A Matter of Principles

Today, while the nation mourns the death of one of the most consequential figures on the Supreme Court in modern times, other forces are working to further decimate the democratic processes and take this nation another step closer to an autocracy.  Robert Reich, as always, sums it up well.


Rushing to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell shows power trumps principle

The justice who died on Friday night stood for the integrity of democracy. The Senate leader stands only for Republican gains

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

People in public life tend to fall into one of two broad categories – those motivated by principle, and those motivated by power.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday night at the age of 87, exemplified the first.

When he nominated her in 1993, Bill Clinton called her “the Thurgood Marshall of gender-equality law”, comparing her advocacy and lower-court rulings in pursuit of equal rights for women to the work of the great jurist who advanced the cause of equal rights for Black people. Ginsburg persuaded the Supreme Court that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection applied not only to racial discrimination, but to sex discrimination as well.

For Ginsburg, principle was everything – not only equal rights, but also the integrity of democracy. Always concerned about the consequences of her actions for the system as a whole, she advised young people “to fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you”.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, exemplifies the second category. He couldn’t care less about principle. He is motivated entirely by the pursuit of power.

McConnell refused to allow the Senate to vote on Barack Obama’s nominee to the supreme court, Merrick Garland, in February 2016 – almost a year before the end of Obama’s second term – on the dubious grounds that the “vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president”.

McConnell’s move was a pure power grab. No Senate leader had ever before asserted the right to block a vote on a president’s nominee to the supreme court.

McConnell’s “principle” of waiting for a new president disappeared on Friday evening, after Ginsburg’s death was announced.

Just weeks before one of the most consequential presidential elections in American history, when absentee voting has already begun in many states (and will start in McConnell’s own state of Kentucky in 25 days), McConnell announced: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

This is, after all, the same Mitch McConnell who, soon after Trump was elected, ended the age-old requirement that supreme court nominees receive 60 votes to end debate and allow for a confirmation vote, and then, days later, pushed through Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Ginsburg and McConnell represent the opposite poles of public service today. The distinction doesn’t depend on whether someone is a jurist or legislator (I’ve known many lawmakers who cared more about principle than power, such as the late congressman John Lewis). It depends on values.

Ginsburg refused to play power politics. As she passed her 80th birthday, near the start of Obama’s second term, she dismissed calls for her to retire in order to give Obama plenty of time to name her replacement, saying she planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam”, adding: “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”

She hoped others would also live by principle, including McConnell and Trump. Just days before her death she said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Her wish will not be honored.

If McConnell cannot muster the Senate votes needed to confirm Trump’s nominee before the election, he’ll probably try to fill the vacancy in the lame-duck session after the election. He’s that shameless.

Not even with Joe Biden president and control over both the House and Senate can Democrats do anything about this – except, perhaps, by playing power politics themselves: expanding the size of the court or restructuring it so justices on any given case are drawn from a pool of appellate judges.

The deeper question is which will prevail in public life: McConnell’s power politics or Ginsburg’s dedication to principle?

The problem for America, as for many other democracies at this point in history, is this is not an even match. Those who fight for power will bend or break rules to give themselves every advantage. Those who fight for principle are at an inherent disadvantage because bending or breaking rules undermines the very ideals they seek to uphold.

Over time, the unbridled pursuit of power wears down democratic institutions, erodes public trust and breeds the sort of cynicism that invites despotism.

The only bulwark is a public that holds power accountable – demanding stronger guardrails against its abuses, and voting power-mongers out of office.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg often referred to Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous quote, that “the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people”.

Indeed.

May we honor her legacy with action.

Going Once, Going Twice …

Arguably the single most important issue facing the world today is climate change.  In the throes of the current pandemic, and amidst the undeniably craziest election the U.S. has ever seen, we in this country seem to have largely forgotten about the damage that we humans have done to this planet over the past 100 years or so.  The wildfires on the West Coast and the onslaught of hurricanes in recent years should have been a wake-up call, but … we are still focusing on other things, while the world burns.  We are nearing the point of no return in our wanton disregard for the environment, yet few seem to care.  Robert Reich speaks wise words …


Trump doesn’t care if wildfires destroy the west – it didn’t vote for him

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

The climate crisis is upon us all but the president pursues more rollbacks. This election offers an existential choice

The air outside my window is yellow today. It was orange yesterday. The Air Quality Index is over 200. The Environmental Protection Agency defines this as a “health alert” in which “everyone may experience more serious health effects if they are exposed for 24 hours.” Unfortunately, the index has been over 200 for several days.

The west is burning. Wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington are incinerating homes, killing scores of people, sickening many others, causing hundreds of thousands to evacuate, burning entire towns to the ground, consuming millions of acres, and blanketing the western third of the United States with thick, acrid, and dangerous smoke.

Yet the president has said and done almost nothing. A month ago, Trump wanted to protect lives in Oregon and California from “rioters and looters.” He sent federal forces into the streets of Portland and threatened to send them to Oakland and Los Angeles.

Today, Portland is in danger of being burned, and Oakland and Los Angeles are under health alerts. Trump will visit California on Monday, but he has said little.

One reason: these states voted against him in 2016 and he still bears a grudge.

He came close to rejecting California’s request for emergency funding.

“He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him,” said former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor.

Another explanation for Trump’s silence is that the wildfires are tied to human-caused climate change, which Trump has done everything humanly possible to worsen.

Extreme weather disasters are rampaging across America. On Wednesday, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration released its latest State of the Climate report, finding that just in August, the US was hit by four billion-dollar calamities. In addition to wildfires, there were two enormous hurricanes and an extraordinary Midwest derecho.

These are inconvenient facts for a president who has spent much of his presidency dismantling every major climate and environmental policy he can lay his hands on.

Starting with his unilateral decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump has been the most anti-environmental president in history.

He has called climate change a “hoax.” He has claimed, with no evidence, that windmills cause cancer. He has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide from power plants and from cars and trucks. He has rolled back rules governing clean air, water and toxic chemicals. He has opened more public land to oil and gas drilling.

He has targeted California in particular, revoking the state’s authority to set tougher car emission standards than those required by the federal government.

In all, the Trump administration has reversed, repealed, or otherwise rolled back nearly 70 environmental rules and regulations. More than 30 rollbacks are still in progress.

Now, seven weeks before election day, with much of the nation either aflame or suffering other consequences of climate change, Trump unabashedly defends his record and attacks Joe Biden.

“The core of [Biden’s] economic agenda is a hard-left crusade against American energy,” Trump harrumphed in a Rose Garden speech last month.

Not quite. While Biden has made tackling climate change a centerpiece of his campaign, proposing to invest $2 trillion in a massive green jobs program to build renewable energy infrastructure, his ideas are not exactly radical. The money would be used for improving energy efficiency, constructing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, and increasing renewable energy from wind, solar, and other technologies.

Biden wants to end the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035, and to bring America to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by no later than 2050. If what is now occurring in the west is any indication, his goals may be too modest. 2050 will be too late.

Nonetheless, Americans have a clear choice. In a few weeks, when they decide whether Trump deserves another four years, climate change will be on the ballot.

The choice shouldn’t be hard to make. Like the coronavirus, the dire consequences of climate change – coupled with Trump’s utter malfeasance – offer unambiguous proof that he couldn’t care less about the public good.

Where Is The Real Threat?

This week there has been enough news to boggle the mind, to make one want to hide in a closet until sometime after November 3rd … maybe even until around 2025.  The coronavirus is out of control in the U.S., but we no longer get accurate numbers of new cases because testing has slowed to a crawl.  The shitshow last week put on at our expense by the Republicans was depressing … was naught but an expensive circus with the nastiest clowns ever seen, half of them with the last name “Trump”.  Multiple times during that circus, we were told that only Trump will bring “law and order” to the streets of the nation, but … it is he and his enablers who have created the most disharmony and disunity this nation has seen in more than 100 years.  Robert Reich, a man with much more experience and understanding than most, sums it all up nicely for us, thankfully, for I am too tired to do so today …


The real threats to American law and order are Trump’s craven enablers

The president railed against ‘violent anarchists, agitators and criminals’ but he surrounds himself with lawless lackeys

Robert Reich-4By Robert Reich

One week ago, Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police department, fired at least seven shots at the back of a Black man named Jacob Blake as he opened his car door, leaving the 29-year-old father of five probably paralyzed from the waist down.

After protests erupted, self-appointed armed militia or vigilante-type individuals rushed to Kenosha, including Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old who traveled there and then, appearing on the streets with an AR-15 assault rifle, allegedly killed two people and wounded a third.

This is pure gold for a president without a plan, a party without a platform, and a cult without a purpose other than the abject worship of Donald J Trump.

To be re-elected Trump knows he has to distract the nation from the coronavirus pandemic that he has flagrantly failed to control – leaving more than 180,000 Americans dead, tens of millions jobless and at least 30 million reportedly hungry.

So he’s counting on the reliable Republican dog-whistle. “Your vote,” Trump said in his speech closing the Republican convention Thursday night, “will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.”

“We will have law and order on the streets of this country,” Vice-President Mike Pence declared the previous evening, warning “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Neither Trump nor Pence mentioned the real threats to law and order in America today, such as gun-toting agitators like Rittenhouse, who, perhaps not coincidentally, occupied a front-row seat at a Trump rally in Des Moines in January.

Pence lamented the death of federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, “shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California”, earlier this year, implying he was killed by protesters. In fact, Underwood was shot and killed by an adherent of the boogaloo boys, an online extremist movement that’s trying to ignite a race war.

Such groups have found encouragement in a president who sees “very fine people” supporting white supremacy.

The threat also comes from conspiracy theorists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the recently nominated Republican candidate for Georgia’s 14th congressional district and promoter of QAnon, whose adherents believe Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Trump has praised Greene as a “future Republican star” and claimed that QAnon followers “love our country”.

And from people like Mary Ann Mendoza, a member of Trump’s campaign advisory board, who was scheduled to speak at the Republican convention until she retweeted an antisemitic rant about a supposed Jewish plan to enslave the world’s peoples and steal their land.

Clearly the threat also comes from hotheaded, often racist police officers who fire bullets into the backs of Black men and women or kneel on their necks so they can’t breathe. Needless to say, there was little mention at the Republican convention of Jacob Blake, and none of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.

And the threat comes from Trump’s own lackeys who have brazenly broken laws to help him attain and keep power. Since Trump promised he would only hire “the best people”, 14 Trump aides, donors and advisers have been indicted or imprisoned.

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W Giuliani – who ranted at the Republican convention about rioting and looting in cities with Democratic mayors – has repeatedly met with the pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach, whom American intelligence has determined is “spreading claims about corruption … to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party”.

In addition, federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine with two men arrested in an alleged campaign finance scheme.

Trump’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who had been a major Trump campaign donor before taking over the post office, is being sued by six states and the District of Columbia for allegedly seeking to “undermine” the postal service as millions of Americans plan to vote by mail during the pandemic.

Not to forget the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who spoke to the Republican convention while on an official trip to the Middle East, in apparent violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits officials of the executive branch other than the president and vice-president from engaging in partisan politics.

You want the real threat to American law and order? It’s found in these Trump enablers and bottom-dwellers. They are the inevitable excrescence of Trump’s above-the-law, race-baiting, me-first presidency. It is from the likes of them that the rest of America is in serious need of protection.

Words of Wisdom … But Will We Listen?

Once again, Robert Reich has wise words, but will this nation listen?  That, my friends, is the $64 million question.


Voters can replace a party that knows how to fight with one that knows how to govern

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

As America heads into its quadrennial circus of nominating conventions (this year’s even more surreal because of the pandemic), it’s important to understand the real difference between America’s two political parties at this point in history.

Instead of “left” versus “right”, think of two different core competences.

The Democratic party is basically a governing party, organized around developing and implementing public policies. The Republican party has become an attack party, organized around developing and implementing political vitriol. Democrats legislate. Republicans fulminate.

In theory, politics requires both capacities – to govern, but also to fight to attain and retain power. The dysfunction today is that Republicans can’t govern and Democrats can’t fight.

Donald Trump is the culmination of a half-century of Republican belligerence. Richard Nixon’s “dirty tricks” were followed by Republican operative Lee Atwater’s smear tactics, Newt Gingrich’s take-no-prisoners reign as House speaker, the “Swift-boating” of John Kerry, and the Republicans’ increasingly blatant uses of racism and xenophobia to build an overwhelmingly white, rural base.

Atwater, trained in the southern swamp of the modern Republican party, once noted: “Republicans in the south could not win elections by talking about issues. You had to make the case that the other guy, the other candidate, is a bad guy.” Over time, the GOP’s core competence came to be vilification.

The stars of today’s Republican party, in addition to Trump, are all pugilists: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Georgia’s Brian Kemp; Fox News’s Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson; and attack dogs like Rudolph Giuliani and Roger Stone.

But Republicans don’t have a clue how to govern. They’re hopeless at developing and implementing public policies or managing government. They can’t even agree on basics like how to respond to the pandemic or what to replace Obamacare with.

Meanwhile, the central competence of the Democratic party is running government – designing policies and managing the system. Once in office, Democrats spend countless hours cobbling together legislative and regulatory initiatives. They overflow with economic and policy advisers, programs, plans and goals.

But Democrats are lousy at bare-knuckles political fighting. Their presidential campaigns proffer policies but are often devoid of passion. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid was little more than a long list of detailed proposals. Democrats seem stunned when their Republican opponents pillory them with lies, rage and ad hominem attacks.

This has put Democrats at a competitive disadvantage. Political campaigns might once have been about party platforms, but today’s electorate is angrier and more cynical. Policy ideas rarely make headlines; conflict does. Social media favor explosive revelations, including bald lies. No one remembers Hillary Clinton’s policy ideas from 2016; they only remember Trump’s attacks on her emails.

As a result, the party that’s mainly good at attacking has been winning elections – and pushed into governing, which it’s bad at. In 2016, the Republicans won the presidency, along with control over both chambers of Congress and most governorships. On the other hand, the party that’s mainly good at governing has been losing elections – pushed into the role of opposition and attack, which it’s bad at. (The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, however, seems to have a natural gift for it.)

This dysfunction has become particularly obvious – and deadly – in the current national emergency. Trump and Senate Republicans turned the pandemic and economic downturn into American catastrophes. They have no capacity to develop and implement strategies for dealing with them. Their kneejerk response is to attack – China, Democrats, public health officials, protesters, “lazy” people who won’t work.

Democrats know what to do – House Democrats passed a comprehensive coronavirus bill in May, and several Democratic governors have been enormously effective – but they’ve lacked power to put a national strategy into effect.

All this may change in a few months when Americans have an opportunity to replace the party that’s bad at governing with the one that’s good at it. After all, Joe Biden has been at it for most of the past half-century.

Trump and the Republican party will pull out all the stops, of course. They’ve already started mindless, smarmy attacks. That’s what they know how to do.

The big question hovering over the election is whether Democrats can summon enough fight to win against the predictable barrage. Biden’s choice of running mate, Kamala Harris, bodes well in this regard. Quite apart from all her other attributes, she’s a fierce fighter.

The State Of The Nation …

A number of serious issues are deeply concerning in the U.S. today, and obviously the coronavirus pandemic is at the top of the list.  Well, it’s obvious to some of us, at any rate. Trump’s horrific bungling of the pandemic has caused the U.S. to have the absolute worst record on the globe, with now 27% of the world’s cases, while we only account for over 4% of the world’s population.  With less than 100 days until the November election, Trump apparently decided it would be easier  to draw public attention away from the virus, than to try to allow the experts to take over and fix the problem.  His distraction?  Attack the cities and the people who live in them. Today, I would like to share the esteemed Robert Reich’s Sunday column from The Guardian on this topic …


Trump can’t shift public attention from coronavirus to the streets of America

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

Donald Trump has said he has “no responsibility” for the coronavirus pandemic, fobbing it off on governors and mayors whose repeated requests for federal help he’s denied. Yet he’s now sending federal troops into cities he says are controlled by the “radical left”, whose mayors and governors don’t want them there.

The president wants to shift public attention from the virus, which he can’t “dominate”, to the streets of America, which he and his secret police can.

It’s an especially cynical re-election strategy because coronavirus deaths are rising again. More Americans are on track to be hospitalized with the virus than at any other point. Rates of new infections repeatedly shatter single-day records. As a result, the US economy is backsliding.

Trump has never offered a national strategy for testing, contact tracing and isolating those who have the disease. He has provided no standards for reopening the economy, no plan for national purchasing of critical materials, no definitive policy for helping the unemployed, no clear message about what people and businesses should do. He rushed to reopen without adequate safeguards.

The hapless White House “coronavirus taskforce” is in perpetual disarray. Trump has downgraded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). His Department of Labor hasn’t even put out standards for workplace safety.

Trump won’t use the Defense Production Act to secure supplies to perform tests – swabs, chemicals, pipette tips, machines, containers – so public health officials can’t quickly identify and isolate people who are infected and trace their contacts.

It’s been an abominable, chaotic mess – which is why the virus is back.

Yet when it comes to assaulting Americans, Trump has been asserting strong leadership. He’s deploying unidentified federal agents against protesters in Portland, Oregon: attacking them, pulling them into unmarked vans, detaining them without charges.

Trump is also sending troops to Kansas City, Albuquerque and Chicago. He says he’ll send them to New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland as well – not incidentally, all cities with Democratic mayors, large black populations and no violent unrest.

Trump can’t find federal personnel to do contact tracing for the coronavirus but has found thousands of agents for his secret police, drawn from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Trump doesn’t want to know about the coronavirus but he’s keeping careful track of the battles in the streets, demanding up-to-the-minute briefings from the front.

Public health authorities don’t have adequate medical equipment to quickly analyze coronavirus tests but Trump’s police have everything they need to injure protesters, including armored vans, teargas, and tactical assault weapons – “the best equipment”, Trump boasted last week.

There is no legal authority for this. The founders denied police power to the national government. The local officials in charge of keeping public order reject Trump’s troops. The mayor of Portland was teargassed this week. The mayor of Kansas City calls them “disgraceful”. Albuquerque’s mayor announced: “There’s no place for Trump’s secret police in our city.” Chicago’s mayor does “not welcome dictatorship”.

The one encouraging note – analogous to Sherlock Holmes’ dog that didn’t bark – is the absence of the US military. Unlike Trump’s lapdog attorney general, William Barr, the generals don’t want any part of it.

The Trump campaign is running fictitious ads portraying cities as overrun by violent leftwing mobs, and Trump’s shameless Fox News lackeys are depicting protesters as “rioters” and the “armed wing of Democratic party”.

At the same time, Trump is trying to suppress the truth about the coronavirus. The White House is instructing hospitals to report cases to the Department of Health and Human Services rather than to the CDC. Trump has muzzled the federal government’s most prominent and trusted virologist, Dr Anthony Fauci, while the White House tries to discredit him. In the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, Trump doesn’t even want to fund more testing and tracing, or the CDC.

After railing against the CDC’s guidelines for reopening schools as “very tough [and] expensive”, Trump this week pressured the CDC to issue more lax guidelines, some of which were written by White House officials instead of CDC experts.

Yet Trump won’t be able to shift public attention from the virus to the streets of America. The violence he’s trying to fuel and exaggerate is far less frightening to average voters than the virus, which is worsening by the day, especially in Texas, Florida, and other states that went for Trump in 2016. His blatant failure to contain it is causing people to die.

A Wake-Up Call

I’ve mentioned a few times that I wonder, as Trump sees his poll numbers sliding and as we move closer and closer to election day, what new tricks Trump will try to ensure his re-election.  It seems he has pulled a number of tricks out of his sleazy bag, but are there more?  Robert Reich’s column in The Guardian today shows us what has been done, and what is left that could happen.  We all need to be aware, to stay on our toes, to be ready to fight back.  And most of all … on November 3rd … VOTE!


Donald Trump’s re-election playbook: 25 ways he’ll lie, cheat and abuse his power

From now until November, opponents of the most lawless president in history face a fight for democracy itself

Robert Reich-4By Robert Reich

Donald Trump will do anything to be re-elected. His opponents are limited because they believe in democracy. Trump has no limits because he doesn’t.

Here’s Trump’s re-election playbook, in 25 simple steps:

1) Declare yourself above the law.

2) Use racist fearmongering. Demand “law and order” and describe protesters as “thugs”, “lowlife” and “rioters and looters”. Describe Covid-19 as “kung-flu”. Retweet posts from white supremacists. In your campaign ads, use a symbol associated with Nazis.

3) Appoint an attorney general more loyal to you than to America, and politicize the Department of Justice so it’s lenient on your loyalists and comes down hard on your enemies. Have it lighten the sentence of a crony convicted of lying under oath. Order investigations of industries you dislike.

4) Fire US attorneys who are investigating you.

5) Fire independent inspectors general who are looking into what you’ve done. Crush any whistleblowers you find.

6) Demean and ignore the intelligence community. Appoint a director of national intelligence more loyal to you than to America. Demand that the head of the FBI pledge loyalty to you.

7) Pack the federal courts with judges and justices more loyal to you than to the constitution.

8) Politicize the Department of Defense so generals will back whatever you order. Refer to them as “my generals”. Have them help clear out protesters. Order the military to surveil protesters. Tell governors you’ll bring in the military to stop protesters.

9) Purge your party of anyone disloyal to you and turn it into a mindless, brainless, spineless cult.

10) Get rid of accumulated experience and expertise in government. Demean career public servants. Hollow out the state department, the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and public health.

11) Reward donors and cronies with bailouts, tax breaks, subsidies, government contracts, regulatory rollbacks and plum jobs. Put their lobbyists in charge of your agencies. Distribute $500bn in pandemic assistance to corporations in secret, without any oversight.

12) Coddle dictators. Don’t criticize their human rights abuses. Refuse to work with the leaders of other democracies. Withdraw from international treaties.

13) Create scapegoats. Demonize migrants and lock up asylum seekers at the border, even if they’re children. Put a white nationalist in charge of immigration policy. Blame Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese.

14) Denigrate and ridicule all critics. Describe opponents as “human scum”. Attack the mainstream media as purveyors of “fake news” and “enemies of the people”.

15) Conjure up conspiracies supposedly led by your predecessor and your opponent in the last election. Without any evidence, accuse your predecessor of “treason”. Fabricate a “deep state” out to get you.

16) Downplay real threats to the nation, such as a rapidly spreading pandemicLie about your utter failure to contain it. Muzzle public health experts. Urge people to go back to work even as the pandemic worsens in parts of the country.

17) Encourage armed supporters to “liberate” states from elected officials who disagree with you.

18) Bribe other nations to investigate your electoral opponent and flood social media with lies about him.

19) Use rightwing propaganda machines like Fox News and conspiracy-theory-peddling One America News to inundate the country with your lies. Ensure that the morally bankrupt chief executive of Facebook allows you to spread your lies on the biggest media machine in the world.

20) Suppress the votes of people likely to vote against youIntimidate voters of color. Encourage Republican governors to purge voter rolls, demand voter ID and close polling places.

21) Seek to prevent mail-in ballots during the pandemic. Claim they will cause voter fraud, without evidence. Threaten to close the US postal service.

22) Get Vladimir Putin to hack into US election machinesas he did in 2016 but can now do with more experience and deftness. Promise him that in return you’ll further destabilize America as well as Nato. Let him even place a bounty on killing US troops in Afghanistan.

23) If it still looks like you’ll be voted out, try to postpone the election.

24) If you’re voted out of office notwithstanding all this, refuse to leave. Contest the election, claim massive fraud, say it’s a conspiracy, get your cult of a political party to support your lies, get your propaganda machine to repeat them, get your justice department to back you, get your judges and justices to affirm you, get your generals to suppress any subsequent rebellion.

25) Declare victory.

Memo to America: beware Trump’s playbook. Spread the truth. Stay vigilant. Fight for our democracy.

On The Lies About Voter Fraud …

Looking at the fiasco that was Georgia’s primary election last Tuesday, one cannot help wondering what is going to happen across the nation on November 3rd.  There are so many ways in which the Republican Party has worked tirelessly to disenfranchise certain groups of voters that we must question the fairness of any national election.  November’s election may well be the most important that has ever taken place in the history of this nation, and it may be the one that decides the future of the nation … whether we retain our Constitutional government or trade it for a dictatorship.

In addition to the gerrymandering that caused Trump to gain enough electoral votes to be ushered into the White House after the 2016 election, various states have put into place other restrictive measures, such as closing polling places, voter ID laws, and more.  Add to that the pandemic that is still killing more than a thousand people in this country almost every day, and you can see that mail-in voting is absolutely essential if we are to have anything approaching a free and fair election.  Mail-in voting would negate many of the restrictive rules that disenfranchise so many voters, particularly among the poor and minorities, and it would prevent the sort of fiasco we saw in Georgia on Tuesday.

And yet, Trump and his enablers are doing everything in their power to stop mail-in voting, including destroying the United States Postal Service (USPS).  One of the tactics they are using is claiming that voter fraud is rampant in states where mail-in voting is used.  Today, I give you Robert Reich’s answer to their false claims …

The Trump Presidency Is Over …

You have heard me say more than once that the United States has no president.  Turns out, I’m not alone in my thinking, but am in fact in very good company.  Nobody says it better than Robert Reich, so I shall turn the platform over to him …


Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over

Robert Reich-4 Robert Reich

You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. His verbal bombshells are louder than ever, but Donald J Trump is no longer president of the United States.

By having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office. 

He is not governing. He’s golfing, watching cable TV and tweeting.

How has Trump responded to the widespread unrest following the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for minutes as he was handcuffed on the ground?

Trump called the protesters “thugs” and threatened to have them shot. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted, parroting a former Miami police chief whose words spurred race riots in the late 1960s.

On Saturday, he gloated about “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” awaiting protesters outside the White House, should they ever break through Secret Service lines. 

Trump’s response to the last three ghastly months of mounting disease and death has been just as heedless. Since claiming Covid-19 was a “Democratic hoax” and muzzling public health officials, he has punted management of the coronavirus to the states.

Governors have had to find ventilators to keep patients alive and protective equipment for hospital and other essential workers who lack it, often bidding against each other. They have had to decide how, when and where to reopen their economies.

Trump has claimed “no responsibility at all” for testing and contact-tracing – the keys to containing the virus. His new “plan” places responsibility on states to do their own testing and contact-tracing.

Trump is also awol in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

More than 41 million Americans are jobless. In the coming weeks temporary eviction moratoriums are set to end in half of the states. One-fifth of Americans missed rent payments this month. Extra unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of July.

What is Trump’s response? Like Herbert Hoover, who in 1930 said “the worst is behind us” as thousands starved, Trump says the economy will improve and does nothing about the growing hardship. The Democratic-led House passed a $3tn relief package on 15 May. Mitch McConnell has recessed the Senate without taking action and Trump calls the bill dead on arrival. 

What about other pressing issues a real president would be addressing? The House has passed nearly 400 bills this term, including measures to reduce climate change, enhance election security, require background checks on gun sales, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and reform campaign finance. All are languishing in McConnell’s inbox. Trump doesn’t seem to be aware of any of them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with golfing, watching television and tweeting. But if that’s pretty much all that a president does when the nation is engulfed in crises, he is not a president.

Trump’s tweets are no substitute for governing. They are mostly about getting even.

When he’s not fomenting violence against black protesters, he’s accusing a media personality of committing murder, retweeting slurs about a black female politician’s weight and the House speaker’s looks, conjuring up conspiracies against himself supposedly organized by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and encouraging his followers to “liberate” their states from lockdown restrictions.

He tweets bogus threats that he has no power to carry out – withholding funds from states that expand absentee voting, “overruling” governors who don’t allow places of worship to reopen “right away”, and punishing Twitter for factchecking him.

And he lies incessantly.

In reality, Donald Trump doesn’t run the government of the United States. He doesn’t manage anything. He doesn’t organize anyone. He doesn’t administer or oversee or supervise. He doesn’t read memos. He hates meetings. He has no patience for briefings. His White House is in perpetual chaos. 

His advisers aren’t truth-tellers. They’re toadies, lackeys, sycophants and relatives.

Since moving into the Oval Office in January 2017, Trump hasn’t shown an ounce of interest in governing. He obsesses only about himself.

But it has taken the present set of crises to reveal the depths of his self-absorbed abdication – his utter contempt for his job, his total repudiation of his office.

Trump’s nonfeasance goes far beyond an absence of leadership or inattention to traditional norms and roles. In a time of national trauma, he has relinquished the core duties and responsibilities of the presidency.

He is no longer president. The sooner we stop treating him as if he were, the better.

Trump Has A Plan — We Should Be Afraid!

Trump apparently has a ‘plan’, a four-step plan, to open the U.S. for business again. His intent has nothing to do with the well being of the people of this nation, but is a thinly-disguised attempt to restore the economy and thus his approval rating prior to the November 3rd election.  The esteemed Robert Reich tells us why his plan is an abomination, why it will be lethal to the people of this country …


Donald Trump’s four-step plan to reopen the US economy – and why it will be lethal

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

The president and his allies are hiding the facts and pretending ‘freedom’ conquers all. As a result, more Americans will die

Donald Trump is getting nervous. Internal polls show him losing in November unless the economy comes roaring back.

But much of the economy remains closed because of the pandemic. The number of infections and deaths continue to climb.

So what is Trump’s re-election strategy? Reopen the economy anyway, despite the risks.

Step 1 – Remove income support, so people have no choice but to return to work.

Trump’s labor department has decided that furloughed employees “must accept” an employer’s offer to return to work and therefore forfeit unemployment benefits, regardless of Covid-19.

Trump’s ally, Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, says employees cannot refuse to return to work for fear of contracting the disease. “That’s a voluntary quit,” making someone ineligible for benefits.

GOP officials in Oklahoma are even threatening to withhold the $600 a week of extra unemployment benefits Congress has provided workers, if an employer wants to hire them. Safety is irrelevant.

“If the employer will contact us … we will cut off their benefits,” says Teresa Thomas Keller of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Forcing people to choose between getting Covid-19 or losing their livelihood is inhumane. It is also nonsensical. Public health still depends on as many workers as possible staying home. That’s a big reason why Congress provided the extra benefits.

Step 2 – Hide the facts.

No one knows how many Americans are infected because the Trump administration continues to drag its heels on testing. To date only 6.5m tests have been completed in a population of more than 200 million adults.

Florida, one of the first states to reopen, has stopped releasing medical examiners’ statistics on the number of Covid-19 victims because the figures are higher than the state’s official count.

But it’s impossible to fight the virus without adequate data. Dr Anthony Fauci, the administration’s leading infectious disease expert, warns that reopening poses “a really significant risk” without more testing.

Not surprisingly, the White House has blocked Fauci from testifying before the House.

Step 3 – Pretend it’s about “freedom”.

Weeks ago, Trump called on citizens to “LIBERATE” states like Michigan, whose Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, imposed strict stay-at-home rules.

Michigan has the third-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in America, although it is 10th in population. When on Thursday Whitmer extended the rules to 28 May, gun-toting protesters rushed the state house chanting: “Lock her up!”

Rather than condemn their behavior, Trump suggested Whitmer “make a deal” with them.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” he tweeted. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!”

Meanwhile, the attorney general, William Barr, has directed the justice department to take legal action against any state or local authorities imposing lockdown measures that “could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens”.

Making this about “freedom” is absurd. Freedom is meaningless for people who have no choice but to accept a job that risks their health.

Step 4 – Shield businesses against lawsuits for spreading the infection.

Trump is pushing to give businesses that reopen a “liability shield” against legal action by workers or customers who get infected by the virus.

This week, he announced he would use the Defense Production Act to force meat-processing plants to remain open, despite high rates of Covid-19 infections and deaths among meatpackers.

“We’re going to sign an executive order today, I believe, and that’ll solve any liability problems,” Trump said.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, insists that proposed legislation giving state and local governments funding they desperately need must include legal immunity for corporations that cause workers or consumers to become infected.

“We have a red line on liability,” McConnell said. “It won’t pass the Senate without it.”

But how can the economy safely reopen if companies don’t have an incentive to keep people safe? Promises to provide protective gear and other safeguards are worthless absent the threat of damages if workers or customers become infected.

The truth – The biggest obstacle to reopening the economy is the pandemic itself.

Any rush to reopen without adequate testing and tracing – far more than now under way – will cause a resurgence of the disease and another and longer economic crisis.

Maybe Trump is betting that any resurgence will occur after the election, when the economy appears to be on the road to recovery.

The first responsibility of a president is to keep the public safe. But Donald Trump couldn’t care less. He was slow to respond to the threat, then he lied about it, then made it hard for states – especially those with Democratic governors – to get the equipment they need.

Now he’s trying to force the economy to reopen in order to boost his electoral chances this November, and he’s selling out Americans’ health to seal the deal. This is beyond contemptible.

Text dividers

Isn’t it a damn shame that the person charged with seeing to the well-being of the nation actually poses the gravest danger to the people of that nation?  Think about it.

An Update And An Opinion

In a minute, I will share a piece by Robert Reich, but first I have an update on this morning’s post, King Donnie.  You may remember that I wrote about Trump claiming “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” and saying that it would be entirely up to him, not the states’ governors, when the country would re-open for business.  Well, it seems that mine were not the only feathers he ruffled with his rhetoric …

“I don’t know what the president is talking about, frankly. We have a constitution … we don’t have a king … the president doesn’t have total authority.” – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

“I am not running for office to be King of America. I respect the constitution. I’ve read the constitution. I’ve sworn an oath to it many times. I respect the great job so many of this country’s governors – Democratic and Republican – are doing under these horrific circumstances.” – Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden

“Nope. That would be the literal definition of a totalitarian government – which our traditions, our constitution, and our values all rightly and decisively reject.” – Steve Vladeck, Professor of Law at the University of Texas

“How & when to modify physical distancing orders should & will be made by Governors. But the Constitution & common sense dictates these decisions be made at the state level.” – Republican Senator Marco Rubio

I’m thinking maybe it’s about time for Trump to listen to the people who have actually read and understand the U.S. Constitution.  And now, I bring you Robert Reich on an entirely different topic and one of my own pet peeves …


America’s billionaires are giving to charity – but much of it is self-serving rubbish

Well-publicized philanthropy shows how afraid the super-rich are of a larger social safety net – and higher taxes

Robert Reich-4As millions of jobless Americans line up for food or risk their lives delivering essential services, the nation’s billionaires are making conspicuous donations – $100m from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for food banks, billions from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for a coronavirus vaccine, thousands of ventilators and N95 masks from Elon Musk, $25m from the Walton family and its Walmart foundation. The list goes on.

On Wednesday, Forbes released its annual billionaires list, happily noting that “the planet’s wealthiest are helping the global effort to combat the Covid-19 outbreak”.

I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but much of this is self-serving rubbish.

First off, the amounts involved are tiny relative to the fortunes behind them. Bezos’s $100m, for example, amounts to about 11 days of his income.

Well-publicized philanthropy also conveniently distracts attention from how several of these billionaires are endangering their workers and, by extension, the public.

With online sales surging, Amazon is on a hiring binge. But Bezos still doesn’t provide sick leave for workers unless they test positive for Covid-19, in which case they get just two weeks. On 20 March, four senators sent him a letter expressing concern that the company wasn’t doing enough to protect its warehouse workers.

Walmart’s booming sales have caused it to hire more than 100,000 workers over the past three weeks. But the firm failed to implement social distancing for two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced guidelines on 16 March. Several workers have died. Most still don’t have access to gloves, masks or hand sanitizer. They don’t get paid sick leave, not even at stores where employees have contracted the virus.

Musk initially dismissed sheltering as “dumb” and defied a sheriff’s order to shelter-in-place by keeping open Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, telling employees the factory was an “essential” business.

The third way conspicuous philanthropy is self-serving is by suggesting that government shouldn’t demand more from the super-rich, even in a national emergency. As Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal editorial page put it, if we had a wealth tax like Elizabeth Warren proposed, “it’s unlikely [Bill Gates] would have the capacity to act this boldly.”

That’s absurd. Warren’s tax would have cost Gates about $6bn a year, roughly his annual income from his $100bn.

Besides, all the billionaire charity combined is a tiny fraction of the trillions the government has already spent on the coronavirus crisis. How does the Journal believe we’re going to pay down this added national debt if the wealthiest among us don’t pay more taxes? Even when this nightmare is over, most Americans will be hard pressed.

And why should we believe that Gates or any other billionaire’s “boldness” necessarily reflects society’s values and needs? Oligarchies aren’t the same as democracies.

The worst fear of the billionaire class is that the government’s response to the pandemic will lead to a permanently larger social safety net.

“Once the virus is conquered – and it will be – the biggest risk will be the political campaign to expand government control over far more of American economic life,” warns Murdoch’s Journal.

After all, the Great Depression of the 1930s spawned social security and the minimum wage, as well as a widespread conviction that government should guarantee a minimum standard of living. The second world war yielded the GI Bill and then the National Defense Education Act, enshrining the government’s role as a financier of higher education.

Even programs that don’t enjoy wide popularity when first introduced, such as the Affordable Care Act, enlarge the nation’s sense of what is reasonable for the government to do for its citizens. The ACA lives on, more popular than ever, notwithstanding the GOP’s determination to repeal it and Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine it.

As the pandemic challenges the security and safety of all Americans, some conservative politicians are proposing things that would have been unthinkable – certainly unspeakable – only months ago.

The Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley is calling for the federal government to “cover 80% of wages for workers at any US business, up to the national median wage” until the crisis is over.

“Workers will benefit from the steady paycheck and the knowledge their jobs are safe,” he says.

Indeed. Hawley’s logic would as easily justify national paid sick leave and universal basic income, permanently.

If the pandemic has revealed anything, it’s that America’s current social safety net and healthcare system does not protect the majority of Americans in a national emergency. We are the outlier among the world’s advanced nations in subjecting our citizens to perpetual insecurity.

We are also the outlier in possessing a billionaire class that, in controlling much of our politics, has kept such proposals off the public agenda.

At least until now.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now.