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. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

$750

 


If Joe Biden can't win tomorrow's debate now, he's really in deep doo-doo. I mean, his winning talking points have been handed to him on a silver platter. 

Joe -- just keep saying "seven hundred and fifty dollars" over and over. Viewers will get it. 

The bombshell revelations that President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters and provide a new opening for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, on the eve of the first presidential debate. -- AP

Whenever they refer to blue-collar voters, their white blindspot is showing. You know they've only been interviewing white voters without college degrees for these stories. They're certainly not talking in class terms since Black voters, who are predominantly working class, never bought into Trumpism in the first place. While an overwhelming percentage of Black, Latinx, and working poor will vote for Biden and the Democrats; turnout and overcoming Republican vote-counting shenanigans will be key.

Winning Tuesday's debate doesn't necessarily mean winning the election. Biden remains steadily on top in the polls, but so did Hillary Clinton in 2016, winning the popular vote by 3 million votes even while running the worst campaign ever. But in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Democrats failed to reach out and mobilize Black voters in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit and Philly and ended up losing those states and the electoral college votes that come with them, by less than 100,000 votes.

Biden became the party's nominee in hopes that his folksy style would win over white working class Trump voters in those battleground states. But so far, the campaign's focus on winning Republican voters has not paid off. For example, the Democratic convention featured more Republican than Latinx speakers, and now most polls show Biden with weak support among sections of Latinx voters. 

This according to Peter Hogness and Emily Lee in their Guardian op-ed.  

Defeating Trump is too important to leave to the Biden campaign.

Biden is not our savior. In fact, if he wins, on many issues he may be our opponent. But defeating Trump will open possibilities for organizing that won’t exist if he remains in office. 
I doubt that most Democratic voters are looking for Biden to be their "savior." This election is about one thing -- getting Trump out of the White House and his fellow Trumpists out of the senate. 

I don't know if Trump's personal gaming of the tax system will move the needle any in terms of losing his MAGA base. But the new revelations may hopefully put some pep into Democratc steps and give Biden some good talking points among working class voters who have to pay their taxes. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

How should we respond to the latest numbers?

Chicago Mayor Lightfoot put this message on every digital billboard in the city.

Reporter: "Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?"
President Trump: "We're going to have to see what happens." -- NBC News

In case you're hanging your emotional hat on the ups and downs of the national polls -- don't. They really don't tell you much except that JoeBiden will likely be on top of the polls by election time, but by numbers within the margin-of-error. The state-by-state polls, especially in the 2016 battleground states, are slightly more telling. They clearly show that Trump is in trouble in many of the states he won in 2016.

For example, Biden is leading or running close in Iowa, Texas, and (can you believe it?) Georgia. 

They show that Biden is running stronger in swing states than Clinton did in 2016, and if all the votes are counted fairly, Trump will lose, not only the popular vote again, but in the electoral college as well. Not only that, but a Biden victory will likely carry several more Democrat senate candidates to victory with him. Of course, that's all a big IF. 

Trump may not be the brightest bulb but he can count just like we can. His likely response to these numbers will be a turn towards an extra-electoral move to hang onto power; i.e., a coup d'etat of some sort. 

The coup is already happening with his appointment of a supreme court justice prior to the election, a key to his plan. Republican hope is that even if the election results are tied up in the courts, a majority of the justices will call it for Trump. Even if the plan fails, the high court will be key in intervening in state prosecutions of Trump and his grifter family. 

The Atlantic reports that the Trump campaign is already "discussing contingency plans to bypass election results."

And this yesterday on CNN:

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster," Trump said, when asked if he could commit to the peaceful transition.
"(G)et rid of the ballots and you'll have a very ... there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."
To prevent Trump from stealing the election, says Elie Mystal in The Nation, people need to vote in such overwhelming numbers that we overcome all his shenanigans. And the best way to do that is to vote early in person.
Not everybody can vote in person, of course. I’m not a Republican, which means I don’t believe Grandma needs to risk death in order to win an election. The most you can reasonably ask of a person for whom going  to the polls is too dangerous is to request and return an absentee ballot. But if your state offers early in-person voting and it’s safe for you to do so, you should.
I agree with this voting strategy but would add that we also need to start making contingency plans around the possibility that the coup is successful and that it is backed up by police, military and para-military forces. Yes, vote early and in-person if possible, but get organized for a struggle that goes beyond election day.

A NEW HILL-HARRIS  X POLL FINDS...51% of registered voters want to do away with the electoral college altogether. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote by roughly 3 million votes but won the electoral college against Hillary Clinton. 

The EC, born of compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, was set up to protect the slave states. The result was that for 32 of the United States’ first 36 years, a slave-holding Virginian occupied the White House (John Adams from Massachusetts was the exception).

CHICAGO NUMBERS...Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is beating great-white-hope Republican Pat O’Brien by more than 14 points. This despite O'Brien trying to paint Foxx as "soft on crime" and Foxx being made a target by Trump and his partners at the head of the FOP over the Smollett case.  

Monday, September 21, 2020

WEEKEND QUOTABLES


Mayor Lori Lightfoot at RGB vigil

Lightfoot spoke about how, less than 12 hours after Ginsburg’s death, President Donald Trump released his list of Supreme Court justice picks. When Lightfoot mentioned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s name, the crowd booed in unison.

“The forces of darkness and evil were already at work. The hypocrisy of these people knows no limit.” -- Chicago gathering for RBG

State's Atty. Kim Foxx on RBG

 Foxx continued: “While some might argue the law is not a place for social activism, Ginsburg didn’t listen to this noise, always rising above the critics to bring justice and equality for the American people.” -- Sun-Times

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on RBG

“It’s not just the fact that she’s a woman who served on our highest court or the first Jewish woman to serve on our highest court. But it’s how she served...And when you are in this space, you don’t have to occupy this space in the way that every man before you did. You can be the first, and you can be brazen, as you are the first.” -- NYT interview

 Donald Trump

"You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn't it, don't you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we're so different? You have good genes in Minnesota." -- At Minnesota rally

Ed Rendell, former DNC Chair

“Suburban whites are pretty much gone” for Trump,  And Biden is far less objectionable to many working-class whites than Clinton, a more polarizing nominee whose favorability ratings were lower than Biden’s. -- Trump loses ground with white voters

 Rebecca Solnit

What we do now matters as it never has before. As a country, we are on the cusp of an epic decision. Climate change, Covid – our hearts ache. But a new era is possible. We can do it. -- Guardian



W.E.B. DuBois (1946)

I should be the last to insist that the uplift of mankind never calls for force and death. There are times, as both you and I know, when
“Tho’ love repine and reason chafe,
There came a voice without reply,
‘Tis man’s perdition to be safe
When for truth he ought to die.” 

Monday, September 14, 2020

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

 

John Fogerty: "Confounding" that Trump campaign played "Fortunate Son" at the rally.

CA Gov. Gavin Newsom

"The debate is over around climate change," Newsom said as he toured a burn area in Northern California. "Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes. It’s not an intellectual debate. It’s not even debatable any longer."  -- NBC Bay Area

Donald Trump

“I have built a nuclear — a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody — what we have is incredible." -- Forbes

 Roger Stone to Trump: bring in martial law if you lose the election

...said Trump should seize total power and jail prominent figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg if he loses to Joe Biden in November. Stone said Trump should consider invoking the Insurrection Act and arresting the Clintons, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Tim Cook of Apple, and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity”. -- Guardian

John Fogerty

“It’s a song I could have written now, and so I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies, when in fact it seems like he is probably the fortunate son." -- The Hill

Bill Russell, NBA Hall of Famer

"Racism is not a historical footnote." -- Players' Tribune 

IL Atty. General Kwame Raoul 

“How old were you when a cop 1st pulled a gun on you?”  “Seventeen,” he answered. It happened at the corner of 50th and Woodlawn avenues on Chicago’s South Side." -- Politico

 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Biden's coalition & the Pentagon budget


The very thought of a Trump victory in November is so odious that it leaves me fearful for the world's future and the future of my children and grandchildren. The growing threats of uncontained global pandemics, impending environmental disasters like the current west-coast firestorms, fascism enforced by a puppet Justice Department and a stacked right-wing Supreme Court for the next 40 years are all terrifying and will drive me and hopefully millions of others to the polls as soon as they open, to vote for Biden/Harris and to recapture the Senate. 

But now and post-election, I am also deeply concerned about the right-center election coalition the Democratic leadership is banking on to win in November and to rule the country for the foreseeable future. It's an alliance built on a partnership with that old gang of neocons (so-called "moderate Republicans") and all but excludes the party's progressive wing. 

Most troubling about the revival of the old Clinton/McCain foreign policy coalition is its regime-change and Cold War strategies. They are the foundations for eternal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East--wars that are bringing us closer to what would be a disastrous military confrontation with China.

This grouping has never met a war they didn't like going all the way back to Vietnam, and Trump is actually seeking a faster withdrawal than Biden of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and those based in NATO countries like Germany. No less important, though perhaps less headline-grabbing, was Trump’s 2017 expansion of the 1033 program, which provides for the transfer of Defense Department military gear to civilian police departments. So increasing D.O.D. spending also means the increased militarization of the police. 

Don't take it from me. Take it from Biden himself who yesterday assured the Pentagon brass that under his regime, its near-trillion-dollar war budget would not remain merely intact, but could be increased, and that U.S. troops would continue to be an occupying force in Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

Biden said, however, that the Defense Department desperately needs to innovate in emerging technology such as beefing up its cyberwarfare capabilities and unmanned aircraft.

“We have to focus more on unmanned capacity, cyber and IT, in a very modern world that is changing rapidly,” Biden said. “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the budget is going to have to be increased.”

Let's be clear:  Cyber and drone warfare are no less deadly than traditional warfare, while even increasing the numbers of civilian casualties.  

According to the Pentagon's own organ, Stars & Stripes:

But the guiding star for the Pentagon since 2018 has been the National Defense Strategy, formulated by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that identifies China as America's principal adversary. That's likely to carry over to the next administration no matter who's in charge, say defense strategy experts Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute and Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Relations.

All this runs completely counter to the policies of the party's Progressive Caucus, which call for a 10% cut in military spending, with that $70B redirected towards social spending. 

Ahead of the Senate’s consideration of a proposed $740.5 billion military budget authorization, Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor to call for a 10% cut in annual Pentagon spending to invest in education, health care, and poverty reduction in America’s most marginalized communities. Sanders has been the most vocal critic of the Democratic leadership on this.

"At this pivotal moment in American history,” said Sanders, “we have to make a fundamental decision. Do we want to spend billions more on endless wars in the Middle East, or do we want to provide decent jobs to millions of unemployed Americans here at home? Do we want to spend more money on nuclear weapons or do we want to invest in decent jobs and childcare and healthcare for the American people most in need?"

But Progressive Caucus' House amendment in July was soundly defeated with a majority of Democratic reps voting in opposition. A review of campaign contributions later showed that Democrats who voted against the amendment received far more campaign funding from defense industry interests.  

Some pundits say that Biden's prostrating himself before the generals is little more than an election campaign ploy to take advantage of Trump's recent "suckers" and "losers" insults to GIs and veterans and win over Republican voters and isolating progressives in key battleground states. Another scenario has Biden is trying to placate the military brass to keep them neutral in the event that Trump refuses to leave the White House after losing the vote. 

Such tactical moves in the face of a possible Republican win in November are understandable. But it's still pretty clear that Biden's election coalition partners are clearly pro-Pentagon spending and demanding that he rid himself of their progressive opposition as the price for their support. 

That battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, as John Nichols calls it, will continue right up through election day and beyond. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Barr, take your law-and-order shit show out of our city

AG Barr, who has turned the Justice Dept into accused rapist Trump's personal defense attorney, get the hell out of our city!
Trump's protector and faithful sidekick, Atty. Gen. William Barr is in Chicago to tout his so-called Operation Legend, which has so far resulted in the mass incarceration of thousands of mainly Black and Latino young men in cities across the country.

Barr claims the operation is responsible for reducing the city's gun violence. But that claim is bullshit (not her words), according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot

In contrast, Barr is using the Justice Department to aid and abet the international gang of criminals that now occupies the White House. The latest outrage is Barr's move to replace  Trump’s private legal team with DOJ lawyers to defend the accused rapist in a defamation suit brought by author E. Jean Carroll. Last year, Carroll credibly accused Trump of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s.

In Chicago, FBI sweeps have led to the arrests of more than 500 people, many on federal gun and drug charges so those arrested can be held without bail. The DOJ operation involves federal agents conducting large scale, counter-gang investigations using police informants and covert aerial surveillance. This at a time when Chicago's crime rate is on the decline and when area prisons have become COVID hot spots. 

But Operation Legend has more to do with Trump's election campaign than it does with crime-fighting. Barr has used his appearance here to blame the supposed "wave of violent crime" on the ongoing nationwide protests since the police killing of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, as well as on "anarchic and far-left extremist groups."

Using Wednesday's announcement in part to criticize ongoing efforts pushing for racial justice and police reform, Barr blamed those protests in part for a spike in crime nationwide earlier this year and repeated a "law and order" refrain often employed by President Donald Trump as he campaigns for reelection. -- 5 Chicago

With the election only weeks away, Trump is counting on a new law-and-order surge to energize his base and spread fear among white suburban voters while painting Democratic-run cities, especially those with black mayors, as crime-ridden "shitholes." 

To her credit, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, while offering to work with the feds to control the worsening gun violence in the city, slammed the Trump/Barr political assault on Chicago, leaving Barr to complain that Lightfoot excluded federal efforts in their own discussions on the decrease in crime--adding that Chicago police had been invited to Wednesday's announcement but declined to attend, with Barr citing "politics" as the reason.
"They were certainly invited and could have attended," Barr said, when asked why members of CPD were not standing with federal law enforcement on Wednesday.
Lightfoot responds:
"Nearly two months ago, the mayor sent a letter to the President outlining areas where the federal government has the unique ability to help us fight the epidemic of gun violence... While the president continues to make factually inaccurate comments about Chicago from the political stump, almost two months later, we've received no response to the letter and worse, no results from him for Chicago. We hope Attorney General Barr's visit is part of an effort to help make these actions a reality as opposed to using our city and its residents as a political prop, as his boss regularly does."
It wasn't.

Omar Muhammad (formerly known as Omar Saunders), from left; Marcelias Bradford, Larry Ollins, and his cousin Calvin Ollins were arrested and falsely convicted as teens in the abduction, rape, and murder of a woman. Advanced DNA testing more than a decade later cleared all four. Foxx's opponent, former prosecutor Patrick O'Brien led the frame-up. 

Along with the black city mayors, the law-and-order Republicans' main target has been Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx. Foxx is currently locked in a close campaign battle with Republican great-white-hope former prosecutor Patrick O'Brien who has attacked Foxx for being "soft on crime," particularly in her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, as a centerpiece of his campaign. 

But it was O'Brien who led a Barr-like charge in a rushed effort to convict four West Side teenagers on trumped-up rape and murder charges more than 30 years ago. It is clear now that torture was used in obtaining a confession that led to their false conviction.

All. four were cleared by DNA evidence after a decade in prison. 


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

LABOR DAY WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Students at Hawthorne Scholastic Academic on Chicago's North Side picked up supplies to use at home in the waning days of summer vacation. Remote classes for Chicago Public Schools students begin today. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
CPS parent
“I seriously want to cry. … There is NO WAY he can be online all day like this. It isn’t possible.” A teacher responded: “Believe me, teachers are crying too.” -- WBEZ
Diane Ravitch
 I am a proud anti-fascist. Are you? -- Blog
Robert Reich
No other developed nation has nearly the inequities found in the US, even though all have been exposed to the same forces of globalization and technological change. -- Guardian
Donald Trump
...says his appointed Pentagon brass "want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy." -- WH Press Conference 
Columnist Eugene Robinson
 Trump’s message to Whites is unmistakable: Be afraid. Those people — you know who I mean — are trying to take over your country. I will stop them. All of this is nothing less than undisguised white supremacy. -- Washington Post
Senior administration official
“The president means no disrespect to our troops; it’s just that the way he speaks, he can sound like an asshole sometimes." -- Daily Beast

Monday, August 31, 2020

Violent confrontations part of Trump's game plan for holding power

Right-wing armed militiamen takes to the streets in Portland. 
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to denounce armed vigilantes taking to the streets during at today's press briefing. Asked if the White House believes that citizens should stop showing up in cities, especially ones they don’t live in, with weapons to protect buildings, McEnany didn’t directly answer. -- CNN
Trump's inciting violence, including his lauding right-wing gun thugs as "patriots", isn't necessarily about winning the election. Polls indicate that Trump's approval numbers are still dropping even as mass support for ongoing protests is waning (61% in June to 48% in August) and that his standing in the polls has worsened amid outbreaks of violence and his chances of winning a normal, traditional election may be growing slimmer. 

But that doesn't mean that ongoing violent confrontations and street battles aren't feeding Trumpism or playing to Republican hands.

Jeet Heer, writing today in The Nation, surmises that
Aside from the obvious political advantage Trump is trying to extract, his incitement of violence serves another purpose that goes beyond simple electoral calculation. Trump is trying to make the United States ungovernable in order to rob his political foes of any meaningful victory.
Inciting violence is Trump’s Samson option. Like the biblical hero who famously brought the Philistine temple down on his head, Trump would prefer that everything collapse around him rather than to surrender.
But his encouragement for increased violent confrontations can be more than a testimony to DT's personal narcissism and racism. It may also be part of the Republican strategy for holding onto power in the face of a predictable electoral defeat or as an excuse for suppressing the vote through intimidation and even cancelling the election and maintaining control of the state apparatus indefinitely, ie. a coup d'etat.

America's most senior general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, told members of Congress the other day, that the military wouldn't play a role in November's election and won't help settle any disputes if the results are contested. But the very fact that Milley felt compelled to make such a statement shows the pressure for intervention is there.

Furthermore, Trump has shown that he doesn't need or necessarily want official military or "deep state" backing for any extra-constitutional moves. He has in place his loyal (he assumes) white supremacist militia groups like the kind we currently see in Kenosha plus trained paramilitary and mercenary groups at the ready thanks to his relationship with Betsy DeVos' brother and Blackwater founder, Erik Prince.

It may well be that it's Joe Biden and the Democrats who will need Milley's help if they win in November, rather than the MAGAs.

Biden during a June interview on The Daily Show when he was asked what would happen should Trump resist leaving office after an election defeat. His response:
"I promise you, I'm absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch," Biden said, referring to the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Me, I'm not so sure.