Saturday, March 30, 2019

From the Archives: The Power of Bipartisan Thinking

By Isaiah Thomas
Board of Editors

We read a few days ago that some Democrat from Delaware had thoughts about how to make progress in America:

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat of Delaware who was part of an unsuccessful 2017 effort to head off a Republican change that eliminated the 60-vote filibuster against Supreme Court nominees, said Democrats instead should focus on passing legislation with Republican help. “The most important, the most significant, the longest pieces of reform in American history have been bipartisan,” Mr. Coons said in an interview. “We need to get back to passing meaningful legislation with bipartisan support.”

To some of the old-timers around here, Sen. Coons's little summary of American history didn't ring quite true.  Is it the case that the most successful progressive legislation was actually the result of compromise between those who wanted it and those who believed, like Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R – Gilead), that the solution for all social ills is making more white babies? Fortunately, we have interns.  And quite a large archive down there in the subbasement next to the old Linotype machines and the classified ad switchboard.  Here's what they found:

The abolition of slavery

A few students of American history may have heard of a bit of historical unpleasantness now called the “Civil War.”  Apparently a number of very fine states concluded that the election of Abraham Lincoln threatened the institution of slavery because Lincoln and his Republicans, although willing to let the atrocity persist in the South, were not especially keen to admit it into the new Western Territories.

In the spirit of bipartisan compromise, the Southern States seceded, started a war against the United States, and prolonged it for over four years.  Six hundred thousand lives later, they lost.  Near the end of that war, Lincoln and his allies recognized that the existence vel non of slavery anywhere in the United States was no longer a matter of bipartisan compromise.  Rather, its abolition should be enshrined in the Constitution, in the 13th Amendment.

What happened?  Our tale of bipartisanship begins in 1864, with the outcome of the Civil War much in doubt, according to The New York Times:

On April 8, the Senate passed the amendment by a vote of 38 to 6. Support came from 30 Republicans, four Democrats, three Unionists, and one Unconditional Unionist. The six votes in opposition came from five Democrats and one Unionist. Both senators from Delaware and Kentucky were among the “nay” votes.

In the vote’s aftermath, a cascade of events conspired to set the stage for the January 1865 showdown in the House. On June 8, the National Union convention renominated Lincoln and called for an amendment abolishing slavery. A week later, after a vitriolic debate, the House came up 13 votes shy of the two-thirds majority necessary for passage. “The Democratic party in the House today,” editorialized The New York Tribune, “deliberately strapped the burden of Slavery on its shoulders for the coming Presidential election.”  . . .

[After Lincoln won the 1864 election,] Approval in the House [came] on Jan. 31, 1865, trail[ing] the amendment’s passage in the Senate on April 8, 1864, by almost 10 months.

So to recapitulate, all it took to abolish slavery was (1) a four year war, (2) the inability of the pro-slavery party (in those days, the Democrats) to prevent the re-election of President Lincoln, and (3) the Reconstruction of the rebellious state governments whose consent to ratification was required.

There wasn't a lot of room for bipartisan compromise, although in defense of Sen. Coons, it should be pointed out that even Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment.  In 2013.  Sometimes you have to give bipartisanship a little time.

The New Deal

Our old friend Bill Manchester in The Glory and the Dream described America in the fourth year of the Great Depression thusly:

Between the Crash and 1932, the cruelest year of the Depression, the economy's downward spiral was accelerated by measures which, according to all accepted canons, ought to have brought recovery, and which in practice did the opposite. . . .Sales ebbed, so costs were cut by laying off men.  The unemployed could not buy the goods of other industries.  Therefore, sales dropped further, leading to more layoffs and a general shrinkage of purchasing power, until farmers were pauperized by the poverty of individual workers, who in turn were pauperized by the poverty of farmers.. . .

There was no one to protect them. The President . . was opposed to wage-hour legislation, so that when U.S. Steel made its second big wage slash in the spring of 1932, the workers were helpless. . . .There were strikes of desperation in 1932 .  All were lost.  Miners were paid $10.88 a month.., and were required to buy groceries at inflated prices at the company store; when they rebelled the protest was bloodily suppressed by armed strikebreakers backed by the National Guard. . . .

In such New England mill towns as Lynn and Lowell, where only one worker in three was employed, men were treated like serfs; one of them left Manchester, new Hampshire, to apply for a job in New Haven, was arrested, brought before a judge on a charge of vagrancy, and ordered back to his Manchester mill.

All this thanks to bipartisanship and free markets!

Following the 1932 election, won by Franklin D. Roosevelt by an electoral vote margin of 472 to 59, (the most lopsided result since the election of 1864, see supra) the new Administration started cleaning up the mess with a long series of programs including Social Security, government employment programs, and labor laws, known collectively as the “New Deal.”  In this he was aided by the fact that his party had picked up 97 seats in the House, giving them a total of 313.  In the Senate, Roosevelt and his allies had to get by with 59 seats to the Republicans' 36.

So to get the New Deal, all it took was almost four years of indescribable national privation and an electoral wipeout of the party that had refused to take effective action to restore America.  There must have been some bipartisanship in there somewhere.

The Great Society

1964 wasn't 1932, but not so long ago if you were old, poor, and in need of medical care, you died.  If you were black and wanted to vote any place south of Arlington, Virginia and east of Palm Springs, California, you were asking to be shot and your body bulldozed into an earthen dam.  A bipartisan coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats insured that it would be ever thus.

Archaeologists tell us that in ancient days a
magnificent species known as “moderate 
Republicans” once roamed the land
Then Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats won the 1964 election with some of the biggest margins since Roosevelt's in 1932.   President Johnson won the White House with 61% of the popular vote.  The Electoral Vote was 486 to 52 (in those days the popular and Electoral vote outcomes often matched).  The Democrats picked up 37 House seats for a total of 297; in the Senate they dominated 68-32.

In short order, we got Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, food stamps, and a host of other social programs.

The captious may point out that some of these initiatives attracted bipartisan votes.  To this we say that in these antediluvian times, the abyss between progressive and reactionary politics was not demarcated by party labels.  Ancient historians still tell tales of “moderate Republicans” like Chuck Percy of Illinois or Ed Brooke of Massachusetts who supported civil rights, while racist Democrats like Richard Russell of Georgia and John Stennis of Mississippi staunchly opposed any effort to enfranchise what they chose to call “nigras.”

Sadly these magnificent specimens did not survive the global climate change brought on by Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and 50 years of Republican pandering to the basest of their base.

Neither, it appears, does the theory that social progress depends on reaching out to hate-filled reactionaries.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Happy New Year

By Douglas MacArthur
Regime Change [Surely, War? – Ed.] Correspondent

While we breathlessly await enlightenment about things we don't know, let's just stop for a second and celebrate something we do know: Nowruz.

Nowruz?  What's that?  you ask.

We sent our interns out to discover what Nowruz was and here's their exclusive report:

The first day of the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, around 21 March. In the 11th century CE the Iranian calendar was reformed in order to fix the beginning of the calendar year, i.e. Nowruz, at the vernal equinox.

House cleaning and shopping House cleaning, or shaking the house is commonly done before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring cleaning of their homes and by buying new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well the
Those eggs aren't going to survive a direct hit
(Tasnim News Agency)
purchase of flowers. The hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous.
Parsis adorn their houses with different auspicious symbols; namely, stars, butterflies, birds and fish; and on the day of Navroz, they dress in their new and best clothes and put on gold and silver kushtis and caps. They decorate the doors and windows with garlands of roses and jasmine, and use colored powders for creating patterns known as rangoli on their steps and thresholds. Fish and floral motifs are a favourite among rangolis and considered highly auspicious.[citation needed]

Visiting family and friends During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to the homes of family, friends and neighbours. Typically, the young people will visit their elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Many Iranians throw large Nowruz parties in as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family. 

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nowruz.

Well done, interns.  Now for your next educational experience, I need you to call up every tire store in New York and get the best price on four new radials for a Audi A6 and summarize your research, because there's no f***in' way I'm paying $1,200 for 4 [Surely, you are working on an important tire-related story? – Ed.] 

Sounds like a good time for all.  And, according to the talented writer and comedian Mitra Johari, it is:

OK, so maybe if you are stuck in a windowless room on a back lot in Burbank with a bunch of nerds and you're missing your family and friends back in Iran, your feelings are a little bittersweet.  But no matter, it reminds you of kith and kin, which in Ms. Jouhari's case, means lots of folks back in Iran:

Now Ms. Jouhari can call Iranians kind, fun, loving, smart, and hardworking.  But other folks who are none of those things have another term for those living in Iran.

That term is “targets.”

To the reactionary warmongers in Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh, the millions of people busily preparing for Nowruz festivities by cleaning their houses and buying their clothes would be better advised to dig bomb shelters in the backyard.  John Bolton, Bibi Netanyahu, and Mohammed bone Saw are once again beating the war drums, eager to show the world who's large and in charge.

For years, Bibi has been trying to shame the United States into bombing the crap out of Iran in a futile but impressive effort to stop Iran's nuclear program.  When President Obama did stop Iran's nuclear program by negotiating a deal to give Iran its own money back, Bibi went, um, ballistic.

But now he's installed his kind of stooges, like President U Bum and war criminal John Bolton, in office in the United States and they are ready to do Bibi's bidding.

Here's Jason Rezaian, describing their thinking a year ago:

To those who claim that the nuclear deal isn’t working, regime change remains the only solution. For the MEK, and Bolton, if his words are to be taken at face value, the only path to that could be war. The group has long been prepared to do whatever it takes to see that happen, including presenting fake intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.

But you'd expect such hysterical talk from a leftist Iranian stooge like Rezaian [Is this the same guy who was held prisoner by Iran for over a year? – Ed.]  It's not like John Bolton, whose sophisticated two-page foreign policy playbook of trash talk and war has led to one brilliant success (e.g., Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela) after another, has already scoped out military options for an attack on Iran, is it?

National Security Adviser John Bolton had his team request options from the Pentagon to strike Iran late last year — a move that worried top defense officials that a possible new war in the Middle East was imminent.  (Vox, Jan. 14, 2019)
 And since then?

That clamor has only intensified. “President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid,” Bolton said last July. During the Warsaw event, he released a short video with a not-so-veiled threat to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: “I don’t think you’ll have many more anniversaries to enjoy.”. . .

But Bolton, the most bombastic of that group, is now whispering in President Donald Trump’s ear, and the United States is heading down a familiar path. In Trump, Bolton has found someone focused not on national security but on dismantling presidential actions that preceded his term. Trump is not interested in the nation of Iran, the Iranian people or any Iranian threat. He merely abhors former President Barack Obama and the  . . .  Iranian nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated. 

The author of that piece expressed concern that the price for Bolton's war lust would be paid by American troops, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But we know already who will pay the butcher's bill for the neocon/Likud/Saudi dream of war on Iran:  Mitra Johari's friends and family who live at ground zero for Bolton's and Netanyahu's bombing runs.  And if the civilian death toll in Iraq is any indication, the only certain result of attacking Iran is that there will be a lot of kind, fun, smart, loving, hardworking Iranians who won't live to see another Nowruz.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Republicans in their Happy Place

By Nellie Bly
Spy Washington Bureau

P.G. COUNTY, Md. – For decades now we've heard how the Republicans are the party of new ideas, although when you stop to think about it, “health care for all” is an idea too, but one the Republicans regard as on a par with exterminating the Ukrainian kulaks.

A lot of big, bold Republican ideas were on full display at the ongoing Conservative PAC conference held next to a casino somewhere in wilds of Maryland.  Because my editors refused to authorize the $120 car fare, I've had to rely on the eyewitness reports of other journalists.  Let's just say, based on what they've unearthed, I'm not too upset.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can't fool CPAC
by wearing a disguise
So many big ideas, it's hard to know where to start.  How about we get the card-carrying neo-Nazi “Dr.” Sebastian Gorka out of the way?  You may recall that this mainstream figure was once a national security assistant in the U Bum White House notwithstanding his inability to obtain a security clearance and still appears as an expert on the TV arm of the Republican Party.

Like the Nazis he admires so much, he was haunted by the specter of Socialism, an ideology so evil that it will stop at nothing to swoop down upon patriotic Americans and take away their, wait for it, hamburgers.  This is some sort of reference to the Green New Deal, although not one that has any basis in fact.

Herr Oberst├╝rmbanf├╝hrer Gorka went on to contrast Socialist burger-thieving Democrats with Republicans who will lead us into the sunlit uplands of a utopia where patriotic Americans will no longer be afflicted by New York intellectuals (because Manhattan will have sunk into the sea following the collapse of the polar ice-caps) and every day will be bright and fair, with summer highs in Washington, D.C. topping out in the 120's.

Then the conference turned to true intellectual heavyweights, like the My Pillow guy.  He's a former crackhead who found Jesus who in His divine wisdom according to Mr. Pillow turned him on to the one true God: Pres U Bum.

Here's how one formerly loyal Republican now trying to rejoin the human race summarized the views on display at CPAC:

Now some might contend that a conference and a political party devoted to venerating the man who smeared real President Obama as born in Kenya, Rep. Maxine Waters as having a low IQ, and Mexicans as rapists and assassins might be suffused with racism.

Fortunately, the CPAC organizers had a bold new idea: bring on a couple of thirsty rando women of color to sing De Camptown Races [Surely, repeat standard Republican talking points about how Democratic Socialism is as bad as slavery? – Ed.].  That should certainly conclusively and forever refute any possible argument that the party that opposes extension of the Voting Rights Act is motivated by racism, regardless of whether 95% of black people know in their bones the contrary.

Speaking of choice, let's turn to the nuanced debate at CPAC regarding a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy:
CPAC represented a doubling down on this point, in an apparent bid to motivate anti-abortion activists before next year’s elections. Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for example, said that Democratic laws would be the same as taking babies home from the hospital and aborted thereafter.

CPAC speakers wowed the crowd with
scary stories, like infanticide
The abortion-is-the-same-as-baby-murder trope isn't some wacky far-right bit of invective – it's the heart and soul of the Republican Party and indeed the only thing besides bigotry keeping white reactionary “Christians” on the side of the guy who banged a porn star while his wife was home with his baby and then illegally paid her to keep quiet about it.  [Failure of antecedent.  How many payoffs are we talking about here? – Ed.]

And then let's recall that we are after all (all being a term of art that encompasses the genocide of Native Americans) a nation of immigrants.  Here's C-level wingnut celebrity Michelle Malkin doing her bit to further a constructive debate on immigration reform:

Malkin focused much of her speech on slamming undocumented immigrants and politicians who defend their right to stay in the U.S.
“Both parties are to blame,” Malkin said of undocumented immigrants. “Yes, I’m looking at you, retired Paul Ryan and yes, I’m looking at you, Mitch McConnell, and yes, I’m looking at you, Bush family.
“I’m looking at you, the ghost of John McCain,” she added — to a thunderous applause from the audience, who shot up out of their seats after the dig at the deceased Arizona senator.

All agreed at CPAC that tomorrow belonged to Republicans
Because there's no idea more powerful or novel than dancing on the grave of a Senator who isn't around to defend himself.

By the way, what kind of a name is Malkin anyway?  Why do I think she is descended from immigrants?  Of course, she could be a full-blooded Cherokee married to someone whose head won't be flying off come the Rapture so who knows?

We could go on but by now those with sensitive guts may have heard enough.

It would be easy to make fun of the cloddish, wacky things spewed out at CPAC except for one thing: they represent the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party.  And the main stream of that Party is a foaming torrent of hate, bigotry, and greed.  That's why Republicans continue to flack for and prop up a depraved corrupt bigoted incompetent grifter as he takes a bone saw to every fiber and sinew of our polity.  It's frightening, but you have to admit that this knowing embrace of subversion is –  a new idea.