Wednesday, August 31, 2022
The chart above reflects the results of the recent Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between August 20th and 23rd of a nationwide sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,318 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 2.8 points, and for registered voters is 2.9 points.
It shows that 43% of adults and 41% of registered voters say a civil war is likely in the United States in the next 10 years. The percentage is higher for right-wingers -- 51% of Republicans and 53% of Trump voters.
The Republicans seem to believe that Donald Trump is above the law. And some of them are threatening violence if Trump is held responsible for his law-breaking. Linsey Graham is one of those.
Here's what the editorial board of The Washington Post had to say about Graham's threat of riots if his buddy (Trump) is prosecuted:
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham on Sunday said that if the Justice Department prosecutes former president Donald Trump for mishandling classified information, there will be “riots in the street.” A few minutes later, he said it again. There is no excuse for this irresponsible rhetoric, which not only invites violence but also defies democratic norms.
The comments the South Carolina Republican made on Fox News’s “Sunday Night in America” imply that there is no plausible case against Mr. Trump based on his taking sensitive White House documents to store, unsecured, at Mar-a-Lago. This has been a continuing suggestion from the right wing, usually paired with a comparison to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. Yet already, differences between these cases are apparent, and more still could emerge: from the number of documentsimproperly kept, to the intentions behind keeping them, to the harm that holding this material could have done to national security. The possibility of obstructive behavior mentioned in the FBI affidavit unsealed last week can’t be discounted.
Because pursuing the investigation remains worthwhile, Mr. Graham’s comments are especially dangerous. His spokesman defended the interview to The Post as “predicting/forecasting what he thinks will happen.” But some predictions are also threats. And in this case, giving a forecast on national television might make it more likely that this vision of the future comes to pass. Mr. Trump promptly shared the clip on his platform Truth Social, which he has peppered with myriad ravings about the search of his property of late. Meanwhile, menacing messages from angry supporters are inundating the National Archives, and one man attempted to attack an FBI facility. The Jan. 6 insurrection showed the country how readily some voters will interpret a leader’s words as a call to arms — and then action.
Mr. Graham, a former prosecutor who has chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, should understand how his comments could heighten the risk of unrest. He should know that the Justice Department does, too. By talking about the possibility of violence without condemning it, Mr. Trump’s sympathizers play a game of intimidation: daring Attorney General Merrick Garland to bring a case and face the consequences. As wary as Mr. Garland and his colleagues should be of overusing their power in tumultuous times, federal prosecutors must not allow themselves to be bullied out of doing their jobs. References to riots, civil war, banana republics or so much else we’ve heard in recent weeks make it more dangerous for the government to uphold the rule of law. “I worry about our country,” Mr. Graham said at the end of Sunday’sinterview. His reckless words and others like them are cause for the greatest concern.
Tuesday, August 30, 2022
The charts above are from the USA Today / Ipsos Poll -- done between August 18th and 22nd of a nationwide sample of 2,345 adults (including 800 Republicans). The margin of error for adults is 2.5 points, and for Republicans is 4 points.
Trump's theft of classified documents (some of them Top Secret) doesn't seem to have hurt him at all among Republicans.
President Biden has hit the campaign trail, and it's looking like he's ready to fight for Democrats to hold Congress. I like the way he's started.
Here is how Jennifer Rubin describes it in The Washington Post:
After a year of rambling President Biden, muted Joe Biden, unconvincing-bipartisan-cheerleader Joe Biden, on Thursday we got feisty Joe Biden, pugnacious Joe Biden and MAGA-condemning Joe Biden in a speech in Rockville, Md., marking his start to midterm campaigning. For all the hand-wringing about his negative polling (which seems to be improving) and his drag on Democratic candidates, Biden reminded us how he got elected in 2020. When he gets his dander up, he can be an effective campaigner.
Biden seemed to channel Harry S. Truman, who, to a voter shouting “Give ’em hell, Harry!” declared, “I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s hell.” And did Biden ever give it to the MAGA radicals.
“In 2020, you and 81 million Americans voted to save our democracy,” he reminded the crowd. “That’s why Donald Trump isn’t just a former president. He is a defeated former president.” As for the midterms, Biden declared, “Your right to choose is on the ballot this year. The Social Security you paid for from the time you had a job is on the ballot. The safety of your kids from gun violence is on the ballot, and it’s not hyperbole, the very survival of our planet is on the ballot.” He added, “Your right to vote is on the ballot. Even the democracy. Are you ready to fight for these things now?”
Biden reveled in recalling how Democrats took on Big Pharma, Big Oil and National Rifle Association. But his strongest words came in a blunt assault on the MAGA movement, something Democrats and other democracy defenders have been pining to hear.
“The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security,” Biden said. “They’re a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace — embrace — political violence. They don’t believe in democracy.” He continued, “This is why, in this moment, those of you who love this country — Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans — we must be stronger.”
His harshest language came earlier at a separate fundraiser, where he told donors, “What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy.” He continued, “It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something — it’s like semi-fascism.”
No one should be shocked by the president calling the movement — one that tried to overthrow a democratic election, continues to threaten violence, spews the racist Great Replacement theory, operates in a universe of delusion and disinformation and seeks to redefine America as a White Christian nation — semi-fascist. (Pro-fascist or just fascistwould have worked as well.)
A party that celebrates Hungary’s illiberal Viktor Orban, embraces Russian propaganda and grovels before Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot complain when it is held accountable for its right-wing nationalism and authoritarian hero-worship.
Biden seemed both to be energized by his wins on gun safety, prescription drug prices, climate change, veterans’ health care (the Pact Act) and the Chips and Science Act but also freed from the necessity (in his own mind) to pull punches for the sake of getting GOP lawmakers to buy into his agenda.
No more talk that “Biden was elected to lower the temperature.” No more blather that “voters want to stop the partisan fighting.” After ceding rhetorical ground to an unhinged opponent never interested in “unity,” Biden has decided to tell the truth — and let the GOP think it’s hell.
Democrats and weak-kneed pundits need not fret about Biden free-ranging on the campaign trail. As vice president and then as presidential candidate in 2020, he was at his best when fighting against special interests and their right-wing pets. Republicans have to date paid little price for opposing a minimum tax on big corporations that pay nothing, opposing middle-class relief from high health-care and energy costs and, most of all, opposing widely held views on contraception, a woman’s right to choose, free speech and LGBTQ equality.
Biden’s message now is simple: Republicans’ free ride is over. Let’s call them out for what they are. That Joe Biden is the one who could recapture the hearts of Democrats as he considers a second term. Certainly, helping Democrats pull off an expectations-defying midterm election could help as well.
Monday, August 29, 2022
We should have learned a valuable lesson from this pandemic -- how to prepare for the next one. But we didn't. It was nothing more than an opportunity for our politicians to play politics with American lives. We must do better, but that won't happen until Republicans are diminished enough to stop blocking preparedness.
Here is what the editorial board of The Washington Post says we need to do:
There are many reforms Congress and the White House should embrace.
The federal government must overcome the fragmentation of the nation’s public health system. The 10th Amendment to the Constitution and many Supreme Court rulings have given state governments primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions. But the dedicated workers in this patchwork of localities are overburdened and underfunded. The Commonwealth Fund reportcalls for creating a national public health system that would provide more leadership, resources and direction, perhaps led by a new undersecretary or assistant secretary of Health and Human Services. While it wouldn’t replace the work in states and localities, a national public health system would help ensure state and local health departments gain basic capabilities and resources to protect their communities, however different. The report says that government funding for core public health functions remains “grossly insufficient.”
Every virus or bacteria has a genetic blueprint. With advances in bioinformatics, scientists can use genetic sequencing to identify the variant, spot mutations and chart possible spread among people. This ought to be harnessed into a nationwide — or even global — trip wire for disease among humans, animals and plants. We already rely on early-warning systems to watch for hurricanes and tornadoes; radars and satellites keep watch for ballistic missile threats; prompt warning is critical to intelligence gathering and financial markets. But so far, early-warning systems exist only in fragments for disease. Also, there’s a crying need to build better data-sharing systems to improve the link between genomics (genetic blueprints), health care (what doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms are seeing among people) and epidemiology (the patterns of disease in the population).
The nation’s capabilities to create and manufacture vaccines must be strengthened. Operation Warp Speed showed what can be done. With years of previous research, and a mountain of government money, the mRNA coronavirus vaccines were developed and manufactured in record time and saved millions of lives. But the mRNA vaccines are not a long-term answer; their effectiveness wanes. We need a second massive research and development effort, an Operation Warp Speed 2.0, to overcome many hurdles to a coronavirus vaccine that would work against all variants and for a long duration. It won’t be easy. A universal flu vaccine has been an elusive goal for years. In parallel, we need an organized effort to create platforms for future vaccines with enough science and resources behind them to kick-start development as soon as a pandemic flares — to be ready to deploy shots rapidly.
The recent announcement of an overhaul at the CDC made a point to shift the agency’s culture to be more action-oriented in the face of emergencies. The idea is a good one for more than just the CDC. The emergency side of public health should be organized like the military, with money, staffing, a clear command structure, exercises and a mission of urgency.
Finally, the nation’s public health authorities must rebuild trust. In an emergency, public trust is fragile — when broken, it is extremely difficult to regain. Transparency, promptness and clarity were too often missing during this pandemic, and online disinformation further corroded public confidence. A concerted effort must be made to rebuild public trust in the digital age.
The prospects for wide-scale reform do not look good. Partisan conflict on Capitol Hill has stymied further funding to respond to the current pandemic, not to mention prepare for the next one. Where is the willpower that arose after 9/11? Where is the bipartisan consensus that existed during the Cold War? Clearly, the political scene has been clouded by pandemic fatigue and looming elections. But the need for preparedness is not going away.
A transformation in public health requires a sea change in thinking. We must value this endeavor for our own protection, rather than continue to neglect it. We have been warned.
Sunday, August 28, 2022
MAGA Republicans are not just dangerous -- they are also stupid, and hurting their own party because of it. Consider the following (as written by Dean Obeidallah at MSNBC.com):
Laura Loomer, the far-right extremist and proud bigot who failed to win the Republican nomination in a Florida congressional race Tuesday, is as vile as they come. But because Loomer is encouraging her supporters not to vote for the GOP nominee in the general election, she may just be the Democrats’ best weapon to win an otherwise safe GOP seat. Here’s hoping she inspires other MAGA losers to follow her lead.
For those lucky enough to not know who Loomer is, she’s a one-stop shop for bigotry. She has dubbed herself a “proud Islamophobe" and has backed it up with a slew of hate-filled comments about Muslims being “savages.” On a podcast hosted by a white nationalist, she declared, “I’m going to fight for white people” and added, “I’m a really big supporter of the Christian nationalist movement.” And this 29-year-old — who was gleefully endorsed by Donald Trump when she ran for Congress in 2020 — has been banned by a number of platforms from Twitter to GoFundMe, for her hate speech and conspiracy theories. She can’t even catch an Uber or a Lyft.
Despite being as despicable as she is, in 2020 Loomer won the GOP nomination for Congress in Florida’s 21st Congressional District. Thankfully, Democrat Lois Frankel crushed her by 20 points in that solidly blue district.
But Loomer had a new plan for 2022. She ran in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, which is solidly Republican, to challenge 73-year-old Rep. Daniel Webster, who’s been in office since 2011. And she almost won. Webster only bested her by about 5,000 votes, Loomer shocking many by attracting 44% of the vote.
But Loomer — taking a page from her beloved former president — has refused to accept her loss. On election night she declared in Trumpian fashion, "I'm not conceding, because I'm a winner!" And as you may have guessed, she claimed there was voter fraud. Soon some of her followers online were repeating her fact-free fraud claims.
Loomer escalated her rhetoric Wednesday. On GETTR, one of few social media platforms that hasn’t kicked her off, she posted in all caps, “I DO NOT CONCEDE.”
She then made a request to her nearly 38,000 voters that should make Democratic nominee Shante Munns happy. “I encourage all of my supporters and all of my voters to NOT support Daniel Webster and the establishment RNC and Big Tech voter fraud machine that is propping his feeble body up and depriving my constituents of the representation they deserve and need,” Loomer wrote. She then added for bad measure: “I am calling for Daniel Webster to RESIGN, because everyone knows he is beyond unfit to serve.”
This is not an empty threat. While the newly reshaped 11th Congressional District is rated by nonpartisan Cook Political report a “solid” Republican district, Cook predicts it favors Republicans by 8 points. That is on the low end of solid GOP districts. Simple math tells us that, for Webster to win in November, he will need Republican primary voters who cast a ballot for Loomer. . . .
There was a time when many of us hoped that Republican leaders would excise the MAGA extremists from their party. Clearly that is never going to happen. As we can see from Loomer’s fundraising haul that eclipsed a veteran GOP member of Congress, a significant amount of energy in the Republican base is with the MAGA extremists.
At this point, our best hope is that an increasing number of MAGA bigots and conspiracy theorists help Democrats win by turning on the GOP establishment. Maybe then the GOP will rise up from the ashes and become a mainstream political party again and not a white nationalist, anti-democratic movement. But even if that doesn’t happen, a divided GOP is far easier for Democrats to defeat than a united one.
Saturday, August 27, 2022
The Supreme Court has allowed corporations and rich people to donate massive sums of money to groups, and those groups are using that dark money to influence our elections. As the amount of dark money grows, the wealthy and powerful are having a huge influence on those elections. This must be fixed if our democracy is to survive. If not, our democracy will soon evolve into oligarchy!
Here is what Ruth Marcus has to say about this problem in The Washington Post:
If, as the Supreme Court has decreed, money is speech, then $1.6 billion is one boatload of rhetoric.
That is the eye-popping sum — described as “the largest political advocacy donation in U.S. history” — that a little-known electronics magnate donated, tax-free, to a new nonprofit run by Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo.
There is so much wrong with this picture — even aside from how it supercharges the conservative Leo’s already-considerable influence on the country’s legal and political landscape. The gusher of cash in modern-day politics, much of it from undisclosed donors and not subject to ordinary contribution limits or reporting requirements, is a bipartisan scandal, one to which we have become dangerously inured.
When seven-, eight- and now 10-figure (10!) checks dominate the political discourse, when the public has little way of knowing who is funding messages and promoting candidates, the ordinary contest of ideas is skewed even more heavily in favor of the wealthy and powerful.
The mega-donation came from Barre Seid, a 90-year-old Chicago man who made his fortune in surge protectors and other computer equipment. First reported by the New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher, it took the form of shares in Seid’s company, Tripp Lite. The entire ownership of Tripp Lite was first transferred to a new entity controlled by Leo, the Marble Freedom Trust; then the company was sold last year to an Irish conglomerate.
The structure of the transaction, evidently legal, allowed Seid to avoid paying capital gains taxes on the increased value of the company; ProPublica and the Lever, which jointly reported on the donation, estimated the savings — and, therefore, the taxpayer-subsidized benefit to Leo — at $400 million.
And that’s just the galling tax wrinkle. The real story — the real problem — is that $1.6 billion, and to understand why requires a quick history of campaign finance regulation and the emergence of “dark money.”
A half-century ago, in the aftermath of Watergate, lawmakers of both parties — imagine that — got together to enact new limits designed to reduce the influence of money in politics and to ensure that the public knew where the money that was spent to help elect candidates was coming from. Thanks to a hostile Supreme Court, an intentionally ineffectual Federal Election Commission and a similarly feckless Internal Revenue Service, that effort can now be declared an abject failure.
The IRS comes into the picture because an enormous amount of political spending is now being conducted through the vehicle of nonprofit groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. These are supposed to be “social welfare organizations” but they are now routinely used for political spending and influencing elections, including directly advocating for or against candidates.
So long as that is not deemed their “primary purpose,” these groups, and Leo’s new Marble Freedom Trust is one of them, are permitted to engage in political activities. They do not have to disclose their donors or report much about how the funds were used; hence the term “dark money.”
On its tax filing, Marble Freedom Trust offered this fuzzy description of its mission: “to maintain and expand human freedom consistent with the values and ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.” It acknowledged that the money came from the “sale of gifted company and subsidiaries” but said it was withholding identifying information “to protect donor confidentiality.” We know that Seid is the benefactor, but that’s thanks to diligent reporting, not any legal mandate.
This end-run around transparency and contribution limits has been adopted with bipartisan gusto. Indeed, in recent elections, Democrats, who once decried dark money, have excelled at collecting and deploying it to maximum political advantage. A New York Times analysis found that “15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with the Democratic Party spent more than $1.5 billion in 2020 — compared to roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the G.O.P.”
A “single, cryptically named entity that has served as a clearinghouse of undisclosed cash for the left, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, received mystery donations as large as $50 million and disseminated grants to more than 200 groups, while spending a total of $410 million in 2020 — more than the Democratic National Committee itself,” the Times reported.
Enter Seid and his mega-donation. “It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals,” Leo told the newspaper, referring to some of the Democrats’ big donors and allied groups.
It’s more than a bit rich for Leo to portray himself as the poor cousin here. He sits astride a deliberately opaque and interconnected multimillion — now billion — dollar ideological and political empire. Leo’s original mission was installing conservative Supreme Court justices and federal judges, but in recent years he has stepped aside from his day-to-day role at the Federalist Society and broadened his focus to transforming state courts, pushing for tighter voting restrictions and other conservative causes.
The Marble Freedom Trust filing reports disbursing almost $230 million in the year beginning May 2020, including $153 million to another Leo group, the Rule of Law Trust and $41 million to Donors Trust, a vehicle for anonymous contributions to conservative groups.
Leo, by the way, paid himself $350,000.
Friday, August 26, 2022
I spent most of my working life in various aspects of law enforcement. But I don't understand the Republican take on crime. They claim to want to eliminate crime, but the policies they pursue only work to create crime.
I'm not a pollyanna. I know that all crime cannot be eliminated. We will always have a need for police and prisons. There are some people who are just bad. But most people aren't bad, and the huge majority of crimes could be prevented.
Building more prisons and hiring massive amounts of police won't prevent much crime, and sadly, that is the Republican answer. Police and prisons don't prevent crime -- they only deal with it after it happens. While that is important, it's not enough -- and it won't reduce crime substantially.
I firmly believe most crime could be prevented, but instead of spending more money on police and prisons, we need to spend that money to make our economy and society fairer to all citizens. We won't do that by giving more to millionaires and billionaires. We need to spend to money to lift up the disadvantaged in our society -- the people that really need the help.
First we must eliminate poverty. We are the richest nation on Earth, and it is shameful that so many of our citizens live in poverty, including nearly a quarter of our children.
Republicans like to whine about redistribution of money in our society. They want people to believe that redistribution is a bad thing. What they don't want you to know is that redistribution of wealth happens all the time in our economy. But that redistribution is from the poor, working, and middle classes to the very wealthy. The GOP economic policy (commonly called "trickle down") takes from the 90% to give to the richest 10% (and especially the richest 1%).
This just makes our society more unfair, and it increases poverty. And poverty is the mother of most crime.
We need to spend our money to make sure no child grows up in poverty, and no adult has to raise a family in poverty. We can do this through more generous (and less onerous) government programs. It would also help to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage.
But eliminating poverty won't completely solve the problem of crime. We also need to make sure that every child in the country gets a good education. Without a good education, a person has a very hard time making it in our society.
Finally, once a person gets a good education, we need to make sure they have an opportunity to find a good job. That would give them an adequate income to support their family, and self-respect in knowing they are doing that.
Republicans will try to tell you that we can't afford to eliminate poverty, give every child a good education, and provide opportunity to all our citizens. That's a lie. We have the money in our economy, but sadly, let the ultra-rich hoard too much of it. The money is there -- all we lack is the political will.
We can eliminate most crime, but we won't do it by pampering the rich and punishing everyone else.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 243,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on August 20th. Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending August 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 243,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 5,000 from 250,000 to 245,000. The 4-week moving average was 247,000, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 1,250 from 246,750 to 245,500.
Thursday, August 25, 2022
These charts are from the Unidos/US National Survey Of Latino Voters -- done between July 20th and August 1st of a nationwide sample of 2,540 registered Hispanic voters, with a 1.9 point margin of error.