Saturday, July 24, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- American Government

Leave it to a New York comedian to recognize, and encapsulate in forty words or fewer, American government:


The only slight- very slight- inaccuracy is that Donald Trump tried to burn down the farm stand.   It was only a split-second, righteous decision by an officer of the Capitol Police Department in shooting Ashli Babbitt that prevented an incursion by insurrectionists which probably would have resulted in the murder of a whole lot of people in the Capitol on January 6. It was an act so bold that the name of the officer hasn't been released, no doubt in part to spare him and his family many of the death threats that will come his way once his name is revealed.

President Trump tried to burn down the farm stand that day and but for one police officer may have done so. Of course, if Casler had said all that, the tweet would have been far less pithy and memorable and would have little impact. Instead, he captured perfectly (or nearly perfectly) not only what has transpired in the federal government the past four-and-a-half years but the fragility of our representative democracy. 

It all can be brought down by one thoroughly evil and remarkably charismatic individual. Throw away conventional American history as traditionally taught. Throw away also the 1619 Project and critical race theory as a vehicle for teaching American history. Start with " the USA was- no, is- set up like an honor system farm stand in which you leave a couple of bucks in a jar and take some apples."  That captures the essence of our political system. Take it from there and our country's past and future would be fairly, honestly, and comprehensively taught.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Our F.B.I. And Donald Trump

Something is rotten in Washington, D.C., something including, but extending beyond, the stench Donald J. Trump and his henchmen left behind.

In June, 2018 The New York Times' Jim Dwyer recalled "two weeks before the 2016 election, Mr. Comey disclosed that the F.B.I. discovered a laptop that had not been examined in the original investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails."

After most of the damage was done, FBI director Jim Comey announced that those were among the emails already reviewed. Amid speculation that Comey announced discovery of the emails because he feared that anti-Clinton agents in the NY office would have leaked them otherwise. Dwyer noted

On Oct. 25, 2016, three days before Mr. Comey’s stunning announcement, Mr. Giuliani appeared on a Fox morning television show.

“We got a couple of surprises left,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He chortled, and when asked to expand on the subject, replied, “And I think it’ll be enormously effective.”

On Thursday, Oct. 27, Mr. Giuliani appeared on another Fox show and said he was talking about “pretty big surprises.” He added, “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”

The news of the reactivated email inspection arrived the following day and may have helped propel Mr. Trump closer to the presidency.

It probably was the determining factor in the election. Nate Silver, then of FiveThirtyEight, would explain

Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020.

But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has long been curious about the "investigation," first suggested by then-GOP Senator Jeff Flake, into the allegations against President Trump's nominee for the US Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. The New York Times has found

In a letter dated June 30 to two Democratic senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware, an F.B.I. assistant director, Jill C. Tyson, said that the most “relevant” of the 4,500 tips the agency received during an investigation into Mr. Kavanaugh’s past were referred to White House lawyers in the Trump administration, whose handling of them remains unclear.

The letter left uncertain whether the F.B.I. itself followed up on the most compelling leads. The agency was conducting a background check rather than a criminal investigation, meaning that “the authorities, policies, and procedures used to investigate criminal matters did not apply,” the letter said.

Ms. Tyson’s letter was a response to a 2019 letter from Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Coons to the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, posing questions about how the F.B.I.’s review of Mr. Kavanaugh was handled.

So the Federal Bureau of (non-) Investigation received tips in their (non-) investigation and instead of looking into them, turned them over to the White House, which the FBI knew wanted to whitewash the case. Tyson's letter can only be generously labeled a response to the Whitehouse-Coons letter, given that the agency ignored it during the Trump Administration.  The Justice Department and the White House no longer are under corrupt leadership.

Trump followers have for years bleated about the "deep state."  Maybe the Administration was the party overwhelmingly responsible for the Kavanaugh sham. However, the FBI certainly was a willing partner, running interference for a guy who probably wouldn't have gotten to the White House without its help.



Thursday, July 22, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- HRC

Please, someone, give Bob Dole a cookie.

Haberman is impressed by how blunt Dole is when the the self-described "Trumper" stated "He lost the election and I regret they did, but they did." After six months of the Biden presidency, what could possibly have been his first clue?

There is no law that says that Donald Trump- or any losing presidential nominee- must go away. None, that is, unless the loser is Hillary Rodham Clinton (below in November, 2018 but it could have been at any time).

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Open Carry

The Washington Post reported in late June

After a gunman ambushed and killed a police officer last week in a midday attack in a Denver suburb, most witnesses scattered, ducking behind cars as they ran for safety. But 40-year-old John Hurley moved toward the shooter, pulling out his concealed handgun and firing at the attacker.

After the gunman fell, Hurley picked up the rifle the shooter had been carrying. Moments later, police pulled up to the scene and one of the responding officers shot and killed Hurley with the rifle still in hand.

“The threat to our officers and our community was stopped by a hero named Johnny Hurley,” Arvada Police Chief Link Strate said in a Friday statement, releasing more details of the June 21 shooting that left three people dead. “Johnny’s actions can only be described as decisive, courageous and effective in stopping further loss of life.”

That's debatable, probably motivated to be comforting to the family and friends of the deceased, and promoted by the pro-gun groups which would be sought after by the media in such an incident.

Hurley was a hero- a hero who probably would not have been killed on a summer afternoon in that open carry state if his open possession were prohibited.

Philando Castille possessed a firearm, legally, in June 2017 and therefore was killed in his car by an evidently panicked police officer in suburban Minnesota.  In March of 2020 in Kentucky, Kenneth Walker opened fire with a legally registered firearm on police officers, whom he believed were intruders, serving a no-knock warrant. Returning fire, one of the cops shot and killed Walker's girlfriend, Breonna Taylor.

These three incidents had something in common. It isn't race- and usually isn't- because Taylor and Castille were black and Hurley was white. Hurley, acting unselfishly, was a hero and innocent victim while Taylor and Castille simply were tragic victims.

Here is the dirty little secret, completely ignored by news media, politicians, activists, and pundits: as far as we can tell, if there were no weapon possessed that day by civilians, these three innocent people still would be alive.

Open carry was not an issue in the incident which led to the killing of Breonna Taylor because Taylor and her boyfriend, the latter exonerated of criminal charges, were in Walker's home.  However, Castille was in his automobile and Hurley had transported his weapon, legally carried it out of his car, and was shot dead by a police officer.

Not coincidentally, all three episodes occurred in open carry states. We are often reminded that in most states in this most exceptional country of all time, people of any racial background have the freedom to be accidentally shot dead.

Update: It now appears that Good Samaritan Hurley killed with a concealed handgun Ronald Troyke, who had semi-automatic shotgun in the open. That would validate Terry McAuliffe's concern about assault weapons.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

That Brady Boy

Besides being the winningest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady, ex- (probably "ex") supporter of Donald Trump, knows how to deliver a great comedic line:

However, NBC News reported in January of 2019

Ace Davis, a fifth-grader at Millcreek Elementary School in Lexington, engineered a winning science fair project by answering the question that fans of 31 NFL teams already know the answer to: "Is Tom Brady a cheater?"

Davis and his family inflated footballs at various levels of pressure per square inch (PSI) and found that they threw them with greater accuracy at lower measures....

“The Patriots were found guilty of doctoring football [sic], thus losing $1,000,000 and future draft picks. Tom Brady is indeed a cheater,” Davis scrawled at the end of his three-panel science fair project, complete with graphs and charts.

Brady, the five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for the New England Patriots, was suspended for four games in the 2016 season after the league concluded he and team employees had arranged to use footballs at PSI levels below the NFL rules.

The accusations came after the Patriots' 45-7 victory in the AFC title game over Indianapolis in January 2015, when Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Brady pass and noticed the ball seemed underinflated.

That led to an NFL probe that uncovered two Patriots employees regularly discussing how Brady likes footballs to be underinflated so he can get a better grip and throw them more accurately.

Brady was nevertheless permitted to play in the Super Bowl, won by his New England Patriots. The "greatest of all time" quarterback was suspended for the first four games of the following season, three of them somehow won by the Patriots.

NBC added "the "Deflategate" scandal hasn't done much to sidetrack Brady's career."

Truer words may never have been spoken. Since then, Brady's teams, the Patriots and now the Buccaneers, have won two more Super Bowls, the latter one in part because, as we learned (then forgot) in June of 2020

Ignoring the recently issued advice of the NFL Players Association that its members discontinue private workouts because of “the increase in Covid-19 cases in certain states” — of which Florida is one — Brady and other members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were seen practicing together Tuesday morning.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a completely virtual offseason for NFL teams, which have had to conduct training sessions remotely. The Buccaneers began allowing their coaches to return to the team’s facility last week, but players are still ordered to stay away unless they are receiving medical treatment.

After ending his decorated, 20-year career with the New England Patriots in March, Brady signed as a free agent with the Bucs, replacing the turnover-prone Jameis Winston. As soon as Florida began lifting stay-at-home orders in May, he started organizing informal practices, at least some of which have been held at Tampa-area high school fields.

That was the case Tuesday, as the soon-to-be-43-year-old quarterback and other Tampa Bay players were spotted at Berkeley Preparatory School, which is about a 20-minute drive away from where Brady is renting a home from Derek Jeter.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Brady’s favorite pass-catcher while with the Patriots, new Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowksi, was also on hand, as was Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin and several other players who have been regulars at the practices. In fact, the newspaper reported, attendance Tuesday appeared to be swelled by the participation of some Tampa Bay defensive backs.

When asked for comment, an NFL spokesman pointed The Washington Post to a statement the league made in May: “Everyone associated with the NFL should follow the recommendations and guidelines of state and local authorities and medical experts, including the NFLPA.”

On Saturday, the NFLPA posted a message from its medical director, Thom Mayer, who said, “Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts. Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.

“We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season, and believe that this is in the best interest of all players that we advise against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences.”

This is the National Football League, consciously moving ever closer to full parity among all teams, in which any little advantage is likely to be decisive. Never stupid, Brady took advantage of the novel coronavirus in the most effective way possible and reaped the rewards.

The late, great Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher is credited with popularizing the expression "nice guys finish last." If that's valid, probably the ones without integrity finish first, and Tom Brady, winner of seven Super Bowls, demonstrates the wisdom of the phrase better than anyone.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Vaccination

Well, tweet of yesterday, anyway.

On Saturday, The New York Times reported

Overall, Arkansas ranks near the bottom of states in the share of population that is vaccinated. Only 44 percent of residents have received at least one shot.

“Boy, we’ve tried just about everything we can think of,” a retired National Guard colonel, Robert Ator, who runs the state’s vaccination effort, said in an interview. For about one in three residents, he said, “I don’t think there’s a thing in the world we could do to get them to get vaccinated.”

For that, the state is paying a price. Hospitalizations have quadrupled since mid-May. More than a third of patients are in intensive care. Deaths, a lagging indicator, are also expected to rise, health officials said....

Even health care workers have balked. Statewide, only about 40 percent are vaccinated, Dr. Romero said.

In April, the state legislature added yet another roadblock, making it essentially illegal for any state or local entity, including public hospitals, to require coronavirus vaccination as a condition of education or employment until two years after the Food and Drug Administration fully licenses a shot. That almost certainly means no such requirements can be issued until late in 2023.

It's extraordinary when health care workers are not vaccinated, especially in what we hear constantly is an "exceptional" country.

As tweeter "Jill" argues, failure to be vaccinated cannot be used as a rationale for not treating an individual as long as hospitals permit their employees to work without vaccination. Of course, even if they impose a mandate, denying treatment to a patient raises very obvious and serious ethical issues.

Admittedly, many hospitals may be in a situation in which the demand for health care workers outstrips supply of qualified workers, thus preventing the institutions from mandating vaccines.(although not everywhere).

Maybe. But there is one industry which has no excuse: health insurance.

This gang of thieves remains in private hands. As private entities, they're permitted to exercise considerable discretion, usually to the detriment of the consumer, which discretion is restricted only by specific anti-discrimination laws pertaining to protected classes.

So most health insurance companies in most markets discriminate- as, for example, against smokers. Similarly, they could charge non-vaccinated individuals more than they charge the vaccinated. As a plus, it would be easier to confirm vaccination status than tobacco usage because everyone receives proof of vaccination upon getting the shot(s).  All that would be necessary is for a vaccinated consumer to present her company a copy or a screenshot of vaccination confirmation.

"We're all in this together" goes the popular coronavirus advertising slogan of 2020. It's less common now, perhaps because it is clearer that it is an inaccurate portrayal of the sentiment of Republican politicians and the men and women who love them. It's understandable, though possibly unfortunate, that hospitals are not requiring employees to be vaccinated and denial of treatment to patients who are not vaccinated would be extremely controversial. But health insurance companies have no such excuse, and their irresponsibility here is one more symptom of an industry which is too important to leave (primarily) to the private sector.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- IRS Enforcement

The Administration hopes the $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service in the Democrats' bill would raise $700 billion over the next decades because it is intended 

to toughen IRS enforcement efforts as part of its "American Families Plan" proposal earlier this spring, as well as specific policy changes such as hiring agents to tackle complex returns, forcing firms to disclose more information and overhauling outdated technology. 

But the ghost of Johnny Paycheck hangs over the body politic. If the bill passes, it will be with very few if any GOP votes. Republicans would try to hang Democrats with the charge that the latter have imposed a massive middle class tax increase.

When Republicans cut IRS allocations during the Obama Administration, the agency responded as expected, going after the middle and working classes because their returns were low-hanging fruit. If the Internal Revenue Service gets more money from legislation supported exclusively (or almost so) by Democrats, the latter can't attack Republicans for merely protecting the rich (or even more impotently, for refusing to pay for spending).

They would have to name names. Attack the GOP for being the servile statements of this industry and that, this company and that. It would strike corporations which contribute to both parties as mean, and Democrats might recoil from their responsibility to call Republicans out. But unless they can convince voters that the GOP is representing their donors, those voters will believe Democrats are coming after them.

Tweet Of The Day- American Government

Leave it to a New York comedian to recognize, and encapsulate in forty words or fewer, American government:   USA was basically set ...