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  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

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    • Nightswimming
      Great version of the R.E.M. song. Jason Isbell, Bela Fleck and Chris Thile:
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    • How To Predict If The Shortages Will Be A Priority To Fix
      Covid has not been a priority to fix in many countries for a simple reason: it’s making the rich a lot richer. U.S. Billionaires have seen their wealth increase by 70% during the pandemic. Man, people dying and getting sick and having to buy much more online is good for Billionaires! What a time to be a peon! So, as for the shortages, the question is how muc […]
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The Vaccine Mandate

Biden is expected to give a speech this evening to announce a vaccine mandate for all federal employees without a test out option. It’s about time. I think we’ve given refusers long enough. I’m sure Biden will have some speechwriter frame this decision diplomatically but I’d let them have it. Here’s what the selfishness and defiance means:

  • The hospital system in some states is collapsing. That would include Oregon, Mississippi, Idaho, Missouri and Louisiana to name a few.
  • ICU beds are overwhelmingly occupied by unvaccinated Covid patients leaving cancer patients and people with other life threatening health issues with nowhere to go. Some cancer patients have had to wait for four days in the ER for a bed only to be transported to another hospital hours away.
  • Children are both victims and vectors. The delta variant spreads so quickly and with such a high viral load that more children under 12 are getting Covid. And although their immune systems are better equipped to handle it, the magnitude of increase in the number of patients means that more children will end up in the hospital. They also bring it home to their parents, grandparents, other children. They take it to school and spread it around.
  • It is impacting the economy in the expected ways. If a school needs to quarantine a couple of classrooms of kids under 12, then someone has to stay home with them. That usually means mom. If mom can work from home, that will work. But if she can’t, then she has to decide if she can continue working at all.
  • Unemployment benefits are running out. That means there will be less money coming back into the economy. Less money being spent means fewer goods and services purchased which impacts small business’s bottom line which leads to unemployment. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Fewer people working means fewer people paying taxes, especially social security taxes. That means there may be an impact to the benefit payoff down the line. That should make the soon to be retired VERY nervous.
  • The more time it takes to reach herd immunity, the more likely there will be more variants. Some of those variants, such as the Mu variant, may be escape varieties. That means the vaccines we already have circulating may no longer be effective or as effective. That means pharma will need to create new versions of the vaccine and everyone will need to get one periodically or the economy will continue to sink, more people will die and the hospital system will continue to be stressed beyond its capacity.

If that’s ok with you who are still holding out, then go ahead and continue to make a stink about having to get a shot. It’s not the hill I would want to die on, literally or figuratively, to defend my freedom but your mileage may vary. Maybe the refusers want the country and the globe to devolve into chaos, pain, and economic collapse. Maybe it suits their purposes. Maybe that will make a big daddy politician more popular no matter how ugly his policies or bad and incompetent his performance. I don’t see how anyone but the very wealthy elite benefit from that. I dunno. I just do thought experiments and follow them where they lead and the chaos scenario only works for you people like Littlefinger. The rest of us will suffer.

But I suspect that this is just the opening salvo in a war against the holdouts. It starts with a federal employee mandate. It will spread to large corporations and I am here for it. It should be a test of character, reliability, teamwork and ultimate employability. Those wellness points should be adjusted accordingly. Just a suggestion.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Going to the Heart of the Matter

I will say that of all the so-called “Never Trump” Republicans who are journalists or “pundits,” the most articulate and forceful has been Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. She was a consistent advocate for the Bush era policies, but actually seems to have evolved, first to a vehement critic of Trump; and now continuing, to strongly support Biden, and attack the leaders of the Republican Party. Right now, I think that she is one of the best political journalists out there.

Today, she writes that Biden needs to sharpen his attacks on Republicans, so as not to allow them to dominate and control the news cycle. She notes that Biden is trying to pass his bipartisan infrastructure bill, so is loath to attack Republicans at this point; but that, “His reticence simply gives Republicans dominance of the airwaves and the social media, without extracting any measurable goodwill from them. Without an aggressive White House message, Democrats–who do not enjoy a captive media akin to the right-wing echo chamber–tend to fall into hand-wringing and infighting.”

She says that, “On a range of issues, Biden has an opportunity to convey just how greatly GOP extremism and irrationality threaten the lives, prosperity, and political rights of Americans. He would be foolish not to take advantage of the moment.” And, “It would also serve Biden to reset the debate on the infrastructure and reconciliation bills. Neither has passed yet, because Republicans en masse insist that big corporations pay little or no taxes, oppose reducing drug costs and expanding Medicare coverage (which both garner around 60% or more support in polling), and resist other popular programs such as free community college and subsidized child care.”

Finally, “Biden needs to remind voters that this grievously unfair system is what Republicans WANT. He has allowed the debate to descend into a battle of top-line numbers, rather than a debate about values, and where we should direct our tax dollars. Biden should make clear this is a stark case between a party which favors the rich and its donors, and one that actually tries to aid the the poor and middle classes. With such unappealing positions, Republicans should be on defense–but they will not be put there unless Biden goes for the jugular.”

This is well said, I think, which is why I quoted from it at length. We have discussed this a great deal, because it is so crucial. We know how much Republicans dominate the airwaves, and thus frame the terms of many debates. We also know that they have no intention of helping Biden or the Democrats, and that all they want is some “cut” on Biden, which they can pound away at, like boxers, so as to win what was a losing fight. They think they have found this in Afghanistan, which is why they went all-out in criticizing the withdrawal; and with the media’s help, lowering Biden’s approval ratings

Today, we see that a flight out of Afghanistan, allowed by the Taliban, will carry 200 people, at least some of them Americans of dual nationality. So maybe the withdrawal was not the incompetent disaster that many portrayed it as? Republicans only cared about the effect of the outrage, not the logic of it, or the aftermath. It is all a propaganda game for them. It is very unfair, but it is the terrain, so Biden has to deal with it.

Matthew Dowd is another decent Never-Trumper, though he was, as many of them, a political strategist for Republicans, helping them win elections, before now hoping that they lose, and criticizing Democrats for not being more effective in stopping them. So one looks somewhat askance at this, but I do think he is sincere, and realizes how awful his party has become. Dowd often says that the Democrats are effective in talking about policies, but ineffective in talking about values. He seems to mean that Republicans are able to come up with simplistic slogans, or to convince people that “the battle is about X,” when Democrats should have their own pithy slogans about why it is really about Y.

There is unfortunately also some truth to this, which is largely the fault of unperceptive voters, and of course the Republican propaganda machine. Ronald Reagan, by his own nature, and his handlers “skills,” was able to convince a whole generation of voters that Republicans were for such unassailable concepts as “freedom,” “patriotism,” and “opportunity.” The freedom and opportunity were mostly given to the very rich, of course, who got a massive tax cut, while unions were almost destroyed. And the various wars and foreign involvements which were entered into in his and the Bushes’ administrations, were sold as patriotism, and standing up for American values. The failures of all of this, are things which Republicans simply deflect away from, and which the media conveniently forgets, when it attacks Biden for extricating us from a twenty-year debacle in Afghanistan.

Republicans have run on “values” for over a hundred years. “Anti-Bolshevik,” then “Anti-Communism”and “Anti-Socialism.” “Law and Order.” “Get government off your backs” (that was one which actually was cover for cutting taxes on the wealthy, and cutting social programs, but was somehow sold as helping average Americans). Now it is still all those, plus “Freedom,’ “Stop Cancel Culture,” “Don’t let government tell us what to do” (this, while they seek to ban the right to abortion, and virtually ban the right to vote for all but themselves). It just emphasizes the power of simple-minded slogans and themes.

As much as I dislike that kind of simplistic sloganeering, Democrats need to do some of it, and have needed to for decades. One of the reasons that we do not, is that we realize that the issues are far more complex than that. The other, is that our party is made up of so many different groups, by identify, or viewpoint, that almost any general theme we came up with, would be disagreed with by some of our own people, thus essentially diluting it to ineffectiveness. But we should keep trying, despite the few Democrats who would be eager to go on television shows to say that they don’t like the tone of it.

The key issues can actually be boiled down to effective themes, such as “Helping only the wealthy,” vs. “Helping the rest of the people.” That was what Franklin D. Roosevelt so masterfully put at the forefront of the consciousness of American voters, though of course the Great Depression was a more than significant factor. Before that, people kept electing Republicans who said that “The business of America is business.” And we did have the “Solid South,” the loss of which was inevitable, but very damaging to us electorally.

Republicans somehow managed to control the Cold War narratives. Commentators now say, “Republicans were always known as the party of strength in international affairs.” Why was that? Because they talked tough, while always calling Democrats weak and cowardly? Because of the “brinksmanship” of the 1950’s? Because they pushed the idea of the “domino theory,” where if Vietnam fell, so would the entirety of Southeast Asia? Because they got us embroiled in a series of foreign wars in which we accomplished very little? How does this equate to a historical pass by the media and the pundits, as “the party which is known as strong on foreign policy”?

Similarly, we keep hearing that “Republicans are known as the party of law and order.” Only because they keep calling themselves that. Oh, they yelled about students protesting the Vietnam War. But when it comes down to attacking the capitol, they suddenly pivot to their “freedom” slogan, where the people trying to kill and maim members of Congress and police officers, are heroes. It is all a game and a propaganda technique; and the real tragedy is that so much of the media, and too many of the public, just accept it.

Democrats should campaign as the party of respect for law enforcement and law, while labeling the Republicans as the party of sedition and insurrection. Not wanting to upset Republicans or their mouthpieces, is not a sufficient reason for not doing it. Give the voters some clear delineations to give them a shorthand for why they are voting for Democrats.

Similarly, Democrats want to protect a woman’s right to choose, while Republican are taking it away. We have said that for years, but apparently not enough people really believed it. Now they will, tragically enough. Democrats are the party of health, vaccines, and science. Republican are anti-science, and would sacrifice health and the planet to their own greed. These are easy cases to make, and we cannot shrink from emphasizing them.

President Biden is a nice man, and he never wants to offend anyone. This is a good attribute, but it must be subsumed to the need to win elections on a large scale, and reverse the political power which the Republican Party has gained. And do that, you have to attack the other side, label them, give people an effective shorthand view of them, which will override any overly complicated discussions of the exact value of an infrastructure bill. Republicans revert to their usual false theme of, “We will save you money.” Democrats should forcefully contend that Republicans want to destroy the middle class; or at least say that America desperately needs a major investment in people and health. Otherwise, the media narrative will be that both parties are willing to spend money, but Democrats want to spend more than Republicans are. That is literally true, but ignores the essence of it.

Biden has been in politics a long time. He got into office doing some of what Obama did; talking about no blue states and no red states, and good relations with Republicans. Where has that gotten him now? Where is what in earlier eras was supposed to be general bipartisan support for our foreign policy, particularly regarding military involvements and withdrawals?

Republicans are terrorists who want to win at any price, they are not a loyal opposition. I don’t think that Obama ever figured that out, or more likely. is someone who so much valued his personal popularity, that he was unwilling to risk any of it, even when the stakes were the Supreme Court, and the sanctity of the 2016 election. This is a losing strategy, only effective for personal goodwill. We have let Republicans get away with misleading slogans, and lies, and slanders and obstruction and gamesmanship for far too long. Let the people know what is at stake, and in direct and powerful terms. If it upsets the Republicans, or their media arms, that is too bad and a risk we absolutely must take to save our democracy.

P.S. I don’t want to throw away the chance, after using the phrase, to note that “The Heart of the Matter,” by Graham Greene, is one of my favorite novels of all time.