A political thought exercise

My training today was a nightmare, but not for any fault of any of the people involved. For whatever reason I couldn’t get to sleep last night– I was awake and mindlessly scrolling through TikTok at 1:30 in the morning– and I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually get to sleep until after 2 AM, only to be back up at 7:30. Somehow I managed to get to the training without getting any actual caffeine in my body, which … what? That shouldn’t have even been possible, as I’m generally less likely to leave the house in the morning without some form of caffeine consumption than I am to leave without my pants, but it happened.

And then the training was in this tiny, windowless, concrete-block shitbox of a classroom with no moving air and not a whole Goddamn lot of air conditioning, and on top of that the room featured those horrible one-piece desks that I am, at this point, simply too fucking fat to sit in comfortably. I eventually got up and commandeered one of the two teacher chairs in the room, pulling it up to an empty desk, because fuck it, I’m not going to be in pain for three hours, but between the lack of sleep and the temperature and everything else, staying awake was a nightmare, but not in any way that I blame the presenter for. He did fine, and the actual new textbook adoption seems initially pretty solid, although I’ll need to look more carefully at it later.

I actually took a nap when I got home, and slept so hard that I woke up three hours later convinced it was the next morning, and it took several moments of genuine confusion about why it was so bright in the room before I realized I’d only slept for a few hours. I think the boy’s still alive. I should go check on him after this post is done.

Oh, and when I checked the mail I had another jury summons, my second of 2022 so far. I will, I’m sure, still not make it into an actual trial.


Anyway. That thought experiment.

Let’s imagine that we’re a member of a political party. For the purposes of this conversation it genuinely doesn’t matter which one, and while I’m framing this as part of America’s two-party system, I don’t even really know that a two-party framework is necessary. Let’s further imagine that whichever direction on the spectrum our party generally leans, we are personally somewhat further in that direction than the average party member. So if you’re a Republican, you’re more conservative than most, and if you’re a Democrat, you’re more left-leaning(*) than most.

So here’s the question: your party is not a monolith, as I’ve said, and you’re more , I’ll say polarized, than most. Which of these two scenarios is better?

  • Your party has a slim majority, where the loss of more than one or two members of your party means your legislation isn’t going to get passed, but nearly all members of your party are generally reliable votes for your party’s legislation;
  • Your party has a considerable majority, but includes a significant centrist wing, so legislation from your party is more or less going to get passed, but virtually everything is going to require getting through that more centrist wing and therefore will require inter-party negotiation and, more than likely, watering down of the priorities that the people at the longer end of the tail– you, in other words– are going to want.

There’s been a lot of talk since the Dobbs decision about how Obama had a supermajority in 2008 and should have codified Roe into federal law while he had the chance. I am going to ignore most of the details of this argument and look specifically at one thing: that Obama did have said majority, for a few months at least, but that said majority included at least a dozen Senators who were considerably further to the right than any current Democratic Senator other than the oft-maligned Mr. Manchin, and I’m sure a couple of them– Joe Lieberman, anyone?– would have ended up to Manchin’s right if compared carefully. Nearly all of those people are no longer in the Senate. Why?

Well, most of them were replaced with Republicans. And it is very difficult to imagine that once Sen. Manchin retires he will be replaced with anything other than a Republican, and a considerably more conservative Republican at that. I remind all of you that I live in Indiana, and have counted among my Senators both Evan Bayh and Joe Donnelly during my lifetime. Neither were especially reliable Democrats, but they were Democrats, and their current replacements, Mike Braun and Todd Young, are not improvements over either of them.

The Democratic Party as a whole and particularly the Democratic Senators are considerably to the left of where the party was in 2008. Not to the degree that the Republicans have moved to the right; not even close, I don’t think, but the movement is undeniable, and at least part of the reason is that we’ve effectively pruned the right wing of our party during the last fourteen years. And as a result we have 48 more-or-less reliable Democratic votes, or at least reliable Democratic-caucusing votes, since I’m counting Bernie Sanders in that mix, and we have Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. I feel like Arizona could do better than Sinema; West Virginia will not be improving on Manchin.

So, again, your question: Are we better off? Why or why not?

(*) Left-leaning people currently being in a little bit of a civil war about nomenclature, I’m going to choose for the purposes of this post to stay agnostic about it.

One down

My wife is in Boston for work until next Saturday, so I am entirely responsible for keeping our pets and son alive until she returns, which sounds like it ought to be a lot of work but I think I can probably handle it. I’ve got about a page and a half of stuff I intend to get accomplished before she gets back, and despite spending several hours with an extra fifth-grader in the house this afternoon I managed to cross several items off of my list. Most of them were what a motivational speaker might call “quick wins,” but fuck it, they still count. I have a couple of Projects in mind for tomorrow, so we’ll see how we do.

I think tomorrow I’ll write the Obi-Wan review; I meant to do it today but the day got away from me and all the sudden it was 8:00, which is sort of the unofficial “Goddammit get something on the screen” deadline for blog posts around here, and the review is going to demand at least a little more thought than I think I’m ready for at the moment. I am also considering a Manifesto of sorts; a What Do We Do Now type of thing that no one will listen to and will never come true. And it’s all going to come down to vote, you morons anyway. I’ve blocked, conservatively, dozens of idiots today, and there will likely be more tomorrow as I continue to lose even the vaguest vestiges of patience with what are either young progressives without a single stitch of sense about how things actually work or, perhaps more likely, Russian bots.

That said, I can’t really blame The Youngs, at least not exclusively; I put this on Twitter already, but this little bit of Fucking Nonsense From People that Should Know Better showed up in my text messages yesterday, and, uh, I wasn’t in the mood:

Probably shoulda just typed STOP, as Kati-from-the-DSCC never responded and likely also wasn’t actually a person, but whatever. A fucking petition. No, I’m not signing a petition. Petitions are for twelve-year-olds. Nothing that mattered has ever been changed by a Goddamned petition.

(Prove me wrong, if you can; I’m pretty sure I’m right here, but if you know of a counter-example, I’d genuinely love to hear it.)

So, yeah, everything still sucks and I still hate it here, but at least for the time being I’m no longer, like, actively marinating in hatred. Progress? Sure.

SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOT SHOT SHOTS

I’m not going to bullshit around about this: I am giving explicit credit for what happened today to the Biden administration. This would not have happened had we not removed That Man from the White House in November. This is mostly going to be a post where I’m complaining! But spoiler alert: at the end of it I get a Covid shot.

On March 2nd– two days ago– the Biden administration issued a formal directive that all states were to begin prioritizing getting Covid vaccines to teachers. Many states already had teachers classed as essential workers and were already vaccinating us. Indiana? Nah, not so much. I will not stop saying this until it stops being true: Indiana doesn’t give a shit about education, and definitely doesn’t give a shit about teachers. The state wants us young, cheap and disposable and frankly I think it would be just fine with them if a few of the more highly-paid among us died to this thing before the vaccines went out.

Who the merry hell knows how long I’d have had to wait if not for that.

So yesterday I had, as I mentioned, a fairly busy and productive day, and somehow made it through the entire day of work without even once glancing at Facebook. If I had, I might have learned that somehow a nearby Meijer pharmacy was having a pretty major teacher vaccine clinic, one that they had notified every local school district about– and that our district had not told us about. A few teachers from my district found out anyway, because it’s not like we don’t know each other, but by the time I found out about it, the shots were gone. To add insult to injury, I’d also signed up for alerts from Meijer when vaccine was available– and Meijer knew I was a teacher. But I’d heard nothing. None of my friends had told me anything either, which had me good and pissed at the time but if you’re reading this don’t worry about it, I’m over it.

I spent a good chunk of last night fucking around on various state and federal websites trying to figure out where the hell I could find myself a shot, feeling not unlike the way I did when trying to track down a PS5, right down to one website that would let me schedule a first shot at one location but then immediately insisted that I also schedule the second shot, but then it wouldn’t let me actually do that. Anywhere.

Right around 8:00 PM, we found out that my district was doing their own vaccine clinic today, during the school day, and asking the principals to provide flexibility as their teachers … uh, left work in the middle of the day or whenever to go get their shots. On, effectively, no notice whatsoever. Now, I’d gotten lucky here, because I’m already at home, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone covering me who wasn’t going to be doing it already. But there’s my son to be thinking about, and we had to scramble a bit to make sure my wife would be able to be home while I was off getting my shot.

(How little notice was there in putting this together? I heard tell that one of the local high schools basically gave up, herded all of their students into the auditorium and told all of their teachers to get gone and get back as quickly as possible. We don’t ever have students on Wednesdays and next Friday is a teacher record day. This was absolutely a panicked reaction to whoever dropped the ball in forgetting to tell us about the clinic yesterday, which was … also during the Goddamned school day.)

I got there half an hour before the place was supposed to be open, and had a shot in my arm and was leaving two minutes after the place was supposed to have opened. So once I got there, everything was moving super smoothly and quickly. I was, I dunno, maybe the 10th person to get my shot? And they’re going to do the exact same thing again in three weeks for the second shot, which means that in three weeks and one day every teacher in South Bend will call in sick, because the side effects will be hitting us all of us at once. Which’ll be fun.

Speaking of: I got the Pfizer vaccine (apparently part of this is that these vaccines were federally purchased, meaning that what the Biden team actually did with this directive was told the states that they were gonna decide what to do with their vaccines, and the states could pound sand if they didn’t like it) and so far my arm kinda hurts (not a big deal) and I took a real short nap this afternoon, which could have been ordinary Thursday Tired and could in theory have been Vaccine Fatigue. Nothing that actually counts as being remotely debilitating, though.

Funny what a difference it makes, when we elect people who believe that government is capable of actually accomplishing things.

Anyway, it’s running through your head so you may as well enjoy the song:

In which I am reliably informed both parties are the same

There is a thing that I’ve been saying lately, which is that whenever Republicans get into the White House they tend to staff the various federal departments with people whose entire lives have existed in contrary to the mission of that department. Betsy DeVos, who has worked to destroy public education for her entire life, became Secretary of Education, for example. Oil execs get put in charge of the environment. Even in cases where a Republican might actually be an acceptable public servant in one role– I have no reason to believe Ben Carson would have been a terrible Surgeon General, for example– they get put into roles that do not actually match their skill sets, like HUD.

I’ve asked several times for the Internet to provide me with even a single example of a Democrat putting, say, a lifelong pacifist in charge of the Defense Department or something similar, and never once have they come through for me. But hey! Biden’s entire Cabinet is, like, right there! And, granted, none of them have been officially confirmed yet, and so it’s entirely possible some things might change, but let’s take a quick look (a quick look; I don’t have all day) at these folks and see if any of them appear to be painfully unsuited for office:

NAME: Anthony Blinken
POSITION: Secretary of State
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Looks like he’s been deputy Secretary of State, Deputy NSA Advisor, and Biden’s own NSA advisor. He passes.

NAME: Janet Yellen
POSITION: Secretary of the Treasury
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Chair of the Federal Reserve, Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, Member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Pass!

NAME: Lloyd Austin
POSITION: Secretary of Defense
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Retired four-star general, former CENTCOM commander. Pass.

NAME: Merrick Garland
POSITION: Attorney General
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I don’t even need to look this one up: experienced lawdog, former Supreme Court nominee, the guy who sent Timothy McVeigh to jail. Pass.

NAME: Deb Haaland
POSITION: Secretary of the Interior
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Elected official, Vice-Chair of the Committee on National Resources while in the House. I don’t really know what the Secretary of the Interior does but this sounds good.

NAME: Tom Vilsack
POSITION: Secretary of Agriculture
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I assume anyone from Iowa can do this job. Next!

NAME: Gina Raimondo
POSITION: Secretary of Commerce
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Governor of Rhode Island, General Treasurer of Rhode Island, and according to Wikipedia a former venture capitalist. Has a degree from Harvard in economics. Pass!

NAME: Marty Walsh
POSITION: Secretary of Labor
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Former Mayor of Boston and member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Former union president, former head of the Boston Building Trades. Pass.

NAME: Xavier Becerra
POSITION: Secretary of Health and Human Services
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Previous AG of California, former House representative. Econ degree from Stanford. I admit I don’t see anything that screams HHS to me but I’m not a hundred percent what would.

Are we starting to see a trend here? But these are just the topline folks, let’s keep going. Surely we’ll find an anarchist or a pacifist or a felon or something in here somewhere.

NAME: Marcia Fudge
POSITION: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Another “solid public servant” sort of nomination; Fudge was in the House and is a former mayor. She was born and raised in Cleveland and appears to still live there– the city she was mayor of is an East Side suburb– so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume some competence with urban issues.

NAME: Pete Buttigieg
POSITION: Secretary of Transportation
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Used to be my mayor. Once nearly got killed by an inattentive driver while jaywalking. Uh … rearranged a lot of streets downtown while mayor in a way that actually did really improve downtown? (Important note: there are no longer any one-way streets downtown, which means the scenario I describe in that link is no longer possible.) I dunno, he’ll do fine, and he’s not, like, opposed to the concept of transportation or something like that.

NAME: Jennifer Granholm
POSITION: Secretary of Energy
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Former Attorney General and Governor of Michigan; again, I admit there’s nothing in her bio that screams “Secretary of Energy,” but she hasn’t spent her entire career trying to shut down power plants and force us to go back to fire or anything like that. Wikipedia notes that her nomination was “received favourably among major energy experts,” and spelled “favourably” exactly like that. Does not appear to be a slave of the oil industry or anything like that, either.

NAME: Miguel Cardona
POSITION: Secretary of Education
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: First SecEd nominee in two administrations who I didn’t think was literally Satan (remember, I think Obama was shit on education too,) so he has to be a step up. Literally anyone would be a step up over DeVos.

NAME: Denis McDonough
POSITION: Secretary of Veterans Affairs
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: White House Chief of Staff, Deputy NSA, graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Curiously, does not appear to be an actual military veteran. That’s kind of shaky, but the rest of his resume is solid.

NAME: Alejandro Mayorkas
POSITION: Secretary of Homeland Security
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, so … yep. We’re good here.

NAME: Ron Klain
POSITION: Chief of Staff
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: The Chief of Staff is a Cabinet member? Sure, fine, he can have whoever he wants here.

NAME: Michael Regan
POSITION: EPA Administrator
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, worked for the EPA during the Bush and Clinton administrations, regional director for the Environmental Defense fund. Note that his predecessor in this role was a coal lobbyist. He passes.

NAME: Neera Tanden
POSITION: Office of Management and Budget Director
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Neera’s been all over the place, and appears to be an asshole of the My Kind of Asshole variety, but has experience at the Center for American Progress, helped to draft Obamacare, and was Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s policy director during their presidential runs. All good.

NAME: Katherine Tai
POSITION: U.S. Trade Representative
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: She’s the chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means committee, so this is another “I’m not sure what you do, but yeah, that sounds good” nominee.

NAME: Isabel Guzman
POSITION: Small Business Administrator
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Appears to have previously had basically this exact job for the state of California, which is, what, a third of the US economy? She’ll do fine.

NAME: Avril Haines
POSITION: National Intelligence Director
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Deputy NSA under Obama, former Deputy Director of the CIA. All good.

NAME: Linda Thomas-Greenfield
POSITION: UN Ambassador
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I kind of assume anybody can be an ambassador, because it tends to be a “donated a lot of money and wants patronage now” sort of job, but she was the assistant SoS for African Affairs and the Director General of the foreign service, and has been an ambassador to Liberia, so again, yeah, sounds great.

NAME: Cecilia Rouse
POSITION: Chair of Council of Economic Advisers
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I mean … she’s an economist? Dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs? She’s fucking FIVE YEARS YOUNGER THAN ME?? Christ.

NAME: John Kerry
POSITION: Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I mean, he was Secretary of State. John’s gotta have some kind of job, that ketchup money isn’t gonna last forever.

NAME: Eric Lander
POSITION: Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I said on Twitter the other day, and I wasn’t joking, that the first Republican nominee to this office would be an illiterate Pentecostal preacher. This is a new Cabinet-level position created by Biden, and the guy he’s tapped for the job is a mathematician and geneticist and somehow is a professor at MIT and Harvard at the same God damned time and yeah I think he’ll do just fine.

So, what was the worst I was able to find? A few people with reasonably solid resumes whose experience didn’t seem precisely suited to the position they were nominated for based on a cursory Wikipedia search. A whole lot of people with lots of experience that is directly related to the position they were nominated for. And Pete Buttigieg. Who will do just fine, I’m sure; I’m kidding. Now, I’m not claiming these are all good people, or that they’ll all be good at their jobs; some of them may not actually take their offices, some won’t last long, one or two will end up getting fired; hell, one or two may end up getting indicted, who knows. But there’s no one on this list where you look at them and immediately know that their actual job is to sabotage the department they’ve been nominated to head and keep it from doing anyone else any good.

Funny how that works.

A very brief Congressional explainer

I’ve seen a fair number of people who are confused about what the hell the House is doing right now. To be clear, I am very very far from being an expert, and it’s possible that I’m going to get some details incorrect in this, but I think I’ve got the basic gist, and if anybody sees any outright errors, please put them in comments and I’ll amend the post.

My current understanding is that Pelosi has brought the House back into session today and has already asked for unanimous consent to bring a bill to the floor calling on the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. That unanimous consent has been denied, and therefore there will be a vote by the House on the bill tomorrow. Pence will be given 24 hours to do the right thing and then impeachment proceedings will begin.

I’ve seen a lot of people asking why they have to wait so long, and why they can’t vote on the bill today. That is, in fact, exactly what they asked for unanimous consent on. You cannot introduce a bill and vote on it on the same day; that’s been a rule for several years now, and it’s a rule that makes good sense– remember, a lot of the bills passed can be hundreds of pages long and complicated, so it makes sense to give people enough time to read the final version of the bill before they vote on it. Now, of course, you don’t need a full day to read a two-page resolution, but the rule still stands. The House can break their own rules with unanimous consent— in other words, if no House member disagrees with breaking the rule, a rule can be broken. But since they didn’t get that unanimous consent– the Republicans blocked it– they have to go to a full vote, and therefore have to wait until tomorrow, when the resolution will most assuredly pass.

Now, in theory, and at least as far as I know, they could also formally introduce the impeachment article or articles (more than one Congressperson has announced that they’re working on them, and I’m not sure who wrote the final text) today, and then again, in theory and as far as I know, they could vote on them or at least get the process started on Tuesday. They’re waiting an extra day to give Pence his 24 hours basically as a strategic measure, which … well, you can decide on your own whether that’s a good idea or not, given that Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the Senate back into session before the 19th. The resolution on Pence is something the House can do on its own. Impeachment is not. The only way to get that done any faster is if, oh, say, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski were to agree to caucus with the Democrats for a while, giving them the majority immediately and making Chuck Schumer the Majority Leader. Otherwise, the Dem majority doesn’t actually kick in until Kamala Harris is Vice-President.

(EDIT: It does look like the impeachment articles have been formally introduced.)

(Don’t ask me what happens if Pence does invoke the 25th. I don’t even know if there are rules for that, or whether Pence is for-real President or acting President or what if the Beast is removed via that method. I have no idea who casts tie breaking votes in the Senate under those circumstances, but it definitely wouldn’t be Harris before the 20th, so it probably doesn’t actually matter.)

(I’m also not sure exactly how the 14th Amendment applies to all of this– I know the Senate and the House can expel their own members, and they’ve used this power in the past, but I have no idea how the law works regarding declaring that someone cannot run for office again. I’ll look into it.)

Anyway, hopefully this is helpful, and again– I’m not an expert, so if you see something I’m wrong about, let me know.