Category Archives: Democracy

You won’t even be able to trust that your food is safe if republicans have their way

“Six days after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified food safety groups that it was proposing a regulatory change to speed up chicken factory processing lines, a change that would allow companies to sell more birds. An earlier USDA effort had broken down on concerns that it could lead to more worker injuries and make it harder to stop germs like salmonella.”

Propublica 11/25/20

This is what Republicans stand for. There’s no reason to ask why Republicans “went along” with Trump. They didn’t go along, they happily colluded with him because he delivered policy changes that they had advocated for decades.

Republicans don’t want people to vote

Trump most likely lost because of mail in ballots. So…

The Georgia state senators pledged on Tuesday to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, require a photo ID to obtain a ballot, outlaw drop boxes and scrap a court agreement to quickly tell voters about signature problems on ballots so that they could be fixed…new york times.

The corporate media and access journalism

Corporate Media and the Trump Family

In the midst of an on-going coup attempt, the Washington Post is continuing to publish puff pieces about Trump staffers and family.  The seemingly inexplicable nature of this has led some on Twitter to hypothesize that the puff pieces are pay back for individuals who previously provided access to Post reporters and/or who passed on information to them.

When I read this speculation from someone who is a journalist this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I know to some people this must sound naïve, but what kind of newspaper sells positive stories for information?  The Washington Post unabashedly uses “Democracy dies in darkness” as a slogan.  Democracy dies in darkness, but reporters are making back room deals selling positive coverage for information?

How exactly do these deals work?  Is there an explicit negotiation?  Does a reporter say to Ivanka Trump, we’ll give you five 3000 word totally positive personal write-ups in exchange for a hot piece of information? 

If this kind of negotiation is going on, why isn’t that considered essential to disclose to the reader.  After all, the reader is consuming the story as if it is independent journalism, not a glamour piece placed by Ivanka Trump’s agent. 

Why is such a practice considered ethical?  Why is such a practice not a scandal, not considered as what it is, a bribe?

When our local newspaper publishes a puff piece about a doctor and his practice which looks like an article, it is at least identified as such.  I don’t even think that practice is ethical, but it at least involves disclosure for those who are interested enough to look, that the piece is bought and paid for, not independent journalism. 

There is no such disclosure for these little fluff pieces churned out in exchange for “access.” 

That would be one kind of disclosure, letting the reader know that the piece is paid for.  But, another type of disclosure is also necessary.

The assumption is that publishing a paid-for personal ad as independent journalism is worth the “access” given the reporter.  Well, I would like to be able to judge that for myself.  If the Washington Post is going to allow itself to be bribed into publishing particular stories, what was the going price?  I as a reader have a right to know.

There are a lot of problems with the current widespread practice of “access journalism.”  First of all, it’s lazy.  Reporters are too lazy to go out and establish sources for a story, so they tell themselves they have to spend endless hours socializing with powerful people at parties or retreats in the country to get information.  Second, journalists are supposed to be keeping the powerful honest, not spending weekends with them in their country estates.  No journalist is going to keep honest the people s/he is socializing with and on whom he is dependent for information.  People in power are not supposed to be a reporter’s friends.  Third, how much trust can you put in information that is intentionally leaked to you by the powerful.  There have been countless instances where “access” has resulted in journalists being turned into stenographers for those in power.  The powerful leak the stories they want to be published.

Now, evidently, we have to add to the problems of access journalism, other stories, published by other reporters that are part of some deal for access.  To portray staffers and members of Trump’s family as glamorous, hard-working innocent bystanders with a promising political future in exchange for some undisclosed piece of information is unconscionable. 

The corporate media has a lot to answer for.

THE DEVIL HIMSELF: ERIK PRINCE

While corporate media pundits spend time interviewing each other about interviews they have done ( Lemon interviewing Tapper about his interview with Biden, dogs sniffing assholes)  and touting their books (Maddow and Scarborough), Trump has dangerously upped the ante in the crime spree that has been the Trump/Republican administration.  They are stealing billions from the American people and neither the corporate media nor the Democratic Party is screaming bloody murder as they should be.

As just one minor example of a story that should have been hammered for days, Trump, after getting rid of a top level of Pentagon officials, has appointed stooges (Lewandowski) who will facilitate the massive grifting of the federal government.

With this top layer of sycophants in place, it is being widely reported that (the devil himself) Erik Prince has been awarded a “classified contract” to take over military operations in Africa.

This move would help facilitate a long-pursued project of Prince’s to take over military operations for the U.S. government (he proposed doing so in Afghanistan) and for the Republicans to privatize the enormous defense budget every more than it’s already been farmed out to giant defense contractors.

It was reported that Prince proposed a take-over of the Afghanistan war to the Trump administration earlier in the year.  It is not clear why he was turned down.  He has come back with his hand out for part of the spoils being awarded by Trump and the Republicans.

In case you don’t remember, Erik Prince is the brother of Betsy de Vos.  He was the founder of a mercenary contracting group that was unleashed in Iraq and wreaked so much uncontrolled, unfettered terror among the population, they finally had to prosecute Blackwater and some of his operatives.

Erik Prince is another of the multitude of people (Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump,Jr. Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, etc.) who would already have been in prison in 2016 if we had a functioning Justice Department which prosecuted white collar, corporate and political crimes (See “The Chickenshit Club” by Jesse Eisinger).

Also see Jeremy Skahill’s book about Blackwater and (the Devil) Erik Prince.

Biden is not going to just say “come on man” and have McConnell get down on his knees.

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)

It is increasingly apparent to me that watching the corporate news will be as difficult over the next four years as it was over the last four. 

Nicolle Wallace, one of the Never-Trumpers that the corporate Democrats love so much, just begged a reporter for information on Republicans who are likely to cooperate with the Democrats.  The reporter cited SUSAN COLLINS as one of those likely Republicans.  Susan Collins?  If we are pinning our hopes on Susan f…ing Collins, we are in sad shape.

Wallace and the reporter spent ages discussing how “fascinating” watching the relationship between Biden and McConnell was going to be.  It will be a real test, the reporter said, to see if Biden can move McConnell on “anything at all.” 

There is no test here.  And, Biden is wasting his time.  McConnell is not going to cooperate with Joe Biden because Biden’s a nice guy.  The Democrats essentially nominated and ran Biden not for any policy agenda, but because he was a “nice guy.”  Well, I will just go out on a limb here and say that Mitch McConnell is not going to change the total obstruction that has characterized his entire leadership due to the power of Joe Biden’s personality.

Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, Pompeo and others are on a mission.  They perceive themselves to be fighting a war and that war didn’t end just because we were lucky enough to have Trump turned out because of mail-in ballots.

The entire Democratic nominating convention was a celebrity creation exercise.  It had nothing to do with policy which was hardly mentioned.  It was about creating and marketing a celebrity.  Part of that process was trying to convince the consumer that the power of Biden’s personality was going to change politics in Washington.

I am afraid that Biden has come to believe his own hype and truly thinks that he’s going to walk into the Senate, put his arm around Mitch McConnell and say, “come on man” and McConnell is going to go down on his knees.  It ain’t gonna happen.  I’ll say it again.  It ain’t gonna happen.

But corporate media hosts like Nicolle “I facilitated torture” Wallace will spend hours of valuable ideological real estate publicly wondering which Republicans are going to “cooperate” and the ins and outs of some kind of personal relationship between Biden and McConnell.

The corporate media and the Democratic Party still perpetuate the notion that Trump and the Republican Party are different. Biden has said that once Trump is gone, the Republicans are going to return to “normal.”   The Republicans were completely willing to use Trump and his crazed supporters as a vehicle to advance their agenda.  They are not going to stop advancing that agenda, not now, not when they are this close to establishing a one-party authoritarian state. 

If Democrats think that the power of Biden’s personality is going to change what is, for Republicans, a holy war, they are delusional.  But, I guess we already knew that. 

“everything toxic” Neera Tanden and Biden

Biden’s Choices

Biden’s choice of Neera Tanden to head the Department of Management and Budget is yet another slap in the face of progressives and a further indication that progressives need to leave the Democratic Party.

As Briahna Joy Gray, a former press secretary for Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted about the nomination:  “Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden.”

Since 2003, Tanden has been the head of what some in the media term a “left of center” think tank, the Center for American Progress.  This think tank was supposedly established to counter more conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation.

But, according to article in Business Insider, “Tanden has come under scrutiny from some of her own colleagues over allegations that she censored employees who were critical of Israel while the organization attempted to build a stronger bond between the Democratic Party and the right-wing Israeli government. Under Tanden, the think tank shut down its independent journalistic arm, Think Progress…following its unionization.”

Former employees of CAP also criticized Tanden for using the think tank as more of a vehicle for her own ambition than an institution based on any left of center policy commitment.  Tanden has openly opposed single payer health care, supported cuts in Social Security, and is friendly with Israel’s conservative leadership. That simply cannot be termed “left of center.”

Tanden is being nominated for this important position after having been a close advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns, both failures.  And, she was closely involved with engineering the ACA, another notable policy failure.

But, Tanden is part of the entitled professional class surrounding Clinton and Obama who are being put back in government by Biden just as progressives warned.  As Biden said in a speech to wealthy donors – “nothing will change.” That’s what progressives who were being badgered to vote for Biden feared, and that is what we are seeing.

The nomination of Tanden is yet another indication that the corporate elite in the Democratic Party have contempt for the progressive vote and are determined to block any meaningful social change. 

“There are very few people who have been as aggressively critical — I would say sometimes obsessively critical — of the progressive left, and in particular of Bernie Sanders, than Neera,” a former senior Center for American Progress employee told Business Insider.

Tanden is already cynically using her supposedly deprived family background to try to evoke sympathy.  She is saying that her family found it necessary to use the social services she will have an impact on funding.  She is evidently using this argument as a way of placating the progressive wing of the party. But, this only means that her opposition to Medicare for All and adequate funding of Social Security is all the more ruthless and contemptuous of working families.  She had to rely on these services herself, but that doesn’t mean she believes others are entitled to them. 

Neera Tanden is part of a little mafia of women (Zerlina Maxwell, Jennifer Palmieri and others) who felt themselves entitled to win the presidency, entitled to be in the White House and livid that Bernie Sanders had the nerve to run against the Queen. 

In addition, these women felt that they had some kind of right to the presidency because of gender. A question asked Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary sums it up. Yamiche Alcindor (who, after confronting Sanders, went from being a low level New York Times reporter to being on television every night and then hosting programs on NPR) asked Sanders if he didn’t think it was sexist to run against Clinton.

This little mafia ring of women never stopped blaming Sanders for all their own failures in the Clinton campaigns.  And, they never missed an opportunity to slam and slander Sanders and his campaign in the corporate media. 

Neera Tanden, as Gray says, is just the beginning and she illustrates everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party.  The leadership in the Democratic Party is smug, entitled, vindictive, ruthless and bought up to the eyeballs by corporate money. 

Resources

Relman, E. (11/30/20) “Biden’s…” Business Insider

please don’t try to make voter suppression prince, brad raffensperger, a hero

John Nichols in The Nation

https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/georgia-secretary-state-recall/#:~:text=Raffensperger%2C%20the%20petition%20asserts%2C%20%E2%80%9Chas%20proven%20himself%20incompetent,a%20part%20of%20the%20fight%20against%20voter%20suppression.

ESSENTIAL PODCAST: DECONSTRUCTED INTERVIEW WITH PROGRESSIVE MIKE SIEGEL

Essential Podcasts: Deconstructed (Episode 11/6/20)

Mike Siegel, progressive candidate for the House in Texas is interviewed by Deconstructed. The district Siegel ran in was drawn to be permanently Republican through gerrymandering.  

  • According to Siegel, the Democratic Party has a narrow range of issues it “recommends” their candidates run on.  The Party does the research, the polling, and tell the candidate what they should do.  If they receive any push back, it is possible for them to withdraw funds and ruin the campaign, so most candidates find themselves in a position to go along.
  • Party pollsters do the research and tell the candidate what the talking points are, what segment of the voting population the candidate should reach. 
  • Organizing with poor people is a long difficult process and it doesn’t appeal to the donor class.  As Siegal says, “We need to get out the non-voters.” 
  • The Party, Siegal says is “too invested in conservative donors”  These donors are “moderating the message” so that only an extremely narrow set of issues is ever talked about.  “They (the party operatives) are cynical about democracy…” 
  • Party consultants produce TV ads in a quick time frame.  Then, they come to the candidate and say: Give me this many dollars, we can run this may ads, we can expect this much shift in the polling.
  • The consultants tell the candidates: We made 2,000 calls, these are the issues that matter.  These are the issues you should stress.  These are the talking points.  As Siegel says,   “it’s relatively conservative.”
  • The consultants do their research and say your issue is, for example, health care, these are the talking points.
  • As Siegel says of the party consultants: “They completely narrow what they think you can accomplish.”
  • If the candidate disagrees or tries to change the messaging of the campaign, the consultants say: “That doesn’t poll quite as well as health care.”
  • “At every point they (the consultants) push back against you.”
  • As Siegel points out, there are not pollsters and consultants who work with a populist message.  There are no people you can hire who know how to run what Siegel calls a “left campaign.” 
  • The framework, according to Siegel, is how can you raise and spend x dollars and change vote this much. 
  • Siegel challenged one of the wealthiest members of congress, and had a lot of progressive support, but came up short.  
  • Siegel says: “We need to do deep organizing.”

But, the take-away from the interview is that the Democratic Party, their donors and their elite consultants have no interest in “deep organizing.”  Deep organizing takes time and money and an actual interest in the problems of working and lower class people.  It involves demonstrating to people who have seen politicians come and go and their lives not change, that politics is important to them.  The issue is demonstrating this, not just telling them.

Another problem is that the Democratic party is a party obsessed with technocratic solutions.  One of the points that screams out from this interview with Siegel is that pollsters are dominating party strategy.  These are the same pollsters who (based on their scientific models) predicted landslides in 2016 and 2020.  Either their technology was wrong, or Republicans are systematically stealing elections through electronic voting manipulation.  There are no other options.  But, electronic voting manipulation is an issue that Democrats consistently refuse to talk about.  In fact, just raising the issue provokes angry denials and even more angry accusations about the motivations of people who talk about the issue.  It is the unspeakable topic.

The Party pollsters would rather point to their own failures in predicting the outcomes of the last two elections than admit that the vast difference between the poll numbers and the election results might be the product of cheating.  There is a very good reason for this.  If, in fact, Republicans are cheating, systematically, repeatedly then pollsters become irrelevant.  The last thing they want to be is irrelevant because they would then be out of business. 

So, the consultants and pollsters themselves acknowledge that their predictions have been wildly inaccurate, but they are still put in the position of essentially determining the way individual Democratic campaigns are run.  How does this make sense? 

You can follow me on Twitter @cjjohns1951

FAIR ELECTION? “i SEE NO PROGRESS TOWARDS AN EVIDENCE-BASED ELECTION.”

Jennifer Cohn, an election security advocate, writer, and attorney is essential reading if you are at all interested in fair elections.  One of the downsides to Biden winning the 2020 election is that everybody wants to go home, drink and relax.  As women keep saying to me, they want to get back to “normal.”  But, “normal” brought us here and as in the quote from Thomas Wolfe: “You can’t go home again.”  Normal, or what people are referring to as normal, is over.  It will never return, at least not in our lifetimes.  In fact, normal on the political scene has been over for a long time, at least since 2000.  Most people just never noticed.

I don’t claim to understand what happened in the election of 2020.  I was certain that the Republicans would cheat electronically just like they cheated when wiping hundreds of thousands of people off the voter rolls, enacting laws that acted as voter suppression, closed down polling places, decreased hours for voting, sabotaged the post office in an attempt to slow if not stall the movement of votes and tried the best they could to restrict mail-in voting.

They lost at least at the presidential level.  They didn’t lose outright at the state level.  The Democrats actually lost seats in the House and they are fighting for their lives in the Senate.  Once again, the polls predicted a landslide for Biden.  He barely squeaked through.  They predicted losses in the Senate, but Collins and McConnell and others won.  The two Republicans running for Senate in Georgia will most probably win.

But, since we cannot see into the vote count, because machines count our votes and partisans in the race control the voting process, how would we know what happened, really? 

As Jennifer Cohn tweeted today:

•        “Polls predicted Trump would lost in a landslide, Rs blocked robust election audits (#SAFEAct), GOP senate wins are red shifted, voters lack means to investigate, DEM leaders won’t do it, and Rs are the ones screaming fraud.  I see no progress toward evidence-based elections.”

•        “Evidence-based elections are the only way to know if electronic election outcomes are legitimate.  They require hand Marked Paper Ballots plus robust manual audits plus a secure and transparent (perhaps videotaped) chain of custody through conclusion of the audit.”

•        “I worry we win a battle only to soon lose a war.”

•        “The next four years will be hell if the GOP maintains control of the Senate.  The next election could be hell too.  And I see no Democrats discussing the possibility that the GOP cheated.  I hope they are just waiting until Ds Hopefully win the senate.”

•        “…Those of us not in Congress must…continue to sound the alarm re some of these unexpected red shifts and other anomalies favoring Rs.”

•        “…Rs and right-wing media will spend the next 4 years claiming falsely that Biden is illegitimate when it was Republicans that blocked progress toward evidence-based elections and, if anything, it is suspicious that Trump and the GOP did as well as they did.”

•        “We cannot let Rs spin this faulty narrative…the GOP steadfastly blocked efforts to move to evidence-based elections and that DeJoy engaged in highly suspect conduct with vote by mail.  WE MUST STAND FOR EVIDENCE BASED ELECTIONS.

GEORGIA: THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Republicans are furious with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and SOS Brad Raffensperger because even with a new $150 million voting machine system, they couldn’t reliably deliver a win for Trump and two Republican Senators.  The two senate candidates, Perdue and Loeffler, called for Raffensperger’s resignation.  Kemp, it will be remembered, is widely thought in Georgia to have stolen the governorship from Stacey Abrams in 2018. 

Given the amount of voter suppression, the millions spent in overt propaganda to convince Georgians that their voting machine system was “secure,” and the black-box nature of machines which cannot be meaningfully audited, the only reason Kemp and Raffensperger couldn’t deliver is the large number of mail in ballots that were cast. 

Geogia’s highly touted “secured” voting system, includes paper ballots with the voter’s printed choice of candidate on them.  One big problem is that the scanner that counts the votes, doesn’t count the words printed on the page.  The scanners count a barcode at the bottom of the page that neither the voter nor the voting officials can read.  Many people, like me, voted by mail because this allowed circumventing the Ballot-marking devices and the barcode scanners.   

So now, Kemp and Raffensperger are scrambling to save their political careers.  Even though there is a large margin for Biden in the state, they have announced that there will be a recount.  Yesterday (November 11) Raffensperger announced that the recount would be a hand recount of every ballot.  He even made jokes about the amount of overtime that would cost counties to do such a recount.  I’m not sure they shared his humor.

Jennifer Cohn and others have been on twitter, however, pointing out that the SOS has no authority to mandate a hand recount, so the legality of this proposal is dubious.  Several other Georgia watchers have also pointed out that lawyers representing Trump in litigation about the election are also representing the State of Georgia.  This conflict of interest has not been explained.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Georgia state law requires an audit but leaves up to elections officials the choice of race. This leaves the people in charge of the election in charge of determining what race to audit. Officials in Georgia have chosen the presidential race to recount rather than the senate races.  The certification deadline in Georgia is November 20.  It is unclear how counties in Georgia (where they are already pleading for volunteers to help monitor the recount) are going to do a total hand recount by the deadline for certification.  This may in fact be the game.

On Twitter: @cjjohns1951