Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Normalizing Nutsery

Dana Milbank has a column in the Washington Post about Sarah Palin — remember her?

Sarah Palin was Trump before Trump. Can she be Trump after Trump?

You betcha!

(At least that’s what she thinks.)

The former Alaska governor, 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, reality TV personality and human gaffe machine is teasing the possibility of challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s Republican Senate primary next year. “If God wants me to do it I will,” she told New Apostolic Reformation movement leader Ché Ahn, as first reported by Right Wing Watch.

Hopefully, for Palin’s sake, this is a different God from the one she appealed to in ’08 when she put the election “in God’s hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4.” She has also said it was God’s will to fight the Iraq war, build a gas pipeline, and for her to skip an important speech in 2011: “I had nothing to wear, and God knew that, too.”

The more immediate obstacles to Palin’s ambition, though, are not in the Heavens but here on Earth.

Will Tina Fey revive her Palin impression? (“I can see Russia from my house!”) Has Alaska moved on? Murkowski already has a (Trump-backed) challenger, and Palin has been spending a lot of time in the far southern part of Alaska — namely, Arizona. And has the party moved on? Palin captivated the Republican base in 2008 with her unique blend of ignorance, insults and winks at political violence. But such attributes no longer make her a standout in the GOP.

[…]

She floated a Senate challenge to Murkowski last fall, and nobody much noticed. Will they care now? Doubtful. Palin herself has acknowledged that people think of her as a “has been.” And there’s a specific reason for that. When she burst onto the national stage 13 summers ago, she was on the cutting edge of crazy. But the problem with launching a crazy contest is that, once started, it never ends: There’s always somebody willing to take things up a notch.

Trump supplanted Palin, and now there are 147 insurrectionist Republicans in Congress and countless would-be authoritarians in state governments. QAnon’s Marjorie Taylor Greene holds pole position today, and Palin is back in the pack. What was crazy in ’08 is now the Republican norm.

The difference between now and then is that there are lives at stake. People are dying because of the normalized nutsery, not just from politicizing a pandemic, but from guns and flagpoles used as battering rams. Sarah Palin always had a goofy edge to her shtick; Trump and his goons are fomenting mayhem with an intensity that rivals the street gangs of various political factions usually associated with religious zeal or third-world despots… or, to skate close to Godwin’s Law, the brown shirts.

Sarah Palin herself may have been an outlier in 2008; a one-off. Now she’s more like previews of coming attractions.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Twenty Years

On August 2, 2001, at 8:30 p.m. — exactly 48 hours after leaving Albuquerque in the Pontiac with Sam, my computer, a duffel bag of clothes, and my philodendron — I pulled into the driveway of Bob and Ken’s house in suburban Miami.  I was there to start a new job teaching theatre at a private school, and it was also a return to where I’d gone to college, graduating in 1974.  On a previous trip in June, I had found an apartment, and two weeks later the moving van with my furniture finally arrived, just as school was starting.

As I may have said in previous posts, it did not go as expected at the school.  When I was hired I was told I would be teaching dramatic literature and history, which was a good fit with my PhD in playwriting and dramatic criticism, leaving the teaching of acting and directing the plays up to someone else.  But when I arrived at the school in August, I was told that plans had changed; they had found someone to teach dramatic lit — she had a masters in English — and I would be teaching acting and directing the plays.  I had never taught acting, and my directing skills were acquired by observation only.  I gulped, settled in to the apartment with Sam, and gave it my best shot.

It didn’t go well, and suffice it to say that when my contract came up for renewal, both the school and I were happy to part ways.  I spent part of the summer of 2002 looking for work and dealing with the loss of Sam, who died July 20th.  But a week later, thanks to Bob, I found an opening at the grants office of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  I started there in October and… well, you know the rest.

I’ve lived in three different places in Miami: the apartment, the house in Coral Gables, and now the house in Palmetto Bay, where I’ve been since 2008.  I have made many friends, written a lot of plays, found new places to go, and even though Miami is a far different place than it was when I first arrived for my first tour in 1971, it’s still an interesting and new place to be.

Of course I didn’t know what would happen twenty years ago tonight when I arrived in an August thunderstorm.  Sam is gone, the Gateway 2000 computer has gone wherever antique computers go, but the philodendron still thrives and the Pontiac is in the garage.  And I am still finding new friends and still writing.

What’s next?

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sunday Reading

Enough With The Unvaccinated — Leonard Pitts, Jr.

We were almost there.

That’s the most frustrating thing about the most recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even those who are fully vaccinated against the disease should return to wearing masks indoors in cities that are COVID-19 hot spots. It was only two months ago the CDC said we could put our masks away.

We were this close to getting this thing under control, to seeing one another smile, to cookouts, to visiting grandpa, to signing off Zoom, to normal. Now we see it all slipping away as inexorably as the tide going out. We return to masking up, hiding our faces like bank robbers.

Some of us are vexed with the CDC over its shifting guidelines, but you won’t get an amen from this corner. Scientists have to follow science, and if this is where the science leads, so be it. No, if you’re looking to apportion blame, blame the delta variant. And blame, too, those people who refused to wear masks or be vaccinated, and the public officials who seconded them. Blame the ones who said these were matters of “personal choice.” As if personal choice supersedes public interest.

And how often have we seen news stories about those same people, newly repentant and freshly contrite, their minds changed after coming nose to nose with their own mortality, courtesy of COVID?

“I thought it was a joke,” an Arkansas man named Lamonte Boyd recently told CBS News.

“I wish I could go back in time,” a Missouri man named Louie Michael told a local Fox affiliate.

“Having seen this up close and personal I’d encourage ALL of you to put politics and other concerns aside and get it,” a man named Mark Valentine declared on Facebook. Like his brother, Phil, a conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic in Tennessee, Mark was unvaccinated. At this writing, Phil is on a ventilator in critical condition, and Mark has changed his mind.

There is an old Southern expression: A hard head makes a soft behind. Translation: Your stubborn defiance will get you spanked.

Well, those people have been well and truly spanked. But the rest of us are being spanked, too. Falling infection numbers have hooked a U-turn. We face the prospect of returning to isolation, to ordering in and watching talk shows produced in spare rooms. One feels like Michael Corleone in “The Godfather: Part 3” — “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

As has often been noted in this space, human beings are not wired to change their minds. To the contrary, 40 years of behavioral-sciences research tells us that when bad information gets stuck in human brains, it tends to stay there.

But the bad information now impeding vaccinations — i.e., they contain tracking devices, they were manufactured too quickly, it’s all a government hoax — is a literal matter of life and death. So let’s stop asking nicely. Let’s impose coercive measures. Just as children can’t go to school without proof of vaccination, adults shouldn’t be able to bank, shop or enter public gatherings without same.

Yes, that would be a drastic step. It would likely lead to a repeat of last year’s anti-mask unrest. Remember the siege of the Michigan statehouse? Remember the confrontations in restaurants and stores? It was not pleasant, and this go-round would likely be worse. But what other option do we have?

You do not endanger the lives of the many to humor the misconceptions of the few. They can’t or won’t change their minds. It’s time to recognize that.

And do it for them.

Who Knows Better? — The Miami Herald editorial on Gov. DeSantis vs. the local school boards on dealing with the pandemic.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho vowed to be guided by “science, by medical experts and public health experts” before deciding on a mask mandate for the next school year.

Good. That’s what you’d expect from the leader of Florida’s largest school district in a county with high transmission rates in a state where COVID-19 is running rampant.

However, Gov. DeSantis is forcing Carvalho and other school-district leaders to make these decisions based on the governor’s interpretation of public health, which means we’re all in trouble.

Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order that essentially bans school mask mandates, prohibiting districts from violating “parents’ right . . . to make health decisions for their minor children.”

School boards that dare to cross the governor can lose state funding. In other words, the governor is willing to knee-cap school districts in order to make his constituents deathly ill.

Just hours before DeSantis’ announcement, Carvalho told the Herald Editorial Board he would consult with the district’s medical task force, which will meet before school starts on Aug. 23. He will also look at what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended. Carvalho previously had said masks would be optional, but that was in late June, before Florida became the pandemic’s epicenter thanks to the highly transmissible delta variant.

An internal CDC document obtained by the Washington Post, based on still-unpublished data, states delta might lead to more serious illness and that it’s as contagious as chickenpox and more contagious than the Ebola virus or common colds. That prompted the federal agency to advise fully vaccinated people to go back to wearing masks indoors.

The CDC and the Academy of Pediatrics also reached a consensus: Schools should be open, and universal masking is recommended for children older than 2 “because a significant portion of the student population [under the age of 12] is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated,” the Academy of Pediatrics wrote in a July 9 advisory.

Carvalho said it’s “probably a fairly accurate prediction” that the task force would end up recommending a mask mandate. Among the experts advising Carvalho is U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a Miami Palmetto Senior High graduate.

“We have been a district that’s well informed by science, by medical experts and public health experts and that will not change under my leadership,” Carvalho told the Editorial Board. “The CDC has opined, the American Academy of Pediatrics has opined and the [Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics] has opined as well. And, you know, they all agree in terms of protected and preventive measures.”

If only school districts could base their decisions on the needs of their communities, by looking at infection rates in their back yards instead of being forced to follow an irresponsible blanket state policy that applies anywhere from rural to urban counties.

“I’ve been very clear I believe that generalized pronouncements via executive order, or state statute, that basically don’t differentiate between conditions — which may vary significantly from South Florida, Central Florida, the Panhandle — that don’t take into account how different those conditions may be and the impacts they may have, may not necessarily be in the best interest of our communities,” Carvalho said.

DeSantis’ order is nothing more than a governor throwing a tantrum after the Broward County School Board approved a mask mandate this week, defying his threats of taking legislative action. If only he showed the same vigor to encourage more people to get vaccinated as he does for keeping them maskless.

The order will send districts scrambling to figure out how to please the governor while protecting the health of students and staff.

“In light of the release of the Executive Order, we certainly hope to be able to craft protocols that ensure full funding of our children’s education, while simultaneously protecting their and their teachers’ health and well-being,” Carvalho said in a statement released Saturday.

Local control makes sense, right? Well, not in Florida.

DeSantis’ reaction to the pandemic has gone from vowing to protect the economy against shutdowns to making a mockery of a virus that’s killing Floridians (38,900 and counting). At least he says vaccines are effective, which is way more than what some Republicans will dare to profess.

At a recent speaking engagement in Utah, DeSantis made fun of mask wearing. He opened up his speech at the American Legislative Exchange Council by looking at a mostly unmasked crowd and saying:

“Did you not get the CDC’s memo?” our governor asked. “I don’t see you complying,” Politico reported.

His Friday announcement happened at a Cape Coral restaurant where — surprise!— most people were not wearing masks, the Sun Sentinel reported. That’s typical fashion for a governor who sells campaign drink koozies and T-shirts emblazoned with “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”

DeSantis doesn’t have to like masks and he can tour the country all he wants mocking them.

But playing off parents’ rights against the right of Floridians to live in good health will likely hurt the very people whom he’s working hard to accommodate — to say nothing of the rest of us.

Doonesbury — Save the date.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Random Youtubery

Being back in Ohio reminds me of being awakened by flickers drilling on trees and our TV antenna… remember outside TV antennas?  Anyway, here’s a look at these guys.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Be Like Vermont, Florida

Via the Miami Herald:

Florida has entered a peak of COVID-19 cases not seen since January’s surge as the state reported 16,038 new cases Tuesday to the federal government, the seventh consecutive day the state has reported more than 12,000 new daily cases.

The last time Florida had such high numbers of new COVID cases was on Jan. 7, when the state recorded 19,816 new cases, its highest single-day number of COVID cases.

Florida accounted for about 20 percent of Tuesday’s new reported COVID cases across the United States, according to the data Florida reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state also reported 92 new deaths on Tuesday.

Florida’s 7-day percent positivity rate climbed to 17.21% on Monday, up from 16.79% on Sunday, the state reported to the federal agency.

The surge in cases comes at the same time the CDC, which requires all states to report its daily case numbers to the federal agency, and Miami-Dade County have issued new guidelines for masks as a result of the surging delta variant strain of the virus.

On Tuesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency recommends that, in areas with “substantial and high transmission” of the virus, fully vaccinated people should wear masks in public indoor settings, including schools, to help prevent the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava mandated masks at all county facilities, including libraries, recreational centers and county-owned entertainment venues. She is also urging businesses to require facial coverings indoors.

“The numbers are clear,” Levine Cava said at a press conference. “We hope that businesses will do the right thing.”

Cumulatively, Florida has recorded at least 2,534,334 confirmed COVID cases and 38,840 deaths as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

Compare that with this:

Throughout Vermont, hospital Covid-19 units are mostly empty. Bars and restaurants are hopping again. In remote rural towns, diners, country stores and campgrounds are filling up.

As the national health crisis evolves into “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” in the words of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Vermont health officials tout the Green Mountain State as the safest place in America.

Many Vermonters are venturing out, unmasked and with no fear, just as the CDC recommended on Tuesday that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in US counties with soaring transmission rates.

“My question is, ‘Do you want to have a life again?'” Schoenbeck said. “We’re living. Get vaccinated. Get back in the game.”

[…]

Vermont was the first state to partially vaccinate at least 80 percent of residents 12 or older. The current rate of more than 83% compares with the nation’s 66.6% one-dose rate — according to the CDC — for the same age group.

More than 67% of the state’s roughly 624,000 residents have been fully vaccinated, compared with about 49% for the US overall.

The state has maintained one of the country’s lowest infection rates — currently at 1.6% for a seven-day average, according to the health department’s Covid-19 dashboard. Vermont has had 259 Covid-19 deaths.

“It’s the lowest number of deaths on the continental US,” said Levine, sitting in front of a bobblehead of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The state’s last Covid-19-related death was on July 10, Levine said. In June and July, the state has had four deaths. There are five Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the entire state.

The difference between Florida and Vermont is that here in Florida we’re in the thrall of a Trumpist governor who would rather see people suffer and die rather than see his poll numbers shrink. He’s actually threatening local governments and public school boards with legal action if they try to protect their citizens. Oh, and you thought conservatives were all about smaller government. Yeah, no; not when there’s a chance he could run for higher office.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

We Must Hear It

I watched and listened to the hearing yesterday.  Afterward, I came to the same conclusion as Charles P. Pierce.  He says it better.

The body-cam videos. Always the body-cam videos.

Let the politicians bluster and fume. Let the unreconstructed bastards lie about what happened on January 6. Let the duplicitous pond scum create their own narrative out of their dark, unquenchable ambitions, and the carefully cultivated ignorance of their prime audiences. The body cams don’t lie. They’re hard to watch. They leave a hot, sour aftertaste of revulsion and rage. But they do not lie.

It’s strange, in a way. For years, police-reform activists pleaded for body cams to become mandatory in order to catch bad cops doing bad things, and to defeat orchestrated cover-ups by prosecutors, police unions, and the aforementioned bad cops. Now, here we are, watching the body-cam videos of the crimes of January 6, and the videos are irrefutable proof of the offenses committed against law-enforcement officers.

This is in no way to minimize the impact of the testimony given before the Select Committee investigating the insurrection by the officers who’d been invited to appear. You cannot dismiss the description of what happened to him offered by D.C. Metro police officer Michael Fanone:

But yet they tortured me. They beat me. I was struck with a taser device at the base of my skull numerous times. And they continued to do so, until I yelled out that I have kids.

You cannot dismiss DC Metro police officer Daniel Hodges’ description of the nightmarish moments in which he was trapped in a Capitol doorway at the mercy of the mob. “A meat grinder,” Hodges said, and he described how he’d hoped not to be pulled to the ground.

At worst, [I might] be dragged down into the crowd and lynched.

A thought that was never far from the minds of Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn and Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, two non-white officers who testified on Tuesday about the…ah…special attention lavished on them by the tourists on that memorable day. Dunn admitted making the mistake of telling the crazies that he had voted for Joe Biden. Then came the response:

Did you hear that, guys, that [N-word] voted for Joe Biden.

But Dunn wasn’t finished. He was looking behind the invective and the bear spray to the architects of this awful event.

If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail. But not only does the hit man go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.

Gonell was even more specific.

It’s upsetting. It’s a pathetic excuse for his behavior, for something that he himself helped to create, this monstrosity. I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day. If that was hugs and kisses, then we should all go to his house and do the same thing to him.

To me, it’s insulting, it’s demoralizing because everything that we did was to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt. And what he was doing instead of sending the military, instead of sending the support, or telling his people, his supporters to stop this nonsense, he egged them to continue fighting.

And they have the body-cam videos to back them up.

The former president* has to testify now. He has to be asked the tough questions, in some public forum, under oath. He has to be forced to watch the body-cam videos and to comment on them, to talk about how bear spray is a kiss and an improvised javelin is a hug, and how “shoot him with his own gun” is an expression of love and respect. The rest of them, too, of course—the little attendant rats, some of whom got hilariously run out of their own press conference on Tuesday as the officers were testifying elsewhere on Capitol Hill. (I’m no political consultant, but I’m willing to bet that, “Are you a pedophile?” is tops on the list of questions you do not want your client to field while pursued down a Washington street.) But Donald Trump has to be forced to confront what he did, and what he continues to do, to the country for which he does not give the smallest damn.

What disturbs me the most, beyond the cruelty and the brutality from the terrorists, is that we will move on, we will forget, we will change the channel, just as we do after a mass shooting.

Not only must we hear the testimony, we must not forget.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Cooking Bacon In The Nude

Tucker Carlson, the Fox pundit who rants about everything, including loudly denouncing vaccination against Covid-19, was accosted by a man while shopping in a hardware store in Montana, who called him “the worst human being known to mankind.”

The result was predictable: Tucker whined and carried on like the snowflake that he is, and his defenders rushed to his side, saying that it was unseemly to accost a public figure because of his political beliefs.  Carlson himself has called upon his viewers to go after people wearing masks and reporting parents to child-protective services for masking their children.

Karma is one thing, but being so blatantly hypocritical — and childish — is just plain stupid, if not Newtonian.  If you cook bacon in the nude, don’t be surprised where the spattering grease lands.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Killing Them Off

It seems that certain states run by Republicans have devised a sure-fire method of voter suppression.

Across the country, GOP lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation methods, moves experts say leave the country ill-equipped to counter the resurgent coronavirus and a future, unknown outbreak.

In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates. Some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the virus. And in its recent rulings and analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to limit disease mitigation in the name of religious freedom.

“The legal framework has evolved in ways that will complicate and perhaps undermine efforts to deal with the next public health crisis or even routine health threats,” said Wendy Parmet, director of the Northeastern University Center for Health Policy and Law, who also said she has been a “long critic of emergency laws and their potential for abuse.”

A key issue, Parmet and others say, is that the legislative backlash is based on partisan assumptions about this pandemic, limiting states’ options in the face of a new threat.

“Whatever your feelings are about what health officials did in March of 2020, I can talk to you about a future threat that might be different, that would disproportionately affect a different population, that you would feel differently about,” said Lindsay F. Wiley, director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University and an expert on emergency reform. “Please don’t constrain authority as a reaction in a way that will tie officials to the mast for a future crisis.”

Public health crises usually affect the poor and members of under-representative communities, which means that the states are basically putting up roadblocks to rapid treatment and assistance to them. Ironically, it’s always been the Republicans who complain about government bureaucracy and red tape that hinder “personal freedom.” Now they’re going to use them to kill off the people who most likely need it the most, and most likely can be counted on to vote for the Democrats.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday Reading

We Are All Connected — Vanessa Garcia, Miami-born and raised Cuban-American playwright and writer, on what we all have in common.

Last night I woke up from a dream.

In the dream I was standing in front of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement – the movement of artists and Cuban citizens on the island, which has been one of the sparks in the engine that gave rise to this moment in Cuban history. This moment when the Cuban people have begun to take back their voice. When they have bravely taken to the street, despite all odds, risking their lives in order to break the shackles of a 62-year-old dictatorship. Luis Manuel is currently missing, disappeared by the State.

In my dream, however, I was face to face with him, and we were standing on water, several feet apart. From my chest to his there was a twisted root connecting us, heart to heart. It was thorny in places, touched with blood. In other spots, it was beginning to bloom with tiny orange Flamboyant buds. In other sections it was metal, but those parts glowed with a light that was trying to heal the rust. And we, Luis Manuel and I, were looking face to face at each other and I felt as though my heart, which was being tugged by its very root, was going to come out of my chest. But it didn’t come out of my chest, it gripped harder, vibrated inside me. It connected us.

Estamos conectados,” is how Luis Manuel ends many of his social media videos, speaking to the people on the island. And I feel that connection outside the island too in our Diaspora.

Alongside this powerful dream I had, we have also all awoken from a nightmare in which Cuba was a place people went to for fun in the sun while a dictatorship brutally pushed its people to their knees behind closed doors.

A nightmare in which no one heard our voices on this side of the ocean or the other. Not the voices inside Cuba; not the Cassandras of the Diaspora.

We are the children of men and women who threw themselves to the sea. Some whose bodies sunk to the bottom of raging oceans as they tried to cross in makeshift rafts of rubber, shards of canvas.

We are the children of people who cheered: “Next year in Cuba,” until the phrase scraped their throats raw. Until they lost the hope. We carry their voice within us, and we project it to the world now.

We are the people who fled in 1959, 1961, 1974, 1980, 1994, 2014, and yesterday.

We are the people that have had to watch American students wear Che and Fidel on their chests, their images, to us, equal to the dagger of a white pointed hat alongside a cross on fire.

We have sent our family money directly; we have fed our people when the government starved it. We have never embargoed the people; we have only embargoed the government.

The Cuban regime made itself fat on deals with foreign companies as the Cuban people starved. The Cuban regime has blamed the American embargo, when it is the regime itself that has been the blockade. As the Cuban rapper, David D Omni, sings to the regime: “el bloqueo aquí eres tu que no quieres dar la luz,” the blockade here is you, who does not want to give the light.

What we have known for generations, the world knows now – or is, rather, only beginning to know. There are many stories to tell, to carry toward the light.

There is work to do. This is only the beginning.

This past Saturday, July 17th, Willy Chirino spoke to the Cuban American people in front of the freedom tower and quoted Jose Martí, our patriot poet. He said: “When we’re talking about freedom, everything must go to the fire, even the arts, in order to feed the flame.”

No matter what that vibrating root between us and our people feels like right now, how much it hurts – because of how much it hurts – we cannot let go. We must keep the flame alive.

We are a chain of people standing on water and we cannot let go of each other or we will sink to the bottom of the sea, without ever seeing our connective roots blare their glorious bloom.

There is not a single second in which we can turn against each other right now. It doesn’t matter who voted for who in the last election. It doesn’t matter if we have small differences of opinion. We must all join forces under our singular cause: to bring down the tyranny of Cuba, once and for all. It’s time that the people of Cuba take their voice back. They have suffered for it, they are dying in the streets for it, slaughtered by their own government for it. It is our job to amplify their messages and fight alongside them; educate the world into action — peacefully.

The regime will play its game. But it is an old game, and we know it all too well. Let’s play it better. Let’s show the world the regime’s cards, the decks they’ve stacked, the dominoes they’ve locked.

I have a new dream now. In which we are all— the generations torn apart — standing and embracing on the soil of a free Cuba.

We are all connected.

Why Republicans Hate Voting Rights — Elie Mystal in The Nation.

Utah Senator Mike Lee, a raving hypocrite who abandoned his stated principles to play lackey to Donald Trump, is fond of saying, “We’re not a democracy.” Lee thinks that’s a good thing. He’s written: “Democracy isn’t the objective: liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are.” When Lee says these things, he’s not merely playing the role of an overzealous high school social studies teacher trying to use “cool facts” to deflect the hail of spitballs. He’s also channeling the deepest fears of the slavers and colonists who wrote the Constitution. Those guys understood, as Lee does, that a true democracy, in which everybody gets to vote and participate in self-government, would be a threat to white male hegemony in the New World.

They’re not wrong. The founders and Lee and Jefferson Davis and Ron DeSantis—and all the other white guys who have stood against the right to vote throughout American history—are correct in their assessment that universal suffrage and equal representation are the surest ways to end white male political supremacy.

That is why the “right to vote” is not spelled out in the Constitution, and why voting rights are under near-constant attack by conservative forces. It’s almost certainly why Lee thought that HR 1, the bill designed to restore and secure voting rights, was “written in hell by the devil himself.”

It’s no accident that the current assault on voting rights started not with the failed reelection of Donald Trump but with the successful election of Barack Obama. After the 2010 midterm elections and the new US census that followed, Republicans promptly used the gains they’d made to go on a gerrymandering rampage. Their allies on the Supreme Court then used two cases—Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021)—to effectively neuter the Voting Rights Act.

Those moves set the stage for the legislative attacks on democracy that white conservatives have launched this year. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 17 states have enacted 28 new laws to restrict voting access. A total of 48 states have proposed a staggering 389 voter restriction bills, which run the gamut from obtuse (requiring notaries to sign absentee ballots), to cruel (denying water to voters waiting in line), to downright racist (excluding from early voting the times Black people get out of church).

The GOP’s current eruption of voter suppression is unrelenting and ferocious, but it’s not a new phenomenon and should not have been unexpected. Everybody knows that voting rights were initially restricted to wealthy white males and only grudgingly doled out to additional humans after war, outrage, or mass grassroots movements.

The solution to these cyclical outbursts has never been incremental change. Radical legislative interventions (the Voting Rights Act), new constitutional protections (the 15th and 19th amendments), and a judiciary willing to uphold them (Earl Warren protected the voting rights John Roberts is now destroying) have been some of the ways people have fought to limit the antidemocratic instincts of the white men in power.

But the current Democratic Party can’t take such bold action. Even though the mass of the party’s Congress members are willing to do whatever it takes, including nuking the filibuster, to ensure that Jim Crow–style voter restrictions never come back, they are all too easily hamstrung by a few timid white senators who seem to think that full and equal access to the rights of citizenship is just one option among many and that basic democratic rights should be put on the bargaining block in the name of bipartisanship.

There are too many people who seem to be willing to give the Biden administration and the national Democratic party a pass if it can’t convince Joe Manchin (and the cabal of spineless Democratic Senators he speaks for) to do the right thing. Given the stakes—the existence of democratic self-government—I don’t think the president can just throw up his hands and say “Welp, I tried.” Nobody looks back on Rutherford B. Hayes, who presided over the end of Reconstruction and the institution of Jim Crow, and says “good effort.” Texas Democrats are fleeing their state in an ultimately futile effort to stop new voter suppression laws; I think it’s fair to expect more than a speech (not even in prime time from the Oval Office but on a random afternoon) from President Biden.

In this speech, Biden was reduced to making a moral appeal to the bigots in the minority. “We will be asking my Republican friends—in Congress, in states, in cities, in counties—to stand up, for God’s sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our elections and the sacred right to vote,” Biden said, adding: “Have you no shame?”

If that’s all he’s got, we’re going to lose. Because conservative white people have no shame. They’ve never had any. Throughout American history, they have shamelessly regarded the right to vote as the ultimate white privilege.

We are not a democracy. The question has always been whether enough white people even want one.

Doonesbury — So Wily.

Saturday, July 24, 2021