Contrasts

Today is Wednesday January 4th, 2023. Kia ora!

Last night we watched Bohemian Rhapsody again, this time on TV2. I must say it’s a pleasant change to get some good movies on free-to-air television, since there doesn’t seem to be much on the streaming services. Try as I might, I cannot get the latest series of The Crown on Netflix. Perhaps it hasn’t been released here yet? Privately, I would quite like to watch it.

Today it’s hot again, and I don’t feel great. I don’t plan to go anywhere today.  I ring my cousin this morning, to hear that her husband has Covid 19 too, as does one of her sisters-in-law.  They recently attended a Bible Camp, and many now have Covid 19, perhaps as a result. She and her husband are going to take Paxlovid – their local chemist will deliver it to their house! 

In the US, Republican Kevin McCarthy has lost a third vote to be House Speaker. Three votes!  It makes a pleasant change, dare I say it, to see Republicans in some disarray, as Democrats are being praised for putting their differences aside (really?) when it mattered. Joe Manchin must be having a wry grin, at this point. But Joe Biden is now being seen as a wonderful president, who has an amazing ability to get things done, which make a real difference to people’s lives. There is evidence of much bipartisanship, which speaks to his years as a politician.  Republicans now have control of Congress again, but can they use this effectively? Or even use it? Kevin McCarthy had even moved into the Speaker’s office. Family and friends came along for the show. The New York Times showed a picture of a child yawning.

Actually, I don’t gain any satisfaction from seeing anyone suffer. But while it hard not to find this drama mildly amusing, it really matters, just as Trump’s presidency really mattered. It doesn’t matter as much, but American government means a great deal to the rest of the world, especially while the war in Ukraine goes on, seemingly without any obvious ending. Most  Americans have yet to realise that the brave Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom, on our behalf. Does anyone think that Putin would stop once he’s conquered Ukraine? Or that President Xi doesn’t have wider ambitions? It is naïve to bicker over support for Ukraine: US forces are not on the ground there, but the support of armaments and $$$ from the US and from Europe is huge and means a great deal.

While it is interesting, if rather discomforting, to watch this chaos unfolding, one is reminded that loyalty to others is something Trump doesn’t do:  while McCarthy publicly humiliated himself by visiting Trump at Mar-a-Lago to “kiss the ring” after the January 6 insurrection, despite recordings of his disavowing Trump, to expect Trump to return this loyalty is a fatal flaw. I fear that Kevin McCarthy  will join the cast of thousands that Trump has “thrown under the bus”.  I repeat, he doesn’t necessarily deliver loyalty to his supporters, although he expects it from then.  “Everything Trump touches dies”, wrote one author.

Perhaps they’ll get Jim Jordan as speaker, and wish they had Kevin McCarthy to  kick around after all. “They” includes all the commentators and (not so) wise heads.

The Covid 19 report is out today, and as expected, numbers are down over Christmas, although still quite high. The report is as follows: today’s Covid-19 case numbers are the highest in a week – but still significantly less than a peak earlier this month. There are 4578 new cases reported today. That is about half of the highest daily tally two-and-a-half weeks ago. Counties Manukau has the most cases – 641, followed by Canterbury, with 546.

There are 482 people in hospital with the virus, down from a peak of close to 600, in the lead up to Christmas. Waitematā has the most hospitalisations – currently 83.

More than 32,000 new cases have been reported in the last week, but numbers are down from the 43,000 cases the week before. We’re not told how many deaths attributable to Covid 19 have occurred in the past week.

It’s now Thursday January 5th.

Last night we watched Alan Partridge, Alpha Male on Te Whakaata Māori – another “fun” movie, to use the vernacular. 

Today it’s cooler, and it’s drizzling with rain. When I went outside to get the newspaper, the driveway was wet, indicating it has been raining during the night. It’s a relief actually to have it a bit cooler, and not so sticky.

In the US, the drama continues over Republicans’ refusal (inability?) to elect a House Speaker.  Last night was punctuated by boxes of pizza, howling, and what is known as “f-bombs”.   McCarthy has lost the vote to be speaker 6 (six) times, increasing, not decreasing his minority. So the situation has moved from being amusing to being embarrassing, as we watch what is almost (after India) the largest “democracy” in the world try to elect a Speaker to do really important stuff, like funding the government. Last night Trump said “We’ll see what happens”; today he has apparently endorsed McCarthy, and is “working the phones”. Will it make a difference?  Who knows.  Will Trump continue to lose?  Most commentators aren’t prepared to write him off just yet. Look how he “won” the 2016 Presidential election. The eyes of the world are transfixed, again, by American political antics. Meanwhile, Ukrainians are paying with their lives for the right to even have a democracy.  It’s the kind of ridiculous comparison that “what about-ism” brought about, with Brexit and Trump’s election as president. The democrats meanwhile look amazingly sensible and well organised.

I am reminded of the destructive role of the Tea Party movement, and the decisions of John Boehner and Paul Ryan not to be speaker, despite its being a prestigious position, and despite their having significant support for the role. Nancy Pelosi’s role as Speaker for the democrats looks ever more amazing, as her skill in holding different elements of her caucus together is more and more admired.  Great support for her nominated replacement, Hakeem Jeffries, is also demonstrated. This chaos is being played out publicly, in a manner that we have not seen to date. C-Span cameras are having a ball.

Disgraced New York republican representative George Santos was being ignored yesterday, but he manage to tweet out that he’d been sworn in. Another lie, then. 

At 1:30 pm I learn that the House is holding a vote to adjourn.  Ironically, this vote takes place after the Prayer and the Oath of Allegiance, both of which seem highly ironic in this situation.  Before voting, the quorum has to be established, which it is. But are there enough votes to adjourn?  We wait with bated  breath.

On a more positive note, the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Kentucky and Ohio, has long been due for replacement, and is now going to be strengthened while a new bridge is built beside it.  This is due to Biden’s infrastructure bill, I think, Anyway, it’s a huge achievement, as Rachel Maddow outlined in her TRMS show on Monday night (we get the podcast here on a Tuesday afternoon).  This is a really big deal, or a “BFD” as Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark would say. I’ll leave you to figure out what the “F” stands for.  There is a clip on Youtube of President Biden, Republican Senator of Kentucky Mitch McConnell, and other important people making a presentation:

I’m sorry about the ads.

It is quite wonderful to see some bipartisanship working to do something that will benefit many, many people. Obama and Trump could/did not achieve this. Biden made a speech: at first, I feared he would make the halting gaffe-ridden remarks for which he is ridiculed so often, but as he went on, he spoke really well. What a moment! And what a contrast to the embarrassing, very public meltdown in the US Congress, where McCarthy has now lost six votes (11:21 am on Thursday 5/1/23 here in Aotearoa) in the Speakership contest. I guess this shows that American Republicans don’t do this kind of simple, straightforward democracy very well – where a majority of votes actually counts – without the help of a very conservative Supreme Court, or a filibuster, or an Electoral College, which are generally tilted to support a weak republican “majority”. 

I think they voted to adjourn.

It’s now Friday January 6th.

It’s muggy and raining sometimes drizzling.

This morning I cancelled Access’s visit; instead I went to have lunch with a friend.  We had a lovely time, and a lovely chat. 

This afternoon I am catching up with the US politics situation: apparently Kevin McCarthy has now lost 11 votes to be House Speaker, over 3 days. At present (4:30 pm NZ time) the House is voting to adjourn (again).

Evidently Matt Gaetz nominated Donald Trump to be speaker; he received one vote. Even Lauren Boebert didn’t vote for him.  The far-fight members of the so-called Freedom Caucus were initially causing problems, but the differences go wider than that. McCarthy’s vote deficit has widened since Trump endorsed him.  Everyone is saying that not only is this embarrassing, but Nancy Pelosi would never have allowed such a situation to develop. She had really narrow margins at times, but woudln’t allow a vote that she couldn’t win..

It’s now Saturday January 7th.

It’s a quiet, wet day.  It’s also very dark. It’s overcast, but it is very dark, especially for midsummer!  I have almost all the lights on, and the curtains pulled back, but it is still dark.  I feel sorry for those camping, as although it’s not really stormy here, camping grounds in the Far North, the Coromandel peninsula and the Bay of Plenty are flooded or threatened by flooding. One of the roads in the Coromandel Peninsula has been cut off by a slip. 

In the US political situation, the chaos continues, with Kevin McCarthy having lost 13 votes to be house Speaker, and the House having voted to a adjourn until tonight their time, probably the middle of the night for us.

I am concerned about this situation, as the chaos continues. It seems that the goal of making countries ungovernable is coming true, as we see ongoing chaos in the UK with their strikes, and inflation, and in the US, inability to elect a speaker. It seems that there is no accountability in some of the Tories in the UK, and some far-right republicans in the US. They simply don’t take the business of governing seriously, and it’s a serious business; after all, when you’re elected to government, you are the government of all the citizens of that country, not just the ones who voted for you. This situation greatly concerns me.

It’s also the two-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. There have been many prosecutions (perhaps 900?), but some election deniers have been elected to congress, and are mainly responsible for the current inertia. Although Trump was nominated by Matt Gaetz to be speaker, and gained only one vote in the subsequent election, the chaos he created (favoured by Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage amongst others) pursues long after him, if he is to be written off. He certainly seems to lose elections, but the focus of some republicans is not to win elections legitimately, but to hold power. I watched an interview on Ari Melber’s The Beat where he spoke to Michael Moore and Timothy Snyder, a somewhat unlikely guest pairing.  Moore, unusually, was the more upbeat one; Snyder echoed a podcast I had listened to reiterating that this kind of unaccountable chaos is just what chaos-mongers want.

This delay is proving frustrating for politicians who need to be sworn in, and to go home, where their families are coping with storms, travel disruption, illness, and other winter ills.

It’s now late afternoon, and I gather that the US House of Representatives has reconvened and that Kevin McCarthy has now lost 15 votes to be House Speaker.  One has to wonder why he continues to humiliate himself. Maybe that’s 14. We are all wondering what concessions he has made in order to obtain votes. Apparently (ABC News) he’s lost his latest attempt by a single vote.

Later this afternoon I learn that he’s won, on the 15th vote.  That’s some relief, I guess.  I need to digest this news!

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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