Time to Go On Offense, Democrats

As I understand it, the plan is for Democrats to make one more attempt to get through a couple of thick skulls, and then they will schedule a roll call vote on the voting rights bill tomorrow. The Republicans will fillibuster, and Chuck Schumer is expected to introduce a bill on the rule change. And then all the votes on the filibuster will be on the record. Manchin and Sinema will vote no, but I question whether they understand — Sinema almost certainly doesn’t — that they’ve destroyed the last residue of good will toward them from within their own party.

And then the Democrats will have to salvage the midterms and convince voters that if they had just two more Senators and can keep the House, they really could get things done next time. Cross their hearts.

Yesterday, watching Martin Luther King Day interviews on MSNBC, it seems to me that a lot of people were being more open in their disgust with the Deadly Duo than they have been. Democrats are beyond fed up with them. There’s always a chance they’ll switch parties, of course, which is a concern, but I doubt Manchin would do that. He’s smart enough to know that once he joins the Borg Collective becomes a Republican, he has no more individual power, and there will be no reason for anyone to give a rat’s ass about him or how he votes. Sinema may be too much of a ditz to grasp that.

Other people are fed up in other ways. Out in the wider world, a big backlash is going on against the unvaccinated. Yasmeen Serhan writes in the Atlantic that recently French President Emmanuel Macron caused an uproar when he vowed to antagonize the unvaccinated of France.

But what looked like a risky move for Macron could prove to be a more politically shrewd calculation, not because of whom it alienates, but rather because of whom it doesn’t. In France, and in other democratic countries around the world, the unvaccinated make up a relatively small segment of the population. Macron and his peers in countries such as Australia and Italy have calculated that condemning this group could be more politically effective than pandering to it. Even world-famous celebrities such as tennis star Novak Djokovic, whose unvaccinated status dashed his hopes of defending his Australian Open title, have become the targets of politicians’ ire. By taking a tougher line on the unvaccinated, Macron and other democratically elected leaders facing elections this year may be courting an energetic new voter base: the vaccinated, and ever more impatient, majority.

And on Sunday, the Parliament of France followed through and passed a law, by a vote of 215-58, that bans unvaccinated people from all restaurants, sports arenas, and other venues. More than 90 percent of French adults are vaccinated, so it’s probably safe to say that most French voters will not mind. Polls show that two-thirds of French adults support the bill. Similar restrictions on the unvaccinated were established in Italy recently and enjoy broad support. People are fed up with the unvaccinated.

The recent drama involving pro tennis player Novak Djokovic is another example. His deportation from Australia had overwhelming support from the Australian public. No 21st grand slam title for you, jerk. Djokovic will probably find himself barred from the French Open and possibly from the Spanish Open as well. It appears kicking Djokovic around is popular with voters in many parts of the globe, although perhaps not with hard-core tennis fans.

I don’t think restricting the unvaccinated would work the same way in the U.S. — too bad — but I do think it’s past time for Democrats to employ the same principle and go on the offensive against the Right. No more cowering in a corner because people on Fox News might say nasty things about them.

Democrats have been with the majority opinion on most issues, from covid mitigation to abortion rights to voting access. It’s time they started acting like it. It’s also way past time to take their message to people directly, because news media do a piss-poor job reporting on issues in this country.

The January 6 committee is planning televised hearings that, Rep. Raskin promises, will “blow the roof off the House.” They’ll be like the Watergate hearings, he says. Let’s hope. That may be an opening for the Democrats to go after right-wing extremism directly. And loudly. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, as expected, Dems need to use that, too.

So, as Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain said at Gettysburg — charge.

Don’t Know Much About History

Let’s talk about stupid. According to Rep. Jamie Raskin, several  people called Nancy Pelosi’s office on January 7, 2021 to ask about things they had lost while they were rioting.

Rioters were calling “asking whether there was a lost and found because they forgot their phone there, or they left their purse or what have you,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told Insider on Friday in a Q&A.

Police officers swiftly took down information from the callers, Raskin said.

“The officers quickly got on the phone and said, yeah, just give us your name, your address, your social, you know, and we’ll tie up those loose ends,” Raskin said.

Derp on steroids. But what this tells us is that these people hadn’t yet realized they had done something wrong. Rep. Raskin, a constitutional scholar, observed that many insurrectionists had no concept of the separation of powers and didn’t understand that a president has no constitutional authority to invite people to break into the Capitol and interfere with Congress. They seemed to think if they were doing what the President asked, then it was okay. And I suspect he is right.

Righties fetishize the Constitution the way they fetishize the Bible. Invoking either the Constitution, or the Bible, is simply to claim authority for their position, whatever it is, even if there is no connection between their position or either document. These documents have a mystical power that confers special privilege and authority on conservative white people, you see.

Another constitutional scholar wrote a couple of years ago that the alt-right has created an alt-constitution.

The Alt-constitution – in sharp distinction from the real Constitution – tolerates no restrictions on speech, guns or private property, does not concede that federal laws trump state and local law – although the supremacy clause of Article 6 of the Constitution clearly indicates otherwise – and incorporates the principle of separate but equal.

For the far right, the meaning of every provision in the Constitution is plain or discerned easily by appealing to what the Founders intended. Or failing that, to Holy Scripture.

Of course, they have no idea what the Founders intended, as they also have developed an alt-history that bears no resemblance to what really happened at the Constitututional Convention. And they don’t know Holy Scripture any better. Often the two documents weirdly merge in their minds, as when they decide the Second Amendment protects a “God-given right” to carry any firearm they want to carry, without restriction. That’s a position that’s indefensible either by “original intention” or in the Bible, which was written before the invention of firearms.

Here’s some more derp. Someone in the Virginia legislature, trying to head off the evil Marxist influence of Critical Race Theory in public schools, proposed a bill that listed what parts of American history children ought to know. These include, the bill said, the famous debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Which, of course, never happened. Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas, who was a nationally known big shot in his day and who had a big impact on U.S. history. Alas, Stephen, we hardly know ye now.

There is a knee-jerk assumption — and I’ve run into self-identified Democrats who hold it also — that American history as it has been taught in American schools, from elementary school through undergraduate Ameerican History 101, is simply the accurate and unbiased version of history, and to introduce any part of Critical Race Theory would be to introduce politics and dogma to history, instead of simply teaching history.

But the fact is, history as it is taught to American’s school children is nothing but the bastard offspring of a whole lot of politics and dogmas going back to the beginning of the nation. The Thanksgiving Story we all learned and drew crayon pictures of way back when is mostly just a myth, for example.

Another example is Reconstruction. When I was a public school student of the 1950s and 1960s, we were taught the Gone With the Wind revisionist version of Reconstruction, in which a vengeful North sent evil carpetbaggers to the South to oppress the poor plantation owners. Absolute garbage. But now it appears Reconstruction is not being taught at all.

In social studies standards for 45 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, discussion of Reconstruction is “partial” or “non-existent,” according to historians who reviewed how the period is discussed in K-12 social studies standards for public schools nationwide. In a report produced by the education nonprofit Zinn Education Project, the study’s authors say they are concerned that American children will grow up to be uninformed about a critical period of history that helps explain why full racial equality remains unfulfilled today.

If you aren’t a history nerd and don’t know much about Reconstruction, you probably can’t appreciate what a shocking mess that period devolved into, and how much a lot of it is relevant to what’s going on today. I’m sure the biggest reason it isn’t taught is that white racists can’t bear to hear about it.

The Civil War also isn’t taught well at all, which has allowed many generations of white children to be able to blissfully deny that the war was about slavery. As I wrote in another post in 2020,

The Lost Cause is, of course, a mythology that grew in the South after the Civil War. And at the hands of generations of Southern historical scholars, the mythology supplanted the real history of the war, as well as the real history of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and a lot of other things. The Lost Cause denied that the primary — and secondary, and tertiary — reason so many slave states seceded and formed the Confederacy was to protect the institution of slavery. Instead, the myth insisted, the Civil War was fought to preserve some noble, agrarian way of life that was principled and free. Seriously. And this way of life was ripped away from the poor victimized South by those dirty northern industrialists for some vague reason that never made coherent sense. And if you know anything at all about the real history, you know what a pile of excréments de taureau that is.

It’s only been over the past 40 years or so that new scholarship has challenged the Lost Cause myth and corrected the record. So if today you are an American history major or take graduate level classes in American history, you probably get well documented facts that paint a very different picture than most of us were taught. But I don’t know this has trickled down to what freshmen learn in American History 101. The article on Reconstruction teaching says, “In interviews, teachers said they had barely learned about the period themselves and would need more professional development to feel comfortable teaching it in-depth.”

Reconstruction probably can’t be taught without pissing off a lot of the parents, who are likely to show up at School Board meetings while exercising their God-given right to carry firearms. For that reason, I don’t blame schools for wanting to skip it. But if you don’t know Reconstruction, or why the institution of slavery forced the nation into civil war, or the truth about the Jim Crow period, then you don’t know American history. Not really.

Another way that politics and dogma colors what’s taught in schools is through the textbooks. Textbook publishers are great big companies that are in the business to sell books. That doesn’t make them bad. But it also means they tend to create products that their market — especially the state textbook adoption committees — will buy.

A big chunk of my so-called career was in the textbook industry. Over several years I worked for a now-eliminated company called Silver Burdett, then Prentice Hall, then Simon & Schuster. Once separate companies, the education departments of those three companies all merged and are now called Pearson Education. I also worked for Scholastic and McGraw Hill. Most of that time I did production management, which means I wasn’t doing writing and editng but pulling all the pieces of the books together and getting them typeset, printed, and bound. But it gave me a great front-row seat on how textbooks happen, and how the publishers are very, very careful to create textbooks that won’t be too “conroversial” to sell. A lot of self-censorship goes on.

Some states have textbook adoption committees, which is usually a panel of people appointed by the governor who review textbooks and decide which ones may be used in that state. If a textbook is not adopted, the publisher loses the entire public school market in that state. And if it’s a big state, like Texas or California, that gives the textbook adoption committees a lot of power about what goes in textbooks. I got my first textbook job in the 1980s, and this was a long-running issue then already.

The Texas textbook adoption committee is especially notorious. I’ve written about this before. See:

Textbook publishers do produce state-specific editions, although for cost reasons the differences are minor and, back in my day, accommodated by a black plate change during the press run.

El-hi (elementary through high school) books are heavily illustrated — in color! — and much of the cost in producing them is in what’s called pre-press, or getting ready to print. Although technology is always changing, I believe big print runs of many tens or of thousands of books at a time are still done using four-color process, which means printing with four plates — cyan, magenta, yellow, black. If you’re only changing a little bit of text here and there, you can change black plates as needed, but the color illustrations have to remain where they are. Changing all the plates for each state edition would drive the cost up more than you can imagine. So that puts limits on what the publisher can do, editorially. If Texas demands specific language that absolutely will not sell in California that can be accommodated, but only if it’s just a few sentences here and there.

Bottom line, the textbooks end up tip-toeing around any topic that might piss off anybody — especially race and evolution, but not limited to that — which means the textbook adoption committess really do dictate what is taught in all the states.

And the moral is, American history as it has been taught since before any of us were born is a sorry-ass thing incrusted by many layers of politics and dogma and bullshit. So now we’ve got school boards and parents, most of whom don’t know American history from a toaster, up in arms about Critical Race Theory, which isn’t even a thing that would be “taught” outside of graduate schools. And they’re using that as an excuse to push even harder against real history. What they really want to do is indoctrinate children with even more alt-right mythology and propaganda than the kids are learning already. And I bet the kids still won’t learn about separation of powers, either.

White Supremacy and Sedition

I’ve learned a lot about “seditious conspiracy” over the past several hours. It’s a very rare charge, and it’s an even rarer conviction. Looking at the handful of trials over the past century or so, it appears Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Muslims are convicted, but Whites are not. No big surprise.

In an article published in Mother Jones a few days before yesterday’s indictments were announced, Anthony Conwright wrote that American tradition casts violent white nationalism as “well-meaning patriotism gone awry, instead of as an ideology antithetical to our best aspirations.” The last couple of times right-wing whites were charged with seditious conspiracy were in 1988 (white supremacists) and 2010 (Christian “patriot” millitia members). All acquitted.

The 1988 trial was in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the defendants were affilliated with the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation, and the like. They had elaborate plans to overthrow the U.S. government, or at least break off the northwest part of it to establish a whites-only nation. The plans included the murders of a judge, FBI agents, and a founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. At least one of the defendants had separate murder convictions, so it’s not unreasonable to think they would have tried it. Anthony Conwrite said,

The prosecution had 113 witnesses and FBI wiretap transcripts capturing the accused coordinating about stockpiling weapons and conducting armored car robberies, assassinations, and municipal sabotage. Before the verdict, the judge told the jury, “The fact that you may think it was impossible for the defendants to overthrow the government is not a defense to the charge.”

Despite that instruction and mountains of evidence, the 14 white supremacists were acquitted by an all-white jury. One juror went on to marry a defendant; another told a reporter he agreed with many of the white supremacists’ ideas. But what may have sealed the acquittal was that the jury did not find the argument that the defendants were dangerous credible. In other words, they did not believe white supremacy was a coherent pathway to topple the American government—or they did not care if it was.

One of the defendants was Richard Snell, who had previously been convicted of murdering a pawn shop owner (Snell suspected he was Jewish) and a state trooper.

Snell was executed for his earlier charges on April 19, 1995, the same day Timothy McVeigh blew up Oklahoma City’s federal building, which Snell had previously plotted to bomb himself.

Oh, and another Fort Smith defendant went on to kill three people outside a Jewish Center. He died in prison.

See also this Twitter thread by Kathleen Belew. A lot of screwy things went on in the Fort Smith trial. The prosecutors didn’t seem to want to prosecute all that much.

Belew is the author of a book titled Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Harvard University Press, 2018). In 2018 she wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she argues that the White Power movement is far more integrated and organized than most people realize, and they are capable of doing a lot of damage. But the FBI persists in treating White Power types as individuals, or “lone wolves,” not part of a movement. She wrote,

Indeed, the F.B.I. established a policy to pursue only individuals in white-power violence, with, according to F.B.I. internal documents, “no attempts to tie individual crimes to a broader movement.” This strategy not only obscured the Oklahoma City bombing as part of a social movement but, in the years after McVeigh’s execution, also effectively erased the movement itself from public awareness.

See also Lone Wolves Connected Online: A History of Modern White Supremacy in the New York Times, January 2021, by Laura Smith.  She also writes that McVeigh was not any sort of lone wolf but was well connected into a larger movement that, for some reason, the public never heard about.

The Murrah building had long been a potential target for white supremacists. Kerry Noble had cased the premises with other C.S.A. members as early as 1983. They had even begun building bombs, but one of them exploded in a C.S.A. member’s hand, which the group considered a sign from God to wait. When McVeigh did carry out the bombing, Mr. Noble was working as a vacuum cleaner salesman in Texas. He saw the news on television and recognized the plot instantly. “They did it,” he remembered thinking. “They finally have done it.”

In a legal irony, McVeigh’s defense team essentially argued what the prosecution in the Fort Smith trial had argued: that the bombing was orchestrated by a complex network of white supremacists and far-right militia members. According to Mr. Jones, three weeks before the bombing, McVeigh called someone living in Elohim City, a far-right compound in Eastern Oklahoma with connections to the C.S.A., the Aryan Nations and the Order. “His supply chain plus his travels indicated a fairly sophisticated group of people,” Mr. Jones said. “It was our opinion that most of the ones that he associated with were either the Midwest bank robbers or people at Elohim City.”

He added: “I was convinced after talking to him, analyzing carefully what he said through numerous interviews, that he was trying to protect others, and assuming all the responsibility himself.”

But only McVeigh and one immediate accomplice, Terry Nichols, were convicted in the bombing. The government’s case, Mr. Jones argued, missed a big part of the story.

“They never referred to Tim McVeigh as a terrorist,” Mr. Jones said. “It was a murder case. And so they avoided the political connotation.”

This is the first time I have heard most of that.

Fast forward to January 6, 2021. The insurrection has not been packaged as a White Supremacist undertaking, but there’s a lot of evidence that it largely was. Kathleen Belew recently wrote for the Washington Post, Militia groups were hiding in plain sight on Jan. 6. They’re still dangerous.

The invasion of the Capitol is best understood as the collision of three streams of right-wing activity: the Trump base (itself containing a range of extremism), the QAnon movement, and white power and militant right groups. This third segment — although probably smaller than the others involved that day — was highly organized, connected, outfitted with tactical gear and weapons and well-trained. These activists often led the charge, and they were the first to breach the Capitol. Their own ideology, which descends from decades of violent white-power organizing, reveals them to be dangerous, intent on the destruction of democracy and the propagation of race war.

Why was Washington so unprepared? Why was the FBI, the Capitol police, and others, so unprepared? One does suspect that the mindset that simply doesn’t take white nationalist activists/terrorists seriously is part of it. That has to stop.

I’d like to believe that if the three meatballs who murdered Ahmaud Arbery could be so righteously convicted and sentenced in Georgia, it’s possible some of the January 6 perps could be convicted of sedition and get serious jail time. Which would be a good thing for all of us.

News Roundup

Wow, what a news day. I was going to write something about inflation, but it’ll have to wait.

Highlights:

As expected, the Supreme Court ended the Biden Administration’s covid mandates on large employers. However, health care workers at facilities that recieve Medicare and Medicaid funds, which is probably pretty much all of them, must still get vaccinated. I have not read the decision, but here is one commentary from Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Meanwhile in not so good news, John Roberts and the Furious Five have ruled that because in 1970 Congress didn’t have the foresight to pass a statute that specifically said that Joe Biden could tell OSHA in 2021 to issue a vaccine mandate because of COVID-19, Joe Biden can’t do that. This is a consistent application of the Republican Supreme Court’s doctrine that statutes written in general terms to deal with a wide variety of issues can only be enforced by Republican administrations.

I expect that’s about right.

On a happier note, the U.S. Justice Department has indicted the founder of Oath Keepers and a bunch of other Oath Keeper types on seditious conspiracy, folks. Yes, they used the “s” word. Let me boldface that — seditious conspiracy. A beautiful thing. The FBI arrested them today. “This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section,” the Justice Department says.

You lose some, but sometimes you win some.

There was a news story saying that Prince Andrew has been stripped of his royal titles, which suggests he is no longer “Prince” Andrew unless Prince is really his first name. But the BBC, which probably gets this stuff right, just says Andy can’t be called His Royal Highness any more, and he’s also been stripped of military titles. Poor baby.

The RNC wants to pull out of future presidential debates. These are the debates between the party nominees run by the bipartisan presidential commission, not the primary debates, which were a hot mess last time. “The Republican National Committee is preparing to change its rules to require presidential candidates seeking the party’s nomination to sign a pledge to not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates,” the New York Times says. The commission is unfair! It is unfair to Republicans! say the Republicans.

One suspects Trump is behind this. Donald Trump’s two debates with Joe Biden were a disaster for Trump, you might recall, and Trump refused to take part in one of the scheduled debates because he was recovering from covid and it was going to be remote.

So that’s today’s news roundup. Stay safe.

Update: Oops, I wasn’t done. After all the effort of President Biden and others to get a voting rights bill passed, today the deadly duo of Manchin and Sinema pretty much shot it down. I want them both gone. I don’t know what else there is to be done.

Why Righties Can’t Understand Covid Risks

Recently a neighbor dropped by, and in the course of the conversation she told us she had been fired as a health care worker because she refused to be vaccinated. (Imagine me taking a few steps back. Also, she called herself a “nurse,” but her apparent lack of knowledge of how infectious diseases work inspires some skepticism.) In this particular case she might have some claim to a medical exemption, which was a past history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (although Guillain-Barre is a known possible complication of covid infection, also). But in conversation it became clear she was terrified of the injections and talked about side effects she had heard about. Which can be rough for some people — for a day or two — but not as rough as covid.

Risk assessment, people. This is an easy one. According to Bloomberg, as of today more than 9.51 billion covid shots have been administered worldwide. “In the U.S., 520 million doses have been given so far. An average 1.17 million doses per day were administered over the last week,” it says. If even 1 percent of those vaccines had resulted in long-term, serious impairment or deaths, we’d have millions of impaired and dead people as a result. I think someone would have noticed.

As it is, the science people do acknowledge that it’s not impossible for a covid vaccination to be fatal. But most of the time if a person dies within a few days of receiving a covid shot, it’s very difficult to know if the shot was a factor. The guy who had the heart attack may have had a heart attack, anyway. So it requires investigation. Here is an article from the UK Office of National Statistics (since nobody wants to believe the CDC) on why it’s difficult to know if a recent vaccine was a factor in assessing a death. The nice lady with the title ONS Head of Mortality Analysis said that by August 2021 they had determined there had been nine deaths in the UK that involved the covid vaccine.

(As tragic as that is, it’s pretty much a given that any medical procedure comes with some risk. People have died from routine dental treatments, for example. It’s extremely unusual, but it has happened. On the other hand, an infected tooth — left untreated — can result in multiple organ failure. You go with the odds.)

The visiting “nurse” neighbor said she had heard that two people in Florida had died after getting vaccines. Even if this were true, it’s kind of not in the ball park of “a rational reason to not get vaccinated.” This is especially true since, according to Johns Hopkins, as of today there have been 61,983,723 confirmed cases of covid in the U.S. and 841,123 deaths. So let’s compare 841,123 deaths to maybe two guys in Florida. Hmm.

Most of the claims by anti-vaxxers about covid vaccination deaths are based on VAERS data, which I explained in an old post written before anyone had heard of covid. VAERS is a CDC database of adverse vaccine reactions to which anybody can report. Doctors, patients, crackpots, drunken college students, anti-vaxxers who need juicier statistics to scare people with can all make reports and add to the database. It is all unverified. The people who allegedly died by vaccination may have been hit by a bus. Or they may still be alive, or maybe they never existed. The CDC attaches all kinds of disclaimers to the database about how it is all unverfied. They only use it as a means to maybe spot trends. Anti-vaxxers believe it like gospel anyway.

The Omicron virus is causing more breaththrough infections, much to the glee of the anti-vaxxers. The New York Times has an article on the growing gap in outcomes between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. This graph shows what’s happened to infected people in New York City and Seattle.

It shouldn’t take a genius to understand that vaccinated is better.

Republicans are dedicated to the opposite proposition. They are more interested in demonizing Dr. Fauci (the latest example, from today) and opposing all mitigation efforts because freedom. Of course. The deaths from covid are explained away in various ways. A big one is to misread death certificates. If the cause of death is “pneumonia,” for example, and covid is only the underlying cause of death, then they will argue the person didn’t die of covid but from pneumonia. Of course, the covid caused the pneumonia, a detail one cannot explain to a wingnut. They will not listen.

It doesn’t help that some Republican medical examiners around the country are refusing to put “covid” on death certificates for political reasons. Covid deaths are no doubt being seriously undercounted as a result.

Another trick is to misquote scientists. Recently CDC Director Rochelle Walensky spoke about a study that evaluated the deaths of 1.2 million adults who had been vaccinated. It turned out that only 36 of of the 1.2 million died of covid-19, and 28 of those 36 had four or more comorbidities. That means other medical problems, like diabetes or heart disease.

Naturally, Tucker Carlson told his audience that Dr. Walensky had “admitted” that most people who die of covid have comorbidities. He left out the detail about the people in the study being vaccinated. He led his audience to believe that this data applied to all covid deaths. So why bother getting vaccinated? Indeed, if you are healthy, throw out the masks and get on with your life. Covid is just a scam.

Now, Tucker Carlson is smart enough to know better. And since Tucker works for Fox News, we know he is fully vaccinated. He just doesn’t care who dies because of his bad advice. He just wants to see the Biden Administration fail. If I believed in hell, I would expect a special place for Tucker in it.

Risk assessment requires accurate data. Righties have enough trouble dealing with risk assessment when they do have accurate data. When they don’t, forgeddaboutit.

Joe Manchin’s Conflict of Interest

Even now, from time to time a television pundit will look at the camera, and with a knowing smile assure us that Joe Manchin knows how to win elections in West Virginia. He knows his voters. The unspoken message here is that this is how it has to be. If we want a Democratic senator from West Virginia, he has to be way to the Right of the rest of the party. So sad, but we just have to work with what we’ve got.

I can’t argue that Manchin doesn’t know how to win elections in West Virginia, since he does win them, but “knowing his voters” isn’t necessarily part of the formula.

There’s a major exposé of Manchin in Rolling Stone by Jeff Goodell headlined “Manchin’s Coal Corruption Is So Much Worse Than You Knew.” (If you aren’t a subscriber, and I’m not, trying to read an article in Rolling Stone is a precarious thing. Sometimes you will be blocked by a firewall, but sometimes it will let you read an article, or at least give you a few minutes before the firewall comes up. I did a quick copy-and-paste into a Word file so I could read it without fighting with it. Do give it a try, though. This is juicy stuff.)

A representative paragraph:

The truth is, Manchin is best understood as a grifter from the ancestral home of King Coal. He is a man with coal dust in his veins who has used his political skills to enrich himself, not the people of his state. He drives an Italian-made Maserati, lives on a houseboat on the Potomac River when he is in D.C., pals around with corporate CEOs, and has a net worth of as much as $12 million. More to the point, his wealth has been accumulated through controversial coal-related businesses in his home state, including using his political muscle to keep open the dirtiest coal plant in West Virginia, which paid him nearly $5 million over the past decade in fees for coal handling, as well as costing West Virginia electricity consumers tens of millions of dollars in higher electricity rates (more about the details of this in a moment). Virginia Canter, who was ethics counsel to Presidents Obama and Clinton, unabashedly calls Manchin’s business operations “a grift.” To Canter, Manchin’s corruption is even more offensive than Donald Trump’s. “With Trump, the corruption was discretionary — you could choose to pay thousands of dollars to host an event at Mar-a-Lago or not,” Canter tells me. In contrast, Manchin is effectively taking money right out of the pockets of West Virginians when they pay their electric bills. They have no say in it. “It’s one of the most egregious conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.”

Goodell explains that Manchin’s grift is not unique to Manchin. It is a standard feature of West Virginia politics going way back. The politicians and the coal mine owners are on the same team. And this takes us to the second point, which is that there would be no coal mining industry left if it weren’t for corrupt politicians like Manchin protecting it. Otherwise it would have gone the way of the horse and buggy by now and been replaced by newer, less expensive (and environmentally damaging) technologies.

Yes, West Virginians do vote for Manchin. Until recently the United Mine Workers supported Manchin. He was better for coal miners than his Republican opponents. But now the union is demanding Manchin change his votes, and his attitude.

Jonathan Weisman writes in the New York Times,

For years, burly men in camouflage hunting jackets have been a constant presence in the Capitol Hill office of Senator Joe Manchin III, their United Mine Workers logos giving away their mission: to lobby not only for the interests of coal, but also on more personal matters such as pensions, health care and funding to address black lung disease.

So when the miners’ union and the West Virginia A.F.L.-C.I.O. came out last month with statements pleading for passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — just hours after Mr. Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said he was a “no” — the Capitol took notice.

With the miners now officially on the opposite side of the mine owners, it signaled the escalation of a behind-the-scenes struggle centered in Mr. Manchin’s home state to sway the balking senator, whose skepticism about his party’s marquee domestic policy measure has emerged as a potentially fatal impediment to its enactment.

Let us be clear; Manchin is not “skeptical.” Let’s stop saying he is “skeptical.” He doesn’t want the gravy train to stop. He doesn’t want to lose all that coal money, including the half million in coal industry dividends he receives every year.

Weisman says the unions in the past have fought any policies that would have hastened a transition away from coal. But coal jobs have been diminishing for years, anyway, and they are not coming back. Build Back Better provides a lot of stuff that would help West Virginia union members, much of which Manchin has supported in the past. For example, BBB provides funds to help miners with black lung disease. BBB includes billions of dollars in incentives to bring manufacturing jobs to former coal mining regions. BBB provides penalties for employers that block union organizing. And, of course, it provides a lot of help for all low-income workers, of which West Virginia has an overabundance.

The unions have seen the future, and they are not going to stick with coal mine owners until the last scrap of coal is mined, and then end up with nothing.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton said “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” To be fair, this was taken out of context, but Trump took the quote and ran with it, and he promised to bring back coal jobs. “He did not keep that promise,” Weisman writes, “and coal mining employment, which was at about 51,000 jobs when he took office, had fallen to a nadir of 39,000 by the time he was denied a second term.” It has to be said, though, that Trump won West Virginia in 2020 with a nearly identical vote percentage (68.62%) as in 2016 (68.50%). This suggests to me that Democrats could be doing a better job of outreach in West Virginia. But maybe the union will help with that.

Greg Sargent writes that coal mine owners are fighting BBB’s tax incentives to bring new industries to coal minining communities. They see this as hastening their own demise, which it probably is, but the demise is coming one way or another.

The owners aren’t shy about advertising this. The president of the West Virginia Coal Association, which represents the owners, tells the Times that the union is “waving a white flag” by supporting tax incentives, meaning they’re surrendering to coal’s inevitable demise.

“We would have thought they’d go down swinging,” the mine owners’ representative tells the Times. He says it’s folly to trade away “fossil energy jobs” for renewable ones, because the former are “extremely well paid and carry benefits.”

They are well paid and carry benefits because the miners unionized a long time ago. It didn’t happen because of the generous spirits of mine owners. But let’s go on. The United Mine Workers responded to this by saying they are looking out for the well being of the workers. “That’s a remarkable rift,” says Sargent.

Going back to Manchin, the senator had supported incentives to bring new industries to coal country in the past. But when he recently declared himself to be a “no” on BBB, he took the position of the owners and opposed them. Sargent:

Yet in his statement opposing BBB, Manchin faulted BBB’s tax incentives with a barrage of misleading industry claims about what’s truly in the national interest. Manchin says he “cannot explain” BBB to West Virginia. But if miners want it, this posture is much shakier.

Of course he could explain BBB to West Virginia, unless he is a drooling idiot. He just doesn’t want to. But somebody else should have already.

I have not mentioned climate change, which hasn’t been part of the discussion in West Virginia. The mine workers are skeptical of climate change. But, of course, it’s happening, and ending coal power is a critical step that has to be taken now if we’re going to save the planet.  The stakes couldn’t be higher. But Manchin appears to be siding with coal money, against workers, against his party, against his nation, and against the planet.

What the Right Means by “Freedom”

In a recent Senate committee hearing about oversight of the Capitol police, Ted Cruz called the January 6 insurrection a “violent terrorist attack.” And boy, did he catch grief for that.

From the Texas Tribune:

The Right vilified Cruz for apostasy, so Cruz got on Fox News last night to do explain himself and seek forgiveness. Greg Sargent:

Sen. Ted Cruz is facing a vicious backlash from Tucker Carlson and the right for describing the Jan. 6 assault as a “violent terrorist attack.” So on Thursday night, the Texas Republican gamely ventured into Carlson’s Fox News sanctum, where he plainly hoped to do his penance and move on.

Instead, Carlson placed Cruz in the stocks and administered a brutal whipping.

The Right does not tolerate even the least deviation from canonical dogma. In this case, Carlson made it clear that none of the January 6 perps were to be called “terrorists,” no matter what they did that day. Righties are the same people who claim to be in favor of “freedom” and against “cancel culture,” mind you. And Tucker has no problem calling Black Lives Matter activists “terrorists.”

Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85). Kind of sounds like what happened last year on January 6. So far none have been charged with terrorism, but as A.G. Garland said the other night, the big fish have yet to be processed.

Greg Sargent writes that Carlson’s whipping of Cruz is part of the effort to deny that the January 6 insurrection was an insurrection. “The valorization and mythologizing of Jan. 6, which Carlson traffics heavily in — indeed, this led to the resignation of two Fox contributors — require erasing the degree to which it constituted a genuine effort to thwart a legitimately elected Democratic government from taking power, an effort to fundamentally subvert our constitutional arrangements,” Sargent writes. Only the Left, especially Black Lives Matter, are threats to America. Not the Right. Only the Left is capable of terrorism. This is what must be believed.

It’s the key to valorizing the underlying goals of the Jan. 6 rioters and to the mythologizing of them as heroes and patriots. It lays the foundation for treating what they call the “regime,” i.e. democratically elected Democratic governments, as illegitimate, justifying Jan. 6, corrupt procedural efforts to overturn elections, the flirtation with political violence, and who knows what future acts in response.

And, if you are part of the Right, you had better watch what you say. No thinking for yourself; no coloring outside the lines. You may say only what the Party, or whatever the Right is these days, allows you to say.

And these people fancy themselves to be defenders of “freedom.”

Cruz has meekly returned to the fold of political correctness (in the original sense of the term), and if he is careful he will be allowed to remain in the good graces of the Party. But it does underline the Right’s Orwellian understanding of “freedom.”

In other news —

From The Hill: “Cyber Ninjas, a firm hired by the Arizona state Senate to conduct a review of Maricopa County’s election results, on Thursday announced that it is shutting down after a county government report slammed the firm and a judge ordered it to pay $50,000 a day in fines.” We weep and we mourn.

Amaud Arbery’s killers have been sentenced to life in prison, two without parole. Finally.

QAnon Star Who Said Only ‘Idiots’ Get Vax Dies of COVID

Orange County Deputy DA Kelly Ernby, an anti-vax crusader, also died of COVID. You’d think these people would learn to take a hint.

 

President Biden Gives a Significant Speech

Possibly the most important thing to happen today was President Biden’s speech. And I missed it. But here’s the video:

And here’s the official transcript.

Note that even though much of this speech was about Donald Trump, and no point in the speech did the President use the word “Trump.” It was the “former president.” As in:

And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.  He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.

That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.

He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.

And “defeated former president.” As in:

He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.

There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate.  In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.

Joe Biden is done with this crap. This was later:

Our Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world — literally changed the world.

Here in America, the people would rule, power would be transferred peacefully — never at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun.

And they committed to paper an idea that couldn’t live up to — they couldn’t live up to but an idea that couldn’t be constrained: Yes, in America all people are created equal.

We reject the view that if you succeed, I fail; if you get ahead, I fall behind; if I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.

The former President, who lies about this election, and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values.

They want to rule or they will ruin — ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord; at Gettysburg; at Omaha Beach; Seneca Falls; Selma, Alabama.  What — and what we were fighting for: the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.

If you missed it too, do watch or read, or both, the whole thing. This was a significant speech. There is no other speech equivalent to this in American history, I don’t believe, in which a sitting president issued a major address that so directly slammed the former president and his allies. I hope this marks a recognition that ignoring Trump won’t make him go away.

Of course, Trump deserved it. He was never a President of the United States, even when he held the title. Trump was like an alien thing who took up space where a president should have been for four years. In reaction to the President’s speech, the former not-president issued a series of his trademark adolescent whines at news media in which he said nothing new.

E.J. Dionne writes of Biden’s speech that  “In what was by far the most passionate, forceful and effective speech of his presidency, he moved democracy to the center of the nation’s political debate.”

Only rarely does a single speech alter the trajectory of politics, and Thursday’s address will matter even more if he and Vice President Harris follow up with equal force when they speak next week in Atlanta on behalf of voting rights — and if the administration fully joins the battle for two democracy bills pending in the Senate.

But in one important moment of truth-telling, Biden changed the direction of his presidency by setting his face against a denialism that has distorted our nation’s debate since the day he was inaugurated. He insisted that Republicans could not be treated as a normal opposition as long as most of them — in their leadership and in their ranks — refuse to break unreservedly with an odious, democracy-wrecking liar.

Meanwhile, the Right continues to crack. An accused insurrectionist in prison awaiting trial named Edward Jacob Lang may be starting to realize he was used.

“There should be a hundred thousand people in DC tomorrow at the very minimum,” Edward Jacob Lang, 26, told “The Stew Peters Show” in a Wednesday phone interview from jail. He continued, “I am so disappointed with Trump and with the American people at large that just do not get behind the January 6 political prisoners.”

“I feel like I’ve been completely abandoned by the political hierarchy here. Where are our leaders standing up, our congressmen, our senators, our president?” he said. “President Trump, where are you?”

Lang then addressed Trump directly, saying: “January 6 you better do a press conference, man. We are rotting in jail because we stood up for what you told us to stand up for.”

Lang, from New York, has been charged with 11 counts, including assaulting a police officer with a bat and a protective shield, court documents said.

Of course, Trump is never going to do anything for Lang or any of the other insurrectionists. He has no more use for them, and most of the Republican hierarchy is pretending they don’t exist. They are an embarassment now, an inconvenience.

January 6 was a day that will live infamy, although the perpetrators need a little more time to realize that.

Clio, muse of history, in the Capitol rotunda

Sean Hannity Is Not a Journalist

Sean Hannity’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection was much discussed on MSNBC last night. We already knew that Hannity had been in contact with Mark Meadows during the riot. Hannity wanted Trump to put a stop to the rioting, which suggests that Hannity realized this was Trump’s party all along.

But yesterday the special House committee investigating the riot made public more of Hannity’s emails to White House Chief of Staff Meadows, including several communications while the insurrection was being planned. Two major points:

One, it’s beyond obvious from the released emails that Hannity saw himself as an operative of the Trump White House, part of Trump’s team, not an independent journalist. Hannity clearly was trying to protect Trump and influence what was being planned. In doing so, he sat on the scoop of a lifetime. He also can’t very well claim any sort of journalistic privilege or protection, although that’s what his lawyer did today. I’ll come back to that.

The committee has requested Hannity appear and answer some questions. According to Axios,

In a letter to Hannity, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) wrote that they seek “voluntary cooperation on a specific and narrow range of factual questions” and are not seeking “information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views or commentary.”

Two, Axios says that Hannity is being represented by Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on Trump’s legal team. The excellent Heather Cox Richardson points out in her email newsletter,

Hannity is apparently being represented in this matter by Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on Trump’s legal team, rather than lawyers from the Fox News Channel. While Sekulow has indicated he will object to the committee’s invitation on First Amendment grounds, the fact that the Fox News Channel seems to be standing back suggests that the corporation does not see the committee’s invitation as a First Amendment case involving freedom of the press and in fact might well be concerned that one of its lead personalities is connected to an event that should have been reported to the FBI.

Sekulow has complained to the committee that the request raises “serious constitutional issues including First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.” Seriously? Again, these were not the communications of a journalist or investigator seeking information, but of someone trying to counsel and guide White House plans while studiously keeping these plans secret from the public.

Update: See Erik Wemple, Sean Hannity’s bottomless corruption.

Sean Hannity in happier (for him) times.

The Mighty Right Has Lost Direction

I believe I have found something to be hopeful about, or at least less pessimistic. It appears there is turmoil in the fever swamps, and the alligators are turning on each other. Drew Harwell writes at WaPo, Since Jan. 6, the pro-Trump Internet has descended into infighting over money and followers.

QAnon devotees are livid at their former hero Michael Flynn for accurately calling their jumbled credo “total nonsense.” Donald Trump superfans have voiced a sense of betrayal because the former president, booed for getting a coronavirus immunization booster, has become a “vaccine salesman.” And attorney Lin Wood seems mad at pretty much everyone, including former allies on the scattered “elite strike-force team” investigating nonexistent mass voter fraud.

After months of failing to disprove the reality of Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss, some of the Internet’s most popular right-wing provocateurs are grappling with the pressures of restless audiences, saturated markets, ongoing investigations and millions of dollars in legal bills.

Two of the alligators, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dan Crenshaw, are opening feuding with each other. Last week Rep. Crenshaw (R-nación liberada de Tejas) suggested using FEMA to set up covid testing sites, which was a remarkably normal idea coming from Crenshaw, although I believe FEMA had been doing that already. Rep. Greene (R-Anglo-Saxon) dismissed the omicron variant as “sneezes, coughs and runny noses,” adding that Crenshaw “needs to stop calling himself conservative, he’s hurting our brand.” She tweeted this right before her Twitter account was, blessedly and permanently, suspended.

Crenshaw fired back, “Hey Marjorie, if suggesting we should follow Trump policy instead of Biden mandates makes you mad, then you might be a Democrat – or just an idiot.” These two will never be mistaken for the Algonquin Round Table.

Getting back to Drew Harwell —

The result is a chaotic melodrama, playing out via secretly recorded phone calls, personal attacks in podcasts, and a seemingly endless stream of posts on Twitter, Gab and Telegram calling their rivals Satanists, communists, pedophiles or “pay-triots” — money-grubbing grifters exploiting the cause.

The infighting reflects the diminishing financial rewards for the merchants of right-wing disinformation, whose battles center not on policy or doctrine but on the treasures of online fame: viewer donations and subscriptions; paid appearances at rallies and conferences; and crowds of followers to buy their books and merchandise.

Do not doubt that a whole lot of people, from the likes of Paul Manafort and Rudy Giuliani to the local guys still selling off Trump 2020 campaign merchandise, jumped on the Trump train mostly to fatten their own wallets. Much of the American Right has been a grift for a long time.

But it’s backfiring on them now. Trump is still raking in money from various sources, but he’s not sharing it. The Trump enablers who aren’t in jail yet are facing many lawsuits that could wipe them out. And I can’t imagine anybody is paying Rudy Giuliani to do anything right now, except maybe to keep quiet.

Kyle Rittenhouse is feuding with Lin Wood, who appears to be feuding with just about everybody else. QAnon followers are angry with Michael Flynn for calling their beliefs “total nonsense.” Some are angry with Donald Trump because of his recent statements encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Harwell interviewed Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher unrelated to the famous bankers and author of a book on QAnon. The conflicts among the Trumpers and their factions are keeping the rubes engaged, Rothschild said, and giving them a chance to prove their loyalty by buying the books, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other merch all these grifters are selling.

QAnon is “the easiest money that you could possibly make if you don’t have a conscience, but there’s only a certain number of people you can fleece. It’s not a renewable resource,” Rothschild said.

QAnon has been drifting since Q went silent and Trump got kicked off social media. Right now they don’t know who they are supposed to be following, which may be why hanging around in Dallas for the second coming of JFK and Junior might seem like as good an idea as any. It’s always possible a living being will step into the vacuum and take over, but otherwise QAnon is likely to dissipate. How long that might take, I cannot say.

Qanoners, unsure where to go next.

But if you really want Sidney Powell drink tumblers, maybe they’ll go on sale soon.

Speaking of merch, Melania Trump is auctioning off a hat she wore to welcome President and Madame Emmanuel Macron of France to the White House in 2018. She is also selling art in the form of nonfungible tokens. I don’t know what those are, either. Apparently it’s digital stuff she acquired while in the White House that’s not covered by the Emoluments Clause.

Melania hopes to raise at least $250,000 from the auction, “a portion” of which will be donated to Melania’s “Be Best” initiative, it says here. In other words, Melania is keeping the money.