What’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill?

Another big legislative win crossed the line for Biden’s agenda late this Friday night: the $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill passed the House with 6 Democrats dissenting and a whopping 13 Republicans joining to finally bring Infrastructure Week to the American people. Still to come is the other partner to the twin bills circulating in Congress, the Build Back Better reconciliation bill that would add another $2T to the most Keynesian U.S. budget in decades.

Nevertheless, the bill is largely paid for via various means including adding significantly to economic growth and GDP over the next 10 years. The Biden infrastructure bill will not raise taxes on any families making less than $400,000, a campaign promise the president consistently made and has now delivered upon.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is the second significant piece of legislation passed under Biden’s tenure in the White House, following the $1.9T American Rescue Plan back in March to successfully tame the covid-19 pandemic.

Infrastructure Bill 2021: Breakdown

What’s in the bill? A slate of sorely needed national funds to modernize our transportation, energy, and broadband systems, including provisions for increasing renewables and lowering emissions on a large scale to combat climate change. Here’s a list of what’s included in the largest single infrastructure investment in American history:

  • $110B for roads, bridges, & other infra
  • $11B for transportation safety
  • $39B to modernize public transit, including replacing 1000s of vehicles with zero-emission models
  • $66B to modernize passenger and freight rail
  • $12B for high-speed rail
  • largest federal investment in public transit in history
  • $65B in broadband
  • $42B in airports and ports, including emissions reduction and low-carbon technologies
  • $7.5B for 0- and low-emissions buses (including school buses) and ferries
  • $7.5B for national network of EV chargers
  • $65B to rebuild the electric grid
  • $55B to upgrade water infrastructure
  • $50B to critical infrastructure cybersecurity
  • $21B to clean up toxic waste

Freedom produces diversity

Freedom means the right to make choices. When you have a large population, that means many different kinds of people are making many kinds of different choices for different reasons. That means, mathematically speaking, a broad distribution graph of options chosen over time. Freedom produces diversity, as a direct consequence of its own laissez-faire philosophy.

The Founders knew this. James Madison was an intellectual of his day, and a polymathic student of the great ideas of his time. It is hard not to see the influence of exposure to Condorcet’s theory about decision-making in Madison’s later ideas about diffusing the flames of factions by essentially dousing them in the large numbers of people spreading out within the growing nation. He believed that ideas and interests that were actively opposing each other would be a good way to preserve enough vigor to sustain an active self-governing democracy.

Regardless of the origin, Madison clearly himself was advocating for the power of diversity to preserve the very republic. He believed that this diversity of views in fact provided the structure that would help prevent singular demagogues from rising up too far and destroying democracy forever in their quest for unlimited power. The founders shared this foresight — that giving Americans the freedom to live as they may would lead to a healthy democracy, through the promulgation of different ideas and knowledge as well as through vigorous debate.

You can’t have freedom without diversity

Many who cite Freedom as their patriotic raison d’Γͺtre do not seem to tolerate well the exercise of freedom by others, particularly others they disagree with or do not like. But as the great Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” She had the insight that if her rights could be taken away from her, then no one else’s rights would be safe in this nation either.

America has always struggled to live up to its founding ideals — but it seems like if we want to truly honor their memories, we would continue to take that vision at face value and continue to carry the light of the torch of equality, perhaps upwards to the crest of a hill from whence we may shine once again.

Neoliberalism Explained: Why it must be dismantled

Or: How Milton Friedman destroyed Western civilization, the neolliberalism story.

An economic ideology first theorized in the 40s and 50s by scholars, it was brought to popular attention in the 1970s by the works of economist Milton Friedman and novelist Ayn Rand among others. It grew in popularity and became widely adopted in U.S. economic policy beginning with Ronald Reagan in the 80s.

The essential heart of neoliberalism is the idea of the rich as top performers and job creators, driving the economy forward through their achievements and innovations; and that societies work best with little government regulation and where citizens are shaped to work according to market principles. Its adoption as a major driver of policy effectively undid many of the gains to middle class opportunity created by the New Deal, FDR’s ambitious public works project that pulled the nation out from the grips of the Great Depression following the 1929 crash on Wall Street.

Neoliberalism is the dominant economic orthodoxy in the modern era. It is both a political and a financial ideology, with the following extremist beliefs:

  • Antigovernment sentiment — Their pitch is that all governments, including democratic ones, threaten individual liberty and must be stopped (or “drowned in the bathtub,” in the words of anti-tax zealots and movement conservatives).
  • Free markets should conquer governments — They claim, absurdly, that the toppling of self-governance would improve both economies and individual liberties.
  • The victory of markets is inevitable and there is nothing you can do about it — The fall of the Soviet Union was deemed the “end of history” by neoliberals, who believed that laissez-faire free market capitalism would inevitably triumph over all other forms of economic and political systems.
  • Economies work best when governments don’t intervene — Neoliberals want to prevent the powers of government from interfering with their ability to cut corners, dump industrial waste, pay fair wages, offer benefits, adhere to safety standards, engage in deceptive advertising, commit tax evasion, and so on — while continuing to supply them a steady stream of the public’s money via unpaid for tax cuts that balloon holes in the deficit. They fight against regulation tooth and nail, and try to claim that markets operate “naturally” as if under something akin to laws of physics — while failing to mention that there are no markets without regulation, without standards of fairness, without a justice system to enforce contracts and do its best to ensure a relatively equal business playing field.
  • The alchemy of neoliberalism will transmute greed into gold for everyone — The neoliberal promise is about spreading wealth, freedom, and democracy around the world — at the barrel of a gun, missile, or drone if necessary. Neoliberals consider greed to be the essence of human nature, and have modeled an entire societal system around this most base of human instincts. They claim, improbably — and surely many are True Believers — that narcissism and the aggressive pursuit of power and wealth will somehow magically create peace, happiness, and riches for everyone.

The insistence that governments and self-rule should be subordinated to the ultra-rich, to the oligarchs — that, to me, is the core essence of why this framework is evil. The staggeringly dissonant conviction about transforming sociopathy into global peace is a very close second.

Since the 1970s and accelerating with Reagan years, wealthy elites in the right wing have been spending gobs of their ill-earned wealth on creating a conservative movement echo chamber of think tanks, talk radio, literature, televangelists, YouTube streamers, and more — it is the vast right-wing conspiracy Hillary Clinton warned us about. It most certainly exists, and it most certainly is aggressively pursuing its political aims to disenfranchise the American people as fully as possible, so as to better walk away with an absurdly unjust share of the mutually created wealth by the wealth of intelligent and diligent labor here in the United States.

Common whites

It appeals to the MAGA crowd because it allows them to vicariously tag along with the rich and powerful right-wing bigots who flaunt and dangle their wealth in front of the plebes by which to entice them to open up their wallets and send in a meagre donation for this or that white victimhood fund that does nothing but enrich the scam artists who run it as a hollow shell. It validates their hardcore white supremacy and casual racism alike, provides the sadistic satisfaction of attacking their enemies (symbolically and/or literally), gives them something to do and believe in, and keeps them entertained while their pockets are being fleeced in broad daylight.

Neoliberalism has succeeded in undermining some of the last shreds of democratic infrastructure and civic goodwill in society at this point in American political history. The defenses brilliantly architected by the Founders to ensure checks and balances would manage the power games in Washington to within workable levels have frayed even further under 4 years of Trump, and the vitriol of the January 6 coup attempt and insurrection that’s fueled further right-wing Big Lie entrenchment and domestic terrorist extremism.

Democracy is in crisis, and neoliberalism the culprit of this hostage story.

At least Joe Biden is correct in his analysis of the solution: we should tax the rich.

Fascists became conservatives in the 1920s and 30s

(notes / draft) Who were the early conservatives? Former fascists and Nazi sympathizers in the US.

1930s opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

3 main right-wing factions then:

  1. libertarians — right-wing economics faction led by Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, & Friedrich Hayek
  2. traditionalists — William F. Buckley, National Review (1955), Barry Goldwater
  3. anti-communists and Nazi sympathizers — John Birch Society, Robert Welch, Fred Koch, William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, McCarthyites

After the Allies won World War II, a number of the early Hitler sympathizers “hid out” in anti-communist circles, allowing them to cloak their underlying fascism inside of the American Cold War project and give it a semi-presentable face in conservatism.

In the 1970s, 2 more conservative groups emerged for a total of 5 main sects:

4. neoconservatives — Ronald Reagan

5. the religious right — the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell Sr. & Jr., Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Fae Baker, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms, Paul Weyrich, Paul Regnery, William Rusher, prosperity gospel

Conservatives became fascists again in 2016

The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States gave permission to all the closet fascists practicing ketman as conservatives to come right on out and let their freak bigotry flags fly.

All the little white power sleeper cells and now networked anti-government militia groups were let off the chain and invited to take a swing at our national sovereignty and see if they could steal the American government for him. Thanks to the strength and integrity of numerous civil servants and others they did not succeed — however, the festering mass of fascism isn’t going anywhere much just yet.

Other topics

will be fleshing out further:

  • neoliberals & theocons — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and others who led us into forever wars in the Middle East
  • MAGA
  • white supremacists & Lost Cause religion
  • right-wing anti-government violence
    • domestic violent extremism
  • conservative ideology
    • a form of totalism

Trump is driving Evangelicals from the flock

It’s been said that the devilish ways of pedophiliac liberal Democrats are killing Christianity in America, but the numbers tell a different story. Following the 2016 Armistice in the War on Christmas, Donald Trump yet managed to drive 1 in 7 Evangelicals from the fold, according to data from Pew and PRRI.

Far from the surge in True Believers prophesied by the right wing, the religious right’s deal with the proverbial and/or literal devil seems to have driven members away. Trump is losing Evangelicals, and really — should we be so shocked? If it doesn’t matter (to some) whether our leaders are serial philanderers and lifelong business cheats, or earnestly striving public servants spreading compassion — what use is their moral code, then? None. It is bankrupt.

ShrΓΆdinger’s Moral Leadership

The religious right can’t have it both ways — either moral leadership is important, or it isn’t. It can’t selectively be important *only* when a Democrat is in power. Evangelicals also need to make a choice between God and Caesar. Prosperity gospel is the latter and not the former, but many pretend otherwise or are fooled — after all, fool’s gold can still fool.

Cognitive dissonance upon dissonance continues to fall in the totally unraked forest of right-wing values. I’m aiming to continue pulling on a few threads connecting the religious right, and Evangelicals in particular, to the rise of political extremism in the Republican Party:

  • The pitch that winning the culture war is more important than God’s law is thin at best
  • Donald Trump is not a Christian
  • The “imperfect vessel” fails as moral justification
  • Jesus didn’t care about tax cuts
  • Christian leaders’ claims that politics is amoral ground beyond the reach of God’s teachings is self-evident nonsense
  • Christians are leaving their own moral house unguarded. No one is showing the living proof of Jesus’ teachings anymore — and it’s not the fault of the people on the left who weren’t doing it before.

Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies

  • proteanism is Robert Jay Lifton’s idea of a model for the self that could serve as an aspirational escape hatch from the clutches of cultism, which is otherwise always happening
  • cultism (i.e. “losing reality“) is what happens “by default” if effort is not made to form and maintain healthy cultures
  • cultism is what most individuals devolve to or maintain throughout their lives, if they lack proteanism
  • I believe professor Lifton is onto something real in this particular interpretation of our Manichaean struggle — in which the political left and the right have self-sorted into separate clusters with wildly disparate interpretations of reality
  • the cultists are dying (quite literally) for the words of a delusional sociopath who swept them out of power with his spew of thinly veiled white supremacy and gold veneer charm
    • they want the apocalypse to come
    • The oil preachers have brainwashed the masses into believing climate change is The Rapture — they want climate change. They think it’s God’s plan.

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder

  • we all get stuck in our own mental loops sometimes. Some people are exclusively stuck in their own mental loops — most are disregarded, but some achieve wide notoriety, wealth, and sometimes political power.
  • Some nefarious mental predators thrive on getting other people stuck in *their* loops — everyone from garden variety abusers to cult leaders take this general approach to convincing others to abandon their own ways of thinking and spend all their time consumed with thoughts of The Authority’s Philosophy. Some individuals with an authoritarian worldview willingly submit to a strongman and abdicate decision-making to untrustworthy others.
  • Charismatic leaders have ruled over human groups since the dawn of humanity itself, but only in the past century with the invention of mass media technologies and techniques have demagogues been able to achieve a kind of totalist saturation of the common space and common understanding — giving them an ability to spin the entire agenda in their favor, and in turn, effectively “own reality”
  • When a leader with a personality disorder achieves power, he draws the other antisocial sleeper cells out of hiding for the coming feast.
  • The leader installs his cronies into positions of power and corrupts the institutions that are meant to safeguard democracy. Instead of acting as a bulwark against nefarious intent, these agencies begin to look the other way against crimes committed by the leader and his buddies — and later, will directly participate and optimize their contributions.

The enemy at the gates is us

  • Cultism can be induced very simply, by stressing a population. That’s it — that’s all it takes, for people to turn inward, become suspicious, and react with excessive fear in the face of gnawing uncertainty.
  • It takes strong character to resist the siren songs of disinformation and spoon-fed flattery
  • Building strong character is hard work. Much much harder than most people are interested in putting in — or even capable of
  • Consequently, many people of weak character are easily taken in by con men, grifters, and slick talkers of all stripes.
  • However, these con artists are very good at one thing: convincing people of weak character that specific enemies are to blame for all their troubles, and getting them to give money or take action against these Satanic Democratic pedophiles who want to ruin the world with their Leftist Apocalypse, instead of ruining the world with the proper Rightist Apocalypse and Rapturing all the evil elites away!
  • These pawns, peons, and proles will dutifully go looking over hill and dale, under Pelosi’s chair for the violent Antifa socialists who want to take over the government
  • They want to build a physical border wall to keep out poor, bedraggled refugees while allowing foreign bidders to pay pennies on the dollar to buy political influence through Facebook, Google, and other unregulated new media platforms
  • It’s McCarthyism turned on its head — but since we’ve already cried wolf once, no one will really believe that Russians pulled off the greatest psyops campaign of all time
proteanismcultism
seeks expansion of event horizonradical reduction of the "size of the universe" and human potential
open systemclosed system
personal growthstagnation; stasis
Bayesian logicmotivated reasoning
collects dataselective exposure
positive disintegrationimmaturity
questions authorityfollows orders
new ideasold dogma
improvisationalritual
iterativerecursive
expansivelimited
motivated by lovemotivated by fear
generativedestructive

Liberal values vs. Authoritarian worldview

The following list must be prefaced with some caveats about painting with broad strokes, and acknowledging everything is a distribution and Not All Republicans espouse all of these things to the same degree or even at all. Nevertheless, both the extremism and the polarization in our political system is the highest in recent memory — certainly in the totality of my Generation X memory, and by all accounts the highest since the 1930s. Extremism is high on both the Left and the Right, but research shows it’s been growing much more extreme on the Right.

And in many ways it feels like we are living through something akin to the 1930s, again. The rise in authoritarian regimes and totalist thought and linguistic patterns is troubling and dangerous. The United States never had an armed insurrection take over the Capitol building prior to January 6, 2021. America has had many periods of brutality in its past and present, but historically speaking nothing like the recent decades of escalating mass shooter events.

What can explain the religious devotion to a failed businessman and failed President on the Right? Loathe him through we might on the Left, Trump is revered on the Right for espousing the “virtues” of a traditional hierarchical society, and for giving coded approval to America’s most shadowy extremist groups that he would be finding excuses to look the other way if they chose to strike. They both held up their ends of the bargain, with would-be assassins in tactical gear assaulting the nation’s lawmakers as they certified the 2020 election results as mandated by the Constitution, and paid puppets in the Senate letting them all off the hook… technically speaking, that is.

Trump looked the other way, but only for another 14 days — until Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. With a new sheriff Merrick Garland in town, all bets are off regarding leniency for the nation’s most vile and seditious lot who stormed the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in US history — a sad day for the country and its venerable history of managing to keep the republic.

This will be a work in progress, as usual. And a tool for discussion — we’re going to need it for the coming years.

Liberal ValuesAuthoritarian Values
EqualityHierarchy
JusticeForce
LibertyControl
Popular sovereigntyUnpopular rule
Common goodPrivatization
LogicMagical Thinking
ReasonPower
TruthPropaganda
HistoryMyth
RealityFantasy
ResponsibilityEscapism
RationalityIrrationality
IntegrityHypocrisy
CharacterCharacter disorder
WisdomIgnorance
GenerosityGreed
HonestyDeception
EarnestnessCynicism
SkepticismLoyalty
CuriosityBoredom
CompassionContempt
EmpathySadism
Driven by careDriven by fear
MoralityNihilism
TransparencySecrecy
ConsiderationCallousness
PatienceImpatience
MaturityImmaturity
Emotional intelligenceEmotional manipulation
WholeheartednessCognitive dissonance
VulnerabilityDefensiveness
AuthenticityMimicry
DeliberationAct without thinking
De-escalationAggression
ConsciousUnconscious
Self-awareSelf-deception
EducationBrainwashing
DiversityConformity
CreativityDestruction
ArtisticFundamentalist
SolutionsGrievance
CommunityRugged individualism
TrustDistrust
GratitudeEnvy
RespectDisrespect
SustainabilityExtraction
Self-regardCathexis
SpiritualityReligiosity
Self-actualizationFollow the leader
Problem solvers"Tear it down"-ers

Political contributions by industry, 2019-2020

These numbers come from the FEC by way of opensecrets.org, and indicate the industry each donor reports they work for (or Retired, if they report not working any longer). The overall political contributions have skyrocketed within our system since the Citizens United ruling gave corporations wide latitude to give money to political campaigns, without necessarily any disclosure or transparency requirements attached. The era of dark money in politics has not been a healthy one in terms of preserving our democracy.

Of note:

  • Retired folks tend to lean Republican in their political contributions (i.e. older skews GOP)
  • Finance and Real Estate are more seemingly even or slightly Democratic than I would have predicted
  • Manufacturing and Oil & Gas are the 2 largest Republican leaning industries — both dwindling and diminishing over the long term horizon.
  • The Entertainment industry is one of the most left-leaning of the bunch, giving more than about 90% overall to Democratic candidates or causes. No wonder it’s a favorite target of the Sedition Caucus!
  • Any way you slice it, Democrats appear to be vastly outpacing Republicans in terms of fundraising efforts — yet they are the ones calling for campaign finance reform, because the system of peddling influence is so out of hand.
  • Business is definitely outspending labor, however.
IndustryOverall TotalTo Democrats & Liberal GroupsTo Republicans & Conservative GroupsLean
Retired$1688335247$558769474$956076774Leans Republican/Conservative
Securities/Invest$799576406$195353417$119774048Leans Democrat/Liberal
Democratic/Liberal$774146476$317188055$154316Solidly Democrat/Liberal
Misc Finance$485711802$74077242$57181223On the fence
Real Estate$413020609$140563098$176894028On the fence
Education$348509465$288454435$31460036Solidly Democrat/Liberal
Repub/Conservative$339055614$69348$157252042Solidly Republican/Conservative
Lawyers/Law Firms$335929913$257159915$57685804Leans Democrat/Liberal
Health Professionals$269975444$140853584$78014653Leans Democrat/Liberal
Electronics Mfg/Eqp$208004155$94608885$32603257Leans Democrat/Liberal
Non-Profits$202452440$69589426$19720845Leans Democrat/Liberal
Candidate Cmtes$188819128$136105830$51564268Leans Democrat/Liberal
Misc Mfg/Distrib$157276344$29647438$48516563Leans Republican/Conservative
Business Services$156224706$103637971$33237078Leans Democrat/Liberal
Civil Servants$152396172$108270008$32933733Leans Democrat/Liberal
Health Services$151572671$30508636$20672661Leans Democrat/Liberal
TV/Movies/Music$148578590$94319349$11506121Solidly Democrat/Liberal
Oil & Gas$138613800$12208486$62767803Leans Republican/Conservative
Casinos/Gambling$135900829$11447516$12059744On the fence
Insurance$124556637$47865829$53786498On the fence

Efficiency isn’t everything

There are many things in life you don’t want to rush through; many experiences you wish to linger. The American cult of efficiency is a kind of over-optimization, and over-fitting of a line that delusionally demands up and to the right every single day, every single quarter, every single time.

The benefits of stopping to smell the flowers have been extolled by sages and philosophers throughout the ages. In all of recorded human history lies some form of the mantra, “haste unto death” — for it is true. We rush headlong off the cliff after all the lemmings ahead of us. We can’t help ourselves — eternal moths to eternal flames.

The slow life

From the cuisine to jurisprudence, from behavior economics to psychological well-being, moving more slowly has numerous well-established benefits. Efficiency should never be the only goal, in any domain or at all times. As Madison strongly agreed with, “moderation in all things” is the mathematically optimal way to approach life, justice, and governing. Influenced by the Marquis du Condorcet, the invention of statistics, and a distaste for extremism in all forms, The Founders were prescient regarding the later theory of the wisdom of the crowds. They sought to temper the passions of the crowds via checks and balances in our system of governance.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. That the veracity of the quote remains unsettled is unsettling, like strange fruit swinging in the southern breeze. Yet the “quick justice” barbaric efficiency of slavery, the Confederacy, Jim Crow, superpredators, and mowing down unarmed Black men for traffic violations to name a few, are no examples of fairness. Faster isn’t always better, especially when it comes to justice. It takes time to gather facts, talk to witnesses, piece together the crimes and document them in an airtight way, brokering no doubt in the mind of a single jurist.

More efficiency topics

Areas I’ll be further exploring:

  • Slow thinking — Daniel Kahneman’s behavioral economics and cognition theory about slow and fast thinking systems in the brain, how they physiologically arose, and their implications for bias, decision making, geopolitics, and more.
  • Journey vs. Destination — It’s not just about getting to the same restaurant and eating the same thing. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Traveler vs. Tourist. Go with the flow. Roll with it, baby.
  • An ounce of caution — A stitch of time. He who makes haste makes waste. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Be careful!
  • Self-reflection — Thoughtfulness. Rumination. Mindfulness. Presence.
  • Being too busy speeds up time, not necessarily in a good way. Leads to the unexamined life, a Stoic no-no. Socrates would not approve, dude.
  • Enoughness — Sustainability. Patience. Non-violence. Whole-heartedness.
  • Hierarchy vs. Fairness — Consensus takes a lot longer. Dictators and monarchs are nothing if not efficient.
  • The appeal of fascism — History and ideology of the Nazis and their obsession with efficiency.
  • PR — soundbites. Simple narratives. Tropes, slogans, repetition.
  • Entertainment — intellectual empty calories. Neil Postman. McLuhan.
  • Automation — AI, bots, robotics, threats to labor
  • Walking vs. Transportation
  • The slow food movement
  • Speed reading
  • Speed runs — video games

Biden’s American Rescue Plan: Democrats’ first big win

The $1.9 trillion covid relief package that passed the Senate this weekend is a major legislative victory just 6 weeks into Biden’s term. The American Rescue Plan will give his Presidency and Democrats in the 117th session of Congress a huge boost — in enacting more of Biden’s agenda, in the economy, in replenishing strained state and local coffers, and in giving the Democrats 100% of the credit for the hope, the recovery, and the return to normalcy for hundreds of millions of Americans. Senator Sanders called it the “most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” — and he’s a tough one to please!

Of course, the right wing is churning out its usual disinformation machine around the contents of the bill. Zero Republicans voted for it, which puts them on record indelibly forever as voting against relief checks, against pandemic assistance, against schools reopening, against… everything of most relevance to most people at this time, according to the majority of Americans polled who favor it (62%). Let’s take a look at all the urgent relief that’s actually in the bill.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan

  • $1400 direct checks
  • $300/week unemployment extension through September
  • Increased child tax credit to $3000-$3600 in 2021 and made it fully refundable
  • Extending COBRA benefits and health benefits
  • $170 billion for safely reopening schools
  • $20 billion for vaccination programs
  • $30 billion for PPE
  • $350 billion for state and local governments devastated and depleted from the pandemic
  • Funding for covid testing, contact tracing, and forecasting
  • Relief for restaurants, small businesses, and farmers
  • Child care and child nutrition funds
  • Tax credits for sick leave and family leave
  • Funding for community health, mental health, and the opioid crisis
  • Emergency rental assistance, rural housing, homelessness relief
  • FEMA funding
  • Funeral assistance
  • Relief to airlines, airports, and aviation manufacturing
  • Extend benefits to rail workers
  • VA funding

Impeachment Trial: Why Democrats didn’t call witnesses

There was a period of dashed hopes on Saturday morning during the impeachment trial of former president Trump. After securing a last-minute and unexpected motion to call witnesses, based on resurfaced testimony from Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), the House Impeachment Managers in conference with Senate Democrats and negotiation with Senate Republicans ended up deciding to call the vote instead.

They did win a concession to read Herrera Beutler’s statement into the Congressional record, and a historically unprecedented 57-43 impeachment vote to convict with 7 Republican Senators crossing the aisle to vote to convict the president of their own party of inciting sedition. But many Democrats who had gotten our hopes up for the prospect of getting to the bottom of what really happened on January 6 were quite deflated, and there were plenty of folks angry at Democrats for “caving” to Republicans once again.

The Real Reason Democrats didn’t call witnesses

As the Democrats have been making the press conference and media rounds to talk about the impeachment and talk about why they ultimately ended up deciding not to move forward with calling witnesses, some of the anger is subsiding but plenty of people are still miffed.

In my opinion, what is probably the strongest reason of all that Democrats didn’t call witnesses, is the one fact not being widely cited by the Democrats including the House Impeachment Managers. And that argument is: walking and chewing gum at the same time was not going to be possible. Calling witnesses would have meant getting led down the garden path by the Masters of Game Delay.

There was some optimism before the impeachment trial that the Senate would be able to find a way to handle the trial and also juggle legislative business plus confirmation hearings and votes for Biden cabinet members and other high-level executive positions. Unfortunately, the parliamentary rules for impeachment proceedings are both old and strict, and preclude the Senate from taking up other regular legislative or executive business while the trial is in progress from Monday to Saturdays until complete, according to the rules of 1868.

The only way to get around this is to have the chamber meet in a separate session. And the only way to get a separate session is via unanimous consent — which requires a full 100 votes. After the vote on calling witnesses, McConnell indicated he would withhold his party’s support for unanimous consent to do any other business besides the trial. He also reportedly threatened to obstruct and delay the rest of the 2-year legislative agenda, including the confirmation of Merrick Garland as AG. Everyone saw the struggle to get to just 57, so I agree it does not seem credible that enough GOP Senators at that point would have suddenly found an “I am Spartacus!” moment.

It would have sandbagged Biden’s agenda

Not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time would have tanked Biden’s ability to get the help to the American people that they need — full stop. No budget reconciliation and covid relief plan. No cabinet nominations. No other executive branch noms. No economic plan.

It would only play into the hands of Republicans to obstruct Biden’s agenda indefinitely and infinitely. Their base is rewarding them only for loyalty to Trump, and punishing any of the “deviants” who vote to hold him accountable. The GOP would just blame the Democrats for not getting anything done, and for dragging out this “highly political” trial that actually they will be drawing out with procedural nonsense and legal abuse — a Trumpian specialty!

I think it’s arguably just as important that Democrats be able to say that they got swift and solid help to Americans in a time of crisis, otherwise the 2022 midterms are the next jump point for authoritarian takeover. We can still pursue justice via other means that are just as enduring and have the potential to uncover so much more about the events leading up to and surrounding January 6.

The Other Good Reasons

Beyond the parliamentary jiujitsu, there are several other compelling reasons Democrats didn’t call witnesses:

  • Witnesses are not generally called live onto the Senate floor — for impeachment trials, depositions are taken in trial committees, then read into the record. Senators have to submit their questions in writing, and there is no live cross-examination. In other words, the thing most folks would be looking for which is public testimony, would not be forthcoming — the committee work could take weeks or months, and Republicans benefit more from agenda delays because their base no longer even cares about policy anymore.
  • Entering Jaime Herrera Beutler’s statements into the record accomplished the same thing a deposition would have done — it read her testimony into the official legislative annals of history. It gave additional ammunition to any of the potential federal, state, or local investigations that may follow the conclusion of the trial. And it showed indelibly the lengths to which even Republican lawmakers were willing to go to pursue justice against this lawless president.
  • No more Republican votes were going to change anyway — the trial was at “peak persuasion” because the rest of the pack were going to hide behind the procedural issue regardless. In other words, like SCOTUS to Trump’s frivolous election fraud claims, they refused to hear the case “on the merits” even though they were subject to a binding resolution on that very question that their chamber had passed on Tuesday. They chose to ignore their own binding resolution and continued to cite the fact that Trump was no longer in office as the reason the Senate lacked jurisdiction to censure him — despite the fact that it was now minority leader Mitch McConnell who insisted on delaying the start of trial past inauguration day in the first place.
  • They had already effectively made their case — as “beyond a shadow of a doubt” as is ever likely to happen in any impeachment trial ever, yet still falling on deaf ears, there isn’t much doubt that the House Managers overwhelmingly presented a successful case. I’m sympathetic to the argument that it may have proved diminishing returns as pursued through additional Senate trial time, and is undoubtedly better pursued by the justice system and through other committee work in both the Senate and the House.
  • A 9/11-style commission is much more appropriate to actually get to the bottom of the political aspects of the crime — the independent commission created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today is going to have far more time, budget, reach, and depth than a drawn out trial in the Senate, and it won’t cannibalize the agenda of other business. It can go all the way down the rabbit hole and lead us to evidence on other potential co-conspirators, including Cruz, Hawley, Tuberville, Lee, Gomert, Greene, Jordan, Gosar, et al, all the financial ties in and around the Ellipse rally, and perhaps new federal charges for Trump’s pardoned felon buddies Bannon, Stone, and Flynn. Democrats didn’t call witnesses because now, they can call as many witnesses they like without any pressure or obstruction from Senate Republicans.
  • His lawyers are just lying — the defense portion of the witness process would be just as looney toons and Four Seasons Total Lawyering as in the main show. Trump’s lawyers are just distorting, distracting, and debasing the profession of law with their clownish disregard of the augustness of the chamber in which they stood. Giving them more time to muddy the bulk of the trial record, and more time to delay delay delay and inject the Big Lies over and over again into public consciousness, would not have necessarily been worth the tradeoff in what we might learn from additional witnesses ourselves.
  • Other witnesses went cold — Pence’s staff spoke up to refute the claim that Trump evinced concern for him during or soon after the January 6 attack. They said the former president did not contact Pence at all that day, or for 5 days afterward. And yet, when contacted by the House Impeachment Managers, they indicated they would not be willing to go so far as to testify in the trial.
  • Enthusiasm for the trial would wane in the public eye — unfortunately, the general public has a much shorter political attention span than most of us Blue Check intellectuals. While it would be total catnip for us, it would like start to have diminishing returns in the eyes of the voters, especially when they discover that other business is not proceeding. Regardless of the fact that it’s actually the Republicans holding other legislative business hostage for the trial, it will be blamed on Democrats and our entire political system has been primed to blame everything on Democrats and is generally successful — like muscle memory.

I will be looking forward to the results of the independent commission, as well as the continued criminal prosecutions of the insurrectionists and at some point, hopefully, whoever it was on the inside who was helping them.

The Republican Party is a criminal organization

Only 7 out of 50 among them are patriots — the rest, cowards and knaves who continue to seek destruction of this republic out of self-interest and an authoritarian’s need to dominate others. Today’s impeachment vote of acquittal for Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection was brutal but of course, not surprising. It highlighted once again something that’s been hiding in plain sight for some time — that the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

“Law and Order” is just another Big Lie

It’s used to cover up quite the opposite — criminality, entitlement, sadism, and a zeal for the domination of others. Including both the violent insurrectionist kind and the pasty jowly turtly slow walking kind on the right wing. The GOP is an insult to the rule of law.

There is no best time to impeach a president

Unfortunately the spineless toothless Republican Senators defanged the Constitution today, by casting into doubt its power to achieve healthy checks and balances between the branches of government. They gleefully gave up the role of Congress in moderating the chief executive — to the probable detriment of us all.

As usual, they performed a series of timeline hacks, rhetorical games, and parliamentary tricks that resulting in the “logical” impossibility of ever successfully impeaching a US president. They are masters at avoiding responsibility for their actions, and fiercely protect their own, even despite heinous crimes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his merry band of “institutionalists” have managed to do more damage to our institutions than any other Republican administration, and that’s truly saying something.

In addition to sowing doubt about our elections, throwing SCOTUS and the courts under the bus despite having packed them with conservative judges and loyalists for years, damaging our sovereignty and our national security, and impugning our reputation with nations around the world, they’ve managed to turn the United States into a kleptocracy. It’s official: the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

Let the DOJ do its work

Even Trump’s own lawyer advocated for it, along with McConnell. Though he can’t be trusted and will surely have tricks up his sleeve, it would be cathartic to see Attorney General Merrick Garland and the much-maligned Department of Justice bring down the largest RICO case in the history of history. I hope that karma brings justice to all of them, regardless of the actual outcome here and now.

Impeachment vote 2021: Why the Senate must convict

The articles of impeachment 2021 are so much clearer and simpler than last year’s impeachment — it’s the Marie Kondo version of indicting the president’s conduct. His coup attempt most certainly did not spark joy!

At least, not to the patriots who defended the United States Capitol from invasion on January 6, several of whom lost their lives including Brian Sicknick who lied in honor last week, as well as 2 Capitol Police officers who took their own lives subsequent to the events of that darkest of days in American history.

That is why it is important to both get the memory of that day seared into the historical record, and continue good faith efforts to seek justice for the trauma inflicted upon the nation by its supposed guardian. The House impeachment managers are doing an incredible job evoking both the clarity of the law pointing to his guilt, and the emotional gravity of what Republican House #3 leader Liz Cheney referred to as the “gravest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country.”

He’s guilty

He said he would do it, and he did it — Trump refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, convinced his supporters it was stolen from him (and them), and that they had to “fight like hell” to “take their country back.” And yet Republicans want to claim that he could have had no idea what they would do, and that the whole thing was “obviously” an innocent misunderstanding and a “boys will be boys” sort of thing.

Nonsense — his droogs Mike Lindell, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and of course his royal brood were involved in planning this, along with multiple sitting members of Congress, some of whom spoke at the “Save America” rally at The Ellipse. Rally organizer Ali Alexander fingerprinted Reps Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama as his co-conspirators in the endeavor.

They made sure security was intentionally lax by decapitating the defense apparatus during the lame duck period, and installing a bunch of loyalist partisan hacks into “acting” positions of power who were pliable or even eager to do the president’s ill bidding.

Free Speech does not protect the abuse of public trust

Trump’s lawyers filed a brief indicating a First Amendment defense for their client, which former acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler ripped to shreds in a scathing essay. Free Speech does not give you a license to be incompetent at your job, and the Trump’s failure to secure the Capitol during a violent insurrection was a dereliction of duty of the highest order — even if he hadn’t been involved in sowing it, planning it, funding it, promoting it, hosting it, and encouraging it.

1A also does not give you the right to use words to plan criminal activities, because that would be absurd. It would essentially render all law meaningless as a deterrent, so long as you only ever give orders to someone else to carry out your dirty work indirectly vs. getting your own hands dirty.

His conduct is not defensible

Republicans are trying to squirm away on procedural grounds so they can remain cowardly supplicants to the tyrant they love or fear, or both. They do not want to have to confront the reality of Trump’s abhorrent and unforgivable behavior on January 6, their role in enabling it, and their continued role in undermining small d democracy in this nation.

There is no defense of Trump’s behavior, but the GOP wants to pretend it has a mere technical disagreement with a document’s language as an excuse to not put themselves on record for the more serious and obvious hypocrisy of giving egregiously anti-American behavior a pass — it’s like a plea bargain of sorts.

He cannot hold public office

Breaching the public’s trust is grounds for disqualification from holding future office. Why should a free people suffer the tyranny of one who abrogates duty and holds in contempt an oath they swore, as if words have no meaning? Which, in essence, is the argument of Mr Textually from day 1 of the Trump impeachment trial.

The idea that a former official cannot be impeached is baseless, because the provision of preventing them from holding future office is enumerated in the Constitution to explicitly explain the rationale. And if ever there were a case of clear unfitness for duty, it is before the Senate right now.

Acquittal nullifies impeachment power altogether

If fomenting an armed insurrection to stay in office when you lose a democratic election is not an abuse of power, I really don’t know what is. If throwing out the will of the people and keeping yourself in power by force is not a violation of the oath of office, then oaths are worthless and there’s no point in speaking them anymore. They will have become dead sea scrolls, in a language dead to us and on a parchment too brittle for continued use.

Let us not throw out the Constitution while professing to save it. Senators know better, and they know that We the People — and not their ever-shrinking base — know they know it as well. The game theory is on our side as the timeline keeps ticking away.

Senators should vote to convict, for what is most certainly the highest presidential crime ever committed in the history of this nation. To preserve this republic, if we can keep it, Congress must hold him accountable for his behavior and apply consequences for defiling the founding principles of America.

January 6 Attack: Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to stay in power

January 6: A Day that will live in ignominy. The day Capitol riots broke out when an angry mob, following instructions from Donald Trump, stormed the halls of Congress and came within minutes of a potential hostage situation or worse: a massacre.

I’m still processing the events of Wednesday, as are many. Even though I fully anticipated something horrifying given the utter obviousness of the confrontation brewing, I did not have a particular picture in mind of what that thing was going to be.

Despite having steeled myself for the past 4+ years, I wept many times at some of the imagery and video footage. The defilement of the people’s halls by a violent armed mob who took selfies with Capitol Police was just not something I could have conceived of.

There must be accountability

This was one of the darkest days of our nation. Even during the Civil War the Confederates never stormed the US Capitol, so to see the Confederate flag waving in Congress was a desecration. It twisted me up to have such a raw display of America’s deepest gash of white supremacist history taken symbolically and literally to the nation’s capital.

This event was broadcast around the world, to our allies and to our enemies. We received rebukes from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. We — the supposed bastion of democracy. The country that lectures other nations around the world on how to do democracy better. We have been humiliated for the entire planet to see.

We need answers about what happened here. The people deserve to know who planned this, who helped this along, who looked the other away, and perhaps most importantly: who still agrees with it (Hawley and Cruz, for one — they must go).

We must stop fascism in America

The rot of fascism has been allowed to spread to the point where a violent mob of white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy nuts, MAGA faithful and a demon’s host of all stripes came within minutes of taking hostages inside the chambers of Congress. Five people lost their lives and already are being made into martyrs.

This did not begin with Trump, but he certainly amplified the signal at a much more psychotic rate than under previous administrations, certainly of my lifetime. We are now at a dangerous precipice: in a time of staggering wealth inequality, a once in a century health crisis largely being ignored by the right wing, deeply bitter partisanship played out over decades, the creep of authoritarianism around the world — and now at home.

Wednesday’s Capitol Riots did essentially mark the “crossing of the Rubicon” that the Trump cult begged him to do — it was a coming-out day for fascism. It was the President of the United States instructing an armed mob to walk up to the Capitol where lawmakers were certifying the election for the guy who won it, and telling them to “take our country back” and give it to him — by force if necessary. Which, of course, was necessary.

That is the Rubicon — the Rubicon is the willingness to use political violence when you have exhausted all other legal, shady, illegal, and hideously criminal means. That is the fascist twist. If we do not react now; if we do not censure, remove, and allow justice to hold these individuals accountable — both inside and outside of the government — they will take it as permission to try again and again until we deal with this.

We must hold the insurrectionists accountable — if we are to keep this republic.

Lordy, there are tapes: Trump extorts the Georgia Secretary of State

The Trump Tapes make the Watergate Tapes seem like Polyanna. It’s not like a 10x or a 100x — it’s like a 1000x Watergate.

Here is the full audio of the President of the United States essentially verbally abusing GA SecState Brad Raffensperger for over an hour on Saturday, January 2: Trump Tapes: phone call and transcript

There’s the usual chatter in legal, justice, and natsec communities about whether or not this constitutes a crime — the consensus seems to be strong that it does, but then again any smidgeon of wiggle room leaves me feeling a little bit queasy.

If this isn’t a crime; if this isn’t an impeachable offense — then nothing is. If a President can get away with this to keep tyrannical grip on power after losing an election quite resoundingly, then the republic is dead and all its ideals of self-governance with it.

New year, new Lost Cause: The Sedition Caucus

And yet… that’s not all. 11 additional Republican Senators have come forward to follow Josh Hawley’s lead in objecting to one or more states’ count of electors in the ceremonial Jan. 6 readout of the state certifications. The new Sedition Caucus is led by Texas lawyer and newfound facial hair enthusiast Ted Cruz, who is in danger of winning a Daytime Emmy for his crisis acting on the Fox News network.

Along with Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), James Lankford (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Senators-Elect Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Mr Cruz presented evidence that the people they told to believe the election was rigged then did in fact believe that the election was rigged, and for this reason required another dangerous — and admittedly symbolic! — delay in securing the sovereignty of the nation.

Essentially they are making an argument to keep this President’s fragrantly, steamingly, scathingly unethical, anti-democratic, and anti-conservative, institution-destroying behavior protected and reinstalled against the will of the people for another 4 years of “deal-making” just like this. They haven’t been silently seething at or embarrassed by Trump’s behavior this whole time. They’ve been licking it up — “finally, a guy who will really keep fighting forever!”

However, now The Sedition Gang have been caught flat-footed by the timing of the Raffensperger call breaking — even Tom Cotton has now changed his tune and come out against the coup (though not without getting a few digs in at the Democrats). That is going to start turning the momentum back the other way, with luck. Even Lindsey Graham is inching back from the ledge a bit. The Jan. 6 reception may be chillier than they think.

Hoping it’s all fuel for the blue trifecta in Georgia.

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