A Time of Revelations

It’s the day after the Chauvin verdict. Even as we heard that Derek Chauvin is guilty, guilty, guilty, we also were hearing about a black teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio, who had been just killed by police. Details of this new shooting are sketchy. It appears 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was brandishing a knife, and so she had to be shot? Somehow I think there must be other ways to deal with such situations. That’s what we keep saying after every wasted life.

As many people have pointed out, one verdict hardly erases all the injustice that has gone before and doesn’t mean anything will change. It does represent an opportunity for change, however. I think a lot of white people especially who watched this trial (except on Fox News) may have gained some understanding of what’s wrong with U.S. policing.

Chauvin had a history of doing to other detained people what he did to George Floyd — forcing them to lie face down, and then putting a knee on their necks. He had done this six times before, that we know of. People had complained. The Minneapolis police did nothing. Now the U.S. Justice Department has announced an investigation of “the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department,” it says here. Let’s hope some reforms come from that. But that’s just one municipal police department.

This moment has also laid bare the unvarnished racism harbored by a lot of influential people. I mean, Tucker Carlson? He’s gone from supporting racist “replacement” theory to calling the Chauvin verdict “an attack on civilization.” Now he’s saying the only reason the jury convicted Chauvin is that … they feared for their lives? Or that they thought Black Lives Matter would burn down Minneapolis? It’s not clear. Erik Wemple:

Leave it to Fox News host Tucker Carlson to skip past the evidence in search of some way place an asterisk on this moment of racial justice. “The jury in the Derek Chauvin trial came to a unanimous and unequivocal verdict this afternoon: Please don’t hurt us,” said the host on Tuesday evening.

What did that mean? As best we can surmise, Carlson was suggesting that a motivation behind the verdict was to head off the the protests that would likely have erupted after an acquittal. “The jury spoke for many in this country,” continued Carlson. “Everyone understood perfectly well the consequences of an acquittal in this case. After nearly a year of burning and looting and murder by [the Black Lives Matter movement], that was never in doubt.” (In fact, the overwhelming majority of racial justice protests have been peaceful.)

Tucker interviewed Former NYC Deputy Sherriff Ed Gavin, who had some constructive and reasonable suggestions for reform. Tucker wasn’t having it.

Wemple again:

When Gavin started to suggest reforms, Carlson cut him off: “How about enforce the law? Do we need to do that? So hold on, wait a second. So, wait, slow down. Do we enforce the law? Like let’s say, people are going through the windows in Macy’s and the cops are just standing there, do they resign?” As Carlson was concluding the discussion, Gavin tried to get in one more point. “Nope, done,” scolded Carlson.

So that’a another revelation. Not that I’d ever confused Tucker for a lover of civil liberties, but this is just bare-assed racism/authoritarianism. Sieg heil, Tucker.

At this moment, Americans have to decide whether they’re with Black Lives Matter or with Tucker Carlson. No fence sitting allowed. Make up your mind. Justice or injustice? That’s the choice.

Why It’s Not 2009 Any More

Or, at least I hope it’s not 2009 any more. But the difference between 2009 and 2021 seems to be that Democrats really have changed. Not all of them, but enough of them that it’s making a difference. Paul Krugman compares the Obama Administration and the Biden Administration so far.

One striking thing about the Obama years, in retrospect, was the deference of Democrats to people who didn’t share their goals. The Obama administration deferred to bankers who warned that anything populist-sounding would undermine confidence and to deficit scolds demanding fiscal austerity. It wasted months on a doomed effort to get Republican support for health reform.

And along with this deference went diffidence, a reluctance to do simple, popular things like giving people money and taxing corporations. Instead, the Obama team tended to favor subtle policies that most Americans didn’t even notice.

I could be wrong, but I have long suspected that the Obama Administration fell short of the vision he initially ran on because he deferred too much to the Clintons and their many loyalists embedded in the Dem party hierarchy. Deferral to vested interests and “subtle policies that most Americans didn’t even notice” especially was Hillary Clinton’s style. But let’s go on.

Now the deference is gone. Wall Street clearly has a lot less influence this time around; Biden’s economic advisers evidently believe that if you build a better economy, confidence will take care of itself. The obsession with bipartisanship is also gone, replaced with a realistic appreciation of Republican bad faith, which has also made the new administration uninterested in G.O.P. talking points.

And the old diffidence has evaporated. Biden isn’t just going big, he’s going obvious, with highly visible policies rather than behavioral nudges. Furthermore, these forthright policies involve doing popular things. For example, voters have consistently told pollsters that corporations pay too little in taxes; Biden’s team, buoyed by the Trump tax cut’s failure, is willing to give the public what it wants.

Why has that been so hard? Of course, Biden’s policies will rise or fall in popularity depending on how well they work, and that’s how it should be. This is what so many of us have been saying for years. For example, see We Need a Progressive Movement from 2010. See also Matt Taibbi in 2016:

The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.

This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It’s exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.

Just as Barack Obama seems to have lost his nerve in 2009 — perhaps he had less nerve than we assumed — the entire Democratic Party lost its nerve in 2016, which helped elect Donald Trump, the one candidate who was promising big, splashy change as opposed to Hillary’s incremental tweaks to the status quo. That Trump failed to deliver has yet to register with his loyal supporters, of course.

But back to Paul Krugman:

Another factor working in Biden’s favor is the closing of professional Republicans’ minds. Even before conspiracy theories took control, Republican politicians were living in a mental bubble; in many ways the modern G.O.P. is more like a cult than a normal political party.

And at this point Republicans seem so deep in the cult that they’ve forgotten how to talk to outsiders. When they denounce every progressive idea as socialism, declare every center-left politician a Marxist, rant about “job creators” and insist on calling their rival the “Democrat Party,” they’re talking to themselves and persuading nobody.

If you want to see Republican tone-deafness in action, look at Senator Marsha Blackburn’s recent attack on the jobs plan. It’s not really about infrastructure, she proclaimed; why, it would spend hundreds of billions on elder care. And she apparently imagined that voters would see helping the elderly as a bad thing.

For so long, all most working people have got from either party has been nothing but “messaging,” i.e., bullshit. Deep down, many Americans probably don’t believe real change is possible and have settled for symbolic change, e.g., “owning the libs.” Sometimes it seems the only people who think big change is emanant are the QAnon culties. Maybe it’s their deep need to believe change is possible that fuels the cult.

So how revolutionary would it be for someone to deliver significantl change that really benefited most working people? It’s been a very long time since something like that happened. The Affordable Care Act was the closest thing to a New Deal style program than we’d had since the 1960s, and even that was too compromised and easy to demagogue because it didn’t effect enoujgh people directly.

Greg Sargent picks up on this same theme today in Biden’s next big plan could blow up one of the GOP’s worst lies.

If Joe Biden won, then-President Trump told us, the mentally declining Biden would fall captive to his party’s rabid socialist left flank, which would immediately drive the country into a depression.

This lie lives on — Republicans continue to tell repurposed versions of it right now — yet precisely the opposite is happening. It’s not just that the center and left of the Democratic Party are working together more collaboratively than expected. It’s also that Biden’s willing incorporation of leftist ideas is exactly why he’s posting some early successes.

The real Big Lie, of course, is the one Republicans have lived by for forty years and more. That’s the lie that says cutting corporate taxes and giving lots of bennies to the rich would be the rising tide that lifts everyone’s boat. Instead, over these past forty years we’ve seen real wages adjusted for the cost of living stagnate, manufacturing jobs grow scarce, the middle class shrink, even the life expectancy of white working people get lower.

Further, the pandemic has laid bare realities about our economy that people have been ignoring; for example, who the real “essential workers” are. And it ain’t investment bankers or hedge fund managers. It’s the people who move goods and stock shelves. And it’s the people who take care of others.

Our caregiving economy has been woefully underfunded, and the crucial societal contribution of care work — including child care — is badly undercompensated. Far too many are denied basic human goods like college education and the opportunity to take time off work to heal or spend time with a newborn.

Republicans are big believers in sticks over carrots. For example, in WaPo today conservative columnist Henry Olsen opined that generous unemployment benefits were keeping restaurants from reopening for lack of workers.

People on unemployment currently receive a supplemental federal payment of $300 a week on top of their normal state benefits regardless of their prior earnings. Given the relatively low earnings many restaurants and other service industry workers typically receive, they are likely to make as much or more by not working than they would if they returned to their jobs. That means they have little incentive to get back to work, which may even make them less likely to get vaccinated to begin with.

Yeah, they should be eager to go back to a tiring and underpaid job that includes lots of public exposure during a pandemic. Let’s cut off their benefits so that Henry can get his squid ink risotto. But it’s also that the day care system has collapsed, never mind in-person schooling. It’s too many workers who don’t get paid sick leave.Vaccines have only recently, like this week, become available to most people of an age to be restaurant workers. This brings us to the deeper meaning of infrastructure — it’s not just bricks and mortar, but whatever a society needs to function. No day care, no workers.

I’m thinking also of the drama we went through at the end of last year over the passge of the bill that would release some more relief funds. Republicans signed on to a reduced amount only to help their candidates in the Georgia Senate race. Then Trump held it up for no good reason other than to draw attention to himself, making people wait until after Christmas to know if their benefits would continue, or not. That was cruel. The relatively quick passage of the bigger covid bill by the Biden Administration guaranteed that Republicans could get no traction by whining it wasn’t “bipartisan.” People whose lives were hanging by a thread didn’t give a hoo haw how it got done, just that it got done.

So let the Republicans complain that raising corporate taxes will hurt the “job creators.” Popular opinion is on the other side, and on the side of a higher minimum wage, and on continuing unemployment benefits until it’s safe for everything to open, and of people not being evicted, and of people getting the medical care they need, and of getting more assistance with day care and elder care and a lot of the expense and worry that chips away at a lot of us. No more 2009. No more incremental tweaks.

Guilty Guilty Guilty

I was writing something else when the verdict came. It’s a huge relief. Never was there such a slam-dunk case, but it only takes one moron to hang a jury.

It’s too soon, I suppose, to declare that some kind of corner has been turned. Still, we can hope that this trial and conviction — on national television — will be a watershed moment, like the Army-McCarthy hearings, that impacts everything to come. Let us hope the very righteous conviction of Derek Chauvin is not an aberration.

Ten GOP Senators, Sitting in a Tree …

It is alleged there are ten “moderate” (a relative term) Republican senators who call themselves the “G-10” (nobody will say what the G stands for) and who feel very put out that they can’t get President Biden to negotiate with them. He didn’t negotiate on the covid bill, they say, and he isn’t negotiating on the infrastructure package.

It’s not clear to me which ten are THE ten. The ten who met with President Biden on the covid bill were Bill Cassidy, Louisiana;  Susan Collins, Maine; Shelley More-Capito, West Virginia; Jerry Moran, Kansas; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Rob Portman, Ohio; Mitt Romney, Utah; Mike Rounds, South Dakota; Thom Tillis, North Carolina; and Todd Young, Indiana. But some new reports make Roy Blunt, Missouri, one of the “moderate” Republican senators put out because the administration didn’t negotiate with him. That would make eleven.

The truth is that this crew are terrible negotiators. Matt Bai writes at WaPo:

After Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion relief bill, on which he was probably expecting a reasonable counteroffer, the 10 Republican senators answered with a proposal for … $600 billion. That wasn’t even in the Zip code of reasonable.

Even then, they couldn’t guarantee the vote of every Republican in the room for their smaller package, much less anyone else in the caucus.

And yet these senators were apparently shocked when Biden refused to stop Democratic leaders from advancing his bill along party lines. I guess he was supposed to bargain against himself instead.

Of course, in the past the Democratics did bargain against themselves, so being unreasonable has worked for Republicans. Oh, and Bai thinks the “G” stands for “grumpy” or “geriatric.”

All this might have made sense if it were really just the kind of strategic feint Republican leaders used during the Obama years: Offer something obviously untenable and then gleefully blame the president for refusing to compromise. But this group actually seemed to think they were going to drive away in the car.

They seem to have forgotten that when a president wins an election by almost five percentage points, gets control of both chambers of Congress and proposes legislation that clear majorities of the country support, he really doesn’t need to meet you halfway.

Exactly.

They just spent four years watching a president of their own party rack up ungodly debt for no reason other than to reward rich people with tax cuts, and they barely registered a complaint.

Even when Donald Trump sought to overturn an election and dismantle the democracy, the self-aggrandizing G-10 did nothing but issue a few disparate statements.

But when Biden passes an economic bill by reconciliation, and then threatens to drive through an infrastructure bill rather than meet Republican demands to cut it by more than half, these same moderates suddenly care deeply about fiscal sanity and fair process.

GOPers gonna GOP.

Last week Paul Levitz at New York Magazine wrote a piece called Moderate Republicans Accuse Biden of Trying to Pass His Agenda. It begins:

Moderate Republicans are accusing Joe Biden of secretly plotting to enact the policies he campaigned on.

In interviews with Politico Wednesday, staffers for the “G-10” — a group of ten Senate Republicans with an ostensible appetite for compromise — claimed that the president’s avowed interest in bipartisanship is insincere. In their account, Biden’s negotiations with the G-10 over infrastructure are a mere formality; his true intention is to make Republicans an offer they can’t accept, then use their refusal as a pretense for passing his $2.25 trillion plan through budget reconciliation.

Levitz writes that the “moderate” Republicans seem to not realize how weak their position is. And it’s weak for several reasons. First, the infrastructure bill is polling very well.

It’s hard to make voters afraid of better-paved highways, new manufacturing jobs, at-home care for the elderly, or any of the American Jobs Plan’s other components. Recent polls from Morning Consult and YouGov suggest that virtually every item in Biden’s proposal commands supermajority support, while 65 percent of voters endorse paying for the measures through a corporate tax hike.

Second, Democrats just learned they can pass a big bill on a party-line vote and not suffer a backlash. Hmm. It’s also the case that a “majority of Republican House members voted to nullify the 2020 election because Democrats won it,” which kind of makes their declarations of love for bipartisanship ring a tad hollow.

Also last week, Paul Waldman wrote a column called Do Republican moderates even know what they want?

He notes that Republicans engaged in talks with the White House are feeling used. “But what is it that these Republicans actually want?” He asks. After they had made a stupidly low offer on the covid bill, the Administration actually gave them something — “making the bill’s stimulus payments phase out more quickly for those with higher incomes, an issue they raised specifically.” But of course they all voted against the bill anyway.

So they’re scared that this bill will turn out the same way the American Rescue Plan did: The moderate Republicans have some meetings with Biden; he listens to their ideas and perhaps adopts a bit of what they want; in the end they say, “Not good enough,” and all vote against the bill; the bill passes through reconciliation with only Democratic votes; it gives the public a bunch of things they like; and Biden gets all the credit.

Yes. And why would the Democrats not do that? This is what the allegedly “moderate” Republicans can’t seem to grasp.

Waldman makes a bold proposal: These ten (or eleven) Republicans could easily put themselves back in the game by really negotiating and pledging to vote as a block for the bill if they get certain changes, and then make a reasonable offer. As Matt Bai wrote, you don’t offer $3,000 on a $10,000 car. Maybe if they’d offer $8,000 they’d get the car. And then they’d have their names on a popular bill, and ten Republican votes means the filibuster isn’t an issue.

That’s the only thing they have to offer. The onus is on them to convince Biden and Democrats that if the right deal can be worked out, all of them, without exception, will defy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and vote with Democrats on an infrastructure bill — even knowing Biden will get most of the credit for the results of the bill and for being bipartisan, too.

Yes, that’s the only thing they have to offer. A pledge of ten Republican votes would be valuable to the Democrats. And it probably won’t happen.

Since all 10 of them voting for any bill that would help a Democratic president is so unlikely, and since Democrats have reconciliation as the trump card they can use if they have to, the Republicans are in an extremely weak position. That means that when it comes time to negotiate the details, they have to meet the Democrats not just halfway, but more than halfway. Maybe two-thirds of the way, or even five-sixths of the way (which would seem appropriate if they’re going to be 10 votes out of 60).

That’s the reality of negotiating from a position of weakness: You’re just not going to get everything you want. If you want to get anything at all, you’re going to have to give up a lot.

So to repeat: What exactly do these Republicans want?

But that’s the problem — all they want is to not pass most of the bill. They’re only against stuff, not so much for stuff.  It’s hard to imagine what bill they would vote for.

So now the Republican moderates are faced with two choices: They can make real substantive and political sacrifices to have a genuine role in shaping the bill, or they can just whine about not getting everything they want. I know which outcome I’d put my money on.

This afternoon President Biden met with a small “bipartisan” group of senators, some from both parties, to discuss the infrastructure package, and we’ll see if anything comes out of it. The Administration has already agreed to not raise the corporate tax rate above 25 percent, a concession to Joe Manchin. Other adjustments may have to be made to pay for the bill. A disagreement among Democrats has emerged over the SALT tax cap. SALT stands for “state and local tax” deduction on federal taxes, and some Dems in blue states like New York very much want to lift the cap that the Trump Administration put on deducting the taxes. So there’s a long way to go yet on this bill, it appears. Republicans can jump in any time they want to get real.

The “moderate” ten, possibly.

 

The Truth About Anglo-Saxons

So this happened:

Hard-right House Republicans on Friday were discussing forming an America First Caucus, which one document described as championing “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and warning that mass immigration was putting the “unique identity” of the U.S. at risk.

I’m at a loss to know what “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” are, considering that the Angles and Saxons lost control of their territory in Britain a thousand years ago with the Norman Conquest of 1066. Most of the developments in British law and government that got exported here to the colonies were developed by the Normans, who came from France. This includes the Magna Carta (1215) and English Common Law, upon which early U.S. law was based. English Common Law was very much a Norman thing, according to Britannica.

Saxon Cosplayers

This got me wondering how “Anglo-Saxon” came to be a synonym for “white people,” since most white people are not Anglo-Saxon. Indeed, it’s estimated that only about a third of the DNA of modern-day English people is Anglo-Saxon.

This is a simplified map. The invadors didn’t all come from Denmark.

Greatly over-simplifying a lot of history: After the Roman occupation of Britain ended in about the year 410, German-speaking tribes crossed the channel and began taking over. The three major tribal groups were the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. Everybody forgets about the Jutes, who may have been lovely people for all we know, but let’s continue. The diverse tribes spoke similar Germanic languages (the original Old English was a Germanic language), and once in Britain they appear to have forged a common cultural identity, although according to one scholar the term “Anglo-Saxon” didn’t come into widespread use until the 18th century or so. The Germans in 1st millennia Britain more often called themselves either “Angle” or “Saxon” than Anglo-Saxon.

What little we know of that period of British history shows us that the German invaders fought the indigenous Celts and eventually occupied a territory that was roughly where England, Angle-land, is now. The Celts appear to have been pushed into the “fringe” — Scotland, Wales, Cornwall — by the Germans. That’s a bit disputed, but it’s a common view. There is a popular but unproven theory that the original “King Arthur” was a Celtic chieftan who fought the Saxons. And then in the 11th century the dominance of the Germanic tribes in Britain came to an end with the Norman Conquest. In the years that followed there was resistance and rebellion, but in the end the Normans prevailed. Much of the old Angle and Saxon nobility fled their confiscated lands and headed for Celtic territory or Scandanavia.

Knowing this, how did it come to pass that “Anglo-Saxon” came to designate “white people,” at least among English speakers, and “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,” or WASP, came to be shorthand for “snotty upper-class white people”?

The scholar cited above, Mary Rambaran-Olm, and some of her colleagues say the whole notion of Anglo-Saxons as the epitome of whiteness began in the late 1700s. At the time, the British were keen to justify their growing colonial empire around the globe, and a myth of the very white Anglo-Saxons as the creators of English civilization, even though they weren’t, seized the public’s imagination at the time and “informed” the English that they were a naturally superior people who were doing all these simple brown natives a favor by exploiting them. I assume the Normans, being French, just weren’t white enough to serve the same purpose.

This makes me think of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and his novel Ivanhoe. If you have read it or seen one of the film versions, you’ll remember that the title character is a fair and noble Saxon being oppressed by the sleezy Normans, and in the novel much attention is paid to the blondness of the Saxons in comparison to the darker Normans and the even darker Jewish characters, Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca, who at least were treated sympathetically. In the 1952 film version Rebecca was played by Elizabeth Taylor.

As a sidebar, do read ‘It’s all white people’: Allegations of white supremacy are tearing apart a prestigious medieval studies group about how Mary Rambaran-Olm resigned from being a vice president of the prestigious International Society of Anglo-Saxonists because, she said, the term “Anglo-Saxon” has too many racist implications and the society had refused to change its name. Another scholar who resigned, Eileen Fradenburg Joy, said,

“The entire field of medieval studies is undergoing massive upheaval because they have not dealt with long-standing issues of racism and sexism,” Joy said. “This name change controversy is sowing the fault lines that still exist between white scholars — because it’s all white people, a bunch of white people arguing over whether they’re racist.”

So there’s that. I honestly don’t know much about the Anglo-Saxons except that they wrote Beowulf (probably) and made fancy helmets.

The Anglo-Saxon myth is similar to the even dumber Aryan myth. In the late 19th century the notion took hold in Europe that an ancient people who migrated around from Eurasia to the Ganges and called themselves “Aryans,” or “noble ones,” were somehow the original white people who created civilization itself. From this came Aryanism, or the theory that since white people created civilization, whites were naturally a superior race entitled to rule other races.

In reality, “Aryan” and its many derivatives in several early Indo-Persian languages was probably less a racial than a cultural or tribal designation, and if we could go back in time 3,000 years or so and take a look at the people calling themselves Aryan most of them probably wouldn’t be all that white. It’s also the case that long after the great pyramids had been built in Egypt, the Aryans were still nomads who would have been challenged to erect so much as a storage shed. And archeologists say they made really bad pots.

Now let’s go back to the America First Caucus and their Anglo-Saxon political traditions.

Far-right Republicans in Congress are forming an “America First Caucus” that would promote nativist policies, according to materials outlining the group’s goals first obtained by Punchbowl News.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) are reportedly behind it, with Reps. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) signed on as early members. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who faces federal and House Ethics Committee investigations over allegations of sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, tweeted that he was joining Greene in the caucus.

Even some of the other hard-right specimens in Washington recognized that this was going beyond dog whistles and into white sheet/burning cross territory. See Andrew Solender, Forbes, America First Caucus Rejected By Right-Wing Freedom Caucus.

Members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus are among a wide array of House Republicans rejecting a nascent group being organized by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) whose platform reportedly aims to preserve “anglo-saxon political traditions.”

The publication Friday by congressional newsletter Punchbowl News of a seven-page document appearing to be the America First Caucus’ platform was met with “fury” by top members of the Freedom Caucus, a source with knowledge of the group’s internal discussions told Forbes. …

…Freedom Caucus members that Punchbowl reported to have “agreed to join” the America First Caucus, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Barry Moore (R-Ala.), told Forbes they have not yet decided whether to do so.

That’s on top of criticism from other House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Liz Cheney, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) calling for the GOP to expel any conference member who joins and strip their committee assignments.

Marjorie Taylor Greene had already been relieved of her committee assignments, of course, so I doubt she cares. However, by today she was saying that she hadn’t even read the document published in Punchbowl. So she must have been slammed pretty damn hard by other House Republicans. Can’t say the quiet part out loud, Marjorie. You need to learn that.

Capitalism Left Us Vulnerable

At Washington Monthly, Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer explain How Mistreating Nursing Home Staff Helped Spread Covid-19.

By the end of May 2020, half of all cases among the elderly were brought in by “direct care workers,” such as nurses, nursing assistants, physical therapists, maintenance and kitchen staff. These people are among the most essential workers—and some of the worst paid. In 2019, their median hourly wage was just $12.80. Nearly half live in low-income households. More than half receive public assistance. The vast majority are women and three in five are people of color.

Add poor pay to no sick leave or health insurance, and many direct care workers can’t afford to stay home when they are sick. Jen Hurst is a critical care speech pathologist in Kansas City, Missouri. For 15 years, she’s worked for the same long-term care company, which has never given her a full-time job or benefits. She can’t afford to take time off when she’s sick. When she developed symptoms that seemed like Covid-19, she briefly thought about going into work before deciding to stay home—and that required tapping her family’s modest savings.

Note that there are a wide variety of nurses. A registered nurses has had anywhere from two or three years of classroom study in medical science to a Ph.D. in nursing. LPNs, licensed practical nurses, generally have a year or so of classrom study and clinical experience before getting licensed. But a “nurse” might also be a CNA, a certified nursing assistant, who has a high school diploma and four to twelve weeks of training, mostly to do things like giving baths and helping patients transfer from a bed to a wheelchair. I suspect these are the nurses the article is talking about.

Nursing home staff qualify as “health care workers” but are often on the periphery of medicine. They are not paid well, and some employers limit their hours in order to limit their benefits. The article explains that a lot of infections happened because people work for multiple facilities in order to make a living. One study showed that roughly half of all covid deaths in nursing homes could be traced to staff moving between facilities.

There is a direct link between low pay and benefits for nusing home staff and high rates of covid infection and death. Unsurprisingly, the for-profit nursing homes had higher rates of death than those run by nonprofit organizations. A google search brought up all kinds of articles and studies (example) saying that for-profit nursing homes tend to have lower quality of care, lower staff-to-patient ratios, are more likely to overbill Medicare, etc.

It’s also the case that there are much lower vaccination rates among nursing home staff than hospital staff. Harvard Medical School reported in February that a high percentage of nursing home staff had no plans to get a vaccine, even though their employers offered it to them. Remember, many of these workers have little to no classroom instruction in science, in spite of being classified as “health care workers,” and many don’t trust their employers.

But the bottom line here is that there is a direct link between the way nursing home staff are considered nothing but cost who must be denied sick days and a living wage for the sake of profits, and a whole lot of death. And this ought to tell us that you can’t protect a population during a pandemic if you’re not protecting all of the population during a pandemic. That includes low-wage workers stocking shelves or cleaning bedpans; this includes undocumented immigrants who may have no access to vaccines. The virus doesn’t care what documents you have or how much money you make.

This is just one way our stubborn insistence on for-profit health care got in the way of the pandemic response. See Elizabeth Rosenthal at the New York Times, We Knew the Coronavirus Was Coming, Yet We Failed, May 6, 2020.

… our system failed in its response. Heroic health care providers were left to jury-rig last-minute solutions to ensure that the toll wasn’t even worse.

But the saddest part is that most of the failings and vulnerabilities that the pandemic has revealed were predictable — a direct outgrowth of the kind of market-based system that Americans generally rely on for health care.

Our system requires every player — from insurers to hospitals to the pharmaceutical industry to doctors — be financially self-sustaining, to have a profitable business model. As such it excels at expensive specialty care. But there’s no return on investment in being primed and positioned for the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Combine that with an administration unwilling to intervene to force businesses to act en masse to resolve a public health crisis like this, and you get what we got: a messy, uncoordinated under-response, defined by shortages and finger-pointing.

The prevailing faith in the Free Market to provide for all left us vulnerable. Free markets don’t fix infrastructure (see: Texas). Free markets go where the profit is, but not everything people really need can be made profitable.

What to Do About the Supreme Court?

Democrats in Congress plan to introduce a bill to expand the SCOTUS from nine to thirteen justices. At the moment this bill has very little chance of going anywhere, but that may not be the point. The Dems may just be attempting to signal the Supremes to watch themselves. (Naturally Nancy Pelosi is being a poopyhead and saying she won’t bring a bill to expand the Court to the House floor.)

At TPM, Kate Riga writes that the Court has been sitting on some abortion cases for a remarkably long time. When Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed last year anti-reproductive rights advocates were certain Roe v. Wade was toast. And, of course, now that I’m blogging about a delay they’ll probably issue some draconian decision tomorrow.

But assuming they don’t, it does begin to look as if something is going on behind closed doors to inject some moderation into them. And I’m betting that something may be all the talk of expanding the Court. Chief Justice John Roberts may not be want to be the Chief Justice who precided over a Court that was so radical it had to be watered down.

Last week President Biden announced he was forming a commission to study Supreme Court reform. “The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices,” the announcement said. There is no deadline given for the commission’s recommendations. Still, it gives the justices something to think about.

At the moment a bill to expand the Court is unlikely to get around the 60-vote cloture threshold in the Senate. But Paul Waldman writes that maybe the appointment process could be reformed. One suggestion: Give every new POTUS two Supreme Court picks, and let the size of the Court fluctuate, he says.  If a justice dies or retires, the POTUS doesn’t get to make another appointment; he or she just gets two. That would eliminate a lot of the game-playing and drama around Supreme Court picks.

That wouldn’t, however, save us from the current Court’s majority of hyper-conservative religious extremists. See The Supreme Court Is Making New Law in the Shadows in the New York Times.

Law Enforcement: This Is Not Working

Videos of the police encounters with Lt. Caron Nazario in Virginia and Daunte Wright in Minnesota have been viral for the past several hours. After watching these, I’d like to suggest that we fire every cop in America and start over.

It’s beyond obvious that what went wrong in these encounters — as well as with George Floyd in Michigan, Maurice Gordon in New Jersey, Sandra Bland in Texas, Elijah McClain in Colorado, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Philando Castile in Minnesota (again), and so many others — is that police officers unnecessarily took what should have been routine, low-tension situations and escalated them into life-and-death struggles.

Of those mentioned above, only Lt. Nazario survived. This is because he was admirably disciplined and kept his head, but it should be police who are disciplined and keep their heads. Instead, in videos more often than not you see shouting and screaming and foaming-at-the-mouth hysteria on the part of the cops. Are they not trained to de-escalate tension rather than ramp it up? Apparently not.

The officer who killed Daunte Wright was screaming “taser! taser! taser!” just before she shot him with a gun. It’s obvious she was not thinking straight. And she was a 26-year veteran, news stories say, not a rookie.  Somethng is seriously wrong here.

And no, I’ve never been a police officer. I am sure they face many challenging and dangerous situations. But you’d think they’d be better trained to be controlled and disciplined, not volatile and erratic.

In my life I’ve been stopped for traffic violations a couple of times (although it’s been years). In my experience as a middle-aged white lady the cop comes to the window and says, Lady, you were speeding, here’s your ticket. Bye. Nobody screamed at me, made me get out of the car, tried to put me in handcuffs. If the cops had come at me the way they came at Lt. Nazario or Duante Wright I’m not sure how I would have reacted, but I don’t think anyone should be faulted for having a meltdown or trying to get away. That must be a terrifying experience, and it shouldn’t be the responsibility of a person being arrested to keep the cops calmed down.

In the case of Lt. Nazario, the cops should have just told him “We stopped you because you don’t have a license plate.” And then the Lieutenant would have pointed to the dealer temporary license plate, which may have been hard to see because of the tinted windows. And then the cops could say, “Oh, okay. Never mind. Have a nice day.” End of encounter. Why is that so hard?

In Georgia, an intoxicated Rayshard Brooks fell asleep in his car in a Wendy’s drive-through line. When cops arrived to deal with him, by all accounts he was genial and cooperative, but still very drunk. He wanted to lock up his car and walk to his sister’s house nearby, and maybe they should have just taken his car keys and let him go. Indeed, they could have driven him to his sister’s to sleep it off.  They had his name and license plate number; somebody could have followed up and taken him to court in a few hours when he was sober. But Brooks became agitated and tried to get away, and he was shot and killed.

The excuse one hears is that if people being arrested would just comply with police, these unfortunate outcomes wouldn’t happen. Explain to me what undercover St. Louis detective Luther Hall could possibly have been doing that justified his brother officers beating him to a pulp?

In the case of George Floyd, it’s unclear that anyone ever explained to him why he was being arrested. He was obviously terrified. Derick Chauvin, the cop who killed him, is an even worse example of malpractice than the over-excited officer who mixed up her gun for a taser. If you saw the highlights of the prosecution’s case at Chauvin’s trial, you know that happened to Floyd was just stone-cold murder. For once, even Chauvin’s superior officers clearly said Chauvin was in the wrong. For once, maybe this time there will be a conviction. But as Eugene Robinson wrote today, one fears Chavin will get off, because that’s what always happens.

Still from bodycam video of Daunte Wright’s death.

(The Old GOP’s) God Is Dead

Ronald Reagan died in 2004, of course, but it struck me that he’s even deader now than he was then. Today he’s not just physically dead; he’s also dead as a revered and worshiped figure of the American Right.

Reagan used to be adored by the GOP. Of course, Republicans never did admit to themselves that the Reagan they revered, the Reagan of their imaginations, differed considerably from the once corporeal person. Ronald Reagan was a hero in movies, not in real life. His celebrated “sunny optimism” was a thin veneer of affability over a whole lot of bigotry against nonwhites and gays. His popular economic ideas, enshrined in history as “Reaganomics,” contributed mightily to economic inequality, the shrinking of the middle class, and an eroding standard of living among working people. Yes, GOP insiders no doubt considered those features, not bugs.

Most of all, he taught ordinary Americans that it was wrong to look to their government for help. Government, Reagan told them, was wasteful and incompetent, and expecting it to benefit ordinary citizens led to moral decay and, eventually, commujnism. One might have stopped to reflect on what the bleep a government is supposed to be for, but St. Ronald of Blessed Memory was a man of action, not a thinker. Thinking is for Democrats and Europeans. Real Americans put on their shoes (made in China) every morning and march out to do productive things on behalf of Capitalism (blessed be It) without thinking real hard about it.  Look to Capitalism and God — in that order — to provide, not government.

The real legacy of Reagan was less American Greatness and more of a big mess. See, for example, Reagan’s Real Legacy by Peter Dreier and How Reaganomics, deregulation and bailouts led to the rise of Trump by John Komlos. Yet there was something about Reagan that resonated deeply in the mystic chords of memory of U.S. conservatives. and they practically worshipped the man. Or, their idea of the man. And in many ways after Reagan left office in 1989 the GOP remained, in its shrunken little heart, the Party of Reagan for about the next twenty-five years. This was so even though Reagan himself seemed to drop out of sight once he was out of office, no doubt because of the Alzheimer’s that was finally disclosed in 1994.

But now the worship of Reagan that sustained the Republican Party through the 1990s and 2000s is really, truly, utterly dead. I’m not sure precisely when it died, but it’s dead now. It must have died before the 2020 Republican National Convention; see No Bushes, Reagans, Cheneys or McCains: Who Is Missing at Trump’s R.N.C. by Adam Nagourney, Aug. 27, 2020.

Today I read about a recent Republican National Committee shindig held for deep pocket donors at — where else? — Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. And it struck me as I read that Reagan is dead.

Former president Donald Trump called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” as he used a Saturday night speech to Republicans to blame him for not helping overturn the 2020 election and reiterated false assertions that he won the November contest.

“If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a bitch Mitch McConnell they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it,” he said of election certifying on Jan. 6, the day his supporters led an insurrection on the Capitol to block Joe Biden’s formal victory.

Trump spent much of the speech, with many senators in the room, lashing into his former ally in personal terms, often to cheers from the party’s top donors.

In his off-the-cuff remarks Trump also badmouthed Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and his own former vice president, Mike Pence.

You might remember that Reagan’s 11th Commandment was “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” Movement conservatism took off in the late 1970s and kept flying through the 1980, 1990s, and 2000s largely because the many interest groups that signed on to Republicanism, from the Christian activists to the anti-tax zealots to the neoconservative hawks, stuck to that commandment and maintained a uniform front. Meanwhile the Democrats, headline writers assured us, were perpetually in disarray. But now that command is revoked, and the new kids in the party who align with Trump are not at all shy about trashing other Republicans.

Other accounts of Trump’s recent RNC speech say the cheering was more subdued.

“It was horrible, it was long and negative,” one attendee with a donor in the room tells Playbook. “It was dour. He didn’t talk about the positive things that his administration has done.”

Instead, Trump used the final night of the retreat to talk about himself, his grievances and how he plans to enact retribution against those who voted to impeach him — which runs counter to the donors’ main objective of making sure their dollars go toward winning overall.

Yet there they were, at Mar-a-Lago. This past January I predicted that once Trump was out of Washington the old GOP establishment would reassert itself and take the party back from Trump, but that hasn’t happened. The party seems determined to stick with Trump at least through the midterms. (See Republicans at a Crossroads.) The young pups in the party who don’t remember Ronald Reagan — not to mention the old dogs like Lindsey Graham who seem to have just plain surrendered — are determined to follow Trump off a cliff. The donors may not like it, but at the moment they haven’t jumped ship.

Seriously, Josh Hawley was born in 1979. That means he was still in diapers when Reagan was first elected president.  Matt Gaetz is even younger. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a bit older; she was in high school when Reagan left office in 1989. Ted Cruz was an undergraduate at Princeton then. The point is that the Reagan Mystique seems to be dying off, literally, with the older members of the party. There’s not much left of Reagan but the obsession with cutting top tax rates, and even that really pre-dates Reagan. Calvin Coolidge pushed multiple tax cuts to help business growth, too. The basic theory behind “trickle down” economics goes back to William McKinley, if not earlier.

Anyway, while Reagan was bad enough, now we’ve devolved to …

As much as I despise Ronnie, he would never have kissed Vladimir Putin’s and Kim Jong Un’s asses. And it says a lot about how much Reagan is dead that Trump did that, multiple times, and his supporters didn’t care. Whatever Republicans believed Reagan stood for is no longer marketable.

Michael Reinoehl: More Justice Denied

Last summer in Portland, by several accounts, a self-identified antifa activist named Michael Forest Reinoehl shot and killed Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a member of a far-right group called Patriot Prayer. After the shooting Reinoehl made a video in which he claimed he acted in self-defense. Videos of the incident don’t clearly show what happened, only that Reinoehl walked away and Danielson didn’t.

In any event, Reinoehl was never tried because he was killed by a task force made up mostly of local law enforcement officers and assembled by the U.S. Marshalls. This crew appears to have decided it was too much trouble to bring Reinoehl in. I wrote at the time,

We’ve learned a bit more about last week’s shooting in Portland, although probably we’ll never know exactly what happened since the suspect was killed in a “hail of gunfire” by police. Convenient, that. Court documents say that both the victim, Aaron “Jay” Danielson, and the alleged and now dead perpetrator, Michael Forest Reinoehl, were armed with handguns. Before he was killed, Reinoehl made a video claiming he shot Danielson in self-defense.  Unfortunately no video has come to light of the actual shooting, just the immediate aftermath, so there is no way to know if Reinoehl was telling the truth about being in danger.

The manner of Reinoehl’s execution by the task force is a matter of, shall we say, confusion. No two news stories of the event tell exactly the same story. Some accounts say Reinhold fired at the marshalls before they opened fire on him; some say he didn’t. But here is one of the accounts from the New York Times

On Sept. 3, about 120 miles north of Portland, Mr. Reinoehl was getting into his Volkswagen station wagon when a pair of unmarked sport utility vehicles roared through the quiet streets, screeching to a halt just in front of his bumper. Members of a U.S. Marshals task force jumped out and unleashed a hail of bullets that shattered windows, whizzed past bystanders and left Mr. Reinoehl dead in the street. …

… But a reconstruction of what happened that night, based on the accounts of people who witnessed the confrontation and the preliminary findings of investigators, produces a much different picture — one that raises questions about whether law enforcement officers made any serious attempt to arrest Mr. Reinoehl before killing him.

In interviews with 22 people who were near the scene, all but one said they did not hear officers identify themselves or give any commands before opening fire. In their official statements, not yet made public, the officers offered differing accounts of whether they saw Mr. Reinoehl with a weapon. One told investigators he thought he saw Mr. Reinoehl raise a gun inside the vehicle before the firing began, but two others said they did not.

Mr. Reinoehl did have a .380-caliber handgun on him when he was killed, according to the county sheriff’s team that is running a criminal homicide investigation into Mr. Reinoehl’s death. But the weapon was found in his pocket.

An AR-style rifle was found apparently untouched in a bag in his car.

Five eyewitnesses said in interviews that the gunfire began the instant the vehicles arrived. None of them saw Mr. Reinoehl holding a weapon. A single shell casing of the same caliber as the handgun he was carrying was found inside his car.

Garrett Louis, who watched the shooting begin while trying to get his 8-year-old son out of the line of fire, said the officers arrived with such speed and violence that he initially assumed they were drug dealers gunning down a foe — until he saw their law enforcement vests.

“I respect cops to the utmost, but things were definitely in no way, shape or form done properly,” Mr. Louis said.

Tim Elfrink wrote in the Washington Post,

When police last week surrounded Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-described anti-fascist suspected of fatally shooting a member of a far-right group in Portland, Ore., the wanted man wasn’t obviously armed, a witness to the scene said Wednesday.

In fact, according to Nate Dinguss, Reinoehl was clutching a cellphone and eating a gummy worm as he walked to his car outside an apartment complex in Lacey, Wash. That’s when officers opened fire without first announcing themselves or trying to arrest him, Dinguss, a 39-year-old who lives in the apartment complex, said in a statement shared with The Washington Post.

As I said, you can find other reports, including some other stories in the New York Times and Washington Post, that say Reinoehl opened fire on the marshalls first, and the marshalls returned fire. No videos of this have turned up, I don’t think. The task force members did not wear body cams, nor were there cameras on their vehicles.

But now the New York Times has published an update:

Last week, local investigators concluded a monthslong homicide inquiry with the announcement that the activist, Michael Reinoehl, had most likely fired at authorities first, effectively justifying the shooting.

But a review of investigation documents obtained by The New York Times suggests that investigators for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office discounted key pieces of contradicting evidence that indicate Mr. Reinoehl may never have fired or pointed a gun.

While investigators found a spent bullet casing in the back seat of Mr. Reinoehl’s car, and pointed to that as evidence he probably fired his weapon, the handgun they recovered from Mr. Reinoehl had a full magazine, according to multiple photos compiled by Thurston County authorities showing Mr. Reinoehl’s handgun. The gun was found in his pocket. …

In announcing its conclusions, the sheriff’s office wrote that “witness statements indicate there was an exchange of gunfire, which was initiated by Reinoehl from inside his vehicle.” A spokesman, Lt. Cameron Simper, said that while investigators could not conclude for certain that Mr. Reinoehl had fired his weapon, he said it was “highly likely.”

But one of the witnesses that Thurston County investigators relied on to reach their conclusion that Mr. Reinoehl had fired his gun was an 8-year-old boy. His father, Garrett Louis, who had rushed to his son’s side at the time of the shooting, has consistently said he believed that officers opened fire first without shouting any warnings.

Of the two other witnesses who investigators cited to support the conclusion that Mr. Reinoehl fired his gun, one did not see it happen and the other was not sure.

Do read the whole article. The cops are covering their butts.

Also keep in mind that after Danielson was killed, Donald Trump and much of rightie media seized on the incident as evidence that antifa is a violent and lawless “organization.” It may have been important to a lot of important people that Reinoehl not be given a chance to defend himself.

Attorney General William P. Barr trumpeted the operation as a “significant accomplishment” that removed a “violent agitator.” The officers had opened fire, he said, when Mr. Reinoehl “attempted to escape arrest” and “produced a firearm” during the encounter.

If he’d been tried, Reinoehl might have been found guilty of Danielson’s murder, and maybe he was guilty. But his death looks like a political execution to me.

In other law enforcement news — Do read about Lt. Caron Nazario, U.S. Army Medical Corps, and his encounter with police. Lt. Nazario, dressed in uniform, was driving through Windsor, Virginia, in a newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe when police lights started flashing behind him. It was night, and the lieutenant is black. Rather than stop on a dark road he flipped on his turn signal and drove slowly to a gas station about a mile away before he stopped. He placed his cell phone on the dash and put his empty hands out of the window.

The cops got out of their car, drew their guns on Lt. Nazario, shouted threats at him, and then doused him with pepper spray.

The chemical temporarily blinded Nazario and caused a burning sensation in his lungs, throat and skin. Nazario’s dog was in a crate in the back and also started to choke.

Nazario got out of the vehicle and again asked for a supervisor. Gutierrez responded with “knee-strikes” to his legs, knocking him to the ground, the lawsuit says. The two officers struck him multiple times, then handcuffed and interrogated him, the complaint says.

Medics had to be called to attend to Lt. Nazario’s injuries. The cops also refused to explain to him why he’d been pulled over. The police report said it because his car lacked a permanent plate, but body cam videos show the dealer’s temporary plate properly displayed in the rear window.

Lt. Nazario has filed filed a lawsuit in federal court that accuses the officers of illegally searching his car, using excessive force and violating his rights under the First Amendment. The lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages.

Michael Forest Reinoehl