Saturday, November 28, 2020

Trump is going but Trumpism still rules the highest court.

Thousands of unmasked Hasidic sect members squeeze inside the Yetev Lev temple in Brooklyn for the wedding of a chief rabbi’s grandson. Similar weddings have been happening in Brooklyn for months in violation of city ordinances — with precautions such as covering windows with paper and guards at the doors in case an inspector shows up to keep them from being detected.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 midnight ruling, which prevents New York city and state officials from imposing limits on the Roman Catholic Diocese or Brooklyn's Hasidic sect during the pandemic, had little to do with the broad issue of religious freedom. Rather it was a signal to Trump's MAGA death cult and his evangelical base that the extreme right-wing majority, led by DT's newly-appointed religious cultist, Amy Coney Barrett, was on the job and will be for decades to come. 

The immediate effect on New York City is moot because the state had already lifted the particular orders under review. The grave, imminent danger lies in the rest of the country, where public health authorities will feel hamstrung to limit the size of religious gatherings even where the virus is spreading out of control.

The decision also heralds tough times ahead for Democrats and civil-rights activists. It's being interpreted by the right as an affirmation of the notion that religious beliefs about racial or gender discrimination trump civil rights and social justice.

The court majority's message to the Democrats: Even though you may have won the election, there's more than one center of power now and it's not bound by the Constitution. Trumpism rules the nation's highest court. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The first thing Biden promised to do...

 

Biden was at a candidates event in Houston with National Education Association members in July 2019 when he said: “First thing, as president of United States — not a joke — first thing I will do is make sure that the secretary of education is not Betsy DeVos. It is a teacher. A teacher. Promise.” --
WaPO

Biden's cabinet is filling up fast. So far, once you get past all the chatter about a "second Obama presidency"; or about slipping a disgraced Rahm Emanuel in through the back door (NO, NO, NO please), or even about appointing Trump Republicans as opposed to anyone from the left, the process has been pretty transparent and necessarily fast-moving. 

But we're still waiting for more than whispers about his pick for Secretary of Education. This may be the most important pick of all given that most school districts remain in limbo or possibly on the brink of collapse because of the pandemic and Trump/DeVos's disastrous response. But even under the new administration, plans for a necessary, safe reopening are going nowhere without an immediate influx of cash -- possibly a trillion dollars or more -- to the districts. 

And it's not just about money. It's about radical transformation and the re-imaging of public education. We will never be able to go back to the old "normal". So where's the transformational leadership going to come from?

There are big questions to resolve about, systemic racial inequality, current, and post-pandemic standardized testing, privatization, student loans, universal pre-K and so much more. It will take much more than the new D.O.E. to undo the damage done these past four years under Betsy DeVos. Not to mention, that done under the previous decades of No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top

But the appointment of a new ed secretary will be a signal about which way the new regime is headed. So how did the first thing on Biden's to-do list move to near-last? Where is this teacher that been promised us? Why the hush hush?

Progressives have been pushing some good people for consideration. So have the influential, pro-privatization, anti-union hedge-fund reformers like DFER. 

I have a few recommendations myself. But I'm dubious that the left will be allowed any input into the decision. That's certainly been the case so far.

Monday, November 23, 2020

DT still has eight weeks remaining in which to break things and burn things down.

Grifters

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Joe Biden has signaled his reluctance to pursue a  criminal case against Trump. In August, Biden said he'd leave the decision to the Justice Department and the attorney general, but he suggested pursuing charges might do more damage than good. Above all, Biden and the Democrats want a peaceful transition of power and don't want to unnecessarily stir up the MAGA wasp's nest. 

"I think it is a very, very unusual thing and probably not very — how can I say it? — good for democracy to be talking about prosecuting former presidents." -- NPR

DT and his grifter family are already the subjects of a criminal investigation by the district attorney of Manhattan as well as a civil investigation by the attorney general of New York State. But the question is, will Biden, Gov. Cuomo, and the Democratic leadership try and put the kibosh on N.Y. Atty. General Letitia James and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. to drop their cases for peace sakes?

Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime and well-known Republican in Pennsylvania has tossed out another Trump lawsuit aimed at invalidating millions of voters' mail-in ballots. 

"In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more," the judge wrote. -- CNN

This, along with the failure of last week's so-called Million MAGA March, leaves Trump's crew with little bargaining power when it comes to chilling any post-transition indictments. But a peaceful transition won't mean an end to Trumpism or to Trump's leadership and influence over what's left of the Republican Party. 

Dahlia Lithwick writes:

Having lost in the courts, his new work evidently lies in emboldening obscure local election boards to nullify their voting tallies, calling them on the phone to exert pressure, inviting them to the White House. That means that even postelection we are still stress monkeys. He still has eight weeks remaining in which to break things and burn things down. --  Slate 

The makeup dripping down Rudy Giuliani’s face and the inaudible Benny Hill music in the background isn’t proof of harmless comedy; it’s cover for something truly dangerous.

So, where does all this leave us? Relying on the movement for social justice. Same as it ever was. 

There are many hopeful signs such as the Poor People's Campaign led by Rev. William Barber who is uniting a broad range of progressive forces to restart Moral Mondays and lead a multi-racial movement of the poor with a clear set of demands on both Trump and the Biden administration. 

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

There's no sense in hoping Republicans come to their senses.


I'm both troubled and amused to hear from so many Democrats still hoping beyond hope that Republicans will come to their senses. Many can't believe or understand why so many MAGAs bought into Trump's right-wing white supremacist populism. 

Before the election, the thought was that the larger the voter turnout, even with GOP voter suppression, the greater the Democrats' victory would be. As things turned out, this was only partially true. But record turnouts, driven by an election that was basically a plebiscite on Trump, also helped Republicans in many states.

It was also thought that building the national campaign on a center-right alliance with neocons and "never-Trump" Republicans to the exclusion of the progressive left and "socialists" would cause a major split in the Republican ranks, turning lots of white 2016 Trump voters back into Democrats. There's no evidence that this happened, except on a tiny scale. Biden owes his victory much more to the changing demographics in the suburbs and swing states than to Republican desertions. 

Many Dems are still hoping masses of Republicans will change stripes now that Biden has won the election. Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg attributes the lack of movement to GOP "cowardice" as if Republican pols like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio really oppose Trumpism but are afraid to come out and say so. 

Let’s talk instead about the Republicans who support Trump as he tries to overturn an American election. How can they shirk from their sworn duty at this moment of national peril? ... Calling out someone for cowardice — I’m looking at you, Ted Cruz — could yet be corrective.
I doubt it. The closeness of the races in many states and a steadfast, even cultlike base have only given Republican pols hope that they can maintain control of the Senate and take back the House in the midterm elections. There's even talk of Trump running again in '24 (if he's not in prison). I doubt that too.

Please take note of Trump cultist Kevin McCarthy's unanimous reelection as House Republican Leader yesterday. Reports are that he received a standing ovation from GOP House members. 

No, calling them out for cowardice will not do it. They're just devotees who know how their bread is buttered. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

A coup d'etat? Not likely. Easier for Trump just to cut a deal and move on with his base intact.

 


Coup d'état

A coup or coup d'état is the removal of an existing government from power, usually through violent means. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a political faction, the military, or a dictator. 

 South African Activist Kumi Naidoo: I think our brothers and sisters in America are finding out that it’s much easier for them to change presidents in other countries than to change the president in their own country. -- Democracy Now

The question facing Trump is no longer, can he stay in office after January 20th through ballot-count manipulation? That dog, as they say, just won't hunt. But that doesn't mean his claims to victory will end or that shady attempts to manipulate Electoral College votes or his bogus legal suits won't continue on in the near future.

“He knows it’s over,” one adviser said. But instead of conceding, they said, he is floating one improbable scenario after another for staying in office while he contemplates his uncertain post-presidency future...By dominating the story of his exit from the White House, he hopes to keep his millions of supporters energized and engaged for whatever comes next. -- Maggie Haberman, NYT

But his refusal to concede and his non-commitment to a "peaceful transition" has also provoked speculation about a possible "coup d'etat". Some on the left have even raised the alarm that a coup is either underway or imminent. 

But are they really talking about a MAGA armed insurrection? No, I think they mean the kind of coup the Republicans successfully pulled off when Trump was able to tilt the Supreme Court to the right for generations to come. 

They are concerned that the MAGAs will make trouble, fail, and make more trouble, enabling Trump and Trumpism to emerge from the current battle in an even stronger position and with a larger and more devoted base than ever in the years to come leading up to the midterm elections. There is even talk about DT running again in '24.

Is it possible that Trump and the Republicans can successfully hold the White House for a second term? Doubtful. Is it possible that a real coup d'etat is at hand? Also doubtful. But should DT's threat be taken seriously? Yes. Why? Two reasons. 

One, because he's still in power until January 20th and he can sabotage the transition, damage the COVID recovery program ( For example, he's denying Biden's team access to Dr. Fauci and to internal government data), and mobilize a section of his cult base to provoke violence and disruption in the cities. Just what Biden doesn't need or want.

The Republican Party still belongs to Trump and so does the Senate, unless Democrats can pull of victories in both senate races in Georgia. That means he can continue to block most Democratic policy initiatives and Biden appointments for years, even though he's not the president. 

He's also capable of launching a desperate military adventure against Iran in the weeks ahead and suspend civil liberties here at home leaving Biden with a war, not of his own choosing, to manage once in office. 

Two, he can use the above threats as leverage in cutting a grand deal with Biden, who is touting himself as president for bipartisanship, national unity, and reconciliation. 

But what does Trump need to bargain for? 

Numer-one, immunity from prosecution for himself, his WH accomplices, and his entire grifter family, who all have illegally profited from his term in office. A presidential pardon won't do the trick so DT will need top-down pressure from Biden and the Democratic leadership to shut down the ongoing House investigations and put the kibosh on any moves to indict by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and NY's Atty. General Letitia James

Can Trump pull off such a deal? Would Biden agree to it in the name of reconciliation and "national unity"? It wouldn't surprise me. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

New Deal for Education needed if schools are to reopen safely


Chicago daycares and private schools report 495 Covid cases, but numbers don’t tell the whole story: “From April 1 through mid-October, the city has tracked 267 cases in child care centers, 207 in private and charter schools that offer some in-person instruction, and 21 at in-person park district camps. Most of those cases, though, involved adults — 90 cases in daycares, 145 cases in schools, and five at camps involved students,” reports
Chalkbeat Chicago’s Mila Koumpilova.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 79 new deaths and 12,623 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 10,289 deaths and 511,183 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from Nov. 3 through 9 is 12.0 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 13 percent.

Despite these numbers, it looks like the Chicago School Board is moving ahead with its plan for hybrid-opening. While Mayor Lightfoot and city health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady haven't set a return date, planning for in-person schooling is clearly underway.

I'm all in favor of planning now for an eventual opening of schools, but strongly opposed to school openings at a time like this, with new Covid cases at record levels. The risks are just too great.

Schools here and around the country, public and private, should open gradually only when outside conditions improve (ie. a vaccine) and only then when their facilities are deemed safe with policies in place to ensure student, teacher, and staff safety. That is certainly not the case now.

Planning for a reopening also needs to transcend the immediate logistical problems and include a total and radical revisioning of equitable and democratic schooling, school and curriculum design on a human scale, and use of technology in the post-pandemic era. 

Reopening can't be done unilaterally. There needs to be a collaborative effort between the school board, communities, and the teachers union. 

I'm still looking for leadership to step forward on that one, given the deep and wide political divisions among city Democrats. But I'm keeping hope alive. 

Hopefully, the Biden administration will make public ed a top priority and move immediately to provide the massive resources needed for all this. That should be our number-one demand on the new ed secretary, no matter who it is. Without those resources -- well over $1 trillion for starters -- no real progress is possible.

A LEGIT CASE FOR REOPENING NOW...I also realize that those favoring reopening now or soon have a legit case. I know, for example, that the Board and the mayor are being pressured by lots of parents who say they can no longer afford to stay home with their children during the day, who risk losing their jobs and possibly their health insurance, or who lack the resources and capacity for viable homeschooling.

For some, keeping kids at home for an extended period may expose them to even greater health and security risks than sending them to school. For others, schools provide a sense of community and mutual support that has been missing during the pandemic.

Some kind of accommodation has to be made available to them. More importantly, Congress needs to immediately pass the stimulus bill to offer relief to families, schools, and small businesses. 

ETHS students and coach try and deal with the shooting death of Ryan Bost while school remains closed.

The case for reopening was powerfully and emotionally made yesterday by Mike Ellis, the basketball coach at Evanston Township High School following the fatal shooting of one of his former players, Ryan Bost.
“It’s challenging right now to try and make sure all the kids are ok,” Ellis said. “If we had in-school learning we’d be meeting and just able to be with one another and talk. We are going to do a Zoom meeting to try to bring everybody together but a Zoom meeting doesn’t have the same influence it would in person.”

Monday, November 9, 2020

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

 


Rebecca Solnit

Biden's victory is only the prelude. What happens now is up to us. -- Guardian

James Downie, WaPo's Digital Opinions Editor

Black, brown, and working-class voters delivered Joe Biden the presidency; the hard work of turning out those voters wasn’t done by the national party this year, but by grass-roots organizers over many years. -- Democratic leaders play a ridiculous blame game with progressives

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon

After Biden pulled ahead in Pennsylvania, Sturgeon tweeted: ''The world can be a dark place at times just now — but today we are seeing a wee break in the clouds.'' - Washington Post

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

 “With the Republicans [potentially] retaining control of the Senate, it’s far from clear that any additional monies will be flowing by way of stimulus.” -- IL Playbook

IL State Rep. Bob Morgan on Madigan

 “Allegations surrounding Speaker Madigan and Commonwealth Edison are extremely troubling, as are [previous] ones about sexual harassment by top aides. Leadership requires taking responsibility, and the pervasive culture of mistrust and corruption in Illinois rests at Mike Madigan’s feet.” -- Statement

Erendira Rendon, Immigrant Advocacy and Defense Project V.P.

“This win doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the immigrant community is safe now." -- Tribune

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The epic freedom struggle continues. I'm feeling hopeful.

SNCC Poster, 1963, Photography by Danny Lyon

Woke up this morning with my mind
Stayed on freedom 

I woke up this morning with my head still ringing with music from Danny Lyon's new film, SNCC, and clear as a bell about the line connecting the great freedom struggle of the '50s and '60s with today's election. Win or lose, for me, this campaign was never simply about electing Joe Biden. Rather, it's about being part of a movement for freedom and social justice for the past 60 years, a movement that transcends party politics. 

This is definitely a which side are you on election like none other in my lifetime, save possibly Barack Obama's first campaign in '08. It's one that has certainly captured the democratic spirit of tens of millions from the heartland of the midwest to the so-called red states of the south and southwest. 

As the polls open this morning, nearly 100 million of us have already voted, more than two-thirds of the number of votes cast in the entire 2016 election.

Black and Latino voter turnout will likely hold the key to a Democratic victory, especially in southern and midwestern swing states. 

Of note... 239,822 African American voters over the age of 65 have already voted in Georgia, a state that has been red for the past three decades. That's 124% of the total 2016 turnout for African American seniors. Latino voters in GA are also turning out in record numbers. That state's results should be coming in early tonight and along with FL, should be a strong indicator of where things are headed. 

The ChiTown vote... More than 738,000 Chicagoans have already cast ballots in person or by mail, blowing past the city's early voting records set in 2016. I'm not worried about the Trump vote here IL. I'm just hoping that a giant turnout will mean State's Attorney Kim Foxx is reelected and the FairTax Amendment passes.  

All this and more, leaves me feeling hopeful about today's outcome. My hope is a massive anti-Trump vote will also bring a victory for Democrats down-ticket and return the Senate majority blue.

Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout have apparently fallen flat. This will likely leave Trump the choice of either conceding or more likely, resorting to futile attempts at sabotage or other counter-electoral or violent efforts to hang onto power. 

Defeating Trump today, if that happens, won't mean the death of Trumpism, neo-fascism, or white supremacy. That fight will likely continue for generations to come. But it will still mark an important victory in the long, ongoing freedom struggle and a reversal of the retrograde trend of the past four years. 

 

Monday, November 2, 2020

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

 

D.C. Teachers Union Pres. Elizabeth Davis

“The Chancellor’s plan to reopen our schools to in-person learning will disrupt the education of a vast majority of DCPS students. As educators, we do not believe this plan is good for our students or good for our schools.” -- Washington Post

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants
If Trump refuses to accept the election results, "we will have to do the one thing that takes all power and control from the government or anyone with corporate interests in keeping this person in office, and that is withholding our labor.”  -- Guardian
D.T.

At a campaign rally event, Trump criticized the media for their continued coverage of the crisis, prompting chants of “Fire Fauci!” from supporters. “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election. I appreciate the advice,” Trump told the crowd. -- Market Watch

PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro 

“Our elections are over when all the votes are counted. But if your lawyers want to try us, we’d be happy to defeat you in court one more time.” -- CNN

 Eugene Gu, MD

We need universal healthcare. Not just because the coronavirus pandemic is super scary right now but because many thousands of Americans have been dying without health insurance every day even before the pandemic. Yet we make certain deaths routine and other ones very political. -- Twitter

Saturday, October 31, 2020

SNCC: Danny Lyon's new film.


A note from Danny Lyon: 

This is an open link to my new film SNCC. Anyone can see it. It is free.

I welcome comments on the Vimeo site. Please share this with anyone you want.

Thanks

Danny

https://vimeo.com/461037507

Monday, October 26, 2020

WEEKEND QUOTABLES



Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

'Absolutely' my job to push Democrats to the left.

“We need to make sure that we win this White House,” she said. “Frankly, I think it would be privilege and would be a luxury for us to talk about what we would lobby Democratic and how we would push the next Democratic administration." -- CNN

 George McGraw, founder of the human rights nonprofit DigDeep

 “Race is the strongest indicator in 2020 of whether or not you will have a tap and a toilet in your house in the richest democracy on earth.” -- Capital & Main

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

 “We must not go backward to the failed approach that Pat O’Brien supports — an approach that put innocent people in prison and cost Chicago taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

“We cannot afford to go back to those dark days. For women like myself and Kim [Foxx], justice is not an abstract thing...We know when the deck is stacked against us. That’s why I voted for Kim.” -- Sun-Times

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the state’s Department of Public Health

 “I can’t break down why. I think it’s probably just a culmination of the frustration of seeing that we are repeating history." -- IL Playbook

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows

 “We’re not going to control the pandemic.” Pressed to explain why, he said, “because it is a contagious virus just like the flu." -- AP

Trump on TV

 "Turn on television: ‘covid, covid, covid, covid, covid.’ A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it - ‘covid, covid, covid, covid,’ " Trump said. “By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore.” -- Boston Globe

 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

With 9 days to go, a warning.


My Dodgers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last night. An improbable set of events that took place in 15 seconds may end up costing us them the World Series they were destined to win. 

Last night, I thought it was just a bad dream. But I woke up this morning and it was on ESPN. So it must have really happened.

A bad Election Day omen for Democrats?

Nah. Just a heads-up. Stuff happens.
#blackswan

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Normalizing fascist pathology

The star of the debate. What does that tell you?

"It was civil, calm, sedate, substantive (at times) and, almost, even normal." -- NYT

I was relieved when I first heard that there would be no second debate. Why would I, or anyone, want to expose themself to another exercise in demagoguery?

But then, when a desperate Trump, down by double-digits in the polls, agreed to take part, squelch button, partitions, and all, my heart sunk. I knew I would have to sit through another evening being bombarded with racist bombast, saber-rattling (by both sides), false promises, threats, and outright lies as corona deaths mount by the thousands.

No, watching these two go at it is not good for the soul. It only breeds more cynicism. But in between peeks at the Eagles/Giants game, that's exactly what I did. Don't ask me why? I knew the transcript would be readily available the next morning, but I did it anyway. 

The big news following the debate wasn't about the regime's tearing hundreds of immigrant babies away from their parents. It wasn't about Trump fiddling while the world burns (literally) or pandemic deaths topping 300,000. It was that DT wasn't as rude and disruptive as he was the first time around and that moderator Kristen Welker from NBC saved us all from Mr. Bluster. 

Welker became the star of the show and tired and bleeding nation breathed a sigh of relief. NBC took up 10 minutes of national news time this morning canonizing Kristen for a job well done. That in itself shows what an exercise in banality the whole event was.

The best response to that nonsense came from the New Republic's Alex Shephard

But the truth is that while Trump didn’t foam at the mouth, his performance was still pathological...Trump’s abnormalcy was an affront to [pundits'] sense of decorum and their sense of themselves as supreme knowers of American politics. There are rules, after all! And the rules say you must pivot! As Jay Rosen noted about the press when he explained how they create “Trump normalization.”

I actually thought I saw a little foam coming out the corner of his mouth.  

 Salon's Amanda Marcotte wrote:

What "civil" debate? The one I watched revealed Donald Trump as a cold-blooded psychopath. A calmer tone only exposed Trump's lack of basic empathy about the pandemic, family separation, or anything else. 

My brother Fred posted this 

My line has always been, let Trump be Trump. The more he rants, rages, the more the polls seem to tick upward for the Democrats. The problem with my theory is that fascist militia groups and white supremacists take his rhetoric as a call to action. 

It wasn't surprising then to read the next day, that a North Carolina man, with a plan to assassinate Joe Biden, was arrested with a van full of guns and explosives. 

My favorite Biden malaprop of the night was his referring to the white supremacist Proud Boys thugs as the "Poor Boys."

It's hard to pick out one most offensive bit of racist Trump debate jabber. Maybe this one:
It's a very-- it makes me sad because I am the least racist person. I can't even see the audience because it's so dark, but I don't care who's in the audience. I’m the least racist person in this room [repeated 3 times]. 

Or this regarding immigrants:

We have to send ICE out and Border Patrol out to find them. We would say, ‘Come back in two years, three years -- we're going to give you a court case. You did Perry Mason, we're going to give you a court case. When you say they come back, they don't come back, Joe. They never come back. Only the really --  I hate to say this -- but those with the lowest IQ, they might come back. 

 This second debate was, at best, a nothing burger. It hardly moved the needle as far as the polls were concerned. In that sense, it could be seen as a win for Biden since DT, with only 10 days left until Election Day, needed a big win to stem the Democratic tide. 

As for substance, there wasn't much. But by now, all you political junkies out there can rattle off the rest of DT's most offensive and racist lines. So I won't bother. 

But if you need a list of the past four years of his possibly indictable crimes, cruelties, collusions, corruptions, here's a good one from McSweeny's. It's handy to have them all in one place.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The story about Iranian election interference is borderline laughable


It looks like a record voter turnout and that could signal a crushing defeat for Trump and his down-ticket Republicans. That is, if all the votes are counted and if millions of voters aren't denied access to the polls (a big IF, I know).

Take North Carolina for instance, where more people have now early-voted than the total number of people who voted for Donald Trump in North Carolina in 2016. Nationwide, nearly 50 million people have already voted, including at least 21.2 million in battleground states

Registered Democrats are outvoting Republicans by a large margin in states that report such data. So Trumpers are resting their hopes on a huge Election Day MAGA turnout. 

But with Election Day only 10 days away, we're seeing a barrage of disinformation from DT's camp about "widespread voter fraud" and "foreign interference" that could tamp down Election Day turnout. This despite evidence coming from FBI director, Christopher Wray that such fraud just doesn't exist. 

The Republicans aim to spread last-minute chaos and confusion like they did in 2016 with then-Director James Comey's last-minute "expose" of Hillary Clinton's emails. All this to discourage an anticipated huge voter turnout. They know that the larger the turnout, the more likely a Democratic sweep.

Watch as...

With the voter-fraud conspiracy theories now largely debunked, the next phase of the disinformation campaign points the finger at "foreign interference." Actually, this is coming from both camps with Democrats are pointing once again at Russia while Trumpers at Iran. I don't doubt that there are efforts by foreign intelligence agencies to influence the outcome, one way or the other. But it's doubtful that these attempts will bear fruit.

United States national security officials said that Iran and Russia had obtained American voter registration data, and that Iran had used the information to send threatening, faked emails to voters. -- New York Times

But the current wave of hysteria about Iranian interference is almost laughable. With DT threatening to fire Wray and Atty. Gen. Wm. Barr unless they do something big at the last minute to help turn the election, the best they could come up with was an alleged Iranian scheme to send threatening emails, supposedly from the Proud Boys, to potential Democratic voters, warning us not to vote, "or else."

John Ratcliffe 

So it was left up to John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, to sound the alarm. 

From NYT:

 ...spoofed emails, sent to Democratic voters, purported to be from pro-Trump far-right groups, including the Proud Boys. Iranian hackers tried to cover their tracks, intelligence and security officials said, first routing the emails through a compromised Saudi insurance company network. Later, they sent more than 1,500 emails using the website of an Estonian textbook company, according to an analysis by researchers at Proofpoint, a cybersecurity firm.

I mean, really? 1,500 emails? Anybody you know get one?

Sorry, I didn't mean to laugh but the thought of some Iranian hackers sitting in a room somewhere, thinking they could swing the election by trying to sound like American Proud Boys, and sending a tiny group of emails to us via Estonia, strikes me as funny. 

My take: If it's voting disinformation you're looking for, look no farther than the White House Communications Dept. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Police & Mental Health: A Bad Mix


For weeks, Brandon Hayes wandered around Baton Rouge during a mental health crisis, spray-painting nonsensical messages along the way before finally checking himself into the hospital for treatment. police officers soon showed up at the behavioral health center where Hayes was being treated, placed him under arrest and in the midst of the COVID pandemic, transported him to the parish jail — an outdated and overcrowded detention center that even the warden has called "deplorable" for mental health patients... Read the whole story here.

In L.A., Tulsa, Seattle, and several other cities, there are new pilot initiatives to partner cops with mental health experts and social workers. Even though activists' demands to "defund" the police seem to have lost favor with voters -- Democrats won't touch the issue -- it's clear that the new collaboratives have been driven in large part by public reaction to unabated police killings and brutality towards the mentally ill. 

Studies show that 1 in 4 people with mental illness have a history of police arrest. The Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that studies mental health issues, has calculated that the odds of being killed during a police encounter are 16X higher for individuals with untreated serious mental illness as they are for people in the broader population.

The new collaboratives are a small, but significant victory for police reformers as well as for the Black Lives Matter movement, although few will admit it.   

As you might expect, Trump is mocking the new pilot collaboratives at his campaign rallies. 

At his illegal Oct. 10th rally at the White House, DT claimed that Biden said, “When you call 911, a therapist should answer the call.” 

He didn’t of course, although it's not such a bad idea. What Biden has said is that mental health experts should accompany police on some calls. No, it's not a very radical concept. Plus, although DT probably doesn't remember, it's a policy even he supported in a June executive order.

What a dick!

This from Amanda Klonsky on FB:
It's been 7 months, and winter is looming. Mental health issues related to our lock down and the pandemic are especially hard for people with depression and other mental health disorders. NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Health has a helpline: (800)950-6264. The relapse and overdose rate has increased by 30% since March 2020.
The 24 hr suicide prevention hotline is: (800)273-8255

Thanks Amanda. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

I'm missing live radio

Rick Smith

CORONA BLUES...I'm badly missing doing live, in-studio radio. Hitting Left With the Klonsky Brothers has been on hiatus since June and we've been out of the studio since March. Brother Fred and I did podcast two months' worth of shows from home but it wasn't the same. 

No Friday morning planning meetings at Bridgeport Coffee and no live connection with the studio crew at Lumpen Radio. Doing the show over Zoom left us feeling empty, similar in a way to how many teachers I know are feeling doing remote teaching. 

All three years of archived shows are available and still getting lots of downloads at Mixcloud, Libsyn.com, and wherever else you get your podcasts. 

The clouds lifted a little last night when I got a chance to talk ed/politics live on The Rick Smith Show. Thanks, Rick. 

Rick wanted my take on why, with public education teetering on the brink, there's so little campaign debate over ed issues? Why especially aren't Biden and Harris taking it to Trump and his ed secretary, DeVos for the way they have diverted billions in public education funding to private schools and privately-run charters or for the way they have tried to force schools to open under pandemic conditions without the necessary supports in place? 

Part of the answer is that Trump has been allowed to control the campaign agenda with his bombast and fascist demagoguery. Another part may lie in the Dems not wanting to revisit the Arne Duncan years during the Obama administration. Duncan's Race To The Top, with its use of federal funding to drive school closings, teacher firings, testing madness, and privatization actually set the table for DeVos. 

The Democrat's official ed platform, heavily influenced by the progressive wing of the party, is actually pretty good. But neither Biden nor Harris seem willing to mention it. Maybe it's part of their attempt to keep a safe distance from the progressives. 

Trump bailed out by NBC

While Trump is losing in the polls...
 He is still controlling the media agenda with direct or tacit support from big media. Look no further than the competing Town Hall meetings scheduled for today in lieu of a second Biden/Trump debate. 

The Trump NBC town hall will air at exactly the same time as Biden is speaking on ABC. This after Trump abruptly withdrew from the scheduled second head-to-head debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to stage the event virtually over concerns that Trump might still be contagious with the coronavirus.

According to the Times:
 Even journalists inside NBC and MSNBC were taken aback at the network’s decision to air the event opposite an already scheduled ABC forum with Joe Biden, meaning Americans can’t watch both candidates live.
Here's some reaction...


 This is a bad result for American voters, who should not be forced to choose which to watch. So much is still going wrong with how TV journalism copes, or still fails to cope, with @realDonaldTrump. https://t.co/eRylzIuIBO

Yes, #Vote. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Trump used the last debate to send signals to right-wing militia. What is his plan for the next one?

Trump fave Sen. Mike Lee says, "We're not a democracy."
TRUMP: Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”

 “Standing by sir,” co-chairman Enrique Tarrio said on the platform Parler, which is known for hosting far-right and extremist groups. “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA… well sir! we’re ready!!”

The Next Debate...Covid-infected and steroid-addled Trump is threatening not to show up for the next debate with Biden unless it is held face-to-face where he can do the most damage. But it's clear to me he's bluffing. 

Democrats are playing it cool, saying that Biden will participate whether it's face-to-face or zoomed. But my question is, why? Another debate under these conditions is of no benefit to Biden or anyone else. At this point, Biden's big lead in the polls is about as wide as it's going to get. 

It's Trump who thinks he needs another platform for his demagoguery and racist appeals to his shrinking and demoralized MAGA base. This even though Republicans saw voters peel away in large numbers after the first debate. 

The last debate was an abomination with Trump putting on his worst bully-boy performance against a vanilla Biden. No need to rehash the particulars, except for one. DT used the first debate platform to issue his "stand down, stand by" shoutout to white supremacist Proud Boy thugs and various right-wing militia groups who, it turns out, were already plotting and planning acts of terrorism. 

This wasn't the debating tactic of a man trying to move voters in his party's direction. After the debate, Biden's poll margin widened to double-digit with only a few weeks left in the campaign. Rather, it was part of an ongoing Republican strategy aimed at undermining democracy, discrediting the election, and blatantly moving towards an extra-electoral (read fascist) attempt to hang on to power regardless of the outcome. 

Other Republicans picked up on the signal and are justifying a possible Trump coup with polemics against democracy. Trump fave, Sen. Mike Lee for one, (R-UT) declared Wednesday,

 “We’re not a democracy...We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that."

Trump's signal to the militias... DT, despite feigning ignorance of Proud Boys and other right-wing militia groups the other night, had to know that the so-called Wolverine Watchmen terrorists were plotting to storm the State Capitol, instigate a civil war, kill police, and abduct the governor of Michigan ahead of the presidential election. After all, the group had long been infiltrated by the FBI and was under constant surveillance by AG Barr's Justice Dept.

Armed right-wing militia at MI state capitol in May.


With probable knowledge of the planned FBI arrests, Trump's debate call to "stand down and stand by" can be interpreted as more than a shout-out to the groups, but also as a warning of the impending crackdown.

He then called Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan “the lockup queen” even as his own Justice Department was announcing the existence of an anti-government group’s plot to kidnap her.

Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!"

Trump's criminal use of the debate stage to send signals to white-supremacist terrorists should certainly mean his exclusion from the debate stage, not to mention possible criminal charges in the future. 

Columnist Paul Waldman in the Washington Post writes:

We are already in an age of minority rule. If Republicans manage to hang on to their power, it will get much worse... Ask yourself this: Is there any action you can think of, perhaps outside of literally dropping nuclear bombs on cities where Democrats live, about which you could say “Republicans would never go that far”?

 No, there aren't. 

VOTE!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Harris started hot and then let Pence escape and evade

 

M.Klonsky pic

The much anticipated V.P. debate turned out to be a dud with Pence ducking and dodging every question and SenKamala Harris overly restrained and moderator Susan Page failing to go after him. 

I liked Harris a lot better in that primary debate back in June, when she went aggressively after Joe Biden for his backward role in the school integration battles of the '70s. Remember her devastating line, "that little girl was me."

Last night she started hot. 
Well, the American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country. And here are the facts. 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months. Over 7 million people who have contracted this disease. One in five businesses closed.  We're looking at frontline workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers. We are looking at over 30 million people who in the last several months had to file for unemployment. And here's the thing, on January 28, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic. They were informed that it's lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it will affect young people and that it would be contracted because it is airborne. And they knew what was happening, and they didn't tell you. 
But then cooled off. 

Should have been BOOM! DEBATE OVER! But it wasn't. Instead, Trump's loyal V.P. was allowed to repeatedly escape and evade, steal time with long non-sequiturs, violate time limits, mansplain issues of race, criminal justice, China, and the economy, and put Kamala on the defensive on so-called, "court-packing."

Pence's outright lies were received with skeptical smiles but mainly went unchecked with little or no follow-up questioning from Page or anticipated counter-attack from Harris.  

Eg...Pence, defending Trump and himself on their failure to control pandemic-spread, praised D.T. for his supposed suspension of all travel from China. He lied. Thousands were exempted from the partial ban. Plus it was travelers from Europe, not China, who brought the pandemic to NY.

On the environment: Pence's claim that "our water is among the cleanest in the world" went unchallenged, except of course, from what I imagine were thousands of fist-shaking viewers in Flint, MI. 

He went on to deny the existence of systemic racism in the U.S., in effect supporting Trump's ban on teaching about the history of racism in schools or anti-racism training in the workplace.

Pence stonewalled Page's question about whether or not he and D.T. would accept the election results if they lost. Page quickly moved on and Harris didn't pursue. 

Trump's current squashing of a bi-partisan COVID-relief bill in order to fast-track his supreme court nomination never even came up. 

And so it went. 

Interesting side note: The term "the American people" was used 57 times in just two hours, mainly by Pence. I cringed every time he said it, knowing that he was using the term to represent his base of mainly white, male MAGAs.  
PENCE: I think the American people know that this is a president who has put the health of America first...But when you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn't worked, that's a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made... and I'm going to speak up on behalf of what the American people have done...President Trump and I have great confidence in the American people and their ability to take that information and put it into practice...We told the American people what needed to be done and the American people made the sacrifices. 
We sure as hell did sacrifice...212K dead. 

Another: 

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley castigated Pence after he invoked the nickname AOC for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during the debate. 
“Pence you are obsessed,” the Massachusetts congresswoman wrote. “She’s a prolific legislator, a historymaker, a movement leader, I get it. But stop being so familiar. Titles matter & she’s earned hers. It’s CONGRESSWOMAN Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AUTHOR of the Green New Deal.”

But the most likely takeaway, the thing people will long remember about this debate, was the fly that landed on Pence's head and offered us viewers a few moments of hilarity, diversion from the two-hour nothing-burger on the stage.

I doubt if anything else that occurred on that stage will move the needle by even a point.

With COVID-stricken, steroid-addled Trump's announcement yesterday that he won't participate in the next presidential debate, last night's event will likely be the last of this campaign's televised debates. 

Fine with me. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

WEEKEND QUOTABLES


Dr. James Phillips, Attending physician at Walter Reed

“This is insanity...Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die...For political theater,” the doctor added. -- Guardian
Trump to advisor

 “Don’t tell anyone.” -- WSJ

Sean Conley, Trump's doctor

Conley on Sunday defended the decision to not disclose that the President was administered oxygen by saying he wanted to "reflect the upbeat attitude of the team."

"I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, his course of illness has had. I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something," Conley said, adding that "wasn't necessarily true." -- CNN

 Columnist Moira Donegan

America has a super-spreader president. He put us all – and himself – at risk. -- Guardian

 Billionaire hedge funder Ray Dalio on capitalism’s crisis

Capitalists don’t divide the economic pie very well, he says, and so today the capitalist system, the foundation of the U.S. economy, is not working efficiently and effectively enough for all. 

“Capitalism also produces large wealth gaps that produce opportunity gaps, which threaten the system...What’s going on is an economic downturn together with a large wealth gap and the rising power of China challenging the existing power of the United States. -- Market Watch

Friday, October 2, 2020

More campaign chaos as COVID rocks the WH

 Trump at the debate: "I don’t wear masks like [Biden]. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen."

Just when you thought there could be no real October surprises... 

I mean what new sordid tale could possibly be left to tell about the Trump White House, that snakepit of grifters, fascists, and white supremacists, who are largely responsible for the deaths of more than 204,000 U.S. COVID victims? This, even after Tuesday's vile debate performance in Cleveland Tuesday night where the president mocked his opponent and bragged, "I don't wear masks like him".

Now we know. With only a month to go before election day comes word that DT and Melania have both contracted the deadly coronavirus. The carefully constructed media story now being dribbled out is that they got it from White House official Hope Hicks, the former fashion model who, at age 26 was conscripted to be his campaign press secretary, even though she had never worked in politics and had no campaign experience. 

I'm sure that scenario will be rewritten and fine-tuned a hundred times once it's dug into. And in the days ahead we may learn the real story of how many others on the WH staff, the secret service, military leaders, or Republican pols have also been infected, directly or indirectly by super-spreader Trump? How many thousands more mask-disdaining MAGA rally-goers, Sturgis, S.D.-visiting bikers, or thousands of others who simply bought into Trump's fantastic tales about the COVID "hoax", or his hydroxychloroquine, sunlight, and bleach remedies, have died or are suffering from this interminable pandemic?

And let's not forget that Joe Biden, staffers, camera people, and technicians spent more than 90 minutes on a stage with the President. His family and his other guests were in the audience where Team Trump refused to wear masks.

Now it appears the chickens have come home to roost. October surprises? Buckle up. There's still a month left in the campaign and promises of more political chaos down the road.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trump tells his fascist Proud Boys to 'stand back and stand by'.


It was the fascist, white supremacist, bullyboy vs. the underwhelming centrist Democrat in last night's theater of the absurd. 

Trump, trailing badly in the polls with only weeks to go, did just what he was coached to do, what he has been doing consistently for the past three years -- show no regard for protocol, bully, harangue, and intimidate in hopes Biden and his liberal supporters would crumble in fear and steer clear of the polls in November. The strategy surely failed last night. But we won't know the real effects until the ballots are counted (or not).

Biden held up well considering, punching back when he had to, but calmly turning to the cameras and getting his main talking points across. Biden's high point came when talking about his youngest son. Biden rolled with what must have been a gut punch, saying: “My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people we knew at home, had a drug problem.” 

He avoided any major gaffe or stumble that would feed into the Trump narrative that Biden is too old or not fit to serve as president. But in the face of Trump's incessant red-baiting, Biden took the McCarthyist bait and ran from the party's socialist and progressive left and policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare For All.  

DONALD TRUMP: So why didn't you get the word… China sends up real dirt into the air. Russia does. India does. They all do. We're supposed to be good. And by the way, he made a couple of statements. The Green New Deal is a hundred trillion dollars.

JOE BIDEN: That is not my plan [crosstalk]. The Green New Deal [crosstalk] is not my plan. 

 DONALD TRUMP: Your party wants to go socialist medicine and socialist healthcare. 

JOE BIDEN: The party is me. Right now, I am the Democratic Party. 

DONALD TRUMP: And they're going to dominate you, Joe. You know that.

JOE BIDEN: I am the Democratic Party right now.

It was shades of Louis XIV's  L'État, c'est moi, except that Louie had it right. He was the state, holding power in France with an iron fist during a 74-year reign of terror. Biden is no Louie and definitely NOT the party, or at least not the party's future. 

MY main takeaway from last night's debacle is that a sitting president of the United States, on the world stage, refused time and time again to renounce white supremacy and openly encouraged gangs of racist, anti-semitic thugs like the Proud Boys to intimidate voters.

When asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace if he'd denounce the violence from white supremacist groups, Trump's chilling reply was: 

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

The Proud Boys were reportedly celebrating Trump's fascist call to arms last night, along with his charge to his followers to invade polling places

He also made it clear that he wasn't going to accept the election results if he loses, and admitted for the first time that he was placing Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court to resolve any election disputes.

CHRIS WALLACE: And are you counting on the Supreme Court, including a Justice Barrett, to settle any dispute?

DONALD TRUMP: Yeah. I think I'm counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely.

And then... 

CHRIS WALLACE: … Will you urge your supporters to stay calm during this extended period, not to engage in any civil unrest? And will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified? President Trump, you go first-

DONALD TRUMP: I'm urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully because that's what has to happen. I am urging them to do it. As you know, today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They're called poll watchers, a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren't allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.

I don't know if last night's debate debacle will move the needle any in the polls. It may slightly, considering that many Trump supporters, raised exclusively on FOX News and Rush Limbaugh, rarely get to see him challenged directly by Democrats. But either way, the debate did succeed in making the choice abundantly clear to all what exactly they are voting for and against.