Presty the DJ for Jan. 19

The number one single today in 1959:

The number one British single today in 1967:

Today in 1971, selections from the Beatles’ White Album were played in the courtroom at the Sharon Tate murder trial to answer the question of whether any songs could have inspired Charles Manson and his “family” to commit murder.

Manson was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 19”

How COVID should have been (and should be) handled

James Taranto:

The Omicron surge has triggered a mutation in the conventional wisdom about Covid-19. The virus “is here to stay,” oncologist Ezekiel Emanuel and two other experts who advised the Biden transition proclaimed in a Jan. 6 article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, “A National Strategy for the ‘New Normal’ of Life With Covid.” That means no more “perpetual state of emergency”: “The goal for the ‘new normal’ . . . does not include eradication or elimination.”

Joseph Ladapo reached the same conclusion almost two years earlier. “Please don’t believe politicians who say we can control this with a few weeks of shutdown,” Dr. Ladapo, then a professor at UCLA’s medical school and a clinician on Covid’s frontline, wrote in USA Today on March 24, 2020. “To contain a virus with shutdowns, you must either go big, which is what China did, or you don’t go at all. . . . Here is my prescription for local and state leaders: Keep shutdowns short, keep the economy going, keep schools in session, keep jobs intact, and focus single-mindedly on building the capacity we need to survive this into our health care system.”

“That was before it became political,” Dr. Ladapo, 43, says in an interview conducted in person, indoors and unmasked. An orthodoxy soon hardened in the medical establishment and most of the media. He says his UCLA faculty colleagues’ reactions to his commentaries went from “Thanks, Joe, for providing us another perspective” to “How can we make Joe stop writing?” He believes USA Today “would never have published anything along that vein later in the pandemic.” But the Journal would: Since April 2020, I have accepted a dozen of Dr. Ladapo’s articles for these pages. One of them, in September 2020, was headlined “How to Live With Covid, Not for It.”

As policy makers’ views began to converge with Dr. Ladapo’s, he became a policy maker. His writings caught the attention of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in September 2021 appointed him surgeon general, the state’s top health official. “It’s fun that I’m sitting here because of you,” Dr. Ladapo tells me—though he’s also sitting here because Mr. DeSantis had been quicker than most politicians to see the folly of lockdowns and the necessity of living with Covid.

The governor declared a state of emergency in early March 2020, followed in April by the first in a series of executive orders reopening the state. Restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters were back in business by June 2020, and public schools were in session that fall. In May 2021 Mr. DeSantis suspended all local Covid-19 restrictions, including mask mandates, and signed legislation ending them permanently. Last summer’s Delta wave hit Florida hard, but the Sunshine State imposed no new restrictions. The state became a punching bag for journalists and other enthusiasts for harsh Covid policies. The hashtag #DeathSantis periodically trended on Twitter.

In Florida as elsewhere, Omicron has brought an unprecedented explosion in reported cases but a considerably smaller increase in severe ones. “It’s been really a blessing that the Omicron variant is less virulent,” Dr. Ladapo says, though he cautions: “We don’t know what’s around the corner, because these case counts are still very high.” Florida recorded an average of 65,551 cases a day for the week ending Jan. 12, up 165% from the Delta wave’s August peak. But hospitalizations of Covid-positive patients, at 10,526, were 41% lower than the August high.

One way to bring the case count down is by testing fewer people. “Historically in public health, for respiratory viruses in the general population, we consider ‘cases’ to be people who have symptoms, not a PCR test,” Dr. Ladapo says. “But during the pandemic, you can have a positive PCR and be completely healthy but be considered a case and be required to behave like a case, which is to isolate and those types of things.”

On Jan. 6 Dr. Ladapo issued guidance that only people who have Covid symptoms and a risk factor (old age, certain diseases, or current or recent pregnancy) “should” get tested. Those with symptoms but no risk factors are advised to “consider” a test. For the asymptomatic, the guidance discourages testing, saying it “is unlikely to have any clinical benefits.”

“A test is most valuable when it’s most likely to lead to a change in a decision, a change in management,” he says. “I mean, that’s so basic.” To keep hospitalizations down, he adds, the state has made clear “that we expect clinicians to treat patients with risk factors” using therapies including monoclonal antibodies, new antivirals from Pfizer and Merck, and fluvoxamine and inhaled budesonide, two medications that have shown promise in off-label use against Covid-19.

He describes the asymptomatic as “a very special group, because this group—you can’t feel any better than not having symptoms. So this group can only be harmed from treatment”—not to mention the “personal downside to them” of being expected to isolate.

Biden thinks you are the enemy

Peggy Noonan:

It is startling when two speeches within 24 hours, neither much heralded in advance—the second wouldn’t even have been given without the first—leave you knowing you have witnessed a seminal moment in the history of an administration, but it happened this week. The president’s Tuesday speech in Atlanta, on voting rights, was a disaster for him. By the end of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s answering speech on Wednesday you knew some new break point had occurred, that President Biden might have thought he was just crooning to part of his base but the repercussions were greater than that; he was breaking in some new way with others—and didn’t know it. It is poor political practice when you fail to guess the effects of your actions. He meant to mollify an important constituency but instead he filled his opponents with honest indignation and, I suspect, encouraged in that fractured group some new unity.

The speech itself was aggressive, intemperate, not only offensive but meant to offend. It seemed prepared by people who think there is only the Democratic Party in America, that’s it, everyone else is an outsider who can be disparaged. It was a mistake on so many levels. Presidents more than others in politics have to maintain an even strain, as astronauts used to say. If a president is rhetorically manipulative and divisive on a voting-rights bill it undercuts what he’s trying to establish the next day on Covid and the economy. The over-the-top language of the speech made him seem more emotional, less competent. The portentousness—“In our lives and . . . the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before them from everything that followed. They stop time”—made him appear incapable of understanding how the majority of Americans understand our own nation’s history and the vast array of its challenges

By the end he looked like a man operating apart from the American conversation, not at its center. This can be fatal to a presidency.

He was hardly done speaking when a new Quinnipiac poll showed the usual low Biden numbers, but, most pertinently, that 49% of respondents say he is doing more to divide the country, and only 42% see him as unifying it.

In the speech Mr. Biden claimed he stands against “the forces in America that value power over principle.” Last year Georgia elected two Democratic senators. “And what’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia? Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way. To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem.” They want to “suppress the right to vote.” They want to “subvert the election.

This is “Jim Crow 2.0,” it’s “insidious,” it’s “the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies.”

The problem is greater than Georgia. “The United States Senate . . . has been rendered a shell of its former self.” Its rules must be changed. “The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart. The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.” Senators will now “declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages.”

Most wince-inducing: “Will you stand against election subversion? Yes or no? . . . Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace ? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor ? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

If a speech can be full of itself this speech was.

From the floor of the Senate the next day came Mr. McConnell’s rebuke. It was stinging, indignant to the point of seething. He didn’t attempt to scale any rhetorical heights. The plainness of his language was ferocious.

Mr. Biden’s speech was “profoundly unpresidential,” “deliberately divisive” and “designed to pull our country further apart.” “I have known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday.” Mr. Biden had entered office calling on Americans to stop the shouting and lower the temperature. “Yesterday, he called millions of Americans his domestic ‘enemies.’ ” That, a week after he “gave a January 6th lecture about not stoking political violence.”

“Twelve months ago, this president said that ‘disagreement must not lead to disunion.’ But yesterday, he invoked the bloody disunion of the Civil War to demonize Americans who disagree with him. He compared a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors.”

“Twelve months ago, the president said that ‘politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.’ . . . Yesterday he poured a giant can of gasoline on that fire.”

“In less than a year, ‘restoring the soul of America’ has become: Agree with me, or you’re a bigot.”

“This inflammatory rhetoric was not an attempt to persuade skeptical Democratic or Republican senators. In fact, you could not invent a better advertisement for the legislative filibuster than a president abandoning rational persuasion for pure demagoguery.”

American voters, said Mr. McConnell, “did not give President Biden a mandate for very much.” They didn’t give him big majorities in Congress. But they did arguably give him a mandate to bridge a divided country. “It is the one job citizens actually hired him to do.” He has failed to do it

Then Mr. McConnell looked at Mr. Biden’s specific claims regarding state voting laws. “The sitting president of the United States of America compared American states to ‘totalitarian states.’ He said our country will be an ‘autocracy’ if he does not get his way.” The world has now seen an American president “propagandize against his own country to a degree that would have made Pravda blush.”

“He trampled through some of the most sensitive and sacred parts of our nation’s past. He invoked times when activists bled, and when soldiers died. All to demagogue voting laws that are more expansive than what Democrats have in his own home state.”

“A president shouting that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racist unless he gets whatever he wants is proving exactly why the Framers built the Senate to check his power.”

What Mr. Biden was really doing was attempting to “delegitimize the next election in case they lose it.”

Now, he said, “It is the Senate’s responsibility to protect the country.”

That sounded very much like a vow. It won’t be good for Joe Biden.

When national Democrats talk to the country they always seem to be talking to themselves. They are of the left, as is their constituency, which wins the popular vote in presidential elections; the mainstream media through which they send their messages is of the left; the academics, historians and professionals they consult are of the left. They get in the habit of talking to themselves, in their language, in a single, looped conversation. They have no idea how they sound to the non-left, so they have no idea when they are damaging themselves. But this week in Georgia Mr. Biden damaged himself. And strengthened, and may even have taken a step in unifying, the non-Democrats who are among their countrymen, and who are in fact the majority of them.

Potomac Watch: One year after his inaugural address calling for ‘unity,’ Joe Biden has stirred up division with a voting rights speech Mitch McConnell called ‘incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office.’ So why has the President’s rhetoric become so harsh? Images: AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

Biden – Harris = ?

James Freeman:

There’s no reason for Kamala Harris to participate any longer in the failing presidency of Joe Biden. If she chooses to assert her constitutional authority and seeks to build a majority political coalition, she can unify the country, ensure American prosperity and win election to the presidency in 2024. Starting today she can simply decide unilaterally to dominate policy-making in what’s left of the Biden era.

This week brings more reports of her struggle to add value to Team Biden. But this team is losing and she can best help the country and herself by entering the political equivalent of the NCAA transfer portal.

Recent polling finds that Americans increasingly view President Biden as incompetent, untrustworthy, and partisan. His hateful and dishonest rhetoric this week on the subject of voting laws gives voters no reason to alter their views.

As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) ably described the problem on Wednesday:

Twelve months ago, a newly-inaugurated President Biden stood on the West Front of the Capitol and said this: “My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation.” Yesterday, the same man delivered a deliberately divisive speech that was designed to pull our country farther apart

Twelve months ago, this President said we should “see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.” Yesterday, he called millions of Americans his domestic “enemies.”

…Twelve months ago, this President said that “disagreement must not lead to disunion.” But, yesterday, he invoked the bloody disunion of the Civil War to demonize Americans who disagree with him. He compared a bipartisan majority of Senators to literal traitors…

He used the phrase “Jim Crow 2.0” to demagogue a law that makes the franchise more accessible than in his own state of Delaware. He blasted Georgia’s procedures regarding local elections officials while pushing national legislation with almost identical language on that issue.

The President implied things like widely-popular voter I.D. laws are “totalitarian” on the same day Washington D.C.’s Democratic mayor told citizens to bring both a photo I.D. and a vaccine card anytime they leave their house.

The President repeatedly invoked the January 6th riot while himself using irresponsible, delegitimizing rhetoric that undermines our democracy.

The sitting President of the United States of America compared American states to “totalitarian states”. He said our country will be an “autocracy” if he does not get his way.

The world saw our sitting Commander-in-Chief propagandize against his own country to a degree that would have made Pravda blush.

Vice President Harris has also engaged in destructive rhetoric and she may even believe it, but she enjoys a historic political opportunity to cast it aside, move toward centrism and sensibility, and be the leader who unites America.

First, she needs to reject the modern Beltway conventions of her office. In yet another press account about efforts to overhaul her role in the Biden administration and her public image, Francesca Chambers of McClatchy reports:

In interviews, 11 people familiar with Harris’ operation — some of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about private conversations — described the effort to reshape the narrative around her vice presidency. A White House official said that no dramatic shift in direction was underway, even as Harris hired a new communications director and worked to fill other high-level press and public relations positions…

Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was a senior policy adviser to former Vice President Al Gore, said higher visibility could help with public criticism, but Harris is supposed to be “invisible.” If Harris draws more attention to herself, Kamarck said, she could jeopardize her relationship with Biden and make him look weak.

“I think that there’s been a profound misunderstanding — and it comes from some of her supporters as well as from some of her critics — about what this job is,” Kamarck said.

Kamarck said Harris backers who thought the job would be different because she is the first woman and person of color to hold the position were mistaken.

“Things are not going to be different about the job itself,” Kamarck said. “The job is still to support Joe Biden and what Joe Biden does.”

No, it is not. The vice president, who has expressed a refreshing desire to literally spend more time outside of Washington, should also spend more time figuratively standing outside the Beltway. She might wish to reread a New York Sun editorial from November:

Could Kamala Harris become a truly radical vice president, meaning one who would restore the highest office in the Senate to its original constitutional concept? We ask because of the reports that the relationship between her and President Biden has collapsed…

Our own suggestion is that Ms. Harris should quit. We don’t mean that she should resign the vice presidency. On the contrary, she should quit the White House. The thing for her to remember is that — constitutionally — the vice president doesn’t report to the president. The vice president can’t be fired by the president. She can’t even be told what to do. She was elected in her own right.

The fact is that in some technical sense it’s not clear whether she is even part of the executive branch. We grasp that there are differences of opinion on this head. Her one constitutional assignment, though, is as president of the Senate, where she has the not-so-insignificant power to break ties. One would think that in a divided Senate in which each party has 50 seats, she could make quite an impact.

So the logic, in our view, is for her to pack up her desk in the Executive Office Building and the other desk in the West Wing, pick up her brief case, get in her limo, and go to the Senate. It happens that one of the stateliest offices in Washington, known as the vice president’s room, is always there for her. She could then send a note to Mr. Biden (and the newspapers) letting them know that she’s moved her base of operations.

Observing how poorly voters have reacted to Mr. Biden’s effort to govern from the left, Ms. Harris should recognize the power she holds to move Washington lawmaking toward the center. By putting her vote in play she can take the leading role in fashioning federal legislation. Leave Mr. Biden the chore of trying to run all the dysfunctional programs already enacted and take over the fun job of deciding what gets enacted next week.

She could not be dismissed by fellow Democrats as an ambassador from Trump country. Ms. Harris’s history as a politician of the left from deep-blue California would give her the leverage to break the progressive left’s disastrous lock on Democratic policy-making and poisonous anti-American rhetoric.

And she wouldn’t need to move all that far toward the center to appear reasonable and become formidable as a 2024 contender. Stop pretending that voter ID requirements amount to tyranny. Stop trying to tear up the structure and traditions of American governance. Stop casting political opponents as enemies. Stop trying to enact a Sandernista revolution in the U.S. economy.

It’s really not that hard picturing Kamala Harris as the most powerful person in the country. Perhaps some people already do. Andrew Mark Miller reports for Fox News:

President Biden Tuesday referred to his vice president, Kamala Harris, as “President Harris” in yet another verbal flub by the gaffe-prone leader…

Biden, who was speaking about voting rights to students at the Atlanta University Center Consortium on the campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, apparently didn’t notice his mistake, not bothering to correct himself.

Mr. Biden could be on to something.

Presty the DJ for Jan. 15

Today in 1967 was not a good day for fans of artistic freedom or the First Amendment, though the First Amendment applies to government against citizens and not the media against individuals.

Before their appearance on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Shew, the Rolling Stones were compelled to change “Let’s Spend the Night Together …”

… to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”:

The number one British album today in 1977 was ABBA’s “Arrival” …

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 15”

Bidenflation and that vast sucking sound

Daniel Lacalle:

The headline 3.9 percent unemployment rate looks positive, but job creation fell significantly below consensus, at 199,000 in December versus a consensus estimate of 450,000.

The weak jobs figure should be viewed in the context of the largest stimulus plan in recent history. With massive monetary and fiscal support and a government deficit of $2.77 trillion, the second highest on record, job creation falls significantly short of previous recoveries and the employment situation is significantly worse than it was in 2019.

The most alarming datapoint is that real wages are plummeting. Average hourly earnings have risen 4.7 percent in 2021, but inflation is 6.8 percent, sending real wages to negative territory and the worst reading since 2011.

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job did not change in December, at 5.7 million. This is still 717,000 higher than in February 2020.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for twenty-seven weeks or more) remains at 2 million in December, or 887,000 higher than in February 2020. Long-term unemployed accounted for 31.7 percent of unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force participation rate remains at 61.9 percent in December and has been stagnant for almost twelve months. Labor participation remains 1.5 percentage points lower than in February 2020. Finally, the employment-to-population ratio is just 59.5 percent, or 1.7 percentage points below the February 2020 level.

Now put this in the context of a massive $3 trillion stimulus and the evidence is clear. There is no bang-on-the-buck from this unprecedented spending spree. All the jobs recovery comes from the reopening. The stimulus plan has not accelerated job growth, it has slowed it.

A few months ago I had a conversation with Judy Shelton, one of the top economists in the United States, and she mentioned that the recovery would be stronger without this stimulus plan, and she has been proven right.

No US citizen should be happy about plummeting real wages and stagnant labor participation in the middle of a strong recovery and the second-largest deficit on record.

The unprecedented figure of resignations is not a positive. It is evidence of a broken labor market where hundreds of thousands of Americans cannot afford to go to work because the costs outweigh their salary. This is not a signal of strong employment; it is a signal of a genuinely concerning side effect of inflation.

The United States is not even close to full employment. Erasing people from the unemployment lists is not full employment.

There is a clear threat to American workers from persistent high inflation and the higher taxes that the massive deficit includes: the destruction of the middle class and fewer job opportunities in the future as small and medium enterprises, the largest employers in the United States, suffer rising input prices and weaker margins.

The United States will not have a strong job market unless it recovers the trend of rising real wages and increasing labor participation rate that existed in 2018-2019. Everything else is just a poor and unproductive bounce.

The correct measure of unemployment, the U6 number, is at 7.2 percent. Add that to the 6.8 percent inflation rate, and we’re about to hear the phrase “misery index” reenter the political lexicon. The “vast sucking sound,” to borrow the phrase of 1992 presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, is your wages being sucked up by Biden’s inflation in gas prices and everything you buy at the grocery store.