A year in the life of Joe Biden

overturning Trump policies

joebidenA year in the life of Joe Biden. Well, he did ask for the job. I’m just going to touch on the points that most resonated with me. So it won’t cover EVERY SINGLE THING he did in the past 365 days. First, the good.

He named “literally thousands of talented and diverse appointees… the ambassadorial corps, and the leadership of numerous regulatory agencies – most of whom have already effected huge and positive federal policy shifts in everything from student loans to toxic chemicals to human rights.”

Specifically, he’s gotten  40 federal judges approved. “80 percent are women and 53 percent are people of color.” His predecessor got half that many approved in that first year and received huge praise.

Also, there’s the $1.9 trillion Covid relief deal, which kept many American families afloat.

Biden reinstated the pause on the federal death penalty. The previous guy ended a 17-year pause on federal executions and 13 people were put to death between July 2020 and January 2021.

Indeed, much of what he accomplished, particularly early on, involved undoing what had taken place in the previous four years.

But beyond that, I feel that he’s a fundamentally decent person, prone to gaffs as he has been for decades, but not inherently nasty.

The mixed

Sure, the trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed in November, AFTER the election, when it was uncoupled from the Build Back Better bill. All old poli sci folks know that politics is the art of the possible. Personally, I would have preferred passing an infrastructure bill in August and working on the passable components of BBB in separate bills.

The US rejoined the Paris climate accord which Biden’s predecessor had left. I’m not sure what the 2021 event accomplished…

72 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated, a little later than the target. Which means a whole lot of people are not. The US rate still trails much of the world.

The unemployment rate has dropped dramatically, but so has the workforce.

The bad

I think most of his problem has been overpromising, creating extraordinarily high expectations, and underdelivering on them.

In July 2021, he said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would in no way look like the 1975 pullout from Saigon, South Vietnam. As noted, I supported the action, but the failure to get more people out before the pullout was a blunder.

Biden declared that we would be free of the COVID by the 4th of July. Of course, he didn’t anticipate the delta and omicron variants. But one could see the sluggish growth in the number of vaccinated, despite the mandates, and the ill will they generated. The administration needed to do better making the testing kits available much sooner.

No voting-rights legislation was passed and his recent plan to end the filibuster, despite his fiery rhetoric, was never going to happen.

The ugly

A lot of the economic strains have been baked into the system. An increase in wages has been long overdue; the federal minimum wage is STILL $7.25. Now there is some leverage for higher wages.

The “just in time” supply chain, with so much manufacturing from outside the United States, has long been one pandemic, one large war away from the crisis that took place in 2021. As Reuters notes: “The economy is experiencing high inflation as the COVID-19 pandemic snarls supply chains.” Some like to call it Bidenflation, but I’m not sure what he could have done to prevent it.

He IS the oldest US President, and I believe the stiffness of his “ambulatory gait” over the past year allows some to write him off with a Let’s Go, Brandon meme.

The unfixable?

Here’s a larger question, though. Is the United States governable? The New York Times asked that very question a year ago. It quoted Julie Wronski, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi.”When two people playing a game cannot agree on the basic rules and layout of the game, they cannot play. When groups within American society believe in two different sets of rules on how to play the game of democracy, it cannot be played and we become ungovernable.”

So when Biden promised to work “across the aisle” to pass legislation, and some in the GOP deign to actually work with him, they’re dubbed RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). They are threatened with primaries, backed by 45. Nate Silver of 538 posits that Jan. 6 strengthened Trump’s hold on the Republican Party. It’s sad, but I have to agree.

I’m not sure what Biden can do about the fact that most Republicans continue to believe in the Big Lie, that the 46th President was not legally elected. Perhaps America is heading to a place where it can no longer call itself a democracy.

Buttons

Right after the 2020 election, when it was clear that Biden had WON, I ordered a half dozen buttons. Two of them are Biden/Harris. One said, “Unity over division” – not happening yet. “Hope over fear”; fear seems pretty strong. “Trust over lies”; lies are still winning. “Science over fiction”; it would be nice.

If you’re more optimistic, PLEASE let me know.

First is important; “can’t count” is better

Nine is enough

Margaret Chase Smith 1950I’ve long had this rule of thumb about progress for groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in an area. The person who is first is important, of course, indeed vital. But real equality takes place when one can’t count the number without looking it up.

So it’s excellent that Sarah Thomas is the first woman to referee a Super Bowl game. And there are plenty of other firsts in sports in recent years.

But “‘What is really going to excite me is when this is no longer aberrational or when this is no longer something that’s noteworthy,’ said Amy Trask, who in 1997 became the Oakland Raiders’ chief executive and the first woman of that rank in the N.F.L. Few have followed in similar roles.”

Once I knew all of the female spacefarers. Now that there have been more than five dozen, I look at the list and not recognize some of the names. And THAT is a GOOD thing. Too many to keep track of is the point of the exercise.

US Govt

There are currently 24 women in the US Senate and 58 all-time. That’s not nearly enough. Still, I can no longer name all of the current female Senators, which I could do as recently as the early 1990s. (Margaret Chase Smith, R-ME, was the ONLY woman in the Senate the year I was born.)

I’m looking forward to the point when I can’t name all of the women who have been on the US Supreme Court. (Hint: there have been five of them, and three are on the court presently.)

The late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great quote about this. “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” Amen.

Of course, I needed to get my calculator to count all of the women who have been elected President or Vice-President of the United States. I can’t count that high. Lessee, there’s one…

United Nations

UN Women announces the theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021, as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It calls for “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls…

“The majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are headed by women.

“For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and Slovakia have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness, and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information.

“Yet, women are Heads of State and Government in only 20 countries worldwide.”

Dr. Rick Bright resigns from the National Institute of Health

failed White House leadership

Dr. Rick Bright has resigned from the National Institute of Health on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Here is his letter.

Of all the tools required for an effective U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, one that is sorely missing is the truth. Public health guidance on the pandemic response, drafted by career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been repeatedly overruled by political staff appointed by the Trump administration. Career scientists throughout the Department of Health and Human Services hesitate to push back when science runs counter to the administration’s unrealistically optimistic pronouncements.

Public health and safety have been jeopardized by the administration’s hostility to the truth and by its politicization of the pandemic response, undoubtedly leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths. For that reason, and because the administration has in effect barred me from working to fight the pandemic, I resigned on Tuesday from the National Institutes of Health.

BARDA

Until April, I had for almost four years been director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. When I strongly objected this past spring to the Trump administration’s insistence that BARDA support widespread access to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two potentially dangerous drugs recklessly promoted by President Trump as a COVID-19 cure, I was shunted to the NIH and assigned a more limited role in the pandemic response.

My task at the NIH was to help launch a program expanding national COVID-19 testing capacity. The program is well underway and should reach nearly 1 million daily tests by the end of the year. Since early September, though, I was given no work; my services apparently were no longer needed.

I fear the benefits of dramatically improved testing capacity will be wasted unless it is a part of a coordinated national testing strategy. My recommendations to support a national plan were met with a tepid response. In an administration that suffers from widespread internal chaos, such coordination may be impossible — especially when the White House has seemed determined to slow down testing and not test people who might have asymptomatic infections.

Making it worse

From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the administration’s failure to respond with a coordinated strategy only heightened the danger. Now the nation, and the world, are in the worst public health crisis in over a century. More than 1 million people worldwide have died from the pandemic; more than 211,000 Americans are dead. More than half of the states in this country are reporting rising COVID-19 cases.

Nine months into the pandemic, the United States continues to grapple with failed White House leadership. Instead, we get the recent spectacle of the president exploiting his own illness for political purposes and advising the nation, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.” Ironically, he was only able to leave the hospital after receiving two treatments that I had pushed for in January.

Meanwhile, there is still no coordinated national strategy to end the pandemic. Federal agencies, staffed with some of the best scientists in the world, continue to be politicized, manipulated, and ignored.

The country is flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history. Undoubtedly, millions more Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and influenza; many thousands will die. Now, more than ever before, the public needs to be able to rely on honest, non-politicized, and unmanipulated public health guidance from career scientists.

Your government (not) at work

Reduce MY energy

governmentYour government (not) at work are a few stories that engaged my interest:

There was a terrible report about a young driver who killed seven motorcyclists in a New Hampshire crash this spring. In light of that, Massachusetts suspended more than 500 drivers licenses.

“The [Massachusetts] Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act on information sent from other states that called for the suspension of some drivers’ licenses… The dismal driving history of the man charged with [the horrific accident] — coupled with bureaucratic failures in Massachusetts that allowed him to keep his license — highlight weaknesses in the state and federal systems designed to keep unsafe drivers off the road.

“The case of 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy has exposed a patchwork system of oversight that’s reliant on the actions of individual states, many of which use a slow-moving, paper-driven communication network.”


There were primaries in New York State in late June, and I noted these results in a town in Albany County.
KNOX COUNCILMAN (VOTE FOR) 2
(WITH 3 OF 3 EDs COUNTED)
Earl H. Barcomb . . . . . . . . 179 34.82
Dennis P. Barber . . . . . . . . 178 34.63
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 157 30.54
Of course, the two candidates won. But if the write-in count had exceeded 178 votes, the Board of Elections would have had to start differentiating WHO got those write-ins.


Last month, I got this message at work: “This is a reminder to turn your lights off today as a participant in this year’s ‘2019 Daylight Hour’, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm. Daylight Hour is an effort to raise awareness of energy savings and the impact humans can have on saving energy. This message is to encourage all SUNY System Administration, SUCF, and RF employees to join this effort by shutting off all unnecessary lights from noon to 1 pm today.

“Many of our campuses have already signed up for this event. Plaza Operations will be lowering corridor and lobby lighting during this time period. We ask that all participants turn off their work space and office lighting where possible. Behavioral impact can be much greater than most people recognize. This event will help illustrate the impact our decisions have on our overall energy costs.”

I dutifully complied. I couldn’t get much done at work that hour because I couldn’t really read my keyboard. The dimmed lighting also made me sleepy. I wrote to a colleague: “Reduce energy AND kill productivity!”

NYS Constitutional Convention Event October 30

GET EDUCATED ON THE UPCOMING NYS BALLOT ISSUE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
Featuring
Erika Lorshbough, NYCLU, Legislative Counsel
And
Laura Bierman, League of Women Voters of NYS, Executive Director

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30 AT 6 PM
ALBANY PUBLIC LIBRARY
161 WASHINGTON AVENUE

We will hear the Pros (LWVNYS) and Cons (NYCLU) of voting on whether or not NYS should convene a Constitutional Convention in 2018.

Sponsored by
NYCLU, Citizen Action and LWVNYS

* The event is free and open to the public. *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial