Saturday, June 17, 2023

Nikki Haley proved that racism is alive and well

The field of candidates for the 2024 GOP presidential primary includes a woman of color - Nikki Haley. I suppose that marks some progress. 

However, one of her main messages is that racism in this country is over, which is interesting given that it was only 8 years ago - on Haley's watch as governor of South Carolina - that an avowed white supremacist murdered 9 Black people in church. 

But the problem for Haley goes deeper. Almost every time she opens her mouth about the demise of racism, she proves that it is still alive and well. Here's the latest example:

Of course, Haley didn't provide any examples of Barack Obama singling our minorities as victims because there aren't any. I'll grant that, like most Republicans, she probably lives in a bubble of right wing news and wouldn't know that some Black liberals like Ta-Nehisi Coates actually criticized the former president for focusing on personal responsibility when speaking to Black audiences. But perhaps Haley should read the piece Coates wrote after Obama's commencement address at Morehouse. Here is the part of the president's speech that he critiqued:

We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you've learned over the last four years is that there's no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there's a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: "Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness."

We've got no time for excuses—not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven't. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that's still out there. It's just that in today's hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world...nobody is going to give you anything you haven't earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured—and overcame.

As Coates pointed out, that was pretty standard fare for Obama. 

But it's hard to imagine that Haley completely missed the speech that launched Obama onto the national political stage - the one at the 2004 Democratic convention - where he said this:

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

This is the guy Haley said was promoting victimhood instead of empowerment. 

Obama returned to that theme at the end of the most important speech of his presidency - the one he delivered at the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person. Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” “We The People.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Yes We Can.” That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone.

There is a reason why people so often referred to "no drama Obama." It comes down to the fact that the man is actually allergic to the idea of "victimhood" - always has been.

Nikki Haley would know that if she had ever paid attention to what Obama said/did. But instead she ignored the actual person and projected a mythical stereotype onto him. That, my friends, is the definition of racism.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Durham to Right Wingers: "Blame Hillary"

Just before Bill Barr resigned as Trump's attorney general, he was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassell and indicated exactly what he wanted from the Durham report.

The attorney general also hopes people remember that orange jumpsuits aren’t the only measure of misconduct. It frustrates him that the political class these days frequently plays “the criminal card,” obsessively focused on “who is going to jail, who is getting indicted.”…One danger of the focus on criminal charges is that it ends up excusing a vast range of contemptible or abusive behavior that doesn’t reach the bar.

What was the "contemptible or abusive behavior" he wanted Durham to highlight? Last summer Barr told Fox News that he was proud of the work Durham was doing to crystalize "the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching, as a dirty trick, the whole Russiagate collusion narrative."

In other words, the entire investigation was about Durham producing a document that right wingers could use to blame Hilary Clinton for the whole Trump/Russia affair. Never mind that, when Trump sued Clinton and associates for orchestrating the whole thing, a federal judge didn't just throw the case out of court, he ordered the former president to pay the defendants $938,000 for filing a bogus lawsuit.

That didn't stop Durham from doing exactly what Barr wanted. And it worked. Here is the so-called "legal analyst" at Fox News, Gregg Jarrett.

In July 2016, CIA Director John Brennan rushed to the White House to brief then-President Barack Obama and Joe Biden, our current president, about alarming new evidence uncovered by American intelligence. The agency had obtained reliable information that "Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians" (page 81 of the report).

It was an outrageous and wholly invented accusation unsupported by anything except Hillary’s craven imagination. Her shrewd goal was to frame her opponent for unidentified crimes that he never committed and, thereby, damage or sink his candidacy.

Who was the source for that "reliable information?" I'll let Durham answer that question (emphasis mine).

In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians' hacking ofthe Democratic National Committee. The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.

Even Durham had to admit that it came from Russian intelligence and was not "reliable information." Yet he devoted much of his report to what he calls the "Clinton plan intelligence." Here's Durham's major claim:

On July 28, 2016, Director Brennan met with President Obama and other White House personnel, during which Brennan and the President discussed intelligence relevant to the 2016 presidential election as well as the potential creation of an inter-agency Fusion Cell to synthesize and analyze intelligence about Russian malign influence on the 2016 presidential election...

Brennan stated that the inter-agency Fusion Cell, a team to synthesize and analyze pertinent intelligence on Russian malign influence activities related to the presidential election, was put in motion after his meeting with President Obama on July 28th. Email traffic and witness interviews conducted by the Office reflect that at least some CIA personnel believed that the Clinton Plan intelligence led to the decision being made to set up the Fusion Cell.

According to Durham, all of that activity was focused on dealing with the Clinton Plan intelligence. But let's keep in mind the context of what was going on at the time. On July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks. Based on a tip from Australian intelligence, the FBI opened its Crossfire Hurricane investigation on July 31th. 

Meanwhile, CIA Director Brennan was working some late nights.

By early August, the sense of alarm had become so acute that CIA Director John Brennan called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. “I need to get in to see the president,” Brennan said, with unusual urgency in his voice.

Brennan had just spent two days sequestered in his office reviewing a small mountain of material on Russia…There were piles of finished assessments, but Brennan had also ordered up what agency veterans call the “raw stuff” — unprocessed material from informants, listening devices, computer implants and other sources. Clearing his schedule, Brennan pored over all of it…

Brennan’s review session occurred against the backdrop of these unsettling developments. But his call to the White House was driven by something else — extraordinary intelligence that had surfaced in late July and reached deep inside the Kremlin, showing that Putin was himself directing an “active measures” operation aimed not only at disrupting the U.S. presidential race but electing Trump.

In the midst of the hack and leak, the focus was on what Russia was doing. The big news for Brennan was that they weren't just interfering in the election. They were doing so to elect Trump. 

According to the Washington Post. Brennan wrote up his own dossier and sent it directly to the White House. 

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. 
But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

The dates are a little off. Durham said that Brennan met with President Obama on July 28th and the Post suggests that it was early August. But the "Fusion Cell" Durham refers to was set up as a result. Here's how the Post reported it:

Brennan convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI...

They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.

Regardless of what gossip Durham heard, the Fusion Cell was not set up to investigate the Clinton Plan intelligence. It was designed to figure out WTF Russia was up to - with a main concern being the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day.

I'm sure that both Barr and Durham know all of this. They've probably even reviewed Brennan's entire dossier on how Putin himself was directing the "active measures" to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. But they went into this whole thing with a narrative about blaming Clinton that they wanted to sell to right wingers. Damn the evidence and the truth!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

That Time When Refusing to Negotiate With Hostage-Takers Worked

In our 24/7 news cycle, major political stories come and go with lightening speed. When the result of those stories surface later, most of the mainstream media starts from scratch, failing to provide the historical context - and so voters don't connect the dots about how issues unfold. 

That is happening right now as Republicans hold the debt ceiling hostage and threaten to blow up the economy if their demands aren't met. Most news outlets are simply reporting that Biden has refused to negotiate with Republicans. But we've been here before and what happened in the past is important for understanding that position. So let's examine the recent history that led us to this place.

Soon after Republicans gained a House majority in the 2010 midterms, Republicans threatened to blow up the economy by refusing to raise the debt limit unless Democrats agreed to massive spending cuts. As a reminder, here's the essence of the threat:

When Congress raises the debt ceiling, it does not authorize any new spending; it permits the Treasury to pay the debts the U.S. has incurred from earlier fiscal-policy decisions. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would lead to the federal government defaulting, something that has never happened, and which could crater the stock market, spike interest rates, and disrupt payments to the millions of Americans who rely on federal checks.

President Obama entered into negotiations for a "grand bargain," seeking tax increases along with budget cuts to reduce the deficit. Ron Brownstein documented what happened.

Only days before August 2, when the nation would face an unprecedented default, Obama, Biden and the congressional leaders in both parties gathered in the White House for a frantic final weekend of negotiations. The two sides were trying to avoid calamity in an environment of “pure acrimony,” Furman told me. “I think if you look at the photographs that [the White House photographer] Pete Souza took over the course of that weekend, you can look at our faces and you don’t need to hear any words,” Lew said. “If you ask President Obama about the two or three most gut-wrenching moments as president I have no doubt this would be on the list.”

The sticking point was that Republicans wouldn't agree to raise taxes, but a deal was reached at the last moment. 

The deal linked as much as another $1.5 trillion increase in debt to the creation of a congressional “super committee” that would be guaranteed a floor vote on a plan to cut the deficit an equivalent amount. If the committee deadlocked, automatic spending cuts in defense and non-defense discretionary spending—what became known as sequestration—would be triggered.

Republicans on the "super committee" refused to raise taxes, so the disastrous sequestration cuts went into effect. 

What most news outlets are missing is what happened next. First of all, everyone from the Obama administration that was involved in the 2011 process said "never again." But in 2013, Republicans went back to the drawing board and refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to their demands. That's when Obama made his position perfectly clear.

In recent weeks, Obama has been taking almost every opportunity to step in front of cameras and say, as clearly as possible, that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. On Dec. 5, he went to the Business Roundtable and said: "We are not going to play that game again next year. We've got to break that habit before it starts." On the 19th, he held a news conference where he was no less emphatic. "I’ve put forward a very clear principle: I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling."

On Jan.1, he gave a statement on the fiscal cliff deal. "While I will negotiate over many things," he said, "I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills."

On the 4th, he gave a radio address in which he repeated the message. "One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up," he said.

Then there was today's news conference, which was almost solely devoted to the debt ceiling. "To even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible," Obama said in his prepared remarks. "It’s absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be, and I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now, 'a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.' "

After Republicans added a government shutdown to the mix, here's how that one ended:

That campaign succeeded mainly in undermining popular support for the Republican Party, however. By late Wednesday, dozens of anxious GOP lawmakers were ready to give President Obama almost exactly what he requested months ago: a bill to fund the government and increase the Treasury Department’s borrowing power with no strings attached.

Of course, during Trump's presidency the debt ceiling was raised three times with no threats of default, even as the deficit ballooned. But as soon as Republicans regained a House majority during the Biden administration, they're at it once again. 

President Biden had a front-row seat for both approaches to Republican hostage-taking during Obama's presidency. With that recent history in mind, the call about what to do this time is not a difficult one to make. Negotiating with hostage-takers failed and refusing to do so succeeded. 

However, there is one way that things are different this time around. I suspect that the current lunatic caucus on the right would actually welcome a collapse of our economy - assuming it would damage the Democrats. But that means that negotiations are even less likely to succeed than they were in 2011. 

So we're in for a bumpy ride over the next few months. I'm placing my bets on the possibility that, when it comes to Republicans taking our economy hostage, perhaps the third time around is the charm. Maybe this time Biden will do something like use the 14th Amendment and end this nonsense once and for all. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Other Christian Nationalists: Leonard Leo and Opus Dei

Here's the story the Washington Post broke last week:

In January 2012, [Leonard] Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.

Leo, a key figure in a network of nonprofits that has worked to support the nominations of conservative judges, told Conway that he wanted her to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25K,” the documents show. He emphasized that the paperwork should have “No mention of Ginni, of course.”

The Post was able to document that Leo funneled at least $100,000 to Ginni Thomas through these connections. 

Not many people know who Leonard Leo is because, until recently, he's managed to keep a pretty low profile. But in 2018, Clarence Thomas referred to him as “the Number Three most powerful person in the world.” Of course, he was only joking...sort of. 

Two of the best sources of information on Leo are (1) the Washington Post article from 2019 titled: "A conservative activist’s behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation’s courts," and (2) a presentation by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse documenting how dark money interests bought the courts.

The bottom line is that Leo spent hundreds of millions of dollars getting the six extremists judges that currently sit on the Supreme Court. Now, he's using the $1.6 billion from one mega-donor to fight the co-called "culture wars" - even going so far as to create a “private and confidential” conservative group to “crush liberal dominance.”

What you are less likely to know about Leo is that he currently serves on the board of an organization called the Catholic Information Center - which was founded by the cult, Opus Dei. Like much of Leo's endeavors, membership in Opus Dei is usually kept private. But Leo doesn't just serve on their board. In 2022, CIC honored him with their "John Paul II Evangelization Award" (Justice Antonin Scalia received the award in 2016).

Unlike how Opus Dei was portrayed in Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code," the cult is all about gaining political power. After studying Opus Dei in Europe, the Center for Research on Population and Security described their efforts with this:

Opus Dei advances its agenda...on a number of fronts and through a variety of strategies. The ultimate aim of all of these endeavours is to gain political power so that its moral agenda might be enshrined in public policy and legislation.

That is exactly what the Catholic Information Center is all about. In many ways it resembles the Protestant group Jeff Sharlet wrote about in his book, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” 

The man who put the CIC on the map in Washington, D.C. is Rev. C. John McCloskey. What he brought to Catholicism was an emphasis that has been more visible in some Protestant denominations: evangelism. Incorporating the need to proselytize moves religious faith beyond the arena of the personal to one in which it’s all about “building the Kingdom of God” by taking over the institutions of power. 

Here is how Chris Suellentrop summarized McCloskey:
He describes the period after Vatican II as a “generally unfortunate period for our country and our Church,” calls coeducation a “failure,” and notes the “particular needs of the complementary yet quite different sexes.” He advises college students to avoid “nominal” Catholic colleges (meaning Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, and the like) that emphasize concepts like “openness, just society, search, diversity, and professional preparation.”

Back in 2003, Charles Pierce interviewed McCloskey for the Boston Globe. Here's an excerpt that seems to have been a forecast of the "soft civil war" being egged on by the GOP today:

He is talking about a futuristic essay he wrote that rosily describes the aftermath of a "relatively bloodless" civil war that resulted in a Catholic Church purified of all dissent and the religious dismemberment of the United States of America. "There's two questions there," says the Rev. C. John McCloskey 3d, smiling..."One is, Do I think it would be better that way? No. Do I think it's possible? Do I think it's possible for someone who believes in the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, over a period of time to choose to survive with people who think it's OK to kill women and children or for—quote—homosexual couples to exist and be recognized? "No, I don't think that's possible," he says. "I don't know how it's going to work itself out, but I know it's not possible, and my hope and prayer is that it does not end in violence. But, unfortunately, in the past, these types of things have tended to end this way. If American Catholics feel that's troubling, let them. I don't feel it's troubling at all."

But when the curtain got pulled back on McCloskey, it was the same-old, same-old.

The global Catholic community Opus Dei in 2005 paid $977,000 to settle a sexual misconduct suit against the Rev. C. John McCloskey, a priest well-known for preparing for conversion big-name conservatives — Newt Gingrich, Larry Kudlow and Sam Brownback, among others.

The woman who filed the complaint is a D.C.-area Catholic who was among the many who received spiritual direction from McCloskey through the Catholic Information Center, a K Street hub of Catholic life in downtown Washington. She told The Washington Post that McCloskey groped her several times while she was going to pastoral counseling with him to discuss marital troubles and serious depression.

All of this is a reminder that, while we've grown accustomed to thinking of Christian Nationalists as exclusively white evangelical protestants, the halls of power are filled, not just with dark money, but with extremist Catholics - many of whom (like Leonard Leo) belong to the Opus Dei cult. Their goal is to gain political power so that they can enshrine their moral agenda in public policy. But even as they scream about "groomers," their ranks are filled with sexual abusers and pedophiles. 

Friday, May 5, 2023

Hawley Demonstrates That He's an Ignorant Liar

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released their jobs report today. 

Job growth fared better than expected in April...Nonfarm payrolls increased 253,000 for the month, beating Wall Street estimates for growth of 180,000...The unemployment rate was 3.4% against an estimate for 3.6% and tied for the lowest level since 1969.

As Steve Benen pointed out, the last time the unemployment rate was this low, we hadn't landed on the moon yet and Woodstock was still a few months away. 

In related news this week, Sen. Josh Hawley derisively laughed at Interior Secretary Deb Haaland when she told the truth. 

In that clip Hawley claimed that the Biden administration is cutting off energy independence in favor of a "radical climate change agenda." He goes on to attack Haaland for denying a permit for new mining on federal land within the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Here's what you should know about the Boardary Waters in my home state of Minnesota.
With over 1 million acres of lush forests, diverse wildlife, and pristine glacial lakes and rivers, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a unique treasure located in northern Minnesota. It is the most visited Wildernesses Area in the United States and the second largest Wilderness Area east of the Rockies. The BWCAW, which attracts more than 250,000 people each year, has more than 2,000 backcountry campsites, 1,200 miles of canoe routes, and over 230 miles of overnight hiking trails...

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is home to some of the cleanest water in the world. Many of the lakes and rivers in the BWCA are so clear that you can see straight down to the bottom and visitors often pride themselves on drinking straight from the lakes and rivers.  
These pristine waters are currently threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining, which would seriously harm the Boundary Waters watershed and the wildlife that calls it home.

So of course, Haaland defended her decision to ban new mining operations that would threaten this valuable resource. But Hawley proceeded to lecture Haaland - stating that "jobs for blue collar workers are also valuable resources" and asked why those would be "sacrificed in favor of her agenda for radical climate change?

Haaland responded by pointing to the fact that there are 1.9 jobs for every worker in the country right now.  

That is when Hawley derisively laughed at Haaland and went into a rant about how many jobs we've lost to China over the last 20 years.

This is one of those moments when it is impossible to tell whether Hawley is ignorant or mendacious. Ignorance would mean that he missed the fact that the Associated Builders and Contractors just documented that "the construction industry will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2023 to meet the demand for labor."

All of the major news outlets - including the Wall Street Journal - have reported that the biggest challenge Biden's "blue collar blue-print for America" faces is the shortage of workers.

Hawley, who tries to brand himself as a champion of the working class, is either completely ignorant about what is happening today or he is lying through his teeth. We could split the difference and just say that he's an ignorant liar - which makes it all the more appalling that he would behave so obnoxiously to Secretary Haaland. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

DeSantis Board Votes to Counter-Sue Disney Over Something...Anything

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's hand picked board overseeing the newly named Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (formerly the Reedy Creek Improvement District) voted on Monday to counter-sue Disney. Referring to the suit the Mouse House filed last Wednesday, Martin Garcia, chair of the board, said that "We have no choice now but to respond."

But as Kimberly Leonard noted, "It was not immediately clear from Monday's meeting what the basis of the lawsuit would be." In approving the suit, the board didn't discuss anything about it other than where it will be filed: in state court in central Florida. 

So five days after Disney filed their lawsuit, the board basically told their lawyers to file something - anything. Just make sure it goes to a state court. That's because even DeSantis knows he's going to lose the case Disney filed in federal court.

All of this sounds exactly like the kind of move DeSantis would make. As a reminder, Disney put out its statement against the "don't say gay bill" on March 28, 2022. The governor pointed out in his book that he started working on a bill to punish the company two days later. By April 22nd (23 days later), a bill to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District had passed both chambers of the state legislature and DeSantis signed it. 

But in his rush to punish Disney, DeSantis missed the fact that dissolving the district would dump $1 billion in bonds on Florida taxpayers. So it was back to the drawing board. Ten months later he signed a bill that kept the special district in place, but allowed him to appoint the members of the supervisory board. 

So now DeSantis's hand-picked board members are at it to counter-sue Disney before they have even identified a basis for the suit. It's as if they said, "let's shoot first and try to figure out our target later."

When I heard that DeSantis got an undergrad degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard, I naturally assumed that he was intelligent. But as a trained therapist, I should have remembered that intelligence gets buried in a vengeful, arrogant bully. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Hunter Biden's Laptop Is a Total Nothingburger

Right wing lawyer Jonathan Turley thinks the shoe is about to drop on the Biden family. Reading his piece I was reminded that nothing in this whole scenario about Hunter's laptop makes any sense. 

First of all, the ultimate claim of the Twitter files was that the story about the laptop at the New York Post was suppressed and that if voters knew about it, Trump would have likely won re-election. we know. Twitter only blocked the NYP article for about a day and right wingers have been talking about it relentlessly for 2 1/2 years. Several news outlets have gotten access to hard drives that supposedly contain the contents of the laptop and, to various degrees, they have confirmed their authenticity. 

As a result, every right wing journalist/politician who has an ax to grind against President Biden has had a couple of years to comb through those hard drives for something - anything - that they can use against the president or his family. So far we've gotten nothing but a few dickpics from the days when Hunter was abusing drugs.

But for Representatives Jim Jordan and James Comer - the hunt continues.

At this point, the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, is still investigating Hunter Biden. There have been leaks about possible charges, mostly related to tax evasion. But those leaks should be taken with a grain of salt. It is, however, very possible that Hunter could eventually face criminal charges. If the evidence is there, so be it. 

But when it comes to the laptop right wingers are so obsessed's obviously a total nothingburger!

Saturday, April 29, 2023

What DeSantis Couldn't Say in Response to Disney's Lawsuit

Now that we've covered the lawsuit Disney filed against Ron DeSantis, it's worth taking a look at how the governor responded.  

First of all, he claimed that Disney is "upset because they're going to have to live by the same rules as everybody else." He went on to say that "they don't want to have to pay the same taxes as everybody else."

But the truth is that, if Disney were to be forced to pay the same taxes as everybody else, they'd be getting a pretty big break.
The board sets the district’s tax rate, which is currently three times higher than that paid by residents of Orange and Osceola counties. Disney pays more than $1.1 billion in state and local taxes, including more than $160 million in property tax, which is used to maintain a higher level of services and infrastructure than the counties provide.

The same thing is true of the governor's other point about Disney wanting to avoid oversight.

The RCID building codes (the “Epcot Codes”) meet or exceed all state & federal requirements. Same with their environmental standards etc.

DeSantis ended by saying that the law suit was "political" (whatever that means in the context of a dispute over free speech), and then implied that the company was judge-shopping for filing the suit in Tallahassee. 

The governor needed to make that final point because the judge that has been assigned to this case is Mark Walker - someone who has a pretty stellar record on upholding First Amendment rights. But it gets even worse. Walker is the judge that said this in a ruling against DeSantis's Stop WOKE Act:

Walker said Florida had become a place where the First Amendment allowed, rather than prevented, the state to limit speech. Or as he put it, "in the popular television series Stranger Things, the 'upside down' describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down."

While it's clear that DeSantis isn't the brightest bulb, he's probably at least smart enough to know that he's going to lose this one at the District Court. So he's planting the seeds for blaming that on the "woke judge" chosen by Disney.

The most important part of these remarks by DeSantis are what he DIDN'T say. For example, he didn't repeat any of these past statements:

  • “Disney and other woke corporations won’t get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer” and that he would “not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state." 
  • “For whatever reason, Disney got on that bandwagon. They demagogued the bill. They lied about it. ... We signed the bill. And then, and incredibly, they say, ‘We are going to work to repeal Parents’ Rights in Florida.’ And I’m just thinking to myself, ‘You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?’ We view that as a provocation and we are going to fight back against that.” 
  • “We took action” after Disney made “the mistake” of opposing the legislation." 
  • "Leaders must stand up and fight back when big corporations make the mistake, as Disney did, of using their economic might to advance a political agenda. We are making Florida the state where the economy flourishes because we are the state where woke goes to die.”
As a reminder, here's a summary of what Disney's lawsuit is all about:
A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.
The statements above are all things the governor said about the events in question BEFORE Disney filed this lawsuit. As I said yesterday, "Nothing makes Disney's case better than the governor's own words." It's obvious DeSantis knows that, so he can't say the quiet parts out loud anymore. 

This case is probably going to take years to wind its way through the courts. By filling it, Disney has managed to muzzle DeSantis's ability to make claims about punishing woke corporations. That's a win right there.

The real showdown will come if this case makes its way to the Supreme Court. One the one hand, you have six extremist judges who have pretty much gone all-in on the war against woke. But it wasn't that long ago that the Court decided that corporations had free speech rights when it comes to political contributions. What will this group of justices have to say about actual speech rights for corporations? We'll have to wait and see.  

But if Disney finally claims victory in this case, it will be a step towards putting a nail in the coffin of the National Conservatives. One of their main goals is use the government to punish institutions that fight back against their "culture wars." If the courts rule that that is a violation of the institution's right to free speech, the movement could be dead in the water. That is why this case is such a BFD!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Disney Skewers DeSantis With His Own Words

I've read the entire suit Disney filed against DeSantis - which you can find here. One of the most notable things is that it is written in plain English, avoiding the kind of legaleze that you usually find in such documents. The only drawback is that it's 77 pages long.

Before getting into the weeds about Disney's claims, here's a quick timeline of the major events in question:

  • March 28, 2022 - DeSantis signs "don't say gay bill." On the same day, Disney released a statement saying the bill should never have been passed and committed to working towards its repeal.
  • April 22, 2022 - DeSantis signs SB 4C, which dissolves the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) as of July 2023.
  • Feb. 8, 2023 - RCID approves a declaration of restrictive covenants and a development agreement with Disney.
  • February 27, 2023 - DeSantis signs HB 9B, which maintains the district under a different name and allows the governor to appoint members to the governing board.
  • April 17, 2023 - DeSantis holds a press conference to announce plans to nullify the development agreement and suggests further steps he might take to punish Disney.

The case Disney is making is summarized with this (emphasis mine):

A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights...

Disney regrets that it has come to this. But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials... 
Governor DeSantis and his allies paid no mind to the governing structure that facilitated Reedy Creek’s successful development until one year ago, when the Governor decided to target Disney. There is no room for disagreement about what happened here: Disney expressed its opinion on state legislation and was then punished by the State for doing so.

Throughout the document, they refer to the way DeSantis has "weaponized government," which is interesting given the way people like Rep. Jim Jordan are using the term to go after Democrats.

You may have heard that the agreements between RCID and Disney approved on Feb. 8th stripped DeSantis's new governing board of all of its power. That is not true.

[T]hese contracts are land use agreements between a developer and its local regulator. They are similar in character to contracts between other developers and special districts to fix long-term development rights and obligations, thereby facilitating the certainty needed to ensure investment and effective commercial progress. Contrary to misunderstandings and mischaracterizations by some government leaders, they do not undermine the newly constituted Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (“CFTOD” or the “District”) board’s ability to govern and exercise authority, including by imposing taxes, exercising the power of eminent domain, approving or disapproving building permit applications (including for the projects carried out pursuant to the development agreement), building roads, providing emergency services, or issuing bonds.

Here's part of the kicker paragraph that comes at the end of their initial summary:

But Disney also knows that it is fortunate to have the resources to take a stand against the State’s retaliation—a stand smaller businesses and individuals might not be able to take when the State comes after them for expressing their own views. In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind. 

Most of the document is a timeline of the major events noted above. At every turn, they document that, in his own words, DeSantis made it clear that he was taking action in retaliation for Disney's public stand against the "don't say gay bill."

Perhaps the most potent example is that, on the day after DeSantis signed the bill that allowed him to appoint members of the district's governing board, he actually put his intentions in writing for an opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal. These are the governor's own words captured for posterity:

For more than 50 years, the state of Florida put Disney on a pedestal. That all changed last year, when left-wing activists working at the company’s headquarters in Burbank, Calif., pressured Disney to oppose Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act...

The regrettable upshot of the woke ascendancy is that publicly traded corporations have become combatants in battles over American politics and culture, almost invariably siding with leftist causes...

When corporations try to use their economic power to advance a woke agenda, they become political, and not merely economic, actors. In such an environment, reflexively deferring to big business effectively surrenders the political battlefield to the militant left...

Woke ideology is a form of cultural Marxism. Leaders must stand up and fight back when big corporations make the mistake, as Disney did, of using their economic might to advance a political agenda.

Nothing makes Disney's case better than the governor's own words. 

But the real whopper in this lawsuit comes at the end when Disney lays out the particulars of what they want the courts to do. Here's the biggy:

Declare that Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B are unlawful and unenforceable because they were enacted in retaliation for Disney’s political speech in violation of the First Amendment.

In other words, they want both (1) the bill that originally dissolved RCID, and (2) the one that gave the governor the power to appoint members of the governing board, to be declared unconstitutional. 

I suspect that if DeSantis had been willing to sit down with Bob Iger and talk this through, they could have come up with a compromise that allowed the governor to save face. But that's not what MAGA folks do. So Disney was left with no choice but to sue for the whole enchilada. Their lawyers laid out an excellent case using DeSantis's own words - proving once again that the governor isn't the brightest bulb.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Populism Without Civil Rights Is Fascism

Following Tucker Carlson's ouster from Fox News, two writers at the liberal publication, The American Prospect, wrote a piece lauding his so-called "populism." Here's the line that caught my eye:

Tucker’s willingness to challenge and mock ruling elites went alongside an obsessively nativist message that alienated viewers who might otherwise have embraced his populist perspective.

As an example of Carlson's "populist reflex," the authors pointed to a disagreement he had with Ben Shapiro in 2018 on whether the government should be able to restrict trucking companies from adopting autonomous vehicle technology to avoid potential job losses in the industry. 

Carlson was emphatic that a self-determining polity should be able to control its technological destiny, while Shapiro dithered about government overreach in the market.

“Are you joking?” Carlson responded when asked by Shapiro if he’d ban autonomous vehicles. “In a second.”

The fact that the authors saw this as proof of Carlson's populism indicates that they have completely ignored the rise of National Conservatism on the right. Matthew Continetti describes them as "post-liberals" (emphasis mine).

The post-liberals say that the distinction between state and society is illusory. They argue that, even as conservatives defended the independence of civil society from state power, the left took over Hollywood, the academy, the media, and the courts. What the post-liberals seem to call for is the use of government to recapture society from the left.

The poster boy for National Conservatives is Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban - they guy Carlson promoted as a model for America’s future. As a demonstration of what that would look like in this country, Orban has become the model for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orb├ín’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.

There is a debate to be had about whether or not that has anything to do with "populism." But regardless of that, Rick Perlstein made the deeper point back in 2016 when calling out Matt Taibbi for lauding Trump's populism.

It’s an ignorance of a simple historical fact: Every fascist achieves and cements his power by pledging to rescue ordinary people from the depredations of economic elites. That’s how fas­cism works...

But guess what? Under fascism, economic protection for the goose accompanies dispossession of the gander. White people prosper in part because minorities suffer — whether, under Hitler, by taking away property from Jews, or as Herr Trump expects, by taking back ​“our” jobs from ​“them,” whether the them is immigrants or our supposedly duplici­tous trading partners.

There’s even a sociological term for it: herrenvolk repub­licanism.

I had to look that one up. The definition of "herrenvolk republicanism" is "a system of government in which only a specific ethnic group participates in government, while other groups are disenfranchised.

The bottom line is that populism without civil rights is fascism. 

This is why I've been so focused on exposing the truth about National Conservatism. It is, at heart, a fascist movement. It is important that we all recognize the way it has taken over the Republican Party and been embraced by some of the extreme left like the authors of that piece in The American Prospect - as well as Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. Even some classic liberals have suggested that Democrats can partner with National Conservatives on issues like monopolization. This is dangerous territory when it comes to protecting our democracy!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Glenn Greenwald gets triggered by smart competent women like Rep. Stacey Plaskett

Stacey Plaskett has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015. She serves as the non-voting delegate representing the Virgin Islands, where she has consistently received around 90% of the vote in elections. 

In 2021, Plaskett served as one of the managers on Trump's second impeachment trial and in 2023, she was named the ranking member of the House Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. As an example of why she has been chosen for such prominent roles, here she is talking to Chris Hayes about the latter:

You might remember that last month Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger testified about the so-called "twitter files" before the weaponization committee. It didn't go well. So all of Taibbi's buddies have come to his defense. 

As someone who has been pointing out the nonsense spewed by Glenn Greenwald for years now, I probably shouldn't be surprised that he is using a particularly ugly personal attack on Plaskett in his defense of Taibbi. After all, this is the guy who has called Nicole Wallace "the typhoid Mary of disinformation" and Natasha Bertrand "a deranged conspiracy theorist and scandal-plagued CIA propagandist." In other words, the guy seems to have a penchant for dredging up ugly personal attacks against women. 

So what is Greenwald's line of attack against Plaskett? He has repeatedly referred to her as:

Of course, it would be a waste of time to point out to Glenn that there is nothing "fake" or "pretend" about Plaskett's role as a member of congress - or the fact that the people of the Virgin Islands matter and they have overwhelmingly voted for her to be their representative. This is basically how the guy operates. 

The only good news is that there aren't that many people paying attention to Glenn these days. I just wanted to note that the guy who tries to sell himself as a rational debater sure seems to get triggered by smart competent women. As you can see, his response is not to engage in rational debate, but to go after them with vicious personal attacks. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Why Trans Women Pose a Particular Threat to Right Wingers

Since right wingers decided to make trans people their new enemy target, I've noticed that they tend to focus most of their enmity on trans women. We've seen that with their phobia about things like bathrooms and sports. We hear almost nothing similarly fear-mongering about trans men. Why is that?

The latest abuse has been directed at Dylan Mulvaney - a trans woman who recently celebrated her "day 365 of womanhood" by partnering with Bud Light. Wingers went nuts destroying their supply of the beer. That is the context for a column by Brian Broome about the fact that toxic masculinity is rooted in a hatred of anything deemed feminine. 

Mulvaney’s celebration for some reason threatened the very existence of a whole bunch of guys who aren’t ready for that reality. This will surprise no one who has ever been a small boy. Every boy knows the sting of being called a sissy. Boys are raised to believe that so-called feminine traits represent a danger they must avoid. Boys learn early that they can expect to be punished if they stray in any way into risky, weakening feminine behaviors. These lessons take root deep in our psyches as youngsters, and they stay there forever...

Men need to move beyond the idea that dominating other human beings and engaging in endless emotional barricading is how to show the world that they’re “masculine.” The concept needs a de-gendering. Perhaps to some, masculinity only means that you are self-assured, confident, not easily threatened and won’t be told what to do, what you can’t wear, whom you can love. But there are literally millions of people who possess these traits regardless of sex or gender identity.

If your idea of “masculine” is just a hatred of anything that someone told you is “feminine,” then I don’t know what to tell you except that, as a human being, you are entitled to the whole human experience. Not just part of it.

Since everything feminine is to be rejected by men, a person who has been labelled a man transitioning to become a woman is seriously triggering for folks steeped in toxic masculinity. 

Jill Filipovic notes that these right wingers are all wound up about liberal "gender ideology." But the fact is that they have their own gender ideology. It's called "patriarchy" (emphasis mine).

Conservative gender ideology is religiously-based and it goes like this: Men and women are fundamentally different, created by God to compliment each other. There is a clear hierarchy: God, man, woman, boy child, girl child. Women are to serve men, produce children, and maintain the home; and in turn, men are to protect and provide for women and children. For Christians, this is the origin story of humankind; it is foundational, the very first building block of humanity and by extension society. It is, essentially, a “separate but equal” view of gender: Men and women have equal dignity, but not equal rights, roles, or responsibilities.

A trans woman is - by definition - a violation of that established hierarchy. As Filipovic goes on to point out, "the forever lie of patriarchy is that it’s 'natural'" and "the very existence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people makes a joke of patriarchal claims to naturally-occurring gender roles."

That brings to mind the way that Doug Muder described the Confederate insurgency.

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

All of this ties together when we understand that the fundamental threat right wingers are reacting to is the impending demise of white patriarchy - which they assume is the "divinely ordained way things are supposed to be." 

Interestingly enough, the future of our democracy just might depend on embracing the traditional feminine qualities of humanity. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Surprise, Surprise. The Racist Blames the Black Guy

Tucker Carlson is a despicable excuse for a human being. But you knew that already, didn't you? It's time to say it again though, after a rant he launched last night claiming that "Democrats are stoking race hate and violence."

The big picture is that Carlson is simply projecting...again. As Philip Bump documented, it is right wing news networks like Fox that are responsible for the "toxic mix of guns, concern over crime - and fear-mongering."

So what was Carlson so riled up about last night? Apparently some teens engaged in disruption and violence in Chicago last weekend. Carlson did his usual " this is the end of civilization" routine and then said this about the city's mayor-elect, Brandon Johnson:

[T[he new mayor of Chicago, who is an ideologue and a racist, understands that these stupid children are his militia. When they destroy what others built, he becomes more powerful. Their destruction has a political use, so he refuses to criticize them.

I'd like to believe that any sentient human being would know that is an outright dangerous/racist lie. But I can't be sure about Fox News viewers these days, so here is the mayor-elect's actual statement about the events last weekend:

“In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend,” Johnson said in the statement. “It is unacceptable and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.”

Johnson, 47, said his administration would work to “create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly, under adult guidance and supervision, to ensure that every part of our city remains welcome for both residents and visitors.”

Apparently spring came to the Windy City last weekend and what has been a problematic cycle was repeated. 

Most Chicagoans treat the first warm days after a long, bitter winter as unofficial holidays from work and school, and teens have long flocked downtown to celebrate...

For years, the cycle would repeat – teens and young adults would flock downtown, dozens would be arrested and city officials and police leaders would vow to crackdown...

“Teens want to feel like they are part of this city and there is nothing wrong with that,” [Vondale] Singleton said. “But structure is needed. They go downtown because they feel safer there.”

But that was spoiled by a “few troublemakers,” tarnishing the image of Black teens in Chicago nationwide, Singleton said, thanks to headlines like “‘Teen Takeover’ terrorizes Chicago as hundreds of teenagers destroy property, attack tourists” from Fox News.

A local media outlet highlighted this story back in 2019.

On warm days, Chicago teenagers from all parts of the city like to head downtown to visit Millennium Park and Water Tower Place, especially if they have nothing else to do.

These teens are all looking for fun, of course. But for many, especially those from the city’s South and West sides, it’s also about finding their place in Chicago.
Of course, none of that matters to Carlson, who was not content to simply blame the mayor-elect. He took it a step farther.
Democrats approve of racial violence. They are stoking it everywhere. No, it's not your imagination. They want race hate and violence.

But it was how Carlson ended his little hate-fest that took my breath away (emphasis mine).

[T]he rioting this weekend in Chicago began in a place called Millennium Park. If that sounds familiar, you're not from the city. That's because Millennium Park - Grant Park is part of it - is the same place where Barack Obama gave his famous 2008 victory speech in which he promised a better future.

OBAMA: It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

Change has come to America. Barack Obama was more prophetic than we knew. That was just 15 years ago, but today, we're seeing the change that Barack Obama brought to America. This is what it looks like.

For many of us, that celebration in Grant Park fifteen years ago represents one of the most hopeful moments of our lifetime. 

But Tucker Carlson confirmed his place with the racists who still haven't gotten over how triggered they are that this country elected its first African American president, who served with dignity, competence and grace for eight years. 

Don't anyone ever try to tell me that the confederate insurgency we're witnessing in this country right now isn't deeply rooted in that historic presidency!

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

How Disney Outplayed DeSantis...Again

On Monday DeSantis held a press conference to announce the vengeance he seeks after the Mouse House pulled a fast one and basically stripped his politicized governing board of their power. 

Most of the headlines coming out of that news conference focused on the fact that DeSantis threatened to build a prison next to a family theme park. Yeah, like that is some kind of genius political move for the guy who claims to be all about protecting the young ones. 

But I spent some time doing a deeper dive into what DeSantis might be up to - especially after reading a piece by Jonathan Turley where he claimed that "Disney may have been too clever by half. The 'Hail Mickey' play appears fundamentally flawed."

In terms of the big picture, it's important to keep in mind that when the special district was established back in 1967, it was set up to act like a local municipal government. Disney wanted to develop it's attractions, but the county governments didn't have the resources to support it. So the purpose of the district was to act as it's own municipal government - collect taxes, regulate development, and build infrastructure. 

In light of that, there are some things you should know about the agreements that were signed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) and Disney before the DeSantis folks took over. First of all, there were actually two agreements: (1) a declaration of restrictive covenants and (2) a development agreement. 

The covenants were designed primarily to protect the properties OWNED BY DISNEY (land, facilities, and trademarks). They restrict the properties to their current use and include a long list of prohibited uses. The district also must seek Disney’s comment before altering the properties and can’t use Disney’s name or trademarks. This is the agreement that contains the clause about being valid in perpetuity - or if perpetuity is declared illegal, until 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendant of King Charles III.

The development agreement codifies a comprehensive 10-year plan that was finalized last summer - before this whole bru-haha with DeSantis began. It serves as a blueprint to guide development through 2032 and ensures that future boards will honor funding commitments for the planned infrastructure.

All of this makes sense. Any corporation would do whatever is necessary to ensure that their land, facilities and trademarks are protected. With the development agreement, Disney was simply seeking stability for long-term planning efforts. The fact that DeSantis and his minions are so appalled by these agreements indicates that they had plans to usurp Disney's control of it's brand/properties. 

While DeSantis didn't distinguish between these two agreements during his press conference on Monday, he did cite a Florida statute on development agreements when suggesting that the legislature would take up a bill nullifying the actions of the previous RCID. He's going to run into three problems with that:

1. He has no standing.
[I]n order to challenge the contract, you have to have legal standing, said J.C. Planas, a Miami lawyer who teaches about Disney’s special district in his local government law class at a South Florida law school...

“A development order like this can’t be challenged,” Planas said. “There’s no standing on behalf of the governor. There’s no standing on behalf of the new board. The only people standing are the residents [all Disney employees] because it’s a development agreement.

2. Included in the development agreement is this statement:

Modification or cancellation of all or any portion of this Agreement without either the express written consent of Master Developer [Disney] or in accordance with Section 163.3235, Florida Statutes, shall be considered per se a modification or cancellation of the allowable uses and entitlements to Master Developer's legal and equitable interest in the Property. 

I'm not a lawyer, but that seems to indicate that, should the agreement be cancelled, Disney (who owns the property) would consider it a cancellation of the district's use of their property. I'm not sure what the ramifications of that would be, but it could lead to the collapse of the district's special status.

3. In crafting the development agreement, Disney and RCID carefully followed Florida law. After developing the comprehensive plan, it was submitted to the state for approval - which was granted by the DeSantis administration on July 15, 2022.

Other than his threats to nullify the development agreement, DeSantis used his press conference to throw out a myriad of actions he could take as governor to punish Disney - build a prison, raise their taxes, inspect their rides, etc. Other than being completely vindictive, they are simply nuisances to a corporation like Disney. 

Oh...and in case you're wondering whether the Mouse House is cowering in fear at the threats made by the big bad governor, they released this announcement on Monday after the DeSantis press conference:

Sunday, April 16, 2023

The Confederate Insurgency Continues...

During a time when we can get confused by all of the particular atrocities being committed in red states these days, David Rothkopf reminded us about not missing the forest for the trees. 

I do, however take exception with that last sentence. This is NOT the most dangerous movement in our history - at least not yet. To explain, I'd like to go back to an article written by Doug Muder nine years ago. That was back when the current MAGA folks were calling themselves the Tea Party. Muder's piece reminds us that they are really a Confederate Party. 

He begins with a bold assertion (emphasis mine):

Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.

It is important to keep in mind that, in the first census after the Civil War, Blacks were a majority in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In three other southern states - Florida, Alabama, and Georgia - they were only 2-4 percentage points short of majorities.  

That reality is what triggered this:

After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877. Before and after 1877, the insurgents used lynchings and occasional pitched battles to terrorize those portions of the electorate still loyal to the United States. In this way they took charge of the machinery of state government, and then rewrote the state constitutions to reverse the postwar changes and restore the supremacy of the class that led the Confederate states into war in the first place...

By the time it was all over, the planter aristocrats were back in control...Blacks were once again forced into hard labor for subsistence wages, denied the right to vote, and denied the equal protection of the laws. Tens of thousands of them were still physically shackled and subject to being whipped...The real Civil War — the one that stretched from 1861 to 1877 — was the first war the United States lost.

To date, that terror campaign was the most dangerous movement in our country's history and it destroyed democracy in the south for the next 60 years. Here is what was at the heart of that movement:

The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries...

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

Where Rothkopf and Muder converge is in recognizing that "the core distinguishing belief of the contemporary Republican Party" is that they are facing a challenge to the "established social order." Here's how DeSantis articulated that in a fundraising email.

Our country is currently facing a great threat. A new enemy has emerged from the shadows that seeks to destroy and intimidate their way to a transformed state, and country, that you and I would hardly recognize...

This enemy is the radical vigilante woke mob...A group that will, literally, tear down monuments and buildings but — perhaps in an even more sinister way — tear down the American spirit itself.

What spurred this fear of "a new enemy?" You can start here:

  • Six states are majority-minority as of July 2019
  • As of 2019, children are majority minority nationwide.
  • The whole United States of America is projected to become majority-minority by the middle of the 21st century if current trends continue.
In the midst of all of that, this happened:
  • 2008 - the election of Barack Obama
  • 2015 - SCOTUS makes marriage equality the law of the land
  • 2016 - Hillary Clinton wins the popular vote in the presidential election
  • 2017 - Me Too movement explodes
  • 2020 - the murder of George Floyd sparks massive protests

Much like the Confederate response to Reconstruction, right wingers are demonstrating that they are prepared to use "all forms of legal and illegal resistance" in response to this perceived threat. It worked in the 19th Century...why not try it again?

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Embracing Republican talking points won't help Democrats

The following stories are all based on a set of data released by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

Dramatic realignment swings working-class districts toward GOP

Kapatur developed a two-page chart that lists every US House district by median income in 2021, with Democratic-held districts highlighted in blue and Republican-held districts highlighted in red. Her point is that the top half of the chart (highest median income) is predominantly blue and the bottom half is mostly red. Axios (first article above) put together a chart of the results.

Here is Kaptur's most often quoted takeaway:
"You could question yourself and say, well, the blue districts are the wealthiest districts, so it shows that the Democrats are doing better to lift people's incomes," said Kaptur. "The other way you could look at it is: how is it possible that Republicans are representing the majority of people who struggle? How is that possible?"

The conclusions being drawn from this data set are misleading. The most obvious contradiction of Kaptur's claim is that election polls have consistently shown that people making less than $50,000/yr vote heavily for Democrats. One could even suggest that the higher up the income ladder one goes, the more Republican they become.

But something else struck me about the reliance on "median income." By design it is based on 50% of the population making less and 50% making more. If we take into account the fact that Democrats dominate in large urban areas, it is important to recognize that those districts tend to include everything from deep poverty to extreme wealth. Rural areas - where Republicans dominate - aren't where the uber-wealthy reside, which means that their median income is naturally lower. 

Because I know my home state's congressional districts, I decided to take a closer look at Minnesota to see what they say about Kaptur's conclusions. To simplify, let's narrow things down to the reddest and bluest congressional district. True to form, the reddest district is the 7th, which is overwhelmingly rural and covers most of the western half of the state. Median income is $64,700 - the lowest in the state. Here's the the breakdown:

The bluest district in Minnesota is the 5th - Minneapolis. Median income is $71, 600. Here's the breakdown:

Even though the percentage of people making less than $50,000 is slightly higher in the rural 7th district (39-34%) the actual number of people in that category is higher in the 5th due to higher population overall. But notice that the percentage of people in the 7th district who make more than $100,000 is 27%, while in the 5th it's 36%. That drives median income up in the latter. While Kaptur suggests that Democrats represent affluent districts, the truth is that they represent diverse districts when it comes to income. 

A quick look at Mississippi demonstrates how all of this plays out in the south. The state only has four congressional districts - all of which fall near the bottom of Kaptur's chart. The highest of the four - the 1st district - is R+18 with a median income of $53,300. The lowest is the 2nd district - the one represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson - with a median income of $37,900. What makes the 2nd district different from the other three in Mississippi? It's racial make-up is 65% Black. The rest of the state (all represented by Republicans) comes in at about 40%. So what's going on in Mississippi is that, with a Republican gerrymander, a Democrat is "representing the majority of people who struggle" - both economically and racially. 

If you followed all of that, congratulations, you now qualify for a degree in statistics. But what it all means is that the conclusions drawn by Kaptur and those writing the articles cited above are simply BS. But it's even worse than that. 

From a political standpoint, Kaptur is claiming that Democrats don't understand working class people while the party is in the midst of implementing a "blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America." If we simply focus on Kaptur's home state of Ohio, here's what that means:
To date, $2.8 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding has been announced and is headed to Ohio with over 125 specific projects identified for funding. This year alone (2022), Ohio will receive more than $2.3 billion for transportation to invest in roads, bridges, public transit, ports and airports and over $240 million for clean water. And, as of today, more than 673,000 households across the state are receiving affordable internet due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

That doesn't include the fact that, due to the Chips Act, Ohio will be home to a new $20 billion semiconductor factory. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) knows how to celebrate these kinds of achievements. On the semiconductor factory, he declared that "with this historic announcement, we are finally burying the term 'rust belt.'”

I'm not sure what Democrats like Kaptur and Tim Ryan hope to get out of these false attacks on Democrats. But especially when it comes to the latter, it doesn't seem to be working - even in Ohio. After attacking and dismissing Democrats during his senate campaign, Ryan lost to an elitist-wanna-be-populist, J.D. Vance. 

Ohio has clearly gone from being a swing state to a fairly safe red state. And personally, I don't know what it would take to turn that around. But I'm pretty sure that publicly attacking Democrats by embracing Republican talking points (ie, lies) won't do it. 

Nikki Haley proved that racism is alive and well

The field of candidates for the 2024 GOP presidential primary includes a woman of color - Nikki Haley. I suppose that marks some progress.  ...