Monday, January 10, 2022

Notations On Our World (Weekly Edition): On the Week That Was....


As a new week is before us, we present a snapshot of the week that was with excerpts from the Economist of London, The Washington Examiner, the Financial Times, Politico, and Others:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

One Year After Jan. 6 Attack, Push For Quick Reaction Force Is Dead On Capitol Hill
By Jacqueline Feldscher

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that left members hiding in offices or crouching under desks on the House floor, lawmakers clamored for a military quick reaction force that could protect against more violence. 

Read more »

Build Back over? Manchin says he’s not negotiating with Biden on spending bill

Build Back over? Manchin says he’s not negotiating with Biden on spending bill

Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters Tuesday he’s not working with the White House to find a path forward on Build Back Better, once a top Democratic priority that now appears hopelessly stalled thanks to Manchin’s opposition.

Read the full story here.

(Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Some personal news: It’s our birthday.

We launched the Bulwark as a full-news/opinion site three years ago this morning, on January 7, 2019. Since we really should measure this era in dog years — that makes us 21 years old today.

Here’s what our first day looked like:

To be honest, we had no idea what a wild ride it would be, or what the Bulwark would become. In the beginning, we simply wanted to plant a flag and try (in a small way) to fill the gap caused by the abrupt murder of the Weekly Standard two weeks earlier. We couldn’t be sure that we’d last more than three months.

Tens of millions of downloads later, we’re still here, and still telling you what we think. We’ve assembled a group of writers and contributors that we could hardly have dreamed of back then. And we are immensely grateful for the support of our listeners and readers along the way.

Thank you!

So what have we been up to? It may surprise you. Here were the 10 most-read stories in the first three years of the Bulwark, based on Google analytics:

  1. An Open Letter to Megan Rapinoe, from America, by Joel Engel

  2. A Message to Democrats from Your New Ally, by Stuart Stevens

  3. Trump’s New Ad Is Amazing, by Jonathan V. Last

  4. After White House Meeting with Trump, Mike Lindell Calls for Military Coup on Facebook, by Tim Miller

  5. The Missouri Gun-Toting Lawyers Are Screwed, by Jim Swift

  6. We Cannot “Reopen” America, by Jonathan V. Last

  7. Trump’s Farewell Address, by James Carville

  8. My Call With Ron Johnson: He Knows Biden Won But Won’t Admit It, by Mark Becker

  9. A Crusade for Something Noble, by James Carville

  10. The Weirdest 90 Seconds in Presidential History, by Tim Miller

New From CBO

    The Effects of Recent Legislation on the Economy and the Budget

    Presentation by Phillip Swagel, CBO’s Director, at the American Economic Association Annual Meeting.

    Coop Scoop: 2022 The Year of Defending Democracy

    It's no longer a slogan but rather a pressing imperative

    January 4-5, 2022

    By Marc Cooper

    Call me naïve. But I took most of the month of December off not only to rest and recharge but also in the slim hope that when I returned, the country would somehow be in better shape.

    That’s a good one, right?

    To be more precise, I found the events of the last year or two so unnerving, so bewildering, so frustrating, so disappointing, that I frankly began to lose confidence in my own abilities to perceive, understand and analyze. I suspected that some of my psychological discomfort might be my own damn fault, to quote Jimmy Buffet.  Maybe I was just burning out and not seeing straight.

    Well, no.  While one should never foreclose the possibility that yours truly might be out of his mind, I did conclude that things are, indeed, as cocked-up as I feel.

    A new year, we are told, is a good time to turn the page on the calendar. Yet, that’s all it is. A page.  Nothing else changes.

    As we enter 2022, the American people are clearly fed up.  They are DONE with COVID and sick and tired of politics as well.  The bad news is that neither COVID nor politics is done with them. This coming year promises to be even more consequential than 2016 or 2020 as it looms as a troublesome and turbulent extension of both those date politically speaking and 2022 will clearly by the decisive year of the pandemic.

    The invasive presence of Omicron recasts the political debate over COVID in somewhat different terms because it is both much more pervasive and simultaneously less severe than previous waves.

    This ambiguity is the last thing the Biden administration needed because the White House all on its own seems to be an enemy of clarity.

    Biden came into office vowing a major clean-up of Trump’s failed COVID policies, promising  to escalate the fight and eradicate the disease.

    And, somewhat inexplicably, just when Delta exploded late last summer, just as the pandemic came roaring back in high gear, the administration completely lost the narrative and even more astounding, has failed to recover it.

    It’s not hyperbole to state that the country is currently in a fog of uncertainty regarding just exactly the best and safest way to move ahead. Masks or no masks? Shutdowns or vaccine passports? Virtual or in-class schools?  Do you need 3 shots or 4? If you had the one J&J is your Pfizer booster a booster or the “second shot.”  What about that domestic travel measure Fauci was talking about?  Is Biden going ahead or not with the mandate for large companies?  Why have the Armed Forces been so slowwwww ion kicking out the troops who refused to vaccinate (Answer: thousands of applications for exclusion on a religious basis have clogged the system. Also, just exactly which religion other than Christian Science refuses medical care?).

    We need a daily televised COVID briefing with someone who is trusted and listened to.  Fauci would probably be the best as every time I see CDC director Walensky on the air she is usually revising or contradicting something she said two hours earlier. I don’t give a flip if 40% of the country’s eyeballs roll back into their heads when they see Fauci and just tune out.  The 60% or so of us still rational and concerned about our families want to know.

    We’ll get to politics in a moment, but the truth is as long as the pandemic and its side effects persist, the country will remain just as politically diseased (not to mention that the deaths of 10,000 a week will continue). At this moment, all political renewal and reform is dependent on a crushing of the pandemic.

    It should be clear by now that very few of the 80 million unvaccinated (and God knows how many non-boosted) have absolutely no intention of getting jabbed.  If they are not already persuaded by the doubling of Omicron cases every 48 hours, nothing is going to move them. And, yet, they continue to jam and overflow the ICU’s and some of their families are now threatening doctors who refuse to administer the “special therapies” requested by the patients i.e. quack remedies pushed by anti-vaxxer extremists.

    What is holding back Biden – and so many local Democratic officials—from finally imposing the measures that will codify the unvaccinated as the second priority they merit?  Don’t tell me it’s fear that tougher measures will create a backlash. That backlash has been present and at full force since Day One of the shutdown almost 2 years ago,

    How is it that you need a vax to board a plane leaving the country but domestic air travel requires no vaccination?   And how is it possible that in America of 2022, tens of thousands of local cops have been able to avoid vaccination and keep their jobs?  Other than masseuses nobody has more daily contact with other humans as a cop.  You want to be stopped, questioned and patted down by a diseased one?  How do we let this continue.?

    Clearly, the biggest ongoing failure of the Biden administration in the COVID fight has been the deplorable state of testing,  Test kits that cost $2 and are readily available in Europe cost ten times more in the U.S. and are as scarce as a solid gold Easter egg.  The public testing, where lines stretch for blocks and hours (until the tests abruptly run out) are a sad but unmistakeable symptom of a country in sharp and deep decline.

    When I was in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, where life expectancy is two years longer than in the U.S.,I noticed that scads of testing clinics and labs had been stood up even in the most remote hard-to-reach areas. The population seemed 100% supportive of the vast public health measures. Everybody was masked up, Businesses and restaurants were checking vax cards for admission, and shoppers all dutifully washed their hands in sinks set up in front of just about every commercial doorway.

    It was upon returning to the United States and immediately seeing the long lines for testing, the homeless camps and the Let’s Go Brandon! bumperstickers that I felt l;ike I was treading into the Third World.

    Set against the Omicron outbreak, along with the beginning of a new school semester, the anti-vax disinformation and propaganda take on a more sinister sheen. And make no mistake. Even though Trump himself is now backfilling his position on vaccination, boasting of his recent booster, the Trumpist movement is not letting go.  Even Trump cannot move them.  It was just last week that the official Twitter feed of the Republican side of the House Judiciary Committee was engaging in deep Bad Faith saying that boosters do not work and that the Omicron spread is proof.

    As to politics, per se, 2022 will be a year in which Roe V. Wade will be disemboweled and by the end of the year, abortion will be virtually illegal in more than a dozen states with more to follow. 

    The Republicans will take back the House and have a shot at winning back the Senate. I am not hanging crepe in regard to the mid-terms, but rather making a fact-based projection.  I am not arguing in any way that one should avoid working for any Democratic campaign this year.  Of course not. We must make the most of what we can with electoral politics.  Becoming a slave to electoral politics, however, and, worse, engaging in the public fantasies spun by its elected leaders, is a completely different thing.

    Even if Biden were running ten points higher in the polls, and even if his friggin’ infrastructure bills has been passed last fall, he would still be in trouble for the midterms.  That’s the historic pattern based on several key factors that remain in place.

    At present, Democrats have to worry not so much about winning what they cannot and will not but rather doing everything possible to mitigate those coming losses. Can they hold the Republicans to, say, a 40 seat win or is it going to be even bloodier?

    I don’t expect the party leadership to concede the election before it is held. Obviosuly not. People who vote Democratic, by contrast, especially those who do so with some effort must take responsibility to prepare for what is ahead without deluding ourselves about a Democratic victory.

    I am trying to limit my Political Recommendation Service but I will say this much.  If your proposed political activity this year is to give a few bucks to the Democrats and then monitor the news for the next 11 months hoping for a Democratic advance, you are pretty much wasting your time (that’s true by the way even if Democrats somehow miraculously win in November).

    The experience of the last 11 months should have indicated that having a Democratic-dominated Washington D.C. does not necessarily mean much for us folks back home.

    It’s more productive, it’s wiser and more strategic for people to engage politics on the local level and build upward and outward, regardless of electoral cycles.

    We will never have the influence in national politics that we desire unless we can bring the pressure of robust, locally-based and clearly-focused social movements to bear.  American politics are beyond sclerotic and the only available lubricant resides in an engaged, organized and conscious citizenry.

    I make no illusions. We are miles from any situation like that.  But that is no reason to be cynical and thereby deny what the real solutions are.

    It took the media long enough, but lo and behold, this week The News seems to have finally discovered that the Republican Party was complicit in an attempted coup in 2020 and is dead set now in its anti-democratic trajectory aimed at 2024.

    Better late than never, I suppose, but the media never fails to surprise and irritate.

    And talk about late risers… Chuck Schumer has finally come up with the idea of working around the filibuster to pass Voting Rights legislation. Wow, only a year late. But OK.  The Senate chief says he will bring this matter to the floor in the next two weeks and, of course, Manchinema’s view are, um, still in flux.

    Let it be noted, that even if the Dems finally agree to pass a voting rights bill in the Senate, it will mean next to nothing unless it somehow prohibits the current Republican ploy of having state legislatures over-riding the popular vote.  So, while Schumer’s vow is a move in the right direction, the devil is in the details which have yet to be clarified.

    This week has also given us Liz Cheney unceremoniously and figuratively breaking into the Trump White House West Wing and announcing that she, and the January 6 committee, are now in possession of eye-witness proof of what Trump was doing while his flying monkeys were rubbing shit on the Capitol walls.  He was sitting, watching them on TV, for three hours while his aides, his children, and even some of the Trumplican media were imploring him to call off the siege.

    In the next month or so, the January 6 committee will begin high-profile and, hopefully, televised hearings on that assault.  While much attention has been given to the couple of Big Names who have refused subpoenas, literally dozens of former Trump aids have come before the committee voluntarily and spilled several bushels of beans making those hearings brim with political promise.

    Then there are those Trump White House documents that he has been trying, desperately, to keep out of the hands of investigators.  So far the district court and an appeals court has turned down Trump’s plea to keep them secret and the matter is now moving to the Supremes.  The High Court might not even hear the case…or…they might and…perhaps.. rule in favor of Trump.  It’s a bit of a long shot for Trump, however, and it is very likely that the disputed documents will soon be in the hands of those probing his presidency. And that is a gigantic Unknown.

    Political operatives tell us that campaigning on Trump, that is against Trump, is counter-productive as it only encourages “leaners” to tilt toward the accused “strongman.”  Perhaps.

    But I don’t see what else Democrats can campaign on other than perhaps a modified anti-Trump platform. Passing some parts of the BBB will be a plus for society in the long run; it’s way too late for it to be electorally significant this year.

    I’ve already violated my No Recommendation pledge so I might as well double down.  The only effective route I see for the Democrats is a strategy that escalates the anti-COVID fight with an emphasis on keeping schools open where possible but also “rewarding” those who have followed public health guidance by creating vaccine passports that allow them to enjoy those aspects of life where the unvaccinated are only a liability. Part of that strategy must be the sharpest contrast possible with Republicans by frontally attacking them for their mismanagement of the pandemic, for their retrograde economic and social policies and most certainly for their current undermining of basic democracy.

    The notion that middle or centrist or swing voters are going to be won over by playing patsy with Republicans is ass-backwards.  The suburbanites and others who have defected from the GOP have done so out of disgust.  They are not going to be offended by an all-out Democratic offensive that argues clearly why the Republicans are a very bad choice.

    I would also like to see the Justice Department awaken and say something, anything really, about Trump and congressional involvement in January 6 and what Merrick Garland intends to do about it. 

    A lot of dirt about these folks has come out in the last month and a lot more will be issuing forth from the January 6 committee hearings.  So why is it that Justice can indict 900 dildos who  trashed the Capitol but cannot do anything about those who organized, encouraged and incited the January 6 assault? We are often told that Garland is a patient, moderate, quiet guy and that in his quest to keep the department independent, he might just be waiting for congress to finish its investigation before he makes any move against the Trump Command Structure.

    Maybe, Maybe not. There is no public evidence yet that Justice is looking at the Trump top tier for January 6.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t. We just don’t know.

    What we do know is that the greatest erosion of support for Biden is among DEMOCRATIC voters, not independents or swing voters. His popularity among younger voters has fallen from 53% to a basement 21%. And a spate of recent polls shows Republican voter enthusiasm to be off the chart while Democrats are in the “meh” category.

    Millions of Democratic voters are simply disappointed and discouraged claiming what we got is not what we voted for (I understand, though Biden was always Biden).

    A move by Garland just about now, or very soon, could be precisely the sort of cheering up the deeply depressed Democratic electorate needs. Some proof of life. Some evidence that the work put into 2020 has some concrete payoffs. Some notion that action has consequences.

    As to the work ahead, I draw a distinction about what “the Democrats” should do and what the rest of us should (unless you are on the DNC payroll).  We, the citizens, need to be immersed in long-haul, not very gratifying work of social change that continues regardless of who wins in November. We have to be about much more than casting a vote every year or two. Or, for that matter, showing up for this or that street demo in a cause that evaporates after a month or two. Instead, we need to build real progressive and inclusive local structures that offer people some notion of community, control and power.

    So, here’s my third non-recommendation. Don’t go back home to organize on whatever single issue is your fancy. We need a working alliance, a coalition that stretches from Sanders Democrats on the Left all the way to Liz Cheney and that also includes any and all Anti-Trumpers that are committed to democratic rule of law (there are plenty of them). In fact, some of the most stinging attacks on the GOP are coming not from Democrats but rather from the bunker of the Lincoln Project and their allies.

    This coalition I propose has only one goal and one goal alone.  Protect and maintain the basic electoral institutions of a democratic republic.  This single goal and its related objectives must be presented as desirable for the entire citizenry and not for one party, a given race or any special group but rather for everybody.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could drum up a nationwide corps or organizers who would commit spending the next six months working with all existing local groups in their area, not just activists, but also community organizations like the PTA, encouraging them and helping them form local Democracy Coalitions?

    Hate to tell you this, but the insurrectionists are way ahead of us in that regard. Their whole strategy is now to build local support communities and to begin wresting political power at the local level. They are already taking over school boards and other local offices while Liberals are…what? Writing protest letters to Joe Manchin? Why isn’t the Left running school board races and building a local presence? What sort of organization, support and solidarity is offered at the local level for anybody, God Forbid, who is not a professional activist but wants to join the fight?

    We have exactly 11 months left to get something of an act together.  I don’t want to fall prey to catastrophizing but the window is closing. That is not my imagination.  The Republicans taking over the House will not be the end of the world. But it could be the beginning of the end for American Democracy because if the people don’t find it worth defending, it probably was a luxury to begin with. ++

    The long American meltdown led to the January 6 insurrection.
    Today is the one-year anniversary of the January 6 riot, which was the violent crescendo of a generation-long meltdown that exploded in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

    Amid all the solid reporting about the details of that day — who plotted it, who participated in it, who supported it — the larger context of the mayhem is almost never mentioned, because to mention it is to raise uncomfortable questions about the roots of right-wing authoritarianism, and spotlight what kind of soil allows those roots to sprout into bloodshed.

    The Republican Party is now a corporate-sponsored insurrection creeping through right-wing media, state legislatures, and Congress.

    Democrats’ stunned, deer-in-headlights reaction to that insurrection’s January 6 riot — and the belated fears about the end of democracy — only underscore that they remain totally out of touch with the political environment their party was complicit in creating. Their shock also illustrates how oblivious they are to the erosion of democracy that’s been going on for a half century...
    Read more

    Here's the latest...

    After the January 6 violence at the Capitol, Americans got a bigger national security state. What they didn’t get was solutions to any of the underlying forces that helped bolster right-wing extremism.

    A record number of workers in the United States quit their jobs in November, another sign that worker leverage in the labor market is stronger today than it has been in years. But without organizing, today’s gains for workers will vanish as soon as COVID-era labor market tightness slackens.

    Has anyone ever seen Jeff Bezos and Superman supervillain Lex Luthor in the same room?

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