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Time for Change

This segment by James Corden is incredibly powerful. I hope everyone watches it — in its entirety.

There are some signs for hope that change is coming:

  • The chief of police for Schenectady, NY does the right thing. He not only talks frankly with protesters, he marches with them and takes a knee for George Floyd, saying Black Lives Matter.
  • The town of Ferguson MO elects their first black (and female) mayor, six years after events there launched the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • In yesterday’s primary, Iowa Republicans vote down congressman Steve King, who has a long history of racism.
  • Former GOP administration staff form a SuperPAC to defeat Trump.
  • Donald Trump’s use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang explosives against peaceful protesters in order to stage a photo-op draws condemnation, including from a few brave Republican politicians, former politicians (including former president George W. Bush), religious leaders (including Pat Robertson), military leaders, and conservatives.
  • Facebook employees stage a virtual walkout protesting inaction by the social media giant against posts by Trump that incite violence.


Biden on America

Joe Biden gives a speech that we will never hear from Donald Trump. I was pleased that Biden actually named Trump, but didn’t dwell on him excessively. The speech was about us, and about America. It gave me hope.

UPDATE: This speech is getting very positive reviews. Well, except those commentators “whose paychecks are being signed by Rupert Murdoch”.


Are We Great Again Yet?

© Tom Tomorrow

If this is what winning is like, then yeah, I’m tired of winning.


False Flags

I found this photo particularly haunting:

© Getty Images

Protesters all over our nation are chanting “I can’t breathe” — the last words of George Floyd, who was murdered in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Except that this image is not recent, it is from 2014. Kobe Bryant, along with his teammates, wore these shirts to protest the death of Eric Garner while in police custody. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, posted this photo, saying “here we are again.”

Let’s hope that we are not doomed to repeat this forever.

In this era of overwhelming polarization, remember that the vast majority of the protests have been peaceful. The violence that is getting so much media attention has been instigated not just by protestors on the left, but also by organized white supremacist groups on the right. In fact, one expert who has been analyzing evidence and video footage from Minnesota says that right-wing extremist groups are more responsible for the violence than than the Antifa activists that Donald Trump is trying to blame.

A Minneapolis City Council member notes that most of the burned out buildings are small businesses owned by minorities, while property destruction caused by the protesters is primarily against symbols of power like police cars. “When you see no protest, there’s no mob sweeping through the north side, yet you see these fires popping up the main business corridor, that’s the thing that rang odd to me. Burning down small black- and immigrant-owned businesses, that doesn’t seem in lockstep with the tone of the protests.”

But there may be a more insidious motivation for these false flag activities. By pinning the blame on the left and blacks, Donald Trump is trying to scare whites into supporting him, the same way that Nixon used the violent riots after the assassination of MLK to win the presidency. It also distracts everyone (including the media) from the truly bad job he is doing fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of jobs, and the faltering economy, all of which ironically affects blacks and minorities far more than whites.

UPDATE: Trump is actively encouraging the situation to escalate. He is telling governors to aggressively target violent protestors, who he claims will only respond to a show of force. Trump advised the governors that they must seek “retribution” for violent acts in their states and told them to not act too gingerly, saying “You don’t have to be too careful.”

According to this piece in The Guardian, much of the violence is coming from the police. Trump’s response will only make things worse.

UPDATE 2: Twitter has removed an account that claimed to be representing Antifa, but was in fact created by a known white supremacist group. The account was inciting violence, according to Twitter. This is not the first time that a fake Antifa account linked to white supremacists has been suspended by the social media company.


Faux Flip Flops

I realize that many of my readers also read Electoral Vote, which I have always encouraged. I still want to mention that they published another letter of mine today.

My letter was a response to a question asked by D.A. from Brooklyn, NY yesterday. His letter took Elizabeth Warren to task for her shifting rhetoric on health care:

I’m curious: Which version of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is he talking about? The one who was rock-solid behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare-For-All? Or the one suggested that the latter was an end goal that we needed to move gradually toward? Or the one who says that we just need the public option added to Obamacare?

When Electoral Vote published my response, they edited it down quite a bit. I have no complaint about that, but I feel like they deleted something significant, and that is the reasons I would prefer having a public option to actually implementing “Medicare for All”.

What follows is my letter as I submitted it to them (the last three paragraphs were not published):

Regarding D.A. from Brooklyn’s question about Elizabeth Warren’s seemingly changing stance on “Medicare for All”. Why do liberals seem to be so hung up when Democratic candidates’ opinions evolve over time? As someone who works with startup companies, I know that one of the hallmarks of excellent leaders is the ability to adapt to changing realities. I’ve worked with so many young companies, and I can’t think of a single one that ended up producing the same product as the idea that caused them to originally start the company. In Warren’s case, perhaps she noticed that Sanders was soundly rejected by primary voters, and that this rejection probably was not because of Sanders’ goals, but because of his tactics.

Consider the tactics of Barack Obama. It is clear that his goal was to get the country to single-payer health care. But as he often said “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. Obama is a pragmatist. The Clintons had previously tried to push through a single-payer system, and it failed. Obama tried to push through a public option, which I think was a better strategy. I have lived in three different countries with single-payer systems, and it is obvious to me that if people had a choice between for-profit heath care or a public option, they would (eventually) pick the latter. So a public option is a significantly more pragmatic way to get the US to that goal. But even Obama’s public option failed (likely because the health insurance industry understood that they could never compete with a public option over the long term).

Pragmatism is one of the things I loved about Barack Obama. It allowed Obama to enact actual health care reform, which had eluded many past presidents. Likewise, as a pragmatist, Elizabeth Warren has also been able to get things done, even things opposed by powerful interests (e.g., consumer protection). I see Bernie Sanders as more of an ideologue, and while this may excite his base, it doesn’t help in actually getting things done (consider that his home state wasn’t able to actually create a single payer system). So even though I tend to agree with many of Sanders’ goals, I never supported him.

As a side note, why would anyone complain about Warren’s smart pragmatic tactics in comparison with the alternative? Trump seems to be happy to contradict himself all the time (occasionally in a single tweet!) and his base doesn’t even notice.

Finally, the term “Medicare for All” actually bothers me. I know that Medicare is popular in the US, and that politically “Medicare for All” might be a reasonable name to promote a single-payer system. But I don’t see “Medicare for All” as much different than a public option. In fact, now that I’ve experienced the US Medicare system for almost a year, I find it is NOT really a single-payer system at all. Part A is single-payer, but that’s the extent of it, and Part A pretty much only applies to hospital stays. And because in the US, public hospitals — and private hospitals in an emergency — are already required to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay, this is not a huge benefit. Plus even Part A has a deductible, currently $1408/year. On top of that I have to pay at least three different organizations to get similar health coverage to what I got in other counties: the government for Part B, a company for a Medigap plan (or a Medicare Advantage plan), and a different company for Part D (prescriptions). If I had vision coverage or dental coverage, I would have to pay additional insurance companies.

Medicare is complicated and confusing. I have no idea how older seniors can even deal with it. If “Medicare for all” simply means extending our current Medicare system to all ages, then I would prefer a public option that is comparable to single-payer systems I have experienced in other countries. Especially if that public option also guaranteed that employers would pass on the huge amount of money they currently spend on health insurance for their employees as salary, to make up for the extra taxes we may have to pay to finance the public option. Then Americans would have a choice.


Death by Partisanship

In Pennsylvania, the Republican dominated state legislature was trying to pass laws to open up the state. They were telling everyone it was safe, and that COVID-19 wasn’t a threat.

What they weren’t telling anyone was that at least one of them had already tested positive for the disease. The Republican caucus knew, and they were even doing contact tracing and self-quarantining people that they knew had come in contact with him. Meanwhile, the infected person had been attending legislative sessions and interacting with other lawmakers.

But they didn’t tell any of the Democrats. So for days the Republicans were letting that person interact with Democratic legislators, who were then going home at night to their families.

One of these Democrats exploded in an epic rant. Warning, contains lots of profanity.


The Wrong Signal?

Donald Trump seems to be happy to represent himself as a wartime president, despite somehow thinking that a good thing for the president to do during this “war” is play golf.

Even if you ignore the “war” rhetoric, when Barack Obama was president Trump attacked him (more than once) for playing golf during the Ebola epidemic (at the time, there were two cases of Ebola in the US). Trump said:

When you’re president, you sorta say, ‘I’m gonna give [golf] up for a couple of years and really focus on the job,’. It sends the wrong signal.

And when running for president, Trump promised:

I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.

But I can see calling the fight against COVID-19 a “war”, because today we will pass over 100,000 Americans dead. That’s more deaths than the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the war in Afghanistan combined. And this virus only took a couple of months to do that. It is ironic that this is happening on Memorial Day.

But if this is war, then Trump has a strange way of prosecuting it, as he seems more concerned about his re-election than winning the war. For example, he refuses to wear a mask or practice social distancing, despite the fact that the coronavirus has been found in people close to him. And he continually downplays the severity of the situation, ignoring his own doctors and scientists and encouraging people to attend church in person, even thought hat will surely result in more deaths.

© Kevin Siers

One? Day More

Les Mis coronavirus mashup:


The Virus Doesn’t Care

A study from the Brookings Institution looks at counties that have newly been designated as having a “high prevalence” of COVID-19. These “high-risk” counties have at least 100 active cases per 100,000 people. The results are interesting:

  • Starting on March 29, there were 59 counties considered high-risk, which represented 8% of the US population.
  • Ending on May 17, the number of counties reached 1,538, with 79% of the US population.

Clearly, the virus is still spreading. Initially, COVID-19 was much more prevalent in urban areas, which tend to be primarily Democratic. But recently, this has changed:

  • For the last 4 weeks, these new high-risk counties are more likely to have voted for Trump than Clinton in 2016. There were 697 new counties that voted for Trump, but only 127 that voted for Clinton. They are also concentrated in the South and Midwest, especially Texas (52 counties), Georgia (45), Virginia (36), Indiana (40) and Iowa (37).
  • In the most recent week, the counties becoming high-risk favored Trump by a 12% margin. They are also much less urban and less racially diverse (fewer minorities and foreign-born people, more whites).

There is a notable partisan split in the recent spread of the virus. This tracks the fact that “Republicans are more willing than Democrats or Independents to attend in-person gatherings.”

The virus doesn’t care about politics.


The Columbia COVID Study

Really interesting study about COVID-19 out of Columbia University. This study based their model on actual data at the county level (rather than state or even country), which is important because virus transmission is always local, and used 7-day averages, which is important to avoid data noise.

The result that is getting all the headlines is that if the US had started distancing measures just 1 week earlier than we did, then the death toll would have been reduced 55% (less than half the people would have died). And if the US had started 2 weeks earlier, then they would have been reduced by 83%.

This is all about exponential growth. Small changes early on lead to huge changes in results later.

A study result that is even more interesting to me is that they actually showed that when distancing measures are relaxed, there is a significant delay in response. Here’s the important quote from the study:

… a decline of daily confirmed cases continues for almost two weeks after easing of control measures. … This decreasing trend, caused by the NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions] in place prior to May 4, 2020 coupled with the lag between infection acquisition and case confirmation, conveys a false signal that the pandemic is well under control. Unfortunately, due to high remaining population susceptibility, a large resurgence of both cases and deaths follows.

The original study itself is a bit of a slog. The NY Times has a easier-to-read summary. If you don’t have access to that, I’m sure there will be more articles about this soon (although the further away you get from the original study the more it gets muddied by the media).

Bottom line:

  • Timing is everything in the spread of a virus. If you wait until things are bad, it is way too late. Just a one-week delay killed 36,000 people by May 3 (more than ten times the death toll from 9/11). It will continue to kill more in the future if we don’t get this under control.
  • Opening things up and then waiting two weeks to see what happens is a trap. We are already falling for that trap. If we fall for it a second time, then shame on us.


Foxsplaining Obamagate

Desi Lydic watches Fox News for 48 hours and then Foxsplains “Obamagate” on The Daily Show. It all makes sense to me now!

For those who don’t like to watch Fox News, here’s a slightly different explanation of Obamagate:


Last Some Good News

Today the last episode (for now) of Some Good News (SGN) was released. You gotta watch it:

I’ve posted a few of these here in Political Irony, but that doesn’t mean the other ones aren’t great. Collect them all! In fact, this final episode makes lots of references to previous episodes, so maybe go watch them first!


Trump’s Mother

We often hear about Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, who set his son up in the Brooklyn slumlord business. However, we never hear anything about Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump. But just watching her son Donald try (and fail miserably) to send out Mother’s Day wishes this year, you gotta wonder what the hell?

What I want to know is how people who watch Fox News all the time can listen to Trump and think that he is anything but completely insane.


The Coronaverse

My last post focused on what leaders and scientists around the world think of Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. But what about the rest of the “coronaverse”? Tom Tomorrow fills that important need!

© Tom Tomorrow

A Study in Bad Leadership

This short video was created by The Atlantic. Watch it. They go on to say:

One knows, of course, that Donald Trump behaves differently from the leaders of other countries, especially the leaders of other Western democracies. One knows that he disdains facts; that he does not read briefing papers; that he has no organizational talents; that he does not know how to make use of militaries, bureaucracies, or diplomatic services; that he has no basic knowledge of history or science, let alone government.

But seeing him in this video, produced by my colleagues in Atlantic Studios, juxtaposed with other world leaders during this coronavirus pandemic comes, nevertheless, as a shock. Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and President Moon Jae-in all speak of evidence-based policy, of the need to take the disease seriously, of empathy and solidarity. Trump speaks of hoaxes, of a disease no different from the flu, of a “germ that has gotten so brilliant that we can’t keep up with it,” of disinfectant as a miracle cure. Even now, even in the worst public-health crisis in a century, he divides people instead of unifying them, creating precisely the kind of distrust that makes the disease harder to defeat. He cannot demonstrate empathy, because he is incapable of feeling any. He cannot demonstrate solidarity, because he has only disdain for his fellow citizens.

Americans, as a rule, rarely compare themselves with other countries, so convinced are we that our system is superior, that our politicians are better, that our democracy is the fairest and most robust in the world. But watch this video and ask yourself: Is this the kind of leadership you expect from a superpower? Does this make you feel confident in our future? Or is this man a warning signal, a blinking red light, a screaming siren telling all of us, and all of the world, that something about our political system has gone profoundly awry?

They aren’t the only people who are alarmed. British newspaper The Guardian reports:

The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that the US is ‘leading the world’ with its response to the pandemic, but it does not seem to be going in any direction the world wants to follow.

Across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, views of the US handling of the coronavirus crisis are uniformly negative and range from horror through derision to sympathy. Donald Trump’s musings from the White House briefing room, particularly his thoughts on injecting disinfectant, have drawn the attention of the planet.