Author Archives: weeklysift

Doug Muder is a former mathematician who now writes about politics and religion. He is a frequent contributor to UU World.

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

https://theweek.com/political-satire/1002847/mccarthy-picks

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

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/16/adrift-sea-trouble/

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.”


https://theweek.com/cartoons/837540/political-cartoon-fox-news-toilet

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.

The Cleveland Indians/Guardians: a teachable moment?

One of the eight Guardians of Traffic on Cleveland’s Hope Bridge

Systemic racism might be easier to grasp in a setting that doesn’t threaten anybody’s safety or livelihood.


Next year, the Cleveland major league baseball team will begin calling itself the Guardians rather than the Indians. This is the culmination of a long process of protest and negotiation, and unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy about it. But whether you love or hate the change, it pulls many of the issues surrounding systemic racism together into one easy-to-grasp package.

Unlike more fraught battlegrounds like policing or affirmative action, changing the name of a baseball team does not affect anyone’s safety or livelihood. No one will die because Cleveland calls its team the Guardians, or would have died if they had continued as the Indians. Feelings on both sides may be heartfelt, but they are clearly feelings rather than material interests. To steal a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, the logo on Shane Bieber’s jersey “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”.

That said, the next thing to acknowledge is that the feelings on both sides are easy to understand and even sympathize with.

This is especially true of the Native Americans who dislike being turned into mascots. Native Americans were minding their own business in 1915 when a newspaper contest picked Indians as the new name for the Cleveland Naps, who had just traded their defining player, Nap Lajoie, to Philadelphia.

Imagine being a Native American parent who is trying to instill a sense of cultural pride in your children. Now picture White people running around in headdresses and warpaint while they root for a team that (in most seasons) has no actual Native American players. Let’s just say it doesn’t help. After your kids see random people at the mall wearing the stereotyped Chief Wahoo logo, it’s going to be hard to convince them that their heritage is serious and worthy of respect.

Admittedly, this constant low-level ridicule isn’t the worst thing that ever happened to Native Americans. It’s not on the same scale as, say, genocide or having the continent taken from them by force. But like those injuries, it’s an imposition from the outside; they did nothing to invite it or deserve it.

https://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/10/cleveland-indians-fans-dressing-up-as-chief-wahoo-world-series-racist

Once you’ve pictured that point of view, you may be tempted to declare Native Americans the good guys and those who love the Indians the bad guys. But that oversimplifies the situation.

Instead, try stretching your empathy to encompass Indians fans without pulling away from Native Americans. Being a fan may not be as central or immutable as a racial identity, but after more than a century, it also is a heritage. To the team’s fans, the Indians are Tris Speaker and Bob Feller and going to extra innings with the Cubs in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The Indians may be one of the few enduring connections you made with your Dad, something you can still talk about when you visit him in the nursing home. Maybe what you remember when you think of the Indians is being 10 years old, and sneaking a radio under your covers to listen to a west coast night game after you were supposed to be asleep.

And racism? The Indians became the first American League team to integrate when Larry Doby joined the team only months after Jackie Robinson became a Dodger. Doby and Satchell Paige were key players in the Indians’ last championship in 1948.

But now, it seems, people are trying to make you remember all that with shame rather than nostalgia.

https://theathletic.com/875177/2019/04/04/top-25-moments-in-progressive-fields-25-year-history/

Back in 1915, making a mascot out of Native American heritage was a sin of obliviousness, not malice. It wasn’t about insulting any actual tribes, it was letting yourself forget that the tribes still existed or might care.

What’s more, probably no one who participated in that newspaper poll is still alive. Everyone who feels attached to the Indians today came to love a team already in progress. Many developed that attachment when they were too young to understand stereotypes or racism. The Indians were the family team; Chief Wahoo was their symbol. That’s all.

Nobody consulted you about it. You never made a decision to root for the team with the racist trappings. You rooted for the team that your parents or big brother or friends at school rooted for. Years later, people started telling you that it was a disrespectful misappropriation of somebody else’s cultural heritage. But that’s never what it meant to you. So why do people want you to feel guilty about it?

Welcome to systemic racism.

The main thing to understand about systemic racism is that trying to assign individual fault and guilt misses the point. Saying that a problem is systemic means that it doesn’t reduce to good guys and bad guys. Something in the structure of institutions pits well-meaning people against each other, and there’s no way to resolve the issue without hurting somebody.

Good guys vs. bad guys is dramatic. Systemic racism is tragic.

So: A long time ago, things got set up so that the civic pride of Cleveland would conflict with the ancestral pride of Native Americans. That conflict is entirely artificial: There’s no inherent reason why saying “Yay, Cleveland!” has to carry a sense of “Boo, Native Americans!” Things just wound up that way. And while we could go round and round about the intentions of the people who started it all, that’s just a distraction, because they’re dead. We’re not a jury discussing their punishment; we’re heirs trying to sort out their legacy.

That legacy, though, is not dead and buried like the people who created it: It causes an ongoing injury. The most obvious ongoing injury is to Native Americans, but there is also an injury to Cleveland and its baseball fans. Those five-year-olds who love their Chief Wahoo caps and jerseys will one day be 15-year-olds who look back and say, “Wow, that’s really racist.” What should be purely warm memories of childhood and family will instead be tainted.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

And that’s a key lesson to learn about anti-racist activism: The point isn’t to assess blame or demand that people feel guilty or apologize. The point is to make the injustice stop. Change the structure of things so that well-meaning people are no longer drafted into an artificial conflict. [1]

So: Keep your fond memories of Sam McDowell’s unhittable fastball, or the incredible 1995 lineup of Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, and Manny Ramirez, or even (if you go back that far) the amazing pitching rotation of Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia. Nobody needs you to feel bad about any of that.

The activists who campaigned to change the Indians name don’t benefit from your shame. They just want to make the ongoing injury stop. And renaming the Indians achieves that goal, both for Native Americans and for Cleveland. Native Americans get back a chunk of their heritage. And the five-year-olds who receive Guardians jerseys next year won’t ever have to reassess what they mean.


[1] I am not trying to say here that all racial conflicts are artificial. Clearly, some people actively seek the benefits that come from white supremacy, and a smaller number glory in pushing other races down, even when they get no benefit from it. But we will have come a long way if we can eliminate the purely systemic racial conflicts, which individuals are often surprised to discover they participate in.

What makes the Cleveland situation a good example is that it is so purely artificial. Attachment to the Indians has very little to do with hostility to Native Americans.

In many other examples, teasing legacy systemic racism away from active malicious racism can be tricky. Take the response to President Obama, for example. Americans had never seen a Black president before, so no matter what he did, it looked “unpresidential” to a lot of people, even if his White predecessors had done exactly the same thing. The lack of any prior images of Black presidents is a systemic problem, but at the same time, malicious political operatives were doing their best to stoke the unconscious reaction that there was something vaguely wrong about Obama being president, like maybe he wasn’t really born in America or something.

Ordinarily, systemic racism is hard to separate from the active individual racism that builds up around it. But with the Indians, it’s not so difficult.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The announcement that the Cleveland Indians will become the Cleveland Guardians next season may not be the most significant thing that happened this week, but it struck me as a good opening to explain what systemic racism is and what anti-racists want.

People who hate the change are saying all the usual stuff: cancel culture, erasing history, they want us to feel guilty about everything, and so on. But the point is simple: There is no necessary connection between rooting for Cleveland’s baseball team and insulting Native Americans, but things have worked out that way because of decisions that got made more than a century ago. Nobody currently alive is responsible for that decision, but the injustice got embedded in an institution, with the result that people end up participating in it today even if they bear no malice. That’s what it means for the problem to be systemic.

Anti-racists don’t care whether or not Indians fans feel guilty; fan guilt doesn’t help them. They also aren’t troubled by your happy memories of famous players and pleasant days at the ballpark with family and friends. Continue to cherish them if you want. What anti-racists want — and what they’re getting from the name change — is for the ongoing harm to stop. That’s all.

So: Going forward, rooting for Cleveland’s baseball team won’t involve dissing Native Americans. Yay, Cleveland!

That post is more-or-less done, so it should be out shortly. The weekly summary will discuss the 1-6 investigating committee, the continuing Covid surge, the sham Kavanaugh investigation, Tom Barrick’s arrest, and a few other things. It should be out around noon.

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.


DACA: One More Example of Broken Democracy

https://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/opinion/cartoons/2012/11/28/editorial-cartoons-on-pop-culture/1733923/

The judicial and executive branches tussle over a bone that belongs to legislative branch. But in spite of near unanimous pro-Dreamer public opinion, Congress has wasted nine years doing nothing to protect them.


Friday, a Bush-appointed federal judge in Texas issued an injunction that stops the Department of Homeland Security from approving any new DACA applications. The judge’s opinion reviews the main arguments against the legality of the program from the beginning, but his ruling stopped short of removing its protections against deportation, and Dreamers will still be able to hold jobs. The order undoubtedly will be appealed, and will eventually end up at the Supreme Court.

In short, this was yet another incident in a very tangled legal history. President Obama established DACA by executive order in 2012 in order to protect undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the US as children. He tried to extend the program to their parents via another executive order in 2014, but the courts blocked that plan. President Trump tried to end DACA by executive order in 2017, but the courts stopped him too. Now a judge appears to want to end the program himself.

I’m tempted to do what I usually do with significant court rulings: explain in layman’s terms why the judge is right or wrong. But that kind of article would miss the point. The larger and more important story is that democracy shouldn’t work this way. And the root problem isn’t with the two dogs barking at each other: It’s not that Obama or Trump overstepped, or that the courts should or shouldn’t have let them. The problem is with the dog that hasn’t barked: Congress.

How this started. I doubt President Obama ever imagined that DACA would still be around nine years later. In the speech that announced the program, he prodded Congress to pass the DREAM Act, or take some other action to supersede his order:

This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do.

Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act. There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, because these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments. And we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our 21st century economic and security needs

At the time, passing the DREAM Act didn’t seem like a heavy lift. DACA immigrants, a.k.a. Dreamers, are the poster children of the undocumented. Their parents brought them to the US as minors, when they had little choice in the matter. They have grown up here, stayed out of trouble, and gotten an education. Most speak English like natives and are full participants in American culture. Hundreds and hundreds of them have served in the US military.

Some did not know they were undocumented until it came time to apply for a driver’s license or a Social Security card.

Freshman year is when I first found out I was undocumented. I was waiting at registration and when the clerk was going through my paperwork, she asked if I knew my Social Security number. I told her I’d get it from my mom later. When I got home, my parents had told me about my “story”.

Many have little connection to their country of origin.

I haven’t been to Mexico since I left as a 3-year-old, more than 25 years ago. I have no memory of the place, and I’m culturally American — I would feel more like an outsider there than I do here. I have no clue how I would make a living, or where I would go. I had the opportunity to take some Spanish classes in college, but I speak it with an Alabama accent and can’t read or write the language well.

As Obama said back in 2012:

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life — studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class — only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.

In short, deporting the Dreamers to Mexico (or wherever else they might have been born) would be an obvious injustice. In poll after poll, large majorities of Americans recognize this. And while many right-wing politicians are anti-immigrant, few step up to lead an anti-Dreamer movement. Even President Trump purported to be rooting for them. As President-Elect in 2016, he told a Time interviewer:

We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.

Dysfunction. So if everybody is for you and nobody is against you, you should be OK, right?

Not so fast. In September of 2017, Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress briefly seemed to have a deal, but it quickly fell through. The problem: As much as Trump claimed to sympathize with the Dreamers, they made great hostages, and he never thought Democrats were paying enough to ransom them. As late as last summer, he kept naming a price and then backing away from it:

Trump has previously offered legislative proposals that would give Dreamers permanent legal protections in exchange for some of his hard-line immigration priorities, including cuts to legal immigration and border wall funding. But the offers failed in part because the president himself backed away after facing opposition from immigration hawks who accused him of going against his own campaign promises.

Some version of the DREAM Act has passed the House more than once, most recently on March 18. Once again, though the anti-democratic nature of the Senate looms:

The American Dream and Promise Act is the latest version of the Dream Act, which Senate Republicans have filibustered five different times to prevent the taking of a vote. This year, Democrats have edged out Republicans for control of the Senate, but a sixth filibuster is all but certain as it takes 60 votes to defeat a filibuster.

But the filibuster hasn’t been the only problem. Back in 2013, the stars aligned in the Senate, but not the House, largely because Speaker Boehner enforced a different anti-democratic process: the Hastert Rule, which allowed nothing to come up for a vote without the support of a “majority of the majority”. The rule worked like this: Republicans held 234 of the 435 seats in the House, so a mere 118 Republicans would constitute a “majority of the majority”. So 27% of the House could block the other 73% from accomplishing anything.

That anti-democracy feature built on top of another one: Gerrymandering was the only reason Republicans had a House majority at all. In the 2012 elections, John Boehner’s Republicans got 47.7% of the vote, and Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats 48.8%. In other words, Republicans representing on 24% of the country held veto power over the other 76%.

So nothing happened.

Power abhors a vacuum. If you read much about American politics, you will often run into complaints about the imperial presidency, or judicial activism. Presidents of either party, and liberal or conservative judges alike, are grabbing too much power, power the Constitution never intended them to have. Examples are easy to find.

But the problem isn’t executive or judicial strength, it’s legislative weakness.

When the People want something, and Congress can’t act because it has tied itself in knots, presidents will look for a way to make it happen. (That’s where DACA comes from.) If Congress can’t wield the war power, presidents will. (Congress still hasn’t repealed or replaced the Authorization for the Use of Military Force it passed after 9-11. Maybe it will soon.)

When laws are vague, or become obsolete as times change, and Congress refuses to clarify or update them, judges will find a way to read meaning into the laws they have. (This is basically the problem with the Second Amendment, which no longer means anything independent of judicial interpretations. How does that text give you the right to own an AR-15, but not a bazooka or an exocet missile? Did the Founders really anticipate that distinction?) No judge is going to tell plaintiffs and defendants “Hell, I don’t know.” And once you have to start making something up, why not make up something you think is good according to your own lights?

So we shouldn’t be arguing year after year about whether the Supreme Court is interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act properly. Congress should look at the Court’s interpretation of the old law and pass a new one that better captures the People’s will. Those debates should be happening in committee hearings, not in amicus briefs to judges.

Conversely, when powerful interests in the country want something to happen and Congress won’t stop them, they’ll get their way by manipulating the bureaucracy. If unscrupulous presidents know Congress won’t enforce the limits on their power, and that they can violate any law without fear of impeachment, bad things will happen. And whose fault will that be?

American democracy had a near-death experience the end of the Trump administration. There is no lack of good thinking about how to tighten up the constraints that protect us against future usurpations. But will any of that happen? Of course not.

In a year or two, we may be back to deporting people who know no other country than this one, and who show every sign of the potential to be good citizens. Hardly anybody wants that to happen. But the body whose job it is to stop it is broken.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Many stories competed for attention this week. Democrats from the Texas legislature dramatically arrived in DC, simultaneously denying a quorum to Republicans pushing a new voter-suppression law, and drawing attention to federal legislation protecting voting rights. It’s attention-grabbing, but will it work?

Also in Congress this week, negotiations continued on two tracks of infrastructure bills: a bipartisan bill that might pass through the regular process, and a much larger bill that Democrats hope to pass through the reconciliation process.

Or maybe the important thing that happened this week was that a fourth surge of the coronavirus was confirmed by a turnaround in the daily death statistics. Or maybe we should be focused on the revelations in the new last-days-of-the-Trump-administration books. Or on the climate-related fires in the Northwest and floods in Europe.

I decided to focus on the federal judge in Texas who blocked new applications for DACA protection. Not because the order was so significant in itself: It’s going to be appealed, so the ultimate result of the case is uncertain and probably still a year or more away. But that story is a hook on which to hang the larger and more amorphous story of the dysfunction of American democracy.

Think about it: It’s been nine years since President Obama created DACA as a “temporary stopgap” to let Dreamers stay in the country until Congress came up with a more permanent solution. Almost nobody wants the Dreamers deported, and yet that more permanent solution is still nowhere on the horizon. It’s yet another issue like universal background checks on gun purchases, or maintaining America’s roads and bridges, or closing loopholes that allow billionaires to dodge taxes. The American people want it to happen, but their elected representatives can’t get it done.

The spotlight is always on the tug-of-war between the executive and judicial branches, but those battles keep being fought because the dysfunction of Congress creates a void where a power center should be. The real story isn’t what’s happening, it’s what’s not happening.

Anyway, that article should be out around 10 or so EDT. The weekly summary should follow between noon and 1.

Outrage Politics

What President Biden said is: We’re willing to come to your house to give you the vaccine. At no point was anybody saying they’re going to break down your door and jam a vaccine into your arm despite your protests. This is outrage politics that is being played by my party, and it’s going to get Americans killed.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

This week’s featured post is “Vaccines versus Variants“.

This week everybody was talking about a new Covid surge

That’s the topic of the featured post.

and foreign affairs

https://theweek.com/political-satire/1002495/damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-dont

President Biden is taking heat for sticking by his plan to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban is gaining ground, and should not be trusted to keep any pledges they make.

I understand all that, and yet I think the withdrawal is long overdue. Critics may describe it as a “defeat“, but actually it’s just an admission of the defeat that happened long ago. No one has a plan for standing up an Afghan government that can command the loyalty of its people and defend itself without us. So we can pull out now and watch the Taliban take over, or stay another 20 years and then pull out and watch the Taliban take over.

That’s the choice, and I’m glad to hear Biden recognize it.

I will not send another generation of Americans to Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.

Bad things will happen in the areas the Taliban takes over. But as Biden has observed elsewhere, bad things happen in lots of countries: Are we going to send troops to all of them?

One reasonable question is what will happen to Afghans who worked with us, like our translators. In his speech, Biden talked about granting them special immigration visas. Current law won’t let Biden bring them to the United States immediately, but the plan is to take as many as want to come to Guam or some third country, while they wait for their paperwork to be processed.


Haiti is in turmoil after its president was assassinated Wednesday night. The assassination was clearly a well-planned operation, but it’s not clear yet who did it or why.

Various political figures are locked in a struggle over who is actually running the country (including two interim prime ministers, Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry), while a group of legislators has also recognised Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled senate, as provisional president.

The US may well end up sorting this out somehow. But if we do, we should make sure we’re backing the right horse.


Cuba is suffering through an economic crisis intertwined with the Covid epidemic. Thousands of Cubans protested Sunday, the largest demonstrations against the Communist government in decades.

and race

https://jensorensen.com/2021/07/01/egalitarian-wave-theory-race-language-critical-theory/

Antiracist author Ibram X. Kendi reflects on having become a straw man:

Over the past few months, I have seldom stopped to answer the critiques of critical race theory or of my own work, because the more I’ve studied these critiques, the more I’ve concluded that these critics aren’t arguing against me. They aren’t arguing against anti-racist thinkers. They aren’t arguing against critical race theorists. These critics are arguing against themselves.

What happens when a politician falsely proclaims what you think, and then criticizes that proclamation? Is she really critiquing your ideas—or her own? If a writer decides what both sides of an argument are stating, is he really engaging in an argument with another writer, or is he engaging in an argument with himself?

And Matt Yglesias raises a question about anti-CRT laws:

Does anyone care to make a forecast of the form “states that adopt [good/bad] laws banning ‘Critical Race Theory’ will see [benefits/harms] to [someone] that we can measure [somehow] within [timespan]”?

In an article about Nicole Hannah-Jones’ decision to reject a battled-over position at University of North Carolina and instead accept an enthusiastically-offered professorship at Howard University, Paul Butler notes:

Columbia University law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “critical race theory,” has argued that the law can often be interpreted in a way that benefits the ruling class, no matter what the law actually says.

I believe that anti-CRT laws will validate this proposition. The laws themselves outlaw ideas that no antiracist is explicitly teaching or wants to teach (like “That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior“). But in practice, the effect of these laws will be to limit teaching about the significance of slavery in American history, and the continuing effects of racism on American society. (Example: If government-endorsed red-lining creates a racial ghetto, does that ghetto magically disappear when the rules change? Will the Black families who were denied the opportunity to build wealth instantly be made whole?) Any White parents who are uncomfortable with the facts their child is learning will feel empowered to complain or sue, and school officials will be reluctant to stand up for the teacher. That’s already happening.

Will those effects, or the effect on teachers (and the students of teachers) who just decide to play it safe and not talk about race, be measurable within a time frame, as Yglesias asks? Probably not.

https://theweek.com/political-satire/1002450/gop-approved

Nicole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates going to historically Black Howard University is a big deal. It signals that a virtuous cycle is underway: Big-name faculty leads to big-time donations, which draw more big-name faculty. Also: Howard just got more attractive to top-notch Black high school students who also get in to Ivy League schools. Hannah-Jones isn’t just someone you’d want to study with, she models the thought process that might draw you to Howard: Do you really want to spend the next four years proving to White people that you belong at Harvard?


The Robert E. Lee statue that was the center of the “Unite the Right” rally of very fine people white supremacists in Charlotte in 2017 has finally been removed from Market Street Park. A statue of Stonewall Jackson was removed from a different Charlottesville park.

The city, a university town that is liberal by Virginia standards, has been trying to take the statues down for years, but was blocked by a state law that protected them. But the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in the city’s favor in April.

but we can’t lose sight of climate change

David Roberts makes two important points about fighting climate change.

First, there is no “moderate” policy option.

To allow temperatures to rise past 1.5° or 2°C this century is to accept unthinkable disruption to agriculture, trade, immigration, public health, and basic social cohesion. To hold temperature rise to less than 1.5° or 2°C this century will require enormous, heroic decarbonization efforts on the part of every wealthy country.

Either of those outcomes is, in its own way, radical. There is no non-radical future available for the US in decades to come. Our only choice is the proportions of the mix: action vs. impacts. The less action we and other countries take to address the threat, the more impacts we will all suffer.

Politicians who hamper the effort to decarbonize and increase resilience are not moderates. They are effectively choosing a mix of low action and high impacts — ever-worsening heat waves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes. There is nothing moderate about that, certainly nothing conservative.

Second, the top priority has to be clean electrification.

while different climate models disagree about which policies and technologies will be needed to clean up remaining emissions after 2030, virtually all of them agree on what’s needed over the next decade. It’s clean electrification:

1. clean up the electricity grid by replacing fossil fuel power plants with renewable energy, batteries, and other zero-carbon resources;

2. clean up transportation by replacing gasoline and diesel vehicles — passenger vehicles, delivery trucks and vans, semi-trucks, small planes, agricultural and mining equipment, etc. — with electric vehicles; and

3. clean up buildings by replacing furnaces and other appliances that run on fossil fuels with electric equivalents.

and you also might be interested in …

https://xkcd.com/1357/

Trump filed lawsuits against the major social media companies, seeking to be reinstated on their platforms. The reasoning is kind of far-fetched: Facebook, Twitter, et al are essentially “state actors”, because they cooperate with government agencies like the CDC, and because Democrats in Congress intimidate them into doing their bidding. That means that the First Amendment — which only applies to government action — should apply to social media companies as well.

Many of the actions the suit cites happen on January 7, and yet there is no indication that anything unusual might have happened on January 6 — like say, that the mob that Trump raised (at least in part) by using social media platforms violently attacked Congress and tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

No, instigating violence to overthrow democracy had nothing to do with it. Democrats were just jealous of Trump’s social media skills.

Democrat legislators in Congress feared Plaintiff’s skilled use of social media as a threat to their own re-election efforts. These legislators exerted overt coercion, using both words and actions, upon Defendants to have Defendants censor the views and content with which Members of Congress disagreed with, of both the Plaintiff and the Putative Class Members.

The lawsuit is going nowhere (not the least reason being that the Facebook terms of service say all suits have to be filed in California, not Florida). But that’s not the point: fund-raising is the point.

The Washington Post observes that the suit has the usual dollop of Trump projecting his own actions onto others.

The real hypocrisy of Trump’s case, [Santa Clara University law professor Eric] Goldman points out, is that the U.S. government official most responsible for trying to strong-arm the platforms is Trump himself. Last year, he responded to a content moderation decision he didn’t like by issuing an executive order that sought to weaken social media companies’ liability shield.


Back on June 28, Tucker Carlson charged that the NSA was spying on him, and was trying to get his show off the air. The NSA tweeted a denial that Carlson had ever been a target, but didn’t explicitly say that they hadn’t intercepted any of his communications.

We now know why the NSA might have swept up some of Carlson’s messages without him being a target: He was negotiating with the Kremlin to get a Putin interview. They were spying on Russia, and Carlson just popped up.


In National Review, Eric Kaufmann lamented the unwillingness of Ivy League and other educated women to date Trump supporters.

Trump supporters excluded, fully 87 percent of all female college students wouldn’t date a Trump supporter. Even among non-Trumpist Republicans, just 58 percent of women would date a Trump supporter.

And then jumps to this ominous consequence:

The problem of “affective polarization” has been well documented, in which people react negatively to those of the opposing political tribe, and this animosity spills over from politics into everyday social relationships. But what if polarization has an asymmetric effect on power in society? What if the elite is becoming a politically endogamous tribe that dominates positions of power in society, reserving them for those with the correct political pedigree?

Kaufmann seems oblivious to the special circumstances around women and Trump. More than two dozen women have accused Trump of various levels of sexual abuse, going all the way up to rape. So a man who supports Trump either (1) doesn’t believe women, or (2) thinks sexual abuse isn’t a deal-breaker.

Don’t go out with that guy. It’s just common sense.


Gypsy moths have been cancelled.


A reporter points out an interesting difference between covering the Trump and Biden administrations: Getting a clear official statement about what the Trump administration was doing was often hard, but Trump’s people “had contempt for their boss” and so leaked like mad. OTOH, Biden’s people are happy to tell you what the policy is — Jen Psaki’s press briefings are downright educational sometimes — but they won’t repeat what the President is saying behind closed doors.

If Trump has noticed this, it must frustrate the hell out of him. He was always so focused on loyalty, but got so much less of it from his people than Biden does from his. They would grovel to Trump in his presence, then tell reporters off the record what a moron he is.

It’s still happening. Somebody on the inside, probably John Kelly himself, told author Michael Bender the anecdote about Trump defending Hitler to Kelly. Compare that to the post-Obama-administration books. I’ve read a bunch of them, and they all treat President Obama with great respect. I can’t think of a single tell-all Obama administration book, unless you count those scandalous stories of Barack sneaking an occasional cigarette and not telling Michelle.


Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary Saturday. The former president was still teaching Sunday school in 2019, at the age of 95. Tell me again which party represents Christian values.


White Evangelical Protestant numbers have been plummeting for more than a decade. Now there are now more White mainline Protestants.

New York Magazine’s Intelligencer column offers an additional detail:

While white Evangelicals are shrinking as a share of the population, they’re also getting older. PRRI reports that they “are the oldest religious group in the U.S., with a median age of 56, compared to the median age in the country of 47.”

I’ll offer a speculative interpretation based on this data: The Trump years convinced unaffiliated liberal Christians that they needed to commit and organize. If you add together the Unaffiliated and the White Mainline Christians, the number stays almost constant: 38.6% in 2017, 39% in 2018, 38.7% in 2019, and 39.7% in 2020.


GETTR was advertised as a “cancel-free” social media platform devoted to free speech. Turns out, that’s not true. It’s a conservative platform where you can get canceled for criticizing conservative personalities and ideas. (I know. You’re shocked, right?)


When you predict the future, sometimes you get things just a little bit wrong. Like Wired, 24 years ago:

We are watching the beginnings of a global economic boom on a scale never experienced before. We have entered a period of sustained growth that could eventually double the world’s economy every dozen years and bring increasing prosperity for—quite literally—billions of people on the planet. We are riding the early waves of a 25-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty and to ease tensions throughout the world. And we’ll do it without blowing the lid off the environment.

and let’s close with something repetitive

When a new language group takes over a region, they often keep words from the old language as names. This sometimes results in repetitive names, like when English speakers talk about the Rio Grande River (river big river). Mississippi River similarly means “big river river” if you know Ojibwe or Algonquin. There are other famous examples, like the Sahara Desert, which means Desert Desert when you translate the Arabic, or Lake Tahoe, which means Lake Lake.

The alleged champion repetitive place name, though, is Torpenhow Hill in England, whose name was extended several times by speakers of different languages, until it now means Hill Hill Hill Hill.

Except, as Tom Scott observes in this video, the locals don’t actually call it Torpenhow Hill. But it is a hill right outside the village of Torpenhow, which really does mean Hill Hill Hill, more or less. So people could start calling it Torpenhow Hill. “This can be Torpenhow Hill, if enough people want it to be. … There have been plenty of tourist attractions built around much less than this.”

Vaccines versus Variants

https://theweek.com/political-satire/1002377/5-cartoons-about-the-rise-of-the-delta-variant

Ever since the Delta variant of Covid-19 emerged as the most virulent strain yet, public health officials have been talking about a race between the vaccines and the virus. In the US, the vaccines have been winning that race since the post-holiday-season peak in mid-January, which, conveniently for President Biden, coincided almost exactly with his inauguration.

But then the tide started to turn again. Cases began trending upward. New cases per day hit a low around 11,000 in mid-June, but now are back up to 19,000.

The usual pattern in Covid surges has been that hospitalizations and deaths lag a little, but eventually follow the case-number trends. (That makes intuitive sense when you think about how a Covid death plays out: First you get sick, then you are hospitalized, then you die.) Now hospitalizations have turned (up 11% in the past two weeks), though deaths are still (for now) trending downward. As treatments improve, we might hope to see a less solid link between hospitalizations and deaths, but we won’t know for another week or two which way the death trend will go.

It’s not hard to see why the graphs turned. Initially, vaccination was a logistics problem. Large numbers of people, like me, were eager to get vaccinated, and it was just a matter of producing and distributing enough doses. I would happily have taken my first shot in January, but (being just below the age-65 cutoff) I ended up waiting until April. Vaccinations increased as the logistics problems were handled, and peaked at over four million doses per day in early April.

But then they started to fall, as the number of eager unvaccinated people dwindled. Around half a million shots are still being given every day, but the Biden administration fell just short of its 70%-by-July-4 goal, and it’s not clear how much above 70% we’ll ever get.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/28/960901166/how-is-the-covid-19-vaccination-campaign-going-in-your-state

Politics and risk. Like masks and other public health measures that would have been nonpartisan in previous eras, vaccines have become political. Former President Trump himself may be vaccinated, and may even mildly encourage his followers to get vaccinated, but Trump Country has become the center of vaccine resistance, which Trump Media actively promotes. The result is a wide divergence of vaccinations by state. Blue states like Vermont (66%) and Massachusetts (62%) have the largest percentages of their populations fully vaccinated, while red states like Alabama (33%) and Mississippi (33%) the least. (These numbers are not directly comparable to Biden’s 70% goal, which was a percentage of adults getting at least one shot, not the percentage of the whole population fully vaccinated.)

Unvaccinated people are like dry tinder to the virus: The fire doesn’t start until a spark comes, and the exact spot where that will happen is unpredictable. The center of the current outbreak is along the Arkansas/Missouri border.

the rise in cases seemed to be caused by three factors: the area’s low vaccination rate, the arrival of the Delta variant and Springfield [Missouri]’s recent decision to lift its mask mandate. Ninety percent of Covid patients at Cox Medical Center South in Springfield have the Delta variant, and they are trending younger

https://twitter.com/deAdder

Taney County, Missouri is the site of the Branson tourist-resort area. It currently has 26% of its people fully vaccinated and only 30% with at least one dose. It is averaging 84 new cases per day per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 6.

Over the last 16 months, we’ve seen numerous news reports about hospitals overwhelmed by Covid patients. The current ones are coming from Springfield — the first city up US 65 from Branson.

Many other counties are just as vulnerable, but have lesser outbreaks. The list of states where cases have doubled in the past two weeks is: Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi. All are Trump states with low vaccination rates. (In fairness, Florida is just slightly below average: 47% fully vaccinated compared to 48% nationally.)

Delta and the vaccines. One part of the story of the recent surge is that the virulent Delta variant has become the dominant strain of Covid in the US. That has started people wondering how effective the vaccines are against Delta. Data from Israel is mildly discouraging: The Pfizer vaccine Israel used (the same one I got) is effective against Delta, but less so than against earlier strains.

Vaccine effectiveness in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease fell to 64% since June 6, the Health Ministry said. At the same time the vaccine was 93% effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness from the coronavirus.

The ministry in its statement did not say what the previous level was or provide any further details. However ministry officials published a report in May that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine provided more than 95% protection against infection, hospitalization and severe illness.

But other studies report higher numbers:

In Britain, researchers reported in May that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had an effectiveness of 88 percent protecting against symptomatic disease from Delta. A June study from Scotland concluded that the vaccine was 79 percent effective against the variant. On Saturday, a team of researchers in Canada pegged its effectiveness at 87 percent.

The article goes on to note that assessing effectiveness in the field is harder than in a controlled study. (That’s why medical researchers use two different terms: Controlled trials measure “efficacy”, while field data measures “effectiveness”.) One key difference: In real life, vaccinated people know they are vaccinated, so they may behave differently.

One speculation is that the different results might reflect how long ago someone got vaccinated.

The Israeli data also raise an important question that it may be too early to ask: Does the declining effectiveness rate have to do with waning protection among the vaccinated given how early Israelis began receiving their shots?

Pfizer is now collecting data on booster shots that would be given six months after the initial vaccination. Experts are conflicted over whether to recommend that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine be followed by a booster. It seems like a good idea, but hasn’t been tested thoroughly yet. Getting a Pfizer or Moderna shot on top of a J&J vaccine is likewise untested.

Not as much data is publicly available about the Moderna vaccine (which my wife got) and Delta. Like the Pfizer, it seems to be effective, but less so.

My conclusion: If you’re vaccinated, don’t fret, but don’t get cocky. You’re like a soldier with a good helmet and armored vest; protected, but not invulnerable.

South Dakota and Vermont. One red state that isn’t seeing an outbreak right now is South Dakota. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, explains how two states, Vermont and South Dakota, took very different paths to arrive at the same result: the lowest-risk (green) category for Covid infections.

The two states are similar in some demographic ways: small states, mostly rural, older population, similar median incomes. But they achieved high levels of Covid immunity in different ways: Vermont vaccinated three-fourths of its people compared to South Dakota’s half. But South Dakota acquired immunity the old-fashioned way: by getting a large percentage of its people infected. 40 out of every 100,000 Vermonters have died of Covid, compared to 230 out of every 100,000 South Dakotans.

Governor Noem appears to be proud of that record of getting her constituents killed unnecessarily. She bragged about her Covid response at CPAC Sunday, and questioned the “grit” of Republican governors who enacted mask mandates and closed businesses.

Here’s a rule of thumb: Whenever Republicans pat themselves on the back for having the “courage” to “make the tough decisions”, you can be pretty sure that someone is about to die.

Rhode Island and Mississippi. Looking at the long-term state data shows other interesting patterns. Early in the pandemic, before anybody really knew what they were doing, Covid ravaged the Northeast. So if you looked at death totals per capita a year ago, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were at the top of the list by a wide margin.

They still are, but Mississippi, Arizona, and Alabama are catching up. (They’ve already passed Connecticut.) Mississippi (2500 deaths per million) may soon edge out Rhode Island (2577) for fourth place. Rhode Island still hasn’t reported a death in July, while Mississippi is averaging 3 per day, a number which is likely to increase.

In terms of total cases per million, Rhode Island is the only northeastern state still in the top ten, which otherwise is entirely made up of red and purple states like the Dakotas, Utah, Iowa, and Arizona. New Jersey is down at 13, New York 17, and Massachusetts 31. (The Northeast had its cases early, when treatment was much less advanced. Hence: more deaths per case. Also, Covid tests were hard to get early on, so it’s possible that the number of cases in the Northeast was underestimated.)

My assessment: The Northeast learned from its experience, and has been more rigorous about shutdowns, mask mandates, distancing, etc. Red states in the South and West refused to learn from the example of the Northeast, so they have had to repeat the experience.

Northeasterners died because they were surprised by something new. Red staters are dying of stubbornness.

Kill your audience. One reason red states are slow to learn is that conservative leaders in politics and the media seem to be actively trying to get their followers killed.

Up until now, the primary mode outside the true fever-swamp precincts has been Just Asking Questions—or, in Tucker Carlson’s case, Just Asking Questions about why no one is allowed to ask questions, which in turn leaves the viewer believing there are not just questions to be asked but answers that are bad, even though we’re still actually dealing in questions about questions.

But the rhetoric keeps escalating, as these things tend to do. This week, in a particularly egregious exploitation of his audience’s presumed stupidity, Carlson observed that most people dying of Covid in Ohio had already outlived their life expectancy, so the pandemic itself (which has killed more Americans than combat in World War II) is “overhyped“. I have to wonder how many of Tucker’s viewers looked at the graphic below and concluded that Covid might help them live longer.

“This is the — I think, I honestly think is the greatest scandal of my lifetime by far,” he said with all of the expected breathlessness. “I thought the Iraq War was; this seems much bigger than that.”

The “this” at issue? That the government would “force people to take medicine they don’t want or need” — something that the government is not doing. That President Biden said a few hours earlier that public health professionals might go into communities to offer the coronavirus vaccine to those limited by time or mobility from seeking it out themselves was misinterpreted by commentators like Carlson to suggest that government patrols would soon be seizing people off the streets to inoculate them.

And if “they” can go door-to-door offering vaccines that you can refuse, but which might save your life, why couldn’t they go door-to-door to impose all kinds of tyranny? Here’s Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina.

Think about the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that massive of a thing. And then think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door to door and take your guns. They could go door to door and take your Bibles.

Of course, the DC mayor’s office is already sending volunteers door-to-door, without any complaints of Bible or gun seizures.

During a CNN interview, Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger (who already burned his bridges in January by voting for Trump’s second impeachment) denounced this kind of rhetoric as “insanity”.

What President Biden said is: We’re willing to come to your house to give you the vaccine. At no point was anybody saying they’re going to break down your door and jam a vaccine into your arm despite your protests. This is outrage politics that is being played by my party, and it’s going to get Americans killed.

But outrage politics works in certain circles, which is reason for conservatives to celebrate it. At CPAC this weekend, vaccine refusal was an applause line:

“Clearly, they were hoping — the government was hoping — that they could sort of sucker 90% of the population into getting vaccinated,” Berenson said. “And it isn’t happening,” he said as the crowd applauded people rejecting the safe, effective, and free vaccines.

Nobody is saying this part out loud, but I see a pretty cold calculus at work: If conservatives can get another Covid wave started, not only would that make Biden look bad, but it might spark another round of mask mandates and business closures. Then in 2022 Republican candidates can run against the “tyranny” that they themselves made necessary.

That plan may be evil, but it shows grit, and the courage to make the tough decisions.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For months, we’ve been hearing about the race between the vaccines and the Covid variants. At first the vaccines were winning, but in mid-June the number of Covid cases started ramping up, particularly in red states with low vaccination rates. Recently, hospitalizations have been rising as well. Deaths are still in a downward trend, but how long can that last?

This week’s featured post, “Vaccines vs. Variants” looks at the constellation of issues involved in that turn: How well the vaccines handle the virulent Delta variant, what’s happening to the numbers, the heated rhetoric around vaccine resistance, and so on. That should be out around 10 EDT.

The weekly summary has a lot of other issues to cover: the Afghanistan pullout, the Haiti assassination, Trump’s lawsuit against social media companies, climate change infrastructure priorities, voting rights, plunging numbers of White Evangelicals, and a few other things. Finally, we’ll close with a spot in England that may (or may not) be named “Hill Hill Hill Hill”.

Why to Investigate

If you believe Antifa and BLM actually attacked the Capitol, you should want a January 6 commission. If you think the FBI organized the Capitol riots, you should certainly want a January 6th commission. But if you believe that you’ve been lying about it the whole time, then you don’t want a January 6 commission. That’s why we have to do it

Rep. Adam Kinziner (R-Illinois)

This week’s featured posts are “Climate Change is Here” and “The Trump/Weisselberg Tax Evasion Scheme“.

This week everybody was talking about the Trump Organization indictment

If you take away one thing from the featured post on this topic, it should be this: All businesses, even little ones, could try the same thing with their employees. But they don’t, because they’re not that stupid.

and the heat wave

In the other featured post, I wonder if this could be an inflection point in the climate-change debate. Because you can’t look at 116 degree temperatures in Portland and say that nothing is wrong.


Meanwhile, a gas leak near a Pemex drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico set the ocean on fire for a few hours on Friday.

https://www.popsci.com/environment/gulf-of-mexico-ocean-on-fire/

and court decisions

Bill Cosby is a free man. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out his sexual assault conviction Wednesday, claiming that it violated a verbal non-prosecution agreement made by a previous prosecutor. Sixty different women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, but only one of those accusations resulted in a conviction. Vox has a good explanation

The thrust of that opinion is that, even though then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor never reached a formal agreement with Cosby that granted him immunity from prosecution, a press release that Castor sent out in 2005 — combined with Cosby’s later, incriminating testimony in a civil lawsuit — had the same effect as a formal immunity deal.

That decision — which, again, attaches a simply astonishing amount of legal weight to a 16-year-old press release — is less ridiculous than it sounds …

The court’s often-confounding opinion muddies this case’s place in history and may contribute to sexual assault victims’ sense that reporting the crimes against them won’t lead to justice.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the court’s decision was wrong as a matter of law. Six members of the seven-justice Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed that Cosby’s conviction must be tossed out, although only [Justice David] Wecht [who wrote the majority opinion] and three other justices agreed that the state should not be allowed to retry Cosby.


The Supreme Court continues to chip away at the Voting Rights Act. In upholding recent Arizona laws, the Court says that new rules that result in fewer people of color voting can be OK, if the number of votes suppressed isn’t that big, and if the state’s new rules advance a state interest — and preventing mythical voter fraud is a legitimate state interest.


The Court also made the world safer for dark money.

In its infamous decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the Supreme Court tossed a bone to lawmakers seeking to regulate money in politics. With a few exceptions, Citizens United stripped the government of its power to limit the amount of spending on elections, especially by corporations. But the decision also gave the Court’s blessing to nearly all laws requiring campaigns and political organizations to disclose their donors.

They’ve now stripped most of the lingering meat off that bone.

Back in 1958, the Court ruled that the NAACP didn’t have to reveal its membership to the state of Alabama. The very real fear in that case was that NAACP contributors in Alabama could become targets for the KKK.

Now the Court has extended that ruling to potentially cover all sorts of donors, who might find themselves victimized by “cancel culture” if their contributions were revealed.


The Supreme Court turned down an opportunity to extend its rulings on special rights for Christians religious liberty. A florist in Washington state refused to create arrangements for a same-sex wedding, citing her “relationship with Jesus Christ”. She was fined for violating an anti-discrimination law. The Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld that fine, and now the US Supreme Court has refused to hear the florist’s appeal. Apparently that ruling will stand.

I’ve already stated my general opinion on such cases: Any freedom-of-speech or freedom-of-religion exemption to discrimination laws needs to be rooted in what someone is asked to make or do, not on who is asking. If the florist had refused to make a floral rainbow-flag display, for example, I’d support her. But refusing to offer a gay couple arrangements that she’d happily make for an opposite-sex couple is discrimination and should be illegal. “I won’t do that” is an acceptable objection, but “I won’t do that for you” isn’t.

What I find most aggravating about this series of religious-freedom cases, though, is that they’re not just bad law; they’re also bad religion. People aren’t finding these behaviors in Christianity, they’re stretching Christianity to justify the bigotry they already have. I don’t know of any commandment that says “Thou shalt not arrange flowers for two men who love each other.”

Second example: the teacher who can’t use a student’s preferred pronouns because of his “Christian faith”. (A Virginia judge recently ruled that he must get his job back because of “religious liberty”.) My Bible somehow fails to include the “Epistle to the Grammarians”, where St. Paul explained the proper Christian usage of 21st-century English pronouns.

These days, a great deal of conservative Christians’ “practice of their faith” consists of the mental gymnastics needed to insert themselves into other people’s moral issues. (What I would say to the anti-trans Virginia teacher is: “This child has made a decision to present themselves to the world as a boy or a girl. It’s not about you.”) As I explained several years ago, this isn’t “religious freedom”, it’s passive aggression.

and the virus

For weeks, people have been wondering if the Covid delta variant, combined with pockets of anti-vaccine sentiment, might stop the decline in cases that has been going on since January. Now it seems that it has.

Covid deaths are still going down, but the NYT reports a 19% increase in cases over the last two weeks. Missouri and Arkansas are the top hot spots, with 16 cases per 100K per day, compared to less than 1 case per 100K per day in Massachusetts and Vermont. Arkansas has 34% of adults fully vaccinated and Missouri 39%, while Massachusetts has 62% and Vermont 66%.

and the January 6 select committee

Having failed to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection, House Democrats have created a select committee. A Republican filibuster in the Senate blocked the bipartisan commission, but the House has no filibuster, so it will investigate on its own.

Republicans tried to block this investigation also. Only two Republicans — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — voted for the resolution establishing the committee.

Several investigations into the assault are already underway, but none have a mandate to look comprehensively at the event similar to the fact-finding commissions that scrutinized Sept. 11, the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Speaker Pelosi immediately named the eight members the establishing resolution allowed her to appoint, including Republican Liz Cheney. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy can choose the other five members, but Pelosi can veto them. It’s unclear whether McCarthy will agree to participate, or if he will try to subvert the process by naming members like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wants the job, or perhaps Andrew Clyde, who has compared the rioters invasion of the Capitol to a “normal tourist visit“.

McCarthy has already made snide remarks about Cheney accepting the appointment, suggesting that the former vice president’s daughter — a doctrinaire conservative whose only failing is her unwillingness to worship Trump — might be “closer to [Pelosi] than us”. He also hinted that her Republican committee assignments might be in jeopardy: “I don’t know in history where someone would go get their committee assignments from the Speaker and expect to have them from the conference as well.”

The predictable Republican objection to the select committee is that it will be partisan. Of course, they had a bipartisan option, but turned it down. Their real preference is that January 6 not be investigated at all. At various times, GOP congresspeople have blamed the riot on antifa, Black Lives Matter, or even the FBI. But none of the representatives who have made these claims voted in favor of an investigation that could establish the truth of the matter — probably because they already know that their claims aren’t true.

Some Democrats also have unproven theories: that Trump operatives (like Roger Stone) planned the violence, or that right-wing members of Congress gave “reconnaissance tours” to prospective insurrectionists. But unlike Republicans, they want the facts to come out.

This is one of those situations where the facts have a partisan bias: January 6 was a stain on the Republican Party, and on McCarthy’s puppetmaster Donald Trump. If the whole truth comes out, it will be bad for them.

you also might be interested in …

The June jobs report says that the economy added 850K jobs, led by hotels, restaurants, and bars gearing up for a real summer this year. Anomalously, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly, from 5.8% to 5.9%, as people re-entered the job market slightly faster than jobs appeared. Jobs are also paying a bit better, possibly because reopening businesses in some sectors have to compete for workers.

But there’s still a lot of ground to make up: 6.8 million more people were working when Covid hit the US in February of 2020.


1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones will get a tenure offer from the University of North Carolina after all, in spite of an outcry from anti-anti-racists.

The tenure approval [from the university’s board of trustees] came just one day before Hannah-Jones was set to officially join [UNC’s] Hussman School of Journalism and Media as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Last month it was revealed that her appointment didn’t come with tenure, a break with tradition for that position. Hannah-Jones’ legal team had said she would not take the position if it doesn’t include tenure.

Hannah-Jones’ tenure application had been proceeding smoothly until May, when it reached the trustees, who refused to take any action on it. Influential conservative groups had lobbied against her, but protests from faculty and students, together with bad publicity, seem to have turned the tide.

Hannah-Jones’ resume includes a Pulitzer Prize and and MacArthur genius grant. I would guess that most UNC professors can’t say that.


Iraq invasion architect Donald Rumsfeld died Tuesday. George Packer decided not to follow the ancient “Say nothing but good about the dead” adage, and made a list of just how wrong Rumsfeld had been in the years after 9-11:

Rumsfeld started being wrong within hours of the attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he’d long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn’t need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn’t operate without a strongman like Saddam. He thought that all the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, except the dire reports that he’d ordered up himself. He reserved his greatest confidence for intelligence obtained through torture. He thought that the State Department and the CIA were full of timorous, ignorant bureaucrats. He thought that America could win wars with computerized weaponry and awesome displays of force.

He believed in regime change but not in nation building, and he thought that a few tens of thousands of troops would be enough to win in Iraq. He thought that the quick overthrow of Saddam’s regime meant mission accomplished. He responded to the looting of Baghdad by saying “Freedom’s untidy,” as if the chaos was just a giddy display of democracy—as if it would not devastate Iraq and become America’s problem, too. He believed that Iraq should be led by a corrupt London banker with a history of deceiving the U.S. government. He faxed pages from a biography of Che Guevara to a U.S. Army officer in the region to prove that the growing Iraqi resistance did not meet the definition of an insurgency. He dismissed the insurgents as “dead-enders” and humiliated a top general who dared to call them by their true name. He insisted on keeping the number of U.S. troops in Iraq so low that much of the country soon fell to the insurgency.

His death at home, surrounded by loving family, is another reminder that the Bush administration officials implicated in torture were never brought to justice. This is from “The Green Light” written by Philippe Sands in 2008:

On a table before us were three documents. The first was a November 2002 “action memo” written by William J. (Jim) Haynes II, the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, to his boss, Donald Rumsfeld; the document is sometimes referred to as the Haynes Memo. Haynes recommended that Rumsfeld give “blanket approval” to 15 out of 18 proposed techniques of aggressive interrogation. Rumsfeld duly did so, on December 2, 2002, signing his name firmly next to the word “Approved.” Under his signature he also scrawled a few words that refer to the length of time a detainee can be forced to stand during interrogation: “I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”

The second document on the table listed the 18 proposed techniques of interrogation, all of which went against long-standing U.S. military practice as presented in the Army Field Manual. The 15 approved techniques included certain forms of physical contact and also techniques intended to humiliate and to impose sensory deprivation. They permitted the use of stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations, and nudity. Haynes and Rumsfeld explicitly did not rule out the future use of three other techniques, one of which was waterboarding, the application of a wet towel and water to induce the perception of drowning.


So this happened about a dozen miles up the road from where I live.

What started out as a seemingly routine stop by a State Police trooper to help motorists on the shoulder of Interstate 95 early Saturday morning spiraled into a surreal hours-long confrontation between nearly a dozen men with high-powered rifles and police, who were forced to shut down a busy highway on a holiday weekend and order nearby residents to shelter in their homes.

The men said they were from Rhode Island, and were headed to Maine for “training”.

When I first saw the headline, I thought this was some kind of white-supremacist militia thing. But it’s more complicated than that. The men were from Rise of the Moors, which seems to be an Islamic group of dark-skinned people who reject the label “Black” and instead identify as Moorish Americans.


In its zeal to expel immigrants who committed even minor crimes, the Trump administration deported “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of veterans and their immediate family members. The Biden administration is trying to bring them back.

“It’s our responsibility to serve all veterans as well as they have served us — no matter who they are, where they are from, or the status of their citizenship,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Keeping that promise means ensuring that noncitizen service members, veterans, and their families are guaranteed a place in the country they swore an oath — and in many cases fought — to defend.”


Looking at this video, I have to wonder how many Evangelicals are hearing QAnon conspiracy theories from the pulpit. This particular preacher is the founder of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee (which coincidentally is seven miles from where my sister is moving; I may have to drop in some Sunday).


Two firsts: A transgender woman is Miss Nevada and will be a contestant for Miss USA. Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, is the NFL’s first openly gay active player.

Nassib is by no means the first gay football player in the NFL, but he is the first openly gay active player in the league to play in the regular season. Michael Sam came out as gay following his successful college career and before the 2014 NFL draft, making him the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. However, Sam played only during the preseason. A handful of other players have come out after their professional careers had ended.

and let’s close with something bipartisan

A conservative boyfriend challenged the song-writing duo of Garfunkel and Oates to write a song where “both sides can laugh”. “How’d I do, Dan?”