Wednesday, June 30, 2021


Donald Rumsfeld is dead, and all of this is true:

If you're too young to remember: Yes, that last sentence is true. A lot of folks were crazy with lust for Rumsfeld.

And not just self-identified Republicans.
“Sixty-nine years old, and you’re America’s stud,” Tim Russert told Rumsfeld when he interviewed him on NBC‘s Meet the Press (1/20/02); Larry King informed him that “you now have this new image called sex symbol” (CNN‘s Larry King Live, 12/06/01). Fox News‘ Jim Angle (12/11/01) called him “a babe magnet for the 70-year-old set.”

“I love you, Donald,” Margaret Carlson announced on CNN‘s Capital Gang (12/23/01), where the Time magazine columnist appears regularly in the role of left-of-center pundit.
Though it was mostly Republicans who lost their minds.

In the past, [Midge] Decter (who is usually characterized, along with her husband, Norman Podhoretz, as a neocon but who might more accurately be called simply a con) has written often and gloomily about changes in sexual mores: liberated women, promiscuous women, and gay men all seemed to her to portend a rise in childish hedonism and a decline in moral fibre. But recently she began to sense a different, better sort of sexual change in the air: she noticed that Donald Rumsfeld had become a sex symbol....

In her [Rumsfeld biography], Decter concludes that Rumsfeld’s secret is “manliness” (italics hers), a quality that in her estimation has something to do with being a grandfather and something to do with prairies.... She blows him warm kisses (“He works standing up at a tall writing table, as if energy, or perhaps determination, might begin to leak away from too much sitting down”), and warmer ones (“this was the stuff—no other word would do—of glamour”), and even warmer ones (“Oh, Rumsfeld,” a friend coos, “I just love the man!”)....
This all happened a couple of years after George W. Bush was elected as a pious antidote to Bill Clinton's libidinousness, which, we were told, had disgusted all of America. But as is usually the case, when Republicans complain about something Democrats do, it's not because they object to it on principle -- it's because they want to be the ones doing it. After the first weeks of the Iraq War, Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" and Lisa Schiffren, a former speechwriter for Bush's father's vice president, Dan Quayle, wrote a fevered column for The Wall Street Journal declaring that there was a new stud in town.
I had the most astonishing thought last Thursday. After a long day of hauling the kids to playdates and ballet, I turned on the news. And there was the president, landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, stepping out of a fighter jet in that amazing uniform, looking--how to put it?--really hot. Also presidential, of course. Not to mention credible as commander in chief. But mostly "hot," as in virile, sexy and powerful....

Alexandra, an unmarried event planner in her 30s, e-mailed: "Hot? SO HOT!!!!! THAT UNIFORM!" ... Suzi, who did her mom time and now writes biographies, also began with restraint. I asked, casually, what she thought about President Bush. She answered, carefully, "He's so confident. He is a very credible, trustworthy leader." "Yeah," I pursue, "but do you think he's sexy?" "Oh God, yes," she said. "I mean, that swagger. George Bush in a pair of jeans is a treat to watch."
Rumsfeld and Bush were seen as unlike Clinton -- traditionalist and faithful to their spouses. But the first year of the Iraq War was also the year that Republicans closed ranks around Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ran for governor of California in the recall election that deposed Democrat Gray Davis, and who was elected despite Clintonian sex scandals.

It infuriates Republicans that their men aren't seen as the most undisputably alpha of alphas, which explains why the aging, Donald Trump, seen through the GOP's rose-colored glasses, is a hot stud with the hottest of wives.

But it will never stop being bizarre that the old, nasty, preening, self-important Rumsfeld got this treatment.


Politico has a story about the proposed select committee on the January 6 Capitol riots, in which we're told that there are potential staffing problems that -- wow! -- nobody could have foreseen!
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have the final say over the panel’s GOP members, assuming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appoints them at all. But many in her caucus are still anxious about the prospect of Republicans starting another bitter fight by trying to appoint members who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s win on Jan. 6.

Even worse, in their minds, would be GOP riot investigators who some Democrats view as having abetted the attack.
Pelosi has "final say" -- so will she use her power to prevent conspiracy-theory endorsers (and actual conspiratorialists) from sitting on the panel? It's complicated!
The speaker declined to say Tuesday whether she would veto any GOP select panel members who opposed certifying Biden's victory.
Of course she should veto any panel members who opposed certifying Biden's victory! Obviously!

Draw a firm line in the sand and stick to it. That's what Republicans do all the time. Many of their lines in the sand are reprehensible: We can't possibly hold a hearing on a Democratic president's Supreme Court nominee in the last year of his term! But of course we can confirm a Republican president's High Court appointee mere weeks before an election!

The public doesn't know what's appropriate. Republican take advantage of this lack of knowledge by asserting that whatever they want to do is appropriate, and then holding firm; eventually, the public just accepts that that's the way things ought to be. In this case, Democrats would be right to ban election truthers. So McCarthy's chess move will probably be to name only election truthers, including some of the worst of the worst. Pelosi will respond by accepting some of them. Advantage GOP.

Pelosi should finalize the selection of panel members by scheduling a public, televised hearing in which each potential member is asked one question: Who won the 2020 presidential election?

If you don't immediately answer "Joe Biden," you're out. If you hesitate, you're out. If you offer qualifications, you're out.

And don't try this dodge:
Notably, not every Democrat said it would be problematic for any Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s win on Jan. 6 to serve on the select panel.

Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) said she has spoken with several Republicans who opposed certification on the floor — because, “in the heat of the moment, [they] had planned to take that vote and took that vote” — but now publicly affirm Biden as the president.

“I would be more concerned about what their approach is now than a decision they made in a vote on Jan. 6,” Kuster said.
They "now publicly affirm Biden as the president"? That's not good enough. That's how a lot of Republicans are trying to have it both ways: They concede that Joe Biden is the president without conceding that he won the election. The message they're trying to send to the MAGA voters in their base is: Yes, because the Deep State and the radical Marxist Democrat Party have seized control as part of their fiendish plan to destroy America, Joe Biden is now the president, but he shouldn't be, because he didn't win the election.

Nope. Acknowledge Biden's win unhesitatingly or begone.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


Is this ... legal?
The South Dakota National Guard is deploying on mission to the U.S. southern border. And the operation is being funded by a billionaire, not the government....

Soldiers will serve on state active-duty orders, meaning that traditionally the state would cover the cost of the mission. However, in this case the tab is being picked up by the private Tennessee-based Willis and Reba Johnson's Foundation.

"The border is a national security crisis that requires the kind of sustained response only the National Guard can provide," South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, said in a statement Tuesday.
Whether or not this is legal, it seems wrong to allow a billionaire GOP donor to, in effect, turn a state's national guard into his private mercenaries.

But no Republican voter will find it inappropriate.

We know that, as Amanda Marcotte notes, GOP voters believe only they cast legitimate votes. Democrats don't.
... Trump's Big Lie speaks more to a deeper belief held by the right, which is that they and they alone deserve to rule. Anyone who votes against them, therefore, is inherently illegitimate. As Adam Serwer recently wrote in the New York Times, Republicans view the Democratic coalition of people of color and white liberals as "usurpers" and "Americans they consider unworthy of the name." Their belief that the election was stolen feels true, even if it is not literally true, because they ultimately don't think the people who voted for Biden should have had that right in the first place.
A corollary to this is that if you want a definition of what's legal, permissible, ethical, or consistent with American values, the answer is: whatever Republicans do. If they want this, it can't be wrong.

I should also note that this really isn't about immigration. Governor Noem wants to be elected president or vice president in 2024, and she knows that at least two other equally ambitious governors, Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas, are way ahead of her lately in lib-owning and base-rallying. She's been trying to get the base worked up by complaining that the federal government in the post-Trump era won't allow July 4 fireworks at Mount Rushmore. (Fireworks at the site regularly started wildfires until they were banned starting in 2010; President Trump brought them back in 2020.) This complaint has earned Noem multiple stories from Fox News, but it's not breaking through like stories about vote suppression or critical race theory. So Noem is upping the ante. You can expect an arms race from these three until we learn whether Donald Trump is running again in 2024.


Haven't I told you for years that Donald Trump will never spend a night in prison?
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has indicated he does not currently plan to charge the Trump Organization with crimes related to allegations of "hush money" payments and real estate value manipulations, according to a personal lawyer for Donald Trump.

Ronald Fischetti, a New York attorney who represents the former president, said on Monday that in a meeting last week, he asked Vance’s team for details on charges they were considering.

According to Fischetti, members of Vance’s team said they were considering bringing charges against the Trump Organization and its individual employees related to alleged failures to pay taxes on corporate benefits and perks....

“We asked, ‘Is there anything else?’” Fischetti told POLITICO. “They said, ‘No.’”

“It’s crazy that that’s all they had,” he added.

When asked if the meeting touched on allegations made by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and by adult film star and director Stormy Daniels, Fischetti replied, “Nothing. Not a word on that.”

Fischetti also said that Vance’s team told him they will not bring charges against Trump himself when the first indictment comes down.

“They just said, ‘When this indictment comes down, he won’t be charged. Our investigation is ongoing,’” he said.
This is coming from Trump's lawyers, so it might be spin. But if it's accurate, then we have a long way to go before this touches Trump himself, and it seems increasingly likely that it never will.

At the same time, Republicans appear to be working hard to ensure that the House select committee on the January 6 Capitol riots will be a big nothing.
Trump allies, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are already preparing for the Jan. 6 committee to turn into a partisan cage match. McCarthy has yet to indicate whether he plans to name Republicans to the panel, saying Monday night that he wants to hear more details before deciding.
McCarthy gets a say in picking five of the thirteen members of the committee...

... but it appears that he's weighing the option of not naming any Republicans at all. Then he and every other Republican in America can say "partisan witch hunt" multiple times a day until much of America shares that opinion of the committee.

Or McCarthy might name the worst blowhards.
Privately, lawmakers predict that McCarthy — if he opts to appoint members — will gravitate towards controllable Trump acolytes who can work to snarl the select committee's progress. Already some of the GOP's biggest firebrands are asking McCarthy to join the panel, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia publicly pushing to be seated on the panel. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is also openly expressing his interest. And Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado is also seeking to land a spot, according to GOP conference sources.
If there are McCarthy appointees on the committee at all, they'll be there to inject short, punchy, aggressive GOP talking points into the debate, as Democrats pursue the facts in their usual earnest but tedious way. It'll be futile, a third impeachment, and will change no minds. (I might feel differently about all this if I thought there'd be any Democrat on the committee with charisma and great communication skills. But we'll probably get the usual dullards.)

Yes, there might be a turncoat Republican on the committee.
... two of Trump's most active critics in the party, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), have declined to pull their names from consideration as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's potential GOP appointee to the committee.
But Cheney and Kinginger have become so vehemently opposed to the GOP as it's currently constituted that they won't read as Republicans.

And if you're hoping for a Perry Mason moment involving testimony from McCarthy, don't get your hopes up.
The vast majority of House Republicans who are wary of the select committee have their reasons: They claim it will be a partisan effort to attack Trump and warn that McCarthy could be called as a witness as Democrats seek further details from a profanity-laced phone call he had with the former president during the attack. McCarthy has said he's willing to testify and repeated that sentiment Friday, responding that "I have no problem talking about Trump."
He's just going to lie. Isn't that obvious? And no one will threaten to punish McCarthy for any dishonesty, even under oath. He'll lie and he'll get away with it.

If I'm wrong about any of this, I'll be pleasantly surprised, but I expect no accountability, and no new flashes of insight. Much of the public already understands that Trump is a crook and that January 6 was a violent act of sedition. I don't see how it benefits us to have proceedings in which the former president and his mob seem to get away with their crimes once again.

Let's concentrate on the future -- specifically, on preventing these creeps from returning to power in 2022 and 2024. Accountability for past crimes isn't coming.

Monday, June 28, 2021


I'm a bit late to this Salon interview with Rachel Bitecofer, the politcal scientist who boasts about predicting the results of the 2018 midterms exactly right, and who has now started a PAC to do more aggressive messaging on behalf of the Democratic Party than Democrats are accustomed to doing.

I know there are people who believe that Bitecofer isn't as perceptive as she claims to be, but I'm here for the message that Democrats need to do more messaging that says simply: We're good. The other party is bad -- and, in this moment especially, One reason to vote for us is that our opponents are crazy and dangerous. (They are, and yet for years they've gotten away with saying that Democrats are crazy and dangerous.)

The Salon piece links to several ads created by Bitecofer's Strike PAC. This one, called "Fuse," seems too harsh and off-putting. It equates Trump and Hitler, which is a leap for a lot of swing voters (and even for some moderate Democratic voters). But it certainly pushes back, which is a good thing.


I prefer the one called "Hold the Republican Party Accountable" -- no Hitler, just Trump saying, "Part of the problem is, nobody wants to hurt each other anymore" and Rudy Giuliani talking about "trial by combat" over January 6 footage. I like the fact that this one also offers clips from campaign ads in which Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert menacingly brandish firearms. (I'd like to see this sort of thing in every ad meant to drive up Democratic turnout.) The ad makes the point that January 6 wasn't the end of Trumpian extremism -- a good message when voters may feel they've already dealt with the threat.

Hold the Republican Party Accountable from STRIKE PAC on Vimeo.

And I really like the ad made for this year's Virginia gubernatorial election. It's called "Steal," and it very effectively hangs both January 6 and the GOP's nationwide vote suppression strategy around the neck of the party's candidate in the race. ("If Trump ally Glenn Youngkin and Republicans win here in Virginia, they'll come for your vote, too.")

STRIKE PAC - Steal from STRIKE PAC on Vimeo.

Would ads like these change the trajectory of electoral contests? I don't know -- but if there were enough ads like this, and maybe better ones, Republicans might no longer believe that they can engage in unlimited extremism with impunity. In the Salon interview, Bitecofer says,
... Democrats just assume, "Well everyone knows the Republican Party is extreme."

Actually, the average person on the street, if they're not one of the 10% of people like us and your readers, you ask them about the Republican Party and they are apt to say, "Low taxes, right?"

There's no media ecosystem that's focused on how crazy the Republican Party is.... There's no intensive conversation about what the Republican Party has been doing for the last five years as it has progressively fallen down the pathway towards fascism.
There's also no conversation about how far to the right of the average American Republicans already were, even before Trump, on guns, abortion, the minimum wage, healthcare, taxation of extreme wealth, and many other issues. These ads fixate on Trump and the Capitol riot, which could lead some viewers to believe that the GOP's problems are Trump-specific. But thy're a step in the right direction.

I know that if Democrats and their allies began running ads like this on a regular basis, they'd be accused of worsening America's political polarization. But mainstream pundits tend to bothsides polarization anyway, so if Democrats are already being accused of being as polarizing as Republicans, maybe they should actually do some polarizing.

All Democrats are made to pay a cost when some of them talk about defunding the police or abolishing ICE. Republican extremism -- which the GOP actually puts into effect nationwide -- shouldn't be cost-free.


Yesterday, The Atlantic published Jonathan Karl's interview with Bill Barr, who was a Donald Trump hatchetman as attorney general until he broke with Trump in early December 2020, telling a reporter that Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential were unjustified.
Barr’s betrayal came on December 1, over lunch in the attorney general’s private dining room with Michael Balsamo, a Justice Department beat reporter at the Associated Press. Also in attendance were the DOJ chief of staff, Will Levi, and spokesperson Kerri Kupec. Balsamo was not told the reason for the invitation. When Barr dropped his bombshell between bites of salad, he mumbled, and Balsamo wasn’t sure that he had caught what the attorney general had said.

“Just to be crystal clear,” Balsamo asked, “are you saying—”

“Sir, I think you better repeat what you just said,” Kupec interjected.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr repeated. This time Balsamo heard him.

Balsamo’s story appeared on the AP newswire shortly after lunch ended: “Disputing Donald Trump’s persistent baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.”

The story blew a hole in the president’s claims. Nobody seriously questioned Barr’s conservative credentials or whether he had been among Trump’s most loyal cabinet secretaries. His conclusion sent a definitive message that the effort to overturn the election was without merit.
Karl portrays Barr as someone who never believed there was anything about the election that was worth contesting. ("But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”) In November, Barr's Justice Department launched a probe of alleged election irregularities, in violation of department policy against getting involved in such disputes immediately after an election, but, Karl tells us, Barr was sure all along that the probes would come to nothing.

Today, on CNN's website, Elie Honig, a formal federal prosecutor, reminds us that Barr certainly acted as if election irregularities were a problem before the election.
In a June 2020 interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, Barr offered up a familiar-sounding rant about the looming threat of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election. Barr opined that mail-in ballots present "so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed. I think it would be very bad." He also raised "the possibility of counterfeiting." But when pressed on whether he had evidence to support this claim, he responded, "No, it's obvious."

And in congressional testimony weeks later, in July 2020, Barr tried and failed again to conjure the demon of massive voter fraud. After he pushed the notion that foreign countries might generate fraudulent mail-in ballots, Democratic representative Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania pushed back, sensibly asking, "But, in fact, you have no evidence that foreign countries can successfully sway our elections with counterfeit ballots, do you?" "No, I don't," Barr conceded, before adding this non sequitur of a rejoinder: "But I have common sense."
In a CNN interview in September 2020, Barr misrepresented a Texas election case -- Barr said investigators had found 1,700 fraudulent ballots when only one such ballot was found.

So Barr was pushing the "fraud" line before Election Day. But why not afterward? I think the answer to this is also the answer to the question "Why did many Republicans at the state and local levels refuse to help Trump steal the election?"

When it comes to manipulating the electoral process in order to try to win more frequently, there appear to be two kinds of Republicans. Some want to win using all possible methods, including crude tactics that don't rely on facts and don't appear plausible except to other right-wing zealots. That's the approach of Trump and the MAGA purists.

The rest of the party -- so far the majority, although this cohort is shrinking rapidly -- also wants to win through electoral manipulation, but wants the manipulation to be concealed effectively. This group wants Republican wins to seem legitimate, even when they aren't.

Pre-2020 Republican electoral manipulation generally fell into the latter category. If you impose ID requirements on (mostly Democratic) voters who have trouble obtaining the required identification, if you close motor vehicle offices so (mostly Democratic) voters can't obtain IDs, if you purge voter rolls in legitimate-seeming ways while actually dropping qualified (Democratic) voters, if you shutter polling places in Democratic strongholds, most Americans won't be paying much attention to the manipulation -- all they'll see is a GOP win once votes are counted. Also, if it's the year 2000 and you never allow it to appear as if Al Gore has a lead in Florida or a plausible path to victory, then his loss looks legitimate, except to Democratic partisans.

Before the election, Barr was eager to create a case for Democratic voter fraud that had a surface plausibility -- but after the election, he knew that Trump's plan was to fight in a way that strained credulity with middle-of-the-road observers. We can see this in one passage from Jonathan Karl's Atlantic piece. It recounts a conversation Barr says he had with Trump shortly after Barr spoke with the AP reporter:
“You know, Mr. President, there are 662 precincts in Wayne County,” Barr said. Trump seemed taken aback that he knew the exact number. “It’s the only county with all the boxes going to a central place, and you actually did better there this time around than you did last time. You keep on saying that the Department of Justice is not looking at this stuff, and we are looking at it in a responsible way. But your people keep on shoveling this shit out.”

... Trump ranted about other examples of fraud....

“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr said. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”
Barr isn't saying, Don't embarrass yourself by claiming fraud where there isn't any, Mr. President. He's saying, Mr. President, if you wanted to claim fraud where there isn't any, you should have had very high-powered lawyers in place and been ready with a much more plausible-sounding line of bullshit.

So Honig is right about Barr's conduct before the election, but Karl's story might not be a total whitewash. Barr might have been genuinely disgusted -- not because Trump was peddling falsehoods, but because he was so obvious about it.

Sunday, June 27, 2021


According to the Washington Examiner, there's a new poll that suggests Joe Biden is in deep trouble.
The Biden administration is failing big time with its inability to control illegal immigration, adding it to one of several issues that could doom Democrats if left unchecked.

In a new Harvard/Harris poll, an overwhelming 80% said that illegal immigration is a serious issue and one that needs more attention than what President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris are giving.

What’s more, 68% said that signals from Biden’s White House are encouraging illegal immigration, and 55% believe that former President Donald Trump’s border closing policies should have been left in place.

Pollster Mark Penn sized up the results this way: “Immigration is boiling up as an issue.”

Add it to increasing voter concerns about inflation, taxes, and the critical race theory controversy, and this could be a summer of woe for Democrats. “These are not good numbers for Democrats,” said an adviser to House Republicans.
This is odd because, when I click over to the detailed poll results, I see that the president's numbers are just fine, if occasionally presented somewhat oddly.

(Do you see a "shift" there? I don't. The only persistent change I see is a decline in Biden's "strongly disapprove" numbers.)

Biden has majority support for his handling of many issues -- including, yes, immigration:

But all this is in the first part of the survey. The second part of the survey, by former Clinton strategist turned Fox News regular and Trump adviser Mark Penn, was either a push poll or an effort to test the effectiveness of Republican anti-Biden messaging.

So, yes, 85% of survey respondents are concerned about inflation (although, disappointingly for Penn and the GOP, 55% have at least some confidence in Biden's ability to stave it off).

An overwhelming majority of respondents (78%) think Biden should sign a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and not hold out for a larger bill. However, that's what's they say when "hold out" is part of the question. When they're asked about two bills, they're in favor of more money (sorry, Mark).

And that's true even though the additional cash is described as "social spending."

But yes, 80% of survey respondents believe illegal immigration is a serious issue -- though when they're asked to name the three most important issues facing America today, they're less inclined to name immigration (24% named it, down from 31% in Penn's previous survey, probably because Fox News has shifted from wall-to-wall CRISIS AT THE BORDER!!! to CRITICAL RACE THEORY WILL DESTROY AMERICA!!!). But Penn lays it on thick here, with questions such as "Is the flood of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minor children the fault of the Biden administration or the Trump administration?" and "Do you think climate change, racism and sexism are root causes of migration from South and Central America or are they not the root causes?" Penn mostly gets the responses he wants to these questions, as well as to questions such as "Do you believe that kids in elementary school should be taught that America is structurally racist and is dominated by white supremacy or should they not be taught this?"

But Biden is still at 59% approval. Maybe that number would have gone done if respondents had been asked again at the end of the survey what they think of Biden -- a responsible pollster who was upfront about using the survey to do partisan message testing would have asked them again, but Penn didn't.

However, this kind of right-wing framing doesn't reach everybody in America, and as a result, Biden's numbers remain strong.


There's one disturbing result in the first part of the poll:

The Democratic Party also has positive numbers (holding steady at 55% approval, 45% disapproval), so at least some respondents approve of both parties, which may be a consequence of a generalized optimism. (Most respondents in this survey think the economy is strong, and even Congress gets high marks.) But we should be worried if more than half the public approves of the modern GOP. It suggests that prostrating themselves before Trump makes Republicans look better, not worse, in much of the public's eyes, and that Democrats' talk of bipartisanship is also making Republicans look better. That's not good for Democrats as we approach 2022 and 2024.

Or perhaps this result is completely unreliable. It certainly doesn't jibe with what other pollsters are telling us:

In a sane country, the party of Trump, Greene, Gaetz and Gosar would struggle to reach 30% approval. Whichever one of these polls is closer to accurate, the GOP's numbers are too high.

Saturday, June 26, 2021


Politico Playbook tells us that President Biden isn't trying to be a Green Lantern president.
On Thursday, the president helped finalize a bipartisan agreement on an infrastructure deal....

Biden didn’t resort to browbeating. He didn’t attempt some Sorkin-esque stemwinder of a speech to win over skeptical senators. Instead, a patient, low-profile approach to negotiations did the trick; right up until Republicans accused him of changing the terms by conditioning it all on the passage of trillions more in spending via reconciliation....

The president who derives his influence from browbeating, arm-twisting and delivering Sorkin-like drama is a myth. It exists only in activists’ (and screenwriters) fantasies, sporadically reemerging as frustrations with the political system’s rigidities mount.

The desire for it became so predominant during the Obama era that the term Green Lanternism was coined to describe it. The academic who came up with the name [was] BRENDAN NYHAN, a poli sci professor at ... Dartmouth....
But what we saw in these negotiations -- and in last year's presidential campaign -- was Green Lanternism. Middle-of-the-road pundits and voters said that the federal government was hopelessly gridlocked, while progressives wanted a Democratic presidency that got things done. Biden assured us that cutting through partisan roadblocks was his superpower. Biden wasn't an intimidator like Lyndon Johnson in these infrastructure negotiations, but he wants us to believe that patience and dogged persistence are his substitutes for Johnsonesque intimidation.

The political scientists have a point: It doesn't seem to work. A few Republicans agreed to a deal, then party members expressed phony shock when Biden made clear that he intended to pursue a separate infrastructure package via reconciliation, with just Democratic votes, in tandem with the package the bipartisan negotiators had worked out (something they already knew Democrats intended to do).

I agree that Green Lanternism isn't a good way to win a battle over a particular piece of legislation -- members of Congress are rarely swayed by impassioned rhetoric (what Nyhan calls the Reagan version of Green Lanternism) or negotiating tactics (the Lyndon Johnson version).

But I think Nyhan and others underestimate the power of presidential pronouncements. They don't flip votes in Congress, but they can alter narratives, or create new ones.

Donald Trump's behavior in the aftermath of the 2020 election was pure Green Lanternism: He thought he could rally the country to overturn the election on his behalf. It didn't achieve its goal, of course -- he's not the president anymore. But in one way it did work: His base now believes that Democratic cheating in elections is massive, that it proceeds on multiple tracks (everything from overseas satellite manipulation to overnight deliveries of phony paper ballots), and that it's part of a global deep-state elitist plot to control the world (and, in the process, brutalize children).

Green Lanternism doesn't win immediate legislative battles, but it can alter the course of battles in the future. Biden's rhetoric on bipartisanship has inspired Democrats to work hard at reaching bipartisan agreements. Republicans are taking full advantage, while Democrats are getting jammed:

If Biden were to declare that he's tried and tried but the quest for bipartisanship is futile, it might send a lantern signal that changes the way Democrats fight future battles. As it is, he seems to be Green Lanterning us to a dead end.

Friday, June 25, 2021


If you're excited about this New York Times story, I understand. I'm not:
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges against the Trump Organization and the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, as soon as next week, the people said....

Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.

Prosecutors are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.
As the story notes:
It would be highly unusual to indict a company just for failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits, said several lawyers who specialize in tax rules. None of them could cite any recent example, noting that many companies provide their employees with perks like company cars.

Still, an indictment of Mr. Trump’s company could deal a significant blow to the former president just as he has flirted with a return to politics.
From this report, you'd almost think that the DA's office is trying to give Trump and his backers ammunition as they argue that the former president is being singled out for a witch hunt. Why issue indictments on charges that others in similar circumstances wouldn't face? Why give the extremely immoral Trumpers a chance at what seems to be the moral high ground?

Of course, this story is probably based on Trumpworld's spin:

Yup. Here's that NBC story, with more self-righteous anger from Team Trump.
“They could not get Allen Weisselberg to cooperate and tell them what they wanted to hear, and that’s why they are going forward with these charges," Fischetti said. "They could not get him to cooperate because he would not say that Donald Trump had knowledge or any information that he may have been not deducting properly the use of cars or an apartment."
The right-wing noise machine will now be set in motion, with pious declarations like this one from National Review's Dan McLaughlin:
A target was chosen — Trump — because of his political prominence, and an indictment is being considered in a case where a business without political prominence would face no such threat. This is doubly dangerous because it involves going after a former president of the United States, with the apparent goal of building a criminal case against him.... If Trump — before, during, or after his presidency — unambiguously broke a clear law for which an ordinary person would be prosecuted, such as shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, Vance would have a duty to prosecute him. But trumped-up charges against former leaders are a familiar sight in banana republics, one that America has thus far avoided. Mounting a prosecution against a former president — especially a former president who was investigated extensively in office without the bringing of charges by the self-styled “Resistance” — is a grave step for the nation and its confidence in the rule of law.
It's possible that Trump's spinners are mischaracterizing what Vance intends to do and when he intends to do it -- and are timing their leak for the day before Trump's first post-presidential rally, in order to induce maximum MAGA outrage. (Or, I suppose, Trump might have timed his rally to get ahead of the first indictments.)

But if the report is accurate, then McLaughlin is almost right. It's not that Trump is being persecuted -- he's obviously a crook and has been throughout his adult life -- but it's not good if it appears that he's being persecuted.

As it unfolds, I hope the prosecution of Trump and his associates seems like justice to everyone but the cult members. But in order for it to seem that way, Vance needs a lot more than this.


As I told you in my last post, Mike Pence gave a speech last night at the Reagan Presidential Library in which he proudly defended the Donald Trump presidency, but also said he made the right decision on January 6 when he didn't step in to try to overturn the results of the presidential election.

So how did Fox News respond?

So far, at, the response has been silence -- there isn't a single story about this speech. There's nothing at the Daily Caller, the Daily Wire, or Townhall.

At Breitbart, there's a story on the speech, but Pence's remarks about January 6 go unmentioned until the 25th paragraph. Prior to that, we get Pence as a loyal soldier for Trump and the GOP, and a proud retransmitter of all the party's rage messages:
Mike Pence: GOP Is the ‘Last Line of Defense for our Constitution and our American Heritage of Freedom’

Former Vice President Mike Pence invoked former President Trump’s America First agenda and warned on Thursday the Democrat Party’s agenda is “so radical that it is taking us ‘beyond’ the designs of liberalism,” adding that the Republican Party stands as the “last line of defense for our Constitution and our American heritage of freedom....

“President Trump taught us what Republicans can accomplish when leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down,” he said, touting the accomplishments made throughout the Trump-Pence administration....

Invoking the former president, Pence highlighted Trump’s warning that a nation without borders is not a nation and knocked the Biden administration for unleashing what he described as the “worst crisis in history on our southern border.” ...

The former Vice President called to end the Defund the Police movement, take a stand against Cancel Culture, and continue to oppose the left’s efforts to:
...rewrite American history through initiatives like the 1619 Project, and in the spirit of our administration’s 1776 Commission, the Republican Party in the years ahead must make school choice the right of every American ... and eliminate Critical Race Theory at every level.
... “Our Party must ensure that Critical Race Theory is expelled from our schools, our military, and our public institutions,” he said to applause.
Pence's remarks about the election are buried at the end of the story. Why? And why aren't they being talked about at other right-wing sites? Why isn't Pence being portrayed as a villainous RINO, someone deserving of right-wing hate?

I think the folks who run conservative media are afraid to make Pence a villain because he's still reasonably effective at transmitting GOP propaganda (as the Breitbart story makes clear), because (unlike Liz Cheney) he's still happy to lick Trump's boots -- and because, if Trump doesn't run in 2024 and there's a crowded primary lane of MAGA purists and a much less crowded non-purist lane, they think Pence might just emerge as the nominee, at which point it will be necessary to portray him as a Hero of the Cause. (In a new Echelon Insights poll of a Trumpless GOP primary field, Pence is one of only two candidates in double digits, at 14%, behind Ron DeSantis, who's at 21%.)

Even the right-wing press might believe the mainstream conventional wisdom, which is that Trump's popularity is rapidly fading. I think it's possible that Trump won't run in 2024 and won't seek to play kingmaker either. But the GOP's previous demigod, Ronald Reagan, died years ago and was sidelined by dementia before that, yet if you wanted to be seen as a Republican in good standing you didn't dare criticize him. That's more or less where Trump is now. Even if he were never to make another public appearance or utterance, he's sacrosanct, except to a small percentage of the party (not much more than 14%).

I don't think Pence can win the nomination in 2024. But the right-wing press does, so it's keeping its options open.

Thursday, June 24, 2021


As the 2008 presidential campaign was getting underway, Very Smart People predicted that some Republican (other than Ron Paul) would break from the pack and turn against George W. Bush's Iraq War. We were told that this would be a shrewd, savvy way for the apostate to distinguish himself from the rest of the field, and it would align the apostate with public opinion, which had turned sharply negative on the war.

I said it would never happen. It never happened.

It was obvious that it would never happen. Supporting the Iraq War was a key part of Republican tribal solidarity. People on the left had denounced the war for years; no one put it this way back then, but continuing to back the war was a way of owning the libs. (And then the dead-ender candidate the Republicans ultimately chose, John McCain, suffered a brutal defeat, while Democrats won large majorities in Congress.)

It's not clear whether backing Donald Trump is as suicidal for Republicans as backing the Iraq War was in 2008. But if we know anything about Republicans, we know that their cardinal rule is "No enemies on the right" -- which means that what Tom LoBianco, a Pence biographer, writes at Insider is farfetched (paywalled article, but readable here):
ANALYSIS: Pence is positioned to counterattack Trump

Thursday night might finally be the night former Vice President Mike Pence — a man with his own 2024 presidential ambitions — starts striking back at Donald Trump, who almost got him killed six months ago.

... hecklers at a recent Christian conservative conference in Florida may have provided just the impetus for Pence to finally break from Trump, after five years of stunning obedience.

The jeers shook Pence and his team to the core, said one Republican close to Pence. "They got stung last week when the crowd booed him. It showed the difficulty of this path." ...

Pence's speech on Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Library is about the future of the Republican Party and aptly named, "A Time for Choosing".

And Pence choosing this moment to stand apart from Trump, who faces significant legal peril and a hint of softening popularity among hardcore conservatives, may mark his best shot to unofficially launch his own quest for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination....

It's clear the hardcore Trump loyalists in the Republican base are unlikely to ever support Pence so long as Trump considers running in 2024.

But it's also clear that this group is steadily shrinking.
It's conventional wisdom that Trump's hardcore base is shrinking, but as long as support for Trump is the ultimate middle finger to the libs, and as long as no one stokes right-wing rage more effectively than he does, making a clean break with him will mean the end of any Republican's political career. I continue to believe that any GOP pol who makes such a break will be a pariah at least until 2024, even if Trump is in prison by then.

Maybe LoBianco knows something I don't. Maybe Pence really is planning to repudiate Trump. But it's hard to imagine that sort of backbone from a congenital bootlicker like Pence. (The famous e.e. cummings poem "a politician is an arse upon / which everyone has sat except a man" seems as if it was written for him.)

LoBianco isn't certain this will happen.
Some Republicans familiar with both Trump and Pence are skeptical he will ever fully break from Trump....

Tonight, expect Pence to play some of his greatest hits, touting work on Coronavirus vaccines (despite deep opposition to getting vaccinated from the Republican base), his work moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and curbing protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

... wait to learn if Pence makes the riskiest but most politically necessary move of all: coming at Trump, the still-reigning king of the Republican Party.
It's possible that Pence will make vague noises about how Republicans shouldn't engage in name-calling or undermining democracy, without ever having the spine to mention Trump by name. But if I'm right and Pence doesn't reject Trump, journalists will still tell you that some A-list presidential hopeful will break with Trump eventually. And it will never happen.


UPDATE: He delivered the speech and tried to have it both ways.
In a speech, former Vice President Mike Pence went the furthest he has gone yet in distancing himself from Donald Trump and the Capitol riot. But he still praised the former president and his agenda....

“I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” Mr. Pence said, noting that as vice president, he had no constitutional authority to reject or return electoral votes submitted to Congress by the states. “The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
he spent much of his speech reciting what he said were Mr. Trump’s accomplishments on many issues, including free trade, border security and relations with China. “President Trump changed the national consensus on China,” he said.

Mr. Pence also compared Mr. Trump to former President Ronald Reagan.

“He too disrupted the status quo,” Mr. Pence said. “He challenged the establishment. He invigorated our movement and set a bold new course for America.”
Comparing Trump to Reagan at the Reagan Library? That's not how you break with Trump.


This news about Ron DeSantis got most of the attention yesterday:
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation requiring students, faculty and staff at Florida's public universities and colleges to register their political views with the state ...

The state will require taxpayer-funded colleges and universities to issue surveys to determine "the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented" on campus and whether students, faculty and staff "feel free to express [their] beliefs and viewpoints," although it's not clear what will be done with the poll results....

DeSantis and the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero), suggested funding could be cut as punishment for colleges and universities found to be "indoctrinating" students under the measure....
But not enough attention was paid to another bill DeSantis signed at the same ceremony:
The first measure the governor highlighted (HB 5) was only three pages long but will seek to reshape the way civics is taught to students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The bill, set to go into effect July 1, will direct the state Department of Education to develop a civics curriculum that aims to “assist students in developing” an understanding of four concepts, including the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen....

The measure also will revise social-studies requirements for high school graduation to include in U.S. Government courses “a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”

The Department of Education also will be directed to create a video library dubbed “Portraits In Patriotism.” The video library will include “first-person accounts of victims of other nations' governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.”
This is in imitation of DeSantis's master...
President Trump pressed his case Thursday that U.S. schools are indoctrinating children with a left-wing agenda hostile to the nation’s Founding Fathers, describing efforts to educate students about racism and slavery as an insult to the country’s lofty founding principles.

... Trump said he would create a national commission to promote a “pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history,” which he said would encourage educators to teach students about the “miracle of American history.”

Trump is calling the panel the “1776 Commission” ...
... who was following the lead of other autocrats around the world:
Thousands of Turkish academics, including prominent liberal intellectuals, were removed from faculty positions and teaching jobs in recent years amid a broader purge carried out by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. In India, professors and student activists on university campuses have been demonized by the country’s jingoistic media networks and its ruling Hindu nationalist party, which has also sought to revamp the nation’s history textbooks.

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, came to power breathing fury over “Marxist” infiltration in the country’s schools, which he and his allies even claimed promoted “homosexuality and promiscuity.”

... in Hungary, ... long-ruling illiberal Prime Minister Viktor Orban has waged a relentless culture war. His government has taken broad aim at independent nongovernmental organizations and other liberal entities, including forcing out the Central European University, one of the more celebrated institutions of higher education in the region. Orban has imposed revisions to school curriculums in an avowed bid to restore “national self-esteem” and hail the country’s Christian identity.

“There’s no such thing as a neutral education,” Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, bluntly told the BBC earlier this year. “Educational systems are about values ... about teaching what we think are the values of Hungarian society.”
We can safely assume that DeSantis wants the survey so he can use the collected data as a pretext for some high-profile defunding of one or more institutions or departments right before the 2022 gubernatorial election or the 2024 presidential campaign. The "patriotic education" provisions in the other bill suggest something else: that DeSantis, like Erdogan, Bolsonaro, and Orban, is actually in favor of indoctrination, as long as he and his ideological allies are the ones doing the indoctrinating.

Many of the people behind the Critical Race Theory panic seem to have no idea what they'd like to put in place of all that alleged CRT in the schools -- they just want CRT to go away. Like other pro-indoctrination authoritarians, DeSantis has ideas. He'd do the same as president, and unlike Trump, whose 1776 Commission was proposed late in his term, and was killed by President Biden shortly after Biden was inaugurated, DeSantis would probably follow through much more effectively. Be forewarned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


I posted this on Twitter a while back, but I never mentioned the idea here.

I know, I know -- far too many Democrats say the filbuster is essential to democracy, too. But the filibuster is sustained in Washington by Republicans. And even if they get rid of it the next time they control the Senate, I suspect they'll abolish it with an expiration date, so the abolition will no longer be on the books when and if Democrats regain Senate control.

I don't know if the stunt I've proposed would get the point across that something described as essential to governance in a representative democracy is absent in every state, and somehow governance happens anyway, but it might be worth a try. I'd also note that Republicans get the vapors when you propose to abolish the Electoral College, and yet every state governor is elected by straight popular vote. (Even Mississippi, where a Jim Crow-era law said that the governor and other statewide officeholders must win a majority of the state's legislative districts as well as a majority of the popular vote in order to be elected, with the state House of Representatives picking the winner if no candidate won both, got rid of that syatem recently.) Pure democracy is good enough for the states, and somehow those evil liberal cities don't prevent the election of Republicans in, say, Texas or Ohio. So why isn't the popular vote good enough for the presidency?

I don't expect these arguments to change a lot of minds, much less change our system. But I wish someone would at least put the ideas out there.


Democrats have the House, the Senate, and the White House -- and are always on the defensive. They just lost on one big issue (a sweeping election bill) and are setting themselves up to lose again (oh look, here's the Biden administration's comprehensive strategy on guns).

Meanwhile, Republicans are always on offense, focusing on issues -- or, usually, non-issues -- with high emotional content.

The king of this strategy is the man who's working hardest to be the next president of the United States, Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Max Boot writes:
Appealing to Trump voters who think that the 2020 election was rigged, DeSantis went on Fox News to sign a bill making it harder to vote in Florida. DeSantis won’t say if he thinks President Biden won legitimately.

Appealing to right-wingers mad that Trump has been kicked off Twitter and Facebook, DeSantis signed legislation that would fine social media companies that suspend state or local candidates close to an election and make it easier to sue tech companies....

Appealing to social conservatives mad about LGBTQ rights, DeSantis used the first day of Pride Month ... to sign a bill banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ athletic teams at public schools. The next day, DeSantis used his line-item veto to eliminate $50,000 for housing homeless LGBTQ youth and $150,000 for mental health services at an LGBTQ center treating survivors of the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando....

Appealing to nativists alarmed by undocumented migrants, DeSantis vows to send Florida police officers to help secure the border in Arizona and Texas....

Now DeSantis is appealing to White voters who aren’t quite sure what critical race theory is but know they don’t like it. At DeSantis’s urging, the state Board of Education just banned public schools from teaching about critical race theory....

Mask mandates. Vaccine passports. Voter fraud. Tech company censorship. Transgender athletes. Undocumented migrants. Critical race theory. DeSantis pushes every single right-wing hot-button issue. He understands how to demonize and polarize for political advantage — and he doesn’t care about how much collateral damage he inflicts.
Democrats look for sweeping solutions to serious problems that affect a broad range of Americans. Republicans create tempests in teapots, persuade their voters that sideshows are the main issue, and pick their battles based on the potential to stir up rage.

What would Democrats be doing if they operated the way Republicans do? Maybe they'd have come into power in January targeting small, specific, easily comprehended things that make their voters hate their opponents. Maybe, for instance, they'd have tried to pass bills targeting some of Donald Trump's grifts. How about a bill that makes it illegal for a president, former president, member of the president's family, or company controlled by the president to charge the Secret Service money? Trump did that for years as president and continues to do it now that he's left office. It doesn't matter that there probably won't be another president who's in a position to do this. Demorats could have made it a big deal.

Or how about a bill doubling the sentence of anyone who batters someone with an American flag? That's the kind of pandering, superpatriotic bill you'd expect from Republicans -- except they'd oppose this one, because the people who'd beat people with American flags are folks like the January 6 pro-Trump rioters (or, in my youth, rioters opposed to school integration).

But apart from the fact that Democrats probably couldn't pass these bills either, given the usual solid wall of Republican obstruction, Democratic voters don't turn out to vote because they want their rage stoked. Democratic voters want substantive change that really improves lives. Unfortunately, they want something Democratic officeholders still can't find a way to deliver.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


You remember that local news reporter who faceplanted last week after announcing an upcoming "exposé" of her employer?
Fox 26 Houston general assignment reporter Ivory Hecker ... went viral ... when she began a live report about the weather by revealing that she provided secret recordings t Project Veritas, the right-wing activist group founded by James O’Keefe, supposedly proving corruption and censorship at her station....

Hecker was fired, and her big reveal was ... underwhelming:
Ultimately, the drama surrounding Hecker’s on-air stunt proved to be more salacious than the actual allegations contained within her “sting” videos revealed on Tuesday evening....

In one piece of surreptitiously recorded footage, Fox 26 assistant news director Lee Meier was seen explaining why the station does not do more stories on Bitcoin....

Hecker also contended that Fox 26 attempted to censor her over her coverage of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug hyped by former President Donald Trump as a miracle COVID-19 cure but found to be largely ineffective against the virus.
When we heard about this, we all had the same two thoughts: She got herself fired for that? For Bitcoin and hydroxychloroquine? -- followed by: Well, that was such an epic flameout that I'm sure O'Keefe couldn't possibly find anyone else to take on the same suicide mission.

But O'Keefe did.
... April Moss, a meteorologist at the Detroit CBS affiliate, ... became the second reporter in recent weeks to announce on air that she was working with the investigative journalistic outfit to expose what she said was censorship at a local news outlet.

“Today we saw temperatures above normal again topping out at 85 degrees at Metro Airport,” Moss said during the Sunday forecast.

“Plenty of sunshine today, but all good things must come to an end, and that starts as early as tomorrow morning with showers moving in around 8 a.m.”

Then: “And speaking of a brand-new week, I will be sitting down this week with Project Veritas to discuss the discrimination that CBS is enforcing upon its employees.

“Tune into Project Veritas for my full story.”

We don't have Moss's interview yet, but we can guess what it will be about:
The journalist did not go into details during the Sunday, June 20, 2021, broadcast. Project Veritas has yet to post its interview with Moss.

But in an online fundraising campaign, Moss said she “felt led to stand up to the medical discrimination that was being enforced by ViacomCBS on its employees.” She added, falsely, “The mandate for any individual to be tested for COVID19 for employment or participation at a university or other institution violates federal law.” Moss also said, “My hope is that others who are faced with similar situations in their workplace can find the strength and courage to stand up for their God-given rights. Thank you so much for contributing to myself and my family. God Bless You!”
O'Keefe brought down ACORN. You wouldn't expect him to play small ball like this. Say what you will about that schmuck Christopher Rufo, but he has half the country foaming with rage over critical race theory. By contrast, hydroxychloroquine is so last year! And cryptocurrency doesn't even necessarily own the libs, does it?

O'Keefe has lost the plot -- either that or he's tailored this project to suit the whims and obsessions of someone in his billionaire donors' network. Or maybe the Russians are involved, and they think COVID controversies and cryptocurrency have the potential to help destabilize America even more. But why they assume that we care about story assignments and HR policies at local news outlets, I'm not sure.

Kids, don't get fired for this ridiculous project. It's not worth it.


America's COVID-19 numbers are looking good, but experts are concerned that there might be another wave of infections, primarily as a result of the Delta variant. Full vaccination provides good protection against this variant, but in areas where many people are unvaccinated, a surge in infections could happen.

That's what mainstream science is telling us. Crackpots and disinformationists are claiming that vaccinations aren't preventing the spread of the virus, they're causing it.

Here's the message from a sight called the NOQ Report ("News. Opinion. Quotes."):
Statistical analysis of the “Delta Variant” of Covid-19 compared to vaccinations in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States points to a narrative that runs contrary to what mainstream media and governments have been promoting. A closer look at the numbers reveals the Delta Variant may actually be strengthening as a result of increased vaccinations....

Here are two charts. In the first, you’ll note that India’s vaccination rate jumped in mid-March and peaked in April. In the second chart, you’ll see the number of Covid-19 cases spiked in mid-April, right around the time when the number of vaccinated people in India had risen rapidly. This is almost certainly not a coincidence.

This probably makes a lot of sense to your right-wing relatives, who don't know that India has a very low rate of vaccination, which left it vulnerable to the Delta variant. (There's also a COVID spike in the U.K. largely caused by the Delta variant, but it hasn't been as sharp as India's. The U.K. has a high rate of vaccination, although more than 40% of adults in the U.K. still aren't fully vaccinated.)

Here's another claim, from a British site called the Daily Expose:
Are we beginning to see evidence of ‘Antibody Dependent Enhancement’ (ADE) due to the Covid-19 vaccines in the United Kingdom? The latest data on hospitalisations and deaths allegedly due to Covid-19 certainly suggests so.

ADE can arise in several different ways but the best-known is dubbed the ‘Trojan Horse Pathway’. This occurs when non-neutralizing antibodies generated by past infection or vaccination fail to shut down the pathogen upon re-exposure.

Instead, they act as a gateway by allowing the virus to gain entry and replicate in cells that are usually off limits (typically immune cells, like macrophages). That, in turn, can lead to wider dissemination of illness, and over-reactive immune responses that cause more severe illness....

Since the 1st February 2021 there have been 73 alleged Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test result due to the Delta Covid variant. However only 46.5% of these deaths were people who had not been vaccinated. Whilst 36.6% of the deaths were people who had been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. A further 13.7% of the deaths were people who’d had one dose of a Covid vaccine at least 21 days prior to infection.

In all 50.68% of the deaths occurred in people who had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. A further two deaths occurred in which Public Health England had not ascertained whether the person had received a dose of the Covid vaccine.

There are multiple conclusions we can come to due to this data –

1 – These people did not die to Covid-19 but instead died due to other causes and were just labelled as Covid-19 because they happened to test positive 28 days prior to their death.

2 – The vaccines do not work.

3 – The vaccines are causing antibody dependant enhancement, as has been proven to happen in trials for SARS and MERS vaccine candidates.
Or the vaccines work well against a new, more transmissible variant, but not as well as they do against the original form of the virus, which means that we need to vaccinate more people so we don't get more spread and more variants, some of which our current vaccines might not fight very well. (That possible conclusion doesn't appear in this post.)

The Daily Expose is a misinformation factory that churns out misleading and deceitful information on COVID. It spread stories claiming that the vaccines increase the risk of miscarriage (debunked here and here), that the vaccines decrease male fertility (debunked here), and that only 3,000 people have died of COVID in the U.K. rather than the official totals of more than 70,000 (debunked here).

If America's case numbers increase, perhaps in the fall, how mainstream will this idea go? Will Fox News -- owned by Rupert Murdoch, who got his first shot early in the U.K.'s vaccination campaign even though he's never been a British citizen -- spread the idea? Will the rest of the right? Probably.

What's safe to predict is that right-wingers, who downplayed COVID all along, will try to blame President Biden for any spike in cases that occurs in America. Some mainstream pundits will play along, accusing Biden of not doing enough outreach to Donald Trump and his followers. (They'll claim, preposterously, that Trump would have joined a pro-vaccine campaign led by Biden if Biden has just asked nicely.) And right-wing edgelords will say vaccines are the problem.

Monday, June 21, 2021


No one should be surprised by this:
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea....

Such insider conversations are among the revelations in “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” a new book by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta....
We alread knew that, early in the COVID-19 crisis, Trump didn't want to allow infected Americans from the cruise ship Diamond Princess to disembark on U.S. soil. Abutaleb and Paletta say that Trump wanted to fire the State Department official who let the passengers back in, furious that the decison "doubles my numbers overnight."

He wanted to look good at all times and he wanted to be reelected. Scott Lemieux's gloss on the Gitmo story is that, "in his own authoritarian way, Trump made clear that he knew how serious this was." That's not how I read it. He wasn't concerned about the potential for widespread illness, loss of life, an overtaxed healthcare system, or any of the things you or I would care about. He cared only about "my numbers."

How would Trump react when the need to deal with a health crisis threatened his lifelong effort to make people see him as one of the world's greatest winners? We should have known the answer, because Trump told us what it was, on The Howard Stern Show in 2008.
"I was at Mar-a-Lago and we had this incredible ball, the Red Cross Ball, in Palm Beach, Florida....

So, you have all these really rich people, and a man, about 80 years old - very wealthy man, a lot of people didn't like him - he fell off the stage...

So what happens is, this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died.

And you know what I did? I said, 'Oh my God, that's disgusting,' and I turned away.

I couldn't, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away. I didn't want to touch him. He's bleeding all over the place, I felt terrible.

You know, beautiful marble floor, didn't look like it. It changed colour. Became very red.

... these 10 Marines from the back of the room.

They come running forward, they grab him, they put the blood all over the place—it's all over their uniforms—they're taking it, they're swiping [it], they ran him out, they created a stretcher.

They call it a human stretcher, where they put their arms out with, like, five guys on each side...

I was saying, 'Get that blood cleaned up! It's disgusting!' The next day, I forgot to call [the man] to say is he OK.

It's just not my thing."

I turned away ... I didn't want to touch him ... beautiful marble floor, didn't look like it ... I was saying, 'Get that blood cleaned up! It's disgusting!' ... I forgot to call [the man] ... It's just not my thing.

Concern for another person's well-being that overrides self-interest, even momentarily? No, it's just not his thing.