Irresponsible States Are Threatening All of Us

Yesterday it was announced that 40 percent of new coronavirus cases were coming from just three states: Texas, Florida, and Missouri. Woo-HOO. Considering that Florida and Texas have much bigger populations than Missouri, this makes Missouri’s inclusion on the list of infamy all the more impressive.

If you look at new cases per 100,000 population over the past seven days, the picture is a little more complex. Josh Marshall writes that “Through this prism the crisis is overwhelmingly concentrated in three contiguous states along the Mississippi River: Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. Plus Florida.” Those four states are in a category of their own, he writes. Low vaccination rates are a big factor in these spikes but not the only factor.

The case rates track broadly with levels of vaccination. The Deep South has some of the lowest rates of vaccination and they’re getting hit the hardest. Meanwhile rates in the Northeast are about 1/10th what they are in Florida and those three Mississippi River states. But this shouldn’t prompt either a sense of superiority or relative safety. California is only a bit behind New York on vaccinations but their case rates are much higher. Florida’s rate of vaccination isn’t as low as you might think, certainly not so low as to explain the high case load on its own. Clearly there’s an interplay of vaccination density, mitigation and regionality.

I can’t speak to the situation in Florida or elsewhere, but I have no doubt that a combination of low vaccination rates and the complete abandonment of any other mitigation factors — masks, social distancing — are the sources of the problem in Missouri.

Here in St. Francois County, as soon as it was announced by the CDC that people who’d been vaccinated could stop wearing masks, every mask disappeared from public view in spite of the vaccination rate being only around 30 percent. Maybe only us vaccinated people were wearing masks before the announcement. There was never any statewide mask mandate, and Gov. Mike Parson has written orders limiting the ability of county health departments to independently enact any sort of emergency pandemic restrictions.

And as I wrote a few days ago, I strongly suspect the Missouri spike was being generated in the popular vacation spots Branson and Lake of the Ozarks, where people get together and party like it’s 2019. But Delta is spreading far beyond those spots now.

(Lake of the Ozarks is a man-made late created as part of a hydroelectric project, completed in 1931, which has its own weird history.)

It doesn’t help that our utterly ineffectual governor has responded to this mess by blaming George Soros and the news media. (The link goes to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial that I cannot access online, but maybe you’ll have better luck. I’m reading the print version.) These news agencies engage in “propaganda,” he said, pretty much ignoring that none have reported data that wasn’t generated by state agencies. The Soros claim was aimed at a news organization called The Missouri Independent, which has no connection to George Soros except in the minds of Missouri fever swamp creatures.

A few days ago the hospitals in Springfield begged the state to open off-site hospital space to take the overflow of cases. Gov. Parson responded, eventually, that the state would “probably” do it. But no action has been taken, as far as I can tell. I swear, the state would be better off if we’d elected a can of soup.

Speaking of the Missouri Independent, here is an interesting article on it today:

Amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Missouri, a recent Facebook conversation between two Republican state lawmakers is telling.

Around Independence Day, State Rep. Bill Kidd, from the Kansas City suburbs, revealed that he has been infected by the coronavirus.

“And no, we didn’t get the vaccine,” he wrote in a post that has since been deleted. “We’re Republicans ?”

State Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican from Taney County, home to the tourist destination of Branson, commented on the post by falsely claiming that the virus had been developed by top government scientist Anthony Fauci and billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. They “knew what was coming,” Seitz wrote.

“The jury is still out on the ‘vaccine’ (who knows what’s in that),” he wrote.

Not getting a vaccine is proof of partisan loyalty. There’s no hope.

And from here let’s go to David Frum, former Republican, who is pretty much disgusted with all this.

Reading about the fates of people who refused the vaccine is sorrowful. But as summer camp and travel plans are disrupted—as local authorities reimpose mask mandates that could have been laid aside forever—many in the vaccinated majority must be thinking: Yes, I’m very sorry that so many of the unvaccinated are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions. I’m also very sorry that the responsible rest of us are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions.

As cases uptick again, as people who have done the right thing face the consequences of other people doing the wrong thing, the question occurs: Does Biden’s America have a breaking point? Biden’s America produces 70 percent of the country’s wealth—and then sees that wealth transferred to support Trump’s America. Which is fine; that’s what citizens of one nation do for one another. Something else they do for one another: take rational health-care precautions during a pandemic. That reciprocal part of the bargain is not being upheld…

… Can governments lawfully require more public-health cooperation from their populations? They regularly do, for other causes. More than a dozen conservative states have legislated drug testing for people who seek cash welfare. It is bizarre that Florida and other states would put such an onus on the poorest people in society—while allowing other people to impose a much more intimate and immediate harm on everybody else. …

… But there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet.

Will Blue America ever decide it’s had enough of being put medically at risk by people and places whose bills it pays? Check yourself: Have you?

I’ve been fed up for a long time. In my ideal universe there would be a new version of Reconstruction, in which the states with low vaccination and mitigation rates and which are trying to limit voting access revert to the status of territories. Then they can only be readmitted to the Union when they get their act together and commit to behaving responsibily. Well, I can dream.

In other news: Yesterday the Missouri Supreme Court decided the state government could not ignore the referendum passed by a majority of voters in 2020 to expand Medicaid per the Affordable Care Act. I’m surprised, considering this is the same court that decided innocence is no good reason to let someone out of jail. I’m betting the state government will still try to screw the voters, but we’ll see.

Pelosi Is Not Buying McCarthy’s, Um, Effluvia

“The notion that Democratic leaders must work with Republican leaders in order to have political legitimacy is well and truly dead,” writes Nicole Hemmer at CNN. Hemmer is an associate research scholar at Columbia University. I hope she’s right. Republicans disagree, I’m sure. A lot of media disagrees. But I think most Democrats have had enough.

So yesterday Nancy Pelosi decined to seat Jim Jordan and Jim Banks on the select committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection. Then Kevin McCarthy had a fit and withdrew all the Republicans he had put forward for the commttee. And now editorial pages everywhere are filling up with expressions of either deep concern about Nancy’s “blunder” or gratitude that Jordan won’t be allowed to turn the hearings into a clown show.

Hemmer continues, “At a deeper level, Pelosi’s actions here also constitute a crucial development: the rejection of bipartisanship as a positive force in US politics.” Again, this announcement may be premature, but at least Pelosi’s actions constitute the point at which Democrats have stopped taking the “bipartisanship” bait. It’s a step.

Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman:

We should be thankful that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) just pulled Republicans out of any involvement in the select committee to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection. In so doing, he ensured that the committee’s investigation will both have more integrity and be more likely to undertake a valuable accounting.

Which goes to a larger truth about this moment: Efforts at a real examination of arguably the worst outbreak of political violence in modern times — and efforts to protect our democracy more broadly — will not be bipartisan. These things will be done by Democrats alone.

Of course, there is one Republican on the committee, Liz Cheney. Pelosi is considering adding  Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Kinzinger was one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. There is also talk she might add former Virginia GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman, a retired intelligence officer,  in an advisory capacity. Riggleman is known to be, um, critical of the current Republican party.

So there will be some token bipartisanship, but we will be spared Jordan and his antics. And Kevin McCarthy can’t do anything about it.

The Best Foreign Policy Money Could Buy

Turns out Trump’s foreign policy was for sale to the highest bidder. And it wasn’t just the Trumps cashing in.

See also Juan Cole and Heather Cox Richardson. Juan Cole wrote,

Donald Trump as president dumped the Paris Climate Accord, withdrew from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, endorsed the 2017 blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and pushed for declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood had been part of the 2011 uprisings against Arab dictators, leading Arab monarchies to see them as subversives and dangerous to the status quo.

All of these steps were on a wish list of the United Arab Emirates, the fabulously wealthy Gulf oil state, with its capital at Abu Dhabi.

And Heather Cox Richardson wrote,

According to today’s charges, once Trump was in office, Barrack continued to lobby for the UAE until April 2018. He allegedly worked with allies in the UAE to draft passages of Trump’s speeches, hone press materials, and prepare talking points to promote UAE interests. Without ever registering as a foreign agent, he worked to change U.S. foreign policy and appoint administration officials to meet a “wish list” produced by UAE officials.

Barrack helped to tie the Trump administration to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, turning the US away from Qatar, an ally that hosts US air bases (although they are now being closed as bases and in the process of becoming housing for our Afghan allies before their US visas come through). From the beginning, the administration worked closely with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who controls $1.3 trillion in sovereign wealth funds and essentially rules the UAE, and with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), whom Prince Mohammed championed.

In May 2017, Trump advisers Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, along with Saudi and UAE leaders, met without the knowledge of then–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to talk about blockading Qatar. When Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt launched a blockade on June 5, 2017, Trump cheered them on, although the State Department took a neutral stand and the Pentagon thanked Qatar for hosting US troops.

Trump’s first foreign visit as president was to Saudi Arabia, remember, which gave us the famous glowing orb moment:

Tom Barrack  also was instrumental in bringing Paul Manafort and Rick Gates into the Trump campaign, which introduced the Russian connection as well. See also What Really Happened to the Inaguration Money? and The Trump Inauguration: Grifters Gonna Grift.

There are allegations floating around that Barrack took in about  $1.5 billion from the UAE and the Saudis. When Trump finds out someone other than him was making money on his admnistration, he’ll blow a fuse.

What Will We Do About the Unvaccinated?

The growing Delta variant hotspots in red states like Missouri are worrisome. And the question is, what can be done? I don’t know. I’m not sure anything can be done.

Some guy named Brian Broome writes of vaccine avoiders,

Their “caution” feels almost neurotic, based on little more than the thrill of contrarianism. The “I’m so unique and different” of it all. They seem to want, more than anything else, to show that they’re smarter than the average bear. Like the pompous hipster who says, “You wouldn’t even know the bands I listen to.”


There are those who refuse the vaccine simply because they do not like the current administration. This, I believe, to be little more than pouting, a child holding his breath in the grocery store as a protest for not getting a cookie before checkout.

Yeah, pretty much. See also Greg Sargent, today:

It was only a matter of time until Donald Trump converted the debate over covid-19 vaccines into an occasion for his supporters to show their loyalty to him — and even worse, to the “big lie” that his 2020 loss was illegitimate.

“People are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration,” the former president said in a statement Sunday, referring to President Biden. “They don’t trust the Election results, and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News.”

There you have it: Trump is telling his supporters that they are correct not to trust the federal government on vaccines, because this sentiment should flow naturally from their suspicion that the election was stolen from him. Expressing the former has been magically transformed into a way to show fealty to the latter.

Could loyalty to Trump override concern for oneself and one’s family? Sure it could. And it is. I have no doubt.

Also, the avoiders are really big on describing vaccination as a personal decision that isn’t anybody else’s business. Except that their personal decisions in aggregate are keeping the pandemic going. They refuse to consider that their decisions impact other people, and if the pandemic keeps going, they probably think that’s Dr. Fauci’s fault. See, for example, the argument that broke out on Fox News over masks —

Brian Kilmeade thinks people are “choosing” to die? He also insists that “it’s not their [the government’s] job to protect anybody,” which was news to me. Seat belts? Drug safety regulations? Air traffic controllers? Whatever. Kilmeade also doesn’t want to be judged for his decisions, and he doesn’t want anyone else to interfere with how he wants to live his life by making him comply with covid recommendations. Which is kind of rich, since keeping the pandemic going is interfering with all of our lives.

We really could be sailing through this summer with covid mostly behind us, were it not for them. Now we’re going to be very lucky if more, and worse, variants don’t develop. I sincerely wonder if the only thing that would motivate these people to get vaccinated is to step up and say that vaccines are being reserved for reigstered Democrats and no one else can have them. Reverse psychology. It sometimes works on children to get them to eat vegetables (“Oh, that? I made the vegetables jusr for the grown ups. I didn’t think you’d want any.”).

See also Sam Baker, “A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated,” at Axios and Jennifer Rubin, “We’re becoming two Americas: One healthy, one deliberately at risk” at WaPo.

If there were consquences (other than death) for not getting vaccinated, such as not being allowed into stadiums or theaters, maybe people would get vaccinated. But right-wing governors have worked overtime making sure people don’t have to face those consequences. Here’s a glimmer of good news — a court has sided with Norweigian Cruise Lines against Gov. DeSantis and will allow Norweigian to restrict cruises only to vaccinated people.

In other news, Mike Pence’s presidential aspirations are flatlining, which is no surprise whatsoever.

The Muddy Picture of the 2022 Midterms

We all know about the built-in advantages Republicans will enjoy in next year’s midterms. It’s nearly always the case that the party not in the White House cleans up in the midterms. And thanks to Manchin and Sinema we’re not going to get election reform, so congressional GOP candidates can rely on gerrymandering and voter suppression to ensure victory. Those factors will be really hard to overcome. Is there any way Democrats can hang on to the Senate and House?

In the Senate, Republicans will be defending 20 seats and Democrats 14. Five of those Republican seats are “open”; the Republicans holding those seats now are not running again. As of now, all of the Democratic incumbents are running again. So there is opportunity there. Current forecasts give Democrats some hope of hanging on. But the House is expected to flip. It may not, of course, but the odds that it won’t are considerably long. The advantage of Republican gerrymandering is just too strong.

It’s also the case that, however, we’re heading into unknown territory here. And that’s because the Republican Party is so tied to Trump. Barring some unforeseen disaster in the Biden Administration, I have a hard time imagining that the educated urbanites and suburbanites who voted for Democrats in 2018 and 2020 will find a bunch of Trumpy, hard-right Republican candidates all that palatable. And that might help Democrats keep the Senate.

As for the House, Kevin McCarthy seems determined to make the Republican House races as Trumpy as possible. McCarthy has met with Trump several times to discuss the midterms for the House. Seriously. Greg Sargent wrote last week that McCarthy is trying to portray the Trump administration as a lost golden age, and if only Democrats hadn’t taken over, everything would be great again now. The story is that Trump left Biden a country in great shape, and Biden has already screwed it all up. Sargent:

But telling the GOP base an absurd, lurid, emotionally charged fiction is central to GOP midterm hopes: The Trump era represented an idyllic age that has been torn asunder from Republican voters, who in their fury, deprivation and victimization should storm out in 2022 to avenge it all.

The success of this strategy will depend a lot on what happens between now and November 2022. Certainly the American voting public has a long history of gullibility regarding politicians selling snake oil. But sometimes they do recognize the snake oil for what it is, if the sales pitch isn’t matching their personal experience. (Example: Remember George Bush’s campaign to privatize Social Security?)

Right now, economic forecasts for the U.S. economy — the ones not generated by right-wing think tanks or Fox Business News, anyway — are really, really good. The IMF is projecting that the U.S. economy will grow by 7 percent in 2021. Especially if the infrastructure bills pass this year, 2022 ought to be a good year for most Americans, and a better year for working class Americans than they’ve had in a long time. And by then the supply and staffing issues driving shortages and price hikes will have worked out. And in that case, the story that Biden screwed up the great economy Trump built may be hard to sell outside the Trump Cult.

It’s also the case that people outside the Trump Cult were not happy with the January 6 insurrection. There’s a member’s-only analysis at Talking Points Memo that I recommend, if you’re a member. In summary, Republican House candidates will depend on staying in Trump’s good graces to get past the primaries. This makes the House select committee to investigate the insurrection a real hot potato for McCarthy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced this week that the Jan. 6 select committee would hold its first hearing on July 27, kicking off its review of the insurrection with “firsthand” testimony from Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers. That means McCarthy has a pseudo deadline for appointing members to the committee (which Pelosi can veto), but he hasn’t made any movement on that front and has not even confirmed that he will pick people to begin with (Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is the only Republican Pelosi’s appointed to the committee.)

McCarthy could appoint GOP members who will be vocal in their defense of Trump, or who will also take the work seriously to appease those suburban Republican voters disenchanted with the former president and/or disturbed by the insurrection. It’s a tough needle to thread leading up to the midterms — which is why Republicans were against the commission in the first place; they were worried about the negative impact a review of a Trumpian coup might have on midterm messaging.

It’s expected that McCarthy will be advised by Trump on whom to choose. But the January 6 investigations, plus Trump’s ongoing legal jeopardies, could have a big impact on the political landscape in the next few months.

Another wild card is covid recovery. Things could get better, or they could get worse. If they get worse, will voters in general blame Joe Biden? Or will they blame the red state deadheads who refused to get vaccinated?

We Are Tottering on the Edge of Disaster

Do you ever have a feeling that civilization is hanging by a thread? For example, we’ve got deadly weather patterns around the world screaming “climate change.” Recent heat destroyed millions of ocean creatures, and somehow this didn’t make headlines.

Here in the U.S. it’s unlikely voting rights bills will pass. Yesterday the brave Texas Democrats in Exile met with Joe Manchin to impress on him the critical need for voting protections. Today, Manchin is spitting in their faces by traveling to Texas for a fundraiser hosted by GOP donors. As much as some people in media continue to hold out the hope that Manchin (and Sinema) will budge on the filibuster, we know that Manchin is under orders from his billionaire donors (capital management, equity firms, hedge funds) to leave the filibuster alone.

Meanwhile, the Dealth Cult Republicans continue to stampede the faithful over the coronavirus cliff. Tennessee joined in the great red state race to the bottom by ending programs that encouraged and provided vaccines — all vaccines — to adolescents. Republicans in Congress hope to enable the spread of the Delta variant nationwide by banning “tyrranical” federal mask mandates on interstate transportation.

Is there anything to be hopeful about? At the moment, the reconciliation infrastructure bill looks good. There’s a $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan in Congress that has broad support in the party. From what I can see the progressives will support it, and so far the blue dogs haven’t said they’d oppose it. And Paul Krugman is happy.

The way it was: Some years ago I attended a meeting in which President Barack Obama asked a group of economists for unconventional policy ideas. I distinctly remember him saying: “Don’t tell me that I should spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure. I know that, but I can’t do it.”

The way it is: Top Democrats have agreed on a proposal to spend $3.5 trillion on public investment of various kinds, to be passed via reconciliation on top of a $600 billion bipartisan plan for physical infrastructure spending.

Give a lot of the credit to Bernie Sanders, who was proposing much more spending but compromised “down” to $3.5 trillion. This is how negotiating works, people.

It’s too soon to say the reconciliation bill is a sure thing, but at the moment it’s about the only good news we’ve got.

The Die-off Begins

Yeah, this is grand.

Missouri is the most concerning state in the country as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said Thursday.

“When I look at the map, Missouri actually jumps out as the place that I’m most worried about because there’s a lot of cases now happening very rapidly,” Dr. Francis Collins told McClatchy’s bureau in the District of Columbia.

Next month I’m planning to fly to NYC to see my grandbabies, and now I’m afraid they’re going to quarantine the bleeping state. See also a segment from last night’s Maddow.

The news stories keep talking about Springfield, but that’s because the cases are being taken to hospitals in Springfield. Springfield is smack in between two tourist destination areas, the Lake of the Ozarks to the north and Branson to the south. These are both popular vacation spots for people in Missouri and nearby states Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

In May 2020, Lake of the Ozarks made international news because of a packed pool party. I complained about the place last September because of a massive multi-state motorcycle rally. If any businesses in either place closed for the pandemic it was only briefly. I believe both tourist areas were open last summer and have remained open since. Branson was advertising its Christmas entertainment last December, so I know it was open all winter. LotO and Branson are perfect for infecting lots of people and spreading it around the multi-state area.

If there are any saving graces operating here is that the weather has been conducive to outdoor activity. So far this summer hasn’t been quite as britally hot as summer usually is in these parts.

But the attention is on Springfield. The delta variant is ravaging this Missouri city. Many residents are still wary of vaccines. One sad young woman who survived covid is certain she gave it to her mother, who died. Yes, she’s very sad. People still aren’t getting vaccinated. They still think vaccines are a liberal plot, and the young folks believe they are immune.

When “Actual Innocence” Can’t Get You Out of Jail

I wrote awhile back about Kevin Strickland, a Black man wrongly convicted of murder 40 years ago who remains in prison in Missouri because the governor won’t act and the local prosecutors, who acknowledge that Strickland was wrongly convicted, have no legal means to release him. In Missouri they can’t just go to a court and ask a judge to void the conviction.

If that sounds crazy to you, it sounds crazy to me too. It sounds crazy to a lot of people.

There are two other Black men in prison here whose convictions have been acknowledged to be unjust. Their names are Lamar Johnson and Christopher Dunn. Here is a recent PBS News Hour report on Lamar Johnson. Johnson’s case was investigated by St. Louis circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner . She discovered prosecutorial misconduct up the wazoo. This is from the PBS report:

Gardner’s investigation turned up even more proof of Johnson’s innocence. The prosecution’s eyewitness recanted, admitting he’d only identified Johnson because police told him Johnson was guilty.

And her team found records showing prosecutors paid that witness more than $4,000 for housing and expenses, information that was never disclosed to the defense.

So, you have no evidence that he committed the crime. You have the confession of two other people that they committed the crime and that he did not. You have raised pretty good questions about whether or not the trial was fair. People will ask, then why is he in prison?

And the answer seems to be that Missouri simply never created a process by which wrongly convicted people can be exonerated and released. One must be pardoned by a governor, and Gov. Mike Parson appears not to see why innocent Black men ought to be released from jail. As Parson said of Strickland, he was convicted “by a jury of his peers.” So what if the prosecutors manipulated the photo lineup, bribed another prisoner to snitch, and withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense and jury? So what if other people have confessed to the crimes? What if the prosecutors’ entire case has been found to be lies? Parson doesn’t see the problem. 

And it probably doesn’t help Mr. Johnson that the Republicans in Jefferson City hate Kimberly Gardner with a white-hot passion. Among other things, they blame her, and not their stupid NRA-approved gun un-regulations, for rampant gun violence in St. Louis. They also blame her for being a Black woman. She also was instrumental in prying Gov. Eric Greitens out of office, although the Republicans in Jefferson City don’t like Greitens, either, so I don’t know why they care about that.

This March the Missouri Supreme Court denied an appeal from Mr. Johnson, who was convicted of murder in 1995.

The state’s highest court upheld that decision this week on procedural grounds, saying that Gardner lacked the ability under state law to file a motion for a new trial so long after Johnson’s original conviction. All seven of the court’s justices agreed with the conclusion, which did not address any of Johnson’s innocence claims.

There’s a statute of limitations on innocence? It gets dumber. I have learned that according to current Missouri case law, “actual innocence” is not a sufficient reason to release a prisoner found to have been wrongly convicted unless the prisoner is on death row.

I’ll repeat that. “Actual innocence” is not a sufficient reason to release a prisoner found to be innocent unless the prisoner is on death row.

Not being a lawyer I may be misinterpreting things, but here is the relevant case cited in the Post-Dispatch. Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District. IN RE: Rodney L. Lincoln, Petitioner, v. Jay Cassady, Superintendent, Jefferson City Correctional Center, Respondent. WD 79854 Decided: October 11, 2016

In this case, Rodney Lincoln had filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus requesting the vacation of his 1983 convictions of two counts of first-degree assault and of manslaughter. Lincoln spent 36 years in prison. You can read the background of his case here.  By six years or so after his conviction the evidence had fallen apart, but the Midwest Innocence Project kept taking cases to court to get his conviction voided. And in 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, declared —

Because the Missouri Supreme Court has not recognized a freestanding claim of actual innocence in cases where the death penalty has not been imposed, we are not at liberty to expand Missouri habeas jurisprudence to permit consideration of the claim in this case. Accordingly, Relator’s habeas petition is denied.

So, if you’re not on death row, you can’t get your wrongful conviction overturned? In 2018 Lincoln, who is White, was set free by Gov. Eric Greitens. One wonders if he’d still be in jail if he were Black. But Lincoln received no compensation whatsoever from the state for the 36 years he was kept imprisoned.

This state makes me crazy.

Lamar Johnson

The GOP’s Happy Imaginary World

A long, long time ago I decided that the biggest difference between the two major parties was their style of addressing problems. Democrats have long tended to identify a problem and then think up policies to address it. The policies may or may not work. They may fall way short of what’s needed. They may cost a lot of money. But as a rule Democrats will admit to a problem when it arises and think up something to do about it.

Republicans, on the other hand, most of the time refuse to admit there is a problem, especially if it’s one that can’t be solved with tax cuts and privatization. The classic example of this involves health care. By the late 1980s a lot of Democrats were admitting we needed health care reform. Mike Dukakis made health care reform a big part of his presidential campaign in 1988. But the response to this from Republicans was “we have the best health care in the world” and there was absolutely no reason to lift a finger to reform it.

After all these years the Republicans still don’t want to face the realities of the corrupted, tangled mess that is the U.S. overexpensive and inefficient healthcare system, although most will admit that maybe something needs to be done to bring costs down. But all the “reforms” they can think of basically amount to meaningless tweaks. And like Donald Trump’s famous health care plan that is perpetually two weeks’ away from being ready to unveil, Republicans for at least the past decade or so have claimed to have comprehensive plans for health care in the works that never materialize. Or, if they do materialize, they are very, very stupid and don’t survive being exposed to daylight. See, for example, The Conservative Plan: Don’t Get Sick from September 2009.

The exception to the “What problem?” rule happens when a problem, whether real or imaginary, can be politicized to bash Democrats. Thus the Wall Street Journal even today is giving a lot of space to a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

In GOP world, vaccine mandates that don’t exist are a crisis, but not the pandemic itself. But if the pandemic is a problem, then the most important thing is not to slow its spread but to find out who can be blamed for it. There is nothing about the pandemic itself that provides an obvious argument for tax cuts or for privatizing government services, so Republicans on the whole don’t see it as an issue worth addressing.

But since Joe Biden became president and Congress gained a slim Democratic majority, Republicans have put great effort into demonizing everything Democrats are trying to do to save lives. Government overreach! they scream, even as the Delta variant spreads. As I wrote recently, many GOP governors have put more effort into “protecting” their citizens from having to wear masks or get vaccinated than in protectiong their citizens from the bleeping virus. So here is a map showing where covid cases are increasing at the moment:


If you’re wondering, Vermont has a 66 percent full vaccination rate, and Massachusetts has a 62.5 percent full vaccination rate. If only we could get to that rate everywhere … It’s just over 50 percent in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), but maybe its isolation has protected it. Sounds like a nice place to visit, though.

This week rightie world went ballistic about government overreach! after President Biden said something about people going door to door to encourage vaccination. Here is that remark, in context.

Because here’s the deal: We are continuing to wind down the mass vaccination sites that did so much in the spring to rapidly vaccinate those eager to get their first shot — and their second shot, for that matter, if they needed a second.

Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.

Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated.

So, as we shift from these centralized mass — mass vaccination sites, where we were doing thousands of people a day, we’re going to put even more emphasis on getting vaccinated in your community, close to home, conveniently at a location you’re already familiar with.

Right on cue, Marjorie Taylor Greene compared this effort to the Nazis.

“Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people,” Greene tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment….”

To Greene, “fascism” is defined as “anything a Democrat does.” See also David Graham, “The Rise of Anti-History,” at The Atlantic.

For Greene and others in the Trumpist wing of the Republican Party, anti-history has become a shibboleth. They drop historical references and facts into political debates, but without regard to context, logic, or proportionality. Their villains include Adolf Hitler, but also Mao Zedong and Joseph McCarthy; the Holocaust was bad, but also, Jewish people control the weather. The pose is more than the simple historical illiteracy that’s endemic among American politicians. In this GOP faction, members are willfully ignorant of history, which they view in purely instrumental terms, as a bludgeon to wield even as they do not bother to understand it.

(It might be best to understand Greene as a kind of walking Rorschach test. What she bleats out of her mouth isn’t important and doesn’t make sense, anyway. But whatever you make of what she says reveals something about you.)

But it gets better. At CPAC (yes, they’re holding CPAC again. I think they’re making it a monthly event) Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) warned his fellow wingnuts that Biden’s door-to-door effort is designed to take away their Bibles. And maybe their guns, too. The la-la is strong with this guy.

If it weren’t for the fact that a big, unvaccinated population increases the likelihood of a new variant developing that can’t be stopped with vaccines, I’d say let ’em be crazy. By this time next year, there will be fewer of them. But people who are not-wingnuts will be endangered, also. Maybe the way to reach the wackjobs is to declare that vaccines are available only to registered Democrats. Then they’ll want them.

See also: Delta variant spills out of an incubator that is also a Midwest tourist hotspot by Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg.

When One Side’s Terrorist Is Another Side’s Martyr

Can we talk big-time hypocrisy? The Right has gifted martyrdom to the late Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot and killed while rioting in the Capitol January 6. These past six months they have called for the name of the law enforcement officer who shot her, but the officer was cleared of wrongdoing, and his name was not released.

Now parts of rightie media have named a name, based on their analysis of the video of the shooting. I am not going to repeat the name here, because the wider his name is known the more peril he is in. And I have no opinion as to whether the man named is the real shooter. I do have an opinion that the Justice Department was right to clear him of wrongdoing.

To review, on January 6 Ms. Babbitt was in the forefront of a port of the mob who came up against the barricaded door of the Speaker’s Lobby, a space outside the main entrance of the House chamber. Members of Congress and their staffs were escaping through the lobby at the time. Rioters shattered the glass on the doors. In the videos, you can see a law enforcement officer standing behind the doors with a gun drawn. Babbitt, with the help of other rioters, was squeezing herself through an open space to get into the lobby. You can see her in this photo; she’s wearing the striped backpack.

I am told that in some videos, security staff can be heard shouting “Get back! Get down!” I have not watched every video myself to verify that, but in this one you can hear rioters yell, “he’s got a gun.” One officer is plainly visible pointing his handgun. And as Babbitt’s head came through the window, he fired. She was struck in the neck and declared dead at the hospital.

The righties make much of the fact that Babbitt was not armed. But the security staff at that time had no way to know who was armed. And in any event, by then police all over the building were being routed and beaten up by the overwhelming force of the mob. Armed or not armed, the rioters were a clear danger to the legislators still a few feet away, either evacuating or still in the House chamber. This photo taken from within the House chamber suggests that if those doors had been broken through, more people would have been shot.

It is regretful that anyone died in that mob. But how deluded do you have to be to believe that Babbitt died “for no reason“?

The Department of Justice said of the officer who shot Babbitt:

The focus of the criminal investigation was to determine whether federal prosecutors could prove that the officer violated any federal laws, concentrating on the possible application of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal civil rights statute. In order to establish a violation of this statute, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted willfully to deprive Ms. Babbitt of a right protected by the Constitution or other law, here the Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to an unreasonable seizure. Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so “willfully,” which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean that the officer acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law. As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required under Section 242.

The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber. Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter.

I don’t know the status of the evacuation at the exact moment of the shooting, but it’s my understanding that the mob could well have gotten their hands on members of Congress if it had gotten through that door. Lawmakers Were Feet and Seconds Away From Confrontation With the Mob in the Capitol, according to a Wall Street Journal headline. And now that the mob has the name of an officer, he and his family will need to be moved to a very safe, undisclosed location. So far, none of the published articles naming his name have given his address or the names of family members, but that’s only a matter of time. Somewhere, no doubt, he is already doxxed.

It’s my understanding that the shot that killed Ashli Babbitt was the only gunshot fired in the Capitol that day. There was, of course, bear spray and tasers and many blunt objects in the hands of the mob. I’ve waded into some rightie sites today, and according to rightie lore, all of the rioters who died that day were killed by Capitol security. Beside Babbit, these are:

Kevin D. Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama. According to news reports, Greeson was standing with a group of Trump loyalists on the west side of the Capitol when he suffered a heart attack and fell to the sidewalk. He was talking on the phone with his wife at the time. According to righties, he had a heart attack because he was shot in the chest with rubber bullets.

Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia. Ms. Boyland was trampled by her fellow rioters, although the official cause of death was “acute amphetamine intoxication.” Even so, the New York Times “Day of Rage” video shows rioters trampling over her. According to rightie lore, the crowd ran because it was being fired on. No, it wasn’t. The crowd was not in retreat but in advance. No shots are heard. No one in that part of the crowd was shot.

The point is that a characteristic of Trump supporters is blind tribal loyalty and an inability to take personal responsibility for anythng.

Speaking of deaths, on July 6 Chris Hayes made the point that the House would have been evacuated sooner except that Rep. Paul Gosar was taking his time objecting to the ballots of his own state. If the House chamber had evacuated sooner, Ashli Babbitt might still be alive. Chris Hayes stopped short of accusing Gosar of coordinating with the mob. Hmm.

And let us not forget that abut 140 officers were injured in the defense of the Capitol. Many injuries were serious — broken ribs, smashed vertebrae, head injuries. Officer Brian Sicknick died the next day, perhaps from unrelated causes, and two other officers committed suicide in the days after the riot.

But we must remember that the mob is still out there, and still dangerous, and they think they have righteousness on their side.

See also: Philip Bump, The death of Ashli Babbitt offers the purest distillation of Donald Trump’s view of justice.