CDC Director Rachelle Walensky is prophesizing a “4th wave” of the coronavirus.

Earlier this week Dr. Rachelle Walensky prophesized “doom” and a the eruption of a 4th wave of the coronavirus.

Dr. Rochelle Wallensky warning of “impending doom”

Fantastic, everybody!

Great work!

Earlier this week I mentioned that we really “aren’t smart enough to stay alive” as a species, and I stand by that observation.

We’re so close to the finish line, but we just can’t control our impulses.

We should be so grateful that we’re living in 2020-2021 and not 1918-1920, when the “Spanish Flu” was ravaging our planet right after World War I.

They didn’t have vaccines.

We have at least four, not including the Russian and Chinese vaccines.

So here’s what we have:

  1. The Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine.
  2. The Moderna vaccine.
  3. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  4. The Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine.

In addition:

  1. The Russians have the Sputnik V vaccine.
  2. The Chinese have the Convidecia vaccine.

Honestly, that is effing amazing!

Six vaccines, plus several others in development in countries like India and South Africa.

All that we have to do is stay patient a little longer, not open everything up, put the fire out now and not keep giving it oxygen.

That’s all we have to do.

For Christ’s sake, not even Germany (Germany!), a country famous for its orderly and efficient processes, can get this right.

People, we have to do better. I’m as tired of all of this as all the rest of you, but I’ve got one dose in my arm and will have a second one soon. When I do, I’m not going to go out and celebrate, because we’re not out of the woods yet. I will continue to wear a mask in stores or crowded settings — even though I personally will be almost completely out of danger — because stores aren’t going to know who and who isn’t vaccinated, and I want to do my part to get us out of the woods. That’s all.

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 4 (the Filibuster)

If we can all agree that the filibuster has become problematic (frankly for both sides, for both Democrats and Republicans), the question is, how do we reform the filibuster? There seem to be two options:

  1. Eliminate it entirely.
  2. Return to a “talking” filibuster.

Mark me down in agreement with the “two Joes” — Biden and Mancin — that completely eliminating the filibuster carries with it certain risks. There may come a time in the future, such as in 2017-2018, where the Republicans could hold the House, Senate and Presidency together, and at that point there would be no limiting the mischief they could make.

A talking filibuster isn’t much of a brake, but it’s a little bit of a brake.

Bernie Sanders refusing to yield in 1992 discussion of military spending (although not actually a filibuster)

On the other hand, nothing prevents the Republicans from blowing up the filibuster the next time they are in the majority.

And one of the ironies of the “For the People” Act is that without the voter suppression that the Act would limit, the Republicans might never get back the House, Senate and Presidency, at least not until they abandon their current strategy of running on race baiting and the culture wars.

In any case, the reform that I would support is going back to the “talking” filibuster, the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington filibuster, the Wendy Davis Texas filibuster, the Strom Thurmond 24-hour filibuster, the one where you have to put on your adult diapers, hydrate yourself, and then keep the floor without going to the bathroom, without drinking, without eating, or without engaging in any other bodily function.

I mean, Strom Thuromd was completely on the wrong side of history, but at least he had the courage of his convictions.

On behalf of a much better cause, former Texas State Senator (and one-time gubernatorial aspirant) Wendy Davis spent 13 hours in 2013 filibustering a Texas bill that banned abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization and added other restrictions. (This bill was eventually enacted.)

Discomfort is supposed to be the point.

In the meantime, the “For the People” Act may be the defining issue for the Congress for the next few years if not the next decade. 

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 3 (the Filibuster)

For the last couple of days we’ve been talking about the Repubican efforts to suppress the vote in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The Democrats have the perfect response with the “For the People” Act, but they have to get around the filibuster first.

Ah, the filibuster.

The filibuster has been a problem for quite some time. I wrote about it way back in 2013.

At that time I noted the history of the filibuster and how Strom Thurmond famously filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

Now, that was a filibuster! 

(Okay, it was for a terrible cause, but at least Thurmond put his money where his mouth was.)

https://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/filibuster-timeline-20210324

Over the course of the last half century, there were three important changes made in the filibuster:

  1. Congress lowered the threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths of Senators present and voting to pass a cloture vote.
  2. Congress passed laws that limited filibusters on certain kinds of bills, including budget reconciliation bills, fast track consideration of trade acts and votes related to the war powers act (because these were all “must pass” legislation).
  3. The Senate began to allow Senators to put “holds” on legislation by “threatening” a filibuster, instead of actually having to get up and keep the floor by talking.

It’s this last change that proved to be an effing disaster. It was intended to relieve Senators from some of the discomfort and annoyance of having to actually filibuster something instead of just placing a hold on it.

Since then, the filibuster has been eroded, first by the Democrats under Obama when Mitch McConnell used it to block just about every federal judicial appointment, and then by McConnell himself so that he could get the conservative justices that he wanted on the Supreme Court. 

Now, the Democrats are threatening to eviscerate it completely so that they can get things like the “For the People” Act signed into law.

McConnell has, of course, threatened to turn the Senate into “scorched earth” terrain if the Democrats revoke the filibuster. 

Here’s one of the ironies about the filibuster: it can be changed with a simple majority vote, because the Senate rules themselves can be affirmed with a simple majority vote.

(We’ll be looking at how to reform the filibuster tomorrow.)

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 2

In response to the more than 253 bills that would restrict voting access that have been introduced in 43 states and efforts like the recently signed  “Election Integrity Act of 2021” in Georgia, the Democrats in Congress introduced the “For the People” Act.

Let’s take a quick look at what the “For the People” Act would do. Among other things it would:

  1. Require states to offer same-day voter registration for federal elections and to permit voters to make changes to their registration at the polls.
  2. Require states to hold early voting for at least two weeks and would establish automatic voter registration for citizens who provide information to state agencies (such as state departments of motor vehicles) unless they opt out of doing so.
  3. Make Election Day a federal holiday.
  4. Require states to offer online voter registration.
  5. Authorize 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in advance of their becoming 18.
  6. Limit states’ ability to remove registered voters from the rolls, and set conditions for when they could do so.
  7. Prohibit voter purges from taking place less than six months before an election.
  8. Restore voting rights to felons who complete prison terms.
  9. Mandate the use of paper ballots that can be marked by voters either by hand or with a ballot marking device.
  10. Require state officials to preserve paper ballots for recounts or audits, and to conduct a hand count of ballots for recounts and audits.
  11. Require the voting machines used in all federal elections to be manufactured in the United States.
  12. Impose stricter limitations on foreign lobbying.
  13. Require super PACs and other “dark money” organizations to disclose their donors.
  14. Require the president and vice president, as well as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, to publicly disclose their previous ten years of income tax returns.
  15. Thwart gerrymandering by requiring states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district lines.

That’s a lot of good stuff in there. Frankly, in a rational world, these are proposals that — for the most part — should be supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

But, as we all know, we don’t live in a rational world.

By the way, it should be noted that the Democrats don’t just have the “For the People” Act, but they also have the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, among other things, would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, especially those provisions that were struck down by Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013), requiring certain states to “pre-clear” changes to their voting laws with the Attorney General of the United States.

Which brings us to the next issue: how to get the “For the People” Act (and the John Lewis Act) into law as long as we have the filibuster.

Ah, the filibuster.

(That will be tomorrow’s topic)

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 1

Last week Governor Brian Kemp1 of Georgia signed the “Election Integrity Act of 2021” as part of the opening salvo in the Republican efforts to suppress the votes of minorities, liberals, progressives, and anyone else who isn’t a conservative white man. Among other things this bill:

  • Restricts absentee voting to voters over 65, with a disability, in the military or who live overseas;
  • Reduces the time that voters can request mail-in ballots from 180 days to 11 weeks;
  • Requesting and returning a ballot will also require a driver’s license number or state ID number;
  • State and local governments are no longer allowed to send unsolicited applications;
  • Caps the number of drop boxes at one per 100,000 active voters or one for every early voting site (whichever is smaller);
  • Prohibits rural and urban counties from receiving grant funding from philanthropic outlets such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life; and
  • Establishes that the secretary of state will no longer chair the State Election Board, becoming instead a non-voting ex-officio member.

Then, finally, there was the provision that got the most attention because of its extreme pettiness, and that is the one that:

  • Prohibits anyone (except poll workers) from handing out water to voters in line, and criminalizes passing out food and water to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line.

(Now, to be fair, it must also be pointed out that there are some provisions in the bill that appear to actually strengthen the voting process, such as one that allows local election officials to begin processing (but not tabulating) absentee ballots starting two weeks before the election.)

What is very interesting about all of this is what the Republican legislature cited as their reason for wanting to enact these changes. It was not to combat fraud in the voting process. No, it is “significant lack of confidence in Georgia election systems,”  with “many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter suppression and many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud.”

It’s right there in their whereas clause, in their statement of legislative intent.

Of course, the bill doesn’t address voter suppression at all. But it sure addresses allegations of voter fraud. Allegations which were put forth by Trump and the Republicans as part of the big lie. So, to recap:

  1. Republicans sow doubt about the election system with false allegations of voter fraud and the big lie that the election was stolen from Trump;
  2. Republicans use the doubt that they sowed as the reason for enacting laws that are designed to suppress the vote.

Nice self-supporting feedback loop there.

It’s not just Georgia. As of February 2021, more than 253 bills that would restrict voting access have been introduced in 43 states across America.

These bills aren’t just trying to disenfranchise my black and brown brothers and sisters. They’re also trying to disenfranchise me. Because I’m a progressive, and if my friends can’t vote in places like Georgia, then my progressive voice won’t be heard in the federal Congress. And I don’t like that at all.

The Democrats in the federal Congress have, as many of you know, proposed H.R.1, the “For the People Act” as a way to protect against these Republican efforts at voter suppression. (More on that tomorrow.)

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I’m sorry to report that, as a species, we really aren’t smart enough to stay alive

We’re supposed to be the “smart” species on the planet, but I’m sorry to report that as a species, we really aren’t smart enough to stay alive. Or, in any case we don’t have the needed self-control.

Forget, for a moment, about our inability to accept, handle or effectively deal with climate change. Let’s just look at Covid-19 for the moment.

We are so close to the finish line.

We are so close to the finish line.

But we just can’t keep ourselves from opening up too soon, even here in progressive Massachusetts. We’re seeing a renewed uptick, this time in the more dangerous and infectious versions of the virus, especially among people under 30 (who are largely unvaccinated).

Why, oh why, can’t just wait for two or three more months when it really will be safe to reopen. How does sort of kind of quasi-reopening help anybody now?

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Well, that wasn’t suspenseful in the least

When I heard that there had been three separate shootings of women at Asian “massage” parlors in the Atlanta area I thought — probably the same as you — this is guaranteed to be some ugly rat-faced sexually dysfunctional skinny little white teen-age punk.

Right on the money, of course.

Robert Aaron Long, the ugly rat-faced sexually dysfunctional skinny little white teen-age punk in question, already confessed.

Well, that takes the mystery out of that.

He also claims that it was “not a hate-crime” and that he has a sex addiction, and saw these locations as a “temptation” for him that he “wanted to eliminate.”

How about just not going there.

Apologists for our former Liar-in-Chief will claim that this has nothing to do with the environment that he procured, and environment where he blamed the Chinese for deliberately having manufactured the coronavirus in a lab in Wuhan, calling it the “Wuhan virus” and the “Kung Flu,” among other things.

And we just happen to be having a spike in anti-Asian violence at this very moment.

Eight lives, this little fucker took.

Eight lives.

Life imprisonment for this little fucker, just like Dylann Roof, his twin in multiple murders. (Although technically Roof got the death sentence which is, of course, under appeal.)

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Our Hypocrisy is not like theirs, part 25

Last week Joe Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” which he had also championed as his first order of business as the new President. Then, on Thursday, Joe Biden gave a speech to the nation in which he told folks that he was hoping that everyone would be able to gather without restrictions by July 4th.

How did conservatives interpret this comment?

They claimed (falsely) that Biden was trying to limit their (our) ability to gather on July 4th, when it was clear that Biden was trying to do the opposite.

How do we know?

Well, because we have the transcript.

Here’s what Joe Biden actually said:

I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you.

I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family and friends and neighbors get vaccinated as well.

Because here’s the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.

After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.

Joe Biden’s March 11, 2021 speech to the nation

Now, some of your conservative friends will object that the press regularly misquoted Donald Trump. Except, that’s not true. The press quoted Donald Trump accurately, and then the question was, did he really mean the shit that he said.

  • Did he really believe that there were “good people” on both sides of the Charlottesville equation?
  • Did he really mean that the medical establishment should look into the use of lysol as a disinfectant for the coronavirus?
  • Does he really believe that he won the 2020 election, or is he just pulling our collective leg?

Shit like that.

Democrats are betting that the stimulus package will help them in the 2022 midterms, which may (or may not) prove true. But Republicans have to bet that we’re all going to have a collective case of amnesia by the time the 2022 midterms arrive.

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It’s a good start for Biden with the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Some of you may have noted that the House gave final approval to the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” which Biden reportedly plans to sign on Friday.

Key elements of the stimulus bill include:

  • Establishing $1,400 direct payments to individuals meeting certain income requirements.
  • Extending expanded unemployment benefits (with a $300 weekly supplement through Labor Day 2021).
  • Extending a 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September 2021.
  • Expanding the child tax credit.
  • Expanding the earned income tax credit.
  • Appropriating $28.6 billion for a new grant program for restaurants and bars to meet payroll and other expenses.
  • Appropriating $15 billion for Emergency Injury Disaster Loans.
  • Appropriating an additional $7 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • Appropriating $1.25 billion for shuttered music halls and other concert venues.
  • Appropriating $350 billion to help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls.
  • Appropriating $50 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for vaccine distribution and assistance.
  • Appropriating $47.8 billion on COVID-19 testing, mitigation, and transmission prevention, including diagnosis, tracing, and monitoring.
  • Appropriating $10 billion under the Defense Production Act for personal protective equipment and other medical gear.
  • Making 16 additional and specific appropriations, such as grants to public transit and commuter rail agencies and for airlines and airline contractors.

That’s a lot of good stuff.  But it’s not going to be cheap to implement all of this.

May the cost of that come back to bite us at some point? Sure. But if we could afford $2.2 trillion in tax cuts in 2017, then we can afford this as well.

Democrats had to lose the minimum wage increase to $15 and tighten some of the other programs in response to West Virginia Senator Joe Mancin, whose vote they could not lose if they wanted to have a bare majority.

And, of course, no Republican voted for the bill.

(Sigh)

What else is new?

But let me tell you, my friends, this is quite the accomplishment. It’s a very good start for the Biden presidency, and should be pretty popular with most of America.

Will that get more Americans to vote Democratic?

Who the fuck knows.

Who the fuck knows why Americans do what they do these days.

Onward and upward, and now to fight off voter suppression efforts by our Republican friends.

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The Harry and Meghan interview was not a good look for the royal family

I don’t normally spend any time thinking about the British royals, but I did want to see the Harry & Meghan interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey. For one thing, I knew it would be a cultural touchstone. For another, I enjoy watching Oprah interview people, because she is very, very good. Like Terry Gross, or Charlie Rose before the fall, or how Howard Stern has turned out to be.

So, I must say, that both Harry and Meghan came across as very sympathetic people. I liked them both. And that kind of thing is hard to fake. What were the big take-aways from the interview? I thought there were three:

  1. Meghan began to feel suicidal, and the “firm” refused to allow her to seek help.
  2. Harry and Meghan left their duties altogether when the monarchy withdrew their protection.
  3. Members of the monarchy were concerned about the skin color of Meghan’s baby.

Seriously? The skin color of the baby?

Meghan is about as light-skinned as a biracial woman can be. The baby — who turned out to be Archie — would be ¼ black, with a “ginger” father, and most likely would look like any other white guy with a good tan.

Now Harry refused to out who it was in the family who had concerns about Archie’s skin color. For whomever it was, that would not have been a good look.

The villains in this piece appear to be, in order of emphasis:

  • Prince Charles
  • Prince William
  • The Queen

Harry and Meghan both emphasized how nice the queen had been to her upon arrival in the family, and how much affection they still feel for her.

Charles and William?  Not so much.

It didn’t become clear from the interview who, exactly, the decision-makers are for the “firm.” One guesses that the Queen still has ultimate authority, but it seems likely that much of the decision-making for the day-to-day has been delegated to Prince Charles, or maybe to someone else. It wasn’t clear whether the Queen, Charles and William have to come to some kind of consensus. In addition, there seem to be powerful and long-standing royal advisors who exercise an inordinate amount of influence, but who those are and how that works seems to be completely opaque. Those are things that (I suppose) royal-watchers probably understand. But not me.

Harry is currently 6th in line to the throne, so he’s not giving up much, other than a life of privilege and obligation. He’s likely to be swapping out the privilege of the royals for the privilege of celebrity, but with much less obligation, so maybe that’s not a bad trade. I don’t know.

The couple stressed that they would have preferred to remain “senior working royals” — like Countess Sophie and Princess Eugenie, those kind of people — the ones who are not called first for primary events, but are called upon for lesser events, and essentially to “pinch hit.” 

We’ll see what the fall-out is, but it definitely was not a good look for the royal family. But they’ve had plenty of things that haven’t been good looks — Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstien, anyone? — and it hasn’t hurt them too much on the whole.

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