference to human life and decency didn't take over the Republican Party in 2017. It's been the Republican brand for over half a century. 

If you don't believe us, just ask Torture Gal Liz Cheney:

“Donald Rumsfeld was a great patriot. He was somebody whose career was unparalleled in terms of his service in the Navy, Congress, the Pentagon, the White House." 

Sadly it was paralleled by two generations of Republican grifters and liars, who remind us every day that you commit sedition with the party you have, not the party you might want.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Why do so many people think the Government is lying to them? A 50-year review

By Aula Minerva
Spy Archivist

The dispatches from the latest United States military debacle grow more alarming by the day:

After 20 years and unknown trillions of dollars, our brave pro-democracy Afghan allies are still stealing their troops' pay? No wonder the troops are throwing away their U.S.-supplied weapons and melting into the hills.  According to The New York Times, the situation has approached its inevitable end:

In the last 24 hours, around a dozen districts have fallen to the Taliban — mostly in the country’s north. Since May 1, when U.S. forces officially began their withdrawal from the country, the Taliban — through local mediation, military offensives and government retreats — have taken more than 50 districts, . . .

Only a small number of districts have been retaken by government forces as the defeats have forced Afghan commanders to consider what territory they can hold following the American departure. . . .

The current situation does not bode well for government forces and militias under the command of northern Afghanistan’s power brokers, some of whom are notorious warlords who have held onto power since the country’s civil war in the 1990s and the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Where have we read this story before?  Here's a dispatch printed in the Spy in April 1975 (shown here as it originally appeared in the Times:)

We'll just pick out a couple of, um, highlights:

Five divisions vanished?  Hundreds of millions of U.S. supplied equipment lost?  Three quarters of the country abandoned? No point in going to war?  Maybe someone should have told Americans that before they sent 50,000 of them into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people and inflicted grievous lifelong injury on millions more for – nothing.

We were thinking about the parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam when we, and all other print subscribers, received a whole special section of the paper Times recalling the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers:


You young whippersnappers may not know this but the Pentagon Papers was the massive study that proved that the entire Vietnam War was sold and waged on the basis of lies.  It was for this reason that the Republican criminal then serving as President, Dick Nixon, fought so hard to suppress the truth, aided and abetted by pillars of the legal establishment like Erwin Griswold, that sterling lion of the Bar who as Dean of Harvard Law School told Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she was taking a slot that could have been given to a man who wouldn't get pregnant and abandon the law.  Like, let's see, Cancun Ted Cruz.

The Times' report summed up this aspect of the terrible history of the Vietnam War:

Brandishing a captured Chinese machine gun, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara appeared at a televised news conference in the spring of 1965. The United States had just sent its first combat troops to South Vietnam, and the new push, he boasted, was further wearing down the beleaguered Vietcong.

“In the past four and one-half years, the Vietcong, the Communists, have lost 89,000 men,” he said. “You can see the heavy drain.”

That was a lie. From confidential reports, McNamara knew the situation was “bad and deteriorating” in the South. “The VC have the initiative,” the information said. “Defeatism is gaining among the rural population, somewhat in the cities, and even among the soldiers.”

Lies like McNamara’s were the rule, not the exception, throughout America’s involvement in Vietnam. The lies were repeated to the public, to Congress, in closed-door hearings, in speeches and to the press. The real story might have remained unknown if, in 1967, McNamara had not commissioned a secret history based on classified documents — which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. 

You may be reading us thinking: well, so what? Of course our government lies to us 24/7. But the lovable innocents who entered adulthood during and after the New Deal and the thumping victory of World War II had a different view: you could trust FDR, Ike, and all the other men who brought us miracles like interstate highways and DDT.  

Or at least the while male ones thought that.  Black people trapped in what looked like an impregnable fortress of racism had a different view and affluent white women staring at the bennies in their fists knew something was wrong but couldn't quite put their fingers on it.

(As 55% of white women voted for the Former Loser Grifter less than a year ago, we suspect that white women are still having trouble with reality.)

The Times report sums it up pretty adroitly:

The lies revealed in the papers were of a generational scale, and, for much of the American public, this grand deception seeded a suspicion of government that is even more widespread today. 

Since that time, Americans, often admittedly influenced by white supremacy, fear of losing unearned privilege, and other stuff not actually related to the Vietnam debacle, have applied the supposed lesson of the lies that they were fed to justify Vietnam to phenomena that really have nothing to do with it.

Not long after the Vietnam War ended in defeat and ignominy, a jolly criminal Republican President (sensing a pattern here?) canonized now as St. Ronald of Bitburg pushed the lie that government can't do anything to help people.  Someone tell that to the hundreds of government employees today working in rain, heat, and danger to rescue victims of the Surfside building collapse.  

Today we are in danger of being ruled by lies, like the stolen 2020 election or the supposed massive conspiracy to enslave America by, wait for it, protecting them from a frightening disease that has claimed the lives of 600,000 Americans in just a year.

We don't want to excuse white racism as the motivation for the propagation of these lies, but we can't let the 50th anniversary of the exposé of the lies that animated the Vietnam tragedy pass without nothing that it was those lies that led all of us to lose our faith in the truth of what our leaders were telling us.

Of course we need to be skeptical about what comes out of Washington, but at some point we also need to understand that drinking bleach is not the appropriate response.

The final irony of the Pentagon Papers was, as noted by the late great David Halberstam in The Best and The Brightest, that the top-tier liars were mostly Democrats (or supposedly nonpartisan generals):

Machismo, says Halberstam, “was no small part of it.” Johnson “had always been haunted by the idea that he would be judged as being insufficiently manly for the job, that he would lack courage at a crucial moment.” Westmoreland and McNamara are guilty because of their misplaced confidence in ground troops. L.B.J. was the real war criminal when he deceived the American people in July, 1965, by deciding to send over 100,000 to 125,000 troops, but telling the American people that it was only 50,000 and that it “does not imply any change in policy whatever” In fact, notes Halberstam, “it was the beginning of an entirely new policy which would see what was the South Vietnamese war become primarily an American war.” Dean Rusk (“color him neutral or color him hardline. Which side was he on?...”) ought to take the rap because he never spoke up; he never fought; he let McNamara take over State.

President Kennedy: Democrat

President Johnson: Democrat

Rusk and McNamara: Democrats.

Plenty of Republicans lied their asses off too, including many distinguished Harvard professors, like McGeorge Bundy and Henry “the Mad Bomber” Kissinger, but the crucial irrevocable damage was done by the party of Richard Russell and John Stennis.

The lesson, to paraphrase Graham Greene, is that having embarked on a journey of lies, our government is having a hard time getting a passport for a return trip.

Maybe,  just maybe, that if those in power try telling the truth, next time we won't lose 600,000 lives because the President was a corrupt rapist stooge who lied about COVID, and our planet will stop boiling because we were lied to about climate change, and persons of color will not suffer from embedded structural racism because we were lied to about the persistence of that racism.   

On the other hand, this headline from the dying days of South Vietnam may be eerily prescient:

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Facts: What are they good for? Republicans: Absolutely nothing

By Emma Goldman
Social Policy Correspondent
with A.J. Liebling, Meta-Content Generator

We are hearing a lot about the effort to cancel the teaching of what is known as “Critical Race Theory.” Surely Bari Weiss will swoop down from her Substack lair any minute now to defend free and open intellectual inquiry, as is her wont.

While we are waiting for her to zoom out of Weiss Manor in her Barimobile (a 1997 Subaru Outback wagon), we thought we'd take a look at what's going on to the best of our measly ability.

If you watch Fox “News,” you'll be subjected to an endless assortment of supposedly typical moms and dads, who also just happen to be Trumpublican hatchet men and women (a fact not worthy of mention on Fox), fighting valiantly to protect their innocent babes from being subject to the evil that is “Critical Race Theory:”  


Of course, Fox also has no time in its 24/7 broadcast schedule to tell us what “Critical Race Theory” is.  It's an academic theory taught in graduate and law schools

focused on recognizing the effects slavery and institutional racism continue to have on the U.S. Critical race theory is an intellectual framework for analyzing American history introduced by legal scholars as a way to recognize the effects that racism has had on the U.S. . . .  Critical race theory has been applied to examine how the history of racism in the U.S. has affected multiple areas of society, such as discriminatory labor practices, access to education, bank lending, and housing segregation, as well as a host of microaggressions. One of the founders of critical race theory, Kimberlé Crenshaw, described it as “an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what's in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.”

Let's see – it's a theory that purports to explain current social conditions. Therefore, it could be tested by seeing whether it is consistent with various facts about American life, e.g. George Floyd being murdered in cold blood by a white policeman on the streets of Minneapolis, the net worth of persons of color in Boston averaging $8, etc., and whether it helps explain those facts or is in fact falsified by them. That sounds like more hard work than we had in mind for a warm summer day, so we'll leave that to others, preferably those who can get tenure by writing about it.

But in any event, why is it a threat?  Either it's true or false, and unlike false theories about drinking bleach to prevent COVID, it's unlikely to be responsible for the deaths of 600,000 people.

Lumped together with but entirely separate from Critical Race Theory is the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones's path-breaking effort to put the experience of Black Americans at the center of American history, right up there with Robert E. Lee's heroic horse Traveler and George Washington's festive plantation at Mount Vernon.

It too has generated an enormous amount of what we used to call “white backlash” from thoughtful commentators like the Russian stooge sex offender who was in fact President of the United States (this is true), and the usual chorus of Republican rabble-rousers.

It even cost Prof. Hannah-Jones a tenured position at the University of North Carolina when a rich man who held the purse strings objected:

The Assembly reported that the board experienced some high-placed lobbying against Hannah-Jones’s appointment, in the form of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s biggest donor, school namesake and Arkansas media mogul Walter Hussman Jr.

“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,” Hussman reportedly wrote in a now-ironic December message to Guskiewicz and at least one board member. “I find myself more in agreement with Pulitzer prize winning historians like James McPherson and Gordon Wood than I do Nikole Hannah-Jones.” [The James McPherson who has written that the sole cause of the Civil War was the South's demand to expand slavery into new territories?  That guy? – Ed.]

Asked if he agreed that racism ended in 1964,
Trayvon Martin declined to comment
Hussman reportedly wrote in another email to administrators that he didn’t like Hannah-Jones’s contention that Black Americans fought the civil rights battle largely alone, as “long before” Hannah-Jones won her Pulitzer, “courageous white southerners risking their lives standing up for the rights of blacks were winning Pulitzer prizes, too.”

Hussman has since said that he did not think he was pressuring Chapel Hill to act a certain way regarding Hannah-Jones, who was ultimately offered a five-year contract without tenure as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

But that’s apparently how it felt, at least to Susan King, dean of the journalism school. She told The Assembly that “I felt worried enough about Walter’s repeated questions challenging our hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones as Knight Chair and his subsequent call to at least one other donor that I asked for help from others in the administration.”
. . .

If Hannah-Jones does get tenured and join Chapel Hill, she’d be just one of 32 tenured Black women professors out of 1,384 tenured professors total, according to federal data from 2019, the most recent year for which these figures are available.

Less than 3% of tenured professors at a flagship university located in the Old Confederacy are Black women?  Gee, if only there was a theory that might explain why that is.  Also that theory might explain why a university that lets Mr. Moneybags dictate tenure decisions gets to keep its accreditation.

Fortunately, you don't have to take the word of a rich fragile white man of what's in the 1619 Project.  You can see for yourself the curriculum that it offers to your impressionable children.  The lesson plan starts with that well-known subversive anti-white document, the Declaration of Independence:

Wow, the anti-American vitriol just steams off the page.

But wait there's more:

Why do I think Hannah-Jones refers to Monticello as a “forced-labor camp?” Because it was!  But others may disagree.  If you do, show your work, or at least your $25 million bankroll.

And why is learning facts about Thomas Jefferson's career as a slaveholder and Abraham Lincoln's early willingness to promote Black emigration so dangerous to young minds?  Are these facts false?  Are they utterly irrelevant to a balanced view of Jefferson and Lincoln (who eventually paid with his life to end slavery)?  Why is this all so threatening to rich white men who believe that their wealth entitles them to determine what is taught about America's sordid racist past and present?

We suspect two answers: first, white defenders of white supremacy don't like to be told that they are, wait for it, defending white supremacy.

Second, and related, it's all a crock, as Mr. Paul Waldman is happy to explain:

At least they won't be devastated when they learn
that Jefferson owned slaves

On one level, this is all a backlash to the national debate about race that emerged after George Floyd’s murder last year. That debate, which featured lots of institutions and people trying to grapple with the persistence of racism, left conservatives feeling intensely alienated, even threatened — feelings which were ripe for exploitation by right-wing political and media figures.

But it goes deeper, into the broader cultural alienation conservatives have been experiencing for years.

The idea that your own children will be taught something you disagree with has long been a potent weapon to rile people up, particularly conservatives who already feel their children are growing up in a world that rejects their values, and adopting ideas about race and sexuality and gender that are far more liberal than theirs.

They may even grasp that the large societal forces that fill them with anxiety — perhaps none more than the steady racial, ethnic and religious diversification of America — are out of their control. They can elect a xenophobic bigot as president, but immigrants will continue to arrive and he’ll fail in his project to make America white again.

That’s enough to make you despair. But you can pass a measure at your local school board or a law in the state legislature and say, “We banned critical race theory from the classroom! Victory is ours!” That’s the nice thing about imaginary enemies: They’re not hard to defeat. 

The not nice thing about imaginary enemies though is that Republican rabble-rousers will always pull another one out of the blowholes as part of their endless and thus far remarkably successful effort to stir up white anger and resentment with the goal of preventing lots of poor white folks (hello, West Virginia!) from noticing that the plutocrats who fund all this nonsense have been picking their pockets for half a century.

Oh, and, before we forget, Happy Juneteenth.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Now what?

The Spy's Report from Washington

By Isidore F. Stone
Spy Washington Bureau

To the surprise of virtually no one, the Republicans are executing the same playbook they used successfully for the two previous Democratic Presidents:

1.  Oppose everything

2.  Drag everything out by engaging in sham negotiations that either break down or result in legislation so bad (tax increases at the gas pump) that voters will be repelled.

3.  Claim somehow that the Democratic President lacks legitimacy because Jewish space lasers changed votes, or something.

4.  When nothing happens, allow media to push the fraudulent both-sides gridlock-in-Washington narrative

5.  Go to the midterms knowing that Democratic turnout will be suppressed because nothing much happened in Washington.

6.  Stir up white racist resentment by claiming that some boogeyman (this year, it's . . . the academic works of Kimberlé Crenshaw?) is coming to take away your pickup truck and replace it with a solar-powered scooter.

7.  While no one's looking use their gerrymandered state legislative majorities to suppress Democratic votes.

The Democratic response runs the gamut from pretending that nothing's wrong (the White House view) to sending really tough Tweets to whining about Sen. Joe Manchin (D – Koch Industries).

We're going to go two millimeters out on the limb and say none of this bodes well for the midterm election.

What can be done given the reality of razor-thin Democratic majorities in both Houses?  

Well, now that you've asked . . .

Let's start with the leading example of the Republican bad-faith playbook: infrastructure spending.  Here's something that's popular with all voters and produces short-term results, at least in terms of pictures of white men leaning on shiny shovels.

President Biden, following the Democratic playbook of proposing sound, sensible legislation, proposed $2.2 trillion in new infrastructure spending, fully paid for by rolling back the ridiculous tax cuts for the rich and corporations rammed through on a zero-bipartisan basis by the Trumpublicans in 2017.

Billy Jo wants this bridge fixed

From the wailing that arose from Republicans, you would have though that Biden was proposing shaking down every storefront on Main Street for whatever was in the till.  So began the search for the Golden Bipartisan Compromise.

Fake Republican offer #1: $257 billion in new spending, paid for by raiding previously approved (and now allocated) COVID relief.  In other words, jack s***.

As usual, bad-faith negotiations followed, with Biden shaving $500 billion from his ask and Republicans in response offering a bucket of warm p***.

After that farce ended, a second round of bad-faith nonsense ensued, resulting in a supposed “bipartisan” deal of about $580 billion in new spending over eight years, paid for not by returning tax rates to their Obama Administration levels (which corresponded with six years of economic recovery from the Bush Recession), but with a mysterious pay-for that can only be an increase in the gas tax.

Sure, that'll work.  You don't have to be as talented a Republican hatchet man as those now doing business as the ever-so-pious Licoln Project to write the attack ad: “Biden and Democrats promised they wouldn't increase your taxes.  Now they're sending your gas tax through the roof.  They lied; you pay.”

If you're running in say Northwest Georgia or the Florida Panhandle, that's got to work better than “My sex partners were all over 18.”

What to do?

It's time to put the question.  It's clear that Republicans will always oppose new infrastrucutre spending until they are forced to pay a political price for it.  Put the $1.7 trillion in spending on the floor, strip out the tax increases, and make every Republican go on the record: Do you want to fix the Tallahatchee Bridge?  If not, run ads appealing to Billy Jo McAllister.

The point is to win the midterms. If the midterms are about gridlock in Washington and why Kamala Harris won't go for a boat ride on the Rio Grande, Democrats will lose.  If they're about who wants to fix the bridges and give you broadband, and who stood in the way, that's gotta work better.

The same path should be followed on voting rights.  There's endless wasted effort on the two vital voting bills, HR 1, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, simply reauthorizing the 1965 bill and immunizing it from fact-free attacks by John “I don't see any racism at the Metropolitan Club” Roberts '76, and HR 4, the For the People Act that would do a whole bunch of good things.

As 50 Republican Senators are content to hide behind the shell of Moscow Mitch McConnell, Democrats have focused on trying to persuade Manchin to approve the bill by suspending the filibuster.

There's only one flaw in this strategy: as long as there are no consequences to doing nothing, Republicans will do nothing.

Instead, let's have a summer of fun!  Every day this summer Schumer should put on the floor (1) the John Lewis bill, and (2) a separate provision of the For the People Act.  Each day each Republican can go on the record as blocking action on voting rights.  Talk about stimulating midterm turnout!

Why won't Harris investigate the Mexican border?
The For the People Act can be easily disassembled into its many provisions:

If the measure passed, Democrats could effectively overpower the states by putting in place new national mandates that they set up automatic voter registration, hold regular no-excuse early and mail-in voting, and restore the franchise to felons who have served their terms. The legislation would also end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, restructure the Federal Election Commission and require super PACs to disclose their big donors.

In fact the bill contains scores of separate provisions relating to protecting and enhancing the right to vote, each of which can be voted on separately.  Does Sen. Wilfred M. “Profiles in Courage” Romney want to vote against a provision requiring Presidential candidates to release their tax returns?  Why not?  Does Sen. Susan “Disappointed” Collins want to vote against imposing minimal ethics standards on Supreme Court Justices, including the rapey ones?  Let's find out!

Some of the provisions, like public financing, are likely to go down the tubes, but let's see if Republicans are willing to block each and every change.  If so, each no vote is a ready-made attack ad and a reminder to the Democratic base on what could happen if they actually get off their asses and vote, as they did not in 2010 and 2014.

What's the down side?  Right now, all Democratic priorities are on a road to nowhere.  At the very least, let's make it clear who's to blame, and fight the midterms on these terms, not on Cancun Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham doing a summer-stock version of “Deliverance” on the Rio Grande.