Plagues

A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere
Or a cataclysmic earthquake, I’d accept with some despair.
But no, you sent us Congress.
Good God, sir, was that fair?

– “Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve
sung by John Adams in “1776”

This week’s featured post is “DACA: One More Example of Broken Democracy“.

This week everybody was talking about voting rights

https://claytoonz.com/2021/07/13/texas-libre/

This week’s political drama was provided by Democratic legislators from Texas, who came to Washington Monday. By leaving, they denied the Texas House the quorum it needs to pass new voter-suppression laws. By arriving, they drew attention back to federal voting-rights legislation, which seems stalled in the face of a Republican filibuster.

Yes, it’s a stunt. But Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat was a stunt. Susan B. Anthony voting in 1872 was a stunt. Half of politics is constructing stunts that galvanize public opinion.

Scanning conservative media, I’ve been struck by the amount of time spent attacking or ridiculing the Texas Democrats, when I would have expected no coverage at all. I think Fox et al are afraid this might work.

I wish I felt that way. I’m more in line with the WaPo’s Dan Balz, who pointed out the disconnect between making headlines and making laws.

Democrats have produced the biggest headlines recently on the charged issue of voting rights. What they’ve yet to produce is an effective strategy to counteract the work Republican state legislators are doing to limit access and inject partisanship into the election process.

Some of those headlines came from President Biden’s speech on Wednesday, when he said that the US faces “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War”.

I wonder what President Lincoln would have done if a Senate filibuster had blocked his effort to preserve the Union. Whatever that option might have been, Biden did not mention it.

Senator Manchin met with Texas Democrats on Thursday, and came out talking about the importance of voting rights. But is protecting them important enough to circumvent the filibuster? No. He continues to fantasize about a compromise that could draw 10 Republican votes in the Senate, despite all appearances to the contrary.


Meanwhile, the partisan “forensic audit” of Maricopa County’s ballots in the 2020 presidential election is generating bogus claims, as it was designed to do.

and the pandemic

https://www.latinorebels.com/2020/04/20/pepitocreatorsimage/

New deaths have begun to rise for the first time since January. Covid deaths in the US had been down to an average of 206 per day on July 6, but are back up to 274 per day. New cases, which had bottomed out at just over 11K per day in mid-June, have risen to just under 32K. Both numbers are still well below the peaks (3347 and 248K) reached in mid-January, just after holiday socializing and before vaccinations had ramped up. They’re also below their level a year ago, near the mid-summer peak (66K and 519). But the trends are now going in the wrong direction.

Worldwide, infections are up 32% in the last two weeks, and are now over half a million a day.

The saddest thing about the increase in deaths is that nearly all Covid deaths are preventable now. Not only do vaccinated people catch Covid less often, but their cases are less serious.

More than 99 percent of recent deaths were among the unvaccinated, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month on NBC’s Meet the Press, while Walensky noted on Friday that unvaccinated people accounted for over 97 percent of hospitalizations.

If those numbers are still holding, then maybe 2 vaccinated Americans are dying each day, along with 272 unvaccinated Americans. Approximately half the country, and 60% of adults, are now vaccinated. So if the entire country were vaccinated, we’d be seeing daily death totals in the single digits rather than the hundreds. In addition, Covid would spread more slowly in a totally vaccinated population, so even those single-digit death tolls might soon go away.

But conservative media is still doing its best to discourage people from getting vaccinated.

It also discourages all other efforts to slow the spread, like masking or shutting down high-density indoor events.

And as for the numbers, well, who trusts numbers? The Washington Post has a reporter in Springfield, Missouri:

Deep skepticism about the latest outbreak was on display outside the Bass Pro Shops complex that draws customers from around the region to buy fishing supplies and guns in a sprawling store that has zoo-like enclosures with alligators and turtles.

Several shoppers, who declined to give their names, described the reports about the delta variant outbreak as “overblown,” “exaggerated” and a “crock of s—.” One woman said that her daughter was hospitalized in an intensive care unit with covid-19 but that she thinks the numbers are exaggerated.

The NYT talked to three unvaccinated women between 62 and 74 in a Covid ward in north-central Arkansas.

Mrs. Billigmeier said the scariest part was that “you can’t breathe.” For 10 days, Ms. Johnson had relied on supplemental oxygen being fed to her lungs through nasal tubes.

Ms. Marion said that at one point, she felt so sick and frightened that she wanted to give up. “It was just terrible,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t take it.”

Yet despite their ordeals, none of them changed their minds about getting vaccinated. “It’s just too new,” Mrs. Billigmeier said. “It is like an experiment.”

This resembles a pattern I pointed to two weeks ago in climate-change denial: In the beginning, populists told us to trust own experience and common sense rather than the statistical projections of the so-called experts in universities and government agencies. (“The weather’s fine. It gets hot and cold the same way it always has.”) But now that the evidence is all around us, the faithful are told to ignore what they see and feel, and instead believe what Fox News and the other conservative media outlets tell them.

And they do. That poor woman in Springfield has a daughter in the ICU, and still she doubts the seriousness of the pandemic.

Similarly, the WaPo reports on rural Oregon people who are endangered by a wildfire spreading through their drought-stricken area:

The West has been beset by historic drought and heat waves this year exacerbated by climate change, but among the small towns that have been threatened by the Bootleg Fire — Sprague River, Beatty, Bly — there is little talk of global warming. …

“Global warming?” Lawrence said as he sat drinking coffee with three friends on Wednesday morning around a table at the back of the Sycan Store in Bly.

“Yeah, right,” one of the others muttered.

Populists used to tell us to stop being sheep who believe whatever the expert elites say. But now that message has turned around: Ignore what you can see and experience, and trust instead in the “populist” leaders and pundits. Don’t be their sheep, be our sheep.

The monster can come right to your doorstep, but if Tucker Carlson says it’s not there …

and DACA

Nine years after President Obama created DACA, the courts still haven’t figured out what to do with it. The featured post discusses the latest injunction, but mainly focuses on Congress’ nine years of inaction.

and new Trump books

A raft of books about Trump’s final days in office have come out recently. From them we learned many disturbing things, including:

Trump, of course, denies all of this. But some of his denials are revealing: About the coup, he says, “if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley”. This sounds remarkably like all the times he claimed that the women who accused him of sexual misconduct were too ugly to assault.


Back in 2015, I wrote an article examining why it made sense to use the word fascist when discussing Trump, and how his candidacy was the result of fascistic themes mainstream Republicans had been flirting with for decades. During the Obama years, Republicanism was a mixture of Mitt Romney corporatism, Paul Ryan libertarianism, and Tea Party fascism, which Trump remade as a more purely fascist movement.

In the years since that article, I have often referred to Trump as a fascist. This is not a mere insult; it is a word with meaning, and I use it in a meaningful sense. (In contrast to Mitch Daniels, I think refusing to describe Trump as a fascist robs the word of meaning. I would challenge Daniels to identify when Hitler became a fascist. 1933? 1936? 1939? When the Final Solution launched in 1941? How late in the Nazi Era could Hitler’s fascism be minimized the way Daniels minimizes Trump’s fascism?)

Influenced by writers like Timothy Snyder and Jason Stanley, I’ve since sharpened my view of fascism, so these seem like the key elements:

  • Identification of one segment of the population as the sole authentic citizens. (i.e., “real Americans”, meaning conservative White Christians)
  • Nostalgia for a mythic past when the authentic citizens ruled and the nation was great.
  • A myth of entitlement and victimization: The authentic group was betrayed and humiliated by a scapegoat group or groups (immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, “the liberal elite”), which bear responsibility for the nation’s decline.
  • Contempt for laws that treat authentic citizens and scapegoats the same, and for democracy that counts their votes equally.
  • Worship of a leader who will restore the mythic era. (Make America or Germany great again.)
  • Contempt for sources of truth or authority independent of the leader. (“Fake news”)
  • Blatant lying; shamelessness when the lies are exposed.
  • Justification of the leader taking and consolidating power by whatever means necessary, including violence.
  • Celebration of cruelty against the scapegoats. Even if the leader does little to help his followers, he takes vengeance on their enemies.

The recognition that Trump is a fascist is becoming more mainstream. This week David Frum posted “There’s a Word for What Trumpism is Becoming” on the Atlantic website. One fascinating connection: Frum very aptly connects Trump’s attempt to make Ashli Babbitt a martyr with the Brownshirt martyr Horst Wessel.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/theres-word-what-trumpism-becoming/619418/

If you remember, the mainstream media had a similar debate over whether news articles should use the word lie to describe Trump’s most blatant falsehoods. (After all, a “lie” springs out of conscious intention to deceive, and what reporter could get far enough into Trump’s head to know that for a fact?) But eventually such hair-splitting became ludicrous; if you weren’t calling out Trump’s lies, you were helping him spread them.

I expect something similar to happen with fascist. (“Gee, Trump is telling enormous lies in order to encourage his white-supremacist followers to overturn democratic elections by any means necessary. What should we call that?”)


Speaking of political books: It’s not new any more, but I just read Grounded by Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester. It came out in September of 2020, and I suspect Tester started writing it in case a liberal Democratic presidential nominee wanted to balance the ticket by choosing him as VP.

It’s an enjoyable read. Tester is an engaging character — he continues to grow organic grains and beans on his 1,800-acre farm, planting and harvesting during the spring and fall Senate recesses — and the book is written with wit and charm. Tester apparently believes that any mistake you survive becomes funny, so he spends much of the book laughing at himself.

The subtitle “a senator’s lessons on winning back rural America” is a little overstated; the suggestions in the epilogue aren’t a magic formula. But Tester has won three Senate races in a red state, including the 2018 race where Trump picked him out as a special target, so he must know something.

Tester’s main message to Democrats is that rural America isn’t unreachable. He doesn’t deny that rural voters can be racist and xenophobic, but fundamental Democratic themes like fairness still work there. He also focuses on serving his constituents; he has done well by two large subgroups of Montana voters: veterans and Native Americans.

That said, the stories he tells of each campaign revolve around his opponents’ misjudgments, leaving the impression that he was beatable all three times. But maybe he’s just displaying the modesty and lack of ego that Montanans appreciate.

and you also might be interested in …

Week after week, I start writing about how to reconnect with the sane portion of the Trump electorate, and end up not finishing. The fundamental debate is summed up in two recent articles by other people: “Biden’s Invisible Ideology” by Adam Gropnik and “Democrats Can’t Win the Culture War With Silence” by Ed Kilgore.

On the one hand, Trumpism is an extremist movement that thrives on division — exactly the kind of thing I wrote about in 2004 in “Terrorist Strategy 101“. Participating in round after round of attack-and-reprisal helps them. As Gropnik writes: “You get people out of a cult not by offering them a better cult but by helping them see why they don’t need a cult.”

Trumpists like Marjorie Taylor Greene rise on the opposition they draw, and more reasonable right-wingers like J. D. Vance can’t keep up, because they don’t troll liberals nearly as well.

On the other hand, the Right/Left struggle is real, and the Left needs to win. Republicans are going to draw attention to issues they think work in their favor, and even if those issues are total BS, Democrats need to have answers.


Biden’s child tax credits started arriving.


This week’s floods in Europe are yet another sign of climate change.


The infrastructure negotiations continue, both between parties and among Democrats.


Rodney Pierce was North Carolina’s 2019 Social Studies teacher of the year. Now he’s a target of the anti-critical-race-theory crackdown.


I haven’t commented on the whole billionaires-in-space thing, because I don’t have much to say. Critics point to the amount of good that money could do if it were spent in some better way. But on the other hand, they could be buying enormous yachts that don’t even stimulate the public imagination.

I mainly see the convergence of two trends: the vast accumulation of wealth at the top, and the unwillingness of governments to attempt big things. So if space travel is going to happen, billionaires have to do it.

and let’s close with something arresting

Between the music, the musicians, and the scenery, Gioli and Assia will take your mind off of whatever.


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Comments

  • Carolyn Roosevelt  On July 19, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    ‘Gopnik’

  • George Washington, Jr.  On July 19, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    I agree that if billionaires aren’t paying to rocket themselves into space, they’ll just buy something else. But this only highlights the colossal waste and absurdity of manned space exploration. For a fraction of the cost of sending humans into space, we could launch telescopes or send robots, that don’t need life support equipment and don’t have to be brought back to earth. The Hubble Telescope and the various planetary probes have produce far more useful information than the moon landings or the Space Shuttle. Imagine if we’d held off on the New Horizons mission until we could send humans to Pluto. The idea of colonizing the moon or Mars should be relegated to science fiction.

    • Anonymous  On July 21, 2021 at 6:53 pm

      If wealthy people paid reasonable taxes NASA could launch telescopes or send robots, or whatever made the most sense to gather scientific data, rather than have us all funding the vanity projects of billionaires.

  • Terry Newberg  On July 19, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    Thank you so much for all the reading/watching/work you do to give us these Monday morning blogs. I like the perspective and insights you bring to it. (I also like Heather Cox Richardson’s blogs and Beau of the 5th Column videos). And, as for musicians, please check out Yasmin Williams wonderful lap guitar and other instrument playing (https://www.yasminwilliamsmusic.com/).

    • George Washington, Jr.  On July 19, 2021 at 8:22 pm

      If you like Malian music, you should check out these guys.

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