good morning to everyone except the baseball oligarchs pic.twitter.com/9LTcAp9Rl6
— mike casca (@cascamike) March 11, 2022
News and comments below. This also serves as an open thread.
More than a century ago, Woodrow Wilson gave the first in-person presidential address to Congress since Thomas Jefferson ended the practice in 1801. The new tradition stuck and eventually became the template for the president’s annual “message to Congress.” It was Franklin Roosevelt who coined the phrase, “the State of the Union” in one of those speeches, and by the late 1940s, it had become our national shorthand for the speech. The 20th century transformed what had been, for most of American history, a staid, written report into a giant annual spectacle of presidential majesty and congressional hooting and hollering.
In recent years, thanks to the increasingly commingled worlds of politics and popular entertainment, the annual State of the Union address has evolved into an even grander and creakier spectacle: a nationally broadcast circus of government whose uncanny resemblance to an awards show or grand fund-raising gala has only grown as its cast of characters expanded. Today, the State of the Union functions as a kind of political Super Bowl, Oscars, Met Gala and Rotary Club dinner all in one. As self-serious as amateur theater and as monumental as a coronation, it is one of the weirdest evenings in American life. Only habituation makes it seem normal, and even habit has its limits.
National politicians have always had a kind of fame, but the rise of social media thrust politics into a realm of popular celebrity and turned the campy solemnity of the State of the Union into mere farce. Even the lowliest members of the House of Representatives used to sit at some statesmanlike remove from us, democratic avatars of actual constituencies, yes, but also a kind of abstraction. Now, via social media, we are privy to their passing thoughts, their workout routines and workplace rivalries, their classical American infatuations with crackpot theories. There was once something edifying and even a little mystical about virtually the entire American national government gathering in one place for a grand and unabashedly imperial spectacle. No longer. It has all the mystery and half the charm of a slapped-together awards show, a too-familiar crowd of celebrities who spend the evening alternating between looking overly enthusiastic and terribly bored.
For most of the past century, presidents have given the address in January or February. President Biden’s has been postponed until March. This delay has been attributed to the Covid pandemic, to the ratings competition of the Winter Olympics, and to the hope that last-minute politicking might rescue a few pieces of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda from obdurate Republican opposition and the dogged lack of cooperation from Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. This hope is almost certainly doomed. Mr. Biden will march down the gauntlet of glad-handing members of Congress with his approval ratings at one of their lowest points, a tenacious pandemic, national worry over rising prices and a generally poisonous national mood, not to mention a terrifying Russian invasion of Ukraine that the administration and its European allies could predict but not forestall, and whose course could become more volatile and unpredictable.
A rival nuclear power starting a shooting war in Europe just a few days earlier presents the kind of circumstance in which a State of the Union address could hypothetically be vital. But it is still likely destined to merely be bland news cycle chum. The chatterboxes on the cable channels and the pundits in the political press will debate the “expectations” for the speech, and we will all earnestly pretend to wonder whether our president — older now than Ronald Reagan was when he left office — will be able to summon some heretofore unobserved rhetorical genius to conciliate our sick and tired nation.
I hope that he will subvert expectations deliberately. Mr. Biden’s intrinsic political genius is his ability to act as a mourner and as a bearer of bad news. His greatest act of political bravery was to tell America, after 20 years of lies, that the war in Afghanistan was over and lost, and then to mostly keep quiet and stick to his guns. The stakes are much lower for a gaudy speech like the State of the Union, but he should really do the same. Go up the hill, deliver a dull litany of bullet points, get to bed early and consign this silly ritual to C-SPAN, where it belongs.
In 1796, writing to his great friend, Filippo Mazzei, an Italian physician, farmer, pamphleteer and gunrunner for the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson complained of the great changes in America since its independence. “In place of that noble love of liberty and republican government which carried us triumphantly thro’ the war, an Anglican, monarchical and aristocratical party has sprung up,” he wrote, lamenting the adoption of British “forms” of pomp and circumstance, especially by the executive and judicial branches. Mazzei’s enthusiasm overcame his discretion, and he promptly dispatched copies of Jefferson’s observations to friends around Europe. They were published in French and Italian, and then made their way back across the Atlantic to the United States, where they reputedly caused a personal rift with George Washington, whose regal presidency — complete with annual addresses to joint sessions of Congress, which Jefferson considered far too similar to a British monarch’s “speech from the throne” — was understood to be a target of Jefferson’s contempt.
Jefferson’s dream of a nation of independent yeoman farmers was a fantasy even in his own time (not to mention a bit hypocritical — can anyone imagine the squire of Monticello driving a horse and plow through 40 rocky acres of Appalachian Virginia?), but his hostility toward the monarchical trappings of an imperial presidency was not wrong. His dream would be undone as America became a continental empire, then a hemispheric power, then an overseas empire and a great industrial and military titan. The centrality and power of the presidency could only increase as America evolved into a modern, bureaucratic state. It was inevitable, with the advent of modern mass broadcast communications, that the president would become a figure of enormous cultural significance as well. By the 1930s, presidents were everywhere on the radio; by the 1960s and the gilded, media-centric presidency of John F. Kennedy, they were culturally ubiquitous, singular synecdoches for America itself.
We are too close to these people now. Pomp can stand a little silliness; it may even require it. But it can’t survive absurdity. The advent of social media ruined celebrity by imitating proximity, and the transformation of politicians into ruined celebrities further destroyed politics. To see an actor whom you only know from movies and glossy magazines glide down a red carpet once or twice a year in a wild dress and borrowed jewels is to be astonished; to live with her everyday eructations of bad musical opinions and worse food photographs is to be annoyed. Likewise in politics. Our ostensible leaders are social media addicts like the rest of us, only more so. Their court rituals and pagan traditions have lost all of their high masonic mystery. We find ourselves watching a regional industry dinner, the sorry spectacle of insiders wallowing in self-congratulation over rubber chicken amid too much applause.
The form is exhausted. Mr. Biden has largely avoided the more ostentatious imperial vibes of his office, in part because he is the least telegenic president since George H.W. Bush. He has none of Ronald Reagan’s actorly charm; he cannot mimic Bill Clinton’s gregarious air of a debauched but beloved country preacher; he lacks Mr. Bush’s jingoistic cheerleading, Mr. Obama’s grandiosity, Mr. Trump’s nasty but effective comic timing. If he were wise, he would embrace his relative plain-spokenness and dislike of spectacle and diminish this absurd tradition.
The founders themselves imagined a new constitutional convention every few generations; perhaps every hundred years is also a good time to come up with new binding national political rites. We could do away with the speech entirely, and simply give out more civic medals for ordinary workers — the supposedly essential Americans whose daily, unseen labor makes the country run even as they are steadily alienated from mass politics and the highflying economy. Otherwise, the speech will continue to be more tendentious, reality-show entertainment. Will Sam Alito mouth off again? Will Nancy Pelosi do another ironic clap? Who will leap to applaud which lines, and who will sit on their hands? Enough is enough. Make the State of the Union boring again. We have been sufficiently entertained.
I would add that choosing to deliver the SOTU when Texas has a major primary….that’s also odd.
More news, perspectives, tweets, etc in the comments. See you there.
“Any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites,” Larry Summers wrote in The Times in 2006. Mr. Summers comes from a family of left-leaning economists who saw Milton Friedman as a “devil figure.” But as he moved into the upper echelons of the family profession, Mr. Summers came to have “great admiration” for the conservative thinker and his work.
The transformation reflects how elite economists in both parties reached a rough accord on the importance of free markets, free trade, and restrained regulation. Each side believed they could harness these forces for liberal or conservative ends. And there was little disagreement about the means.
Virtually every American feels the consequences of this today, whenever we visit a grocery store with empty shelves, or do a double-take at the price of an appliance. For decades, economists like Mr. Summers advanced policies like globalization, deregulation, and markets that valued efficiency over competition. They promised that these trends would deliver lower prices. And they did, for a time. But they also left the system vulnerable. During the pandemic, when demand burst beyond what the system could handle, prices for shipping soared, ports clogged, trucks and railroads lacked manpower, and underinvested companies scrambled for logistics workarounds and warehouse space. Increased shipping and distribution costs have undeniably raised prices.
Mr. Summers has been focused on a different story, warning that government spending could increase inflation. With prices rising at the fastest rate in 40 years, he has been lauded for making the right call. “Does the WH owe Larry Summers an apology?” Politico asked last November.
The problem with this reading is that the economy hasn’t really overheated. Real gross domestic product and employment are still lower than prepandemic projections, according to government statistics. Yes, consumer spending patterns have shifted from services to goods, but that began two years ago; the fact that our supply chains still cannot adjust reflects a bigger problem with how they were designed.
Mr. Summers’s claims don’t express an economic truth. They seem designed to deflect blame. A leading economic adviser in the Clinton and Obama presidencies, Mr. Summers is prominent among the fraternity of mainstream economists who are deeply implicated in building the system at the heart of our current predicament, and setting up our economy for failure. If engineers constructed a bridge this prone to collapse, they’d be fired. But with our accountability-free elites, being an economist means never having to say you’re sorry.
Mr. Summers built an early reputation as an economic wunderkind, earning tenure at Harvard at age 28. Stagflation in the late 1970s had sent New Deal-style Keynesianism into retreat, and thrust into prominence Friedman’s vision of a marketized economics that catered to the whims of large corporations. As Friedman asserted, also in The Times, the sole social responsibility of business is to increase profits. Cut regulations, cut taxes, and allow companies to structure markets, people like Friedman maintained, and watch the economy take off.
During Mr. Summers’s formative years, this logic became the dominant current of economic thought. Mr. Summers spent a year under conservative economist Martin Feldstein in the Reagan administration; his generation “re-emphasized the importance of markets and the failures of government,” according to Mr. Summers’s mother, also an economist.
As under secretary for international affairs in Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department, Mr. Summers was at the forefront of encouraging developing nations to open their markets, a kind of enforcer of globalization. Later, as Treasury secretary, he helped facilitate China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and argued that the United States should give China “permanent normal trade relations” (or P.N.T.R.) status. Mr. Summers told the Senate Banking Committee in 2000, “It is difficult to discern any disadvantage to the United States” from the policy.
During the Carter era moves were made toward deregulation in transportation services like trucking and rail. In the Clinton years, a little-remembered law called the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998 helped carry that over to ocean ships. Mr. Clinton also continued a trend toward economic concentration that began in the Reagan administration. If Mr. Summers opposed the deregulation and consolidation that occurred during his tenures with Mr. Clinton and Barack Obama, I have found no evidence that he said anything about it. In fact in 2001, he stated that “the goal is efficiency, not competition.”
U.S. financial services, which under P.N.T.R. pried open the Chinese market, grew enormously powerful in this period, too. Mr. Summers fought the regulation of derivatives and pushed Congress to eliminate the separation of investment and commercial banks. Where finance accounted for 15 percent of corporate profits in the U.S. economy before the 1970s, it grew to 43 percent by 2002, after this economic restructuring. Later, when runaway financial innovations (including the derivatives Mr. Summers did not want to regulate) collapsed the world economy, Mr. Summers, as Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, pushed for banks to be protected with bailouts, maintaining the status quo.
Mr. Summers was not especially novel in his preferences. He fit within an economist consensus that has largely governed the country since the late 1970s. The free trade consensus enabled corporate executives to chase cheap labor and centralize production. The just-in-time consensus pushed companies to only order what’s needed to pass on to customers, with inventories seen as unnecessary costs. The bigger-is-better consensus encouraged mergers and market dominance. The deregulatory consensus breaks worker power and greases the whole system. The Wall Street consensus lets investors dictate adherence to everything else, demanding ever-higher profits and returns that flow not into reinvestment but to them, in the forms of stock buybacks and dividends.
The gamble of such a system paid off, for a while. In 2005, Mr. Summers’s longtime collaborator Jason Furman best explained the philosophy when he pronounced retail behemoth Walmart a “progressive success story,” in part because of its ability to deliver low prices. “There is little dispute that Wal-Mart’s price reductions have benefited the 120 million American workers employed outside of the retail sector,” Mr. Furman wrote. That seemed to override everything else: low wages, competitors driven out of business, manufacturing jobs shipped overseas, communities hollowed out across America.
The trade-off was clear: sacrifice resiliency, wage security, and community for the promise of a five-dollar pack of tube socks. And the Summers-Furman side initially delivered: Prices for consumer goods, at least, did fall. Assuring these low prices became an important goal; while some liberals wanted to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States or maintain reserves of vital goods, the threat of higher costs was enough to keep the system in place.
But the adherents of hyper-efficiency do not seem to have emphasized what might happen if there was a breakdown anywhere in the system. Economists spat out their models and assured us that very little could stop the global production engine. But their models did not adequately contemplate the physical world. And that’s why the system Mr. Summers and Mr. Furman helped build was so primed for collapse, and why the low prices, intended to be the compensation for increased inequality and left-behind regions, vanished in a matter of months.
The policies many of these economists championed during the decades leading up to the pandemic are the policies responsible for the supply chain’s fragility. When disruptions hit the center of global production in China, they spread across the entire world. Specialized facilities producing most of a particular good or component can easily produce shocks with even a small loss of output.
Shipping deregulation passed during the Clinton administration helped lead to ever-larger container vessels that can only dock at certain U.S. ports, further narrowing bottlenecks. The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are responsible for about 40 percent of all seaborne imports in the United States; by early January, 105 ships were awaiting entry offshore, and import volume had fallen, despite the increased demand, for four straight months. Trucking deregulation has similarly contributed to bottlenecks, as long hours, poor working conditions and inadequate wages have made it next to impossible for port truckers to stay in the industry.
The financier-above-all approach Mr. Summers helped entrench made things worse. Preferences for lean inventories meant there were no reserves when things spun out of control as the pandemic hit. Precision scheduled railroading, a Wall Street tactic of cutting back on service and spare capacity to maximize profits, made it difficult for rail lines to handle rising demand.
Economists often seem to assume corporate self-interest will sort this out, that the prospect of more sales will create urgency to move supply. But concentration along key nodes of the supply chain (three ocean carrier alliances control most shipping, two railroads control eastern routes and two others control western ones) have brought skyrocketing profits to the companies at the center of the chaos. The shipping industry earned twice as much in the first three quarters 2021 as it did in the entire period between 2010 and 2020.
Similarly, big businesses are announcing in earnings calls that they are using this opportunity to lock in higher prices, well above rising input costs. Estimated profits for S&P 500 firms rose nearly 50 percent in 2021. Bigger businesses also circumvented supply chain issues by demanding that suppliers fulfill their orders first, raising costs for smaller rivals. The supply chain mess, in other words, has also been a consolidation event, harming workers and communities.
The bottom line is that a system without redundancy and flexibility, which assumes that the corporate executives who control it are doing everything in their power to prevent it from breaking, is simply unsustainable.
The shocks will only continue until we reverse course on this prevailing consensus. Democrats put their faith in an economics profession that is far too distant from on-the-ground realities to grasp the consequences of globalization, monopolization, financialization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics. They failed to recognize how things could crumble because of the vulnerability they engineered.
No country can be perfectly self-sufficient; imports and shipping will still exist. But we can ensure some stability through bringing back manufacturing of critical goods to our shores, while maintaining productive capacity and strategic reserves. Public utility regulation can ensure smoother flow of goods, and competition policy can eliminate price gouging. And infrastructure investments like we’re currently embarking on can force open bottlenecks.
Economists will howl that losing efficiency will raise costs. Those words ring hollow in the face of the highest inflation in 40 years. Broken systems raise costs far faster than resilient ones.
Mr. Summers seems to acknowledge, at least partially, the extent to which his economic school of thought was responsible for the fragility of the supply chain. In a 2020 interview with The American Interest, he acknowledged the need to develop industrial capacity in the U.S. “In general, economic thinking has privileged efficiency over resilience, and it has been insufficiently concerned with the big downsides of efficiency,” Mr. Summers said. “Going forward we will need more emphasis on ‘just in case’ even at some cost in terms of ‘just in time.’ ”
But it’s not enough for him to simply acknowledge the downsides of efficiency. There is a live debate over how to solve the problem going on right now, as the Biden administration takes the first steps toward prioritizing resilience by attempting to re-regulate shipping companies, encourage competition to weaken corporate pricing power, and support domestic manufacturing. Mr. Summers shouldn’t be an obstacle to this effort or even an interested bystander, watching it unfold; he should be an active enthusiast for cleaning up the mess he made.
More comments, news, perspectives after the jump. This also serves as an open thread.
Today we’ll start with an article about the Texas 28 congressional race from WaPo.
Jessica Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration lawyer from Laredo, Tex., would rather focus on her campaign to unseat her former boss, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D), than her identity as a millennial backed by self-described liberals.
Cisneros argues that the 17-year incumbent — a first-generation Mexican American attorney like herself — is no longer the right fit for Texas’s 28th Congressional District, the deep-south Texas stretch from San Antonio to the border that came close to nominating her two years ago.
Cuellar dismisses Cisneros as a candidate with ties to “far-left” celebrities — a reference to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who recently campaigned for Cisneros in the district — and liberal groups that have backed her candidacy.
But the liberal label is not Cisneros’s pitch to voters.
“I’ve never branded myself in any of the terms Cuellar is using,” she told The Washington Post in an interview. “I never go up to a door and expect a voter to vote for me because I’m progressive. Like, we actually have conversations about the policies that I’m running on.”
With days to go before Tuesday’s primary, Cisneros stands as a serious challenge to Cuellar, one of the last congressional Democrats to oppose abortion rights and a frequent critic of President Biden’s immigration policies. The closely watched contest underscores the divide in the party and is a fresh test of whether left-leaning candidates, who have struggled in recent elections, can prevail over more moderate Democrats.
This is not Cisneros’s first bid against Cuellar. After interning for him in 2014, she waged a primary challenge six years later and came within 2,700 votes of defeating him. Cuellar was able to prevail thanks to decades of name recognition and a deep campaign account — he outspent her by $700,000.
But now, Cisneros is confident that years spent strengthening her relationship with the community, a stronger grass-roots campaign and a district redrawn to include more portions of liberal San Antonio will be enough to push her to a primary win.
When talking about her agenda, which includes support for abortion rights, Medicare-for-all and a more immigrant-friendly revamp of the nation’s system, Cisneros said her embrace is more than backing liberal ideals.
“When I talk about Medicare-for-all and why support that policy, I always talk about how when I was 13 years old, I had to help my family fundraise by selling plates of food to raise money … No 13-year-old or no family should have to do that,” Cisneros said. “It’s much easier for people to be able to grasp the concepts and policies that we’re running on if we do it that way, instead of trying to pigeonhole ourselves into one label or the other.”
Labels or not, Cisneros gladly campaigned with Ocasio-Cortez and welcomed the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). She received the support of Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, the Latino Victory Fund, and labor unions, including the Texas AFL-CIO. She backs policies that often stand at the opposite end of the Democratic spectrum from Cuellar’s, who is considered one of the most conservative members of Congress.
Cuellar is running on the promise that he will strike bipartisan deals in the House, telling voters in a recent campaign ad that he wants to “build relationships with both parties.”
“While people in Washington fight each other, who will fight for us?” Cuellar asks. “I will.”
Despite serving in a fiercely divided Congress, Cuellar has remained close to the center, often crossing party lines and touting his deals struck with Republicans. He has voted with Republicans to ban the coverage of abortion care for those insured through Medicaid, asked the Biden administration along with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to name a “border czar,” and was among a group of nine centrist Democrats who urged their party to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal without first voting for Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending package — a priority for liberal Democrats. The infrastructure deal was signed into law, but the social spending bill remains in limbo.
Cuellar’s willingness to break with his party on high-priority issues — most notably, the border and abortion — is what Cisneros is targeting.
Last September, Cuellar was the only House Democrat who voted against a bill that — in an attempt to nullify Texas’s S.B. 8, a near-total abortion ban — would have codified the right to an abortion into federal law. Cuellar’s colleagues criticized his decision, but Cuellar remained unmoved. For him, abortion is “not a health issue,” but a matter of conscience.
Cisneros accused him in an op-ed of not acting on behalf of reproductive health by voting to ban the coverage of abortion care for those insured through Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood.
Cuellar dismissed her criticism.
“When people frame this as ‘women’s health’ … if you want to call it abortion, call it abortion, please call it abortion,” Cuellar said in a Zoom conference days after the op-ed. “Women’s health — I have added money for health care for women.”
Cuellar has criticized Cisneros, arguing that she supports two key issues pushed by liberal Democrats that he claims could have a negative impact on the district — a move toward more clean energy and less funding for the U.S. Border Patrol.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks before a campaign event for 28th District candidate Jessica Cisneros and 35th District candidate Greg Casar. (Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)
“Cisneros is against oil and gas and I’m not going to vote to get rid of 40,000 jobs that are good paying jobs here,” Cuellar said in an interview with The Post.
While Cisneros has voiced support for the Green New Deal and the renewable energy industry, she’s pledged to be “a voice for workers in the fossil fuel industry to ensure no one gets left behind.”
On the border, Cuellar said he wanted to make sure “that we don’t have open borders or defund the police or attack Border Patrol.”
“Those are good paying jobs,” he said. “My opponent has said that my district is too dependent on Homeland Security jobs — that we totally disagree on.”
Like Cuellar, Cisneros is the daughter of migrant farmworkers. Her parents immigrated to Laredo from Mexico because her older sister needed medical care that was only available on this side of the border.
Cisneros has highlighted her background as an immigration lawyer to draw a contrast with Cuellar, who has become one of his party’s most outspoken critics of the Biden administration’s immigration policies. While he assailed many of former president Donald Trump’s immigration policies — he opposed the construction of a border wall — Cuellar has described the Biden administration as being too welcoming to immigrants.
He has also accused Biden of listening too much to “immigration activists” and not enough to those living on the border, including landowners and law enforcement officials.
Cuellar supports funding for programs meant to stabilize Central America’s Northern Triangle and of policies that would ramp up law enforcement across the border, a stance many Democrats have pushed against, arguing that the Biden administration’s handling of the border situation should be more humane, not more militarized.
Cisneros, meanwhile, constantly invokes her work defending immigrants from deportation during the Trump administration as evidence that her views on immigration are the opposite of Cuellar’s — and more attuned to her voters in her district, which is predominantly rural and Latino.
She supports the scrapping of a 1996 law passed during the Clinton administration that laid the groundwork for the country’s massive deportation system that still exists today.
“It was so heartbreaking and painful,” she said during a campaign event, of her work on deportation cases. “But I was representing so many people that reminded me of myself, of my family, and that the only difference between them and me was the fact that I was born in this country, that I just so happened to be born five minutes north of the river.”
While Cisneros is still running a grass-roots campaign like she did in 2020, her profile has grown, and so has her fundraising. Between the launch of her campaign in August and Dec. 31, Cisneros raised $812,000, a campaign spokeswoman said.
“There’s no question that she has a strong ground game,” said former Housing secretary Julián Castro, a Texas Democrat who endorsed Cisneros during her 2020 campaign. “If she has the strength, way above Cuellar, it’s not necessarily in money, it’s in people power.”
The race in the 28th District also comes on the heels of an FBI raid into Cuellar’s home and campaign headquarters on Jan. 19. The congressman has maintained his innocence and vowed to remain in the race but has not specified why he’s under investigation.
While Democratic congressional leadership supports reelection of their incumbents, only House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) has publicly endorsed Cuellar this election cycle. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who endorsed Cuellar last time, did not respond to a request on whether she will endorse him again this year.
Cuellar told The Post he remains confident the Democratic Party leadership will continue supporting him, touting the investments he helped secure for other Texas Democratic campaigns, and the work he did for the Biden campaign in 2020.
As for voters in his district, he’s also confident their perspective on him hasn’t changed.
“It’s the same voters that we’ve had,” Cuellar said. “People have lived here for generations [who] know the work I’ve done.”
More tweets, news, perspectives in the comments. This is a weekend open thread.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday called for the U.S. and its allies to impose heavy sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and other oligarchs in the country as he condemned Moscow’s escalating military aggression toward Ukraine.
“Vladimir Putin’s latest invasion of Ukraine is an indefensible violation of international law, regardless of whatever false pretext he offers,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “There has always been a diplomatic solution to this situation. Tragically, Putin appears intent on rejecting it.”
In addition to backing sanctions, Sanders said preparations must be made to accommodate refugees displaced by the conflict and called for investments in a global clean energy transition to fight the climate crisis and disempower “authoritarian petrostates” worldwide.
Sanders’ remarks came after U.S. President Joe Biden—in concert with officials in the United Kingdom and the European Union—moved to impose new economic sanctions on Russia following the Kremlin’s deployment of troops into two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, which Putin on Monday formally recognized as independent.
To prevent Putin’s effort to expand his country’s presence in the Donbas region from descending into a broader military conflict, peace advocates in the U.S. and abroad continue to urge the Biden administration to double-down on diplomatic efforts, as Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday.
“The United States,” said Sanders, “must now work with our allies and the international community to impose serious sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs, including denying them access to the billions of dollars that they have stashed in European and American banks.”
“The U.S. and our partners must also prepare for a worse scenario by helping Ukraine’s neighbors care for refugees fleeing this conflict,” Sanders continued, alluding to the possibility that Russian lawmakers’ approval of the use of military force outside the country could lead to a full-fledged war.
In the wake of recent developments in Ukraine, oil prices surged to nearly $100 per barrel on Tuesday, the highest in more than seven years, and European gas futures spiked by as much as 13.8%.
While the U.S. fossil fuel industry is expected to benefit from Germany halting approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline due to Russia’s recent actions, people in Europe—already struggling with skyrocketing energy bills—are bracing for even higher costs in the case that Moscow restricts gas exports.
“In the longer term,” said Sanders, “we must invest in a global green energy transition away from fossil fuels, not only to combat climate change, but to deny authoritarian petrostates the revenues they require to survive.”
— mike casca (@cascamike) February 25, 2022
More news, perspectives, etc in the comments section. See you there!
The N-word and other racist slurs were hurled daily at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, delivered not just by fellow employees but also by managers and supervisors.
So says California’s civil rights agency in a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of thousands of Black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation.
Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas that its employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation,” the lawsuit alleges.
Only Black workers had to scrub floors on their hands and knees, and they were relegated to the Fremont, Calif., factory’s most difficult physical jobs, the suit states.
Graffiti — including “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and “F– [N-word]” — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says.
Tesla responded to the lawsuit, filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, with a blog post saying that the agency had investigated almost 50 discrimination complaints in the past without finding misconduct — an assertion the agency denied.
“A narrative spun by the DFEH and a handful of plaintiff firms to generate publicity is not factual proof,” the blog post said, adding that the company provides “the best paying jobs in the automotive industry … at a time when manufacturing jobs are leaving California.”
The lawsuit comes in the wake of Tesla’s billionaire chief executive, Elon Musk, moving the company’s headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, Texas, where he is building a major new assembly plant.
The state’s lawsuit suggests the relocation to a state known for looser enforcement is no coincidence, declaring it to be “another move to avoid accountability.”
Not only were Tesla’s Black workers subjected to “willful, malicious” harassment, but they were also denied promotions and paid less than other workers for the same jobs, the suit asserted. They were disciplined for infractions for which other workers were not penalized.
In an interview, DFEH Director Kevin Kish said the lawsuit is the largest ever brought by the state for racial discrimination in terms of the size of the affected workforce since the agency gained prosecutorial powers in 2013.
Before that, complaints were handled by an agency administrative law judge rather than in court. But as more employers have forced workers to sign arbitration agreements preventing them from taking complaints to court, “government has the only effective enforcement mechanism to remedy broad pervasive violations in a workplace,” he said.
“We hear a lot about ‘structural racism.’ This case is very focused on segregation — the structural barriers to equality for Black employees,” Kish said.
Most of the agency’s complaints involve individual workers or small groups. And racial complaints are on the rise. In 2016, the agency investigated 744 cases. By 2020, that had grown to 1,548, Kish said.
More news and perspectives in the comments section. See you there! This also serves an open thread. I’ll open Benny’s Bar later today for HH.
Central IL is getting hit with Winter Storm Landon. So far, a few inches of snow, but the ice sheets beneath the snow are proving to be hazardous.
At least 25 Semis/Cars in the ditch between Bloomington, IL & Champaign, IL on the I-74 Corridor…#ilwx #cilwx #winterstorm #landon
For licensing purposes please dm me!@NWSLincolnIL @WeatherNation @ABC @NBCNews @WGNNews @billyweather @SnowHour @spann @WXgage @JimCantore pic.twitter.com/ugkUxDLeYB
— Chicago & Midwest Storm Chasers (@ChicagoMWeather) February 2, 2022
Meantime, the governor’s race in IL is gearing up.
Today, I am proud to say that Illinois’ budget is stronger than it has been in decades.
I am proposing a budget that delivers tax relief to families, pays down our debt and saves for a rainy day. pic.twitter.com/exwlWWNJet
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) February 2, 2022
I heard the groundhog saw his shadow today. Before the storm hit.
This serves as an open thread.