Category Archives: Democracy

Thursday Night Blog Notes: Scams, Coronavirus, Free-For-All, Meaningless Statistics, Trump, Corruption, Graft, Greed

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, walks to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

Thursday Night Blog Notes

  • I can’t even keep up with the Trump scams surrounding this coronavirus crisis.
  • Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, is claiming that he just now learned that asymptomatic people could pass on the coronavirus to other people.
  • Every day there’s another presser with Trump congratulating corporate CEOs and touting meaningless statistics.
  • The Republicans are all over twitter congratulating private industry for “contributions” and “donations.” So, the people in this country who pay taxes, are reliant on donations, charity from big business to get them through a crisis.
  • This entire Trump/Repubican approach is designed to school people that the government cannot/will not help them if them are in need.
  • The Federal Government, however, under the Republicans will give $500 billion of public money to corporations.
  • According to Mehdi Hasan, South Korea and Japan’s unemployment rates are nothing like we are seeing in this country.
  • The Navy is expected to fire the captain who raised an alarm saying that his sailors had the Coronavirus.
  • The Nation is reporting that there is a Democratic primary in Wisconsin on Tuesday and Milwaukee is planning to decrease the polling places from 180 to 10. This is democracy?
  • Trump is complaining on Twitter that the hospitals and states have “insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?)
  • I’ll never, never be able to wrap my mind around the fact that this miserable, moronic, corrupt, tasteless, bastard is president.

Bonfire of the Vanities: The Corporate Free-For-All

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, walks to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

Today’s press conference was even more useless than usual.  Trump has decided to launch some kind of drug war in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis.  I sat and looked into the eyes of the men behind him, men who were uniformly congratulating him, complimenting him, carrying out his will.  Every one of them is dangerous and every one of them needs to be in jail.

And, the press conference was no different from the past ones in that it reinforced the notion that:

-government is there to conduct a prolonged ad for big corporations;

-government has no role in helping people during a crisis;

-science is a hoax;

-the role of the government is to propagandize people into doing things against their self-interest.

Additional Notes from Today:

  1. Lt. Gen. Honore maintained in an interview this week that we have models, models which show from Day 1 what to do in this type of crisis.  I don’t, he said, know why we are not using them.
  2. The EPA is rolling back emissions standards put in place during the Obama Administration.  The federal government, in the middle of a pandemic has time to do the bidding of corporations and lobbyists to make it possible for them to poison us and make more money.
  3. Honore was cautioning in the interview he did with Craig Melvin of MSNBC, that we needed to keep our minds on the inevitable corruption that is going to come along with this crisis.  He noted that pollution affects people of color and poor people more than others.
  4. Reuters (3/31/20) is reporting that this change in efficiency standards will “save automakers upwards of $100 billion in compliance costs.”
  5. This Coronavirus crisis is a Bonfire of the Vanities for corporate interests.
  6. It will be a disaster for the rest of us if we don’t stand up and make them stop.

But, as Sen. Cassidy (and the rest of the Repubican Party) maintain: Capitalism will handle it.

 

 

 

They’ve Got Time: The Rich and Powerful Take Advantage of Every Crisis

honore In an interview on MSNBC, Lt. Gen. Honore reminds us to pay attention to what is going on behind the scenes of this crisis.  While the rich and the powerful are wasting time actually dealing with the Convid-19 crisis, they have well enough make sure their pockets are lined.

The bailout package passed last week is just one example.  While containing some provisions for regular people, most of the money is a giant bailout for large corporations.  After Democrats fought for oversight of this slush fund, the President issued a signing statement that he will ignore the oversight.  When asked about this, Nancy Pelosi just said that the Congress will exercise its power.  Right.  Let’s see how that works out.

Even people you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to be pointing out the graft and corruption that is going to be a central part of this crisis, like Lt. Gen. Honore, are sounding the alarm.

In an interview with Crag Melvin on MSNBC, Honore warned that powerful people in the administration had time to change the EPA regulations about companies dumping pollutants into an area known as “Cancer Alley,” in Louisiana.  This dumping always most negatively affects low income and people of color.

We will see more and more of this as the crisis continues.  They will use every opportunity to bilk profits, endanger regular people and steal.  When this is over, they will tell us we can’t afford even basic services.  We cannot let them steal the country during this crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

Disaster Economics: Part 2

pitchfork

Notes from the podcast Pitchcock Economics

 

“Disaster Economics” 23 March 2020

  • This crisis brings into focus the damage of forty years of neo-liberal politics. These policies have been corrosive.
  • The effect of a crisis reveals how well the society was prepared in the first place. If, when a hurricane is coming, the society lived in houses that were already built to withstand a hurricane and have good plumbing, the effect of the hurricane is not so disastrous.  For us, it’s like we have been living in tin huts.
  • Decades of wage suppression have left people living on the edge of financial survival.
  • If you cannot survive a $400 emergency, if you don’t have the reserves to last over a $400 emergency, you are going to have to go back to work, no matter what the risks. If people go back to work, they are going to destroy the social distancing measure effect.
  • Over the past 40 years, the richest 1% got richer. The poorer got poorer.
  • By Mid-March 18% of the workforce will lose their jobs or suffer reduced hours due to the epidemic. We could see 20% unemployment.
  • Even on the Democratic side, politicians are steeped in neoliberalism.
  • As the Republicans have been saying, they want a government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub. Well, that’s what we now have, a government that is unprepared to deal with a crisis like this.  We have underfunded all the collective capacity of the government to deal with a situation like this.  We have done so to maintain a society whose entire organizational structure is designed to make rich people richer.
  • One example of this that is particularly pertinent at the moment is massive hospital consolidation which has left us without the adequate health care capacity to deal with a pandemic. While this consolidation has made private equity guys rich, it has not benefited the rest of us..
  • The U.S. has one of the lowest per capita percentages of hospital beds in the developed world. In Italy, where there is an unmitigated disaster, they have significantly more capacity in their hospital system.
  • While it’s more “efficient” when 70% – 80% of your hospital beds are filled at any one time. In a crisis, you need more beds.  When you don’t have them you are in a situation like we are in now, where we’re choosing who gets health care and who doesn’t.  We are forced to choose who will live and who will die with people who would otherwise survive.
  • Grover Norquist said that his goal (and the goal of the Republican Party) was to establish a government that was small enough to be drowned in a bathtub.
  • But, there is no alternative to collective capacity. You can’t buy own ventilators. You can’t prepare for pandemic on your own. You can’t establish your own CDC, develop your own vaccines.
  • (Note: Quote from Mario Cuomo saying that government is like family, sharing resources between those who have and those who have not).
  • China was able to respond quickly to the crisis because they have a well established collective capacity. We, on the other hand, are still struggling just to establish social distancing.
  • We are still not testing. Only way to control this pandemics is to test and isolate those infected, but we are not doing this.
  • (Note: The notion of American exceptionalism is one of the things that blocks us from taking effective action. The assumption is that we are Americans, we won’t be affected like the rest of the world, we can go back to work in the middle of a pandemic and not be hurt.)
  • McConnell and the whole gang of libertarian idiots, at least said that they believed we would all be better off on our own, without government.
  • But, the airlines asking for a $60 billion bailout. During the past decade the airlines have had high profits, but they didn’t use those profits to prepare. They did CEO raises and share buy backs.  And now they are waiting, demanding that the government bail them out.
  • The airline industry spent $800 billion on share buy backs last year. That’s one year.  They could have chosen to pay their workers more.  But, they have established no cushion for disaster.   This is an economy where  corporations assume that any upturn is going to last forever.  “They thought it was going to go on forever.”
  • Boeing is a good example of corporate irresponsibility. Their 737 max has been grounded for a year due to incompetence.  But, during that time last year Boeing was borrowing money to buy back stock.  Going into debt, borrowing money to return “value” to shareholders.  This at a time when they were facing biggest internal management crisis in their history.
  • “The shareholders should be wiped out.” They allowed an incompetent company to run itself into the ground.  But, rather than the investors absorbing the hit, the government is going to bail them out.
  • It should be part of the bill that no company gets a bail out without giving citizens preferred stock. The government could create a joint stock company, and everyone with a social security card, would be a co-equal share holder. This would be like a Sovereign Wealth Fund.  Citizens would own the stock, not the government.  Preferred stock means that the holders are given preference over all other stock holders.  They get paid first if there’s a liquidation.
  • Individuals would own stock in any company accepting a bailout.
  • Vast majority of these companies are going to thrive, and instead of old shareholders being bailed out, middle class citizens would own shares along with the old shareholders.
  • This is a fair way to recapitalize these companies.
  • When you retire, you get your share.
  • And, by doing it this way, we would have seats on the board.
  • This is one way of turning lemons into lemonade
  • The vast majority of wealth in this country is owned by a minority. We could make this the new disaster capitalism.  For the past 40 years economic and other types of disasters have been used to disempower regular people, to disenfranchise and impoverish them.  We can re-empower regular people by making new rules in this crisis.
  • We can change the rules. We can set rules for those companies that are requiring bail outs.  We could require, for example, that labor be on boards of these companies.  Other countries do this.
  • We can make rules that these bailout companies have to keep their employees employed. We are not bailing you out so you can downsizes lay off people.
  • We could require that companies have to offer $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave. If these companies need the money they will have to take the rules. Otherwise they don’t have to take the money.
  • Crises like these make vivid past policy failures – the fact that there is no national policy on paid sick leave.

We should:

Make the tax structure make more progressive, raise the taxes on capital gains and dividend, to same level as ordinary income.  I

Increase highest tax level for those making above $1 million to 50%

There is an insane amount of money available to meet the challenges of society if we just make the tax system fair.

Have a national health care system that disintermediates private insurers – from health care transactions.

Implement common sense labor reforms, national paid sick leave, raise minimum wage, increase wages for bottom 60%.

Establish expanded unemployment programs.  The length and the amount of unemployment should be increased.

 

“Why do you care?” Trump and the Wonder Drugs.

kelly

Trump says: “What do we have to lose? I feel very good about it.”

 

This is just one of several statements Trump has made over the past few days, trying to convince the American people that he has some wonder drug that is going to combat the virus.

 

In one instance, he’s talking about using two drugs together to combat the corona virus, not approved by the FDA, that (when used together) have been linked with sudden death.

In another instance, he touted using two drugs that have been used for decades to treat malaria.  There is no scientific testing (as stated by Fauci) that supports their use with the Coronavirus.  And, these drugs are also used by people with lupus and chronic arthritis.  Because of Trump’s idiotic ranting about these drugs and implications that they are a wonder drug, there are already shortages for people who need these drugs for their own medical problems.

 

What do we have to lose?

 

But, when a reporter (Kelly O’Donnell) on Saturday during a PRESS CONFERENCE, pressed Trump and tried to get some answers from him, some facts, besides this “I feel good about it” crap, Trump responded by telling O’Donnell that she was “an adult” and to stop asking questions.

 

When O’Donnell explained to Trump that it was the job of the media to try to establish if what the Trump administration was telling people was true, she was criticized as being “hostile.”

 

Well, I want reporters who are “hostile,” who do their jobs and ask the tough questions to prevent unnecessary deaths sparked by a moron who doesn’t know anything about medicine.

 

After explaining my concerns to one woman who posted on Facebook, she responded: “Why do you care?”

 

Why do I care?  Why do I care?

 

Well, let’s see, because people could die because the moron in the White House is disseminating misinformation?  Is that maybe enough reason to care?

 

I guess not because according to the thinking of some people the truth isn’t important, reporters are “making themselves the story.”  We must listen to and believe every word of the King, bow down, and for God’s sake women can’t be “hostile,” by asking pointed questions.

 

This kind of thinking is one reason why we are in the situation we are in.

 

This is a cult and they are evidently willing to follow it to the death.  This is dangerous.

 

And, yes, I care.

“Capitalism will handle it.” Right.

burr, richard

Interviewed on CNN today, a Republican member of congress dismissed the widespread alarm among the medical profession about the shortage of masks and other protective equipment for use combating the corona virus.  “Capitalism,” he said “will handle it.”

But, the corona virus crisis is a textbook example of the failure of capitalism to handle the corona virus crisis and the other underlying crises that have plagued this society for decades.

Republicans are illustrating hourly exactly what is wrong with free-market capitalist solutions to problems created by free-market capitalism.

Let’s just look at one example.

PROFITEERING

  • On 20 March 2020, it was reported that four senators (Burr, Leoffler, Inhofe and Feinstein) were selling off stock after receiving briefings about how serious the impact of the corona virus was going to be.
  • Burr and Loeffler went public with statements seeking to calm the populace about the threat of the pandemic while they were busily selling stock to cushion the blow for themselves.
  • Burr’s case was especially egregious. Burr, as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, received briefings that included the country’s most classified information about the security threat of the virus.
  • And, Burr (in a recorded talk to his wealthy donors on February 27, 2020) warned of the serious implications of the outbreak at a time when he was seeking to calm the fears of the general population by telling them that the Trump administration had everything in hand. While reassuring the general public, to his wealthy donors, Burr was comparing the corona virus to the “1918 pandemic.”
  • Burr maintained that he was using only publicly available information, but he would, wouldn’t he? He also claimed that the event at which he informed party insiders was not an event for his wealthy donors.
  • NPR, however, reported that it had obtained a copy of the RSVP list for the event and that it included dozens of invited guests representing companies and organizations from North Carolina. The companies or their political committees donated more than $100,000 to Burr’s election campaign in 2015 and 2016 (NBC News)
  • The same day Burr was giving this speech, Trump was telling reporters that the corona virus was “going to disappear.” (NBC News)
  • In early February, Burr, co-wrote an op-ed for Fox News in which he said “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” In mid-February he started to unload the stocks.  The unloading was about a week before the markets started to plunge (NBC News 3/20/20).
  • One of the stocks Burr unloaded was shares in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which has now lost two-thirds of its value according to ProPublica. Burr dumped shares of another hotel chain, Extended Stay America. (NBC News 3/20/20)
  • It is Democrats who are calling for investigations, and also a Democrat (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) who is calling for Burr’s resignation and a law preventing legislators from owning stock.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter that as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Burr “got private briefings about Coronavirus weeks ago. Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine. THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall. He needs to resign.” (NBC News 3/20/20)
  • We know about these stock sell-offs only because of a law requiring the legislators to report their stock dealings. Why not a law prohibiting them from owning stock while serving?

Sources

Gregorian, Dareh (3/20/20) “Burr, other senators…” NBC News.

MSNBC sad

I have tried my best not to look at the television today.  Last night was just so infuriating.  The celebratory champagne-uncorking of MSNBC pundits over their chosen candidate, Joe Biden, finally, finally winning a primary, was just revolting.  Above you can see the facial expressions that characterized the coverage when Bernie won.

I was, however, pleased to see that Chris Matthews was not included in the  coverage last night.  I thought that perhaps (oh how naïve I am) that Matthews had been left out because of his outrageous attacks on Bernie Sanders.  But, evidently, even though similar attacks were enough to get the pundit Jason Johnson fired, they were not enough to get the serial offender Chris Matthews fired.  This is a true tragedy for all of us.

Matthews managed to escape being called to task over 1) likening Bernie’s win in Nevada to the Nazis invading France, 2) saying that Bernie would happily preside over Matthews being shot in Times Square, and 3) that Bernie would be the last person to stop and help if you were stranded on the side of the road.  But, he has been removed from the air temporarily because he has been accused of inappropriate behavior with yet another woman.

According to the Hill, GQ columnist Laura Bassett accused Matthews of sexual harassment.  In an opinion piece published Friday, Bassett claimed that Matthews told a network makeup artist to “keep putting makeup on her” and asked “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?”

Bassett evidently wrote about the behavior, which occurred four years ago, previously but wasn’t confident enough to mention Matthews’ name.  She said, however, that a number of women knew immediately who she was talking about.

Bassett wrote:

“In 2016, right before I had to go on his show and talk about sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump, Matthews looked over at me in the makeup chair next to him and said, ‘Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet,'” Bassett wrote. “When I laughed nervously and said nothing, he followed up to the makeup artist. ‘Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.”

“Another time, he stood between me and the mirror and complimented the red dress I was wearing for the segment. ‘You going out tonight?’ he asked. I said I didn’t know, and he said — again to the makeup artist — ‘Make sure you wipe this off her face after the show. We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this,'” Bassett also wrote.

Any woman who has even casually watched Matthews’ show recognizes this behavior.  I try to avoid Matthews, but I can remember him conducting a weird voyeuristic and coercive direction of the camera on a woman one night.  He kept telling the cameraman to come in closer and closer on the woman’s face.  This started while the woman was talking.  He finally made it into some joke, like they all do, but it was creepy, just creepy, disrespectful and juvenile.

According to Antony Leonardi and Mike Brest in the Examiner (2/2920), Matthews:

  • has been known to “rate female guests on a numerical scale based on appearance;
  • has been reprimanded for comments directed to a subordinate that led to a separation-related payment;
  • was caught on camera joking about a “Bill cosby pill” which was a reference to a date rape drug.

Matthews also referred to Sarah Palin and Salley Yates as “attractive.”

At this point in time, I don’t particularly care what’s gotten him off the air.  I’m just grateful, but his behavior especially towards Sanders is just part of a larger network wide attempt to destroy one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination.

Also participating in this campaign have been Chuck Todd, Brian Williams, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid (who has been carrying this on since at least 2016) and now Rachael Maddow who participated in the general laughter of the panel when Brian Williams mocked the Sanders campaign last night.  All of these people are complicit.  Chris Hayes and Maddow have for the most part stayed out of the overt attacks indulged in by the likes of Joy Reid, but Maddow, as I said joined in the contempt for Sanders expressed by the panel last night and Chris Hayes has spent time repeating every negative trope about Sanders saying that this is what “people are saying.”  People may be saying a lot of things but that doesn’t mean you have to repeat them on your television program.

But, I have no doubt that Chris Matthews will be at it again tomorrow night.  He will perhaps apologize AGAIN, for his behavior, but I doubt they will fire him.

MSNBC has shown its true colors since Bernie Sanders demonstrated he was a viable candidate.  The anchors mentioned above plus innumerable guests have slandered, mocked, distorted, ridiculed and generally propagandized in an effort to destroy Sanders’ campaign.

I am 69 years old and I have never, ever seen an entire news network participate in such an overt effort to distort the political process.  If we survive as a democratic country, something I rather doubt at this point, this course of coverage engaged in by MSNBC will be studied and written about as a deplorable exercise in media interference in an election.