Feliz Cinco de Mayo.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Far be it from me to be a member of the Liz Cheney fan club. She’s hard-core conservative, her father was a manipulative war monger as vice president and conned the administration he served into many shady and probably illegal anti-democratic tactics to preserve his power, and I can’t think of a single issue we agree on. But I will give her credit for standing up to the nutsery in her party, clearly at her own peril in terms of advancing her own rise to power and shaping the agenda.
The first time defenders of Donald J. Trump came for Representative Liz Cheney, for the offense of having voted to impeach him, fellow Republicans closed ranks to save her leadership post, with Representative Kevin McCarthy boasting that their “big tent” party had enough room for both the former president and a stalwart critic.
Evidently, not anymore.
Just three months after she beat back a no-confidence vote by lopsided margins, Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, is facing a far more potent challenge that appears increasingly likely to end in her ouster from leadership. This time, Mr. McCarthy, the minority leader, is encouraging the effort to replace her.
Her transgression, colleagues say: Ms. Cheney’s continued public criticism of Mr. Trump, her denunciation of his lies about a stolen election and her demands that the G.O.P. tell the truth about how his supporters assaulted democracy during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
The turnabout reflects anew the passion with which Republicans have embraced Mr. Trump and the voters who revere him, and how willing many in the party are to perpetuate — or at least tolerate — falsehoods about the 2020 election that he has continued to spread.
What began as a battle over the party’s future after the violent end to the Trump presidency has collapsed into a one-sided pile-on by Team Trump, with critics like Ms. Cheney, the scion of a storied Republican family and the lone woman in her party’s House leadership, ostracized or moving toward the exits.
The latest test for Ms. Cheney could come as soon as next week, when a growing group of Republicans is planning a fresh bid to dethrone her, with Mr. McCarthy’s blessing. Many of her colleagues are now so confident that it will succeed that they are openly discussing who will replace Ms. Cheney.
The tensions escalated on Tuesday, when Mr. McCarthy went on Mr. Trump’s favorite news program, “Fox & Friends,” to question whether Ms. Cheney could effectively carry out her role as the party’s top messenger. (Beforehand, he told a Fox reporter, “I’ve had it with her,” and “I’ve lost confidence,” according to a leaked recording of the exchange published by Axios.)
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” Mr. McCarthy said during the portion of the interview that aired. “We all need to be working as one, if we’re able to win the majority.”
With onetime allies closing in, Ms. Cheney, known for her steely temperament, has only dug in harder. Minutes after Mr. McCarthy’s TV hit, she sent her barbed reply through a spokesman, effectively suggesting that the minority leader and Republicans moving against her were complicit in Mr. Trump’s dissembling.
“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6,” said Jeremy Adler, the spokesman. “Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”
One of the few Republican voices willing to rise to Ms. Cheney’s defense was Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who has himself come under attack from his party for his unrepentant criticism of Mr. Trump — even getting booed at the Utah Republican Party convention on Saturday.
Not that there’s not a touch of glee in seeing a political party basically collapse upon itself and begin to eat its own — something the Democrats did well more than once in my lifetime — it’s not a good idea for a country with only two political parties to have one devolve to a pool of blood and bone. In their death throes, the Republicans are basically doing to themselves what the mob did to the Capitol in January 6, and the collateral damage reaches beyond their own infighting. In their panicked state, they are abandoning any attempt to govern or come up with policy that passes the laugh test; all they are is an echo chamber for Trump’s ranting and the certifiable lunacy of his Qanon followers. It would be one thing if they were just a bunch of loons parked across the playground, but they are still within striking distance of a majority in both the House and the Senate.
In a sane world, the Trumpistas would be the ones who were being purged from the party in favor of the Cheney/Romney faction and provide at least a sane counter to the Democrats and provide a foundation for negotiation and compromise as necessary. But, in the words of Billy Joel, you should never argue with a crazy man.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
The best part of the Star Wars universe is the scores by John Williams.
It’s May the Fourth…
As Dog is my witness, I’m sure Han said, “May the fourth be with you.”
Monday, May 3, 2021
Born on this date in 1913: William Inge.
Famous for “Picnic,” “Come Back, Little Sheba,” “Bus Stop,” and “Dark at the Top of the Stairs.” The William Inge Festival will be back in 2022, and I haven’t missed one since 1991. Fun fact: his name shows up in the New York Times crossword puzzle almost as often as Uma Thurman.
I’ve had to answer to a few friends about the school here in Miami where the people that run it not only refuse to get vaccinated for Covid-19, they are telling their teachers who have gotten the shots not to come to work because they’re afraid they will spread it: the vaccine, that is; not the virus.
I can’t explain it any more than I can explain any other careless, dangerous, and potentially life-threatening behavior, like the guy driving down the Palmetto Expressway at 65 with not just a flat tire but the rim riding on the pavement leaving a comet-like trail of sparks. Or the people who get a snootful and drive drunk. They do it in spite of the danger to themselves and others.
If the Centners want to go without vaccination, that’s their choice. There is no federal mandate. But when they run a private school and willfully expose children and staff to a disease that has killed over 580,000 Americans and is raging through other lands, they have an obligation, not just as educators, but just plain human beings, to protect if not themselves, than others. That’s the whole point behind mask mandates, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. You want to wallow in your freedoms? Go ahead. Just don’t take others unwillingly or unknowingly along with you.
There’s something uniquely narcissistic about the America Fuck Yeah freedom mindset that declares that just because I’m free to expose myself to death, disease, and stupid reality shows on cable TV, everyone else must abide by that or you’re a commie pinko libtard. The fact that that way of thinking is the exact opposite of what this country stands for doesn’t sink in. The first words of the Constitution are “We the People,” not “It’s All About Me.”
I’ve tried to explain that to some of the people I encounter who refuse to go along with the way life is now. But now I don’t bother because while it may be cynical and cruel, life itself has a way of taking care of those who flagrantly and ignorantly snap their fingers under the nose of karma. All I ask is that they do it far enough away from me and those I love so we’re not taken along with them.
Sunday, May 2, 2021
When TV commercials take a great classic song and use it, I like to find the original and share it. This one has been making the rounds. Plus, I love Nat King Cole.
Charles P. Pierce — Then and Now: Ronald Reagan vs. Joe Biden.
On Wednesday night, the president gave a speech in which he re-imagined American politics. It must have been startling to anyone whose political awareness began at any point after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981. If we violate strict pundit protocol and refer to the president’s speech on Wednesday as a de facto State of the Union address, it’s helpful to compare it to Reagan’s “address to Congress” that he delivered in February, a month after having been inaugurated.
(Of course, Reagan was allowed to assume the office without having Jimmy Carter try to overturn the result by inciting a bloodthirsty Carterite mob to storm the Capitol. You have to be of a certain political vintage to realize how funny the phrase “bloodthirsty Carterite mob” is.)
Reagan’s speech was billed as a plan for economic recovery, one of the two major planks in his campaign, the other being Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis. Reagan and his people, including the supply-side fanatics on his economic team, believed that the condition of the economy as the 1970s ended gave them license for a wholesale gutting of the economic order that had prevailed since Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932. The oligarchs of the day were perfectly fine with the whole notion because they knew, as David Stockman told the late William Greider in The Atlantic, that the first supply-side budget was “a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate.”
In any event, Reagan’s speech drew up his economic recovery plan as clearly as the president’s did this week. As such, we can see clearly the changes wrought by the past four years of pandemic, and chaos, and criminality.
REAGAN: This plan is aimed at reducing the growth in government spending and taxing, reforming and eliminating regulations which are unnecessary and unproductive or counterproductive, and encouraging a consistent monetary policy aimed at maintaining the value of the currency. If enacted in full, this program can help America create 13 million new jobs, nearly 3 million more than we would have without these measures. It will also help us to gain control of inflation.
It’s important to note that we’re only reducing the rate of increase in taxing and spending. We’re not attempting to cut either spending or taxing levels below that which we presently have. This plan will get our economy moving again, [create] productivity growth, and thus create the jobs that our people must have.
And I’m asking that you join me in reducing direct Federal spending by $41.4 billion in fiscal year 1982, and this goes along with another $7.7 billion in user fees and off-budget savings for a total of $49.1 billion. And this will still allow an increase of $40.8 billion over 1981 spending.
BIDEN: Universal public schools and college aid opened wide the doors of opportunity. Scientific breakthroughs took us to the moon. Now we’re on Mars, discovering vaccines, gave us the Internet and so much more. These are investments we made together as one country. And investments that only the government was in a position to make. Time and again, they propel us into the future. That’s why I propose the American Jobs Plan, a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself. This is the largest jobs plan since World War II.
It creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure. Jobs modernizing our roads, bridges, highways. Jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors, transit lines. It’s clean water. And today, up to 10 million homes in America and more than 400,000 schools and child care centers have pipes with lead in them, including drinking water, a clear and present danger to our children’s health. The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American can drink clean water.
Look, the American Jobs Plan will help millions of people get back to their jobs and back to their careers. Two million women have dropped out of the work force during this pandemic. Two million. And too often, because they couldn’t get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help; 800,000 families are on the Medicare waiting list right now to get home care for their aging parent or loved one with disability. If you think it’s not important, check out in your own district, Democrat or Republican. Democrat or Republican voters.
REAGAN: All in all, nearly $216 billion worth of programs providing help for tens of millions of Americans will be fully funded. But government will not continue to subsidize individuals or particular business interests where real need cannot be demonstrated. And while we will reduce some subsidies to regional and local governments, we will at the same time convert a number of categorical grant programs into block grants to reduce wasteful administrative overhead and to give local governments and States more flexibility and control. We call for an end in duplication to Federal programs and reform of those which are not cost-effective.
BIDEN: The pandemic has only made things worse. Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic, working- and middle-class Americans. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion, in the same exact period. Let me say it again. 650 people increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic and they’re now worth more than $4 trillion. My fellow Americans, trickle-down, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out.
REAGAN: The substance and prosperity of our nation is built by wages brought home from the factories and the mills, the farms, and the shops. They are the services provided in 10,000 corners of America; the interest on the thrift of our people and the returns for their risk-taking. The production of America is the possession of those who build, serve, create, and produce.
For too long now, we’ve removed from our people the decisions on how to dispose of what they created. We’ve strayed from first principles. We must alter our course. The taxing power of government must be used to provide revenues for legitimate government purposes. It must not be used to regulate the economy or bring about social change. We’ve tried that, and surely we must be able to see it doesn’t work.
Spending by government must be limited to those functions which are the proper province of government. We can no longer afford things simply because we think of them. Next year we can reduce the budget by $41.4 billion, without harm to government’s legitimate purposes or to our responsibility to all who need our benevolence.
BIDEN: We have to do more than just build back better—than just build back, we have to build back better. We have to compete more strenuously than we have. Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investment in infrastructure has literally transformed America, our attitudes as well as our opportunities. The transcontinental railroad, interstate highways, united two oceans and brought a totally new age of progress to the United States of America.
Universal public schools and college aid opened wide the doors of opportunity. Scientific breakthroughs took us to the moon. Now we’re on Mars, discovering vaccines, gave us the internet and so much more. These are investments we made together as one country. And investments that only the government was in a position to make. Time and again, they propel us into the future. That’s why I propose the American Jobs Plan, a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself. This is the largest jobs plan since World War II.
What the president proposed on Wednesday comes as anything new to voters of a certain age—like, well, mine. It is the logic and the foundation of the New Deal, the Square Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society. Hell, even if you liked Ike, it’s the logic of the Interstate Highway System. Even if you thought Nixon was The One, it’s the logic of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act. That was the sotto voce consensus of my growing up, when my father got the GI Bill for grad school and many of my neighbors got GI mortgages to buy their homes, and when my father’s pension from the Navy kept going up so often that he called the VA to make sure he wasn’t profiting from some weird sort of clerical error. It was a democratic-small-d consensus of promise and commitment and, if the systemic racism of the country denied too many citizens of that promise and that commitment, well, we were working on that, too. As historian Eric Rauchway observes in his excellent new book about the New Deal, democracy is not simply a mechanism for picking leaders, but also something that should animate every aspect of the society. That was the instinct of the government under which I was born.
Reagan blew that up, for Democrats and Republicans alike. It began a long period of distrust and retrenchment and, in modern drag, many of the policies that got Roosevelt elected in the first place. For too long, the Democratic Party seemed overly willing to accept this paradigm of skepticism, an attitude that reached its peak when Democratic President Bill Clinton told the Congress that “The era of big government is over.” That was extraordinarily premature, as anyone of a certain age could have told him.
Doonesbury — All shot up.
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Talk about your infrastructure… Fun fact: I have driven every mile of Interstate 75 from Hialeah, Florida, to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, in both directions. Not all at once, mind you.
Friday, April 30, 2021
Time Out, MTG — Andy Borowitz.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene lambasted President Biden’s proposal for free preschool by declaring, “I refuse to go.”
Speaking to reporters, the Georgia congresswoman called preschool “just another form of mind control” and said that she would rather “hold my breath until I turn blue” than attend such a school.
“Joe Biden would like nothing better than to see me sitting on a colorful rug, singing, ‘Do you know what time it is?’ ” she said. “I’ll tell you what time it is. It’s time for him and George Soros to stop thinking that I’m going to preschool, because I’m not, and no one can make me.”
Greene also said that she had “serious concerns” about the indoctrination she would have received had she gone to preschool, as Biden wished.
“Sorry, Joe Biden, but the wheels on the bus do not go round and round, all through the town,” she said. “That’s a hoax.”
Thursday, April 29, 2021
My internet connection came back about an hour before President Biden’s speech last night, so I was able to watch it on the TV rather than listen to it on the radio, like I was planning to. But in a way, I could have listened to it on the old Atwater-Kent because a lot of it harked back to the kind of speech that would have been given by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
No, I wasn’t around for FDR and his transformational plans and the New Deal; perhaps the closest I come would be Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society ideas such as Medicare, Head Start, and the civil rights legislation. But last night President Biden brought back the sweeping ideas of his predecessors, proposing spending on programs that will help every American and their children. Those along with his proposed investments in infrastructure and the foundations of what our country is built on are markedly different than plans put forward by recent Democratic presidents. To counter both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, the era of big government is back, and government can be a part of the solution.
What a lot of people, including myself, didn’t expect was to see this kind of fire and passion from Joe Biden.
I didn’t have great expectations for tonight’s speech because political events seldom turn on speeches. Nor is speechifying Biden’s forte. He’s workmanlike, solid. But he’s no great orator. That’s Barack Obama.
But I saw an extraordinarily effective speech. Like so much with Biden he managed to find in the historical moment things that play to his strengths. I’ve been watching State of the Union addresses for forty-plus years and I have never seen one like this. Biden delivered it with a tremendous informality. Biden is no Obama when it comes to oratory. But Obama couldn’t have delivered this speech. It would not play to his skills which are heroic and oratorical rather than empathic and conversational.
I’m curious how many times Biden departed from the prepared text. Because the delivery at least was deeply conversational. It frequently read like he was having a conversation with the people in the chamber and then, metaphorically at least, with the country at large. Perhaps it was just written to fall easily into Biden’s conversational style. But it had an informality and conversational tone that I haven’t seen any other President even attempt. It worked.
Biden continues to be blessed by the fact that late in life he rendezvoused with a political moment in which his personality and style, at other times a curiosities or even an obstacles, were uniquely suited to the moment.
Altogether, it was a powerful speech, potent in many ways because it was so understated, casual and conversational. Biden continues to bet big and in the strange alchemy of the moment, where essential elements of his public character seem to match the trauma of the moment, it seems to be working.
As we say in theatre, timing is everything. Had Joe Biden succeeded Barack Obama, I doubt that we would have seen such a dynamic attempt to change the direction and agenda of the country. That’s because we wouldn’t have to; the Obama administration didn’t leave the carnage of divisiveness and corruption of Biden’s predecessor. Any president who came after that would have to have taken such bold steps to stop the death spiral.
Franklin Roosevelt famously noted that “this generation has a rendezvous with destiny.” That challenge is true for just about every generation: what choices we make for our future, our posterity, and our succeeding generations. President Biden took that challenge and made it ours. Now it is up to us to follow his lead.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
According to the disembodied voice on the 1-800-COMCAST line, they have detected an outage in my area. It started sometime overnight (the TV screen was frozen in the middle of “The 11th Hour”).
So I’m phoning this in from work, and when they get back on-line, I’ll come up with something. In the meantime, relax.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Via the Miami Herald:
A private school with two campuses in Miami has warned its staff against taking vaccines that prevent COVID-19, saying it will not employ anyone who has been inoculated and spreading misinformation about the potential risks of vaccination.
Centner Academy, with campuses in the Design District and Edgewater, informed parents of its policy for teachers and staff by email on Monday. The announcement, first reported by the New York Times, left some parents, teachers and medical experts aghast because it was presented as fact without citing any scientific evidence.
Leila Centner, who co-founded the school with husband David Centner, warned that vaccinated persons “may be transmitting something from their bodies” that could harm others, particularly the “reproductive systems, fertility, and normal growth and development in women and children.”
Centner acknowledged in the email that the information is “new and yet to be researched.” Still, she asked employees who have not taken a COVID vaccine to wait until the end of the school year. She also recommended that faculty and staff hold off on taking the injection “until there is further research available on whether this experimental drug is impacting unvaccinated individuals.”
“It is our policy, to the extent possible, not to employ anyone who has taken the experimental COVID-19 injection until further information is known,” Centner wrote in the email to parents.
Centner Academy was incorporated in 2018, state records show. The school has about 300 students and charges $30,000 a year in tuition for middle school, according to information provided on its website, centneracademy.com.
An emailed statement to the Herald lists concerns related to the vaccine but does not back up the claims with scientific evidence or peer-reviewed research, only links to unofficial websites that purport to track deaths related to the vaccine.
“We know not everyone agrees on this topic, but this is our philosophy at Centner Academy, one in which many of our teachers and parents share,” the statement read. Leila Centner did not reply to direct requests for comment.
Given the laissez-faire attitude of the state government towards Covid-19 (“Hey, what’s more important, the health of the population or bidness?”), I don’t expect the state to step in to protect the teachers and students from these charlatans and dangerous idiots. And if the parents of the students don’t withdraw their kids from this cesspool, they should be investigated for child endangerment.
As for the Centners, they need to be locked up.
Monday, April 26, 2021
For many of us, this was how we learned about classical music.
I promise you, this is not from The Onion.
Via Huffington Post:
Now that Donald Trump’s former economic adviser Larry Kudlow has taken his words of wisdom from the White House to Fox News, he wants the nation to know that President Joe Biden is plotting to force Americans to drink “plant-based beer.”
Egads. Apparently the man who declared COVID-19 “contained close to airtight” before more than 570,000 Americans died is not talking about the beer everyone drinks now. That’s typically made from grains, hops and yeast — and not an ounce of steak. (Additives may include animal products, like gelatin, but beer is definitely plant based.)
The bonkers brewhaha was part of Kudlow’s raging criticism on Fox Business Friday against the proposed Green New Deal, which he claimed would end the country’s consumption of meat, eggs, cheese and dairy. None of that’s true; there’s nothing in the text of the plan that would ban those products.
I was once a fairly good connoisseur of beer, and I know that it consists of grain, barley, and hops. Last time I checked, those were, and still are, plants.
This is the same kind of hair-on-fire (although in Mr. Kudlow’s case, there’s not a lot of room for a flame) that entertained and horrified us in the start of the Obama administration along with death panels and Sarah Palin pallin’ around with meth-heads. We thought it couldn’t get any dumber, but then while the speed of light may be finite, stupid is infinite.