Thursday, February 25, 2021

Coloring Their Judgment

Headline and lede in the Washington Post:

Many of Biden’s nominees of color run into turbulence in the Senate

The Biden administration has fewer top government leaders in place than other recent presidents at this point in their terms, a pace that’s been slowed by a siege at the Capitol, an impeachment trial, a plague and a series of snowstorms.

But activists who pushed Biden to nominate a diverse Cabinet are also noticing another phenomenon: Many of the president’s Black, Latino, Asian and Native American nominees are encountering more political turbulence than their White counterparts, further drawing out the process of staffing the federal government.


“We are concerned with what seems like foot-dragging and an effort to slow down the confirmation process of eminently qualified individuals and the fact that these nominees are women, people of color, sons or daughters of immigrants and there seems to be a pattern that is very troubling,” said Janet Murguía, the president of UnidosUS, a Latino-focused group. “It seems like this treatment is a double standard because we’re seeing that historically other administrations have been able to move much more quickly.”

Biden made a point of elevating a record number of officials of color to top posts, putting the majority-White Senate in a position where it is potentially more likely that candidates of color will be rejected or scrutinized.

What did they expect by putting up people of color or the children of immigrants to be confirmed by members of a party that is still in the thrall of a racist and misogynist leader? Well, they will remind you that they whooped through Ben Carson as Trump’s HUD Secretary because everyone knows that a Black man would know what it’s like to grow up in the ghetto, and Elaine Chao was perfect as the Secretary of Transportation because she was the wife of the Senate Majority Leader. But those Others being put up by Biden? They’re all “Radicals.”

Certainly there can be honest disagreements between political parties, but it’s no shock that something else seems to be coloring their judgment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Now They Want Civility

Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to run the OMB, is running into trouble from the Republicans in the Senate because she wrote mean tweets.

Tanden is amply qualified for the job. She is not accused of failing to pay her taxes or hiring an undocumented household worker. She is not on the ideological fringes. There has been no scandal in her personal life.

Her supposedly unpardonable sin is . . . incivility. Specifically, she used intemperate language on Twitter.


Tanden has deleted the worst of her posts and apologized. Which is more than can be said for Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who in November tweeted this about Tanden and a clergyman who is now his Senate colleague from Georgia: “.@neeratanden’s tweets read like a @ReverendWarnock sermon: Filled with hate & guided by the woke left. Just as he’s unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate, she’s unfit to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”

The sanctimony of Republican senators is newfound and rich, given how unstirred they were by the most powerful social media bully on earth leading their party from the White House for the past four years. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who has declared Tanden “radioactive,” said last June, after Donald Trump tweeted one of his egregiously false conspiracy theories: “You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”

Let it be noted that both Cotton and Cornyn stood by while the former guy ran roughshod over everyone on the Twitter machine.

What a bunch of hypocrites. And how unsurprising.

Back To Normal

Nice to make nice with the neighbors.

Even through a video screen, you could feel the warm fuzzies between President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the two met Tuesday for a symbolic rebooting of neighborly relations grown testy over the past four years.

Biden recalled visiting Canada in 2016 when he was vice president and joked about his poor French. Trudeau said he welcomed partnership with the United States “to keep making sure we are pulling our weight around the world and making the world a better and safer place for everyone.”

The relief on Trudeau’s masked face was obvious as he and Biden held the pandemic version of an Oval Office sit-down. Trudeau was in Ottawa and Biden in Washington, but the White House clearly intended the session to be intimate and celebratory, a sort of hug meant to salve Canada’s wounded pride after the slights inflicted by President Donald Trump.

“The United States has no closer friend — no closer friend — than Canada,” Biden said. “That’s why you were my first call,” he added, and the first foreign leader to receive an invitation to the White House, even if conducted long-distance.

Neither leader mentioned Trump by name during the portion of their long-distance meeting seen by reporters. They didn’t have to.

“U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years,” Trudeau said. He noted how differently the process of crafting a joint statement went this time: “It’s nice when the Americans aren’t pulling out all references to climate change, and instead adding them in.”

That was partly a reference to a disastrous 2018 meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized democracies hosted by Canada. Trump skipped the session on climate change and refused to sign onto a statement endorsing the Paris climate agreement. Trump pulled the United States out of that pact; Biden recently rejoined it.

Trump’s outburst at the time of that G-7 meeting included personally attacking Trudeau, tweeting after leaving the meeting that his Canadian host was “very dishonest” and “weak.”

The shock and hurt in Canada, the largest U.S. trading partner and a close ally, was hard to overstate. But for all the palpable relief Tuesday, several irritants remain between the two countries, and Biden added one more on his first day in office when he canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

When you share a 3,000 mile (4,800 km) border that is largely unprotected and you spend more money trading with one province (Ontario) than you do with most other countries around the world, it’s good to be friends. Or, as they would say in the True North, don’t be a hoser.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

My friends and I read his poetry outside of English class in the late ’60’s because he was counterculture.  Even if we at the age of fifteen or so didn’t always get the gist, the fact that he could write things that upset people and get away with it was enough.  Later it all made sense and fed our own desires to write works that would rattle the cages.

When guns are roaring, the Muses have no right to be silent!

Write on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


President Biden on the loss of 500,000 Americans.

Charles P. Pierce:

A half-million dead.

Holy mother of god, a half-million dead.

The Washington Post designed some helpful visual aids for us to try to grasp the enormity of the butcher’s bill of this pandemic. One helpful calculation is that it would take a nearly 100-mile caravan of buses to carry that many of our fellow citizens, a line of buses on top of which the president could walk all the way from the White House back to his home state of Delaware. But the most signifying one to me is the calculation that, had there been a half-million American casualties during the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall would be a wall 87-feet high. It would require doubling the size of Arlington National Cemetery in order to bury that many dead.

The fact that the 1918 flu pandemic still has a bigger body count is cold comfort. It’s the 21st goddamn century. The flu hit almost 60 years before the first coronavirus was discovered, 30 years before the founding of the Centers for Disease Control, and six years before Johan Hultin, the medical archaeologist who found the flu virus in lung tissue from a remote mass grave in Alaska, was born. Science marched on, as science will, provided we all agree that it should. When we don’t, we look up after a year and a half-million people aren’t here anymore. It’s unsettling. That butcher’s bill is powerful enough to knock everything we think we know askew. In The Republic of Suffering, her great book about the United States convulsed in civil war, historian Drew Gilpin Faust describes how the carnage of that era changed even the American concept of death itself.

Death’s significance for the Civil War generation arose as well from its violation of prevailing assumptions about life’s proper end—about who should die, when and where, and under what circumstances.

Mass mourning of this sort is something for which the country has lost its talent. Our wars are smaller now, and farther away. Mass death usually comes now from nature—Katrina, Maria, tsunamis in the South Seas—or from sudden isolated acts of slaughter, like that perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh or Mohammad Atta. Prolonged mass death, and prolonged mass mourning, runs contrary to the accelerated pace of our times. Taken together, they require the kind of deceleration that comes from contemplation and reflection, two other things for which the country has lost its talent.

It did not have to be this way. We were smart enough at the beginning to face the pandemic with everything we’d learned since the last one. We were smart enough at the beginning to differentiate between what we wanted to believe and what actually was. We were smart enough at the beginning to understand exactly what we needed to do. We just decided not to do it, and now a half-million of us are dead. This is a profound failure of every aspect of American society, as profound a societal failure as the Great Famine in Ireland.

It has not been an act of mass slaughter. It was an act of enforced surrender in which every public institution was complicit. It has not been a genocide, but something else. Years ago, General Thomas Meagher, who rose in rebellion in Ireland during the Famine and ended up in America, once said:

The sword of famine is less sparing than the bayonet of the soldier.

What we have seen over the past year is the slow unfolding of an unnecessary capitulation to ignorance that we thought was long dead and buried, like all those bodies in the Arctic that finally gave up the virus that caused the last great pandemic.

A half-million dead.

Holy mother of god.

Monday, February 22, 2021


That number is roughly the population of Atlanta, or a good swath of Miami-Dade County, where I live.  Half a million.  More than all the American soldiers lost in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam.  And that is the number of lives lost to a virus in less than one year since the first death was recorded in the U.S., on February 29, 2020.

It has changed our world forever.  We all know someone who either had it and survived, or we all know someone who lost someone from it.  We have changed our everyday habits: we stay home, we eat in, we find new ways of shopping, we learn to work, parent and adult from home, and we cope with depression and frustration in perhaps constructive ways — one hopes — and adjust, adapt, and try to go on.

To those of us who were — and remain — touched or hit by the loss of a loved one, we find ways to cope with the inevitable grief.  In my case, I wrote: 25 plays since last February.  For others that I know, it was everything from binge-watching TV, making bread, rediscovering old books and crafts, and making connections and amends where necessary with those we lost touch with or moved away from.  The fact that it happened in a presidential election year exacerbated some differences — stress and loss makes it hard to reconcile even without social distancing and quarantining — but it also gave us time for action and determination to, as the Serenity Prayer says, change the things we can.

There is hope.  The infection rate is going down, vaccinations are increasing, competency is replacing bullying and bloviation, and human nature — the good side — looks for an end, however distant.  We know our lives are vulnerable; a pandemic is not anomaly but a Darwinian force of nature.  We have seen them before and we will see them again.  It is up to us to deal with it as we can, and comparing this to a previous pandemic in living memory, we have made amazing strides in medicine and science, with or without the hindrance of political ambition and quackery.

The New York Times posted a graphic on their front page with a tiny dot (.) representing each life lost.  It started small, but by the time it got to the end, the page was nothing but ink.  One of those dots was my dad.  Two weeks ago I got my first dose of the vaccine.  I want to think that if Dad couldn’t get it, I could in his name and make it through this for him and all the other people I know and care about.  I think that’s what we all should do, and hope and work to make sure that we don’t lose another 500,000 and still have a life worth living and remembering.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sunday Reading

The Lone Star State — Bryan Washington reports from Houston on the perils of a state going it alone.  From The New Yorker.

Out in Houston on Sunday morning, at the precipice of a statewide freeze in Texas and blackouts throughout the city, I passed two different women, each handling several cartfuls of groceries, who, speaking into their phones, noted that they “may have gone overboard.” I’d popped into Lee’s Sandwiches for a few gallons of coffee, and then into H Mart for other odds and ends. As the morning progressed, the traffic across Bellaire Boulevard worsened from a slight crawl to an impasse. Folks were stocking up in a way that’s become commonplace over the past year in the city, although the debacle to come had few precedents.

The storm that hit the state on Sunday left more than four million Texas residents without electricity, and many without water. The city of Galveston lost much of its power on Monday morning, and as of Wednesday afternoon it had yet to be restored. The city of Abilene lost both power and water and was given no sense of when either would return. On Tuesday evening, Houston’s Clear Lake area was issued a boil-water notice. Photos of cul-de-sacs blanketed in snow proliferated on social feeds, with residents “skiing” on highways and folks sledding down hills of snow in baskets—somewhat pleasant at the beginning of the week, until the power stayed out. Now parts of Dallas are so cold that water bottles are freezing next to people’s bedsides and appliances are heavy with icicles. These are some of the lowest temperatures that the state has seen in nearly thirty years.

Faced with an untenable surge in demand, power providers tried to signal that they had a plan (“rolling blackouts”), but then segued to a blackout of information itself, until Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, stated, early Monday morning, that the outages were statewide. Officials avoided providing timelines as they issued recommendations on how to conserve energy and stay warm. Residents measured the temperatures in their homes, covering windows with blankets and wrapping pipes and wedging towels into the spaces beneath doors to retain heat in individual rooms. The city’s unhoused population was sheltered in hubs throughout the area (if they could reach them), and some of those places eventually lost power, too. Health-care workers scrambled to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines that they had on hand before they went bad in the outage. Local community organizations like Austin Mutual Aid and Mutual Aid Houston began to circulate resources and guidelines across their communities.

Houston, on a good day, is not a city overflowing with spacious third places. The city’s residents were faced with several bad options: stay at home and freeze, or chance the already uncertain roads and flee to friends or relatives who’d managed to retain their power by chance or by means of a spare generator—although the latter option involved congregating amid the spectre of COVID-19. The elderly, the very young, and the otherwise vulnerable were left in an especially nightmarish scenario. After the city’s businesses were asked to turn off their lights to conserve energy, much of downtown continued to shine with lights from skyscrapers and high-rise offices (many of which only powered down when they were publicly called out for it). As of Wednesday morning, at least twelve weather-related deaths had been reported across the Houston area.

Whereas much of the country is powered by regional energy systems—which are able to pull and pool resources in times of duress—Texas’s power is largely under the control of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages nearly ninety per cent of the state’s electricity load. The state’s independent network of utilities was devised with the goal of avoiding federal regulation; by not crossing state lines, Texas’s power grid could sidestep national utility guidelines—and energy companies could profit under the guise of individualism and “self-reliance.” State leaders, sacrificing long-term, communal safety for immediate profit, have shaken their heads at the idea of reform or collaboration and said, But we don’t need it. Then it got very cold, very fast, and the system (particularly, it seems, the parts that rely on natural gas) proved vulnerable—and, sure enough, the onus fell on the individual. ERCOT has stated that it has no idea when the power situation will resume any semblance of regularity. The state’s governor and myriad other elected officials have been quick to pass the blame.

At home on Monday, my boyfriend and I spent our time insulating the apartment and entertaining the dog. When we did venture outside—on two slipping and skittering walks across the neighborhood, and then a pitch-dark drive to pick up more water—we were met with barren roads. That night, we cordoned ourselves in the living room, arranging candles and ring lights collected from our yearlong Zoom hell, and ate a dinner of Lunar New Year leftovers, including braised pork with eggs and kimchi (a reminder that, as ghoulish as things were, they could be worse). Not long after midnight, our power returned, then went in and out in fits and starts into the next morning.

On Tuesday, we made it a point to set out for gas, and along the way we stopped by a Randalls. Folks wandered the dark aisles by the glow of their smartphone flashlights. The frozen-food section was cordoned off with masking tape, and meat displays were covered with cardboard, retaining whatever cold they could. The gas stations nearby were deserted, so we continued to drive until we ended up at another open grocery store, a Fiesta beside the highway. The electricity was working there, and everything was in stock. A woman stood beside the bakery, doling out loaves by the order. A butcher hacked at piles of beef behind a counter, and the fishmonger handed out numbers to folks assembled in line. A dude manning the front door apologized that customers couldn’t all be let in simultaneously; they’d had power since eight that morning, he said. On the drive back, we passed several car accidents as we continued searching for gas. Parking lots were full of folks driving in loops and warming themselves, as others congregated in their cars with their children and their pets. We waited in line for an hour across three stations before we found one beside NRG Stadium that, eventually, provided a full tank. But we’d only just barely left the parking lot before it became clear that this gas station had run dry, too.

A shared characteristic of Houstonians, one could argue, is a tendency to fall prey to disaster unprepared—but only exactly once. Whether facing the ravages of climate change, the state, or some other man-made calamity, the city’s residents learn very harsh lessons, and we tend not to make the same mistakes again. But it’s one of the great shames that this city—and this country, and the individuals who govern it—requires its residents to weather these things at all. The collapse of ERCOT is one of the many signs that Texas has failed, and continues to fail, to adapt its infrastructure to meet the inevitability of climate change. In a new year already absurdly filled with crisis—an insurrection one month, bungled vaccine distribution the next, in the midst of a pandemic that has ravaged the nation in ways almost beyond comprehensibility—yet another disaster doesn’t feel entirely out of place. But the exacerbation of one emergency doesn’t eliminate the likelihood of another—and we can be sure that this storm, like every other once-in-a-generation weather event that Houstonians have experienced in the past few years, will not be the last. Like all of our other travails, it will require an expansion of the imagination, and our leaders’ inability to rise to the task won’t eliminate the necessity of doing so.

When we arrived back at our place, with gas in hand, the power was out again—but we still had running water. The Internet had begun to black out. Our cell service had grown spotty, and most businesses in the city had begun to power down indefinitely. Walking the dog before the sun set, we ran into a handful of neighbors: teens huddled and vaping in the garage, folks extracting symphonies of portable chargers from their parked cars. The parents of a toddler who’s always attacking my garden—all of the plants are now likely dying or dead, anyway—passed us, and we stood, shivering, at a distance from one another, masked and in four layers of clothing. We waved and noted that the year was off to a wild start. We asked how everyone was doing and agreed that we were fine, considering, for now. But we were, frankly, just a handful of the luckier ones.

Shottenfreude — Gene Weingarten on getting frontsies on the Covid-19 vaccination.

There are very few advantages to being old. You are more experienced, but not necessarily any wiser than you were at 30, and you have no short-term memory. For example, I will not remember the beginning of this sentence without going back to read it. You are cranky. If you are male your prostate gland is the size of a weather balloon, and if you are female you are very disconcertingly aware of gravity. My point is, getting old sucks, except for one thing.

I just got the coronavirus vaccine because of some weird national system that seems to give preference to people who are already half-dead. I don’t mean to be morbid or ungrateful, but at 69, statistically speaking, the vaccine will probably allow me to exist only through the first Kamala Harris administration. If they gave it to an infant, we are talking about 80 years. How does this make sense? It’s like one of those nonsensical ethical conundrums popular in thumb-sucking liberal-arts college philosophy classes: If given a choice, do you save the mother of 12 children, or the single doctor who is on the verge of curing cancer? YOU SAVE THE DOCTOR, MORON. The mom is an irresponsible idiot, anyway. Who has 12 children?

However. I am glad I got the shot. It was not easy. My girlfriend and I were doing a crossword puzzle online when I got an email alert that 1,500 shots were instantly available in the District of Columbia. Without any regard for my self-respect, she elbowed me off the computer — she is younger than I am and way faster at the keyboard — and completed the questionnaire requesting a shot without once consulting me, as though she were filling out a veterinary form for a dog. Exactly 40 seconds after hitting “Enter,” and learning I had an appointment, I got another email saying all spots were filled.

This is not a sane system, obviously. It filled me with joy, but also guilt. I was jonesing for the shot — like a lot of people, I had vaccine envy. It is not admirable. The Germans probably have a word for it. Call it shottennfreude.

A friend of mine, a pharmacist in a hospital, got the vaccine just four days after it became available, because she was, in essence, a first responder, a heroic person, a good person and extremely deserving of front-of-the-line placement, and I hated her, which filled me with self-loathing.

As a Jewish guy, I feel guilt all the time, even for things no sane person would feel guilty about, such as having nipples that I selfishly do not use for infant nutritional sustenance. Bogarting one of the scarce doses of the vaccine in a store filled with young people, who had to go about their business as yet unprotected, made me uneasy. The only guy older than me was getting the shot too. He was in his mid-70s, frail-looking and suicidal. I know that because he was talking quite openly about it with the guy who drove him there, who was the pastor of his church. I know this is not funny, but I am telling you this for two reasons: The first is, it was an act of extraordinary pastoral grace that brought tears to my eyes. As we sat together in the waiting room I was moved enough to interject. “Hang in there,” I said. “We only get one shot at life.”

The second was that as the guy left, and right before I was to get vaccinated, he and I shared a moment. Just a meeting of the eyes. The eyes said, SCORE. I’m pretty sure he learned something about the sanctity of life. I did.

The shot made me a little sick for a couple of days, and I still have to go back for a follow-up later in the month, and that fills me with a particular dread, because my job now is to stay healthy for another six weeks until full immunity kicks in. Huge pressure. Anxiety. I am afraid of choking, like a basketball player who’s made the first of two free throws but still needs to sink the second for the win.

Doonesbury — Tweetdom.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021

Happy Friday

Best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery for the people of Texas who had to suffer through not only a severe cold snap and snow storm that curtailed power, froze the water pipes, and killed a number of people, but they also have to put up with the bullshit that their elected officials threw at them by blaming wind turbines (less than 7% of their power source) or just plain lit out for the beach at Cancun, only to be shamed into coming back home even though there’s not much a senator can do about it.  It’s all in the appearances, and Ted Cruz is a Gorgon as far as that’s concerned.

It has given us a good reason to hope that at last we’re going to have Infrastructure Week.

Meanwhile, NASA is doing what NASA does best.

NASA rover Perseverance landed safely Thursday on Mars to begin an ambitious mission to search for signs of past Martian life and obtain samples of soil and rock that could someday be hauled back to Earth for study in laboratories.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” announced Swati Mohan, the guidance and control operations lead for the mission at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Cheers, clapping and fist-pumps erupted in the control room, which was half-empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Someone shouted: “TRN, TRN,” referring to the terrain relative navigation system that allowed Perseverance to land in a rugged area full of natural hazards.

Perseverance, the first multibillion-dollar NASA mission to Mars in nine years, quickly produced two low-resolution images of the landing site — a forlorn landscape pocked with small craters. Dust kicked up by the landing covered the glass shields on the cameras. The pair of photos showed the rover casting a shadow on the Martian landscape.

Charlie Pierce:

Throwing a dart 128 million miles and hitting the bullseye is really worth celebrating. The new Mars rover Perseverance did exactly what it was supposed to do. It landed, softly, in the Jezero Crater, which is probably an ancient river delta and now, for the next two years, it will look for fossilized pond scum, which would be the most important pond scum in the history of pond scum, which goes back to the beginning of time, both here and there.


It’s hard to explain to people too young to have lived through it what it was like when what was then called The Space Race was going on. It wasn’t just the astronauts, although they certainly commanded the stage. It was all the failed attempts to land anything on the moon, all those Pioneers and Lunas that failed to achieve Earth orbit or flamed out if they did. Finally, on September 12, 1959, the Russian Luna 2 hit the moon, which was all it was supposed to do. It took another five years for the U.S. to match that feat, when this country managed to hit the moon with Ranger 4. In 1966, Surveyor 1 landed and sent data back for two months before going dark.

And there were adventures elsewhere, too. Mariner 2 flew by Venus while, in 1970, the Russians landed a probe there. Mariner 4 flew by Mars and Mariner 10 flew by Mercury. By 1988, the USSR had collapsed, and the U.S. had the cosmos to itself. The Pioneers and Voyagers explored Jupiter and beyond. The machines always took the back seat to men, but the machines were our eyes in so many distant, wonderful places. We often need prompting to lift our eyes to the sky, but we almost never regret it when we do.

I remember when I was in grade school in the early 1960’s they would wheel in a TV on a cart to the gym so we could watch the grainy black-and-white pictures of the launch of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, when going to space was still the stuff of science fiction. We made it to the moon, and then turned our dreams of space travel over to Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas. But NASA and JPL and the proud nerds who devote their lives to searching for signs of ancient life in the dried-up ponds on our next-door neighbor are continuing the mission we as humans have always had: looking for life, and even if all we find is fossilized microbe poop, it’s evidence that that we’re not just a one-time knock-off; that we’re not alone, even if they can’t answer back.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Hey, No Fair!

Via TPM, wingnuts are pissed that antifa is getting blamed for false-flagging the insurrection on January 6.

The “this-was-probably-antifa” rhetoric made its way into the mouths of a number of Trump allies, including Candace Owens and Paul Sperry. It trickled into Congress, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) buying into the conspiracy theory that was eventually picked up Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). It was even espoused by Trump himself mid-insurrection.

The MAGA folks who were present that day in Washington weren’t happy about this, Kate noted.

For example, DeAnna Lorraine, a host on InfoWars, implored her listeners to give credit where due. “No one should be blaming antifa for what happened,” she said in a video she streamed the day after the insurrection from an RV while on her way home. “American patriots did this. And it’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing.”

To quote Miranda, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.  But keep talking anyway.

A Blight On America

Charlie Pierce does not mince words on the death of Rush Limbaugh.

I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.

Clarence Darrow

The doctrine of nil nisi bonum is not often subjected to the kind of stress test that it now will undergo with the death of Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday. I have gone all around Robin Hood’s barn trying to find anything to say about him that is simply neutral, let alone complimentary. I have given up and decided to stand with Voltaire: “to the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”

The truth is that Limbaugh was a titan of American broadcasting who saw the potential of deregulated talk-radio as a profit center and conservative vandalism as a hyper-sellable product. That’s it. That’s all of it. Outside of those things, he was a blight, responsible more than any other non-politician for the spread of the prion disease from movement conservatism to the Republican Party, and the index patient for Trumpism before any of us even knew what it was. He ranks with Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, and very few others among the country’s most destructive demagogues. American politics would have been infinitely better off if he’d stuck to promoting baseball.

That’s about it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021