Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The chart above is from RealClearPolitics. It shows the job approval rating for President Biden for the last seven polls. The average of those polls has Biden's approval at 52.4% approve and 43.4% disapprove -- a net +9 approval rating.
Republican right-wingers have recently bent over backwards trying to defend white supremacy and white privilege. But none has been as ridiculous in those contortions as Ted Cruz. The Texas senator might as well be trying to claim the sun rises in the west and sets in the east as his latest huge lie -- that critical race theory is as racist as the Ku Klux Klan! That should remove any doubt as to whether he is a racist and ignorant supporter of white supremacy.
Here is part of the response to Cruz's idiotic lie from Kevin M. Kruse at MSNBC.com:
At the conservative Faith and Freedom Forum this past week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched an attack on critical race theory. Such rants have become a staple for Republicans lately, but Cruz set himself apart by asserting that the legal theory was “every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.”
To say this is nonsense feels painfully obvious. The Ku Klux Klan’s ideology began with the premise that racial differences were an obvious biological and scientific fact and that all human activities had to be organized around that fact; critical race theorists take as their starting point the belief that race is a fiction, that it’s an invented concept that has no basis in biology or science.
The Klan worked to put its racist beliefs into action through Jim Crow laws in the South and immigration restrictions for the nation as a whole; critical race theorists have devoted themselves to identifying the remainders of that racism in the law and rooting it out.
And, most obviously, the KKK was a terrorist organization responsible for decades of white supremacist violence that included thousands of murders, mutilations and bombings of African Americans and other minorities. The law school professors behind critical race theory are not.
Despite the vast differences between the Klan and critical race theorists, Cruz twisted himself into knots insisting they were the same by grossly misrepresenting the scholarly field. "Critical race theory says every white person is a racist," the senator asserted. "Critical race theory says America's fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist. Critical race theory seeks to turn us against each other and if someone has a different color skin, seeks to make us hate that person."
Cruz offered no evidence for these claims, because there is none. Far from arguing that individual white people are all racist, critical race theorists assert that focusing on the actions of individuals is meaningless because racism is more deeply rooted in larger structural and systemic problems.
Rather than believing America is “irredeemably racist,” critical race theorists have stated that their reckoning with the submerged role of racism in America is a path to redeem the nation and fulfill the promises of emancipation and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Critical race theorists also do not seek to turn Americans against each other, but rather to help them understand the actual history of the nation they share as citizens.
While Cruz’s claim that critical race theorists are “every bit as racist” as Klansmen is laughable, it notably fits into a larger historical pattern in which white southerners asserted that the critics of white supremacy were just as bad — or worse — than the defenders of white supremacy.
During the civil rights era, segregationist leaders across the South complained that they were being besieged by “extremists on both sides,” by which they meant white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and its white-collar counterpart, the White Citizens’ Councils, and civil rights organizations, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). . . .
Convincing ordinary Americans that the enemies of the Klan were just as bad as the Klan itself was, of course, the entire point. It still is.
This is a tried-and-true line of attack from those who wish to preserve the status quo, but in this instance it’s especially egregious. Critical race theorists seek to expose the ways in which white supremacists — like Long, the Louisiana state legislature, or Johnson — abused the powers of their offices to embed racist principles and policies in our political and legal systems.
It’s bad enough that Cruz slanders them. But it’s even worse that he uses the exact same line of argument against them that those segregationists did.
Monday, June 21, 2021
There was no "massive fraud" in the 2020 election, and election officials (even Republican election officials) did a good job of verifying and protecting the election results. Why then, are Republican state legislatures passing laws to give themselves control of state election boards and the power to overturn election results?
There could only be one reason. They know they can't win elections fairly (especially presidential elections) so they are giving themselves the power to steal those elections. And the Republicans in Congress are happy to let them have that power.
If this is allowed to happen, it will be the death of our democracy.
President Biden has introduced two plans to make life better for most Americans -- the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. Those plans would rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs, provide for affordable child care, and do some other things to help ordinary Americans.
Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell has declared both plans to be dead in the Senate. He has urged his party members to vote against any effort to cut off the filibuster on both plans. But if he thinks that is earning his party the support of the general public, he is very wrong.
The public knows it is the Republicans holding up both plans, and they support Democrats using the reconciliation process to pass the plans without Republican help. 56% of voters would support that while only 34% oppose it.
The Data for Progress Poll questioned 1,175 likely voters between June 11th to 15th, and their poll had a 3 point margin of error.
Most states in the U.S. still allow children to get married, and sometimes they are very young. This needs to stop. No one under the age of 18 should be allowed to get married.
The following is part of a column by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times:
For years, the United States has campaigned against child marriage around the world, from Guatemala to Zimbabwe. But we should listen to ourselves: Forty-five states here in America continue to allow girls and boys under 18 to wed.
Girls as young as 10 are occasionally married quite legally in the United States. Nine states have established no absolute minimum age for marriage.
A study this year found that nearly 300,000 children — meaning age 17 and under — were married in the United States from 2000 to 2018. An overwhelming majority were 16- or 17- year-old girls, on average marrying a man four years older. But more than 1,000 were 14 or younger, and five were only 10 years old. Some were wed to people far older. . . .
I’ve been writing about child marriages in the United States since 2017, when I came across the case of an 11-year-old girl, Sherry Johnson, who had been forced to marry her rapist in Florida. Child marriage was then allowed in some form in all 50 states.
Now, thanks in part to heroic work by an advocacy organization, Unchained at Last, five states have completely barred marriages by people under 18: Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and (just this month) Rhode Island. New York has passed a similar bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature.
The states that allow child marriages mostly do so in particular circumstances, such as with the permission of a parent and a judge. These safeguards don’t work very well. The marriages sometimes involve a girl, perhaps pregnant, marrying an older man who may be her rapist.
The new study found that 60,000 of the child marriages since 2000 involved couples with a large enough gap in ages that sex would typically be a crime. “The marriage license became a get-out-of-jail-free card in most of those states,” said Fraidy Reiss, a victim of forced marriage who founded Unchained at Last.
There are, of course, 17-year-olds who fall deeply in love and can handle a marriage. We can understand that if a girl becomes pregnant, the couple may prefer to marry right away. But it’s complicated: The legal system withholds many rights from people under 18, so a married 17-year-old can become trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare.
If the marriage sours, an underage girl will often not be accepted at a women’s shelter. She will have difficulty retaining a lawyer to get assistance. Astonishingly, she may even have trouble getting divorced, because children often cannot initiate a legal proceeding without going through a guardian. And if a minor flees a violent husband, the police may send her right back to her abuser. . . .
The United States is quite right to campaign to end child marriage in Bangladesh and Yemen. Let’s do the same at home.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
The charts above are from the Pew Research Center. They surveyed the citizens of 17 advanced countries, and found that trust (confidence) in Vladimir Putin (Russia) is very low. Meanwhile, confidence in Biden (U.S.), Merkel (Germany), and Macron (France) remains very high. Confidence in Xi (China) is also very low.
On June 19, 1865 — 156 years ago today — Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and declared that slavery was finally over.
The formerly enslaved people of Galveston erupted in joy. Ever since, today has been known as Juneteenth: the annual and oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
This year, for the first time, it’s an official federal holiday, too — passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden this week.
I’m very happy that Juneteenth is finally getting the official recognition it deserves. It’s a chance to tell the story of how even in the face of oppression, Black Americans throughout our history have never stopped imagining and fighting for a better tomorrow. Not just for themselves, but for our entire nation.
Of course, it isn’t enough to get together and celebrate how far we’ve come. We have to get together and see how far we need to go.
Just look back at the history: On that first Juneteenth, it had been over two years since President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation — but freedom on paper doesn’t always mean freedom in practice.
Today, we have to recommit ourselves to rooting out systemic racism in every aspect of our economy and society — including health care, housing, education, banking, policing, and voting.
Over a year into a nationwide racial reckoning, we still have to confront white supremacy in all of its forms. We must cement the unshakeable truth that Black lives matter.
I understand the responsibility that I and others have as white Americans to ask what we are doing to dismantle a system that has too often undervalued Black life. We cannot just be allies. We must be actively anti-racist. We have to fight alongside everyone who’s still waiting for justice.
That’s what I’m remembering today as we honor Juneteenth.
The story that is getting all of the coverage on cable news is that of Joe Manchin. Manchin seems to believe that bipartisanship is still a possibility in the current Senate. But recent history has shown he is wrong. The real story is how Mitch McConnell has used the Senate filibuster to make Congress an unworkable institution.
Here is just a part of what Dan Rather says about it:
I will avoid going into too great detail about the filibuster. Many have written about it with far more scholarship and acumen than I can muster. But we must remember that it is not in the Constitution and that it was often a tool for segregationists. It was used with relative rarity until our modern political times. And it has been wielded by Senator McConnell to basically make Congress unworkable.
To me, that is the biggest story. We are struggling with a government that systematically cannot legislate. The filibuster is the tool for suppressing majority rule but the reason it has become so powerful and ubiquitous has a lot more to do with the Republicans wielding it than with Manchin who won’t get rid of it. We have more and more members of the Republican caucus who want to be elected, not to solve the nation’s problems, but to get a launch pad for Fox News glory and the power and money they can get from building personal brands of outrage. So yes the press should cover Manchin, but they should also ask each of the Republican senators why they support the Big Lie, why most of them won’t investigate 1/6, what they want to do about our failing infrastructure, our worsening climate, the pandemic, or any of the serious issues that we are not confronting.
We have a political party that is being radicalized against democracy, and the truth. They would rather talk about Dr. Seuss or the latest utterance of some Democratic lawmaker taken out of context and weaponized for countless segments on right-wing media than talk about bills. The old question of “how does a bill become a law” might as well be sent to a museum. Does Manchin play a role in this? Yes. But again, he is not the major actor.
By focusing so much attention on Manchin we are not presenting the full narrative to the American people. The press is framing this as a fight within the Democratic Party. That lets Republicans waltz by the microphones and cameras without paying nearly enough of a political price for their cynicism and obstructionism.
I have said many times that I believe our national government has been based on two strong political parties competing for votes in the marketplace of ideas. I still believe that is the strongest manifestation of our political system. But I recognize that is not what we have now. The only way we can restore that order is to figure out how to foster action in government. And for now, the desire for action rests within the Democratic Party. The Republicans want power, to be sure, but to what end? It doesn’t seem in service to the needs of the nation.
I know to paint it in such stark terms is to risk being branded as biased. And I certainly have the scars to show that. But I do not see this as a matter of politics. Because politics without policy is a form of tyranny. It’s the abuse of power in service to the benefit of the few over the needs of the nation. It is privilege over justice.
This is how our democracy is being eaten away from within. It amplifies a suite of injustices, such as tax laws heavily weighted in favor of the super wealthy, and the dramatic income inequality that produces, as well as a campaign finance system fueled by opaque dark money that corrupts many office holders in both parties. These forces are heavily invested in maintaining a broken status quo. Until and unless these realities are reversed, the survival of our country as we have known and loved it will remain in peril.
Saturday, June 19, 2021
This statistic, from the Economist/YouGov Poll, is shocking. About 19% of Trump voters said they had a favorable opinion of Vladimir Putin, while only 9% said they had a favorable view of President Biden. They actually preferred a dictator who wants to destroy the United States over the U.S. President by a 10 point margin.
There is a lot of talk on cable news lately about a "bipartisan" infrastructure plan. The plan would spend about $1 trillion over the next eight years. That's only about half of what President Biden had asked for, and would not do everything he wanted to accomplish. But half is better than nothing, and if the plan was fair then I would support it.
But I can't support it. The Republicans are bragging that the plan doesn't raise taxes. That's not exactly true. What they mean is the plan doesn't raise taxes on corporations or the rich. They don't seem to mind that the plan would raise taxes on working and middle class people.
President Biden had wanted to pay for his infrastructure plan by raising taxes on those making over $400,000 a year slightly, and by raising the corporate income tax to 28%. He later said he would accept raising the corporate tax to only 25%, and even floated the idea of a 15% corporate minimum tax. Those were certainly not onerous tax levels, but the Republicans opposed that. They didn't want corporations or the rich to have to share any of the burden of paying for infrastructure.
Instead, they have suggested some other ways to pay for it. They want to index the gas tax to inflation. That's a fancy way of saying they want to raise the gas tax. They also suggested taxing electric vehicle on the amount of mileage driven. Both of those would raise taxes on working and middle class people, while giving corporations and the rich a free ride.
Wouldn't the corporations be one of the biggest winners in an improved infrastructure? Of course they would. Many corporations would benefit from better broadband internet connections throughout the country, because they do a lot of business over the internet. And all corporations would benefit from better roads, bridges, ports, and airports -- because that would enhance their getting supplies and delivering their products.
We already have a very unfair economy -- with the richest Americans benefitting the most, while workers struggle to keep up. This has caused a huge and growing income/wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of America. Taxing working and middle class people while letting the rich (and their corporations) not pay more will only increase that income/wealth gap even further.
Democrats in Congress should vote against this bipartisan infrastructure plan -- at least until it is paid for in a fairer way.
But that won't penalize Trump for his misdeeds while president, and that needs to happen. It should happen to make clear to all future presidents that they are not above the law. They are subject to the same laws that cover all other Americans.
The following is from the editorial board of The Boston Globe. They lay out the case for the Justice Department filing federal criminal charges against Trump.
Trump’s presidency didn’t just expose glaring legal weaknesses: It also made clear that our institutions are incapable of holding presidents accountable for breaking even our existing laws. If Congress had played the role the Founders envisioned, by removing Trump from the presidency after his criminality became clear in the Ukraine affair, that might have been enough of a deterrent to scare future presidents straight. But lawmakers didn’t.
So now there is only one way left to restore deterrence and convey to future presidents that the rule of law applies to them. The Justice Department must abandon two centuries of tradition by indicting and prosecuting Donald Trump for his conduct in office.
That’s not a recommendation made lightly. The longstanding reluctance to prosecute former leaders is based on legitimate concerns about the justice system being used to settle political scores. But filing charges against former leaders is not a radical step, either: Foreign democracies, including South Korea, Italy, and France, routinely manage to prosecute crooked former leaders without starting down a slippery slope to authoritarianism. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was recently found guilty of bribery, a decade after his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted of corruption. France’s democracy and its image around the world remain intact.
In the case of Trump, prosecutors would have plenty of potential crimes from which to choose. While Trump may be prosecuted for financial crimes he potentially committed before he became president, what is most important to go after are his actions during his time in office, especially those after the 2020 election, which culminated in fomenting a full-on, violent assault on American democracy.
First, there are Trump’s repeated attempts to obstruct justice, as documented in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the former president’s campaign ties to Russia. As Mueller himself put it, while the investigators operated under the guidelines that a sitting president cannot be indicted — a view this editorial board disagrees with — the point of their investigation was to “preserve evidence” for prosecutors to evaluate after Trump left office.
Second, there are Trump’s efforts to overturn the Georgia election results. Trump’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state, in which he pressured the secretary to “find” enough votes to undo his defeat, was clear election interference, which is a violation of state and federal law. That means both Georgia and federal prosecutors can — and should — investigate the matter further.
Third, there’s Trump’s infamous incitement of insurrection, which he committed on national television. It is a federal crime to incite a riot or insurrection, and though Trump was impeached over this, he was wrongfully acquitted by the Senate, leaving the courts with the responsibility to hold him accountable. Even senators who acquitted him of the incitement charge alluded to the fact that his crime should be dealt with in the criminal justice system. “If you believe he committed a crime, he can be prosecuted like any other citizen,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a longtime Trump ally. (And depending on how the investigations go — if prosecutors have enough evidence to show that Trump gave aid and comfort to insurrectionists — there’s a chance sedition charges could be brought against him, just like the charges his supporters who stormed the Capitol are likely to face.)
To avoid a potential political tit for tat, the Department of Justice and state prosecutors must remain completely apolitical in their handling of Trump’s case. “His crimes should be investigated independently, and the president should stay a thousand miles away,” Norman Eisen, a former ethics czar in the Obama administration, said in an interview. That’s exactly what President Biden has done so far, and he should continue to separate himself and resist any urge to weigh in one way or the other.
Congress’s failure to hold Trump accountable is one reason to break with precedent and prosecute him now. Another, perhaps more obvious reason, is that Trump’s misconduct ought to be handled differently because it was different. There’s a far stronger case that he committed serious crimes in office than could plausibly be made against even the country’s most unethical previous presidents. One of the reasons no president in history has been prosecuted for actions stemming from his presidency is that none of them before the 45th tried to instigate a coup.
The reluctance to prosecute presidents is deep-rooted, and extreme caution does make sense. (The last thing that the country needs is for Trump to be charged, tried, and then acquitted.) But it cannot be the case that there is no line — no hypothetical act of presidential criminality that would not rise to the level of seriousness that merits setting aside our qualms. And if one accepts that there is a line, it’s hard to imagine Donald Trump didn’t cross it. The events of Jan. 6, and those that led up to them, were an extreme abuse of power that few ever imagined a president would commit. A commander in chief tried his very best to subvert democracy. He attacked his own country. Five people died. Allowing him to go unpunished would set a far more dangerous precedent than having Trump stand trial. To reform the presidency so that the last four years are never repeated, the country must go beyond passing laws: It must make clear through its actions that no person, not even the president, is above them.
Friday, June 18, 2021
The chart above reflects the results of the Politico / Morning Consult Poll -- done between June 11th and 13th of a national sample of 1,994 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.
A ridiculous audit of election results is taking place in Arizona, and several other states with Republican legislatures are considering doing the same thing. Donald Trump still thinks that these audits will return him to office -- possibly as soon as August.
I can understand Trump thinking that. He's a raging narcissist, who cannot accept defeat in anything. But Trump's psychological problem seems to infected millions of other Americans (particularly Republicans). Note that a majority of Republicans (51%) think these specious audits could actually overturn the results of the 2020 election, and return Trump to office.
It's not going to happen, and it's sad that so many Republicans are divorced from reality.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that 412,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on June 15th. That's an increase of 37,000 over the previous week, and marks the first time in six weeks that the number filing has not decreased. The recession is not over, and it won't be until enough Americans are vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending June 12, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 412,000, an increase of 37,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 from 376,000 to 375,000. The 4-week moving average was 395,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 402,500 to 403,000.
But we are not without our own human rights problems -- and one of the worst is the continuing racism throughout the country. Racism has been a part of America's culture since before it became a country -- so much so that it has been baked into our laws and social institutions.
And dictators around the world love to use this blight on America as justification for their even worse atrocities. When called to task on their human rights violations, they are quick to turn the conversation back to American racism.
If we are going to get serious about human rights throughout the world, we need to make sure those rights are respected here. In other words, we need to fix the race problem.
The following is much of an excellent column on this subject by Charles M. Blow in The New York Times:
Any Americans who believe that this country’s race problem stops at the water’s edge should disabuse themselves of the notion.
Our race problem is also an international problem in that dictators and authoritarian regimes use it as a way to point out American hypocrisy on human rights, as a means of deflecting from their horrible treatment of their own people and as a way to buck American chastisement.
Until America sufficiently deals with its own race problem, it will remain somewhat handicapped on the world stage.
On Wednesday, at a news conference after his meeting with President Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed aside criticism of how his government was treating a pro-democracy group in his country by comparing that group to Black Lives Matter:
“America just recently had very severe events, well-known events, after the killing of an African American. An entire movement developed, known as Black Lives Matter. I’m not going to comment on that, but here’s what I do want to say: What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law, etc.”. . .
Russia has a long history of invoking our domestic race problem. As Julia Ioffe pointed out in The Atlantic in 2017, Russia and the Soviet Union have an 80-plus-year history of involvement and exploitation of America’s race problem. In fact, as Ioffe put it, “Whenever the Soviet Union was criticized for its human rights abuses, the rebuttal became, ‘And you lynch Negroes.’”. . .
Russia is not the only country, and Putin is not the only leader, to deflect to America’s treatment of Black people. In 1960, Fidel Castro stormed into Harlem to highlight the plight of Black people in America and to embarrass the American government. He checked into the Hotel Theresa and one of his first guests was Malcolm X.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met Castro there. As Smithsonian Magazine wrote last year, quoting from Khrushchev’s memoirs, “he understood that ‘by going to a Negro hotel in a Negro district, we would be making a double demonstration against the discriminatory policies of the United States of America toward Negroes, as well as toward Cuba.’”
Just this March, the Chinese government released a blistering report that criticized the United States for several things, among them: racism. . . .
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un issued a paper in early 2018 that said “racial discrimination and misanthropy are serious maladies inherent to the social system of the U.S., and they have been aggravated since Trump took office.” It continued by saying “the racial violence that took place in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 is a typical example of the acme of the current administration’s policy of racism.”
The problem is that no matter how bad these dictators act on the world stage — and they are plenty bad — they are not completely wrong in their condemnation of American racism. The problem is that they are not sincerely interested parties, but rather are opportunistically seeking to exploit shortcoming and division.
That said, America needs to face up to the fact that it can’t sweep around someone else’s front door until it sweeps around its own. . . .
Slavery is no more, but American hypocrisy is still with us. American racial oppression is still with us. America’s poor treatment of its Black citizens is still with us. Until we fix that, or even address it, the world’s dictators will continue to see us and mock our hypocrisy.
Thursday, June 17, 2021
The charts above reflect the results of the new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between June 13th and 15th of a national sample of 1,500 adults, with a 3 point margin of error.