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Some historical revisionism

There are certain memes that become embedded in our national conversation, despite the fact that they are in no way fact based. Being of an age when I get to be a curmudgeon, I feel I have the right to protest. Consider this:

Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee known for his independent streak over more than three decades representing Arizona in the Senate, has brain cancer, his office disclosed Wednesday night in a statement from the Mayo Clinic.

via The New York Times (Emphasis added)

Let’s see now. Three decades would bring us back to 1987. But we didn’t find out about John McCain’s “independent streak” until he ran for president in 2000 and announced to the world that he was a “maverick”. The press fell in love with him because he sometimes said some stuff that sounded mavericky (i.e., reasonable), for a Republican. He’s been on television almost every Sunday since then. But while he sometimes says things that run against the Republican grain, a funny thing tends to happen when it comes time to vote. He runs with the herd. It would be interesting to ask any of the reporters that are so enamored of the man to name one actually important issue in which he has strayed. (I’m sticking with the maverick metaphor as long as I can) When the pressure’s on, Mitch McCowboy has no trouble roping him in. Consider health care, in which he hasn’t strayed from the corral at all, except to assert that the Republican plan is dead, but not by his hand.

I realize he’s ill, and he may, by leaving the corral at this point, and in no way due to any independent streak, be doing the greatest public service of his political career . But remember that’s because he’s one less vote they can count on to screw the people of America.

Democrats continue to chase the ever moving center

This is why I won’t give money to the DCCC, the DSCC, or the DNC, from a Down with Tyranny post about the DCCC courting Blue Dog candidates:

A problem for progressive voters is that few Democrats run as Blue Dogs. They mouth the words normal Democrats say and then when it’s too late, when they’re in office, they take off the masks and expose the ugly truth. Chances are good that if the DCCC is backing a candidate in a primary, they’re backing either a Blue Dog or New Dem. Chances are going when someone claims to be a “centrist” (like Dave Min in Orange County or Andrew Janz in the Central Valley) we’re talking about Blue Dogs or New Dems not Democrats. Be careful– and everyone on this list you get to by hitting the Blue America thermometer on the right is a progressive and not a Blue Dog and not a New Dem. And one more thing to remember, if an anti-Trump tsunami elects a batch of slimy Blue Dogs in 2018, they’ll all be defeated in 2022 when their constituents realize they got tricked by the DCCC again.

via Down with Tyranny

Read the entire post. This is the main theme of the DWT blog, but it is an unfortunate fact that their posts are generally spot on. While the Republicans have been moving ever rightward, the Democrats have been following them, and have for years been actively recruiting candidates who are indistinguishable from Republicans. Why should people vote for a party that’s selling Republican lite, when they can get the real thing?

I’ve been around quite a while now, and I’ve been interested in politics since I was 14 or so, and I remember a few things. The most left wing radical Democrats, the Sanders, Frankens, et. al., are themselves indistinguishable from the run of the mill Democrat of 1968. “Left wing” proposals, such as single payer, increased social security benefits, raising the social security tax cap, etc., poll well. Yet our party has never gotten behind them, because at its center, it is controlled by Wall Street. It’s a kinder, gentler version of the Republican Party, and the more Republican it gets, the more it loses. And as soon as, in rare cases, it wins, it throws away its victory by doing nothing. As much as I support the current effort to prevent the Republican evisceration of Obamacare, the fact is that it’s nowhere close to being the program it should be. As Paul Krugman has repeatedly noted, it is entirely derived from a Republican healthcare plan, and the only reason the Republicans opposed it, and still oppose it, is because it was proposed by a black Democratic president. Had John McCain been elected, and had he pushed for a healthcare program as he promised, it would probably have been much like Obamacare. We lost in 2010 because we adopted a healthcare program no one understood or really liked, and a stimulus package designed to get the vote of a single Republican Senator from Maine, that did nothing more than prevent things from getting worse. That was the result of Republican lite and we are going in that direction yet again.

Yet another modest proposal

There is evidence of widespread hacking of the voter databases in the months prior to the election, and on Election Day. It is impossible to say this had no effect on the outcome of the election, and it appears increasingly likely that Russian interference did, in fact, tip the scales the tiny bit necessary to throw the election to the man who is already, without a doubt, the worst president in history, and I should add, that is no mean feat. Just ask George W. Bush, who had to fuck up royally to win the crown for himself.

In the olden days there was no internet and even it its early stages, many computers were not connected. If one wanted to get information from one computer to another, in the absence of a local area wired network, one put the data on a “floppy disk” and walked it from one computer to another. This is admittedly an inconvenient way of doing things, but it has the advantage of being hackproof, unless one is able to get direct access to the computer on which the source data is maintained.

It therefore seems reasonable to suggest that, if we must use computers in the election process, that they be stand alone computers, unconnected to the internet in any way, shape or form. That doesn’t mean data could not be provided to interested parties. Again, in the olden days, our town committee was able to obtain computer files from our local town clerk containing registration data. We got them on the “floppy disks” I mentioned. We could make whatever changes we liked to that data, but we couldn’t affect the data maintained on the town computers. Only duly authorized people could do that.

There is no reason in the world why a system could not be adopted that made use of computers not connected to the internet and therefore not easily hackable. It might slow things down a bit, but I’d rather have had to wait until Wednesday morning to find out that Hillary had won, rather than learn early Tuesday evening that the end of the Republic was at hand.

It is also scarcely credible that there are still people advocating “secure” voting over the internet.

Almost entirely off this subject, but this hacking reminds me of one of the very first episodes of the old Mission Impossible television series, in which our heroes decided to accept a voting related mission, knowing full well that if they were caught or killed “the Secretary [would] disavow any knowledge of [their] actions”. They went to a banana republic somewhere and hacked the (non-computerized, mechanical) voting machines just before an important election. At the time (mid 60s) it seemed perfectly plausible that a top secret US force would undertake such a mission to insure a fair election, as the voting machines had been manipulated by a sinister force to insure a predetermined result. Alas, such a scenario is no longer plausible, nor was it ever, but we didn’t know that quite yet.

No one could have predicted…

Today’s Times has a lengthy article about the extent to which Iran is now calling the shots in Iraq. I confess, I haven’t read every word, but I couldn’t find any mention of the fact that many of the opponents of the Iraq war (a war for which the Times beat the drums) predicted just this result. So file this as yet another outcome that no one could have predicted, except that plenty of people did.

Why Republican sometimes do the right thing

I’ve commented on this phenomenon before. I’ve been tempted to give it a name, after a local politician who exemplified it, but I’ve held back on that.

By way of background: Today, something remarkable happened in the House of Representatives. The house rejected an opportunity to do something small minded and hateful:

Two dozen House Republicans voted with 190 Democrats to sink the amendment that would prohibit military funds for soldiers seeking medical treatment related to gender transition.

via McClatchy

Amazing, isn’t it? But lets hear from one of those Republicans:

“It’s a hurtful amendment, it’s not needed,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, a noted advocate for LGBT rights who has a transgender son. “I view it as a personal issue, because as a mom I’m impacted, but it’s an issue of fairness for everyone. You don’t have to know someone that’s transgender or have someone in your immediate family to feel this impact. It’s just needlessly hurtful and serves no useful purpose.”

She’s absolutely right, of course, but why, one might ask, is this normally right wing Congressperson making such sense? It’s because the issue personally affects her. If not for the fact that she has a transgender son, there’s little reason to believe she would have cast the vote she did. This is a common phenomenon with Republicans. One example here. It’s truly remarkable how incapable of empathy these people are.

Watergate Memories

There have been a lot of Watergate comparisons lately, and I’m going to join in. One thing I haven’t seen noted, although I don’t see everything, is the fact that both Watergate and Russiagate are election related scandals, each driven by the desire to steal an election. The difference between them is that Watergate was stupid, in the sense that Nixon was fated to win the election whether his two bit burglary was successful or not, whereas it now appears that the Russians may indeed have swung the election to Trump. That’s a conclusion that I had resisted in the past, but the fact is that the Russians quite skillfully distributed fake news in exactly the places where it would do Trump the most good. I’ve read speculation, which makes sense, that the Trump folks were assisting the Russians in this endeavor, for it would take someone with insight into the American electorate to figure out where the effort should be made and what type of propaganda to feed. So, give the Trumpies credit for the fact that they committed their crime for a good reason; had they not done so, Hillary would be president today. On the other hand, the crime itself is far more serious, and their attempts to get away with it are ham handed, to say the least.

The timeline says that Trump knew about Junior’s meeting before it happened. He promised a blockbuster Hillary exposing speech prior to the meeting, but when the day came for the speech he had nothing, since the Russians, for whatever reason, didn’t deliver the goods. Of course, the Trump people are denying that he knew anything about it:

Privately, Trump has expressed dismay that Trump Jr. agreed to meet with the Russian lawyer, according to a Republican source, who said the President believes it wasn’t a smart move – but also that his son did not run afoul of the law.

via Hullabaloo quoting CNN

I’m assuming digby isn’t buying in to that part of the story. The evidence appears to be too strong that Trump knew about the meeting (what did the pr- -ident know), and knew about it before it took place (and when did he know it). After all, the three top figures in his campaign were all there.

The real difference between Watergate and this is the likely outcome. I’ve written before about the fact that I knew in my gut that Nixon would be impeached once it became known that there were tapes. I could feel that way because, fundamentally, the system worked, and the Republican Party was not then as it is now. I was not alone in expecting that plenty of Republicans would bail on Nixon as the evidence mounted. I don’t see that happening now. I think they’d look the other way if he did, in fact, shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. If the Democrats took over both houses of Congress in 2018 the Republicans might dump Trump, but not until such an unlikely event occurs, and if they do, it will be purely as a matter of political strategy, and not because he is a traitorous criminal.

Gluten free Jesus

First lets stipulate that there are in fact some people who are sensitive to gluten. Their numbers roughly equal the percent of the population singled out by the Occupy folks. You’d never know it by the way in which “Gluten Free!” is plastered on all manner of food items. For example, today I had some truly horrible bottled Snapple tea. It was not horrible because it was gluten free, but the fact that it did not contain this wheat byproduct was on the bottle, despite the fact that no one in their right mind would suspect a tea would be gluten full.

We go to a farmer’s market in Stonington on occasion. One of the booths features baked goods “with a conscience”. Apparently, there is also a moral component to gluten free foods. Who knew? It puts one in mind of the carbohydrate free craze of the 90s, now blessedly in the rear view mirror.

Since I am entering my geezer years, I am free to be curmudgeonly, and one of my pet mudgeons is the omnipresence of gluten free foods. So, I was more than happy to find out that one of my other pet mudgeons, the Catholic Church, has done the right thing and mandated that Jesus is absolutely, positively, not to be served in gluten free form:

Gluten has become verboten in some circles, but there is no way around it for Catholics receiving Holy Communion; a recent church directive emphatically states that the wafer known as the host must contain gluten.

The reminder comes at “the request of Pope Francis” in the form of a letter to bishops worldwide.

At one time, it was religious communities that were charged with making the wafer for celebrating the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, said Cardinal Robert Sarah in the letter. But today the bread can come from less-certain origins, especially online.

A Google search reveals several “gluten-free” wafers for purchase. But according to the church’s guidelines, “Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.” The bread must be “purely of wheat.”

via NPR

Look, by the time you eat it, it isn’t wheat anymore anyway, it’s the body of Christ, unless it has gluten in it, in which case the priest’s magic trick doesn’t take hold. Take my word for it. As I’ve said before, I have a degree in theology from Our Lady of Sorrows grammar school. Everyone knows that meat is gluten free, so there’s positively no reason for the deluded gluten freers to be worried. Eat up, and don’t worry; and remember, the wine/blood is totally gluten free.

Book report

I just finished The Statesman and the Storyteller, by Mark Zwonitzer. It’s a dual biography covering the last years of Mark Twain and John Hay. Everyone knows who Mark Twain was, but Hay is not so well known, though he’s not forgotten either. For those who can’t place him: he was one of Lincoln’s secretaries, and, in the fullness of time, Secretary of State under McKinley and Roosevelt, until he died shortly after Roosevelt was elected president in his own right. Hay and Twain were lifelong friends, though they often went years without seeing each other, and they maintained their mutual respect despite their divergent political views.

This post is more of a riff on the book than a review. I’m probably not capable of a good book review.

The book is really a history of turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is) America, told through the lives of these two remarkable individuals. It’s a period in our history that I think is largely ignored, at least in the educations that most of us get in grammar or high school. But you can’t read this book without coming away with the impression that it was during this period when the U.S. took the turn that led it ineluctably to the imperial and anti-democratic state that it is today. Of course, we had a head start as the deeply engrained racism throughout the nation made it easy for us to justify ignoring our supposed principles when non-whites or non-Christians were concerned.

I won’t say that it was the high water mark of political hypocrisy in this country, but the politicians of the day could hold their own against the slaveowners of the pre-civil war South and the Republicans of today. We were led into the Spanish American war through two lies; the first that it was fought to free the Cubans; the second that the Spanish had sunk the Maine. We were just coming off the annexation of Hawaii , featuring the destruction of a republic in which the native Hawaiians had a predominant voice, said republic being replaced by a system that stripped those natives of practically all civil rights, including the right to vote.

As I said, it was a time of great hypocrisy, but it’s instructive that there were some subjects they felt no need to be hypocritical about. Roosevelt, McKinley, Hay, Henry Cabot Lodge.. the whole pack of them, frankly proclaimed their belief that no one who lacked a white skin had any rights that the United States was bound to recognize. The Supreme Court agreed. One byproduct of that racism was a brutal war of extermination waged by the United States against a Filipino anti-Spanish resistance movement. When the war started, we encouraged the Filipinos to believe that they were our allies, and that we would hand the country over to them once the war was won. But once the war was won we stabbed them in the back and proceeded to exterminate them. Those few prisoners we didn’t kill outright were systematically tortured. The major media of the day was fine with all of it, since we were, by definition, doing God’s work.

And here’s where there’s a bit of irony. I can recall some years back that Huckleberry Finn was banned in some places, and attacked in many others, for being racist. The attackers had apparently never read the book with any understanding; their claim was pretty much based on the fact that a certain word beginning with “n” appears frequently in the book. The dialogue is, in other words, totally faithful to the way the characters portrayed would have spoken at the time, and in the places, depicted in the book. But, too much of this. Huck Finn needs no defense from me.

Anyway, while Hay and Roosevelt were justifying their imperialism with overtly racist arguments, Twain was condemning that imperialism and spoke out on behalf of the Filipinos, Hawaiians and other non-white people in decidedly anti-racist terms. He often withdrew from the fray, not because he had changed his mind, but because he wanted to avoid the vituperation aimed at him when he did speak his mind. It’s fair to say that he recorded his views in writings not intended for publication in his lifetime (or for the life of his copyrights), such as The War Prayer .

Like today, it was a time when the .01% pretty much ran the show. I was struck by this summary of the allegedly radical 1896 platform of William Jennings Bryan.

The Democrat’s nominee was proposing that the federal government take over the management of currency and the money supply, insure bank deposits, tax income, permit laborers to form unions, and dry the world economic powers by coining silver at a ratio of sixteen to one as against gold… He wanted to promote free trade, which meant further reducing (if not outright killing) the protective tariffs that stood, as the banking and manufacturing crowd told it, as their bulwark against certain economic ruin. He wanted to find a way to put a floor under falling crop prices and get farmers out fro under 20 percent mortgages. Bryan volubly–and at least twice a day–repudiated the Republican Party’s insistence that if the government protected and propped up the well-to-do, their prosperity would, as a matter of natural law, leak through to the lower classes. “The Democratic idea,” Bryan liked to say, “has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon it.”

Okay, the man was a religious troglodyte, but he had it right on economics. Most of what he advocated, FDR achieved, and what is left, legislation “to make the masses prosperous” is still blocked by the Republican Party, though the fact that it would benefit everyone is now the settled opinion of all sane economists.

One other thing struck me, not of a political nature. We all know that in the 18th century, the surest way to die of any disease or medical condition was to call in a doctor. It certainly appears as if that was only slightly less true at the dawn of the 20th. Hay spent most of his time sick, Twain slightly less so, but his family members were often ill. Not only did the doctors not know what they were doing, but they somehow formed the idea that it was good for a patient to be deprived of contact with family members. Twain was unable to be in the same room as his wife for months at a time, pursuant to doctor’s orders. The only thing you can say for the doctors is that they’d given up bleeding patients. It’s practically a certainty, I’d say, that 75 years from now many of the medical procedures and medication that are common today will be considered ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst.

So, that’s my report. The book is a bit slow at the start, but I got into it as it went along. It’s a neglected part of our history that is well worth brushing up on, particularly given the present state of our government.

Connecticut Delegation disgraces itself

I think this is the worst thing that Joe Courtney has done since he voted to condemn Moveon years ago.:

Last week, House Republicans pushed through an invidious bill they’ve cynically dubbed “Kate’s Law” that would impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences on those who attempt to re-enter the country illegally—and which would have done nothing to prevent the tragic death of the woman the legislation is named after, Kathryn Steinle.

More than 400 civil rights organizations came out in opposition to the law, as did nearly the entire House Democratic caucus—but not everyone. Two dozen Democrats joined 233 Republicans in voting for the bill.

via Daily Kos

One eighth of those Democrats were from Connecticut. Besides Joe, Larson and Esty voted with the Republicans. That’s the way to inspire the resisters to back you in ’18 guys! One thing you can be sure of in these times. If every Republican votes for a bill, and almost every Democrat votes against it, the bill is evil.

More news from the Department of Redundancy Department

Who would have thought it? A new study has turned up some startling findings that only those who were otherwise paying attention the past 49 years could have predicted. It turns out most of those Trump voters were not suffering from economic angst. They’re just bigots. Or, how can I say it? Oh! Deplorables!

On Monday researchers released the most comprehensive survey data yet aimed at understanding what actually went down in Election 2016. The group includes academics but also right-leaning outlets such The Heritage Foundation and left-leaners like the Center for American Progress.

What’s different about the Voter Study Group is that it tracks the attitudes and votes of the same 8,000 adults since before the 2012 election, and then throughout the 2016 election. So it’s like the nation’s largest, longest political focus group.

The story we’ve told ourselves — that working-class whites flocked to Trump due to job worries or free trade or economic populism — is basically wrong, the research papers released this week suggest.

They did flock to Trump. But the reason they did so in enough numbers for Trump to win wasn’t anxiety about the economy. It was anxiety about Mexicans, Muslims and blacks.

via Hullabaloo quoting the Seattle Times

No one could ever have predicted those results (we are told), except for the guy featured in the article who did. Whyever would it be the case that a party that has more or less openly appealed to racists for the past 49 years would win an election because it ramped up the racism? The fact is that this is an ugly truth that our media has resisted facing for the past 49 years and that it will likely continue to resist facing. They are far more comfortable with the economic angst meme, and they’ll keep pushing it regardless of the evidence.

Postscript: I realize that the word “redundancy” may not convey precisely what I have in mind here, that the study merely confirms what anyone with a brain already knew. But it’s close enough, and I couldn’t resist the Firesign Theater reference.