In early March, Madalynn Rucker, then 69, agonized over whether to close her Sacramento consultancy office. On the 16th, she finally succumbed to a barrage of texts and calls from her daughter about the heightened risk of the coronavirus, and told her employees to begin working from home. That was three days before California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order.Her daughter was right in more ways than one. While Rucker’s age alone raised her potential danger of being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19, she and many of her employees share another risk factor: They are black. Rucker ...
Today's most prominent Republicans almost seem like cartoon villains: They are obvious in their schemes, exaggerated in their evil, sociopathic and antisocial as a group, and mean for the pure joy of it. Yet they somehow are still able to imagine themselves as being noble, misunderstood victims. Donald Trump, the acknowledged master of cartoon villainy, has become a role model of such behavior for the entire Republican Party.
Consider how Republicans reacted to President Biden's speech to Congress last week: It provided a national stage for their cartoon villainy.
During his speech, Joe Biden said that lead — and by implication other harmful materials — should be removed from the country's drinking water. This is hardly a controversial position and should have nothing to do with holding "liberal" or "conservative" political views. But Republicans as a group sat in silence, largely refusing to applaud such a basic and commonsensical proposal. Lead-poisoned water shortens lives and can cause developmental delays in children, as well as other emotional and psychological maladies. Environmental pollution is lethal: Scientists estimate that air pollution alone likely kills at least 200,000 people in the United States each year.
Biden also condemned gun violence and mass shootings. Biden also advocated for common sense gun laws — laws supported by a majority of Americans, including a large proportion of gun owners — to help ameliorate the country's plague of gun violence, which is estimated to have killed at least 38,000 Americans in 2019. Gun violence is estimated to cost the U.S. economy at least $229 billion each year. Republicans again sat in silence and refused to applaud.
Biden advocated expanding access to health care and other social safety net programs. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, such programs are essential to help save lives and mitigate the economic and social devastation caused by what we must hope is a once-in-a-generation event. In addition, expanding access to health care saves lives by helping to ameliorate risk factors such as pre-existing conditions that facilitate the spread and lethality of diseases such as COVID-19.
Republicans again — well, I hardly need to say it — displayed little or no enthusiasm.
In one of the greatest crimes in recent human history, the Trump regime and nearly the entire Republican Party engaged in acts of criminal negligence by refusing to properly respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Their actions quite plausibly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who might otherwise be alive today.
During his speech, Joe Biden also outlined an ambitious plan to combat childhood poverty, subsidize child care and early childhood education and provide two years of free college education. Such policies have long been advocated by a wide range of experts because they would stimulate the economy, improve wealth and income inequality across the color line, enhance life chances and improve intergenerational upward mobility. Moreover, such policies are likely to pay for themselves in the long run; they represent an investment in the country's future.
Again, the Republicans largely sat in sullen silence.
Biden also summarized the successes of the American Rescue Plan, saying that if current trends continue, childhood poverty will be reduced in America by almost 50 percent. The vast majority of Republicans did not applaud the prospect that fewer children will be forced to grow up poor.
Such behavior by elected members of Congress was immature and childish. But that should not be allowed to obscure a basic fact: Today's Republican Party may consist of cartoon villains, but that makes its policies no less dangerous to the American people and the world.
It is a fact, not an opinion, that policies advocated for and enacted by the Republican Party cause more illness, death, shortened lives and overall human suffering here in the United States than do Democratic policies — imperfect as those surely are.
One can easily demonstrate that today's Trumpian Republican Party uses pain as a type of political currency and an instrument of power.
Chris Hedges' most recent essay — published first at ScheerPost and then at Salon — details the broader relationship between sadism, politics and America's ailing culture and society:
Sadism now defines nearly every cultural, social and political experience in the United States. It is expressed in the greed of an oligarchic elite that has seen its wealth increase during the pandemic by $1.1 trillion while the country has suffered the sharpest rise in its poverty rate in more than 50 years. It is expressed in extrajudicial killings by police in cities such as Minneapolis. It is expressed in our complicity in Israel's wholesale killing of unarmed Palestinians, the humanitarian crisis engendered by the war in Yemen and our reigns of terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It is expressed in the torture in our prisons and black sites. It is expressed in the separation of children from their undocumented parents, where they are held as if they were dogs in a kennel.
Later in the essay, Hedges returns to this theme:
The historian Johan Huizinga, writing about the twilight of the Middle Ages, argued that as things fall apart sadism is embraced as a way to cope with the hostility of an indifferent universe. No longer bound to a common purpose, a ruptured society retreats into the cult of the self. It celebrates, as do corporations on Wall Street or mass culture through reality television shows, the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Get what you can, as fast as you can, before someone else gets it. This is the state of nature, the "war of all against all" Thomas Hobbes saw as the consequence of social collapse, a world in which life becomes "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." And this sadism, as Friedrich Nietzsche understood, fuels a perverted, sadistic pleasure.
Almost on cue, on Tuesday Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he would suspend all local COVID-19 public health emergency orders, effectively turning Florida (like other red states) into an incubation chamber for the coronavirus.
Today's Republican Party is a cartoonish political organization. It is also a death cult and a dire threat to the public health of all Americans. That is a conundrum but not a contradiction. Its opponents must understand that both sides of the coin are equally dangerous.
It doesn't look like much from the outside, but a building in central Rome holds a hidden treasure in the basement: the remains of a Roman era home, including elaborate mosaics.
At the entrance of the 1950s building at the foot of Rome's Aventine Hill, all appears normal, with a resident loaded with shopping bags kindly holding the door.
But venture a bit further, and down a short flight of stairs one arrives at the prize, hiding behind an ordinary grey metal door.
It is there where mosaics from a Roman "domus", or home, dating from between the first century BC to the second century AD, are visible.
Ensuing generations of Romans imposed six different levels of floors over the ages until in 2014, the remains were revealed by excavations to transform the former headquarters of the National Bank of Labour into an apartment building after its purchase by French bank BNP Paribas.
"We are here inside an 'archaeological box'... an architectural structure having two functions: to protect the mosaics and to allow the public to have access to it," Roberto Narducci, an archaeologist from Rome's Directorate of Cultural Assets, told AFP.
The mosaics depict sinewy vines creeping from pots, black and white geometric patterns, and even a bright green parrot perched atop a branch.
Doors opened to the public on Friday after four years of technologicallycomplex excavation work that was completed in 2018.
"Here we're inside a private building... just where they were planning to build eight garages," Narducci said, smiling.
- Goodbye garages -
The garage plan was shelved after an agreement with BNP Paribas, which financed work on the excavations, he said.
A multimedia visit greets the public, using plays of light and a soundtrack punctuated with bird songs to transform the atmosphere once again into the Roman "domus" of a wealthy family.
The light show imposes brightly colored paintings reminiscent of those of Pompeian villas on the walls, while missing portions of mosaics are replaced as if by magic.
Undoubtedly, the former home better evokes more of its original splendor -- even after the passing of more than 2,000 years -- through the chosen format rather than transforming all elements to a museum.
"We had the opportunity to study several layers of mosaics that were superimposed on each other over the centuries, six in total: from a scientific point of view, this happens very rarely," said Narducci.
During the study of an area of over 2,000 square meters (21,528 square feet), archaeologists unearthed even more finds, some dating back as far as the eighth century BC, including the remains of a military construction that may have been a watchtower. Its foundations are still visible.
And how do the co-owners of the building react to this unusual presence under their feet?
Residents are "proud" of the former Roman home below them, according to Narducci, and they have preferential access when the site is open to the public.
A deal between Rome's cultural assets department and the condominium provides for visits by the public on the first and third Friday of each month, under the supervision of a guide.
"It's true we're inside a residential building, but we are also on an archaeological site where the objects belong to the state," Narducci said.
© 2021 AFP
Donald Trump is singling out the Republican Party's most prominent families for revenge after his election loss.
The twice-impeached one-term president is carrying out a vendetta against the GOP's political dynasties -- the Cheneys, the Bushes, the Romneys, the McCains and the Murkowskis -- as he brings the party fully under his control, reported Politico.
"It's a tragedy," said Arne Carlson, a former two-term GOP governor of Minnesota. "The problem with the revolution is they continue to get more and more extreme. Whereas Liz Cheney was on the right, she now finds herself being pushed into the middle and, ultimately, off the cliff."
Trump has criticized the GOP's leading lights -- Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan and the Bush family -- since before he entered politics, and he has continued to denigrate the once esteemed families who defined the Republican Party for generations since entering and then exiting the White House.
"He sh*ts on everybody, even former presidents," said Mark Graul, a Republican strategist who oversaw George W. Bush's 2004 campaign in Wisconsin. "[Rep. Liz Cheney] happens to be the daughter of the [former] vice president."
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has gone along with Trump's efforts to punish Cheney for her impeachment vote and refusal to endorse his election lies, but Carlson warned that he can't expect that to save his own neck from the former president's political bloodlust.
"What he doesn't realize is he may be the next one to go," Carlson said. "The people who set the guillotines in motion ultimately have their necks under it, as they get into these endless battles about who's more loyal, who's more pure."
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