Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Determining Guilt


As Axios reports

Darnella Frazier, now 18, who recorded the harrowing cellphone video of George Floyd's death that moved the world, testified:

"When I look at George Floyd, I look at — I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles. Because they are all Black. I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them."

"It's been nights I've stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life."

"But it's like — it's not what I should have done. It's what he should have done," she added, referring to Chauvin.

In response to Frazier's testimony, CBS News "legal expert and analyst" Rikki Klieman effectively promotes her agenda as a lawyer when she remarks (at 1:56 of the video below)

And when you watch it as a lawyer, one of the things that you would say is number one, "why didn't the defendant's lawyer file a motion to keep out any of the evidence about later thoughts of any of the eyewitnesses?" They are irrelevant in terms of a trial.

Exactly. It is irrelevant in a trial- or should be, if as we always hear, the jury must confine itself to facts. Yet, Klieman added

One of the other things I thought, and I certainly get texts all the time from my former law partners as well as other lawyers, is exactly what you point out, Vlad, which is to say "oh, this is really trouble, why did he go down this track as a defense lawyer because he has, as we say in the law business, opened the door to redirect. And the redirect examination was just chilling.

A moment earlier, the evidence about later thoughts was irrelevant. Now it's "chilling." However, she continues in the latter vein, remarking

The reaction of the youngster, whether she was 17, now 18, let alone a 9-year-old those kinds of young witnesses and child witnessses- if you watch and listen to their anguish and you're a juror, it has to get you not only in your head but in your heart and in your gut.

Now the later thoughts of eyewitnesses, once irrelevant, cry out in "anguish."  As Klieman recognizes, they (presumably) affect a juror's heart and gut.  Moreover, these irrelevant thoughts must affect a juror's head.



False- or as they say in the non-law business, b _ _ _ _ _ _ _.  They don't have to impress a juror's mind, nor are they intended to, because they are a flat-out appeal to an individual's emotion.

Klieman continues "and these are the kinds of witnesses who will persuade the jury to convict of the top count." That may be accurate, for Frazier- whose eloquence Tuesday was impressive, if likely rehearsed- had stated "it's not what I should have done. It's what he should have done."  

And Klieman added "so the defense has to walk down a very narrow road here and unfortunately, the road they walked down is a major highway." 

If honest, she would have continued "and that's because the issue in this case is not the guilt or innocence of the defendant but whether he should be convicted."

Strictly on the facts- perhaps in another universe- two of the things Frazier stated would work in favor of the defendant. If an individual concedes she is guilty of "not doing more," it suggests that the accused does not bear complete responsibility because his actions were not so egregious as to prevent witnesses from intervening. Moreover, Frazier is acknowledging that she could have chosen not to stand by but to act in such a manner as "physically interacting" and "saving his life."

Further, Frazier emphasized that she was reacting as she did precisely- and perhaps solely- because she could relate to the victim on the basis of race. In a jury system dominated by facts and rationality, that would be seen as detrimental to the prosecution.

Nonetheless, that is not the jury system we have.  Instead, we have- or at least the prosecution seems to believe we have- one in which the jury is persuaded of a defendant's guilt partly because a fine young woman is hostile to the defendant. "It's what he should have done" is a powerful statement of opinion by someone whose opinion (as contrasted with observation) is- as they say in the law business- irrelevant.

The prosecution may be making a good bet here, arguably fortuitous given that common sense suggests that Chauvin did commit murder. This may not be a trial which turns on whether the defendant is guilty, but upon which is the preferred outcome.

On March 7, I wrote of a USA Today/Ipsos Poll in which

Nearly two-thirds of Black Americans, 64%, view Floyd's death as murder; fewer than one-third of white people, 28%, feel that way. White Americans are more likely to describe it instead as the police officer's "negligence," 33% compared with 16% of Black respondents.

Nonetheless, I noted that USA Today had revealed

That said, Americans who have heard at least something about Chauvin's trial say 4 to 1, or 60%-15%, that they hope Chauvin is convicted. That included 54% of white Americans and 76% of Black Americans.

That's a lot of Americans- maybe even a few on the jury- who believe that Derek Chauvin is innocent and hope that he is convicted. Wrap your head (or heart or gut) around that one. many people believe a fellow who didn't murder anyone should be convicted of murder and (very likely) sent to prison.

The prosecution almost certainly either has seen this poll or recognizes the sentiment(s), in which innocence or guilt is not of the highest priority.

White Americans are not oblivious to how blacks would feel or think- or what we think they will- if Chauvin is let off the hook.  And if the jurors don't know- or do and wish to disregard it- the prosecution will make sure they know. Of course, it won't do so directly, for a variety of reasons.  But those "irrelevant" thoughts are, as Klieman clearly understands, not irrelevant in terms of the judgement the jury may pronounce upon a defendant.

Frazier made clear how blacks would feel upon a conviction, emoting

When I look at George Floyd, I look at — I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles. Because they are all Black. I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.

Americans remember, somewhat imperfectly, the events of last summer. The protests after the killing of Floyd were overwhelmingly non-violent. However, over the course of the last seven months we have seen relatively little of the non-violent protest, instead witnessing on social media, mainstream media, legitimate cable news, and especially on Fox News (probably, too, Newsmax and OANN) the violence of the loud and highly visible violent minority.

There are few Americans who want to see that side of the Black Lives Matter/black lives matter protests repeated; And they believe, accurately or otherwise, that it would be; hence, the perspective that Chauvin may be innocent but, oh, do we hope he is convicted and sent up the river.

Nevertheless, the charade must go on.  Rikki Klieman, as with other legal analysts, recognizes what is simultaneously irrelevant and emotionally powerful. Regrettably, as someone vested in the legal system, she won't explicitly acknowledge that it often operates not on facts and evidence but on emotion and/or the effort of some individuals to even the score.

That occurred when in 1995 O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence that he had wantonly murdered two (white) individuals.  Some whites- and blacks, overwhelmingly- realized the criminal justice system, indeed society generally, had railroaded (still, in some places) blacks for hundreds of years. Whether the jury itself worried about ruling against Simpson, among the American people generally

Fears grew that race riots, similar to the riots in 1992, would erupt across Los Angeles and the rest of the country if Simpson were convicted of the murders. As a result, all Los Angeles police officers were put on 12-hour shifts. The police arranged for more than 100 police officers on horseback to surround the Los Angeles County courthouse on the day the verdict was announced, in case of rioting by the crowd. President Bill Clinton was briefed on security measures if rioting occurred nationwide.

The primary responsibility of the prosecution is to present a case sufficiently persuasive to obtain a conviction. Even without the overwhelming video evidence smacking us in the face, the prosecution is taking no chances because, contrary to what Klieman and other television lawyers want us to believe is customary, facts frequently are insufficient. If provoking the fears of ordinary Americans is required, the prosecution may be comforted by assurance that history is written by, and only by, the victors.

 


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Skewed Priorities


There is a disconnect here which should, probably won't, be remedied.

Politico reports that most indviduals arrested for their part in the January 6 Capitol Hill riots will not face felony charges and points out

Another factor prosecutors and judges may weigh is that the treatment of misdemeanors by the justice system is currently the subject of intense attention in criminal justice reform circles. Reformers say such minor charges often cause major complications in the lives of the minority defendants who typically face them.

Former federal prosecutor now law professor Erica

Hashimoto said she recognizes light sentences may be unsatisfying to those outraged by the events on Jan. 6, but jailing the lower-level offenders really won’t help. “I don’t think that will heal any of the hurt and trauma this country has felt,” she said. “They should be focusing on the people who are most culpable.”

Police departments vary among federal, state, and local jurisdictions and even within states. However, it is not only prosecutors and judges who "should be focusing on the people who are most culpable," but also police. In our obsession with racial inequities in application of law enforcement, we often neglect the most obvious failing, the dangerous application of resources on misdemeanor criminal offenses and motor vehicle offenses at the expense of attention paid to major offenses. And so it is that in New Jersey

The Bordentown Township Police Department will be cracking down on distracted driving during the month of April as part of the statewide "UDrive. UText. UPay." enforcement campaign.

Beginning on April 1 and running through the end of the month, the high visibility law enforcement initiative will target motorists who engage in dangerous distracted driving behaviors, such as talking on hand-held cell phones and sending text messages while driving.

Yet in late February we learned

A year of the coronavirus has given rise to what police leaders nationwide call an alarming trend: bored, wayward teenagers pointing guns in people’s faces and carjacking them.

In Chicago, the frequency of the crime more than doubled in 2020 to a rate of about four per day. Three teenagers are charged with murder after a 65-year-old retired firefighter was shot in December during a noontime holdup in a busy shopping district.

New Orleans has seen a similar spike as teenagers know they’re less apt to be punished. “The wheels of justice,” said that city’s top police official, Shaun Ferguson, “just aren’t moving like they did pre-covid.”

In Washington, total carjackings hit 345 in 2020 compared with 142 the year before. Things are only getting worse this year, with 46 carjackings through early February.

The rise in carjackings includes plenty of adult suspects. Experts say the coronavirus has made jobs more scarce and — because people are home all day — made breaking into homes more of a risk. Pandemic reality also applies to juveniles. Schools are closed, and youth programs are shuttered. Precautions against packing children into locked juvenile facilities have led to their quick release, while reductions to in-person contact have made them more difficult to monitor.

Evidently, the pandemic is consequential- until it conflicts with the need to generate revenues. Police, with an alleged mission "to serve and protect," will receive funds to protect the public against "distracted driving," defined as

any activity that diverts attention away from safe driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle and fiiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.

And it's not only New Jersey, which is merely

one of eight states nationwide to receive dedicated federal funds this year to tackle the issue of driver distraction. This federal funding will be used for police overtime enforcement grants at the local level, as well as a statewide multimedia public awareness campaign on the issue.

Obviously, this isn't the fault of the individual police officers themselves, for they don't set policy nor (for the most part) determine the direction of law enforcement.  If local jurisdictions are given free money (via grant) to conduct a program which will enrich municipal coffers- most likely police budgets included- they are unlikely to turn it down.

Individuals who committed felonies at the Capitol on January 6 should be charged with felonies. Resources are better spent on such serious offenses than on many misdemeanors, seizing the money and assets of individuals before conviction, and minor motor vehicle violations. Alternatively, we may have to hope that some of those carjackers are observed drinking coffee while they drive away in a car owned by an individual they've just beaten half to death.



 

 


Monday, March 29, 2021

A Tweet For The Prosecution


There is stupid and then there is stupid. Courtesy of the co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition:

The fact that Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes on a public street while at least 15 people stood by, complained, recorded it or watched in horror is a testament to his disregard for George Floyd's life.

Viewing the shot of the apparent response of the response of onlookers to this murder, a reasonable reaction would not be tho cry out in anguish at Chauvin's disregard for George Floyd's life. Rather, it would be "why are so many people standing around and recording a horrid event when they could be intervening and possibly saving someone's life?"

As a group, the individuals should have done more than they did, perhaps storm Officer Tou Thao, who was standing ground against the small crowd as the other three officers were more actively involved in the killing. However, the response of Thao would have been unpredictable, and common human instinct is not to rush a guy with a gun. 

Boykin seems to believe- erroneously- that the individuals are responding passively.  He finds that a "testament," presumably because they were taking photos and recording a crime, activities currently celebrated but in the past properly condemned.

However, as the video below indicates, the spectators did not merely complain, record, and watch in horror as a gruesome killing was taking place. Had that been their only response, Chauvin's defense posture would have been strengthened because his attorneys could argue that their client's behavior was not so egregious as to prompt a response. Moreover, responsibility for the act could have been somewhat dispersed.



Keith Boykin received a law degree from Harvard University in 1992. There is a propensity to appoint as judges graduates of Ivy League law schools and otherwise hold them in particularly high regard. That is a bad practice Boykin illustrates.

 


Sunday, March 28, 2021

On A More Positive Note, An Excellent Sense Of Fashion



Because this is Twitter and words therefore limited, he's missing a major point but correct, anyway:

 

Six weeks after her guy was defeated in November, we were told

Dr. Deborah Birx’s rapport with President Donald Trump is “respectful in public and very clear in private” when it comes to discussions about the coronavirus, she said on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Wednesday.

Birx faced some backlash following White House coronavirus task force briefings for not loudly correcting the president on claims he made about how to treat the virus, like using bleach or sunshine, but she told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that her "interpretation of the epidemic" was “very clear” behind closed doors.

“I think no one really knows what I've done inside the White House,” she said. “That will all come to light because -- this data -- I write a daily report, so it's very clear, my interpretation of the epidemic.”

Those daily reports have not come to light and there is no way without- or perhaps even with- these reports that we'll know how Dr. Birx interpreted her role inside the White House. We do know, however that Dr.

Birx is now chief medical and science adviser of ActivePure Technology, a company that counts 50 million customers since its 1924 start as the Electrolux vacuum company and does nearly $500 million annually in sales. Its marketing includes photos of outer space, a nod to a 1990s breakthrough with technology to remove a gas from NASA spaceships. The company’s own studies show that, in its effort to create the “healthiest indoor environments in North America,” it leveraged something less impressive: the disinfecting power of ozone — a molecule considered hazardous and linked to the onset and worsening of asthma.

Dr. Birx's apparent interest in cashing in also does not prove that she was a mere "yes" man- or "yes" woman- to Donald Trump. However, it appears likely from her own words because she maintained

I served in the military for 29 years and I've always been very respectful in public and very clear in private. And having come out of the military, our one rule is you're a soldier, and you follow command until it's an unlawful order. And I have to say, in my time in the White House, which is 10 months out of my 40 years in public service, I never received an unlawful order. And so I never had to break with that chain of command.

It's comforting to know that Dr. Birx was never ordered by President Trump to commit a crime, though as we know from Michael Cohen, Trump always preferred the nod and a wink method.

Nonetheless, Birx indicts herself with her own statement. Unless it's an unlawful order, she claims, "having come out of the military, our one rule is you're a soldier and you follow command."  She was willing to do anything suggested by the President, it seems, unless there was an official document staring her in the face asserting the directive was illegal.  It appears she was conveniently unaware that she no longer was a member of the armed forces serving the Commander in Chief but a civilian serving the people of this nation.

If hundreds of thousands of deaths were preventable and Dr. Birx could do little about it, she could  could have resigned but decided silence was professionally more advantagious. As Chelsea Handler quips, "The best time for Dr. Birx to bring this up is definitely after 500,000 people have died of covid."

"You get what you pay for" is the old adage. In Dr. Deborah Birx, ActivePure Technology is likely now getting what it paid for. Similarly, Donald Trump got what he paid for- a proud military veteran who would speak only when spoken to, do as she was told, and carry out her mission loyally whatever the harm this loyal soldier would be doing to the country.

 


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Principles, Negotiable



A resignation is in order.  There is hypocrisy, and then there is hypocrisy.

This falls into the latter category. Over a week ago- with no additional explanation in the interim- we learned from the Daily Beast

Dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use, frustrating staffers who were pleased by initial indications from the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The policy has even affected staffers whose marijuana use was exclusive to one of the 14 states—and the District of Columbia—where cannabis is legal. Sources familiar with the matter also said a number of young staffers were either put on probation or canned because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the lengthy background check for a position in the Biden White House.

As far as we know, then, these individuals did not even violate the law. And they were the ones who admitted (thus making threat of blackmail less plausible) past marijuana use, in contrast to those who denied it and are still employed by the Administration.

Keep it classy, Mr. President:

In some cases, staffers were informally told by transition higher-ups ahead of formally joining the administration that they would likely overlook some past marijuana use, only to be asked later to resign.

“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” one former White House staffer affected by the policy told The Daily Beast. “I was asked to resign.”

“Nothing was ever explained” on the calls, they added, which were led by White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed that only five persons staffers were "no longer employed as a result of this policy” and that

In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated.

To ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use (would "not" have?)  Ihe premise is that because more individuals now admit to legal drug use than in the past admitted to illegal drug use, there were fewer staffers in previous Administrations who had used drugs. But if the naivete is astounding, it is true that drug use is- when convenient- inconsequential to this President.

These staffers probably- unlike a particularly prominent member of the Administration- believed having smoked marijuana (though not a badge of shame) is not a particular badge of honor.



As hard as it is to believe (given the recent news) that was the current Vice-President of the United States of America, fifteen months before presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden selected her as his running mate, giving her a leg up on her dream of being the first female president, first president of Asian background, the first president (aside, arguably, form Biden) who worked tirelessly for mass incarceration, or more firsts. Reinforcing the stereotype of Jamaicans as wacky weed aficionados was only the cherry on the top.

Below, Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks asserts "firing staffers over this is absolutely ridiculous." Noting the Administration's hypocrisy, she asks  (at 3:20 of the video below) for TYT's online poll

And you know what? We want want to know- should the Biden Administration fire Vice President Kamala Harris for her past usage of cannabis? The American people want to know. That's the whole question here.



Of course, the Vice President can no more be fired than can the President. Both of them were duly elected and in the absence of impeachment and conviction, can be removed only by voters at election time. So the answer to the question is either "no" or (the (unavailable) "not applicable."

However, it now is over a week since policy toward drug use of members of the Administration has been revealed. There has been no clarification of penalties, punishment, and/or dismissal of individuals for using marijuana. Meanwhile, a heartbeat from the presidency sits an individual giddily proud of her past drug use- at the time, illegal.

Clearly, President Biden cannot fire Kamala Harris, she will not resign, and she will not be asked to resign. It is just as clear, however, that without clarification (possibly, even with) by the Administration of its policy, President Biden owes it to the country to ask Kamala Harris to resign.



Friday, March 26, 2021

People Of The Proper Colors


Among the most absurd things written by Robin DiAngelo, inventor of "white fragility,"  is

To put it bluntly, I believe that the white collective fundamentally hates blackness for what it reminds us of: that we are capable and guilty of perpetrating immeasurable harm and that our gains come through the subjugation of others. We have a particular hatred for ‘uppity’ blacks, those who dare step out of their place and look us in the eye as equals.

The giveaway is when DiAngelo actually states that blacks of achievement are the most disliked by whites. Whites are far more favorable toward African-Americans who have experiences success than of poor or working-class whites, a reality that anyone breathing would understand. Joe Biden once famously observed “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man.” That nice-looking guy became President of the USA twenty-two months later.

Nonetheless, the thrust of her remark that "the white collective" ("they're all the same") "hates blackness" (the color?) because it reminds whites their gains have "come through the subjugation of others."

Upon the premise of those who think like DiAngelo, reality intrudes:


To be sure, I wouldn't know how to "rate racial groups," given not only that there are good and bad individuals among all races, but more fundamentally: rate- how?  Would this be in terms of intelligence, athletic ability, friendliness- or the capability of subjugating others?

Nonetheless, it is clear there is, on some level, a great detail of negativity toward whites among blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in the USA, and far less negativity among whites toward those three groups. Additionally, whites seem not to be as impressed with others of their group as are blacks, Hispanics, and Asians of theirs.

Call it white guilt or generosity- or maybe whites are simply most realistic about people. In either case, discrimination seems to be on the upswing, whether in Georgia or other states wary of allowing black people to vote or in California, where

Oakland will host one of the largest guaranteed income pilot projects in the country to give 600 BIPOC families with low-incomes an unconditional $500 per month for at least 18 months....

Oakland Resilient Families is a collaboration between the Oakland-based community organization Family Independence Initiative and the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The project will support 600 Oakland families while building momentum for strategies to eliminate racial disparities in economic stability, mobility, and assets through a guaranteed income..

In case this press release from the city leaves any doubt as to the genetic preferences of city officials, Or that sins of the fathers (or mothers) will be visited upon the sons (or daughters), Oakland proudly explains the program is

for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) (i.e. groups with the greatest wealth disparities per the Oakland Equity Index) with low incomes and at least 1 child under 18, regardless of documentation status. The term “family” is defined broadly to recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes.

All shapes and sizes, just not all colors, and good luck to the families not among the 600 eligible for the assistance. Availability of funds should be based solely on income aside from ethnicity. It's ironic that a race-based program would spring up only now that millions of Americans have tracked their ancestry- and found surprising,often complicated, results.  (Though clearly white, I myself am 22% of Asian and Latin American heritage. This sort of thing is not unusual.) 



Determining who is so completely devoid of whiteness that they are eligible for the program should be fodder for serious legal challenge. That's as it should be. Racial discrimination has been immoral for the two-and-a-half centuries of this nation's history. No government can wave a wand and make it moral.

 


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Discrimination Today, Discrimination Tomorrow, Discrimination Forever?


Earlier this week, a quasi-crisis in the White House was averted when Illinois Democratic senator Tammy

Duckworth late Tuesday dropped a stern ultimatum she had made in the morning to White House senior officials: She no longer will withhold votes to confirm White nominees until Asian Americans are named to more high level positions in the Biden administration.

Early on Tuesday, Duckworth had tweeted "I am a no vote on the floor, on all non diversity nominees. You know, I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ. But anybody else I'm not voting for."

"Senator Duckworth appreciates the Biden Administration's assurances that it will do much more to elevate AAPI voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government, including appointing an AAPI senior White House official to represent the community, secure the confirmation of AAPI appointments and advance policy proposals that are relevant and important to the community," Duckworth's communications director Ben Garmisa said in a statement Tuesday night.

"Accordingly, she will not stand in the way of President Biden's qualified nominees — which will include more AAPI leaders," he added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday night in a statement, "The President has made it clear that his Administration will reflect the diversity of the country. That has always been, and remains our goal. The White House will add a senior level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison, who will ensure the community's voice is further represented and heard." 

This would have been bad enough if Duckworth had simply demanded more Asian-Americans. But she did not: instead it was "racial minorities" and "LGBTQ."  Straight white men and women need not apply. Neither should handicapped straight white individuals, an odd demand from an individual who in the Iraq war lost both her legs. Alas, bravery does not translate to common sense.

Fortunately, Duckworth backed down (or so it appears).  Nonetheless, before she did, two tweets were mostly accurate:


Actually, not definitionally racist. Duckworth never implied that she believed straight white individuals were inherently inferior, only that they should not be nominated because they are not "diverse."  Instead, she suggested that character, skill, integrity, and even the values brought to the position are irrelevant.

It at least appears President Biden did not capitulate. However, that freight train rolls on, and will roll on until someone inferring how individuals should be judged by how they come out of the womb is told to go suck an egg.  



 



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Open-Source


Well, this can't be good:

Most of Africa and parts of South America and Asia are not expected to achieve widespread vaccination coverage until 2023.

However, Pfizer has a solution.  Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Global Supply for the pharaceutical giant says (beginning at :43 of the video below)

If you look at how current demand and current pricing is being driven by what I'll call normal market conditions, normal market forces, it's really been driven by kind of the pandemic state that we've been in and the needs of government to really secure doses from the various suppliers so what we believe is as we move from a pandemic state, from a pandemic situation, to an endemic situation, normal market forces, normal market conditions will start to kick in and factors like efficacy, booster ability, clinical utility, will you know basically become very important and we view that as quite frankly a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective, from a policy perspective, given a clinical, uh, profile of our vaccine.



Once we strip away the doubletalk "endemic" to a run-on sentence of 125 words, we have "we're going to cash in."  However, noting that "the pandemic is still likely to be a serious problem in much of the world this coming October," Dean Baker explains

this means that if we replicated the facilities of Pfizer, Moderna, and the other leading manufacturers, we would be able to have additional supplies in a time frame where it would still be enormously helpful, and the October target assumes no learning that speeds up the process.

On this point, Pfizer recently announced that it had discovered changes in its production process that could nearly double its production rate. This is of course great news, but it means that the authoritative voices who assured us that there was no way to accelerate the production process, were not exactly right.

Pfizer’s discovery of production efficiencies also raised the obvious question as to whether Pfizer’s engineers are the only people in the world with the ability to uncover ways to speed the production of vaccines. In other words, if knowledge of Pfizer’s production process was freely shared with engineers throughout the world, do we really believe that no one else could come up with further improvements?

This gets us back to the value of going full open-source to combat the spread of new vaccine-resistant variants. At this point, we have more than a half dozen vaccines that are being widely distributed in countries around the world. In addition to the U.S. and European vaccines, there are at least two from China (the country has apparently just approved a third), a vaccine from India, and a vaccine from Russia. These vaccines have varying effectiveness rates and undoubtedly will also have different rates against different strains.

As it stands, there are serious complaints about the lack of transparency on results from the non-U.S.-European manufacturers, however, even the U.S. and European manufacturers have not been fully open with their trial results. It would be ideal if all these companies fully disclosed their clinical trial results so that researchers throughout the world could see which groups of people each vaccine was most effective with, and how it fared in protecting against the various strains.

Getting full disclosure is something that would have to be negotiated, but this is why god created governments. In principle, this should be a doable lift. After all, it is to everyone’s benefit to have the pandemic controlled as quickly as possible. And the specific task involved does not require great effort. The manufacturers of the vaccines have the data, we just need to have them post it on the web.

If we had full information on the effectiveness of each vaccine and we freely allowed manufacturers everywhere to produce any vaccine, without regard to intellectual property claims, we would be best situated to contain the pandemic and quickly respond to the development of new strains. Of course, this will raise questions about whether our current system of patent monopoly financing is the best way to support the development of new drugs and vaccines, but that seems a risk worth taking. 

The Washington Post editorial to which the tweet above links recognizes "the drug companies could, without sacrificing their business models, share know-how in manufacturing with producers in less developed countries." Could, but won't- unless as Baker suggests, it is negotiated.   This should be considered a major test for the Biden Administration, in which it can demonstrate a recognition of the value of government, with wisdom and leadership, to confront a very powerful industry.

 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

We're Doing It Again


Do you see what is happening? Rishika Dugyala of Politico notes

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial demographic, with nearly 50 different nationalities and ethnicities lumped under the “AAPI” umbrella. Those growing numbers mean growing media and political attention — and sometimes growing resentment from the majority.

Noting the increase in both the number of elected officials and incidents of hate directed toward this community, Dugyala adds

But not everyone can reconcile these two dueling trends of AAPI gains and tragedy. At a hearing on pandemic-related hate crimes last week, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) asked, “If America was such [a] hate filled, discriminatory, racist society filled with animus against Asian Americans, how do you explain the remarkable success of Asian Americans in our country?”

Here’s an answer: Don’t flatten the diversity of the diaspora into the stories of high earning STEM CEOS, politicians and Hollywood types. Yes, Kamala Harris is now the vice president. Yes, “Minari” has six Oscar nominations. That doesn’t override the hate crimes.

Absolutely! But don't condemn McClintock for his (pick one) ignorance, naivete, or disingenuousness. It's not his fault.

When Kamala Harris was elected vice-president, there were few reports, a dearth of tweets, and little talk about a US senator, a former prosecutor, a Californian, or a neo-liberal taking on the job. It was all about her being the first woman and/or first individual of either south Asian or Caribbean descent to take over the office.

It was only about factors- being a woman or having parents of a certain background- over which she had no influence. A glass ceiling had been shattered, we were vigorously reminded by social media, conventional media, and any other media. We were to congratulate ourselves.

 

A glass ceiling has been broken!

 

It's history repeating itself. When Barack Obama was elected President, NPR reflected the zeigeist when it exclaimed "Barack Obama is promising supporters that 'change has come.' After his historic election as the nation's first black president, Obama promised to be a president for all Americans — including those who voted against him. "

Change has come, implying not only in the one office of the presidency, but to American society in its wondrous capacity to re-invent itself as a uniquely exceptional country.

Repeatedly reminded that the election was "historic," many Americans reacted in the maanner which should have been expected but even now is rarely acknowledged.  History has been made! We gave a black man the highest honor! What is it with this "original American sin of slavery," anyway? Eight years later, Donald Trump was elected President.

Pervasive is the notion that the election of Harris is nearly as historic, even though her position is one of no power other than that conveyed by the President himself. President Biden himself once referred to Harris as "President-elect" and at least once as "President Harris."  Though references to an "Obama-Biden Administration" were scarece, there have many references in media by Democrats to the "Biden-Harris Administration."

This is not accidental.    And so this: when a Republican such as Representative McClintock suggests with a straight face that the success of ethnic Asians in American society demonstrates they face no major discrimination, he is channeling the belief of tens of millions of Americans who know not to express their feelings in polite company. McClintock was properly corrected by Politico's Dugyala, but there should be no surprise.  As the media and some Democrats did with the election of Barack Obama and now with that of Kamala Harris, the response has been invited and encouraged.


 


Monday, March 22, 2021

Well Beyond Race


This misses the point, and not in a small way:

 

 

I couldn't blame Scaramucci if he thinks this makes sense because many people on the left seem to agree with him. Responses to his tweet include:

  • Mooch, dude. I can find Bigfoot before a non-racist q-publican...
  • Racism is one of the party pillars for Republicans
  • That’s getting tougher for your party. Even if you find them their constituents may not vote for them
  • Good luck with that.  Most of the anti-racist Republicans have left the party over disgust at what the GQP has morphed into over the last 4 years
  • ...A set of Republicans and a set of anti-racists are two mutually disjoint sets. Draw your own conclusion!
  • Good luck with that!...
  • Racism is in their DNA...
  • There’s no such thing, seriously.  To even suspect that there might be such a thing is about as naive as believing that maybe, just maybe there really is a Santa Claus. There isn’t. There’s no Santa, reindeer can’t fly, and there’s no such thing as non racist Republican, at all.

Sure, there are. If all Republicans were racist, we'd be in even more trouble than we're in now, given there the (few) Independents and (even fewer) Democrats who are.  The number surely would be on the north side of 40%.  That's a whole lot of people despising other people because of their race.

There certainly are some non-racists- or if you prefer the indentical "anti-racist"- among Republican public officials. Racial animosity is not the focus of the Party. On February 19, we could read

To get a sense of GOP senators' loyalty to the former president, CBS News contacted all 50 Republican Senate offices Wednesday night and Thursday with a simple question: Do you agree with President Trump that he — and not Joe Biden — won the November election?

Five offices replied. Forty-five ignored the inquiry.

Spokespeople for Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania answered that they do not share Mr. Trump's view and believe Mr. Biden to be the duly elected president.

(Senator Cornyn's office suggested the Texan accepted the results as "legitimate.")

So there you have it. Ninety percent of Republican senators refused to admit that Joe Biden won election to the presidency. It's difficult to believe that all of them are racist.  Mitt Romney was the GOP nominee for President, subjected to serious scrutiny and, despite visible elitism, there was never any serious suggestion that he looked down on people because of their race. (Affluent blacks, Latinos, and Asian-Americans would be quite acceptable to him and most others of his party.)

Tim Scott of South Carolina is African-American. That doesn't preclude the possibility that he is racist (or not "anti-racist"), but really. Those are two of the most obvious; surely there are other Republicans who, like Romney and Scott, are irredeemably right-wing (Scott, anyway) but still are "anti-racist."

Or perhaps Anthony Scaramucci would like to see Sean Hannity run for office. Hannity's sins, which include many, may include racism. However, there is no hard evidence. Instead, there is "hell will freeze over before Joe Biden is ever allowed to debate Vlaimir Putin. Why? Because Vladimir Putin would clobber him in any debate."



Hannity did not seem displeased. You should not be surprised that no Republican has risen to question Hannity or to defend Biden.  The GOP has in the past twelve months chosen in near unanimity to acquit of impeachment a President, first shown to have tried to bribe a foreign government to defame his political opponent, later to have aided and abetted an insurrection against our own government.

This was another chapter in the same GOP playbook. Six years ago, 47 GOP senators tried to persuade an enemy of ur country, Iran, not to make a deal with the President of the United States of America. A news media not fixated on both-siderism would have characterized that as unpatriotic.

Republicans generally deny the need to address climate change, environmental deterioration, consumer protection, reproductive freedom, educational inequity, the dangers of gun violence, rights of Americans in the workplace, importance of access to health care, or aid to poor, working-class and middle class people during an historic pandemic. This is only a portion of their fixation with right-wing policies which undermine the public.

And, yes, a few are not "anti-racist." But that is only the tip of a very big and dangerous iceberg. First, it is critical to get a few to accept the quaint notion that citizens should have a right to vote, that our government is legitimate, and that an election should not be overturned simply because a Democrat was elected.



Sunday, March 21, 2021

Pretending There Is No There There


"They are coming," David Frum explains

in numbers unlike anything seen in years. Those numbers are rising. And because the Biden administration wants no return to the detention policies of the Donald Trump years, it is releasing thousands of asylum applicants into the interior of the United States. Those releases, in turn, encourage still more people to try their luck at forcing their way into the United States.

The Administration's response, Frum adds, includes

an immigration bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were present in the United States as of January 1, 2021. This sent the message to prospective migrants contemplating illegal entry that a very generous amnesty was at hand, even for recent arrivals, even for those with no asylum claim at all.

Then, on his first full day as president, Biden suspended Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers. Under the new policy, asylum seekers will be allowed to live and work in the United States while their case is heard—a process that can take years. During the Obama administration, fewer than a third of the asylum applications adjudicated each year were granted. More than 1.1 million people inside the United States are awaiting a ruling on their asylum claims. Those who perceive themselves as likely to lose may stop showing up in court, making them more difficult to deport if their claims are denied.

In the video below, ABC News correspondent Matt Gutman can be seen reporting

There are now over 5,000 unaccompanied children and teens in border patrol custody. That's a spike of 65% in just two weeks. It's an all-time record and one border patrol facility  for children and teens is at a shocking 1550 percent capacity.



It is shocking to ABC News, undoubtedly to Frum, and to probably to most Americans who have heard about it.  However, in a classic head in the sand approach, in which an ex-journalist in nine words complains about someone else ignoring context:


One tweeter contends "'crisis' really feels like a shortened version of 'crisis of brown people coming into America.'" Similarly, George Takei claims "the press is going to try to provoke us into outrage over Biden (Pot ban! Border Crisis!) because they don't have the former guy to juice clicks and interest."

International law permits refugees to seek asylum.  There is a cascading number of people risking starvation, violence, even death to enter the USA. Thousands of children and teens are herded into cages or other detention centers while the political will is lacking to spend what is necessary to adjudicate the claims of the more than a million individuals (their numbers rising) awaiting adjudication of asylum claims.

There is no easy way out- not for the federal government; not for the impoverished children and parents in limbo; not for residents of states unprepared for the influx of individuals who themselves are unprepared for their current predicament.  Nor does this end well for Democrats seeking office or re-election with a base which is eager to ignore reality or to blame the deteriorating situation on white people fearing brown people.

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Hold Your Breath, Vladimir


As the Republican Party was gearing up at its national convention in 1984 to nominate Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) to a second term as President, Jeanne Kilpatrick delivered a famous speech in which she blistered "the same people who were responsible for America's decline."

Kilpatrick never specified who those people were, but presumably she meant Democrats and her refrain of  "they always blame America first" proved disturbingly effective.

Democrats did not "blame America first" but instead blamed policies of the American government. It was not as if Democratic senators of the time even considered the dangerous stunt pulled six years ago this month when, in a letter drafted by then-and still- Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas

47 Republican senators warned Iran about making an agreement with President Obama, and the White House accused them of undercutting foreign policy.

In a rare direct congressional intervention into diplomatic negotiations, the Republicans signed an open letter addressed to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” declaring that any agreement without legislative approval could be reversed by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”

Undercutting, undermining, sabotaging- however it's described, it was unpatriotic. And it's happening again, on social media and Trump TV as

After Vladimir Putin challenged President Biden to a live debate, Fox News commentators began weighing in on who would win – and it wasn’t Mr Biden.

“Putin and Biden? It would not end like Rocky IV – I don’t think the American would prevail,” Republican congressman Matt Gaetz said on Hannity on Thursday night.

The host concurred.

“The question is this,” Sean Hannity said. “Why would Vladimir Putin immediately call for a debate with Joe Biden with no time to prepare? What have I been saying? What have some of us – half the American people – been saying?”

Mr Hannity has said for months that Joe Biden is in cognitive decline, and that his allies conspire to hide his deterioration from the public.

“It’s getting a little scary,” the pundit said on Fox News Primetime on 1 March. “It’s funny because the media was attacking me for saying that Joe looks weak and he looks frail and he’s struggling cognitively. Well, every day now, pretty much, when he speaks, when he’s allowed to speak, he’s struggling.”

And all this was prompted by President Biden characterizing Putin as "a killer," which should be about as controversial as describing rain as "wet."

Heinz does not debate Hunt's. Dasani does not debate Aquafina. And the President of the most powerful nation on earth does not debate the president of the second most powerful, and far less affluent, country on earth.  As CNN's Brianna Keilar, surveying debate challenges of politicians over the past few decades, notes, "almost always, as you can see, the challenger is coming from a position of weakness."



Hannity, Gaetz, and Cotton are among the Republicans whose preference for the best interests of our nation and its democratic values are,  ahem, questionable. The former chess champion and current activist for democracy may have had the best retort:


 

Friday, March 19, 2021

One Thing Always Present


Surprisingly, it was not until Thursday night, two nights after Robert Aaron Long apparently shot nine people, eight fatally, for a prominent conservative to bring out the standard nonsense about a mass shooting incident. 

Tucker Carlson, as far as we know, has never personally conducted a psychiatric evaluation on Long- of for that matter, anyone. Yet, at 5:31 of the video below he can be seen referring to Long as "a mentally ill sex addict." A minute earlier, he had ridiculed the president of Rice University, who evidently has pointed to use of the term "Chinese virus" as a contributing factor in anti-Asian American violence. Carlson sarcastically remarked

Predictably, this escalation of racially biased hatred has led to violence so he's telling us. It was entirely predictable because once you describe a Chinese virus as Chinese, people are naturally going to start murdering Korean women. Could have seen that coming.

I hope I live long enough that an assailant motivated by racial bigotry will differentiate among Americans of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese etc. descent, If so, I will be called "Methuselah."

More seriously, though, Carlson at 2:48 claimed

Robert Long seems deranged but his obsessive and violent behavior also seems sadly familiar if you follow these cases closely.  An increasing number of Americans struggle with mental illness. It'd be worth knowing much more about Robert Long's life if only to prevent the next mass shooting. Then there's the very real question of sex addiction....



"Obsessive behavior:" "struggle with mental illness;" "sex addiction." Predictably, Carlson (other conservatives sure to follow) avoids the obvious and makes some bold conclusions about someone whose history he claims he'd like to know more about. That interest would be more credible if, for instance, his degree were not in history and he had not taken up journalism because he was told "they'll take anybody," a judgement his career has seemingly confirmed.

This is the right wing's go-to response to a mass shooting, the implication that it was prompted by mental illness.  Evidently unbeknownst to Carlson, many Americans suffer from mental illness (though they shouldn't be diagnosed from afar). Ditto, obsessive behavior and sex addiction.

 

One journalist makes a good point:

 

But a lot of people dislike Asians and a lot of men suffer from sexual rage- or other psychological problems. However, there is one thing all these mass shooters have in common, and it's not obsessive behavior, mental illness, or sex addiction.  It's so obvious it shouldn't be necessary to point it out. But it is, and thus Charlie Pierce has reminded us

Whatever the alleged killer’s motivation was, there is no ambiguity in how he was able to carry it out: this country’s insane fetish for its firearms continues to run unabated. There is some movement in the Congress again on passing sensible gun-control legislation, which means we’re all in for another absurd debate over the Founders’ weakness for dependent clauses. We will learn more about the crime and the criminal as the days go on, but this simple fact will never change: he was able to kill eight people in three places in one night because he was able to obtain the correct tool for the job. One more day of blood sacrifice to a perverse idea of freedom.



The Blood Was Not White Or Black

In late February a local newscaster in Buffalo, NY led a report ( video , below) with Tonight 75-year-od Martin Gugino has now filed a ci...