Wednesday, October 05, 2022
The following is by the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle:
The chaos of the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, is far from behind us. Congressional hearings are still sorting through evidence while the former president cozies up ever closer with right-wing extremists. Some elected officials are working to ensure that such a scene never unfolds again.
It’s heartening, then, that a bill meant to protect against some of the events of that consequential day has garnered bipartisan support this week in the name of defending democracy.
The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act would make it more difficult for insurgent interests to overturn the results of a presidential election by requiring more members, one-fifth of both the House and the Senate, to agree to raise such an objection. Currently, it only takes one member from each chamber to do so.
It also clarified several other procedures that former President Donald Trump had tried to use to challenge the 2020 election results, including pressuring the vice president to intervene.
“After 150 years, the Electoral Count Act needs some modest updates,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “The chaos that came to a head Jan. 6 of last year strongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process.”
The bill is less restrictive than the version the House passed last week, without a single vote from a Texas Republican, but it won near unanimous support from the bipartisan Senate Rules Committee.
Only one senator refused to vote for the bill that McConnell called “common sense.”
Anybody want to guess which senator deemed the legislation “bad for democracy?” Could it be the Texas Republican who also tried to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election to office? The one who, when Trump asks him to jump, says “how high?”
Ding. Ding. Ding.
That’s right, it’s Sen. Ted Cruz, a man whose principles are so limber they’d make Gumby look stiff at the joints.
His plan to delay the certification of the 2020 election with a needless, duplicative audit helped inspire the insurrectionists to attack the Capitol and he kept that hope alive even after, voting to reject Arizona’s election results.
“I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing,” Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said in a podcast earlier this year. “I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”
Cruz has kept the act up, saying that the election reform bill would reduce “the ability of Congress to respond to the very serious problem of voter fraud.”
Not so. If indeed there is a “very serious” allegation of voter fraud that’s supported by strong evidence, then each chamber should be able to rally support among individual members to challenge the results, even at the higher threshold.
The truth, though, is that while nagging isolated incidents of election fraud still occur, they’re exceedingly rare and firm laws are in place to deal with them. Cases where fraud affects the outcome of elections are almost unheard of in modern times. Indeed, almost everyone in Trump’s orbit has confessed, many under oath, that fraud was not an honest concern in the 2020 election.
A real, honest-to-goodness problem for our democratic republic is unscrupulous politicians such as Cruz and the Texas Republican House members, who would rather play at insurrection than protect America from extremists who are ready to do much more than play.
Tuesday, October 04, 2022
The following op-ed is by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post:
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, in the 100 days, as of Sunday, since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, nearly 80 million people find themselves in 13 states that, in effect, ban abortion. There will be a record number of abortion-related measures on the midterm ballot. It would be a mistake to see the focus on abortion as distinct from the MAGA war on democracy.
Pundits and politicians tend to observe a bright distinction between the Donald Trump MAGA movement’s assault on democracy and the right-wing evisceration of women’s reproductive rights. After all, some pro-democracy voices on the right are antiabortion. But simply because not all forced-birth advocates are MAGA authoritarian supporters, that doesn’t mean a critical point should be overlooked: The attack on women’s self-determination and autonomy is as much a part of MAGA’s fascistic affinities as is the cult’s fondness for violence and white Christian nationalism.
One need only look at right-wing regimes present and past to see that they invariably include appeals to hyper-masculinity and demands for women to be limited to their roles as women and mothers. Modern authoritarian regimes — such as Viktor Orban’s Hungary or President Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil — and European fascists of the 1930s alike have sought to compel motherhood and limit women’s participation in society.
“Fascism is a rejection of the notion of a quality, of an expansive definition of the people. And it comes at a time where people are pushing the parameters of an existing definition, one that basically included males, often male property owners only,” Anne Wingenter, professor of history and women’s studies at Loyola University Chicago, explained in a radio interview in April. “It was pushback against expanding that definition to excluded groups. What we seem to be experiencing today, to me, looks a lot like an attempt to define down that notion of the people again. And some people get to be fully autonomous, and some don’t.”
That was certainly the pattern in 1930s fascist Italy. Wingenter explained, “[Benito] Mussolini was known for his kind of pithy little quotes. And he is on record as saying, ‘War is to man, as maternity is to woman.’ ” She continued, “The ideal woman in fascist Italy was the wife and mother of many children.”
The xenophobic right-wing movement in the United States today is obsessed with “replacement theory,” regarding women in the dominant group as essential to the preservation of white supremacy. There was a “kind of demographic panic in the wake of the World War I in Italy,” Wingenter said. Now, in the United States, it is the MAGA hysteria over white replacement. In both, part of the “solution” is for White mothers to have lots of children and forgo not only abortion but birth control.
We therefore should recognize, as Wingenter puts it, that those who “tolerate the removal of a whole series of rights for people, in the sense of a full ban on abortion,” strike not only at the rights of women to participate fully in society but to destroy the democratic ideal of equal rights and equal opportunity.
Mainstream media coverage has no problem recognizing the link between the MAGA anti-democratic movement and racism/white nationalism. One need only look at the Confederate flags carried through the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, or listen to right-wing fearmongering about immigrants to understand racism is intrinsic to the MAGA movement. However, when it comes to women’s rights, we see little acknowledgment in mainstream reporting and commentary that misogyny and deprivation of women’s rights are central to a movement playing largely on White male hysteria.
In sum, MAGA support for government intrusion into Americans’ most intimate decisions reflects an authoritarian outlook. It is not a coincidence that this targeting of women is occurring in tandem with a developing voter registration gender gap favoring women. They understand all too well that the GOP’s quest for a national abortion ban is about their reproductive rights — and also about their inclusion in society and ultimately the preservation of democracy.
Monday, October 03, 2022
Donald Trump doesn't care about the Republican Party or its leaders. He only cares about himself. That was again shown when he recently told his followers that GOP Minority Leader McConnell has a "death wish" (and then directed a racial slur toward McConnell's wife. Here is some of how Karen Tumulty describes Trump's deplorable behavior in The Washington Post:
When you are dealing with someone for whom there is no bottom, it’s not exactly surprising to see him hit a new low. Nonetheless, Donald Trump’s latest social media broadside against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stands out for its odious recklessness.
On Friday, the former president posted on his Truth Social platform that McConnell has a “DEATH WISH” for having supported legislation to keep the government operating through mid-December — language that could easily be read by his highly combustible supporters as inviting violence against the GOP leader who seems to have taken up residence under Trump’s gossamer-thin skin.
Indeed, Trump portrayed the spending legislation, which passed the Senate 72-25, as a personal affront, saying McConnell cut the deal to pass it “because he hates Donald J. Trump, and he knows I am strongly opposed to” its provisions.
Trump then went for a racial smear against McConnell’s Asian American power spouse, Elaine Chao, who served as transportation secretary in his own administration, referring to her as “his China loving wife, Coco Chow!”
. . .Where are McConnell’s Republican colleagues in the Senate? Why do they remain silent when Trump does something like this? Is this sort of behavior by their party’s de facto leader acceptable to them, particularly coming fewer than 40 days before an election in which they are trying to pick up the single additional seat that would give them control of the chamber? Their timidity has fostered the free-fire environment in which Trump operates. . . .
No doubt Trump will escalate his dangerous and vile attacks on McConnell, because that is simply who he is. But let’s be clear that there is plenty of fault to go around. The Republican Party’s refusal to denounce him for it makes them complicit.
Sunday, October 02, 2022
Justice Samuel Alito (one of the most rabid conservatives on the Supreme Court) is upset that many people now think the Court is more interested in playing politics than upholding constitutional law. Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri (with tongue firmly planed in cheek) decided to help him out by formulating a response by him to the court's critics. Here is her very funny bit of satire:
First off, how dare you. Second of all, how dare you! I am calling up the Wall Street Journal now to say “how dare you” to them a third time! You are crossing a very important line by saying I am crossing an important line.
We all know that speech is not limitless. Some forms of speech are too reckless to be borne. For instance, everyone knows that shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater is something you should never, ever do, even if I, Samuel Alito, am lighting your crowded theater on fire. Your shouting will cause a panic, and it is beyond the pale. If I am setting fires, I’m sure it is with good reason, and you ought to sit there patiently to find out what the reason is.
What should you do if you think the Supreme Court is becoming too political a body? Hush! That’s what you should do! If we were too political, I would be the first to know, and I know that we aren’t. Too political a body would be one that had Merrick Garland on it.
Have you considered that actually you are the one undermining the legitimacy of the Supreme Court? You and all your impertinent questions! It is certainly not I, anything I am doing, or the way the court is currently composed. The legitimacy of the Supreme Court, as we learned from Marbury v. Madison, is something that is handed down through a system of divine right. John Marshall was presented a set of scales by a mysterious arm that reached up out of the Potomac River, and from that point, nobody was allowed to question anything the court did. (Except, of course, for those decisions that it made with which I personally disagreed and which I gleefully overturned. But that was different.)
No, I won’t explain any further! All I know is that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is something that ought to be taken on faith, as a matter of dogma — which, coincidentally, is also a pretty great way of making judicial decisions. Yes, I’m sure I have that right. When people talk about the separation of church and state, they just mean California.
Of course, there are some members of the Supreme Court you can disagree with readily, at any time. The minority, for instance. And no such deference is owed to the executive branch, at whom you may mouth your disagreement anytime you see fit.
But to call my court’s integrity into question — the temerity! This kind of horrible disrespect is the sort I will not suffer in silence. All I want is to live my life as I choose, holding sway over the entire nation without pushback or criticism. Yet at every turn my benevolence is met with treachery and complaint. Is this how you treat your unelected magistrate? Nobody shall exert undue control over my judicial body.
This is what I am always warning about: the creeping tyranny of people saying, “Your opinion is ill-considered,” or, “This seems political,” or, “You are free to have those beliefs, but I don’t think, in the United States, you get to impose them on others.” Imagine being any more oppressed than this! You can’t! I certainly can’t!
So stop questioning my authority! You know what it’s called when you question the integrity of the Supreme Court, as a majority of Americansnow do? “Free speech in a free country”? Who said that? Find the heretic, and seize him! Seize him!
Saturday, October 01, 2022
The chart above is from the Politico / Morning Consult Poll -- done between September 23rd and 25th of a nationwide sample of 2,005 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.
Friday, September 30, 2022
The charts above are from the Gallup Poll -- done between September 1st and 16th of a nationwide sample of 812 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 193,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on September 23rd. Here is the official statement from the Labor Department:
In the week ending September 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 193,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 4,000 from 213,000 to 209,000. The 4-week moving average was 207,000, a decrease of 8,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 1,000 from 216,750 to 215,750.
The following is the truth from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:
The stock market is down but don’t cry for America’s mega-billionaires. A record share of the nation’s wealth remains in their hands. They’re also paying a lower tax rate than the average American.
So how do they justify their wealth and their low tax rates? By using three myths. All are utter rubbish.
1. The first is trickle-down economics. They (and their apologists) claim that their wealth trickles down to everyone else as they invest it and create jobs.
Really? For over forty years, as wealth at the top has soared, almost nothing has trickled down. Adjusted for inflation, the median wage today is barely higher than it was four decades ago. Trump provided a giant tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, promising it would generate $4,000 increased income for everyone else. Did you receive it?
In reality, the super-wealthy don’t create jobs or raise wages. Jobs are created when average working people earn enough money to buy all the goods and services they produce, forcing companies to hire more people and pay them higher wages.
2. The second myth is the “free market.” The ultra-rich claim they’re being rewarded by the impersonal market for creating and doing what people are willing to pay them for. The wages of other Americans have stagnated, they say, because most Americans are worth less in the market now that new technologies and globalization have made their jobs redundant.
Baloney. Even if they’re being rewarded, there’s no reason why the “free market’ would reward vast multiples of what the rich were rewarded decades ago. The market can induce great feats of invention and entrepreneurialism with lures of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars — not billions. And as to the rest of us succumbing to labor-replacing globalization and labor-saving technologies, no other advanced nation has nearly the degree of inequality found in the United States, yet all these nations have been exposed to the same forces of globalization and technological change.
In reality, the ultra-wealthy have rigged the so-called “free market” in America for their own benefit.
Billionaires’ campaign contributions have soared from a relatively modest $31 million in the 2010 elections to $1.2 billion in the most recent presidential cycle — a nearly 40-fold increase. What have they got for their money? Tax cuts, freedom to bash unions and monopolize markets, and government bailouts. Their pockets have been further lined by privatization and deregulation.
3. The third myth is that they’re superior human beings — rugged individuals who “did it on their own” and therefore deserve their billions.
Bupkis. Six of the 10 wealthiest Americans alive today are heirs to fortunes passed on to them by wealthy ancestors.
Others had the advantages that come with wealthy parents. Jeff Bezos’ garage-based start was funded by a quarter-million dollar investment from his parents. Bill Gates’s mother used her business connections to help land a software deal with IBM that made Microsoft.
Elon Musk came from a family that reportedly owned shares of an emerald mine in Southern Africa. (By the way, when I mentioned this in a recent video, Elon went nuts — tweeting that “You [sic] both an idiot and a liar.” Hmmm. Did I touch a nerve, Elon?)
Don’t fall for these three myths. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. The so-called “free market” has been distorted by huge campaign contributions from the ultra-rich. Don’t lionize the ultra-rich as superior “self-made” human beings who deserve their billions. They were lucky and had connections.
In reality, there’s no justification for today’s extraordinary concentration of wealth at the very top. It’s distorting our politics, rigging our markets, and granting unprecedented power to a handful of people.
The last time America faced anything comparable was at the start of the 20th century. In 1910, former President Theodore Roosevelt warned that “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power” could destroy American democracy.
Roosevelt’s answer was to tax wealth. The estate tax was enacted in 1916, and the capital gains tax in 1922. Since that time, both have eroded. As the rich have accumulated greater wealth, they have also amassed more political power — and have used that political power to reduce their taxes.
Years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the 1929 crash not only as a financial crisis but as an occasion to renegotiate the relationship between capitalism and democracy. Accepting renomination in 1936, he spoke of the need to redeem American democracy from the despotism of concentrated economic power.
“Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities,” he said, an “industrial dictatorship” now “reached out for control over Government itself. … [T]he political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor—other people's lives… Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it.”
FDR gave workers the power to organize into labor unions, the 40-hour workweek (with time-and-a-half for overtime), Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation for injuries. He raised taxes on the top.
But since then, these reforms have also eroded.
The two Roosevelts understood something about the American economy and the ultra-rich that has now reemerged, even more extreme and more dangerous. We must understand it, too — and act.