Sunday, January 16, 2022

January 16: Republican Party, Omicron, Penélope Cruz

The Republican Party Is Succeeding Because We Are Not a True Democracy The Jan. 6 attack would not have happened in a genuine democracy. ........ the roots of the crisis run deep into the undemocratic features of our constitutional system. ......... In a simple system of majority rule, Mr.

Biden’s thumping margin of more than seven million votes

would have been the last word. For that matter, so would Hillary Clinton’s national margin of nearly three million votes in 2016: Mr. Trump would not have had a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address in which to barricade himself in 2020. ............... today’s Republican Party succeeds only because the Electoral College, the Senate and the Supreme Court all tilt in its favor ........... That system has handed conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, despite the fact that only one Republican has won the presidential popular vote after 1988. ......... A party doesn’t have to persuade majorities that it has the best vision for the country. It only has to persuade a selective minority that the other side is a mortal threat. ............. Its grasp on power may be too tenuous for the party to govern effectively, but it has offered conservatives a fine perch to weaken economic and environmental regulation, appoint conservative judges and launch attacks on the democratic system itself. ......... In a more democratic system, the Republican Party’s extreme elements would have been sent packing long before they stormed the Capitol because they couldn’t muster enough votes to win a national election. Instead, they have perfected minority rule as a path to political success.

An antidemocratic system has bred an antidemocratic party. The remedy is to democratize our so-called democracy.

................. James Madison boasted that the Constitution achieved “the total exclusion of the people, in their collective capacity.” Its elaborate political mechanics reflect the elite dislike and mistrust of majority rule that Madison voiced when he wrote, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Madison’s condescension has never gone away. Walter Lippmann, perhaps the most prominent intellectual of the short American Century, reckoned that citizens were ignorant, confused and emotional. Democracy brought “an intensification of feeling and a degradation of significance” to whatever it touched. If Madison and Lippmann could have seen the “QAnon Shaman” break into the Capitol, then meander around like a tourist whose phone has lost its signal, they would have muttered, “This is what democracy looks like.” ................ Jan. 6 and the four years before it were a forcible reminder that democracy is a task, not a birthright. ............

Majorities of the people, not the Electoral College, should be able to pick the president and decide who controls the House and Senate. All who make their lives in the United States — including the incarcerated, people convicted of felonies and noncitizens — should be allowed to vote.

................ in a working democracy, there are no permanent majorities or minorities. Forging partnerships in a truly democratic system, inland conservatives would soon find new allies — just not ones determined to break democracy itself. ........... Shortly before World War I, activists successfully pressed state legislatures to ratify an amendment giving up their power to choose U.S. senators. Maybe we can revive mass movements for amendments, starting with one that would make the amendment process itself more democratic. .......... If the public supports a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics, restrict gerrymandering or enshrine a core abortion right, a committed majority should be able to say what our fundamental law is by popular vote, rather than having to go through the current, complicated process of ratifying amendments through state legislatures or dozens of constitutional conventions. ............ Even our terribly flawed legacy is rich in examples of majoritarian emancipation: New Deal programs, the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare. Majorities can change the world for the better, when they have the chance. Giving one another that chance, over and over, is how equals share a country. .............. Majorities should be able to choose parties and leaders to improve their everyday lives, starting with child care, family leave, health care and the dignified work that still evades many even at a time when employers are complaining of difficulty hiring workers and there is upward pressure on wages after decades of stagnation. ............ If we don’t claim that power, the market, a court or a minority government will always be pleased to take it off our hands. .......... If Jan. 6 was a symptom of a crisis of democracy, the best answer we can give is more democracy.

We might not be capable of that, in which case the future is bleak.

But the only way to find out is by trying. .......... Democracy’s vitality is not handed down from on high. It comes from actually ruling and being ruled in turn and learning to live with both. It comes from the constant search for new majorities, new coalitions, new ways to avoid disaster and even make life better.

My Dinner With Sidney Poitier But Poitier wasn’t just a star, he was a legend, a lion, an almost mythical figure in Black culture and the culture at large. He was Black royalty. ......... before one civil rights march in Mississippi in the 1960s, the singer Sammy Davis Jr., “who avoided the Deep South, swallowed his fear and flew to Jackson. He remembered feeling safe around Belafonte and Poitier,” calling them “two Black knights.” .......... As I approached the table, Poitier greeted me with a blinding smile, the kind that beacons and beguiles, the kind that makes you feel that you have known a complete stranger your whole life. He insisted that I sit next to him. ............ From beginning to end that evening, Poitier whispered slick, salty jokes to me with the devilish satisfaction of a schoolboy. He was 87 at the time. .......... I now knew, at close range, what star power was. His enchantment settled on you, like a soft sweater. Cashmere, of course. .......... He had learned that sometimes, when people say something can’t happen, they simply haven’t tried hard enough. Sometimes, can’ts are soft. ..........

When Poitier arrived in New York, he did odd jobs until, as he wrote in his memoir, he said, “What the hell,” and tried his hand at acting.

...... “I had no training in acting. I could barely read! And to top it off, I had a thick singsong Bahamian accent.” ........ Undeterred, Poitier would will himself into becoming one of the greatest actors America has ever known. .......... For people like Poitier, who have lived a life in which, by sheer grit and determination, they turned noes into yeses, noes lack finality. .........

He was the epitome of Black dignity, Black beauty, Black pride and Black power.

He was the epitome of Black dignity, Black beauty, Black pride and Black power. For a year, activists have been screaming and pleading and begging and getting arrested, trying to get the White House to put the full weight of the presidency behind protecting voting rights, only to be met by silence or soft-pedaling. ........... When Biden fully entered the battle, the other warriors were already bloody, bruised and exhausted. ......... Biden has been dillydallying on getting rid of the filibuster to protect voting rights for essentially his whole administration, until this week. ........ Even a cursory reading of American history reveals a long legacy of extremely effective voter suppression and intimidation. ............

McConnell is an accomplice to the crime of voter suppression

......... States like Texas, with new voter suppression laws and new racially gerrymandered maps, begin early voting in February. ......... During Biden’s victory speech he said, “Especially at those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” and he continued, “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.” Well, if voting protections fail, many in the Black community will feel like they have been stabbed in the back.

Here’s When We Expect Omicron to Peak The Omicron variant is spreading widely and infecting large numbers of people, including the vaccinated and those previously infected with the virus. While spikes in cases have been the norm for the past two years, there are clear indications this wave will differ substantially from previous ones. ............ it’s less common for people infected with Omicron to experience severe disease and end up in the hospital ......... Our models project that the United States is likely to document more Covid-19 cases in January than in any previous month of the pandemic, but a smaller fraction of those cases will require hospitalization. ........ Our projections depict a rapid surge of cases nationally that peaks at record high numbers during the first one to three weeks of January. ..........

New York City is projected to peak during the first week of January; other locations peak later.

........... whether the steep rise of Omicron cases is followed by a rapid decline, as has been seen in South Africa. This would make the Omicron wave intense but short-lived ......... While Omicron is causing record numbers of infections, the hope is that vaccinations, booster shots and prior infections by other variants will still protect most people from the worst effects of the virus. Early evidence supports this conclusion. ........ The long-term implications of Omicron remain unknown, but in the near term, everyone should expect an intense month of disruption. Still, the familiar advice remains the best: get vaccinated, get booster shots and prepare for a bumpy January.

We Must Stop Showering the Military With Money the nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars that we are spending this year on a military that has become the epitome of governmental dysfunction, self-dealing and overspending. ............ Right around the time he was bayoneting Build Back Better, Manchin joined 87 other senators — Democrats and Republicans — in rubber-stamping another gargantuan budget for the Pentagon. They allocated $768 billion for the military in 2022, roughly $24 billion more than the White House requested from Congress. ............

The Pentagon has never passed an audit and says it may not be able to until 2028.

.............. In 2020 the U.S. military’s budget accounted for almost 40 percent of the world’s military expenditures. This level of spending has long been excessive, but after a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more Americans than any war we fought, continuing to throw money at the military is an act of willful disregard for the most urgent threats we face. ........... Congress is projected to spend about $8.5 trillion for the military over the next decade — about half a trillion more than is budgeted for all nonmilitary discretionary programs combined (a category that includes federal spending on education, public health, scientific research, infrastructure, national parks and forests, environmental protection, law enforcement, courts, tax collection, foreign aid, homeland security and health care for veterans). .................. When we face so many other major challenges — from climate disasters to political instability and insurrection — shouldn’t we ask whether it remains wise to keep handing the military what is effectively a blank check? ...........

might the Pentagon’s near-bottomless access to funds have encouraged a culture of waste and indulgence that made it easier to blunder into Iraq and contributed to its failures in Afghanistan?

............. why should we keep building aircraft carriers — each of which costs about $1.5 billion a year to operate — when we’ve already got most of the world’s fleet of active aircraft carriers? ............ it could save $125 billion a year by, among other measures, reducing overstaffing through retirements and attrition. ............

The military-industrial complex is every bit as politically powerful as Dwight Eisenhower warned it would be.

............... “Who Won in Afghanistan? Private Contractors.” ......... “It’s going to take members of Congress to really step up,” she said. That seems about as likely as pigs flying — or, more aptly, F-35s.

This Presidency Isn’t Turning Out as Planned The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply. ........... The 2009 stimulus was too small, and while we avoided a second Great Depression, we sank into an achingly slow recovery. .......... Wages are high, new businesses are forming at record rates, and poverty has fallen below its prepandemic levels. ............ Since March 2020, Americans saved at least $2 trillion more than expected. ......... we met the pandemic with tremendous, perhaps excessive, fiscal force. We fought the recession and won. The problems we do have shouldn’t obscure the problems we don’t. ............ Year-on-year inflation is running at 7 percent, its highest rate in decades, and Omicron has shown that the Biden administration wasted months of possible preparation. It is not to blame for the new variant, but it is to blame for the paucity of tests, effective masks and ventilation upgrades. ............. many of the delays and shortages reflect unexpectedly strong demand, not a pandemic-induced breakdown in production .............

How about building the vaccine production capacity needed to vaccinate the world and prevent future strains from emerging?

............ Biden’s task now is clear: to build a government that can create supply, not just demand.

The Economic Case for Goldilocks
Ukraine Is Only One Small Part of Putin’s Plans A call between Mr. Putin and President Biden on Dec. 30, where the leaders traded threats, did little to take the sting out of the situation. Any incident along the Russian-Ukrainian border could bring an inferno......... Mr. Putin’s design is grand: to refashion the post-Cold War settlement, in the process guaranteeing the survival of Russia’s personalized power system. And judging from the West’s awkward, anguished response so far, he might be close to getting what he wants. ......... No longer content with upsetting the West, Mr. Putin is now trying to force it to agree to a new global dispensation, with Russia restored to eminence. ............ the West, by accepting Russia’s geopolitical position, would effectively underwrite its domestic agenda, too .........

confrontation is not the Kremlin’s goal. The escalation is about peace on Russia’s terms.

............. One success is already clear: The West has been forced to reward Russia — through outreach, diplomacy and, above all, attention — for the charitable act of not invading Ukraine. .......... Mr. Putin’s method is tried and tested: He ratchets up the tensions and then demands “binding agreements,” which he does not take seriously. The aim, really, is a Hobbesian world order, built on disruption and readiness for surprise breakthroughs. ........... This order has nothing in common with those fashioned at the Yalta Conference in 1945, say, or the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Their architects followed the rules. The Kremlin is suggesting something very different: the irrelevance of rules. The norms by which the world has been governed for the past three decades would be thrown out, in favor of creative interpretation of the possible. In this free-for-all, Mr. Putin — mercurial master of suspense and the sudden move — can pursue his fusion of geopolitical power and personal rule............. By forcing the world to guess what Russia is up to and pursuing mutually contradictory policy lines simultaneously, the Kremlin keeps the West disoriented. Accustomed to functioning in rational, risk-averse ways, the West doesn’t know how to react to such “organized chaos.” ......... Any bargain that would allow the Kremlin to interpret the global rules of the game would undermine Western principles. Yet rejecting the bargain could incite the Kremlin to wreck the whole shop. The world’s liberal democracies are hardly ready for a clash with a nuclear opponent.

A Library the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of Why does this image keep resurfacing on social media? ......... “For me, I think that photo is as stunning as a sunset. I could spend days and days locked in that library examining each book.” He noted that there’s something comforting about the image, since “it’s a room you could happily get lost in.” ............ Dr. Macksey’s book collection clocked in at 51,000 titles, according to his son, Alan, excluding magazines and other ephemera. ........... Several first editions by 20th-century poets and novelists sat on a shelf in the laundry room. .......... the “satisfying” sense of organized chaos, and the awe inspired by the high ceilings.

The Visions of Penélope Cruz She already felt a mystical connection with the director Pedro Almodóvar. For their seventh collaboration, “Parallel Mothers,” she gave her all, even collapsing after one scene. ........... Their latest, “Parallel Mothers,” is also one of their greatest, starring Cruz as a mother wrestling with a terrible secret. ........... it may also earn the 47-year-old Cruz, an Oscar winner for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” her fourth Academy Award nomination. ......... “Penélope has a blind faith in me,” Almodóvar wrote in a lengthy email. “She is convinced that I am a better director and writer than I really am. This blind faith fills me with the confidence to request anything of her, while the trust that she deposits in me allows her to do things during filming that she might not dare try with other directors because she knows I am watching her as if through a thousand eyes.” ........... Cruz asked for an unusually long rehearsal process of a few months, trying to reach the core of a character who’s in constant conflict with her own feelings. ............. playing this woman brought Cruz further from herself than she ever could have anticipated ......... it wasn’t until she reteamed with Almodóvar for “Volver” in 2006 that she earned her first Oscar nomination and truly showed Hollywood what kind of full-bodied lead performance she was capable of. ......... And every few years, she reunites with Almodóvar, who is always eager to push her to the next level. ........ but I cannot look back and judge them only by their result, or the awards or reviews. Every step counts.” ........ “Nature gives you a few months to prepare, but from the second you see your son or your daughter, it changes everything,” Cruz said. “It even changes your ego. It immediately puts it in a more healthy place.”

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