Don’t Cherry Pick History

Next month the State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on standards for the teaching of civics. The usual partisan parties have been weighing in. Do we teach “American exceptionalism” that cherry picks America’s back story and its manifest-destiny ascension into the planet’s premier economic and military power? Do we reprise the zero-sum Cold War days with a 21st-century “Americanism vs. Socialism” version? Or do we give an honest, analytical rendering on America’s daring, idealistic, blatantly imperfect experiment?

How we educate—not indoctrinate—succeeding generations has everything to do with whether we can maintain a viable democratic republic or devolve into an autocratic state. Truth, ultimately, is what sets us free.

We need only look at the last few years to acknowledge that America is hardly immune to authoritarian populism. We’re not THAT exceptional. The best preventative is better preparation for the upcoming generations. If they know who Beyonce is but not Kamala Harris, it will only get worse.

An honest chronicling of the good and the bad—from a Bill of Rights to a saga of wrongs—lends itself to serious self-criticism. Inconvenient truths should be convenient, accessible and kept in context. We are a work in progress; how do we keep on progressing for the greater good? Candor and honesty have to be curricular staples. Absent truth, democratic ideals will not evolve. Preaching and preening do not promote meaningful learning—and do not help the cause unless the goal is a cherry-picked, feel-good version of America.

America’s students need to be prepared for the challenges that are inherent in a contemporary democracy. They need to know 1492, 1619 and 1776 as well as D Day, scientific breakthroughs and the Moon Landing. They need to know government’s role as well as the responsibilities that go with a participatory democracy that covets a range of freedoms. But they can’t participate effectively if they’ve been schooled by propaganda that prioritizes patriotic memes.

America’s students also need to learn the realities and dangers of modern media—and how easily they can be misled and duped by misinformation. Historical ignorance and high-tech manipulation is a worst-case, perfect societal storm for American democracy. Donald Trump must be a cautionary tale.

Dem Notes

*Vice President Kamala Harris is making her first foreign trip this week, and it couldn’t be more challenging: Guatamala and Mexico. Her goals: Secure commitments for better cooperation on border security and economic investment. In short, kick start an enlightened self interest, Central American version of the Marshall Plan. The elephant in the room: corruption. With it comes uncertainties on the rule of law. Without addressing endemic corruption, economic investment ultimately can’t succeed. Buena suerte, VP Harris.

* Border czar”: How Republicans—who see the border dynamics as a Biden Administration vulnerability—have labeled Vice President Harris.

* The director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy is now officially a member of the Cabinet. Bottom line: Science officially—and literally—has a seat at the table.

* “I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence wounds deepen.”–President Joe Biden in Tulsa to honor the victims of the Tulsa race massacre.

* It’s relative. “The Congressional Progressive Caucus and the ‘squad’ have yet to behave like the liberal equivalent of the tea party representatives that made former House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan’s lives hell.”–Kara Voght, Mother Jones.

* Surprising no one, but infuriating Dems, Demapublican Sen. Joe Manchin says he will oppose voting reforms.

* “Does Barack Obama not hear how condescending he sounds when he goes on a media tour and portrays the Biden Administration, which is off to a bigger and leftier start, as ‘finishing the job’”?–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

COVID Bits

* The W.H.O. urges against naming diseases for geographic origins to avoid stigmatizing people.

* COVID-19 has killed more than 355 Americans 18 and younger. It has killed more than 450,000 people 65 and older.

* Roughly 63 percent of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose.

* Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are the least vaccinated states—at around 35 percent.

* The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs in May, as the unemployment rate dropped from 6.1 percent to 5.8 percent.

* Anheuser-Busch announced it will give away free beer if the country reaches President Biden’s goal of 70 percent of adults with at least one shot by July 4.

* At least a half dozen states have introduced some form of lottery with cash prizes for the newly vaccinated. In West Virginia residents can win pick ups and custom hunting rifles.

* Thanks to FEMA, Nevada has 28 pop-up vaccination clinics to ensure that people in far-flung, rural areas can get inoculated.

* The median pay package for a CEO at an S&P 500 company hit $12.7 million in 2020. That’s 5 percent more than the median pay for those CEOs in non-pandemic 2019.

* As of last week, 39 states and the District of Columbia had positivity rates below the 5 percent. Florida, at 4.1 percent, was among them.

* Courts statewide may drop mask and distancing requirements as of June 21. They must do so by Aug. 2.

* Polarizing pandemic: Dr. Anthony Fauci has a security detail because of ongoing threats.

Tampa Bay

* If President Joe Biden can talk to Vlad Putin, Mayor Rick Kriseman can talk to Stu Sternberg.

* “Thinking quite hard about it.” That was Kriseman’s deputy mayor, Kanika Tomalin, on the possibility of a Congressional run in 2022 for the seat being vacated by Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor. First sign that she’s more than thinking about it? “Kanika for Kongress.”

Media Matters

* “Today, I think historically-based fiction entertainment must portray the burden of racism in our nation for the sake of the art form’s claims to verisimilitude and authenticity.”–Actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks.

* “The internet is a great thing with great virtues, but it is helping break up America. This is a problem that can’t be solved, only managed.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

Trumpster Diving

* Facebook says it will suspend Donald Trump’s account for two years—following its finding that he provoked violence ahead of the Capitol insurrection. Twitter has permanently banned Trump.

* Trump’s 29-day-old blog, celebrated by advisers as a “beacon of freedom,” has gone dark. Low readership did it in.

* Post presidency, Richard Nixon became a Republican Party pariah. Post double impeachment, two popular-vote losses, a democracy-attacking insurrection, cult-figure leadership, Vlad Putin fealty, unilateral foreign policy, environmental indifference, constitution-threatening narcissism, pathological lying, ethical self-interest, criminal liability and xenophobic nationalism and racism, Donald Trump has become a Republican kingmaker–or its 2024 conspiracy-king candidate.

* “(Trump’s) big if the metric is that politicians are afraid of him. … Many Republican leaders are terrified of him and abasing themselves in front of him.”–Presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

* BTW, there is no legal mechanism for reinstating a president.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. on the Capitol assault. His rationale wasn’t an attack on democracy, but the prosecution of rioters. “These are not looters or thieves,” asserted Putin, “these people came with political requests.” Not even Trump would have worded it that way. Probably.

* Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a recent Republican dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire. “President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office,” he said. “And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that (Capitol assault) day.” The man who did his constitutional duty while invaders chanted “Hang Mike Pence” has to watch his rhetoric around the Trump base if he wants a shot at the GOP presidential nomination. He does. That’s why he was in the early voting state of New Hampshire.

* Trump spoke—for an hour and a half—at last Saturday’s North Carolina Republican State Party in Greenville, N.C. and surprised no one. “As we gather tonight, our country is being destroyed before our very own eyes,” declared Trump in doubling down on “American carnage.” His election loss is still “the crime of the century,” and he’s “not the one who’s trying to undermine democracy.” He’s “trying to save it.” And “wide open” borders and “socialist Democrats” were referenced—as was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, noted Trump is “not a great doctor—but a helluva promoter.” Yeah, it’s still Groundhog’s Day in Trump world.

* “Minimum of $10 trillion”: What China, according to Trump, should pay countries of the world for the damage from COVID-19.

* George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, is running for Texas attorney general. He’s the first Bush to support Donald Trump, who has a history of mocking his family. The Cheneys and McCains can identify.

Quoteworthy

* “(It) would end the race-to-the-bottom in corporate taxation, and ensure fairness for the middle class and working people in the U.S. and around the world.”—Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in advocating for a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent to deter multinational companies from avoiding taxes by stashing profits in low-rate countries. Her advocacy came at a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in London.

* “Unlike Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning opponents, Trump-wary Republicans still prioritize retention of power over the health of the democracy.”–Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

* “I worry that far beyond the battle lines of defense, economic or trade policy, that the battle to stop the divorce of America from its founding values is much more important.”–Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a commencement address at Regent University.

* “Populism is often immune to reason and contemptuous of debate. … Anyone with a web browser can find the ‘facts’ the mob needs.”–Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch.

* “If you’re a one-term president, you usually go quietly into the night. (Trump) sees himself as leading the revolution, and he’s doing it from the back of a golf cart.”–Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

* “The Biden Administration’s unemployment benefits are so massive that … they’re incentivizing would-be workers to stay home instead of looking for jobs.”–Sen. Marco Rubio.

* “If Republicans will filibuster and block a thorough investigation into a shocking, violent, unprecedented attack on our democracy, why would they hesitate to obstruct everything else the Democrats might propose, no matter how worthy or necessary?”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican senators have proved that they will not confirm any justice appointed by a Democratic president. Every day that (Associate Justice Stephen) Breyer stays is a day the Republicans get another spin on the random wheel of death, looking to get just one more vote to block his successor.”–Elie Mystal, The Nation.

* “Where black history is concerned, America specializes in not knowing.”–Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald.

* “(Vice President Kamala Harris) is very aware that her being in this position is a threat to many people. They’re terrified of seeing a woman of color in this kind of position of authority and responsibility. … (But) she’s used to this, and part of what will make her successful is her ability to ignore the noise.”–Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

* “The death penalty doesn’t deter murder. … It isn’t applied evenly. … Taxpayers often spend far more money trying to kill people than keeping them alive. … But the single best argument against the death penalty is that judges and juries sometimes get it wrong.”–Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

* “An interesting question to ask oneself: Which are the books that you truly love? Try it. The answer will tell you a lot about who you presently are.”–Author and essayist Salman Rushdie.

* “The critical issue is not simply the increase in the supply of guns but in the nature of the weaponry that’s being used in violent crime, and that has really changed.”–University of Missouri criminologist Richard Rosenfeld, on police reports showing seizures of more powerful automatic or semi-automatic-style guns with larger magazines.

* “While goods-producers grew at a steady pace, it is service providers that accounted for the lion’s share of the gain.”–Nela Richardson, chief economist for ADP Research Institute, on U.S. businesses adding 978,000 jobs in May, the most in nearly a year.

* “Friendliest city in the nation.”–Mayor Jane Castor, referring to Tampa.

Capitol Punishment

It’s no longer just anxiously awaited; it’s now official: Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent, bipartisan panel to thoroughly investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and American democracy. Another grim reminder that party loyalty–aka fear of the Trump base–is their foremost priority. Once Trump had labeled such a commission a “Democrat trap,” the fealty dye was cast.

Strategically, GOPsters remember that, as with the 9/11 Commission, a 1/6 iteration (with five Democratic and five Republican appointees) would have broad authority to connect the dots. That could mean, for example, forcing the testimony of Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Recall that both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney testified before the 9/11 Commission.

The unconscionable upshot: Transparency and truth matter so much less than an off-year election that gins up concerns that Trump and his self-serving enablers would likely look like the antithesis of patriots. “Truth is hard stuff,” acknowledged Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the few GOPsters to vote for a national 1/6 commission. “But we’ve got a responsibility to it.”

Tell that to, among others, Sen. Mitch McConnell, who still resents being a mere “Minority Leader.” He knows transparency would hurt his party during the 2022 election cycle. “They’d like to continue to litigate the former president into the future,” stated McConnell. In short, fact-finding into what went wrong–and what is still at stake–is not a priority of this Republican Party. “Asking Republicans to investigate 1/6 is like asking Al-Qaeda to investigate 9/11,” noted political commentator and former Republican media strategist Kurt Bardella.

Such blatant partisanship even prompted four former homeland security secretaries, including Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, to lobby Republicans to support the creation of a Capitol Commission.

BTW, the Senate vote was 54-35 in favor of a Capitol Commission. But minority fealty politics trumped common sense, national security and even emotional appeals from riot-fighting police. That sad moment on Jan. 6 is now even sadder. Democracy was assaulted; now it’s been shamed.

Dem Notes

* Now less than two weeks away: President Biden’s first international trip–and the ultimate world stage–is no ceremonial sojourn. He’ll be in Britain for a Group of Seven gathering and in Brussels for a NATO summit. His post-Trump presence will be highly touted and scrutinized. Then it’s on to Geneva for a sobering sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is no longer the handler of the American president.

* “I’m not ready to destroy our government. I think we’ll come together. You have to have faith there’s 10 good people.”–That was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va, the key 50th vote for Dems, on his opposition to doing away with the filibuster. Alas, we don’t have faith he’ll change his mind.

* Good luck, Secretary of State Antony Blinken. There are deep-seated, seemingly intractable reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian impasse remains. For openers, absent a two-state solution, the status of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian hostilities won’t change. And as long as there is Hamas, and a rationale, however disputable, for its Gaza authority, there are viable, predictable terror scenarios.

* “You’re the most progressive, best-educated, least prejudiced, most open generation in American history. We need you badly. You’re ready. It’s time to get underway.”–President Joe Biden, in a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

COVID Bits

* According to the India Medical Association, more than 500 doctors have died—since March—in the current Indian wave of COVID infections. It had previously reported that more than 700 doctors had died from the virus in 2020.

* Hong Kong has made vaccines available to all adults, but less than 13 percent of the population of 7.5 million has been fully vaccinated. One way to add more incentive: Hong Kong residents who have been fully vaccinated are eligible for a drawing to win a $1.4 million apartment prize.

* “Public Health guidance on this is crystal clear. Even if someone has already had COVID-19 and recovered, like Rand Paul, they should be vaccinated. … We don’t know exactly how long immunity lasts after infection.”–Dr. Jay Varkey, associate professor of medicine at Emory University.

* According to a McKinsey & Co. Survey, nearly a third of workers said they’d look for another job if they need to come back to the office five days a week.

* Nationwide, approximately three to four times as many students as usual took a pandemic gap year during the 2020-21 school year.

* “There is a need to link human global health and plant global health researchers to work together.”–Jean Ristaino, North Carolina State University plant pathology professor, on the possibility of plant pandemics threatening global food supply.

* We’re seeing tight gasoline inventories across the country. A major factor: Refineries curbing output for months to cope with the pandemic-driven downward slump.

* Some 37 million Americans traveled—more than 50 miles—over the Memorial Day weekend. Last year that figure was 23 million.

* The CDC recommends all cruise passengers be vaccinated—but doesn’t require it.

* $45 million: St. Petersburg’s share of the American Rescue Plan’s $350 billion COVID-relief aid.

* The Lightning are allowing approximately 13,500 fans for the second round of the playoffs against Carolina. That’s about 71 percent capacity of Amalie Arena. Go, Bolts.