…I don’t know if it’s still a thing in the age of emoji but it used to be said that the UK & the US were “two countries separated by a common language”…& I’ve been wondering about that this morning…so forgive me if this meanders a bunch…or veers away from things that are kinda of a big deal
The House passed a $1 trillion bill on Friday night to rebuild the country’s aging public works system, fund new climate resilience initiatives and expand access to high-speed internet service, giving final approval to a central plank of President Biden’s economic agenda after a daylong drama that pitted moderate Democrats against progressives.
But an even larger social safety net and climate change bill was back on hold, with a half-dozen moderate-to-conservative Democrats withholding their votes until a nonpartisan analysis could tally its price tag.
It will provide $550 billion in new funds over 10 years to shore up roads, bridges and highways, improve internet access and modernize the nation’s power grid. The measure also includes the United States’ largest investment to prepare for climate change: $50 billion to help communities grapple with the devastating fires, floods, storms and droughts that scientists say have been worsened by global warming.
In a late-night vote that followed a day of near-death experiences for Mr. Biden’s agenda, the House passed the infrastructure measure on a 228-to-206 vote, with 13 Republicans bucking their party leadership and joining all but six Democrats in support. Its triumph was something of a vindication of Mr. Biden’s efforts to seek bipartisanship on a key issue that both parties have long viewed as a priority.
But ultimately, passage came not just because of Republican backing but because liberal Democrats decided to trust balking centrists to eventually come to their side. Passage had been stalled for months, while liberals withheld their support to force an agreement on the social policy bill. Progressive Democrats had revolted anew on Friday, with many insisting that they could not back the measure without a vote on the social welfare bill.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/05/us/politics/house-infrastructure-reconciliation.html
In the end, enough progressives accepted a written commitment, released after 10 p.m., from five centrist colleagues that they would back the social safety net and climate package in mid-November, as long as the numbers add up.
…but to veer off on a tangent…once upon a time there was a guy called john major…he was prime minister after thatcher & the comparison didn’t do him any favors…he was largely caricatured as “grey”…so his remarks might be a bit like objects in your rear view mirror in terms of being bigger than they appear…& after the last few days he’s come on pretty strong (for john major) about why the current crop of conservatives are fucking up
…I caught a segment on the BBC in which he cited that they had broken the law…in reference to the time boris attempted a prorogation of parliament while busy trying to pretend brexit was a done deal instead of answering in parliament for the fact he wasn’t dealing with brexit…which was ruled unlawful but still essentially got that job done
…also that they’d broken treaties…in reference to the ongoing car crash caused by the northern ireland protocol…which was of course negotiated by boris’s government in the first place…not that you’d think it to listen to them
…& also that they have broken their word…in which case he was talking about failing to meet overseas aid obligations
….& lastly, when they encounter resistance he pointed out that they react in hostile fashion
An edifying week in the government of Britain, a country run by the third prize in a competition to build Winston Churchill out of marshmallows. Yup, this man is our sorry lot: this pool-float Targaryen, this gurning English Krankie cousin, this former child star still squeezing himself into his little suit for coins. The sole bright spot for Boris Johnson is that furious Tory MPs are currently only comparing him to the nursery rhyme Duke of York. Still, give it time.
On, then, to the unforced blunderrhoea of the Owen Paterson affair and its fallout. The sheer full-spectrum shitshow of it makes sense when you understand two things: the Carl von Clownewitzes behind the government’s shameful “strategy” for sweeping aside a vital democratic check on corruption; and the fact that for Johnson, none of it was to do with Owen Paterson. The departing MP for North Shropshire was simply useful for the prime minister’s personal goals – until he wasn’t.
Anyway, we move on to the personnel involved in this week’s epic fail, with the ringleaders being Johnson himself, Tory chief whip Mark Spencer, and leader of the house Jacob Rees-Mogg. I don’t know if Johnson knows anything at all about classical history and the ancient world – he wears his learning so lightly, it’s just impossible to tell – but I think you’d stop shy of hailing this particular brains trust as the third triumvirate. Even given how badly the second one turned out.
Quite why Johnson, the Conservative party, and indeed wider society continue to tolerate Rees-Mogg being in any sort of position of responsibility or judgment is anyone’s guess. The justification that he has some kind of yoof “following” feels desperately 2017, a relic of a time when this country’s ruling class could afford irony. Lavishly inept, the Moggster convinces about as much as an English toff from an early-90s American movie, played by some beta Derek Nimmo.
All of which makes the prime minister’s statement on Paterson’s resignation one for the do-me-a-favour files. “I am very sad parliament will lose the services of Owen Paterson,” this ran, “who has been a friend and colleague of mine for decades.” Mmm. If that’s the case, how come your friend reportedly only found you were pulling the rug out from under him when a BBC reporter phoned him in the supermarket, a U-turn which could realistically only lead to his resignation a few short hours later?
Let’s play out with how the British prime minister spent the eve of this shameful vote. Boris Johnson had left his own climate conference on a private jet, incidentally, to have dinner at the Garrick Club with the longtime climate denialist Charles Moore. Also incidentally, Moore used to be Johnson’s editor when he published his various fabrications about the EU. Incidentally – again – Johnson fairly recently sought to install Moore as chairman of the BBC. (Moore has, incidentally, previously been a licence-fee refusenik). Still incidentally, Moore is a real friend of Owen Paterson’s, and has been a significant advocate for his foolhardy defence …https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/05/owen-paterson-boris-johnson-standards-commissioner
…& major ought to know a few things about how to react to this stuff since during his tenure there were a bunch of stories about sleaze & tories…including cash for questions…after which some changes were made to some oversight stuff which I won’t get into…but I would note didn’t involve a blatant attempt to change rules retrospectively in order quite specifically to negate a ruling that would have seen a tory MP suspended for a month due to…well…not cash for questions but repeated lobbying on behalf of businesses that paid him…with maybe a side order of a lack of proper disclosure…which is what boris tried before it blowing up on him so embarrassingly that they walked it back while the MP resigned…& I don’t necessarily want to “pile on” where owen paterson is concerned…his wife took her own life a while back & I’m not overly fond of kicking folks when they’re down…however I’d be hard pressed to tell you where john crace isn’t being accurate
The thing about Owen was that he seemed spectacularly dim. Off the scale dim. So stupid that he thought Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods were paying him more than 9k a month for his brilliance.
And because they quite liked him. Certainly not to seek any commercial advantage from paid advocacy.
So dim also, that it had never occurred to him that he might be able to get up in parliament or go to the media to blow the whistle on concerns of contaminated milks and dodgy meat, rather than have a quick word in a minister’s ear.
Especially when he was offering Randox and Lynn’s as solutions to these problems. So dim that he was found to have breached the rules at least 14 times and still couldn’t see what he had done wrong after the parliamentary commissioner on standards had repeatedly pointed it out to him.
This was also roughly the same argument that Jacob Rees-Mogg used to open the 90-minute debate as he chose to talk about the amendment as a fait accompli even before Leadsom had introduced it.
He wasn’t there to judge whether Paterson had breached the rules or not. That was not within his remit. All he was asking for was that another committee might be formed that would come to a different conclusion and let Owen off.
One that would make allowances for particularly thick MPs who were seemingly unable to grasp the consequences of their actions.
The whole thing stank. This was as clear an example of Tory sleaze as you could hope for. The government hadn’t got the result it had wanted from the investigation so it was going to set up another body who would come up with the correct one. One rule for MPs, one for the rest of the country. No wonder people’s trust in politicians was so low.
Rees-Mogg was horrified that anyone could believe this of him. The whole point of making this debate a party political issue was precisely because it wasn’t.
Labour’s shadow leader of the Commons, Thangam Debbonaire, kept it short and sweet, pointing out that the Tories had never expressed any doubt about the probity of the system before.
Indeed they had gone out of their way to insist that sex-pest Tory MP Rob Roberts couldn’t be subject to a recall petition as it would be completely wrong to change the rules retrospectively. But now apparently it was OK. Go figure.
Much of the rest of the debate passed for surreal performance art. A government doing its best to trash what remained of it and parliament’s reputation, while daring the public not to notice.https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/03/tories-do-their-best-to-trash-what-remains-of-their-reputation
…so…that whole “divided by a common language” thing…could be I’m wrong…but it strikes me that these days both the UK & the US are themselves pretty divided…but either side of those divides certainly seem to share their own common language…particularly the conservative ones?
Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official involved in former President Donald J. Trump’s frenzied efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, refused to cooperate on Friday with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, leading to a sharp rebuke from the committee’s chairman.
The standoff between Mr. Clark and the committee is the second such confrontation since Congress began investigating the circumstances surrounding the Capitol violence, seeking information on Mr. Trump’s attempts to subvert the election. The House has already voted to find one Trump ally, Stephen K. Bannon, in criminal contempt of Congress for stonewalling the inquiry.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/05/us/politics/jeffrey-clark-capitol-riot-committee.html
Mr. Bannon also cited Mr. Trump’s directive for former aides and advisers to invoke immunity and refrain from turning over documents that might be protected under executive privilege in his refusal to cooperate. A federal judge expressed skepticism on Thursday about the merits of Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against the committee seeking to block from release at least 770 pages of documents related to the Capitol riot.
…break your word…break the law…break terms you agreed to…try to retrospectively alter things to evade the consequences of your own actions…operate exclusively from a position of arrogance & bad faith…there sure does seem like there’s a lot of conservative common ground…so with all due respect to mr john major…I don’t buy that any of this stuff is “unconservative”…it seems spectacularly on-brand from where I’m sitting
Policy is rational. Politics is not. It takes a story to move voters, an emotional connection that tells them something about themselves and the world in which they live or, alternately, the world in which they would like to live.
Without a story to tell — without a way to make the issues of an election speak to the values of an electorate — even strong candidates with popular policies can fall flat. And the reverse is also true: A divisive figure with unpopular beliefs can go far if he or she can tell the right kind of story to the right number of people.
[…]conservative white Southerners in particular, would come to call this the bloody shirt strategy, after an apocryphal story in which Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts used the bloodied shirt of a wounded soldier in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. “The phrase was used over and over during the Reconstruction era,” writes Stephen Budiansky in “The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox”: “It was a staple of the furious and sarcastic editorials that filled Southern newspapers in those days, of the indignant orations by Southern white political leaders who protested that no people had suffered more, been humiliated more, been punished more than they had.”
If the bloody shirt enraged Democratic partisans — if the term itself became, as Budiansky writes, “a synonym for any rabble-rousing demagoguery” aimed at “stirring old enmities” — it was because it worked.
There were, of course, limits to the use of the bloody shirt — no rhetorical flourish could overcome, for example, the electoral headwinds from the panic of 1873, which swept Democrats into a House majority the following year — but that is just to say that there are limits to what any form of rhetoric can do in the face of a poor economy and the pendulum swing of American politics.
What is important is that the Republican Party never took for granted that voters would blame the Democratic Party for its role in the rebellion and vote accordingly. Republican politicians had to make salient the public’s memory of, and anger over, the war. And, I should say, they were right to do so. It was right to wave the bloody shirt in the wake of a brutal, catastrophic war that according to recent estimates claimed close to a million lives. That we, as modern Americans, learn the phrase as a negative is an astounding coup of postwar Southern propaganda.
The lesson here, for the present, is straightforward. Democrats who want the Republican Party to pay for the events of Jan. 6 — to suffer at the ballot box for their allegiance to Donald Trump — have to tie those events to a language and a narrative that speaks to the fear, anger and anxiety of the public at large. They have to tell a story. And not just once or twice — they have to do it constantly. It must become a fixture of the party’s rhetorical landscape.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/05/opinion/democrats-bloody-shirt-jan-6.html
Like many school board races this year, the one in May in Corvallis, a left-leaning college town in the northwest corner of the state, was especially contentious, swirling around concerns not only about the coronavirus pandemic but also the teaching of what Mr. Al-Abdrabbuh called the “dark history” of America’s struggle with race. Even months later, Mr. Al-Abdrabbuh, the chairman of the school board, is still taking precautions. He regularly speaks to the police and scans his driveway in the morning before walking to his car. He often mixes up his daily route to work.
Mr. Al-Abdrabbuh is not alone. Since the spring, a steady tide of school board members across the country have nervously come forward with accounts of threats they have received from enraged local parents. At first, the grievances mainly centered on concerns about the way their children were being taught about race and racism. Now, parents are more often infuriated by Covid-19 restrictions like mask mandates in classrooms.
It is an echo of what happened when those faithful to the Tea Party stormed Obamacare town halls across the country more than a decade ago. In recent months, there have been Nazi salutes at school board meetings and emails threatening rape. Obscenities have been hurled — or burned into people’s lawns with weed spray.
In one extreme case, in suburban San Diego, a group of people protesting mask mandates disrupted a school board meeting in September. After taking an unauthorized vote, they summarily installed themselves as the district’s new board.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/05/us/politics/school-board-threats.html
The panel was tasked with redrawing political districts, a task that lawmakers across the US undertake every 10 years. In recent years, there’s been a growing alarm at how politicians have taken advantage of that process, distorting district lines to essentially choose the voters they represent and locking in their re-election and party control of certain seats. There’s now a broader recognition of how the practice, called gerrymandering, can essentially rig elections in favor of one party.
Ten years ago, Republicans launched an unprecedented effort to gerrymander to their advantage. In the 2010 election, they targeted under-the-radar races in state legislatures with the goal of taking control of those bodies to control the redistricting process. The effort, called Project REDMAP, was remarkably successful. Republicans used their newfound majorities in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to draw district lines that would lock Democrats out of power for years to come. In some places, Republicans weren’t subtle about what they were trying to do. In Michigan, A Republican aide bragged about cramming “Dem garbage” into certain districts.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/05/redistricting-commissions-elections-virginia-michigan-ohio
For years, gerrymandering, which can virtually guarantee election results and diminish the impact of votes, flew under the radar. But activists have spent much of the last decade carefully cultivating widespread awareness of the practice through an aggressive combination of high-profile litigation, legislative pressure and ballot initiatives. Now new challenges in Virginia and elsewhere are undermining those reforms and underscoring how difficult a problem gerrymandering is to solve.
In 2014, Northwestern and Princeton researchers published a report statistically documenting how lawmakers do not listen or care about what most voters want, and instead mostly care about serving their big donors. Coupled with additional research documenting the discrepancy between donor and voter preferences, they bluntly concluded that the “preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy”.
Seven years later, America is witnessing a very public and explicit illustration of this situation in real time – and the country seems pretty ticked off about it, in the lead-up to Tuesday’s off-year elections and in advance of the upcoming midterms next year.
Over the last few weeks, Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers have been making headlines agreeing to whittle down their social spending reconciliation bill at the demand of corporate donors and their congressional puppets.
The specific initiatives being cut or watered down in the Biden agenda bill share two traits: 1) They would require the wealthy and powerful to sacrifice a bit of their wealth and power and 2) They are quite literally the most popular proposals among rank-and-file voters.
…it goes on to list several instances you’ll all be familiar with almost all of which share the twin characteristics of being popular with upwards of 70% of voters & no longer in line to become legislation thanks in large part to two alleged democrats who are financially better off as a result of payments from those industries whose profits might take a hit as the result of the will of the people…no prizes for guessing who that pair would be
The flip side of all this also appears to be true – Democrats have protected initiatives to enrich powerful corporations, even though some of those measures aren’t very popular. One example: subsidies for health insurance plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace that shower money on for-profit insurers. Morning Consult reports that extending new ACA premium tax credits passed by Democrats in March “is the lowest-ranking of all the health measures included in the poll”.
The results of this latest middle finger to voter preferences? New polling data shows that almost three-quarters of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
The hostile takeover is not just the rejection of the most popular policies – it is also the media discourse itself. The Washington press is constantly portraying industry-sponsored opponents of majoritarian policies as “moderates” or “centrists” and depicting supporters of those policies as fringe lunatics who refuse to be reasonable and compromise.
Meanwhile, there is a pervasive omertà that silences most media discussion of the corporate influence and corruption that so obviously defines American politics – and there is scant mention that the “moderate” obstructionists are bankrolled by the industries lobbying to kill the popular policies that Americans want.
There is some encouraging proof that more and more Americans innately understand the kleptocratic nature of their government, and want explicit accountability journalism to uncover it. Also mildly encouraging is the impact of that reporting in the reconciliation bill battle: Democrats tried to get rid of all the drug pricing provisions, but were successfully shamed into adding at least a few of the (pathetically weak) provisions back in after independent media aggressively exposed the pharma ties of key lawmakers.
It’s not a huge victory and not worthy of some effusive celebration of Democrats because the provisions are watered down and a betrayal of the party’s promise to do something a lot better. But it’s a minimal proof-of-concept win.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/05/american-democracy-childcare-healthcare-policy
…also…on a tangential note
Metaverse, the term, comes from a 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, but the idea is much older. There’s a version of it, the holodeck, in the “Star Trek” franchise, which Mr. Bezos was obsessed with as a kid; last month, he sent William Shatner, the actor who played Captain Kirk in the original series, into space. Billionaires, having read stories of world-building as boys, are now rich enough, as men, to build worlds. The rest of us are trapped in them.
Weirdly, Muskism, an extravagant form of capitalism, is inspired by stories that indict … capitalism. At Amazon Studios, Mr. Bezos tried to make a TV adaptation of the Culture space opera series, by the Scottish writer Iain Banks (“a huge personal favorite”); Mr. Zuckerberg put a volume of it on a list of books he thinks everyone should read; and Mr. Musk once tweeted, “If you must know, I am a utopian anarchist of the kind best described by Iain Banks.”
But Banks was an avowed socialist. And, in an interview in 2010, three years before his death, he described the protagonists of the Culture series as “hippy commies with hyper-weapons and a deep distrust of both Marketolatry and Greedism.” He also expressed astonishment that anyone could read his books as promoting free-market libertarianism, asking, “Which bit of not having private property and the absence of money in the Culture novels have these people missed?”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/04/opinion/elon-musk-capitalism.html
…now, I am undeniably biased here…not only do I have a pretty fierce dislike of both musk & zuck…not to mention jeff, there…I’m also a big fan of iain (m.) banks in general…& of the book they picked (the player of games) in particular…so in the spirit of the “tell me you’re a thing without saying you’re the thing” I’d like to point out a couple of things…firstly that initial I put in brackets…that’s important…as an author iain banks didn’t publish sci fi although he did publish a number of novels I would largely recommend…the wasp factory is pretty well-known, short…& really pretty dark…the crow road is longer & considerably more enjoyable…& the others arguably lie on a spectrum between the two…iain m. banks on the other hand (same guy – different “imprint”) published the culture novels & a few short stories all of which are pretty firmly sci fi…& great if you like that sort of thing…so for the record…that musk tweet?
…tell me you’re not a real fan of iain m banks without saying you’re not a real fan of iain m banks…also…that book…here’s the opening line:
This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game. The man is a game-player called “Gurgeh.” The story starts with a battle that is not a battle, and ends with a game that is not a game.
…anyway…like calvin said…today’s not a school day so you really ought to have something better to do…very possibly starting with the brain drain when that pops up?