Unfair Treatment

We’re going to end up locked down again, for another miserable season or two, because we’re trapped in a country with a bunch of morons. And while that is happening, the morons will be incessantly whining about how unfairly they’re treated.

David Roberts

This week’s featured post is “The Cleveland Indians/Guardians: a teachable moment?“.

This week everybody was talking about the 1-6 investigating committee


At the end of what Ed Kilgore describes as a “chess game” between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the membership of the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection is set now, and hearings will begin tomorrow.

The I-move/you-move part of the metaphor works:

  • Pelosi advanced the idea of a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6.
  • McCarthy sent Rep. Katko to negotiate ground rules, setting the goal of near-perfect equality of power between the two parties, which he was sure Pelosi would never accept.
  • But Pelosi accepted.
  • McCarthy couldn’t go against Trump’s desire to have no investigation, so he had to turn against Katko’s successfully negotiated deal, which was ultimately blocked in the Senate by Mitch McConnell’s filibuster.
  • Pelosi proposed that House create a select committee to conduct an investigation. She would name eight members of and McCarthy five, subject to her approval.
  • McCarthy opposed the select committee, but it passed anyway.
  • Pelosi named seven Democrats and Liz Cheney.
  • McCarthy warned Cheney not to accept.
  • Cheney accepted.
  • McCarthy delayed naming his five members, then included Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, both of whom indicated they rejected the very premise of investigating the attack on the Capitol. (Two middle-aged white guys named Jim is what passes for diversity in the Republican caucus.)
  • Pelosi refused to accept Jordan and Banks.
  • McCarthy then threatened to retract all five of his nominees, saying “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
  • Pelosi didn’t budge. But she did add Republican Adam Kinzinger.

So now here we are with an investigating committee of seven Democrats, Cheney, and Kinzinger.

I dispute the chess part of the metaphor, though, because to me this looks like poker: Pelosi had the better hand and she played it.

Beltway pundits who continue to worship at the altar of bipartisanship, like CNN’s Chris Cillizza, disagree. They think Pelosi’s decision to exclude Jordan and Banks “dooms even the possibility of the committee being perceived as bipartisan or its eventual findings being seen as independent.”

And I wonder: “perceived” and “seen” by who? The MAGA faithful were never going to be convinced Trump did anything wrong, no matter who signed the report. Think about it: We’re already in a scenario where Liz Effing Cheney is a RINO! If the whole select committee were made up of Jim Jordans, but it somehow did a legitimate investigation and put out an factual report about Trump’s culpability, they would all be RINOs too.

No committee that investigates Trump honestly will be “perceived” or “seen” by the Trump personality cult as bipartisan or independent. That was never a possibility.

As for reasonable people, particularly political independents, the proof will be in the pudding: If hearings consist of Democrats giving political speeches, independents will be turned off. But if the committee members fade into the background and let the witnesses and the evidence tell the story (as I think they will), nobody will care that none of Trump’s puppets are in the room. The fact that Jordan et al won’t be there, in fact, will make the investigation more credible, because there will be less political grandstanding and more attention to the evidence.

As for McCarthy’s threat to “pursue his own investigation” … Go for it, Kevin. I dare you.

Jonathan Chait puts his finger on the problem:

[T]he entire political context for the investigation has changed. The insurrection was briefly considered an event akin to 9/11: an outside attack, which in its horror would unite the parties.

Now Republicans see the insurrection as an action by their political allies. Some of them are embarrassed by the insurrection and wish to avoid discussing it, while others see its members as noble martyrs. But almost none of them actually have the stomach to denounce the rioters any more.

… The scrambling and confusion [over filling the Republican slots on the committee] is the result of the fact that the January 6 commission was conceived in a political context that no longer exists. Congress never would have had a “9/11-style commission” if the hijackers had been supporters of, and had received support from, one of the political parties.

and the Covid surge


Case numbers continue to ramp up. Average new cases per day is now over 50K, after bottoming at 11K a few weeks ago. Last summer’s peak, which seemed apocalyptic at the time, was just over 70K, but paled before January’s 300K.

Deaths (270 per day) are also above their early-July low (209), but seem to be flattening. Last summer deaths got over 1100 per day. In January they got over 3000. The difference is almost certainly that the most vulnerable people are now vaccinated.

Cases are increasing everywhere, even in places that had seemed to have the virus almost beaten. In my county (Middlesex in Massachusetts) we are at 4.7 new cases per day, which is tiny compared to counties like Baxter in Arkansas (126), but a few weeks ago we were averaging less than 1 new case per day.

Meanwhile, Republicans around the country are still acting like public health officials are the more urgent threat. Missouri’s attorney general announced he will file suit to stop St. Louis from re-imposing a mask mandate. Numerous legislatures have passed or are working on bills to curb state and local governments’ powers during a health emergency.

Tennessee seems to be back from its brief trip to the Dark Ages.

Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the Tennessee Department of Health will restart outreach efforts recommending vaccines for children and once again hold events on school property offering the COVID-19 vaccine, including some next week. Department staff are no longer instructed to strip the agency logo from public-facing vaccine information, she said.

“Nothing has been stopped permanently,” Piercey said during a press briefing. “We put a pause on many things, and then we have resumed all of those.”


A few Republican politicians and/or media personalities seem to be changing their tune about vaccinations, or at least toning down their anti-vaccine disinformation.

After banning “vaccine passports” in May, Alabama Governor Kate Ivey lashed out at unvaccinated Alabamans Thursday. “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Alabama currently has the lowest vaccination rate (34% of the population fully vaccinated) in the country, and is in the top ten of states with the most new cases per capita. So, according to Gov. Ivey, the majority of Alabamans are not “regular folks”.

I can barely imagine the freak-out conservative media would be having if a Democratic official had said something like that.

The origin of Covid-19 is highly politicized topic. Then-President Trump jumped on the lab-origin possibility when the evidence seemed against it, because it gave him someone else to blame and helped him divert attention from his own bungling. Later, when scientists said the lab-leak theory had not gotten enough attention, he claimed vindication.

The evidence is still not conclusive, but more recent information points back towards the virus jumping from animals to humans at a Wuhan market.

Whenever this topic comes up, it’s worth reiterating two points:

  • Leaking out of a lab is not the same as being artificially engineered. (The lab might have been studying a naturally occurring virus, rather than creating a new one.) Scientists looked at this possibility and concluded that the virus itself does not show signs of human engineering.
  • The conspiracy theory that China released the virus intentionally is bizarre. Not only is there little evidence behind it, but it makes no sense. If China wanted to unleash a plague on the world, why would it release it in one of its own interior cities? And if this “bio-weapon” was aimed at the US, how did the Chinese know that the Trump administration would botch the American response so badly?

and the Olympics

The games started this week in Tokyo, after being postponed last summer. It’s an odd Olympics, without cheering crowds.

Trump and his fans are rooting against the US Women’s soccer team in the Olympics, because only Trump supporters are real Americans. Aaron Rupar comments:

If Joe Biden goaded people into booing a US Olympics team, Hannity would cut in for special Fox News coverage that would last until armageddon.

and you also might be interested in …

Negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Majority Leader Schumer hopes to pass before the Senate’s August recess, are coming down to the wire.

Democrats are simultaneously working on a larger package that they hope to pass through the filibuster-avoiding reconciliation procedure.

When Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was nearly derailed by Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault accusation in 2018, wavering Republicans agreed to delay the confirmation vote, giving the FBI a week to investigate further. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has been trying for three years to find out what that investigation consisted of. The answer seems to be: not much.

For example, the FBI set up a tip line, which received 4,500 responses. (I’m trying not to read much into the size of that number, just as I give little weight to the sheer number of affidavits Rudy Giuliani has about election fraud. The question is what they say and whether they’re trustworthy.) The FBI sent the most “relevant” tips to the White House Counsel’s office, which, unsurprisingly, did not ask the FBI to pursue any of them.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick sums up:

It is, in a sense, hard to be horrified by the explicit confirmation from the FBI that this was indeed a sham investigation, simply because much of this was known at the time and more has emerged since. The sham occurred in plain view, as did the decision to dismiss all of the 83 judicial ethics complaints lodged against Kavanaugh at the time, because Supreme Court justices are not bound by the judicial ethics regime tasked with investigating them. In a sense, then, because the shamming always happened openly, the revelation that it was shamatory feels underwhelming. We have become so inured to all the shamming in plain sight that having it confirmed years later barely even feel like news.

Trump friend and fund-raiser Tom Barrack was arrested Tuesday for “violating foreign lobbying laws, obstructing justice and making false statements”. The indictment says that he was secretly using his influence in the Trump administration for the United Arab Emirates. (Given that Michael Flynn was working for Turkey and Paul Manafort was passing information to a Russian intelligence agent, I have to wonder how many people in the “America First” administration were actually working for the United States.)

Barrack didn’t just work for UAE, he accomplished things for them.

Others in Trump’s orbit may have influenced the president’s decisions on Middle East policy. But what is clear from the indictment is that Barrack and the other indictees claim credit for virtually every interchange between Trump and the UAE, whose government quickly became a Trump favorite.

Barrack’s biggest success was in getting the Trump administration to side publicly with UAE and Saudi Arabia against another US ally in the region, Qatar.

The outing of Catholic Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill (as a user of the Grindr gay hook-up app and a patron of gay nightclubs) has a number of disturbing angles. The Judas in this story was his own phone, which tracked his location, and Grindr, which sells data about its users (as many apps do).

In theory, commercially packaged app data doesn’t track identifiable individuals, but as the NYT showed in 2018, the protections are flimsy.

One path … leaves a house in upstate New York at 7 a.m. and travels to a middle school 14 miles away, staying until late afternoon each school day. Only one person makes that trip: Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher. Her smartphone goes with her.

More recently, the NYT was able to identify January 6 rioters from commercially available app data.

The Burrill story was broken by The Pillar, whose reporters made similar deductions from Grindr data. The Pillar was founded by journalists previously at the Catholic News Agency, apparently so that they could cover the Catholic Church with more independence. The WaPo article portrays them as right-leaning journalists who might have an anti-gay agenda. This line of their article struck me as suspicious:

There is no evidence to suggest that Burrill was in contact with minors through his use of Grindr. But any use of the app by the priest could be seen to present a conflict with his role in developing and overseeing national child protection policies

Really? Why? It later quotes psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk Richard Sipe:

“Sooner or later it will become broadly obvious that there is a systemic connection between the sexual activity by, among and between clerics in positions of authority and control, and the abuse of children.”

A common belief, which is not true, is that gay men are more likely that straights to be pedophiles. The Pillar seems to be exploiting that belief without stating it openly.

There are also ethical issues around journalists using invasive methods to out people who are committing no crime. The Pillar founders/reporters claim the Burrill case is different because it is “serial and consistent, immoral behavior on the part of a public figure charged with addressing public morality”. But if they had found that Burrill had a female mistress, would that be a story?

On liberal social media, much was made of the connection between Burrill and last month’s USCCB statment that seemed headed towards denying communion to President Biden and other pro-choice Catholic politicians. Burrill was the general secretary of the USCCB at the time, and presumably played some role, but he does not seem to have been a ring-leader of that movement. When I went back and read news stories from June, I couldn’t find mention of him.

The featured post discusses the Cleveland Indians becoming the Cleveland Guardians. I’ll briefly add: Whether it rolls off your tongue or not, the Cleveland Guardians is certainly no worse than the names teams have bizarrely kept when they moved away from cities where they were appropriate, like the Los Angeles Lakers (who moved from Minneapolis to a place where the rivers dry up in the summer) or the Utah Jazz (from New Orleans). We’re used to those names by now, but they make no more sense than if Miami’s NFL team moved west and became the Phoenix Dolphins.

Mostly, I think Chris Hayes has this right:

A thing I’ve said to many parents in the process of naming their child: Whatever the name is, you will love it because you love the child. Literally no one ever wakes up one day with an eight-year-old named Max and says “WHY DID WE NAME HIM MAX?!?!?!”

The Washington Football Team also needs to pick a name, now that they’re no longer the Redskins. Sadly for them, the most obvious Washington names are associated with failure: the Senators were perennial losers in baseball, and the Washington Generals is the team that tours with (and is constantly humiliated by) the Harlem Globetrotters.

One of my social-media friends had suggested the WFT could keep the Redskins name, if they changed their logo and mascot to a russet potato. “Oddly,” he writes, the team “never got back to me.” It could have worked: Go Spuds!

Personally, I’m rooting for the WFT to become the Deep State. That should strike fear into their opponents

Michael Wolff, author of three Trump administration books, is sure Trump will run again in 2024.

and let’s close with something honest

Thinking about going back to the movies now that you’re vaccinated? (I’m not ready yet, but I’m told afternoon shows are almost empty.) Don’t pick a film based on a trailer that combines all the best bits into a few minutes and creates the illusion that it’s all that good. No, insist on Honest Trailers. Like this one for Black Widow.

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  • Anonymous  On July 26, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Well, I still like the thought of seeing the five Republican picks being on the House select committee trying to create chaos while all of the witnesses call them out as ignorant liars.

  • Coby Lubliner  On July 26, 2021 at 11:46 am

    Your social-media friend’s proposal would have been apt if the russet potato’s skin were in fact red, but it isn’t. They are confusing russets with red potatoes.

    • susanmbrewer  On July 26, 2021 at 5:31 pm

      I was wondering whether anyone else noticed. Not just different names, but truly different types of potato (waxy vs starchy) used for different dishes.

  • pauljbradford  On July 26, 2021 at 11:59 am

    McCarthy’s will “pursue his own investigation”. OJ will search for the real killer.

  • nicknielsensc  On July 26, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    I’ve heard there were some interesting reactions in the on-line rightwing fever swamps when they heard a man named Barrak had been arrested…

  • Anonymous  On July 29, 2021 at 6:46 am

    “But if they had found that Burrill had a female mistress, would that be a story?”
    It should be. A Catholic Monsignor is supposed to be celibate.

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