Tag Archives: McConnell

Ginsburg, celebrity culture and “civil grace.”

Saturday 19 September 2020

I despise the celebrity culture that has taken over this country.  The Democratic National Convention was nothing other than a cheap, vacuous, celebrity infomercial devoid of policy and full of “cult of personality” programming.  It was an embarrassment. 

Somehow, we were supposed to believe that because Joe Biden is a nice guy and has lost family members, he should be president of the United States.  Somehow, we were supposed to pat ourselves on the back and glory in the fact that we had nominated an African American, Asian woman to be vice president.  Never mind the policies of these two people.  Never mind their histories.  It is supposed to be enough that these two are telegenic, just as nice as they can be, and fit certain categories of human beings.

That is evidently where we are.

After the convention we were treated to more infomercials.  In one of them, Kamala Harris had a charming, laughing, conversation with Barak Obama about Biden liking ice cream and wearing a certain kind of sunglasses.  This was seriously intended to get us to vote for the Democrats – the fact that the party elite could chat on television and laugh about the personal foibles of the candidate.  This is what they think of us.  This is nothing but insulting.

In the true fashion of this celebrity worship culture we have going on, the corporate media is this weekend, endlessly talking about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  We are in the middle of a war for  a democratic society, and we are engaging in celebrity worship.

As Elie Mystal pointed out writing in the Nation, we don’t have time for this, and Ginsburg would be the first person to see that we don’t have time for this.

Ginsburg occupied a pivotal position on the U.S. Supreme Court and her death has created a crisis that just illustrates the dysfunction of the government and the society.  The death of a judge, one judge, shouldn’t throw the country into a crisis.  The appointment of one judge shouldn’t mean the difference between democracy and authoritarianism.  But, it does.  It hands to the Republicans the opportunity to conclusively warp this society into an authoritarian kleptocratic state devoid of rights for regular ordinary human beings. 

This is where we are.  We have to fight this authoritarian take-over with everything in our beings.  But, tonight, on CNN they are hosting Scalia’s son to discuss (out of all the other things about Ginsburg’s life) the beautiful relationship between Ginsburg and one of the arch enemies of law and therefore democracy, Antonin Scalia. 

I’m sorry but I just can’t stomach this.  I suppose there is somewhere, something laudatory about being able to be friends with people who are sitting at the peak of privilege and wealth and power and working to destroy democracy and the rule of law for the rest of us, but I just don’t see it. 

If we have to sit through this eulogizing of Ginsburg, the last thing we need is to have right-wing Federalist Society zealots to talk about her.  The last thing we need is to try to convince people that what we need is more bipartisan cooperation.  No, we need less, and we need to fight for democratic law and democratic institutions.

The corporate Democrats who have much more reason to talk about Ginsburg, are bad enough.  Last night, Nina Totenberg was on Rachael Maddow talking about her friendship with Ginsberg.  She said wistfully that Ginsburg had planned to retire in 2016 and have her successor named by the first woman president.  Isn’t that special?  I might plan to have thoroughbred horses fly out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

This story was presented as if it demonstrated something positive about Ginsburg, and it has been retweeted today by people who obviously think the same thing.

To me, it just demonstrates what was wrong with the Democratic Party elite in 2016 and what is still wrong with the Democratic Party elite today. 

Barak Obama declined to tell the American people the truth about something crucially important to them.  He refused to tell them that Russian operatives had intervened in the 2016 election to the extent of penetrating the voting systems in 50 states. 

Obama made this decision, as far as I can tell, because first, he was afraid of the reaction of Republicans if he came out and told the American people without bipartisan support.  He was so afraid of appearing partisan he lied by omission, lied about something vital to the functioning of democracy.  Mitch McConnell refused to join Obama and make a public, bipartisan statement and Obama didn’t have the guts to do it alone.

Second, Barak Obama was afraid of tarnishing his cherished legacy by appearing to be “partisan” in the 2016 election.  He was more concerned with his legacy (to people who despise him) than his country. 

Third, Barak Obama was so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, he decided he wouldn’t have to tell the truth to the American people.  Clinton could solve the problem after she was elected.

All three of these excuses stink to high heaven and again illustrate something characteristic about the Democratic corporate elite.

This professional class of Democrats think they know better than the American people how to run the country.  They think that their judgement is better than everybody else’s. 

They can handle, among themselves, an unprecedented intrusion into the election process.  Why tell the unwashed masses?

Obama reportedly thought that telling the truth would shake the confidence of the American people in the election process.  He’s not the only member of the Democratic elite to think this.  There are an astounding number of people out there who will react like vicious dogs if the integrity of the election process is even questioned.

The logic of this position just amazes me.  It goes something like this.  The election process has been corrupted but we mustn’t tell the American people because it might shake their confidence in an election process that because of corruption can be no longer relied on.  So, it’s better to have the American people believe a lie, continue to trust an election system that can’t be trusted.  It’s better because we (the Democratic elite) can deal with it ourselves, behind closed doors.  That worked out really well.

This same kind of hubris evidently led Ruth Bader Ginsburg to think she could continue (in ill health and advanced age) to sit on the Supreme Court and have Clinton name her replacement.  Having the first woman president name her replacement made a good story, a fitting end to her career.  And, like Obama, she was convinced (so convinced she was willing to risk our future) that Clinton was going to win.  Even with a compromised election process (which they all knew about), Clinton’s baggage and low approval ratings and an e-mail scandal, Clinton was going to win.  Why?  Because they wanted her to.

I’ve got news for these people.  They don’t get to determine what’s going to happen.  They don’t control events.  What kind of delusional hubris leads one to stay in a position at the Supreme Court, a crucial position, a history changing pivotal position, counting on the fact that they are going to waltz out with the first woman president because that’s what they want to happen?

I’m sorry.  Ginsburg appears to have been a wonderful person, lawyer, activist, but someone genuinely concerned with and committed to the struggle, with the future of the country for ordinary people, would have resigned during Obama’s administration to make sure that the ideals she believed in and fought so hard for, had a chance of continuing. 

And, I fault not only Ginsburg but Obama and his administration for not pushing her resignation.  I ask you: What is wrong with these people?   

I keep going back to a film quote.  As Yankees are overrunning Atlanta, Aunt Pittypat is concerned about Scarlet having a chaperone.  Dr. Meade, in utter and complete frustration yells:  “Good God, woman, this is a war, not a garden party.”

But, this Democratic elite – the politicians, the “strategists,” the pollsters, the pundits – all of them are so filled with pride and smug assuredness that they can’t see what is happening around them.

Even now, after all the mistakes of 2016, the Democratic corporate elite seems to be waltzing off an electoral cliff supported by their own delusions.

Ginsburg wasn’t a healthy 50-year-old.  They knew she was ill, had known for years.  If they couldn’t convince her to resign when Obama could nominate a successor, they should have had a strategy for what they were going to do if she suddenly died during Trump’s administration.  They should have hit the ground running on Friday night, not sat stunned, grief stricken, and still counting on the Republicans to “do the right thing.” 

I mean, Jesus F…ing Christ.  Anybody who is now, four years into this administration, relying in any way on the Republicans to do the right thing, is just brain dead (I include Cory Booker in that category).

For the first time on Friday night, I heard Chris Hayes interview somebody (Rebecca Traister) who sounded like I and a lot of other people have felt for four years.  Traister was and said she was terrified and furious.  She sounded like somebody who was terrified and furious, not like the stable of “calmers”, the “institutions are holding” gang on MSNBC who have been interviewed today.  Cory Booker, Klobuchar, the presidential historians, Hirono (as much as I love her), Capehart, Jarrett.

I swear I think that part of the deal to convince all the corporate democrats to drop out of the race and endorse Biden was an agreement by MSNBC to interview them every fifteen minutes.

Last week, Cory Booker was on Ari Melber’s (also disgustingly celebrity laden) show claiming that what we needed was a “return to civic grace.”  That’s Booker’s answer to an authoritarian take-over, a return to “civic grace.”  I’m sure Mitch McConnell will take that “return to civic grace” and stuff it up Booker’s nose.

elie mystal, writing in the nation @elienyc

Elie Mystal, today, writing in the Nation:

I would like to mourn her. But even Ginsburg herself realized there would be no time for that.

McConnell has already removed the filibuster rule for Supreme Court appointments, which means he needs only 50 votes to confirm a new justice (since the vice president breaks any ties), and he has 53 Republicans.

It’s not hard to see how McConnell will control his caucus. Remember, while some Republicans will occasionally furrow their brows in performative outrage at the latest Trump tweets, almost all of these people are in favor of the hardcore conservative legal policies Ginsburg spent her life opposing.

Republican senators might not like Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, but they love taking health care away from millions of people; they love the deregulation that leads to environmental destruction; and they consider it a moral imperative to reduce a pregnant woman to the legal status of a medical incubator…

Obama either didn’t anticipate McConnell’s unprecedented maneuver to block his nominee or thought that Garland’s moderate stances would cause other Republicans to resist McConnell’s gambit to block him.

These are people who support “…the right to bear shoulder-launched grenades…”

It would now seem like the list of potential Supreme Court nominees Trump produced last week was released with some kind of inside information about Ginsburg’s failing health

McConnell has proven that the composition of the Supreme Court is a function of raw political power.

We must do everything we can to stop McConnell from filling Ginsburg’s seat and, however that turns out, we must retake political power and reform a Supreme Court that has been irrevocably broken by McConnell’s ongoing hypocrisy.

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.

 

Just Another Coinkydink: There are so many coincidences. Don’t believe in conspiracy theory.

 

Mitch McConnell

  • In September, Mitch McConnell announced that he would block a bill  to lower prescription drug costs.
  • By the end of December McConnell had raked in more than $50,000 in contributions from political action committees and individuals tied to the pharmaceutical industry.
  • The bill that would have allow the federal government to negotiate prices for Medicare, restrict price hikes and limit out-of-picket costs.
  • McConnell called this “socialist price controls.”
  • 80% of Americans believe that it is only right to have the federal government negotiate prices with the Drug Companies.
  • Mitch McConnell says no.
  • Then,
  • “On Oct. 16, McConnell received a $2,500 check from Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ political action committee, according to McConnell’s reports to the Federal Election Commission.
  • The same campaign finance filings show that a few weeks after that, multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis’ PAC also sent $2,500 to McConnell. Then, a PAC for another pharma company, Emergent BioSolutions, kicked in $2,500.
  • By the end of December, McConnell’s campaign reported, he had received at least $30,000 more from the corporate political action committees of Bluebird Bio ($2,500), Boehringer Ingelheim ($5,000), Greenwich Biosciences ($2,500), Teva USA ($10,000), and UCB ($2,500).
  • According to filings from his Bluegrass Committee leadership PAC, Merck & Co. also contributed $5,000 to support McConnell and Sanofi donated $2,500.
  • Over that time period, McConnell’s campaign also received $5,000 from Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day, $2,000 from Amgen lobbyist Helen Rhee, and $5,600 from his former policy director and current Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America registered lobbyist Hazen Marshall
  • Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Gilead Sciences, Merck, Novartis, Sanofi, Takeda, Teva, and UCB are all members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which has said the bill would have a “devastating effect on the industry” and would cause fewer treatments to be developed.”

But, least you all be consumed by CONSPIRACY THEORIES, all claim that there is no connection between the donations to McConnell and “positions taken on specific legislation.”

Please, don’t be a fool.  Vote Republicans out of office.  We have to end this government by corporations.  And, just another plea: don’t let the words: “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories” come out of your mouth.  Do you know how much money these corporations and the right have spent to have that scripted statement come out of our mouths?

the American Independent (2/18/20)  https://americanindependent.com/mitch-mcconnell-pharmaceutical-industry-donations-prescription-drug-costs-senate-gop-republicans/