Those Stubborn Facts: How to Keep Inflating a China Bubble

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Share of global finance industry recommendations on China

investment that were “buys” at the start of this year, before its giant

real estate firms started going broke: 86 percent

 

Share of global finance industry recommendations on China

investment that are “buys” today, when its giant real estate firms

have started going broke: 87 percent

 

(Source: “Down Is Still Up for Foreign Investors Piling Into China,” by Nikos Chrysoloras and Abhishek Vishnoi, Bloomberg.com, October 16, 2021, China Stock Market: Down Is Still Up for Foreign Investors – Bloomberg)

 

Glad I Didn’t Say That! The Washington Post’s Open Borders Deniers

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The numbers belie the Republican claim that Haitians have been

admitted into the country wholesale.”

The Washington Post, October 13, 2021

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday

that as many as 12,000 Haitian migrants who made their way to the

U.S.-Mexico border have been released into the United States.”

United Press International, September 26, 2021

Number of migrants overall released into the United States since

August 6, according to leaked Border Patrol documents:  c. 72,000

FoxNews.com, October 13, 2021

 

(Sources: “How the Biden administration can help Haitian migrants without sending the wrong message,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/13/how-biden-administration-can-help-haitian-migrants-without-sending-wrong-message/; “DHS secretary: Up to 12,000 Haitian migrants released into U.S.,” by Daniel Uria, United Press International, September 26, 2021, DHS Secretary Mayorkas: As many as 12,000 Haitian migrants released into United States – UPI.com; and “Leaked Border Patrol docs show mass release of illegal immigrants into US by Biden administration,” by Bill Melugin and Adam Shaw, FoxNews.com, October 13, 2021, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/leaked-border-patrol-docs-release-immigrants-us-biden-administration)

Im-Politic: A Biden Administration Whopper on Vaccinations

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It’s a good thing for Jeff Zients that social media’s policies on spreading misinformation are so one-sided. If they weren’t, the White House CCP Virus response coordinator (no, not his official title!) would be suspended or banned.

This past Wednesday, Zients told reporters that President Biden’s vaccination requirements, announced in a September 9 speech, had “increased vaccination rates by 20-plus percentage points.” And he continued, “Higher vaccination rates make workplaces, schools, and communities safer; accelerate our path out of the pandemic; and strengthen our economy.”

There’s no doubt that the latest virus wave has been receding by the most important measures – as I wrote October 1. Do higher vaccination rates make the above places safer? That’s entirely plausible. Will they strengthen the economy? We’ll just have to wait on that one, since the data aren’t in yet.

But the claim that since Mr. Biden’s speech, U.S. vaccination rates are up by 20-plus percentage points is just untrue. Indeed, it’s not close to being true. Further, it’s not close to being true even if our gauge is eligible Americans who are at least only partly vaccinated. This measure would take into account that not all of those eligible for vaccinations haven’t yet had the chance to complete the two-shot regimens, and that vaccines have not yet been recommended for childen younger than twelve.

And we know how untrue Zients’ contention is because it’s completely contradicted by the federal government’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The agency’s COVID Data Tracker monitors vaccination rates over time, and it’s interactive, so changes since the Biden announcement can easily be calculated. And here’s what’s happened with at-least-partial vaccination percentage rates by age group from the day of the Biden announcement through this past Wednesday.

                        Sept. 9 rate        Oct. 13 rate

12-15:                  51.2                    55.5

16-17                   59.3                    62.8

18-24                   60.9                    64.9

25-39                   64.2                    68.2

40-49                   73.3                    76.7

50-64                   81.3                    83.8

65-74                   94.9                    97.8

75-plus                89.6                    92.3

In fact, these official figures make clear just how wildly un-close to being true Zients’ claim is. The biggest percentage point change in the at-least-partial vaccination rates during this period hasn’t been twenty.  It’s been 4.3 – for the 12-15 group. The next biggest is four – for the 18-24 and the 25-39 groups.

Of course also crucial to point out (as I did in that October 1 post) – the substantial improvements in the virus picture have taken place despite this unimpressive vaccination progress. Which raises the questions of just how effective the vaccines actually have been in influencing the course of the pandemic, and how effective the mandates – which could come into force as early as today – actually are and will be going forward. After all, if an administration can’t or won’t describe this key piece of the pandemic story so inaccurately, why should anyone trust in their ideas to fight it effectively?       

Im-Politic: Progressive Censors Keep Getting Ever Doofier

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As we’ve all learned in recent years, higher education and the entertainment and pop culture worlds can both spur and mirror major changes in society and politics. So I wasn’t entirely surprised yesterday when two items came to my attention that nicely illustrate much of the hysteria and outright derangement being displayed and spread by self-appointed progressive champions of equity and justice. What did surprise me was the combination of utter incoherence and unmistakable ignorance they displayed.

The first item was an article in the (yes, conservative) Washington Free Beacon about a student at Yale Univeristy’s law school being accused by fellow students and the school itself (including its “diversity dean” – an Obama administration alumnus) of having sent an email to some other students with some racist content.

Of course, students (even at prestigious law schools) do stupid and offensive things all the time. But did this charge hold any water? Only if you believe that phrases like “trap house,” “Popeye’s chicken,” and “basic-bitch” are “triggering” and “oppressive,” and if you think that membership in a conservative political organization qualifies as well.

But if so, you don’t know much about these phrases. Specifically, not only is there no reason to believe that “trap house” “indicates a blackface party,” but the most popular use of the term is clearly in connection with a widely followed podcast described by no less than The New York Times as the “answer to right-wing shock jock radio” in the view of Vermont Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

Especially laughable was the charge that “the word trap connotes” hip hop and that the connotation is therefore negative. Maybe the Yale administrators making this argument are talking about a musical genre other than the one that (African- American) Wellelsey College Africana Studies Professor Layli Maparyan has called part of an oppositional cultural realm rooted in the socio-political and historical experiences and consciousness of economically disadvantaged urban black youth of the late 20th century”?

As for fried chicken is indeed ” often used to undermine arguments that structural and systemic racism has contributed to racial health disparities in the U.S.” But do, like, thirty seconds of on-line research and you learn that Popeye’s has been a favorite of at least several African-American celebrities (including Beyonce).

Moreover, the student’s use of “basic-bitch” has nothing to do with derogatory slang for African-American women, or even women in general, and everything to do with (according to the authoritative UrbanDictionary.com) “Someone who is unflinchingly upholding of the status quo and stereotypes of their gender without even realizing it.” (P.S. If you think I had to look this up because I had never  heard the term before, you’re right.) Moreover, in the email in question, “basic-bitch” was used as an adjective to modify “American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.)”, not the infamous poultry dish.

The conservative political organization in question is the Federalist Society, which the president of Yale’s Black Law Students Association claimed “has historically supported anti-Black rhetoric.” This study of a the group – from an outspokenly liberal organization – contains some supporting evidence. But interestingly, these incidents haven’t yet persuaded Yale Law School to ban the Federalist Society, exclude members from admission, or kick them out once discovered. So I haven’t seen Yale apologize to its black students yet – even though the Federalist Society was pretty much founded at Yale Law.

Finally, although you’d expect that the student accused of racist behavior was an exemplar of white privilege, it turns out that’s a long stretch at best. He’s half Native-American.

The second item illustrating the ongoing metastasizing of left-of-center authoritarianism that’s not only dangerous but outright incompetent involves no less than “the world’s greatest rock and roll band.” You got it: the Rolling Stones.

Last week, guitarist Keith Richards confirmed to The Los Angeles Times‘ pop music critic that the group had dropped from its performances on its current tour its 1971 hit “Brown Sugar.” When I first heard it back in the day, I thought it was pretty strange to set lyrics painting an appalling (and accurate) picture to such a rousing beat. And Richards only intimated that it had evoked complaints recently. But as he pointed out far better than I could, “I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery?”

Richards sounded optimistic that “we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.” I’ll defer to him on this particular controversy. But it’s precisely just plain doofy developments like this, and the Yale Law School flap, that keep me doubtful that the current burst of progessive-inspired threats to free speech is anywhere near its end.

(What’s Left of) Our Economy: U.S. Inflation Signals Turned (More) Mixed in September

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Today’s report from the Labor Department on the September inflation figures contained something for everyone, and unfortunately, that’s not great news for anyone trying to figure out whether current price rises are going to continue worrisomely for the foreseeable future, or whether they’re “transitory.” That’s the term that’s been used by Federal Reserve officials in particular to describe their expectations that these trends result mainly from pandemic-related supply chain and other economic disruptions, and will return to normal territory once the CCP Virus is clearly under control.

The inflation pessimists can point to accelerations in all four main measures of inflation reported today. On a monthly basis, the overall consumer price index (CPI), rose by 0.41 percent on month in September versus 0.27 percent in August, and the so-called core measure – which strips out unusually volatile food and energy prices, increased sequentially by 0.24 percent, versus August’s 0.10 percent

The year-on-year figures, which are more closely followed because they cover a longer time span and therefore are less vulnerable to inevitable random fluctuations – told much the same story. The overall CPI was up 5.38 percent in September as opposed to 5.20 percent in August, and the core climbed from 3.98 percent to 4.04 percent.

Many transitory-istas (who include yours truly) can and no doubt will take some comfort from the lower core figures. But pessimists will rightly observe that, however subject to wide swings, food and energy are vital to all the rest of the economy, and if their prices are on a rapidly moving escalator up, the effects are sure to spread in numerous other sectors.

I’m more impressed by the still-waning momentum in both inflation gauges. It’s evident from the monthly changes in the overall CPI so far this year. Despite the sequential speed up this month, these price increases are still nowhere their spring peaks. In fact, they’re still down on net since July.

Dec-Jan:                           0.26 percent

Jan-Feb:                           0.35 percent

Feb-March:                      0.62 percent

March-April:                   0.77 percent

April-May:                      0.64 percent

May-June:                       0.90 percent

June-July:                        0.47 percent

July-Aug:                        0.27 percent

Aug-Sept:                        0.41 percent

The monthly core changes look very similar:

Dec-Jan:                         0.03 percent

Jan-Feb:                         0.10 percent

Feb-March:                    0.34 percent

March-April:                  0.92 percent

April-May:                     0.74 percent

May-June:                      0.88 percent

June-July:                      0.33 percent

July-Aug:                      0.10 percent

Aug-Sept.                      0.24 percent

The case for acceleration looks stronger based on the year-on-year overall CPI changes, although a plateauing since May can be seen as well.

Jan:                                1.37 percent

Feb:                               1.68 percent

March:                           2.64 percent

April:                             4.15 percent

May:                              4.93 percent

June:                              5.32 percent

July:                               5.28 percent

Aug:                               5.20 percent

Sept:                               5.38 percent

Ditto for the annual core inflation increases:

Jan:                                1.40 percent

Feb:                               1.28 percent

March:                          1.65 percent

April:                            2.96 percent

May:                             3.80 percent

June:                             4.45 percent

July:                              4.24 percent

Aug:                              3.98 percent

Sept:                              4.04 percent

And it’s still true that these strong overall CPI and core inflation results stem partly from abnormally weak inflation in 2020, when the virus dramatically depressed inflation according to both measures. Here are the 2019-20 figures for the overall CPI:

Jan:                               2.47 percent

Feb:                              2.31 percent

March:                         1.51 percent

April:                           0.34 percent

May:                            0.22 percent

June:                            0.73 percent

July:                            1.05 percent

Aug:                            1.32 percent

Sept:                            1.41 percent

And here they are for the core:

Jan:                              2.26 percent

Feb:                             2.36 percent

March:                         2.10 percent

April:                          1.44 percent

May:                           1.24 percent

June:                           1.20 percent

July:                           1.56 percent

Aug:                           1.70 percent

Sept:                           1.72 percent

All the same (and I realize I’m starting to sound like the proverbial two-handed economist), the pessimists can point out that the 2020 annual inflation rates began rebounding once again. And because these “comps” have become harder to beat, the case for troubling, lasting inflation has become more compelling.

I’d agree with the “more compelling” conclusion. But to me, that still doesn’t translate into “particularly compelling.” Until it does, I’ll stay in the transitory camp – keeping in mind all the while that, as noted last month, the likely timeframe for the return to normality keeps getting stretched out.

Im-Politic: American Journalism’s Editing Crisis Deepens

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A RealityChek post last month suggested that America’s news media are experiencing a genuine editing crisis, and just yesterday appeared an example that left even me – someone who for decades has been tracking these lapses (or biases?) and the misinformation they’ve often spread – speechless.

Well, OK, not exactly speechless. But here’s what I mean.

The Bloomberg.com article in question, titled, “China’s Response to U.S. Trade Talks Shows Gap Between Two” was almost entirely unobjectionable. Indeed, for the most part, it focused quite competently on recent statements made by top U.S. and Chinese officials showing how far the two economies remain from resolving the trade and broader commercial issues they’ve clashed over for many years.

But then came this chart:

Surging Surplus

From the title, you’d expect it to show both that the immense U.S. trade deficit with China currently stood at an all-time high, and that the increase was being driven largely by still soaring American imports from the People’s Republic.

Except if you eyeball the chart with even a little care, you see that if America’s imports from China (the solid white line) are now in record territory, it’s not by much compared with the previous peak in mid-2018. Moreover, since they’ve barely budged since then, and the U.S. economy has grown by some ten percent during this period, the China shortfall has clearly become smaller as a share of gross domestic product – a crucial piece of context.

Moreover, it’s absolutely clear that the Chinese trade surplus with the United States hasn’t been surging at all lately. Indeed, according to the vertical orange-ish bars it’s represented by, it’s slightly below last year’s peak and has fallen slightly  since early 2018. Yes, there’s been a surge. But it took place during the decades before.

And kind of mysteriously left out: Mid-2018 is when former President Donald Trump began imposing tariffs on imports from China.

But that’s not the main point here. I’ve seen and written about headlines that misrepresent the body of the article they accompany. (That last post on editing provided one example.) But I don’t ever recall seeing a chart’s title contradicted by the chart itself. Like Amazon.com co-founder Jeff Bezos, who now owns the Washington Post, Bloomberg.com co-founder and majority owner Michael Bloomberg has more than enough bucks to at least try preventing such embarrassing goofs. Time to start opening up that wallet.  

Following Up: Podcast of National Radio Interview on Biden China Policy & Supply Chain Chaos Now On-Line

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I’m pleased to announce that the podcast of my interview last night on the nationally syndicated “CBS Eye on the World” with John Batchelor is now on-line.

Click here for a timely discussion of the state of the Biden administration’s China trade policy, and the outlook for untangling the CCP Virus-related global supply chain bottlenecks causing shortages and transport delays throughout the U.S. and world economies – and threatening to leave many holiday gifts undelivered.

I’m still hoping that a podcast will be posted of my segment yesterday morning on WAKR-AM’s (Akron, Ohio) “Ray Horner Morning Show,” but haven’t yet seen a recording of our discussion of those same topics. If one does go on-line, I’ll let everyone know ASAP.

And keep checking in with RealityChek for news of upcoming media appearances and other developments

(What’s Left of) Our Economy: A Healthcare Jobs Milestone and Real-er U.S. Private Sector Hiring

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Here’s the latest example of how completely weird the CCP Virus has made the U.S. economy, and it’s been confirmed by the latest official monthly jobs report (for September): The pandemic and its various knock-on effects have put a real crimp in hiring in the nation’s healthcare sector, which has been an American employment creation superstar literally for decades.

This period has also seen a reversal in the rise of what I’ve called the subsidized private sector (which is dominated employment-wise by the healthcare services industry, and whose employment levels depend largely on politicians’ decisions, not market forces) in the national employment picture at the expense of the remaining “real” private sector. This shift to date has been small but it’s genuinely historic given how quickly it’s emerged, and given the duration and power of the prior subsidized private sector (SPS) surge.

Regarding recent weakness in hiring in healthcare services and its fellow SPS industries (social services and the for-profit educational institutions), the September jobs report was startling enough. Payrolls in this entire complex fell on-month by 7,000 and in healthcare, the dropoff was 17,500.

Want to know how often that happens? Data are available for the whole SPS sector going back to 1939, and the answer is 45 times leaving out the World War II years. And since then, through September, 936 non-World War II months have passed. So we’re talking 4.81 percent of the time.

Not surprisingly, sequential SPS hiring decreases have been even less frequent since government got into civilian healthcare provision in 1966 with the beginning of Medicare and Medicaid coverage. Since then, 657 months have come and gone, and SPS jobs have declined in 26, or 3.96 percent of them.

But here’s the kicker. Of those 26, five have taken place during the pandemic period (in March, April, and December, 2020, and in this January and September – whose results so far are preliminary).

For healthcare employment alone, the official numbers begin only in 1990, but the picture they draw is even starker. Since then, 369 months have passed, and employment in this sector has fallen on month in eight of them – or 2.17 percent of the time. And five of those eight occasions have occurred during the CCP Virus period (March and April, 2020, and this January, June, and September.

Moreover, as indicated above, the pandemic has produced a major change in the role played by the SPS in U.S. job creation. Between the mid-2009 beginning of the economic recovery from the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis and the last pre-pandemic data month (February, 2020), the SPS’ share of all U.S. jobs rose from 14.97 percent to 16.37 percent, and the SPS’ share of real private sector employment climbed from 22.08 percent to 23.84 percent.

But since then, through September, the SPS share of all U.S. jobs retreated to 16.04 percent, and of “real” private sector jobs to 23.22 percent.

What’s it all mean for the economy? It’s complicated. The downside is that so many of the subsidized private sector jobs, especially in healthcare services, are urgently needed for the nation’s overall well-being and particularly given how its population keeps aging. And it can’t be good news that employment in this industry is still down 3.18 percent since February, 2020, whether because lots of healthcare workers have become burned out from the pandemic, or because they’re leaving the field because of vaccine mandates.

The possible upside of this recent trend is that real private sector jobs in general are more productive than government jobs or SPS jobs (because the latter are more responsive to changes in economic fundamentals rather than government spending levels). Consequently, if their comparative momentum is growing, then so are the nation’s chances for solidly based prosperity, rather than the bubble-ized kind that’s been too abundant lately.

Indeed, just this kind of momentum shift is clear from the data, too. During the pandemic months, SPS employment is off by considerably more (5.21 percent) than real private sector employment (2.69 percent). During the full post-financial crisis recovery, the former jumped by 27.28 percent versus 19.60 percent for the real private sector.

As with all economic forecasts these days, though, it’s impossible to tell whether any of these trends will hold once the pandemic dust settles. What is clear, though, is that more U.S. labor market history is being made nowadays than generally recognized, and it’s by no means entirely devoid of promising potential.   

Making News: A Radio Two-fer Tomorrow

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I’m pleased to announce that tomorrow (Monday) I’m scheduled to appear on two radio programs.

The first is a return to the “Ray Horner Morning Show” on Akron, Ohio’s WAKR-AM radio. We’re slated to start at 8:15 AM EST and we’ll be talking the state of trade policy and U.S. manufacturing. You can listen live by clicking here and then pressing the “Listen Live” link near the upper left-hand corner. As usual, I’ll be posting a link to the podcast if and when one becomes available.

Later that morning, I’ll be taping another segment for the nationally syndicated “CBS Eye on the World with John Batchelor.” Air time tomorrow night is yet to be determined, but the show is on nightly between 9 PM and 1 AM EST, and John, co-host Gordon G. Chang, and I will be examining the unexpected turns (see, e.g., here) being taken by the Biden administration’s China policy lately. Listen live at, e.g., this link  (the entire program is always a treat).  And if you can’t tune in, this podcast will also be posted as soon as it’s on-line.

And keep checking in with RealityChek for news of upcoming media appearances and other developments.

Im-Politic: A Cop Owed an Apology from Biden

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I think it’s more than fair to say that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris owe Rusten Sheskey an apology. Not that they’re the only ones (by a long shot). But I also think it’s fair to say that the President and Vice President are in a special category – even above LeBron James.

Who’s this Sheskey character, you may wonder? He’s the Kenosha, Wisconsin policeman whose allegedly unjustified and indeed racist shooting of James Blake ignited several days of rioting in that city during late August of the “George Floyd summer” of 2020.

By early January, however, it was becoming clear that these accusations – which were also swallowed whole and spread by the women’s and men’s pro basketball leagues (including Los Angeles Laker superstar James), Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and pro tennis  – were baseless.

That month, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, a Democrat, declared that Sheskey had committed no crime when shooting Blake. And he made it obvious why. Blake had resisted arrest when Sheskey and other offices attempted to apprehend him (on felony third-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct charges). He admitted he was carrying a knife.

And Graveley’s official report said that tasering had failed to subdue Blake; that Blake “had the opened knife in his right hand and was attempting to escape from Officer Sheskey’s grasp and enter the driver’s side of [his] SUV”; that both Sheskey and a colleague stated that “in the moment before Officer Sheskey opened fire, Jacob Blake twisted his body, moving his right hand with the knife towards Officer Sheskey”: and that “Two citizen witnesses saw Jacob Blake’s body turn in a manner that appears consistent with what the officers described.”

Indeed, the Kenosha D.A. added, “Officer Sheskey felt he was about to be stabbed.”

Even though this decision had preceded their inaugurations by about three weeks, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris should have issued apologies right then and there. Why? Because right after the shooting, they rushed to judgment and claimed that the evidence available met the prosecution standard.

Acccording to Biden, “We should make sure when all the facts are in and then a decision be made, but based on its appearance, unless they can show something different than what everybody saw, it looks like an overuse of force.”

One of his campaign spokesmen elaborated later:

“He believes that, based on everything he has seen, charges appear warranted, but that there should be a full investigation to ensure all the facts are known first. It is essential that officers in situations like this are held accountable, under due process.”

That’s better than the first statement, which appeared to argue that the burden of proof rested with Sheskey and his lawyers. But if candidate Biden really believed that “all the facts” weren’t in, why make any judgements at all?

Moreover, Mr. Biden lumped the Blake shooting in with other instances of what he considered racist brutality by police:

[T]his morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another black American is a victim of excessive force,” he said. “This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable….Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others.”

Harris also referred to the need for a “thorough investigation” but then went on at length to make clear she, too, had already come to major and incriminating conclusions. Specifically,

based on what I’ve seen, it seems that the officer should be charged. The man was going to his car. He didn’t appear to be armed. And if he was not armed, the use of force that was seven bullets coming out of a gun at close range in the back of the man, I don’t see how anybody could reason that that was justifiable.”

Added Harris, (who oddly acknowledged that Blake might have been resisting arrest, in apparent contradiction to her above claim that he was merely “going to his car”) “Everybody should be afforded due process – I agree with that completely. But here’s the thing, in America we know these cases keep happening. And we have had too many Black men in America who have been the subject of this kind of conduct and it’s got to stop.”

In other words, according to both candidates, Blake’s shooting not only looked like an excessive use of force. It looked like a racist use of force.

And maybe that’s why Mr. Biden and Harris didn’t apologize for attacking Sheskey’s supposed recklessness with his gun. Maybe they were awaiting the results of a Justice Department probe focused on whether Sheskey’s actions added up to a civil rights crime under federal law.

Yet the investigation, launched by the Trump Justice Department later in August, 2020, reached its conclusion this past Friday. The verdict (of the Biden Justice Department)?

[A] team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD [Kenosha Police Department] officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution.”

So what we have is a determination by a Wisconsin Democratic prosecutor that there was no reason even to indict Sheskey for over-aggressiveness in shooting Blake, and a determination by the Biden Justice Department that there was no reason to indict him for racist behavior. Now what we need is some contrition from the President and the Vice President (not to mention LeBron.) Otherwise, we’ll have another reason, on top of, for example, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal and the Border Crisis, to believe that the concept of accountability is foreign to the Biden-Harris administration.