May 29 2020

George Floyd’s United States

In case you’ve forgotten George Floyd is just the latest Black American lynched and murdered by Police. Derek Chauvin has finally been charged with 3rd Degree Murder (only 3rd? Coroner says he can’t confirm asphyxiation- complicit bastard, we have it on video tape).

Admirably all 4 former Officers, 2 physically aided in the death, 1 just stood by and watched and threatened the Bystanders filming the appalling and premeditated (you might choke someone for a minute or two because you’re mad or scared, 8 minutes you don’t do by accident, 8 minutes is a long time with only one outcome) Murder, have been fired but the question you have to ask yourself is this-

If these are the only 4 Bad Apples in the Minneapolis Police Department, what are the odds they found themselves randomly on this call?

Four Racist Murderers? In the same place? At the same time?

I think the population of Racist Murderers in the Minneapolis Police Department represents a far larger portion of Minneapolis Police Officers than we are currently admitting.

Oh, and as for that “random” part, turns out George Floyd and Derek Chauvin worked together, so in the “good news” department maybe Minneapolis isn’t that Racist at all, maybe they’re just host to an extra-judicial and personally motivated Hit Squad, you know, like Magnum Force.

Feel better?

Then there’s this-

CNN reporter and crew arrested live on air while covering Minneapolis protest
By Kim Bellware and Elahe Izadi, Washington Post
May 29, 2020

Police arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his camera crew on live television just after 5 a.m. Friday as the team reported on the Minneapolis protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody.

The journalists were released hours later, but not before an outcry from other journalists and viewers, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), who denounced the arrests and issued a public apology.

“I take full responsibility,” Walz said during a Friday news conference. “There is absolutely no reason something like this should have happened.”

Jimenez had been reporting from an intersection that had experienced destruction during the protests.

CNN viewers witnessed police officers surrounding the journalists as Jimenez repeatedly said they would go where ordered. “Wherever you’d want us, we will go,” he said. “We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection, so just let us know and we got you.”

Jimenez then turned to narrate the scene when an officer told him he was under arrest. Jimenez was zip-tied by his wrists and led away.

The arrest, which happened during CNN’s “New Day” program, shocked hosts Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

“That is an American television reporter, Omar Jimenez, being led away by police officers,” Berman said. “He clearly identified himself as a reporter, he was respectfully explaining to the state police that our CNN team was there and moving away. … I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Police then arrested the other CNN crew members and took the network’s camera, which continued to roll.

Minnesota State Patrol later said in a statement that “in the course of clearing the streets and restoring order” at the intersection, police arrested four people, including three CNN crew members who “were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”

Josh Campbell, another CNN reporter who had been reporting from the Minneapolis streets cleared by police, later said on air “my experience has been the opposite of what Omar just experienced there,” and that he was told he was “permitted to be in this area.”

“You, Josh Campbell, are white, Omar Jimenez is not,” Berman said. “I do not know if that played into this.”

“What you just said crossed my mind as well about appearances here,” Campbell responded. “I can tell you I was treated much differently than he was.”

Others highlighted the race of the arrested reporter, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “This is not abstract: a black reporter was arrested while doing his job this morning, while the white police officer who killed George Floyd remains free,” Biden tweeted. “I am glad swift action was taken, but this, to me, says everything.”

Minnesota Nice. If you had Klobuchar in your Office VP Pool I think you’re out of luck.

May 29 2020

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Val Demmings: My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?

Val Demings, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing? [..]

When citizens were in trouble (if they had to call the police, they weren’t having a good day), they called really believing that when we arrived, things would get better. That they would be safe. But we are painfully reminded that all too often, things do not get better. Matter of fact, they can get much worse — with deadly results.

When an officer engages in stupid, heartless and reckless behavior, their actions can either take a life or change a life forever. Bad decisions can bring irrevocable harm to the profession and tear down the relationships and trust between the police and the communities they serve. Remember, law enforcement needs that trust just as the public does. Think before you act! Remember, your most powerful weapon is the brain the good Lord gave you. Use it!

We all know that the level of force must meet the level of resistance. We all can see that there was absolutely zero resistance from George Floyd. He posed no threat to anyone, especially law enforcement.

Eugene Robinson: Black lives remain expendable

o you want to prevent the kind of rioting, looting and arson we have seen in Minneapolis this week? Then stop police officers and racist vigilantes from killing black men, like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Stop treating African Americans like human trash and start treating us like citizens.

I condemn riots, destruction, property theft and all manner of senseless violence. But I understand the feeling that animates these spasms. When I watch the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, choking the life out of him and ignoring his cries of distress, I want to throw something. When I see the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael accosting and shooting Arbery, I want to throw something else. I can’t help but think of my own two sons and how, for either of them, a routine encounter with police — or a run-in with self-appointed sheriffs — could be fatal. I want to scream.

I feel this way even though I have status in this society, an income that allows me to live comfortably and a megaphone — in the form of this column and my television appearances — with which to make my complaints and opinions heard. I wonder how I’d feel if I lacked these things, if I were powerless and voiceless. I wonder where my frustration and rage would find their outlet. [..]

Just a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of white protesters, some carrying all manner of deadly weapons, stormed into the Michigan state capitol and disrupted legislators trying to do their official business. Police saw them as exercising their constitutional rights and let them come and go without incident.

A mostly black crowd protesting Floyd’s killing, on the other hand, was met Tuesday night with tear gas and rubber bullets. City officials perceived the Minneapolis unrest as an emergency. This nation needs to understand that life-threatening racism is an emergency, too.

Paul Krugman: On the Economics of Not Dying

What good is increasing G.D.P. if it kills you?

America is now engaged in a vast, dangerous experiment. Although social distancing has limited the spread of the coronavirus, it is far from contained. Yet despite warnings from epidemiologists, much of the country is moving to open up for business as usual.

You might think that such a momentous move would come with elaborate justifications — that politicians pushing an end to social distancing, from Donald Trump on down, would at least try to explain why we should take this risk. But those calling for quickly reopening have been notably silent about the trade-offs involved. Instead, they talk incessantly about the need to “save the economy.”

That is, however, a very bad way to think about economic policy in a pandemic.

What, after all, is the economy’s purpose? If your answer is something like, “To generate incomes that let people buy things,” you’re getting it wrong — money isn’t the ultimate goal; it’s just a means to an end, namely, improving the quality of life.

Now, money matters: There is a clear relationship between income and life satisfaction. But it’s not the only thing that matters. In particular, you know what also makes a major contribution to the quality of life? Not dying.

Jamelle Bouie: Did You Really Think Trump Would Mourn With Us?

The president’s indifference to collective grieving is of a piece with a political movement that denies our collective ties.

More than a hundred thousand lives have been lost to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, and while individuals and families have certainly grieved for their loved ones, there has been almost nothing in the way of a public remembrance of the lives lost. No national address; no moment of silence or official recognition beyond the occasional tweet. No sense from the president or his subordinates that these were untimely deaths — needless losses that ought to occasion collective mourning. There will be no speech like President Barack Obama’s in the wake of the Mother Emanuel shooting in Charleston; no address like President Ronald Reagan’s after the Challenger disaster.

Civil society has tried to fill the gap. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have devoted their pages to memorials, as have local and regional newspapers across the country. But the political vacuum matters. It’s also predictable.

The president’s indifference to collective mourning is of a piece with a political movement that denies our collective ties as well as the obligations we have to each other. If Trump represents a radical political solipsism, in which his is the only interest that exists, then it makes all the sense in the world that neither he nor his allies would see or even understand the need for public and collective mourning — an activity that heightens our vulnerability, centers our interconnectedness and stands as a challenge to the politics of selfishness and domination.

Greg Sargent: Trump just threatened to have looters shot. Biden urged calm. That says it all.

We need to more fully come to terms with an unpleasant truth. It begins here: Donald Trump simply does not accept that he has any institutional obligation of any kind as president to use the White House’s formidable communications powers to calm the nation at moments of severe tension and hardship.

Instead, he views it as beneficial to his reelection to actively incite further hatred. Because Trump’s self-interest matters incalculably more to him than the national interest does, so he will act.

Trump issued new tweets overnight that explicitly threatened military violence against looters in Minneapolis, where protests have erupted over the police killing of George Floyd.

“Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz, and told him that the Military is with him all the way,” Trump said, in a reference to the governor of Minnesota. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Twitter affixed a warning to this, noting it had violated its rules “about glorifying violence.”

Setting aside whether Trump will or even can do this, the intent of the threat itself is the thing here — not just to glorify violence but to glorify his willingness to threaten it against urban protesters, should they get out of hand.

The “thank you,” a phrase that often follows Trump’s tweeted self-praise, is a dead giveaway. It’s almost as if he’s taking a bow for having issued this threat, or saying he should be thanked for it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

May 29 2020

Drink Clorox!

I am absolutely not being sarcastic. What makes you think so?

Oh, him.

And please tell me you don’t take medical advice you haven’t verified (well, from me, TMC is a Doctor and a really good and high powered one) from some random Internet site that openly proclaims they traffic only in scurrilous rumors and vile calumny.

Ain’t the First Amendment grand?

May 29 2020

Cartnoon

Jenny Nicholson’s Coronavirus binge.

May 29 2020

The Breakfast Club (Enemy Of The Truth)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first to scale Mt. Everest’s peak; President John F. Kennedy born; Patrick Henry gives his “If this be treason” speech; Comedian Bob Hope born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

John F. Kennedy

Read the rest of this entry »

May 28 2020

How FISA Failed

I’m a stickler for following the rules. For instance I do in fact virtue signal by wearing a mask and gloves that I am willing to conform to make you comfortable with our public interaction. I was reluctant to give up the alliteration but in the original title “Failed” was two words, the first also starting with an “F” and the second of which was “Up”.

Do the math.

Pelosi pulls FISA bill as effort to renew surveillance tools crumbles
By JOHN BRESNAHAN, KYLE CHENEY and SARAH FERRIS, Politico
05/28/2020

House Democrats have pulled a bill to reauthorize parts of the federal surveillance program known as FISA, a stinging defeat for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislative machine provoked by a veto threat from President Donald Trump.

Pelosi announced Thursday that she would seek negotiations with Senate Republicans, a move that sends both parties back to the drafting table to resolve differences. Democrats had initially resisted because it would slow down the process. The stunning reversal, a rarity for Pelosi, leaves behind a political mess for both parties, with limited options unless Trump, again, changes course.

Hey, he’s against it? I’ll add that to the nearly blank 3 x 5 Card I list his accomplishments on (don’t want to get caught out on debate if somebody rhetorically asks “Say one good thing about him.”). I understand we’re leaving Afghanistan too.

In a letter to her members, the California Democrat said Republicans — at the urging of Trump — had “abandoned their support for our national security.”

“Clearly, because House Republicans have prioritized politics over our national security, we will no longer have a bipartisan veto-proof majority,” Pelosi wrote.

The House had been expected to easily approve the bill this week, with an unusual alliance of Republicans and Democrats who carried a similar version across the floor in March. But that fragile coalition collapsed this week as Trump suddenly intervened, issuing a veto threat that seemed to contradict his own administration’s efforts to renew the law.

GOP support for the measure quickly crumbled, forcing Democrats to summon the votes on their own.

But the Democratic caucus was facing its own revolt from the left, with about 100 progressives refusing to back legislation they saw as undermining privacy rights of Americans. And last-minute language from senior Democrats close to Pelosi, like House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), further muddied the waters for an uneasy left wing.

The retreat by Democrats comes after hours of frenetic, but ultimately unsuccessful, maneuvering by Pelosi and her leadership team on Wednesday. But it had been clear for much of the day that Democrats would not be able to win over enough progressives to pass the bill and send it to Trump’s desk.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged the difficult math on Wednesday evening, shortly after he and Pelosi called off their planned vote and sent members home for the night.

“Frankly, I never expected to win this vote – FISA has always been bipartisan,” Hoyer said.

Trump has rooted his objections to FISA renewal in his disputed claims that the FBI abused its surveillance powers to monitor his campaign in 2016. Though an inspector general review found that a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign aide Carter Page contained significant flaws and omissions, he didn’t conclude whether it would have been enough to invalidate the application altogether.

Ok, that was with a warrant. This Bill lets the FBI do it without a warrant and oh, they can search your Browser History too because Wyden’s Amendment was defeated.

And your Bill didn’t even have that Nancy.

But Trump’s animus toward senior FBI leadership has motivated him and other Republican allies to call for dramatic reforms to the FISA law, even over the efforts by Attorney General William Barr to preserve them largely unchanged.

Democratic objections mounted this week after key committee leaders negotiated an amendment to restrict the FBI’s ability to monitor the web browsing history of Americans. An amendment offered by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) failed in the Senate by a single vote, though the Senate passed its version of the FISA bill earlier this month on an 80-16 vote.

But House leaders had agreed to consider a version in the House offered by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), which seemed poised for passage.

After Republicans began pulling their support for the measure, Wyden, too, bristled at what he said was an inaccurate characterization of his amendment by Schiff. And he began urging the defeat of both the amendment and bill.

This is a bad Bill, bad policy, and I’d be happy to see it perish in a pit of eternal flame (“Kill it with fire!”).

May 28 2020

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Amanda Marcotte: Yes, Trump’s Twitter threats against Democrats are a “distraction” — but we can’t ignore them

Trump is desperate, and encouraging violence from his superfans. That’s dangerous, and we can’t look the other way

Donald Trump, by design, is a chaos monster who shovels crap out faster than people can process it. Unencumbered by normal human qualities like empathy or conscience, Trump can bounce from one awful behavior from another — grifting, sexual assault and harassment, racism, lying, conspiracy-mongering, criminal schemes — with astonishing speed, doing more wicked deeds in a day that what most aspiring villains can accomplish in a year or even a lifetime.

In an effort to get a handle on the endless deluge of awfulness pouring out of Trump, it’s become common to describe some of the godawful things he does as “distractions” from other awful things he does. It’s an effort to triage our response, apparently on the theory that figuring out which Trump evils rank higher than others can somehow sharpen our efforts to process and resist them. It’s an honorable desire based in empirical evidence: Indeed, Trump sometimes does or says nasty things to divert public and media attention from other nasty things he does or says. Unfortunately, this often fails to understand that the nasty stuff Trump does to distract us from other nasty stuff is incredibly dangerous on its own terms, and can’t just be shrugged off as a pure or content-free distraction.

Today’s case in point: Trump, who has frequently indulged in late-night binges of Twitter vitriol while most Americans are asleep, was at it again late on Wednesday night when he decided to promote a video by a cowboy cosplayer and Trump superfan named Couy Griffin declaring, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

“Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” Trump said of the video, which echoed a 19th-century slogan — “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” — used to justify genocide against Native Americans.

Laurence H. Tribe and Joshua A. Geltzer: Trump is doubly wrong about Twitter

On Tuesday, President Trump claimed — on Twitter, no less — that Twitter is “stifling FREE SPEECH,” thus suggesting that Twitter is violating the First Amendment. As usual, Trump is wrong on the law, but this time he’s even more wrong than usual. There is someone violating the First Amendment on Twitter, but it’s not Twitter — it’s Trump. What’s more, his threat on Wednesday to shut down Twitter altogether would mean violating the First Amendment in new ways. [..]

Here’s the irony: While Twitter isn’t using its platform to violate the First Amendment, Trump is. That’s not just our view; it’s what a federal appeals court held in a landmark decision last year. The court ruled that Trump was violating the First Amendment by blocking on Twitter those whose views he disliked. It is long-standing constitutional law that, when a government actor such as Trump creates a public forum in which different views are encouraged to be shared, the government can’t then pick and choose which voices to permit and which to silence. That’s what the court found Trump did, holding that, having used his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account as an official governmental public forum, Trump couldn’t then selectively censor his critics.

But it isn’t just that Trump is already committing the very violation of which he’s accusing Twitter: Astonishingly, Trump is now raising the possibility of aggravating his First Amendment offense by adding another. Apparently so outraged by Twitter’s accurately questioning his inaccurate tweets, Trump denounced social media platforms that “totally silence conservative voices” and threatened to “strongly regulate, or close them down.”

For Trump to do so would be an obvious First Amendment violation of its own. No matter what one thinks of Twitter, operating a social media platform that hosts a wide array of speech is, itself, a form of expression protected under the First Amendment. Just as Trump can’t shut down a newspaper because he doesn’t like one of its articles, he can’t close down Twitter — let alone all of social media — because he doesn’t like a warning affixed to a couple of his tweets.

Michelle Cottle: Trump Will Have His Coronation

If North Carolina won’t host the Republican Party’s convention, he’ll find a state that will.

On the somber occasion of Memorial Day, President Trump delivered a message to Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina: Nice little convention you have planned. Shame if anything happened to it.

The president’s precise wording was only slightly more subtle. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Charlotte the last week in August, less than three months from now. With the coronavirus still on the prowl, no one knows if it will be possible to hold such a gathering safely or if it might be a poor idea to cram tens of thousands of people into an arena for several days — not to mention turn them loose on the cocktail parties, dinners, breakfasts, panel discussions, policy luncheons, concerts, receptions, protests, counterprotests and other japery that surround these quadrennial spectacles.

But Mr. Trump will not be denied his hours of prime time and his coronation. Grousing that the state’s “Democrat governor,” Roy Cooper, is “still in Shutdown mood,” he demanded in a Monday Twitter thread that Mr. Cooper “guarantee” the festivities could proceed with “full attendance” as originally planned. If not, he threatened, “we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

Later that day, Vice President Mike Pence went further, floating three possible alternative states — Florida, Texas and Georgia — all “farther along on reopening” and all with Republican governors. He assured the viewers of “Fox & Friends,” “What you’re hearing the president say today is just a very reasonable request of the governor of North Carolina.”

No. What the public is hearing is an ultimatum grounded not in reason but in what serves Mr. Trump’s political ambitions and personal neediness.

Peter H. Shuck: Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line

The president’s innuendo about the death of a congressional staffer in 2001 could lead to a costly court judgment against him.

President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts — gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal. But Mr. Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him.

Here are the key facts. Ms. Klausutis, age 28, died in the Florida district office of a Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, who was then in Washington. The police found no evidence of foul play and the coroner reported that the cause of death was a hard fall against a hard object precipitated by her floppy mitral valve disease. [..]

Although the tweets targeted Mr. Scarborough, his own infliction of emotional distress claim may be weaker than Mr. Klausutis’s. By shrugging off the tweet as simply political gamesmanship on the president’s part, Mr. Scarborough may not have suffered the “severe emotional distress” required for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

Even so, Mr. Scarborough might succeed in a defamation suit against Mr. Trump for reputational harm. After all, the president’s innuendo that Mr. Scarborough may have murdered Lori Klausutis — presumably credible to the many Trump Twitter followers who subscribe to conspiracy theories — may seriously harm Mr. Scarborough’s reputation with them and others.

May 28 2020

Think Like A Majority!

Our views are Super Majority Mainstream. Really.

Republicans Think They Can Get Away With It. They Might Be Right.
By Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, The New York Times
May 27, 2020

Does the Republican Party have a death wish?

Its most prominent leaders — particularly President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader — have dug themselves into positions that defy all conventional rules of electoral survival. In an election year, even ideologically extreme politicians should try to do popular things and avoid doing unpopular things — if for no other reason than so that they can resume pursuing their extreme goals after Election Day.

Instead, top Republicans in Washington are pulling out all the stops to do unpopular things and avoid doing popular things. Their main proposals — more tax cuts for the rich, corporate legal immunity, pushing the post office into bankruptcy — have strikingly little support among voters, even among Republican voters. Meanwhile, they are resisting highly popular measures, such as additional relief for states, localities and ordinary workers, that would almost certainly increase their likelihood of holding onto power this fall.

This situation isn’t just surreal. It’s genuinely scary. In a democracy, leaders of a governing party shouldn’t act as if they can brazenly defy large majorities of voters and still hold onto power. The alarm bells only get louder when you begin to examine why current Republican leaders think this way — and why they might be right.

This situation isn’t just surreal. It’s genuinely scary. In a democracy, leaders of a governing party shouldn’t act as if they can brazenly defy large majorities of voters and still hold onto power. The alarm bells only get louder when you begin to examine why current Republican leaders think this way — and why they might be right.

The United States is a profoundly polarized nation. Yet despite angry protests on the far right, the pandemic has actually lessened the divide among American voters. Large bipartisan majorities favor much more aid to states, localities and workers; believe the federal government has primary responsibility for ensuring adequate Covid-19 testing; and support a cautious reopening of the economy guided by public health expertise.

By contrast, large bipartisan majorities oppose states having to declare bankruptcy; the post office going insolvent; helping out corporate executives, the wealthy and big business with bailouts and other special deals; states handling testing on their own or a quick reopening without robust safeguards.

Rather than celebrating and heeding this unusual convergence, top Republicans in Washington have snubbed it. They have rejected what bipartisan majorities demand and demanded what bipartisan majorities reject. And they’ve done so knowing that voters will soon get their say.

In a few cases, they may believe voters will eventually move toward the party’s stances. In others, they may be posturing so Democrats have to yield costly concessions. And yet, as the stalemate wears on, it becomes harder and harder to avoid the simplest explanation for Republicans’ poisonous positions: They are devoted to them, and they think they can get away with them.

Their devotion may be shocking, but it really shouldn’t be surprising. Since the 1990s, Republicans have increasingly embraced the most extreme goals of the party’s corporate and big-money supporters. In 2017, Republican leaders advanced an agenda that managed to feature the two most unpopular pieces of major legislation of the past quarter century: repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and big, deficit-funded tax cuts for corporations and the rich. The former barely failed. The latter narrowly passed after Republican donors made clear that, if the party didn’t deliver, the funding spigot would run dry.

As the official death toll from Covid-19 passes 100,000, these plutocratic priorities look even more glaring. Amid a crisis that’s laid bare American inequality, Republicans’ first instinct has remained the same: to go to the mat for the superrich. They’ve twisted relief bills to provide unrelated tax cuts and no-strings bailouts, shuttered the Senate amid a national health and economic crisis (though opened it long enough to strong-arm conservative judges onto the bench) and continued to float toxic ideas in an election year — say, making people give up some of their Social Security benefits in return for a financial lifeline today. If there’s an idea popular among conservative billionaires and nobody else, Republicans are probably pushing for it now.

But if Republicans lose big in the fall, then those who benefit from their consistent embrace of plutocracy lose, too. Why do Republicans and their organized allies think they can get away with it — or at least have a good enough chance to justify the risk?

The answer offers a stark warning about American democracy. Republicans benefit from two formidable bulwarks against electoral accountability. The first is tribalism: Republican elites have encouraged their high-turnout voting base to see every election as an epic battle to save white Christian America from a socialist, secular, gun-seizing left, with right-wing media and surrogate groups like the N.R.A. leading the charge.

The second bulwark isn’t solely of Republicans’ creation. Our political system guarantees less populated areas outsize clout in the Senate and gives control over election administration to the states. Republicans have built a growing advantage in rural America over the past two decades. The result is that the Senate (and, to a lesser extent, the Electoral College) remains a counter-majoritarian stronghold — not invulnerable to electoral reversal but highly resistant to it.

At the same time, Republicans in red states have used partisan gerrymandering and voter restrictions to disadvantage citizens outside their base. The latter include voter ID laws, the indiscriminate purging of the voter rolls and rules that make it harder to register, get to the polls, vote early and (especially crucial now) vote remotely. In the latest move, the Republican National Committee and other Republican groups sued California to stop the state from mailing all registered voters absentee ballots for the fall election. Besides being fundamentally at odds with democratic equality, all these efforts further undermine electoral accountability.

In the pandemic, these strategies have become much more dangerous. If Republicans stick to their unpopular positions, they will have to build their twin bulwarks even higher to escape accountability, magnifying racial and cultural divisions and undermining free and fair elections in ways that threaten not just the health of citizens but the health of our democracy.

Republicans could end up losing, despite all this. But their determination to defy the most basic law of electoral gravity — that you respond to the pull of voters as an election approaches — should set off a blaring alarm. In the midst of a health and economic catastrophe, they are putting their dangerous indifference to popular sentiment to the ultimate test.

Institutional Democrats are craven cowardly idiots if they are not complete and total sellouts.

Yeah Andy, tomorrow unless I get ambitious or something distracts me.

May 28 2020

Cartnoon

Samwise Gamgee calls ’em ‘taters.

May 28 2020

The Economist

The Economist is an incredibly conservative and conventional magazine about, Surprise!, Economics. If you are not familiar with it perhaps the best analogy is a glossy Wall Street Journal without Murdochs.

And it’s very British.

They are not sanguine.

A decline in GDP of 10% usually has professional Economists debating whether it is a Recession or a Depression.

Dismal Earnings, Bullish Stock Investors and the Fed’s Invisible Hand
By Matt Phillips, The New York Times
May 27, 2020

Wall Street analysts have grown increasingly pessimistic in recent weeks about the outlook for corporate profits, even as investors have pushed markets steadily higher, breaking the link between analyst forecasts and the direction of stock prices.

Most companies in the S&P 500 stock index have reported their first-quarter earnings, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on profits is becoming clear, at least for January through March. On a per-share basis, profits of S&P 500 companies fell by 13 percent, making it the worst slump since 2009.

Analysts think things will get worse before they get better. At the end of March, the consensus among analysts was that profits at companies that make up the index would sink a modest 1.8 percent in 2020. But after digesting the financial reports of companies from Agilent Technologies to Zions Bancorp, they now think 2020 profits will tumble more than 20 percent.

Any finance textbook’s section on equity prices holds that the direction of the stock market is determined, to a large extent, by the profits and dividends that shareholders expect companies to produce in the future. And academic research has repeatedly shown that when Wall Street analysts revise their forecasts for a company’s profits, it can move share prices.

Traders and investors routinely take note of when analysts erase earlier expectations, using those revisions as a real-time gauge of how the fundamental business prospects of corporate America are looking.

Going by the conventional wisdom, the current collapse in profit expectations — and analysts’ woeful prognoses for future earnings — should be clobbering share prices. But investors don’t appear to be taking their cues from analysts. The S&P 500 has soared more than 30 percent over the last two months.

To be sure, investors priced in some downturn in profits when stocks suffered a 34 percent collapse in February and March. They were right, and the pain, reflected in earnings reports, was widespread.

Firms that rely on discretionary consumer spending were, unsurprisingly, hammered. The casino operator Las Vegas Sands posted a first-quarter loss of $51 million, compared with a profit of $744 million during the same period last year. Profits fell 92 percent for the hotel company Marriott International. The cruise line Carnival lost $781 million during the first quarter. Even Amazon.com, ideally positioned for a world reliant on home deliveries, saw profits fall 29 percent as the costs of keeping open during the crisis increased.

Over the last few weeks, disappointing earnings announcements sent share prices down 1 percent on average. (That’s far less than the nearly 3 percent drop stocks suffered on average after falling short of expectations in recent years, according to research from the data provider FactSet.)

Close observers of stocks won’t be surprised. After all, market sentiment has grown increasingly detached from the abysmal outlook for economic growth, another supposedly fundamental building block of market prices. Instead, stocks have climbed even as the consensus expectation among Wall Street economists forecasts a 30 percent annualized rate of decline for gross domestic product this quarter, according to FactSet.

Plenty of explanations have been offered to help explain the market’s blasé approach to a bleak reality facing corporate America. Some say the bad economic news was already priced in during the March collapse. Others argue that markets are simply “discounting” — that is basically betting — that the U.S. will enjoy a V-shaped, or robust, economic recovery. Another argument is that investors, who tend to be forward-looking, are simply setting their sights on a future where the pandemic is a distant memory.

The most powerful reason is simpler: It’s the actions of the Federal Reserve.

Since March 23 — the day the stock market rally began — the Fed has done its best to ensure that the returns on bonds are quite low by signaling its willingness to buy unlimited quantities of Treasury and government-backed mortgage bonds. It has also ventured into buying corporate bonds, which helped push yields on such bonds lower too. The goal, in part, is to push investors away from the safety of the bond markets and into riskier assets, like stocks.

In a recent note, analysts at JPMorgan argued that these programs by the Fed “likely has a bigger positive impact on equity valuation, compared with the negative impact of the temporary earnings loss.”

Translation: The Fed’s efforts to keep interest rates and bond yields low has more than offset the collapse in profits for S&P 500 companies, helping to keep the market aloft even though corporate profitability and the economy look like they will be gloomy for a while.

A similar thing happened during the last financial crisis. Interest rates and bond yields fell to low levels that would have been unthinkable previously, which many partly attributed to central bank actions. And for the years that followed prices of assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate all rallied to levels that looked high relative to the sluggish level of economic activity after the crisis.

So while corporate profits are supposed to be the fuel that revs the stock market’s engine, in the short term, Federal Reserve policy remains in the driver’s seat. That explains why investors are willing to ignore what analysts have to say, at least for the moment.

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