Monday, November 30, 2020
That was bad enough, but then we had the Thanksgiving holiday. And millions of Americans traveled on the holiday and gathered in large gatherings with families.
A recent Gallup poll showed that 61% of Americans had changed their holiday plans, and were staying home and having only a small dinner with immediate family. But that means 39% (millions of Americans) said they had no intention of changing their normal Thanksgiving holiday plans. These are the ones that flooded the airports and attended large gatherings. And they are the ones that have health officials worried.
Deborah Birx pointed out that the Memorial Day holiday resulted in a spike in the pandemic, even though the cases and deaths were far lower than currently. She said she's deeply worried about what could happen in the post-Thanksgiving period. Holiday travel and gatherings could result in much higher numbers of an already out-of-control pandemic.
And our current president is doing nothing. He's too busy whining about the election and playing golf to care about the sick and dying Americans. History will not be kind when it examines his presidency.
Trump's big plan for his campaign was to hold rallies. He expected those rallies, where thousands of people showed up, to excite his base and increase his vote. It didn't work that way. He held campaign rallies in 30 counties, and in most of those counties he underperformed what he had done in 2016.
Here's how NBC News reports it:
As the 2020 campaign wound down, President Donald Trump held rallies across the country to fire up his supporters and get them out to vote. Many saw the rallies as a sign of big enthusiasm for Trump, but the data suggest the visits did not produce the desired impact for the president.
Comparing Trump campaign stops over the last two weeks of the race to election results shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases, Trump underperformed his 2016 margins in the counties he visited, in some cases by large amounts.
There were 30 Trump campaign stops in that period, according to an NBC News tally, in states from Arizona to Nebraska to Pennsylvania. In five counties that Trump visited he saw better results than he did in 2016, but in the remaining 25 his margins of victory got smaller, his margin of defeat grew or the county flipped Democratic.
The numbers are important to note because they raise questions about how journalists and analysts perceive campaigns.
Crowd sizes are often held out as a way to gauge support for a politician, and sometimes they are. But during a pandemic, with a polarizing candidate on the stump, it’s possible the meaning of the rallies were misread. While the crowds were visible sign of enthusiasm for Trump, there were much bigger, and less visible, groups of people who were not at the rallies and who may have seen them in a negative light.
A look at some crucial states that were the sites of several rallies offers some evidence for an invisible, negative impact for the president.
Sunday, November 29, 2020
But while they claim to be trying to protect children, their actions are actually harming efforts to protect abused children.
The following is just part of an excellent article at CNN.com:
Child welfare organizations for months have felt the full weight of the coronavirus pandemic, navigating concerns about unreported abuse and ensuring their resources are available to at-risk children.
And it's the behavior of those who follow the conspiracy theory -- their supposed efforts to help abused children -- that's putting an increasing strain on the resources of actual child welfare groups.
Saturday, November 28, 2020
In the past, many Democrats have complained that they could not win elections because they didn't have the money to compete with Republican candidates. That was not a problem in 2020, as Democrats across the country outraged their Republican opponents in campaign funds. Sadly though, Democrats lost seats in the House (although retaining control with a smaller majority), and need to win both Senate seats in Georgia to get control of the Senate.
It just goes to show that raising large amounts of campaign cash doesn't necessarily translate into wins. That was especially shown in the Senate seats in Kentucky and South Carolina. Democrats nominated good candidates in both states, and those candidates raised more than double the cash that their opponents did. But the Republicans won both seats, giving them a good chance to retain control of the Senate.
Campaign cash is important, because it allows a candidate to compete in advertising, but it takes more than money to win an election.
And it's not just Trump. The party's base believes that global climate change is not real, or at least not caused by human action. They believe giving more to the rich will help the working and middle classes. They believe the nation cannot afford to provide decent medical care (or medical insurance) to all its citizens. The belief the coronavirus is a hoax. They believe China actually pays for the tariffs (and not U.S. consumers).
And a large part of that base loves conspiracy theories -- that Democrats operate a pedophile ring and eat babies, that there is a "deep state" that opposes Trump and wants to destroy the country, etc.
How can these people be so easily duped? David Brooks has written an excellent column in The New York Times on this subject, and he has a theory about why these people are so easily fooled. It's a theory worth considering. He writes:
In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77 percent of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
My analysis begins with a remarkable essay that Jonathan Rauch wrote for National Affairs in 2018 called “The Constitution of Knowledge.” Rauch pointed out that every society has an epistemic regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, nontheocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge.
Friday, November 27, 2020
These charts reflect the results of a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between November 21st and 24th of a national sample of 1,500 registered voters, with a 3.2 point margin of error.
They show that Republicans are out of step with the rest of America. While 65% of Americans say Biden will be inaugurated next January, only 32% of Republicans believe that. And while 63% of Americans think Trump should concede defeat in the 2020 election, only 27% of Republicans agree.
Trump created an alternate universe for Republicans, and most of them still live there.
Mitch McConnell's action (or rather failure to act) has also caused great harm. And he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to help hurting Americans. He's already given the rich and corporations a giant tax cut, and the a huge bailout after the Coronavirus hit -- and he doesn't see the need to do anything else, even though most Americans are hurting from the combination of the pandemic and the Trump recession.
Here's how Robert Reich describes McConnell's failure:
Thursday, November 26, 2020
2020 has been a tough year, and many of us will not be able to celebrate this holiday with the family and friends we love. In spite of that, I wish all my readers a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. Take care of yourselves and be thankful. Things will be better next year!
Nearly 13 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and nearly 300,000 have died. Some might think we are nearing the end of the pandemic. But that would not be true. The pandemic is worse than ever, and as the map above shows, most Americans are still vulnerable to the virus. On the map, the darker the color, the bigger the percentage of people in that state that have antibodies that would prevent them from getting sick. Even in the best case states, the percentage is only 17%, and in most states, it is much lower. That means from 83% to 99% of the population in the states can still get sick if exposed. We are a long way from "herd Immunity".
The map is from Axios.com.
The Labor Department, because of today's holiday, released their weekly statistics a day early. Those statistics show that another 778,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on November 21st. It marks the second week in a row that the number filing for unemployment has risen. The economy, for workers, is not getting better -- it's getting worse.
Here's the official Labor Department announcement:
In the week ending November 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 778,000, an increase of 30,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 6,000 from 742,000 to 748,000. The 4-week moving average was 748,500, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,500 from 742,000 to 743,500.
2020 has not been a good year for the United States (and the world). Many millions have been struck down by the Coronavirus and many have died -- and sadly, it looks like that will not end until sometime next year.
But there is a brighter side in the midst of all the suffering. Millions of our fellow citizens have stepped up and, putting themselves in danger, done the essential work to keep the rest of us safe and supplied with the necessities that we needed. They are heroes, and we should be thankful for them.
Megan McArdle writes about these heroes in The Washington Post, including some you may not have considered. Here is much of her excellent article:
Some of those folks are pretty obvious. Health-care workers. Nursing home staff. Delivery drivers. Warehouse stockers. Clerks and cashiers. Line workers at food processing plants. Biomedical researchers who identified the virus, found us better treatments and, eventually, delivered us three potential vaccines with unprecedented speed. Without those folks giving their all for Team Humanity, we’d be in pretty bad shape right now.
People like me, who have been able to work from home, should count the blessings those people have bestowed on us every day — multiple times. More than that, we should be asking what we can do to make life better for them.
But you know all that, so how about a less obvious hero, like — did anyone have “supply-chain managers and operations chiefs” on their list? No? Well I did! Because these individuals have, without much praise and completely invisibly, been making sure that the rest of us had what we needed.
Remember last spring, when toilet paper disappeared from the shelves and flour was suddenly worth almost its weight in gold? That’s because supply chains had been optimized for people leaving their homes a lot — using public restrooms, eating in restaurants, working in large offices. The people who made and distributed that stuff found that suddenly half their customers didn’t need any supplies, and the other half needed twice as much, but not in pallet-sized lots. . . .
Yet somehow they coped. We had shortages of various things throughout the spring, but there was still plenty to eat and drink.
That’s because essential distribution companies such as Walmart and Target and Amazon rejiggered systems to prioritize basic products over “nice but not necessary”; because logistics companies such as UPS and Fedex reorganized their operations to cope with an unprecedented surge in demand for deliveries; and because General Mills and other manufacturers figured out how to fill those trucks and warehouses by squeezing more production out of their existing lines while ramping up new capacity.
Does that not sound like a lot to you? In a steady-but-poky business like food processing, it’s a bloody miracle. But if that doesn’t impress you, consider that everyone managed to get this done at the same time as border closures were disrupting global supply chains they depended on, as key suppliers were shuttered by covid-19 outbreaks, and as they themselves were trying to virus-proof their production lines — spacing out work stations, spraying down surfaces, checking temperatures and staggering shifts.
That feat is somewhat akin to learning to play the trombone while also performing knee surgery. Their incredible versatility is the reason that you and I can sit down on Thursday to a table that is full of food, even if it’s not as full of our loved ones as we’d like. . . .
Be thankful that you live in a time when you didn’t even have to think about it. The silent, unseen labor of people you never met, from shelf-stocker to c-suite, and a system that proved far more resilient than anyone could have dreamed, is the reason that you never even had to seriously worry that the holiday table would be bare. We shouldn’t just offer thanks in gratitude for all they’ve given us; we should bow our heads with a little bit of awe.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Joe Biden has made his first seven picks, including his national security team, and it is a radical change from the Trump administration. There are no family members or criminals or greedy corporatists or conspiracy fanatics -- just competent professionals who have proven their worth through years of dedicated service to this country.
Here part of what Max Boot had to say about Biden's picks in The Washington Post:
After the past four years, it was a disorienting experience to read the rundown of President-elect Joe Biden’s selections for senior national security posts. Where, I wondered, were the unqualified businessmen? The grifters with the FBI hot on their tails? The Twitter trolls? The fanatics? The sycophants? The relatives of the president?
All mercifully missing. Instead, we have a diverse slate of highly competent appointees with decades of relevant experience. Most know each other and Biden well. The backstabbing, extremism and incompetence that were the hallmarks of the Trump administration appear likely to be replaced by professionalism, moderation and collegiality. . . .
All that said, it’s important to keep expectations in check. It’s a vast improvement to get rid of a clueless team that sabotaged the national interest at every turn. But simply because you stop doing the wrong things doesn’t mean that the right approach is obvious or that it will pay off anytime soon.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
With races still to be called, at least 141 women will serve in Congress next year, breaking the record of 127 set in 2019, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. That includes at least 116 women in the House — smashing the record of 102 also set in 2019 — and 25 in the Senate, although that number could shrink with California Sen. Kamala Harris' ascendancy to the vice presidency. The total in the House includes a woman from Iowa's 2nd District, where two women are running against each other, but because CNN has yet to call the race, it's not known which party will represent the district.
The numbers show the growth of COVID-19 in each state in the last week -- from 11/14 through 11/21.
These numbers are from The COVID Tracking Project.
Alabama..........215843 -- 230708
Alaska..........22405 -- 26044
Arizona..........273053 -- 295334
Arkansas..........130318 -- 143821
California.........1008377 -- 1087714
Colorado..........154038 -- 194769
Connecticut.........88645 -- 101469
Delaware..........28395 -- 31321
District of Columbia..........18814 -- 19961
Florida..........862990 -- 918240
Georgia..........384997 -- 402435
Hawaii..........16652 -- 17361
Idaho..........79798 -- 89764
Illinois..........562985 -- 646286
Indiana..........244887 -- 289183
Iowa..........163728 -- 184968
Kansas..........115507 -- 134533
Kentucky..........136137 -- 155908
Louisiana..........201981 -- 216709
Maine..........8791 -- 10123
Maryland..........164090 -- 179971
Massachusetts..........186142 -- 204155
Michigan..........275792 -- 329021
Minnesota..........216028 -- 262952
Mississippi..........133340 -- 142401
Missouri..........235722 -- 267312
Montana..........45886 -- 54542
Nebraska..........94922 -- 111661
Nevada..........119006 -- 131733
New Hampshire..........14311 -- 17281
New Jersey..........274736 -- 302039
New Mexico..........62006 -- 79440
New York..........556551 -- 590822
North Carolina..........309118 -- 332261
North Dakota..........62872 -- 71540
Ohio..........290243 -- 343286
Oklahoma..........150205 -- 170924
Oregon..........56018 -- 63668
Pennsylvania..........259938 -- 302564
Rhode Island..........41529 -- 48001
South Carolina..........194014 -- 205018
South Dakota..........64182 -- 72214
Tennessee..........305120 -- 335887
Texas..........1014160 -- 1085524
Utah..........151141 -- 173979
Vermont..........2843 -- 3546
Virginia..........200799 -- 215679
Washington..........125498 -- 139543
West Virginia..........32792 -- 39598
Wisconsin..........323604 -- 372219
Wyoming..........21881 -- 27410
Virgin Islands..........1434 -- 1491
Puerto Rico..........41772 -- 46434
Guam..........5965 -- 6476
Joe Biden is wasting no time in choosing his cabinet, even though Trump is trying to delay the transition process as long as possible. On Monday, Biden announced his first six picks for cabinet-level posts.
They are (clockwise from the upper left) -- Anthony Blinken (Secretary of State), Alejandro Mayorkas (Secretary of Homeland Security), Linda Thomas-Greenfield (U.N. Ambassador), Jake Sullivan (National Security Advisor), Avril Haines (National Intelligence Director), and John Kerry (Climate Czar).
Unlike Trump, who chose his rich corporate buddies, Biden is choosing competent and professional people to be in his cabinet.
Later in the day, it was announced that Janet Yellen would be Biden's choice to be Treasury Secretary. Once again, Biden has chosen a competent professional who can hit the ground running.