I am actually old enough … I mean, I know that Republicans in Texas have been conservative for a long time, but there was a time when conservative Republicans in Texas were not absolutely batshit crazy.

Charlie Sykes

This week’s featured post is “Reading While Texan“.

This week everybody was talking about Manchin and Sinema

For weeks we’ve been wondering what price they would demand for getting on board with the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. We’re starting to see that price, and it’s steep.

Manchin is against the Clean Electricity Payment Program, which subsidizes the shift away from fossil fuels for generating electricity.

The $150 billion program — officially known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP — would reward energy suppliers who switch from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to clean power sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power, which already make up about 40 percent of the industry, and fine those who do not.

Manchin claims the program isn’t necessary, because the shift is happening anyway. (The change he cites is over a 20 years period, and mainly shows a shift from coal to natural gas, a somewhat cleaner fossil fuel.) But it makes a huge difference how fast the shift happens. Remember: The most direct plan for cutting carbon emissions is just two steps long:

He also wants means tests on a number of programs, including the child tax credit, and possibly also a work requirement for parents who get the credit.

Sinema says she won’t vote for Build Back Better until the House passes the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Since it’s almost certain the House will eventually vote for the bill, this plan only makes sense if she wants to back out of whatever commitments she makes in the negotiations to pass both bills.

She also opposes the tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy that pay for the bill in its current form. I’m not sure whether she wants a smaller increase or no increase. Democrats are discussing a carbon tax to fill the fiscal hole, though I’m not sure what Manchin would think of that.

and subpoenas

With Trump’s encouragement, a number of his administration’s former officials and unofficial advisers are defying subpoenas from the House January 6 Committee. The committee will vote tomorrow on whether to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress.

“This potential criminal contempt referral — or will-be criminal contempt referral for Steve Bannon — is the first shot over the bow,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who serves on the committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union Sunday. “It’s very real, but it says to anybody else coming in front of the committee, ‘Don’t think that you’re gonna be able to just kind of walk away and we’re gonna forget about you. We’re not.’”

It’s important not to lose sight of just how far the country has gone down this rabbit hole. We’ve gotten used to the idea that Trump obstructs justice. He obstructed the Mueller investigation, the Ukraine investigation of his first impeachment, and the January 6 investigation of his second impeachment. We’ve gotten used to the idea that he makes laughable claims in lawsuits, purely for the purpose of using the courts to delay the release of potentially damaging information.

But Trump’s intransigence is not just politics, it’s new territory in American politics — recall Hillary Clinton testifying to the Benghazi Committee for 11 hours — and it threatens the rule of law. We once believed that politicians would avoid this kind of behavior out of shame, because of course the voters would ask “What is he hiding?” But Trump hides everything, so it’s just what he does. We once believed that no president would pardon his co-conspirators, or that Congress would of course respond to such an outrage by removing him from office. But Trump has done precisely that, and Republican senators let him.

“This potential criminal contempt referral — or will-be criminal contempt referral for Steve Bannon — is the first shot over the bow,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who serves on the committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union Sunday. “It’s very real, but it says to anybody else coming in front of the committee, ‘Don’t think that you’re gonna be able to just kind of walk away and we’re gonna forget about you. We’re not.’”

Bannon has zero justification for not testifying:

  • He was not a government official during the lead-up to January 6.
  • Former presidents have no claim on executive privilege unless the current president grants it, and Biden has not.
  • Executive privilege allows a witness not to answer specific questions. It doesn’t justify refusing to testify.

But the law is not the point: Trump wants to run out the clock on this investigation the way he did on all the others. If his party can get the House back in 2022, presumably Kevin McCarthy will get the investigation stopped, and the public will never know what crimes Trump (or Bannon or any of the others) committed.

What’s most appalling is not that Trump and his cronies would try this. It’s that Republicans support his obstruction up and down the line (with rare exceptions like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger), and he loses no support among his followers.

and the economy

As the economy comes back from the pandemic recession, workers are quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers. Economists are calling it “The Great Resignation“.

“Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry. For those in leisure and hospitality, especially, the workplace must feel like one giant revolving door. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August. That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something else.

Atlantic’s Derek Thompson continues:

As a general rule, crises leave an unpredictable mark on history. It didn’t seem obvious that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 would lead to a revolution in architecture, and yet, it without a doubt contributed directly to the invention of the skyscraper in Chicago. You might be equally surprised that one of the most important scientific legacies of World War II had nothing to do with bombs, weapons, or manufacturing; the conflict also accelerated the development of penicillin and flu vaccines. If you asked me to predict the most salutary long-term effects of the pandemic last year, I might have muttered something about urban redesign and office filtration. But we may instead look back to the pandemic as a crucial inflection point in something more fundamental: Americans’ attitudes toward work. Since early last year, many workers have had to reconsider the boundaries between boss and worker, family time and work time, home and office.

Paul Krugman weighs in:

Until recently conservatives blamed expanded jobless benefits, claiming that these benefits were reducing the incentive to accept jobs. But states that canceled those benefits early saw no increase in employment compared with those that didn’t, and the nationwide end of enhanced benefits last month doesn’t seem to have made much difference to the job situation.

What seems to be happening instead is that the pandemic led many U.S. workers to rethink their lives and ask whether it was worth staying in the lousy jobs too many of them had.

For America is a rich country that treats many of its workers remarkably badly. Wages are often low; adjusted for inflation, the typical male worker earned virtually no more in 2019 than his counterpart did 40 years earlier. Hours are long: America is a “no-vacation nation,” offering far less time off than other advanced countries. Work is also unstable, with many low-wage workers — and nonwhite workers in particular — subject to unpredictable fluctuations in working hours that can wreak havoc on family life.

All along, economists figured that when the economy started to recover, there would be a blip of inflation. Production would have trouble ramping up as fast as spending, as many Americans would have money in their pockets due to a combination of government programs and their inability to spend normally during the pandemic. (Being retired, I don’t want to think about all the driving vacations my wife and I would have taken, which probably would have pushed us to buy a new car by now.)

The question was whether inflation would just blip up briefly, or whether a new inflationary cycle would start that would require some policy intervention (i.e., higher interest rates) to get under control. Paul Krugman has been on what he calls “Team Transitory”, but now he’s not sure; the data he would ordinarily use to tell the difference between the two scenarios is (as he puts it) “weird”. In other words, the current covid/post-covid economy is unique in ways that make it hard to read. He still argues against raising interest rates, because he sees cutting off the recovery as a bigger risk than letting inflation run for a while.

More about inflation in this Washington Post article.

and John Gruden

John Gruden, head coach of the Los Vegas Raiders NFL football team, resigned last Monday, after emails leaked out where he made racist, sexist, and homophobic comments. The emails were part of a trove of 650K emails related to the Washington Football Team (then called the Redskins), which the NFL was investigating because of reports of the toxic and abusive work environment for the team cheerleaders, and possibly other female employees. Presumably somebody at the NFL is responsible for the leak.

The Gruden emails were sent between 2010 and 2018, and though Gruden was not connected with the WFT at the time, he was corresponding with WFT President Bruce Allen, whose emails were being examined. The Gruden emails leaked out of the NFL’s investigation without being formally released.

There’s a lot not to like about this scandal. The comments themselves are reprehensible, and it makes perfect sense that Gruden should leave the Raiders now that they are public. Like every other team in the NFL, the Raiders have a large number of black players, as well as the NFL’s only openly gay player, who came out in June. Knowing that your coach uses slurs against people like you has got to disrupt your relationship with the team. So the players deserve a new coach.

In general, though, I dislike scandals based on people’s private conversations becoming public years later. If I had to be judged by the worst thing I ever said to someone I trusted not to repeat it, I doubt I could pass muster. My guess is that few Americans could. In particular, I wonder how many other NFL coaches could be taken down if their private emails were published.

So yes, Gruden is racist, sexist, homophobic, … but he’s also unlucky, in that he wandered into a investigation aimed at somebody else. And whoever leaked the emails seems to have intentionally targeted him. (First one email came out, and when it started to look like he might weather that storm, more appeared.) By condemning Gruden, we may be inadvertently carrying out somebody’s vendetta.

But any sympathy I might have had for Gruden vanished when he responded by saying that there was “not a blade of racism” in him. I don’t know why people say clueless crap like that, especially right after evidence surfaces that they do have those blades. American culture is a toxic stew of prejudices of all sorts, and we’ve all been soaking in it. Why can’t we just acknowledge that, and then affirm that we’re trying our best to overcome it? (Here’s an example of me practicing what I’m preaching.) It would be refreshing to hear someone respond to past evidence of racism with “I’ve learned a lot since then.” rather than “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.

The other thing not to like about the Gruden story is that he may not be the worst person in it. Reportedly, the Gruden emails also “featured photos of topless Washington Football Team cheerleaders”. It’s not clear whether Gruden was sending or receiving the images, but Allen was the WFT insider. Was he sharing illicit photos of his female employees?

And that raises a bigger question: The NFL launched this investigation in response to media reports that the Washington Football Team owner and executives harassed women, circulated surreptitiously obtained photos and videos of team cheerleaders, and put the women in “what they considered unsafe situations” with high-rolling season-ticket holders. Why is this the only thing that leaks out? Why is Gruden the only one to lose his job?

The report from that investigation is still secret, though we know that the team was fined $10 million dollars. And while that sounds like a lot, it really isn’t for a team valued at more than $4 billion. And remember: Whenever some law or rule or standard is only enforced by a fine, that means you can break it if you’re rich enough.

Chris Hayes discusses these issues with a former WFT cheerleader.

Friday, the NYT reported on the cozy relationship between Allen and the NFL general counsel who supervises investigations like the one into Allen’s team.

and you also might be interested in …

The downward trend in the Covid numbers continues: New cases are down 22% in the last two weeks, deaths down 19%.

One of those deaths was Colin Powell, who died at 84. He was vaccinated, but was fighting a cancer that compromised his immune system.

As Angela Merkel leaves the chancellorship of Germany, Thom Hartman notes all the ways that her position on the German center-right was considerably to the left of Bernie Sanders in the US.

Democrats are trying to pass an anti-gerrymandering law at the federal level, while simultaneously trying to gerrymander blue states like New York and Illinois more aggressively. At a simplistic level, this looks like hypocrisy, but I think this two-pronged approach is the only way we’ll get rid of gerrymandering. As long as it’s a one-sided advantage for Republicans, they’ll be unified in protecting it.

I believe in the Designated Hitter Principle: You may think that the designated hitter is a terrible idea that mars the purity of baseball. But if you play in a league where DHs are in the rules, you put a DH in your lineup.

Remember Andy McCabe, the guy who became acting head of the FBI after James Comey was fired, and then was fired himself just days before his scheduled retirement, so that his pension wouldn’t vest? He filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, which is now under new management. This week DoJ settled with McCabe, not admitting any wrongdoing, but giving him back his retirement benefits. “Plaintiff will be deemed to have retired from the FBI on March 19, 2018.” DoJ also pays McCabe’s attorney’s fees.

Media Matters reports:

Nearly a dozen of the Fox News guests the network has presented as concerned parents or educators who oppose the teaching of so-called “critical race theory” in schools also have day jobs as Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media personalities

The article lists 11 by name, including “concerned parent” Ian Prior, who has appeared 14 times on Fox to denounce CRT, without mentioning his professional work doing communications for the RNC, Jeff Sessions, Karl Rove, and other Republicans.

Fox has been particularly focused on fanning the critical race theory pseudo-issue in Virginia, where Pears and several other astroturf voices are from, and which (coincidentally) is electing a governor in a few weeks.

and let’s close with something reassuring

You may think your expressions in photos look odd, but your face does nothing like what dogs’ faces do when they’re trying to pluck a treat out of the air.

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  • ramseyman  On October 18, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    Re: Something reassuring:
    Mouth what a mouth what a north and south,
    Blimey what a mouth he’s got.
    When he was a baby low cor lummer,
    His poor ole mother used to feed him with a shovel,
    What a gap!”

  • NANCY BROWNING  On October 18, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    I think you mean “Ian Prior” (Iain Pears is one of my favorite authors, so I checked); also, “Las” before Vegas. Of course, I love your work. Just can’t help editing and fact-checking. Thanks for all you do!

    • weeklysift  On October 18, 2021 at 4:03 pm

      You are correct, and I should have realized that. I loved “An Instance of the Fingerpost”, but wasn’t aware he had written so much else until I looked him up on Wikipedia just now.

      • NANCY BROWNING  On October 18, 2021 at 8:20 pm

        Glad to know we share the love of that book! Thanks for replying.

  • Dale Moses  On October 18, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    >We once believed that no president would pardon his co-conspirators, or that Congress would of course respond to such an outrage by removing him from office

    Did we? I mean. Bill Barr did recommend to George Bush that he Pardon one of the Iran-Contra conspirators right before they testified to congress. And George Bush did it.

    Like many things it seems that we have this perception but the specifics of it only apply to liberals and only ever has. Conservatives weren’t less crazy in Texas 40 years ago. You haven’t noticed it because there were not as many challenges to their power and not as many ways for those not in the loop to see the crazy.

  • Maurice Wiktorin  On October 18, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    You don’t say the circumstances of the cheerleader photos. If they were taken in the showers with a hidden camera that would be very bad. But many performers commission nude photos and publish them to profit themselves and advance their careers. If they were nudes a cheerleader to be published in Playboy or sports illustrated that wouldn’t be much of a problem.

    • weeklysift  On October 20, 2021 at 7:44 am

      One of the links above says this: “In ‘Beauties on the Beach,’ the official video chronicling the making of the Washington NFL team’s 2008 cheerleader swimsuit calendar, the women frolic in the sand, rave about their custom bikinis and praise a photographer for putting them at ease in settings where sometimes only a strategically placed prop or tightly framed shot shielded otherwise bare breasts.

      “What the cheerleaders didn’t know was that another video, intended strictly for private use, would be produced using footage from that same shoot. Set to classic rock, the 10-minute unofficial video featured moments when nipples were inadvertently exposed as the women shifted positions or adjusted props.”

      I don’t know that this is the source of the photos, but I’m guessing it is.

      • Maurice Wiktorin  On October 20, 2021 at 12:19 pm

        I looked into it afterwards and that does seem pretty egregious. But it’s nevertheless true that celebrities and performers often use nude photos to advance their careers quite voluntarily, and this is often overlooked in the belief that all nude photos are exploitative. Arthur Cheney Johnston’s photos, for example were originally taken for the middle’s portfolios and produced a considerable artistic achievement.

  • patriciaje  On October 18, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks for a great sift, as usual. I am hoping that Bannon cannot slither his way out of the contempt charge this time and actually has to face consequences. He is one of the greatest threats to democracy (and basic decency) in this country. As far as Manchin and Sinema are concerned, I’m hoping Karma bites them in the end. I just got off a “Nothing to Lose” call with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate movement. They start a week of action for climate legislation, including a hunger strike. How tragic is it that the youth in this country have to publicly starve themselves to try and ensure a livable future in face of the climate crisis. May the goddess bless them and damn Manchin and his ilk.

  • Meg  On October 19, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    The dog face reminds me of Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton – consummate physical comedians. 😊

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