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Offline knarf

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If Trump Wins, Don’t Blame Progressives. This Is on You, Centrists.
« Reply #16065 on: June 01, 2020, 06:35:33 PM »
The corporate conservatives who control the Democratic Party are suffering from cheaters’ remorse.

The DNC and their media allies (NPR, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Vox, etc.) subverted the will of primary voters, undermining initial frontrunner Bernie Sanders in order to install the worst candidate of the 20 centrists in the campaign.

Now the power brokers are worried that the befuddled Biden, whom they touted as the Most Electable Against Donald Trump, will lose to him. Rather than take responsibility for their idiocy and force Biden to pull out of a race for which he is obviously physically and mentally unprepared, the corporatist sellouts are preemptively blaming the progressives who warned them about this exact scenario.

Sorry, right wingers. Biden is on you. You made him the presumptive nominee. If Trump wins again, it’s your fault.

Just as it was last time.

Establishment panic over Biden is most palpable in the pages of the official party organ of the Democratic Party, the Times. “While [Biden] has held consistent leads in most national and swing-state polls, they have not been altogether comfortable ones,” the paper noted on May 15th.

If Biden is to squeak by Trump in November, he requires a comfortable lead now. “A CNN poll released on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading the president by five percentage points nationwide, but trailing by seven points among voters in crucial battleground states…for some Democrats, the results of the CNN poll again raised the specter that Mr. Biden could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, as Hillary Clinton and Al Gore both did.”

            Historically, in May of a presidential election year Democrats need a lead of at least 10 points over their Republican rival in order to prevail in a general election. Republicans always close the gap during the last six months of a presidential race.

            The Times is pushing Biden’s candidacy via two lines of argument. First, lesser-evilism. As columnist Frank Bruni wrote May 17th, he’ll “take Biden’s confusion over Trump’s corruption.” (Of course Biden is corrupt too.) Second, they claim, Biden should be acceptable. He isn’t Hillary Clinton. Due to the coronavirus crisis, Bidenites say, their man is willing to pivot to the left. (Never mind that progressive programs need to be in place before a crisis, not ramping up a year after it begins.)

            The second argument is the easiest to shoot down. Biden has a decades-long track record of voting and governing to the right, including voting to invade Iraq for no good reason. Even now, as tens of millions of Americans lose their jobs and thus their health insurance, Biden refuses to join the rest of the industrialized world by endorsing single-payer healthcare. Progressives don’t trust Biden. They trust history. History proves Biden isn’t one of them.

            Bruni’s argument involves magical thinking too. “At the end of the day, Biden can be trusted to do what Trump didn’t and won’t: stock his administration with qualified professionals. He could compensate for any supposed cognitive deficit with a surplus of talent,” Bruni says. There is no evidence, none, zero, zip, that this is true. Biden could validate that argument by announcing his cabinet nominations now. But he’s not.

            Biden leaves progressive voters cold. That matters because the enthusiasm gap could decide the election. “Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm [in 2016],” reported CNN’s Harry Enten. “His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign. Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.”

            If anything, the enthusiasm gap might widen as billions of dollars of stimulus payment letters bearing Trump’s signature hit voters’ bank accounts and he wraps himself in the trappings of the presidency while Biden sits in his basement trying to figure out how to use his computer camera. If I were Trump, I’d be planning my second term.

            Let’s not forget how we got here.

            When Bernie Sanders announced he was running again, Democratic-aligned media outlets said he was too old. “Mr. Sanders would be 79 when he assumed office, and after an October heart attack, his health is a serious concern,” the Times said in its absurd editorial joint endorsement of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

            Then, when Bernie emerged as frontrunner for the nomination, corporate media presented him as an existential threat. Head-to-head polls showed he was at least as electable as his rivals, yet “journalistic” organizations stated, without evidence, that a left-wing Democrat couldn’t beat Trump. Headlines proliferated:

“Can Bernie Be Stopped?”

“Bernie Sanders Can Still Be Stopped.”

“The Stop Sanders Movement Has Gone Public.”

CNN even compared Sanders to the coronavirus.

Remember all those “Can Obama Be Stopped?” headlines from the 2008 primaries. Me neither. When it came to Bernie, pseudo-liberal media didn’t pretend to be objective.

The DNC went after him like crazy.

Bernie Sanders won the key Iowa caucus but Democratic vote-counting chicanery cheated him out of the PR for his win. Party insiders believe that Barack Obama personally arranged for Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to endorse Joe Biden the day before Super Tuesday. Speaking of which, Sanders won California, the biggest state—but the vote count mysteriously took days, denying him a big headline and an accurately optimistic delegate count in media coverage.

They’re still at it. At this writing party leaders are trying to prevent an embarrassing protest vote against Joe Biden in New York by fighting in court for the right to delete Bernie Sanders from the state’s mail-in primary ballots.

A Times headline from February 20th proved prescient: “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders.”

They got what they wanted.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

Offline knarf

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Joe Biden, the Moderate, Plans the Most Radical Economic Overhaul Since FDR
« Reply #16067 on: June 01, 2020, 07:14:25 PM »
In late April, as COVID-19 panicked the nation and all but paralyzed his campaign, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. huddled—virtually, of course—with his team of economic advisers. Being stuck running for the presidency from the basement of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, had given the former vice president a lot of time to think, he told them, and he wanted bigger ideas.

Go forth, he urged his financial brain trust, and bring back the boldest, most ambitious proposals they'd ever dreamed of to reshape the U.S. economy, with an eye toward making it more fair for all Americans and less easily unhinged by a future crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Should he unseat Donald Trump in the November election, the challenge before him would be at least on par with what Franklin Delano Roosevelt contended with when he came to power in 1933. Biden wanted FDR-sized solutions.

At least a few of the participants on that call hung up in shock and awe. "Did that really happen?" one texted another in messages shown to Newsweek. "Yep. Sleepy Joe is awake," the other replied, invoking a mocking nickname used by Trump—one that feels so absurd to those who know the workaholic Biden that it's become a standing joke among campaign insiders.

Even accounting for the magnitude of the pandemic-fueled economic meltdown, their surprise was understandable. Biden had just spent more than a year arguing successfully to Democratic primary voters that he was the sensible candidate, the one offering familiarity and experience rather than radicalism. He was the advocate for incremental not sweeping change and the one willing to ask his more populist, big-thinking rivals the critical question: How are you going to pay for all that?

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    Lisa Kudrow on Netflix's 'Space Force' and the 'Friends' Reunion Special
    Joe Biden, Human Gaffe Machine, Was Once a Great Public Speaker

But as the pandemic gripped the country this spring, sickening or killing nearly two million Americans and putting tens of millions out of work, Biden began issuing a raft of new proposals that move his positions closer to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, with a promise to unveil an even more transformative economic plan this summer. Now it's a yes from Joe to student debt cancellation for large numbers of borrowers and yes to free public college for lower-income and middle-class families. It's a yes to adding $200 a month to Social Security benefits and lowering the qualifying age for Medicare from 65 to 60. Yes to trillions in new spending, yes to new regulations on banks and industry, yes to devil-may-care deficits.

As recently as late February, after his definitive South Carolina primary victory thwarted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' takeover of the Democratic Party, Biden exulted that "talk about revolution isn't changing anyone's life." By mid-May, though, he took to his Here's the Deal podcast to declare—in a discussion with former rival and universal basic income champion Andrew Yang, no less—"We need some revolutionary institutional changes."

Biden's historical reference point these days when he talks about the policy shifts needed to repair what's broken in the economy is not the Great Recession but rather the Great Depression. That's true even though his role in the financial-crisis recovery, particularly when it came to overseeing the auto-industry bailout and stimulus spending, has been Biden's signature economic achievement to date in a career more focused on foreign policy and criminal justice reform. And the leader he most often invokes—in interviews, in public addresses, on his podcast—is no longer Barack Obama but Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"He is looking at similarities between the upheaval of the Great Depression and thinking about the policy agenda that surrounded that moment," says informal Biden adviser Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who served as the former vice president's chief economist from 2009 to 2011. "You don't necessarily want to look back there and say, OK, we have to replicate what they did. But you can look at that era for what is possible at a moment like this."

Biden's expansive new economic vision is still coming into focus. What seems clear is that the candidate is recognizing the moment, one in which bold action, not change around the edges, is required, along with the kind of empathetic, uplifting leadership tone associated with Roosevelt during the 1930s. What is still an open question: Can Biden convince voters and the progressive wing of his own party that he will deliver?

A key challenge for Biden is that it may be easier to craft policies than to communicate them. Saying that Biden doesn't rank with FDR as a communicator doesn't begin to convey the problem. His fumbling, stumbling debate appearances were painful for supporters, and it's not merely that Biden has no quote as memorable as "We have nothing to fear but fear itself": It's his gaffes that linger in the memory. "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, you ain't black" was only his latest cringe-making statement. The pandemic lockdown has been helpful to him in that respect. As the campaign opens up—or his presidency begins—he'll have to either step up his game or hope the public is willing to take him on faith.

An Emerging Economic Plan

The most recent data on the economy certainly paints a bleak picture of current conditions. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP dropped by an annualized rate of five percent in the first quarter of the year and the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will contract at an annual rate of 40 percent in the second quarter before rebounding in the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, from mid-March to late May, more than 40 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits—10 weeks straight of record-shattering jobless claims. The most recent unemployment rate for April stood at 14.7 percent, the highest since the Depression, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that many workers who lost jobs were missing from the count. A more accurate measure would have put the rate near 20 percent and if those not actively looking for a job (say, because they're now caring for children at home) or who are working part-time but want to work full-time were included, it would have been 22.8 percent. That's perilously close to the all-time high of 24.9 percent hit in 1933, when FDR took office. Although the rate is also expected to improve in the second half of 2020, it's still likely to be in double digits by Election Day, White House senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN in late May.

It was against this backdrop that Biden in mid-May assembled a new economic task force—one of six teams put together in key policy areas. In a bid to involve and assuage the party's progressive die-hards, each of the groups includes five advisers chosen by Biden and three by Sanders. By Memorial Day, the economics group, which includes Bernstein, had met only once for a getting-to-know-you Zoom meeting and it isn't expected to report back to the campaign until July, in line with Biden's public promises to unveil a detailed economic plan later this summer.

The broad strokes are already there, though. In an economic address in early May, Biden (who did not respond to several requests from Newsweek for an interview) talked about remaking the country's unemployment insurance system, providing paid sick leave and child care support, guaranteeing access to higher education and high-quality health care and putting more protections in place to ensure fair wages among other measures. It's a veritable laundry list of progressive agenda items, New Deal-like in its intent to strengthen the social safety net and revive prosperity. And it's likely to lead to what many observers are describing as the most liberal platform in the history of the Democratic Party.

The new economic agenda represents a swift, sharp turn for the typically moderate Biden, who during the primary debates scoffed at the impracticality of many of the policy positions he's now adopting. But a pandemic that has sickened or killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and put 40 million out of work has a way of changing one's views. So does the need to win over Sanders supporters.

Advocating for small adjustments won't cut it. "The vice president is asking, 'How do you use this kind of pause in the economy as an opportunity to transform it," says Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, a failed 2020 presidential contender turned Biden surrogate.

Transformation is fast becoming a campaign byword and the notion that the financial fallout from the pandemic has revealed deep cracks in the system that must be fixed is a major campaign theme. As Biden said in his May address, "From this moment, from this crisis, we have an opportunity not just to rebuild the economy but to transform it, to make our economy more resilient no matter what comes along in the future."

Indeed, Biden has already made a series of significant leftward policy shifts since effectively sewing up the nomination in March. His original campaign pitch was to make community college free and provide some student debt refinancing. Now he's pushing free four-year public college tuition for families making less than $125,000, student loan cancellation for low- and middle-income borrowers who attended a public college or private historically black university and forgiveness of at least $10,000 in federal student loan debt for everyone. He now supports Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's call to repeal parts of the federal code that make it harder for people to get out of credit card debt when they file for bankruptcy, a major capitulation because Biden himself helped write that law in 2005.

Building on one of the signature programs created by the New Deal, Biden also has proposed a national "employment insurance" program in which the federal government would pay wages and health premiums for workers furloughed or whose hours are cut due to an emergency or crisis like COVID-19. Another addition to a Depression-era initiative: Biden's plan to enhance Social Security benefits (the system was created in 1935), along with his proposal to expand Medicare (a Great Society program enacted in 1965), to help protect older Americans.

These steps now sit alongside previously announced Biden plans that include doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; tripling federal support for schools in low-income neighborhoods; and making low-income housing assistance available to all who qualify.

"Whether you're talking to the chairman of the Fed, [or] economic experts almost across the board, conservative to liberal, there's an overwhelming consensus that it's critical to, as Nancy Pelosi calls it, go big," says former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Biden campaign surrogate. "Joe is responding to that appropriately because this is probably one of the most complicated and challenging [periods] we've had in all of American history."

Yet Biden is in a tricky spot. The same COVID-19 crisis that appears to have unleashed his inner FDR makes it impossible to predict what will be needed next year. Will the economy bounce back sharply in the second half of the year as some suggest or will a second wave of infections extend the economic pain for months or years to come? Either way, many key decisions about the economy and government spending must be made now as the country attempts to reopen without a vaccine or effective treatments.

Biden speaks regularly to House Speaker Pelosi and supports many of the ideas in the House's stalled-in-the-Senate $3 trillion HEROES Act, such as $1 trillion in aid for states and local governments and $25 billion to bail out the U.S. Postal Service. But without an official role, and despite all the new policy proposals announced this spring, the presumptive Democratic nominee often appears to be hanging out on the sidelines.

Growing Appetite for Change

Biden has yet to convince voters that he is the better choice to fix the economy.

A Quinnipiac University survey of registered voters in late May found the Democrat statistically tied with Trump on whom respondents trust more to manage the economy. That's a stark contrast to Biden's 20-point lead when respondents were asked who they thought would do a better job of handling the coronavirus response.

On the one hand, it was a surprisingly dismal showing for Trump given that economic stewardship is one of the few areas where he has enjoyed approval from a majority of voters throughout his tenure. On the other hand, it didn't bode well for the former vice president either that he didn't have a stronger showing amid soaring unemployment and with the economy at a near standstill, although he did gain four points from the previous month's survey. (Trump slipped just two points, well within the poll's margin of error.)

What also seems clear—and Biden supporters hope will ultimately weigh in their candidate's favor—is that the public, for now at least, seems receptive to dramatic New Deal-like ideas about what's needed to restore the country to economic health and open to Congress spending trillions of dollars to get the job done. "It's fair to say that virtually every American politician has now voted for additional funds to support the American economy, so we've shattered the notion that the federal budget deficit is some sort of obstacle to additional federal spending," says Duke University economist Sandy Darity, referring to the $3 trillion already spent by Congress in pandemic relief this spring.

Recent polls back up a striking receptivity to big economic thinking, and not only among Democrats. In late April, the left-leaning Groundwork Collective reported that 71 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the federal government "should take major, sweeping action to address the economic impact of the pandemic," including 68 percent of independents and 63 percent of Republicans. And in late May, Navigator Research found that 67 percent of Americans supported Pelosi's $3 trillion HEROES Act, including 80 percent of independents and 56 percent of Fox News viewers.

Of course, there are the typical partisan interpretations. Bernstein, the Biden adviser, asserts Americans are re-evaluating Trump's economic leadership because the pandemic has shown that the previously booming economy "was clearly built on sand." The economist says Trump's controversial and odd remarks, such as his suggestion that household disinfectant might be used inside the body to cure COVID-19, don't sit well with the public in these times. "When the unemployment rate is 3.5 percent and the president tells you to drink bleach, you laugh it off," says Bernstein. "When it's 20 percent and he's tweeting awful medical advice, that gets in a lot more people's craws."

Some Republicans, though, cackle in delight over Biden's big-spending laundry list. "It plays well on the conservative side because this is going to make us more dependent on government," says Vance Ginn, chief economist at the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation and, until recently, Trump's associate director for economic policy of the Office of Management and Budget. "It is going to keep us from growing as fast as we could."

Yet such traditional conservative economic thinking may not be what Americans want to hear when there's so much financial hardship, says former Trump ally and White House spokesman Anthony Scaramucci, a lifelong Republican who owns the hedge fund Skybridge Capital. Scaramucci pointed to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's comments in May that 40 percent of households earning less than $40,000 had lost jobs in the pandemic and Powell's recommendation that "additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery."

Scaramucci is baffled by Trump supporters like Ginn who are singing from the fiscal responsibility hymnal right now—and believes that whoever wins in November will have to make dramatic moves to get the economy going again.

"At the end of the day, Jerome Powell, Donald Trump, Steve Mnuchin, the secretary of treasury designee for the Biden administration, Joe Biden, [the] vice president of [a] Biden administration—they are all going to run ridiculous levels of deficit spending similar to World War II," he says. "There is absolutely no alternative. Whoever wins the presidency, they're going to adapt the same policies. Just the fringes are going to change—more state support from Biden, potentially more infrastructure from Biden, a possible tax increase after the midterm elections from Biden. No tax increases from Trump, run the deficit to the moon. The government is going to pay people for a while. They're going to have to helicopter the money in order to prevent riots."

Winning Over Progressives

To come out on top in November, though, Biden still must persuade the wing of the party he vanquished with naysaying during the primaries that he's a convert to the virtues of government expansion and spending. "There's a need and desire [for Biden] to get even bolder," says Faiz Shakir, Sanders' 2020 campaign manager and now a member of the former vice president's health care policy task force. "You've heard him say the words of FDR to suggest he'd like to be a very progressive president. That's great to hear. Obviously details will help fill that in and build credibility for him."

Biden's reputation as a centrist was built over his 36 years in the Senate (1973–2009), where, according to the website FiveThirtyEight, he cast votes that were more liberal than at least 44 percent of his Democratic colleagues but less liberal than at least 43 percent of them. So it makes sense that there are questions about such a seemingly profound transformation in less than three months. Will he really be the type of president to advocate for bold, unprecedented initiatives, as Roosevelt did in creating safety-net programs like Social Security and unemployment insurance from scratch? Or is he more likely to tinker with existing programs, as he's currently suggesting with Social Security and unemployment?

Also giving progressives pause: Biden has long been known as a fiscally responsible Senate dealmaker skilled at finding common ground with Republicans. That reputation can be traced all the way back to his 1987 announcement to launch his first presidential campaign when he railed against deficits and debt. The 1988 election, the then-44-year-old Delaware senator told that crowd at the Wilmington train station from which he commuted to Washington via Amtrak, was a choice between "the easy path in which we consolidate our current comforts in a quick and false prosperity by consuming our children's future and another more difficult task that builds a more genuine prosperity for ourselves while guaranteeing our children their birthright."

If the candidate says he's open to costly ideas he didn't embrace before, says Shakir, he deserves the chance to prove it: "Because of the manner in which Joe Biden won this nomination—he didn't win it on the backs of a robust policy platform—he's got a lot of room to run in terms of fleshing out the ideas that contrast him with Trump and the idea upon which he would govern. Hopefully, that space there allows us to suggest things that he might entertain and adopt into his campaign. Can you excite me about an agenda or can you offer a vision?"

Darity, the Duke economist, is skeptical. FDR proposed a slew of government work programs, restored faith in banking by federally insuring deposits and, of course, created Social Security. So far, Biden's pitches are "somewhat tepid" and amount to some increased spending and heightened enforcement of labor and banking regulations, but nothing as groundbreaking as, say, Medicare For All or a federal jobs guarantee, Darity notes.

Darity is a leading proponent of the federal jobs guarantee, which would have the government promise to find work for anyone who can't find a private-sector job. "That is one of the policies that people view as radical that has a significant amount of support across the American public," he says, pointing to a Civis Analytics poll earlier this year showing 52 percent backing for the concept.

Darity is also looking for details on the initiatives Biden has already gotten behind, like an income support program. Asks Darity: "How much is it going to be per month? Is it going to be sufficient to offset the lost income that many, many people are experiencing? If it's something that we continue to keep in place beyond the [current] situation, would it actually have the effect of allowing employers to reduce wages because the private sector would know that everybody's getting a certain amount from the government?"

Many progressives believe Biden could prove his big-think bona fides by capitulating on Medicare For All. But he's continued to express his opposition to it, preferring to add a public option to buy health insurance via the Affordable Care Act's exchanges. "To the extent that there was one policy position that came to define him during the primaries, it was his opposition to Medicare For All," Shakir says. "But it cannot be the case that simply because he doesn't support Medicare For All, we just throw up our hands and walk away. If that were the case, we would just never be making progress in this country for millions of people who need it."

Biden supporters say there are other ideas that will show the candidate is serious about far-reaching, fundamental change. Ryan says he's expecting "an ambitious agenda item" involving ways to train millions of out-of-work or under-employed Americans for a rapidly automating economy where many jobs lost in the pandemic crash may never return. Such efforts would play particularly well in swing states with high unemployment rates like Michigan (22.7 percent), Pennsylvania (15.1 percent), Wisconsin (14.1 percent) and North Carolina (12.2 percent), Ryan says.

What It Means to Be FDR Today

Perhaps even more than any specific programs Biden might embrace, living up to the legacy of FDR in the current environment, observers say, means becoming the kind of inspirational leader in an extreme crisis that Roosevelt was.

Bernstein, for one, believes that Biden has had the potential inside him all along. The Roosevelt analogy is meant as a template, a signal of how broad and grave the circumstances are, Bernstein says. Biden's embrace of initiatives far left of his usual centrist stance, proposals that adopt key tenets of the New Deal—what historians refer to as the three R's: relief, recovery, reform—shows that he recognizes the moment and is rising to the occasion.

"He's looking over his shoulder at FDR coming out of a similar economic cataclysm and thinking about lessons about transforming an economy to be more resilient," Bernstein says."

Progressive activist Heather McGhee, who originally backed Elizabeth Warren, is also looking for Biden to help Americans deal with the emotional toll of the pandemic and the physical and financial hardship that's resulted. Roosevelt, she points out, revolutionized a president's ability to communicate directly to the public in his 1930s radio addresses, comforting the nation with his fireside chats. Biden, McGhee says, should be offering daily commentaries online.

Lately, the candidate has been more prone to verbal gaffes than inspirational messages. But once upon a time, he won praise for his eloquent oratory (see sidebar on page 00) and McGhee is looking for that guy to make a reappearance.

"It is extremely important that Joe Biden offer the vision of a president-in-waiting who is present and is telling the stories that Trump refuses to tell, is helping us mourn in a way that Donald Trump is refusing to do and that is explaining exactly what he would do differently at every point," she says. "To date, Joe Biden has not yet become the reassuring daily presence that will help ensure that as Americans turn away from Trump, they turn toward him."

Like many hopeful progressives, though, McGhee seems willing to believe something fundamental has shifted in Biden and that he will rise to the occasion as a leader. After all, she points out, "FDR didn't talk like FDR until the moment made him."
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

Offline Eddie

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Kanye West just bought a $14 million Wyoming ranch. Take a look at the massive property that comes with a saloon, an events venue, and a shooting range.

Sep 12, 2019

The Bigger Story

Billionaires Cowboy Up and Turn Wyoming Into a Gated Community

When the super-rich descended upon Teton County, they gushed about its natural beauty. They had less to say about the locals who got pushed out of paradise.

1.3% Blacks 2019 Census Data

Of the 3,144 counties in the United States, the one with the highest per capita income is Teton County, Wyoming. It’s also the most unequal: Ninety percent of all income is made by 8 percent of households. Its average per capita income is $194,485, and the average income for the top 1 percent in the county is an astonishing $28.2 million.

Justin Farrell, an associate professor of sociology at Yale and a Wyoming native, spent six years interviewing the ultra-wealthy as well as the working poor in Teton County and studying the effects of wealth on this community. The result of his research is an illuminating and provocative new book, Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West. He spoke to reporter Nick Romeo.

Most people do not associate wealth inequality and environmentalism. What’s the connection you found?

The ultrarich use nature to solve dilemmas they face. The first dilemma is economic. So you made all this money: How much should you share it, how should you enjoy it, and how should you protect and multiply it? Conservation has all sorts of benefits economically. People say that they move to Teton County for the beautiful ecosystem, the wildlife and all that, but the other major reason, the primary reason really, is it’s a tax haven. I try to show that not all tax havens are off in these faraway islands, some of them are right here in the pristine mountains of the American West: Wyoming does not have corporate tax or income tax and often sits atop Bloomberg’s wealth-friendly states rankings. So you see dollars flooding in, which impacts the fabric of the community itself. In Teton County in 1980, only 30 percent of income came from financial investments, but by 2015, $8 out of every $10 in this community was made from financial investments.

I’m a big proponent of conservation, but I don’t think we look enough at who benefits from conservation, not only in terms of tax breaks but in terms of how it affects property values and low-income people who can no longer live anywhere near where they work. Some people have to drive over an 8,000-foot mountain pass every day to get to work in the dead of a Wyoming winter. So the area is transformed into an ultra-exclusive enclave, where you need the money to buy entry. It’s basically become a gated community to the extreme.

What are the other dilemmas that the rich use nature to solve?

The second dilemma is social: How do they wrestle with the stigma of being ultra-wealthy? They are burdened by a social stigma that they are greedy, and they often feel like they’ve sacrificed something along the way to wealth. So they use nature combined with a romantic view of rural people as a way to transform themselves. I found this pattern where they create versions of themselves that they view as more authentic, more virtuous, more small-town and community-minded.

The interesting thing is that they model their personal transformation on this notion of the working poor in the rural West, especially in outdoors-oriented places. They tend to romanticize them. The image is of someone with a low-status career who doesn’t have a lot of material goods but is living close to the earth, in nature, and maybe they’re going skiing or hiking, or maybe they live in a camper van, and they are free from the traps of wealth and power that the rich have had to navigate their whole careers. The rich imagine that the working poor live more of an outdoor life of contentment, are more authentic, simpler, and that they enjoy a special kinship with nature and integration into the small-town community. All that becomes central to how the ultra-wealthy transform themselves—it’s a yearning among the ultra-wealthy for this love of a bygone small-town character kind of mixed with the cowboy ethos.

You talk in the book about how the ultrarich basically play dress-up—they wear Wranglers and plaid shirts. They pull on leather cowboy boots and drive rugged trucks.

Yeah, the dress was very surprising to me. I did not go into this project focused on how those folks dressed, but it turned out to be such a communicator of something deeper and more important. Dress was an outward performance of their conversion to this way of life, of what they view as this way of life. The image is built on half-truths and a really romanticized view of the working poor, especially in this community, where the reality of the working poor tends to be two immigrant families living in a single trailer, with the adults working two or three jobs. But that’s not how the wealthy see it. This performance also includes making friends with people who are just scraping by and going out into nature with these people, whether it’s their ski guides or fishing guide.

Right. It seemed like there was this really intense pride in having the token working-class friend. They all want to have one. But someone you interview points out that friends do not let friends suffer horribly, sleeping in shifts in the single bed of a trailer, particularly when those supposed friends have a 10,000-square-foot mansion that sits unused for most of the year.

I was surprised by how much they talk about their working-class friends. I have so many quotes in the book where they’re like: We’re friends because it’s not about money here. We’re all just in love with Wyoming, we’re all just in love with nature. We’ve all been converted by nature and maybe these friends have helped me along to see that maybe money isn’t everything.

And yeah, money isn’t everything, but it means a lot to those who don’t have it.

Some people are starting to question what is a true friendship and what is a true community. They may be nice, for example, to this wealthy person they are working for, and maybe that person also treats them with respect, but they’re missing this component of what makes a good friendship and relationship, there’s this gaping hole there. Being friendly with a person who has all this money does not help them put food on the table and does not help them be able to live within a reasonable distance and come work for the rich in a restaurant they like or caretake in their homes or take their kids to school or mow their lawn. It’s just this tragic irony that structures a lot of the social relationships in that community.

It was striking how oblivious they were to the fact that these “friendships” were one-sided and based on an economic relationship.

I should stress that a lot of ultra-wealthy folks I talked to were very kind people. But there was a willful ignorance among that group of just how bad things have gotten for some people in this community and just how exclusive a place it’s become. I just wanted to draw attention to that in a way that is based on solid evidence, on six years of research, and that is not unfairly pointing fingers at certain people. But I do point out these inconsistencies between what the wealthy think of themselves and what other people actually think of them and what other people wish the community was really like. That’s what I strove for in the book—something that could be trusted, that wasn’t just this polemical exposé based on sloppy analysis.

And you do point out that in some ways it’s a very generous group of people there. There are a huge number of nonprofits per capita, but when you actually look at where the money is going, it’s almost entirely to arts organizations and environmental organizations that are often very narrowly focused on one charismatic animal, like the moose, not something more systemic like climate change. Meanwhile, funding for human services that help the poor is minimal.

There is a narrative within the community—which has some truth—that it’s an extremely generous place with all these nonprofits. People love to talk about that. So I dug into the numbers, and they do have a huge number of nonprofits: per capita, it’s off the charts. I looked at where the money is going and asked what that says about the community. Often the money is going to arts organizations, for example maybe to fund a symphony in the summer. They bring in these world-class musicians who may stay in some of the wealthy homes. Meanwhile, there is a housing crisis, and there are children in the schools who are homeless. There are homeless children in the richest county in the richest country in the world.

So this is a philanthropic community, but virtually no money is going to organizations working in the social-services sector compared with the millions that are pouring into support the arts or a land trust or environmental nonprofit.

For example, people are really concerned about dwindling moose populations, as am I, but it’s just one animal, and that issue for them is more prominent than poverty. It’s also more prominent than environmental issues like climate change, and climate change is going to affect everything, it’s going to affect the moose. There’s also a social element—is it prestigious to sit on the board of the Latino Resource Center versus sitting on the board of a land trust or an arts organization? I did a social-network analysis of the social capital of these groups as well, and the disparity was just as wide.

The fundamental issue is that a lot of these folks go to this area to escape the homelessness and poverty that they might see somewhere else. They moved there expecting not to see it and when they do, it’s kind of a buzz kill. So they’re like, “I didn’t come to paradise to give money to a homeless person; I thought I got away from that.”

Especially people from the Eastern Seaboard still romanticize the West as being empty of people and just full of nature. But there is a real community of folks there trying to make it and often the wealthy just don’t see them, either because they don’t want to or they’re just not aware because these people are not integrated into their community, so they don’t let it spoil their version of paradise. And so that all creates a veneer both environmental and social that all is well in paradise. It covers over the policy solutions that are really needed to turn this into more of a functioning community where all sorts of people will want to live and can.

What are the effects of the wealthy on land conservation in the West?

There’s this myth that environmentalism and conservationism mean just saving a big piece of land from development. It’s seen as inherently apolitical if you buy a big piece of land and you put easements on it to protect its ecological integrity. That’s the model that people live by as the pinnacle of conservation. That’s very different from how environmentalism or conservation should work in practice. It’s an inherently political activity. They tend to have a very limited view of science—they think, you know, we just need to keep everything in balance. So if we build a house over there, maybe we should save some of the land on the other side of the stream. But they don’t want to get too involved in confrontational issues. Climate change has become a confrontational issue because of the impact of climate skeptics over the last 30 years. So that’s a hot-button issue that most of them stay away from. But when we are talking about conservation or environmentalism, the topic should be climate change. The people didn’t come out there to get politically involved, but that’s what’s required to really tackle those issues.

You use the term “connoisseur conservation” to describe the way some of the wealthy see nature almost as a luxury good, like a fine wine or fancy meal. Can you say more about what this term means?

Folks who are ultra-wealthy will say things like “This is the best that nature has to offer.” And it’s hard to disagree if you look at the mountains and lakes and pristine water and air. So they view the environment as the best of the best, in the same way you would a wine or a yacht. But because it is such a wonderful place ecologically, they are enjoying those benefits more and more, which makes it harder for other Americans to do the same.

They view nature as this medicinal and therapeutic storehouse where they can go recharge their batteries and, in a deeper sense, become whole. Some of them even use religious language. And you know, I enjoy the same benefits when I go on a hike too, so it is not unique to them. But it is unique when they are potentially colonizing that area for themselves and making it impossible for other folks who have lived there for a long time to remain there. I’m not saying other Americans can’t go visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but they are turning that area into a wealthy island of certain people and not others.

The quasi-religious view of nature also creates what you describe as a kind of moral exemption on spending money that promotes communion with nature. So what might be seen as extravagant if spent for some other purpose becomes completely fine when it is spent to enhance that bond with nature.

It’s kind of similar to folks who have the money to buy a Tesla and then feel good about saving the environment. Here there’s a similar phenomenon but ratcheted up like everything else. So you might build this enormous nature sanctuary from materials gathered from nearby and this might involve the burning of fossil fuels so that you can keep it heated year-round even though you’re not there, and it might prevent certain wildlife from migrating to certain areas. So there are all kinds of effects and externalities that are not considered because you’re building it with the intent of enjoying nature, which is seen as a moral good.

Tell me about the Yellowstone Club and your experience of going skiing there.

That is basically everything in the book taken to an extreme. They have a private mountain, very steep entry fees, and a quasi-militarized perimeter. I will say that it is odd to get on a ski lift, not see anyone until you get to the top, except for the person who helps you off, ski down, not see another person, and get back up and go again and not see another person. They call one of the runs “private powder,” and that’s indeed true.

They also accuse you of stealing their guest list even though you had gotten the names of residents from tax records. More broadly, it must’ve been difficult to get access to these rich people. Can you talk a little about your methods?

The short answer is that it was really hard, and that is why there isn’t a lot of research at present on the ultra-wealthy. I had this unique identity that set me up to make inroads. So first the Yale name has this elite gravitas in these circles that will initially get you a foot in the door. But I also have this identity as someone who was born in Wyoming and has what I call the Western gravitas, which can be very attractive to people who are moving to these places to pursue that kind of authenticity they view as a romantic ideal. I was able to kind of leverage those two important components.

So, when I wrote an initial letter to invite them to have a conversation, I wasn’t pitching a study on wealth inequality. I knew that was present in the community, so I invited them to participate in a study on how this area is changing, what they like about it, what they don’t like about it. Just very general terms. And we did talk a lot about wild places and all of that, but I also had questions about the income gap here and the fact that this place doesn’t have income taxes. The conversations would just unfold in a natural way.

I also promised anonymity to everybody, and I made sure they knew I was not out to get them. I was not interested in singling out individuals; I was interested in general patterns and telling stories about those patterns through individual lives. I was committed to being accurate and impartial: I made clear that it was not going to be this sloppy attack. I think part of it is that as an academic I do the kind of work that is independent and can be trusted because it’s rooted in reliable methods of sampling and interviewing and participant observation and all of that.

Have you had any responses to the book from the ultrarich yet?

I had some positive reactions where folks were like, “yeah, that’s why I moved here. I like the Wyoming culture and I like wearing jeans and that’s true.” There are others who have pushed back a little bit on my characterization of their philanthropy, saying they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart and they care about the issues, which may be true, but when you look at the numbers, it tells a different story. So, it’s been a little mixed, but I haven’t received any major blowback. Honestly, I think it’s because I built some pretty good relationships with many of these folks, and I do see them as people. People with immense power and immense wealth that have disproportionate impact and who may not understand the reality of life in the rural West or the reality of environmental conservation and the problem of climate change.

There are these stunning examples of cognitive dissonance that you depict where someone flies into Wyoming on a private Learjet but thinks of himself as an environmentalist. Or someone who made their money in oil and gas but supports some moose charity, so they think of themselves as an environmentalist. Given their extraordinary inability to perceive their own hypocrisy, what do you think can be done?

Yeah, I would think more about the policy side than necessarily changing the minds of the rich. Many of the problems that we see in a place like Teton County have been created by the massive concentration of wealth. So I think there’s a myth that needs to be overcome that we need to rely on the ultrarich to solve the problem. They have all these fundraisers and events and there’s so much optimism about the potential to transform these communities because they have so much wealth and human/social capital, but it’s not happening. So, first and foremost I think the state of Wyoming could look at their tax structure for that county.

I do think that there is an opportunity to draw upon the romantic ideals that people have of the West and nature and to harness that for good. It’s important to educate the ultra-wealthy about what’s really going on, there are opportunities for that and that can really make an impact locally. But I think in the long-term, structurally more deeper changes need to happen so that we’re not relying on the whims of those folks. There are some well-meaning ultra-wealthy people who have done a lot of good in the community in terms of giving money to schools and education, but that can fluctuate. If someone decides to go back to Connecticut because they had their fun, you lose a source of income that maybe the community depends on.

Is this community a microcosm for the general challenges America is facing with wealth inequality, NIMBYism, hypocrisy, and the tokenization of the working class?

For sure. That’s one of the reasons I undertook the project. I’m hesitant to generalize very far in the book, that’s just an academic thing—being careful not to assert things beyond your data. But you look at other locales, even places like San Francisco or Seattle where there is growing wealth disparity, you see the same problems with affordable housing, eviction, new immigrant communities coming in, and recreation growing quickly on or adjacent to public lands that provide natural resources. A lot of these patterns are playing out across America and in beautiful natural settings throughout the American West.

Nothing new.......been going on since I was in high school. Some people saw it coming. Now WY is also America's crypto tax haven, fwiw.

This is a great movie nobody much saw.It's on YT,

<a href="" target="_blank" class="new_win"></a>

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

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George Floyd death: Trump's church visit shocks religious leaders
« Reply #16069 on: June 02, 2020, 02:42:23 PM »

President Donald Trump has sparked controversy with his photo shoot

Last night he held a Bible in front of St John's Episcopal Church, just across the road from the White House. Today, he'll visit the Shrine to St John Paul II, also in Washington DC.

But US President Donald Trump's signalling of religious affiliation has not been welcomed by a range of clerics as the nation struggles to manage the twin challenges of a pandemic and widespread political protest.

The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Right Reverend Mariann Budde, said: "The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus."

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and consultant to the Vatican's communications department, tweeted: "Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. God is not your plaything."

James Martin, SJ


Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. God is not your plaything.

    8:32 PM - Jun 1, 2020
    Twitter Ads info and privacy

86.6K people are talking about this

Rabbi Jack Moline, President of the Interfaith Alliance, said: "Seeing President Trump standing in front of St John's Episcopal Church while holding a Bible in response to calls for racial justice - right after using military force to clear peaceful protesters - is one of the most flagrant misuses of religion that I have ever seen."

President Trump does not belong to a particular congregation, only occasionally attends a service and has said many times that he does not like to ask God for forgiveness.

    'God wanted Trump as president'
    The evangelical women who reject Trump

But while he may not consider church essential to his personal life, it may yet hold the keys to his political future.

In 2016, Mr Trump won 81% of white evangelical votes and exit polls found that white Catholics supported him over Hillary Clinton by 60% to 37%.
Media captionTrump declares himself the "law and order president"

Mr Trump's status, as the champion of evangelical and conservative voters, can seem peculiar given his use of divisive rhetoric, his three marriages, accusations of sexual assault by dozens of women, the hush-money paid to a pornographic film actress, and the record of false statements made during his presidency - more than 18,000 according to the Poynter Institute's Politifact website.

    Do more people believe in God in Trump's America?
    Inside the White House Bible Study group
    Trump's unlikely Christian covenant

But he has sealed a powerful bond with religious voters by embracing their political priorities and appointing two Supreme Court justices - Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch - and federal judges with their support.

This may explain why - though an irregular congregant himself - the president has repeatedly demanded the reopening of churches, saying, on 22 May, "If they don't do it, I will override the governors."
Media caption'This is pain right here' - Washington DC protests turn violent

Religious conservatives appear to be the most solid core of Mr Trump's voter base, despite political unrest and the vast number of deaths from Covid-19.

According to the latest Pew Research Poll, 75% of white evangelical Protestants say he's doing a good job in handling the pandemic - down 6 percentage points from six weeks before.

But while one voting bloc remains faithful, the country at large is deeply divided. According to analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight, which collates all polling data, 43% of Americans agree with the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while 53.4% disapprove.

Several religious leaders are hoping that Trump's visit to the shrine may encourage him to reflect on the words of then Pope John Paul II, delivered to the United Nations in 1995.

"The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the 20th Century," he said, "is the common effort to build the civilization of love."
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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than white people, UK report finds

People from the UK's ethnic minority communities are up to 50% more likely to die with coronavirus than their white British peers, a government review has found.
The analysis, conducted by government agency Public Health England (PHE), found that people of Bangladeshi heritage who tested positive for the virus were around twice as likely to die as their white British peers.
People from other minority communities, including those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Caribbean descent, also had a 10% to 50% higher risk of death when compared to white Britons, the report found.

Those from black ethnic groups were also more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19. The diagnosis rate per 100,000 of the population was 486 for black females and 649 for black males, compared to 220 for white females and 224 for white males.
The document was published Tuesday -- after the UK government denied British media reports that its release had been delayed due to protests in the US over the killing of George Floyd.

Commissioned by England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty in April, amid fears the coronavirus pandemic was "disproportionately" affecting black and ethnic minority communities, the analysis was due to be published at the end of May, according to PHE.
In response to questions from CNN on Tuesday morning about why the report had been delayed, a government health department spokesperson said: "Ministers received initial findings yesterday [Monday]. They are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week."
"It is not true to say this has been delayed due to global events," the spokesperson added.
In an address to parliament later Tuesday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Being black or from a minority ethnic background is a major [Covid-19] risk factor."
Hancock admitted that there was "much more work to do to understand the key drivers of these disparities, the relationships between the different risk factors and what we can do to close the gap."
The health secretary said he was "determined that we continue to develop our understanding and shape our response."
Hancock also stressed that the report did not just look at ethnicity but also found that age was the biggest Covid-19 risk factor, with older patients more likely to die than younger ones.
Among those who tested positive for the virus, those over 80 years old were deemed 70 times more likely to die than those under 40.
Combination of factors
The PHE analysis found that the link between ethnicity and health was "complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors."
"Firstly, people of BAME [Black and minority ethnic] communities are likely to be at increased risk of acquiring the infection," it states.
"This is because BAME people are more likely to live in urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to higher risk."
"People of BAME groups are also more likely than people of white British ethnicity to be born abroad, which means they may face additional barriers in accessing services that are created by, for example, cultural and language differences," it added.
The groups are "also likely to be at increased risk of poorer outcomes once they acquire the infection," the agency's report found.
"For example, some co-morbidities [the simultaneous presence of two diseases or conditions in a patient] which increase the risk of poorer outcomes from Covid-19 are more common among certain ethnic groups."

"People of Bangladeshi and Pakistani background have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than people from white British ethnicity, and people of black Caribbean and black African ethnicity have higher rates of hypertension compared with other ethnic groups," the report said.
The PHE analysis looked at the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region on survival among confirmed Covid-19 cases, but did not account for the effect of occupation, obesity or co-morbidities.
Its publication came as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that Covid-19 had exposed inequalities within society and was having a major disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities, including people of African descent.

"The data tells us of a devastating impact from Covid-19 on people of African descent, as well as ethnic minorities in some countries, including Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States," Bachelet said.
"In many other places, we expect similar patterns are occurring, but we are unable to say for sure given that data by race and ethnicity is simply not being collected or reported," she added.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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TikTok has its Arab Spring moment as teen activism overtakes dance moves
« Reply #16071 on: June 02, 2020, 02:53:38 PM »
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just a few months ago, 17-year-old Taylor Cassidy was spending hours flailing her arms in an attempt to pick up the latest dance move the “Renegade.”

That all changed as Cassidy watched videos by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and eventually began creating video skits on TikTok to illustrate the racial injustice she and her friends face on a daily basis.

“Because the BLM movement has been present in society for such a long time, my generation has been able to use TikTok to spread awareness through the lens of a young person’s mindset,” Cassidy, who is black, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Cassidy, who has amassed 1.6 million followers on TikTok since joining last November, is among the millions of users who are helping to turn the go-to destination for short-form viral music videos and pranks into a first stop for youth activism as protests against police brutality spread across America.

“The movement will be shaped to not only spread awareness about the injustice in society, but it will go further, teaching about the importance of voice and calls to action to stop the brutality,” Cassidy said.

The hashtag #blacklivesmatter has shot up TikTok’s trending list with 3 billion views as of Tuesday morning. TikTok superstars like Charli D’Amelio, whose 60 million followers is nearly twice the number of HBO’s U.S. subscribers, hit pause on showing off dance moves to discuss George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota whose death as a white police officer knelt on his neck has sparked a national debate on race and power.

“I will continue to spread these messages and be an ally,” said D’Amelio, who is white, in a post which garnered more than 47.7 million views and 12 million likes over the weekend.

TikTok’s emergence as a platform for political discourse for teens follow a tradition of media platforms evolving beyond their founders’ initial designs such as Twitter’s role in the Arab Spring protests in 2011 and the MTV cable TV network’s role galvanizing young voters in the early 1990s.

“Arab Spring was able to mobilize on Twitter. Now we’re seeing something similar on TikTok,” said Kadisha Phillips, a social media strategist, who pointed to how rapidly content spread on TikTok.

“Even though it became a place for viral dances, TikTok also became a storytelling platform,” said Phillips. “TikTok has taken on an interesting space because it’s letting people tell stories in a very quick way.”

The expansion of TikTok’s role from place for cute dance routines to platform for civil disobedience comes at a complicated moment at the company which has been accused by the black community for marginalizing African American creators.

On Monday evening, TikTok, published a blog entry here written by Vanessa Pappas, TikTok U.S. general manager, and Kudzi Chikumbu, director of creator community, that apologized to the African American community and vowed to make changes. It also said it will donate $3 million to unspecified non-profit organizations that help the black community.

TikTok came under fire last week for a glitch that made hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd appear as if they received zero views.

“We understand that many assumed this bug to be an intentional act to suppress the experiences and invalidate the emotions felt by the Black community,” the company said in a blog post on Monday. “We know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust.”

TikTok’s big moment also comes as its high-profile new hire, Walt Disney Co’s Kevin Mayer took over as CEO of the Chinese-owned company on Monday.

The new leadership comes at tensions flare between the United States and China over trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic. Because TikTok is owned by China-based ByteDance Technology Co and widely popular among American teens, U.S. regulators have questioned the safety of the personal data it handles and if its Chinese ownership poses a national security risk.

The company has also faced accusations of suppressing political content, including a Guardian report here last September that the company instructed moderators to censor videos pertaining to topics sensitive to the Chinese government such as the Tiananmen Square protest, based on leaked internal documents.

"TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China," the company said in a blog post here on October 24, 2019, responding to reports. "We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period."

Lex Scott, the founder the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, said that she has been using TikTok to organize since March when she joined TikTok and prefers it over Facebook Inc (FB.O) as content spreads much more quickly on TikTok.

“The younger crowd does not want to be on Facebook and they are not on Facebook. They are on SnapChat and TikTok,” Scott said.

Scott, who boasts nearly 90,000 followers on TikTok compared to her hundreds of followers on Facebook, said that she is now using TikTok to inform audiences about police brutality and to get at least 150,000 signatures on a petition for a police reform bill.

The petition on has been signed at least 148,000 times because of Scott’s following on TikTok.

Other TikTokkers have posted first aid tips for protests, filmed demonstrations and acted out skits to highlight their experiences with inequality.

Activists have enjoyed getting a boost from the superstars of TikTok who have brought attention to protests and directed followers to calls to action.

On Monday, TikTok star Loren Gray said that she would stop posting her typical content out of respect for the protests and urged her 44 million followers to donate and sign petitions. Gray also pushed for other TikTok influencers to donate to the cause.

“To my peers, please don’t stay silent right now,” Gray said in her post. “Y’all have so much influence over this generation and it is important for you to use your voice aside from using a hashtag and calling yourself an ally.”

By Monday, TikTok appeared to embrace its new role as a forum for political expression.

“TikTok is an outlet for users to express themselves. This expression is often joyful, but our community is going through a time of particularly deep anguish and even outrage, and much of the content on the app this week clearly reflects those experiences,” said TikTok’s Pappas in a statement. “Now more than ever, we stand with the Black community.”
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Keir Starmer warns PM: get a grip or risk second wave of coronavirus
« Reply #16072 on: June 02, 2020, 03:02:38 PM »
The Labour leader launched a stinging attack on Boris Johnson accusing him of ‘winging it’

Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of causing a collapse in public confidence over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying No 10 will be directly responsible if the infection rate starts to rise again.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader launched a stinging attack on the the prime minister, accusing him of “winging it” over the easing of the lockdown and making an already “difficult situation 10 times worse”.

He also questioned whether the timing of some decisions over the relaxation of the lockdown rules had been taken “to try to deflect attention away” from the Dominic Cummings affair – an episode, he said, that showed Johnson was too weak to sack his chief adviser.

In a significant hardening of his language, Starmer said Johnson had to “get a grip” of the crisis.

“My [worry] is that after a week or more of mismanagement, I’m deeply concerned the government has made a difficult situation 10 times worse,” he said.

“We’ve called for an exit strategy. What we appear to have got is an exit without a strategy. We want to see society reopen, we want to see more children back at school, obviously people want to see their families and we want to see businesses open.

“But like many people across the country, there is a growing concern the government is now winging it. At precisely the time when there should have been maximum trust in the government, confidence has collapsed,” he said.

Starmer blamed the fall in public trust on the “Cummings factor, the sense of one rule for them and one rule for everyone else” – a referenceto the furore provoked when the Guardian revealed Johnson’s chief adviser had breached the lockdown.

But he also cited “mismanagement” in the government’s sudden decision to lift shielding restrictions for 2.2 million people without advance notice for public health directors or GPs, and concerns about the test and trace system that councils do not believe will be ready until the end of the month at the earliest.

In addition, the Labour leader said there had been a failure of leadership over the decision to get schools to reopen without consulting widely enough with unions, teachers and parents.

“I am putting the prime minister on notice that he has got to get a grip and restore public confidence in the government’s handling of the epidemic … If we see a sharp rise in the R rate, the infection rate, or a swathe of local lockdowns, responsibility for that falls squarely at the door of No 10. We all know the public have made huge sacrifices. This mismanagement of the last few weeks is the responsibility of the government.”

Starmer’s intervention comes on another difficult day for the government as it emerged that:

    The death toll surpassed 50,000 for the first time, according to official figures, 10 weeks after the nation went into lockdown.

    Prof Neil Ferguson, the leading epidemiologist who advised the government until he quit over breaking the lockdown rules, warned that coronavirus infections in hospitals and care homes are spilling into the community and sustaining the outbreak to the point that cases will remain steady until September.

    An inquiry found that people of black and Asian origin are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, leading to calls for the government to take action to protect these groups.

    The head of the UK Statistics Authority accused the government of continuing to mislead the public over the numbers of tests carried out for Covid-19.

    It emerged that England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, was responsible for vetoing the government’s wish for England’s official coronavirus alert level to be reduced, ruling that it should remain at four – meaning “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

    No 10 said it would be cutting back its daily press conference to just weekdays to secure bigger television audiences.

Speaking from his parliamentary offices, the Labour leader said he would continue to engage constructively with the government, defending his approach of not making criticism for its own sake.

However, he said he had become increasingly concerned about mistakes made by Johnson’s administration in the last week.

On Johnson’s handling of the Cummings furore, Starmer said Johnson’s plans to loosen restrictions were laid out as the government was in the grip of a crisis.

Last Thursday, Johnson was under pressure to sack Cummings over revelations he had driven from London to his parents in Durham during the height of the lockdown – and then taken a 60-mile round trip to a beauty spot to test his eyesight.

“They obviously took a decision to try and deflect attention away from the Cummings affair,” Starmer said. “There are questions that the government needs to answer about the precise timing of the measures it put in place.”

“It’s blindingly obvious to me that the prime minister is just too weak to sack [Cummings].”

He added that this “loss of trust and confidence” was the “most troubling aspect of the whole Cummings affair”.

“If you had said which is the week the government needed maximum trust and confidence, the answer is the week in which you start easing restrictions … That’s where you need maximum trust and confidence. That’s the thing the government has burnt in the last few weeks,” he said.

The Labour leader said he would now be asking for more meetings with Johnson, Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, and Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser, to address his concerns about the mismanagement of the last few weeks.

He also revealed he wrote a “private and confidential” letter to the prime minister two weeks ago offering to work constructively together to gain consensus for reopening schools, but Johnson has not yet even replied.
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All 3 major telecom companies in Canada will use European suppliers for 5G, in snub to Huawei

Telus previously said it would work with Huawei on 5G, but on Tuesday the company said it would use Nokia and Ericsson components, making no mention of the Chinese supplier.

BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. will both use equipment from Scandinavian component makers Nokia and Ericsson to build out their next-generation 5G networks in Canada.

BCE, the parent company of Bell, said Tuesday morning it will partner with Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson to build out its next generation wireless network, known as 5G.

    What is 5G?

That makes Ericsson just the second company that Bell will allow on its network, along with Finnish supplier Nokia, which Bell announced it would work with in February in its quarterly earnings release.

Notably absent from that list of two suppliers is Huawei, the Chinese technology company that has become a lightning rod because of its close relationship with the Chinese government.

Huawei has become something of a household name in Canada in recent years after its vice-president Meng Wangzhou was arrested at Vancouver's airport two years ago at the request of U.S. authorities.

    Everything you need to know about the Meng Wangzhou case

Many countries around the world say Huawei's close relationship with the Chinese government could expose cellular networks to spying.

Bell uses Huawei equipment in its existing network, but on Tuesday said it would work with Ericsson to build out its 5G network.

The United States and Australia have forbidden telecom firms in those countries from using Huawei components in their 5G networks.

Canadian authorities are currently mulling whether to allow Huawei to participate in Canadian networks. Canada's Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement to CBC News that the government is "taking all security factors into account, including those from our allies and our security agencies. We will ensure that our networks are kept secure and will take the appropriate decisions in due course."

Tuesday's news show the industry isn't waiting around for that decision either way.
Telus changes direction

A few hours after Bell's move, Telus announced that it, too, would use Nokia and Ericsson for its 5G network. That's a departure from what the company said as recently as February, when Telus announced it was moving ahead with plans to roll out 5G using Huawei equipment.

Huawei gear is in use on the lower-generation equipment at both telecom companies, but appears to be in the process of getting shut out of their 5G plans.

Patrick Horan, a portfolio manager with Agilith Capital, said Bell's decision came as something of a surprise, given Bell's support for Huawei in the past and its current use of Huawei technology.

"They were probably the most outspoken of the carriers in Canada" in expressing their support for Huawei, he said.

Horan says Huawei's prickly status with governments outside China was a factor in Bell's decision.

"[Bell] probably looked at their ability to garner any U.S. government telecom contracts with Huawei equipment in their [network]. My guess is that would be a negative for them," he said.

"My guess is they decided to take that off the table."

Rogers has had a long-standing partnership with Ericsson on its existing wireless networks, and announced in 2018 that it would use Ericsson equipment for its 5G network, which it started to roll out in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal earlier this year.
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It’s strange for a defendant to claim innocence after “repeatedly swearing under oath that he committed the crime,” argued lawyers for Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Lawyers for a federal judge raised suspicions in a court filing Monday about the motives behind the Department of Justice’s move to drop perjury charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“It is unusual for a criminal defendant to claim innocence and move to withdraw his guilty plea after repeatedly swearing under oath that he committed the crime,” noted the brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on behalf of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided in the Flynn case. It is “unprecedented” for the DOJ to take action to dismiss a case years after two different federal judges accepted the plea, the brief added.

The “unusual developments in this case provide at least a plausible ‘reason to question’ the ‘bona fides’ of the government’s motion,” lawyers argued.

Sullivan should not be required to act as a “mere rubber stamp” for Attorney General William Barr’s strategy, and should be allowed to rule in the case to protect the “integrity of the judicial process,” the brief warned.

After Sullivan signaled last month that he would not rubber-stamp the DOJ move to drop the charges, Flynn’s attorneys asked the appeals court to order the judge to do so, and accused Sullivan of “bias.”

The Justice Department joined with Flynn in a separate filing later Monday asking the appeals court to immediately dismiss the case. It argued that the executive branch, not the judiciary, has the “power to decide when — and when not — to prosecute potential crimes” — even though it was the DOJ that initially prosecuted the case against Flynn. Judges don’t have the authority to “stand in the way of a dismissal the defendant does not oppose,” it argued.

The back-and-forth was the latest chapter in the Trump administration’s effort to sanitize Flynn’s actions before he was fired by Donald Trump three years ago for lying to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about his secret phone calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after Trump was elected.

In transcripts of some of the calls released publicly for the first time last week, Flynn tried to convince Kislyak to keep Russian President Vladimir Putin calm about sanctions imposed by then-President Barack Obama for interfering in the U.S. presidential election. Kislyak agreed and indicated that once Obama was gone, the Kremlin could forge a new relationship with the White House. Flynn didn’t once complain in the calls of the Kremlin’s attempt to sabotage the American election.

Trump claims that the transcripts reveal nothing concerning and that surveillance of Flynn at the time was a subterfuge for the FBI to launch an illegitimate probe into his administration. Democrats argue that the details of Flynn’s secret talks were a sign of possible collusion between the Kremlin and the incoming administration that justified the investigation.

Sullivan’s attorneys listed a number of concerning omissions in the DOJ’s action demanding the Flynn charges be dropped.

“It was signed by the Acting U.S. Attorney alone. ... it featured no affidavits or declarations supporting its many new factual allegations; it was not accompanied by a motion to vacate the government’s prior, contrary filings ... it cited minimal legal authority in support of its view,” the filing noted.

In addition, it failed to mention Flynn’s undisclosed paid work at the time for the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was part of his plea agreement, the document noted.
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that people protesting the death of George Floyd have "by and large" been peaceful, and stressed that looters are a separate group.

"What's happening in this environment … all these issues are getting blurred," Cuomo said at his daily press briefing. "COVID-19 is one issue, the outrage over Mr. Floyd is another issue, looters are another issue."

"We can't blur the lines … don't blur the lines for your political purpose," Cuomo said, noting President Trump's criticism of New York City's response to the ongoing unrest.

 to prevent another night of destruction overnight, including a break-in at the iconic Macy's store on 34th Street. Near Rockefeller Center, storefront windows were smashed and multiple people arrested.

Mr. Trump has called on the governor to send in the National Guard to assist the NYPD. Cuomo called the president's suggestion "political spin," and said sending in the National Guard would only "make a bad situation worse."

"I'm not happy with last night," Cuomo said of the NYPD's response to looting and property destruction. "... But you have 38,000 NYPD — they have protected the city before in situations like these."

"I do believe that the NYPD well-deployed do not need the National Guard," he said.

The governor said Mr. Trump has blurred the lines of these "compounding crises."

"The president doesn't want to distinguish between the looters and the protesters," Cuomo said. "He doesn't want to talk about the killing of Mr. Floyd, and he doesn't want to talk about reforming the justice system."

Cuomo also addressed the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the governor, the number of new COVID-19 cases walking in the doors of hospitals statewide is at an all time low: 154.

Every region in the state, apart from New York City, has started to reopen. And Cuomo said that the city is "on track — in the midst of all of this — to open phase one next Monday."
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Medicare for All: What Is It and How Will It Work?

Experts answer your most pressing questions and explain how "Medicare for All" could change healthcare in America.

Ask someone what they think about the idea of “Medicare for All” — that is, one national health insurance plan for all Americans — and you’ll likely hear one of two opinions: One, that it sounds great and could potentially fix the country’s broken healthcare system. Or two, that it would be the downfall of our country’s (broken) healthcare system.

What you likely won’t hear? A succinct, fact-based explanation of what Medicare for All would actually entail and how it could affect you.

It’s a topic that is especially relevant right now. In the midst of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Medicare for All has become a key point of contention in the Democratic Party primary. From Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s embrace of single-payer healthcare to former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s embrace of reforms to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), how to best improve healthcare in America is a divisive issue for voters.

It also can become confusing and difficult to parse out differences between different policies in order to assess how they might impact your day-to-day life if enacted. The other question in this divisive political climate: Will any of these plans be enacted in a Washington D.C. that has been defined more by its partisan divides and policy inaction?

To try to make sense of Medicare for All and how the politics of the day are impacting America’s approach to health coverage, we asked healthcare experts to answer your most pressing questions.

What is the overall plan?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Medicare for All is that there’s just one proposal on the table.

“In fact, there are a number of different proposals out there,” explained Katie Keith, JD, MPH, a research faculty member for Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

“Most people tend to think of the most far-reaching Medicare for All proposals, which are outlined in bills sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. But there are a number of proposals out there that would expand the role of public programs in healthcare,” she said.

Although all of these plans tend to get grouped together, “there are key differences among the various options,” Keith added, “and, as we know in healthcare, the differences and details really matter.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Sanders’ and Jayapal's bills (S. 1129 and H.R. 1384, respectively) share many similarities, such as:

    comprehensive benefits
    tax financed
    a replacement for all private health insurance, as well as the current Medicare program
    lifetime enrollment
    no premiums
    all state-licensed, certified providers who meet eligible standards can apply

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Universal Health Care: The Affordable Dream
« Reply #16077 on: June 02, 2020, 05:49:46 PM »
Amartya Sen, PhD, Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Econonomics and Philosphy, Harvard University; Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1998)

Sen A. Universal health care: the affordable dream. Harvard Public Health Review. Spring 2015;5.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the young Gautama Buddha left his princely home, in the foothills of the Himalayas, in a state of agitation and agony. What was he so distressed about? We learn from his biography that he was moved in particular by seeing the penalties of ill health—by the sight of mortality (a dead body being taken to cremation), morbidity (a person severely afflicted by illness), and disability (a person reduced and ravaged by unaided old age). Health has been a primary concern of human beings throughout history. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that healthcare for all—“universal healthcare” (UHC)—has been a highly appealing social objective in most countries in the world, even in those that have not got very far in actually providing it.

The usual reason given for not attempting to provide universal healthcare in a country is poverty. The United States, which can certainly afford to provide healthcare at quite a high level for all Americans, is exceptional in terms of the popularity of the view that any kind of public establishment of universal healthcare must somehow involve unacceptable intrusions into private life. There is considerable political complexity in the resistance to UHC in the US, often led by medical business and fed by ideologues who want “the government to be out of our lives”, and also in the systematic cultivation of a deep suspicion of any kind of national health service, as is standard in Europe (“socialised medicine” is now a term of horror in the U.S.)

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The costs of inequality: Money = quality health care = longer life
« Reply #16078 on: June 02, 2020, 05:53:05 PM »
Federal insurance has helped many, but system’s holes limit gains, Harvard analysts say

If you want to get an idea of the gap between the world’s sickest and healthiest people, don’t fly to a faraway land. Just look around the United States.

Health inequality is part of American life, so deeply entangled with other social problems — disparities in income, education, housing, race, gender, and even geography — that analysts have trouble saying which factors are cause and which are effect. The confusing result, they say, is a massive chicken-and-egg puzzle, its solution reaching beyond just health care. Because of that, everyday realities often determine whether people live in health or infirmity, to a ripe old age or early death.

“There are huge inequalities in this country that often get overlooked … If you want to observe the problems of poverty and inequality, you don’t need to travel all the way to Malawi. You can go to a rural house in America,” said Ichiro Kawachi, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology and chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “If you’re born a black man in, let’s say, New Orleans Parish, your average life expectancy is worse than the male average of countries that are much poorer than America.”

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Universal Health Coverage - WHO
« Reply #16079 on: June 02, 2020, 05:56:44 PM »

Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

Currently, at least half of the people in the world do not receive the health services they need. About 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. This must change.

To make health for all a reality, we need: individuals and communities who have access to high quality health services so that they take care of their own health and the health of their families; skilled health workers providing quality, people-centred care; and policy-makers committed to investing in universal health coverage.

Universal health coverage should be based on strong, people-centred primary health care. Good health systems are rooted in the communities they serve. They focus not only on preventing and treating disease and illness, but also on helping to improve well-being and quality of life.

Our work  Headings to articles about their work.

Health financing

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Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'