George Floyd Context

I’m not spiking the football of racial justice quite yet.

Yes, the second-degree-murder guilty verdict in the George Floyd case was encouraging and a relief. Ex-cop Derek Chauvin will be locked up in prison for a decade or two. There was accountability. There were no riots. And the result was a lot more just than what the case of Eric Garner, the origin of the “I can’t breathe” idiom, wrought.

The George Floyd case, however, was a perfect storm for conviction.

Chauvin had a checkered record with retrospective red flags. He didn’t testify, as was his legal and strategic right, at the trial, which resulted in an arched brow, masked appearance that precluded attempts to humanize him. The crime occurred in broad daylight, with more than a dozen bystander eyewitnesses, both white and black. There was a galvanizing, incriminating video that showed the brutal indifference to a black life manifested by Chauvin for nine and half minutes. It also showed that—as opposed to most accusations of excessive police force—there was no officer perception of a “threat.” And then there was the testimony for the prosecution by the Minneapolis police chief and other law enforcement officers that Chauvin used excessive force and went against training. It’s rare they testify against their own. When they do, you know it’s about a bad cop. So much for the “Blue Wall of Silence.”

But most cases aren’t like this. Going forward, the best case, post-Chauvin scenario is that prosecutors and police have now sent a strong societal message about police conduct and accountability to prompt systemic change in how police are recruited, trained and ultimately held accountable. Not only can’t cops kneel on a vulnerable suspect’s neck until he stops breathing, they can’t be so flummoxed by a traffic stop that they can’t even tell a Taser from a service revolver.

Dem Notes

* “Welcome to the Biden boom. While the First Quarter of 2021 is history, the data are still coming in. Forecasts of real economic growth…now run in the 7%-8% range. More important, there is a good chance the stellar First Quarter won’t be a flash in the pan.”–Alan S. Blinder, former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

* World stage update: President Biden just hosted a two-day virtual climate summit that featured more than three dozen world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In June the president will make his first overseas trip to attend the G7 Summit in England and a NATO meeting in Brussels. The unequivocal global and ally message: Indeed, the U.S. is back.

* “Every employee should get paid leave to get a shot, and businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line.” That was President Joe Biden who also highlighted a tax credit in his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, which will reimburse businesses and non-profits (with fewer than 500 employees). There’s another bottom line here. The president is underscoring the sobering reality that Americans’ vaccine demand is becoming a bigger challenge than supply.

* We hear that Biden hasn’t been full bore about going after flawed gun laws because his top priorities have been the pandemic and infrastructure help. In short, the inevitable push back from the usual suspects will only induce more polarization at a key policy inflection point. It’s beyond frustrating, as well as infuriating and embarrassing, that a tragic and literal life-and-death issue is just another political component part.

* “The last person in the room.” That’s history-making VP Kamala Harris when the president makes an important decision. It’s also something that wasn’t said of the previous vice president.

* “I do think they should be separated.” That was West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a key moderate in infrastructure spending, in advocating the separation of physical from human (such as child care and education) infrastructure.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

*India has seen a devastating surge–amid an oxygen-supply shortage–as it sets global daily records for new infections. Also burdened by overwhelmed graveyards and crematoriums, India now has more than 17 million cases—behind only the U.S. (more than 32 million). And it hardly helps that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing mounting criticism for allowing Hindu festivals and attending large political rallies. Meanwhile, President Biden has committed to providing a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics.

* According to the CDC, hospital emergency departments experienced a 25 percent decline in patient visits this past December and January—compared with those months a year before—that are likely related to coronavirus fears.

* The supply of vaccine doses in the U.S. is now outpacing demand.

* Last year an estimated 42,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes—an 8 percent increase over 2019—even though the number of miles driven fell by 13 percent, according to the National Safety Council. The emptier roads led to more speeding, which led to more fatalities.

* The pandemic oil inventory glut is almost gone—underpinning a price recovery.

* According to current projections, half of Hillsborough County’s population 16 and older is expected to be vaccinated by the end of May.

* “A lot of people are doing the right things, but I also think there is a massive amount of COVID fatigue. I think there is a relaxation, collectively, on the mitigation effort.”–Dr. Jason Salemi, associate professor at USF’s College of Public Health.

Media Matters

* Gov. Ron DeSantis, of course, is still a go-to GOPster for Fox News. After the conviction of ex-cop Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, DeSantis wondered on Fox if the guilty verdict had happened because “the jury is scared of what a mob may do.”

* That was a weird ending to Oscar Night. The best actor award was rearranged to go last: the “grand finale.” It wasn’t won by a minority—but by Anthony Hopkins for “The Father.” Only Hopkins, uh, wasn’t there at the ceremony in Los Angeles. Neither was he at a satellite location in the UK. Call it a face plant for a less-than-grand finale ironically orchestrated by cinematic experts.

* “I don’t have to leave the theater whistling, but would it kill you once in a while to make a movie that doesn’t make me want to take a bath with the toaster?”—Comedian Bill Maher.

Trumpster Diving

* Once again the outrage machine has proven powerful in raising money. Exhibits A, B and C: Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. They all raised more than $3 million in campaign donations in the three months that followed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. On behalf of Donald Trump, Hawley and Cruz led the challenges to President Biden’s victory in their chamber, and Taylor Greene, who has endorsed political violence, called the Capitol attack a “1776 moment.”

* Repellent: Ohio has a GOP-bill that would change the name of Mosquito Lake State Park to Donald J. Trump State Park.

* That didn’t take long. Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett already has a book deal—reportedly for $2 million.

* “It won’t build back better. It will build back never.”–That was thenever-everbipartisan Mitch McConnell.

Quoteworthy

* “Great events are commonly judged by contemporaries quite wrongly. It is in fact one of the chief functions of the historian to correct the contemporary judgment.”–British historian and essayist J.R. Seeley.

* “Clearly India has great potential to be one of the major players in the post-imperial world, so long as it can harness and not be held back by its gargantuan population.”–Samir Puri, author of “The Shadows of Empire.”

* “I hope that no one dares to cross the red line in respect to Russia. Those who organize any provocations threatening our core security interests will regret their deeds more than they regretted anything for a long time.”–Russian President Vladimir Putin.

* “The defining task of politics isn’t to speak truth to power. It is to use power to achieve shared goals.”–Samuel Goldman, director of the Politics and Values Program at George Washington University.

* “When we invest in climate resilience and infrastructure, we create opportunities for everyone. That’s at the heart of our jobs plan.”--President Joe Biden.

* “Deathly afraid of alienating the most rabid MAGA supporters, Republicans continue to stoke racial resentment, fear of immigrants and bizarro conspiracy theories—all of which push away non-whites, women, college-educated voters and younger voters. In sum, Republicans’ base is vanishing and they haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it.”–Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

* “I still think that when a police officer acts under the color of law, we should be able to release their name.”–Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.

* “(Republicans) may well discover that they have actually disenfranchised many of their own supporters, even as their push to pass restrictive (voting) rules energizes their opponents.”–David Graham, the Atlantic.

* “There is a budding realization from business leaders: Society expects more from them. They cannot do—and will not do—business as usual.”–Meredith Sumpter, CEO of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, on a growing pattern of U.S. corporations and executives—from Facebook to Target—calling for a defense of Americans’ voting rights.

* “There is racism physically built into some of our highways.”–Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, on an Interstate era that has prompted the demolition or fragmentation of black neighborhoods.

* “The level of racial hatred, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, tribalistic language that was coming from the prior administration could have ripped this nation apart. Now it is time for us to work as hard, as focused, as possible to repair those rifts.”–Derrick Johnson, N.A.A.C.P. president and CEO.

* “I think we need to do a better job for our employees. … It’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees—a vision for their success.”–Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

* “Sex, glamour, excitement and mystery are relics of a bygone era. Hollywood is now focused on worthy, relevant, socially conscious and lugubrious.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “If the pandemic is opening new possibilities for balancing home and work, and if it’s a reminder of the importance of nurturing our most intimate relationships, we will have found a glittering silver lining.”–Mona Charen, the Bulwark.

* “Even if I wasn’t very effective in changing everybody’s minds, the idea that (the Trump Administration) knew that nonsense could not be spouted without my pushing back on it, I felt was important.”–Dr. Anthony Fauci.

* “Fauci is practicing epidemiology. His critics are practicing idiocy. Both are very good at their chosen work.”–Michael Gerson, Washington Post.

* “Administrative costs at U.S. colleges and universities are a big part of what differentiates them from the European system. But so do amenities and sports.”–Karin Klein, Los Angeles Times.

* “It is difficult to comprehend how a citizen of our country who is living in Puerto Rico is permitted to serve in our armed services, yet they are not permitted to vote for their commander-in-chief.”–Ruby Wake, vice president of Tampa Bay Latin Chamber of Commerce.

* “We’ve created an unfair competitive advantage for foreign players and out-of-state retailers on the backs of our local retailers.”–State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, on legislation that will require out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Floridians.

Foreign Policy Deja Vu

From George Santayana to Winston Churchill, we have too often been reminded that those who are ignorant of history–or just, somehow, forget–are condemned to repeat it.

For example, we saw what played out in Vietnam for the U.S. It was the Cold War dominoes game—so why not replace the retreating, imperial French? The violently tragic upshot: Nearly 60,000 Americans died, anti-war demonstrations and riots polarized and ravaged this country, and “American exceptionalism” evolved into 20th century, neo-imperialist infamy. From the Dien Bien Phu French defeat, the Gulf of Tonkin deceit and the My Lai massacre to military misinformation and a humiliating-optics withdrawal. That’ll teach us. Not.

Now less than 50 years later, the U.S. finds itself in year 20 of a war, America’s longest, in Afghanistan. Initially, it made sense to go after Osama Bin Laden and his enablers. But long-term—in a world where nation-building and Afghan democracy, including women’s rights, were never attainable goals and terrorist radicalization is available online–it made no sense if, indeed, America’s best interest was the actual goal. Ongoing mission failure was the norm. More than 2,400 Americans have died amid the thousands of commando raids. And the U.S. had wedged itself into a historical pattern: the Afghan region has crushed foreign occupiers for two millennia.

No, the nationalist Ho Chi Minh was not Bin Laden, Saigon was not Kabul, and the Vietcong were not Al-Qaeda or the Taliban; the analogy isn’t perfect. It’s just relevant and applicable.

So, good move by Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden, the fourth U.S. president during the Afghan War, to rein in the Pentagon generals and declare that all remaining (more than 2,500) American troops, sans conditions, will be out of Afghanistan by, ironically enough, September 11. At some point an American president had to make the ultimate call, regardless of military disagreement. No surprise that it was Biden, the one who has been around countless briefings from the Senate to the vice presidency to the presidency—and who was alone among Oval Office insiders in disagreeing with the 2009 surge. Biden wouldn’t even agree to a “residual” force—knowing full well that a modest troop presence—always vulnerable to inevitable insurgencies—can quickly morph into many more at-risk Americans back in the battle. President Biden knew the bottom line: Commit to propping up an Afghan government and its security forces indefinitely—or leave.

Dem Notes

* “It stains our character and it pierces the very soul of our nation.”–President Joe Biden on yet another mass shooting, the one that cost eight innocent lives in Indianapolis.

* With its expelling of Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions on Russian companies, the Biden Administration has sent a heat-seeking message to the Kremlin. Russia–for all its weaponry, swagger and cyber meddling–has a fragile economy, about the size of Italy’s, and is vulnerable. By squeezing access to international finance, the Biden Administration hopes to pressure Vladimir Putin into negotiating a more stable relationship with the U.S. In short, Putin is no longer the U.S. president’s handler.

* The push for D.C. Statehood. It is no longer a fringe issue and will keep coming up as long as Wyoming and the Dakotas have two senators each.

* A recent Gallup Poll shows 49 percent of voters identifying as, or leaning toward, Democrats. And 40 percent identifying as, or leaning toward, Republicans.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* According to the W.H.O., the number of new coronavirus cases has nearly doubled globally over the past two months.

* France has joined the United Kingdom and Italy as European countries with more than 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths.

* COVID-19 has killed more than 200,000 people in Mexico, where only about one in 10 people have received a vaccine.

* The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to 576,000—a post-COVID low. The week before it was 769,000.

* As of last Sunday, more than 8 million people have been vaccinated in Florida.

* Nationally, more than half of U.S. adults have received at least one shot.

* Nearly 200 department stores have disappeared in the past pandemic year—as more shopping habits shifted to shopping online.

* Pfizer CEO Albert Bouria predicts that those who have received the company’s vaccine will “likely” need a third booster shot within a year to maintain protection.

* According to a Tampa Bay Partnership survey, 43 percent of black residents and 36 percent of residents 18-34 said they were not likely to get vaccinated.