The Lianeon Weekly Topics | GOP Requests a Recount in AZ

Week of March 15th

The Essential Five

100 million doses and several grains of salt

At some point on Friday, someone, somewhere, received the one hundred millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine given in the United States since President Biden took office. It's a moment worth celebrating, and the Biden administration is doing exactly that, trumpeting that the president met his goal of administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days — a full 42 days ahead of his deadline of April 30.

"It was considered ambitious," Biden said in an early victory speech on Thursday. "Some even suggested it was somewhat audacious. Experts said … the plan was, quote, 'definitely aggressive,' and distribution would have to be 'seamless' for us to be successful."

But while reaching 100 million doses is great news for the country, it's also true that Biden is overselling what was, all along, a more modest and attainable goal than he let on. It seems clear now that the president low-balled the 100 million benchmark for an easy political win. It's not too late, though, to set the bar much higher.

On U.S. campuses, an increasingly uncompromising climate is costing professors their jobs

Educators on American university campuses are increasingly facing an uncompromising climate, risking professional consequences -- up to and including termination -- simply for mentioning racial issues in purely academic contexts.

U.S. campuses have long been hotbeds of progressive political thought, increasingly so in recent decades as more and more left-wing ideologies have been pushed by students and accepted by administrators.

In order to confront problems, we MUST be able to talk about them, to discuss, and learn from each other, especially in academia. While not strictly a “leftist” issue, American woke culture is paralyzing once great universities and stifling academic thought. It’s a cancer that has begun in the universities and is spreading out into society. I contend that the inability to discuss issues due to the fear of offending someone, threatens the future of Western civilization.

U.S.-China talks in Alaska get off to a contentious start

President Biden's top diplomat and national security adviser opened a meeting with their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday, and the high-stakes talks got off to a frosty start.

In opening comments, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Chinese diplomats Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi their country was destabilizing "the rules-based order that maintains global stability" through its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, cyberattacks on the U.S., human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and economic coercion against Australia and other countries. "That's why they're not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today," he said.

China could rightfully accuse the US of not obeying the rules based order. Under Trump, the US repeatedly violated trade rules and vetoed all WTO appellate judges, effectively neutering one of those rule-making bodies. The US also pulled out of its own nuclear agreement with Iran.

Conspiracy theories influence our behavior—even if we do not believe in them

Not least because of the COVID-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories are more topical than ever. They are reported and discussed in almost all media and communication channels. But what influence do they have on our behavior? Scientists led by behavioral economist Loukas Balafoutas investigated this question in a recently published study. The result: We don't need to believe in conspiracy theories for them to have an impact on us. Merely being confronted with them suffices.

Previous studies have shown that beliefs in conspiracy theories have an influence on the behavior of their adherents. For example, they lead to lower voter turnout or a lower willingness to get vaccinated.

New research explores why some voters are more susceptible to 'demagogue' candidates

Many low-education voters who embrace social welfare programs vote against their own beliefs, new UC Riverside research holds.

The mitigating factor is education: The more education one has, the more likely one is to stick to one's policy preferences.

"It means candidates who employ tactics such as fear and attaching patriotism to certain concepts can persuade people to vote for candidates who are in opposition to their social beliefs," Diogo Ferrari, a professor of political science at UC Riverside, wrote in his recently published paper, "Education, Belief Structures, Support for Welfare Policies, and Vote," published in the journal Education & Society.

"The least-educated support social protection more than the most-educated, as do the poorest groups within the same education group," Ferrari wrote.

But support for left-wing policies among people with low education doesn't translate to support for left-wing parties. It's not just left-wing beliefs and voting that are misaligned among the least educated voters: Attitudes against social welfare don't necessarily align with right-wing voting, either.

"It's only when schooling is high that … positions are harmonized with the vote for right-wing or left-wing parties," Ferrari wrote. "Less-educated groups contradict, in behavior (vote), their attitudinal tendency to support welfare policies."

General thrust is that formal education is an effective tool for countering belief in demagogue candidates. Having said that, I don’t know if they did a multivariate analysis here. Education likely also correlates with wealth, might wealth, not education, be the more important factor here?

Arizona GOP to perform 'full hand count' on 2.1 million Maricopa ballots in presidential election

Republicans in the Arizona legislature will perform a full hand recount of the nearly 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County in the 2020 presidential election of, a state GOP leader announced this week.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann said in a statement released by Arizona Senate Republicans that state GOP leaders have decided on a “preferred forensic audit” the final details of which are currently being worked out.

There are not many details here, but I don’t like this. I am sure a politically motivated hand count could turn up “anomalies.” This seems more a means for a political party that had an upset in the last election to find “anomalies” to justify future restrictions in voting. Will there be independent investigators? Any Democrats present? Seems like a fishing expedition. I explored the topic of voting by mail here. Hint: AZ did not materially alter its elections process in 2020, so blaming mail in voting, or fraud, for the GOP’s losses is nonsensical.

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Healthcare/Society

Local sheriff's office suggests Atlanta area spa shootings may not have been racially motivated

Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old Georgia man suspected of killing eight people in three separate shootings at spas in the greater Atlanta area Tuesday, acknowledged carrying out the murders Wednesday, telling authorities he was trying to eliminate temptation for an apparent sex addiction. Most of the victims were Asian women, but "Long told investigators the crimes were not racially motivated," the Cherokee County Sheriff's office said.

GA is 4% Asian, but 75% of the victims were Asian. Hard to argue this is not, at least on some level, racially motivated.

GOP Is Wrong: Terrorists are Not Coming Over the U.S.-Mexico Border

Many politicians are worried that terrorists hidden among the illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied alien children are currently crossing the Southwest border from Mexico. The most recent example is a brutal grilling of Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by Representative Dan Bishop (R-NC). In that interview, the secretary even stated that “known or suspected terrorist — KST is the acronym that we use — individuals who match that profile have tried to cross the border, the land border, have tried to travel by air into the United States not only this year, but last year, the year prior, so on and so forth.”

I don’t understand why this myth persists. Al Queda/organized terrorist groups would not risk their trained “assets” to border patrol. It’s silly. As noted, empirical data doesn’t bear this out and it seems like more race-bating.

Education/Science/Technology

A remedy for the spread of false news?

Stopping the spread of political misinformation on social media may seem like an impossible task. But a new study co-authored by MIT scholars finds that most people who share false news stories online do so unintentionally, and that their sharing habits can be modified through reminders about accuracy.

Not much in the way of explaining exactly what the remedy is, but a good discussion on the causes.

Wanted: A public option for finding work in the gig economy

When Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933, he inherited a job market racked by collapsing demand and exploitative middlemen. Then, like now, unprecedented federal stimulus tackled demand. But FDR’s solution to the middlemen problem was very different. Today, the “Uberization” of work has spurred that problem once more, suggesting we need to update FDR’s solution and establish a public option for gig economy workers to find good work.

In the 1930s, thousands of employment agencies connected job seekers with jobs. But as economic desperation deepened during the Great Depression, those agencies developed scams such as charging for lists of fake openings.

Sadly, monetizing the desperation of job seekers has once again become a highly profitable business model.

Economy/Business

The Tech Industry Is Abuzz About the PRO Act. What Is It?

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act—a bill aimed at making it easier for workers to unionize—passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. If it makes it through the considerably less friendly U.S. Senate, the legislation would constitute a major shift in labor law by overriding state “right to work” laws and making some contract workers eligible to join unions. Tech companies and labor advocates are abuzz.

Seems like a band-aid to a broader problem. It is, frankly, illogical to tie one’s health benefits to ones job. If you can break the employer sponsored health system, that goes a long way to solving issues like the PRO act is designed to counter.

Business leaders engage Biden administration on ways to pay for infrastructure

Executives from Wall Street, major corporations and private equity firms are engaging with the White House and officials in the Transportation Department about how to pay for President Joe Biden’s eventual infrastructure bill, according to people briefed on the matter.

Tax hikes, private-public partnerships and fee increases for bridge and highway tolls are among the ideas being proposed by business leaders to the Biden administration.

Carbon taxes. Gas taxes. Problem solved. They aren’t popular, but they are the best approaches. Sometimes we have to accept that the least popular policies are the most effective.

US economy to grow faster than forecast, says Federal Reserve

The US central bank expects much stronger growth this year than previously forecast, as vaccination rates rise and government relief funds start flowing into the economy.

The Federal Reserve forecast average growth of 6.5% this year - up from 4.2% it predicted in December.

Policy/Politics

Trump blames Biden for border crisis

Former President Trump on Tuesday blamed his successor for the burgeoning crisis at the southern border, saying previous progress has been "eroded" under President Biden.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump argued that his working relationship with Mexico and the partially constructed border wall had acted as deterrents for migrants while he was in office.

There are likely a lot of things at play here. Biden’s less harsh border policy is one, the us economy coming back to life, reduced covid 19 fears/more open travel are all contributing to a surge. Not surprising really, given that there is likely pent up travel/immigration/migration demand from 2020

US House Approves Immigration Bills for Dreamers, Farm Workers

The House voted Thursday to open a gateway to citizenship for young Dreamers, migrant farm workers and immigrants who've fled war or natural disasters, giving Democrats wins in the year's first votes on an issue that once again faces an uphill climb to make progress in the Senate.

On a near party-line 228-197 vote, lawmakers approved one bill offering legal status to around 2 million Dreamers, brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and hundreds of thousands of migrants admitted for humanitarian reasons from a dozen troubled countries.

They then voted 247-174 for a second measure creating similar protections for 1 million farm workers who have worked in the U.S. illegally; the government estimates they comprise half the nation's agricultural laborers.

Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot. So far little has been done for those who want to immigrate legally, with the focus being on illegal immigration/quasi amnesty. The Democrats embrace of woke culture and amnesty risk them losing more immigrant votes in 2022.

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