Saturday, July 25, 2020

You Must Remember This

By Emma Goldman
Culture and Society Editor

With the death toll closing in on 150,000 and the number of COVID-19 cases now exceeding 4,000,000, we like most others in the media are desperate for good news.  This desire to provide our scared and suffering readers with what the tabloids used to call a “brite box” has led to cheery stories like this one:

Note the ratio.

A few captious critics, probably the same ones who aroused Emily Yoffe's ire by doubting the propriety of teaching a novel glorifying pedophilia to college students grappling with harassment and violence against women, have questioned whether an elderly woman forced to swab the toilets of rich tourists to earn a crust of bread is really such a good news story.  To appease these cancel-culture vultures, we're going to let this one drop, like the guests she has to clean up after.

But we do have some reason for optimism, and here it is.  The coronavirus epidemic could have the same effect that the Great Depression had on American thought and politics: exposing the emptiness of the Republican-libertarian vision of America as government of, by, and for the rich.  This epidemic, like the economic calamity of the 1930's, demonstrates in a way that no witty column ever could the importance of national action to protect the innocent from the ill effects of a catastrophe they did not bring about.

Hoover admitted there were
hotspots of hunger
The reaction of the pro-plutocrat Republicans like Herber Hoover to the Depression was hardly distinguishable from that of the stone-hearted Republican grifters in thrall to President U Bum.  Tell us about it,  Piers Brendon:

Even Hoover's pachydermal self-confidence must have been shaken by the speed with which . . . the blossoms in the American garden withered.

If so, the President did not show it.  He saw it as his duty to put a brave face on the Crash, so brave, in fact that he had hardly ceased to deny its seriousness before he started to declare that the worst was over. . . . 

In an effort to stimulate growth, Hoover also cut taxes.  But this was dubbed 'rich relief' since it affected only high earners, the focus of [Treasury Secretary] Andrew Mellon's most anxious solicitude.   For the less well-off, Mellon believed that the Slump was not altogether a bad thing: it would 'purge the rottenness out of the system' and encourage moral virtues like thrift and hard work as well as ensuring the survival of the fittest.

(P. Brendon, The Dark Valley at 79-80.)

Sound familiar?

Oh and then Hoover sicced Federal troops on peaceful unarmed protesters, mostly veterans, camped out in Anacostia.

How did it turn out for the Republicans? On Election Day 1932 with a third of workers unemployed, 22.8 million votes were cast for Franklin D. Roosevelt, and 15.75 million for Hoover.

More than that, for as long as the Great Depression was a living memory, white working class voters remembered which party cared enough to enlist the government in the fight against human want and misery and which party liked to prattle on about business confidence and moral hazard.

In 1965, when we were on a NYC bus headed to the World's Fair, we asked the bus driver if he planned to vote for Republican John Lindsay.  He said he remembered what the Republicans did when his family was struggling to put food on the table during the Depression and no he wasn't voting for any Republican.

Perhaps the persistence of the memory of the Depression and the political response to it might explain why Michael Dukakis, not remembered for running an especially successfully race against George H.W. Bush in 1988, nonetheless carried West Virginia, now a cesspool of white racist resentment,  by almost 5%.  He also won Wisconsin.

Let's see, if you were a 65-year-old retired coal miner in 1988, you were born in 1923 and the Depression was a part of your childhood and teenage years.  You remembered.

If you were a 65-year-old retired coal miner in 2016, you were born in 1951.  You didn't experience the Depression and you were easy pickings for a campaign premised on white anger.

Hoover stressed law and order
in the streets. 
Can the same be happening now?  We see a collapse of Republican support for pro-plutocrat anti-government nonsense because the level of human suffering has reached, and exceeded, the level at which people will refuse to credit their lying eyes.  We see the results of Republican contempt for government action in a time of crisis: the inconsistent state standards, the refusal to extend unemployment aid, the lack of a national testing-and-tracing strategy, the inability of the economy to recover, even the failure to plan to return students to school without endangering the lives of millions.

So here's the reason for optimism: if the experience of the Great Pandemic is seared into our memory the same way that the Great Depression was for the generation that came of age in 1930's, Republicans could be consigned to the political wilderness for the next thirty years.

Will it happen?  Given the short-attention-span-theater quality of today's politics, and the rise of Republican disinformation volcanoes like Schlox Noise and Facebook, it's not clear how long we can keep the current calamity in mind.

That's our job.   Every time a Republican prattles on about fiscal responsibility, tax cuts for the rich, rolling back regulations to protect health and safety, or the evils of giving government money to those in need, ask them where they were when America was prostrated by an avoidable epidemic and the shambolic Trumpublican response.  If the answer is they were posing with a can of beans, well, that's all you need to know.

How great would it be if in 2040, bus drivers would refuse to vote for Kayley McEnaney for President because they remembered what the Republicans did as millions suffered, sickened, and died back in 2020? 

Talk about “Happy Days are Here Again.”

Friday, July 17, 2020

SPONSORED CONTENT -- Coming soon from New York Times Pictures!

You've read in Axios the exciting news that The New York Times, having vanquished journalism, is now seeking new worlds to conquer.  Hollywood watch out – here's this fall's boffo offerings from the Irving Thalberg wannabes on Eighth Avenue:

That's my Kevin!
"You mean he's a racist?"
The laughs are non-stop in this warm family sitcom featuring glamorous flame-haired Washington Times columnist Maureen Dowd and her adorable racist brother, Kevin. In the pilot episode, hilarity ensues when Kevin is invited to Mo's swanky Georgetown pad for a swell soireΓ© and mistakes Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson for the parking valet!  Featuring James Woods as Kevin and Tara Reid as Mo.


NPIS Washington

"But is he lying?"
Taut newsroom procedural featuring the crack sleuths of the Newspaper Prevarication Investigative Service as they try to determine if the President of the United States is really lying when he says his opponent wants to outlaw windows and dishwashers.  Although they never get to the right answer, their painstaking technique and careful ratiocination provides riveting viewing each and every week.  With Adam Scott as Peter Baker, Susie Essman as Maggie Haberman, and Jeffrey Tambor as Adam Nagourney.


The Fugitive

"Why are they so mean to me?"
Imaginative reboot of the famous series “The Fugitive,” this time featuring a haunted Bari Weiss as she flees persecution and snarky Twitter remarks by leaving her cushy Times job and heading on the road, with only millions of reactionary dark money and Ben Shapiro to protect her.  With Aidy Bryant as Bari and David Spade as Ben Shapiro; directed by Jim Bennet.  A co-production with Koch Studios.


Where in the World is . . . . ?

"Albany is right this way."
Reality show for the whole family in which teams of Times reporters compete to discover hidden locations where they are told they might find a story to cover.  In the first episode, four teams set out in search of the fabled capital of the State of New York, known as Albany, but find themselves lost in locations as varied as Albany Street, Brooklyn and Trenton, New Jersey.


The Price is Ridiculous

"You want the crosswords, too?  Hahaha!"
Big money quiz show in which print subscribers guess how much a seven-day subscription to The New York Times will cost.  The high bidder wins, as long as it's north of $1,300!   Times President and Jimmy Saville BFF Mark Thompson hosts, delighting the contestants with his British accent and dry wit as their pockets are emptied.

[That's enough pitches – Adv't. Mgr.] 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Back to school with U Bum: 'Readin, 'Ritin, 'Rithmetic, & Rigor Mortis

By Vincent Boom-Batz, M.D.
Spy Medical Editor

Under normal circumstances, schools would be opening soon around the country and the little darlings would be off their parents' hands all day long.  There's only one problem this year: to the usual three R's Pres Super Spreader and his Trumpublican toadies (in other words, the entire Republican Party) want to add a fourth R: Rigor Mortis.

Desperate to bail out his floundering re-election campaign, President U Bum is demanding that all public schools reopen for in-person classes.  There's only one tiny problem, as noted by The New York Times:

No nation has tried to send children back to school with the virus raging at levels like America’s, and the scientific research about transmission in classrooms is limited.

The World Health Organization has now concluded that the virus is airborne in crowded, indoor spaces with poor ventilation, a description that fits many American schools.  . . .

“I’m just going to say it: It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff,” said Robin Cogan, a nurse at the Yorkship School in Camden, N.J., who serves on the state’s committee on reopening schools. 

Oh.  That's a problem.

People who know what they're talking about share the same concerns:

“You have to do a lot more than just waving your hands and say make it so,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a professor of the practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “First you have to control the community spread and then you have to open schools thoughtfully.”

After carefully weighing the complexities and risks in a nation already reeling from unchecked community spread of a lethal pandemic, President Super Spreader decided to – wave his hands and say make it so.

To the extent that President PAB can be said to have thought processes, it seems to reflect his hope that if the kids are back in school, their parents will go back to work, the economy will recover and he might be able to sneak his way back to the White House through the machinations of the Electoral College (aided by convicted felon Roger Stone, who's tanned, rested, ready, and back on the streets).

What could go wrong?  Actually, we know exactly what could go wrong because the movie is still playing: reopening businesses without an effective national testing-and-tracing strategy has led to results like this (from NBC News):

Even the dimmest bulbs among Southern Republican Governors are beginning to catch on that a promiscuous reopening of businesses without a comprehensive plan was a recipe for death and devastation.

If that's what happens when the bars are opened, imagine the results if kids are sent back to school with the same lack of planning that has turned the Sunbelt into a reasonable approximation of 14th Century Europe.  Apparently there are differing views depending on whether you are a public health expert or a corrupt desperate narcissistic bigot:

Adding to the confusion, optional guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May set out ambitious safety precautions for schools. But the president, and many local school system leaders, have suggested they do not need to be strictly followed, alarming teachers.

What's the difference? After all, we hear that children's cases of coronavirus are no worse than sniffles:

Trump, in a town hall earlier with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, repeated his false assertion that the United States is only experiencing record new cases of COVID-19 because of increased testing, Lemon pointed out.

“So, we have more cases because we do the greatest testing. If we didn’t do testing, we’d have no cases,” Trump told Hannity. “Other countries, they don’t test millions. So up to almost 30 million tests. So when you do 30 million, you’re gonna have a kid with the sniffles and they’ll say it’s coronavirus, whatever you want to call it.”

Lemon was aghast that Trump keeps repeating the testing falsehood, but this time with an even more outrageous twist.

“A kid with the sniffles. That’s what he said, a kid with the sniffles. You don’t need me to tell you that that’s not true, right?” asked the “CNN Tonight” host.

Of course, those sniffling, or even asymptomatic, children can readily transmit the virus to their parents, grandparents, teachers, or any other adult with whom they come into contact.  While many teachers are dedicated to education, they don't seem to be willing to lay down their lives just to give President Tiny Toadstool the appearance of a win:

But this week, as the administration launched a full-throated campaign to pressure schools to reopen in the fall — a crucial step for jump-starting the economy — it all but ignored the potential risks teachers face. 

More than one-quarter of public schoolteachers are over the age of 50. Teachers say many of their questions about how schools will operate safely remain unanswered. They point out that some classrooms have windows that do not reliably open to promote air circulation, while school buildings can have aging heating and cooling systems that lack the filtration features that reduce virus transmission. 

Talk about pathetic – don't they understand that Ol' Bone Spurs has commanded them to sacrifice their lives for the common good, by which he means good for him?

Unpacking the teachers' objections  reveals that one problem is that the Grifter-in-Chief is ordering schools to reopen without providing the resources they need to do so without massacring their staffs.  Republicans used to call such Federal commands “unfunded mandates,” but for some unknown reason they haven't spun up the fake outrage about forcing strapped local school districts to spend billions to gratify U Bum's vanity.

Don't worry – we're just kidding you.  Everyone knows why the entire Republican Party is willing to turn American schools into killing fields:
  1. They are spineless cowardly worms who will follow their Dear Leader no matter how insane his position.
  2. They never cared about the lives of the real Americans whose anger and bigotry, but not their desire to live, they have catered to for half a century.
If you think about it, what's the difference between sentencing hundreds of thousands to sickness and death by (a) not financing a safe reopening of schools and (b) not financing guaranteed health care for all regardless of income?  Sacrificing a generation of teachers for political gain is as Republican as Roger Stone.

There is of course a sensible way to move to a phased reopening of in-person teaching this year that the Republican Party continues to ignore:

The President's political enemies are making the
ridiculous argument that many schools can't
afford to safely reopen

First, we need to have adequate numbers of tests available and distributed for diagnosis. We do not have that in place, and it must be within two weeks. Second, we need to provide protective personal equipment to every health professional who is going to be caring for patients. We would not send soldiers into war without body armor. . . . Third, . . . Everyone should be maintaining physical distance. In public, everyone should now be wearing a surgical mask. . . . if everyone wears them, they will diminish the spread from those who are unknowingly infected to others.

Next, we need to test enough to be able to classify every American as documented infected, suspected infected, exposed or not yet known to be either exposed or infected. . . .

Everyone who is infected or presumed infected  . . . should be separated into dedicated clinical facilities. Serious cases and those at highest risk should be hospitalized. Every convention center in every major American city should be converted into an infirmary where presumptive cases and documented cases with mild illness can be cared for and segregated, . . .

Everyone who has been exposed to an infected person should be placed in quarantine. All the hotels that are now empty in our cities could be mobilized with the staff retrained on appropriate sanitation procedures to be able to house . . .   those who need to remain in quarantine for a two week period of time, . . . 

If we take these steps and we simultaneously work on new treatments,  . . .   we can turn the tide and defeat coronavirus . . . .

And by the way, if we do this, it is the best way to get the economy moving again. Because if we eliminate the threat of coronavirus in the space of 10 weeks, the economy can be sparked into action. If we proceed in ways that are half-measures, incomplete approaches, gradual and not effective, we will persist with people falling ill, with people fearful, with workplaces disrupted, with an inability to get the economy humming again.

If only we had known this when there was time to execute this plan in time for a September reopening.

Once again, we're just having fun at your expense.  This plan was published by ProPublica. 

On March 26.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

If this Fourth didn't suck enough, now we have this f***in' bug, uh, guy

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator
with Isaiah Thomas, Board of Editors

We're locked up.  We can't go anywhere.  Our nation faces a quadriga of crises, each of which (pandemic, economic, racial justice, and treason) would be enough to galvanize the public by itself, but taken together seem to have pithed the body politic.  Just last night, at a taxpayer-funded super-spreading event, the current incumbent spewed forty-five minutes of incoherent rage and racism at a supposedly happy, patriotic, and non-partisan holiday event.  At least he didn't set the Black Hills ablaze with his crapcan fireworks.

If this Fourth of July wasn't sh***y enough already, now we have to deal with this f**kin' guy, or, as he is known to all thoughtful media consumers, Bretbug, the pride of the New York Times Op-Ed page.  We're not going to link to his pisspoor column, but we will dip into it long enough to understand why our political system has in effect stopped functioning.

Remember the Four Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse – Death, Depression, Division, and Treason?  Pretty bad.  So what in the invertebrate mind of Bretbug is the greatest threat to freedom today, according to him?

Before we get to his ridiculous answer, let's turn to another columnist for another well-known Op-Ed page,  The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell.  Today she provided a handy Twitter thread with a curated list of the attacks on free speech launched by President Tiny Toadstool.

Here are the examples she cited in support of her argument, an effective forensic technique that Bretbug would be well advised to learn:






That's a pretty impressive list.  It doesn't include his filing meritless litigation against Tim O'Brien to intimidate press coverage (it didn't; he lost), demonizing the free press to destroy the public's belief in what is reported by the media, and his ongoing effort to subvert America's international broadcasting operations (like Voice of America) by appointing a hard-right reactionary flack to drive out real journalists.

So on the basis of the evidence she marshaled, not to mention what we remember off the top of our heads, we'd conclude that the greatest threat to freedom of speech today is President Super Spreader and his gang of Republican flacks and enablers.

Speaking of which, here's what Bretbug thought was the greatest threat to free speech today. 

Wait for it.

Keep waiting.

It's liberal elites.  Also progressives.

Why?  We can only work backwards from the pitiful examples Bretbug pushes across the floor with his pincers:  The New Yorker cancelled a speaking invitation to notorious racist and crackhead Steve Bannon two years ago after noticing that he was, um, a notorious racist and crackhead.  As a result, poor Steve has barely been able to convey his ideas (chiefly, will work for drugs and booze) to the media.  A search for his name in The New York Times database since January 1, 2018 returned only 945 results, or about one a day.  Poor bastard.

(And speaking of retaliating against free speech, remember when Bretbug ratted out a professor who had the temerity to compare him to a tiny bug?)

Bretbug also tries to palm off advertiser anger at Facebook's endless flogging of hate speech and lies as an attack on speech, although Facebook, being a private company, can choose what to reprint and what not.  Bretbug has his thorax in a twist because some folks are upset that Facebook's algorithms are promoting racism, Nazism, and lethal unscientific health information.  Here's what Judd Legum, a real journalist, has to say:

Facebook is allowing sites that specialize in divisive content, like Mad World News and The Daily Wire, to manipulate Facebook's algorithm through undisclosed financial partnerships. Ten or more times each day, a network of five large Facebook pages controlled by Mad World News publishes the same link to The Daily Wire. Although this appears to violate Facebook's prohibition on undisclosed sponsored content and coordinated inauthentic behavior, Facebook has refused to take action. This has made The Daily Wire — a cesspool of misogyny, bigotry, and misinformation — to outperform every other major publisher on Facebook.

In the words of Emily Litella, that's different.

But Bretbug's bites aren't little irritations.  The myth of a “cancel culture” is part of the larger attack to demean and devalue those who stand against the Bigot-in-Chief:

Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said “the mainstream media is never going to give the president the credit he deserves, in terms of his optimism and his belief in the American spirit.”

He added, “There is a backlash against this counterculture, this cancel culture, and Americans are proud we’re a beacon for freedom.”

The only consolation is that even hard-core Republican henchmen like John Kasich are realizing that the President's tee-tolla-tarri-tist tendencies aren't drawing the crowds they once did:

Former Ohio governor John Kasich, a Republican who ran against Trump in 2016, said the GOP’s muted and scattered response to the president on race this week underscores how the party is “in decline” and has become a vessel for Trumpism — even as polls show Trump losing ground among seniors and white evangelicals and trailing Biden in every key battleground state. 

“They coddled this guy the whole time and now it’s like some rats are jumping off of the sinking ship. It’s just a little late,” Kasich said. “It’s left this nation with a crescendo of hate not only between politicians but between citizens. … It started with Charlottesville and people remained silent then, and we find ourselves in this position now.”

Kasich added, “I’m glad to see some of these Republicans moving the other way but it reminds me of Vichy France where they said, ‘Well, I never had anything to do with that,’” a reference to the French government that continued during Nazi occupation in the 1940s.

Fortunately, Bretbug is still able, at a time when unemployment among real journalists has reached epidemic proportion, to pocket his winnings.