Gretchen Whitmer: A Governor on Her Own, With Everything at Stake – By Jonathan Mahler – The New York Times

“Gretchen Whitmer first heard the word “coronavirus” over the 2019 Christmas holidays from her younger sister, who a decade earlier contracted H1N1. Whitmer, just a year into office and preoccupied with her agenda for 2020, barely registered it. She was in a hurry to push forward on some of her campaign promises, like introducing an array of new education programs and repairing Michigan’s badly potholed roads. The state’s Republican lawmakers had blocked her at nearly every turn, but now, with the economy in Michigan and America booming, Whitmer had a plan to make an end-run around the Legislature by issuing $3.5 billion in bonds to help fund her projects. January was going to be about building political momentum for that effort and gearing up for a presidential election in which Michigan, where Donald Trump won by just 10,704 votes in 2016, was again going to be an important battleground state. Whitmer was tapped to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s annual State of the Union address on Feb. 4.

As the governor began moving ahead with her agenda, though, the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, was watching the gathering storm with growing concern. Potentially infected travelers were arriving daily in Michigan, but the Centers for Disease Control was not providing her with the support she needed to adequately detect and contain the virus. On Feb. 27, Khaldun briefed the governor and her staff on the epidemic in a conference room adjacent to her office. She said that she was convinced the coronavirus had already come to Michigan; she just couldn’t prove it. Khaldun reminded Whitmer and her staff that there was no vaccine for this virus, that it was highly contagious and that it was much more deadly than the flu. In order to prevent a widespread outbreak, she said, it would almost certainly be necessary to take some pretty extreme measures, like banning large group gatherings and maybe even ordering certain businesses to close temporarily.

A brief silence fell over the room. One of Whitmer’s aides spoke.

“This could be disastrous to the economy,” he said.

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Poll Shows Trump Dragging Down G.O.P. Senate Candidates – The New York Times

NYT Upshot/Siena College poll

of registered voters in Arizona

Arizona Senate

47%

Kelly

38%

McSally

16%

Other

“Other” includes those who would vote for another candidate, would not vote or did not know. Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 650 registered voters in Arizona from June 17 to June 22.

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s erratic performance in office and his deteriorating standing in the polls is posing a grave threat to his party’s Senate majority, imperiling incumbents in crucial swing states and undermining Republican prospects in one of the few states they had hoped to gain a seat, according to a new poll of registered voters by The New York Times and Siena College.

Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, a Republican, trails her Democratic opponent, Mark Kelly, by nine percentage points while Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina is behind his Democratic rival, Cal Cunningham, by three. Both incumbents are polling below 40 percent despite having recently aired a barrage of television advertisements.

In Michigan, which Senate Republicans viewed as one of their few opportunities to go on the offensive this year, Senator Gary Peters, a first-term Democrat, is up by 10 percentage points over John James, who is one of the G.O.P.’s most prized recruits.

NYT Upshot/Siena College poll

of registered voters in Michigan

Michigan Senate

41%

Peters

31%

James

29%

Other

“Other” includes those who would vote for another candidate, would not vote or did not know. Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 610 registered voters in Michigan from June 17 to June 22.

The poll showed that the same voters who are fleeing the president — highly educated white Americans, many of them once-reliable Republicans — are providing an advantage to Democratic Senate candidates. Mr. Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus and his bombastic response to protests over racial justice have made him an underdog against Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, who led the president by 14 percentage points nationally in the Times poll.

Opinion | China and America Are Heading Toward Divorce – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My favorite story in John Bolton’s book about the Trump Fun House — sorry, White House — was that President Trump appealed to China’s leader to buy more U.S. agricultural products to boost Trump’s farm vote and his re-election.

Donald: Stop begging. Both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have decided to vote for you. Don’t worry!

They know that as long as you’re president, America will be in turmoil. For Xi, that means we’re a less formidable economic rival, and for Vlad, that means we’re a less attractive democratic model for his people. They also both know that as long as you’re president the U.S. will never be able to galvanize a global coalition of allies against them, which is what China fears most on trade, human rights and Covid-19 and Russia on Ukraine and Syria.

Don’t take it from me. Here’s what Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese trade negotiator and deputy representative in Geneva, told Bloomberg’s Peter Martin: “If Biden is elected, I think this could be more dangerous for China, because he will work with allies to target China, whereas Trump is destroying U.S. alliances.”

Chinese officials, Martin reported, see a unified front on trade or human rights by the U.S. and its allies as “Washington’s greatest asset for checking China’s widening influence,” and Trump’s behavior ensures that will never come about.”

David Lindsay:

It has become clear to me that Bolten’s publisher sent free advance copies of his new book to every columnist at the NYT who writes about foreign policy ever. I should complain to my own publisher, and perhaps fire them, for not doing the same courtesy for my book, The Tay Son Rebellion!

Opinion | Don’t Buy John Bolton’s Book. But Don’t Ignore Its Revelations. – By Michelle Goldberg – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The American news cycle has become so manic and surreal that there hasn’t been much time to reflect on the revelation, in the new book by the former national security adviser John Bolton, that Donald Trump encouraged President Xi Jinping of China in the building of concentration camps for its Muslim Uighur minority.

Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened,” which I received this week in advance of its release on Tuesday, describes a conversation Trump had with Xi at the opening dinner of the Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, with only their interpreters present: “Xi explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

It is impossible, at this late date, to be shocked by the behavior of our depraved president. Nor is it surprising, given Trump’s treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, that he is pro-concentration camp.

But Americans should know that China’s detention of over a million people largely on religious grounds — a project that reports say includes torture, sterilization and forcing Uighur women to sleep with members of China’s Han majority to promote “ethnic unity” — is happening with our president’s behind-the-scenes approval. (In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump denied the account in Bolton’s book.)”

“. . . .  All the same, there is information here that deserves whatever attention people can muster in the midst of plague and mass protest. Bolton provides, albeit belatedly, firsthand confirmation that Trump did exactly what he was impeached for — leveraging American military aid in exchange for Ukraine’s help in smearing Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden: “Aug. 20, I took Trump’s temperature on the Ukraine security assistance, and he said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” Bolton writes.

Such behavior was nothing new for Trump; earlier Bolton describes him “pleading with Xi” for help in the 2020 election by making agricultural purchases from farm states. Though Bolton writes that the government’s pre-publication reviewers prevented him from using Trump’s exact words, Vanity Fair saw an unredacted version of the passage: “Make sure I win. I will probably win anyway, so don’t hurt my farms. … Buy a lot of soybeans and wheat and make sure we win.”

That Bolton did not testify to this earlier is to his immense disgrace. But it is a national disgrace that his confirmation of the Democrats’ impeachment case probably won’t matter, so inured are Republicans to staggering corruption.

Bolton’s warning to his ideological allies should be heeded, though it won’t be. Should Trump win in 2020, he writes, “conservatives and Republicans should worry about the removal of the political guardrail of Trump having to face re-election.”

Don’t buy this book. John Bolton doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for withholding testimony he had a duty to provide months ago. But don’t dismiss it either. The president cheered China’s concentration camps. At this point in the Trump era, it’s a constant challenge not to let oneself be bored by evil.”

Opinion | What John Bolton and His Book Say About Trump’s Washington – by John Gans – The New York Times

“. . .  Whichever way Mr. Bolton wanted to go public with what he knew — a network interview, a press conference at the end of his driveway, an epic Twitter thread, an early launch of the book — a big disclosure would’ve guaranteed that he never again ate alone in Washington. Yet January, and impeachment, came and went without much more than a peep from him.

There were a few factors that surely contributed to his taciturnity. There was and remains a clear risk of legal jeopardy, including potential criminal and financial penalties for revealing classified information. He also had a book to promote and paid speeches that pay more for exclusivity. And he dreams of being the future of Mr. Trump’s Republican Party, not a darling of either the resistance or the Democratic Party.

Yet, aside from Mr. Bolton’s idiosyncrasies, his no-show when it mattered says something about what Washington has become in 2020. It is hard to see any more in Mr. Bolton’s crusade beyond self-interest: for vengeance, attention and sales of the book, which cravenly opened for pre-order in the hours after the first story with details from his manuscript went live.”

“. . . .  Mr. Bolton was willing to feed information to the Democrats, but not side with them. He was willing to leak to reporters but not speak publicly. He was open to impeaching Mr. Trump, but not on the crimes and misdemeanors as written. He was willing to testify, but only under a subpoena from the Senate. In short, Mr. Bolton wanted to have his say and do it his way. With the book coming out, he has — thanks, in part, to an all-too-willing public. But because it’s only a story about Mr. Bolton versus Mr. Trump, few will ever rally to his side.

As Mr. Bolton finds himself alone at the center of the week’s conversation, one could wonder whether there’s any reason for hope in Washington. Yet, amid the Bolton news storm was a far less noticed story: The Washington Post reported that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who worked for Mr. Bolton on the National Security Council and testified openly during the impeachment inquiry only to be dismissed by Mr. Trump, may not be promoted to colonel because of presidential pressure.

Why is that a hopeful sign? Mr. Vindman’s ordeal is a reminder that there are still heroes in Mr. Trump’s Washington, willing to pay the price to do what’s right — not just what’s in their interest.

During his testimony, Mr. Vindman appealed to and embodied the principles that we all at least claim to hold dear. The contrast with Mr. Bolton, and his book, could not be more stark. After all, what do you call a hero without any followers? Just a guy having lunch all alone.”

Opinion | The Doom Where It Happened – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“. . . . It took cynicism to work for a president whose character he disdained and whose worldview he opposed. It took gullibility to think he could blunt or influence either. It took cynicism to observe the president commit multiple potentially impeachable offenses and then sit out impeachment on the pathetic excuse that Democrats were going about it the wrong way and that his testimony would have made no meaningful difference. It took gullibility to assume his book would have any effect on Trump’s re-election prospects now. It took cynicism to reap profits thanks to a president he betrayed and a nation he let down. It took gullibility to imagine he’d be applauded as a courageous truth-teller when his motives are so nakedly vindictive and mercenary.

Above all, it took astonishing foolishness for Bolton to imagine that his book would advance the thing he claims to care about most — a hawkish vision of U.S. foreign policy. That vision will now be forever tarred by its association with him, a man considered a lunatic by most liberals and a Judas by many conservatives.

I write all this as someone who shares many of Bolton’s hawkish foreign-policy views. I’m also someone who urged Bolton, while he was still in office, to resign on principle. It’s a shame he didn’t do so while he still had a chance to preserve his honor, but it isn’t a surprise. Only the truly gullible can act totally cynically and imagine they can escape history’s damning verdict.”

Seth Bates, I enoyed what you wrote earlier about Bolten, and I do hope you find the time to read this. Even though Stephens and I often have very different policy views, I second his opinion of Bolton, who he describes as a pathetic opportunist. I am disgusted by Bolten’s position that Trump as president is a menace to the United States, but that he, as a pure hard-liner hawk, would never vote for Joe Biden. Bolten implicates himself in the mud slung by his accusers.

Opinion | Why Do We Pay So Many People So Little Money? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Brittany Newman/The New York Times

“With notable abruptness, thanks to the advent of the coronavirus, much of the public has become aware its dependence on hospital orderlies, cleaners, trash collectors, grocery workers, food delivery drivers, paramedics, mortuary technicians, and postal, shipping, maintenance, wastewater treatment, truck stop and mass transit employees — on what, to many, had been a largely invisible work force.

As Tony Powell, a 62-year-old hospital administrative coordinator, told Molly Kinder, a fellow in the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, in a taped interview in May:

People are not looking at people like us on the lower end of the spectrum. We’re not even getting respect. That is the biggest thing: we are not even getting respect. Nobody is listening to their voices. Maybe they’ll wake up and see: Oh, these are the people that are actually taking care of the people that need to be taken care of.

A paper published that same month, “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis,” by Anna Stansbury and Lawrence H. Summers, economists at Harvard, describes conditions on the bottom rungs of the job market:

The American economy has become more ruthless, as declining unionization, increasingly demanding and empowered shareholders, decreasing real minimum wages, reduced worker protections, and the increases in outsourcing domestically and abroad have disempowered workers — with profound consequences for the labor market and the broader economy.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Excellent research and writing, thank you Thomas Edsall. I propose we consider and try to implement a new employment tax that goes up as the unemployment rate goes up, and retreats as the unemployment rate goes down. The funds would help pay for a federal work program for every American that needs a job. One of the many benefits of such a tax and spend system, is that it would put pressure on companies and small business people to hire workers, since if they don’t, the tax goes up. Supermarkets that replace cashiers with robots would see their taxes go up, unless those workers quickly found other work.

Opinion | The Inheritance Tax Is Far Too Low – By Lily Batchelder – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Batchelder is a professor at New York University School of Law.

Credit…Michael Houtz

“A massive transfer of wealth is underway and will accelerate in the coming years. Baby boomers and the generation that preceded them currently own $84 trillion, or 81 percent of all U.S. household wealth — wealth that will before long be inherited by their children and other beneficiaries.

This extraordinary transfer of resources will further cement the economic inequality that plagues the United States because this wealth is tightly concentrated in the hands of a few. And it will be passed on as taxes on such transfers are at historic lows.

Among high-income countries, the United States has one of the lowest levels of intergenerational economic mobility, meaning a child’s economic future is heavily influenced by his or her parents’ income. We have the second-highest level of income inequality after taxes and government transfers, and the highest level of wealth inequality. These disparities are sharply skewed by race. Median black household wealth is only 9 percent that of white households, a racial wealth gap that is even larger than in 1968New research suggests the pandemic will further increase wealth inequality, as the affluent save more and the poor earn less.

Effectively addressing these systemic inequalities will require many things. But increasing the taxation of inheritances is one vital component.”

Opinion | The Tulsa Race Massacre, Revisited – By Brent Staples – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Staples is a member of the editorial board.

Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

“The lynch mobs that hanged, shot or burned African-Americans alive during the early 20th century sometimes varied the means of slaughter by roping victims to cars and dragging them to death. The killers who re-enacted this barbaric ritual in Tulsa, Okla., on June 1, 1921, committed one of the defining atrocities of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the bloody conflagration during which white vigilantes murdered at will while looting and burning one of the most affluent black communities in the United States.

The helpless old black man who was shredded alive behind a fast-moving car would have been well known in Tulsa’s white downtown, where he supported himself by selling pencils and singing for coins. He was blind, had suffered amputations of both legs and wore baseball catcher’s mitts to protect his hands from the pavement as he scooted along on a wheeled wooden platform.  . . . . “

“Greenwood, whose business district was known as the Negro Wall Street, was the seat of African-American affluence in the Southwest, with two newspapers, two movie theaters and a commercial strip featuring some of the finest black-owned businesses in the country. White Tulsa’s business elite resented the competition all the more because the face of that competition was black. Beyond that, the white city saw the bustling black community as an obstacle to Tulsa’s expansion.

The white press set the stage for Greenwood’s destruction by deriding the community as “Niggertown” and portraying its jazz clubs as founts of vice, immorality and, by implication, race mixing. As was often the case in the early 20th century, a false accusation of attempted rape opened the door for white Tulsans to act out their antipathies.

A black man accused of accosting a white woman in a downtown elevator in broad daylight was predictably arrested, and, just as predictably, a mob convened at the courthouse spoiling for an evening’s lynching entertainment. Black Tulsans who appeared on the scene to prevent the lynching exchanged gunfire with the mob. Outmanned and outgunned, they retreated to Greenwood to defend against the coming onslaught.

The city guaranteed mayhem by deputizing members of the lynch mob — a catastrophic decision, given that Oklahoma was a center of Ku Klux Klan activity — and instructing them to “get a gun, and get busy and try to get a nigger.” The white men who surged into Greenwood may well have been told to burn the district. Greenwood’s defenders fought valiantly but were quickly overwhelmed.”