The myth about the GOP before Trump

There is a belief pushed by the mainstream media that there was a GOP before serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) took over the party and a very different GOP after SSAT. In this view, before SSAT, the GOP had a mix of so-called moderates and extremists but the extremists were a minority and the party establishment consisted of moderates who could keep them in check and fob them off with small favors. But that is simply not true.

To find that old GOP, one has to go way back, as far back as the Eisenhower days and even then we had the anti-Communist hysteria led by Joe McCarthy loonies who had considerable influence. But it was with Richard Nixon that the GOP started its rapid slide to the far right and in its racist attacks on the poor and minorities, disguised as the war on crime. Over time, that mask of moderate dominance began to peel away steadily with people like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and the Tea Party becoming ascendant and the demonizing of government going into full swing. Sarah Palin’s ascendancy to becoming the vice-presidential nominee and her appeals to the ugliest sentiments of the electorate revealed the true face of the party. SSAT is the person who has finally and openly gloried in what the party has become. He is the word become flesh, to use a biblical metaphor.
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That was quick: Braverman sacked

UK’s prime minister Rishi Sunak has sacked his home secretary Suella Braverman, the vicious, right wing extremist who had been pandering to the basest attitudes and Islamophobes with her comments about how being homeless was a lifestyle choice and suggested that charities be prohibited from giving them tents, and that demonstrations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were “hate marches” and made up of pro-Palestinian mobs bent on desecrating national monuments. She had already been sacked once as home secretary by Liz (“loser to a head of lettuce”) Truss, the short-lived predecessor to Sunak as prime minister, a sacking that she also seemed to have sought.

I suspect that she was actually seeking to be fired as a means of increasing her profile as a possible alternative to Sunak for the party leadership, to portray herself as a bold truth-teller that the party establishment wants to silence. For that reason, I predicted that Sunak would refrain from firing her but I was wrong. He must have felt that having her in the cabinet was a greater liability than having her outside. Her supporters within the party are already rallying around.
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Ohio dead-enders seek to undermine referendum on abortion

You would think that it has become abundantly clear that people do not like extremely restrictive measures on abortion. While not all of them firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose and some may not particularly like the idea of abortion or want it to be too freely available, the majority seem to realize that exceptions are necessary in the case of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus seems to have serious problems. They also seem to want abortions to be available until viability, or until about two trimesters, which was the standard in Roe v. Wade before the US Supreme Court jettisoned it. Trying to enforce more restrictive measures results in voters coming out in force to reject those efforts, as we saw in Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and elsewhere.
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This is the GOP shutdown avoidance plan?

The House of Representatives and its GOP leadership seems to be floundering in its efforts to avoid a shutdown while placating its own members. The new speaker Mike Johnson unveiled a plan yesterday that seems needlessly convoluted.

Unlike ordinary continuing resolutions that fund federal agencies for a specific period, the measure announced by Johnson would fund some parts of the government until 19 January and others until 2 February. House Republicans hope to pass the measure Tuesday.

The Louisiana Republican appeared to be appealing to two warring House Republican factions: hardliners who wanted legislation with multiple end-dates; and centrists who had called for a “clean” stopgap measure free of spending cuts and conservative policy riders that Democrats reject.

The legislation would extend funding for military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and energy and water programs through 19 January. Funding for all other federal operations would expire on 2 February.

The House Republican stopgap contained no supplemental funding such as aid for Israel or Ukraine.

Even if this passes the house with purely GOP support, an iffy proposition at best since some have already said that they oppose it, its chances in the senate are small. Even if it passes there, the White House has thrown cold water on it.

So Johnson and the GOP will continue to waste time as the Friday deadline approaches.

Suella Braverman is a really awful person

The UK’s Home Secretary, a rising star in the UK’s Conservative party who is seen as a future prime minister, seems to be a real piece of work. Jonathan Pie rips into her for suggesting that people who live in tents are really making a ‘lifestyle choice’, rather than because they are homeless for reasons beyond their control, and thus deserve no assistance or even sympathy.

Braverman has also sided with far-right counterprotestors who clashed with police when they tried to disrupt a massive protest march of hundreds of thousands of people in central London protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and calling for a ceasefire.

The march took place amid heightened tension between the Met police and Suella Braverman, the home secretary, who last week accused the force of showing bias when it came to demonstrations and of favouring left-wing causes and what she called pro-Palestinian “mobs”.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, pinned the blame for the violence on Braverman who he claimed had stoked the tension and stirred up people on the far right. “The scenes of disorder we witnessed at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the home secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder,” he said.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister, also called for Braverman to resign. “The far-right has been emboldened by the home secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the police on Armistice Day. The home secretary’s position is untenable. She must resign.”

With Downing Street coming under pressure from Tory MPs from across the party to remove Braverman, Sunak last night condemned the “violent, wholly unacceptable” scenes. He said both the far right and “Hamas sympathisers” had been responsible.

Braverman did not comment last night. Dozens of Conservative MPs have been bombarding the whips with demands for her to be fired. Senior government sources indicated that the prime minister had not wanted Armistice Day commemorations to be overshadowed by the dismissal of a senior cabinet minister but that he was still considering sacking her.

She seems to be a perfect specimen of the current breed of vicious, hate-stoking, right wing extremist politicians, ruthless and ambitious, and willing to attack the poor and marhinalized. Sunak may not risk firing her in case it serves to increase her appeal with the right wing base and she uses that to threaten him for the premiership.

A clear-eyed look at the situation in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank

The death toll continues to rise in Gaza with the latest estimates at over 11,000, including over 4,000 children. And given Israel’s relentless bombing and the almost complete cutting off of water, food, medicine, and fuel to the Palestinian populatioon, those numbers are undoubtedly going to rise, with many people dying excruciatingly of hunger and thirst.

Adam Conover has a podcast series called Factually! where he tries to clarify important issues by inviting knowledgeable guests and having a thoughtful discussion with them. He is a good interviewer who does not try to make himself the center of attention but instead asks probing questions and allows the guest to speak uninterrupted. This is quite rare with TV interviewers. Some of you may recall Conover used to have a series Adam Ruins Everything where each episode humorously debunked popular myths. The new series is more serious in tone, though he does interject some levity when appropriate.

In a recent episode recorded on October 26, 2023, he interviewed Nathan Thrall about the situation in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank and I found it to be one of the best discussions about this very complex situation. Thrall is an American journalist and former director of the Arab-Israeli project at the International Crisis Group who lives in Jerusalem with his family and has worked with many groups in the region.

It was a sober and enlightening discussion. The interview is about an hour long but well worth listening to. Although I follow events in that region fairly closely, I learned many new things from Thrall about the nature of the situation of the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation and the history of the conflict.

Big wins for unions are wins for many others as well

The last few months have been good for trade unions in the US, long seen as being on the decline. We had strikes by the United Auto Workers,Writers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, all gain big wins, albeit after hard fought struggles.

United Auto Workers (UAW) strikes yielded pay raises and abolition of tiered wages that gave lower pay to newer hires. Tens of thousands of nurses, ER technicians, and pharmacists recently concluded their strike against Kaiser Permanente by winning 21 percent raises over the next four years. The prolonged Hollywood writers strike ended with studios granting almost three times their original pay offer.

UPS workers recently averted a strike by ratifying a five-year contract that their union hailed as “the most lucrative agreement the Teamsters have ever negotiated at UPS.” The topper: public approval of unions is at a six-decade high.

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The need for immigrants

The GOP has taken a very anti-immigrant stance. According to what they say they want, the borders should be shut to any newcomers. But as can be seen from this graph that shows how the US population would change under various assumptions about the level of immigration, that would not be a good thing.

Immigration is essential to the long-term health of the country, because otherwise people 65 years or older will outnumber children under 18 by 2029, putting stress on medical care and other services.

What the xenophobes are likely most scared about is the growth of the Hispanic population, expected by 2060 to make up 26.9% of the country (currently it is 19.1%) while the non-Hispanic white population, currently making up around 58.9%, will begin to decline in 2045 and may drop to 44.9% by 2060.

One suspects that if the influx of immigrants were from (say) Scandinavian countries, they would be welcomed.

And here we go with the shutdown threats, again

We are now just one week from the deadline for yet another government shutdown on November 17 with no deal in sight, even though the last deal was meant to provide 45 days to arrive at one. Much of that time was spent selecting the new speaker and since then members of the GOP in the House of Representatives have been busy passing important bills such as reducing the salary of secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg to $1 a year because they don’t like some of the things he has done. Of course, that bill is going nowhere in the senate.

To get an idea of how dysfunctional things are, let us look at how the whole budget process should play out, something that is called ‘regular order’. It starts with the president submitting on the first Monday in February a budget for the fiscal year starting October 1. Note that 70% of the government’s expenditures, such as social security, is mandatory and outside the budget process so that only 30% of all government spending is covered by the budget. But those areas are crucial to many aspects of people’s lives.
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Is this any way to run a family business?

Family businesses tend to keep tight control of the enterprise and have members of the family occupy key positions and make all the major decisions.

But not the Trump family business. If you take the testimony of the patriarch, his two sons, and daughter at the fraud trial in New York City at face value, it seemed like none of them knew what was actually going on even though they occupied key positions. They claimed ignorance of major decisions, or said “I don’t recall” to key events, implying that all they did was sign documents that underlings put before them without really knowing what was in them, let alone doing the minimum due diligence to make sure that what they were attesting to was correct. Legal experts explain the “I don’t recall” strategy.

This is of course their strategy, to imply that they could not have committed fraud if they did not have the intent to commit fraud, and that they were misled by others. It is similar to the defense strategy that Sam Bankman-Fried put forward in the FTX cryptocurrency fraud trial and which the jury overwhelmingly rejected.

The defense will begin putting forward its case today. Let’s see how far they are going with that strategy. This case is not before a jury but a judge who had already ruled against the company, that they had falsified the valuations of its various components. How long the defense lasts will depend on the number of witnesses they put on the stand. Given their strategy of delaying things as much as possible, expect to see them ask to put forward many witnesses, however little they may actually contribute to the facts of the case.