Morning: Elie Mystal, Bolsonaro, Individual rights and the modern conservative movement.


It’s morning, for me at least.  Massive amounts of coffee with heavy cream, the Tuesday trip to the vet to get my 21 year old cat fluids.

I spent most of the night dreaming that I was struggling to get to Trump’s funeral.  The rest of the night I spent angry and frustrated because my brother-in-law burned down our hour.  Sign of the times?

Jair Bolsonaro says he is refusing to accept $20 million from the G7 to help fight the fires in the Amazon.  Of course he did.  He helped start the fires by announcing publicly that the Amazon was open for exploitation.  If he accepts the money he would be admitting that there is a problem.  What’s the problem?  The entire modern Conservative movement is telling us that individuals pursuing their own self-interest will provide Nirvana for us all.  Burn away.  We’re on the way to utopia.

Elie Mystal, lawyer, editor of Above the Law, and national treasure has published an article detailing the kinds of hateful, horrid tweets he gets on a regular basis.  This is a man who is not afraid to speak the truth even if it’s uncomfortable.  He regularly talks about things like Mueller’s disastrous chickenshit report and how Mueller has failed us.  This is a subject media anchors cut off as soon as they can.  Mystel also displays the utter rage that many of us feel about what is going on in the country not only with Trump, the Republicans and the conservative movement in general.  He also talks about the cowardice of the Democratic Party, a discussion that definitely needs to be had.  He fights for us.  That’s why he’ll never be given a show on MSNBC.

Under the heading of gratuitous Bernie bashing today: Richard Haas said on @morningjoe that Bernie Sanders would contribute a lot of “Trumpisms” in terms of foreign policy if he were elected.  The casual Bernie Bashing has become endemic among the punditocracy.

Maybe the day will get better.






The Authoritarian Bubble: Bolsonaro, the Amazon, Trump and George Orwell

trump empty chair

Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. – George Orwell

Two weeks into the Trump administration thousands of documents detailing animal welfare violations nationwide were removed from the website of the Department of Agriculture which had been posting this information for decades.  The records included inspection records and animal abuse reports from commercial animal facilities in the U.S. including zoos, breeders, factory farms, and laboratories.

To some that might seem like a trivial concern given the enormity of the threat that the Trump administration presented.  It is far from trivial.

As an animal lover I was incensed by the action.  But as a social scientist, I saw this move for exactly what it was – an attempt to control information, as Orwell wrote to “control the past.”  It was an attempt to own reality and I knew that it would not stop.

Predictably, the Trump administration soon started trying to control and distort information about climate change.  It has been doing so ever since.

As just one recent example, in March of 2019 officials of the Trump Administration neutered a news release written by scientists which showed that climate change could have a withering effect on the economy of California by inundating real estate over the next few decades.  An earlier draft, written by scientists, was “sanitized” to mute the impact of the research.

The report had detailed that California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, would face more than $100 billion in damages related to climate change and sea-level rise by the end of the century.  But, people realizing the effects of climate change might lead to action.  It’s better for authoritarians to manipulate and create their own information.

In an article in the Nation, George Grandin, has written about how fundamental to the ideology of the modern conservative movement is the notion that only individual rights have any standing.  Social rights – the rights of the collective – to health care, education, clean environment are considered dangerous.  The lie that the Conservative movement tells itself and us is that individuals, pursuing their own self-interest will somehow, miraculously, provide a society that functions in the interests of us all.

This is bull shit.

Those committed to the primacy of individual rights pit them in opposition to social rights and despise even the notion of the wider good.  They try to destroy any talk of, thought of, example of or advocacy of social rights.  This is one of the reasons they have fought so hard against the ACA.  It is why they are so terrified of science, of facts.  They wish to convince the American people, and indeed the world, that individual rights if allowed to be expressed unfettered will result in the good of all.

Grandin calls it individual rights exclusivism.

Authoritarian governments around the world are denying social rights and manipulating information to make it seem as if unfettered capitalism will reward us all.  The Brazilian government, for example, recently sacked the head of the National Institute for Space Research who had released data showing a 278 percent increase in deforestation in July compared with the figures for a year ago.  Bolsonaro portrays himself as a champion of indigenous people by taking measures to open the Amazon to exploitation.  If he can, he will hide the science, the facts that demonstrate the lie of his actions and the devastation that will result.

At the G7, Trump refused to attend a crucial meeting on climate change, biodiversity and the Amazon fires.  If you ignore the problem, it goes away at least in the bubble you and your media outlets create.


Destroying the Planet for Profit


As Jon Lee Anderson wrote recently in the New Yorker, authoritarian leaders around the world share a “vocabulary of intolerance, insult and menace.”  Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is one of those leaders.

Bolsonaro has made statements such as: “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son.”  “I would prefer that my son die in an accident than show up with some guy with a mustache.”  He called a political rival, Maria do Rosario, “not worth raping.”  And, he has called immigrants “scum.”  The United Nations he called “a bunch of communists.”  He supports the torture of drug dealers, approves of the use of firing squads and advocates for a macho hyper-aggressive police force.  “A policeman who doesn’t kill,” he has said, “isn’t a policeman.”

His insult and menace extend to the environment.  Soon after taking office, he announced that he would open the Amazon to the private agribusiness interests who support him.  Bolsonaro and his administration cynically present themselves as acting in the interests of the indigenous population, allowing them to open up their lands to private exploitation and therefore gain themselves.  But, the indigenous populations will not gain from private exploitation of the Amazon, Bolsonaro and his class will.

Authoritarian leaders are destroying the planet for profit and we have to stop them.



See the full New Yorker Article


Individual Rights Exclusivism: Bernie Sanders


“We have to come to the clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”  Franklin Roosevelt, 1944.

At “Lunch with Southern Ladies” a friend asked with a smirk on her face if I were going to campaign for Bernie Sanders in 2020.  I didn’t expect it from her, the smirk, especially in front of five other women.  But, that’s when you smirk isn’t it, when you feel you are in sympathetic company, when there are other people there to buffer it.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t see the smirk before.  It reminded me of the smirks so frequently on the faces of commentators on the Cable News Channels when they mention Bernie Sanders.  (Not that they do that very often.  Recently, the strategy has been just to not mention him at all, as if he were not running.)

It was another example of how the attitudes and narratives pumped out on television filter down to the population.  The non-stop campaign of vilification, disrespect, condescension, derision and neglect of Sanders has had its effect.

The culmination of this recently was when an educated attorney, a former prosecutor, Mimi Rocah, commented on MSNBC that Bernie Sanders made her “skin crawl.”  She’s still, by the way, on the network.  Were she male, and had she said this about any other candidate she would no longer be on television.

I did not explain to my Southern Ladies friend why I am supporting, campaigning for, voting for Bernie Sanders, but if I were going to, I would recommend she read an article that was in the Nation Magazine by George Grandin.

Grandin talks about how fundamental to the ideology of the modern conservative movement is the notion that only individual rights have any standing.  Social rights – to health care, education, clean environment are dangerous.  The ideal society in their minds, and the one for which they tirelessly war, is one in which individuals, pursuing their own self-interest will somehow, miraculously, provide a society that functions in the interests of us all.  Anyone with a kindergarten education who thinks knows this is bull shit.  It was bullshit when the first settlers came here and destroyed the indigenous population and it’s bullshit now.

But, those committed to individual rights pit them in opposition to social rights and despise the notion of social rights in general.  They try to destroy any talk of, thought of, example of or advocacy of social rights as legitimate.  This is one of the reasons they have fought so hard against the ACA.

Grandin calls it individual rights exclusivism.  As he maintains, Sanders is the only candidate fighting against the exclusion of social rights from the discussion.  This and the fact that Sanders is the only candidate with a real class analysis is why I will vote for him.


Just a note: Today, Sanders is the only candidate talking about the fires in the Amazon and the destruction of the environment and the economy that will result from the rise to power of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.  Cable News doesn’t even cover international news anymore.


“You’re Ruining Lunch.” Two Mass Shootings in Two Days


We have had two mass shootings in two days.  The following things strike me:

Politicians are all out there (once again) saying that they are saddened and devastated. I’m over it.  I’m over the sadness, and the expressions of devastation, the thoughts and the prayers.  These are hollow words now and I can’t believe that people like Kevin McCarthy can stand before a camera and mouth this garbage without choking while taking millions from the NRA.

I know everybody wants desperately to hang onto something positive in situations like this, but turning every mass shooting into an awards ceremony for first-responders and a national press conference for every local political figure is not only unhelpful it is insulting. And, it is a delusional act.

The fact that it took one minute for police to arrive in Ohio is irrelevant.  What’s relevant is that these shootings happened and keep happening and will happen.  All the praise in the world heaped on first responders doesn’t change the fact that we have created a society where there is so much hate, hate stoked by an entire administration, for political gain. And, this hate and resentment is being purposefully directed at brown and black people every day.  It must stop.

This cannot be allowed to be the “15 minutes of fame” for every local politician and law enforcement official congratulating themselves for response times.  It’s just not enough.

In addition, we have created a society in which a “well regulated militia” has been transformed by people who claim their respect for original intent into every half wit violent imbecile owning an AK-47.

The young man who did the shooting in El Paso left behind a Facebook page and photographs and published a manifesto just before the shooting. The media is already congratulating itself for not showing the face of this man, not releasing the manifesto in full, and not showing dead or wounded people.

The American public needs to see this depravity. They need to see the dead bodies and the struggling wounded.  Every time this happens, we spend hours and hours looking at ambulances with their lights flashing and law enforcement people talking to each other.  The media sees itself as denying the shooter publicity and sparing the public the sight of the violence.

In doing so, however, the media sanitizes the event.  When you think of Sandy Hook, you don’t remember the dead bodies of children because you never saw them. There are no dead bodies to any of these events, no wounded.  This presentation only further distances the populace from the reality of what is going on in this country.

We do not need the “manifesto” buried, or characterized in intellectual terms. We need the manifesto, read out, or printed so it can be read.  We need to absorb the hatred and violence in such a document.  We need to see this young man’s face so that people will realize he is someone we know, someone we live next door to, not some mythical monster easily spotted in everyday life.  People need to realize that their next-door neighbor, the “hunter,” the “gun collector,” the animal abuser, the racist, the wife beater can easily be the next terrorist.  People have to stop looking the other way when these guys talk hate.

Everybody I know now, avoids talking about politics. “You’re just depressing people.”  I am told.  “It upsets me.”  “You are ruining lunch.”  This is a country where people think, think they have the luxury of not talking politics.  That must change.

Every news outlet should be showing or publishing that photo of the shooters’ guns arranged to say “TRUMP.”  And, we must talk politics.  However divisive, upsetting, disturbing it is, WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS SOCIETY WE HAVE CREATED.

One Wild Delusional Act


I found both Democratic Debates depressing and discouraging.

  1. CNN should never again be allowed to conduct a debate. The set had the feel of a garish game show.  It cheapened the event.  The questions were also cheap, superficial and sometimes insulting.  All three moderators asked questions designed to provoke arguments between the candidates, not impart information.  And, because of the 1-minute time limit, the moderators were repeatedly interrupting and chiding the candidates.  The overall effect of these interruptions was to convey disrespect and trivialize the entire event.
  2. In the first debate, the plan was obviously to pit the two progressive candidates against each other and also against the “moderate” candidates, further feeding into the lazy journalistic narrative of whether some in the party are too far to the left. This, plus the incendiary nature of the questions, gave entirely too much time to four candidates who had barely any support between them.
  3. The first night, most of the questions were intended to portray Sanders in a bad light and ask the other candidates to criticize and disagree with him. I kept thinking about Lawrence Tribe who posted a tweet wishing that Bernie Sanders go “down in flames.”
  4. The second night, the focus of the questioning was the same. It was all intended to get a rise out of one candidate and provoke the candidates into attacking one another.  It was intended to provoke a food fight and thus ratings, not intended to convey information.
  5. Jake Tapper just needs to be honest and go over to Fox News. A few days before the Debate, he did an interview with Bernie Sanders in which he asked Sanders with an obvious smirk if Sanders really intended to call the CEOs of Big Pharma murderers.  Sanders, without missing a beat, said yes.  But, Tapper did what almost all of the establishment commentators and hosts on both CNN and MSNBC do, ridicule, dismiss and treat with disrespect one of the candidates for the nomination for president.  It’s as if Bernie Sanders has become the designated target for everybody’s most juvenile and contemptuous behavior.
  6. I thought we had reached a low, but a few days before the debate Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor, supposedly paid by MSNBC for her professional expertise, sat on national television and rambled through a series of outrageous statements, based on nothing, trashing Sanders’ on behalf of women and which ended in a claim that Bernie Sanders made her “skin crawl.” She finished by saying that she couldn’t understand why young women supported Sanders.  She remained a commentator on MSNBC without apologizing, for this unkind, baseless, and extremely unprofessional personal attack.  Had she said that about another candidate, she would have been removed.  (Zerlina Maxwell sat beside her and nodded her head through the entire personal attack.)
  7. Can you imagine a white man, sitting on MSNBC, going on and on about how he couldn’t understand why young men would support Kamala Harris. That they shouldn’t vote for Kamala Harris because she was just anti-men, that there was just something about her that made his “skin crawl.”  Really?
  8. Chris Matthews, before his own town hall meeting on MSNBC, went into a little tirade on Nicolle Wallace’s program, telling the audience over and over again that nobody wanted to listen to Bernie Sanders’ ideas. Nobody wants this old stuff, he kept saying.  If I might, I would like to say that as far as I’m concerned, Chris Matthews is old stuff and I haven’t wanted to listen to him for years.  He is overbearing, obnoxious, interrupts his own guests to the point where there is no reason for him to have guests, if often ignorant and is a misogynist.
  9. The progressive wing of the party will obviously not only have to fight the corporate Democrats, but the Republicans and the media.
  10. Back at the debate, it was painful to listen to “moderates” including Joe Biden, use Republican talking points to attack his opponents on the stage. Biden has the unmitigated gall to say to Kamala Harris: Don’t be too tough on me kid,” when she came out on the stage. This comment was an attempt to beg for mercy while at the same time diminishing her.  What an ass.
  11. After the debate the second night, I watched a little bit of CNN’s coverage. They were raving about Joe Biden. I don’t think they watched the same debate.  It is just so blatantly obvious that the establishment in the Democratic party and the establishment media, love Joe Biden.  Morning Joe has become Morning Joe Biden.  Mika interviews his wife and goes on endlessly about how “real” she is.  Biden is from their club.  He plays their game.
  12. No matter what the pundits say, Biden was halting, awkward and spouting lines that could have come straight out of the 90s. He actually said that we were going to get us some educated immigrants, immigrants with Ph.D.s. In other words, our kind of immigrants – white and educated.  Why wasn’t that taken apart?  Because Biden is the darling of the establishment.
  13. But, I think the most telling thing about Joe Biden is that he is actually wounded that the other candidates are taking him on about his former positions. How could they? He even said exactly that during the debate.  What happened to everybody?  He said.  I thought you guys were my friends.
  14. It has been said by others that Biden thinks that politics is a matter of personal relationships. You get things done by befriending and glad handing and schmoozing with your opponents and then make compromises with them so they will vote with you. He said exactly this when he first started his campaign for office. He said that Trump was an aberration.  After we get Trump out, the Republicans will regain their sense, and everybody can go back to playing the game again.
  15. One of the things that Biden was taken to task about was the immigration policy of the Obama administration. He and Obama thought they would get brownie points with Mitch McConnell by deporting people. I would like to remind Biden just how far this got him and Obama with Mitch McConnell.
  16. I also think that it says everything that needs to be said about Biden that he is genuinely hurt that the other candidates are calling him out for his previous positions. This is a kind of entitlement that just boggles my mind.
  17. Biden even dragged out his dead son in this regard, whining that Harris shouldn’t have pointed out his racist criminal justice bill because she “knew Beau.” She knew Beau? She knew his son so she couldn’t criticize his political judgement when he is running for the position of the most important person in the world.
  18. The Clinton people were enraged (are still enraged, see Adrienne Elrod, Neera Tandem, Zerlina Maxwell) that Bernie Sanders had the audacity to run against Clinton. They were furious that Sanders dared to challenge her. This is one type of entitlement.  But, Biden is guilty of the same sense of entitlement only he is hurt, deeply hurt that his “friends” dare to challenge him.  Biden felt that Harris’ challenge of his position on busing and his whoring around with the most filthy white racists in the Congress was somehow unfair.  In what universe is pointing out a politician’s previous votes and positions and allies unfair?  In the tiny bubble that is official Washington.
  19. Biden said today, while talking with reporters, that asking questions about events in the past was unfair and would result in giving Trump the election. Who thinks like this? What is wrong with this man? And I don’t think this is just some spinning narrative.  I think Joe Biden actually believes that his “friends” shouldn’t call him out for his racist and misogynist behavior.
  20. While I’m on the subject of “giving Trump the election.” There is a mountain of evidence that the Russians interfered to a much greater extent in the 2016 election than we will ever be told. Just the number of states whose computer systems were breached has gone up steadily since the election.  When I tried years ago to tell this to “Lunch with Southern Ladies” they told me this was “fake news.” As everyone from Robert Mueller down says, this systems manipulation is happening “as we speak.”  But, the Democratic candidates and the media are acting like this is a normal election.
  21. We spend hours and hours every night listening to one professional after the other prognosticate on polls, on strategy, on projected turn out. I hate to be the skunk in the room, but none of that has the least bit of relevance if the Russians (and Saudis and Iranians and Chinese and North Koreans) are hacking into computers, the Republicans are suppressing the vote, and also manipulating electoral systems (as in Georgia).
  22. The dirty secret is that neither the politicians or the media or the political professional class of pollsters and pundits can afford to admit what is staring us in the face – none of this matters if there is cheating. Their expertise is irrelevant. All this time and energy that goes into endless discussions of how a particular tweet might help Trump is meaningless if there is cheating.
  23. I have long felt that the Republicans wouldn’t be behaving as overtly racist and authoritarian as they are if they truly felt they were going to have to face the voters in a fair election. They do what all authoritarians do, they cannot keep themselves from rubbing our noses in the fact that they are going to win no matter what. And, if you think about it, they can’t afford to lose.
  24. Trump is one example. He cannot afford to lose because he might well wind up in jail, and therefore, he is going to do anything and everything he can to win, cheating, stealing, lying, destroying democratic institutions and if nothing else works, just refusing to leave office. Mitch McConnell and others like Bill Barr will do the same.
  25. So, while the Democrats debate health care, and the pundits wank on and on about polls and strategies and the possible effects of tweets, we are all going to engage in one wild delusional act – we are going to go to the polls and vote in what promises to be a completely unfair, manipulated election.
  26. All this sound and fury is to cover up the fact that if we ADMIT THAT the electoral system IS A SHAM, WE MIGHT HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
  27. What kind of people allow a man like Donald Trump to take office because of cheating and then destroy democratic institutions and install a collection of imbeciles and toadies and authoritarians without dragging him out of the White House by his heels.


Guess that about covers why I have found the past few days so depressing.