Tuesday, January 25, 2022
The chart above is from the Politico / Morning Consult Poll -- done on January 15th and 16th of a nationwide sample of 2,005 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.
It has been reported that Afghanistan is in serious trouble, and millions of Afghans may starve if help is not given by other countries.
But American voters are not in a mood to help. About 60% say no more aid should be given to the Taliban government of that country.
The charts above are from an NBC News Poll -- done between January 14th and 18th of a national sample of 1,000 adults, with a 3.1 point of error.
It shows that Americans seem to be getting more pessimistic -- on both a macro and micro level.
With the Republicans in red states passing dozens of new laws to suppress voting, it was extremely disappointing to see Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema vote with the Republicans to allow them to continue filibustering voter rights. They are helping Republicans to cheat in future elections, and need to be pressured to change their stance on the filibuster. Some groups are already doing this, but President Biden needs to also act to put pressure on Manchin and Sinema.
Here is what Dean Obeidallah thinks Biden should do in part of his op-ed at MSNBC.com:
Biden, who owes his presidency in large part to Black voters, must do more than simply hope that voters two years from now will punish Manchin and Sinema. In the first speech he gave after being declared the winner of the 2020 election, Biden promised point blank to the Black community, “You’ve always had my back and I’ll have yours.” At Biden’s news conference on Wednesday, Kristen Welker of NBC News asked Biden about Black voters criticizing him for not making voting rights a priority sooner, to which the President responded, “I’ve had their back my entire career. I’ve never not had their back.”
Biden now needs to show, not tell. For starters, he needs to travel to West Virginia and Arizona to build more grassroots support to pressure Manchin and Sinema.
He should say no to the people Manchin and Sinema want nominated as federal judges or any people they seek to recommend to the Biden administration, a freeze-out that would diminish the two senators’ power and influence. He should also use his influence to prevent the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from helping fund these two senators' 2024 campaigns. Finally, Biden may have to very publicly support a primary challenge against them.
Black Americans were targeted by laws and violence for decades by bigots seeking to stop them from voting. It would be insult to the memory of those African Americans who were killed in the struggle for voting rights to allow these two senators to help roll back the progress made by those who sacrificed so much. And it would be an insult to all today who support Democrats of any race if these two senators can undermine our self-determination without paying a political price.
Biden has a choice to make: Stand with these two Democratic senators who have chosen to preserve the filibuster over democracy or stand with the communities that elected him. What’s it going to be?
Monday, January 24, 2022
The chart above is from the Pew Research Center. They questioned 1,502 adults nationwide between January 25th and February 8th of 2021, and the survey had a 2.9 point margin of error.
It shows that Americans over 65 years old are using technology more. There has been a huge rise in use in the last decade. The number owning a smart phone rose from 13% to 61%. The number using social media rose from 11% to 45%. And the number owning a tablet computer rose from virtually none to about 44%.
The following post is part of an op-ed by Steve Benen at MSNBC.com on the biggest foreign policy mistake made by Donald Trump:
The Iran deal did exactly what it set out to do: The agreement dramatically curtailed Tehran's nuclear ambitions and established a rigorous system of monitoring and verification. Once the policy took effect, each of the parties agreed that the participants were holding up their end of the bargain, and Iran's nuclear program was, at the time, on indefinite hold.
And then Trump took office.
One of my favorite stories about the Iran deal came a few months into Trump's term, when the then-president held a lengthy White House meeting with top members of his national security team. Each of the officials told Trump the same thing: It was in the United States' interest to preserve the existing JCPOA policy.
The Republican expected his team to tell him how to get out of the international agreement, not how to stick with it. When his own foreign policy and national security advisers told him the policy was working, Trump "had a bit of a meltdown."
Soon after, he abandoned the deal anyway, not because it was failing, but because Trump was indifferent to its success. The effective policy was soon replaced by a new strategy known as the "maximum pressure" campaign.
Iran almost immediately became more dangerous, not less.
Among the results is a new perspective among former JCPOA critics. It's no secret that Israeli officials were among the fiercest opponents of the Iran deal, but Axios reported two weeks ago that the head of Israeli military intelligence told ministers during a Security Cabinet meeting "that Israel will be better off if the Iran nuclear talks lead to a deal rather than collapsing without one."
There are plenty of other notable voices in Jerusalem delivering the same message.
In Republican circles, it's simply assumed that the Obama-era Iran deal "failed." That gets reality backwards: The real failure is the policy Trump tried to implement, not the policy he replaced.
Restoring what worked may prove impossible, but there should be no question as to who's responsible for our current predicament. Trump made a great many foreign policy mistakes during his tenure, many of them driven by little more than petty ignorance. None were more important than his absurd abandonment of the JCPOA.
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Senator Krysten Sinema has been censured by the executive board of the Arizona Democratic Party.
They took the unusual move because of her vote to defend the 60-vote filibuster. Her vote effectively killed the Voting Rights Bill in the U.S. Senate. And it also means that no bill proposed and supported by Democrats can pass the Senate -- not the Voting Rights Bill, the Build Back Better Bill, or anything else. She has effectively given the Republicans the power to prevent any Democratic bill.
She is not up for re-election until 2024. That gives her time to rehabilitate her image among Democrats. And she needs to do that, because she is very unpopular with Democrats -- both in Arizona and across the nation.
I doubt she will even try though. She seems to be enjoying the notoriety that comes with being the "Republican" voice in the Democratic caucus. It feeds her ego, and makes her feel important.
But this narcissistic ego-inflation comes at a price. If she continues down this road, Arizona Democrats will find a suitable opponent for her in 2024, and Democrats across the country will help fund that replacement. There is a very good chance she would be defeated -- and she would deserve it!
The following is part of a guest essay in The New York Times by Cecile Richards (president of Planned Parenthood between 2006 and 2018):
This could well be the last anniversary of Roe. Ever since the Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion through that decision, 49 years ago on Saturday, Republicans have been chipping away at reproductive rights. Now, the court is poised to overturn the decision once and for all — fulfilling a longstanding dream not just of fringe elements of the Republican Party, but also of its leadership. I know, because I was one of the leading faces of the movement trying to stop them.
Years from now, historians will look back on the past two decades as a turning point in the fight for access to abortion. If I have one regret from my time leading Planned Parenthood, it is that we believed that providing vital health care, with public opinion on our side, would be enough to overcome the political onslaught. I underestimated the callousness of the Republican Party and its willingness to trade off the rights of women for political expediency.
The Roe decision not only made abortion in the United States extremely safe, it led to higher earnings, increased education levels and greater participation in the work force for generations of women, particularly Black women.
Ever since the 1976 Republican National Convention, when ending safe and legal abortion first became part of its platform, the Republican Party has been increasingly defined by its determination to undo this progress. A turning point for me came in 1994, when the emerging Christian Right helped defeat my mother, Gov. Ann Richards of Texas, and Democrats across the country. Up until then, plenty of Republicans had proudly supported reproductive rights, including in Texas. Believe it or not, Republicans were instrumental in founding many of the state’s first Planned Parenthood health centers.
The 1994 Republican landslide helped show that railing against abortion could be an effective political tactic. . . .
Saturday, January 22, 2022
The charts above are from the YouGov Poll. They questioned 27,797 adults nationwide between January 14th and 18th. With such a large sample, the margin of error would be no more than 1 point.
On Wednesday, Senators Manchin and Sinema voted to protect the filibuster -- effectively killing the Voting Rights Bill. Why did they do that. They said it was to promote bipartisanship in the Senate, but they have to know that there is no bipartisanship in the current Senate. Some are saying it's to keep the corporate donors pumping money into their campaign coffers. But there may be an even more important reason. Robert Reich gives us that reason. I think he may be right. Here's some of what he had to say:
What can possibly explain Manchin’s and Sinema’s votes against voting rights this week? Why did they create a false narrative that the legislation had to be “bipartisan” when everyone -- themselves included -- knew bipartisanship was impossible? Why did they say they couldn’t support changing the filibuster rules when only last monththey voted for an exception to the filibuster that allowed debt ceiling legislation to pass with only Democratic votes? Why did they co-sponsor voting rights legislation and then vote to kill the very same legislation? Why did Manchin vote for the “talking filibuster” in 2011 yet vote against it now?
I’ve suggested that the answer to all these questions could be found in the giant wads of corporate cash flowing into their campaign coffers. But as I’ve watched the two senators closely and spoken about them with members of Congress as well as Hill staff, I’ve come to the conclusion this isn’t it – or at least not all of it.
The corporate money explanation leaves out the single biggest factor affecting almost all national politicians I’ve dealt with: Big egos. Manchin’s and Sinema’s are now among the biggest.
Before February of last year, almost no one outside West Virginia had ever heard of Joe Manchin, and almost no one outside of Arizona (and probably few within the state) had ever heard of Kyrsten Sinema. Now, they’re notorious. They’re Washington celebrities. Their photos grace every major news outlet in America.
This sort of attention is addictive. Once it seeps into the bloodstream, it becomes an all-consuming force. I’ve known politicians who have become permanently and irrevocably intoxicated by it.
I’m not talking simply about power, although that’s certainly part of it. I’m talking about narcissism – the primal force driving so much of modern America, but whose essence is concentrated in certain places such as Wall Street, Hollywood, and the United States Senate.
Once addicted, the pathologically narcissistic politician can become petty in the extreme, taking every slight as a deep personal insult. I’m told that Manchin asked Biden’s staff not to blame him for the delay of “Build Back Better,” and was then infuriated when Biden suggested Manchin bore some of the responsibility. “You want to understand why Manchin stabbed Biden in the back on voting rights?” one House member told me this week. “It’s because he’s so pissed off at Ron Klain [Biden’s chief of staff].”
Paradoxically, a large enough slight played out on the national stage can also enthrall a pathologically narcissistic politician. Several people on the Hill who have watched Sinema at close range since she became a senator tell me she relished all the negative attention she got when she gave her very theatrical thumbs down to increasing the minimum wage, and since then has thrilled at her burgeoning role as a spoiler. . . .
Not all senators are egomaniacs, of course. I had the good fortune to work closely with the late Paul Wellstone, who was always eager to give others credit while being the first to take any blame. I know several now serving who have their egos firmly in check — including Mark Kelly, Raphael Warnock, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Most of the rest lie on an ego spectrum ranging from inflated to pathological.
Manchin and Sinema are near the extreme. As I said, neither had much national attention prior to the last February. But once they got a taste of the national spotlight, they couldn’t let go. They must have figured that the only way they could keep the spotlight focused on themselves was by threatening to do what they finally did this week — shafting American democracy.
Friday, January 21, 2022
The chart above is from the Pew Research Center. They questioned 9,676 adults between October 18th and 21st, and the survey has a 1.6 point margin of error.
It shows that nearly half (49%) of Americans say that affordable housing is a major problem where they live. This is 10 points more than said the same thing in 2018. Another 36% said it was a minor problem.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 286,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on January 15th. That's the largest number of filers since the middle of last October.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending January 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 286,000, an increase of 55,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 230,000 to 231,000. The 4-week moving average was 231,000, an increase of 20,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 210,750 to 211,000.
The following thought-provoking article is from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:
Across America, hospitals are pushed to the limit because so many health care workers have quit just as Omicron is surging.
But hospitals aren’t alone, and Omicron isn’t the only culprit. We’re witnessing one of the most profound changes in the American labor force in a half century, at least since middle-class women entered paid work in large numbers during the 1970s. Only this time, women and men aren’t entering work. Many are leaving it (or at least, the way work has been organized).
For decades, work has had a total grip on most people's lives because there have been so few alternatives to either working full time (often 50 or 60 hours a week, sometimes at two or more jobs), or not working at all and worrying about making ends meet. Instead of working to live, most of us have been living to work.
Yet in recent months there’s been something of a sea change. The so-called “quit rate” of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs has reached record levels. The labor-force participation rate (the percent of people of working age who are in the workforce) is remarkably low for this point in a recovery. More workers are on strike than at any comparable period in the last thirty years.
The pandemic has surfaced many issues that have been smoldering for years -- mandatory overtime, stagnant wages, dangerous working conditions, insecure employment, employment discrimination, and lack of paid sick leave or paid family leave.
It has also forced -- or allowed -- many people to reconsider what they want from work and from their lives.
Donald Sull, Charles Sull, and Ben Zweig recently conducted a massive study of workplace data for the MIT Sloan Management Review, including more than a million Glassdoor reviews. What are employees complaining about at companies losing the most workers in this tsunami of resignations? Interestingly, not mainly pay. Complaints about pay ranked 16th of the issues that predict quits. The biggest predictor is a toxic culture – workplaces that fail to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; that don’t make workers feel respected and valued; and make them to feel insecure. No one likes to be underpaid. But it turns out people like disrespect and insecurity even less.
When Australian researchers recently reviewed data on more than 1,000 workers, they discovered that working for a companies that “fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy” triples the odds that workers will suffer major depression.
I’m no soothsayer, but as I look ahead I’m fairly certain we’re going to see companies and nonprofits moving toward more flexible work, autonomous work, and mandatory limits on work hours. They have no choice if they want to recruit and retain reliable employees.
We’re also going to see far more self-employment, more people moving to locales around the country where housing is cheaper, and, in general, more of us seeking to simplify our lives.
I also expect increasing demands for public policies that reduce the amount of time we have to spend working and give us more control of our own labor – such as a universal basic income, a ban on mandatory overtime, a shorter workweek, paid sick leave and paid family leave, and more tax incentives for profit sharing and self-employment.
We’re not facing the end of work, but we are facing the end of work as we know it. It’s about time.
Thursday, January 20, 2022
Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have been threatening to help Republican maintain their filibuster against the Democratic bill to protect the right of all citizens to vote. On Wednesday night, they followed through on their threat.
Both of the senators claim they support the bills that would protect voting, and indeed, they voted yes on the motion to end the Gap filibuster. But it's easy to vote that way when you know there is no chance of the bill being considered. And sure enough, 50 Republican voted to maintain the filibuster against the voting rights bill (9 more than was needed to maintain the filibuster).
Then another vote was held. This vote was on whether to change the filibuster rules and allow a majority vote on the voting rights bill. It would not end the filibuster, It would just change the rule for only the voting rights bill. That would happen only if the Democrats got 50 votes and the vote of Vice-President Harris.
If Manchin and Sinema really supported the voting rights bill, this was their chance to show it -- and still maintain the filibuster. But they voted to kill the voting rights bill by voting to not change the filibuster. They voted to allow the Republicans to continue to filibuster the bill -- meaning it could not be passed without 60 votes.
Manchin and Sinema will probably still claim to support the bill, but that would be a lie. They had their chance to help pass it, and they refused to do it. They still consider an archaic Senate rule to be more important that the right of every U.S. citizens to vote.
They should be ashamed of themselves, but they aren't. I am left to wonder why they continue to call themselves Democrats.
The chart above is from the Gallup Poll. It shows the average approval of first-year elected presidents since WWII.
President Biden's average approval was 48.9%. That was less than all other post-WWII presidents -- except for one. Trump's first year average was 38.4% --10.5 points lower than Biden's.