Two days before the Electoral College met, the fascists who call themselves the Proud Boys finally got around to doing what they had threatened to do much earlier and marched on Pennsylvania Avenue – while 1600's Current Occupant was up in New York. Bad planning, that. It was much, much smaller than past marches on Washington, and no one paid a lot of attention -- least of all the Electors who were intent on doing their civic duty back in state capitols.
The shrink-size of the demonstration confirms my belief that bullies are cowards and, in the word they most detest, losers. On some level of their irrationality, they must know that they are far from the majority and that they lost the election -- to those loathed liberals, who nonetheless are smart enough to manipulate machines all over the country and leave no evidence of that. I think they also know that both the military and the police, whom they claim to honor, would not support them in an attempted coupe. At least some of them must have tried to join those ranks and discovered that they couldn't pass the tests, let alone manage the required discipline.
Yet after darkness and appreciable drinking, "they roamed around downtown Washington," in the words of Post reporters, "looking for a fight." It must have been a shock to these racists to realize that a big majority of Washington's police force is non-white, and they had to submit to arrest by blacks, even female blacks. They may be so ignorant of government that they thought that Donald Trump runs Washington, but he is merely a temporary resident. The city's mayor is an African-American woman, and she has the ultimate authority in law enforcement. This probably never occurred to the Proud Boys, who are misogynist as well as racist. The relatively few white women who marched with them were at the back of the parade.
The District of Columbia long has been a haven for black Americans seeking to live in the same comfort as white Americans, and I would bet that a comparison of its residents and the out-of-town Proud Buys would show Washingtonians to be much better educated and greater economic achievers. This difference is symbolized in what I deemed the most egregious act of the day, the vandalism of a historic black church – Asbury Methodist, a church that dates to 1863, the year of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
The scene was a lesser version of Germany's notorious Kristallnacht, when Hitler's thugs ran wild destroying Jewish property. Nor is such violence limited to Nazis: in 1863, the same year that African-Americans formed the Asbury Methodist Church, New York men rioted against being drafted for the Civil War. Most were Irish immigrants, and until the Catholic bishop finally spoke out almost a week later, a thousand people may have died. The mob particularly targeted brothels, but ironically, most fatalities were white rioters and policemen.
The bottom line is that we as a society are getting better. We are rejecting authoritarianism and violence, including violence and authoritarianism by the police. And a large part of that is putting women in charge.
NOT ONLY IMMORAL, BUT ALSO DUMB
It's not reading about the Proud Boys that makes me want to cry, but instead reading the economic news. While millions are unemployed, homeless, and hungry, the stock market rose to a historic acme. I watched for weeks as Dow-Jones climbed to cross the 30,000 mark and then hung steadily around that high. Part of me wants to keep quiet about this: not only do I personally benefit as a retiree with (small) investments, but also – and more important – it refutes Trump's prediction that Wall Street would crash if Biden were elected. Still, it is immoral.
I know that is a strong word, but I believe that a nation cannot allow millions of its citizens to live in poverty while also claiming that we have a sound economy. It's not only immoral, it isn't smart. Some day we will repeat 1929, and Wall Street's house of paper will come crashing down. As I said last week, I am very pleased with the incoming economic administrators, especially Janet Yellin at Treasury, but they will have their work cut out for them in dealing with the worst economic inequality American ever has seen. Let me quote a December 9th message from Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness, complete with his bold letters.
"Sadly, the Gilded Age is here again. This week, America's 651 billionaires reached a disgraceful milestone. Since the pandemic began in March, their wealth jumped by $1 trillion, or more than one-third… To put that $ trillion wealth increase in perspective, that's enough to send a stimulus check of $3,000 to every one of the roughly 330 million men, women, and children in America. A family of four would receive over $12,000…As these extraordinary wealth gains have been realized by a tiny sliver of the population, nearly 67 million people lost work; 98,000 business permanently closed; and 12 million people lost employer-sponsored health insurance."
Losing health insurance, during the worst epidemic in our national experience. Losing huge amounts of money to for-profit hospitals and nursing homes, because we fear that it is socialistic to expand Social Security to healthcare. And what do these 651 billionaires – that's billionaires, with a b, not merely millionaires – actually do to merit those vast sums?
Very few do anything important. They do not work long hours in labs to solve COVID, cancer, or other afflictions. They certainly do not treat the sick, much less change their diapers. They don't cook or clean or teach or do anything recently declared "essential." Instead, they hire lawyers and accountants to pass paper; they declare bankruptcy and leave behind their unpaid bills. They hide their ill-found gains in the Caribbean or Switzerland or even in so-called communist countries. They put their dark money into political candidates who will lie and cheat to keep the status quo. And far too many of us accept that, not realizing that by definition, plutocracy and democracy cannot coexist. This kind of economic disparity will come to an end, one way or the other.
THE NEW DEAL, SQUARE DEAL, AND THE NOT-YET GREEN DEAL
I hope that Joe Biden can be the next Franklin Roosevelt, whose reforms were enough to save both capitalism as an economic system and democracy as a political system. Kamala Harris, the presumable next president, might be akin to Harry Truman in taking economic equity a step further. Truman's "Square Deal" followed up on FDR's "New Deal" and averted a widely expected postwar depression. It also is important to remember that Truman, a small-time merchant from Missouri, had the courage to racially integrate the armed forces with a 1948 executive order. Congress would not have done that, nor would have the Pentagon. As an (admittedly slow) result, we now have our first black man heading the Defense Department.
Many feminists are decrying Biden's failure to appoint a woman to that position. I too am disappointed, but I understand that he can't do everything at once. Setting the female precedent at Treasury and the African-American precedent at Defense may be all that he can squeak past the Senate right now. This reminds me, though, that there have been Pentagon precedents for women of which the media seems unaware.
The most striking to me is Anna Rosenberg. I'm going to quote from her bio in my 1994 Prentice Hall book, American Women's History: "The only woman to have served at the rank of assistant secretary of defense, Anna Rosenberg won that appointment from President Harry Truman during a supposedly regressive period for women. She was appointed in 1950 at the special request of Defense Secretary George Marshall, who had observed her work during World War II…
"A highly-paid labor relations expert prior to the war, Rosenberg exhibited a talent for negotiation and diplomacy that enabled her, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "to stop fights before they started." FDR often sent incognito people to check on his administrators, and he asked Rosenberg to report on soldier morale in wartime Europe. Eleanor Roosevelt credited her with "knowing more Army privates than anyone else," as Rosenberg imbedded herself with the troops. Like them, she slept on the ground and ate GI rations… In October 1945, after FDR had died and the war was over, President Truman awarded her the Medal of Freedom.
Unfortunately her tenure at the Pentagon coincided with increased anti-Semitism, and the similarity of her name with that of accused spy Ethel Rosenberg doubtless was a factor in Anna Rosenberg's disappearance from public life. When the Eisenhower administration began in 1953, she returned to New York and died there at 81. Today, defense contractors would compete to hire a woman with her contacts and experience, but that didn't occur to guys back then.
ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER
In case you don't remember Ethel Rosenberg, she was the second (and so far, the last) woman executed for treason. (The first was Mary Surratt a century earlier; if you want to know about Surratt, let me know.) Rosenberg and her husband, Julius, were put to death in 1953 for allegedly giving secret information on atomic weaponry to Soviet agents. I've studied the case pretty closely, and I think that they were framed by Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was given a light sentence.
The execution was a tragic aberration of justice, especially for the two young children they left behind. The Rosenbergs not only were the first civilians ever executed for espionage, they also were the first people of either military or civilian status to be executed for this offense during peacetime. Worse, the charge against Ethel Rosenberg was not treason, but merely "conspiracy to commit…" Moreover, the US and the Soviet Union were allies in World War II and technically remained so. Their deaths were part of the witch hunt led by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. Much like Donald Trump, he spewed hatred and fear – until a valiant woman from Maine, Senator Margaret Chase Smith, brought him down.
Okay, with one thing leads to another, you thought I was going to talk about Senator Susan Collins of Maine. I'm not. Instead I'm going to talk about the former Soviet Union and the Russian predilection for espionage. It is part of their longtime heritage, as its tsars and nobles spied on each other and anyone else worthy of attention, foreign or not. Lenin and Stalin merely carried on what Nicholas II and his ancestors considered a routine part of governance.
The KGB officially began in 1954, when the Cold War became truly icy. Vladimir Putin was two years old then; he rose to head it and went on to be Russia's all-powerful dictator and plutocrat, much admired by Donald Trump. The well-ingrained habit of spying, though, did not make an exception for Trump. In a recent announcement so quiet that you may have missed it, the White House acknowledged that a foreign agent – doubtless Russia – had hacked into federal agencies – particularly Treasury and Commerce -- as early as 2017, when the Trump administration began. Can you imagine the outrage if the president's name were Obama?