GOP, Johnson, Politics

Everything Old is New Again …

To understand the United States in 2022 you must understand the United States in 1964.

The country has many origin stories, the point from which you might glimpse the country we have become – the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s election in 1860, the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow, the Great Depression, the Good War.

All those moments are woven into the fabric of our big, diverse, increasingly contentious and perhaps ungovernable nation. Not many of us would peg 1964 an origin moment. It was.

Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

Consider for a moment this pivotal 365 days, the year the writer Jon Margolis, not altogether cynically, termed in his book of the same name – “The Last Innocent Year.”

 “There was a time,” Margolis wrote, “when the delusion of innocence was easy to believe, when the myth was at least as useful as it was deceiving. That time ended when 1964 did.”

John Kennedy, a deeply flawed but profoundly inspiring president was dead as 1964 dawned, shot down the previous November in Dallas, the epicenter of the radical right in the 1960s. The John Birchers considered Dallas a stronghold and local members organized a demonstration against the United Nations, and particularly UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson, a two-time presidential nominee. Things became so unruly Stevenson was hit in the head with a sign post.

The major newspaper in Dallas was stridently anti-communist, and anti-Kennedy. Ted Dealey, the publisher of the Morning News, famously told Kennedy to his face at a White House luncheon, “we need a man on horseback to lead this nation, and many people in Texas and the Southwest think that you are riding Caroline’s tricycle.”

When Kennedy was gunned down in Dealey Plaza – yes, named for that publisher’s father – not everyone was surprised that Dallas is where it happened. Somehow, in our age of conspiracy, it seems all too fitting that JFK’s murder in the Big D spawned a million crackpot conspiracy theories. It is also no coincidence that Texas with its school room murders, unconcealed cruelty to women and immigrants and divisive ultra-right politicians looms so large in our politics nearly 60 years later.

The Kennedy murder also gave the country a big, often crude, often eloquent Texan as president.

“In retrospect,” Jon Margolis wrote, “we can see that it was the opening days of his presidency that Lyndon Johnson took the steps that would cost him his job four years later; that rioting in city streets first began in 1964; that the anger of middle-class working people, whom Richard Nixon would later call the ‘silent majority,’ revealed itself in the first stirrings of ‘white backlash’ and in the distaste for cultural elites exploited by the Goldwater movement.”

Barry Goldwater doesn’t instantly spring to mind for most Americans as a defining character in the troubled country we now inhabit. But Goldwater is a defining character, and indeed the most consequential loser in American political history. He roared into our history in 1964 and never left.

Barry Goldwater on the campaign trail in 1964

Goldwater lost the presidency in a landslide that year to Lyndon Johnson, but in losing he nailed in place the foundation of the angry, grievance driven, conspiracy embracing modern conservative movement. Goldwater also accomplished what moderate Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican never invoked by today’s Trumpified conservative party, began – the American South’s turn to the GOP.

Goldwater won only six states in 1964, but he defeated Johnson, a southerner, in five states of the old Confederacy. In Mississippi, just to cite the most astounding number from that election, Goldwater won 87% of the vote. This was before Congress passed the Voting Rights Act – that happened in 1965 – and before that law most Black Americans couldn’t register to vote in Mississippi. The white voters who embraced Goldwater knew well that the Arizona senator had voted NO on the Civil Rights Act approved by Congress in the summer of 1964 after the longest filibuster in Senate history. It became his calling card.

That Goldwater opposed civil rights legislation, campaigned to eliminate the Tennessee Valley Authority, decried America’s moral decay and was comfortable among Birchers and Southerners waving Confederate flags recommended him highly to many white Americans. He became the face of opposition to “liberal overreach” across the South and beyond.

If you don’t hear echoes of all this today, you’re not listening.

As Goldwater pressed his campaign against Johnson in 1964, his messages were all about “communist infiltration,” the lying liberal, elitist press, pointy-headed college professors, traitors in high places, the dangers of a runaway federal government hell-bent on destroying American freedoms, the “phony” policies of the Democrats.

A Republican state legislator in Ohio or Idaho or Tennessee could give that speech today, indeed they are giving that speech.

Reporter Richard Rovere wrote about Goldwater’s campaign tour in the fall of 1964 for The New Yorker.

“It has been my lot to attend political gatherings of many sorts for many years, but never until I went South with Goldwater had I heard any large number of Americans boo and hoot at the mention of the name of the President of the United States. In Alabama and Louisiana, there were thunderous, stadium-filling boos, all of them cued by a United States senator.”

Contemporary conservative rhetoric is always derivative. Goldwater owed much to Joe McCarthy. Nixon refined the right’s appeal to middle America, dog whistling to the silent, angry majority and appropriating the rest of the South. Reagan proved to be a smoother, more likable version of Goldwater, while hitting the same notes.

Trump, the malicious narcissist, cares not at all for history, but he thinks he knows what works: the meanness of a McCarthy, the white grievance appeal of a Goldwater, the “law and order” and the enemies lists of a Nixon and the Big Top showmanship of a president from Hollywood.

But Barry is his true godfather.

“I have never seen as grim and uncomprehending a group of politicians as those West Virginia Republicans who sat on the platform with Goldwater in Charleston,” Rovere wrote in 1964. “They joined in two bursts of applause – once when he mentioned the Ten Commandments, and again when he said, ‘We will not convert the heathen by losing our own souls.’”

It has always been about a fight for the soul of America. It is who we are, and 1964 helped create what we are living with.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

For your consideration …

There Are 11 Types of Donald Trump Enablers. Which One Are You?

Tim Miller, a one-time consultant to conservative politicians and causes turned Never Trumper, has published what is sure to become a wildly popular new book.

Miller writes very well and he isn’t pulling a punch. He suggests there are 11 types of Trump rear end sniffers … you won’t be disappointed.

Miller divide them into these buckets:

• Messiahs and Junior Messiahs
• Demonizers
• LOL Nothing Matters Republicans
• Tribalist Trolls
• Strivers
• Little Mixes
• Peter Principle Disprovers
• Nerd Revengers
• The Inert Team Players
• The Compartmentalizers
• Cartel Cashers

As Miller says, “Here’s a field guide, my taxonomy of enablers, so you can identify them in the wild.”

Here is the link.


Dangerous as the Plague

From the Baffler.

“For those of us who grew up in the gauzy days of ‘Love Wins,’ recent months have been profoundly unsettling. For the first time in our lives, history seems to be running in reverse. Yet while this rhetoric may seem frighteningly new, it has a long, miserable history that stretches back to the nineteenth century and the very origins of LGBTQ rights.”

As my piece this week suggests all that you are seeing has been with us before.


‘A massive betrayal’: how London’s Olympic legacy was sold out

The rich get richer … the massive fail of the London games.

“Ten years on from the patriotic pageant that brought the nation together to bask in director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, with its pastoral vision of merrie England and cavorting NHS nurses, just 13,000 homes have been built on and around the Olympic site. Of these, only 11% are genuinely affordable to people on average local incomes. Meanwhile, in the four boroughs the site straddles – Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest – there are almost 75,000 households on the waiting list for council housing, many living in desperate poverty. Thousands of former residents have also been rehoused outside the area since the Olympics took place.”

The Guardian with the gory details of the shoddy legacy of a big, big money event.


Boris Johnson resigns: Five things that led to the PM’s downfall

The most odious man ever in British public life? Boris is in the running

The British PM is out after lies, fines for violating his own Covid rules, more lies and a few lies.

The BBC has an analysis of the why now? I feel compelled to add that nothing Johnson did, as bad as it was, comes close to matching the four years of Donald Trump. Nothing.

And as many have pointed out he didn’t ask his supporters to sack Westminster.

From the BBC.


Thanks for reading. Be well.

Guns, Politics

The Lies We Tell About Guns …

In May 1995, former president George H. W. Bush declared he was done with the National Rifle Association (NRA). In a terse letter written in the wake of the domestic terror bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Bush resigned his life membership in the NRA.

Wayne LaPierre, the nation’s number one loudmouth apologist for guns in all their forms, had finally, at least in the eyes of the former president, gone too far. It ticked off Bush that LaPierre, the NRA’s top executive, had called federal agents – including some like those killed in the Oklahoma bombing – “jack-booted thugs,” no better than Nazis in their attacks “on law abiding citizens.”

Bush’s resignation made headlines across the country, and as a gesture of opposition to the gun lobby it had, at least, some fleeting impact. What went less noticed was the former president’s focus on the NRA’s lies. LaPierre’s baseless charges, Bush said, “deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor.” He called it “slander.”

Letters to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel in May 1995

Nearly thirty years later here we are drowning in lies about guns, about the Second Amendment, about our unending political inability to stop the carnage that blows away ten-year-old kids and their teachers.

America’s fixation with guns, and the conservative rightwing embrace of a culture that celebrates guns over the lives of little Americans, exists only because of the lies.

The Catholic bishop of Brownsville, Texas, near the most recent gun outrage in Uvalde, has spoken eloquently – and truthfully – about the “sacralization” of gun ownership, as though owning a weapon like that used to murder children last week is some God given right.

“We have kind of sacralized the whole idea of the individual right,” Bishop Daniel Flores said last week, “such that it trumps any communal concern. It becomes an untouchable aspect in the discourse, that the common concern for the good of the vulnerable is not in any way sufficient to limit the individual right to determine whether or not I want to own this kind of a gun, or that kind of gun, or, you know, a hand grenade for that matter.”

Here’s some truth: God didn’t create a right to own an AR-15. Rather it was the United States Supreme Court – and, of course, the NRA – that has, over time, created the myth that the authors of the Bill of Rights intended for Americans to “keep and bear arms” in every conceivable circumstance. The inventors of the Second Amendment could not have in their worst dreams imagined what transpired at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

James Madison’s idea of a gun was a one-shot musket that took thirty seconds to reload.

More truth: more guns don’t make us safer. That is simply a nonsensical argument invented to deflect from the reality that death by guns is really the ultimate measure of American exceptionalism. The Gun Violence Archive tracks these morbid statistics and has documented 18,000-gun deaths in the United States already this year – 8,000 murders and the rest suicides. There have been more than 230 mass shootings, defined as gun incidents involving at least three people.

Good lord, America, there have been at least 18 mass shootings since Uvalde.

The NRA, as Poppy Bush came to realize, is only able to exist, and the gun culture is only able to thrive, if the lies flow like a mountain stream in the spring.

Good guys with guns don’t protect people from bad guys with guns. The tragedy in Texas should put the lie to that lie once and for all. The reprehensible Ted Cruz, Republican apologist for the mass murder of children in his state, has been bloviating about “hardening” schools, as if a place of learning and social interaction was some military target to be protected by surface-to-shooter missiles.

Cruz’s answer to the outrage in his state is to only have one entrance to a school building. This man is an actual United States senator. For Cruz to tolerate gun violence on such a massive scale requires that he lie about solutions that are laughably insincere and ridiculously unworkable.

Certainly, we need more state and national resources devoted to mental health, but you’ll go crazy waiting for serious movement on this talking point from the NRA and it’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party. Show us the money. Detail the programs. Then you’ll demonstrate some seriousness of purpose. Otherwise, it’s just spin.

One of the biggest lies is the claim that there are so many guns in this country that there is nothing that can be done to begin to lessen the death and injury caused by those guns. It’s a lie.

First move: stopping selling weapons of mass killing, battlefield like guns of the type used in Texas massacre, to immature 18-year-old boys. We don’t let them drink at that age or buy cigarettes. They can’t rent a car and auto insurance companies charge a premium to cover them. But these kids can buy a semi-automatic weapon and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

As political scientist Brian Rosenwald noted recently there is ample evidence that increasing the purchase age will have a significant impact. “There is one glaring connection between the Uvalde massacre and the racist shooting of 10 at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14,” Rosenwald wrote in the New York Post. “Both shooters were 18-year-old men. And this isn’t unusual. The shooter who killed 17 at a Florida high school in 2018? A 19-year-old man. The killer who ended nine lives in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015? A 21-year-old man. And it was a 20-year-old man who took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, only months after a 24-year-old man killed 12 and wounded 58 in Aurora, Colorado.”

To change this age limit is a no-brainer. Doing nothing – again – is insanity.

By overwhelming margins Americans, including many gun owners, favor higher age limits, better background checks, limits on high-capacity magazines and, yes, bans on assault rifles. If you take the position, or support a politician who takes a position, that there is nothing to be done to try and prevent the next school, or supermarket, or church shooting you are effectively aiding and abetting the next slaughter.

In the wake of George H.W. Bush’s truth telling about the gun lobby in 1995, columnist Dan Thomasson wrote this: “The NRA has succeeded in convincing huge numbers of Americans that their Second Amendment rights are in peril if there is any control of any kind of weapon, even those designed only for war and totally out of place in an urban society. No larger perversion of the truth exists and the NRA knows it.”

Keep accepting the lies and the murder of innocent kids in classrooms will surely continue. Reject the lying and we have a chance, and only that, to step back from the hellscape that so many guns have brought to America.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other reads you may find of interest …

What Bullets Do to Bodies

A Huff Post profile of Dr. Amy Goldberg, the chair of the surgery department at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. As you can imagine she has treated many, many gunshot victims.

Dr. Goldberg

“In her first or second year of residency at Temple, when she was in her mid-20s, she helped treat a young boy who had been shot in the chest by his sibling who picked up a loaded gun that was lying around. The doctors couldn’t save him. The senselessness made her so angry. Goldberg listened as a senior resident informed the boy’s mother. ‘I’m sorry,’ the resident said, ‘he has passed.’ The mother didn’t react; she didn’t seem to understand what she had just heard. Goldberg spoke up. ‘He died. We’re so sorry. He died.’ It was a lesson: Be direct. ‘You have to find a very compassionate way of being honest,’ she said.”

The story by Jason Fagone is from 2017, but it is just as current, unfortunately, as this morning’s headlines.


Nazi or KGB agent? My search for my grandfather’s hidden past

“Every family has its ghosts. Ancestors who disappeared by their own hand, or by the hands of others; relatives who never fully revealed themselves while they lived. In the lands that we call eastern Europe – from Estonia in the north to Ukraine in the south – these ghosts are especially common. These are the “bloodlands” of Europe, as the historian Timothy Snyder calls them – territories that spent the past few centuries passing from one occupying power to another, where cemeteries and mass graves dot the land.

“Here, my grandfather’s story of collaboration and disappearance is unusual, but it is not unheard of.”

Fascinating story from The Guardian.


Building the “Big Lie”: Inside the Creation of Trump’s Stolen Election Myth

Supporters of former President Donald Trump rally in front of the Legislature on Jan. 6, 2021.
(David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

“ProPublica has obtained a trove of internal emails and other documentation that, taken together, tell the inside story of a group of people who propagated a number of the most pervasive theories about how the election was stolen, especially that voting machines were to blame, and helped move them from the far-right fringe to the center of the Republican Party.”

If you don’t believe that our democracy is in danger you simply haven’t been paying attention. ProPublica has the receipts.


The mysterious, mercurial world of baseball fandom

“When you’re a kid, a year is an eternity—especially when it gives you extra time to wallow in your team’s crushing defeat the season prior. Baseball came back in April of 1995, but by then I had started to drift away from the Phillies. I still liked baseball, and I still watched it quite a bit, I just took more of a bird’s-eye view. I wished Cal Ripken Jr. well that September, when he broke Lou Gehrig’s seemingly untouchable record of 2,130 consecutive games played. In summer 1998, I got as caught up in the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home-run race as anybody. But over that strike year my heart had hardened and I wasn’t sure I would ever open it up so completely to a specific team again. The cost was too great.”

I’m kind of obsessed with baseball these days. It’s good therapy and this story is good.


Thanks for reading. Share these posts if you are inclined and please do stay in touch.

Great Britain, Journalism, Politics

Political Accountability …

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he of the rumpled suit and head of hair that looks at all times as if he’s just rolled out of his bed, has had a bad few days.

Fined for breaking the law by having a crowded, boozy party at his official residence while all of the UK was in Covid lockdown, Johnson apologized, at least sort of. The mess has been dubbed “Partygate.”

One of Johnson’s parties occurred while Queen Elizabeth, strictly observing the government’s lockdown rules, sat alone at her husband’s funeral. Members of his own party have called on Johnson to step down. He’s adamantly refused.

The British prime minister at “question time”

It’s not difficult to make a 96-year-old hereditary monarch more sympathetic than a boorish and bumbling Boris Johnson, but this one was literally no contest. Boris is the first prime minister in British history to be cited for breaking a law while in office. Potentially even more damaging for the PM is the growing belief that he lied to Parliament about the booze parties. Imagine that – a politician held to account for a lie.

Johnson is additionally under fire for a hare-brained scheme to transport some UK asylum seekers to Rwanda for “reprocessing.” The idea was immediately denounced by, among others, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England. Johnson then privately criticized the archbishop, and the comments leaked. Of course they did.

Meanwhile, Johnson made a much-publicized trip to Ukraine recently to show solidarity with that beleaguered nation’s president and people. The trip was a not so thinly veiled attempt to divert attention from the scandals swirling around Johnson who is this week off to India for the same reason.

Amid cries that Johnson should “pack his bags and go,” the prime minister endured 40 minutes this week of that wonderful British tradition – question time. With support for Johnson eroding among his own Tory Party, but without, at least yet wholesale abandonment of their leader, the opposition pounded away. Oh, to have such debates in our system.

As the Conservative back benchers tried to shout down demands for Johnson’s resignation, opposition leader Keir Stamer couldn’t resist twisting the blade: “The party of Peel and Churchill reduced to shouting and screaming in support of this lawbreaker!”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer /Jessica Taylor/via REUTERS

At one level this story confirms that British democracy – and British voters – are every bit as capable as American democracy and voters of electing clowns. But what is different between these two old and venerable democracies is the apparent willingness of the British ruling class – we’ll see soon enough if Johnson survives – to hold politicians to account for their actions, separate from merely relying on voters to eventually correct their silly mistakes.

If Johnson is ultimately forced out of office, it will be because his own party has had enough of him and his nonsense. American conservatives should take note.

The former American president has been credibly accused of inciting an insurrection. There are hours of videotape of what happened after he sent a mob to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. His words of incitement are on the record. We now have text messages and phone logs confirming much of the basic story line, even a recording of the former guy demanding that election officials change votes to allow him to win in Georgia. A federal judge recently determined that the former president “more likely than not” was engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct Congress and derail the process that certified Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

What Boris Johnson did and eventually admitted to pales in comparison to our recent attempted coup. Nevertheless, the British political system, including elements of Johnson’s own political tribe, are trying to hold him to account. The police already have held him to account, rendering a verdict that the most important politician in the country violated the very law he put in place.

Additionally, as he did this week, the prime minister must stand, uncomfortably and often awkwardly, before his critics and absorb their brickbats. His job is to give back, if he can, a coherent response. It’s all carried live in television. By contrast, we may never hear directly from our own inciter-in-chief about his actions before, during and after January 6.

This American problem of political accountability has metastasized and grown more serious. Most politicians now routinely avoid any regular interaction with journalists or real voters. They gravitate to friendly talk radio shows where a tough question would be “what did you have for breakfast?”

Reporters in Montana have noticed that the state’s Republican governor routinely demolishes his own schedule after it’s been published, showing up an hour early for an event typically including a handpicked audience, and safely avoiding reporters. Veteran Idaho politicians who once would have climbed over their mothers to get in front of a TV camera are stiffing long established debates where they have to face opponents and answer pesky questions. The current occupant of the White House rarely holds a news conference or sits for tough questions.

There are a few notable exceptions that should more correctly be the norm. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden annually holds all-comer town hall meetings in every county in his state, as does Senator Jeff Merkley. Together they have held over 1,500 such events. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley visits every one of the 99 counties in his state every year and is often confronted with pointed questions. The video of many of the exchanges is both informative and gratifying for what it says about political accountability. Good for Grassley that he thinks it’s part of the job to keep showing up.

Grassley did say at a recent town hall that he supports term limits. He’s been in the Senate since 1980 – 42 years.

American democracy has a lot of problems. Too much face time between voters and politicians isn’t on the list. Submitting to pointed questions from journalists isn’t some quaint tradition that can be discarded by someone seeking the public trust.

Holding bumbling public officials to account for mistakes, law breaking and disregard for common sense is the very essence of democracy. Answering questions about their plans and blunders is a minimum requirement for public office. If politicians won’t comply, they don’t deserve your vote. And that is what accountability should look like.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some suggestions …

Mike Lee’s Role in Trump’s Attempted Coup

Mike Lee and the scandal behind his text messages

This is a truly amazing story about the senator from Utah, one that has received a fraction of the attention it deserves.

“In short: Lee outlined paths for Trump nuts to reverse the election. But, after giving these clowns all his attention, time, and effort, he didn’t, in the end, like how the Trump nuts tried to reverse the election. His disagreement was about tactics, not the mission. But his error was accepting the mission at all.

“And somehow Lee’s defenders look at this and say, ‘BOOM! Hands clean.'”

Here is Amanda Carpenter’s opinion piece from The Bulwark.

And here is a report on the interview the senator gave to his home state newspaper, The Deseret News. Read them both: what happened and the attempt to justify it.

As I said – amazing.


Opinion | The Jan. 6 Committee Can Make a Difference: Simply by Revealing What It’s Found

A good assessment here on what to look for in the public phase of the congressional investigation into the events of January 6.

” … the committee’s principal focus should ultimately be on how to present its investigative findings to the public, irrespective of a referral. The committee may indeed have a good deal of information that the Justice Department does not — depending, again, on the scope and intensity of the department’s work, which even the committee and President Joe Biden do not seem to know. The committee should lay out that information straightforwardly and professionally, just as it did recently in a lawsuit concerning Trump’s legal adviser John Eastman, who tried to withhold emails from the committee.”

I personally think a criminal referral is warranted and necessary, but getting the full story – or as much of it as possible – in front of the public is essential. From Politico.


Will Putin Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?

Hard to believe we are really thinking about this, but we certainly are.

“In plain English, as the Russian war effort to subjugate Ukraine falters and as the West pours in more weaponry, Putin is more than ready to brandish the nuclear saber. This is precisely the kind of development that haunted George F. Kennan during the Cold War—and should haunt contemporary Western statesmen as well.”

A very sobering read from National Interest.


Jackie Robinson was a Republican until the GOP became the ‘white man’s party’

Jackie Robinson’s parents named him “Jack Roosevelt Robinson” after Teddy Roosevelt. Robinson was a Republican until the party moved away from him.

Robinson in October 1960 with then Vice President Richard M. Nixon

“By 1968, Robinson was done with the GOP. He refused to support Nixon when he ran for president again in 1968. He also became more active in the civil rights movement and appeared with King on frequent occasions.

“Robinson also became a prolific writer, including a column for the Amsterdam News, a weekly Black newspaper, where he further developed his fierce opposition to the Republican Party.”

A very interesting piece on Jackie’s politics and activism. What a great American.


All the best. Be well.

Politics, Russia, Ukraine

Disinformation is the Story of Our Age …

Vladimir Putin’s criminally deadly war on Ukraine provides huge warnings to the democratic world about what happens when an entire population becomes captive to a thuggish authoritarian who lies with the kind of ease that most of us associate with taking the next breath.

Putin has been in power for 22 years, having successfully looted the country to enrich himself and a handful of his billionaire cronies, he now owns something even more valuable – the minds of most Russians. This ownership of public opinion appears so complete that Putin can transform the reality of his brutal invasion into a narrative that claims Ukrainians are the aggressors. The dead of Mariupol or Kharvik are, in Putin’s world, the “Nazis” threatening Mother Russia rather than the other way round.

Some of the awful scenes of Putin’s war from Bucha, Ukraine

We are witnessing a profound, real-time display of the power of misinformation, lies, hypocrisy and deception that truly is a warning as much as it is a tragedy.

It has been impossible this week to miss the horrific pictures and extensive first-hand reporting from Bucha, the Kiev suburb destroyed by Putin’s genocidal army. Yet, Putin and his henchmen have dismissed the images as propaganda. It’s an old, tired and disgusting tactic.

As the Associated Press has noted: “Denouncing news as fake or spreading false reports to sow confusion and undermine its adversaries are tactics that Moscow has used for years and refined with the advent of social media in places like Syria.”

Russian television, a veritable Fox News of lies and distortion and totally controlled by Putin, dishes a daily misinformation diet to people who have been lied to for so long that many have given up trying to ascertain the truth. While it would be foolish to put much faith in public opinion polling emanating from a country so thoroughly brainwashed, it appears most Russians, without ready access to independent reporting about the war, believe the lies pushed by the former KGB agent who is responsible for this madness.

Here’s how this disinformation reality connects to domestic politics, and the clear and present danger it presents to American democracy. For a decade or more the politics of the United States have been swamped by a deluge of lies with much of the lying amplified by people in high places and by cynical and manipulative media figures. Where to start?

The lies about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. The lies about school shootings being “false flag” operations. The lies about a pedophile ring operating from a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. The lies about a presidential election being stolen.

The purpose of all this lying is, of course, to fuel grievance – make people mad – but also to confuse. Is there really a world-wide child sex abuse network, as QAnon has claimed? Did presidential election ballots disappear in Michigan? Was Covid-19 a Chinese communist plot?

The confusion has worked. The lies have penetrated deeply into the political world. A December opinion poll “found that 17 percent of Americans believed that the core falsehood of QAnon – that ‘a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media’ – was true.”

This helps explain, indeed may explain in its entirety, why a handful of the most craven Republican members of Congress verbally assaulted Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing over the lie, advanced by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, that Jackson’s jurisprudence might “endanger children.”

Hawley’s nonsense was immediately rejected by a review of the facts of Judge Jackson’s record, but as Georgetown professor Donald Moynihan pointed out in the Washington Post the allegation was never about facts. “The goal,” Moynihan wrote, “was to portray Jackson, and by extension Democrats, as players in the QAnon narrative that public institutions are overrun with child predators.” This line was immediately advanced by Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn, each clearly vying for the title of worst United States senator in the modern era.

The child predator narrative has become so prevalent among the fact-free alt right that when Utah Republican Mitt Romney said he would vote to confirm Jackson to the high court he was attacked online, an assault barely short of accusing the former Republican presidential candidate – a Mormon in good standing – of being soft on child abusers.

The disinformation – the lies – have become so prevalent that it is nearly impossible to keep track, and that is another aspect of what one-time Donald Trump “strategist” Steve Bannon infamously called “flooding the zone with shit.” This is the fatigue of confusion. Putin has mastered this, and Trump has long mimicked the man he called a “genius” for invading Ukraine. And it has worked, especially in this deadly moment for Putin who increasingly can count on a pro-Putin wing of the GOP to spread his lies.

From Tucker Carlson, the Russian propaganda peddling Fox News star, to 63 House Republicans – including Idaho’s Russ Fulcher and Montana’s Matt Rosendale – who voted this week against a resolution of support for continuing U.S. engagement with NATO, Putin’s disinformation has broadly entered the country’s conservative political bloodstream.

Altogether, as Will Saletan noted in The Bulwark, 21 Republicans have opposed, or sought to constrain, aid to Ukraine or sanctions on Russia. “That’s a group three times the size of ‘the Squad,’ which Republicans claim is in control of every aspect of Democratic policy. Imagine how much power those 21 Republicans would wield in a GOP-controlled House.” And lest we forget a former and potentially future American president has been his willing accomplice, while once responsible members of the Republican Party have aided and abetted his repeated lying.

“Disinformation is the story of our age,” says The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. I would take the observation a bit farther. It seems entirely possible that we are living in the advanced stages of a Putin-like capture of millions of American minds; minds filled with mush and grotesque nonsense, the kind of rank garbage that poisons democracy.

But who is really to blame for this softening of American minds? And is what we are experiencing really any different than the John Birch Society’s communist under every bed conspiracy of the 1950’s or who killed JFK narratives that have never ended?

The answer is a definitive – yes. This is different. An entire political party has willingly permitted this to ripen and grow rancid. That party, preparing to regain control of Congress this year, has proven beyond any doubt it will use disinformation to not only discredit its opponents, but delegitimize democratic institutions, including courts and elections.

As for who is to blame – we are, all of us. While we’ve been busy with the myriad distractions and trivialities of modern life, we allowed our democratic system to crumble into terrible disrepair, electing unserious, craven people and acting as though truth and character no longer matter.

While hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fight for their lives and their democracy, we can’t bring ourselves to discard the liars who threaten ours.

—–0—–

More Reading:

My “carefully” curated selections that just might be of interest …

Baseball’s Labor Wars

Well, there was some good news this week. Baseball is back, but perhaps with an asterisk.

Fenway last year

“Today, twenty-four of baseball’s thirty owners are billionaires. Many inherited their wealth or made it in other sectors, such as real estate, banking and finance, and communications. Almost all of them have seen their wealth increase during the pandemic. The wealthiest among them, Mets owner Steve Cohen, built his fortune in the hedge fund industry. Since 2020, his net worth has increased from $13.9 billion to $15.9 billion.

“Total MLB revenues grew from $9.5 billion in 2015 to $10.7 billion in 2019. Even though the pandemic emptied the ballparks in 2020, revenues recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.”

A good historical assessment of players and owners. Enjoy the games – I will – but there is always a backstory.


How did cockroaches survive the asteroid that led to the extinction of dinosaurs?

Turns out the pesky cockroach survived the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Who knew?

“How could roaches a couple of inches long survive when so many powerful animals went extinct? It turns out that they were nicely equipped to live through a meteoric catastrophe.”

This actually explains a lot.

Sugar Daddy of the Right

Turns out the founder of the John Birch Society – the wacky rightwing outfit is enjoying a new moment of relevance – also invented the Sugar Daddy candy.

Robert Welch founded the John Birch Society, and opened the floodgates of conspiracy

I’ve been reading the new bio of Robert Welch by Edward H. Miller. It’s good.

“The mid-20th-century United States was a place where Robert W. Welch Jr., a bankrupted candy manufacturer and inventor of the Sugar Daddy lollipop, could found a national organization that would leave a conspiratorial imprint on modern conservatism — planting the seeds for today’s fever dreams.”

As I said, there is always a backstory. A review of Miller’s book.


Thanks for reading. Defend democracy. It really is under attack.

GOP, Politics

Bob Dole Is Not Amused…

It seems fitting, in a perverse way, given the abysmal state of American conservatism, that much of this week has been given over to bipartisan tributes to a politician who was one of the last remaining links to a Republican Party not in thrall to conspiracy, crackpot science ideas and grifting con men.

Kansas senator and Republican candidate for both vice president and president Bob Dole, who died recently at age 98, was about as removed from the current crop of do-nothing, stand for nothing GOP senators as it is possible to imagine.

As Bob Dole might have said, “Bob Dole doesn’t understand this craziness.”

Dole: A Different Kind of Republican…

The Kansas politicians was many, many things: a legit war hero who lost the use of his right arm to fascist bullets in Italy but whose party now thinks nothing of a bunch of Neo-Nazis marching brown shirt style in Charlottesville; a bipartisan deal maker whose party now wants to shut down the government over efforts to control the worst pandemic since Kaiser Wilhelm; a guy with a sense of humor in contrast to a party totally lacking in self-awareness, not to mention soul.

Dole was a hard-core Republican, but I find no record of him dismissing Democrats as “communists.”

In truth, Bob Dole was a serious guy. Remembering his career underscores how incredibly unserious one political party – his party – has become.

Dole’s legislative record puts to shame virtually every sitting United States senator. He will forever be remembered for his role in creating the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law written by a disabled guy who had to teach himself to write with his left hand. Dole worked with liberal Democrats Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy to get it passed.

Dole could be a rough, even nasty partisan. He once called Jimmy Carter a “Southern-fried McGovern,” but still worked with liberal George McGovern to establish food security programs like food stamps and school lunches. Dole voted for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

This was once what serious political leaders did – they worked to address serious national problems. Today’s Republican Party, devoid of true conservative principles, is a nativist cesspool of disinformation, culture war nonsense and performative grievance.

Consider in the days since Dole died:

  • A former Republican congressman and White House chief of staff – Mark Meadows – has defied a congressional subpoena compelling him to tell what he knows about the events surrounding the January 6 attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters. The same day Meadows reversed course on the summons – he originally said he would comply – he went on Fox News to downplay the assault. This Republican won’t respect a lawful demand from the branch of government he once served but will happily talk nonsense to Sean Hannity.
  • While the president was engaged in diplomacy at the highest level with Vladimir Putin, a Republican senator – Roger Wicker of Mississippi – actually suggested the United States lob missiles at Russian military bases, volunteered that American troops might “be on the ground” in Ukraine and that the U.S. might engage in a nuclear first strike on Russia. Wicker’s reckless, warmongering loose talk is a glaring example of the arrogance, ignorance and lack of seriousness on the American right.
  • And in Wisconsin, a Republican former judge investigating phony allegations of vote fraud has threatened to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay over their responses to his hyperventilating nutjobbery. Meanwhile, an independent conservative group has again confirmed there was no vote fraud in Wisconsin in the last election.

One could go on at length but suffice to say this is not Bob Dole’s Republican Party. Dole acknowledged as much in a final piece written earlier this year and by his agreement released after his death.

“There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country,” Dole wrote in the Washington Post. “We have heard many of our leaders profess ‘bipartisanship.’ But we must remember that bipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves.

“America has never achieved greatness when Republicans and Democrats simply manage to work together or tolerate each other. We have overcome our biggest challenges only when we focused on our shared values and experiences. These common ties form much stronger bonds than political parties.”

What Republican today thinks like that, much less behaves like that?

“When we prioritize principles over party and humanity over personal legacy, we accomplish far more as a nation,” Dole said in his last op-ed. “By leading with a shared faith in each other, we become America at its best: a beacon of hope, a source of comfort in crisis, a shield against those who threaten freedom.” Dole wasn’t describing the Republican Party.

A top aide to retiring Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has succinctly described the GOP approach to politics. “If you want to spend all your time going on Fox and be[ing] an a**hole,” Corry Bliss told National Journal, “there’s never been a better time to serve. But if you want to spend all your time being thoughtful and getting s**t done, there’s never been a worse time to serve.”

It logically follows that the Senate Republican leader recently announced that the party will have no legislative agenda in 2022 – none. Oh, Mitch McConnell and his acolytes will continue to obstruct, delay and fail to engage, but they won’t try to solve any problems.

Little wonder Portman is retiring. Bob Dole would understand.

It is impossible to remember Dole and his role in American political life over half a century without recalling his remarkable sense of humor, another attribute totally missing in today’s political class.

When Republicans took Senate control in 1980 for the first time in a quarter century, Dole realized the Senate – and his party – was changing. He knew that successful Republicans candidates that year like Dan Quayle in Indiana, Steve Symms in Idaho and Chuck Grassley in Iowa were nothing to celebrate, and he joshed truthfully: “If we had known we were going to win control of the Senate, we’d have run better candidates.”

Dole meant that as a joke, more or less, but we live with the legacy – a party unconcerned about policy, often devoid of truth and increasingly undemocratic.

We do well to celebrate a serious politician like the man from Russell, Kansas. We’d do even better to elect more like him.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest…

Burying Leni Riefenstahl: one woman’s lifelong crusade against Hitler’s favorite film-maker

An Austrian documentary filmmaker has dedicated much of her life to correcting the record about Leni Riefenstahl, the woman who made movies for the Nazis.

“During the Nazi era, Riefenstahl had been the regime’s most skilled propagandist, directing films that continue to be both reviled for their glorification of the Third Reich and considered landmarks of early cinema for their innovations and technical mastery. Once the second world war was over, Riefenstahl sought to distance herself from the regime she had served, portraying herself as an apolitical naif whose only motivation was making the most beautiful art possible. ‘I don’t know what I should apologize for,’ she once said. ‘All my films won the top prize.'”

A long and fascinating story from The Guardian:


What Propelled Vivian Maier’s Earliest New York Photographs?

I can unreservedly recommend an excellent film about a remarkable photographer – Finding Vivian Maier.

Three Rabbits by Vivian Maier

And this is an excerpt of a new book on Maier, who captured daily life in New York and elsewhere starting in 1951.

“Many have observed that Vivian possessed an underdog’s perspective, and regardless of her circumstances, she identified primarily with the working class. While the beginnings of such an affiliation is apparent in her French photographs, this point of view would permeate her New York work. Possessing a progressive perspective, she was drawn toward capturing the intersections of race and class.”

Here’s a link to the excerpt…and be sure to look up the documentary.


The Woman in Black

I really enjoyed this piece – it is a bit gruesome – about the last judicial duel in France in 1386. A bit before my time, but really fascinating.

The story is the basis for a new film – The Last Duel – starring Matt Damon and Adam Driver. The story line involves an alleged rape, the accusations of a noble woman and a fight to the death between the accused the woman’s husband. OK, then…

“The trial by combat would decide whether she had told the truth—and thus whether she would live or die. Like today, sexual assault and rape often went unpunished and even unreported in the Middle Ages. But a public accusation of rape, at the time a capital offense and often a cause for scandalous rumors endangering the honor of those involved, could have grave consequences for both accuser and accused, especially among the nobility.”

Link to the piece here:


The 100 Best Baseball Books Ever Written

I can nitpick a few of these “best 100,” but it is a pretty solid collection of books on baseball. Reading about the great game will have to do while the billionaire owners sort out their issues with the millionaire players.

“There are, of course, inner-circle Hall of Fame baseball books. On any self-respecting list, you’ll find The Glory of Their TimesThe Summer GameEight Men OutThe NaturalVeeck as in WreckCan’t Anybody Here Play This Game?Ball Four, The Boys of SummerThe Lords of the Realm, and Moneyball. Those titles appear here, of course, along with our pick of 100 indispensable books no baseball fan should be without. In no particular order…”

Good piece from Esquire:


Thanks, my friends, for following along. Get the Christmas cards done. All the best.

Education, Politics

Illiberal America…

There was a time when Boise State University, the 22,000-student college in Idaho’s capitol city, only made national news with a football team that played on a garish artificial blue turf.

Now, with the football team struggling, BSU is grabbing national attention for arguably more important reasons. The school is front and center in the raging culture wars around the value of higher education, diversity and equity, sexual orientation and, believe it or not, feminism.

The Boise State story has many threads, including being part of a growing national effort – orchestrated on the illiberal libertarian right – to broadly discredit education at every level. Like everything else these days it’s all political. Stay with me. I’ll try to connect some of the dots.

The latest Boise State angle involves a tenured professor in the political science department of the university, Dr. Scott Yenor. Yenor is a scholar of political theory, but more importantly he is a provocateur, which is an important angle of the larger story.

Yenor recently gave a speech in Florida at the National Conservative Conference. Among other intellectual luminaries on the agenda for this Trumpy conference were Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, two Republicans who aided and abetted the January 6th insurrection. Christopher Rufo, the guy who singlehandedly created the pseudo-controversy about Critical Race Theory, also spoke.

Yenor’s Florida speech – now widely available on the Internet – advanced some of his theories about family life, marriage and feminism.

Using language that would have made Archie Bunker, TV’s most famous bigoted white guy, blush, Yenor said, among other things, that “independent women” who seek fulfillment in “midlevel bureaucratic jobs like human resource management, environmental protection, and marketing” are – I kid you not – “more medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome than women need to be.”

The professor suggested it was a mistake for women to be recruited into fields that have long been dominated by men. “Young men must be respectable and responsible to inspire young women to be secure with feminine goals of homemaking and having children,” Yenor said, suggesting that the achievements of men have not been adequately “celebrated.”

No word on what the professor thinks about women as political science majors, but this part of his speech might provide a clue. “Every effort must be made not to recruit women into engineering, but rather to recruit and demand more of men who become engineers. Ditto for med school, and the law, and every trade.”

It appears the larger point Yenor was attempting to make is that “feminism,” and the radical notion that women and men should be treated equally, have come close to destroying the American family, weakening the institution of marriage, and generally putting us on a path to utter societal destruction. Yenor has produced a wide array of articles and books on this theme.

Typically, many were quick to condemn Yenor, and he may have created serious questions about whether women students he has taught at Boise State have a cause for action, particularly if they can show Yenor’s “theories” have penalized them in some way. Did he grade the “striving women” in his classes differently than men, for example? Expect more on this. The university would do well to get in front of the issue with its own investigation.  

Boise State, correctly in my view, defended the professor’s odious views under the necessary umbrella of academic freedom. Pointy-headed academics on the nutty right are entitled to be as silly as are their counterparts on the crazy left.

Yenor’s ideas, while backward, demeaning, even hatefully misogynistic are worthy of debate. Worthy of being demolished. Worthy of being broadly rejected. Yenor should not earn a wider platform by becoming the latest crackpot martyr who has been “silenced,” which one suspects was part of his rationale for taking on half the human race. What better way to get a bucket load of attention these days – and a Fox News hit – than by saying outrageous things and being called on them by “liberals?”

The university’s “official” response was supplemented by a tepid statement to the effect that women are appreciated at the school. But to date there has been no serious pushback against Yenor’s nonsense. This is what you get, I guess, when you operate in a state where the political leadership is either weak or fully onboard with the craziness of modern conservative politics.

But here is where the Yenor/Boise State story goes wider. Make no mistake, the real agenda here, and that of the people who gave Yenor a platform in Florida, is to discredit public education. The goal is to play to growing resentment among conservatives about modern “liberal” education – and I use liberal in the classic sense – being a leftist plot to undermine America.

Yenor is deeply connected into the world of the anti-education Idaho Freedom Foundation, and he was a member of the phony education indoctrination task force created by Idaho’s Trump-endorsed candidate for governor, current Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin.

Yenor is a “Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute,” the once widely respected conservative California think tank that now happily endorses the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump won the last election.

The Institute’s “Center for the American Way of Life” – Yenor is listed among the Center’s scholars – argues, Trump-like, for a new rightest movement. “The Right must be morally unflinching in refuting the Left’s ideologies,” its website proclaims. “It must speak clearly and confidently about the effects of radical feminism, ‘antiracism,’ and globalism. It must be prepared to protect its children, its property, and its standards from encroachments.”

Nothing short of revolution is required, Claremont says, to free the country from “the adversarial press and media, Big Tech oligopolies, and corrupt universities.” Trump authoritarianism, however, is just fine.

A Claremont “Senior Fellow” is John Eastman, a law professor and author of the crazy, anti-constitutional “Stop the Steal” memo that attempted to create a rationale for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes of several states and keep Trump president.

Eastman is deeply implicated in the events of January 6, subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Scott Yenor, you might not be surprised to learn, recently wrote a defense of the insurrectionist law professor who was – surprise – not exactly given the red-carpet treatment at the recent National Political Science Association’s conference.

So, back to the Boise State prof. He’s clearly not a dim bulb – I have met him, by the way – but even gifted minds can lead others astray. He’s playing a game on the fringes of the far, far American right, not unlike the old Birch Society or Phyllis Schlafly once did. The game is to inflame by outrage and hearken back to “America’s better days” when mom was home in an apron waiting for her man to return from men’s work.

Birch Society billboard

This is the “real America” these throwbacks advocate, and what better way to channel it than arguing that women are always better off barefoot in the kitchen rather than as educated professionals?

The American “revolution” Claremont and its scholars envision isn’t just insulting, illiberal and undemocratic, it’s a profound rejection of modernity and a repudiation of a society that has struggled for decades to create equal opportunities for all its citizens without regard to the makeup of their chromosomes.

It is essential to refute and reject these dangerous people – mostly mediocre white men – who claim so cavalierly the moral high ground that justifies revolution. They have already proven they will stop at nothing to create an authoritarian America, and they are prevailing. It’s probably just a coincidence that Scott Yenor’s misogyny is in the news just as the Supreme Court prepares to roll back the abortion rights American women have had for 50 years

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few more things worthy of your time…

Is society coming apart?

I am a huge fan of the historian Jill Lepore. Her recent long read piece in The Guardian explores what’s happened to the ideas of social fabric and community. Very good.

“Forging stronger bonds in a post-pandemic world, if one ever comes, will require acts of moral imagination that are not part of any political ideology or corporate mission statement, but are, instead, functions of the human condition: tenderness, compassion, longing, generosity, allegiance and affection. These, too, are the only real answers to loneliness, alienation, dislocation and disintegration. But the fullest expression of these functions across distances as easily spanned by viruses and flood waters as by broadband cables and TikTok videos, requires both society and government.”

Always read Jill. Here is a link:


How to Save a Ski Town

Affordable and workforce housing is in shockingly short supply across the American West. This piece from Outside Magazine explores how one town in Colorado is trying to address the need.

“When the situation reached its breaking point over the summer, Crested Butte officials acted swiftly. In June, the town council declared a state of emergency, the first time a Colorado municipality had used the designation for a housing crisis. This enabled them to bypass certain municipal codes and provide some immediate relief, like purchasing a six-bedroom bed-and-breakfast and converting it into dorm-style housing for local workers. They also began allowing RV and tent camping on private property in town. In July the council issued a moratorium on new short-term rental licenses for a year, and officials resumed discussions about a controversial tax on empty homes, which they had started in 2020 but tabled for the pandemic.”

Link here.


Fabiola Letelier, Chilean human rights activist, dies at 92

Some of you may remember a sensational and outrageous murder that took place on the streets of Washington, DC in 1973.

The gruesome scene of the assassination of Orlando Letelier in 1973

“One of the most brazen acts of state-sponsored terrorism ever perpetrated in the United States took place on Sept. 21, 1976, when Orlando Letelier, a Chilean exile and leading critic of strongman Augusto Pinochet, was assassinated in a car bombing on Washington’s Embassy Row.”

Orlando Letelier’s sister never gave up on the memory of her brother or on the fight for human rights and justice.

Read her story here:


Scotland names its snow plows and their titles for 2021 are still amazing

Love this story…

“On first glance, some of the names may not make sense to people in the US, but note the country calls these vehicles ‘gritters’ — that makes ‘Gritney Spears’ make much more sense. This week, social media again took note when revamped names started appearing on the national map of snow plows. The pun game is still very strong.”

Link here…and Vermont is doing the same:


Thanks a million for reading. Stay well. And stay in the game.

Books, Politics

Don’t Ban Books…

I own a lot of books.

Some might say an excessive number of volumes. I’m a collector, but also a book advocate. I like books. I live in many ways to be surrounded by books and the ideas, insights, controversies and confusion contained between their covers.

I own books I love and some I hate. I grew up with books. My dad subscribed to the old Readers Digest condensed book program that sent several times a year a hard cover volume of five or so “condensed” books to our living room. My dad would devour those stories and patiently wait for the next volume to arrive. It rubbed off.

Growing up I loved books by Clair Bee, a hugely influential basketball coach at Long Island University from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Coach Bee invented the one-third-one zone defense, which can still be effective if you have a quick team that can shift, cover and defend.

Most of all, from my perspective, Clair Bee wrote books – the Chip Hilton series, 23 books in all about a humble kid who starred in football, basketball and baseball. These books for would be sports stars had titles like “Buzzer Basket” and “Touchdown Pass.”

A Chip Hilton book…

I eventually moved on to history and biography and finally discovered novels. My love for books led me to serve on two library boards in two different states. I collect books on presidents and U.S. senators and have books on ones I admire and loath. I have critical books about Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan and books that place both of them among them the greatest political leaders of the 20th Century.

Books are like that. Complicated. Full of controversial ideas. Some are well done. Some aren’t. Some endure, many don’t.

I have a book that was written in 1937, a critical, first-hand account of Franklin Roosevelt’s scheme to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court that same year. Two well-placed journalists wrote it. It reads like a novel and has stood the test of time as a source on the near Constitutional crisis FDR created. Is that book the total story of that controversial part of the Roosevelt presidency? Of course not, but it is a piece of the story. Dozens of other books have been written about the same subject and I expect many more will be written. They should be written and read.

I have a dozen books, at least, on Thomas Jefferson. Not one of them is the complete Jefferson. Individual books point the way to begin to understand a subject, and no book is the only “truth” about any subject. That is why I have a dozen books about the third American president. He is a complicated story.

All this by way of saying be wary, be very wary when anyone says they want to ban or remove books. Sadly – and this happens periodically, which is also sad – a bunch of folks across the country right now think banning books is a good idea. But in fact, it is a horrible, dangerous idea.

Search “book banning” and you’ll find some shocking stuff right now. Two school board members in Virginia actually said recently that some books in the school library ought to be burned. They clearly haven’t read any history.

A school board member in Florida actually filed a police report suggesting it was crime to feature one particular book in a high school library. A Texas lawmaker has suggested more than 800 books that he believes ought to be prohibited in the state’s schools, books dealing with race, sex, human rights and a volume that would be laughably ironic on such a list if it wasn’t so sad, a book entitled The Year They Burned the Books.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented volume of challenges,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Executive Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom told Time. “I’ve worked for ALA for 20 years, and I can’t recall a time when we had multiple challenges coming in on a daily basis.”

Here’s something you can learn from reading books. One of the first things that happened in Germany in 1933 after Adolf Hitler came to power was the destruction of thousands of books. This is widely documented, including at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, but also by historian Richarad L. Evans in his brilliant three volume study of The Third Reich.

A book burning in Germany under the Nazis

On a single day – May 10, 1933 – organized and well attended demonstrations took place in 19 different German university towns, as Evans wrote, where “huge numbers of books by Jewish and left-wing authors were piled up and set alight.” But in Germany, of course, more than books were banned. Jewish and leftist professors were pushed out of universities and artists and museum directors were sacked, with many fleeing the country.

It wasn’t just the ideas espoused by these people or the concepts in their books, paintings or films that Hitler and his henchmen sought to eliminate. “What the Nazis were trying to achieve,” Evans says, “was a cultural revolution, in which alien cultural influences – notably Jews but also modernist culture more generally – were eliminated and the German spirit reborn.”

It was a kind of Make Germany Great Again moment.

The cultural war that is flaming on the political right in America has, of course, the same basic aim. The “alien cultural influences” that are under assault today are members of the LGBTQ community, anyone who believes the study of American history must reckon with race and slavery, “elites” of every flavor, university professors, school board members, and always Jews and people of color.

And some conservatives, seeing this cultural war as a means to sow division and frankly scare people, are weaponizing books for political means. A conservative just won the governor’s office in Virginia by these means, and governors from Texas to Idaho will happily fan these flames of resentment and anti-intellectualism if it means placating the fringe actors who want to cancel any culture at odds with their own beliefs.

Put me down as a radical believer in free expression. I favor books and ideas, even especially ones I disagree with. Banning books is abhorrent. Allowing this to happen, or heaven forbid normalizing it, is a big step down a very slippery slope.

We should know better.

We must know better.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some other items I found of interest and hope you do…

Who Poisoned Joe Gilliam…Twice?

A remarkable story from Willamette Week’s outstanding Nigel Jaquiss.

“Two criminal investigations are pending into Joe Gilliam’s attempted murder, one in Lake Oswego and another in Arizona. Police in both jurisdictions declined to comment.

“Both agencies believe, however, that someone close to Gilliam tried to kill him last year with a toxic metal called thallium. And they did so not once, but twice.

“His guardian and the judge overseeing his custody are concerned enough that someone will try again that they will not reveal his exact location.”

A fascinating and disturbing true crime read.


Inside the Red-State Plot to Take Down a Top Trump Ally

I always read the work of McKay Coppins in The Atlantic and this piece about Utah Senator Mike Lee is great.

“First elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, Lee has long rankled the local establishment in Utah, where he is viewed by many as a showboating obstructionist whose penchant for provocation routinely embarrasses his home state and its predominant religion. Lee’s MAGA makeover during the Trump presidency served only to exacerbate that perception. Now, as he prepares to run for reelection next year, Lee is bracing for a concerted, multifront campaign to unseat him. He seems to know that a third term isn’t guaranteed.”

Good political reporting. Here’s the link:


Sam Huff, Fearsome Hall of Fame Giants Linebacker, Dies at 87

Sam Huff: Football great

“Playing for the Giants in their glory years of the late 1950s and early ’60s, Huff came out of the West Virginia coal country to anchor a defense that gained the kind of renown that had previously been reserved for strong-armed quarterbacks and elusive runners.”

A great obit of the Hall of Famer in the Times.

And while I was reading about Huff’s remarkable career, I came across this – a CBS documentary about Sam Huff, narrated by, who else, Walter Cronkite. Great stuff.


Trains, Planes and Automobiles

And…an early Thanksgiving wish for all of you. This review of my favorite Thanksgiving themed movie with the greatly missed John Candy and the vastly talented Steve Martin.

Anyone need any shower curtain rings.


Be safe. Keeping reading books. Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.

Media, Politics

Tomorrow Will Be Worse…

Random notes and data points on the state of American politics and culture.

  • Cable news is, generally speaking, a cesspool of division, disgust and distraction. Therefore, “the Alec Baldwin shoots a person on a movie set” story was the perfect cable news event. A Fox News freelance photographer summed up this reality perfectly: “Baldwin, he’s as close to US/American royalty as we have in this country, so that put the British TV on the story … A lot of it is timing and what else is going on in the news cycle.”
  • Also in the news cycle: “Government leaders face two choices in Glasgow, Patricia Espinosa, head of the U.N. climate office, declared at the summit’s opening: They can sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions and help communities and countries survive what is becoming a hotter, harsher world, Espinosa said. ‘Or we accept that humanity faces a bleak future on this planet.’”
  • In 1985, academic and writer Neil Postman published a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Among other observations, Postman wrote: “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”
  • A conservative, pro-Trump candidate won the Virginia governor’s race this week by defeating a former governor with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. In part, Glenn Youngkin won because of books, including controversial books by a Black female author. Youngkin’s victory was widely portrayed as a defeat for Joe Biden, even though the party in the White House has lost the Virginia governor’s race in 11 of the last 12 elections.
  • One Youngkin campaign ad “features an older blond woman, wringing her hands and telling a story about a book that her son had to read for school – one that was so upsetting, so explicit, that her ‘heart sunk’ to think of it. Internet sleuths didn’t have to look far to find out that the woman was Laura Murphy, a Fairfax County conservative activist; the son is Blake Murphy, who’s now 27 and works for the National Republican Congressional Committee; the traumatizing reading was done almost a decade ago; the explicit book was Toni Morrison’s much-decorated masterpiece, Beloved.”
  • “A Texas Republican lawmaker has launched an investigation into some of the state’s school districts’ libraries, demanding in a letter that educators say whether their schools own books named in a list of 850 titles, many of which cover issues of race and sexuality.”
  • Again, Neil Postman: “What [George] Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What [Aldous] Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”
  • “At a school board meeting in Illinois, a man was arrested after allegedly striking an education official. At another in Virginia, one man was arrested for making a physical threat, and a third was injured. And at other meetings in states such as Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Tennessee, school board members have had to adjourn early after being confronted by angry mobs.”
  • “Violence and true threats of violence should have no place in our civic discourse, but parents should absolutely be involved in public debates over what and how our public schools teach their children, even if those discussions get heated,” according to a letter read by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Postman: “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”
  • Meanwhile in a rural, medically underserved area of northwest Oregon, an all-volunteer school board worked with a not-for-profit health center to create a school-based clinic for middle and high school students. A local foundation contributed to the effort that aims to improve health care for youngsters leading to better educational outcomes. So far, the effort has received no media attention.
  • The former president of the United States attended Game 4 of the World Series in Atlanta and participated in the controversial – racist – “tomahawk chop” with Braves fans. He lied about being invited to the game by Major League Baseball. “Former president Donald Trump will attend Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday at Truist Park, Atlanta CEO Terry McGuirk told USA TODAY Sports. ‘He called MLB and wanted to come to the game,’ McGuirk said. ‘We were very surprised. Of course, we said yes.’”
  • Fox, carrying the game to millions, showed pictures of the former president, because of course they did.
  • More Postman: “Television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information – misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.”
  • The Associated Press: “The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems. Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 745,000 lives lost, more than any other nation.”
  • Conservative commentator Tom Nichols latest book is called Our Own Worst Enemy. In his newsletter this week, Nichols wrote: “Of course, we’re still a powerful country. We have military muscle, from bullets to nuclear weapons, beyond measure. And we’re awash in money, with a GDP nearly as large as our next three competitors combined. We hold bags of patents and buckets of Nobel Prizes. The products of American institutions from universities to movie studios are exported across the planet. But when it comes to seriousness—the invaluable discipline and maturity that allows us to discern matters that should transcend self-interest, to set aside churlish ego and emotionalism, and to act with prudence and self-restraint—we’re a weak, impoverished backwater.”
  • Tomorrow promises to be worse.

—–0—–

More Reading:

Other items you may find of interest…

Julia Ioffe

I admit it. I appropriated the title of Julia’s newsletter for the column above. She’s great. Check out her writing here.


The Call is Coming From Inside the House: On Fighting Disinformation

“Disinformation and today’s online information ecosystem are more nuanced than news headlines might suggest. Here are five books that will enhance and expand your understanding of the tools of disinformation, its adjacent harms, and the future of the threat in a way that the morning news can’t.”

Books to make you smarter:


Capitalism is killing the planet – it’s time to stop buying into our own destruction

A not particularly encouraging piece here about our collective approach to the impending climate disaster.

“If we cannot pierce the glassy surface of distraction, and engage with what lies beneath, we will not secure the survival of our children or, perhaps, our species. But we seem unable or unwilling to break the surface film. I think of this strange state as our ‘surface tension.’ It’s the tension between what we know about the crisis we face, and the frivolity with which we distance ourselves from it.”

From The Guardian.


Why is Baseball the Most Literary of Sports?

Freddie Freeman, the heart and soul of the new World Series champs

It happens every year at this time. Baseball goes away just when you need it the most. Well, you can still read about the great game.

“Why does baseball translate so well to the page?

“Part of the answer is the basic nature of the game. Baseball plays out largely in a series of one-on-one matchups with very clear dramatic stakes. Do you hit the ball or swing and miss? Get on base or strike out? Catch the ball or get an error? Not only are the stakes clear from moment to moment, but the game is played out over a lot of tension-building downtime punctuated with short bursts of dramatic action. While haters will say this makes the game boring to watch, it certainly makes it easier to render on the page. The chaotic non-stop action of sports like hockey and basketball are trickier to pull off in text.”

You won’t ground into a double play with this essay.


That’s all I got. Have a good weekend. Be safe.

Insurrection, Politics, Trump, Uncategorized

Our Constitutional Crisis…

Raising the federal debt limit so our government can pay the bills it has already rung up ought to be the political equivalent of an uncontested lay-up in basketball.

Senate Republicans, willing to force the U.S. economy to the brink of insolvency and crater the recovery from a deadly pandemic by filibustering the issue, are forcing Senate Democrats to save the game by effectively making a half-court desperation shot at the buzzer.

If what nihilistic Republicans are doing weren’t so economically irresponsible, indeed potentially catastrophic, it would be cause for a laughable case of hypocritical cynicism. After all, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, the guy orchestrating this bit of potentially fatal political theater, has voted 32 times for a debt ceiling increase during his time in Washington.

There ought to be a Mt. Rushmore for cynics like the Kentucky senator, but no block of granite exists large enough to feature all the worthy cynics. (Any monument would surely have to make room for Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a world-class enabler of federal debt with repeated votes to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and one who now refuses to pay the very bills he created.)

Yet, while this cliffhanger dominates the news, underscoring how broken our politics continues to be, an existential crisis of democracy is unfolding in real time. Tragically, this crisis remains out of sight and out of mind for most Americans. Our constitutional crisis is under the daily radar screen for two reasons: Republican officeholders are ignoring it and too many Americans have grown comfortable with the undemocratic, authoritarian, insurrectionist politics of the political right.

Let’s briefly review the path to constitutional crisis:

Months before the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump began to raise doubts among his supporters that the election would be conducted fairly. Unlike any presidential candidate before, Trump said in so many words: if I lose, the election was rigged. He repeated this fable over and over – for months.

As election day drew closer, Trump ramped up the lies about election integrity, advancing bogus arguments about mail in ballots or dead people voting. On election night – trailing in key states – Trump declared victory and began turning up the heat on local election officials to find some way to turn the outcome in his favor. Trump’s pressure on election officials in Georgia is still the subject of criminal review.

Next, and in advance of state-level certification of the election, came the lies about vote counts from Pennsylvania to Arizona. Trump lawyers went to court in several states to try to stop certification, or to advance election fraud claims. In not one single case in a dozen states has any remotely creditable evidence been presented to a court supporting the former president’s case. Nothing has surfaced because there is nothing there.

Still, the lies, aided by the silence, or even worse actively abetted by Republican elected officials, took hold. Public opinion polling indicates a majority of Republicans have now bought the lies, which Trump repeated again this week.

The lies, beyond the clear damage to the legitimacy of American democracy, have had other real consequences. Election officials in numerous states have been on the receiving end of harassment and even death threats. A group of Republican crackpots in Arizona, egged on by their lying leader, convened, as the Arizona Republic reported, their “own group of fake electors who promptly voted to throw Arizona’s vote to Donald Trump? Turns out they weren’t engaged in meaningless wishful thinking or yet another wild PR stunt to play to the base. They were involved in an actual plan to stage a coup.”

We now know that Trump enlisted the help of a conservative lawyer from California to concoct a legal rationale for a coup. The theory held that then-vice president Mike Pence could, on his own motion, reject the Electoral College votes of several states that Trump lost.

The lawyer, John Eastman, meet with Trump at the White House on January 5, 2021, the day before Congress was scheduled to certify, as a purely procedural matter, the presidential election.

As a violent mob chanting “hangMike Pence” attacked the Capitol on January 6th, Pence, somewhat amazingly given his fealty to Trump, followed the Constitution.

We also know that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, convened a meeting of his top staff in this period to remind them of the military’s duty to the Constitution. Milley also spoke with his Chinese counterpart to ensure him that the U.S. was not about to launch a war. There are other reports that Milley observed that Trump was unstable and capable of precipitating a “wag the dog” type incident to hold on to power.

The incident Trump and supporters planned for and encouraged happened, of course, on January 6th on the steps and inside the United States Capitol.





On January 6, then-president Donald Trump speaks to the crowd that later attacked the U.S. Capitol

If this weren’t recent American history staring us square in the face it would be a good plot line for a second rate made for TV movie, and perhaps that is why it’s easy for some to dismiss the lying, scheming and the threats. This kind of crazy, undemocratic action just doesn’t happen in our county. Right.

But dismissal of lies about election fraud, a coup plot and a deadly insurrection is a profoundly dangerous response to this web of treason. The worst is likely yet to come. By 2024, amateurish “Stop the Steal” stunts will be professionalized. Trump will run again. The election will be close. And the reaction – almost certainly chaos and crisis.

As Robert Kagan, no squishy liberal, wrote recently in the Washington Post: “As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may ‘revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election’ by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed ‘technical infractions,’ including obstructing the view of poll watchers.”

As Kagan correctly notes, many, many Trump supporters see the web he has woven “as a patriotic defense of the nation,” and therefore “there is every reason to expect more such episodes.”

Europeans all too easily slipped the bonds of democracy less than one hundred years ago to follow charismatic, authoritarian leaders into fascism and dictatorship.

It’s often said: “But, it can’t happen here.” Are you sure about that?

Better yet, what are you doing about it?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few additional items that you may find of interest…

The foul-mouthed farmer sticking his neck out for Democrats’ agenda

From Politico, a great profile of Montana Senator Jon Tester. (Personal opinion: we could use some more like him.)

Montana Senator Jon Tester

“There’s no one in the Senate like Tester these days, both physically and politically. He’s a hulking presence as he ambles through the chamber’s marble halls, dispensing plainspoken wisdom and pushing what he calls ‘positive vibes.’ When he sips a bottle of beer, he cradles it in between his pinky finger and thumb — a necessary habit since he lost three fingers in a meat grinder as a child.”

If Democrats hope to ever build a working majority in Congress, and particularly in the Senate, they are going to have to embrace candidates like Jon Tester in rural western states.

Here’s a link to the full profile:


Vaccine Mandates are Working

This really shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

“Coronavirus vaccine mandates imposed by employers seem to be working so far, suggesting that most vaccine holdouts would rather get the shot than lose their job.”

Here’s the link:


The MAGA Trashiest Police Report in History

When you have been around politics and politicians long enough you develop a kind of radar about those individuals who are phony or incompetent or just creepy. Campaigns have a way of attracting some of the best and worst people. Trump’s campaigns were an exception. They seemed to have attracted only the worse, including Cory Lewandowski.

Tim Miller in The Bulwark dishes the goods about Lewandowski’s evening in Vegas with a woman from Idaho named, wait for it, Trashelle.

“My most sacred maxim for assessing what is happening in politics: “When in doubt it’s Veep, not House of Cards.

“But after I saw the full statement provided to authorities by Trashelle Odom, I realized that at long last we may have found the point at which this maxim breaks down.

“Because the Lewandowski Affair wasn’t a binary choice between Veep or House of Cards. It’s Veep and House of Cards. The singularity had been achieved.”

It’s a classic:


OK, enough fun for one day. Be careful out there. Thanks for reading.

GOP, Pandemic, Politics

They’ve Given Up…

Often in American politics, politicians are defined, retained or defeated on the basis of how well they handle a crisis.

By the verdict of history, John Kennedy handled the crisis of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 brilliantly, preventing the very real possibility of an unwinnable nuclear exchange and insuring that the offending missiles were removed.

George W. Bush so bungled the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a giant storm that claimed 1,200 lives, that the photo of Bush flying high above the devastation in Air Force One became one of the signature images of his presidency. It didn’t help that Bush praised his incompetent FEMA director – “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of job” – when everyone knew that Michael Brown was doing an awful job. Brown resigned ten days after Bush praised his efforts.

George W. Bush looks down from Air Force One on the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Governors are no less graded on crisis response. So, imagine for a moment what any governor in any state in the nation would do when faced with a crisis, say a catastrophic wildfire situation. Assume the fire was raging out of control, threatening to engulf a city of significant size, and sure to threaten lives. What would any governor do?

The response would be something like this:

Declare an emergency. Mobilize the National Guard and all available state resources. Call on the White House for federal emergency assistance. Synchronize public communication with all levels of government, making sure citizens received regular, reliable, actionable information. A governor might establish a 24-hour command post and issue regular updates on efforts to control the crisis. The governor would be hands on, all day every day.

A governor would empower local officials to make immediate, life-saving decisions. A governor would back those local officials and praise their willingness to make tough decisions to save lives.

A governor would visit frontline first responders on a daily basis, extolling their bravery and sacrifice and highlighting their heroic efforts to contain and end the disaster. And, of course, the TV cameras would be there to document the effort, showing political leadership and showcasing the responders. Would the governor tolerate criticism of first responders? No way.

Would a governor lay down the law about why and how the entire state must respond to the crisis? Of course, including making the moral case that every individual’s actions can contribute to the greater good of the community. A governor might say, “If we don’t behave like we are all in this together our community will suffer huge and unacceptable losses. Every citizen simply must do their duty.” 

Would a governor order the use of chemical retardant, or permit a stand of private timber to be bulldozed to construct a fire line to contain the crisis? Without hesitation.

Almost certainly a governor would order an mandatory evacuation of citizens from their homes in order to protect lives, and then enforce an evacuation order, if necessary, with law enforcement intervention. Assume someone in the affected area objected to being ordered out of their home, it would be an affront to their freedom after all. Would a governor concerned about saving lives broker such an argument? Not a chance.

Would a governor worry that a politician who wanted his job was using the disaster to attempt to position to challenge him in the next election? A governor responding this kind of crisis would say: “I’ve had more than enough of my opponent’s nonsense and denial of the extent of this crisis. If you are listening to her, you are simply denying what you can see with your own eyes. Ignore the deniers. Protect yourself, your family, your community.”

And a governor would repeat that message over and over again. And a governor would take the heat from those who criticized and would not try to deflect responsibility for the response to the disaster. “The buck stops here,” a governor might say. “I’m the responsible officer of the government,” a leader might say.

Political leadership at this intense level in a catastrophic wildfire situation would hardly be remarkable. Indeed, it would be standard. Expected. Failure would not be an option.

Yet, in Republican states from Mississippi to Idaho governors have given up – or in most cases never really started – fighting against a natural disaster that has now headed toward claiming 700,000 American lives. Why?

GOP governors have made a simple calculation. They can’t reason with their followers about vaccines and preventive message, so they don’t try. They early on lost – or never tried to claim – the narrative about what they and their constituents faced as we edge toward the second year of COVID. They cut and ran from pushing back on efforts that have largely been successful to delegitimize local health officials. They let the lies and crass political calculations get in the way of saving lives.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves was left fumbling and speechless when questioned recently about his response to COVID by CNN’s Jake Tapper

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves recently couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer the question as to why school children in his state had to be vaccinated for a host of diseases in order to go to school, but he opposes requiring vaccinations against COVID for teachers. His state is in crisis, with more deaths per capita than any place in the world with the exception of Peru.

Idaho’s Governor Brad Little, a re-election looming, is apparently willing to go to court to oppose a federal plan to vaccinate workers at large businesses, even though many businesses support a mandate. He ought to be embracing vaccine mandates, but Little has made his political calculation: he’s given up on efforts to fight pandemic misinformation and quietly decided that the COVID-infected unvaccinated are expendable in his quest for a second term.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has muzzled local health officials, refused to impose any sensible controls and now faces a cratering hospital system. The largest hospital in Billings is at 160% of its ICU capacity and is using hallways to care for COVID patients, almost all unvaccinated. “The problem is,” said Brad Von Bergen, the Billing Clinic’s ER manager, “we are running out of hallways.”

In the face of hospital systems in collapse and bodies stacking like cord wood, GOP governors have made the morally reprehensible decision to play politics to try to ensure their own future political viability rather than do what is required to save lives. It is a response of craven indifference, unlike any other in anyone’s lifetime. “It’s like we’re seeing the de-evolution of humanity, right in front of our eyes,” said Chris Roth, the CEO of Idaho’s St. Luke’s Health System told the Idaho Capitol Sun, as he surveyed the wreckage attendant to operating under crisis care standards. Roth is right.

The question for Republican governors is as simple as their callousness is obvious: amid so much death and suffering how do they manage to live with themselves?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

From my reading list to yours…a few suggestions this week

Anthony Doerr: ‘Rather than write what I know, I write what I want to know’

Happy to say I know the Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Doerr and he’s just as nice a guy as you can imagine. His new book – Cloud Cuckoo Land – is out later this month and The Guardian has a fun Q-A.

“I’d been researching the history of defensive walls to write All the Light We Cannot See, particularly Hitler’s Trump-like dream of a wall from Sweden to Portugal, and everything I read would mention Constantinople, whose walls withstood 23 sieges over 1,100 years. I was like, Constantinople? We didn’t learn about it at school for one second. But rather than write what I know, I write what I want to know, which was how those walls protected Byzantine book culture.”

Here’s the link:


The Supreme Court has overturned precedent dozens of times in the past 60 years

All eyes will be here

Does the Supreme Court respect judicial precedent? It depends. The question has come front and center given the recent passage of extremely restrictive abortion legislation in Texas, and the Court’s willingness to let it stand, at least so far.

“Beginning with the Rehnquist court, justices have become more willing to reject precedents they think were badly reasoned, simply wrong, or inconsistent with their own senses of the constitutional framers’ intentions. Justice Clarence Thomas has taken this position on abortion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett during her Senate confirmation hearing argued that Roe is not a so-called superprecedent, a decision so important or foundational that it cannot be overturned.”

A good primer of what will be in the news for a long time to come.


Nick Kristof: Oregon Governor?

I’m generally skeptical of folks who assume going from the private sector to political life is an easy move. It does happen, of course, but rarely, and rarely successfully. It’s looking more and more like New York Times columnist Nick Kristof is going to make the play.

“Beyond speculation about Kristof’s motivation lies a bigger question: Does he even stand a chance? With Governor Kate Brown term-limited, the Democratic primary is wide open, giving an outsider like Kristof an opportunity to enter the political fray. ‘Today, what you have is probably a Democratic Party which is becoming more progressive in recognizable terms nationally—a deeper blue—but the class composition of it is mixed,’ says Joseph Lowndes, a political science professor at the University of Oregon. ‘As the Republican Party has become more conservative, it has lost some of its membership to Democrats more comfortable in center-Democrat kind of politics,’ he said, and one could ‘see Kristof appealing to a moderate or reform sentiment’” now in the party.

We’ll see, as they say, we’ll see:


Can the Martini-on-the-Rocks Make a Comeback?

I confess I didn’t think it had ever gone away…

“Indeed, the Martini/Manhattan on the rocks is a generational thing, a habit picked up by those Americans who came of age in the years following World War II. Adam Platt, restaurant critic at New York magazine, told me that, while his grandfather took his Martinis straight up, with a good amount of vermouth, his father preferred them dry and with ‘plenty of ice.'”

Pull up a chair and pour a cold, cold one.


Many thanks for reading. Be careful out there.