‘We need the government’: Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan reflects seismic shifts in U.S. politics
The pandemic has deflated the deficit politics that dominated the Obama era.
Since the outset of the coronavirus, polling has found substantial support among Americans for providing more government aid for those in need. That is partially due to the nature of the current crisis, which for a time opened a deeper economic hole than even the Great Recession. But the shift is also the result of a reorientation on economic policy — both on the left and on the right — that has transformed the political landscape.
Dhruv Khullar/New Yorker:
What the Coronavirus Variants Mean for the End of the PandemicThe virus is mutating—but we can still beat it, one vaccination at a time.In the time that sars-CoV-2 has troubled humans, it’s accumulated innumerable mutations. Those that matter have one of two key features: they either help the virus latch onto and enter cells more easily, or they allow it to better evade tagging and destruction by the immune system. Today, scientists are following three variants of particular concern: B.1.1.7, originally detected in the U.K.; B.1.351, from South Africa; and P.1, from Brazil. Predictably, variants seem to have emerged more quickly in countries with rampant viral spread—places where the virus has had more chances to replicate, mutate, and hit upon changes that confer an evolutionary advantage. The U.K.’s B.1.1.7 variant has spread to more than eighty countries and has been doubling every ten days in the U.S., where it is expected to soon become the dominant variant. Its key mutation is called N501Y: the name describes the fact that the amino acid asparagine (“N”) is replaced with tyrosine (“Y”) at the five-hundred-and-first position of the spike protein. The mutation affects a part of the spike that allows the virus to bind to cells, making the variant some fifty per cent more transmissible than the original; new evidence also suggests that people infected with it have higher viral loads and remain infectious longer, which could have implications for quarantine guidelines.
Two more women accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment
Cuomo is facing calls for his resignation amid a growing list of sexual harassment allegations.
In a pair of news reports Saturday, two more former aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused him of sexual harassment, a development that led New York state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to join calls for Cuomo, a Democrat, to resign.
“For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign,” Stewart-Cousins, also a Democrat, said in a statement Sunday.
Dr Angela Rasmussen/NY Times:
Does the Vaccine Stop Transmission?
How to understand the difference between vaccination to prevent Covid-19 and shots to halt infection.
Many scientists are reluctant to say with certainty that the vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from one person to another. This can be misinterpreted as an admission that the vaccines do not work. That’s not the case. The limited data available suggests the vaccines will at least partly reduce transmission, and the studies to determine this with more clarity are underway. There should be more data within the next couple of months. Until then, precautionary measures like masking and distancing in the presence of unvaccinated people will remain important.
It is true that, according to the clinical trial data, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are highly effective at preventing Covid-19, the disease, but it’s unknown how well they prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus. Although Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2 are often used interchangeably, they are fundamentally different. You can’t have the disease without the virus, but you can have the virus without the disease — as many asymptomatic people already know. It’s possible that vaccinated people are protected against Covid-19 themselves, but still spread SARS-CoV-2 to others who are not vaccinated.
Why would scientists make vaccines that protect against only a disease rather than the virus that causes it? They don’t set out to do that, but it is the result, in part, of the exigencies of clinical trials. Practically, clinical trials can be completed more quickly if the endpoint of the trial — the main scientific question the trial is investigating — is something that can be easily observed.
Joe Biden Has Been Making His Own Luck
In November of 2017 Joe Biden did an interview with Peter Hamby of Snapchat and Vanity Fair during which he laid out what a campaign that he didn’t exactly want to run would be premised on. Hamby summed up the Biden message as one about how “a certain set of ideals tether us together as Americans, and that above all else, character counts.”
This was…not the prevailing view about the state of the country or the path to victory among the other Democratic candidates, strategists, or left wing pundits. Biden was derided for his obliviousness and naivete when he would bang on about bipartisanship. He was underestimated and in every interview I gave about the Democratic Primary his campaign was compared to my former boss, Jeb!
Yet, when he launched his campaign he was undeterred, calling the unity doubters out explicitly saying, “I know some of the smart folks say Democrats don’t want to hear about unity. The angrier a candidate can be, the better chance they have to win the nomination. I don’t believe it. I really don’t. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.”
It turns out Biden was right and almost everyone else was wrong.
Reupping Norm Ornstein/WaPo:
Democrats can’t kill the filibuster. But they can gut it.
Three reforms Manchin and Sinema might consider
Instead of naming and shaming them, Democrats might consider looking at what Manchin and Sinema like about the filibuster. Sinema recently said, “Retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done. Rather, it’s meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be. I believe the Senate has a responsibility to put politics aside and fully consider, debate, and reach compromise on legislative issues that will affect all Americans.” Last year, Manchin said, “The minority should have input — that’s the whole purpose for the Senate. If you basically do away with the filibuster altogether for legislation, you won’t have the Senate. You’re a glorified House. And I will not do that.”
If you take their views at face value, the goal is to preserve some rights for the Senate minority, with the aim of fostering compromise. The key, then, is to find ways not to eliminate the filibuster on legislation but to reform it to fit that vision. Here are some options:
Biden is rolling back the culture war. The country should thank him.
One of President Biden’s early achievements does not get enough attention: He is rolling back the politics of culture wars. This is good news for his electoral and governing projects, but also for our country.
This assertion will invite contradictory dissents. On the one side, culture wars were bound to abate during a pandemic and economic downturn. The other response is: Are you kidding? If culture wars are over, why is Dr. Seuss all over Fox News?
To take the second point first: Sure, cultural conflict will forever be part of American life. Our habits, mores and assumptions are always in flux, especially given the United States’ exceptional religious, racial and ethnic diversity — along with our long-running feuds between big cities and the countryside. We battle even when there’s a surface cultural consensus: Think of the early stirrings of feminism in the 1950s and the furor unleashed by the Beats.