Friday Talking Points -- America Is Back

[ Posted Friday, June 18th, 2021 – 17:57 UTC ]

President Joe Biden had a pretty good week all around. He began the week in Europe, where he met with the leaders of NATO, the European Union, the G7, a few royals (just to mix things up), and Vladimir Putin. That's a pretty packed schedule, but Biden seemed to manage just fine. The Europeans were both visibly thrilled and massively relieved to be visited by a United States president who was, once again, a sane adult (and not a petulant little child-man). They heaped praise upon Biden -- mostly just for being "President Not-Trump." You may laugh, but please recall President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize solely for being "President Not-Dubya," years earlier. But more seriously, Europe announced some deals with Biden (including, notably, a truce being called on the subsidy war over Boeing and Airbus airplanes). Not only were personal relationships either reaffirmed or begun, tangible diplomatic progress was made. Europe stood as one with the United States over the contentious issues of Russia and China, which only strengthened Biden's position for his meeting with Putin. The Putin summit didn't produce a whole lot in the way of tangible deliverables, but then again it didn't produce an American president willing to believe Russia's ex-K.G.B. leader over his own intelligence services either, so it has to be chalked up as a major improvement. Throughout it all, Biden stuck to one very simple slogan that summed up what his trip was supposed to be showcasing to the world: "America is back."

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Manchin Lays Out His Voting Rights Priorities

[ Posted Thursday, June 17th, 2021 – 16:32 UTC ]

This has been an extraordinary week. I say that because things seem to actually be happening in Washington, which is (to put it politely) not the normal state of affairs at all. Congress even proved that, on occasion, they could move with blinding speed, as they passed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in a matter of days, instead of the usual "months, if not years." President Joe Biden has already signed the law, long before most Americans were even aware of its existence. The federal workforce will get to take tomorrow off, which just wasn't true at the beginning of the week, or even yesterday. It's long been a closely-held secret, but Congress can act this quickly, when they really want to.

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Biden Wraps Up His European Trip

[ Posted Wednesday, June 16th, 2021 – 16:20 UTC ]

President Joe Biden wrapped up his tour of Europe today with a personal meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin and then a solo press conference afterwards (Putin also gave his own solo press conference, before Biden spoke). The summit meeting between the two leaders was built up with breathless anticipation in the political media, but the actual outcome was pretty mundane and more process-oriented than many might have expected. This first meeting was never supposed to be about big breakthroughs or bilateral agreements, it was designed to lay the groundwork for future negotiations and possible cooperation.

On those levels, the summit appeared to be successful. Both leaders emerged and (as always) had different viewpoints and different opinions about a lot of things -- but neither denigrated or insulted or challenged the other in public. Which, for Russian/American summits, is pretty normal.

That's really what not just this summit meeting but the entire European trip was all about, for Biden. As he repeatedly put it, the big message was: "America is back." And that was a welcome message indeed for most to hear. Who knows what Putin expected to hear -- he's a pretty inscrutable guy -- but what was actually said couldn't have been too bad, from what Putin said about it afterwards.

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A Return To Normalcy On The World Stage

[ Posted Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 – 15:43 UTC ]

Joe Biden has returned America's foreign policy (or at least the face of it to the rest of the world) back to normalcy. The president of the United States is once again treated respectfully by foreign leaders, mostly because he understands that allies are indispensible in the modern world -- and he knows the difference between allies and dictatorships (no matter how much dictators might try to flatter him and build up his ego). Our allies have welcomed our return to sanity and comity, and Biden's outreach is already bearing fruit on his first trip abroad. The trip's biggest test will come when he meets with Russia's Vladimir Putin, but he will do so knowing that Europe is largely backing the United States. That is all a drastic and relieving change from the past four years, when Donald Trump could barely stand to be in a room with Europe's leaders, would casually and viciously denigrate NATO and other bedrock alliances, and then throw his arms open wide for the likes of Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. Or, to put it more succinctly, we are experiencing a return to normalcy.

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Manchin Should Sit Down With McConnell

[ Posted Monday, June 14th, 2021 – 16:19 UTC ]

The two most powerful men on Capitol Hill should really sit down and have a talk with each other. It'd be risky, but maybe it's the only way the situation could improve. Senator Joe Manchin should invite Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lunch, and the two should spend the entire time talking about the concept of bipartisanship. Of course, the risk involved in this strategy would be if McConnell instead actually talked Manchin into switching parties (which has to be considered a real possibility, at this point). But the benefit could be Manchin coming to a new understanding of how there just is never going to be any bipartisanship on the budget, on voting rights, on the 1/6 commission, or on just about anything else of any importance at all.

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Friday Talking Points -- Making America Respected Again

[ Posted Friday, June 11th, 2021 – 17:56 UTC ]

President Biden is currently in Europe, in the midst of his first trip abroad since he took office. So the folks at Pew Research decided it was a good time to see how America is now viewed by the rest of the world (or the countries with advanced economies that were surveyed, at any rate). The answers are exactly what you'd expect them to be -- America's standing in the world has dramatically improved, now that a sane adult is in charge of the country once again (instead of an unstable and temperamental toddler).

Before we get to the numbers, though, a quick summary from Politico captures the feeling perfectly: "When we talk to European diplomats and officials, they all say the same thing -- the Biden presidency is a 'sigh of relief' after the 'near-death experience' of Trump." Of course, European diplomats are not the only ones who feel this way, as tens of millions of Americans have indeed had similar feelings since January. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries (on a day-to-day basis) of this renewed respect for the United States are the American expatriates living in Europe and elsewhere around the world. No longer will they have to be regularly embarrassed by their own country's president. No longer will they have to hang their heads in shame when their friends ask how America could ever have elected such a buffoon to lead it. No longer will twentysomethings enjoying a Eurail Pass feel the need to sew Canadian flags on their backpacks and add "" to the end of all their sentences, to put it another way.

First Lady Jill Biden is perhaps the best ambassador of this newfound feeling of goodwill. On the trip with her husband, she wore a jacket with the word "LOVE" prominently emblazoned on the back. Many were quick to compare this sartorial choice to Melania Trump's contemptuous jacket (which she wore while travelling to visit children separated from their parents at the border due to her husband's cruel policy) with the cold-hearted message: "I really don't care, do U?" displayed for all to see. Just to rub in the stark difference even more, Jill Biden released a photo of her poring over a thick briefing book in preparation for the trip, since neither one of the Trumps is exactly a noted reader of important information (and that's putting it mildly). Jill's message couldn't have been clearer, which she even reinforced to reporters: "I think that we're bringing love from America. This is a global conference and we are trying to bring unity across the globe and I think it's needed right now, that people feel a sense of unity from all the countries and feel a sense [of] hope after this year of the pandemic."

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Worker Shortages Disappear When Wages Are Raised

[ Posted Thursday, June 10th, 2021 – 16:09 UTC ]

Progressives such as Senator Bernie Sanders have been pushing for a national $15-an-hour minimum wage for quite some time now. So far, they have been unsuccessful, due both to the Senate filibuster and to corporatist Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (who, the last time the subject came up, would only even consider raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour). But the natural forces of the marketplace seem to be forcing employers towards this goal anyway, now that they're finding it so tough to hire workers. This shouldn't be all that surprising, because it is basic supply and demand. When the demand (for workers) is high and the supply is low (fewer people returning to work), then the marketplace will do what it always does when the formula is applied to merchandise: prices will rise. Or, in this case, "wages," not prices.

Having a tough time recruiting workers? Offer to pay them more, and you will get a lot more of them interested in working for you. It's such a basic and obvious calculation you have to wonder why the media hasn't paid a little more attention to it.

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Dave's Not Here

[ Posted Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 – 15:17 UTC ]

Recent actual, no-foolin', you-can't-make-this-stuff-up news item:

A vaccine can now get you some pre-rolled bud in the state of Washington.

The state's liquor and cannabis board announced on Monday that in an effort to support coronavirus vaccinations, it will temporarily allow state-licensed cannabis retailers to give a free joint to adults who get their first or second dose at a vaccine clinic at one of the retail locations.

Call it the latest bounty in an ever-expanding list of incentives popping up across the country meant to push Americans to get their shots. "Joints for jabs" and similar campaigns have been around for months, with cannabis activist groups and local dispensaries offering joints for vaccinations. Now, a state is promoting the program.


Scene: Somewhere in the Seattle-Tacoma area, at a closed apartment door


[Knock knock knock knock knock]

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Biden Closes Curtain On Kabuki Show

[ Posted Tuesday, June 8th, 2021 – 17:18 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has had enough, it seems. After wasting more than two months talking to a group of Republican senators led by Shelley Moore Capito, Biden has now come to the conclusion that this purported effort at good-faith negotiation is nothing more than a gigantic stalling tactic designed to waste as much time as possible. Everyone -- likely including Biden -- already knew this from the start, of course, but it had to be allowed to play out because Senator Joe Manchin loves Kabuki theater so much he made the rest of Washington suffer through it all. What comes next will either be "Kabuki (Part 2)" or the Democrats going it alone and successfully passing the lion's share of Biden's American Jobs Plan (as well as possibly his American Families Plan, just for good measure).

It is worth pointing out that we could have been at this exact point at the end of March. It is now well into June. But the good news is there's still time left to get a bill passed before Congress disappears for the entire month of August. If they move quickly, and if they move in parallel, that is. The effort to use budget reconciliation rules to pass the jobs bill (and possibly the families bill at the same time) should now move forward without hesitation. Joe Manchin is in a new group of 20 senators (10 Democrats, 10 Republicans) who are trying to throw some sort of $900 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal together at the last minute, but from now on the other Democrats won't be waiting any more -- they'll be moving forward too.

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Joe Manchin Undercuts Biden's Agenda

[ Posted Monday, June 7th, 2021 – 16:25 UTC ]

Senator Joe Manchin may have just torpedoed much of President Joe Biden's agenda. He wrote an opinion piece for a local West Virginia newspaper where he reiterated his full support for the filibuster rule as it stands, and announced his opposition to the For The People Act (also known as "H.R. 1" or "S. 1"). His reason is specious, because what it amounts to is that the Republican Party should be allowed to pass as many voter-suppression laws as it pleases (without any attempt at bipartisanship, of course) in all the states where they hold the majority, and Democrats at the national level should do absolutely nothing to stop them -- unless and until 10 Republicans in the Senate see the error of their party's ways and suddenly decide to join with the Democrats in protecting the bedrock of American democracy. This is beyond magical reasoning, it is downright delusional.

In his article, Manchin proudly points to another bill -- one that would reinstate the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court years ago -- as having bipartisan support. Therefore, Manchin concludes, protecting voting rights can still be done in a bipartisan manner! Except for the small detail of precisely how many Republican senators are supporting the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act -- which now numbers "one." That, to state the obvious, is nine short of what would be needed to advance the bill. Manchin doesn't explain how these other nine GOP votes are supposed to magically appear, of course.

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