Saturday, February 27, 2021

"When What You're Doing Sounds Like An "Onion" Headline, Stop."

"Bill Maher" was trending on Twitter Saturday morning as he frequently does after having the audacity on Real Time to suggest that freedom of expression is a liberal value liberals shouldn't erase.

Tweeters responded to an interview the evening before in which Maher, in what was probably not his finest 10-15 minutes, chatted with Megyn Kelly about the now fashionable (both as behavior and as cliche) "cancel culture."  Most of the comments were negative, including "Bill Maher giving a platform to Megyn Blackface Kelly why?"; "Bill Maher and Megyn Kelly feel the biggest problem in America right now is white people being targeted;" "Can’t wait for Bill Maher to go the way of Chris Matthews. Wake up people;."

Of course, we must not have good interviews (though this one uncharacteristically fell short) on television.. Although the Megyn Kelly interview was not up to his standards, Maher's "New Rule" commentary at the close of the show continued the theme of the Kelly segment. The comedian remarked

In an era where everyone is online, everyone is a public figure. It's like we're all trapped in the hills, have eyes and wi-fi.

Take Mr. Emmanuel Cafferty. He is- was- a San Diego Gas and Electric worker but he got fired because someone reported him making a white supremacist hand gesture outside the window of his truck.

But he's not a white supremacist, he's a Latino and he wasn't making a hand gesture. He's probably just flicking a booger.

Is this really who we want to become- a society of phony clenched asshole avatars walking on eggshells always looking over your shoulder about getting ratted out for something that actually has nothing to do with your character or morals?

When expressing a conservative viewpoint, even liberals can play fast and loose with the truth, and a fact-check thus is critical.

In June, 2020, in midst of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, Cafferty was indeed employed by San Diego Gas and Electric. According to a piece written by The Atlantic's Yascha Mounk at the time, Cafferty is of Mexican and Irish descent on his father's side and Mexican on his mother's side. That doesn't completely preclude someone from being a white supremacist but makes highly questionable any suggestion that he is. As to the event to which Maher alluded, Mounk explained

At the end of a long shift mapping underground utility lines, he was on his way home, his left hand casually hanging out the window of the white pickup truck issued to him by the San Diego Gas & Electric company. When he came to a halt at a traffic light, another driver flipped him off.

Then, Cafferty told me a few days ago, the other driver began to act even more strangely. He flashed what looked to Cafferty like an “okay” hand gesture and started cussing him out. When the light turned green, Cafferty drove off, hoping to put an end to the disconcerting encounter.

But when Cafferty reached another red light, the man, now holding a cellphone camera, was there again. “Do it! Do it!” he shouted. Unsure what to do, Cafferty copied the gesture the other driver kept making. The man appeared to take a video, or perhaps a photo.

Two hours later, Cafferty got a call from his supervisor, who told him that somebody had seen Cafferty making a white-supremacist hand gesture, and had posted photographic evidence on Twitter. (Likely unbeknownst to most Americans, the alt-right has appropriated a version of the “okay” symbol for their own purposes because it looks like the initials for “white power”; this is the symbol the man accused Cafferty of making when his hand was dangling out of his truck.) Dozens of people were now calling the company to demand Cafferty’s dismissal.

By the end of the call, Cafferty had been suspended without pay. By the end of the day, his colleagues had come by his house to pick up the company truck. By the following Monday, he was out of a job....

When Cafferty was wrongly accused of being a white supremacist, he fought hard to keep his job. He said he explained to the people carrying out the investigation—all of them were white—that he had no earthly idea some racists had tried to appropriate the “okay” sign for their sinister purposes. He told them he simply wasn’t interested in politics; as far as he remembered, he had not voted in a single election. Eventually, he told me, “I got so desperate, I was showing them the color of my skin. I was saying, ‘Look at me. Look at the color of my skin.’”

It was all to no avail. SDG&E, Cafferty told me, never presented him with any evidence that he held racist beliefs or knew about the meaning of his gesture. Yet he was terminated.

Sadly, the incident did occur as Maher scantily described it, and there are other incidents which threaten to have a significant political effect.  Republicans now are continuallycomplaining about "cancel culture" and being cancelled, even when (especially when) there is no cancellation involved, because they recognize the political power in it. The theme of this year's CPAC is "America Uncanceled."

Mounk understands

such injustices are liable to provoke a political backlash. If a lot of Americans come to feel that those who supposedly oppose racism are willing to punish the innocent to look good in the public’s eyes, they could well grow cynical about the enterprise as a whole.

However, the primary reason this rush to judgement against anyone who at any time said something which might have offended a protected class is destructive. As philosophy professor Luke Cuddy argues

One of the core tenets of liberal democracy is that people should not be punished for accusations against them that are unsubstantiated, for actions that are perfectly reasonable, or for offenses that were committed by others. No matter how worthy the cause they invoke, you should not trust anyone who seeks to abandon these fundamental principles.

Or as Maher recommends, the left should begin to "stand your ground (and) stop apologizing."

Friday, February 26, 2021

Strange Argument

Senate Minority Whip John Thune on Wednesday explained his reasoning for opposing a major minimum wage hike and stated

And I can tell you, as somebody like Senator Scott who was growing up in a small town, I worked for less than the minimum wage. I worked for the minimum wage. I started busing tables at a dollar an hour. I went up to $2.25 when they moved me up in the place and I finally made it up to cook, which was big-time. That was six bucks an hour.

Thune apparently worked at Star Family Restaurant, a diner-like eatery in Murdo, South Dakota.  (The service is praised but it closes early, so go for breakfast or lunch.)  He evidently worked there in the 1970s because he graduated high school in South Dakota in 1979, then went to college in California.

The senator stated that he was paid $6.00 per hour, which is meant to sound as if he had a humble beginning earning wages which pale in comparison to the $15 per hour Democrats are seeking in the coronavirus stimulus package.

Let's assume for a moment that Thune's hourly wage was $6.00 an hour as late as 1979, which would be a less generous wage than if, for example, he was referring to 1975 or 1976.  The $6.00 in 1979 is worth $23.08 in 2021.

Senator Thune thus has made the argument that $23.08 is today a modest wage. It is, if his words mean anything, one fitting for a chef without a formal education in the culinary arts and working in a small town in a state with a relatively low cost of living. 

That's $5.08 more than congressional Democrats are pursuing, and which virtually every Republican is opposing.  But that's not surprising because Thune gave it away when he claimed "the minimum wage is something that is particularly troubling and harmful at a time when you're trying to get people back to work and trying to create jobs again."   

Thune therein did not blast an increase in the minimum wage but the minimum wage itself. Now that is particularly troubling.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Trust Everybody, But Always Cut The Cards

Politico has reported that nearly three dozen House Democrats have sent to the White House a letter proposing that the President relinquish sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. Alternatives suggested include one which would require the Speaker of the House or the vice president  "neither of whom can be removed by the president if they disagree — to concur with a launch order.”

As usual, the right-wing propaganda machine is not arguing against the merits of the proposal, instead borrowing from their bag of ad hominem attacks.  This includes Gateway Pundit retweeting the remark "Joe Biden is mentally compromised and they know it" and concluding "Biden is not nearly as sharp as he used to be. Anyone who has watched him trying to speak knows this."

In 2019 Elizabeth Warren introduced (with six co-sponsors) the Senate version of a bill to declare as USA policy no first use of nuclear weapons. The proposal was met with hostility from Republicans and skepticism from some Democrats. However, it should bring to mind this BBC story of a Cold War near-miss:

In the early hours of the morning, the Soviet Union's early-warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States. Computer readouts suggested several missiles had been launched. The protocol for the Soviet military would have been to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own.

But duty officer Stanislav Petrov - whose job it was to register apparent enemy missile launches - decided not to report them to his superiors, and instead dismissed them as a false alarm.

This was a breach of his instructions, a dereliction of duty. The safe thing to do would have been to pass the responsibility on, to refer up.

But his decision may have saved the world.

"I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it," he told the BBC's Russian Service 30 years after that overnight shift.

Mr Petrov - who retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel and now lives in a small town near Moscow - was part of a well-trained team which served at one of the Soviet Union's early warning bases, not far from Moscow. His training was rigorous, his instructions very clear.

His job was to register any missile strikes and to report them to the Soviet military and political leadership. In the political climate of 1983, a retaliatory strike would have been almost certain.

And yet, when the moment came, he says he almost froze in place.

"The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word 'launch' on it," he says.

The system was telling him that the level of reliability of that alert was "highest". There could be no doubt. America had launched a missile.

"A minute later the siren went off again. The second missile was launched. Then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. Computers changed their alerts from 'launch' to 'missile strike'," he says.

Mr Petrov smokes cheap Russian cigarettes as he relates the incidents he must have played over countless times in his mind.

"There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the Soviet Union's military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay.

"All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders - but I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan," he told us.

Although the nature of the alert seemed to be abundantly clear, Mr Petrov had some doubts.

Alongside IT specialists, like him, Soviet Union had other experts, also watching America's missile forces. A group of satellite radar operators told him they had registered no missiles.

But those people were only a support service. The protocol said, very clearly, that the decision had to be based on computer readouts. And that decision rested with him, the duty officer.

But what made him suspicious was just how strong and clear that alert was.

"There were 28 or 29 security levels. After the target was identified, it had to pass all of those 'checkpoints'. I was not quite sure it was possible, under those circumstances," says the retired officer.

Mr Petrov called the duty officer in the Soviet army's headquarters and reported a system malfunction.

If he was wrong, the first nuclear explosions would have happened minutes later.

Twenty-three minutes later I realised that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief," he says with a smile.

One of President Reagan's favorite quips- "trust, but verify"- was a translation of the Russian "Doveryai no proveryai." It's critical that other nations trust that the USA will avoid using nuclear weapons as a first option. When Senator Warren was asked at an 8/19/15 debate about her bill, she explained "We don't expand trust around the world by saying, ‘You know, we might be the first ones to use a nuclear weapon." 

In order to trust that a decision by the federal government to order a nuclear strike is reasonable, there should be two very high-ranking officials, neither beholden to the other, to agree. If that policy were known to our rivals- as obviously it would be- they would be less likely to mistake an act of ours for a nuclear attack. Thus, it probably wouldn't be necessary in the coming decades or centuries for another Stanislav Petrov to save the world.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Incredible Shrinking Rafael Edward

If there is one thing Donald Trump is right about (and there must be) it's Ted Cruz. The New York Daily News reports

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, bombarded with national criticism over a Cancun getaway as his frozen state shivered in the dark last week, said Tuesday that the incident illustrated “how ridiculously politicized” the country is — but he didn’t stop there.

“Here’s a suggestion, just don’t be a--holes,” said Cruz (R-Texas). “Yeah, like just you know treat each other as human beings. Have some degree, some modicum of respect." Somehow, that was not the fault of Heidi Cruz's friends, who leaked the information, nor to Mrs. Cruz herself, who, as an executive of Goldman Sachs feels so entitled as to flaunt a trip to coastal Mexico while her husband's state is being devastated. It was the fault of the press, you see.

Complaining about a paparazzi who photographed his wife wearing a bikini on the beach in Cancun, Cruz nonetheless added "Heidi is smoking hot, so I looked at the pictures and said, ‘Man, you look great.’” Fortunately, though he once called Ohio senator Sherrod Brown on the Senate floor a "complete ass," Cruz spared us his favorite "a" word in describing his wife's physique.

The whine took place on the podcast Ruth Less, not coincidentally begun soon after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, Cruz is more than peculiarly classless.  We recall March of 2016 when

After a super PAC unrelated to Cruz published an ad using a suggestive photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, from GQ, Trump laid the blame on Cruz anyway.

“Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

While it remains unclear what “beans” Trump was referring to, he posted an image on his Twitter account Wednesday another user had tweeted insulting the appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz

As the Texas Tribune pointed out in December

Cruz has proven in the past four years that he’ll stand by Trump in the president's most pressing times. During Trump's impeachment trial early this year, Cruz joined forces with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as part of the in-house impeachment advisory team and met with Trump and his lawyers to help “frame their legal strategy,” which ultimately contributed to the president’s acquittal.

And now, Cruz has been a leading voice in sowing doubt in Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat.

Cruz even collaborated with Trump's legal team during the more recent impeachment trial, when "after Democrats wrapped up their case against Trump"

Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Lee huddled for roughly an hour with Bruce Castor and David Schoen, evidently to go over strategy. “I just wanted to sit down and say, ‘Okay, what are y’all looking to put forward?’ and to share our thoughts in terms of where things are,” Cruz recalled in a Fox News interview Thursday evening. “And certainly what I urged to the Trump defense lawyers was to focus on [on the legal standard of incitement].” On Friday morning, CNN’s Kaitlin Collins reported that the three senators specifically intended to give Trump’s legal team “advice for the rebuttal” to Democrats’ arguments.

Although few if any senators of either party would confront their colleagues, this does not make for credible jurors.. Nor was Cruz credible when on his podcast he complained of the paparazzi's photograph "I will tell you,that she is pissed about." The senator was terribly concerned about his wife, once publicly humiliated by Donald Trump a few months before his boots were licked by Cruz.

And that is why Donald Trump understands Ted Cruz.  The Washington Post noted a year ago after Trump's first acquittal

at a Jan. 29 event celebrating the ratification of a new North American trade deal, Trump singled Cruz out for praise. “Thank you, Ted, for everything,” he said. “You’ve been incredible.”

Incredible.  That is one of the best descriptions ever of Ted Cruz- incredible, as in "not credible."


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Propagating Propaganda

Emerging from his basement, Donald Trump will soon be making his first public appearance, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, since leaving the presidency. So Chris Cuomo on Monday night interviewed the chairman of CPAC, veteran Republican strategist Matt Schlapp. They spoke about GOP claims of (imaginary) widespread voter fraud. But then the exchange turned (at 7:12 of the video below) to a related topic:

Schlapp: And you spent four years saying there was Russian collusion and that there was not- and that the election should be questioned and Hillary Clinton said Joe Biden should never, ever concede and this is like, this is like hypocrisy I've never seen.

Cuomo: Not only, hold on, hold on, this is why. Not only did I say there was collusion. I will say it now that there was collusion. Collusion is not a crime; it's a behavior. And Trump's people did what they do best. They did dumb things for bad reasons. But look, you made your arguments. I gave you your time. We'll look to see what happens at CPAC. You're welcome on the show.

Schlapp: Bob Mueller found no collusion, my friend. He did not find no collusion.

Cuomo: Collusion is not a crime. He wasn't even looking at it as such. Learn to read, my brother. It's right in the details. Good to see you. I gotta go.

Schlapp: There was nothing inappropriate with Russia in the 2016 election.

Cuomo: He never said that; never said it. I'm glad to offer you the platform. Let the people decide.

No collusion; nothing inappropriate with Russia in the 2016 election.  Following Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in June, 2018 about the Special Counsel's report, lawyers Barbara McQuade and Joyce White Vance explained in June 2019

Mueller spent almost 200 pages describing “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” He found that “a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” He also found that “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations” against the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.

While Mueller was unable to establish a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians involved in this activity, he made it clear that “[a] statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” In fact, Mueller also wrote that the “investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

Thanks in part to the pre-emptive report of then-Attorney General Barr which flagrantly misrepresented the Special Counsel's findings, the Republican base denies the link between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The likes of Matt Schlapp know better but are well-versed in Mythmaking 101.

Nonetheless, lies about the election of 2016 and of 2020 both serve to undermine public confidence in elections, thus laying the groundwork for accelerated voter suppression. It's not bad strategy, actually. for a party which knows it cannot win other than by preventing the other side from voting.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Michael Che Forgot The Four-Letter "K" Word

Anti-semitic, mostly left, Twitter is ablaze with support for Saturday Night Live's Michael Che, who claims "Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half their population. And I'm going to guess it's not the Jewish half."  Unfortunately, Ryan Grim also is pleased:

Nice try, Ryan. But when one is criticizing a government for alleged religious bias, one needs to have one's facts straight.

There is no documented bias in administration of Covid-19 vaccination in Israel. None. Although vaccination rates there are higher than in most of the world, individuals in some groups have been reluctant to receive their dose (s) and

Einav Shimron, the Health Ministry’s deputy director for international relations, said the ministry is working with physicians and religious leaders to counter misinformation, such as claims that the vaccine can cause infertility.

The ministry manages a command center with 11 trackers who monitor social media activity for anti-vaccination posts in Hebrew, Russian, Amharic, Arabic and English on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram. The center is adding more staffers in the coming days.

Hebrew- and Arabic? This does not sound like a government pleased that its Arab residents are not receiving the vaccine.  The Palestinian Authority is responsible for vaccinating its own residents and, as The Guardian recently reported, "after international pressure, Israel agreed this month to transfer 5,000 Moderna vaccine doses to Palestinian medical workers in the West Bank, while the Palestinian Authority intends to source the majority of its doses elsewhere."  (This has been its policy throughout.)

Grim presumably was referring to vaccine doses held up on Monday, but allowed through on Wednesday, by Israeli security forces. There has been no word recently on the two Israeli citizens, nor of the remains of two Israeli soldiers, held by Hamas.

Last July, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recognized “anti-Semitic tweets and posts from sports and entertainment celebrities (which) are a very troubling omen for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement.”  While referring to Israel itself, Michael Che may have been thinking about the West Bank. In which case he should have replaced “Israel” with “the West Bank," the "occupied territories," or the "land under control of the Palestinian Authority." 

Instead, he believes attributing bias to Israel is good sport, binding anti-Semites, some religious and secular Christians, and left-wing Jews hurt that Israel has not been able to provide for Arab Palestinians the prosperous and free homeland denied them for centuries by Arab nations.

Under some circumstances, criticizing Israel- or even Jews- is  legitimate. However, there is one description for a brazenly inaccurate. religiously-based, attack:  Anti-Semitism.

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Free Market, Not Only In Texas

"Free markets." With all due respect to the non-partisan Renew Democracy Initiative, which is dedicated to the critical project of promoting liberal democracy in the USA and abroad, this is not a good time:


A non-profit media organization based in Austin notes

Millions of Texans have gone days without power or heat in subfreezing temperatures brought on by snow and ice storms. Limited regulations on companies that generate power and a history of isolating Texas from federal oversight help explain the crisis, energy and policy experts told The Texas Tribune. 

A Corpus Christie newspaper explains

In 1999, Texas deregulated its energy market. This meant that instead of cities or other local entities completely controlling the supply of energy to customers, the provision of electricity would be broken up into three components -- generation, transmission, and retail. Under this new regime, a customer would have the choice between various retail electric providers, with the hopes that such a move would lower prices. However, as we have experienced before and are learning yet again -- you often get what you pay for.

As part of the change to a deregulated energy market, prices were no longer fixed by the government. Companies were instead encouraged to compete to attract customers. With that competition came fewer rules from the state by which each of these players in the energy market had to abide.

Unfortunately, this system created incentives for energy companies to cut corners and invest as little as possible in order to maximize their profits. It would be easy to just blame the energy companies for doing this, but it is the system that the state created that is truly to blame. When electric generators are told they should take certain actions, like winterizing their power plants, but that simply remains a suggestion, then most companies will not do so out of fear that their competitor will choose not to and ultimately make more money or attract more customers.

The free market functioned relatively well, creating great wealth and a vibrant middle class, before deregulation was promoted by President Jimmy Carter and thereafter more robustly by President Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6).  As deregulation and its first cousin, privatization, gained steam, the size of the middle class declined and income inequality grew.

Even now, as the Never Trump contingent of the GOP decries the Trump wing for its racism, xenophobia, denial of global warming and other scientific realities, and attack on democratic norms, there remain three conservative nostrums which never can be challenged.

One is "pro-life" and another is "cutting taxes," euphemism for slashing corporate taxes and income taxes of the wealthy. The third is an attack on regulation.  Democrats will advocate for reproductive freedom and periodically assail Republicans for their fealty to tax cuts for the wealthy. But notwithstanding the few progressive critiques now being made of the deregulation of the energy market in Texas, rarely does any Democrat, and nary a progressive, challenge deregulation in general. The obsession with maintaining "free markets"- with as little regulation as possible- continues. The cost to consumers and the public in general is incalculable.

The unquestioning rhetorical devotion to a free market is a major stumbling block to efficient and productive regulation. The donor class, which reinforces the GOP's ideological commitment to deregulation, desensitizes Democrats to the danger it poses to the middle and lower classes In the long run, this obsessive commitment to "free markets, as the disaster in Texas reveals, can be devastating.


Friday, February 19, 2021

A Very Negotiable "Faith"

The magazine of Decision, "The Evangelical Voice For Today," reported in January, 2019 that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, Kansas remarked

We love Mike and Susan. Susan is warm and inviting, smart and caring. Both are followers of Jesus. Mike was a small business owner when he served as deacon. He was a humble, competent and hard-working man who cared about his employees, his family and his church.

The truth, not so much.  According to The Washington Post. after an interview with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly in January, 2020, Pompeo launched a profane tirade in which

“He asked me, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ ” she continued. “He used the f-word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes; he called out for his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked. I pointed to Ukraine; he put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’ ”

Despite an email chain which preceded the interview, Pompeo "accused Kelly of having 'lied to me, twice,' first in setting up the terms of the interview and then again in agreeing to keeping the 'post-interview conversation' off the record. "  Moreover

The statement ended with a vague, unexplained assertion — “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine” — that seemed to imply Kelly, who holds a master’s degree in European studies from Cambridge University, got her geography wrong.

A week after the election, Pompeo was asked by a reporter at a news conference "is the State Department planning to engage with the Biden transition team...?  He responded in part "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump Administration." That didn't happen.


Moreover, now-private citizen Mike Pompeo is not done. 

The article itself to which Pompeo helpfully linked described the podcast hosted by Ben Rhodes, who served in the National Security Council under President Obama, in which

Rhodes speculated on what drives Netanyahu’s world view: “Maybe the view is, ‘Jews have been screwed throughout history, by a corrupt cruel world. And so you know what, we just have to be corrupt and cruel ourselves. That’s the only way to survive in this world.’”

Yet for Pompeo, that somehow became Rhodes stating "all Jews are 'corrupt and cruel.'"

The fawning article in Decision was entitled "Mike Pompeo's Non-Negotiable Faith."  It seems, though, that Mike Pompeo's most abiding faith is in (pardon the redundancy) deceit and Donald Trump.   


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Hypenated Leadership

I had intended in this post to criticize Kamala Harris' response to Today Show's Savannah Guthrie to questions about the pandemic. However, a New York Post video takes care of that better than I would.

When interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday, Vice-President and ex-veteran prosecutor Kamala Harris failed to give a straight answer about whether former President Trump should be prosecuted by the Justice Department. Additionally, she weaved and dodged when questioned about the pandemic.

Yet the exchange exposed (or should have) something which threatens to have a grave impact upon USA government over the next four years- and maybe beyond. It came about, when in response to a question about the pandemic, the Vice President replied

You're right, we're four weeks in as an Administration but we have during these four weeks done a lot about a national protocol for getting the vaccines to folks. Supporting the states who needed that kind of coordination and support. We have a whole program that now is- that we've rolled out, getting one million vaccines to pharmacies. We are getting vaccines to community health center, very important, to supplement what the states are doing.

We want to make sure we get it directly into communities, 13.5 million a week going out as quickly as we're producing it, we're getting it out. Let's talk about- we want to  say, please, everybody, get vaccinated. We'll do whatever is in each one's ability to do in the interim, wear a mask, social distance, and wash  your hands and do it frequently.

In that one response, the Vice President- the Vice President- used, standing alone or as part of a contraction, the term "we" eleven (11) times. More tellingly, she mentioned "Joe Biden" or "the President" only once, and then as "I think they ought to be a priority; the President believes they should be a priority." She included herself when referring to "as an Administration."

And it's not only Harris who is talking this way. In her interview- or, rather chat- with Chris Hayes later Wednesday, Assistant Presidential Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (in a segment beginning at approximately 27:32 of the video below) also declined to give a straight answer about vaccinations. And she, too, downplayed the presidency, remarking "that the Biden-Harris Administration is trying to move forward with...."

During the presidential campaign, there were many references to the Obama-Biden Administration. However, that was for strategic political purposes only and Obama and Biden had been out of office for approximately three years. While Barack Obama was President, it was President Obama, not "we"; the Obama Administration, not the Obama-Biden Administration. Vice-President Joe Biden never suggested or implied that he was equal in power, influence, or stature to the President.

It is different now, and not because times have changed.  Presently, there are people in Washington, D.C., employees of the federal government (including, at times, President Biden) or not, who want us to know with the terminology they use that this is the Biden-Harris Administration and not the Biden Administration. If this were going to be a co-presidency, it would have been decent to notify us before the election. On second thought: 4+ more years of President Trump would have been awfully hard to take.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Comment Requested

"Oh, that's a great question," replies Kamala Harris near the close of an appearance on Wednesday's Today Show. Industry standards probably required a puff question from Savannah Guthrie to ease the vice-president's discomfort lest she refuse to return for an appearance on NBC.. Shortly before that, Guthrie had asked (in a segment beginning at 10:34 of the video below)

I have to ask, on the subject of impeachment, the President was acquitted in the Senate trial. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, though, had harsh words, saying he didn't get away with anything, yet, and that civil and criminal liability was still a possibility. I ask you, do you think that President Trump should be criminally charged?

Harris responded

You know, right now, Savannah, I'm focused on what we need to do to get relief to American families, and that is our highest priority. It is our Administration's, it is our job, it is the job we were elected to do, and that's my focus.

You were elected to do more than one thing, Madame Vice-President. Of course, the pandemic is your focus but the questions about that came earlier in the segment. Thus, Guthrie continued "You're a former prosecutor, so I have to ask you, is that a strong case against the President, a criminal case that Mitch McConnell raised as a possibility?"

McConnell's sincerity is questionable. However, he is the GOP's leader in the Senate, head of the non-insurrectionist wing of the Republican Party and he did imply the former President should be prosecuted.  Nonetheless, Harris replied

I haven't reviewed the case through the lens of being a prosecutor. I'm reviewing the case through the lens of being the Vice President of America.

That's the United States of America, an ironic omission from a member of an Administration which believes the border between the USA and Mexico should be somewhat, euphemistically speaking, permeable.

More on-topic: the Vice President needs to do a better job, politically and otherwise. She owes the country a more complete answer as to whether the ex-President should be prosecuted than "I haven't thought about it." Harris is an ex-prosecutor and can presumably use her experience with, and knowledge of, the justice system to formulate a coherent answer to a reasonable question.

Alternatively, she can answer the question in the capacity of vice-president, to which she clings here as an excuse for avoiding a response. The answer should be something along the lines of 

That's a decision for the Justice Department. Unlike the last president, this Administration believes that the Attorney General of the United States of America doesn't serve the political interests of the President but serves the American people.  The Justice Department will take all appropriate factors into consideration and make a decision the American people can be proud of.

There. That shouldn't be so hard. Not only does it answer the question, it makes clear there is a new sheriff in town, one who believes in the independence of the Justice Department and will work for the people and not himself.  If Vice President Harris can't pull that off, President Biden should have send to the media someone who will. That is, unless it's not accurate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Wrong And Wrong

Condemning the two-time impeachment and trial of Donald J. Trump, Lindsay Graham has charged

And we've opened Pandora's Box to future Presidents and if you use this model, I don't know how Kamala Harris doesn't get impeached if the Republicans take over the House because she actually bailed out rioters and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody's head open.

Republicans will try to impeach a Democratic president for anything. They've already done so for the commission of consensual sex, of which Graham should be aware because he was a vocal advocate of convicting the impeached Bill Clinton in the Senate in 1999. Moreover, this will not open a Pandora's Box for Democratic legislators because they now fully realize that no more than a handful of Republicans ever will vote to impeach a Republican President. Or at least they won't unless witnesses are called, which Democrats won't because they live to be intimidated.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund puts up the bail for many individuals, and it raised copious amounts of money after the protests which followed the murder of George Floyd. One of the defendants benefiting was Jaleel Stallings, arrested on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis. According to the Hennepin District Court, there is a jury trial scheduled for March 27, 2021 for two counts of Attempted Second Degree Murder, one count of Assault, and other charges, which appear to be three felonies carrying a lesser maximum sentence. 

However, more likely Graham was referring to

A 32-year-old Minneapolis man, who was bailed out of jail by the Minnesota Freedom Fund in July after an alleged assault, is accused in another assault that left the victim with a traumatic brain injury.

According to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Lionel Timms faces one felony count of third-degree assault — causing substantial bodily harm — in connection to the Aug. 14 incident.

Yet, in neither case was Timms arrested for an incident arising from the racial  justice protests. Further

all but three of the 170 people arrested during the protests between May 26 and June 2 were released from jail within a week. Of the 167 released, only 10 had to put up a monetary bond to be released; in most cases, the amounts were nominal, such as $78 or $100. In fact, 92 percent of those arrested had to pay no bail — and 29 percent of those arrested did not face charges. (The American Bail Coalition is a trade group of insurance companies who profit from underwriting bail bonds.

Without an investigation, it cannot be determined what donations from whom went to which offenders. However, the vast majority of the money collected by the MFF, including a sum contributed by then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, was not used to bail out Lindsay Graham's "rioters" but to gain the release of other alleged offenders.

Lindsay Graham, ideologically-charged political opportunist: meet Kamala Harris, judgment-impaired Vice President.

The South Carolina senator has chosen to distort wildly a controversial issue as his rationale for defending a President who instigated a riot for the purpose of overturning a free and fair election. Senator Harris gave to a fund which was used overwhelmingly not to free (before trial) protestors or rioters but individuals with motives completely unconnected to any ideas of racial justice or police reform.

On June 1, 2020, Harris (apparently successfully) encouraged a torrent of contributions to the Minnesota Freedom Fund by tweeting "If you’re able to, chip in now to the @MNFreedomFund to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota.”

She was hired twice as a prosecutor, later was elected as District Attorney of San Francisco, and thereafter as Attorney General of the State of California. Yet as far as we know, she assumed the contributions to this organization would bail out peaceful protestors.

It turns out that most of that money was not applied to peaceful protestors, as Harris implied, nor to rioters, as implied by Lindsey Graham and many other Republicans.

If conservatives had a problem with the Black Lives Matter protests, they had a duty to specify their disagreement with the policies or perspective of the movement. Instead, intimidated by the slogan "black lives matter," most of them hid behind baseless accusations. On the other side of the partisan aisle, if an ex-prosecutor (let alone ex-state Attorney General) wants to support an organization helping peaceful protestors, she should know to find out a little about the organization first.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Lie And Be Rewarded

Down is up, up is down and

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the public face of the battle against the pandemic in the United States, was the recipient of a $1 million Dan David Prize, an award headquartered at Tel Aviv University and dedicated this year to outstanding contributions in public health.

The Dan Davis Prize is awarded annually, for a total of $3 million, in three categories- the Future, the Past and the Present. Dr.

Fauci, 80, won in the “Present” category for his scientific contributions, including his research and his efforts to inform the public about the pandemic. He “leveraged his considerable communication skills to address people gripped by fear and anxiety and worked relentlessly to inform individuals in the United States and elsewhere about the public health measures essential for containing the pandemic’s spread,” the organizers of the Dan David Prize said in a statement.

Dr. Fauci certainly has "considerable communication skills," as does his former boss, Donald J. Trump, who probably kept Fauci on for two reasons:  a) the latter is excellent on television, a major priority of the former President; and b) for each, candor is negotiable.

Forgotten, it appears is the time in early spring, as Americans were unsure of the value of face masks, that Fauci stated they were not necessary. He did so, he later claimed, because there was an insufficient number of N95 masks and surgical masks  and "we" wanted to make sure that health care workers received them.

The earlier advice is what is generally referred to as a "lie." A conservative Republican, State Senator Tom Davis of South Carolina, has argued "timely dissemination of the truth on the efficacy of masks would have led to a reallocation of productive capital so the supply of masks could meet demand." Alternatively, the President could have invoked the Defense Production Act, as explained here,  "to direct the production and distribution of materials that are deemed essential to national defense."

The federal government could have gone right with the free market, to the left with critical government action, or have its mouthpiece lie to the American public.

Early in the pandemic, Dr. Fauci indicated that 60-70 percent of the public would have to be vaccinated for herd immunity to be reached.  In November, it was "70, 75 percent," and a few weeks later, "75,80,85 percent" and "75 to 8-plus percent." It's tough keeping numbers straight when truth is optional so

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.

He has treated the American people as children, unable to handle the truth. Evidently, he found nothing in the past four years sufficiently unacceptable to be worth sacrificing the position he has held for over 36 years.

The Dan Davis Prize claims Fauci "has been widely praised for his courage in speaking truth to power in a highly charged environment." If Fauci had talked truth to power, he would have been fired long ago by President Trump, and he probably wouldn't have endeared himself to President Biden. If courage in government officials working in the public health or national security field were so highly prized, it's not hard to find:



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Unserious Senator

I don't subscribe to the modern instinct, especially popular on the left, to demand everyone with whom there is a disagreement to "resign." However, if I did, my nominee would be Delaware senator Chris Coons, closely allied with Joe Biden. He appeared Valentine's Day on 'This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, at which time

"So you don't believe that a full trial, more witnesses, more documents giving us a sense of what was going on in the inside the White House, would have better served the cause of justice and accountability?" Stephanopoulos asked Coons.

Coons said he was impressed with the 57 votes that Democrats managed to get, the most bipartisan impeachment in the history of the country.

"They could have had 500 more witnesses, it wasn't going to change the outcome. Once Mitch McConnell made it clear he intended to acquit even despite the compelling evidence, what the House managers needed wasn't more witnesses or more evidence, what we all needed was more Republican courage," Coons said. "I, frankly, at that time did not think that spending months fighting over additional witnesses would have changed the outcome of this trial one bit."

Senators need not have spent months fighting over additional witnesses.  Even if Republicans had demanded a hundred or more to slow the process, Democrats could have balked. That's what control of the Senate means- or at least does when Republicans control it, as they did when Mitch McConnell decided at President Trump's first impeachment that there would be no witnesses.

Moreover, the rough consensus going into Saturday morning was that there would be five (though possibly even fewer) Republicans voting to convict Trump. Instead, there were seven, suggesting that Democratic senators could not be certain that with the personal, passionate and emotional testimony of witnesses there would have been an acquittal. (That's apart from any other reasons to call witnesses.)

However, that was Coons' explanation for the decision of Democrats to unfurl the white flag of surrender. Or at least it was on Sunday morning after he got his lines straight because on Saturday morning

Frustrations rose among Senate Democrats. One Democrat familiar with the internal discussions said “it was clear the managers had no plan” and “didn’t know what their next step was.”

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close ally of President Biden’s, visited the managers’ room off the Senate floor, according to a House aide. He told the managers any delay would cost Republican votes to convict — and potentially Democratic votes, too.

“The jury is ready to vote,” he told them. “People want to get home for Valentine’s Day.”

The Senate could have put off trial-related work till Tuesday, especially because Valentine's Day, 2021 is a Sunday, a fortuitous fact which seems to have escaped Coon's attention.

Valentine's Day is a swell day for an elite group- a mere 100 individuals entrusted with the work of governing the nation- to be home with their "significant others." So, too, would the wife of Howard Liebengood, of Jeffrey Smith, or of Brian Sicknick prefer to be with her husband on this occasion. However, due to the deaths of those law enforcement officers, closely related to the insurrection of January 6, they will be denied the privilege enjoyed by United States Senators.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Adverse Inference

Asked by Bill Maher two weeks ago on Real Time whether there is a 50-50 chance that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a lab, evolutionary biologist Brad Weinstein, appearing with wife and colleague Heather Heyer, remarked

it’s far more likely than that. I think I said last June that the chances it came from a lab were about 90%. This was never a conspiracy theory. In fact that term was used to simply make it go away. It’s an obvious hypothesis that is in need of testing, and we are only now, a year [into the pandemic], getting to the point where we can discuss it out loud without being stigmatized.

However stigmatized or not, when a scientist or a comedian questions the virtue of the mainland Chinese regime (3:17 of the video), the race card is always not far behind. And if Twitter is the land of bad takes, this guy is king:

Timing can be so unfortunate. This fact-free defense of the Beijing regime ironically appeared less than a day after we learned

Chinese scientists refused to share raw data that might bring the world closer to understanding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, independent investigators for the W.H.O. said on Friday.

The investigators, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan, said disagreements over patient records and other issues were so tense that they sometimes erupted into shouts among the typically mild-mannered scientists on both sides.

China’s continued resistance to revealing information about the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the scientists say, makes it difficult for them to uncover important clues that could help stop future outbreaks of such dangerous diseases.

“If you are data focused, and if you are a professional,” said Thea Kølsen Fischer, a Danish epidemiologist on the team, then obtaining data is “like for a clinical doctor looking at the patient and seeing them by your own eyes.”

Following this second impeachment of President Donald Trump, Lead Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin invited Trump to testify in the impending trial. He wrote "if you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial your refusal supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2001."

Failure to cooperate supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions. The company line throughout has been that SARS-CoV-2 originated at a wet market in Wuhan. However, despite- or because of- mounting evidence that it instead came out of a laboratory in that city, Chinese authorities have denied investigators from the World Health Organization access to patient records, access to vital lab employees, and other "issues" necessary to prove or disprove the official line of the totalitarian regime in Beijing. 

It's time to take a strong adverse inference regarding claims from mainland China, meanwhile rebuffing charges of racism for questioning a modern fascist state.


This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...