Saturday, May 08, 2021

When Rules Are Suggestions


"Some states," the report below from CBS News on May 3 indicates, "are now lifting restrictions as infection rates decline."  More than 40% of adults now are fully vaccinated and infections are declining in twenty-three states.


With an increasing number of people vaccinated and the arrival of warm weather, infection rates( in the absence of new strains of the coronavirus spreading) will continue to decline.

But that will not be because of clear and decisive decisions by state executives. Nonethless, NJ.com reports that by order of New Jersey governor Phil Murphy

New Jersey will join New York and Connecticut in dropping many of its largest remaining coronavirus restrictions May 19, including removing fixed, percentage-based indoor capacity limits at restaurants, gyms, retail businesses, and churches — though mask and social distancing regulations will remain — while also ending all outdoor gathering caps....

The capacity change will affect restaurants, gyms, hair and nail salons, barber shops, retail shops, movie theaters, museums, places of worship, and amusement parks, all of which are currently limited to 50% capacity in New Jersey.

Under the change, there would be no limit based on a percentage of capacity, but businesses and venues will still be required to keep patrons or parties of patrons 6 feet apart, based on federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Restaurants can also build physical partitions to allow for closer seating.

Meanwhile, seating at indoor bars in New Jersey will be allowed to resume starting Friday, with the same restrictions on social distancing. Buffets will also be allowed to return that day.

But this is not quite a full reopening for New Jersey, nor does it mean restaurants and stores will look like they did pre-pandemic. People must still wear a mask for all indoor activities unless they are eating or drinking.

"People must still wear a mask for all indoor activities unless they are eating or drinking" represents not only the terrible reporting during this pandemic but also the dishonesty which has characterized the words and actions of public officials.

Not going to happen. People don't go to restaurants and bars to sit down, eat and drink, and leave. They go to relax, to talk to the other individuals at their table or at the bar, and often to socialize.

They will not do this while wearing masks.  They know it, the business owners and their staffs know it, and the governors of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut know it.

Business owners can encourage patrons to abide by social distance regulations but their ability to enforce them is limited. Demanding that individual customers wear their masks- properly- would be even more risky.

At the same time that customers of bars and restaurants are shirking regulations- with the full knowledge of government officials- people throughout the region will be in supermarkets/grocery stores, and drugstores wearing masks. No one will resist the peer pressure to do so, though the risk of transmission in a solitary activity such as shopping is greater than in the social settings involving eating and drinking.

In practice, people will not be required, nor expected, to wear a mask for all indoor activities. However, it's not hard to determine why government officials would establish a regulation they know will be ignored. NJ.com notes

Republicans have pushed Murphy, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, to move more quickly or to at least release target dates. And on Friday, a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Dawn Addiego, D-Burlington, called on the governor to lift all capacity limits in the state by July 1.

In announcing what New York governor Andrew Cuomo terms "a major reopening of economic and social activity,” Democratic governors are able (they think) to shut up GOP politicians who have slammed Democratic state executives for keeping their "economy closed." Restaurant and bar patrons will enjoy their night. Yet chores, essential activities, wil be conducted with face coverings, thus satisfying that portion of the leftshaming people and politicians resisting masks.

It's a win-win in the short term for politicians, especially with the media ignoring the obvious dissonance. But somewhere, sometime down the road, hypocrisy will exact its price.



As It Appears



Sometimes the conventional wisdom is accurate. Often, a cigar is just a cigar.


This is not 1971, but 2021; this is not Vietnam, but Afghanistan. No one cares about Afghanistan. Although Liz Cheney does a little, if she were obsessed with it, she wouldn't have chosen now to have split with her party, soon after a President of the other party announced a withdrawal from Afghanistan.  In her Washington Post op-ed, she mentioned China and Black Lives Matter and not Afghanistan. I've now mentioned that country more than anyone has in the past five years.

In the video immediately below, long-time GOP strategist and Never Trumper Susan DelPercio states (at 2:13)

This isn't anymore about Trump. It's about the idea of the extremists taking over the state parties and nominating the most extreme and losing congressional seats as a result of it most likely. But again, even if 2022 works out for the Republicans, the long term it won't.



In this portion of Mika Brzezinski's chat with two GOP strategists, DelPercio didn't explain what she means by "extremism." However, it usually refers to ideology, and very few politicians can out-conservative, out-extreme Liz Cheney, as Chris Cillizza explains in the early portion of the video below. Cillizza notes that Cheney has voted with Trump more than has Elise Stefanik, who probably will replace the Wyoming congresswoman in the House GOP leadership. He adds (beginning at 4:45)

So, yea, this isn't about conservatism or even really opposing Trump's agenda while in office. This is about Liz Cheney drawing a line in the sand over the events of January 6, as well as the runup to that day and its aftermath, all about Trump arguing against all available evidence that the election was stolen.

And yes, of course, Stefanik voted to object to the Electoral College Count in Pennsylavania on the same day that the Capitol was overrun by Trump-inspired rioters. The only difference, other than that Cheney has a far more conservative voting record than Stefanik, between these two women is that the former (i.e., Cheney) isn't willing to proumulgate TRump's big lie about the 2020 election and the other is just fine with it.



That is conventional wisdom, and also valid. The GOP has thrown its lot in with Donald Trump, as Cillizza and DelPercio understand, but only the former emphasizes.When there was a challenge among Democrats to re-electing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, Democrats quickly closed ranks to oppose the upstart. Republicans are more authoritarian and for them, there is one way and there is the highway. Jesus, many of them profess to believe, is the way, the truth, and the life. But Donald Trump is the Chosen One.



Wednesday, May 05, 2021

There For All To See

 





Boehlert's point is, however obvious, an excellent and critical one. However, Vote Vets and Jentleson actually are incorrect.   The Washington Post's Fact Checker noted that in the infamous interview of October, 2010, Senate Minority Leader McConnell stated

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president... If President Obama does a Clintonian backflip, if he's willing to meet us halfway on some of the bigest issues, it's not inapppropriate for us to do business with him.... I don't want the president to fail. I want him to change.

Of course, McConnell was lying. He wasn't willing to meet  Obama halfway and he did want the President to fail.That's why he bragged (video below) as Majority Leader "about how he blocked former President Barack Obama's federal judge picks for two years,'' including refusing even to hold a hearing for the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. He nonetheless pushed through the elevation of Amy Coney Barrett to the High Court a few days before the 2020 election and in the lame duck session successfully rushed approval of several individuals for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.



McConnell's message on Wednesday was more explicit than his responses in the 2010 interview. Responding to one question, he stated

One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new Administration. I think the best way of looking at what this new Administration is- the President may have won the nomination but Bernie Sanders won the argument about what the new Administration should be like. We're confronted with severe challenges from a new Administration and a narrow majority of Democrats in the House and a 50-50 Sentate to turn America into a socialist country and that's 100% of my focus.

Asked a follow-up, the Minority Leader replied

One hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this Administration. What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden Administration is trying to do to this country.

No longer can anyone legitimately claim, as Kessler did in his GOP-freindly fact check of the 2010 statement, that McConnell is speaking in "a political context.."  The Majority Leader has laid down the gauntlet: it's a "socialist" Administration and everyone in his caucus, from Collins to Cruz, is unified in opposing the President's agenda. All of it.

"What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." Mitch McConnell set out to deceive people during the Obama Administration, and succeeded with an important Washington Post reporter and a few others. At least now, as Boehlert's sarcastic retort indicates, the jig is up.

 


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Let A Thousand Disagreements Bloom


It comes from the left, it comes from the right, but wherever it's coming from, narrrow-midedness is the order of the day.

The Washington Post's Cat Zakrzewski was interviewing Senator Josh Hawley of Michigan about a Pennsylvania court dismissing a challenge to the election of Joe Biden when the Republican grumbled (beginning at 1:47 of the video below)

No, hold on. No, no, no, no, no. You can't have it both ways, Cat. No, you can't have it both ways. You can't say they dismissed- you can't say they heard the merits and dismissed it. That's wrong. That's wrong. The Supreme Court didn't hear the merits of the..... no, hold on. It's an important point. Listen, it's an important point. Don't try to censor, cancel, and silence me here.

That's rich. The Washington Post gives Senator Hawley a platform and he tells the reporter she is trying to "censor, cancel, and silence" him (impressive piece of psychological projection, though).



On Monday night CNN's Chris Cuomo had the temerity to interview a guy Twitter already has determined is an irredeemable racist.  At a Young America Foundation conference in March, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum maintained

We birthed a nation. From nothing. There was nothing here. Yes, we have Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture. It was born of the people who came here, pursuing religious liberty, to practice their faith, to live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so. Religious liberty.

Cuomo directly confronted Santorum on the substance of his remarks and the former Senator conceded

Just to be clear what I was not saying is that Native American culture…I misspoke…what I was talking about is the founding of the country. I gave a long talk about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and what I was saying is that we sort of created that anew, if you will. I was not trying to dismiss Native Americans. In fact, I mentioned them because they were here and they did have an impact. In fact, in this country you are right, they did have a huge impact.

But that acknowledgement of error was not enough because while conservatives such as Hawley object to being confronted about their actions, some liberals object to cultural conservatives being given a platform where they are challenged by an ideologically hostile interlocutor. In thecrossover from Chris "Cuomo Prime Time" to "Don Lemon Tonight," Don Lemon heatedly objected

I was furious watching that interview in my office. I can't believe the first words out of his mouth weren't "I'm sorrry. I said something ignorant. I- you know, I need to learn something about the history of this country. No contrition- didn't talk about the suffering Native Americans have had to deal with in this country.

In fact, the former senator did go further than almost any politician will, having admitted "they (Native Americans) were here and they did have an impact. In fact, in this country you are right, they did have a huge impact." However, neither Santorum nor anyone will get on his or her knees and beg forgiveness, beseeching "I said something ignorant."

Begging forgiveness is between Santorum and his God, not between Santorum and other human beings. It's not going to happen as Lemon wishes, even if the latter is so condescending as to demand that Santorum plead "I need to learn something about the history of this country."

It didn't get any more realistic when Lemon continued

Europeans did not found this country. Yes the Europeans conquered this country. They colonized it. But they didn't- it had nothing to do with the founding of this country and he should recognize that.

Actually, the Europeans did found this nation. That's not opinion; that's fact. Native Americans founded the land, though that's a redundancy. Of course, native Americans founded America- it couldn't be otherwise. Their descendants originated in Asia and were nearly wiped out at least 15,000 years later by people who came here from the European continent.

After displaying a fair amount of genocidal skill, European-Americans proceeded to create a nation which they hoped would enforce their dominance.  They helpfully did so with the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and some reasonably democratic institutions which we must constantly strive to perfect.

Having whiffed on American history, Lemon added

He should know that, especially if he's going to be on television representing us and talking about it. He should be doing it from the right perspective and not from some perspective about how Europeans- no! That's the wrong way to look at it.

It's just a guess, but it's likely lifelong right-wing Republican Rick Santorum wasn't asked on Cuomo's show to represent "us," but rather the viewpoint of, say, a lifelong right-wing Republican who had recently made the kind of remarks Santorum would be expected to make.  If Lemon needed "the right perspective," someone with the same perspective could have been brought on to mouth Lemon's viewpoint. Instead, Santorum's feet were held to the fire by Cuomo. Oh, the horror of it all!

Chris Cuomo challenging Rick Santorum on comments about the contribution of indigenous people to this country. Cat Zakrzewski confronting Josh Hawley on his effort to block certification of a free and fair election of a President. It's real journalism, amidst all the whining and complaining about it.




Monday, May 03, 2021

Foolish


Foolish  (Merriam-Webster): having or showing a lack of good sense, judgment, or discretion.

As is his custom on the "main story" featured on "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver neither talks down to, nor above, his audience. On Sunday night, he remarked (beginning at 4:34 of the video below)

....let's talk about the Covid vaccines- why people are hesitant, what their worries are, and how they might be reassured. Let's start with the facts. You can't categorize any one group as uniformly vaccin-hesitant. No demographic group is immune. Every group wiell have some who are excited and some who are anxious. And different groups will be anxious for different reasons.

Oliver thus differentiates himself from many journalists in broadcast media who broadly cast as cartoonishly ignorant white peope who are skeptical of the vaccine. However, he added "for instance, early on you heard about some hesitancy among black Americans, which can be a real thing. Even this pediatrician had reservations."

(Plays tape.)

Interviewer: When the vaccine was first made available to both of you, did you both jump at the chance to get it?

Dr. Clarissa Dudley of Children's National Hospital: No, no, not me, anyway. I am black first in this country and that has with it a lot of baggage to tell you the truth, and so from my public health degree, the culminating experience that I did was related to the relationship between black people and physicians and that relationship has been a cantankerous one. And so those are the kinds of things that are deeply embedded and challenging to overcome even with someone who is a scientist.

(Tape ends and Oliver returns.)

Honestly, I do understand that. We've talked before on this show about the fraught relationship black Americans have with health care based on Cohen's bad experiences and the history of such incidents such as the Tuskegee experiment, where doctors lied to black men, allowing them to suffer from untreated syphillis over decades- or as most U.S. history students would describe it, "something I have not heard of."

Though it does seem important to mention that that doctor did end up getting the vaccine and in general black vaccine hesitancy has dropped fast.



It seems also important to note that the impact of the Tuskegee experiment, which Oliver suggests played a role in Dr. Dudley's reticence, was overcome in the minds of most black Americans. That would be because, unlike "scientist" Dudley, most blacks are not foolish, as The Washington Post's David Montgomery found when he

contacted the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation, an organization of Tuskegee descendants founded in 2014 to keep alive the men’s stories and promote education. Lillie Tyson Head serves as president. She told me she understands and respects the feelings of people who see the Tuskegee study as a reason to be wary of the coronavirus vaccines. She thinks the descendants have a role to play in assuaging some of those fears — serving as“an encouragement or an inspiration for people to get the vaccine, especially people of color.”

The family trees of descendants no doubt contain some vaccine skeptics. But Head says the foundation’s most active members have been, or soon will be, vaccinated.

Although that's encouraging, it's worrisome if a healthy- more likely, unhealthy- swath of black America was hesitant about the vaccine because of a study which ended a half century ago.  It's hard to believe that so many African-Americans would have been afraid of the vaccine without members of the media, and foolish people like Dr. Dudley, encouraging them to be scared. 

It strains credulity to believe that Dr. Dudley herself initially avoided getting the vaccine because of the historically cantakerous (contentious?) between blacks and their doctors.  Dudley herself may not trust her own doctor, to which the rational response should have been to find a new physician. She would know how to do that- she's a doctor. As "a scientist," she presumably would be rational.

More likely, Dudley for whatever reason avoided getting the vaccine once she was able to do so but used that cantakerous relationship as an excuse. After all, she did eventually get vaccinated, without any indication that she did so only after finding a doctor she could trust. And the history of black Americans with the medical profession has not disappeared.

It's improbable that many blacks actually believed that a vaccine which white (Latino, Asian-American, and others) people were being implored to get was a tactic to kill off African-Americans. If it were, a whole lot of people who aren't black would have been eliminated. That would have been a foolish strategy. To believe there was such a plot would have been, well, foolish.

The emphasis in the first few months upon hesitancy of blacks to be vaccinated probably was exaggerated for political motive. It was a fairly effective way to inform viewers of the Tuskegee experiment and to remind them of the racial divide in the American health care system.  Some people avoided getting their shot(s) because of it and probably a few even died. But for individuals such as Dr. Clarissa Dudley, that may have been a small price to pay to make a point.



Sunday, May 02, 2021

Taking Tim Scott At His Word


The day after President Biden delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress and Republican senator Tim Scott gave his rebuttal, I noted

We can have a sociological or philosophical debate as to whether the USA is "a racist country."  However, if a guy who has experienced what Scott says he has experienced (and still experiences) insists that country is the greatest and not racist, he is not being candid.

Scott is, I maintained, "lying or stupid." Unfortunately, there is another alternative: he may have been telling the truth. And that probably would be the worst of all.

Veteran conservative syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, blasting Scott's "critics on the left," wrote

As a child growing up in South Carolina, Scott was often angry in school, he said, and nearly failed. That he didn’t is a credit to his single mother, who “has prayed me through some really tough times,” and his grandparents with whom, he, his mother and his brother lived. He spoke of seeing his grandfather read the morning paper each day, only to learn much later that his grandfather couldn’t read but was trying to set an example.

In other words, Scott’s is the kind of story Americans have always admired — the overcoming of adversity to become what he could not have imagined as a child.

Because it "is the kind of story Americans have always admired," it's the kind of story thousands of politicians have told throughout history.  The dates, the geography, the ethnicity change but the essentials remain the same: I really had it hard but I rose above it, and above everyone else. Young Tim did it because, prompted by the prayers of a single mother,  God blessed him. You, most Americans, have not so blessed.

If Scott had two strikes against him, got on base, and ultimately scored the winning run (became one of only 100 US Senators), good for him. But it's not good when he fails to acknowledge that in these United States of America, runs usually are scored by people who, through advantages accumulating from birth, start out at third base. Most of the others fail to get beyond first base. (Perhaps their mother didn't pray hard enough; it certainly couldn't be because they haven't been given a helping hand.)

Parker argued

The trouble among people who seem to see racism everywhere is that Scott neither sees nor dwells in a Black-and-White world. Life for Scott hasn’t been easy. As he said Wednesday, he has experienced the insults to his dignity that other minorities recognize as part and parcel of life in America. He’s been followed in stores, he said, and pulled over for no reason while driving.

Parker omitted "I get called “Uncle Tom” and the N-word — by ‘progressives’!" The tense, in which Scott stated "I get called" rather than "I previously was called," is crucial. The columnist added

So, what’s wrong with Tim Scott? Not one thing except that he’s a conservative — and Black. A child could easily recognize the unfairness of such an assessment. Anyone can see that judging Scott by his skin color is the essence of racism. The fact that Republicans admire him does not and should not diminish his accomplishments.

Well now, "anyone can see that judging Scott by his skin color is the essence of racism" is rather ironic coming from the pen (or keystroke) of one ardently defending Scott.  It may have escaped Parker's attention that the subject of her admiration himself seems not to attribute it to racism.  "Hear me clearly," Scott said, "America is not a racist country."

Hearing this, I pointed out the other day that assuming these reprehensible things happened- and are still happening, in his telling- to a respected, middle-aged pillar of the community, the only reasonable conclusion is that America is a racist country. If in light of being treated as a second-class citizen (and maybe as subhuman), Scott concludes his country is not racist, he is being dishonest or stupid.

However, there is a third possibility. Perhaps the Senator does believe that America, with a history of slavery, discrimination, and voter suppression (that, also in the present), is not a racist country. He may simultaneously assert that he is the victim of bias executed by police officers; bias practiced by store clerks, managers, and/or owners; and bias by acquaintances and/or strangers resorting to use of a racial slur 

Do you see what Scott is doing here?  Presumably, he believes the prejudice he has encountered from numerous individuals is vile.The country and its institutions should not be perceived as racist; the people of America should be. If the old red, white, and blue is as, the Senator maintains, "the greatest country on earth" while all the rest is happening to people simply on the basis of the color of their skin, the problem is not institutional or structural; it's people.

So were I ever to meet Tim Scott, I would have to confess. I should not have assumed that he is a liar or a stupid man. He may be neither, just someone who loves and reveres this country as the greatest but has only distaste for those of us living here.



 


Saturday, May 01, 2021

That Problem


Governor Jim Justice is is from West Virginia and rarely if ever is mentioned as a possible national candidate. Thus, he thus has nothing to fear from this:

 

In the video (below) of the full transaction between Justice and Ruhle, the latter notes  "West Virginia ranks 47th in health care, 48th in the economy, and 50th in infrastructure." Why, Ruhle asks, "would he make this a priority?" Instead, she might ask "why am I making this a priority?"

"Stephanie, I didn't make it a priority," Justice succinctly responded. Not being a national politician nor one from a diverse state, Justice then defensively added "it wasn't my bill." "It wasn't my bill" would have sounded better as "It wasn't my bill but in all matters, I'm with the people of West Virginia and their values."

Were that not the case, the GOP-controlled state legislature wouldn't have enacted a law which personally offends liberals and progressives and much of the mainstream media, and which might incur a Georgia-style corporate backlash.  By contrast, it's unlikely that Americans generally welcome transgender girls participating in girls sports in schools. Two months ago, The Washington Post noted

Conservatives make little secret of their view that highlighting women’s sports is an advantageous way for them to frame the discussion, rather than debating the right of transgender people to be treated like everyone else.

Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, has long been trying to shape a message on transgender policy for Republican political candidates. The group’s polling last year, he said, suggests that many voters — including Biden supporters and those who otherwise back LGBTQ rights — oppose letting athletes who were assigned male at birth compete in women’s sports.

“We found that the women’s sports issue was not only exceptionally powerful, but it also had the benefit of not being exclusive,” Schilling said. “It was something that our organization could convince politicians to champion.”

James Carville identifies "faculty lounge politics" as a practice undermining Democrats with rural voters. Determined not to be self-destructive, he does not directly address gender and race but instead the "wokeness" seemingly characterized by the Democratic Party's obsession with those two topics. While West Virginia has serious problems with poverty and other aspects of quality of life, Stephanie Ruhle spends nearly three minutes arguing with the state's governor about- of all things- transgender athletes, and the the cultural left crows because it believes he's being owned. The appropriate response:


 

 


When Rules Are Suggestions

"Some states," the report below from CBS News on May 3 indicates, "are now lifting restrictions as infection rates decline.&...