Saturday, April 30, 2022
The following op-ed is by Dana Milbank in The Washington Post:
It was quite a month for young Madison Cawthorn.
The 26-year-old Republican congressman from North Carolina was caught bringing a loaded gun through airport security, his second such incident. Police released footage of him getting pulled over for driving with expired tags and being told to surrender his revoked license. The Washington Examiner reported allegations against him of insider trading. Politico published photos of him partying while wearing women’s lingerie. And a former congressional aide filed a workplace complaint against him.
Most public figures would call a stretch like that good reason to resign. Cawthorn might just call it “April.”
Earlier this year, Cawthorn called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and his government “incredibly evil.” He alleged that his congressional colleagues engage in coke-fueled orgies. He committed the latest of many driving offenses (three court dates are pending). Earlier, four women accused him of sexual misconduct, in a BuzzFeed article; Cawthorn denied the allegations.
It has belatedly occurred to fellow Republicans that Cawthorn might be a liability. A GOP super PAC launched an ad last week saying Cawthorn tells “lies for the limelight.”
But Cawthorn is a monster of Republicans’ own creation. His character flaws were fully displayed when he first ran for Congress in 2020: nods to white supremacists, extravagant lies, accusations of sexually predatory behavior, overt racism and a long list of driving offenses. Craven Republican leaders knew all that — and embraced him unreservedly.
Ousting Cawthorn in his May primary won’t cure this Republican illness; the North Carolina congressman is just a symptom. More than 50 QAnon believers have run for Congress as Republicans in 2022, the liberal watchdog Media Matters reports. Several who participated in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, have run for Congress. If Republicans succeed in taking the House in November, the new majority could make the current Congress — with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert and the rest — look like Periclean Athens.
Cawthorn and the many rising oddballs and extremists are the inevitable result of Republican leaders’ choices: drawing increasingly uncompetitive districts, blessing unlimited dark money, exercising timid leadership, embracing disinformation, flirting with white nationalism, stoking conspiracies and undermining elections.
Cawthorn saw the GOP’s direction — and did what he had to do to be successful. “I absolutely will run for Congress,” then-19-year-old Cawthorn told the Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2015, a year after a spring-break car wreck in Florida left him in a wheelchair. And so he did, on the basis of audacious lies and winks at white nationalists.
In 2017, he posted photos on Instagram about a “bucket list” trip to Adolf Hitler’s retreat, the Eagle’s Nest. Cawthorn referred to Hitler as “the Führer” (though he did allow that Hitler was “evil”).
As the Asheville Citizen Times, Jezebel and others reported in 2020, Cawthorn named his real-estate company SPQR Holdings, an abbreviated Latin phrase that has been co-opted by white nationalists. In a photo on his campaign website, he posed with a rifle and a pistol in a holster featuring a symbol used by the Oath Keepers. He also used as a backdrop for interviews a Betsy Ross flag, which has also been appropriated by white nationalists. Cawthorn’s campaign attacked a local journalist as somebody who works “for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.”
Then there were the fabrications. Cawthorn claimed he was nominated for the U.S. Naval Academy but his “plans were derailed that year after he nearly died in a tragic automobile accident”; the academy rejected him before the accident. He said his friend who pulled him from the burning car instead abandoned him. He called himself the “CEO” of his business, but he was the sole employee and it had no earned income. He misrepresented himself as a full-time staffer of then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), when his most extensive employment was apparently at Chick-fil-A.
On top of that, 150 former students of Patrick Henry College, from which Cawthorn dropped out after a semester, signed a letter accusing him of “gross misconduct toward our female peers,” “predatory behavior” and “vandalism.” And a Christian magazine reported on several women accusing Cawthorn of sexual misconduct. (Cawthorn denied these accusations, too.)
Yet Republican leaders didn’t hesitate to back Cawthorn. Donald Trump, after backing a rival in the primary, endorsed Cawthorn and campaigned for him, saying “You’re going to be a star of the party.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and the Club for Growth helped bankroll him.
The Republican National Committee gave Cawthorn a prime speaking slot at its 2020 convention. And the National Republican Congressional Committee hailed him as a “fighter,” and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy named him a “Young Gun,” the highest level of the party’s program to support top prospects.
Friday, April 29, 2022
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 180,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on April 23rd -- a small decrease from the previous week.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending April 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 180,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 184,000 to 185,000. The 4-week moving average was 179,750, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 177,250 to 177,500.
The following is part of a post by Robert Reich about social media needing guardrails. I think he is right.
Now that Elon has total control over one of the major ways Americans find out what’s happening (I know, I know -- Twitter is vapid and filled with smears and jeers, but it has a hugely important role in shaping the news), what can be done to establish guardrails against dangerous lies? It seems likely that Musk will take down the few guardrails that remain on Twitter — but some guardrails are surely needed to prevent malicious harassment or dangerous instigation of violence. Twitter (like Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Instagram) is more like a public utility than a private company. It has public functions and no direct competitors.
What to do?
Much of the answer boils down to making Twitter (and Facebook and Instagram) more responsible for what users say on its platform – just as any other publisher is responsible. In every other dimension of public life, tort laws allow people who are defamed, harassed, or otherwise injured by malicious or hateful speech to sue. There’s a high bar: plaintiffs must establish that the publisher knew or had reason to know that the published material was false and injurious. But the mere possibility of being sued causes publishers to take at least a modicum of responsibility.
In 1996, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — shielding website owners from liability by decreeing that they shouldn’t be treated as a “publisher.” But back then Congress could not possibly have foreseen what would happen over the next quarter century: giant firms like Twitter and Facebook making huge amounts of money by posting incendiary content that attracts lots of eyeballs and gives them mountains of user data that they then monetize — even if the content encourages political violence, riots, or gang shootings.
I’ve been talking for some time about the various ways the rich and powerful in our society shield themselves from accountability. I’m well aware of arguments on the other side of this issue (and will share them with you), but I’ve come to the conclusion that Congress should repeal Section 230. Doing so would be one step toward restoring accountability.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
The following is just part of an op-ed at MSNBC.com by Jessica Levinson:
Many of us watched a legal hearing last week to determine whether a sitting member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., helped to incite an insurrection and is therefore constitutionally disqualifiedfrom appearing on an election ballot. While her testimony was jaw-clenchingly infuriating for a number of reasons, perhaps the biggest takeaway is that we need to examine how we got here in the first place and how to make sure we never, ever end up here again. . . .
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Republican officials have no real agenda to campaign on in this election. Instead, they are engaging in a "culture war". They want American voters to think that liberals (Democrats) are trying to cancel this country's culture.
Of course, that is nonsense. Democrats don't want to cancel America's culture. They want to enhance it to include all citizens.
Republicans are trying to suppress the votes of nonwhites. But allowing all citizens to vote, and making it easier to do that, doesn't cancel culture. It just insures the survival of our democracy.
Reforming the police and stopping institutional racism doesn't cancel culture. It just protects lives and helps all citizens to benefits from the American Dream.
Protecting abortion rights doesn't cancel culture. It just insures that women have the right to control their own bodies -- a right that men have always had.
Allowing refugees and immigrants to enter the country doesn't cancel culture. It just gives desperate people a chance for a better life -- both economically and democratically.
Providing health insurance for everyone doesn't cancel culture. It just saves lives by insuring that everyone can access the preventive care they need.
Teaching real history in our schools (and real science) doesn't cancel culture. It just educates our children and prevents the nation from repeating past mistakes.
Providing full and equal rights to members of the LGBTQ community doesn't cancel culture. It just gives them the same rights that other Americans enjoy.
Protecting and enhancing the right of workers to unionize doesn't cancel culture. It just insures that workers have a livable wage and safe working conditions.
Making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes doesn't cancel culture. It just creates a fairer economy for all citizens.
Democrats just want to make life better for all citizens. Republicans don't. They want a return to the culture of the 1950's -- when white supremacy and patriarchy were the prevailing powers.
Why are Republicans doing this? Part of it is that they see the demographic change, and know that their policies (racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic) will hurt them as that change happens. They want to hold onto power, and rather than moderate their policies, they are choosing to do away with democracy to keep white emn in power.
Part of it is racism. And part of it is fear -- fear that those who they have discriminated against will do the same against them when they come to power. It's not true though. Those who are discriminated against don't want to discriminate -- they just want the same rights that white men enjoy.
The truth is the Republican culture war is nothing more than an agenda of hate. It must be defeated!
In the past, this nation had an effective two-party system. Both Democrats and Republicans believed in our democracy and acted to uphold it. And they were willing to negotiate and compromise for the good of the country.
Sadly, that is no longer true. Today's Republican Party refuses to negotiate or compromise. And they are willing to destroy our democracy to gain and retain political power. They are little more than a cult, obeying the whims of their orange demagogue. They have no agenda other than obeying Trump.
The following is part of an op-ed by Robert Reich (pictured):
Up and down the ranks of the Republican Party, the new litmus test for gaining dollars, votes, and the coveted Trump Endorsement is to embrace the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. For the rest of us — and for posterity — it should be a negative litmus test for politicians who place ambition over principle, narcissism over duty, and cowardice over conscience.
How are Republican voters ever to know the truth when these toadies, sycophants, and unprincipled pawns repeat and amplify Trump’s big lie? Fully 85 percent of Republicans now believe it (35 percent of Americans overall believe it).
The Republican Party now stands for little more than the big lie — not for fiscal prudence or smaller government or stronger defense, not for state’s rights or religious freedom or even anti-abortion, but for a pernicious deception. How can what was once a noble party — the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt — descend to such putrid depths, sowing distrust in our electoral system and in the peaceful transition of power that’s at the heart of democracy?
The real question — more in the realm of social psychology than political science — is how one profoundly sick, pathologically narcissistic man, who is obsessed with never losing, has been able to impose his narcissistic obsession on one of America’s two political parties? Which raises an even more troubling question: How can our democracy ever function when almost all Republican politicians are willing to sell out their oaths to the United States Constitution in order to kiss the derrière of this demented man? Why are no more than a handful of Republican politicians, such as Rep. Liz Cheney, willing stand up to this monstrosity?
This is how fascism begins.
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
These charts are from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between March 1st and 18th of a nationwide sample of 1,017 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.
The United States spends more for health care than any other developed nation and yet still has millions without any health insurance. But even having health insurance doesn't necessarily mean a person can afford to get the health care they need.
The above chart is from Parma.com.
We can -- we must -- do better!!!
The following post is by Robert Reich. Once again, he's right!
Elon Musk has put together a $46.5 billion financing package to buy Twitter – roughly two thirds of it from his own assets and a third from bank loans secured against Twitter’s assets. It’s the biggest acquisition financing ever put forward for one person.
Twitter’s founder and top managers haven’t wanted Musk to take over the company. They offered him a seat on the board but he didn't take it because he'd have to be responsible to all other shareholders. They then adopted a “poison pill” to stop him. They spent much of yesterday negotiating with him. If there’s no deal, Musk said he’ll buy shares directly with a tender offer that shareholders can’t refuse, and then take the firm private.
After all, it’s a free market.
Musk says no one should object to what he wants to do with Twitter because he’s a “free speech absolutist,” and who can be against free speech? Besides (he and his apologists say) if consumers don’t like what he does with Twitter, they can go elsewhere. Freedom to choose.
Free market? Free speech? Free choice?
When billionaires like Elon Musk justify their motives by using “freedom,” beware. They actually seek freedom from accountability. They want to use their vast fortunes to do whatever they please — unconstrained by laws or regulations, shareholders, even consumers.
The “free market” increasingly reflects the demands of big money. Unfriendly takeovers, such as Musk threatens to mount at Twitter, weren’t part of the “free market” until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before then, laws and regulations constrained them. Then came corporate raiders like Carl Icahn and Michael Milken. Their MO was to find corporations whose assets were worth more than their stock value, borrow against them, acquire enough shares to force them to cut costs (such as laying off workers, abandoning their communities, busting unions, and taking on crushing debt), and cash in. But the raiders’ antics often imposed huge social costs. They pushed America from stakeholder capitalism (where workers and communities had a say in what corporations did) to shareholder capitalism (where the sole corporate goal is to maximize shareholder value). Inequality skyrocketed, insecurity soared, vast swaths of America were abandoned, and millions of good jobs vanished.
The raiders altered the “free market” to allow them to do this. That’s what the super-rich do. There’s no “free market” in nature. The “free market” depends on laws and rules. If you have enough money, you can lobby (bribe) legislators to make changes in those laws and rules that make you even more money. (You can also get the government to subsidize you — Musk has received a reported $4.9 billion so far.)
"Free speech" is another freedom that turns on wealth. As a practical matter, your ability to be heard turns on the size of the megaphone you can buy. If you’re extremely rich you can purchase the Washington Post or own Fox News. If you’re the wealthiest person in the world you can buy one of the biggest megaphones in the world called Twitter — and then decide who can use it, what its algorithms are going to be, and how it either invites or filters out big lies.
Musk said last week that he doesn’t care about the economics of the deal and is pursuing it because it is "extremely important to the future of civilization." Fine, but who anointed Musk to decide the future of civilization?
Consumers of social don’t have much freedom of choice. If consumers don’t like what Musk does with Twitter, they cannot simply switch to another Twitter-like platform. There aren’t any. The largest social media platforms have grown gigantic because anyone who wants to participate in them and influence debate has to join them. After they reach a certain size, they’re the only megaphone in town. Where else would consumers go to post short messages that can reach tens of millions of people other than Twitter?
With social media, the ordinary rules of competition don’t apply. Once a platform is dominant it becomes even more dominant. As Donald Trump discovered with his "Truth Social" fiasco, upstarts don’t stand much chance.
Musk's real goal has nothing to do with the freedom of others. His goal is his own unconstrained freedom -- the freedom to wield enormous power without having to be accountable to laws and regulations, to shareholders, or to market competition — which is why he's dead set on owning Twitter.
Unlike his ambitions to upend transportation and interstellar flight, this one is dangerous. It might well upend democracy.
Monday, April 25, 2022
The only real agenda the Republican officials have is to give more to the rich while taking from everyone else. That's not a winning formula, so the Republicans are trying to fool the voters by waging a false and hate-filled culture war. Democrats must stand firm and expose this culture war for what it is.
The following is an op-ed by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post:
Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Democrat, did not sit idly by after a Republican colleague sent out a fundraising email labeling her as someone who would “groom and sexualize kindergartners.” Instead, McMorrow blasted the lie in a powerful speech last week.
She concluded with this message: “I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen. So I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I hope you brought in a few dollars. I hope it made you sleep good last night. I know who I am. I know what faith and service means and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win.” The Republican senator who sent out the email, McMorrow later said, wouldn’t bother to look her in the eye.
McMorrow was not the only Democrat who recently stood up to bigots. Earlier this month, Missouri state Rep. Ian Mackey also went viral by denouncing the persecution of LGBTQ Americans. Addressing his Republican colleague Rep. Chuck Basye, who sponsored an amendment to a bill to prohibit transgender girls from participating in sports, Mackey noted that Basye’s gay brother had delayed coming out for fear of Basye’s reaction.
“If I were your brother, I would have been afraid to tell you, too,” Mackey told him. “Because this is what you’re focused on. This is the legislation you want to put forward. This is what consumes your time.” Mackey, who is gay, continued: “I was afraid of people like you growing up. ... I grew up in a school district that would vote tomorrow to put this in place. And for 18 years, I walked around with nice people like you who took me to ballgames, who told me how smart I was. And then [they] went to the ballot [box] and voted for crap like this. And I couldn’t wait to get out, to move to a part of our state that would reject this stuff. ... Thank God I made it out.”
"Gentlemen, I’m not afraid of you anymore,” Mackey concluded. “Because you’re gonna lose. You may win this today, but you’re going to lose.” It was a passionate demand for decency, for fairness and for empathy.
These speeches went viral in large part because they are the sort of declarations of moral principle one hears too infrequently from Democrats. Cowed by the culture wars, they’ve tried to change the subject to economic issues, despite warnings and pleas that doing so would be morally and politically unsound. Most Americans stand with Democrats on these issues. Polling shows a majority of voters do not want censorship or book banning, do not like bullies and do not wantprohibitions on classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The MAGA crowd’s cultural grenades launched at schools are not a response to actual problems; they are an effort to stir up their own fearful and resentful base, which believes it has been victimized by far-left elites. When Republicans are called out for this hateful legislation masquerading as protection for children, their intentions are laid bare. Mackey is correct: If the hatemongers are confronted, they will lose power. Hopefully the rest of the party is listening and will stand up to the purveyors of bad-faith bills designed to inflame Americans and pit them against one another.
For showing Democrats how to stand up to cultural bullies, we can say well done, Reps. Mackey and McMorrow.