What the Fate of Joe Biden’s Presidency Hinges On

Jan. 20, 2022

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By Matthew Yglesias

“. . . The fate of Mr. Biden’s presidency — and if you believe the dire warnings of many Democrats and academics, of the republic itself — hinges less on the fate of legacy items like Build Back Better or a renewed voting rights act than it does on the normal procession of macroeconomic events. Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, no president has control over them entirely — but pushing for a final version of the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which contains provisions to strengthen the semiconductor supply chain, could be helpful.

It means more attention to classic Biden themes of patriotism, bipartisanship and normalcy, and fewer headlines dominated by high-profile squeeze plays against moderate senators.”

Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner | What’s Happening on the Left Is No Excuse for What’s Happening on the Right – The New York Times

“American democracy has often confronted hostile forces from outside the United States; rarely has it been under as much of a threat from forces within the nation. The danger arises from illiberalism on the left and the right. Both sides are chipping away at the foundations of the American Republic; each side seems oblivious to its own defects.

Again and again, we have heard conservatives argue that even if you believe that Donald Trump is flawed and the MAGA movement is worrisome, the left is much more dangerous. We disagree. Fears about the left’s increasingly authoritarian, radical tendencies are well grounded; but they have blinded many conservatives to the greater danger posed by the right, which we believe is a threat to our constitutional order and therefore to conservatism itself.”

Opinion | Schwarzenegger: Solar Costs Could Rise if California Regulators Get Their Way – The New York Times

Mr. Schwarzenegger is a former governor of California.

“California has more rooftops with solar panels than any other state and continues to be a leader in new installations. But a proposal from the state’s public utility commission threatens that progress.

It should be stopped in its tracks.

When I was California’s governor, we set a goal in 2006 of putting solar panels on one million roofs across the state. Skeptics said it couldn’t be done, but with bipartisan support in the State Legislature, California met its goal in 2019.

The state now has 1.3 million solar rooftops generating roughly 10,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power three million homes. And more are being added every week. Roughly two-thirds of those rooftops are on houses and businesses; the rest are on government buildings.

But this hard-earned and vitally important accomplishment is now under threat. The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a plan that would make it too costly for many Californians to embrace solar power. A decision could come as soon as Jan. 27.”

Larry Fink’s Letter to CEOs Says Stakeholder Capitalism Is Not ‘Woke’ – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/business/dealbook/larry-fink-blackrock-letter.html

“Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of the investment giant BlackRock, has become one of the most influential voices in business over the past decade in pushing corporate leaders to think beyond profits, to their social purpose.

Mr. Fink has delivered his words in annual letters that have drawn remarkable attention, but also criticism from all corners: that he is beholden to politically correct antibusiness activists, or that he is co-opting these issues for marketing purposes.

On Monday night, he used his latest letter to corporate America to clarify — and defend — his approach.

“Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics,” Mr. Fink wrote to the chief executives of businesses that BlackRock has invested in. “It is not ‘woke.’ It is capitalism.” “

Ezra Klein | This Presidency Isn’t Turning Out as Planned – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. His Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, was Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Reserve. The director of Biden’s National Economic Council, Brian Deese, was deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council. His chief of staff, Ron Klain, was his chief of staff for the first two years of the Obama administration and then Obama’s top Ebola adviser. And so on.

The familiar names and faces can obscure how different the new administration, in practice, has become. The problems Biden is facing are an almost perfect inversion of the problems Obama faced. The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply.”

Brilliant. Many valid points, despite the comments, which have some truth too. Maybe the Republicans threw the banana peels, but Biden chose to slip on them all.

Gail and Bret | Welcome to the ‘Well, Now What?’ Stage of the Story – The New York Times

Gail Collins: Bret, I suspect that even some diligent readers roll their eyes and turn the proverbial page when the subject of the filibuster comes up.

Bret Stephens: In the thrills department it ranks somewhere between budget reconciliation and a continuing resolution.

Gail: Yet here we are. Looks like Joe Biden’s voting rights package is doomed because he can’t get 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster. I’m inclined to sigh deeply and then change the subject, but duty prevails.

Bret: It’s another depressing sign of Team Biden’s political incompetence. How did they think it was a good idea for the president to go to Georgia to give his blistering speech on voting rights without first checking with Kyrsten Sinema that she’d be willing to modify the filibuster in order to have a chance of passing the bill? And then there was the speech itself, which struck me as … misjudged. Your thoughts?

Gail: If you mean, was it poorly delivered — well, after all these years we know that’s the Biden Way. He can rise above, as he did with the speech about the Jan. 6 uprising, but it’s not gonna happen a whole lot.

Bret: I meant Biden’s suggestion that anyone who disagreed with him was on the side of Jefferson Davis, George Wallace and Bull Connor. The increasingly casual habit of calling people racist when they disagree with a policy position is the stuff I’ve come to expect from Twitter, not a president who bills himself as a unifier. And again, it’s political malpractice, at least if the aim is to do more than just sound off to impress the progressive base.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT commentd:
Great conversation, thank you Gail and Bret. For me, the zenith was: Gail: Have to admit Harris has never knocked me over as a potential president. And as veep she’s stuck between assignments that nobody could possibly do, like solving the Mexican border crisis, and things she’s just bad at, like some of the inside-the-administration jobs her staff doesn’t seem capable of mastering. A group that is roiled by consistent turnover, by the way. Tell me your thoughts. Bret: Someone told me — it might have been you — that Harris is warm and funny in person. But she’s a lousy politician, and it showed when she flamed out of the Democratic primary before the Iowa caucus. Fixing the border is not mission impossible. It requires a mix of tough-minded security provisions of the sort past Democratic administrations were willing to put into place; ambitious legislative proposals to create broader avenues for legal immigration; a willingness to accept “Remain in Mexico” as an interim policy provided we help the Mexican government ensure humane conditions for migrants; and long-term security and economic assistance for troubled Latin American states.” Gail pitched the ball, and Bret hit the home run. I disagree with Brit that Biden is dead for re-election. He has elder chops. He just has to stay centered, pun intended.
David blogs at InconvientNews.Net.

Erika Lust’s Alternative Porn Vision – The New York Times

“BARCELONA, Spain — When Billie Eilish called pornography “a disgrace” in a recent radio interview, the quote made headlines. The Grammy-winning musician said she had started watching at around age 11, to learn how to have sex, and that she was now angry about the way she felt porn misrepresented women.

When people talk about pornography, they’re often referring, like Eilish, to its commercial, heterosexual variety, which is what most of the free porn online tends to be. On those sites, you’d be forgiven for thinking it all looks the same. But depending on the sexual politics and vision of its creator, porn can look wildly different.

Take, for example, the work of the Swedish filmmaker Erika Lust. She has built her production company, Erika Lust Films, into an art-house pornography behemoth by offering something outside the porn mainstream. Most viewers watch Lust’s stylish, highly produced films by subscribing to her websites, where she also distributes videos by other like-minded directors. But her own films have also been screened in regular movie theaters in Berlin, London, Paris, Los Angeles and New York.”

David Brooks | America Is Falling Apart at the Seams – The New York Times – And my response

Opinion Columnist

“In June a statistic floated across my desk that startled me. In 2020, the number of miles Americans drove fell 13 percent because of the pandemic, but the number of traffic deaths rose 7 percent.

I couldn’t figure it out. Why would Americans be driving so much more recklessly during the pandemic? But then in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths were up 18.4 percent even over 2020. Contributing factors, according to the agency, included driving under the influence, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Why are so many Americans driving irresponsibly?

While gloomy numbers like these were rattling around in my brain, a Substack article from Matthew Yglesias hit my inbox this week. It was titled, “All Kinds of Bad Behavior Is on the Rise.” Not only is reckless driving on the rise, Yglesias pointed out, but the number of altercations on airplanes has exploded, the murder rate is surging in cities, drug overdoses are increasing, Americans are drinking more, nurses say patients are getting more abusive, and so on and so on.”

“. . . But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.

What the hell is going on? The short answer: I don’t know. I also don’t know what’s causing the high rates of depression, suicide and loneliness that dogged Americans even before the pandemic and that are the sad flip side of all the hostility and recklessness I’ve just described.

We can round up the usual suspects: social media, rotten politics. When President Donald Trump signaled it was OK to hate marginalized groups, a lot of people were bound to see that as permission.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you David Brooks for another thoughtful and challenging column. You do have a blind spot, or malfunction, like the EVSE I use to charge up my two electric cars, or one electric car, and a Prius Prime, which is only electric for 25 miles in the summer. To fix the EVSE, when some widget seizes up, the manufacturer said, turn off the breaker, and hit the unit with a rubber mallet really hard. And it worked. I wonder if a rubber mallet would unstick you. I’d like to add to your thoughtful short list of the usual suspects, climate change and the sixth extinction, and the world overpopulation which are the cause of both. My adult daughter says she might not have any children because of these environmental crises. My adult son son says nothing I do for mitigation matters, since we have probably already passed the tipping point, and human life on the planet is probably doomed. I write about this stuff, with weird dark thoughts intruding on my brain, when awake and asleep. One sick thought, is that the pandemic has failed, because it hasn’t killed enough people. I admit this is a dark and ugly thought, but so is driving thousands of non human species into extinction, which is real, and going on this century, and accelerating. Are we committing an unforgiveable sin against other forms of life?
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net
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In addition,  one irony of this sin of human overpopulation and consumption, and of our poisoning the water, the air, the land, and the atmosphere, is that according to the late scientist Edward O Wilson, if we kill off over 50% of the world’s other species, which is where we are headed, the human species will probably not survive. During the 5th and last great extinction in the geological record, when the dinosaurs died off, so did probably about 95% of the world’s other species at that time.

Jonathan Stevenson and Steven Simon | We Need to Think the Unthinkable About Our Country – The New York Times

“A right-wing minority — including many elected politicians — is now practicing a form of brinkmanship by threatening to unilaterally destroy American democracy, daring what they hope is a timid and somnolent majority to resist them. But that majority has the benefit of warning ahead of 2024.

It behooves us to prepare our defenses for the worst. Understandably, the policy focus is now on pre-empting a right-wing steal in the next national election. But success will depend crucially on factors that are beyond control — the midterm elections this year and the identity of the Republican candidate in 2024 — which suggest that focus is misplaced. And even if a steal is thwarted, success might not preclude a coercive challenge of the election results; quite to the contrary, it would provoke one.

War games, tabletop exercises, operations research, campaign analyses, conferences and seminars on the prospect of American political conflagration — including insurrection, secession, insurgency and civil war — should be proceeding at a higher tempo and intensity. Scholars of American politics need to pick up the torch from experts on the democratic decline in Europe, who first raised the alarm about growing dangers to American politics. The very process of intellectual interaction and collaboration among influential analysts of different political stripes could reconcile many of them to the undesirability of political upheaval, and thus decrease its likelihood.

The overarching idea is, publicly and thoroughly, to probe just how bad things could get precisely to ensure that they never do, and that America’s abject political decay is averted.” -30-

Paul Krugman | Bitcoin, Inflation and the Misguided Fear of Government Money Creation – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I had some fun yesterday with a tweet by Josh Mandel, the would-be MAGA senator from Ohio, who has declared his allegiance to fundamental American values: God, family and Bitcoin. I didn’t have space to go on about some of the things he has said about Bitcoin, which really is at the center of his campaign. But I was struck in particular by this tweet from October, in which he appears to assert that fiat money (dollars aren’t backed by anything except their official role as legal tender, and dollars can be created at the discretion of appointed officials at the Fed) is a crucial enabler of inflationary spending:

Mockery aside, is there any truth to that assertion? Has the U.S. government relied on the printing press to cover deficits and thereby fed inflation?”

This column is well worth finishing, and the reward is at the end.

Krugman recomends a cover band

doing the Beatles song Taxman.