Trump Admits He Intended to Overturn Election

That thumping sound you hear comes from Trump’s lawyers banging their heads on walls.

Aaron Blake writes at WaPo,

Trump released a statement Sunday night asserting not only that Pence could have overturned the election himself but that he should have. The former president did so in the context of some Republicans pushing for a law that would clarify that the vice president doesn’t, in fact, have this power.

Citing Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) support for the push to overhaul the Electoral Count Act, Trump maintained the effort itself betrayed Pence’s actual authority.

“Actually, what they are saying is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away,” Trump said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”

I  believe this is the statement, with highlights added.

Aaron Blake goes on to cite all the people in Trump’s inner circle who said, yeah, this idea about Pence changing the outcome was floating around, but we all knew it was crazy. Nobody took it seriously.

Well, it looks like somebody took it seriously. Blake continues,

Trump, of course, has made little secret that he saw this as a viable path. He floated both options as late as Jan. 5, 2021, saying Pence could “also decertify the illegal and corrupt results and send them to the House of Representatives for the one-vote-for-one-state tabulation.”

He’s now reasserting, more than a year later, that that’s the path Pence should have indeed pursued. He’s advocated something so anti-democratic that his own lawyers and vice president have said it was illegal, “crazy” and “un-American.” That could certainly bear on both the Jan. 6 investigation — in that it reinforces Trump’s true motive — and the Electoral Count Act overhaul effort — in that it actually reinforces the need to clarify this.

But more than anything, it renders Republican efforts to suggest this was anything other than an attempted self-coup rather silly. And it also renders any suggestions that he wouldn’t try this kind of thing again even sillier.

Yes, very silly.

Glenn Greenwald Found His Rabbit Hole

This just makes me sad.

This is from Glenn Greenwald’s substack account. It makes me sad because I remember when Glenn Greenwald was a voice of reason on the Left. Now he carps at “liberals” for “censorship” at a time when the Right is campaigning to remove books from school libraries and prevent schools from teaching actual American history. Apparently that’s okay. But if people are refusing to do business with Spotify because Joe Rogan’s podcasts about covid could be getting people killed, this means all of liberalism is about censorship. I can’t even.

Florida school district cancels professor’s civil rights lecture over critical race theory concerns

Republicans Are Trying to Suppress More Than Votes

Conservatives Are Banning Books From Schools While Whining About ‘Cancel Culture’

Art Spiegelman sees the new ban of his book ‘Maus’ as a ‘red alert’

Greenwald pooh-poohs “the vastly overstated claim that vaccines prevent transmission of COVID” which in fact have been supported by solid evidence. But notice that he skips the more critical issue of hospitalizations, now that Omicron has changed the transmission calculations (although “breakthrough” cases of the fully vaccinated are still much, much lower than the rate of cases among the unvaccinated).

As of January 12, data show the unvaccinated are 20 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people. Note that since the fully vaccinated population tends to be older, and with more health problems, than the unvaccinated, the actual protective benefits of vaccination for an individual would probably be a lot higher. See also.

I’m really tired of having to explain this.

Further, let’s consider that the protests of Joe Rogan on Spotify are not coming from government or a political party or dark-money funded organizations, but just people. People voting with their pocketbooks by canceling subscriptions or boycotting businesses is a time-honored way of expressing approval or disapproval of public speech or action. The book and information banning going on right now in public school classrooms and public and school libraries is being organized and funded by conservative donors and enabled by high-level Republican officer holders. This  comes closer to any definition of censorship than people canceling their Spotify accounts.

And the moral is, no matter how smart you are, there still could be a rabbit hole out there somewhere with your name on it. Take care.

Republicans Split on Putin and Ukraine

I’ve heard that Vladimir Putin’s saber-rattling at Ukraine is about pipelines, or it’s about wanting to put the old Soviet Union back together, or it’s about wanting to break up NATO, or get rid of U.S. influence in Europe, or maybe Putin just wants attention. This is not my area of expertise, so I can’t offer an opinion. I just hope he backs down.

What I can comment on is what the Ukraine crisis is doing to the Republican Party.

Let’s compare the Trump Republican Party to the post-9/11 Republican Party under George W. Bush. Remember the neoconservatives? Jack Hunter wrote in The American Conservative in 2011, “The ‘neocons’ believe American greatness is measured by our willingness to be a great power—through vast and virtually unlimited global military involvement.” According to neocons, any President who hesitates to send troops to address a foreign crisis isn’t “serious.” And the neocons were the main stream of the GOP during George W. Bush’s tenure, and after.

When President Obama failed to order a military strike on Syria for its use of sarin gas in 2013, Republicans attacked him mercilessly as being weak. (Here is some even-handed background on who did what, and why.) Republicans also were outraged when Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, and President Obama responded only with sanctions.

One suspects Republicans were ready to slam Democrats for being soft on Russia in the 2016 elections. But one of the first things Donald Trump did as the GOP presidential nominee was to delete a call for arming Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons from the platform. And one of the first foreign policy things the Trump Administration did was relax the Obama sanctions on Russia. And the GOP was silent.

For four years, the neocons were shoved aside — many became “never Trumpers” — while Trump supporters were taught that Putin is a model leader, and there’s something fishy about Ukraine. Right-wing media outlets like OAN say that the whole “Russia may invade Ukraine” thing is fake news. Here’s a screenshot of their website today:

I can’t tell you which “Ukranian diplomat” is saying this, because I would have to watch a video to find out. It’s true that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is telling western powers to chill about Russian troops on his border, because he doesn’t want people to panic. Panic might cause runs on banks and a mass exodus from the country. One also suspects Zelensky is in over his head, but I don’t know the guy personally.

But at Breitbart — to which I do not link — I found an article about Sen. Lindsey Graham issuing a warning that “if you care about world order, you better get the Ukraine right.” Graham wants NATO troops to be deployed to the Baltic regions. Graham’s concern was met by derision from Breitbart commenters, who called Graham a RINO who supports amnesty for illegal aliens (?). And the Ukraine crisis is being blamed on President Biden’s warmongering.

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Kovensky writes that the GOP can’t decide what to do about Ukraine.

A yawning split has emerged. On one side is the MAGA right, skeptical of any U.S. support for Ukraine. On the other are Republicans animated by ideas that linger from the pre-Trump GOP, including a blind commitment to American intervention overseas, regardless of the cost.

At Axios, Jonathan Swan writes that the GOP’s usual tough-on-Russia talk has nearly been silenced.

Republican hopefuls who vow not to assist in any potential conflict in Ukraine are reflecting — and fanning — anti-interventionist sentiments in the modern GOP. …

… There’s a stark split in the GOP over how to handle Russia’s threat to Ukraine. It’s less useful to think “doves” versus “hawks” and more illuminating to view it as a divide between Republicans who are responsive to their base and incumbents who feel they can afford to maintain some distance from GOP primary voters.

For example, Lindsey Graham isn’t up for re-election until 2026.

One repeated point made by the Breitbart commenters and elsewhere is that nobody cares about Ukraine’s border, but why isn’t somebody (Biden; NATO) protecting the U.S. southern border? This may have something to do with the claim I saw at Breitbart that by calling for NATO troop deployment in Baltic regions, Graham is taking the side of illegal aliens in the U.S. Breitbart readers tend not to be the sharpest crayons in the box.

You see the same thing at Gateway Punidt — I don’t link to it, either.

Of course, President Biden has said there would be no U.S. ground troops in Ukraine. I haven’t heard anyone call for U.S. troops in Ukraine.

I can’t say I’m sorry that the old neocon crowd is finding itself without a political home, but it’s being replaced by unadulterated idiocy, which doesn’t seem to be an improvement.

And it could be worse. Greg Sargent writes that the split between the old neocon hawks and the apparently isolationist MAGA heads may not be isolationism at all. “Something more pernicious is going on,” he writes. “The [Tucker] Carlsonian stance is perhaps better understood as alignment with a kind of right-wing Internationale, a loose international alliance of authoritarian nationalists who despise liberal internationalist commitments.”

Carlson has gone to extraordinary lengths to buttress Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s perspective on the brewing conflict. His depictions of Putin’s fears of NATO expansion into Ukraine are larded with great sympathy for Putin’s plight. …

…While Carlson piously suggests he is driven by a desire to prevent U.S. lives from being wasted abroad, he has also suggested we should take Russia’s side. He has even attacked U.S. media figures for suggesting Ukraine is a U.S. ally whose territorial sovereignty should be defended.

Tucker Carlson has gone overboard praising far-right dictators of late. He has a new documentary at Fox that’s actually called Hungary vs. Soros: The Fight for Civilization. According to Zack Beauchamp at Vox,

… it purports to tell the story of how a plucky little democracy in Central Europe has carved out a conservative model in the face of a relentless assault by the forces of global liberalism personified by George Soros, the Hungarian-American financier.

The story is a lie. Hungary is nominally a democracy but it has made a turn toward authoritarianism in the last decade; Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has painted Soros as a scapegoat whose allegedly nefarious influence justifies Orbán’s anti-democratic moves. The documentary amplifies this propaganda, treating the Jewish philanthropist as the spider at the center of a global web of conspiracy.

The Anti-Defamation League is not pleased.

At Daily Beast, Matt Lewis compares Carlson’s position to that of Neville Chamberlain.

For years, foreign policy hawks invoked the icon of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain, to emasculate their more dovish liberal opponents. Today, the macho men on the right are arguing that an illegal incursion by an authoritarian regime into a European nation-state isn’t our business. It’s Chamberlain’s folly delivered with a confident Churchillian swagger.

But why is this happening now? There are multiple reasons, including either grudging or explicit admiration for Vladimir Putin, whose dictatorial strongman persona exhibits many of the stereotypical attributes of masculinity.

Among the “America First” isolationist right, there’s also the argument that Putin is fighting for Christian values, while our “woke” U.S. military is the “armed wing of the Democratic Party,” part of a leftist cabal indoctrinating our young people into godless Marxism.

See above about unadulterated idiocy. I can’t even begin to describe all the ways that’s bleeped up.

But if we want to talk about history repeating itself, let us not forget that in the 1930s many American conservatives thought Mussolini was a swell guy who was showing America the way forward. Do see this fascinating review of a recent book from Princeton University Press, The Machine Has a Soul: American Sympathy with Italian Fascism by Katy Hull. This admiration didn’t come from the fringe but from many mainstream figures in the U.S., “From Henry Ford to the esteemed, path-blazing New York Times foreign correspondent Anne O’Hare McCormick.” The reviewer, Justin H. Vassallo, writes,

From the start, Hull’s subjects took Mussolini at his word, believing fascism would resolve the country’s postwar instability. But equally important for Americans were the lessons fascism offered the United States. “These observers,” Hull writes, “asserted that fascism produced a different kind of modernity from that which prevailed in the United States—one that upheld traditions, restored connections between government and the governed, and rebalanced the relationship between men and machines.” For them, Italian fascism could decouple technological progress from decadent consumerism and harmonize the humble, spiritual qualities of agrarian life with the martial pursuit of world stature. It thus stirred romanticized notions about the U.S. preindustrial past, even as the arrival of corporatism suggested Italy would surpass America’s own Progressive Era strides toward technocratic government. In essence, fascism simultaneously augured the antidote to and the fulfillment of the American experiment. As U.S. society confronts the ways the powerful have sanctioned rightwing extremism in our own time, this history uncovers a troubling legacy worth reckoning with.

The issues then and now are not identical. But if you scratch beneath the surface you see a lot of the same elements — racism, antisemitism, xenophobia — basically, a deep fear of diversity challenging White hegemony, all framed in slogans about patriotism and traditional values.  See also David Smith How Tucker Carlson and the far right embraced Hungary’s authoritarian leader at The Guardian.

The Right: Still Racist After All These Years

Ruth Marcus writes that the reactions to President Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court are “racially tinged.” Tinged my ass; the Right’s reaction is reeking with racism. The dog whistles have become megaphones.

Marcus provides several examples and also notes that past presidents have explicitly announced that they intended to nominate a woman (Reagan, who then nominated Sandra Day O’Connor) or a Black (Bush I, who then nominated Clarence Thomas to “replace,” or at least sit in the chair of, Thurgood Marshall).

Paul Waldman also describes The race-baiting response to Biden’s Supreme Court pledge.

Conservative legal scholar Ilya Shapiro tweeted that rather than picking a male candidate Shapiro judged to be the “objectively best pick,” Biden would succumb to the “latest intersectional hierarchy” and choose a “lesser black woman.” (He later deleted the tweet and apologized.)

Do tell.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal editorial page said choosing a Black woman “elevates skin color over qualifications,” as though it would be impossible to find a Black woman who is also qualified. “I mean, what kind of qualification is that, being a Black woman?” asked Fox’s Maria Bartiromo.

“They can overtly discriminate against people,” lamented Ben Shapiro. Tucker Carlson issued a ten-minute rant about the injustice of it all, concluding with the suggestion that George Floyd’s sister should be the nominee.

“She is not a judge or a lawyer or whatever, but in this case, who cares?” Carlson said. “Clearly, that’s not the point anymore.”

The point, of course, is that diversity has value, and quality won’t be compromised. If you want to see an example of quality being compromised, review the Clarence Thomas or Brett Kavanaugh nominations. Or Amy Coney Barrett’s, for that matter.

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern:

Biden has many extraordinary candidates on his short list. But for reasons that should surprise nobody who’s been paying attention to recent history, these early commenters do not appear to see these candidates’ impeccable credentials and extraordinary accomplishments. Instead, they have opted to prejudge any Black woman, and indeed all Black women nominees, as inherently inferior and underqualified.

Conservative critics—not content with a 6–3 supermajority achieved by holding one seat open for almost a year, then filling another in a matter of weeks—aren’t willing to graciously take their win while Biden confirms a new justice, which in no way affects the balance on the court. They aren’t even willing to wait for a name. And in a neat bit of gaslighting, they also claim that Biden and his defenders are the real racists. And in the event that you believe this is just a little confirmation-game bluster, consider that they are laying the groundwork to single out whoever this next justice will be as unqualified and inferior for decades to come. Think we’re imagining things? Just ask Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Lithwick and Stern document that whenever a Democrat nominates someone other than a White man for the Supreme Court, the opposition declares “that nominee is inherently suspect—a presumptive unqualified beneficiary of affirmative action until proven otherwise.”

This toxic ideology emerged when President Barack Obama put forward Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009. Ilya Shapiro, a conservative lawyer and commentator who will soon teach at Georgetown University Law Center, smeared her as a blatant affirmative action pick. In a notorious CNN article published at the time of her nomination, he wrote that Sotomayor “would not have even been on the short list if she were not Hispanic. She is not one of the leading lights of the federal judiciary.” Obama never said he wanted a Latina for the spot, but Shapiro nevertheless deduced that she was selected on the basis of her race and gender. He could not believe Obama would nominate a Latina due to her accomplishments alone.

(Yeah, that’s the same Ilya Shapiro who tweeted that Biden would succumb to the “latest intersectional hierarchy” and choose a “lesser black woman.” Shapiro, a fellow at the Cato Institute, recently was hired to lecture at Georgetown University law school. But the Georgetown law dean called Shapiro’s “lesser black woman” remark “appalling.” We’ll see if Shapiro keeps his new job.)

The smear did not end with her confirmation. For the entire time she has been on the bench, Sotomayor—who graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton—has been derided as a dim bulb affirmative action pick. Conservative commentators accuse her of stupidity and ignorance for making uncontroversial points that could only upset a bad faith pedant. She exists in a space that has no equivalent for a white man on the Supreme Court. She must earn the respect of conservative commentators every single day on the job.

There have also been suggestions that Biden’s decision to choose the next SCOTUS justice from among the pool of excellent and qualified Black women judges is against the law. Tucker Carlson suggested that, in fact. Elura Nanos at Law & Crime explains why that’s wrong.

The problem with righties is that they are not a self-reflecting crew. In a 2009 post about the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, I wrote,

Generally being “fair” is not losing one’s biases, but perceiving one’s biases as biases. If you recognize your biases as biases, you are in a position to overrule them as the facts dictate. But if you are so unconscious of yourself that you don’t recognize your biases as biases, then your “thinking” generally amounts to casting around for support for your biases. Then you put the biases and the cobbled-together “support” together and call it “reason.”

These people honestly don’t hear the blatant racism in what they say. And apparently, as Ilya Shapiro demonstrates, they don’t learn.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is under consideration for the nomination

People Are Choosing Death for Nothing

Here’s a bit of good news — Justice Breyer is retiring. President Biden gets a Supreme Court pick, and Mitch McConnell can’t block it. It won’t change the conservative dominance on the Court, of course.

Now, on to today’s Derp News, Republicans versus Science edition.

Via Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, I learned today about DJ Ferguson, 31, who is hospitalized in Boston and in desperate need of a heart transplant. He is the father of two children, and his wife is expecting a third. He was at the top of the transplant list, but … he refused to get a covid vaccine. So the hospital took him off the list.

The hospital is not just being mean. People who have recently received organ transplants are hugely immunocompromised. Just about any virus infection could kill them, never mind covid. Being fully vaccinated against everything they can possibly catch is a condition for getting a transplant, because it’s a waste of an organ to put it into someone who is at increased risk compared to other patients.

Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, explains that being vaccinated is necessary for this type of procedure.

“Post any transplant, kidney, heart whatever, your immune system is shut off,” Caplan said. “The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving.”

Okay, that makes sense. But not to DJ Ferguson. His family says he is sticking to principles. His father, David Ferguson, says the family is pursuing other options, but they are running out of time. He may already be too fragile to move to another hospital, assuming there is one that would give him the transplant. As I understand it, the protocols for who gets a heart are not decided by the hospitals.

And while the family says DJ has received great care from doctors and nurses at Brigham and Women’s, they just don’t agree with the heart transplant COVID vaccination policy.

“I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in and that makes me respect him all the more,” David Ferguson said.

Which is why the family is sticking by his side and hoping for the best. “It’s his body. It’s his choice,” Ferguson added.

So he’ll probably die, and his three children will grow up without their father. And for what “principles”? That “they can’t make me do it what I don’t wanna do it, nyah nyah nyah?” Seriously? What about his responsibilities to his children?

At The Atlantic, Kurt Andersen writes that “The Anti-Vaccine Right Brought Human Sacrifice to America.” At first I thought that was a tad hyperbolic, but now I’m not so sure. JD Ferguson certainly seems determined to sacrifice himself for completely empty “principles.”

In ancient times human sacrifice was driven by political and religious power, fused together; “politics plus faith,” Andersen calls it. Andersen compares people like Ferguson to the folks who drank the Kool-Aid at Jonestown. Some of the people who died at Jonestown did not do so voluntarily, it says here. They literally had guns to their heads, which Ferguson does not, so it’s not a perfect analogy. But it does seem he’s prepared to throw his life away rather than betray his faith in something that he thinks is a “principle.”

“,,, for a long time now the right’s ongoing propaganda campaign against and organized political resistance to vaccination, among other public-health protocols, has been killing many, many Americans for no reasonable, ethically justifiable social purpose,” Andersen writes. “In other words, what we’ve experienced certainly since the middle of 2021 is literally ritual human sacrifice on a mass scale—the real thing, comparable to the innumerable ghastly historical versions.”

Other desperately sick people are choosing death before what they think is dishonor.

A man seeking a kidney transplant has also been denied a place on the active transplant list because he chose not to get vaccinated.

Shamgar Connors, 42, is a patient at University of Virginia Hospital who is now listed as “inactive” on the list for a life-saving kidney transplant. Connors said his entire family had COVID-19 and doesn’t believe he needs the vaccine.

“I’d rather die of kidney failure,” Connors told Dr. Karen Warburton after she asked if he was willing to receive the vaccine, according to Fox News Digital.

Similarly, a Colorado woman was denied a kidney transplant because she refuses to get the vaccine for religious reasons.

Leilani Lutali said she would not get vaccinated because of the role that fetal cell lines have played in vaccine development, according to the Associated Press.

The business about fetal cell lines is a howler, since just about all medications are initially tested using fetal lines that have lived in laboratories since the 1970s. If you were going to be consistent on this you’d have to refuse to take all medicines, including Tylenol. But if Leilani Lutali wants to die on that hill, I’m not personally feeling a strong urge to stop her.

Also from Lawyers, Guns and Money, see Erik Loomis, Why Fox Went All-In on Killing Their Viewers, and Scott Lemieux, The GOP Is a Remarkably Successful Death Cult.

In other covid derp news: Some anti-vaxx governors have made a big deal of offering monoclonal antibody therapies as a treatment for covid, as part of their argument that nobody needs vaccines since they’ve got these treatments. The monoclonal antibody therapies generally do help quite a bit, although they aren’t a sure-fire cure. The federal government bought huge quantities of the stuff to distribute to the states and medical facilities.

However, it has been discovered that two of the most distributed monoclonal antibody therapies, those made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, are ineffective against Omicron. So the feds have paused the distribution, since just about everybody is getting Omicron now, and there’s no point wasting the stuff. Another monoclonal antibody treatment, by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, is effective against Omicron, but there is not yet a big stockpile of it.

Lo, guess who’s having a fit about it.

DeSantis is threatening to sue the Biden Administration to get them to release the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly therapies, even though Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly agree the therapies don’t work against Omicron. And the decision was made by the FDA, not by President Biden. Like most righties, DeSantis is basically an overgrown spoiled child who can’t process not getting everything he wants.

The Aztecs are probably the record holder for mass sacrifice, but the Republicans may top them.

Glenn Youngkin’s Big Virginia Mess

Virginia elected a Republican governor, and now they’ve got a Republican governor who is acting like a Republican governor. Apparently some Virginians are surprised by this. They appear to have thought that Glenn Youngkin wasn’t, you know, like those Republicans.

After campaigning as a nice surburban dad who wouldn’t do anything radical or crazy, he went for the radical/crazy as soon as he took office. Dahlia Lithwick:

On his first day in office, Youngkin issued an executive order granting parents of the commonwealth’s 1.5 million schoolchildren the ability to exempt their kids from their school districts’ mask policies if they so choose. Immediately after the order was signed, several superintendents announced plans to keep their mask requirements. Virginia’s lieutenant governor announced that Youngkin could pull funding from any district refusing to comply, although nobody could say whether that was legalParents sued to reverse the order, and then seven school boards filed a lawsuit claiming the masks-optional policy violates both the Virginia Constitution, which provides that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board,” and a 2021 state law that requires school systems to follow federal health guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends all students, K–12, wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

And so, all hell has broken loose in Virginia. You’ve probably seen the video of the unhinged Virginia mother screaming that if the school district forced her child to wear a mask, she was bringing “every single gun loaded” to her child’s school. Lithwick:

There’s no point debating who in the complicated mess of parents, schools, local school boards, states, or federal agencies should have the last word on public health measures in a peaking pandemic. That complicated legal question, which will presumably be resolved in the courts, has been temporarily obviated by the choice to say that the wearing of masks is an exigent denial of individual liberty, akin to the wearing of yellow stars in Nazi Germany, and the governor’s decision to empower parents to therefore refuse it. Youngkin, who ran as a “moderate,” entered office with a ban on the teaching of critical race theory (which is not currently taught in K–12 schools in Virginia) and other “divisive” topics. Youngkin’s attorney general has just reversed the state’s position on Roe v. Wade, arguing for it to be overturned this spring at the Supreme Court. This past weekend the AG also fired UVA’s counsel, who was on leave working as the top investigator for the U.S. House panel investigating the Jan. 6 riot—insisting this was not a politically motivated act but not offering any other reason for it.

You wanted Republicans in charge of the state, Virginia, and now you’ve got them. Be careful what to wish for. The new attorney general, Jason Miyares, is a real sweetheart who purged thirty staffers from his office the day before his inauguration. This included the entire conviction integrity unit, which as I understand it investigates possible wrongful convictions.

This past week Youngkin attempted to dial back some of the controversy. “After big-footing his way into a crisis, on Saturday, Youngkin tried to tweet his way out of it with vague platitudes that ultimately contradicted themselves and only added to the confusion: ‘While the legal process continues on the parental opt out of mask mandates for their children in schools, I urge everyone to love your neighbor, to listen to school principals, and to trust the legal process,'” Lithwick wrote.

The problem here is that Youngkin got the order wrong. He was supposed to start with love and respect for school principals, and then build up to rancor and division and threats of violence—it’s so much harder to go in the other direction, as he’s tried to do. Bottling up the outrage after the gun-waving phase proves difficult—ask Donald Trump. By the time parents are marching their kids into schools with copies of a hastily crafted executive order and the directive to refuse to listen to anyone in authority, “love your neighbor” is a fossilized relic of a forgotten time.

Greg Sargent weighs in:

In an interview with influential right wing radio host John Fredericks on Monday night, Youngkin demonstrated why this is happening. The episode, reported by The Post, captures something essential about the pathologies that Trump has unleashed in our politics, and the tendency of so many GOP politicians to eagerly go along with them.

Youngkin laced into “left liberals” and school board “bureaucrats,” blaming them for the turmoil that has erupted in response to his new policy. Youngkin recently signed an executive order allowing parents to opt out of mask requirements without any reason, but dozens of school districts are keeping the mandates in place, arguing that the law requires them to do so.

“I’m not surprised at all to hear these reactions from school boards that have consistently prioritized bureaucrats and politicians over the rights of parents,” Youngkin insisted. He said school districts keeping mask requirements “aren’t recognizing the rights of parents today.”

The part that righties refuse to understand, of course, is that masking works best if everyone does it.  They don’t just reduce the amount of virus that might be breathed in, but also that might be breathed out. If only some people in a vicinity are wearing masks they are much less effective at protecting their wearers, although they offer a bit of protection, so it’s still worth wearing them. But the point is that one parents’ decision to send a child to school unmasked doesn’t just affect that child, but all the children. And, frankly, masks aren’t that big a deal. Anti-mask hysteria is utterly irrational.

It’s also the case that a majority of Virginians, including parents of school children, support masking and other mandates. Once again, a minority is being allowed to bully everyone else. And Youngkin’s blaming of allegedly power-mad school district “bureaucrats” — school boards are elected in Virginia — is par for the course. He is the one overreaching his executive authority, but he blames others.

I’d like to throw out one other part of the problem, which is that Youngkin’s entire career has been in business. He’s been in investment banking and management consulting and eventually was a co-CEO of the infamous Carlyle Group, the company in which the Bushes and bin Ladens were both doing business before September 11. Business leaders are not used to having to deal with layers of authority in their own organization that they do not control. That’s something Trump never got; he spent four years treating everyone in federal government as if they worked for him.

I assume Youngkin is more intelligent than Trump (most vertebrates are) and that he has a theoretical understanding of how government works. But he’s got a learning curve ahead of him if he’s going to change the way he’s always run businesses and adjust to the realities of government. Especially in our diffuse federalist system in which power is not supposed to be centralized, Youngkin’s well-honed CEO skills are not likely to work very well.

I’m reminded of Rex Tillerson, the Exxon-Mobil CEO who was Trump’s first secretary of state. One of the first things he wanted to do is make the State Department more “efficient,” which amounted to gutting it. I’m sure he has a lot of experience in taking over some company or division and redesigning it to his liking, but he seems not to have firmly grasped what it is departments of state do. These guys are not always all that flexible. They’ve got one skill set that worked for them in business, and they tend to stick to it even when it isn’t working.

Glenn Youngkin

The Right vs. Freedom of the Press

The lesson for today: Be careful what you wish for.

The story: Back in 2010, Sarah Palin published this graphic showing crosshairs over certain congressional districts.

Palin was arguing that the Democratic congress persons in those districts should be replaced with Republicans. But then in January 2011 one of those congress persons, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, was seriously injured in a shooting rampage near Tucson. Six people were killed in the rampage, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, there was a lot of editorializing that political “speech” such as Palin’s might have incited the shooter. See Political Insiders Split Over Palin’s ‘Crosshairs’ at The Atlantic.

In 2017, the New York Times published an editorial about gun violence that contained this paragraph:

In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.

Some time later, the New York Times amended the editorial with this correction:

An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.

When I searched for the crosshairs map today I found what seemed to be Sarah Palin ads with the map and names of congress people included, so there seems to be some honest confusion on what exactly Palin was pushing back then. And it seems to me there isn’t a huge distinction between individual lawmakers and electoral districts beneath stylized cross hairs.

But Sarah Palin was outraged, supposedly, and sued the New York Times.  A jury trial was supposed to have started today, but the unvaccinated Palin has tested positive for covid, so the trial is postponed to February 3, assuming Palin won’t be on life support at the time.

And although per current legal guidelines Palin’s case is weak, a jury might decide otherwise.

I wrote about the current legal guidelines last year; see With Actual Malice and Reckless Disregard. That post was about lawsuits filed by voting system companies Dominion and Smartmatic against Fox News. Fox News gave the likes of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani many hours of time to present utterly unsupported claims that the voting machine companies were working with Democrats to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump. A big part of Fox’s defense is that they were just reporting “both sides,” and they have no legal ogligation to determine whether claims their newmaker guests make are true.

These suits have not yet been resolved. The most recent development I could find happened last month, when a suprior court judge in Delaware refused to dismiss Dominion’s case against Fox.

Anyway, as I wrote in a lot more detail last year, the long-standing guidelines per the New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) case said that news writers will make honest mistakes and that even if a news story or editorial contains an error it isn’t libelous unless the plaintiff can prove actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth.

Justice William Brennan wrote the opinion for a unanimous Supreme Court, and in that opinion he said that public officials “may not sue news media for slander or libel unless the injurious statement is made with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth,” it says here. Public discussion of government officials and issues should be “uninhibited, robust and wide-open,” he said. The actual malice standard may protect falsehoods, but  “erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate, and … it must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the ‘breathing space’ that they need to survive.”

I personally think that to publish a map of congressional districts with cross-hairs symbols printed over them is a seriously objectionable thing to do, and the Times was not out of line to call Palin out for that even if it got the details wrong. And I sympathize with news people, because they have to generate huge amounts of information on deadline, and often the information they are given from sources is wrong. People do make mistakes. People who have never had that kind of job often don’t understand that, though.

If the actual malice and reckless disregard standards no longer hold, news media will be in big trouble. Including right-wing news media. The righties calling for the New York Times’s head on a spike don’t seem to realize that. Seriously, if Sullivan goes, Fox News might as well close up shop.

Indeed, WaPo’s Dana Milbank recently described an entirely fabricated slander against President Biden that Fox is pushing hard.

For three months, Republican officeholders and Fox News personalities have been shouting it from the rooftops.

“The attorney general announced the FBI would investigate moms who dared to complain at school board meetings as potential terrorists,” Fox’s leading prime-time host, Tucker Carlson, announced last week.

“Biden and his cronies are calling the parents domestic terrorists,” contributed Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nuñez, on Fox News last Sunday.” …

… There’s just one wee problem with the whole Biden-says-parents-are-terrorists claim, reported dozens of times on Fox News airwaves and echoed at each link down the Republican media food chain: It’s horse excrement. Biden never said it. Attorney General Merrick Garland never said it. No senior (nor even junior) official in the Biden administration has ever been shown to have said it. Yet Fox News presents it as unchallenged fact, week after week. (In response to my request, a Fox News spokeswoman provided me no instance of a Biden official calling parents domestic terrorists.)

What happened, of course, is that people who may or may not be parents are making threats against school board members, and I understand that is being looked into as terrorism.

Yeah, that’s kind of uncalled for.

Right-wing media writers and bloggers are rooting for Palin. Ed Morrissey wrote at Hot Air:

Will Sarah Palin force the New York Times to write a big check for defamation, or will the ghosts of Sullivan save the newspaper again? Palin’s long-awaited lawsuit will open today in federal court over an editorial that initially blamed Palin for the 2011 shooting that killed several people and gravely wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Palin filed the lawsuit after the June 2017 house editorial that insisted that “the link to political incitement was clear.”

It still seems clear to me, but I acknowledge that’s a matter of opinion. But Morrissey appears to be utterly oblivious to the fact that the Sullivan decision protects him, too. And it protects Fox and One America Network and NewsMax. It might even protect the utterly vile Gateway Pundit. And it protects a whole lot of Republican candidates who tell outright lies about their Democratic opponents in their campaign ads. If we lose the Sullivan guidelines, it’s going to have a chilling effect on news media across the board, but it would slam the Right a lot harder than the mainstream media. (I started to write “than the Left,” but the Left doesn’t have the same sort of dedicated and proprietary media infrastructure that the Right has.)

So, righties, you might want to be careful what you wish for.

Missouri Governor Takes Unearned Credit

The utterly useless Governor of Missouri, the utterly useless Mike Parson, gave a State of the State address a few days ago. The utterly useless governor’s office didn’t release a transcript, and I’m not about to watch it on video, so I’m going by news stories about what he said.

The news lead is that Gov. Useless bragged about the state’s huge budget surplus, as if he had had something to do with it. Missouri is still sitting on $2 billion of unspent federal money from the American Rescue Plan.

Thanks President Biden! Thanks, congressional Democrats! No, Useless didn’t say that. What he did say was “When other states will be filling spending gaps and budget shortfalls, we will be making investments in the future, because in Missouri, we took a common sense approach to the pandemic, never shutdown businesses, and have always had a conservative and balanced budget.”

“Convservative approach” basically means “we’ll let the state rot before we spend money on it.”

Let’s talk about the pandemic, the thing on which money was not spent. Currently, Missouri is somewhere in the middle in the state rankings of covid deaths per 100,000 population. According to the Mayo Clinic, the state currently has a 32.7 percent positivity rate, and 54 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Omicron hasn’t peaked here yet; hospitalization and death rates are still going up in most of the state.

And what is Parson doing about any of this? Absolutely nothing. Missouri is fortunate in that most of the state is rural and sparsely populated. The urban areas did institute mask mandates and other mitigation efforts to attempt to keep the pandemic in hand. This may be why St. Louis currently is experiencing 142 new cases daily per 100,000 population, while state capitol Jefferson City has 314 cases per 100,000 population every day (source).

Remember also that mostly rural southwest Missouri was the epicenter of a delta surge that spread to several other states.

The Springfield News-Leader reported,

The governor, who throughout the pandemic has advocated for personal responsibility and a hands-off approach at the state level, spoke of the pandemic primarily in the past tense Wednesday. The state “accepted the challenges and prevailed” against the virus, despite “endless critics” who “tell us how we could have done it better.”

Those remarks come as Missouri faces a wave of the virus led by the omicron variant, a defining characteristic of which has been staff shortages and closures at schools. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has been an aggressive opponent of masking and quarantine orders in schools, threatening districts with litigation if they continue to enforce such guidelines. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat, zeroed in on Schmitt’s decision-making with regard to schools while criticizing the administration’s pandemic response Wednesday evening.

This is what makes me crazy. So the state decided not to respond to the pandemic. The state also has fought with county and city governments that do want to respond to the pandemic. St. Louis city and county have practically been at war with state Attorney General Eric Schmitt these past two years. Schmitt wants no restrictions on anyone’s “freedom” whatsoever. Mask mandates have been overturned and re-instated so many times by so many courts St. Louisans practically have whiplash. The most recent ruling responding to one of Schmitt’s many lawsuits has the mask mandate back in place.

And as schools struggle to say open because of Omicron, Schmitt is suing school districts all over the state to end school mask mandates.

The suits allege that school districts do not have the authority to impose public health orders for children. Several parents within the districts are named as plaintiffs in the suits that were filed in the counties where the school districts are located.

The lawsuits are part of Schmitt’s ongoing effort to force Missouri schools to drop mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation policies. Schmitt is a Republican running for U.S. Senate.

“Parents and families, not bureaucrats, should have the power to decide what’s best for their children,” Schmitt said in a press release Friday.

In most cases the “bureaucrats” are elected school board members, as in the elected representatives of the people of that city or county. Can’t have people deciding things for themselves, nosirree.

Did I mention Schmitt is running for Roy Blunt’s Senate seat and wants to get his name on Fox News? I believe I have.

CBS reported a couple of days ago that 25 percent of people hospitalized for covid in Missouri are children. See also At least 62 Missouri school districts have temporarily closed in January,

In the state of the state speech, Useless said, “Government should lead, not dictate,” he said. “Government should support, not mandate. And we must all remember that.” That sounds grand, but in truth what that means is that the only policies allowed, at state or local level, are whatever the state Republican Party approves.

Local governments are not allowed to institute local covid policies no matter how desperate the pandemic is at the time.

The state legislature keeps trying to force right-to-work laws on the state in spite of a 2018 referendum in which the voters clearly opposed right-to-work laws.

Voters passed a referendum calling for the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and the state refused to do it. They didn’t have the money, they said (see above about $2 billion in unspent federal dollars, plus the feds pay for most of Medicaid). Late last year the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the state had to expand Medicaid, anyway. They are sorta kinda doing it, but the enrollment process is unnecessarily cumbersome (I walked through it myself), and the legislature is considering more restrictions, such as a full-time job or so many hours of volunteer work a month in order to qualify for Medicaid. Those undeserving poor people need to step up, I guess.

Not all of Useless’s proposals for the surplus of money are bad. He wants to raise teachers’ salaries and send more money to schools and state colleges, for example. But the notion that the state doesn’t impose itself on the will of the people is a joke.

See also: The Technowizard Governor and the Hack

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

Missouri: The Screw Me State

Gov. Mike Parson, who is utterly useless.


Trump May Not Escape This Time

Dahlia Lithwick:

If he were anyone else, one could say that former President Donald Trump has been having an exceedingly bad week. Indeed, were he anyone else, one might well be saying that it sure looks like the walls are closing in on him. But Donald Trump has been living in the Republic of Walls-Closing-Inistan for so very, very long that it’s difficult to know whether the former president will once again get away with simply lying about the square footage of the forever-shrinking penthouse.

That’s how I feel. I don’t want to get my hopes up that this time will turn out any differently. But it does seem he’s closer to disaster than he has been so far.

For example, David French writes at The Atlantic that Georgia Has a Very Strong Case Against Trump. By “Georgia,” of course, he means the Fulton Count District Attorney, Fani Willis. DA Willis wants a special grand jury in order to issue indictments to the many people refusing to testify otherwise. She may have enough evidence with the tape of the infamous Raffensperger phone call, but she may want to be sure she has an ironclad case. She might also be going beyond just the phone call.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is pursuing civil charges, which are easier to prove than criminal charges. AG James wants to be able to compel the Trumps, including the Donald himself, to submit to depositions about the conflicting claims they’ve made about their finances. The Trumps will probably take the 5th, because anything they say might be used against them by the Manhattan District Attorney, who is investigating criminal charges, as is the Westchester County District Attorney.

Meanwhile, thousands of Rudy Giuliani’s communications have been turned over to the Manhattan U.S. attorney.

The retired federal judge assigned to review the contents of 18 electronic devices seized from Rudolph W. Giuliani’s home and offices in Manhattan last spring has withheld about half of what former president Donald Trump’s personal lawyer argued should be kept out of the hands of investigators because it was privileged.

More than 3,000 communications were released to prosecutors on Wednesday, an action reflected in a four-page report submitted to a judge overseeing litigation on the FBI’s April 28 seizure of Giuliani’s phones and computers. The contents of the devices were not disclosed.

This is in regard to Rudy’s meddlings in Ukraine, a little matter that was the subject of Trump’s first impeachment. The stuff withheld probably involved attorney-client privilege.

And then there’s the January 6 committee. CNN reported this afternoon that the committee now has all the records from the National Archive that Trump tried to block. They’re also looking into the fake electors who filed fake elector certificates in anticipation of Vice President Mike Pence rejecting the Biden electoral votes that Trump claimed he had won. Even though Pence didn’t go along with the plan, his weird script change during the official counting suggests he knew something was up.

Greg Sargent anticipates that what the committee eventually reveals will be significant.

The committee’s new focus on Ivanka Trump signals what this eventual pile-up will look like. It shows the committee is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.

Which, in turn, should make it harder for Republicans to campaign on Jan. 6 mythologizing without facing more intense scrutiny and blowback.

The committee appears to be preparing to show that the mob was sicced on Mike Pence deliberately as part of a larger scheme to get electoral votes tossed out.

Maybe some day we’ll find out what really happened with the inauguration money. Well, we can dream.

The Democrats Are Not Divided

Predictably, there are headlines today that declare Democrats are divided. For example, there’s a headline at the Los Angeles Times declaring that “Biden Is Stuck With a Divided Party.” The article is behind a paywall, unfortunately. But in fact I’ve never seen the Democrats so united as they were yesterday. lt’s not party division we’re seeing, but sabotage on the part of two outliers. The party itself is unified, for a change.

And there is the usually blaming of “the Left.” Ruy Teixeira published something under the headline How Not to Build a Coalition: The Left’s Theory of the Case Falls Apart in which he said “Biden has repeatedly tried to mollify the left, especially the House’s Progressive Caucus, as he desperately tried to craft a successful legislative agenda.” Excuse me? It was the Progressive Caucus that supported Biden’s agenda and worked their butts off for it. It was a small group of Clinton-era “New Democrat” holdovers who refused to read the memo.

(Ruy Teixeira is one of the guys who promised us An Emerging Democratic Majority back in 2002. We’re still waiting.)

And the Progressives were right that the only hope Dems had for passing the Build Back Better bill was by keeping it tied to the infrastructure bill. The progressives eventually accepted everyone’s assurance that Lucy would not jerk the football away this time, and let infrastructure pass. And then the Build Back Better bill was dead. (See also Paul Waldman, Stop Blaming the Left for Biden’s Problems.)

Paul Waldman thinks the Democrats, along with hitting bottom, may also have reached a turning point. “It was absolutely a defeat, for Biden, for his party, and most of all for voters,” he wrote. “But it also represented a significant shift within the Democratic Party. That’s because every single Democrat apart from Manchin and Sinema supported setting aside the filibuster.”

Democrats are no longer waiting for Republicans to come to their senses, says Waldman. They now know that’s not going to happen. Even Joe Biden, Mr. Reach Across the Aisle himself, knows this. Waldman:

At his Wednesday news conference, President Biden was asked whether he had over-promised and what he planned to change in the remainder of his term. In response, he said, “I did not anticipate that there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done.”

And he added: “Name me one thing they’re for.” And the answer is, defeating Democrats. That’s it. Remember that they didn’t even bother to write a new platform in 2020? That was a clue, Joe. What they want is to “own the libs.” They haven’t planned any further.

We might complain that President Biden really should have noticed this sooner. He ran for President in 2020 as if there were still reasonable Republicans left, somewhere. I don’t know if that was just campaign talk or whether Biden really believed it, of course. But he knows now that there aren’t.

Added to the absolutely terrible news coverage of yesterdays debates and votes and of the President’s news conference — and by “terrible” I mean the coverage bears little resemblance to what really happened — the Republicans will pay no penalties for the wrecking ball they are taking to democracy. These are dark times.

But if the Democrats are finally pissed off enough, and discouraged enough, to fight for a change, we may see an energized party.

Breaking news: CNN is reporting that Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, oversaw fake electors plot in 7 states. Rachel Maddow has been pushing this story for a few days.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution — Fulton DA requests special grand jury for Trump probe

The Guardian — Trump held secret meetings in days before Capitol attack, ex-press secretary tells panel