If the McConnell Rule Is Dead, Court-Packing Is Permitted

Eric Levitz in the New York Magazine really gets to the raw ugliness of Republican power:

In actuality, the right’s position, plainly stated, is this: America’s anti-GOP majority has no preferences that Senate Republicans are bound to respect. The fact that a plurality of Americans rejected Donald Trump does not mean that he must show some deference to their views by nominating moderate justices to the Court. To the contrary, it is perfectly legitimate for the timing of various deaths — and the structural biases of America’s electoral institutions — to award conservatives with a far-right Supreme Court majority for decades to come, even as their party has lost the popular vote in six of seven presidential elections. What’s more, it is also legitimate for that majority to strike down the last Democratic president’s signature legislative achievement on specious grounds, or gut voting-rights legislation that Congress has recently authorized, or remove an entire categories of economic policy from the realm of democratic contestation — because legislating from the bench is only “judicial activism” when liberals do it; when we legislate from the bench, it is “constitutionalism.”

The Neoliberal Looting of America (NYTimes)

From the NYTimes:

Private equity firms use money provided by institutional investors like pension funds and university endowments to take over and restructure companies or industries. Private equity touches practically every sector, from housing to health care to retail. In pursuit of maximum returns, such firms have squeezed businesses for every last drop of profit, cutting jobs, pensions and salaries where possible. The debt-laden buyouts privatize gains when they work, and socialize losses when they don’t, driving previously healthy firms to bankruptcy and leaving many others permanently hobbled. The list of private equity’s victims has grown even longer in the past year, adding J.CrewToys ‘R’ UsHertz and more.

In the last decade, private equity management has led to approximately 1.3 million job losses due to retail bankruptcies and liquidation. Beyond the companies directly controlled by private equity, the threat of being the next takeover target has most likely led other companies to pre-emptively cut wages and jobs to avoid being the weakest prey. Amid the outbreak of street protests in June, a satirical headline in The Onion put it best: “Protesters Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First.” Yet the private equity takeover is not technically looting because it has been made perfectly legal, and even encouraged, by policymakers.

An examination of the recent history of private equity disproves the neoliberal myth that profit incentives produce the best outcomes for society. The passage of time has debunked another such myth: that deregulating industries would generate more vibrant competition and benefit consumers. Unregulated market competition actually led to market consolidation instead. Would-be monopolies squeezed competitors, accrued political power, lobbied for even more deregulation and ultimately drove out any rivals, leading inexorably to entrenched political power. Instead of a thriving market of small-firm competition, free market ideology led to a few big winners dominating the rest.

And we can move beyond the myths of neoliberalism that have led us here. We can have competitive and prosperous markets, but our focus should be on ensuring human dignity, thriving families and healthy communities. When those are in conflict, we should choose flourishing communities over profits.

Epidemiology of COVID-19 Spreading via Breathing, Coughing, Sneezing, Singing, & Talking in Various Settings

https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

This just one of the fascinating examples in this article of how epidemiologists tracked down very specific examples of COVID-19 spread in different situations:

Some really great shoe-leather epidemiology demonstrated clearly the effect of a single asymptomatic carrier in a restaurant environment (see below). The infected person (A1) sat at a table and had dinner with 9 friends. Dinner took about 1 to 1.5 hours. During this meal, the asymptomatic carrier released low-levels of virus into the air from their breathing. Airflow (from the restaurant’s various airflow vents) was from right to left. Approximately 50% of the people at the infected person’s table became sick over the next 7 days. 75% of the people on the adjacent downwind table became infected. And even 2 of the 7 people on the upwind table were infected (believed to happen by turbulent airflow). No one at tables E or F became infected, they were out of the main airflow from the air conditioner on the right to the exhaust fan on the left of the room. (Ref)

20-0764-f1

 

We Are Living in a Failed State The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken

From the June 2020 edition of The Atlantic.

This article is long, brutal, and essential.

Normally, I try and paraphrase the article I’m referencing, but this article makes so many powerful points, I can’t do that.  Here’s the opening paragraph instead:

When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.

The Daily Beast’s Commentary on Trump’s State of the Union address

This is The Daily Beast’s take on what Trump really wanted to say at the State of the Union address:

The state of the union is…. pure, weapons-grade, uncut f**king chaos, and I am both unhinged and unbound from any consequence, ever. All the pretty words my speechwriters worked so hard on are a thin veneer over the seething mass of coming horrors. I have gambled our economy, compromised our security, and shredded our dignity, and I’ll do it again. My message to the American people: bend the knee. To my enemies: vengeance is coming.

“Bend the knee”   That summarizes it all.

Trump is a ‘successful sociopath’. A predator who lacks a conscience and strategic thought.

https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-sociopath-mental-health-harvard-psychiatry-professor-1468441

A retired Harvard psychiatry professor described President Donald Trump as “essentially a predator” and a “successful sociopath.”

Lance M. Dodes, MD, a former assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is yet another mental health expert to call into question the president’s state of mind

“His focus on his personal benefit at any cost is why he’s a successful sociopath,” Dodes told Salon, adding that he can “see Donald for who he really is.”

“It’s very hard to get this across to the public, because every time people talk about him, they start out with the unspoken unconscious assumption that he’s basically like the rest of us,” Dodes told Salon.

“But in order to explain and predict Trump’s behavior, you have to begin with awareness that he is essentially a predator.

“Once you keep in mind that Trump lacks a conscience and lacks empathy, he becomes very easy to follow. Unlike normal people, who are complex, he’s basically running on a very simple and very disordered program.”

John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center, wrote that Trump’s “mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms.”

“Trump does not have a vision or a plan, because he can think only in concrete, elementary, childlike, one dimensional terms,” Talmadge, who was commenting in a personal capacity, wrote.

“He does not process an abstract idea like American forces stabilizing a multilateral conflict with geopolitical implications.

“This Trumpian brain failure is hard for normal people to understand because for normal people, abstract thought is natural, baked in, largely unnoticed. Normal people see the consequences, assess risk, make rational decisions most of the time.”