Monday, May 31, 2021

THE NEXT STEAL WON'T LOOK LIKE THE LAST ONE

The Texas election-rigging bill has been blocked, temporarily.
Democrats in the Texas Legislature staged a dramatic, late-night walkout on Sunday night to force the failure of a sweeping Republican overhaul of state election laws. The move ... deprived the session of the minimum number of lawmakers required for a vote before a midnight deadline....

The effort is not entirely dead, however. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, indicated that he would call a special session of the Legislature, which could start as early as June 1, or Tuesday, to restart the process.... He was widely expected to sign whatever measure Republicans passed.
I don't know whether Democrats can block the bill in the special session. I assume it will pass eventually. Even if it doesn't, fourteen states have already passed restrictions on voting just since the 2020 election, with more to come.

James Surowiecki thinks the GOP strategy is flawed.


But the next stolen election -- or series of stolen elections -- won't look like the attempted steal by Donald Trump.

Trump laid no groundwork in advance. He thought he could swoop in after the votes were cast and after the counting process was well underway, denouncing as fraudulent the work of low-level officials, some of whom were Republicans, while others were Democrats who were working hand-in-hand with Republicans to ensure an honest count. He cried "Fraud!" while the vote totals were being portrayed as valid by the media (including Fox News) and by officials across the country.

Republicans won't make that mistake in the future. Under the new voting laws, the GOP plan won't be to take a 10,000-vote Democratic victory margin and declare it invalid after the ballot counters have all gone home. The plan is to prevent that victory margin from ever arising in the first place.

The obvious way that will be done is by making it harder for Democrats to vote -- less absentee balloting, less early voting, fewer drop boxes (or none at all), fewer voter registration drives, and onerous ID requirements that fall disproportionately on people who can't take paid time off to obtain documents. Georgia's new law allows the state election board to take over county election boards if their performance is deemed substandard. This provision will be used to seize control of the election machinery in Democratic counties so polling places can be closed.

Beyond that, the plan will be to put Democrats under a cloud of suspicion well before the media is projecting a winner. That, I assume, is how Texas Republicans intend to use a provision in their bill.
In a last-minute addition, language was inserted in the bill making it easier to overturn an election, no longer requiring evidence that fraud actually altered an outcome of a race — but rather only that enough ballots were illegally cast that could have made a difference.
They're not as stupid as Trump. They'll start claiming they see fraud even as the votes are being cast. They'll have specific (if specious) examples ready to roll out during early voting or on Election Day, not days later, like Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and the rest of the MAGA motley crew.

The point will be to prevent even the unofficial totals from indicating a Democratic win. Under those circumstances, it will be a lot harder for Democrats to mobilize demonstrators.

Sure, some Republicans want to win by any means necessary -- see, e.g., Mike Flynn, who's calling for a military coup. But most Republicans are shrewder. They know that if it's harder for Democrats to vote, then Republican victories will have an air of legitimacy. It's worked for them in the past -- in New Jersey in 1981, in Georgia in 2018. There were no general strikes or civil disobedience. That's the plan again, on steroids.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

IT ISN'T JUST THAT THEY'RE OBSESSED WITH GRIEVANCE -- THEY WANT TO DOMINATE THE GRIEVANCE SPHERE


How it started:


How it's going:
Stetson and other brands are dropping hatWRKS, a Nashville hat store under fire for selling Star of David patches with the phrase “Not Vaccinated.”

People protested outside hatWRKS in Edgehill Saturday, saying using the Star of David was deeply offensive to the 6 million Holocaust victims.
In response, the owner of hatWRKS, Gigi Gaskins, posted this Instagram apology:


Here's one response to all this:


But they don't do this just because they want to trigger us. They do it because they sincerely believe that their grievances are as bad as any grievances in human history, or worse. They can't bear the thought that other people might have greater grievances.

When they respond to the repeated brutalization of unarmed blacks by police officers with such slogans as "All Lives Matter" and "Blue Lives Matter," that's what they're saying: Black people say they're suffering in ways that we aren't, and we can't tolerate that. We are the most aggrieved.

Within their world, it's quite acceptable to downplay the suffering of Blacks. But most of them regard themselves as great friends of the Jewish people, so Gaskins crossed the line.

But they'll never stop believing that their grievances are unsurpassed. Often they have to use "slippery slope" arguments to predict consequences that are highly unlikely -- for instance, that the closing of the gun show loophole will lead to confiscation of all privately owned firearms and then to dictatorship and tyranny. But trust them -- their suffering is the worst. No one in history has ever suffered more.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

FOX'S COVERAGE OF ELECTION RETURNS HASN'T BEEN POLITICIZED -- BUT IT WILL BE NOW

Fox News has been in the tank for the Republican Party since its inception, but its coverage of election returns has always been surprisingly straightforward and honest. In 2012, Fox's decision desk called the presidential race in Ohio for Barack Obama with 73% of the vote counted. When that call was made, Karl Rove freaked out on the air. Megyn Kelly, a Fox anchor at the time, walked on camera to the backroom where the numbers were being crunched, and was told that the analysts stood by their call. They were right. Rove was wrong. In 2020, again with 73% of the vote counted, the Fox decision desk called Arizona for Joe Biden -- a call that infuriated Donald Trump, who had been planning to declare victory prematurely. Again, the Fox decision desk was right.

Trump voters overwhelmingly believe that Trump won the election -- but it matters that they weren't being told that Trump won on Election Night by what was, at the time, their favorite TV channel.

Many non-conservatives believe that the wall of separation between Fox's opinion programs and its "straight news" broadcasts is solid and permanent. But there'll be no such separation during future elections, to judge from what Michael Grynbaum of The New York Times is telling us. For starters, the channel is becoming even Trumpier:
Fox News once devoted its 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. time slots to relatively straightforward newscasts. Now those hours are filled by opinion shows led by hosts who denounce Democrats and defend the worldview of former President Donald J. Trump.

For seven years, Juan Williams was the lone liberal voice on “The Five,” the network’s popular afternoon chat show. On Wednesday, he announced that he was leaving the program, after months of harsh on-air blowback from his conservative co-hosts. Many Fox News viewers cheered his exit on social media.

Donna Brazile, the former Democratic Party chairwoman, was hired by Fox News with great fanfare in 2019 as a dissenting voice for its political coverage. She criticized Mr. Trump and spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, which other hosts on the network often demonized. Ms. Brazile has now left Fox News; last week, she quietly started a new job at ABC.

Onscreen and off, in ways subtle and overt, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.
It appears that Election Night coverage won't be an oasis of objectivity at Fox anymore:
In January, the network fired its veteran politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, who had been an onscreen face of the early call in Arizona for Mr. Biden. This month, it brought on a new editor in the Washington bureau: Kerri Kupec, a former spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s attorney general William P. Barr. She had no journalistic experience....

The longtime Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, resigned in January after internal criticism over his handling of election coverage, around the time that Mr. Stirewalt was fired.
So in 2024, and possibly in 2022, there's a good chance we'll see Fox arguing that Republicans have won contests that they haven't won. If Fox does this, it won't be with the wilder claims retailed by folks like Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell. It will be with allegations of fraud and chicanery that sound more plausible, and are recounted in a more sober manner. It will be obvious to reasonably skeptical people that Fox is lying -- but it might not be obvious to middle-of-the-road Americans, or to credulous members of the media, who'll be shocked to discover that Straight News Fox sounds like Opinion Fox.

Fox won't just throw every crazy theory at the wall and hope some of it sticks. Fox will create a believable (if thoroughly dishonest) narrative, probably starting several weeks before the votes are counted, and then pound it home on Election Night.

Will this make it easier for Republicans to steal elections? I hope it doesn't, but I fear it might.

Friday, May 28, 2021

MODERATE REPUBLICAN VOTERS ARE KILLING AMERICA

On the day that Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a bill that would have created a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, we learned about this poll:
... a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll ... found that less than half of Republicans (41 percent) say supporters of then-President Donald Trump who gathered on Jan. 6 at the Capitol to rally against the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory bear “some” or “a great deal” of the blame for the subsequent riot, which left several people dead and more than 140 injured. Less than a quarter (23 percent) blame Trump himself, and most (52 percent) say he is “not at all” to blame.
This is appalling -- although not obviously not surprising by now. But a small percentage of Republicans understand the truth -- 23% grasp that Trump deserves blame for what happened on January 6, and 41% have at least some understanding that Trump's supporters were the rioters.

Polls on many issues show that Republican voters -- sometimes a majority -- disagree with party dogma. According to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, 51% of Republicans support increasing the minimum wage, although Republicans in Congress are unalterably opposed. A Pew poll last month found that 70% of Republicans support background checks for all gun purchases, and 37% support an assault weapons ban. Even in Texas, only 56% of Republicans support allowing the state's residents to carry handguns without permits or licenses, according to a Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll (overall, 59% of poll respondents oppose this); a bill making this legal has nevertheless passed the Texas legislature and awaits the governor's signature (and he will sign it).

A Pew poll says that 35% of Republicans believe abortion hould be legal in all or most cases. Republicans officeholders, at every level of government, are dong what they can to make abortion unavailable. A Politico/Morning Consult poll says that 32% of Republicans support an infrastructure program financed by increases in corporate taxes and taxes on people making more than $400,000 a year. Republicans in Congress won't hear of it.

All of these are policies that have majority support overall -- but the majorities include a certain segment of Republicans, and those Republicans will never vote against Republican candidates, not even if they vote to block a 1/6 commission, reject any minimum wage increase, support all efforts to loosen gun laws, oppose abortion in all cases, and refuse to support taxes on the rich to pay for infrastructure projects.

Democrats should try harder to persuade these Republicans that their party has become dogmatic and extreme, but it would be nice if the moderate voters themselves would realize that the party for which they regularly vote doesn't reflect their beliefs.

Although, of course, on some level it does reflect their beliefs: the belief that Democrats want to turn America into a big government socialist hellhole, with open borders and with critical race theory running rampant. Republicans are told scare stories so the small percentage of them who might be open to Democratic ideas never even dream of voting for Democratic candidates.

It works -- but if Democrats could try to fight fire with fire, by telling them that their own party is extreme and crazy (which is true), maybe they'd at least ask themselves whether they want to continue being loyal Republican voters. They're a small minority of the GOP electorate, but they're enough to tip the balance of power.

The GOP is destroying America -- but it can't accomplish that goal without the votes of non-dogmatic Republicans. How can those voters' predilections be changed?

WILL THE BLIND-SQUIRREL DEMOCRATS FINALLY SPOT THE NUT?

In 2020, Democrats won the presidency by a much smaller margin than they expected, while losing seats in the House and suffering defeats in Senate races they thought they'd win. Democrats regularly struggle in elections despite having far more popular positions on health care affordability, guns, the minimum wage, taxation of the rich, infrastructure, reproductive rights, and a host of other issues. Yesterday, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported on an analysis of the 2020 results that could -- finally -- point the Democratic Party toward a way out of its chronic underperformance.
The analysis — which was done by the group Way to Win and was provided to me — suggests large TV-ad expenditures on emphasizing bipartisan outreach do not appear to have paid dividends for House Democrats in the 2020 elections.

The analysis also finds that Republicans spent a lot more money on casting Democrats as extremists than Democrats did in making the case against Republican extremism....

* Democrats spent six times as much on positive ads than Republicans did. Democrats spent $18.6 million on positive ads that also happened to mention Republicans (say, by touting the ability to work with them), while Republicans spent $2.9 million on positive ads mentioning Democrats.

* Republicans spent more than 10 times more on ads with the words “extremist” and “radical” than Democrats did. Republicans spent $51 million on such ads, while Democrats spent $3.4 million.

* Overall, Republicans spent more than $87 million on ads with one or more of the following words in it: “AOC,” “Ocasio,” “Pelosi,” “socialism,” “socialist,” “defund,” “radical,” “extremist,” “extreme.”

* GOP ads were more likely to use words with “emotional punch,” such as “taxes,” “radical” and “jobs,” while Democratic ads featured words like “insurance,” “voted” and “work.”
But Sargent struggles to draw the right conclusion from this:
This analysis ... complicates an oft-heard argument about Republicans using leftist elements in the party — such as the “defund the police” movement — to tar mainstream Democrats. It’s sometimes said Democrats should more publicly denounce those elements.

But the analysis suggests that at least part of the problem — in 2020, anyway — was that Democrats failed to rebut those attacks head-on ...
But many Democrats did just that. It worked for Biden, and for some of the downballot candidates. Unfortunately, being on the defensive about this conveyed the message that there was something to the charges.
But the analysis suggests that at least part of the problem — in 2020, anyway — was that Democrats failed to rebut those attacks head-on or ...
Or? Or?
... or to effectively make the case that the GOP is genuinely captured by its extremist elements in a way the Democratic Party simply is not.
Yes! Say that!

Or don't even say "in a way the Democratic Party simply is not" -- just say that the GOP is extreme. Say it all the time. Make the extremism of the GOP a central issue in American poliitics. It's exactly what the GOP does to the Democrats every election cycle (and Fox News does between cycles), and there's far more material to work with if you're accusing the GOP of extremism. This would have been worth doing even in the pre-Trump, pre-QAnon era -- for years, Democrats could have been talking about Republicans who praise gun proliferation even in the wake of mass shootings, insist that the minimum wage mustn't be increased while the taxes of the rich should be cut more and more, and seek to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. By now, the table would have been set for messages about the extremism of Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and January 6.

Democrats should at least have been making the case that the reason to vote Democratic is that the Democratic Party is better than the Republican Party. If you explained advertising to a visitor from another planet and then screened some Democratic ads, the alien would be baffled. The alien would understand normal comparative advertising -- Drink Pepsi! Pepsi tastes better than Coke! -- but Democratic advertising is more like Well, we at Pepsi understand why you prefer Coke, but if you buy a Pepsi, you can mix it with some Coke and it will taste almost as good as Coke.

Democrats have never sent taken the GOP head-on. But maybe now they'll finally realize that they need to do it.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

SEE YOU TOMORROW

I'm moving today -- just a few blocks uptown, but it's a major undertaking, so I won't be posting today. Tomorrow I should be able to crawl out from under the boxes and crates to resume posting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

THE LAB-LEAK THEORY: NETANYAHU'S REVENGE?

President Biden is now calling for a report on the origins of COVID-19:
President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any possibility the trail might lead to a Chinese laboratory.

After months of minimizing that possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is joining worldwide pressure for China to be more open about the outbreak, aiming to head off GOP complaints the president has not been tough enough as well as to use the opportunity to press China on alleged obstruction.
The story blew up over the weekend after The Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough to be hospitalized in November 2019.

How did U.S. intelligence find this out? The report, according to the Journal, "was provided by an international partner." An NBC News story said the following:
A Western intelligence official who has seen classified material told NBC News the U.S. has substantial intelligence that has not been made public about actions the Chinese government took — related to the Wuhan lab and other issues — that were designed to obscure the origins of Covid-19 and conceal its early impact.
So where is this talk coming from? Which country is the Journal's "international partner"?

My guess is that it's Israel, because when the lab-leak theory was first floated, in a Washington Times story in January 2020, it was sourced to Israeli intelligence:
The deadly animal-borne coronavirus spreading globally may have originated in a laboratory in the city of Wuhan linked to China’s covert biological weapons program, said an Israeli biological warfare analyst.

Radio Free Asia last week rebroadcast a Wuhan television report from 2015 showing China’s most advanced virus research laboratory, known the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The laboratory is the only declared site in China capable of working with deadly viruses.

Dany Shoham, a former Israeli military intelligence officer who has studied Chinese biological warfare, said the institute is linked to Beijing’s covert bio-weapons program.

“Certain laboratories in the institute have probably been engaged, in terms of research and development, in Chinese [biological weapons], at least collaterally, yet not as a principal facility of the Chinese BW alignment,” Mr. Shoham told The Washington Times.

Work on biological weapons is conducted as part of dual civilian-military research and is “definitely covert,” he said in an email.
At the time, when The Washington Post asked Shoham about this, he "told The Post he did not want to comment further."

I don't know what the truth is. The lab-leak theory might be plausible -- or it could be that intelligence pointing to a lab leak is being siloed to the media in order to embarrass Biden. Is the intel from Israel? I'm sure Natanyahu is no Biden fan. I'm sure he found Trump much more biddable and would be delighted to have him back in the White House in 2025. So I have suspicions.

THERE'S A TRUMP GRAND JURY, SO WHY DON'T I FEEL HAPPY?

You'd think this would please me:
Manhattan's district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself, should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development.

The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months.... Generally, special grand juries such as this are convened to participate in long-term matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.

The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance thinks he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump, by someone potentially close to him or by his company.
So we don't know whether there'll be any indictments at all. There could be indictments of underlings or children but not Donald Trump.

Now consider the nature of the offenses that are under investigation:
Vance’s ... investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before he was president, including whether the value of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.

The district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said.
This would be good for the country if it inspired voters who are moderately pro-Trump (and pro-GOP) to rethink their support. Most of Trump's backers are superfans, but he won his first election, and came disturbingly close to winning his second, because of these not-so-fervent Trump voters.

But these aren't charges that will inspire revulsion. The response is likely to be Oh, businessmen, they all do that. If you want to be a billionaire like Trump, you have to be a little bit crooked. I'm sure all the other billionaires in New York are worse than that. (I think that's how many less-engaged Democratic voters will feel as well.)

And in the meantime, if Trump is indicted, there'll be an extended period of time when he's charged but not convicted. To Trump's biggest fans, and even to many of the softer supporters, the indictment will be proof that an evil liberal cabal runs the world and devotes most of its energy to trying to destroy Donald Trump, because Trump wants to right all of America's wrongs and the evil cabal knows it will be destroyed in the process if that happens.

I don't look forward to a trial. A dozen or so years ago, there were plans to try Guantanamo prisoners in lower Manhattan, not far from where the Twin Towers fell. That never happened because interested parties felt that the trial would pose a great risk of terrorism to lower Manhattan. I feel the same way about a trial of Donald Trump -- there'll be a risk of a January 6, or worse, every day court is in session. And I sure as hell wouldn't want to be a juror on a Trump trial.

Even if there's no violence, a trial would inspire heavy turnout of Trump voters in the next election cycle -- and I don't think it would inspire Democratic voters the same way. For most Democratic voters, Trump is in the rearview mirror. They're happy to consign him to the past. But his fate is an ongoing grievence for GOP voters. Trial news will get them to the polls.

Maybe a conviction would have the impact that January 6, Russiagate, and two impeachments didn', but I'm not optimistic. We keep waiting for the moment when Trump becomes Richard Nixon, a Republican conceded to be a crook even by most Republicans. But it's not 1974. If that moment didn't come during Trump's term, then it'll never come.

But I don't believe Trump (or any member of his family) will ever go to jail. If he does, it won't be soon. The grand jury will sit for months if not longer. The trial (if there is one) won't happen until next year at the earliest. The case will be complex, and will be based on laws that include many loopholes tailored for the rich. If there's a conviction, the appeals process will take years.

And all the while, Republican voters will regard Trump as their Mumia or Leonard Peltier. I'd be thrilled if a legal case against Donald Trump made America a better place, but it's more likely to sustain our current toxicity than it is to purge it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

IN THEIR BUBBLE, VOLUNTARILY VOTING DEMOCRATIC IS UNIMAGINABLE

Jonathan Chait directs our attention to an absolutely bonkers essay by Lee Smith, a self-styled investigative journalist and Devin Nunes hagiographer, in Tablet. In the essay, as Chait notes,
Smith posits that the anti-Semitic violence that has appeared in a handful of American cities is actually a false-flag operation, orchestrated by the the “oligarchs” who run the Democratic Party to terrorize their own voters under the pretext of anti-Semitism.
Smith believes that those responsible for the violence are not really activists who oppose Israel. He writes:
Who knows how many of the activists waving the Palestinian flag as they beat Jews and detonate fireworks in front of Jewish-owned businesses are genuinely Palestinian Americans? Maybe some aren’t even Arab or Muslim, but that’s irrelevant — they are staking their claim to recruit, promote, and represent Arabs and Muslims as an interest group. And so the flag they’re really flying isn’t for the Palestinians but rather for the Democratic Party.
So why are they engaging in anti-Semitic violence?
The answer is because that’s their job — not to confront their alleged red state enemies, but to remind their neighbors and fellow Joe Biden voters that their security, indeed even their lives, depend on them keeping the faith, no matter how much the party’s pet projects might hurt or offend them personally.
As Chait correctly notes,
it seems more intuitive that getting beaten up by left-wing Israel-haters — or paid thugs pretending to be left-wing Israel-haters — would make Jewish people less likely to support the Democrats.
But to Smith, there must be some reason Jews -- or really, any voters at all, except for a few sickos -- vote Democratic that doesn't involve, y'know, preferring Democratic politicians or policies. As far as Smith is concerned, liking the Democrats is categorically impossible for sane, decent people. He writes:
The Democratic Party has had a problem. It’s a small, incoherent, and privileged clique funded by billionaire oligarchs to push policies that even mainstream Democratic voters oppose....

The current-day Democratic Party is a top-down structure paid for by the corporate establishment, led by Big Tech and finance, that appeals to a small class of managers, technocrats, and educators who for a variety of reasons, from self-pity to psychopathy, really do back the party’s most sinister policies—like open borders, designed to impoverish America’s working middle class. The party has lots of money and owns virtually all of the country’s major institutions, from the press to the Department of Justice. What it lacks, however, is voters....

Obviously many of the programs the Democratic Party is pushing are not popular with the people who belong to the interest groups they’re trying to motivate....

Why would the bulk of American Jews continue to vote for a presidential administration like Joe Biden’s that funds Palestinian terror, or whose up-and-coming leadership, like Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promote organizations that celebrate the murder of Jews? Given a choice, no rational person would defend any of these policies.

Thus the need for street violence, to take decision-making out of the realm of the rational. It’s about fear: Mouth off and you won’t like what happens to your business, your home, your wife, your children.
This is a highly specific bit of conspiracy craziness, but it jibes with a belief that's widespread on the right: that nobody likes the Democratic Party and all of its votes are fake.

You can see this every few days at Gateway Pundit, where Joe Biden's total of 81 million votes in 2020 is sneeringly cited as a number no rational person could possibly believe. (Sample headlines: "No Supporters Greet 81 Million Vote Recipient Joe Biden as He Arrives in Lake Charles, Louisiana"; "Biden Joint Session of Congress Ratings Are In: 22.6M Viewers Compared to Trump’s 48 Million Viewers — But Joe TOTALLY Had 81 Million Votes"; "81 Million Vote Getter Joe Biden Greeted by Two Dozen Supporters in Columbus for Ohio State Speech.")

Republicans, from the fringe to the mainstream, have argued for years that Democrats are out of touch and un-American, while simultaneously arguing that their vote totals are routinely padded by massive voter fraud. The notion that no real American votes Democratic is part of the Republican mainstream.

We've seen a lot of polls and focus groups of Trump voters. We seem to know everything they believe -- but I'd like a pollster to ask some Trump voters this question: According to official results, Joe Biden won approximately 81 million votes in 2020. How many votes do you think he really won? I'd also like them to be asked about Donald Trump's 74 million votes.

I want to know how impermeable their bubble is. I think many of them would say that Biden didn't even win a million real votes. Some of them would probably say his actual total was zero. And I'm sure they believe Trump at least 100 or 150 million votes.

And I don't think they'd be saying this merely as a way to express their resentment. I think they'd mean it. After all, they've been told for years that our vote totals are fake -- so why should there be any limits to how fake they think those numbers are?

THERE'S A LOT OF MISCHIEF IN THAT FLORIDA SOCIAL MEDIA BILL

As you probably know, Florida governor Ron DeSantis used the First Amendment as toilet paper yesterday:
Florida on Monday became the first state to regulate how companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter moderate speech online, by imposing fines on social media companies that permanently bar political candidates in the state.

... In addition to the fines for barring candidates, it makes it illegal to prevent some news outlets from posting to their platforms in response to the contents of their stories.

... Companies would be fined $250,000 per day for cases where they barred a candidate for statewide office. The fine is lower for candidates seeking other offices.

The law says the platforms cannot take down or otherwise prioritize content from a “journalistic enterprise” that reaches a certain size. Conservatives were outraged last year when Facebook and Twitter limited the reach of a New York Post article about the contents of a laptop it said belonged to Hunter Biden, the younger son of President Biden.
We're told that this bill is flagrantly unconstitutional, although at least one Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, thinks treating tech platforms as "common carriers" and compelling them to transmit speech seems like a pretty good idea.

There's more to this bill than just the provisions that have made the headlines. There's also this:
S.B. 7072 ... contains a concerning provision that would establish an "antitrust violator vendor list." Companies convicted of antitrust violations will reportedly be placed on a list, and may not get contracts or do business with any public agency in the state. But further down in the bill there's a nasty twist: The state's attorney general can temporarily add a company to the list on the basis of merely being accused of or charged with antitrust violations, based on simply determining the state has "probable cause" that the violation occurred—an extremely low evidentiary threshold.

"The point is that when Republican state AGs file bullshit antitrust suits that are never going to go anywhere or [may] get tied up in court for years, it will still allow the Florida attorney general to use that as a predicate for some legal action," [Berin] Szóka [of the technology think tank TechFreedom] says. "The point isn't to get that judgment. It's to drag the company through the process so you have another circle for your political theater. It's a weapon. That's the whole point."
And here's a sentence in the bill that I find troubling:
A social media platform that willfully provides free advertising for a candidate must inform the candidate of such in-kind contribution.
What wrong is this intended to right? Social media companies don't really give away ad space, do they?

No, they don't -- but I see an opening here for (again) Republican state attorneys general to declare that certain material deemed favorable to a Democratic candidate on a social media platform -- for instance, prominent placement of news stories that shows a Democrat in a favorable light -- is "free advertising." A platform could be deemed in violation of the law for failing to report it, and a Democratic candidate could be accused of a campaign law violation for failing to list prominently placed favorable stories as donations.

And yes, in a world where Fox News exists, the fact that Republican government officials might treat upbeat coverage of Democrats as the equivalent of a cash donation seems absurd. But I think that's why this sentence is in the bill.

This is the world we're entering: a world in which free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment is like abortion rights as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. In Republican states, governors and legislators will chip away at the speech rights of their political opponents the way they've been chipping away at reproductive rights; the courts will endorse some of these constraints and reject others, but the rights will be increasingly limited, until, for the opponents of Republicans, the right to speech that truly challenges the (one-party) government essentially isn't there at all. If it can happen in the Eastern Bloc, it can happen here.

Monday, May 24, 2021

RIGHT-WINGERS ARE ANGRY AT CHINA FOR THE ALLEGED LAB LEAK, BUT CHINA IS NOT THE ULTIMATE TARGET

At The Spectator, Stephen L. Miller (no, not that Stephen Miller, though he's nearly as bad) focuses on what's really important to right-wingers about the COVID-19 lab-leak theory:
Don’t let the media get away with U-turning on the lab leak theory

Or Dr Fauci


The theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory has completed its year-long trudge — from fringe nutjob idea to mainstream and expert-approved opinion.

... respectable media voices have switched from writing off the lab leak theory to believing that is somewhere closer to probable than possible. How does that happen?

... While there is still only an amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to the lab theory, there is more and more smoke around the fire. Our corporate media is going to stuff this down the memory hole and make their previous statements and stances disappear. Experts, cable news hosts and opinion writers are going to move on as though they hadn’t spent the last year labeling anyone who attempted to even explore this theory as a lunatic. Dr Anthony Fauci was one of those people. He should not be allowed to get away with it.
Remember, we still don't know whether the theory is correct. But let's assume for the sake of argument that it is. How does it help determine what we do in the future?

Miller has given us an answer to that question: It helps determine what we do in the future because it provides an opportunity, in the future, to bash the mainstream media and Dr. Fauci, who are proxies, in the mind of every Republican voter, for the Democratic Party. That's the important work that needs to be done in the wake of a once-in-a-century pandemic that's killed nearly one of every 500 Americans.

I'm not sure what we were supposed to have done if the lab leak actually happened and we knew it last year. The right has been obsessed from the start with identifying a culprit; this was clearly more important to right-wingers than actually containing the virus. The right's approach to the pandemic has been like finding your house on fire and deciding that you won't allow firefighters to put out the blaze until the arsonist has been identified (even though you don't know for sure that the fire was deliberately set).

And now it appears that even finding the arsonist isn't as important as tracking down the people who said the fire couldn't have been arson. But demonizing domestic enemies is always Job #1 on the right.

HOW TO ARGUE WITH YOUR RIGHT-WING RELATIVES ABOUT THE LAB-LEAK THEORY

So I guess we're all talking about this Wall Street Journal story:
Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report that could add weight to growing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the laboratory.

The details of the reporting go beyond a State Department fact sheet, issued during the final days of the Trump administration, which said that several researchers at the lab, a center for the study of coronaviruses and other pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”

... Current and former officials familiar with the intelligence about the lab researchers expressed differing views about the strength of the supporting evidence for the assessment. One person said that it was provided by an international partner and was potentially significant but still in need of further investigation and additional corroboration.

Another person described the intelligence as stronger. “The information that we had coming from the various sources was of exquisite quality. It was very precise. What it didn’t tell you was exactly why they got sick,” he said, referring to the researchers.
Matt Yglesias asks a smart pundit question -- and Oliver Willis gives it a real-world answer:


Exactly. The Murdoch press isn't obsessed with this story because it wants to determine whether a sober reassessment of U.S. policy toward China is warranted. The Murdoch press is obsessed with this story because it feeds a narrative the Fox News audience desperately wants to believe: that the pandemic was a planned hit job on Trump.

Your right-wing relatives already believe this. Even if Murdoch journalists and prime-time blowhards never explicitly say that the virus was released in order to harm Trump, that narrative will be reinforced.

And it's preposterous, of course. If China wanted to attack the United States, why would it choose something that devastated the world, including countries China wants as economic partners (or at least clients)? How did a deadly outbreak in Italy a year ago help China? How do the current outbreaks in India and Brazil help China? And what about China's own outbreak? What was the advantage of that, from China's perspective? Assuming China really did seek to attack America, why not pick a method that was a bit more targeted?

And even if this were a deliberate attack, it's a president's job to deal with such things -- and dealing with such things is also usually to a president's political advantage. September 11 reelected George W. Bush. America rallied around FDR after Pearl Harbor. To be perfectly cynical about this, the pandemic handed Trump a golden ticket to reelection. All he had to do was seem competent and appear to care. Every governor who managed those two things saw skyrocketing approval ratings. If China wanted to hurt Trump, a deliberate bioattack was a terrible idea, because, by the normal rules of politics, it should have helped him. It didn't because Trump screwed up.

You can use these arguments on your right-wing relatives. I doubt they'll change any minds, but they're worth a try.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

GOSH, I CAN'T IMAGINE WHERE MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE GETS HER CRAZY IDEAS

May people think Marjorie Taylor Greene is crazy.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) doubled down on her controversial comments comparing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the Nazis because of her mask rules for the House ...

On a Thursday Newsmax appearance, Greene criticized Pelosi for “running a tyrannical, oppressive workplace,” and then made the Nazi comparison:
This woman is mentally ill. You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.
Bianca Buono, a reporter with Arizona’s 12 News, spoke to Greene after the event she held in Mesa, Az. with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and asked her if she stood by her comments “comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust.” ...

“... I think any rational Jewish person didn’t like what happened in Nazi Germany, and any rational Jewish person doesn’t like what’s happening with overbearing mask mandates and overbearing vaccine policies,” Greene added.
Where on earth would Greene get bizarre ideas like that?

Probably from the right-wing Internet. Here are some memes I found at My Right Wing Dad, which collects right-wing memes and email forwards.



Greene is actually late to this. From July:
A Louisiana state lawmaker said people who refuse to wear a facemask during the coronavirus pandemic are being persecuted like Jews in Nazi Germany as he filmed himself destroying a facemask with a chainsaw and blowtorch.

Republican State Rep. Danny McCormick made the comments in a video he posted to Facebook criticizing an executive order from Shreveport’s mayor requiring the wearing of face coverings while inside most public buildings or outside when social distancing is not possible.

“Masks aren’t bad. Mask mandates are,” McCormick stated as he is filmed crushing what appears to be a printed copy of the order with a wooden staff.
And a few weeks later:
A meme that compares the requirement to wear masks during the coronavirus to the yellow Stars of David that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust appeared on the Facebook page of a Republican organization in Minnesota.

The Facebook page of the Republican Party of Wabasha County, where the meme was posted over the weekend, was removed by Monday evening, according to local reports. The organization told the state Republican Party that it had been hacked.

The meme shows an elderly man wearing a yellow Star of David badge pinned to his chest facing down a Nazi officer.

“Just put on the star and quit complaining, it’s really not that hard,” its caption said. “Just put on the mask and stop complaining.”
And from August:
A guy says he's opting to wear a Nazi face mask because if he has to rock one -- he wants to show others where he thinks this country is headed.

This dude's name is Brad Braddock and he took to YouTube to flaunt his swastika face covering, which he said will be his new mask of choice. He goes on this long rant explaining why he's gonna wear it proudly in the COVID era.

(Yes, that video is still up on YouTube. The Louisiana state legislator's video is still on Facebook, too.)

There's a collective narcissism in all this. Greene might be the most narcissistic person or on earth -- you never see even the vaguest hint of insecurity or doubt in her eyes. (Donald Trump, for all his egomaniacal bluster, seems racked with insecurity in comparison to Greene.)


They all feel that their grievances are massive. They downplay the actual Holocaust, but they also downplay the suffering of everyone else who's not them. It's no wonder that egomaniacs like Greene and Trump are their biggest stars.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

NO, A THIRD OF CALIFORNIA RESTAURANTS DID NOT CLOSE PERMANENTLY "DUE TO LOCKDOWNS"

Here's a headline at Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire:
A Third Of California Restaurants Close Permanently Due To Lockdowns
But if you read the news story that's the basis for the Daily Wire post, you'll see that this high rate of closures isn't ascribed to lockdowns specifically.

The Wire post begins:
A little more than a year after Governor Gavin Newsom instituted the lockdowns, nearly a third of California restaurants have closed permanently.

According to The Associated Press, California’s lockdowns have left the food industry battered and bruised in the Golden State....
Here's what the AP story actually says:
Nearly a third of California’s restaurants permanently closed and two-thirds of workers at least temporarily lost their jobs as the pandemic set in more than a year ago and Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide lockdown, a legislative committee reported Tuesday.
Were the business failures all the result of lockdowns? AP, citing the legislative report, implicitly blames the lockdowns and the pandemic itself. Even in the absence of lockdowns, many Californians would have chosen not to go to restaurants and linger over leisurely meals and drinks. We know this it true because it happened all over the country -- even in South Dakota, where the governor, Kristi Noem, famously boasted in March that her government "never ordered a single business or church to close, we never instituted a shelter-in-place order, we never mandated that people wear masks." In spite of that, South Dakota's Argus Leader reported in August,
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit South Dakota restaurants harder than just about any other industry in the state.

Six months into the pandemic, with the state economy mostly open for business, restaurants across the state are still struggling to make ends meet and keep their doors open as patrons and employees worry about spreading the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Since the pandemic began, nearly half of South Dakota’s restaurants experienced at least a temporary closure — often for as long as six weeks — and more than two-thirds laid off employees. Due to COVID-19, South Dakota restaurants have missed out on as much as $90 million in revenue, according to the National Restaurant Association, forcing some to close for good.
There were local restaurant shutdowns, but they were brief by California standards, and half of South Dakota's restaurants weren't shut down at all -- yet two-thirds laid off staff.

Even before the pandemic, the restaurant business in parts of California was often a victim of the state's economic success (and ever-increasing property values). San Francisco, with approximately 4,400 restaurants, lost 411 of them in 2019, the year before the pandemic.

And then there's the failure rate of all restaurants under normal conditions: 27% fail in their first year, 50% in their first three years.

So to blame lockdowns for all the restaurant closures in California last year is absurd. And what's the Wire's alternative? No pandemic restrictions whatsoever, even for restaurants and other businesses in densely packed cities? That was unthinkable -- except, I'm sure , to the sorts of people who read the Daily Wire.

Friday, May 21, 2021

THE CRAZINESS DIDN'T START RECENTLY

The 2020 election is the new Benghazi -- even if one "investigation" turns up nothing, the crazies respond by demanding another one:
Georgia is headed for another review of its presidential election results after a judge agreed Friday to unseal more than 145,000 Fulton County absentee ballots....

The latest Georgia review cannot change the election results, which were certified months ago and have already been confirmed by multiple recounts. But the plaintiffs say an examination of ballots would get to the bottom of what they see as suspicious activity by election officials at State Farm Arena in November....

Friday’s decision came in a lawsuit filed by nine plaintiffs, including Garland Favorito, a Fulton resident and self-styled election watchdog.
Favorito is the author of a 2000 book titled Our Nation Betrayed: Mutually Assured Destruction for America, as well as a revised edition published in 2002, Our Nation Betrayed: From Impeachment to Infinite War. When he appeared at a libertarian forum in 2006, the Libertarian Party of Georgia wrote:
Garland Favorito is an independent computer consultant who became concerned about government corruption after viewing and verifying the accuracy of videos about the murders of Vince Foster, Kevin Ives and Don Henry. When he realized that a cover-up of these and other serious crimes were linked to Clinton administrations, he planned and helped organize America's first National Impeachment Town Hall. After the Republican leadership protected Bill Clinton from facing the more serious charges that initiated the impeachment movement, Garland decided to find out why. His remarkable findings are published in his book, Our Nation Betrayed, available from Epic Books.
You know about Vince Foster. The deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry are an unsolved mystery:
On August 23, 1987, the bodies of 16-year-old Don Henry and 17-year-old Kevin Ives were hit by a cargo train in Alexander, Arkansas as they lay on the tracks. The train driver attempted to stop and blew the horn, but the momentum of the train carried it over the bodies. It was later discovered during autopsy that Don Henry had been stabbed in the back and Kevin Ives’ skull had been crushed prior to being run over.

The deaths were initially ruled an accident, apparently the result of the boys' sleeping deeply on the tracks while intoxicated by marijuana. The parents of the boys insisted on a second autopsy, and after exhumation it was ruled that homicide was likely. Later, another pathologist ruled that Don Henry's shirt showed evidence of a stab wound.
The notorious 1994 videotape The Clinton Chronicles, promoted at the time by Jerry Falwell, claimed that Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas at the time, was involved in a coverup of the circumstances surrounding Ives and Henry's deaths.

The second edition of Our Nation Betrayed was, according to the author, "the first published book that questioned the government's version of events that occurred on 9/11." A description of the book at a used-book site says that it "[d]iscusses ... the George W. Bush administration's involvement in pre-9/11 activities" -- whatever that means.

Favorito has questioned voting procedures in Georgia in ways that liberals have; he appeared on Brad Friedman's BradCast in 2017 to discuss election issues in Georgia. He's not a right-wing ideologue.

But he was a Clinton conspiratorialist and a 9/11 truther a generation ago. And now we're going to examine 2020 Georgia ballots because he thinks we should.

WEAR YOUR MASK -- IT AIN'T ILLEGAL YET

At Pharyngula, PZ Myers writes:
I’m keeping my mask

Everywhere I go now, people are running around without a mask, like all our concerns about public health have evaporated. Not me. I’m keeping mine for when I’m out and about.
He cites some statisitics:
According to Scientific American, influenza cases all over the globe have dropped to “minuscule levels.” ...

The publication reports approximately 600 deaths attributed to influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season in the United States, which typically peaks between December and February. Compared to previous years, where the numbers in the 2019-2020 season saw roughly 22,000 deaths, and the 2018-2019 season had more at 34,000 deaths, 600 is a 97 percent drop....

Because of the measures in place for COVID, including increased handwashing, wearing masks, and staying home when sick, no one is out there spreading the flu either.
Myers writes:
The real question is, why are people so eager to return to living in filth? I didn’t have a single day last year where I was too sick to get out of bed, and I didn’t even have the prolonged snotty sniffles of a cold. I don’t miss that.
This sentiment is fairly common. I'm sure quite a few people will want to wear masks routinely, at least in the winter, long after the pandemic is over.

But I wonder if it will be legal.

Maybe this is too extreme a move, even for "How do we own the libs today?" governors like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, but as the pandemic wanes, I believe there'll be efforts not merely to ban public and private mask mandates -- that's happening already -- but to prevent individuals from choosing to wear masks in public. And if Republican governors and legislators conclude that they can't get away with preventing mask usage on the streets, they might at least ban masks in public buildings, just for the vengeful satisfaction, as well as the positive coverage on Fox News.

Republicans who propose such laws will probably invoke the anti-mask ordinances that already exist in more than a dozen states; these were passed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in response to Ku Klux Klan demonstrations. Last June, some Republicans in the North Carolina legislature tried to prevent the state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, from instituting a mask mandate by blocking an extension of the health exemption to the state's 1950s-era anti-mask law. I expect this kind of thing to happen again, and if there's no longer a public health crisis, the anti-maskers could win.

Suuch laws probably wouldn't be constitutional. But who cares if the libs and mask-wearers get owned, at least temporarily?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

IF DEMOCRATS WANT TO BEAT THE MIDTERM ODDS LIKE THE GOP IN 2002, THEY SHOULD ACT LIKE THE GOP IN 2002

Yet another political prognosticator -- this time it's Kyle Kondik of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia -- says that Democrats are probably doomed in 2022:
On balance, we expect the reapportionment of House seats ... to benefit Republicans to a small extent. Redistricting seems likely to also help Republicans. Given that the Democrats only won a 222-213 edge in the House last year, Republicans only need to net five seats to win the House. That kind of small gain could come from reapportionment and redistricting alone.

This doesn’t even take into account the usual advantages that the party that does not control the White House typically has in midterm House elections: Since the end of World War II, the average seat loss by the presidential party in midterms is 27 seats. In those 19 midterm elections, the presidential party has lost seats 17 times. The exceptions were 1998 and 2002, when the president’s party made small gains.

House Democrats are facing twin challenges next year: The overall consequences of reapportionment and redistricting, as well as midterm history. The combination of the two will be difficult for Democrats to overcome.
Bill Clinton's Democrats gained a couple of seats in 1998 because America didn't approve of his impeachment. And then there was 2002.

Republicans gained seats in George W. Bush's first midterm cycle because the country had rallied around him after 9/11. But it was more than that: Republicans made it clear that they believed their party had a monopoly on patriotism, mostly because some Democrats opposed a war with Iraq. (You remember the war in Iraq. It's one of those wars Republican voters now pride themselves on opposing, after spending years describing opponents as traitors.)

Democrats might have a shot at keeping their majorities in the House and Senate after the 2022 midterms if they make the same assertions about Republicans that Republicans made about Democrats in 2002.

Republicans really are unpatriotic. They don't believe in our electoral system. They don't want an investigation into a mob attack on our government. They continue to back a president who was chummier with our enemies than our allies, and who egged on the violent anti-democracy mob that attacked the Capitol.

Democrats don't like criticizing the entire Republican Party, even implicitly. I can't imagine them settling on a message that the GOP as a whole is anti-American.

It is, though, and Democrats should say so. Democrats need to do something to make Republicans unpalatable to voters, or they're going to find themselves in the minority in two years.

"HE HAD WON THE VICTORY OVER HIMSELF. HE LOVED BIG BROTHER."

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake seems to regard this as simple political pragmatism, although he acknowledges that it's pragmatism in an unhealthy politcal climate. I think it's something worse than that:
On Jan. 6, supporters of Donald Trump broke into the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While doing so, some of them chanted “Hang Mike Pence” ...

As they were marauding through the Capitol, Trump offered his first thoughts on the siege. He took to Twitter not to call off the dogs, but to attack Pence....

Despite all of this, Pence’s brother, Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), on Wednesday voted against a bipartisan commission to look into what transpired that day....

Mike Pence himself has apparently let bygones be bygones....
Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz also remain loyal to Trump even though, as Blake notes, Trump has insulted their wives (and slandered Cruz's father). Texas agriculture commissioner George P. Bush is still a Trump loyalist too, even though the former president has attacked many members of the Bush family.

Blake writes:
Cruz, Pence and George P. Bush, of course, have rather obvious personal political calculi. Cruz and Pence clearly have presidential ambitions, and right now in the GOP that runs through Trump’s base. Bush might be the only high-profile member of his family standing by Trump, but he also just happens to be the one Bush who is ramping up his political career. He appears likely to challenge Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) in a primary in which there will be a premium on Trumpiness — or at least keeping Trump disengaged. (Paxton spearheaded the far-flung effort to get the Supreme Court to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss.)
But at least in the case of the Pences, the deference seems like a sickness. The rioters wanted to kill Mike Pence. I can understand toadying to people who want to kill you, or kill a close family member, if you're enslaved or extremely poor or otherwise desperate, but the Pences are well-off men in their sixties. Mike Pence, if he chooses, can collect his generous retirement benefits, write his books, and rest on his laurels. Greg Pence wasn't even a politician until 2017, so it's not as if choosing loyalty to his brother over loyalty to Trump would mean he'd have to give up his life's work.

I grew up hearing Cold War horror stories about people who sold out family members to the authorities, in Mao's China or in the Soviet bloc. This happened, we were told, because the authorities were so terrifying, or because the people were so brainwashed that they loved their tyrant leaders more than they loved their own families. And then there was Winston Smith in 1984, who betrayed his girlfriend after facing down the rats in Room 101.

The final sentences of 1984 tell us that Winston Smith "had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother." Those words would seem to apply to Mike Pence, who continues to speak well of the man whose goons almost killed him. Fear? Brainwashing? Probably a bit of both. In this case, Big Brother isn't the government, and it isn't a tyrant (Trump is out of office anyway) -- it's the sociopathic movement that Republicanism has become. If it runs your life, you'd better love it more than you love your family, if you know what's good for you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

DEMANDING REPUBLICAN "ACCOUNTABILITY" JUST MAKES DEMOCRATS LOOK WEAK

Democrats want to hold the perpetrators of the January 6 riot accountable. In pursuit of that goal, they won one victory today:
The House voted Wednesday to approve legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate the violent insurrection on January 6 at the US Capitol, with 35 Republicans breaking with their party to support the bill.

The final vote was 252-175.
But:
But even as the legislation passed the House, top Republicans locked arms in an effort to doom it in the Senate and shield former President Donald J. Trump and their party from fresh scrutiny of their roles in the events of that day.

... The vote came hours after Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, declared his opposition to the plan.
Republicans will block this. And if they can't block it, they'll sabotage it. They'll load up the committee with rhetorical bomb-throwers. They'll use the hearings primarily for anti-Democratic catchphrases and memes. Even if they don't succeed in broadening the scope of the investigation to include violence and property damage in anti-racism demonstrations, they'll find ways to hang all that around the necks of Democrats. They'll say any law enforcement failures were all Nancy Pelosi's fault. They'll never concede that this was a brutal threat to democracy by their party's voters on behalf of a president from their party. And whatever they say will be believed by nearly half the country.

After two Trump impeachments and the early stages of this process, I've had enough. I think Democrats should simply give up on the notion that "accountability" is possible for Republicans. It's not just that they resist it. They pay no price for resisting it. Resisting it endears them to their voters.

Nothing Democrats do and nothing they reveal will lead to second thoughts among Republican voters. We know this because nothing revealed in either of Trump's impeachments disillusioned them. Quite the opposite: It unified them in opposition to the accountability seekers.

When Democrats beg Republicans to put country over party, they reinforce the mistaken notion that the GOP might someday actually do that. That sends a signal that if Democrats can't come to terms with Republicans, then it must be the Democrats' fault -- after all, the Democrats say it's possible to reason with the GOP.

Enough. Better for Democrats to just accept that accountability is impossible, and to tell the public that a real reckoning can't happen because Republicans will always prevent it from happening. The only way to get to the truth is to vote Republicans out.

SOME DEMOCRATIC VOTERS' TRUMP DISGUST IS NOT TRANSFERABLE, APPARENTLY

This isn't good:
Democratic poll finds Donald Trump loyalists highly engaged ahead of 2022

A poll from a Democratic firm shows Republican voters aligned with former President Donald Trump and engaged in midterm politics. That finding is only intensified in battleground states, including Florida.

The Greenberg Research poll focused on voter intensity levels in the states and Congressional Districts that will likely decide who controls Congress after 2022. It found 68% of Republican voters report the highest level of interest in the midterms, compared to 57% of Democrats....

“We were also surprised by how much Donald Trump’s loyalist party is totally consolidated at this early point in its 2022 voting and how engaged it is,” Greenberg writes. “Yes, they have pulled back from historic presidential year levels: the percent scoring 10, the highest level of interest in the election, has fallen from 84 to 68%. But Democrats’ engagement fell from 85% to 57%. Republicans are following their political theater much more closely than are Democrats — producing an 11-point gap.“

... “This survey shows what are the true drivers of GOP identity — the deep hostility to Black Lives Matter, undocumented immigrants, and Antifa,” Greenberg writes. “And imagine their reaction to the flood of unaccompanied children at the border, the guilty verdict in Minneapolis, and Black Lives Matter protests after each police shooting of unarmed Blacks.”

Yet “alarmingly, Democrats are barely following politics,” he writes.
It's possible that Greenberg is being an Eeyore -- he says, here and in his reports on previous surveys, that he's oversampling Trumpy right-wing populists to compensate for the apparent undersampling of them that led to significant polling errors in 2020. But Donald Trump won't be on the ballot in 2022. The last time he wasn't on the ballot, in 2018, Democrats took back the House (and the polls were accurate, even though they didn't oversample Trumpers).

But if Greenberg is right, Democrats have a problem.

Many Democrats -- not the politically engaged ones, but the ones who aren't, or would rather not be -- voted for Joe Biden in part because they wanted a president they could ignore. They got their wish. Biden is mature, steady, and responsible. He doesn't wake up every morning asking himself how he can stir up the most trouble.

But that means that these Democratic voters are tuning politics out. Republicans aren't, because Fox and the rest of the right-wing media have learned how to turn politics into pro wrestling, an ongoing drama based on notions of pure good and pure evil (except that most of the fans don't realize how much of what the right-wing media reports is fake).

The other problem is that Democrats haven't found a way to transfer Biden voters' anti-Trump anger to other Republicans. This is something I talk about all the time, and I expect I'll never see the Democratic Party acknowledge the problem or do anything to fix it: Democrats simply refuse to say, "The Republican Party is bad," or "The Republican Party stands for things you don't like, while the Democratic Party stands for things you do like," or even "The awful individual Republicans you see on the news -- Greene, Gaetz, Giuliani -- are really the embodiment of the Republican Party." Democrats (and the mainstream media) still debate whether the Republican Party is really the party of Donald Trump, even though the answer is obvious.

We say that this is an age of extreme partisan polarization, but that doesn't apply to much of the Democratic electorate. These voters loathe Trump, and loathed George W. Bush at the end of his term, and loathed Newt Gingrich in 1998, but they don't loathe Republicans. And that's why Democrats are at risk of another bad midterm cycle in 2022.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

REPUBLICANS DON'T THINK JANUARY 6 WAS A BIG DEAL -- HERE'S WHY

No surprise:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will oppose a bipartisan deal announced last week that would form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, his office announced Tuesday.
In a statement, he said, among other things:
... given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation.
And we know what that means:
McCarthy, like many Republicans, has sought to broadly equate the violence Jan. 6 with the racial justice protests last summer.... Since the riot at the Capitol, this has been a common refrain.... It’s never been a robust analogy, for a number of reasons, including that there’s an obvious difference between, say, declaring a few blocks of Seattle to be an autonomous jurisdiction and trying to forcefully prevent Congress from finalizing the results of a national election.
Republicans, of course, believe that the violence of the anti-racism protests was relentless, widespread, and massively destructive, because that's how it's described in their media bubble. But there's another reason the whataboutism makes sense on the right.

Republicans downplay the amount of violence that took place on January 6, and many absurdly ascribe it to Antifa and Black Lives Matter provocateurs -- but they also don't care because, as far as their concerned, the target of the violence wasn't very important. It's just the government.

They say they love America, and they believe they have a monopoly on that sentiment, but they don't believe that the government is part of what makes America America. Guns are America. Trump rallies are America. Capitalism and football used to be America, until they became -- say it with me, boys and girls -- "woke."

But the government isn't America. Government is evil. Oh, sure, when there's a Republican president, it's considered unpatriotic to criticize him, but that's because Republican presidents should be allowed to do whatever they want without constraint -- especially by the rest of the government.

So January 6 was no big deal to them. They don't care about the system of government laid out in our laws. They'd have been happy to live in a Trump dictatorship, or a Reagan dictatorship, or a Bush/Cheney dictatorship from 9/11 through the end of Bush's first term. But they have no love for our actual government. What the insurrectionists did on January 6 was not an attack on anything they value.

I DON'T BELIEVE THEY'LL FULLY OVERTURN ROE IN AN ELECTION YEAR

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, after months of dithering. Slate's Mark Joseph Stern writes:
It seems that the justices struggled with the decision to take up Dobbs. The court has been sitting on the case since September 2020, when [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg was still alive. It rescheduled and relisted Dobbs for more than eight months, a nearly unprecedented amount of time. This dawdling probably signifies a battle behind the scenes, with the liberal justices lobbying their conservative colleagues—[Brett] Kavanaugh and [Amy Coney] Barrett in particular—to stay out of the abortion debate for the good of the court. It takes four votes to grant a case, and [Chief Justice John] Roberts obviously has little taste for abortion disputes. So, we can deduce that either Kavanaugh, Barrett, or both ultimately decided it was time to take on Roe.
It's hard to imagine Barrett, in particular, being hesitant. I don't know the specifics, but it seems to me that if the Republicans on the Court wanted to gut Roe v. Wade, they would have wanted to do it as early as possible in an election cycle, rather than less than a year before a presidential or midterm election, so the decision wouldn't be fresh in the minds of Democratic voters. Now, as New York magazine's Ed Kilgore notes, a decision in the case "is likely in the spring or early summer of 2022" -- months before the midterms.

My main assumption about this Supreme Court is that its primary goal isn't to fight religious culture wars -- it's to keep electing pro-plutocrat Republicans, albeit through means that appear to be lawful (which is why the Court didn't back Donald Trump's transparently phony election challenges). The main goal is to rubber-stamp election laws -- in areas of campaign finance, gerrymandering, and protection of voting rights, among others -- that enable Republican victories forever.

A ruling that guts Roe threatens the project of electing Republicans. On the other hand, a ruling that doesn't gut Roe demotivates Republican voters. So I expect a ruling that will batter Roe but leave it standing, if barely. The portion of the Democratic electorate that isn't deeply engaged in politcs will regard the decision as tolerable, while the right will understand that change has been made.

Tierney Sneed of Talking Points Memo writes:
For years, anti-abortion activists have put their energy towards passing so-called gestational bans that banned abortions at points in the pregnancy earlier than viability, such as 20 week bans (when, supposedly, the fetus could potentially feel pain) or when a heartbeat is detected (between six and eight weeks).

“It makes a lot of sense to press on” the concept of viability, [Jessie] Hill [of Case Western Reserve University law school] said. “Because if you sort of make the court throw up his hand and say, ‘We don’t actually know. If this is a messy medical, scientific question, maybe we should just let it sit, let states decide what it means and whatever it is they want to rely on.'”

With that deference, states could then get creative in putting forward rationales that would allow them to to ban abortions earlier and earlier in the pregnancy, if not outright, Hill said.

That kind of decision would let the courts essentially gut Roe while claiming they were not reversing it, Hill said. That kind decision may be in keeping with Chief Justice John Roberts’ reported desire to navigate the court away from decisions that are so drastic, they shred the court’s credibility altogether. But abortion rights groups won’t see it that way.
I'm guessing the Court will say that 15-week bans are fine while suggesting that 6-week bans might not be acceptable, so the decision seems "centrist."

This Court will never stop attacking Roe but might never have the honesty to reject it outright. The time to do that would be after a sweeping Republican victory that leaves the party with a cushion of several seats in the House and Senate -- and then the ruling should come down more than a year before the next election.

The current wave of new election laws in Republican states might get the party closer to that moment. Then we might see Roe fully overturned.

Monday, May 17, 2021

WE MUST BE THE WORLD'S MOST INEPT TOTALITARIANS

Breitbart reports:
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Monday concluded that U.S. health agencies’ past guidance on masks was “always about power,” citing the reactions of “some Democrats,” whom he said are “mad about the CDC’s new mask guidance.” ...

And the way you know Democrats are trying to defy the new CDC guidelines is that ... um, the Democratic president of the United States and the 2016 Democratic candidate for president of the United States are urging Americans to follow th ose guidelines.
Jordan’s remarks follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance released last week. Per the guidance, fully vaccinated individuals can:
...resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
... President Biden and other Democrat officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated, with the commander-in-chief going as far as issuing an ultimatum: “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. The choice is yours”:


Twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also pushed vaccinations this week, pitching them as the way to “get your life back.” ...

If Democrats really wanted to control everyone's life indefinitely, wouldn't Biden and Clinton be encouraging people not to get vaccinated? After all, the CDC says we liberal fascists can no longer brutally subjugate vaccinated people by means of a tiny piece of cloth. We should be scaremongering about the shots in our insatiable quest for ABSOLUTE POWER! We should talking up every side effect, every blood clot, every flu-like symptom.

But we aren't. We're urging people to free themselves. And that, to Jim Jordan and Breitbart, is proof that, all along, we wanted people permanently enslaved.