To Vax or Not to Vax? Get the Vax.

A CDC internal memo that got leaked to the Washington Post informed us that vaccinated people can carry and “shed” the covid virus just like unvaccinated people. This is why the CDC recently decided that vaccinated people really ought to be wearing masks in indoor public places, especially if crowded and near hot spots. There have also been some big-headline news stories featuring vaccinated people who became infected (example).

The attention being given to “breakthrough” infections has frustrated the White House.

At the heart of the matter is the news media’s focus on breakthrough infections, which the CDC has said are rare. In some instances, poorly framed headlines and cable news chyrons wrongly suggested that vaccinated Americans are just as likely to spread the disease as unvaccinated Americans. But that isn’t quite the case. Vaccinated Americans still have a far lower chance of becoming infected with the coronavirus and, thus, they are responsible for far less spread of the disease.

“The media’s coverage doesn’t match the moment,” one of the Biden officials told me. “It has been hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy. The biggest problem we have is unvaccinated people getting and spreading the virus.”

Here’s some data that popped up on Axios: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans infected with COVID-19. Click on the link to see the chart.

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, less than 0.1% have been infected with the coronavirus, and 0.001% have died, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While “breakthrough cases” have been getting some media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.

So that’s reassuring, although I’d like to see comparisons to the same data for the unvaccinated. Big numbers confuse me. Well, small numbers confuse me, too.

Regarding the unvaccinated: A writer for Politico reports on the bar scene at Lake of the Ozarks, one of the vacation spots generating Delta variant infections here in the heartland. In a sane world the place would have been shut down to stop the spread. But no; all the bars and resorts and what not are operating at full tilt with no covid restrictions whatsoever.  It begins,

In a county designated a Covid hot spot, in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, and in a region where hospitals are nearing capacity as the Delta variant takes hold, Erin, a bartender at Backwater Jack’s, couldn’t be in a more vulnerable position. She interacts closely with hundreds of maskless customers—sometimes on a single day. She knows most of them are probably not vaccinated. And she doesn’t care. She isn’t either.

“I’m living, breathing proof—I’ve not been sick once. I’ve been as hands-on as you can be with people from everywhere,” Erin said, as a motorboat thundered to the dock and another group of customers climbed out. Like others who spoke for this article, she asked to go only by her first name. She said she’d heard a rumor—common among vaccine skeptics but also plainly false—that “more people are dying from getting the vaccine this week.”

Why we’re doomed. I’m back to wearing masks in indoor public places and going nowhere unless it’s necessary.

Our other vacation spot, Branson, is also operating full tilt. This week we learned that the unvaccinated niece of an old family friend spent July 4 weekend at Branson with her husband. She died on Tuesday; the husband is still in the hospital.

Some employers are stepping up to mandate vaccinations. I suspect that will become more and more common. Vox has a good rundown on who has the legal authority to mandate what.

Stupid Twit of the Day award goes to Sen. Ron Johnson, who said he would support a vaccine madate for a really deadly disease, but not covid.

Maybe There’s a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

As near as I can determine from the news stories: A few hours after headlines had declared the bipartisan infrastructure talks in the Senate had fallen apart, new headlines declared the bill was ready to be agreed upon. Okay. And the Washington Post reported:

With that once-elusive agreement finally in hand, the Senate hours later then took its first formal legislative step. Lawmakers voted 67-32 to put themselves on track to begin debating infrastructure reform this week, clearing the first of many hurdles toward adopting a proposal that the White House has described as historic.

But I’m not sure if this means much, considering that in another part of the same story we learn the bill hasn’t been written yet. “Lawmakers must still draft their legislation, which had not been written by Wednesday evening, and calibrate it in a way to survive the narrowly divided Senate,” it says.

So I’m not going to get real excited about the details until there’s a draft. But Vox has dutifully published an article about what’s in the bill that’s not a bill yet, if you want to read it.

A side note: A certain former “president” who made big promises on infrastructure but failed to deliver is now bigly pissed at Mitch McConnell that the Senate appears to be getting ready to pass an infrastructure bill. “Under the weak leadership of Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans continue to lose,” Trump said in a statement. “He lost Arizona, he lost Georgia, he ignored Election Fraud and he doesn’t fight.”

As I remember it, Trump could have had a similar bill any time he had wanted it. He’s the one who kept blowing off opportunities. Thus it was that “infrastructure week” became a running joke. So much for the Art of the Deal.

As for the promised reconciliation bill, we are not yet in a position to count chickens there, either. Kirsten Sinema is being given credit for her wonderful bipartisan work on the bipartisan bill that isn’t a bill yet. And as soon as it looked like something was coming together that might turn into a bill, she let it be known she was not “on board” with the larger infrastructure package.

Josh Marshall doesn’t think this is necessarily a problem.

First of all while this was played as a rejection of the bill that’s really not how it reads to me. It’s the vaguest of comments that seems focused on the size of the bill. It leaves all her options open and plenty of room to nitpick a few dollars here and there. I would expect that both Sinema and Manchin will work to shave some spending off the size of the bill over the next couple months. That’s similar to what Manchin did during the passage of the original COVID relief bill.

I think this is best interpreted as Sinema throwing up a flag that she’s going to continue to preen and create drama for the purpose of building a reputation as an uber-‘moderate’ and generally have everyone kiss up to her. She wants to come out of this as the person who wasn’t totally down with Democratic priorities and shaved the numbers down, at least a bit. If she really wanted to stop the process she wouldn’t vote to let it begin, which she is. That tells you the story.

I still don’t like her. But Marshall also says that Joe Manchin is moving toward voting for the reconciliation bill. So maybe it will happen.

But what interests me here is that Manchin doesn’t seem entirely in sync with Sinema. And here’s why that’s important. Manchin is from a very red state. He’s got his own politics and set of concerns that seems to work for him in his state but he rarely actually shuts his party down on critical stuff. None of this is new for Manchin. His vote is just more pivotal. Sinema meanwhile is a preening phony. She started out as a member of the Green party. Then she was progressive Democrat. Now she’s an uber ‘centrist’. She’s a total phony and I doubt very much that she will be able to pull any of this off if she’s there alone without Manchin. Without Manchin, she’ll fold.

I get the impression that Josh Marshall doesn’t like Sinema, either.

Paul Waldman is of a similar opinion on Sinema and the reconciliation bill.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) now says she won’t support the $3.5 trillion Democrats had proposed spending on the reconciliation bill; it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that she has no particular substantive objections, but just wants to be seen saying no at the outset so she can cast herself as the independent maverick constraining her party’s ambitions. But when the reconciliation bill is finally completed, Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) will likely be on board.

Still, Waldman says, we have plenty of reasons to be pessimistic, and you can read his column if you want to know what they are. I’m pessimistic enough already.

Righties Are Pissed Simone Won’t Let Them Be Patriots

Philip Bump has a column at WaPo that is wonderfully insightful, and I endorse it heartily. It is headlined To many on the right, perceived toughness outweighs patriotism.

Bump noticed, as I did, that there was a big divide over how media reacted to the withdrawal of Simone Biles from the Olympic women’s team gymnastics competition (she has since withdrawn from individual competition also). Looking at all the commentary around the web, the mainstream media is generally supportive of Biles, as are leftie webzines and blogs.

But right-wing media was nearly all nasty and derisive. Typical comments: Biles is a quitter; she’s selfish; she’s a sociopath (?), she should have stuck it out for the team.

And, of course, by ending her Olympic competition Biles is letting down America, because the entire point of the Olympic games is for the United States to demonstrate that it’s so much better than those other countries. Do see this column in the federalist if you don’t believe me.

I always thought the Olympics was supposed to be about competing, and winning, for your country. As an American, the Olympic Games always felt like a unique opportunity to utterly defeat other countries and prove, again and again, that the USA is the greatest country on earth, and other countries suck.

Apparently, things have changed. For some U.S. athletes, the Olympics has become all about them.

First, I am old enough to remember when the USSR and various Soviet satellite countries owned the gymnastics competitions, men’s and women’s, at the summer Olympics. Nobody else need compete. The Soviet men also tended to dominate the “muscle” events, like weight lifting and hammer throwing, as I recall, and the Soviets overall were usually competitive for medals in the other sports as well. If the Games were supposed to demonstrate the supriority of the American Way of Life over Communism, they usually failed. Olympics after Olympics, the Soviets ate our lunch.

(Just for fun I randomly chose the year 1960 and looked up the medal count. Yep; the Soviet Union beat the pants off the U.S. in the medal count. That was true for most Olympics, for a long time.)

Second, I thought the Olympic Games were about, you know, sports. Lots of peak athletes from all over the world getting together for great competition. Silly me.

Of course, a lot of the derision aimed at Biles is plain old racism and sexism. If a white male gymnast had done the same thing, there’d be a lot less hollering. I also thought that her decision seemed less selfish than self-effacing. She may have believed she would have destroyed the team’s chances at a medal. As it was, her team members shined, and the team got silver. I don’t see what’s selfish about that.

But as Philip Bump wrote, “For many Americans, Biles’s choice not to keep flinging herself around the gymnasium despite her uncertainty about where she would land was a grievous offense, an affront to their hard-earned right to chant ‘U-S-A!’ in their living rooms.”

So who’s being selfish? Biles has obligations to her sport, to her team, and to herself, not to some meatball on his sofa in Des Moines. And I don’t see that anyone who hasn’t been in her position (which is most of us) has authority to call her “weak.”

From there, Bump went on to right-wing reaction to yesterday’s testimony at the January 6 hearings. The testimony was powerful, and the officers who testified spoke to the long-term physical and mental challenges of that day.

The Right was incensed that the officers were critical of Trump and the insurrectionists, of course. But Bump continues,

The officers became a focus of aggressive abuse, often centered on a perceived lack of strength. That the officers became emotional was presented by conservatives as weakness, both personal and national. One officer’s testimony about enduring racist abuse was dismissed as invented. Another officer shared a voice mail he’d received in which he was excoriated in shockingly aggressive and homophobic terms.

The through-line to all of this is the idea that American heroes are necessarily stoic and suffering, demonstrating the sort of rigid “masculinity” that the insecure demand of their children. Olympians and other athletes are supposed to shut up and let us enjoy their accomplishments and fame. Members of law enforcement and the military are supposed to keep the bad guys in line and to be tough while doing it. The only emotions they’re allowed to show are anger or triumph.

I like this part:

That belief blends with political culture. Part of Trump’s appeal was his perceived toughness, his aggressive language about immigrants and foreigners and his constant attacks on the left.

This is something that always baffled me. Trump has got to be the biggest candy-ass on the planet. There’s absolutely nothing about him that’s strong; he’s both mentally and physically weak, obviously. But he’s tough! Well, he’s verbally aggressive, which can sorta kinda look like toughness. But his aggression is all about protecting himself. Everything about Trump is self-defense of his tender ego. Strong people can take lumps without whining; Trump cannot.

His followers cannot see that. Just look at some Trump fan art. They see him as some kind of superman, not the soft, whiny man-child he obviously is.

As I wrote last year, Toughness Isn’t Strength, Unless You’re a Brillo Pad. “The word toughness can connote an ability to withstand hardship and adverse conditions,” I wrote. “But we all know that ain’t Trump. Trump’s form of ‘toughness’ is external. It’s hiding behind fencing and steel and bullet-proof plexiglass. It’s having a tough outer shell that protects the marshmallow center.”

The Right hates what they think is weakness, which isn’t true weakness, but never mind. At the Independent (UK), Andrew Naughtie writes about yesterday’s hearing,

If there’s one thing the hardcore American right hates, it’s the admission of personal pain by someone who’s meant to be strong. …

Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s ever-crueler weeknight peddler of disinformation and racist grievance — and his more composed but no less corrosive comrade Laura Ingraham — both laid into the witnesses without mercy, variously accusing them of “curating” their testimony, lying about the pain they’ve experienced, and mocking their tears. They took issue, too, with the empathetic displays of emotion from male members of the committee.

Try to imagine Carlson or Ingraham facing actual hardship with grace and fortitude. I can’t.

I found an older post called Twilight of the Would-Be Gods from 2007, which is obviously way before Trump. But it kind of speaks to the same phoneomenon.

There’s a difference between strength and toughness. There’s a difference between courage and swagger. There’s a difference between results and spin. There’s a difference between resolve and stubbornness. There’s a difference between action and ideology. But try to explain any of that to a rightie. …

… Righties depend on that sugar high of vicarious vainglory mixed with loathing of others to give their lives meaning. But most Americans are sick to death of junk politics and policy. They want real leaders, not the strutting tin soldiers righties mistake for leaders.

I guess they love Trump because he can supply the vicarious vainglory by the truckload. I’ll give him that. But many, many books could be written about how phony John Wayne-style emotional toughness has so thoroughly screwed up too many American men and no doubt contributed mightily to our toxic masculinity problem.

So “toughness” is patriotism and repressing emotions is masculine and the meatballs on their sofas in front of the teevee are pissed that a young Black woman in Tokyo won’t let them get their faux patriotism fix. This is really pathetic.

Secrets of the Cyber Ninja and Other News

I have been listening to the January 6 hearings, which have concluded for the day. The law enforcement officers giving testimony today have been impressive, and I am thankful they were spared being ridiculed and abused by Jim Jordan. And it’s such a relief for hearings to be informative and dignified and not overrun with yammering idiots. This will all be especially juicy when Trump officials testify.

I think Kevin McCarthy is definitely the big loser today. The hearings went on without his hand-picked members, including the ones Pelosi didn’t bounce. He is trying to stir up a controversy about Nancy Pelosi’s alleged “power grab,” The Right is even trying to blame Pelosi for the Capitol’s security failures. But as the hearings continue, and attention is focused on Trump’s role in the insurrection, the Malignancy of Mar-a-Lago is likely to be displeased no one on the committee is taking his side.

In other news, there have been warnings the bipartisan infrastructure talks are falling apart, after all. And we’d been told it was going so well. But the talks aren’t over yet. Exactly what the sticking points are I’m not sure, but I get the impression it’s mostly about the “pay fors.”

The Arizona-Cyber Ninjas “fraudit” also appears to be falling apart. Today we read that the person appointed to be a liaison between the Arizona Republicans who commissioned the audit and the auditors was locked out of the audit. That’s right; the Republican state government’s own representative, who was supposed to be there to keep tabs on the procedings, is not being allowed into the procedings. And now this guy, Ken Bennett, is saying that he’s not been allowed to see a lot of whatever is going on, even when he’s been there. The “auditors” were told by the Cyber Ninja to not share information with Bennett. Again, this is the Republicans’ guy on the scene.

Bennett is a former Arizona Secretary of State who was chosen to oversee the audit because of his experience with elections. And until this week he has been defending whatever is going on and blaming the media for spreading falsehoods about it. But something must have happened, and now Bennett is locked out and changing his tune.

Now, exactly one week later, Bennett is saying he is “very concerned” there will be inaccuracy in the count and that throughout the audit he has been very confused as to what procedures were being used to validate the numbers. On Monday, the Republic’s Jen Fifield reported that Bennett had been permanently banned from the audit site by Pullen—allegedly at the Arizona Senate’s behest—but that he would somehow be remaining on to manage the audit without having access to the building. (Bennett did not comment to Fifield.)

As Maricopa County’s Republican supervisors realized weeks ago, it’s long past time to shut down this sham, which Bennett is now forbidden from even attending. Perhaps he should take a hint?

My guess is that the Cyber Ninja is just trying to milk this gig for every penny he can get. I hope when this ever ends, Maricopa County will sue to be reimbursed for the $3 million it will cost to replace voting machines.

Here in “covid country,” aka the Fool Me State, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt did indeed file a lawsuit against St. Louis city and county to stop their implementation of new indoor mask mandates. The new mask mandates call for everyone age five and older in St. Louis city and county to wear a mask in indoor public places and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. And Schmitt steps in to be the voice of the coronavirus.

As mask mandates in St. Louis City and County went into place Monday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt was quick to file a lawsuit against the elected leaders and health directors of both municipalities, accusing them of ignoring federal guidelines.

“This is completely arbitrary and capricious,” Schmitt said. “By the way, that’s not even what the CDC recommends.”

Right on cue, the CDC announced it is changing its masking recommendations. The CDC now says everyone should wear a mask indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status, especially in hot spots.

The most recent data report an average of 295 cases new per day in St. Louis County, which is a 155 percent increase from the average two weeks ago.

From my favorite source of St. Louis snark, The Riverfront Times:

Schmitt’s Vanity Suit: It’s hard to know who to root for in Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s lawsuit against St. Louis and St. Louis County over a return to mask mandates. Should you side with the health departments hoping to usher people away from shore as a tidal wave approaches, or should you cheer the use of tax dollars spent to both boost Senate-hopeful Schmitt’s name recognition and, at the local level, defend against a frivolous litigation? Hmm. Maybe we should look at it from another angle: Is it better to support city and county officials tasked with cleaning up the failures of state and national Republicans who’ve undone the sacrifices made by responsible people for more than a year, or an AG who has made losing splashy lawsuits his primary job? Honestly, does it even matter? Taxpayers are paying the attorneys on both sides. But no one wants to be a fence-sitter, so maybe it’s best to err on the side of those making hard decisions for the masses and not Schmitt’s nakedly self-serving fight for Fox News air time.

Click on the link and scroll down for some excellent snark on our do-nothing governor.

How Republicans Miscalculated on Vaccines

So here in the Fool Me state, covid cases have reached a six-month high. Four days ago, Gov. Do-Nothing Parson announced a vaccine lottery that will award $10,000 prizes to vaccinated residents.  Yeah, I signed up already. Other than that, I cannot tell that anything is being done at the state level to mitigate the surge. Considering that Missouri has recently been called the “epicenter” of the Delta surge, that lack of response is kind of horrifying. It’s too soon to tell if the lottery will make any difference, although I understand the rate of statewide vaccination has finally reached 40 percent.

This guy speaks for many.

At this point, vaccinated America is about ready to slam unvaccinated America into a box and padlock the lid.

I’m reading that there is a difference between the vaccine hesitant and the vaccine resistant. Many of the hesitant have heard lots of scare stories about the vaccines. Some have had covid and thought they were immune enough. For some, getting the vaccine was inconvenient or required time off work or making transportation arrangements. This group can often be persuaded to get the vaccine once their concerns are addressed.

The resisters are another matter. They are opposed to getting the vaccine for ideological reasons. That’s harder to address. Clearly, this group thinks that not getting vaccinated makes them “smart” or “own the libs.”

Josh Marshall has a thoughtful post up today that doesn’t seem to be behind a subscription firewall. He points out that the enormous majority of the demographic groups who vote are vaccinated now.

Shift our perspective in this way and you see that when you’re talking about the political nation, a big, verging on overwhelming majority are vaccinated. Among people over 65, the group that votes most consistently, 80% are vaccinated. Furthermore there is a lot of evidence that vaccination rates escalate with age. People in their forties are substantially more vaccinated than people in their twenties. So higher rates of vaccination align with propensity to vote.

The retirement living crowd may be conservative, but they grew up getting vaccinated. They remember polio and government vaccination programs. Even the most healthy of them are spending more and more time seeing doctors and getting scary medical procedures now.  A vaccine isn’t that much of a leap for them. And they are likely to have had friends who died of covid. Even in Missouri, about 74 percent of people 65 and over are fully vaccinated.

Josh Marshall concludes,

Most elected Republicans haven’t been explicitly anti-vaccination. Indeed, even before the last couple weeks many have made low volume statements saying they’ve been vaccinated and encouraging others to do so. But they’ve almost all participated in the effort to make vaccine resistance into a kind of freedom movement – banning government or private businesses from using vaccine passports, banning mask mandates, politicizing debates over school reopenings. As a party they’ve leaned into valorizing vaccine resistance and banning any private or governmental efforts to place the burden of the consequences of non-vaccination on those who choose not to be vaccinated.

They thought that would supercharge their already happy prospects for 2022 by riding an anti-vax or anti-vax mandate wave. And now they’re thinking they may have miscalculated.

I like that phrase “leaned into valorizing vaccine resistance.” That’s exactly it. The implicit message coming from Republican leaders in these parts is that if you’re really smart and thinking for yourself, you don’t get vaccinated. That’s what sheep and libtards do. If you do get sick, you’ll be fine, so what’s the deal?

But, yes, I think Republicans miscalculated big time on this one. That’s why some of them, recently, have changed their tunes a bit. But the really stupid ones are not likely to figure this out.

Charlotte Klein writes at Vanity Fair that the Republican reckoning on covid vaccines has finally arrived.

“Even conservative leaders now are having a hard time figuring out how to rein in what had primarily been a propaganda campaign, and they are now realizing their constituencies are particularly vulnerable,” Eric Ward, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the AP. Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida whose 2022 reelection campaign merch includes beer koozies that say “Don’t Fauci My Florida,” recently noted that nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people and affirmed that “these vaccines are saving lives.” There’s been an overall shift in some corners of Fox News—a network that has for months amplified misinformation and politicized the shots.

By now, though, it may be too little, too late. “Once you are opposed, it is very hard to change that position. And that’s what’s happening right now,” Republican pollster Frank Luntz told the AP.

My guess is that even if Trump himself came out and asked his culties to be vaccinated, most of them wouldn’t do it. Not that I expect Trump to do any such thing. See also Jonathan Allen:

Elijah Haahr, a former Missouri House speaker, said there’s an asymmetry to the voting public. For those who have chosen not to get vaccinated, he said, “that will be their No. 1 issue, and they will vote against the party that wants to force them to vaccinate.”

That’s probably true, which is why I expect a lot of the Republicans will continue to treat any government pandemic mitigation as government overreach and a Communist plot. But these same people are assuming that pro-vaccine voters will have moved on to other issues, so that anti-vaxx politicians won’t pay a price. But that seems to be less and less true.

But Kennedy said Democrats will still be fired up, because skepticism about vaccines is part of what her party’s voters see as a pattern of harmful disinformation and misinformation coming from GOP officials and their allies in conservative media.

“Our people are tying it to all of these other things,” Kennedy said. “As happy as people are that we got Trump out of office, the threat is so real and still in people’s face.”

For all voters, the urgency may have everything to do with where the fight against Covid-19 stands in the fall of 2022.

“It depends on the progress of the pandemic between now and the midterm,” said Michael Steel, a GOP strategist.

I bet Republicans are really, really hoping the pandemic just disappears. Like Trump promised it would.

Scorn and Consequences: What Refusers Deserve

Following up from the last post — I’ll tell you what else that ticks me off. I am tired of the assumption that civil dialogue and “coming together” generally is entirely the responsibility of lefties. We have to be the adults in the room while the Right acts like spoiled brats. We’re perpetually supposed to play Wendy to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.

For a jaw-dropping example, see Gary Abernathy at WaPo, Stop insulting Trump voters and their concerns. Talk to them. Avernathy wants us to know that Trump supporters truly believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and are insulted when their belief is called a “big lie.” And he thinks it was wrong to call out Trump when he, um, misspoke.

In 2016, the New York Times decided to start applying the word “lie” to many of Trump’s claims. “We owed it to our readers,” executive editor Dean Baquet said at the time. Others followed suit. But using words such as “lie” and “falsely claimed” in news stories arrogantly supposes an absolute knowledge of truth and makes it appear the news outlet has chosen sides.

No, Gary Abernathy, sometimes lies are clearly lies, and the facts are easily checked. “I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in an interview. Click here for a rundown of Trump’s biggest and most consequential lies. The damage caused by those lies, especially in the areas of elections and public health, are ongoing and staggering.

And I will die happy if I ever see an editorial addressed at Righties telling them they need to listen to and speak more civilly to the Left. No; this is advice given only to Lefties about the Right. Only we are ever called upon to be the responsible adults in this country.

Greg Sargent:

To hear some pundits and Republicans tell it, millions of people across the country who voted for Donald Trump are suffering from an affliction that you might call “Snowflake Syndrome.”

On numerous fronts in our politics — from voting rights to covid-19 to the legacy of Jan. 6 — we’re being told these voters are afflicted with a deeply fragile belief system that must be carefully ministered to and humored to an extraordinary degree.

We must pass voting restrictions everywhere to assuage these voters’ “belief” that the 2020 election was highly dubious or fraudulent. We must not argue too aggressively for coronavirus vaccines, lest they feel shamed and retreat into their anti-vax epistemological shells.

And we must allow Republicans to appoint some of the most deranged promoters of the stolen election myth to a committee examining the insurrection so they’ll feel like its findings are credible.

No; we need them to grow the bleep up.

So the snowflakes are traumatized about having to wear some cloth on their faces during a bleeping deadly public health emergency. They don’t want to get vaccines because it upsets them that Dr. Anthony Fauci tells them to get vaccines. Or that President Biden said something about people going door to door about the vaccines. Or that they might have to face consequences like being refused admission to theaters, never mind death, if they fail to get vaccinated. They’re spoiled little children screaming that they don’t wanna be told what to do. But they also insist on being protected from the consequences of their own irresponsibility.

The sections of the country with low vaccination rates, mostly but not exclusively the very red South, are now holding us all hostage.

A recent study by researchers at Georgetown University, led by Shweta Bansal, an associate professor and an infectious-disease expert, identified locations where vaccination rates are lower than the national average, and crucially, that are also surrounded by other areas with low vaccination rates. They homed in on five specific regions, which they say are the most vulnerable to future outbreaks; four are in the Southeast, and one lies just adjacent. …

… The outbreak that America is now seeing is exactly what Bansal and her team would expect based on their research. As Bansal puts it, “Unvaccinated individuals are efficient fuel like dry wood for the fire of future outbreaks. Vaccinated individuals are like soaked wood—while it can’t easily catch fire, if it’s surrounded by dry wood, the chances are much higher.” In other words, low vaccination rates in the South make this moment less safe for everyone there, and over time could jeopardize the country’s hope of ever getting the novel coronavirus more under control.

And, of course, if next winter is as bad or worse as last winter, these juveniles will blame Dr. Fauci and President Biden. It’s never their faults.

As David Frum put it so well, Vaccinated America Has Had Enough.

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?

If they aren’t getting vaccinated, we are told, it’s because lefties are mean to them and call them names, and we are supposed to be nice and not shame them and use gentle persuasion and then maybe by 2028 or so they will be more inclined to consent to getting vaccinated. If any of us survive.

But then this happened:

A breast cancer patient says she was sprayed with bear mace, physically assaulted, and verbally abused outside a cancer treatment center in West Hollywood, Los Angeles by far-right activists who were angry over the clinic’s mandatory mask policy.

It’s a bleeping cancer treatment center, you idiots. The patients are on chemo. They are immunocompromised. Yes, there are videos.


I don’t care how deluded/stupid/brainwashed they have been by propaganda, this is just disgusting. They are adults. They have agency. And as far as I’m concerned they deserve nothing but scorn.

See also ‘Patience has worn thin’: Frustration mounts over vaccine holdouts.

Years ago I tried many times to communicate civilly to righties, and nearly always my efforts were thrown back in my face. Most of them cannot be communicated with, adult to adult. There is no point trying, and I rarely do any more. But given that so many of the holdouts are being protected from consequences by their state governments, I don’t know what to do. If you still believe there can be respectful and useful dialogue with obstinate, hostile, and potentially dangerous children in adult bodies, you are welcome to try, but I do not believe it.  What will we do with the unvaccinated? What will we do with Trump cultists who believe the Big Lie? What will we do with people who can’t be responsible citizens? There are too many of them to ignore.

Update: It never stops. Covid cases are rising again in St. Louis, so yesterday St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, both Democrats, announced that a new indoor mask mandate would go into effect on Monday. No closings or other restrictions, yet, just masks.

Then Eric “Mr. Accordion” Schmitt, the state attorney general and Republican Senate candidate, tweeted,

Schmitt is competing with Mark McCloskey and Eric Greitens for Donald Trump’s endorsement, so to impress Trump he has to step up and be as big an asshole as possible. County Executive Page responded, “Does Mr. Schmitt prioritize the health and safety of those he is supposed to serve or making bombastic remarks to try to elevate his run for higher office?”

Yep. That’s what he does.

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.