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.

On fixing American democracy

(Note: this is as close as I’m going to come, I think, to a post about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, mostly because I still can’t think clearly about it. Check my Instagram for a minor tribute to her that I did, though.)

I turned eighteen in July of 1994, which means that my first presidential vote was for Bill Clinton’s reelection in 1996. Since I have been old enough to vote– and I am 44– there has been only one election where the Republican candidate for President got a majority of the popular vote. For some reason, though, there have been twelve years in that time where I had Republican presidents– because in two other elections, the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral college. And I’m not going to do the math to figure out the exact numbers, but during those years where I’ve been able to vote there has– I will use the word frequently— been situations where the balance of the Senate and the House did not reflect the number of votes received by the elected officials of that party as well.

The Republicans have been given a head start in our democracy for my entire adult life. The Republican agenda does not enjoy popular nationwide support, but their power in our government is aided by the Electoral College and a Constitution that says every state must have exactly two senators– a compromise that might have made sense in 1789 but no longer really does when California literally has nearly seventy times as many people as Wyoming but only eighteen times as many electoral votes.

The following things need to happen:

  1. Washington DC must be granted statehood as soon as humanly possible. Right now residents of our nation’s capital have literally no representation in Congress, and DC has around 200,000 more residents than Wyoming does. This isn’t fair. It needs to be fixed.
  2. Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.2 million, more than 20 states, has a more complicated statehood picture, which I admit I’m far from an expert on– my understanding is that there was a recent statehood referendum that won, but which many opponents claimed was a poor representation of the actual mood of the island. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate argument or not. I just don’t. I will phrase it this way, then: Puerto Rico should be granted the option of statehood, and hopefully we can have a cleaner referendum in the near future to see if they prefer statehood or independence. Either way, they’ve been a territory for far too long.

You may be pointing out in your head right now that this does not precisely solve the problem of the Electoral College, and furthermore does not really reflect the enormous advantage smaller rural states have in the Senate, allowing them to potentially block legislation desired by overwhelming majorities of Americans. This is true, and I don’t see a way to overcome that roadblock short of setting a ceiling for a state’s population and carving a few of the bigger states up, which doesn’t seem super likely. But we can limit the antidemocratic effects of the Electoral College without a Constitutional amendment.

How? By increasing the size of the House.

The Constitution does not specify how many seats the House needs to have, only that the number of citizens per seat should be no less than 30,000. I think we can all agree that a House with nearly eleven thousand members is untenable for a variety of reasons. But there is nothing in the Constitution that requires the number of House members to be 435. It used to be fairly routine to expand or change the number of House members– 21 times between 1790 and 1920, which is the last time it happened.

Which, okay, a lot of those were because we added new states. True! But I feel like a hundred years was a nice long run for 435 members and maybe expanding to, oh, twice that might be nice.

(Be aware, because people seem to think this is a good argument for some reason, that I don’t give one thin damn how many desks there are in the House chamber. That’s a building. We can renovate the motherfucker. We can build a whole damn new one if we want.)

And doubling the size of the House would, in turn, double the number of available Electoral votes, which– again– wouldn’t fix the problem, but would bring the vote of a Californian closer to being fairly counted than it is now.

Now, understand that there is an argument to be made that if California has seventy times as many people as Wyoming then it deserves seventy times as much representation. It’s probably even the cleanest argument, honestly, because everything else boils down to well, California needs to have closer to a truly representative vote … but not that much closer. But even if we just doubled the size of the House– and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have 8-900 voting members in an organization representing three hundred and twenty-five million people– we would in turn close that distance and the vote of a Californian would be closer to counting as much as it should. It’s not going to be perfect, because of the Senate, and we can’t fix the Senate (or at least I’m not aware of a way) without Constitutional amendments, which is outside the scope of what I’m talking about right now.

Our democracy, such as it is, and believe me part of me wants to put that word in quotation marks right now, needs to be more representative than it is right now. This won’t fix it, but it’s a place to start.

Let’s be clear about something

I was gonna put this on Twitter, but suddenly I feel like putting it somewhere I can link to it later might be useful.

I have grown excessively tired of the (somehow, surprisingly) large number of people who are claiming that “no one could have predicted” COVID-19. In general, actually, I’m tired of the phrase “no one could have predicted” altogether, which generally means that plenty of people already did predict it and you just weren’t paying attention.

Y’all, damn near any educated person could have predicted this, and most of them have at some point or another. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or even a doctor to realize that the most dangerous kind of virus for causing a pandemic is the type that 1) has a lengthy period where you are contagious but not symptomatic and 2) has a relatively high mortality rate once the symptomatic period begins. Literally everyone who has ever read The Stand or seen a movie about a disease could have put this together. Fucking Dan Brown predicted it in his last book, and he’s a damn idiot. It’s not that fucking complicated.

Furthermore, if the person currently running our country into the ground is able to fire something called a “pandemic response team” and if there is something called the Center for Disease Control whose budget he is able to cut … what that means is that yeah, people predicted this. There are entire fucking literal organizations composed of people whose actual fucking job was to predict exactly this and to notice it as early as possible when it (inevitably, because viruses evolve, which is also something no educated person is surprised by) does actually happen.

If something terrible were to happen and everyone were to look around and no one could figure out whose job it was to help fix that thing? That might be something that nobody predicted.

This? Everyfuckingbody predicted this was going to happen, sooner or later. Everybody who was paying the slightest bit of attention, at least.

Fucking stop it.


2:55 PM, Saturday April 11: 514,415 confirmed infections and 19,882 Americans dead.

In which I’m getting paranoid

Spent the day at home with the boy, who hasn’t been at school for the last couple of days. Most of the time when he’s sick my wife is able to work from home, but she wasn’t today on account of various Meetings What Could Not Be Emails. I am mostly feeling better; my voice has more or less recovered, although I do have an annoying throat cough still lingering.

I’ve spent most of the day in a state of vague horror at the world, honestly, both as various places and institutions either do or don’t react to the continuing spread of the coronavirus. It’s an open question as to how my district is going to react to it; attendance has been shitty for several weeks now and I suspect it’s only going to get worse, and I’m absolutely certain that there are already students in our buildings who are carriers; if there aren’t, there will be by the end of the week. Meanwhile, you may be aware there’s another batch of primaries tonight; I’m sure that won’t cause any particular stress.

I dunno. Despite everything I’ve always been a person who more or less feels like most people are basically competent and trying their best, and that brings with it a certain amount of trust in institutions, something that really should have been bred out of me by now. And what frustrates me about this is that no one anywhere, from national governments on down, who has any sort of a plan for how to deal with this shit before it gets much, much worse. Like, I’m hearing about schools that have confirmed cases shutting down for two weeks. Well, okay. What happens when in two weeks the epidemic isn’t over and you have another student test positive? Do we shut down for another two weeks at that point? How many times do we do this?

Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah.

On the I Know Nothing About Politics front, I suspect Sanders is going to be in an awful lot of trouble after tonight’s primaries are tallied, but I got this wrong last time too, so we’ll see what happens. Lord knows the fucker won’t be dropping out anytime soon one way or another.

In which I have plans

UnknownI’m gonna vote tomorrow.

I will be voting a straight Democratic ticket, with the exception of my local Congressional race, which does not feature a Democrat to vote for.  I will instead be writing in Pat Hackett, who I voted for in the primary.

I will be voting for Oletha Jones over Stan Wruble for School Board.  I have nothing in particular against Mr. Wruble but my preference is to not vote for white men when I have an alternative, and in this case I do.

I will be voting no on Public Question #1, which doesn’t actually literally read “Is it OK if Republicans deliberately force a budget crisis and then steal the pensions of Indiana’s public servants in order to fix the problem they created?” but may as well.  I very strongly recommend every Hoosier vote against this fucking nonsense.

I have no plans to vote for or against any judges.  I honestly don’t have time for this shit and, more importantly, I lack any relevant expertise and therefore I’m not qualified to make decisions here.  I did some brief research on each of the judges up for retention votes (which are always successful; they never lose these things) and found no giant blinking red lights so I will ignore these questions as usual.

I will, once again, almost certainly not be receiving a sticker.