Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Biden says he wants to unite people. Some interpret this as meaning a bipartisan thing, that he will give a little and the other side will give a little. So the question is, is there room to compromise, to meet in the middle? Is President Biden promising to adopt Republican policies to unite the people? I don't think that's what he means.

I would typify the previous administration as an incompetent presidency, with the economy gone to hell, massive corruption, natural disasters with no response, and of course a pandemic that somehow didn't get the message that it was supposed to go away like magic. But conservatives hate to see Trump go, they insist that he fulfilled his campaign promises, that he gave them what they wanted. I am not really the one to speak for what a great job he did, but I saw a few things that he delivered for his voters. Off the top of my head:

The wall. An attempt to physically block immigrants from coming over the border. Completely ineffective on every level and Mexico did not pay for it, but conservatives loved it as a symbol of American fear.

Muslim ban. The assumption is that all Muslims are terrorists, they hate our way of life. All billion and a half of them are our enemy. For many Americans this is (ironically) a no-brainer.

Amnesty for domestic terrorists. Armed militants taking over state capitols, caravans attacking cities with federal and local police protection. White murderers and vandals praised and rewarded.

ICE. Not just blocking immigrants, but humiliating them, making refugees' miserable lives even more miserable. So what if a few hundred women are raped, a few hundred kids are taken from their mothers, a few thousand get COVID, a few dozen die? What in the world ever gave all those foreigners the idea we would welcome the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

Wealth inequality. The rich got much richer under the previous administration, and the poor got poorer. Good job, Republicans!

The courts. It didn't really help him any, but the Republicans under Trump filled the courts with conservative and incompetent judges. I think this is really about abortion, which the Bible says is ... uh never mind, it doesn't say anything about it.

Racist police violence. Conservatives loved the police brutality in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and other cities, blaming it on the victims. Their point of course is that those people deserve it. Tear gas, rubber bullets, running over people, kettling and beating people, chokeholds -- conservatives think this is great, as long as the victims are Black or, you know, antifa or something.

Gay and transgender people. Rights eliminated all over the place. Hey, it's their choice, if they don't want to be discriminated against they ought to just quit that stuff.

Women. Grab 'em. The Stormy Daniels situation was something to be proud of, what a stud. And you could tell there were a bunch of others too, man this guy is a regular Romeo. Official Republican platform: hot women are the best. The rest of them are bitches, especially the ugly ones.

Guns. Look, Trump doesn't know anything about guns. He's a New York real estate developer. He's got soft little hands. But the point is, he is in favor of white people being able to shoot somebody without getting arrested. The Constitution is: sumpn sumpn Second Amendment sumpn sumpn sumpn, under God.

In other words, no, there is not room to compromise. Those of us who care do not want to see America turn into that. By that I mean, a majority of Americans do not and did not want that. Hate had its turn, it didn't work out, it's time to move on.

Unity does not mean compromise. It means inviting people back into our community who have been pushed out, often verbally and sometimes literally attacked by our government. The saying during the previous administration was "it's all about the cruelty," and that is going to stop. Laws need to be enforced, order needs to be maintained, but the government does not need to be abusive to people just because they don't meet the privileged profile.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The End of Doomscrolling

A browsing technique emerged on Twitter and news media over the past four years, called doomscrolling. This is where you go to your phone or computer every half hour or so and scroll furiously down the screen to see what insane or atrocious thing the President or his team have just done. Journalists found new ways to say, "We thought we had seen the craziest, stupidest thing possible, but he has outdone himself," and then they would describe some boorish or ill-considered decision or outburst, and by the time you read it the President and his crew had broken their own record and you had to scroll again to find out about the newest Worst Thing Ever. Pitching paper towels in Puerto Rico, Four Seasons Total Landscaping, "Lock her up..." I could go on for a long time.

We don't doomscroll now. Occasionally the White House press secretary gets off a mild zinger, but these are easily defensible statements of values and assurance that the US has changed directions. The President is not shooting gotchas at his enemies, he is meeting with them and trying to work out deals. And if they don't want to contribute something, he has both houses of Congress and will go ahead with the agenda he was elected to implement. The Republicans have their reasons for hoping he doesn't do too well, y'know, and sometimes he's got to roll past them. There's no time for their malarkey, man.

People are liking this. No poll has had Biden's popularity under fifty percent since he was inaugurated -- you might remember, Trump never got up to fifty percent. And as for his policies, Yahoo conducted a survey:

When asked about the 20 policies that define President Biden’s agenda, more Americans support than oppose all 20 of them, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The margins are decisive. The majority of Biden’s proposals garner at least twice as much support as opposition. Nearly half are favored by more than 60 percent of Americans.

The biggest issue facing the country right now is the coronavirus pandemic. During Trump's term it appeared he was intentionally undermining the United States, and he left us in bad shape. The previous administration lied about having reserves of vaccine. Their statistics were sabotaged to make the epidemic look less deadly than it actually was. They muzzled the scientists, hijacked the protective gear -- the State Department literally overruled the CDC to bring infected people into the country and release them to wander around and infect others. The actual plan was to let Americans get sick and die until there was nobody left to infect. There was no strategy for distributing vaccine, even with a year to figure it out.

It is frustrating now to see the government scramble to get vaccine made, to see the logistical difficulties of getting "shots into arms" of people (I hate that phrase), but everybody knows the situation. It's going to take a little while to recover from Trump's attempt to bring our country to its knees but progress is visible. Each state still has its own approaches and quirks, with "good governors" turning into "bad governors" and vice versa from day to day, but it is very complicated to chase down an invisible enemy, disrupting everyone's lives, figuring out how to prioritize fairly while still giving the rich and powerful their expected special treatment. There are rumors about the vaccines, some are borderline-credible and some are borderline-schizophrenic, but a good percentage of people are afraid to take the stuff. It's hard to reach people, hard to keep records, hard to transport the medicine... there are competing layers of complexity in every aspect of this task.

There is a thing that I told my kids when life dealt them difficulties, like for instance a knot in their shoelaces or a friend's sudden change of heart: It's just a problem, and all you have to do is solve it. You can freak out, you can blame somebody, you can feel sorry for yourself, you can deny they exist, but you will inevitably encounter problems, and the way to get past them is to solve them. So Biden's administration is taking the coronavirus problem and breaking it into its components -- statistics and prevention, informing the public, subsidizing a stalled economy, vaccine production, deployment, etc. -- and figuring out how to solve each of the sub-problems. It may seem overwhelming but it's not actually the end of the world, it is a big problem and it will be hard to solve but at least the President is doing that. He doesn't have to blame China or brag about what strong and great measures he has taken, he needs to boost vaccine production and put supply chains into place to get the stuff to the people, and he's doing that.

So you don't have to doomscroll these days. There might be a breakthrough today, or a setback, but generally you know where this is going. We citizens need to stay home, wear masks, avoid crowds, wash our hands, and hold on while they figure it out. You will eventually get a phone call or email telling you how to schedule an appointment for a shot, and while that is not the end of it, you can at least relax a little knowing that your life has been saved. The end of this catastrophe is in sight.

It will make a lot of difference to have competent leadership in this country. There are still big issues to resolve, especially in some of the states, but these are just problems, and all we have to do is solve them.