Thursday, December 31, 2020

Money Talks

The Washington Post has now editorialized against the CASH Act because it would

send up to $3,000 for families of five earning as much as $150,000 — and at least a few dollars to those earning up to $210,000, before phasing out entirely. The bill does this while extending unemployment benefits a mere 11 weeks. In short, the measure short-shrifted the neediest and showered billions on people who suffered little or no lasting hardship from the pandemic. This, at a time when the economy has healed significantly and coronavirus vaccinations are underway — unlike the chaotic days of April, when Congress sent checks (of only $1,200) to help people cope with economic free fall.

Yet a just-passed House bill would compound all of those errors by increasing the $600 payment to $2,000, at a total cost of $464 billion. It would phase out completely only for families of five earning above $350,000. Much of this is going to be saved, not spent, since restaurants are closed and air travel limited. The resources would be far better spent, in terms of both economic equity and economic growth, on longer extension of unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, and vaccines.

The Editorial Board deserves credit for offering the best argument against the stimulus bill, when it could have said that it would drive up the national debt, a worse,even horrible, argument. Personally, I would prefer that if it could be, a portion of that $2,000 per person check would go to public transit systems because

as the economy cratered, so too have the tax revenues upon many which many transit systems rely. Philadelphia’s SEPTA is looking at upwards of $300 million in lost revenue through mid-2021. Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund is contending with a $550 million shortfall in the fiscal year ending June 30, with similar losses expected next year. Los Angeles Metro is preparing for $1.8 billion in pandemic-related revenue losses. Chicago’s CTA is facing a half-billion dollar falloff in 2020. “I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years, and I have never experienced anything like what we’ve been dealing with in this pandemic,” says CTA President Dorval Carter, Jr. “There was no playbook for what we encountered.”

Alas, it will not happen, though there was someaid for ailing transit systems in the coronavirus bill President Trump finally signed on December 27.

Nor would there be an extension of unemployment benefits, aid to state and longer governments, and vaccines on the basis of Senate rejection of the $2,000 act. 

Keep it simple, stupid. The best reason for extending the payment to the relatively affluent, as well as to poor and working-class Americans, is the reason critics have cited to oppose (in some cases, disingenuously) the bill: it doesn't mean as much to the affluent.   It is a gift, not on the basis of grace but on the basis of common decency, to individuals who are struggling financially. And the vast majority of them will spend the vast majority of it doing their share, unintentionally, to stimulate the economy.

Also, this:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Facts, Doctor

There is a good- though unintended- message here:

Authorities don't yet know whether Anthony Quinn Warner was a terrorist but it appears he was a suicide bomber, given that he was killed in the Christmas Day attack in Nashville.

And it is a time, as it usually is, for brutal honesty. Instead we get..... Dr. Anthony Fauci. On Christmas Eve, a brave and bold New York Times reporter wrote

At what point does a country achieve herd immunity? What portion of the population must acquire resistance to the coronavirus, either through infection or vaccination, in order for the disease to fade away and life to return to normal....

Recently, a figure to whom millions of Americans look for guidance — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to both the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration — has begun incrementally raising his herd-immunity estimate.

In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”

In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.

We've been down this road before with Anthony Fauci.  In an interview in June he had stated

Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people namely, the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected.

Shorter Fauci: Not trusting the American people, I lied.

Dr. Fauci lied about masks and he lied about herd immunity. No doubt he is an infectious disease expert. He knew masks would save lives back when he discouraged ordinary Americans not to wear them and he realized over 75% of individuals need to be immunized when he was touting the 60-70 percent number.

He may also be a very good doctor, although opinions vary about what that entails.   Sometime in your life, you probably have switched doctors because you thought she was not very good- yet she still has many patients, some of whom swear by her effectiveness.

Fauci also is excellent on television- probably why President Trump kept him on- and strikes an elegant image sitting poolside.

But it's time to get over this hero worship, promoted by CNN, MSNBC, Politico, and others of Dr. Fauci. The country would benefit if Fauci were a little less celebrity and instead tried to will level with us, speak the hard truths, and challenge us to do better.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Omit Race. The Rest Stays.

Malcolm Nance has a point. But he swings and misses.

Here is something you'll never read: "The terrorist was a brown man from Iran, a suicide bomber who was killed in his car bomb."

 And yet:

 Noting the individual is male is unnecessary, even redundant, because it would be fair to assume that "Anthony" is a man. It would be unbalanced to note that he is "white"- news reports of attacks suspected of being terrorism never refer to the alleged perpetrator as "brown" or "black."  The door swings both ways (or must).

Nonetheless, Nance's suggestion that there be a reference to the suspected culprit being "American" is understandable, for the individual's country of origin would have been noted if he had come from a foreign country or if his parents had done so. 

"Homegrown," preceding as it typically does, "terrorist." would be improper because the public, perhaps even law enforcement, does not yet (as of noon, 12/28/20) know what motivated the attacker. Referring to him as a "terrorist" is legitimate because the attack was seemingly directed at innocents, whatever Warner's goal.  However, the reference would not (yet) be justified, given that the warning given appears intended to ward off people who might be injured or killed from the bomb.

Nevertheless, "domestic bomber" would be fitting. When a terrorist has a connection to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya or, for that matter, any foreign nation, the association is not ignored.

However, if Nance were bolder- no, Nance is bold, so it may be intelligence, savvy, or something else- he would have added "Christian."  To the matter of boldness (or courage): if there is a third rail here, it is not mention of race but of religion. The New York Times understood the importance of religion when on Halloween of 2017 it noted

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the rampage a terrorist attack and federal law enforcement authorities were leading the investigation. Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State, two law enforcement officials said. But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an “inspired” attacker, two counterterrorism officials said.

Collectively, "Allahu akbar" and "allegiance to the Islamic State" are spelled M-U-S-L-I-M, which is relevant to the story. Appropriately, The NYT piece reporting identification of Warner noted that the family in which he was raised "worshiped at a Roman Catholic church a few miles away" (from where he grew up).

Although Warner probably was not motivated by religious beliefs and may even have been a lapsed Catholic, he was raised in that particular Christian denomination. Were he a Muslim, that fact would have found itself inserted into the news article- as it should have.

Whether most other news items will note that the apparent bomber had at least a connection to Catholicism and/or Christianity remains to be seen, and Las Vegas would have it at 3 to 1 against. Nonetheless, mentioning this is important, as it is that he is homegrown or born in the USA of American-born parents. Identification of race- and especially of color- would be inflammatory. Or maybe that's the point.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Seeing Is Believing

Disappointing but not surprising:

 There has been relatively muted reaction on social media as

Twitter users are sharing police bodycam footage taken during the Tuesday police shooting of Andre Hill, an unarmed 47-year-old Black man in Columbus, Ohio who was shot dead just for sitting in a vehicle within his own garage.

The video shows that Officer Adam Coy killed Hill within seconds of encountering him. Hill emerges in an open garage with an illuminated cell phone screen in his left hand, his right hand out of view. After killing Hill, Coy (his gun still aimed) screams at Hill to put his hands up and not to move as Hill lays dying on his garage floor.

Police had been responding to a non-emergency disturbance call within the neighborhood at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

But the video does not show Officer Coy killing Mr. Hill, evidently because (as noted in the video below)

....the officers not activating their body cameras until immediately after the shooting, investigators will be examining the crucial moment captured by the camera's look-back feature, which pre-recorded 60 seconds of video from the moment it turns on but it does not capture audio so it is unclear what was said between Hill and the two officers.

For nearly eight minutes, some of which we watched on tape (and watched... and watched.... and watched.... and....), Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck. We watched as Chauvin, under no threat from the accused, coldly and wantonly killed Floyd.

Millions could see the victim, obviously black, having the life sucked out of him by an obviously white police officer. We saw it over and over, and reaction was overwhelming.

The killing of Andre Hill by a white police officer followed by a few weeks the death of Casey Goodson Jr., a 23-year-old black man shot by a member of the task force of the Franklin County, Ohio Sheriff's Department. Those officers, involved in an investigation with agents from the US Marshal's fugitive task force, do not wear body cameras.

There is no video of the Goodson killing. The video of the shooting of Coy is incomplete, presumably because no body camera was on at the time he was shot.

That differs dramatically from the Floyd situation. Yet, there is an additional reason there has been less than .01% of the response to Columbus than to Minneapolis.

Baby, it's cold outside. Columbus is not Cleveland, and certainly not Duluth or Buffalo. But it's December, and it's cold in Columbus as it is in the vast majority of the country. It is not May 30 (the day after Floyd was killed), with beautiful weather in much of the country and people anxious to get out of the house, finally.

It is cold now, frigid in some places, and normal people are less fond of the outdoors in winter than in late spring or early summer.  When thousands of men and women don't take to the streets, millions won't follow, nor will the cameras.  A tree falling in a forest without an individual present will still fall, but no one will notice and thus do anything about it.

Timing is of the utmost importance, in December as in May. So is the impression made by a violent crime, such as that perpetrated by Derek Chauvin and possibly by Adam Coy and Sheriff's Deputy Jason Meade. Therefore, the impression of the (alleged) police brutality in Columbus is infinitely milder than it was of the incident in Minneapolis. Pictures are powerful- more than ideal- and people respond accordingly.


Friday, December 25, 2020

Easy Way Out

It's Christmas Day and everywhere on social media there are videos and posts of cute animals, cuter animals in pajamas, happy, smiling children, and best wishes for a happy new year.

Not here, of course.

The more hopeful they are, the harder they fall. And thus it's helpful that Karen Tumulty, after the President-elect on December 23 spoke to a group of columnists, reported that the latter

said his team is having quiet consultations with “former Republican appointees, former Republican personnel telling us what they know and don’t know about how the system is rotten,” as well as GOP senators “worried about things being left untethered.”

Tumulty did not specify whether the Republican individuals Biden is consulting are the appointees, senators, and other personnel who have acknowledged that he will be the next president. If so, it was a very small circle of friends.

She continues

Still, the soon-to-be 46th president sounded upbeat and confident about his abilities to marshal the resources — and the bipartisan political will — that he will need to lead the country out of the coronavirus pandemic. With covid-19 now killing about 3,000 Americans a day, he said, the costly denialism that Trump fostered in the early months of the pandemic is being replaced by “a new sense of urgency, I think, on the part of the public at large.”

"Urgency" for what is not specified, but if Joe Biden truly believes that with the good news of a vaccine dominating the coronavirus news, there is "a new sense of urgency," he's already in negotiations to purchase a prime beachfront property in Kansas. More:

Biden also said that, as a president who wants to avoid inflaming a closely divided Congress, he plans to tread lightly when it comes to using his executive power — a declaration that no doubt will cause some heartburn on the left, where such caution is considered naive.

Were Congress not already inflamed and closely divided, there would be little need for use of executive power.  But it is, so there is. Biden's reluctance to use executive power is considered naive only because it is- or seems to be.

Joe Biden served eight years under President Obama, eight years which culminated in refusal by the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, even to consider the nomination to the Supreme Court of Merrick Garland. Even now, most Republican voters believe Democrats stole the presidential election and the majority of GOP senators has not acknowledged victory by the Biden-Harris ticket.

Still, there is, as Paul Waldman notes, "a never-ending obsession with Democrats. How can we get conservatives to like us more"?

There has been talk of "epiphany," of "civility," an Office of Public Engagement, and not wanting to discomfit Congress. If so, the President-elect is beyond naive, heading toward delusional. Instead, it could be simply that Joe Biden is risk-averse or, in 1980s psychobabble, in denial.  Or as they may have put in what we've been told repeatedly is Biden's home town of Scranton, Pa., Joe simply doesn't want any trouble.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christie Skates

The audience swoons. We get played so easily.

One tweeter: "After seeing this clip, I would have Nicole Wallace's baby."MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace slams Chris Christie to his face for 'trying to clean the Trump stink off' Made my day!"

Another: "Nicole Wallace confronts BS by calling out Chris Christie."

Still another: "Women- getting it ONE!!!!!" with the response "This is how all trump enablers should be treated."

Another believes "Nicole Wallace is a bonafide badass."

If this is being a badass, I'd hate to see a goodass.

At 8:54 of the video (from which the end of Christie's response is cut off, as well as the following question from Wallace), Nicolle Wallace tells the former New Jersey governor

I don't remember you coming out forcefully pushing back against Donald Trump's comments on the Access Hollywood tape. You didn't defend him but you didn't withdraw your support. I didn't hear you after he called African-American nations bleep hole nations. I didn't hear you distance yourself from this President at any point until the target for his ire and lawlessness was the democracy. You haven't ruled out leading in four years. Are yo simply making a political calculation that you can clean the Trump stink off you faster than Marco Rubio or some of your other competitors?

These all are excellent points, Christie responded calmly, notwithstanding being (justifiably) personally ("stink") attacked. He understands what was going on; he has played the game before. He knows that if asked a difficult question, he needs only to avoid directly responding, instead going off in a different direction. Without a follow-up question, he (or she) emerges the winner and thus Christie replied

No, um, not at all, Nicole, and in fact you know at the end of it, um, I made a decision back in 2016 that the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, um, was one where I was with Donald Trump . Um, I don't regret that choice. I still don't regret that today.

Christie continued for 74 seconds, first appealing to the MSNBC audience by citing occasions when he opposed a Trump action or statement, (allegedly) receiving in return critical phone calls from White House staff. He concluded "I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton today if that choice were to be made."

Wallace followed up by asking about masks. No, really.

Actually, that wasn't surprising. Wallace got to grandstand, effectively for as far as it went. Christie was given plenty of time to hedge his bets, remaining supportive of the President but only so far in case the Republican Party pulls back its support of Trump. Further, he was able to slam Hillary Clinton, among the GOP's favorite pastimes for at least the last quarter century.

Donald Trump would be pleased that a prominent Republican could needle Hillary Clinton while two critics of Trump- both women- sat idly by. All in all it was a good outing for Chris Christie, who got a pass while one of the network's star liberals and former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill looked on silently, unable or unwilling to question why someone they consider reasonable would vote even today for the most evil man on the planet.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Joe Biden's Ally

To turn John Lennon's lyrics on their head, "he was a candidate in a million, my friend. She should have known he would not win in the end."

In a brilliant article, Shant Mesrobian reminds us

The problem with this strategy was never clearer than when Ocasio-Cortez, who by all accounts was Sanders’s most famous and influential surrogate, split with his campaign for trumpeting an endorsement it received from the mega-popular podcaster Joe Rogan. In any normal circumstances, that sort of mainstream, pop culture endorsement would be considered nothing short of heaven-sent for a political campaign. With one of the most influential media platforms in the country and a devoted following whose size rivals that of cable news networks, the impact of a Rogan endorsement is difficult to overstate.

But within the rarefied confines of the intersectional Left, Rogan had long been designated as a “problematic” figure for hosting guests whose views on social and cultural issues have at one time or another run afoul of woke pieties. Faced with choosing between the first genuinely left-wing contender for the White House in generations—someone who had devoted his life to economic and social justice—and her status and celebrity among social justice activists, Ocasio-Cortez chose the latter. As a disciplinary action for the Rogan endorsement, Ocasio-Cortez pulled back from her surrogate role, declining to stump for Sanders or appear at any more events during the crucial early-state period of campaigning.

According to a Quinnipiac poll released on October 14, 2019, 30% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents supported Elizabeth Warren, 27% backed Joe Biden, and 11% were behind Bernie Sanders.  Sanders' support rose steadily after his campaign revealed on October 9 that he had a heart attack and Ocasio-Cortez endorsed him fifteen days later- two days after CNN declared Warren the front-runner. By late November Biden reportedly had slipped to 28% and Warren to 14%, with Sanders up to17%, also among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. 

A few months later, Sanders and Buttigieg were reported to have roughly tied in Iowa but the Vermont senator emerged the victor in both New Hampshire and Nevada. He was likely to lose a primary three days later, probably narrowly, when Representative Jim Clyburn endorsed Biden and the former vice-president won overwhelmingly in South Carolina.

Recognizing that the race was very likely down to two candidates- Biden and Sanders- the Democratic Party establishment coalesced around the one remaining candidate not hostile to that establishment. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden after former President Obama pushed one or both to recognize that their candidacy (like that of Warren) was all but over.

On Super Tuesday, Biden bulldozed Sanders. Warren soon dropped out, and it was Sanders vs. Biden, and it was no contest on Super Tuesday for Democratic primary voters, who decided that a vote for a candidate officially an Independent was a bridge too far.

As Ocasio-Cortez realized, Senator Sanders- with a large base and avid following- had an excellent shot with several candidates in the race.  She probably understood further that the Senator's chances would go down dramatically if he faced off with another candidate one-on-one. What she- presumably- did not expect was that the race would narrow down, relatively early, to two candidates. (Neither did I.)

That was the political death knell of Bernie Sanders.

It also was the death knell, short-term, of progressives in the Party. Ocasio-Cortez had faced the choice of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and chose unwisely. She chose the candidate who unfortunately had earned the enmity of a sizeable portion of mainstream and institutional Democrats and thus could not carry the day when voters were left with the choice between him and an uninspiring, acceptable Democrat such as Joe Biden.

Her endorsement of Sanders had galvanized the latter's support and was critical in lifting him to victory in at least two, probably three, of the first three states. And then, according to Mesrobian, Ocasio-Cortez deserted him.

It's unlikely the congresswoman would have done that to Warren, had she endorsed her, because Warren simply would not have gotten the endorsement of Rogan. Warren clearly did not have the depth of support among primary voters as did Sanders. However, the breadth of her support was much greater and would have presented a far greater threat to the moderate Biden.

At first glance, Ocasio-Cortez is a loser for having backed the wrong progressive horse. However, her calculation may have included another factor- that if Elizabeth Warren had been nominated and elected, the congresswoman would not have been nearly the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party. Similar to the woman in the Lennon composition, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (her principles pushed aside) may prove to be a winner in the end.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020


He's not as stupid as a lot of experts think. A political science professor:

There is no irony in it because, although President Trump didn't fight for a second stimulus, in September he

called on Congress to approve a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks for American families by reallocating $300 billion in unused coronavirus relief funds.

"We have $300 billion in an account that we didn't use. I would be willing to release it, subject to Congress, and use that as stimulus money and it would go right to the American people," Trump said Friday during a White House press briefing.

Although Trump said he considered redirecting the funds unilaterally, he was told he needed Congress' approval.

"It's money that we have — money that we built up and money that we haven’t spent, and I would love to give it to the American people as a very powerful stimulus," Trump said.

But McConnell didn't deliver. Steve M points to Axios' December 22 report that

President Trump lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night for acknowledging Joe Biden won the election, sending a slide to Republican lawmakers taking credit for saving McConnell's career with a tweet and robocall....

"Sadly, Mitch forgot,” reads the top of the slide sent to Republican senators by Trump's personal assistant, written in red for emphasis. “He was the first one off the ship.”

... While both the message and its delivery targeted McConnell, they also carried a subtle warning to other Republicans who may follow suit as the president grasps at the last straws of his election-fraud claim.

Steve M notes that the day before this tweet, a liberal pollster had released a survey that showed incumbent McConnell twenty points ahead of Democratic challenger Amy McGrath. It's hard to believe that Trump was unaware of this finding when a mere day later, he would deliver an unequivocal and enthusiastic endorsement of McConnell.

Now that the election is over, the Senate Majority Leader helps craft a coronavirus bill framed as a stimulus to the economy, just in time to lift to victory David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and maintain a Senate majority. McConnell's deft legislative maneuver comes two weeks before the Senate runoff in Georgia- and seven weeks after the presidential election, when it could have lifted Trump to victory.

It is not surprising that Donald Trump would attack the Kentuckian, who after January 20 will become the most powerful Republican in the country and arguably its de facto leader. He is four weeks from becoming Trump's rival.

It's a crafty move, just as embracing candidate McConnell was crafty once Trump realized the former would surely win his race in Kentucky. It's also an illustration, however subtle, that for all of our suspicions that Donald Trump may be ignorant or ill, he may be the greatest example of the wisdom of  the phrase "crazy like a fox."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Educational Opportunity

In an unenlightening interview in September, comedian/talk show host Trevor Noah posed to Montana senator Jon Tester a question, beginning at approximately 2:30 of the video below, about the lack of support for Democrats in rural America. "Do you feel that Democrats," Noah asked, "have lost white, rural voters and how do you think they can begin winning them back?

Tester's answer was pretty much boilerplate Democratic language: "we need to listen, talk to them and listen to them."

In a much more revealing interview recently conducted by The New York Times, Senator Tester gave a more thorough explanation of the reasons Democrats faltered (as usual) in rural areas in the recent electoral cycle. They include:

 1) having a messenger such as Chuck Schumer, which "doesn't sell";

2) not making it clear- both for messaging and policy- that defunding the police is a bad idea;

3) not running emphatic- and more timely- advertisements denouncing rioting;

4) failing to emphasize two policy matters- what Democrats are "doing for infrastructure," especially broadband, and GOP efforts "to basically privatize public education."

Aside from policy implications, defunding the police makes for a terrible slogan, as Jim Clyburn and Barack Obama have noted. That is why Republicans ran advertisements trying to link their Democratic opponents, even when the latter opposed the approach, to "defund the police" and also why the left, including Democratic politicians, strain to explain that "defund the police" doesn't mean "abolish the police."

If words mean anything, it does, but that's strategically irrelevant. People respond to slogans and while "black lives matter" sounds good (and irrefutable), "defund the police" didn't hit the right note to the vast majority of voters.

That is also the reason that Tester's policy recommendations are tactically sound.  There is little downside to emphasizing infrastructure and broadband is particularly needed in rural areas. The American people love spending; taxes, not so much, but Republicans wouldn't counter Democrats' message with "but that will require more taxes" because it would backfire.

And then there is public education. It's impossible to know from Jonathan Martin's Times article whether Tester's support for public education includes charter schools, which- as recipients of public funding- are technically considered "public schools," but only technically.  Disturbingly, much of the Democratic political establishment- Barack Obama, (former Education secretary) Arne Duncan, (New Jersey Senator) Cory Booker, Rahm Emanuel, and so many others- are fond of charter schools. The financial industry is a big fan.

However, three weeks ago The New York Post reported

Biden has called for a ban on federal funding for charter schools that are operated by for-profit companies, which account for 12 percent of charter schools, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

He also pledged, as part of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, to “support measures to increase accountability for charter schools.”

“We will call for conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students,” the task force’s final platform read.

With loopholes aplenty, that is insufficient. However, it is a start, and would be better than we got with the last Democratic presidency. Full-throated support for the traditional public school is an option which should play well both with many rural Americans and with urban/suburban progressives. It also offers an opportunity for a good slogan, such as "kids, not profits" but something much snappier. Something not equating children with baby goats would be particularly welcome.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

"Kick Me"

Politico's John Harris concludes his article about the President-elect by remarking

But as he moves from a campaign for power to actually exercising power, Biden will soon enough need to show that just because he isn’t a bully, doesn’t mean he can be bullied.

It won't happen, though he doesn't recognize the genesis of Biden's problem. However, he does note

During the transition, Biden has often seemed as if someone affixed a “kick me” sign to the back of his suit jacket. The transition, which has seen prominent Democrats openly carping about Biden’s process and several of his decisions, risks creating a dangerous dynamic for the incoming president. In the Washington context, Biden’s peril is that he is sending the message that there is not a penalty for publicly pressuring him, and is likely a benefit. In the national context, any president should wish to project a leadership vision that transcends party and clamoring constituencies.

That ship has sailed. It left port on August 11, 2020 once presumptive presidential nominee Biden had

chosen Kamala Harris, the prominent senator from California whose political career has included many barrier-breaking moments, as his running mate, his campaign announced on Tuesday.

The decision comes more than a year after Harris, who was also a 2020 Democratic candidate, clashed with Biden over racial issues during the first primary debate...

Because of their friendship, Harris' attack on Biden during the first Democratic primary debate for his record on busing and working with segregationists came as a shock to the Biden campaign, his family and the candidate himself.

"I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me. She knew Beau, she knows me," Biden said in an interview later that summer. He said Harris had "mischaracterized" his position.

The surprise and backlash of that debate moment in Miami was still top of mind for Biden's wife, Jill, as recently as March. Jill Biden said in a virtual fundraiser, "Our son Beau spoke so highly of her and, you know, and how great she was. And not that she isn't. I'm not saying that. But it was just like a punch to the gut. It was a little unexpected."

"A little unexpected" does a lot of work here.  Harris slammed Biden in a late June, 2019 debate for his perspective on busing, then immediately raised millions of dollars from her calculated, racially-focused attack. When Biden thereafter was interviewed by CNN, Chris

Cuomo responded that Harris had begun her criticism of Biden by saying she does not believe he is racist.

“I know, but as soon as I heard those words, I thought, ‘uh oh, what’s coming next,’” Jill Biden said.

She added: “The American people know Joe Biden. They know his values. They know what he stands for. And they didn’t buy it.”

After saying that she did not believe her opponent is racist, Harris began the next sentence with "But I also believe, and it’s personal....", obviously implying that Biden's criticism of busing as a means of achieving integration was motivated by race.

A moment later she would emphasize that a difference of opinion is unacceptable because "on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats."  She could not have been clearer had she actually said "you personally attacked me as a black girl."

A friend of Joe’s late son Beau, with whom Harris had a favorable professional relationship, remarked “I don’t pretend to know what’s in the vice president’s head- I wasn’t surprised that someone came after him. But I turned to my wife and said “Beau’s flipping his grave.’”  Further, Jill Biden believed that Kamala Harris had accused her husband of being a racist which, in the Democratic Party, is a criticism second only to being accused of being a pedophile. And it's a close second.

Little more than thirteen months later, Biden would select as his running-mate and heir apparent to leadership of the Democratic Party the woman who had humiliated him in front of a national audience. Everyone noticed.

John Harris recognizes (italics his)

But it seems likely Biden will soon enough have to send the message something like this: The way to influence the Democratic Party is to talk to the leader of the Democratic Party. And if you want to be heard, you need to call me — not the New York Times.

If they are smart, they will call him something- not a racist, because Vice-President Harris may give him cover on that. However, Joe Biden's willingness to be easily, effectively bullied is not a reality lost on anyone but the most naive.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Leverage Relinquished

As of this moment, 12:30 p.m. on November 18, it appears there will be a deal of some sort which would alleviate the economic effects, however minimally, of the pandemic because

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, privately made the case to Republicans on Wednesday for a stimulus deal that includes another round of direct payments to struggling Americans, suggesting that delivering such help could boost the party’s hopes of hanging onto their majority in the Senate.

In a call on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. McConnell said that Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are both facing January runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate, were “getting hammered” for Congress’s failure to deliver more pandemic aid to struggling Americans — particularly the direct payments — and that enacting the measure could help them. The Kentucky Republican also emphasized that the package could be signed by President Trump, who has pushed for another round of stimulus checks, and would help those devastated by the pandemic.

In a nutshell:

It won't be great legislation, but were it such, congressional Republicans would want to part of it. However, Jentleson, Deputy Chief of Staff (ambivalent about the current proposal) to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, believes Democrats "voluntarily jumping down from the $1.8 baseline to $900B made it easy for McConnell to cut off this aid."

On Tuesday, Jentleson had explained the other reason an agreement of whatever value is likely to be reached:

This is how Democrats roll. While Republicans are intent on achieving philosophical aims through legislation, Democrats are intent on making a deal.  (Cable news is even more single-mindedly partial to deal for deal sake.)

Moreover, Republicans are determined to win- on the presidential level, but also on the congressional level, the state level, and, especially with the courts. Democrats balked at an inadequate package a couple of months ago, and so helped drag Joe Biden across the finish line. Now they're poised to approve a package, thus demonstrating that Congress is not paralyzed, which will seal victory for Kelly Loeffler and David "don't call me Frank" Perdue.  For Democrats, Donald Trump has been removed from office: mission accomplished.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Pro-Life And Death Agenda

Speaking at a "Life is Winning" event Wednesday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Vice President Mike Pence effusively thanked what he calculated as the "more than 20" anti-abortion rights organizations present. Appreciating "the opportunity to thank the most pro-life president in American history" and to "bring greetings from President Donald Trump," Pence cited the three pro-forced birth judges Trump made into Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court and maintained

when the President took office, one of the very first things he did was reinstate the Mexico City Policy, ending government funding for promoting abortions around the world. And before long, we expanded it to more countries and more policies on the planet....


thanks to President Trump’s leadership, in March of 2017, I had the honor of casting the tiebreaking vote in the United States Senate to allow every state in America to defund Planned Parenthood, and President Trump signed it into law.

And putting that priority on the unborn, just last summer, with the strong support of leaders in this room, and the full support of our Secretary of Health and Human Services, President Trump ended fetal tissue research at the National Institutes for Health. We will always stand for the right to life and the dignity of the unborn.

Counter-intuitively, at an event meant to honor Trump and other anti-abortion rights Republicans, Pence invoked his own work as chairperson of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which he claimed the President had established- as the Vice President put it- to "save lives."

That's bogus. However, President Trump has been a faithful pro-life President, in the manner the expression is meant to convey.  "Life can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable," Pence contended, around the time we learned why the Trump Administration has treated its most vulnerable as people they'd rather have die.

The cynical will ask how it is possible that President Trump, fan of herd immunity and oblivious to the preventable and tragic loss of life it has engendered, could possibly be "pro-life." Nonetheless, Trump has been a "pro-life" President as pertains to abortion, thus illustrating how the anti-abortion movement is less interested in life than it is in forcing birth.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

All Talk, Little Action, No Surprise

President Trump once reveled in calling the then-novel coronavirus the "China virus" and generally talking tough about mainland China.  It's fitting, therefore, that the pandemic he has encouraged and the mounting death rate he considers "is what it is" has bound us more closely to mainland China. The New York Times now has reported

American imports from China are surging as the year draws to a close, fueled by stay-at-home shoppers who are snapping up Chinese-made furniture and appliances, along with Barbie Dream Houses and bicycles for the holidays.

The surge in imports is another byproduct of the coronavirus, with Americans channeling money they might have spent on vacations, movies and restaurant dining to household items like new lighting for home offices, workout equipment for basement gyms, and toys to keep their children entertained.

That has been a boon for China, the world’s largest manufacturer of many of those goods. In November, China reported a record trade surplus of $75.43 billion, propelled by an unexpected 21.1 percent surge in exports compared with the same month last year. Leading the jump were exports to the United States, which climbed 46.1 percent to $51.98 billion, also a record.

As one tweeter pointed out, Senator Blackburn should have typed "back down from Communist China" rather than "back down to...." She's recommending we not "back down to China," which would be displaying our rear end while saying  "kiss our a_ _ _." 

So maybe she's more diplomatic than President Trump has been. More effective, however, would have been ramping up domestic manufacturing, which Trump promised to do, but which probably would have cut into his ability to maximize financial profit from the mainland. Additionally, we would have missed out on Theater by Trump.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Biden and Buttigieg: Perfect Together

On Monday CNN reported

President-elect Joe Biden could return to the nation's capital for his inauguration ceremony the way he long bridged his life at home and his job in politics: On an Amtrak train from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, DC.

It would be a fitting moment for the man who took roughly 8,000 round trips on that same route during his time as senator and vice president -- earning him the moniker "Amtrak Joe" -- and who four years ago left Washington by train on his final day as vice president.

Biden's inauguration team is eyeing a rail arrival as one of a number of plans being discussed for the January celebration, Democrats familiar with the planning told CNN. The plan, first reported by Axios, is far from finalized and there is a great deal of uncertainty around all inauguration planning given the coronavirus pandemic, the Democrats cautioned. A spokesperson for Biden's presidential inaugural committee declined to comment.

However, if David Sirota is right, it may all be for show:


The Biden team may be responding to the charge that there has been insufficient consideration of LGBTQIA individuals for an upcoming Administration boasting about its diversity. Perhaps the President-elect wanted to boost the visibility of a young Democrat whom Biden's hero believed could be a critical piece of the party's future. Or it may be Biden's effort to reward a candidate who endorsed the former vice-president for the Democratic nomination at a critical moment in the process. Or it may be the opposite.

Pete Buttigieg's experience as mayor of a diverse, mid-sized city may prove to be far more valuable than Joe Biden thought it would when his campaign ran the ad attacking his primary opponent. Nonetheless, there is no indication Biden ever was a fan of the guy, which ironically may have made him more attractive to the President-elect.  After all, of the many qualified and accomplished women Joe Biden considered to be his running-mate, hence the leading candidate to be the first female President, he selected the one candidate, indeed the only individual, who implied he is a racist. If this suggests a pattern, it is not a good one.



Monday, December 14, 2020

Still The Race Man

Look who's back- it's Al Sharpton!

At 57:46 of the relevant portion of the video below, Reverend Sharpton claims

We should not let them submit us to a double standard whether they be on the left or on the right because many of us are not intimidated on either side.  A lot of people call themselves progressive- that call themselves progressive, are progressive about everything but race.

Sharpton then went on to defend the nomination of Lloyd Austin for Secretary of Defense. He did not argue that General Austin should be granted a waiver because he is a particularly good nominee, or that a retired general is a good choice for the position, or that President Biden should be given the utmost deference. No sir, skin color was the overt basis.

Sharpton didn't specify by name anyone not progressive on race. He didn't because he couldn't. He couldn't because, at least among Democratic governors, members of Congress, and presidential candidates, the number varies between 1 and -1,

Among such prominent Democrats, there is none who questioned the motives, ideology, or tactics of the defining organization- Black Lives Matter- of the racial justice/police brutality protests in the summer. Among such Democrats, there is none who questioned the selection of a black vice-presidential nominee as "historic" nor suggested that the candidate, whose father was born in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica, might not be African-American. Nor is there any who has suggested that a President Biden should nominate for cabinet posts individuals on the basis of qualifications and ideological principals aside from race. None.

Only ironically entertained, Matt Stoller finds Sharpton's "critique of progressives who advocate against corporate influence in government as racist somewhat interesting." That's more polite than inaccurate and much more so than reprehensible.  

In January, 2019, as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination began to heat up, Glenn Loury reminded us

Mr. Sharpton came onto the national scene in 1987, during what is now known as the Tawana Brawley affair. On Nov. 28 of that year, a 15-year-old black girl was found lying in a garbage bag, smeared with feces, with various racial slurs and epithets written in charcoal on her body. She said that she’d been raped by six white men and that two were law-enforcement officials. Mr. Sharpton relentlessly championed her cause. And yet, after seven months of examining police and medical records, a grand jury found “overwhelming evidence” that Ms. Brawley had fabricated her entire story.

Yet Mr. Sharpton proceeded to accuse the prosecutor, Steven Pagones, of being one of the perpetrators of the alleged abduction and rape. Mr. Sharpton was successfully sued (along with Ms. Brawley’s lawyers, Anthony H. Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason Sr.) for defamation. The jury in this civil action found Mr. Sharpton liable for making seven defamatory statements about Mr. Pagones, whose life fell apart as a result of the entire episode. Mr. Sharpton refused to pay his share of damages, which was later paid by a number of his supporters, and he has refused to apologize.

In August 1991, after an automobile accident involving the motorcade of a Hasidic rabbi accidentally killed a black child, riots broke out in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Much of the press portrayed it as a kind of cultural clash between the black and Jewish communities, but it was described accurately by the Times columnist, A.M. Rosenthal, as a “pogrom.”

Following the death of the boy, Gavin Cato, hundreds of black men took to the streets. Within hours of the accident, 20 young black men surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Australian yeshiva student visiting the United States to conduct research for his doctorate. They stabbed him several times in the back and beat him. He subsequently died of his injuries. The rioting continued for three days, leaving 152 police officers and 38 civilians injured. At least 122 blacks and seven whites were arrested.

Amid this unrest, Mr. Sharpton led hundreds of protesters on a march in front of the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. During his remarks at Gavin Cato’s funeral, at which there was a banner declaring, “Hitler did not do the job,” Mr. Sharpton let loose with a eulogy blaming “the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights,” and insisted that “the issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid.” He continued: “All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffeeklatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds.”

Four years later, Mr. Sharpton incited violence again. In 1995, Fred Harari, a Jewish tenant of a retail property on 125th Street who operated Freddy’s Fashion Mart, sought to evict his longtime subtenant, a black-owned record store called the Record Shack. Beginning that August, Mr. Sharpton led a series of marches against the planned eviction. Protesters led by Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network picketed outside the store day after day, referring to Jews as “bloodsuckers” and threatening, “We’re going to burn and loot the Jews.” At one point Mr. Sharpton told protesters, “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” Never mind that the building was actually owned by a black Pentecostal church.

Then, on Dec. 8, 1995, a protester named Roland J. Smith Jr. entered Mr. Harari’s store, told all the black customers to leave, shot several remaining customers and set the store on fire. The gunman fatally shot himself, and seven store employees died of smoke inhalation.

These incidents transpired a quarter of a century or more ago. Often as people age, they acquire perspective, a modicum of common sense, and a positive moral compass.  It was reasonable to expect that with wider exposure and even a program on a major cable network, Reverend Sharpton would have learned that individuals should be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It was reasonable- but naive, because Al Sharpton remains a race hustler.


An American, Technically

The Daily Beast notes Justice Samuel Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, once again unwitting made herself the internet’s Main Character on Tuesda...